Monday, October 10, 2011

so i get sick, then clock my head and see stars.

So I had a fun weekend (enter sarcasm here). Did you? I normally have really good weekends, action packed, bikes to ride, lengthy field trips to Whole Foods, stuff to watch on TV, people to see. So what happened is I got a bout of food poisoning. And NO, it wasn’t from my food. Let’s just say I’m staying away from sushi for a while. 

Ahem - anyway, so I have that wonderfulness Thursday night and all through Friday.   Saturday morning, feeling better, we decide to go for some phở as it has Miraculous Healing Powers (it’s also the best hangover cure around IMO).   I was digging around in the trunk of my car for my sunglasses (because sunglasses belong in the trunk of your car, don’t you know?), and noticed Roy, our neighborhood stray cat ambling by. As I closed the trunk of the car, I looked towards Roy and clocked myself in the head with the corner of the trunk, right smack on my left temple.  So let’s just say that Saturday and Sunday were a wash. I must be the only person on the planet who’s happy that it’s Monday because now all that garbage is over.  The Universe sent me a memo, trying to tell me something, but it’s in Greek or Parseltongue so who the hell knows what that was all about.

In the meantime, I’ve been on a soup kick again since I don’t feel like chewing much of anything. I bought some packaged Thai butternut squash soup over the weekend, but honestly, it tasted like ass. I was so disappointed, because when you’re not feeling well the last thing you want to worry about is your food.  I was also not impressed by the amount of sodium in that one little package of it, and even less impressed by the high price of the damn product. I swear this blog isn’t turning into a soup blog (or is it?), but I’ve had a craving for a good Thai-inspired squash soup since Saturday, so deal with it.

Butternut squash soup with curry and ginger

  • 2 lbs butternut squash
  • 5 (or more) cups veggie broth (*see note)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder (I use Madras)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of ginger about an inch long, peeled and minced
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 small red chilis, minced
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.  Peel the squash, de-seed it, and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Toss the squash on the parchment paper with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Place baking sheet in oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the squash is soft and cooked through.

In a Dutch oven or pot, sauté the onion, the garlic,  the ginger, and red chilis over medium heat in a bit of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon of it).  You want the vedge to get soft, not get browned, so turn the heat down if things are getting too brown.  Add the turmeric and curry powder, stir, and cook for another minute or so.  Add the squash and the veggie stock, stir, and bring to a boil; reduce to simmer for 5 minutes so that all the flavors meld together. 

Remove pot from heat. Using a stick blender (or regular blender, in small batches), blend all the ingredients together until there are no more chunks of squash left – it should be smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a bit more veggie stock, a ½ cup at a time.  Return pot to heat and swirl in the coconut milk and the lime juice (if your lime has been fairly stingy, use the whole lime; otherwise the juice from half a lime is fine).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes approximately 5 cups. This recipe can easily be doubled or augmented.  

*A note about vegetable broth: you can, and should, make your own -  see the last paragraph of this post.  Or use store bought if necessary. I prefer to make my own since it can be made in the time it takes to roast the squash; plus you can control the ingredients (read: sodium level).  You can also use chicken stock if you’d prefer – it’ll make for a richer tasting soup.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

More detoxin': a bright and perky orange soup to liven up your day

 God I just love that color, don’t you?

Okay so maybe you don’t love that color. Maybe you’re all “I’m not ingesting anything THAT orange”, but the thing is, That Orange is all natural and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with any ingredient I used, nothing unhealthy, no garbage; which makes it perfect for detoxing.

I feel a lot better (physically) since returning from Camp Hedo At the Speedway last weekend - although I do miss my friends whom I don’t see very often.  We had a blast.  But since returning to Day Job Activities, working out, and eating normal food again, my body has thanked me.  And after I finished the last drop of the white bean and collard green soup, I went rooting around in the fridge to see what I could blend up with the boat motor (aka stick blender), and found some vedge that needed to be used up.  Half a butternut squash, a red bell pepper that I bought weeks ago, some carrots lounging away in the Rotter Drawer (aka the so-called Crisper Drawer), and you’ve got yourself the makings of a soup.  Butternut squash, carrots, and red bell peppers all have boatloads of nutrients, are low in calories, and are powerful antioxidants. Once blended with a bit of liquid (in this case, fresh vegetable stock), they create a thick texture that is hearty enough to sustain me for lunch and through the afternoon.

