Balance of Bliss

Everything from potatoes to living fully.

The Art of Trust

It’s been a while since I’ve taken the chance on writing.  I’ve come to my blog multiple times and have started entries and then delete them within minutes.  I wouldn’t say it was for lack of inspiration or for lack of nothing to say, but perhaps because the message wasn’t ready to be articulated.  Lately, I’ve had some inspiration.

The other evening I was driving home from work and listening to my favorite jazz station.  After a while, a commercial aired that said “Meet ‘so-and-so’, he’s a chef.  This is his dish.  It is a pudding made of avocado, dates, ‘yadda, yadda’.  Meet other artists who are entrusting their skill to Watson.  Artists, scientists, etc, etc, who are reaching higher levels of thinking because of the complexity of Watson’s ability”.  Ok, so this wasn’t the exact script, but you get the idea.  I was appalled, taken back, and became really concerned.  On the other side of the spectrum, WXPN has a funding commercial that says “No algorythms, just rhythms.  Vinyl at heart.”  This one restored my faith in mankind and got me thinking…

So why am I so concerned about the first commercial?  Aside from my fear of robots (don’t ask), I have a bigger fear of losing trust in myself.  If I can’t trust my passion, my instinct, my ability, my craft, my dreams, my goals, myself, I sure as hell can’t trust anyone else’s.  What do I do?  I take this idea to the kitchen.

Let’s be honest, not everything I or anyone else cooks always comes out delicious.  There have probably been more gastronomical failures than successes and we are not to become afraid of these.  Instead, the failures should be held in the highest regard and praised.  “I gave it a shot and it didn’t work.  The next shot I give it, if I don’t hit it, I’ll be a hell of a lot closer.”  In life, as with ingredients, we take chances on new ideas, amounts, concepts, and flavors.  It’s how we grow, how we evolve, how we learn, and how we survive.  It’s really how we feed our fire that keeps us going.

Last week I made the decision to dive into my next level of education. I have to take my GRE’s and 5 pre-req courses in order to get into Drexel Universities Masters of Nutrition.  This was a hard decision to make since it wasn’t the original path I had set out to take.  In fact, it’s slightly more expensive (thousands and thousands of dollars more), not online, and not promising me an internship at the end.  So why am I doing it?  Because I trust myself.  Because I mulled it over for months and tore my mind apart and wrote the pros v. cons list.  Because I questioned and did my homework and called them directly.  Because I left my career and my home to become a freaking Registered Dietitian and I cannot give up.  I could go on and on and on, BUT what I didn’t do is ask Watson.  Now, will I get into Drexel?  I freaking hope so.  And, if I don’t? Then I’ll figure it out at that point.

This may be a little long winded and you may be wondering why this upsets me so.  It’s plain and simple: I don’t want our culture to stop trusting itself.  I don’t want our society to forget that it isn’t just numbers and facts that go into decisions, but it’s heart and feeling and the thrill of the unknown.  What does this have to do with food?  A lot, actually.  Our food system is already highly industrialized, do we need to let our creativity become processed, too?

Say “NO” to processing.  Trust on.

All of this thinking makes me thirsty.  So, here’s a high-fiber, GI scrubbing, Green Smoothie… use your imagination and play with the amounts of each ingredient to your own liking:

Spinach, Avocado, Frozen Mango, Walnuts, Grated Ginger, Low-Fat Yogurt, Pineapple Juice,  and then some kind of extra liquid to thin it out (I used Almond/Coconut but sometimes I use green tea, which is quite amazing)

I even got my fiance to drink it!  Who’d have thunk!

A missed opportunity… and a seized opportunity.

BasilBitches

That pretty much sums up life, right?

I’ve discovered there are some opportunities which present themselves to us and seem timeless. They seem as though if we wait on seizing them, they will be there for us when we are ready.  They have no where to go, no where else to be.  They’ll be exactly the same as when we left them.  In fact, they’ll be happy and feel fulfilled when we get back!  Right, Kendra, right… because eeeeeeeverything is just waiting for you. Mmmmhmmmmm…

So, let’s consider my basil scenario.  During the final days of September there came a bit of crispness in the air.  Afraid the slight frost might bite my beautiful basil, I cut it all down.  An opportunity to make a hefty batch of pesto which I could freeze and take advantage of during the winter months had presented itself in neon lights!  With all good intentions, I wrapped my basil in a damp towel, sealed it snuggly in plastic and left it in the refrigerator until the weekend I was ready (er… had time) to prepare such a treat.

The following Monday (about 5 days later), I had such time… the basil, however, had no such plans of participating.  Dead, translucent and slimy, it had crossed over from lush to mush as time, temperature, and nature-of-decay took over.  I immediately blamed the chilly environment of our refrigerator, my hectic schedule, and the dog (poor Jasper seriously had nothing to do with this)!  I commiserated over not being able to preserve the summer.  My heart was broken. My soul was crushed!  And all I could really do was blame myself for being lazy during the week and not processing this delicate herb sooner!

