Sunday, January 19, 2014

Aspen Empty Nest





I've started blogging over at Aspen Empty Nest.  Most of my new posts will be there, so please come check it out!!



Monday, November 04, 2013

A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools. ~Spanish Proverb

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Or even better..."Your stomach shouldn't be a wastebasket." -Dori Friedberg

Whether it's an ancient Spanish Proverb, or a modern day nutritionist, we all know we need to take care of our bodies.  Some more than others.  I've always felt I was on the above average side in eating a healthy diet.  (Not counting during college and the years immediately following when I lived on popcorn and ICEE's from the gas station).  But I don't eat meat, only fish, lots of vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, very little dairy, NO cheese, and MODERATION is my key.  Any time I tell myself I can NOT eat something I love, like fried foods or chocolate chip cookies, I become COMPLETELY OBSESSED with them, and end up binging.  So the thing that works for me is move more, eat less.  I don't deny myself anything, I just don't eat much of the things I know aren't the best for me. 

Now, according to more and more people, my diet is killing me.  They start talking about leptin and metabolic syndrome and my head starts spinning.  I have spent a lot of time online and talking to my very smart friends who are eating this way.  I would have no problem giving up dairy.  I pretty much already have, but even if I could give up whole grain bread, I still can't wrap my head around the no farro, brown rice, quinoa, and even legumes.  NO BLACK BEANS?  NO CHICKPEAS?  NO GREEN PEAS?  But the scientific community has, for the most part, stayed on the fence.   For now, I'm going to keep reading everything I can about the science behind the whole Paleo/ancestral diet thing, continue listening to my very smart friends, but continue eating whole grains and legumes in moderation.

But when I get invited to my very smart Paleo-eating friend's house for dinner and am asked to bring an appetizer and a salad, I have to get more creative.  Those who have been eating this way for a long time have no problem coming up with ideas, but other than meat and vegetables, I wasn't sure what to take.  My dear husband can't live without chips and hummus, but since those were out of the question, I made a yummy Cauliflower Hummus (completely paleo...no legumes at all), and for me I made my favorite Broccoli Hummus.  That does include some chickpeas, but not many, and it was a huge hit, even with my friends.  I tinkered around with a couple of old recipes and they were so successful I wanted to write them down so I wouldn't forget.  The problem is, I was so busy playing around and taste-testing that I forgot to take photos.  The only photo I have is the bowl of leftovers...(regular hummus for J, and broccoli hummus).  You can see which was more popular!
There was basically none of the Cauliflower Puree left, other than a few bites that I ate by the spoonful the next day.

So here are the recipes.  I served with a ton of crudite', and a few gluten-free crackers for J and I.  Easy peasy.

CAULIFLOWER HUMMUS

Yield:  1-2 cups, depending on the size of your cauliflower head 

*Click HERE for printable recipe

1 Large head of cauliflower (preferably yellow, as the parsley will give it a lovely green color)
2-6 cloves of garlic (my garlic was quite strong so I only used 2)
2 TBSP Almond Butter
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped (I don't recommend using dried parsley, as the color change and taste from the fresh is so beautiful)
1/2 tsp of smoked paprika
Salt, to taste
Garnish with parsley, smoked paprika and olive oil

Separate the cauliflower into florets, cutting away the center core.  Steam or microwave until very tender.  While that is cooling, mince the garlic in a food processor.  Add the olive oil, nut butter, spices and lemon juice and puree well.  Add the cauliflower and puree until it is smooth.  Add more olive oil if needed to get the texture smooth.  Place in dish and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with more paprika and serve with veggies.

********************

Broccoli Hummus

*Click HERE for printable recipe

Yield:  Two Cups

1 lb of broccoli crowns
2 garlic cloves
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed (or 1 cup cooked chickpeas)
2 tsp. ground cumin 
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt,  to taste
1-2 TBSP tahini (sesame paste), to taste


1.  Steam the broccoli for five minutes until tender, but still bright.  Refresh with cold water and drain on paper towels.  (Very IMPORTANT...don't overcook or the color will be a muddy green).

2.  Turn on the food processor and drop in the garlic.  Scrape down and puree again.  Scrape down.

3.  Turn on the machine and slowly pour in the lemon juice and oil with the machine running.  Process until smooth.

4.  Add the tahini and salt to taste.  Blend well.

Serve with veggies, and/or pita. 

Helpful links about paleo, and a couple refuting it, so you can be as confused as I am!!