You could use any winter squash, really.  Pumpkin would be good.  Any other squash may not have a finished product as orangey, but it would be just as good.

Roasted butternut squash, carrot, and red pepper soup

yield: approximately 4 cups

  • 1 pound butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cut into ½ inch half moons
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into large strips
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Few generous pinches of Madras curry powder
  • 3 cups of vegetable stock (see note that follows)
  • Toasted or roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • Plain yogurt or sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment. Toss the vedge with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, a couple of pinches of salt, and a couple pinches of curry powder.  Place the baking sheet in the oven for 40 to 45 minutes (prick the vedge with a fork to see if they're tender).

2. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  If using a stick blender, transfer the contents to a heat-proof bowl and add a little of the vegetable stock at a time while blending until it's reached the consistency you like. taste for seasonings (could use more salt or just a hint of the curry?).  If using a blender, you will need to blend the veggies and liquid in small batches so as not to have a veggie volcano in your kitchen (not to mention the burn you'll probably get on your hands and face, not that i have any experience in that, ahem).

3. Sprinkle on a handful toasted pumpkin seeds if you have some.  To toast them, do so in a dry pan on medium heat, keeping an eyeball on them until they’re browned. Do NOT, for the love of Pete, walk away and go do something else for a bit – keep a sharp eyeball on them.

For real decadence (but not exactly detoxy), top each bowlful with a spoonful of plain low fat yogurt or low fat sour cream and slowly blend that in with your spoon.

For the vegetable stock:

Save the trimmings and peels from the vegetables you’re using for the soup; add those to a stock pot along with some cut up celery (minus the leaves – they’re bitter), a couple of bay leaves, couple of peppercorns, a stalk or two of fresh thyme and parsley (you can use whatever vedge you want, actually. This is just what I had on hand). Add 6 or 7 cups of water; bring to a boil and reduce it to simmer while the vegetables roast in the oven.  Then, strain this, saving the liquid and discarding the solids.  You'll have extra for another recipe. And voila, vegetable stock.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Lord, what a weekend. I spent Friday through Monday at the sun-drenched then rain-drenched infield at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for our annual “Lets Get Drunk and Make Asses Out of Ourselves Weekend”. This included a PigFest – we ate a lot of pork products and we ate like pigs, if you catch my drift.   It was also the boy's 40th birthday, so we whooped it up right.

Want some pictures? Of course you do! I must stress that going to the infield means you’re camping. And every year, there is always some broad or two in the bathroom putting on a full face of makeup and straightening her hair. This year was no exception.

That’s me on the right and I was attempting to do jazz hands. Because that’s what you do when you’ve had 4 beers before noon and are making fun of people. Which I’m REALLY good at.

This is our friend Quinlan. He’s drinking a pickle martini, because why not? This was also before noon (of course).

And this video, this is of Jane. She stays about 3 campsites away from ours, and is entertaining as all get out. Jane is the epitome of what goes on in the infield. Don’t believe me?


Jane, um, “appropriated” a Rascal (one of dem dare fancy wheelchairs) and was dead set on getting our friend Erica to sit on her lap. Her method was to ram the damn thing into Erica, which is why Erica is now limping around and unable to wear shoes to work this week. I can only imagine the conversation Erica had with her boss as to why she’s wearing flip flops with dress pants. You can’t make this stuff up.

I always have a really great time, but I’m always supremely pleased to get home because frankly, there is only so much beer and pig I can ingest. My stomach and brain beg for a break.

So! Now begins the Great Detox of 2011, which I hold every year for the week following this race. When I go all detoxy, I tend to unknowingly gravitate towards Asian food. It’s fresh, refreshing, not particularly unhealthy for you unless you’re ordering take-out Chinese from around the corner; and it tastes good. Namely, it satisfies my taste buds. So yesterday morning, I woke up and began my detoxing by reaching for Terry Walters’ Clean Food. I wanted something hearty to satisfy me after my grueling workout but it needed to be light enough to not make me feel heavy. I adapted her Autumn Harvest Soup slightly, then ate two bowls.  It is absolutely what I needed, and very tasty.

Asian-inspired white bean and collard green soup
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms 
  • 6 cups water 
  • Olive oil 
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped (or not – I kind of like having larger chunks for this recipe) 
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced up, enough to make 1 tablespoon 
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced 
  • 4 big handfuls of collard greens (kale works too) 
  • 1 can of white beans (Great Northern beans or cannellini work), drained and rinsed 
  • ¼ cup of mirin 
  • 1/8 cup (or more, to taste) of tamari soy sauce
  • Couple of dashes (or more, to taste) red wine vinegar 
  • Sesame oil 
  • Black pepper 

1. Put the water in a pot with the mushrooms and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it go for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, remove the mushrooms, chop them up (discard stem if you wish) and return to the pot.

