Tag Archives: passion

Lighter Pho Fare with Mini Me

wpid-2015-01-28_18.46.00.jpgMidweek, me and mini me try something out of our comfort zone to break up the monotony of our staple recipes. Routine bores me.  The chill factor climbed for us this month and heavy comfort foods are not comforting for my thighs! Sacrificing flavor for tight jeans is not my style either, so I found  a way to take my Italian cravings to the far east.

With some organic pork and ginger, our love for meatballs met my love for Vietnamese Pho.  While this traditional noodle soup is filled with mixed meats and seafood, portions can be heavy and the flavors can sometimes overwhelm each other.

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An Italian Fall

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Being in the kitchen is heaven to me. If I have one regret it is that I did not go to culinary school and share my passion for food with the world. But, for now, it is a family affair!

Me and mini have wrestled with time lately, but one area we never let slip away is our meals! This week I showed her how I make one of many different variations of our Sicilian meatballs. Our sauce was our own, and made with crushed tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, basil leaves, half a cup of wine and a roasted red pepper puree. I make a lot and freeze it so it is ready to go.

These meatballs are a little different, and I adore anything out of the norm. I use veal , pork, chicken and beef. Then we dipped three pieces of bread in milk, wrung them out, tore them up and added the to the meat. We needed two eggs. Then, about a cup of romano cheese, a tablespoon of brown sugar, crushed red pepper, and chopped currants or raisins. Yes, raisins! ( No one will know they are there..you need to chop them very fine). We minced 4 cloves of garlic and grated half of a red onion into the mix. I always use a coarse sea salt, fresh pepper and dried basil.

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The Tracks–Home: Daily Prompt

railroad

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/prompt-our-house/

The train rushed past my house every 27 minutes or so bringing millions of strangers to and from one of the largest hubs in the world, Penn Station. The noise of the train rocked my street and at times, shattered its foundation. It trembled at odd hours and to me always seemed magical. When the temperatures dropped, you could see small blue flames light up the hot tracks. It seemed this beating heart was always present.

Nothing is more extravagant, noteworthy, historical, romantic, nostalgic, and more like a house with hidden stories, than New York’s railroad system. To me its pulse housed all the “home” I’ve known. It sheltered my hopes for love and life and mystery.

I spent countless hours as a child climbing over the platform to sit as close as possible to the track. Other times I would hide nearby and imagine stories about the businessman walking in a hurry, the Muslim woman carrying a child..the homeless man struggling for warmth on a train car. It was all fascinating to me. Where were they going? Were they happy? Were they at their last stop?

As I got older I would sometimes ride the train to Penn Station or any other stop just to feel the train beneath me. To see the magic of a new neighborhood, to roam the streets..to let the mighty car pull me away from my own lonely thoughts. Some of the greatest memories of my life happened on that train.

Riding with a lover, all dressed to venture the city’s music— to navigate our souls and bodies. ( I can still feel the sting of his facial hair against my skin as we huddled in the corner of the train car). I can see the sneering faces as we laughed over the noise of the rumbling engine. Young lovers can be so disruptive.

His body was as strong and as powerful as the MTA car it seemed.

I secretly wished that ride would never make it to its final destination. The train sheltered us from life’s blunders. From the realities of love and its inevitable losses.

Writing poems on the Metro North train while crossing the Hudson..watching the river beneath me almost crash through my skin from the dingy window. Bringing my daughter on her first subway ride, all bundled up as a wide eyed baby..just looking out in amazement at the world rushing past us.

Yes, that train was home to me. And it still is. When I go back and feel the familiar rocking below me, see the strangers altogether as a family for one short ride–I feel safe. I feel hidden.

I’ve often wandered if my very elusive idea of “home,” will ever find me. By this age, I pictured myself on a rounded porch, overlooking the landscape, huddled in the kitchen over a pot of sauce, writing by the window…watching the leaves and our lives change. Finding peace in my heart. The house smelling like garlic, the warmth of candles, the hissing of a heater, the low toil of family life, mini me stumbling in for meals.. the security of the same strong, handsome face coming down our long driveway.

They are delusions long buried under those tracks by now.

And while those daydreams are simply, well… childish fantasy, the tracks past my early home are very real. They are waiting for me to step on and feel that long lost feeling of hope and love and maybe magic just one more time.

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How Sweet It is!

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Mini me shows me how it is done! Her simple blueberry pie
is a healthier version of the usual sugar laden staple. We use nothing but fresh blueberries, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest with a touch of starch to hold our little piece of heaven together. This one crust version, is complete with mini me’s light wheat crust. For a sweet touch, she always puts a heart somewhere in our baking. Love. Love. Love.