I thought long and hard about sharing this miserable story as I want to be perfect all the time, but I think the lesson here is greater than having actually procured the pesto.

Now, happier thoughts!  I made a kick ass Banana Bread to make up for it.

Lesson 1: Don’t be lazy. If a good opportunity is there, take it.

Lesson 2: The freezer is your friend.

Lesson 3: You don’t need a freaking Kitchen Aid to make a bangin’ Banana Bread (though they look awesome on your counter top and if I ever get around to putting together a wedding registry, you can bet your ass there will be a hot one on there).

Lesson 4: Bangin’ Banana Bread Recipe…

4 to 5 ripe bananas, frozen then defrosted

1/4 c Unsalted Butter, melted

1 Egg, beaten

1/2 c Sugar in the Rawwww

1 t Baking Soda

1 t Salt (I used coarse)

1 T Cinnamon and Nutmeg

1 1/2 c AP Unbleached Flour, or even whole wheat

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 4×8 bread pan.

In a large mixing bowl, use your upper body strength and mash the hell out of the bananas. Use a fork and switch between your arms so that your right arm isn’t stronger than your left.  Mix in the melted butter then the egg, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cin/nutmeg.  Once that’s smooth, shake in your flour.  Mix, but don’t oooooover mix.

Here you can have fun.  I added in dark chocolate morsels, but next time I make it I’ll sub the morsels for dried fruit and pecans.

Another sub can be applesauce for the butter.

BananaChocoBread

Missing New York.

I’m a New Yorker.  Though I was born and raised in Jersey, went to college in Jersey, and ultimately came back to Jersey, I am a self proclaimed New Yorker.

I lived in New York for about 7 years in my 20’s.  I started working there in college and moved to North Bergen after graduation. My first “real” job I made $75 cash a day at a small production company called Lumina Films on 30th and Broadway. I was their “Production Coordinator” but didn’t have a clue as to what I was really doing. Any young kid out of college really doesn’t have a clue what they are doing.  In school we learned theories, made a few shorts, and studied ethics… but we had no idea how to put any of it into practice.  When I started at Food Network, about 2 years later, we joked that when you graduate they should give you a bucket because in management you need to learn how to bail everyone and everything out.

Needless to say I spent many late nights trying to figure “it” out.  And by “it” I mean everything.  Trying to figure out my job, responsibility, the subways, cable bills, cell phone bills, adulthood, guys, men, how to cook, etc, etc, etc.  But like any young, ambitious woman, I did.  I figured it out in my own way and time.  Thus, tonight, I miss my city.

New York meant so much more to me than a crazy commute and grueling (yet rewarding) career. It meant so much more than bright lights and crazy, fun nights. It meant so much more than falling in love and walking away.  In New York, I met myself. I moved there in the fall, so perhaps that’s why this time of year is so difficult for me?  It doesn’t matter why, it just matter that it is.

So tonight, as I drink my Rioja, listen to Wynton Marsalis jazz radio, and sit in my dimly lit kitchen, I toast to New York City. I toast to every single memory that I still carry and even those that I left in my Crown Heights garden studio.

I’ve been back “home” for about three years now, and even though I hate to admit it, I think it’s still too young to know if I made a mistake.  Regardless, I am where I am and, from what I learned in the apple, you better be happy where you are or you’ll miss out on a lot of greatness.

New York, I love you… always have, always will.

So many questions, must do more research…

…but it is an interesting spark for a conversation.

Testing Future Conditions for the Food Chain, NY Times 9/22.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/science/testing-future-conditions-for-the-food-chain.html?ref=health&_r=0
Basically University of Illinois scientists and researchers are mimicking what they expect our environment to be in the next 20 years.  How? By spraying and fertilizing crops such as corn, soy and canola with CO2 and ozone.

I’ll be doing some background research on this because the line that troubles me the most is only briefly mentioned “experts reported that crops grown in environments designed to mimic future conditions have serious deficiencies of certain nutrients, compared with crops of today“.  The mass-produced crops of today are already lacking in taste and, I can only imagine, nutrients.  

Stay tuned.  But enjoy the article.

Summer, I bid you well.

MelonFetaTomBasilMint

Yesterday and today were kind of like a little New Years for me.  Why?  Who the hell knows.  I’ve just always loved the changing of the seasons!  Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s the need for a change in wardrobe, or maybe it’s just because I’m ready for the next thing.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I actually embraced and totally blissed out on the last day of summer.

The weather this time of year is flipping perfect on the east coast.  We live in the woods on the outskirts of two small, artsy, river towns.  I grew up here so I’m biased, but if you knew it, you’d agree it is quite perfect.

