April 26, 2009

I have no recipe today. In fact, I haven't been cooking much lately. Not that I haven't been eating, but I wasn't enjoying it.

Although I announced my engagement in my last post, and I thank you for you kind thoughts and congratulations, I've been walking a tough road since then. One with much thought, introspection and examining of my life, past, current, and future.

I realized that I wasn't happy, and that I can't try to take another big step forward without remedying that. I can't bind my life to another's until I my life is what I want it to be, and then to know that the Trainer and I can still make it work.

There are certain things that I cannot change, we simply cannot afford to get our own place, even the tiniest of holes in the wall, and the Trainer won't leave his family, his mother most importantly, with the additional financial obligation of paying for the apartment without us.

Other things I can change. I came to New York to be an artist and I realized that I've been trapped in a hamster wheel of a desk job, my butt stuck to a chair and my eyes glued to a computer screen, only seeing people who aggravate me on a good day and drive me absolutely up a wall on a bad day. I haven't created an honest to goodness piece of art in over a year. That must change. I have signed up for a glass art course and I am going to be taking back time for my myself and my art.

I grew up hiking, camping and cave exploring with my parents, instilled with a love and respect for the natural world. Before the Trainer all my serious relationships were with other cavers, and caving, hiking and camping was never and issue, just something we did. I haven't hiked in 3 years. That is due, in part, to my own illness and the long road that led me to discovering my celiac disease and later to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Now that my stomach and internal organs all seem to be in working order, and my skin is no longer my enemy, I feel that I can venture away from 'home' for more extended periods of time. I woke with a start in the middle of the night and wondered what would happen if I never went hiking again. Not a prospect I relish, I must admit. And so, I must find a join a hiking group and really reconnect with nature. This will nurture my soul and my art.

For days I worried how these changes would affect my relationship with the Trainer. I made myself sick with it. I know it is highly unlikely that the Trainer will go hiking with me, and we're used to doing just about everything together. I wonder how he will react to not having me home on the weekends, when I will be out side or in the studio. After I upset myself with all the things that I thought could go wrong I finally had to present my concerns to him, he could tell I was unhappy. And all he said was "take care of yourself, you support me and you know I support you in anything you choose to do."

Such simple words, a smile, a hug and a kiss and a huge weight was lifted from my heart. It remains to be seen how this will work in reality, but I am happier than I have been in a long time.

Heather has given me the Kreativ Blogger Award but I'm going to wait until I have my feet under me again before I list the seven things I love.

I'm still here, I'm still cooking and I will be creating again.

See you soon!

April 3, 2009

simple cracked pepper pollock

One Sunday when we were in Michigan, yes, it has taken me this long to post this, the Trainer and I had to leave early in the afternoon. First thing in the morning Mom and I took him to see our local Whole Foods Market. After breakfast we were all sitting at the kitchen and Dad asked the Trainer: how would you like to do a little manual labor? So while I fretted over the taxes the Trainer learned how to rake a yard.

After he finished we packed up the few things we brought and made this pollock, using the simple recipe from the guy at the Whole Foods fish counter. We ate and I went upstairs to brush my teeth and do a sweep off the guest room and bathroom to make sure we weren't leaving anything behind. I heard voices from the top of the stairs so I waited until they stopped before going back down. A few minutes later I walked into the kitchen and the Trainer said: Mija, your parents have given us their permission to get married.

I was smiling so big as I hugged first Mom, and then Dad, and then the Trainer. I'm not a crier, but I have to admit there were tears. Then it was time to leave. At the airport Mom asked if it was official, and I was still so happy and surprised I could barely say anything.Later, after our return, I was able to pull myself together enough to confirm that, yes, we are engaged.

Cracked Pepper Pollock
2 pollock fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh dill

Preheat oven to 425 F. Arrange pollock on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour evenly over fish and top with fresh dill. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with a spritz of lemon juice.

March 28, 2009

green beans with caramelized onions and almonds

This past weekend I took the Trainer home to Michigan for a quick visit. We got to watch Mom perform in the local ice show. I enjoyed showing the Trainer around the town I grew up in. Dad and I took him to Meijer's and almost lost him in the huge store. We drove him past my huge high school and my elementary school.

We walked around my neighborhood and I showed him where my grandmother lived and the 'closest' grocery store to our house. We toodled around downtown with my friend B and his fiancee J, stopping for coffee at the original Borders. The Trainer was amazed at how quite Ann Arbor is; he decided that he liked downtown but would have trouble adjusting to my quite and relative (compared to New York) isolation of my neighborhood.

