Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On This We Must Insist: Fight For Your Time!

Anne Lamott may not approve of this post.  Actually, she might not mind the post so much, as it's something I enjoy and something for me, but the fact that I will post a link to it on Twitter would probably driver her batty.  Or more likely, she'd just sigh and ask rhetorical questions like, "Didn't you read what I wrote?  Didn't you get it?"

Anne Lamott is one of my heroes.  She's a writer who I ardently adore, who makes me laugh out loud, and who speaks to me (as she does to all of us) with her blunt honesty.  She slays and saves with one deft stroke of her pen, or her keyboard, as it probably is.  I'm always delighted to find pieces she's written, and I wish she would join Twitter so that I could follow her.  You can never have too much Anne Lamott.

Alas, she will never join Twitter.  Never.  That much became clear to me in the current issue of Sunset Magazine (April 2010) where she writes a first person account called "Time Lost and Found," and demands that we put ourselves first.  And to do that, she tells us, "your manic forms of connectivity -- cell phone, email, text, Twitter -- steal most chances of lasting connection or amazement."  I told you she won't join Twitter.  She's too busy living a rich life of amazement and wonder, and probably a little neurosis thrown in for good measure.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

5 Minute Meal: Warm Fennel and Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parsley

The lovely fennel bulb.  Fennel is a relatively new love for me, and I love this simple, fast recipe to prepare it.  Honestly, fennel doesn't look like much, and its cheap price -- it can usually be found for $1 a bulb -- makes it easy to overlook as nothing special.  But fennel has a lot to offer health-wise, in addition to taste-wise, and its lovely, slightly licorice-y taste.  Trust me, it's a delicate, mild flavor.  It's not like you'll feel like you're munching on a bag of black licorice candy.  So put your mind at ease, and give it a try!  Besides, for $1, what do you have to lose?

What you'll gain health-wise with fennel: it's a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and potassium, among other vitamins and minerals.  This page has great info about the health benefits of fennel, if you want to read more.

But let's get cooking!  Here's what you'll need:

-- 1 good-sized fennel bulb (or a couple of smaller ones if that's all you can find)
-- extra virgin olive oil
-- 1 15 oz. can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
-- 1/2 fresh lemon
-- handful of chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
-- salt and pepper

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eat a Rainbow: Go Boldly in the Direction of the Produce Section!

This morning, as I had my "superfoods" breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal with blueberries, walnuts, a sprinkling of ground flaxseeds, and a dash of fortified, unsweetened soy milk (the more adjectives you can use to describe your food, the more health-righteous you can feel), I remembered an article I'd read, "Why an All 'Superfoods' Diet is a Mistake," that talks about how it's possible to get stuck in a superfood rut.  Of course it's very easy to get stuck in a regular old food rut (actually, this blog forces me to break out of the routine of cooking the same old things), and apparently even if you're eating all superfoods, and only the same ones, you're still in a rut.

Variety is indeed the spice of life.  We gotta mix it up, my friends.  (That's why tomorrow I intend to have a giant donut and coffee to balance my healthy breakfast today.  Kidding, I guess.)

That's where the rainbow comes in.  Fruits and vegetables are magical foods that have fantastic abilities to do good stuff for us, some of which we know, some of which is being discovered, and there's a ton more that we don't know, like the way they synthesize together after we've eaten them to do magically wonderful things for us.  Turns out eating as many different kinds as we can is better than eating a lot of just a handful of varieties, even if they're superfoods.

Friday, March 26, 2010

5 Minute Meal: Chipotle Black Bean Burritos (with all the fixins)

We eat a lot of burritos in our house because they're tasty, super fast to make, and they've got a lot of great nutrients in them.  Black beans are of course loaded with fiber, but they're also ridiculously high in antioxidants.  In fact, all beans are antioxidant superstars, so be sure you're eating them.  And yeah, if you're not used to eating the infamously "musical fruit," start slow, but keep eating them!  The more you eat beans, the better you can digest them.

Okay, onto the 5 minute meal.  Actually, this may be more of a 10 minute meal, but it's still super fast.  And I'm going to share a couple of tricks to make your average black bean burrito pretty darn extraordinary in taste and nutrition.  Here's what you'll need:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thought for the Day: It's The Little Things, After All

"Learning how to be kind to ourselves, learning how to respect ourselves, is important.  The reason it's important is that fundamentally, when we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn't just ourselves that we're discovering.  We're discovering the universe." -- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

Isn't it funny how we need to learn to be kind to ourselves?  How we'll run ourselves ragged for other people and their needs, while we neglect ourselves and our needs until something breaks and we finally become aware?  Why is it that the easiest person to put last is ourselves?

