Monthly Archives: June 2014

Chocolate Macaroons

DSC_5016Yesterday I was reminded of how important it is to stop and take a deep breath when I’m feeling stressed.  The minute I got to work chaos ensued.  There were a million little fires to put out, and they seemed to keep piling up every few minutes.  Shortly after arriving at the bakery where I work, I like to settle in with my afternoon cup of decaf and do my thing.   Even when it becomes busy, I feel prepared because I’ve logged in, reviewed orders, read emails, and checked in with my co-workers about anything that needs to be taken care of during that shift.  But yesterday, I barely had time to sit down before five items popped up that needed my urgent attention.

Drat!  I haven’t had time to take a sip of my coffee yet!  Breathe in.  Why did my computer have to crash last Friday?!  Breathe out.  Ma’am, we cannot write “Happy Birthday” on your pie.   We can’t inscribe on our pies, period.  Breathe in.  Oh no, I just touched the dry ice.  *Waits for fingers to start burning.*  Breathe out.
DSC_5007Simply taking the deep breaths reminded me to not become overwhelmed.  Yes, my body was definitely producing more cortisol than necessary, and yes, I could feel a headache developing, but by taking the deep breaths, I tried to stay present and focus on the work at hand.  I didn’t let it escalate into a general feeling of dread and anxiety.  If I had been presented this situation a year ago, I would have become enveloped in consternation.  Doesn’t it feel wonderful to see progress in your life?

I worked as fast as I could to put the fires out without sacrificing my quality of work.  I knew that things would quiet down eventually, and that I just needed to continue breathing.  When I finally took my first sip of coffee, it tasted even better than usual.  I earned this coffee.   

I felt like using up my coconut last week, but I also was craving something chocolatey.  Voila:  I give you chocolate macaroons.  I had no idea they were so simple to make!  I love how they are chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, not to mention light as air—thanks to the whipped egg whites.  They are essentially flourless cookies.  I mean, who needs flour in a cookie?  The coconut and chocolate take center stage on these gems.  Try them and let me know what you think.
DSC_5013Chocolate Macaroons
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: 15 large or 30 small macaroons

1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
2 large egg whites
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.  Place one cup chocolate chips in microwave-safe bowl; microwave on medium-low setting until melted, stirring occasionally.  Cool just to room temperature.
3.  Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in medium bowl until soft peaks form.
4.  Gradually add sugar, then vanilla, beating until whites are thick and glossy.
5.  Fold in melted chocolate and coconut, then remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips.
6.  Drop batter by heaping teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart.
7.  Bake cookies 10 minutes, then reverse baking sheets.  Bake until tops are dry and cracked and tester into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 10 minutes longer.
8.  Cool cookies on sheets on cooling racks.  Store airtight at room temp. for up to 2 days or put in freezer.

Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pistachios

DSC_4995I’ve been uncharacteristically happy lately.  I saw my therapist last week for the first time in a month, and didn’t know what to talk about.  I’m so used to spending my sessions focusing on how to improve things in my life—preventing negative behavior patterns, setting personal goals, etc.  Walking in to see my therapist, I was worried that there would be an uncomfortable silence due to my lack of problems to discuss.  On the contrary, my therapist assured me that these are important sessions to have because we can look at what is working in my life, why it is working, and how to create more of it in the future.  Eureka!

I am definitely someone who feels better in the spring and summer months, but even so, I can’t remember feeling this content in many years.  I even have frequent moments of straight up joy and euphoria these days.  It feels so goddamned good and foreign at the same time.  I want to hold onto these moments, but they are fleeting.  And they should be; we wouldn’t want to savor them otherwise.  I go about my day feeling grateful I have a life that I absolutely love.  I’m working on not reacting to people’s words and behaviors as much as I used to.  I am learning to be kinder to myself and not critique every little thing I think or do.
DSC_4983I want to shout my happiness out to the world.  I want to dance in the streets.  And yet I find myself being shy about sharing my jubilation with others.  When friends ask how I’m doing, I have been replying with, “I’m really good.  I’m really happy.”  I want to go on and on about why so I’m happy and how great it feels, but I think that would be strange.  It would feel boastful, and I was raised in the Midwest where excessive pride in one’s achievements or accomplishments—hell, talking about yourself at all—was frowned upon.  I did call my 85-year-old grandma last week and share my happiness with her.  I think it delighted her.