2. In the meantime, in a larger pot over medium heat, sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger in a drizzle of olive oil for a few minutes. You don’t want the garlic or onion to burn, so stir often and keep an eye on the heat (reduce heat if necessary). Add the carrots, stir and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes until the carrots become slightly softer. Add the greens, white beans, mirin; continue to sauté and stir occasionally for 2 to 3 minutes (be careful not to break up the beans while you stir). Add the broth with mushrooms, the tamari, the vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Taste at this point; if it seems a bit flat, add a dash more of vinegar and tamari until it’s savory enough for you and is no longer flat (it should “sing”). Add a dash or so of sesame oil, a couple pinches of black pepper; stir, and it’s ready.

The sesame oil I use is infused with hot chilis, and I like that extra kick in my soup. If you only have regular sesame oil, that’s fine; just drop a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes to the pot when you add the broth. Also, you shouldn't need salt as the tamari should add enough savoriness to the dish, but feel free to add some if you want - just be careful not to go overboard with it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

i'd kill to eat something with texture right now.

so I’m over three quarters of the way through a 24-hour juice fast, and all I can think about are hard boiled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and goat cheese. actually, any cheese for that matter. The reasons I’m doing the juice fast are fairly simple: a) I wanted to see if I could actually do it, and b) it’s supposed to be good for you since it gives your digestive system a break. Some people do multi-day or multi-week juice fasts, and frankly I don’t know how they do it. I’m not hungry or anything right now; but I just want to masticate some food. It’s all a mental thing.

Since yesterday, every time I’ve opened the fridge I’m confronted with a slowly dwindling jar of fig preserves that I recently made. I totally missed fig season last year and it bummed me out bigtime as I’d seen a fig jam recipe in an old Food & Wine magazine that I was itching to try. I managed to snatch up some figs this year and I’m glad I did because this jam is good; but it’s even better used as a spread on bread which has been topped with other things (I’m thinking a nice few thin slices of prosciutto would be good here). I love to spread some toasted baguette slices with a honeyed goat cheese and add a good dollop of the fig jam. I have to tell you, it’s heaven.

I thought the figs I bought were Calimyrna but after further research they may be from the Brown Turkey variety. At any rate, they are really beautiful and I did eat a big handful of them, just ripped them up into pieces and ate them. I’m not a big fan of biting into them directly as I’m afraid I’ll end up biting into a wasp, but that too is a mental thing I’ll just have to get over.

It’s taking all my willpower not to lick my computer screen right now. I may just go open up the jar of fig jam and take a nice long whiff of it before settling for some coconut juice for lunch. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my body.

Fig Jam with White Port and Rosemary - adapted from Food & Wine magazine, September 2009 issue

makes 1 and 3/4 cups of jam

  • 1 lb figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white port wine
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary

1. Mix the fig pieces with the sugar in a saucepan and let stand for 15 minutes, stirring every so often until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs seem to give off some juice.

2. Add the lemon juice, port, and rosemary and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.

3. Turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid seems to have thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes longer.

4. Turn the heat off and add the jam to a glass mason jar.  screw on the top loosely and let cool completely before adjusting the lid and screwing it on all the way and storing in the fridge.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Every man dies. Not every man really lives.

42 years ago yesterday, my mother’s water broke when she was 6 and a half months pregnant, however she didn’t go into labor or have any pains. She went to the hospital, but the doctors told her she had wait until she went into labor before they could do anything (this was the 60s, after all). They gently suggested that she prepare herself mentally because her baby was probably dead.

She spent a week on the couch, and then finally had labor pains. My aunt Roberte likes to tell the story about how she drove like a madwoman through every red light trying to get my mom to the hospital that day. And then, after many grueling hours, I was born. Alive.

I sometimes wonder why my foray into this world was so difficult, and why I survived. Perhaps there is a greater reason for me being here on this Earth. And maybe there isn’t, but it’s nice to think that there is.