Whole Nine
Grain Brain, by David Perlmutter
Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD
Built Lean, article by Charlie Seltzer, MD
Outlaw Fitness, by Josh Vales
Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber, from the NIH





Your stomach shouldn’t be a waste basket. ~Dori Friedberg - See more at: http://paleononpaleo.com/paleo-quotations-health-1/#sthash.dEkNPPEE.dpuf
Your stomach shouldn’t be a waste basket. ~Dori Friedberg - See more at: http://paleononpaleo.com/paleo-quotations-health-1/#sthash.dEkNPPEE.dpuf
Your stomach shouldn’t be a waste basket. ~Dori Friedberg - See more at: http://paleononpaleo.com/paleo-quotations-health-1/#sthash.dEkNPPEE.dpuf

“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile.” ― William Cullen Bryant

I seriously love autumn.  I love the crisp mornings, sunny days, and spectacular colors!  It's been a wonderful summer, and I am feeling blessed.  Daylight savings time ended yesterday, so the days are getting shorter.  Now it's time to start counting the reasons to be Thankful, because Thanksgiving will be here soon.  My mom has already started Christmas shopping, and time is going by so fast it's hard to slow down and enjoy the moments.  But it has been a glorious time to be in the mountains. 

Saturday afternoon after a couple of quick rain showers
Yesterday was a great day.  We had NO plans, so stayed in all day.  J loves Sundays.  He sits down in front of the NFL RED ZONE at 1:00, before the first game starts, and basically stays there until he shuffles to bed and falls asleep watching the last game.  I get football by osmosis: based on what he yells, I pretty much figure out what happens.  But I can't watch the Red Zone.  I call it football for A.D.D.  You start watching one game, and they suddenly switch to another one when you look down to check your email...I just can't keep up. But it makes him very happy.  The leaves up here peaked about a week ago, and we've had a couple of rains this week so they are all coming down.  I love the way the roads look when the leaves have just fallen. 



I spent my day reading, catching up on TV shows on my ipad, and starting a new painting.  I hope I'll be able to capture the glorious colors I saw last week.

 We celebrated my young girlfriend's 50th last week in beautiful Callaway Gardens! 
Dressed all in pink for dinner...we don't like to call attention to ourselves at all!
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It was a glorious crisp fall weekend, and we had so much fun relaxing, freezing our tuccas off while biking around the property, and seeing the beautiful gardens and butterflies.  We wanted to go dancing, but the metropolis of Pine Mountain, Georgia didn't really offer anywhere to go, so we cranked up the music and danced in the parking lot!
 We never saw another guest anywhere around, since we were in between seasons, so we kind of had the place to ourselves.  And then we went inside, changed into our pjs, and continued the dance party.  Maybe since most of us are over 50 we should act more like our age, but what's the fun in that?


Must have been a really heartfelt song!

The horticultural center with our awesome volunteer tour guide

 J and I FINALLY played golf.  It rained so much at the beginning of the summer (over 100" before the end of July!), and J was still recovering from ACL surgery, that this was our first time of the year.  I wish I could say I played well, but I didn't suck as much as I thought I would.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a blast.  Hoping to play a couple more times this week.

 We were invited to a friend's sister's house to watch the Trick-or-Treating in Brevard.  They actually close her street and it is absolutely crazy!  I miss those days. 
A live pony!!  How cool is that?

Speaking of Trick or Treating...no trick or treating in college, but parties every day of the week!  My little activist H went dressed as one of her heroines...Rachel Carsen.  (For those of you, like me, who don't know who she was, click on her name for more info).


 She and her friend J also dressed up as Sam and Suzy from the movie "Moonrise Kingdom".  She told me she bought the red dress and sewed the collar and cuffs on them herself.  Who knew she could sew?

So it's goodbye to autumn, and hello winter!  Snowmass has had almost 60" of snow since September!  It's going to be an amazing season! 

**I went to a party this weekend and was asked to bring appetizers.  Since they eat no dairy, grain, sugar or legumes, I was lost for ideas.  I took an awesome Cauliflower puree that was delicious, and had no legumes whatsoever.  I also took my Broccoli Hummus, which does have garbanzo beans, but it is so amazing I keep eating the leftovers by the spoonful!  I'll post the recipes tomorrow.












Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Six things I wish I'd known before sending my daughter to college

It's hard to believe, but summer is basically over.    H starts her sophomore year of college on Tuesday after Labor Day, but is already on campus, welcoming incoming freshmen.  Last year she went backpacking for her freshman Orientation Adventure, and most of the kids in her group are still her closest friends.  This year she will help lead a backpacking/kayaking trip on Catalina Island.
I've been thinking about this time last year.  We spent two days helping her move in to the dorm (which involved carrying a lot of boxes and making multiple Target runs, but not much unpacking, because SHE wanted to do it herself).  That was the first surprise.  I had imagined helping her unpack, putting away her things in an organized manner, hanging pictures, making the bed, etc., but in reality, she had imagined finally being able to make her own decisions about all that.  She was patient with us at first, but when I kept pulling things out of the boxes and placing them where I thought they'd go,  she finally said, between her teeth, "MOM, I've GOT it!"
So after a couple of meals with her, where she was obviously biding her time until she could escape to go meet her new friends, we realized it was time to go.  So we kissed goodbye, took a couple of last photos together, and watched her walk away.  Second surprise...I didn't cry!  I actually felt excited for her and honestly, a little relieved.  We had raised an incredible young woman who was ready to take on the world, (or college, at least), and I was proud and excited for her.
I know there are lots of parents out there who are dropping off their kids for their first year away.  Whether there are younger kids still at home, or if the nest is emptying, there are many changes in store.  As the parent of an only child, it was a tremendous change for me.  Here are some of the things I learned or observed after my only child left for college.

