Monthly Archives: March 2014

Wasabi Salmon with Bok Choy, Green Cabbage, and Shiitakes

DSC_4627Life is a mixed bag.  We will all have our fair share of joy as well as pain and suffering in our lifetimes, but our perception of the world is key.  The universe is never at one time or another conspiring against us or working in our favor, although it can appear that way at times.  It’s simply how we choose to see things.  Labels are powerful, and as we go throughout our day we assign labels, and therefore meaning, to things.  Someone criticized your work.  What kind of significance are you going to give that?  You can either start beating yourself up because you know the criticism is accurate, or you can decide to let the criticism float away like a balloon because you know the criticism is simply a reflection of that person’s view of the world.
DSC_4605My husband left for Switzerland a few nights ago.  The last time he went on a trip was when my intense depressive episode hit.  I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to not let that happen again.  It’s extremely helpful for me to stay busy when I am alone.  Right after he left Tuesday night, I immediately washed the dishes, cleaned the bathroom, paid bills, and organized some files simply so as to avoid watching television and feeling sad.  It worked!  I went to bed that night determined to enjoy my solo time while he is away.  I will pretend to be a tourist this weekend in NYC!  I will go to the Met!  I will get a manicure!  Maybe I’ll even get a facial!
DSC_4615
My positive outlook was cut a bit short yesterday.  I woke up at 4 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep.  I decided to skip the gym and told myself doing laundry was more important.  I felt like a zombie at work, but really made an effort to display a cheerful attitude and focused on doing a good job.  By the time I got home, my brain was swirling with lots of useless thoughts.  I told myself that I did my best to make the day a productive and favorable one despite the fact that I was exhausted.  I really wanted to medicate myself with a carb-heavy dinner but I knew it was only a short-term solution to numbing the pain.  I opted for some hard-boiled eggs, dried figs and Manchego cheese, and an apple with peanut butter instead.  After dinner, I immediately felt more relaxed knowing that the day was almost over and that I did the best I could with where I was mentally.  Tomorrow will be a fresh start, and getting a good night’s sleep will fire up those neurons.
DSC_4607I love everything about this dish.  I haven’t had salmon in a while, and it was a nice way to be reminded of how much I enjoy it.  I love pairing asian flavors with salmon.  Something about the fattiness of the fish marries nicely with the umami and spices found in Asian cuisine.  I couldn’t find baby bok choy at my local market so I used the larger size.  The wasabi mayo packs a nice punch, so use it conservatively if your eyes tend to water when you take a big bite like I mistakenly did.
DSC_4622Wasabi Salmon with Bok Choy, Green Cabbage, and Shiitakes
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Yield:  4 servings

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. wasabi paste (Japanese horseradish paste)
1 1″ piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
4 6-oz. skinless salmon fillets
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 lb. baby bok choy, halved
2 cups (packed) finely shredded green cabbage (about 5 oz.)
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced if large
2 Tbsp. olive oil

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Heat a large rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, mix mayonnaise and wasabi in a small bowl.  Stir in half of ginger and half of garlic; set aside.
3.  Season fish all over with salt and pepper.  Place bok choy, cabbage, and mushrooms in a large bowl.  Drizzle with oil and add remaining ginger and garlic.  Toss to coat; season with salt and pepper.
4.  Scatter vegetables across one side of baking sheet.  Arrange salmon on other side.  Roast , stirring vegetables occasionally, until salmon is coked through, 12-15 minutes.
5.  Divide vegetables among plates; top with salmon.  Serve wasabi mayonnaise alongside.

 

Cream Puffs with Lemon-Cream Filling

DSC_4579I am getting better at acceptance:  self-acceptance, acceptance of others and acceptance of what is.  I don’t know that I’ve ever fully accepted myself.  It’s always been too easy to focus on my shortcomings and imperfections.  But it’s also exhausting.  My therapist once told me to think of thoughts as a bunch of balloons in your hand.  We should try to let go of the ones that are negative and useless to us.

I’m getting better at it.  I think.

I sometimes find myself slipping into old habits, and my immediate reaction is to start with the negative thoughts.  But I’m also becoming better at confronting those thoughts.  I challenge them and talk back to them like they’re a Fox News anchor.
DSC_4562I can be a reactive person.  Often times, I will have a knee-jerk response to something someone says.  I’m not sure if this was a coping mechanism I learned in my childhood, but it doesn’t really matter.  Adults aren’t always supposed to react.  We are all trying to become more enlightened, and a big part of this is learning how to sit with the uncomfortable.

Accept.
Don’t react.
It will pass.

I went to bed last night with an uneasy feeling.  Something that had happened earlier in the day definitely created some anguish in my mind.  I really wanted to reach for that Cookies ‘n Cream ice cream in the freezer, but I chose to go to bed instead.  I took a deep breath and recited a mantra:

This feeling will pass.
This feeling will pass.
This feeling will pass.

