Ten Years of the Philosopher’s Spoon Blog!

June 20, 2020

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
~ Albert Camus

Happy Summer Solstice!

Ten years ago today those words titled the very first post of the Philosopher’s Spoon Blog. At the time, I had no idea that this little blog and its quirky mix of cooking & mysticism would still be going strong a decade later. Then again, if you had asked me what the world would look like on June 20, 2020, I could never have predicted any of this either.

The Albert Camus quote at the top of today’s post “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer” was part of that inaugural entry.

Summer Solstice, our longest day and the official beginning of the summer season, also signals the eventual return of winter, as our days now become shorter and shorter until Winter Solstice, the longest night. Winter lives within the heart of the summer sun and summer within the heart of even the coldest, harshest winter.

Like Camus describes in his beautiful metaphor, although the times we are living through may feel like the depth of winter, the warmth, healing and abundance of summer is still there, within each of our hearts, invincible. Let today’s longest day remind you of that undefeatable light still within you.

“If one has courage, nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
~ Maya Angelou

Thank you, all you friends of the Philosopher’s Spoon Blog! Your kindness, support, humor and courage continues to inspire and uplift me!

Gina De Roma

~~~~~~~~~

The very first recipe from the very first post was for Solstice Sunrise Sparkler with Homemade Grenadine.

Solstice Sunrise Sparkler
with Homemade Grenadine
For the best flavor, be sure to use a premium brand of ginger ale made with real ginger and cane sugar. I enjoy this sparkler just as it is. However, if you prefer a spiked beverage, you can replace the ginger ale with sparkling wine or add a splash of tequila to the recipe.

For each serving:

12 oz natural ginger ale
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 to 2 tablespoons Homemade Grenadine Syrup (recipe follows)
Orange slices for garnish

 

Pour ginger ale into a tall glass with ice cubes. Add orange juice. Stir in grenadine syrup to taste. Garnish each glass with a slice of orange.

 

Homemade Grenadine Syrup
Grenadine syrup was traditionally made from pomegranate juice. Now that pomegranate juice is readily available in stores, it’s easy to make authentic grenadine at home. Once you taste the difference, you’ll never want to go back to the artificially-flavored kind again.

2 cups unsweetened pomegranate juice
1 cup organic cane sugar

In a 2 quart saucepan, over medium high heat, combine pomegranate juice and sugar, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, without stirring, for 45 minutes or until reduced by half. Skim off foam. Let cool and place in a clean glass jar. May be stored up to 3 weeks in refrigerator.

Yes You Can

June 14, 2020

“Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
~ James Baldwin

 

I’ve always been what used to be referred to as “girly”.

I’ve liked dressing up and using makeup since I can remember. Before I was old enough to wear actual makeup, I tried putting Close Up red gel toothpaste on my lips as a make-shift lip gloss while pretending to do a cosmetics commercial in the bathroom mirror. I chose cheerleading as my physical activity in High School, not out of a desire to be one of the “cool” kids, but to free myself from the years of humiliation in elementary school of being picked last or next-to-last for playground sports teams.

However, growing up with a single mom meant that if something handy needed doing, we had to figure out how to do it ourselves. This, combined with an innate curiosity about how things work, has gifted me with a can-do spirit of sorts.

So, when my DVR recently began making an unusually loud whirring sound, I did a quick search and found that the fan probably needed replacing and the replacement part was available for purchase on Amazon. There was even an instructional YouTube posted by the seller on how to take the DVR apart and do it yourself. Phrases like, “remove the motherboard” and “Torx T-10 screwdriver” would normally make my head spin, but the idea of spending $30 instead of $300 filled me with determination.

When the part arrived I set my DVR up next to my laptop and tools and carefully followed the video instructions. Having been a latch-key kid, I remember being bored one afternoon and taking apart the family radio at age 12. After putting it back together, I had to hide a leftover part so that I wouldn’t get in trouble (never did figure out what the mystery part was for, since the radio worked without it). With that childhood memory still vivid, I carefully labeled each of the screws, nuts and bolts after removing them with name and location.

I completed the fan replacement, crossed my fingers and plugged my DVR back in and flipped it on. Everything worked and was back to normal. The silence of the newly-installed fan was triumphant.

If I hadn’t succeeded I still would have learned something about the limits of my do-it-yourself talents and called the $30 spent the price of that lesson. Instead, this time anyway, I was able to enjoy the feeling of successfully making something work. I’m probably still not gonna catch a fly ball, score the winning goal or spike that volleyball over the net (or even in the right direction). But, if the fan inside of your DVR needs changing, I’m a solid pick.

Big or small, simple or systemic, you never know what changes are possible until you try to make them.