Pasta Pomodoro!

My recent ventures to some local and not-so-local markets has had me  and mini me eating well ! A well fed body and heart is all we  really need. Check, I have both covered! I made sure to pick up some fresh pasta from a small family eatery this weekend. Me and mini me do roll our own pasta, but we need to really try to infuse our variety. These new flavors have us inspired!20140523-233333.jpg

This week, I experimented with a red pepper cappellini, spinach fettuccini, and garlic-chive spaghetti .. so many possibilities. These fresh rolled bundles balance perfectly together.  Like the yin and yang of love, the flavors complement and enhance the fabulous union!

The art of bringing out their uniqueness, without masking their qualities can be challenging. When I want to enhance and not cloak..I turn to my homemade lemon-olive oil. I use a rich extra virgin olive oil  and 6 meyer lemons to create an oil that quickly infuses flavor without overdoing it. I store bottles of it and use it for skin care and culinary exploits.

I cooked 6 roma tomatoes, 3 cloves of garlic, a shallot, sea salt, crushed red pepper and a handful of capers in about 4 tablespoons of the oil. Once the tomatoes started to cook down, I added 8 torn basil leaves and 1/4 cup of fresh Romano.  When mixed together, I used tongs to create little nests of each flavor.  With some simple grilled chicken and a lemon vinaigrette, it was heaven. Close to it anyway!
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Motherless Daughters and Womanhood

As a child in foster care, nothing was worse than seemingly meaningless holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. As an elementary school girl, being forced into making empty family trees and pottery gifts brought the sting of unworthiness and a not-belonging that was at times difficult.

Me. the year I entered foster care.
Me. the year I entered foster care.

I was put in foster care at age 5 after I was found locked and hidden in my mothers-basement abused, not fed, unable to walk or speak. I was found with other children who were also abused. I did have adopted parents for a few short years, but they both died a couple of years after the adoption.

So for me, as a child, the idea of “parenting” was elusive. I heard stories and complaints about tough parents from friends. My friends complained about rules, regulations, bad marriages and the usual identity crises of my female friends with their mothers. To me, it was a foreign land.

Having a past that is strewn with missing links can make becoming a woman feel like a bad carnival ride. Lines are long and the scenery is dizzying.

Through years of mandated court visits with my mother, I found myself finally at age 10, studying her for those few quick moments with her. She was so mysterious to me. She was a violent woman, she was a neglectful woman, she had allowed abuses against me and other children. But she was always smiling and playing the part of victim during those visits. Her skin, her hands, her hair were like looking in a fast forwarded mirror. It was challenge not to feel a hatred and love or pity for this elusive woman who was so transient and confusing. I cared for her but feared her.

It was hard to catch up to my idea of her. Once she vanished for good, my young mind created fantasies of her. Maybe she was some lost, desperate soul who really thought the world of me, if only she could get past things that happened to her? If only. But truth is, that following year she was long gone, and at some point so was the fantasy of her, or of a father or male figure. And so I navigated alone and sometimes the compass I used was shaky at best.

I identified myself with friends’ parents, only to sometimes feel the sting of jealousy when I could see I was not truly apart of their circle. I did identify myself with other women, foster sisters, and again found myself as a person apart from them. Without sharing the same childhood or environment it was hard to build a deeper connection. Their influences though, were invaluable to me.

As I got older, it was easy to fall into place in lover’s families. I was always the first to attach to someone’s mother, more so than the man who shared my bed. I reveled in this idea of motherhood, womanhood, long before I was a mother or a woman. I found it intoxicating. This idea of steadiness, of sometimes craziness, this idea of protectiveness; it was foreign to me. It was also the driving force of many dreams.

Me and my mini me, 2013
Me and my mini me, 2013

Becoming a mother to me was the pinnacle of these hidden wishes. Looking at mini me’s face when she was born gave me a purpose. It was not just the purpose of creating a life, it also gave me some type of lineage; a source of pride instead of pain. I finally had someone who looked like me, someone who would feel that sense of protection,love, discipline, fairness from me….just as I had sought as a child.

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Some Like it Hot!!

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And I do like it hot! My palette has recently been re-awakened by the touch of Spring and an unexpected gift of hope .  This new intense color in my life makes me feel almost reborn. What better to celebrate this rare feeling than to recreate a simple dish loved in so many cultures that I adore.  Food can signal emotion, and this opening of flavors also signals an opening of my heart too.

Mediterranean, Cuban, Mexican, Portuguese families all have a version of a traditional light stewed fish. One thing they all have in common is they balance a light fish with local salty and spicy flavors in a dish with more colors than the Amalfi Coast.

