Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Easy Gazpacho

It's HOT. Like drippy, humid, almost awful HOT. But it's Summer. And because that's so much better than Winter on every level, I'm willing to put up with it. And since salads and cold foods are what we're craving on days like this, I just made a big batch of gazpacho. The recipe is one I've adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe that's been around for a while. If you're interested in seeing where Ina and I digress, her original recipe is here.

Serves 4-6

·       1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
·       red bell peppers, cored and seeded
·       4 plum tomatoes
·       1 red onion
·       garlic cloves, minced
·       23 ounces Spicy V8 juice (3 cups)
·       1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
·       Juice of ½ lemon
·       Minced cilantro
·       1/4 cup good olive oil
·       Minced cilantro
·       1/2 tablespoon kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

·      Sour cream (optional)
Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions. Put each vegetable (one at a time!) into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped, then put into large bowl before adding next ingredient. Do not over process!
Stir everything together and then puree about 1/2 of the chopped veggies in the food processor. Add the V8, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil to the processor and process long enough to blend, then pour it over the rest of the chopped veggies and mix all together. Add minced cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop. Lasts 3-4 days in the fridge.
Note: If you like a very thick, chunky soup, skip the puree step and just stir the juices, vinegar and olive oil into the processed veggies.

Before serving, garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Skillet Grilled Fish Tacos with Cilantro Crema Slaw

I saw this recipe yesterday while browsing (my all-time favorite food blog). It's from Alexandra Stafford who is the author of the blog Alexandra Cooks and the new cookbook, Bread, Toast, Crumbs. It sounded so Summer Perfect I immediately decided it would be tonight's dinner. I made some changes to the Crema ingredients and it became the dressing for the slaw. I also added the mashed avocado and the cumin on the fish, but otherwise it's all Ali. Grilling the fish this way is totally brilliant and results in moist, flavorful and flaky fish. Fast. With minimal mess. And no fish smell in the kitchen. Really, can you ask for more? 

Update July 19, 2017 - We wanted these for dinner the other night but I didn't have time to make the slaw. Actually that's a total fabrication... I didn't WANT to make the slaw. So I bought regular slaw from the deli counter at my grocery store and asked the guy to drain it as best he could. When I got home, I added some chopped cilantro, a bit of cumin, a dash (or two) of chipotle chili powder, a squeeze of lime and a generous grinding of salt. I then let it sit in the fridge for the 3 hours until dinner (like I said, total fabrication) and, I hate to say it, we liked it BETTER than the slaw below. Go figure. Sometimes easier is just better.

Want to check out the original recipe? Find it here.

Note: The red pepper strips you see in the photo were an impulse add at the last minute. 
Didn't add to the flavor so I didn't include them in the recipe.

Serves 2

Cilantro Lime Crema Slaw

1 heaping cup cilantro, minced fine

Juice of half a lime, plus more to taste

1 7 or 8 oz container (or 1 cup) plain Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon sugar

Cayenne or Siracha to taste

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 bag of veggie slaw mix (I used organic) - the kind without dressing

  1. Mix Crema with as much of the bagged slaw as you think you'll need. We used about 1/2 the bag for 2 of us.
  2. Put in fridge until ready to use. I honestly don't see why this wouldn't be fine for a couple of days and will probably be better if left for at least a few hours

Grilled Fish

1 pound of white fish such as cod or haddock (I used haddock).

Cumin and kosher salt

Grapeseed or avocado oil (something that can handle high temps - not olive oil)

6 small corn tortillas


1 avocado, mashed with a generous squeeze of lime and a solid dose of salt (or however you like it)

  1. Set a cast iron skillet on a grill. Close the grill, set it to high, and let it heat up to 550 or 600 degrees F.
  2. Meanwhile, if the fillet of fish is long, cut in half so it will fit in your skillet. Season the fish generously with salt on both sides and cumin on top.
  3. When the grill is ready,
  4. Lift the lid of the grill. Pour a tablespoon or so of grapeseed oil into the hot skillet—enough to coat the bottom in a thin layer. Carefully lower the fish into the skillet (remember, the handle is HOT). If you are slow and controlled, the oil won’t splatter.
  5. Close the lid. Check the fish in about 3 minutes by prodding it with a spatula—it should flake fairly easily. If it doesn’t, close the lid and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the fish with a spatula and transfer it to a platter.
  6. Turn off the grill. Throw the tortillas on the grill, leaving it open. Check after 20 seconds or so, flip, and cook for another 20 seconds or until tortillas are soft and have nice grill marks on each side. Transfer to a platter.
  7. To serve: Spread mashed avocado on tortillas. Break fish into pieces over top. Top with slaw. Squeeze fresh lime over top and serve with more lime on the side, if desired.
  8. Devour. Repeat.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Perfect Question?

