Shakshuka for One & Getting Past Bad Days

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I’m having one of those weeks where I feel bogged down but can’t find the source of the bogging. I am searching in every drawer but I can’t find what it is bringing me down. The grind of 9-5 job doesn’t help despite the love and support of coworkers and each day I find myself coming home depleted, worn out, and demotivated. Probably sounds familiar and despite my sadness, it makes me feel better knowing I am not alone.

I am fully capable of psyching myself up, repeating mantras, believing, and feeling inspired but I find very few outlets for that good energy. I have yet to find my gift to give and the process is endlessly draining, discouraging, and tiring. Hanging on to the belief that I’ll find my gift is not easy.

When I got home last night, unable to use my subway commute to determine what I should do with my life, I focused on dinner. I wanted to eat something that would taste like comfort food to take my mind off of the chaos for a bit. I wanted something to stick to my ribs but not weigh me down anymore than my own thoughts already do. So I decided to make shakshuka and make it for the first time. And of course, being as inwardly focused as I am, I recorded the process and wrote a little recipe.

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I started by surveying what kind of spices and vegetables I had on hand to build this yummy egg dish around. I did not use a recipe. I am happiest when I am just grabbing whatever I have on hand and experimenting.

I love cooking but don’t have strong feelings toward recipes. I am including one here today and yes, I read them all the time. I believe the true pleasure of cooking is not following rules but taking something and make it your own. I like to use recipes as guidelines.

From my fridge and cabinets I pulled and used the following:

3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

I do love simple and minimal recipes and this one certainly falls into that category with a fairly short ingredient list and the use of a single pan.

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Eating olives instead of cooking

To start I diced up the garlic while heating up a decent amount of olive oil in my pan. I kept the heat on low as I added the garlic. Next I rough chopped the green onion and tossed it in. And followed it up with some olives. The only olives I had on hand had pits so I spent a good amount of time both eating them and pitting them. Do yourself a favor and just go buy pitted olives and rough chop them as well. Toss them in with everything else and keep the heat low. Low heat requires patience but I usually use that time getting myself organized.

I let everything get tender but not mushy and poured in my tomato sauce. I used a Barilla pasta sauce that, while cheap, is pretty tasty. I stirred everything all together.

After that I sprinkled on some pepper, parsley flakes, and a tiny bit of turmeric because I like its anti-inflammatory properties and add it where I can. I did not stir these in, I left them on top to help season my eggs. Which I cracked right on top of the mixture. I wish all 3 eggs would have sunk in a little bit more from an aesthetic standpoint but in the end they all cooked nicely so it wasn’t a big deal.

After the eggs were cracked and plopped in, I covered the whole thing and turned up the heat to medium. I let them cook for about 10 minutes but should have done 7. The sauce cooked down just a touch too much. Full disclosure, I was texting my friends and making my lunch for the next day so I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have!

I pulled everything off the heat and after a little photo shoot I dumped the mixture onto a bed of arugula.

And then I ate until I felt better. Which is perhaps not a healthy statement, but it is true.

Cooking is soothing and keeps me feeling level when days are long and difficult. Cooking dinner gives me a sense of purpose when I feel like I have none. I think perhaps that is why I cooked elaborate meals every single night when my former relationship was falling apart. It makes me feel needed and accomplished. It is the best escape.

Give the recipe a try and let me know what changes you make. There is a million things you can add to this! (Avocado, feta cheese, tomatoes, etc.) Also, what do you cook when you are feeling blue? Why does it make you feel better?

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SHAKSHUKA FOR ONE
3 cloves of garlic
1 stalk of green onion
1 handful of Picholine olives
Olive Oil
3/4 cups of tomato sauce
Pepper, parsley flakes, and turmeric, to taste
3 eggs
1 cup of arugula

  1. In a small to medium pan, heat olive oil over a low heat and add diced garlic, green onion, and olives
  2. Once tender, pour in tomato sauce and stir
  3. Sprinkle with pepper, parsley, and turmeric, do not stir
  4. Crack eggs on top of sauce
  5. Cover and turn heat up to medium
  6. Cook for about 7 minutes or until eggs are baked through
  7. Remove from heat and lay on a bed of arugula
  8. Enjoy!

 

 

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A New Borough & Drive Renewed

NYC
Moving absolutely depleted me. And for that I am grateful.

It doesn’t need to be explained again, but I am a person that enjoys feeling busy. Actually “enjoy” is probably too positive a word. I am a person that needs to feel busy, I find value in busy, and that is a very dangerous way to be. I fill my days to their max which in many ways makes me very accomplished but in many ways inefficient and completing tasks that don’t mean much to me.

Because I am a busy bee, I lack focus, and jump from one project to the next with reckless abandon wondering why I’ll never “publish that book” or “finish that collage” or just “get my shit together.” I know what I am like and I am trying, really trying, to change. (Mean it!)

Having to move forced me to focus. For the past three weeks my mind has been set on a singular project, with many different tasks, with a very strict deadline. It was all I thought about and all I worked on. I was focused and driven and exhausted! But… It got done. I moved. And I love my new place! I even found my passport after I panicked that I had lost it in the move.

