Food for Healing

Lets JamA lot of old pain bubbled up this month, mostly stemming from my rent being raised and my scramble to find a new home. I’m still looking, but not as passionately as I should be. It is one of those rare moments that I am faced with decisions I’d rather avoid and hide from. It seems so much easier to pretend that it’s not happening and that I don’t have to make a decision that will so greatly impact my life. It’s hard living in a city where your home can be thrown into complete flux. It makes you feel imbalanced. And very alone.

Strangely, as a result, I find myself spending more time alone. I didn’t notice it until days passed and I hadn’t spoken to anyone but my dog. I wasn’t working on projects either. Just sitting, thinking, reading (maybe). I am what you would call listless and what for me is a rarity. I feel my fire put out and I am worried it isn’t just the apartment thing anymore but a host of other things, all simmering just below surface. What they are, I’m not sure, but my desire to do anything other than worry about where I will live, has been quelled. I do not, in any sense, feel like myself.

So where did I go?

More importantly, how do I come back?

Over this same course of time I’ve been thinking very hard about what I want to write. Have you ever seen a writer who doesn’t have a genre, a home, a comfortable place? It’s embarrassing, frankly. I’ve been trying to teach myself to listen and look for opportunities where I would normally ignore them. What I heard a couple of times was the same question, “Why don’t you ever write about food?” Which is funny since I spend 80% of my time thinking about food in one capacity or another. I am either hungry, researching restaurants, ordering groceries, reading about trends, or eating.

It had never once occurred to me to write about food in a serious way. I think in the back of my head I just assumed that food writing was for people that were chefs, or former chefs, or food critics with insane palates. I guess I never thought about letting just a simple passion manifest itself in such a way.

As I mulled this over I also considered how I stopped cooking (really cooking) this time last year. While I’ve been marinating in limbo I didn’t realize I had stopped cooking or baking. That a year had gone by without any attention paid to one of my favorite pastimes. I used to cook full, intricate, and delicious meal 3-4 nights a week. I’d bake. I’d scheme. I’d eat. A year has passed of so-so meals, tried and true recipes. Flavorless turkey burgers and bowls of cereal. I lost the thrill I had for cooking. It went away with the close of a long relationship.

I let it leave the baggage and take my cooking away. My heart breaks to even write this knowing that I drowned out an important part of me because someone else used to play a part in it. Here I was thinking that I was fine but I erased something important to me because it reminded me of something sad. I wasn’t that strong after all.

So here I am, a year later and prepared to face some weird food demons. But it will be interesting and (maybe exciting) to reconnect with a former version of myself. I also can not wait to share whatever fun things I find along the way with you. It’s been a challenging couple of weeks but I keep hearing that when things get tough is when the magic happens.

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Comfort Food Means Lots of Wine, Carbs, and Butter (RISOTTO RECIPE!)

While the original intent behind interviewing my friends for the blog was to highlight their endeavors, I am finding that writing about them reminds me of why our lives converged and how important it is that I keep them near. As we grow older and pursue various relationships and careers, we don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like, and this process has allowed me to reconnect with some amazing people.

With that said, my next interview was with my best friend, Kate Hayes. ‘Literally’ is so overused by now… but I have LITERALLY known Kate since she was born and have been through many phases of life with her. Something that she has always done for me, whether I am celebrating or I am deeply saddened, is feed me.

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Best friends like to wear matching clothes.

I popped by her Sutton Place apartment last week to have her teach me one of her original recipes. She’s actually never written it down before, so we had fun trying to put together measurements. The recipe in full appears at the end of this post.

We stand in her kitchen and she turns on the heat of her gas stove. She flips the heat to about medium and starts warming up two skillets and measuring out Arborio rice, what you use to make risotto.

“I’m making you my ‘Risotto Two Ways’. One is Pea and Prosciutto and one is Pesto.”

I ask her what she loves about risotto so much.

