Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday night

It’s Saturday night and I found myself singing, “Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody. I got some money ‘cause I just got paid.” (I love that song—where else could you find a rhyme that says, “instead of being my deliverance, she had a strange resemblance to a cat named Frankenstein.” Is that high art or what?)

I’m sitting here staring out the window, occasionally pecking on my computer keyboard, feeling like a giant nerd. Don’t all the cool people go out on Saturday night? Isn’t everyone at the movies or having romantic dinners with their sweethearts? Don’t get me wrong because I could be going out if I really wanted to. Like I need to go to the grocery store to pick up skim milk and multivitamins. Or I could go to Home Depot to get caulk. Maybe I could drive by the post office and drop my almost overdue phone bill in the mailbox. That’s exciting stuff.

I know rationally that there are plenty of people like me, people sitting home alone on Saturday night, doing laundry. Maybe this Saturday-night nerd thing is a leftover from high school. I never had a high school boyfriend. I just hung out with the girls. We girls found plenty of things to do and maybe we were better off because we didn’t have boyfriends, but we didn’t have very strong self-esteem and we thought something was wrong with us because we weren’t desired by teenaged boys. I’ve grown out of that—I no longer want to be desired by teenaged boys. Sometimes I just think it would be nice to have a reason to put on pantyhose, to wear that little black dress that I don’t even own. Is Saturday night overrated?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Watermelon salsa fresca

Totally got this from Lydia at the Perfect Pantry. (One of my favorite It's a great recipe and everything except the mango is available now at my local farmer's market. I changed one thing by substituting sea salt for the kosher salt. I served it with a simple grilled chicken. It's delicious, fresh, and beautiful. Thanks, Lydia!

Watermelon, mango, and tomato salsa fresca

1 cup watermelon, diced
1 mango, diced
1/2 cup ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 cup seedless (English) cucumber, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime (or more to taste)
Sea salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Chill until ready to use.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I'm at risk of destroying my reputation by posting these recipes. Both are recipes that I developed and refined. But both are so easy that I should be ashamed. Is this not the woman who makes bittersweet chocolate ricotta torte that takes all day to bake? (All day to bake and less than an hour to eat. By myself.) Is this not the woman who makes Moroccan chicken couscous with about 120 ingredients? Yep. But truth be told, there is something so satifying about a simple recipe that works. You don't have to go to the grocery store with a spreadsheet as a shopping list--you can simply remember it. And you can add or change ingredients for variations.

For example, the chicken burgers started out as turkey burgers that someone at Weight Watchers told me about several years ago. The original version had defrosted frozen chopped spinach instead of sun-dried tomatoes. (That's great too but I prefer chicken to turkey and I like serving the chicken burgers with the spinach/orzo salad and need not to repeat the spinach.) And you can add julienned red bell pepper or marinated artichoke hearts or pinenuts to the salad. But again, there's something addictive about the simple light spinach/orzo combination that doesn't really need anything else.

Greek Chicken Burgers with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 pound ground white meat chicken
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (in oil), chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, diced
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a bowl mix ground chicken, egg, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and Greek seasoning. Form into 4 or 5 patties.

Heat oil in non-stick skillet and sauté burgers until brown, about 5 minutes per side.

Spinach/Orzo Salad

1 pound orzo
¼ cup olive oil
2 medium-size lemons, juiced
1 teaspoon Penzey’s lemon pepper
8 ounces baby spinach leaves, shredded

Cook orzo in boiling salted water. (Do not overcook!) Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add enough olive oil to thoroughly coat the pasta. Add lemon juice and lemon pepper. Let the mixture sit until it has cooled to room temperature. On a cutting board, shred spinach (like shredding cabbage for coleslaw) and add to orzo mixture. Stir gently and chill for about an hour before serving.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gibran, sorrow, and joy

I woke up today thinking about Khalil Gibran. In The Prophet he wrote, “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”

It’s a concept that I’ve carried with me for years, the concept of having a capacity for feeling that can be filled with sorrow or filled with joy. So maybe the capacity for deep feeling—feeling either sorrow or joy—is indeed a gift. Should I be grateful for such a gift? Even when it seems there's a load of sorrow in my cup?

You know how some people are relatively flat?  They smile occasionally, they may get a little angry or sad, but on a scale of one to ten, they go from zero to two, maybe all the way to three when their mother dies or they win the $250 million lottery. Maybe they were genetically engineered that way, they just got skipped over in the distribution of feeling genes.

Then there are others like me, those who cry when they see a dead cat in the road, those who catch their breath when they see the sun breaking through the mist over the river, those who have to dance when they hear Geno Delafose and French Rockin’ Boogie. How many times have I had to remind myself that it’s a gift when I am saddened over something that may not seem to affect others? It’s a gift because it’s the capacity to feel high, content, or madly in love, but the flip side is the capacity to feel hurt, anger, discouragement, or grief.