Saturday night I pulled out several photo albums, showing the Trainer pictures of same of the litters of gerbil pups I raised in high school. Of course I also showed him pictures of myself when I was a babe. Our photo albums run out shortly after I turn 2, I must have kept Mom pretty busy. As I was looking through a book of all my awards and certificates I found what might have been my first two recipes.

Since Mom was so busy with the figure skating club and ice show I knew that Dad had been alone for dinner most nights for almost two weeks. Friday night we had some great post roast that Mom cooked in her clay pot and left for us but Saturday I fixed a special dinner for my two best guys.

Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Almonds
1 lb green beans, cut into inch long pieces
1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
3 gloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
In heavy pan or skillet pour in olive oil, garlic and onion. Turn heat on to medium and saute until onions are translucent. Add greens beans and raise temperature to high. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add almonds and stir briefly. Turn off heat and serve.

This was big hit, especially with Dad, since he loves caramelized onions and Mom rarely uses any extra oil in her cooking.

March 19, 2009

bar-b-cue chicken

It's been a busy week. The Boss is going to a trade show on 'the Continent' which means lots more paper work for me to generate and proof read. Add to that a request, made Tuesday, that we make him a catalogue of sorts with pictures of our 25 most important pieces. (this, of course, requires me to take new photos in some cases)

Because the majority of the paperwork cannot be generated until the last minute three of us stayed until 7:30 last night working and I've got a lot more to do before the trunk gets picked up at 12:30 today.

On top of that, Tuesday was St. Patrick's Day, an event I would have completely missed had there not been a green stripe and loud parade right down the middle of Fifth Avenue, directly under my office window. The ranks of uniformed police officers, firemen and soldiers left my coworker drooling and wondering how she could be single with so many uniformed guys out there. I endless marching bands made it harder than usual to concentrate on the tasks at hand.

When it was all over the boss braved the remaining crowds to visit a few other offices and brought back chocolate cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery. I must admit that they smelled fantastic when I went to the kitchenette to self-righteously heat up my bar-b-cue chicken and kale. When I was taking my meal back to my desk I realized that I would rather have my chicken and vegetables, and I don't regret being unable to eat those types of things anymore.

This could be a slow-cooker recipe, but I made it on the stove last weekend. It reminds me off food I used to have at camp or other summer picnic events. A bright taste to compliment the bright, but still cool, days that are heralding spring here in New York. I saw the first purple crocus buds peeking up in the church yard on Sunday.

Bar-B-Cue Chicken
1-1/2 pound chicken
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons honey

Place all ingredients in a medium covered sauce pan or slow-cooker and add just enough water to cover chicken. Stir to mix and cook on low for about two hours. Shred chicken with a fork and continue cooking slightly uncovered until most of the liquid evaporates.

Serve with salad, rice, on a bun or in a wrap.

March 14, 2009

garam masala

Yesterday morning I used up the last of my garam masala making my breakfast. I realized that I have used this spice blend in two recipes that I have posted. When I first bought garam masala to make saag I had no idea what it was and bought the pre-mixed bottle from the store. That mix had anti-caking agents and when I realized how much of it I would be using for my breakfasts, I decided to try to make my own blend. As it turns out, this particular blend is made from spices I already have "in stock" and after a little tweaking I've come up with a combination that tastes fantastic and is easy for me to prepare.

Garam Masala
makes enough to fill 1 3oz spice bottle
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground corriander
2 teaspoons ground cardomom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Mix all ground spices in a large bowl or coffee grinder until they are a uniform color. Pour into a small, airtight glass jar.

Because this mixture has no anti caking agents, and the ground particals may not be uniform, it might not shake out of the jar as well, but that doesn't mean it is any less tasty.

March 12, 2009

honey mustard roasted brussels sprouts

After last weekend's beautiful sunny days March has returned to remind us that it's not quite spring yet. The nights are still cold, but the clear days are bright, chilly in a way that allows the sun to kiss your face with the promise of warmth to come. Two days of dreary weather prepared me for today's clear briskness.

Having been shuffled around by the boss, I found myself with Thursday off rather than Tuesday. This left me with a fair number of things that needed to be done today. The Trainer and I had an appointment to have our taxes prepared, only to find that both of us likely owe money. The tax preparer was generous enough to advise us to file ourselves and didn't charge us. I suppose he makes plenty of money this season, but it was still kind of him.