I immediately felt more relaxed.  I fell asleep focusing on today being a new day.
DSC_4567So:  Lemon Cream Puffs!  I had no idea they were so easy to make.  I’ve always associated them with fancy French desserts that I assumed took long, laborious hours in the kitchen and therefore, weren’t worth making at home.  I was wrong.  I was so wrong.  Not only is this recipe very straightforward, but it’s really the best of both worlds—your friends will be amazed by your baking prowess and you won’t have expended too much energy in the kitchen that you could be spending on more important things, like say, binge watching Jeopardy with your adorable husband.
DSC_4572Cream Puffs with Lemon-Cream Filling
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Lemon-Cream Filling

1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Cream Puffs

¾ cup water
¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, diced
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, divided

Special Equipment

Pastry bag with ½-inch plain round tip

Lemon-Cream Filling

  1. Combine sugar, egg, lemon juice, lemon peel, and pinch of salt in heavy small saucepan; whisk to blend.
  2. Add butter.  Stir constantly over medium-low heat until curd is hot and thick enough to coat spoon (do not boil), 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer lemon curd to small bowl.  Press plastic wrap onto surface; chill until cold and slightly firm, at least 2 hours.  (Can be made 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled.)
  4. Transfer lemon curd to medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat cream in another medium bowl until peaks form.
  5. Fold whipped cream into curd in 3 additions.  Cover and chill filling 1 hour.  (Can be made 2 hours ahead.  Keep chilled.)

Cream Puffs

  1. Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Bring first 4 ingredients to boil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, stirring with wooden spoon until butter melts.
  3. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan.  Continue to stir until film forms on pan bottom, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
  4. Transfer dough to large bowl.  Cool 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add 1 egg and, still using wooden spoon, beat until blended.  Add remaining 5 eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each, then beat until dough is smooth and shiny, 2 to 3 minutes.
  5. Working in batches, transfer dough to pastry bag fitted with ½-inch plain round tip.  Pipe 1-to 1 ¼-inch mounds, spaced about 2 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets.  Using wet finger, smooth tops of mounds.
  6. Bake puffs 15 minutes.  Reverse baking sheets.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Continue to bake until puffs are dry, firm, and deep golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes longer.  Cool puffs on baking sheets.

Assembly

  1. Cut each puff horizontally in half; pull out any soft dough.
  2. Fill puff bottoms with 1 tablespoon lemon-cream filling.  Press on puff tops to adhere.

 

Pistachio Apple Salad

DSC_4599You know that feeling when all the stars are aligned and things seem to be coming together?  I’ve been feeling that way recently.  Since my horrible depressive episode a few weeks ago, I have been working hard to get back to a good mental place.  Maybe it’s because that experience shook me so much, but I am willing myself to try and find meaning in as much as possible as I go throughout my day.  I also think having some perspective and cutting myself some slack is key to curbing my anxiety.  I volunteered for City Harvest a couple of weeks ago and was reminded that there are a lot less fortunate people than myself.  I know that for many people, every day is a struggle to simply make ends meet.  Some posit that one of the main reasons people volunteer is for the positive feelings that come as a byproduct of knowing you helped someone.  I believe this to be true, and I don’t think it’s a negative factor by any means.  Human beings need to connect; it’s what keeps us going.
DSC_4588In addition to volunteering, I had my first-ever Reiki treatment last week.  I have been curious about this Japanese practice for many years but just never tried it.  It was yet another experience my depression compelled me to seek out.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  For those of you who have never tried it, I would liken it to a cross between talk therapy and acupuncture.  It focuses on clearing your chakras, or energy pathways, which serve as a connection between the body and consciousness.  When one of our chakras becomes blocked, it can create physical or mental illness.  I had no idea what to expect during the actual session itself.  My Reiki master told me she would be placing her hands along my chakra points while I laid face up on the table.  Well, as soon as I positioned myself on the table and closed my eyes, water immediately began to drain from my eyes and didn’t stop until the session ended.  It was the strangest thing.  I definitely wasn’t crying, and yet I had a distinctive feeling that my body was trying to release something.  I took that as a good sign.
DSC_4594Despite the dreadful stomach virus I contracted over the weekend (I forgot how brutal those can be), my healthier mental state is creating healthier food cravings.  Yesterday I couldn’t stop thinking about avocados.  All day long, images of avocados kept popping into my head.  I’m sure whatever nutrients avocados possess, my body was simply craving.  That said, I opted for a turkey burger for dinner.  I did make this Pistachio Apple Salad for lunch yesterday and it was perfectly delicious.  There aren’t many salads that I want second helpings of, but this one is one of them.  It hits all of the major taste profiles: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami.  Because it calls for a Granny Smith apple, it’s not super sweet.  However, if you want to use something sweeter, I think dried figs would be a lovely substitute, as they pair beautifully with blue cheese and pistachios.  Making this salad took all of 7 minutes!  So no excuses, dear readers, for throwing together a quick, healthy lunch!

* I’m not sure which magazine I ripped this recipe out of years ago, so I searched online for something close to it.  I found the exact same recipe on Yummly, so I am including a link to that site in lieu of a magazine name.

DSC_4597

Pistachio Apple Salad
Adapted from Yummly

Yield:  4 side-dish servings

1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 of a large orange)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon hot sweet mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups arugula
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup roasted pistachio nuts

1.  For dressing, whisk together orange juice, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and garlic; gradually whisk in oil until well blended.  Set aside to mellow flavors.
2.  For salad, divide greens among four salad plates.  Top with apple slices.  Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.
3.  Whisk dressing; drizzle over salads.

Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

DSC_4535I’ve been trying out something new lately:  I am forcing myself out of the apartment several days/nights a week.  That doesn’t sound all that strange, you say.  Well, for me it is.  I went through a pretty rough patch a few weeks ago.  It was one of the most depressive episodes I’ve ever experienced, and it really scared me.  I know that there are always setbacks in life, and the challenge is to turn it into something meaningful.  It was a brutal week, but I’m proud of myself for fighting my way out of it.  In fact, I can’t remember another time of suffering through a depressive episode and coming out on the other end feeling so fierce and determined to make changes to my life.  Besides reading heaps of books about living without fear, I have been forcing myself out into the world and not allowing myself to talk my way out of it.  Usually, I will make plans at the beginning of the week.  There can be book readings, comedy shows, and dance performances on my calendar on any given week.  But if it’s too cold, too hot—or frankly, if it’s a perfectly nice day—I will often talk myself out of going in the name of some unknown fear.
DSC_4510But last week I was determined to change this.  I compelled myself out of my apartment for 3 whole days last week.  3 whole days!  I made sure to schedule things every few hours throughout the day so that I would not have time to run home and inevitably talk myself into staying home the remainder of the day.  There were doctor appointments, book readings, lunch dates, dentist appointments and yoga classes scattered throughout the long days.  I left my apartment mid-morning and wouldn’t return until later in the evening.  It felt simultaneously wonderful and exhausting.  I was so worn out by the end of the first day that I had to close my eyes for 10 minutes while waiting for the book reading to begin.  I closed them again the following night on the train ride back to Queens.  Still, I felt very energized emotionally and knew my new routine was making a difference on my state of mind.  One important lesson I’m learning from this is that Action Precedes Feelings.  In other words, waiting for those good feelings to come about before I leave the apartment is futile.   I have to go out into the world, be present in this world, and the feelings will follow.
DSC_4512Ok people.  Who out there has been to City Bakery in NYC and had their incredibly delicious peanut butter cookies?  I was obsessed with said cookies for a few years.  Although I am vocal about my love of all things peanut butter, peanut butter cookies were never on that list.  Until, that is, I tasted City Bakery’s cookies.  They have an intense peanut butter flavor and a crumbly texture that I’m pretty sure is created by using powdered sugar.  When I was in graduate school, I would treat myself to a peanut butter cookie and coffee once a month since the bakery was just a few blocks away.  And now, after many, many years, I have finally found a recipe that replicates those cookies.  But better yet:  this recipe makes them even more addictive by adding milk chocolate chips and turning them into sandwich cookies with milk chocolate ganache.  I dare you, dare you I say, to eat just one!  Of course, if you want a deeper chocolate flavor, you can always use semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips.  I like the milk chocolate chips here if only because it lets the peanut butter have the spotlight.  Pair these with a strong cup of coffee, sit at your desk by the window, and fantasize about spring.
DSC_4524Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield
Makes about 30 sandwich cookies

Cookies
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (packed) dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Filling
3 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon course sea salt
6 tablespoons heavy cream

For cookies:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl.
3.  Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, dark brown sugar, and butter in large bowl to blend.
4.  Add peanut butter; beat until creamy.  Gradually beat in vegetable oil and vanilla extract, then egg.
5.  Add dry ingredients; mix just until blended.  Stir in milk chocolate chips.
6.  Drop cookie dough by level tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing about 1-1/2 inches apart.
7.  Bake cookies until puffed and golden brown, about 12 minutes.  Cool slightly, then transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.

For filling:
1.  Place chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and salt in medium bowl.
2.  Bring heavy cream to boil in heavy small saucepan.
3.  Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture; stir until mixture is melted and smooth.
4.  Chill until filling is thick and spreadable, about 1 hour.
5.  Spread about 1 rounded teaspoonful chocolate-peanut butter filling on flat side of 1 cookie.  Top with second cookie, forming sandwich.  Repeat with remaining filling and cookies.
6.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.