~~~~~~~~~

Nectarine Caprese is a tangy-sweet twist on a classic first course.

Nectarine Caprese
Summer is just about here and summer fruits are back in season. This twist on the classic caprese salad, traditionally made with fresh tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella, is an absolutely delicious and simple to prepare first course. As with the tomato version, the key here is the quality of the ingredients. You’ll want fragrant, ripe, organic nectarines, fresh organic basil and good quality, authentic smoked mozzarella – the kind from small farms with happy and healthy cows.

Balsamic glaze is thicker and sweeter than balsamic vinegar, traditionally used to top cheese or ice cream. You can find it in the vinegar or sauces section at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, any well-stocked grocery store or online.

 

8oz ball of smoked mozzarella cheese
4 to 5 ripe nectarines
32oz or more of fresh basil leaves
Balsamic glaze, for drizzling
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

 

Cut the mozzarella ball into sixteen 1/8-inch slices
Cut the nectarines into twenty 1/8-inch slices

I find it’s best to arrange the 4 servings separately, each on its own plate.

For each serving, arrange 5 nectarine slices, 4 cheese slices and about 8oz of the basil leaves in alternating fashion, using a spiral pattern: beginning with a basil leaf, then nectarine slice, then another basil leaf, then cheese slice, then repeat the pattern.

Drizzle the salad with balsamic glaze and lightly season with salt and freshly-ground pepper.

This is nice accompanied by a sweeter nut or fruit-based crispbread or even a graham, rather than a salty cracker.

Serves 4

Speranza

May 31, 2020

“Vogliamo che qualcuno si prenda cura di noi? Prendiamoci cura di chi non ha nessuno. Ci serve speranza per il domani? Doniamo speranza oggi… Non possiamo chiedere all’umanità di stare unita se noi andiamo per strade diverse. Allora preghiamo gli uni per gli altri, sentiamoci responsabili gli uni degli altri.”

“We want someone to take care of us? Let us take care of those who have no one. We need hope for tomorrow? Let us give hope today… We cannot ask humanity to be united if we go our separate ways. So, let us pray for each other, feel responsible for each other.”

~ Pope Francis, May 31, 2020

 


Meme by K.C. Green

 

I had intended to write a cheerful post today, with tips on teaching yourself a second language. Unfortunately, as the weekend unfolded, that mood felt inappropriate and reminiscent of the above well-known internet meme.

I felt emotionally exhausted, frozen by the overwhelming sadness and surrealism of it all and had no idea if anything I was capable of doing would be of any help at all.

I’m not Catholic, but the sentiment Pope Francis expressed today in his first address from his apartment window since the quarantine was a timely reminder: If I need a little hope, someone else probably does too.

Then I recalled an article I came across the other day about a recent discovery made just outside the city of Verona: an almost completely intact Roman mosaic floor from a 3rd century villa, long-buried and unearthed from beneath a row of vines:

The recollection served as a hopeful reminder: you never know what beautiful surprise may lie below the surface of what is currently apparent, waiting to be revealed:

This world is many-layered. Kindness, love, decency and hope may not be visible under the noise and images we are witnessing today, but that doesn’t mean they have disappeared. They’ve just been temporarily covered over. Hope is still there, underneath it all. Get digging.