After that disappointment, and smoothing the Trainer's ruffled feather's, I walk home under the clear blue sky. For lunch I wanted something warm and comforting, but with a a bright little zing, just like the day. After roasting my brussels sprouts I settled in to finish a few other projects and to plan my attack of our taxes.
Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts
serves 2
1 10 pkg of brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
3 teaspoons ground yellow mustard (I use Coleman's)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup water
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F and line a loaf pan with aluminum foil. Wash the brussels sprouts and trim stems, removing any outer leaves that look damaged, and cut in half. In a large bowl whisk oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, ginger, turmeric and a few grinds of fresh black pepper until combined. Add brussels sprouts to bowl and stir until covered in mustard mixture. Transfer to prepared pan and scrape all mustard out of bowl, lightly salt sprouts and out in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes stirring once halfway through. Remove from oven and places brussels sprouts in a bowl. While pan is still warm, use water to deglaze pan, scraping everything from the bottom of the pan, to use as extra sauce.

March 11, 2009


After our late winter storm at the beginning of the week spring arrived in Saturday. The ride in the sun the sun made the trip down to the musty basement to retreive the bike. I decided to leave without the Trainer and rode to Target, through my old neighborhood, before going to the gym.

Outside the Queens Mall and Queens Tower folks were out enjoying the day and all the street food carts were out in force. The smells or grilled meat hovered over the street and made my stomach growl. It seems like the heat brings everyone out of the woodwork, and all the smells of delicious food along with them. I think of lunch hour at the United Nations.

By the time I got to the gym, I had bar-b-cue on the brain. Grilled sausages, hamburgers and chicken. And what is a hamburger without ketchup? And after a stop at the grocery, and an afternoon of simmering on the stove, I now have ketchup for my new batch of burgers.

I'm looking forward to one later, but right now the Trainer and I are lounging on the bed with the gerbils, Toni and Tavo, running around and over us. Tavo seems fascinated with the computer today and keeps coming to sniff my keyboard and make his own additions to the post.

I used Emril's recipes, only changing it a little bit as I went along. As I tasted it while it was cooking it really tasted like Big Boy's cabbage soup I remember from road trips pf my youth. As it cooled down it tasted more and more like the ketchup I remember, although I haven't had Heinz in a long time.

3 pounds tomatoes
1 small onion
1 large clove garlic
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Wash the tomatoes, cut them in half and remove seeds and chop in quarters. Puree tomatoes in batches and transfer into a medium non-reactive saucepan. Puree the onion and garlic with the last batch of tomatoes. Add honey and spices and bring to a boil. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, fora about 1 hour. Add vinegar and continue cooking until it achieves desired consistency. Add salt to taste. Cool and store in a non-reactive container.

March 8, 2009

curried broccoli soup with spiced cashews

I have to admit that I'm not much one for checking the weather. I like to know what's going on, but normally I only get to watch short bits of the Today show when I'm getting dressed or eating breakfast. As often as not, I gauge what I should wear based on what the folks outside in the plaza are wearing, since my office is right next door.

It was merely a coincidence, then, that I made this warm and toasty soup just in time for the east coast's big winter storm. A few weeks ago I got a few new organic spice mixes at Whole Foods. The curry powder sat on the shelf for a while before I decided to use it on my kale.
The first bite was delicious, and stirred a little memory down deep inside. After a few bites the half formed feelings of comfort and warmth start to resolve themselves. Something sweet was missing. Something smooth and creamy.

A vision flashed in my memory, a grey rimmed, well used, sturdy off-white plate with a generous serving of bright yellow, raisin studded curried rice. A special treat that Mom fixed in frequently. So good it made broccoli palatable, in my youthful opinion. I always ate my vegetables first, and saved the best for last.

The image of Mom's curried rice, nestle along side spears of broccoli bumped around in my head enticingly until I saw Liz's broccoli soup. A little spice, a little sweet, and a little crunch makes for a great serving of vegetables. And even though I had no idea the storm was coming until the boss called Sunday evening to close the office for Monday I was sure glad I had something warm and toasty.

Curried Broccoli Soup
*I apologize for the lack of pictures, we are experiencing technical difficulties with the camera
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 bunches of broccoli, florets and stems chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 cups broth or stock
2 tablespoons curry powder
3/4 cup
golden raisins

Spiced Cashews

1 cup cashews, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp
1/2 tsp garam masala

Pour olive oil in a large skillet or saucepan and add onions and garlic. Turn heat on low and slowly saute until onions are translucent. Add broccoli and increase heat to medium, stirring occasionally until broccoli is bright green and tender. Transfer about one quarter of the broccoli mix to a blender or food processor and add 1/2 cup stock and puree until smooth. Transfer to a sauce pan and blend the remaining broccoli and stock in batches. Place soup back over low heat, add the raisins, curry powder and salt to taste. Simmer for about five minutes, adding more broth if you want a thinner soup.

While soup is simmering heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet. When oil is hot add salt, turmeric and garam masala, stirring to make a paste. Stir in the cashew pieces and make sure that they are completely coated. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for 5-7 minutes, until cashew just start to brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool for several minuntes.

Serve soup garnished with spiced cashews.

March 3, 2009

tuna pomegranate & roasted garlic wraps

On Saturday we had a little breath of spring here in Queens. On Wednesday the puddles along the gutters looked like spills of iced coffee. Thursday the weather was slightly above freezing, Friday it was downright balmy, but it rained in the evening. Saturday dawned bright and clear, with a nip in the air but the promise of actual warmth from the sun.

This close to the end of winter, our stores were running low. The Trainer used the last of the walnuts and pecans on his oatmeal and after making bread and test running a few recipes I could see the bottom of the proverbial barrel of my dried fruit stores.

A trip to Trader Joe's was in order, and in this weather we decided to take the bikes. I'm always fascinated as we pedal through cross-sections of ethnic neighborhoods. On a Saturday afternoon we see Latin people strutting along Roosevelt avenue. There are so many Italian restaurants along one section of Queens Boulevard that it smells perpetually of pizza and tomato sauce. As we push up the hill barely pass Jewish families walking home from Temple, the women in long skirts and kerchiefs over their hair. Here all the restaurants are glatt Kosher and the signs read in Russian. When the signs shift to Greek we turn onto Whitestone Boulevard for the final push to the store.

We loaded up on nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, mesquite honey and just a few other necessaries. With more than 20 pounds of food split between two packs we step out to unlock the bikes to discover that winter was back. By the time we got home I wasn't feeling my toes and my hands were stiff around my handle bars. Just once it would be nice for the ride home to be the easier one.

After putting the bikes back in the basement and filling the cupboards with our haul I was famished. I wanted protein after a trip like that and I just happened to have a brand new can of Trader Joe's tuna, packed in water with no soy or anything. I had some kind of inspiration and threw together a quick wrap, which was so filling and unexpectedly delicious that I got the ingredients and made a prettier version tonight.
Tuna Pomegranate & Roasted Garlic Wrap
2-3 large leaves of lettuce
1 can tuna, drained
6-9 cloves roasted garlic
1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Was and dry your lettuce. Smush garlic along the length of the rid of one lettuce leaf. Spread the tuna on top of the garlic. Drizzle pomegranate molasses along the tuna and salt to taste. Fold lettuce and wrap with the other leaves.

Tuna Pomegranate & Roasted Garlic Hor Devoures
1 tuna steak
roasted garlic
pomegranate molasses
lettuce, cut into ribbons
fleur de sel
olive oil

Pour a little but of oil into a skillet and heat until it's very hot. Sear the tuna steak, no more than 2 minutes on each side. Remove to a cutting board and slice into 1 1/2inch wide strips. Sear the fresh sides of the tuna. When the tuna is cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4inch thick slices. top each slice with a smear of pomegranate molasses, one clove of roasted garlic and wrap with a ribbon of lettuce. Arrange on a plate and sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve warm or cold.

February 28, 2009

black forrest gingerbread hearts

I love gingerbread. I've always liked dark, spiced cookies. The ones that heat you up from the inside after cold winter outings. Even before I had any dietary restrictions I was seeking the perfect gingerbread.

I made these first as a loaf to share with the Trainer, but he thought it was a little to spiced to suite him so I tweaked it again and made a batch just for me. Instead of making a loaf, I spread the batter out in a backing pan. After it was baked I descided to try out my new heart cookie cutter.

Of course, after seeing me enjoy my gingerbread heart and cup of tea every evening the Trainer finally decided he wanted to try one. After one, two, three little hearts popped into his mouth, he decided that they weren't too bad. In fact, "they're pretty good" he declared before finishing off my stash. Luckily, before this happened both S and C had a chance to try them and I got their votes of approval too. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.Black Forrest Gingerbread
1/2 c. (15pc) prunes
1/2 c. water
1 small tangerine or 4oz applesauce and zest of 1 orange
3 eggs
2 Tbsp honey
6oz (2 c.) blanched almond flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 Tbsp ground allspice
1/2 Tbsp ground nutmeg
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. dried cherries
Preheat oven to 325°F and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Soak prunes in 1/2 c. water in a covered container in a warm location. Blanch tangerine: in a small, heavy sauce pan cover the tangerine in cold water, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute, drain and repeat two more times. Cover tangerine with water once more and boil for 1 hour. In a blander or food processor puree the prunes, water, tangerine, honey and eggs. In another bowl mix almond flour, spices, baking soda and salt. Blend dry ingredients with prunes and mix well, then stir in cherries. Pour into prepared pan and spread to edges with back of a spatula and Bake for 25-35 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool for at least 30 minutes and cut into squares, or any other shape with a cookie cutter.