So now I grieve the senseless murder of my brother. I am saddened to see my dear friend going through grueling cancer treatment. I am concerned about my sister who had difficult surgery last week. I wish I were and I long to be in one of the joyful times. But for me, now is one of those times when the cup holds more sorrow than joy.

"The selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears." Gibran

Friday, July 15, 2011

Grilled chicken strawberry salad

I'm being gently chided (prodded?) for not posting for a week. Am I out of town? No. Am I depressed? No. I'm simply otherwise engaged. Certainly not otherwise engaged in the terms of "when the hogs ate Willy they was otherwise engaged"--that's an inside joke.

COOKING? Not much. I'm not cooking anything interesting because I'm in my first week back on the Weight Watchers wagon and trying to get my bearings.

PRAYING? Of course! I'm praying for my sister and praying to stay focused.

However, even though I'm not really cooking much, I'll share a great salad that I made twice this week. No measurements, just delicious in a guidelines sort of way.

Grilled chicken strawberry salad

Butterhead lettuce (I just like the tenderness of butterhead in this salad)
Handful of pea shoots
Grilled chicken breast (leftover chicken, grilled the night before)
Persian cucumber, sliced thin
Sliced strawberries
A few walnut halves
Trader Joe's cranberry walnut gorgonzola viniagrette

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fat prayer

Dear Lord—You know how I write you letters when I get really desperate? I’m really desperate. And the additional indignity of posting this on my blog for all the world to see brings the indignity to another level. (This is a huge leap of faith, this assumption that all the world is going to see what I write on my blog. I have a total of three readers and they are all in the United Arab Emirates. They are English 101 students and their interpretation of this will be something close to Yes, I'll have fries with that.)

I’m fat. I have to admit it and I have to realize that I haven’t been very effective correcting the situation on my own. I need you, Lord. I need you to keep me focused. I need you to give me the willpower not to eat what I shouldn’t eat. I need you to give me the energy to work out.

I can blame it on a thousand things—age, metabolism, bad genes, my hurt shoulder, emotional upheaval, my love of cooking. But placing blame doesn’t matter because the end result is the same. Please, Lord. I feel awful. I don’t understand what has happened but I’m trusting in your wisdom, your limitless power, and your patience to move me in the right direction.

Please, Lord. I promise you that I’ll try if you’ll just stay with me. Guide me to solutions, help me to find strength and focus. When I scream and yell in frustration, please be with me. In prayer, with you, it will happen.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Baguettes, Pete's, and beans

I just hate it when this happens. I’m innocently minding my own business when various forms of food jump out from behind the bushes and attack me.  You guessed it—I’ve found more things to love.

(1) Seeded baguettes from Leonora Bakery.
I was waiting in the dermatologist’s office, reading an article in Washingtonian magazine about local food sources. One of the things mentioned in the article was the baguettes at Arrowine. “How convenient,” I said to myself, “I’m only a few blocks from Arrowine.” So after the dermatologist burned some offensive items off of my body I consoled myself with a stop at Arrowine, a shop in Arlington on Lee Highway that features wine, cheese, and other gourmet foods. ( I was just going to buy one of the infamous baguettes, but the man behind the counter told me there were even better baguettes and directed me to a basket of bread behind the counter—the Leonora baguettes. I humored him and bought one. How good could they be? Ummm . . .  it’s about a ten minute drive home and I ate almost an entire baguette in the car. I went back the next week to make sure they were that good. They are that good. The baguettes are delivered warm to Arrowine on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.  You can get them delivered directly to your home for a minimum order. (  So I can be a shut-in and still have baguettes? Dangerous.

(2) Pete’s Crazy Chicken Blend.
I found this on that trip to Arrowine too.  It’s a dry spice rub with an unlikely magic blend that includes things like wasabi and paprika and maple syrup. Go figure. I marinated chicken breasts in a simple mix of olive oil, lemon juice, and a very generous portion of Pete’s Crazy then grilled the chicken. Drop dead delicious. It comes from a spice vendor, the Spice and Tea Exchange, that sells online as well as from retail outlets. ( Just looking at the website makes my imagination run wild—like how can I use green chile sugar?

(3) Rancho Gordo Heirloom Beans.
You knew about heirloom tomatoes, of course, but did you know you could buy dried heirloom beans? I can’t even tell you how I ended up at the Rancho Gordo website.  I don’t know if was the work of the Lord or the work of Satan.  ( Rancho Gordo makes beans fun again. (Maybe for you beans have always been fun but for a while I had lost the fervor.) There is a wide variety of beans as well as chiles and rice and spices. I got some Tiger’s Eye beans (Ojo de Tigre) and some flageolet beans to make cassoulet.  Tomorrow I’ll make the Tiger’s Eye beans into some sort of slow-cooked bean concoction but the cassoulet is on hold until cooler weather.

I was not compensated for any of these product endorsements. Doggonit.