MAKE YOUR IMPORTANT SPEECHES BEFORE MOVE-IN DAY...AND DON’T STAY TOO LONG!


Some kids might welcome your help with unpacking and moving in.  Not ours.  She wanted us to carry the heavy stuff and that was about it.  We teetered on the edge...It was so hard for me to pull back and let her unpack on her own.  We also caught ourselves giving last minute "advice" which I'm sure sounded to her like Charlie Brown's teacher, "Wah, wah wahhh wahhhwahhhh".  But it was evident to us when it was time to leave, so our goodbyes were loving, genuine and quick.  H's roommate's mom ended up staying TEN DAYS after moving her daughter in, and not surprisingly, roommate's transition to college was difficult, tearful, and she transferred away the following semester.  But DO turn around and catch a glimpse of her walking away...and remind yourself that this is what you’ve raised her to do...spread her wings.

BRUSH UP ON YOUR TEXTING SKILLS, AND LEARN TO SKYPE


Your communication with your child will definitely change.  They are navigating their new world filled with new responsibilities, new friends, and new distractions and most likely, telephone calls to mom and dad will not be on the priority list.  And when they do pick up the phone to actually make a call, it’s usually to vent or ask for specific help, like how to refill prescriptions or to please send them their favorite cowboy boots that they left at home.  When you’re aching to see her face, it’s easy to make a quick Skype call at night while she's online, and you can get the visual fix of her smiling mug.

PROBLEMS DON’T ALWAYS BEG FOR ADVICE OR SOLUTIONS


When they do call in a tizzy because they are having a seemingly horrible problem, whether it’s relationship, academic, friends, or some other meltdown, and you instantly put yourself in “Mommy Saves the Day Mode”, slow down, listen, ask questions, and let them get it off their chests.  Nine times out of ten, they’re venting, and as soon as they hang up the phone, go skipping off with their friends without a care in the world.  This was really difficult for me.  I was the problem-solver.  Anytime she had a problem, I wanted to figure it out, and show her the way.  The first couple of times I tried to do that over the phone, she became defensive and exasperated, and finally said, “Mom, I don’t need you to give me any advice, I just want to get it off my chest.”  Not that you will never get involved...when she had a nagging medical problem that she kept complaining about but wouldn’t actually make an appointment with a new doctor, I had to step in and convince her to take care of it.  But it’s actually very satisfying when you see your child navigate through a problem herself.  That’s when you realize you are not the Coach anymore, and gladly become the Cheerleader.

DON’T EXPECT AUTOMATIC ACCESS TO GRADES OR MEDICAL INFORMATION

Your child is legally an adult, so the grades will not automatically come to you.  You also will not be able to call her doctor to find out about her health.  The grades thing was a pretty big adjustment to my husband; since he was the one paying the bills, he felt like he should be getting her “report cards”.   And speaking about paying the bills...the statements will come to your child.  So the communication between you and your child will be important in those aspects.  I would recommend having an understanding with your child before dropping them off at school about what your expectations are.

YOU WILL ENJOY THE PERKS OF THE EMPTY NEST

Flying home after leaving H in California my mind was jumbled with all kinds of memories, fears, hopes, and worries.  Watching her walk away from us to her French placement exam, I didn’t see a young woman going to college, I saw the 5-year-old I dropped off at Kindergarten, who told me that she was afraid but was going to “Face her fears”.  That became a mantra throughout her life, and I realized I needed to follow her lead.  I thought about my fears of losing control over her life, losing her in my life on a daily basis, and reminded myself that this is what we raised her for.  To be strong, independent, and her own person.  Then, miraculously,  I felt a huge relief.
Suddenly, I realized something that I hadn’t thought of amid all the planning, packing, and worrying.  I was going to have the freedom to do things in my life that I wanted to do...travel, take classes, read, and spend time with the wonderful guy I married.  We are living the life we dreamed of for the last few years, and even though I miss her,  it’s a pretty darn good life.

SHE DOESN’T LIVE WITH YOU ANYMORE


I think this is the last thing that really hit us.  And it didn’t really hit us until this summer.  During  spring final exams, when she was exhausted, stressed, and sleep deprived, we got a few more phone calls than usual.  She was SO excited to be coming home, to see “mommy and daddy”, and to sleep in her own bed.  Then she got home, and I think that lasted about 36 hours... during which she probably slept about 24.  She texted and skyped and spoke with her friends scattered all over the country, did the obligatory dinners with us, then, after three weeks of family togetherness, flew up to the Catskills for her summer job as a camp counselor.  After the job was completed, we had four days together before she happily left to go back to school.
She drove from Colorado to school in California with a friend...big step for Dad!


 J and I realized that even though “home” is with us, it’s not where she needs to be right now, and it’s a good thing.  She is discovering so many new things, about herself, about the world, about other people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This year, I have some of the same feelings.  I still miss her.  I still think about her and wish I could see her face more often.  But now that I know what to expect, I have no worries whatsoever about what the year will hold...for all of us.




Saturday, May 04, 2013

Dinner with Eric Ripert and Fabio Viviani!






A couple of years ago, I finally convinced J to take me to Le Bernardin.  I have been a fan of Eric Ripert for many years, and longed to try his food.  It did not disappoint.  I don't remember what everyone else at our table had, but the tuna carpaccio and dover sole that I ate are forever in my memory.  Never in a million years did I think I could make that tuna in my own kitchen, but I was reading the Le Bernardin Cookbook and the recipe for Tuna Carpaccio with Chives actually looked doable.  I had also just made a big batch of Fabio Viviani's Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Oil, and had planned on making his Tuna with Tomatoes and Capers last night (from his new cookbook, Fabio's Italian Kitchen), so I decided to use some of the sushi quality tuna I had to attempt the carpaccio as well.

When H was still at home, I always had to worry about preparing something for her that had protein, but was vegetarian, so I probably wouldn't have attempted such a fish-heavy meal, but that's one of the benefits of having an empty nest-I'm just cooking for me and J.  We just arrived in Lake Toxaway, for the first three months of summer, and I had just re-stocked the kitchen.  I got the extra large cart at Ingles, and it looked like I was buying for a family of ten! 

This cart doesn't look too healthy, but I promise the bottom is filled with produce!
I went to the local organic food market, Food Matters, and picked up some nice tuna.  I'm still learning what types to avoid in an attempt to buy sustainable, but it's very confusing.  For now, I trust this market, because they're committed to sell organic food grown in the region to protect and preserve natural resources.  And I won't ever eat or buy bluefin, orange roughy, shark and shark fin, or chilean sea bass.  All I needed for the carpaccio, in addition to the tuna, was fresh chives, scallion, extra virgin olive oil, and good sea salt and ground white pepper, which I already had. 

I took one of the two pieces of tuna I was planning on using for the entree, and cut it in half.  (I'm only cooking for two people, and I always make way too much).  Then I took the half and sliced it horizontally, to make two 1/2" thick pieces.  Put a little olive oil on the cutting board then a slice of plastic wrap on top.  Then covered the tuna with another slice of plastic. Next, I carefully pounded the piece of tuna, starting in the middle and sliding the pounder outward, until it was very thin but still intact.  Since my piece of tuna was small, I had to make smaller circles than the recipe called for, so I found a round plastic top from a container from the deli to use as a guide (about 4 1/2" diameter).  If you're using a larger, 4 oz. tuna steak, you will need a guide about 9" in diameter.  I placed it on top of the plastic covered tuna and carefully cut around it, plastic, tuna and all.  Did the same thing for the second piece of tuna.  Then, the coolest thing...I had all those little pieces that were cut away from the circles, combined them to make a little ball, put between two plastic sheets, and carefully pounded it out and I had a third circle, which after chilling remained completely intact. No waste! 

Leaving the tuna in the plastic, I stacked them together and put back in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  When I was ready to serve I just took them out, carefully peeled back the plastic and gently placed on large dinner plate, overlapping in a circular shape.  Then, brushed olive oil generously over all three, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then the shallots and chives.  Squeeze lemon juice all over, cleaned up the plates and served with the toasts.   

It was surprisingly easy, I made it at the same time I was working on the entree, and it was delicious!  Download the full recipe here.




I started Fabio's Tuna with Tomatoes and Capers while the tuna was chilling.  It was done in basically 30 minutes, since I had already made a huge batch of Fabio's tomato sauce that morning, a really easy recipe. (saved 2 cups for dinner and froze the rest in ziploc bags).  Both recipes are here.

The only things I changed on the recipe were that I seared the tuna really quickly in a really hot pan with grapeseed oil to get a little sear on the outside, and I served it over pasta.  

There are many more recipes that I want to try in both cookbooks...they really are user friendly for home cooks!  I seriously recommend you pick up a copy of both books.  Next up, I'm going to attempt homemade pasta...