Me and mini me spent some time experimenting with the balanced flavors. Its health benefits are innumerable; high in protein, fiber, high in vitamin C, capsaicin and other anti-inflammatories.

Simply brown any white fish, tilapia..Cod if you wish..whatever is fresh and cultivated in your own back yard. Please be careful when buying seafood; added colorants and false labels can really be deceiving.

Mini Me works hard in the kitchen!!!
Mini Me works hard in the kitchen!!!

We simply browned the fish in olive oil, salt and pepper it, and set it aside covered. We turned the heat up, added chopped onion, chopped stuffed green olives, salt, pepper, oregano and two sweet orange peppers.  We let the vegetables cook until they were translucent. Then added one chopped jalapeno pepper ( more or less depending on the heat you want), and two good handfuls of capers. We added in some cherry tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the fish back in the pan, and lower the heat. Cook for 7-10 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

We made a simple wheat couscous as our side, with fresh spinach and tomatoes. The result is a dish that will surprise you in its simple direct beauty. And whose colors just may give you a little bit of hope for better days.  Mangia!!!!!

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For Him (Daily Prompt)

Botticelli

 

His power is raw.
He unravels and exposes
me.

Dissects me.
Heals all of me.

His dark eyes startle me.
Stir me. Ache against me.
For me.

In dreams,
He trembles and climbs inside me
again and again
under our bare sky.

And I heal him.
Unravel him. Expose him.
Shield him.

And he stays…stays because
only he hears
the stifled knocking
coming from my heart.

-P

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/hes-shes-so-fine/

 

New Labels, Old Habits?

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Seeing a well-fed, satisfied face across the kitchen table is probably at the top of my list of life’s greatest pleasures. I like to feed and to nurture. The short Italian in me likes to think food and meals can heal all.

Yes, it can repair rifts, build family routines and new families, can warm hearts and even deepen love. Over a meal is usually how Italian women are charmed! And I am most charmed when a tall, handsome man asks for a second helping of my culinary creation:)

When life disappoints, what I miss most is that feeling of being needed in the kitchen. Italian women like to feel they solely sustain their loved ones– through food ( and other things)! Id truly be happy just feeding someone and being loved in my apron. 😉

When that is gone.. What else do I have…I have mini and our food adventures to get me over the slump. We share laughs, ideas and life in the kitchen. She’s developed healthy, well rounded eating habits through years of my coaching!

The FDA is considering a huge change to its nutritional labels to help others make good choices. In the hopes of deterring over-consumption of high sodium and high fat foods the FDA wants to enlarge serving sizes and move percentages to a more readable spot.

While I commend these gestures… I realize as a lover of healthy eating.. that habits will not change with a bigger sign. Change is internal.

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That would be like writing a neon sign to a former lover explaining their mismatched moves! It would be far more fun and more of a learning experience to keep the romance going and offer small changes at a time. In the end, all would win!!!

It is the same with food. When depression hits in, we are all guilty of pleasure eating and drinking. Some use sex with new partners or even strangers to get that endorphin/ego high. Dangerous, stupid and doesn’t help much. It is the same for those whose intake of sweets, fats, and salts triple during depression. These are small habits that we can change.

I worked on a project that offered healthy cooking classes to at risk families last year. I was so excited to show them how one or two small changes could impact their mental, physical and economic health!!

This week, my soul feels out of whack and jarred. My choices..eat until I explode or run to another kind of emotional fix. Neither is a good plan.

Instead.. I am using my energy to snack on better options than fudge, like avocados ( which in the winter I don’t use much but should). I am changing up my routine. Trying some Latin cooking tonight…new proteins. I am hoping the fiery chilies will give me the rush, rather than Ben and Jerry’s!

I’ve got a friend who is willing to join me in some rustic Sicilian cooking and is willing to venture into new waters. I need new waters. I had a pomegranate smoothie this morning and tomorrow am making my own orange-ginger concoction. Fighting one habit at a time.

And though the table may be a bit more empty… And that familiar well-fed face is long gone..there will be others sometime. I will find solace in healthy options I’ve overlooked. So should you.

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The Withdraw: Daily Writing Prompt

The knocking in my heartw11-john-waterhouse-lamia
asked for one more fix.

His hot mouth.
The trance of pretty words.
Grand fantasies. Hope.

Just one more time.
To feel possessed. Owned. Wanted.
Needed.

Same ending.
Raw. Exposed. Forgotten.

The knocking becomes an echo.

—P

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/daily-prompt-addicting/