Years ago, my friend Charles gifted me with a charm of the Eye of Horus. I never wore it, but back in January while cleaning out my jewelry box, I found it and felt compelled to wear it around my wrist on a chain. Charles claims the Eye of Horus watches over premature babies. I’m not so sure about that; but I have read that it is a symbol of life and resurrection. And speaking of life and resurrection, the blackberry bush I planted four springs ago flourished this past week. I thought the canes died during the winter (sadly, the golden raspberry cane kicked the bucket), but this morning I wandered across the yard to check on the blackberries and picked all of these:

I’m not quite sure what to do other than eat them immediately or scatter them on a bowl of half-melted vanilla ice cream. There is something enchanting about eating fruit straight from the vine. I remember eating groseilles and raspberries in a friend’s garden in Eastern France. Of all the meals I’ve eaten in my lifetime, the memory of eating those berries is right up there on my top ten list.

Welcome to summer.

*Title is a quote by William Wallace

Saturday, June 11, 2011

wanti, wanti, cyan getti, getti, getti nuh want it

Memorial Day weekend. Our last day in Jamaica. After lunch, we borrow one of those small 4-seater catamarans from the guys at the Watersports shack on the beach. They are clearly bored and look like if they close their eyes they’d be napping in no time. We push off, and as soon as we are safely out of their sight, about 100 yards from shore, we take our tops and bottoms off and tie them onto a rope which is bound to the boat so that we don’t lose them. We keep our lifejackets on but unbuttoned. The skies are overcast, but it’s very warm. Katherine is at the helm. I dip my leg into the water as we glide onwards. The only noise is the occasional sound of thunder in the far off distance. There are short gust of winds. The sea is blue, so many blues, variegated turquoise and lapis and not terribly deep. When I glance overboard I can see coral a few feet under the surface. We three girls are cackling, laughing. I shall remember this bit of sailing for years to come; I love being on the water in the middle of a foreign sea far from home. I don’t want to go home yet. We notice another small sailboat and two jet skiers far away. Patty is smoking cloves she bought online from Indonesia, stubbing the butts out and putting them in a plastic baggie. The wind feels glorious. I tilt my head back and straighten my legs out. I would do this every day if I could; I love it here. Patty takes over the steering, and Katherine leans over to salvage a lone empty milk jug floating forlornly along. I ask if it has a message inside, but it does not. The jet skiers are zigzagging across the water. One of them comes in close and cuts across our path about 50 yards ahead, and we curse him loudly for creating waves (I might have yelled “Vaffanculo!” which is the only Italian word I know, other than culinary words. Why I didn’t yell “Asshole” or “Prick” is beyond me). The jet skier doesn’t hear, he’s going a million miles an hour, and I’m sure he’s enjoying the wind too. When he comes back around to Zorro his way across our course, he glances over and notices that the three women on the boat are totally naked under their life vests. His smile turns into a broad shit eating grin and he slows down, along with his buddy who now comes in closely along the other side of the boat.

Patty: "Uh oh".
Me: "Patty. Patty. Floor it".
Patty (giggling): "This is a catamaran! You can’t just floor it!"
Me: "Dude, then you get to be the one who tells Foster that the last time you saw his wife was when she was on the back of a stranger’s jet ski, and for all you know she’s been sold into slave labor".
Jet skier 1 (who is not American or English or Jamaican): "hey, you girls wan jet ski?"
Us (in unison): "no thank you!"
Jet skier 1: "Ah, you wan jet ski? You ride jet ski? Not far! We breen back!"
Us: "No thanks!"
Katherine: "Just smile and ignore".
Me: "I can’t, I have to pee".

Eventually their smiles fade and defeated, they zoom away. Just because we’re staying at Hedo doesn’t mean we’re THOSE kinds of girls. Sheesh.

We sail towards a little island right off the coast that is inhabited by what looks like a beach shack/bar on one side and by an empty white sandy beach on the other side. We aim for the empty beach. The plan is that I will hop off and wade over to shore and go pee in the trees that cover the island, but as we get nearer, the catamaran starts scraping the tops of the coral and we’re still about 100 yards from shore. Pee break is canceled, and I’ll just have to hold it. We don’t want to go back to our resort, but we do. I shall miss this.

In honor of my latest trip to Jamaica, I’m going to attempt patties this weekend. On my last trip to Jamaica, I noted that the best thing I had eaten while there was a beef patty at the airport. Not to be outdone, on my way out of Montego Bay this last trip I grabbed two patties, one chicken and one vegetable, and a couple of Red Stripes. I have a fondness for handheld food.

I'll let you know how it goes. Maybe.