“It’s my number one comfort food,” she says.IMG_8128

If you don’t know, risotto is a creamy, often times wine-soaked, rice dish from Italy. It can be made in a multitude of ways, which is why when I met up with Kate, she focused on her two personal favorites. I ask her if it’s a comfort food because she ate it a lot as a kid or if she thought it was because of the nature of the dish.

“It’s the nature of the dish. I didn’t really grow up eating it. I did eat a lot of regular pastas like spaghetti and meatballs, penne and sausage, and lasagna.”

She started experimenting with risotto on her own about a year ago. She’s worked on perfecting her recipe ever since.

She starts sauteing the rice in frying pans. Since we’re making two kinds, she has two pans out. She warns that a lot of people undercook their rice at this stage and makes sure to get ours nice and brown before adding in the white wine, the first of many doses. The pans start to boil and she brings them down to a simmer.

“My great-grandmother was from Florence and she taught me how to cook in her kitchen,” she continues, “and from there I started cooking with my grandparents and parents.”

She remembers that pasta was the first thing she ever made on her own in the kitchen. I ask her what she thinks of the carb-cutting craze that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

IMG_8131“It’s crazy! Carbs are the spice of life,” she says. “Carbs are life. It’s scientifically proven that it’s the best way to convert energy. As is fat.” She laughs as she points down to her hand ladeling in some butter into our mixture.

“It’s all about balance.”

The wine is absorbing nicely so she heads into pouring in some chicken broth. She also pours me a glass of the wine saying, “The key to making this is drinking wine while you do it.”

I happily take the glass and she explains to me her other favorite risotto dish to make, “Drunken Risotto.” She tells me it’s about 80% wine and 20% chicken broth. Most recipes are the opposite but she tells me that it has no butter or cheese in it so, “It’s practically vegan.”

I laugh and sip my wine. We’re both gluten-free so I ask her if she found her way to risotto because she couldn’t eat pasta anymore.

“That’s pretty much it. Back when I found out I couldn’t have gluten, the options were pretty terrible. So risotto is what I would order in Italian restaurants.”

Her favorite restaurant risotto? “Basil Zucchini Risotto at Cafe Boulud. It’s perfection.”

IMG_8132By this time we have been standing over the hot stove for 15 minutes. Adding liquid as we go. This is the technique to making risotto. Little amounts of liquid over an extended period of time. It is not a Set-It-And-Forget-It meal. You have to stand over the stove constantly stirring and adding liquid. It’s a bit of a commitment but she tells me that, “Once I want it, I commit to it. It’s worth it.”

She also finds it relaxing because, “I have to concentrate on risotto, so it gets me out of my head.”

The Arborio rice she’s using does suggest boiling the rice for 30 minutes. She shudders and cringes when I ask her if she’d ever resort to that. I probably wouldn’t either. It sort of sounds like flavorless gruel.

We hang out in her kitchen like this, talking about cooking and living while she sprinkles Himalayan Salt and Truffle Oil in and we keep adding the liquid, to the dish and our glasses.

As we finish up and the dish truly becomes “Two Ways”, prosciutto and peas into one and pesto into the other, I ask her for advice for anyone who wants to start cooking but doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing.

“Pick a night you want to try it and clear your schedule.”

IIMG_8137 have to agree. I create the worst tasting food when I’m rushed.

She continues, “And use a cookbook for inspiration but don’t stress about the recipe. It’s about individual taste and what you like the most.”

It’s funny because she’s said the same thing to me countless times over the years from recipes to relationships, “Do and eat what you like the most.”

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Introducing 4 Ingredient Cookies – Twists on the Classic

Everyone knows the 3 Ingredient Cookie Recipe. A healthy easy treat you can make in no time.  It’s just bananas, oatmeal, and protein. It has made so many rounds on social media, especially Pinterest, that it’s hard to find any sort of original creator. It just exists.