This carrot salad was my obsession for the entire 4 days it was in my refrigerator.  I love cilantro, especially in the summer, and it compliments the sweetness of carrots beautifully.  Cilantro makes everything taste fresh.  I find it hard to believe that there are people out there who despise cilantro.  Those people are crazy.  There, I said it.  The lemon juice adds a nice acidity so the vinaigrette does not taste heavy at all.  Be sure not to add the pistachios to the salad until right before serving, or they will turn soft.  I can’t wait to make this again.
DSC_4992Carrot Salad with Coriander Vinaigrette and Pistachios
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  4-6 servings

1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw pistachios
3/4 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 garlic clove, finely grated
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt
1 lb. carrots, peeled, julienned or coarsely grated
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Toast pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Let cool; coarsely chop.
2.  Toast coriander in a small dry skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Let cool; coarsely chop.
3.  Whisk garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and coriander in a large bowl, then whisk in oil; season with salt.
4.  Add carrots, toss, and let sit at least 30 minutes.  Toss with cilantro and pistachios just before serving.

 

 

Curry-Creamed Spinach and Tofu With Potato Crust

DSC_4973I feel like my hormones are out of whack.  I have been taking several different hormone medications for almost two years now, and I think my hormones are finally rebelling.  Ironically, I have been on a “break” with the treatments for the past few months so it seems a bit strange that my hormones would not be at their natural stasis.   I’ve been pondering this for the past few weeks, and the most logical scenario I can come up with is that my hormones have become so used to being tweaked that they no longer know how to get back to their natural state.

Hence the tossing and turning at night.
Hence consuming massive quantities of sugar.
Hence my chin breaking out like that of a teenage boy’s.
DSC_4957I read a book a few months back that was all about teaching women how to live according to their monthly cycle i.e. their hormone production.  It was intriguing and I took a lot of notes.  The author posited that women need to go about their daily lives always keeping in mind where they are in their monthly cycle.  Hormones are incredibly powerful and therefore affect our behavior, how we make decisions, and how we feel about the world around us.  She recommended that we adjust our exercise schedule as well as the foods we consume based on where we are in our cycle.  I think there is a lot of truth in this.  Apparently I need more cauliflower in my diet this week.

I can’t seem to come up with any other explanation for what my body is going through.  My husband says I’ve been fiercely tossing and turning at night like never before.  And I’m reverting back to my old insomniac ways, which I haven’t experienced this regularly in a long time.  Yesterday was a good example of something I haven’t done in years, and it felt completely regressive but also completely out of my control.  At some point over a decade ago, I became obsessed with the meatball sub at Subway.  I could always tell when I was PMS’ing because I would start to intensely crave this meatball sub, as well as a bag of Sun Chips (they still make them!).  Before yesterday, I probably hadn’t had one in three years or so.  But it was almost like some unknown force was pulling me there.  I gave in.  It wasn’t nearly as good as I’d remembered—maybe because they recently took all of the trans fats and synthetic chemicals out of their bread?
DSC_4964This recipe led to me making a batch of (baked) homemade potato chips for the first time!  And because of my hormonal imbalance, I ate half the batch while standing over the stove in the kitchen.  Almost as bad as eating over the sink.  I found this recipe in a recent Sunday Magazine in the New York Times.  I really wanted to try it based on the fact that I’ve never made anything with coconut milk before.  And I think I’ve cooked with tofu all of three times in my life.  It’s a really tasty dish that requires almost no effort other than thinly slicing potatoes.  The nutmeg and garam masala add a nice warmth to the dish that made me wish it were October instead of May, which is a shame because May is one of our loveliest months here in NYC.  Try this recipe and let me know what you think.
DSC_4965Curry-Creamed Spinach and Tofu With Potato Crust
Adapted from New York Times Magazine

Yield:  4 servings

3 pounds spinach, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 brick firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large russet potato, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Black pepper
Sea salt

1.  Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, and salt it.
2.  When the water is boiling, add the spinach, and cook for about a minute.  Plunge the spinach into a large bowl of ice water, squeeze the moisture from the leaves and roughly chop them.
3.  Put the butter, garam masala and nutmeg in a large saucepan over medium heat.  When the spices are fragrant, add the coconut milk, yogurt, spinach, tofu and 1 teaspoon salt.
4.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach has absorbed much of the liquid; taste, and adjust the seasoning, and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
5.  Toss the potato slices with the oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Lay them over the top of the spinach and tofu without overlapping too much.
6.  Bake until the potatoes are golden and crisp, 25 to 35 minutes.  Scoop into bowls and serve.