A morning walk on the tow-path with Ms Jasper (our wild and crazy beautiful mutt who is the most snuggly and loving dog I’ve ever met), followed by a run along the river, and then a day full of cooking.  No studying (that story will come sooner than later), no stressing, no thinking about this or that, no nonsense.  Just being.  Just enjoying a day without chatter, without noise, without worry.  I said a solid and hearty “goodbye” and “thank you” to May-through-August and a strong and bold “HELLO” to September-through-December.

MorningRun

So what was the final summer feast of choice?  Aside from being freaking delicious, every ingredient but the feta, olive oil, and balsamic, were grown within 5 miles of our home.  You still have a few days left for this dish, but this recipe is totally worth stashing away until next summer.

Watermelon, Jersey Tomato, and Feta Salad with Basil and Mint

Ok, do you really need a recipe for this?  Trust me, you’re smarter than you think and produce this pure doesn’t need much more than a splash of EVOO, aged balsamic and maybe a dusting of coarse salt (if you feel so obliged).  Just cube up the melon and ‘maters, sprinkle on about a tablespoon of feta, and then top her off with a handful of chopped mint and basil (the more you chop or rip your herbs the more essential oils will be released, making your salad more aromatic and freaking irresistable). You won’t be sorry and you sure as hell won’t want to share – but share, because greediness is neither classy nor sexy.

And there it is.  My final moments of summer… in a bowl… and I ate every.last.one.

C’mon, Autumn, your turn!

Awaiting my creative genius.

So while I wait for her to arrive, I’d like to share one of my favorite TED Talks.  Inspiration is an essential ingredient when nourishing your soul.  I’m sure most of you have heard this before, but it’s brilliant and I find myself coming back to Elizabeth’s calming release of expectation often. It’s a friendly reminder to get off my own case.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Your Elusive Creative Genius. Ted Talk

Keeping it simple.

SunnyEggs

As a verb, bliss is defined (by Google) as “reaching a state of perfect happiness, typically as to be oblivious to everything else”. I like this.  What resonates with me is the to be oblivious to everything else because it gives me the grace, the power, the allowance, to be in my own moment without distraction. “Sorry, I can’t right now, I’m experiencing bliss”.  How great!

Yesterday I was at my first professional dietetics conference as a newly credentialed DTR.  We had a lovely discussion on slowing down to savor the food we eat, enjoy the people we are dining with, and allowing ourselves to “take lunch” rather than “take a quick lunch”.  There is nothing complicated about this concept and yet it is something we (mainly women, I think) have a hard time practicing.  Taking the time, allowing ourselves to separate and enjoy the bliss of a moment is something we need to  make a cognitive decision of every day.

The majority of my friends and family are married and either have a baby on the way or have their families started.  I can only imagine how challenging balancing home and professional life is for them.  But, maybe you guys have the advantage!  You have a really good excuse to slow down and make Sunday dinners the priority.  You have the chance to teach your children and remind yourself that food is delicious nourishment and a fueling gift we give to ourselves throughout the day!  This goes for all of us: I believe food is medicine and, next to physical activity and socialization, the best form of preventative care we have. This is important stuff and we have many opportunities throughout the day to do good for our bodies.

I want to keep this first post short so I’ll just share about what I did this morning and part of the routine I am challenging myself to keep.  So, my alarm went off at 5:40am.  I hit snooze once and woke up at 6:30am.  After taking Ms Jasper for a walk, I came back in and immediately started thinking about and having anxiety about all the piles of work I have on my desk.  Then I stopped.  I physically stopped myself and said “make yourself a damn breakfast sandwich.  A really, really delicious oozy-yolk, breakfast sandwich.” I did.

If I can give anyone a piece of advice on adding excitement to your dishes: get friends from all over India. Why?  Because their sauces and chutneys are packed with healthy flavor and can take any food and knock it up.  Have them cook for your, have them teach you, and fill your cabinets with their spices. If I wasn’t marrying Matt I would totally look for a hot Indian guy (which wouldn’t be hard to find) with a family who loved to cook (that wouldn’t be hard to find either).  Trust me, these people have it going on!!

I digress, back to my sandwich and morning bliss.  Yesterday at my parents I plucked a green tomato.  This morning I fried three slices of said tomato, over-easied an egg, slathered some North Indian chutney onto my multigrain toast, and stopped thinking about everything I had to do. I focused on the textures, the complexities of the flavors, the sweet sourness of the green tomato, the smoothness of the yolk, the fire of the spread, the crunch of the bread!  Bliss!  If only for 7 yummy minutes, complete culinary bliss.

Posts will be getting longer and more in depth with recipes and such, but I felt the need to publish something… that sandwich inspired me.

BfastSand