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Post Move//Pre AC & Bed Frame

The move reinforced what I already knew– that I work best under pressure and with an immovable deadline. Now to create those sorts of deadlines for myself… well… I am working on this. I need to find an accountability partner. (Taking applications now! Must be a hard ass!) Or a system that will place high value on real deadlines.

The move also showed me how much time I have in a day if I really dedicate it and direct it to one goal, not many. I was worn out, exhausted, and sore every night but I also was moving through my tasks on deadline (sometimes ahead of deadline) and went to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and little panic about how I was going to get it all done. Because I was getting it all done. (The novelty.)

Moving myself, with no partner or roommates, was a terrifying task. But as I moved through the steps I realized that I was fully capable of doing it. I even called my mom and said, “Apparently I became an adult at some point and missed it.” Moving, like living alone, is not something you think you can do by yourself until you just do it by yourself.

And like my best friend, Kate, once told me, “Fear means go.” And so… as I shop for curtains and strange wall art I need to regain my strength to totally and completely drain myself with the projects that mean something to me. And to focus for crying out loud.

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.

Don’t Take for Granted How Far You’ve Come

longway

On Father’s Day last week I was scrolling through my Facebook photos to find a favorite one of my father and I from my brother’s wedding 5 years ago. I did find it:

Dad

I love this picture because our relationship has always been about laughter. Challenging ourselves to tell the worst joke possible, or swapping stories about the crazy people we have the misfortune of meeting in our respective workplaces. My mom is the first person I call when I have a crisis, my dad is the first person I call when I want to laugh.

I am stunned by the sheer amount of my friends and acquaintances who have already lost their fathers. The memories of these men now gone from our world to another stack one atop another on my Social Media feeds like blocks. I don’t know what it means other than the fact that I am lucky. Two living parents. Two living souls to call upon when I need that extra support I can’t find anywhere else.

I am not going to be ashamed now to pull from the now removed/now famous Instagram post from Khloe Kardashian. I get it, I am a writer and I am supposed to be above pop culture and people famous for being famous and all of that but… I AM a writer and my job is to pull inspiration from wherever it may come, to consume all that I can, to shape words the best that I can. So here we are.

'You knew what you had, you just never thought it could slip away': Khloe allegedly decided to stop helping Lamar out unless he decides to beat his addiction once and for all

Set aside for the moment that she is most likely talking about Lamar here and take in this:

“We take things for granted on a daily basis, always with the assumption that whenever we need something, it will be there. There are many things that we fail to realize the value of until they are missing from our lives.” 

There is so much I take for granted. People, places, things… It’s important that I strive for more, to be better and to do better, but if I cannot appreciate what I have already fought for and have won, nothing will ever make me happy.

Sorry…but Khloe is right… I have fought (and I have fought so hard) to be where I am in this exact moment. I have cried, I have counted every penny, I have done things that have scared me to my core, I have been lonely, I have felt like giving up (like… everyday) but, without any of that I would not be where I am today. I am who I wanted to be 5 years ago. I surround myself with people that love AND support me. There is still SO much more to do but today I am going to sit down and take in everything I have accomplished and every failure I have survived. And I suggest you do the same.

Take 5 minutes and look around you. Look inside you. You have done so much, you have come this far, you have survived when you thought you wouldn’t. And you’re going to do it again. Don’t take anything you have for granted today. And I will do my best to do the same.

The Perfect Project Recipe

DeathtoStock_Medium5Hey! Funny story… I still haven’t figured out how to balance all of the writing projects I want to take on… and my mind is getting a little clouded by the whole charade. I now keep lists of both, the projects I have in progress, and of all the projects I’d like to get going on as soon as humanly possible. The biggest challenge of course is taking on work that pays versus working on my own personal writing. The personal stuff doesn’t make me any money (not yet, anyway) but it feeds my soul in a way that some projects cannot. I am always choosing between the two.

It’s funny how the writing I do at home started as a way to keep my brain alive while working an office job, but even that has divided itself into writing work that gets me paid and writing work that makes me happy. I should point out that the two are not always mutually exclusive and I am much happier writing above all else, but somehow I have once again made the work/pleasure divide in my life and once AGAIN work is getting most of my attention.

Perhaps it is because money is easily measurable. I feel accomplished each week because I’m receiving some pay, even if it is tiny. The pay arrives and marks the end of a long work week, a job well done. It is proof that I worked hard and I worked well. Writing for myself is only measurable by word count and often those words make my skin crawl.  

Little by little though I find a way to chip away at the unnecessary and find tricks or methods that allow me to accomplish just a little bit more each week. You see, a flaw of mine, that hardly seems like a flaw upfront, is that I like to “get stuff out of the way”. I’d rather spend four hours one night on a project from beginning to end to get it out the door then dedicate a slot and move on to something else that needs my attention.

The problem here of course is that work that is regular (this blog, freelance, etc.) gets put in front of all my other endeavors (essays for lit mags, poetry, etc.) almost constantly. For example, I haven’t worked on any personal essays in ages and they are where my true passion lies. I should instead, evenly split my time to the best of my ability and finish these things in tandem alongside my personal projects.

The fight for balance continues but I promise you that I will find a method that works for a scatter-brained girl like me and I’ll share the secret sauce with you. I am determined to get the Perfect Project Recipe to get anything and everything you’ve ever wanted done.