Buddhists believe that "one should establish mindfulness in one's day-to-day life maintaining as much as possible a calm awareness of one's bodily functions, sensations (feelings), objects of consciousness (thoughts and perceptions), and consciousness itself." Modern Western psychology has successfully used the practice of mindfulness - focusing full awareness on the present - to reduce pain, stress and anxiety. 

Calm sounds good. And who wouldn't want less pain, stress and anxiety? According to studies, the form of mindfulness with the greatest impact is mindful meditation. A calm, pain-free, stress-free, anxiety-free life for a mere fifteen minutes a day? Sign me up! I've got a ton of self-discipline so fifteen minutes a day should be a cinch. Well... Apparently I don't have as much self-discipline as I'd like to believe. I tried. I mean really tried. But I can't turn my crazy brain off for even one minute (tried that too... see here), let alone fifteen. The commitment to sit and try lasted about a week (I'm being generous).

The way I have been able to incorporate mindfulness into my life with pretty good success is by acknowledging and savoring the good moments that wander into my life on a regular basis. And then remembering to be consciously grateful for them. Those practices have made a huge difference in the quality of my life. In case you skimmed those last three sentences, let me repeat the key parts of them. Acknowledge and savor the good moments. Consciously grateful. Made a HUGE difference. Got it? Good. 

So I'm already acknowledging and appreciating the good moments - and I'm fortunate that I've been doing that for a while because it kind of works like a magnet; the more I acknowledge, the more there are. Consequently, I'm in a pretty good place most of the time. But what about the ho-hum parts of my day? Or the not-so-great moments when I fret about what we're going to do now that our house is sold or worry about where we'll be a year from now... 

"What, at this moment, is lacking?" The power of this question, posed by a Zen master to his students, is in it's simplicity. At this moment. Not what might be lacking six months from now or what was lacking two years ago. At this moment. Mindfulness in a nutshell. So I started asking myself at various points in my day, "What, at this moment, is lacking?" I'm happy to report the answer is usually, "Absolutely nothing." If something is lacking, the absence is, more often than not, easily remedied. A hat to keep my ears warm, a glass of water to quench my thirst, food because my stomach is growling. I'm fortunate, I get to take for granted a comfortable, safe home and enough money to buy food and clothing. Add to those the right companionship at the right time, and, at any given moment, I'm in good shape.

Simple? Yes. Powerful? Incredibly. The Perfect Question? I'm beginning to think so.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

White Knights & Pink Pigs

Sylvia Dickey Smith, who interviewed me last week (interview is posted on my website), asked me to write a guest post for her blog. I wrote the post, she added the great title - White Knights & Pink Pigs.

To read the post, simply click here. And as always, if you like it, please share it!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Friday, January 6, 2012

Writing Strong Women Interview

Hey all, I wanted to let you know about my first interview since I published The Pig & Me. The interview will be conducted by Sylvia Dickey Smith for her Blog Radio show, Writing Strong Women. Sylvia's blog and radio shows "peek into the minds of bestselling authors writing strong women." I'm not sure I qualify for the "bestselling" part - at least not yet - but I'm honored that she read The Pig & Me and wanted to chat! The interview is scheduled for Monday morning (the 9th) at 11 a.m. eastern and will last 30 minutes. Listeners are welcome to call-in with questions. To listen click here. And please tell your friends!!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Mindful Gratitude Reminder

I occasionally need a reminder to be grateful and have a feeling I'm not the only one... So, with some minor changes (I'm a serial "tinkerer") and a new, written-today last paragraph, the following is a re-post from August 2010.


About a year ago I decided I needed to be more mindfully grateful.  I have a whole lot to be grateful for, but it's easy to lose sight of that fact when shlogging through the daily grind.  So I started taking the time, just before I fall asleep, to review the things I'm grateful for on that particular day.  Some nights it's easy, others a lot more difficult.  But no matter how tough a day it seems at the time, when it is over, there is always - and I mean always - something I can be grateful for: making it to an appointment on time, finding that perfectly ripe avocado, the delicious moment when the bra comes off and the sweats go on, the first sip of wine at the end of a long day.  After reminding myself of the little things I'm grateful for, I list the Big Stuff: a husband who has faced a terminal illness and is healthy, two happy, gainfully employed and self-supporting sons, my own good health, friends.

This little ritual has become a habit and I often drift off in the middle of my Big Stuff list.  I sleep better, dream happier and wake with a much more positive attitude.  And in times of crisis, this can be a life-saver.

One thing on my grateful list these past few nights has been the fact that our New Hampshire house is in contract. If all goes well, we will be handing the keys to our beautiful home over on March 15th. The house has been on the market for two years, which sounds like such a long time, but now I understand that it was the right amount of time. An amount of time for which I am now very grateful. We've had time to adjust to the new life we've made in Brooklyn. We have an apartment we love with a view that stuns us with it's beauty every day. We are not panicked about what to do or where to go. We will pass the keys on to a couple who will love and care for our dream home and make it their own. And we will breathe.