Remember when you were a kid, and it was all you, all the time?  Kids are notoriously self-centered, and I'm not suggesting that's the way to go, but somewhere along the line we're taught that, no, in fact you are not the center of the universe.  We get the message that we should put our heads down, and get busy working.  (And usually, not for ourselves and what we want.)  Talk about taking the fun out of it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lunchtime Yum: Faux Egg Salad

I'm never quite sure what to call this eggless egg salad, as the description is a contradiction.  And yet, it works.  Anyway, bottom line is this: faux egg salad is mighty tasty, chock-full of protein and other healthy goodness, and cholesterol free.  Have with some whole wheat pita, some cucumbers, and cornichons (or other pickles); try it on toasted bread for a nice sandwich; put a scoop on some tomato slices or on a green salad and go to town.

Now, I'm going to use the "t" word, and I don't want you to go runnin' for the hills.  Tofu.  There, said it.  If you've never had it, if you don't know what the heck to do with it, are scared to try it, or even if you've had a bad experience with it, I think you'll be pleased with this recipe.  Crumbled tofu has a very similar texture to hard boiled eggs, and since this salad is full of tasty Vegenaise, curry powder, herbs, etc., you taste all of that flavorful goodness and get the taste and texture of egg salad minus all the artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat.  It's a win-win.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thought for the Day: All About Me?

Oh, the irony.  Writing about self-importance on a blog – the ideal "all about me" forum.  I see that. Actually, I get a little chuckle out of it. 

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the great book The Four Agreements (his website is here), advises not to take anything personally (the second agreement).  Why?  First off, he says, "personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about 'me.'"  Fair enough.  He goes on: "Nothing other people do is because of you.  It is because of themselves.  All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in.  When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world."  

So we're all in our little dream worlds, writing blogs, tweeting, etc. (and I write with tongue planted firmly in cheek here), and taking everything personally.  The reason why we take things personally? Fear.  That we're not good enough, that we're flawed, that we're not worthy, that (insert your own neurosis here).  And when we take things personally, we fortify that fear, and we get stuck in the whole cycle of I-feel-lousy-and-I'll-let-you-make-me-feel-worse-because-I'm-not-good-enough.  Or maybe it's just me.  (Awkward...)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Simple Pleasure: Fresh Papaya

Papayas are gorgeous aren't they?  Split them open, and they look like a vibrant Georgia O'Keefe painting. But as for the outside... That's another story.  Not if you want them ripe.  And you do; there's nothing like a bowl of fresh, bright-orange papaya, drizzled with a little fresh lime juice.

As you can see in the picture above, my fruit-ripeness-divination was slightly off.  The parts of the fruit that are darker orange are ready to eat, but the paler parts weren't quite ready.  I got impatient, and you can't get impatient with Mexican papayas.  In fact, you need to practically forget that you ever bought a fresh papaya, then suddenly remember two weeks later that that rotting carcass on your counter hiding behind another pile of fruit, a stack of bills, and a loaf of bread is in fact a fruit.  When your papaya looks like something that fell off the fruit truck on the way to market a month ago, rolled into a ditch where it will sat until it looks practically decayed, well, when that happens, it's time to eat your papaya.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Rouille [roo-EE] = Dynamite Veggie Sandwiches, amongst other delicious offerings

Pure deliciousness.  I think that's the best description for this richly-flavored, roasted garlic, roasted pepper rouille.  What the heck is a rouille?  I'll let define:

[roo-EE, roo-YUH]
Literally French for "rust," culinarily rouille is a fiery-flavored, rust-colored sauce of hot chiles, garlic, fresh bread crumbs and olive oil pounded into a paste and often mixed with fish stock. It's served as a garnish with fish and fish stews such as BOUILLABAISSE.
Read More 

There you go.  Rust-colored is indeed accurate, as you can see in the picture.  Though, I'd revise the definition slightly for my purposes and call it fantastically-flavored, as my version is less "fiery" (though you could crank up the heat as much as you like) than that definition suggests.  Plus, I amended a recipe I found in the fantastic Sunset magazine a while back (September 2009; original recipe is here), and my version is vegetarian, and also vegan.  (P.S. "Vegan" is not a four letter word.  More on that another day.  Now, onto the rouille.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thought for the Day: Bloom First

This week, the sun has been shining on Los Angeles as we expect it to: brightly, clearly, and warmly. It's been a rainy, gray winter for this city of sun (and angels), and the early summer weather has been a welcome respite.

I've noticed these trees in places around the city, that burst into bloom before they grow leaves. They are forks of bare branches and trunks one day, and then the next, they've exploded into color. It's amazing. I don't know what kind of trees they are, and I don't want to know. They surprise me; floor me with their beauty. When, that is, I remember to look up.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

5 Minute Meal: Rice Bowl

Ah, the beloved rice bowl. So simple, so delicious, so... boring? Not with a little creativity. And it's that same creativity with flavor that keeps the rice bowl from becoming staid, and instead allows it become a versatile, go-to meal to suit your mood. Plus, a lot of rice bowl basics are shelf-stable and/or freezer ready, so it's the perfect 5 minute meal, and a great way to get your veggies.

Today was a rice bowl lunch kind of day for me. I had about 5 minutes to make lunch in between work projects, and after munching willy-nilly on scraps from the cupboards this morning, I was in the mood for something healthy, light and pure tasting. Asian flavors fit the bill today, and here are the basics for the rice bowl I made: