Monday, April 18, 2016

Four Months In and Where Are We?

So how about those New Year’s Resolutions?  Some of us prefer not to call them “resolutions” but rather “personal goals” or “fresh intentions.”  Whatever name you gave to them, if you made any at all, here we are four months in and . . . what? 

     I kicked my new year off with T.U.T.’s 30-Day Infinite Possibilities Project.  Yes, I journaled daily, which I pretty much do anyway, but during the challenge I wrote, contemplated and visualized a more purposeful and fulfilling life for myself and my family.  Setting specific intentions AND taking actions that would only aide in bringing me closer to living an authentic life, one with joy, financial serenity and that dream job.  Exactly how I was going to achieve my goals was a bit fuzzy, but the desired outcome was as clear as a perfectly prepared consommé.

     I noticed resolutions, intentions, or whatever, wasn’t really a topic of conversation for me and my closest of friends, Nancy, Suzy, and Karen.  I wondered, is that because we have reached an age where we know we’ll likely end up forgetting, watering down or giving up on those promises we made?  Why announce or whisper about things you’re planning to do to improve yourself or way of life, if you know from past experience, you’re not going to see them through anyway? 
I have something in my eye.  

     E-gads (there’s a 50’s term for you) if we all gave up on ourselves then there would be no self-help books, seminars, weekend retreats or talk shows on television!  But would you agree, unless there is especially unique going on or is beyond our control, I don’t believe humans inherently give up on themselves.  That would explain why there are, indeed, so many different types of diets and weight loss products out there.  Why there are so many therapists and psychologists gainfully employed, and why those retreats and seminars can charge a pretty penny.  We really want to do better, look better, write, speak, and live better. 
So I ask, you don’t have to answer, but I’d love to hear from you, how are you doing four months into 2016?  What do those numbers on the scale look like?  How are things at work?  Is your relationship going smoothly, getting along?  Still feeling the love?  Now, don’t stop reading!  I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on you here (as we used to say in the 60’s).  I’m just wondering if anyone out there can initiate and sustain the desired changes or improvements in their lives based upon a promise made months ago.

     As for me, well, the numbers on the scale look okay.  While I’m working diligently to get that dream job doing what I believe I was put here to do, it’s still has not come to fruition.  But I haven’t stopped working towards my goal.  I’m still cooking healing foods, I’m still reaching out and talking to people who  might be able to help.  I’m out there hustling.

     My cookbook is finished!  Now that’s a big one.  I do have several proofs on hand but with the help of dear friends, we are making corrections and slight changes so the next printings are near perfect.  I promised myself more travel this year, and that’s happening next month, when Nancy and I make our way along the Franciscan Trail in Umbria Italy.  Relationship, partner?  Well I didn’t really prioritize that one, but it would be nice.  Not sure where I am on that one, I’ll just keep on truckin (1970’s)  Looks like I’m making my way through the slogans and sayings of the eras I’ve lived.  That one was for our beloved Tony Rodriguez.  See what or who catches my eye.   There are still 8 months left.
We miss you Tony!

     Looking back at those first days of 2016, according to my journal, many of my goals and intentions are quite do-able.  I’ve hit a few snags or been distracted by life, but I’m glad to say I’m still on track. I haven’t lost my way, completely.  I hope you haven’t given up on yourself, that you too are making your way towards your goals and aspirations. 
I hear you man, those snags can be distracting. 

     It’s true, life is a mercurial thing, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Otherwise we might as well live our lives like a metronome atop a beautiful piano, keeping time but never going anywhere.  Might as well  gag me with a spoon (1980’s) if that were to be the case.  So let’s not give up.  Get back on that horse, even if it is the 27th time!  Just get on wearing something different because none of us wants to adhere to that insanity of doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.  Maybe wear your hair differently or adorn yourself with a new pair of boots when you mount that horse.  We may have to readjust or tweak, but let’s not give up.  It’s just not in our nature. 

     Life is Good (oh gosh that’s an appliance logo; LG – didn’t mean to do that).  Let's admit it, life is all that and a bag of chips (1990’s) so let’s squeeze and pop open that bag.  Chips a-flying, who cares. 
And to help you, because you’re going to need lots of sustainable energy, I have just the thing.  A recipe, one with rolled oats, which are rich in fiber and lowering our blood sugar, strawberries with their instantly recognizable scent and bright red colouring, an alluring call to their vitamin B6, potassium and magnesium.  They have been referred as one of planets most healthy foods.  And rhubarb!  It is in season right now.  You will usually find these blushing celery-stalk-look-alikes displayed in your markets from April to June.  Related to the Buckwheat family, rhubarb is intensely tart but we can't ignore it vitamin A, and anti-oxidant packed value.  By partnering with ginger or in this weeks recipe, strawberries, we can tame the tartness and create something that tickles our palates with a kind of syrupy-tang.  Oh! and did I mention rhubarb is bears almost no calories and is naturally low in sodium and cholesterol?  Yes, making it an excellent diet food, if that weight thing is still on the new year's resolution shelf.  

  Can I call it a recipe for success?  Fo’ shizzle (2000’s c/o my bucket-list-celebrity-to-meet Snoop Dogg).

                                                   Rhubarb and Strawberry Muffins


1 cup rolled oats                      ½ cup sour cream               1 cup whole milk
1 cup all purpose flour            ½ teaspoon salt                   ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder     1 teaspoon ground ginger    ¼ cup coconut oil
1 whole egg, beaten               ½ cup brown sugar              1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup chopped rhubarb         2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Additional oats or sparkling sugar for garnish if desired


In a small bowl, combine rolled oats, sour cream and milk.  Set aside until ready to use.

In a separate medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and ground ginger.

In yet another small mixing bowl, combine coconut oil, egg, and brown sugar and set aside until ready to use.
I know this looks a bit gross, but it makes for a wonderfully moist muffin.
And finally, in the last small mixing bowl combine sliced strawberries, rhubarb and granulated sugar.  Allow the fruit to macerate while preparing other ingredients.

Stir oat mixture into oil and egg mixture.  Gently fold flour mixture in two batches into oat/egg mixture.  Mix just until flour is incorporated, do not over mix.  Allow batter to rest for 5-10 minutes.

When batter has rested, gently fold fruit into batter.  Spoon batter into paperlined cupcake pans.  If desired, sprinkle sugar or oats on the top of each muffin. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until muffins are golden brown.

                                                                                      Makes 18 - 20 standard sized muffins

These are so good!!  Light with just the right amount of sweetness, balanced with the magic of rhubarb.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Zzzzzz ~ Wake Up!! It's Here!!


Finally!!  It’s taken me 14 months to get through my Seasonal Alpha-Foods project, but we’re here, letter Zz.  So is there a food  currently in season that begins with Zz?  Hmmmm.
Of course I considered zucchini, but those are summer squash and we’re not quite there yet so obviously zucchini is not in season.  Ziti, is a favored Italian dish, but does not fall into the in-season food category.  Same goes for my beloved Zabaglione.  If you don’t know, a rich, yet light Italian custard involving a copper bowl, a whisk, egg yolks, sugar and usually Marsala. 
The best vessel in which to cook your Zabaglione - a copper pot.  
Those ingredients along with toned triceps and the endurance of an adolescent, male rabbit and his harem in springtime is all it takes to create this simple, almost ethereal dessert.
You may want to warm up before you pick up your whisk.  You'll be whipping up the custard for a while.
  Zebra Cakes?  No! Those commercially prepared cakes with black and white striped icing are lunchbox treats brought to us by  Little Debbie (Not to be confused with me, I’m big Deborah).  There are some out there, who are more intimate with the other Zebra Cakes with similar chocolate icing but display a white, squiggly line dancing across the center made by Hostess.  Oh, I forgot to mention that creamy filling inside, the best part, but unfortunately we can’t count Zebra Cake as an in-season food.  Year round, yes.  
I ate these regularly, with a diet Dr. Pepper during my dancing days. 
Zebra Cakes

I could make an argument for Zwieback, also known as rusk.  I had always thought Zwieback was the name of the company who made those crispy, rectangular biscuits, you know, like Kleenex and Saran Wrap.  But the retro-looking, yellow box containing the light, toasty, easily digestible crackers are indeed referred to Zwieback and are made by Nabisco.  Zwieback , in my opinion is the Scandinavian version of an Italian biscotti.  Both these biscuit-cookie-crackers are twice baked, but unlike biscotti, Zwieback are too light to dip into your cup of espresso.  They’re more like melba toast in weight and texture, but the small oblong shape is great for teething babies.  I gave them to my children as our Mother gave them to us when my brother, sister and I were young.  As we sat gnawing on our biscuits, she would spread a light coating of salted butter on a couple of them for herself and enjoyed them along with a cup of tea. 

Instead I came up with, Zander , which is in season at the moment .  Zander is a type of fish and is as easily prepared as any white, fleshy fish.  Zander is more commonly found on dinner tables throughout Britain than here in the U.S.  A white oily fresh water fish, that seems to do equally well in brackish waters, is much like our Walleye fish.  Zander or Pike Perch, as it’s also known, is a firm yet tender fish with few bones. It’s great in sushi or sashimi but I decided to share a simple pan seared version topped with a buttery, white wine and caper sauce.  This is perfect topped with a simple white wine pan sauce, a side of steamed or sautéed zucchini, and a small serving of Pearl couscous seasoned with maybe some fresh, chopped sage or lemon zest and fresh thyme. 

 Pan Seared Zander
You can substitute Walleye or even Halibut if you can't find Zander fish.
4,  4-6 ounce Zander fillets, pin bones removed                        salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoon each, olive oil and unsalted butter                       2 additional tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons capers                                                             2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
½  cup any dry white wine                                                     2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Season both sides of each fillet with salt and pepper.  You can leave the skin on if purchased that way and either eat it or remove it with a sharp, thin knife before serving.  We remove ours after cooking, then rough chop it and deep fry the pieces in hot oil.  Then we have some delicious cracklin’s to top our fish! 
In a large non-stick skillet, over medium heat, add olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter.  When oil and butter are shimmering and melted, add the fillet to the pan, skin side down first.  Don’t move the fish around in the pan, allow skin to become brown and crispy, about 3 minutes.  Gently turn fish to other side and sear another 2-3 minutes.  Remove fillets from pan, cover with tin foil, and allow to rest.
Meanwhile, reduce heat to medium low and add 1 of the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to same skillet.  Use wooden spoon or a spatula to scrape off any tasty remnants from bottom of skillet, when you seared the fish.  When butter begins to smell slightly nutty, add lemon juice, capers and white wine.   Stir together on simmer, for about 2-3 minutes, then whisk in remaining tablespoon butter. 
Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper, then add fresh chopped parsley.  Plate Zander fillets on individual plates or one platter and pour pan sauce evenly over each.

                                                                                          Serves 4 
Don't forget a nice glass of white wine. Maybe some Zabaglione for dessert?