I’ve been a fan of the cookie ever since I learned that I am a Celiac. Though over the years the banana/oats/protein combo got kind of boring. I stopped making them and started buying store bought. In an effort to spice up my cookie life, I started making FOUR INGREDIENT COOKIES and just added one more fun ingredient to each batch to liven them up and satiate whatever it was a I was craving.

I’m sharing my favorites to show you how easy it is to spice up this famous recipe. As always, you can right-click to save and print.

All of these can be cooked at 350 for 15 minutes and take 2 bananas, 1 cup of oats and 1 scoop of your preferred protein powder. Measure out the 4th ingredient to your liking.

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How to Build the Best Green Smoothie

I love green smoothies! They are way more filling than a juice (but I love juice too!) and you can mix and match to make the most interesting and flavorful concoctions. It’s like I can pretend that I’m a mad scientist…but with greens! I made the below image and matching PDF for you to download and save the next time your stumped for ideas or inspiration. Just mix and match from my favorite selections below, blend, and enjoy!

These babies are packed with protein, vitamins, nutrients, and badassery.

If you click on the image below, you’ll be taken to the PDF that you can download and SAVE!

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Lunacy, or, Thank God for Turkey Balls

Let’s talk about last Tuesday. I was having one of those nights anyone with a desk job could tell you about. I had exhausted myself at work, but had done so in front of a computer. My brain was just about drained of all its good, smart, creative fluid, but my body was still revving. It was starting to feel impossible to sit down and put my hands to the keyboard. Adding on a couple more hours of writing after working all day seemed an insurmountable challenge. First I tried yoga but I couldn’t focus enough to even calm myself down. So I did what felt right: I made turkey balls.

When I want to procrastinate or I feel a migraine coming on, I cook. It makes me feel productive even if pages are left blank. On Tuesday it was turkey balls, which are a little bit time intensive than what I usually do because it requires its chef to grate all the vegetables and cry over the onion. A turkey ball recipe meant I was in a deep state of WTF-itis. I realize I’m getting too old to discuss the “what do I want to be when I grow up” issue in a public setting (I mean, I’ve moved on from LiveJournal, haven’t I?) but this was exactly what I was thinking about as I massaged eggs, ground turkey, and almond flour.

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Turkey Balls anyone?

The turkey balls have to bake for 40 minutes, meaning I had to stay alert regardless of how I was feeling, so in between oven checks, I put some words down on the page and imagined a life where I knew what I was doing. I wish I could blame the curated social media pages of my peers for making me believe that everyone has a calling and a purpose but that isn’t true. I have always felt this way. It’s like being in the 6th grade and having a friend who really loves horses. She throws horse themed parties and everyone buys her horse themed presents and she always gets to be the horse when you play farm. Because of her conviction, you lose out. You have to unpick horse as a thing to like because it is not your personal brand. No shit, I’m convinced people have been branding themselves since birth.

I’m really letting myself go a little wacky here (wackier than usual), but like I said five times a day at work this week, Mercury is in retrograde and I am unspooling at a rate quicker than the actual spool on a high powered sewing machine. What I’m saying is…

I never picked a thing. Sure, I have degrees in English and Communication Studies but those are such general selections I was really only one step up from being Undeclared. I didn’t pick a thing and now I’m almost 27 and can’t tell you what my favorite movie is or my favorite store because there is just too damn many to choose from and I change my mind everyday.

I change my mind everyday and the only time this comes in handy is in the kitchen. I can always create something to treat my taste buds, or to soothe a sour stomach, or to keep my hands busy while my mind wanders. Turkey balls give me focus when I find I’m spiraling and full of unnecessary self pity. It doesn’t matter that I switch out basil for dill or red onion for a yellow one, I can make every recipe my own, and they’re still delicious. And the fact that no one is watching me or waiting for me to fail makes it all the better.

Perhaps there is a lesson here. Perhaps not. Perhaps I just really like cooking.