“Hope is the struggle of the soul, breaking loose from what is perishable, and attesting her eternity.”
~ Herman Melville

~~~~~~~~~

My recipe for Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies was recently requested by a friend.

Goat Cheese Sugar Cookies
These scrumptious cookies need no eggs. The goat cheese flavor disappears, resulting in an absolutely delicious, rich and tangy-sweet cookie, bursting with citrus flavor. No one will guess the secret ingredient. Use soft, spreadable chèvre-style goat cheese for this recipe. It’s like cream cheese but more tangy. Always use organic or other pesticide-free oranges for zest, to avoid ingesting pesticide residue.

 

1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)*
3oz of soft, chèvre-style goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one organic orange
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
*Note: add a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

For rolling:
1/4 cup organic sugar
mixed with
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar and goat cheese together until smooth. Mix in vanilla and zest.

In a smaller bowl, stir together baking soda, baking powder and flour (add a pinch of salt here if using unsalted butter in recipe).

Add flour mixture to butter mixture. Stir together to incorporate.

Cover bowl and chill in fridge for 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°F

Remove dough from fridge. Form dough into 1-inch sized balls and roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Press down with three fingers to flatten balls slightly and create a circle shape.

Bake for 8 to 11 minutes. Let baked cookies stand for one minute, then move to rack or foil-lined counter to cool completely.

Makes about 2 dozen (26) cookies

 

The One I’m With

May 9, 2020

“Love seeketh not itself to please, nor for itself hath any care, but for another gives its ease, and builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”
~ William Blake

These are challenging times emotionally. The shelter-in-place directives have meant that most of us are spending either much more or much less time than usual with each other.

Modern technology has enabled us to interact with others somewhat, but many formerly mundane in-person visits, those with less than six feet of separation, seem precious in hindsight, like the lunch date I wish I could go back in time and hug for just a few moments longer.

Sofia (pictured above) is my quarantine-mate. She turned 18 on March 24th. Unlike a friend’s daughter of the same age, who is graduating with the class of 2020, Sofia’s current life probably isn’t much different than she expected, except for the fact that her mama is home almost all of the time now.

Sofia’s been with me since her first day on Earth. I found her, abandoned along with her 3 brothers, inside a shoe box that had been left in a shopping cart outside my local grocery. I took the one day-old kittens to the local emergency vet and learned how to feed them with a bottle and wipe their little backsides after they ate. I had to create make-shift incubators for them after one of Sofia’s brothers died in my arms, having no mama cat to snuggle up to and keep him warm. I managed to keep the others alive. Her brother Folster passed away 18 months ago, at the age of 16, lying on the bed next to me and Sofia. We both miss him.

Sofia and I can annoy each other at times, like any roommates. She has a somewhat jarring and insistent meow, seemingly incongruous with her beauty, like a feline Fran Drescher. Hearing that “waaahhhh” on a loop when I’m trying to disinfect groceries, work on my laptop or sleep in for just a few more minutes has required me to summon my conscious breathing skills on more than a few occasions. There’s also such a thing as too much of me, apparently. After Folster’s death, Sofia insisted on sleeping under the covers with me, spoon-style, every night. Lately though, with the near 24/7 togetherness of the quarantine, she is occasionally choosing to sleep by herself.

Many folks are grieving the past, having experienced personal and financial loss, and the uncertainty of our future can be unsettling. As overwhelmed as I sometimes feel in these days, I try to stop and remember to be grateful for what is certain: this beautiful gift of life and love that is my dear companion of 18 years. The extra moments I have with her now will one day be a precious memory. I don’t want to miss them while regretting something that has passed or guessing what may come with the future. Sofia is here and she is now. She is my precious present, my soft, sweet, silver lining surrounding this COVID-19 cloud.

~~~~~~~~~

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips is a delicious baked alternative when you run out of eggs.

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips
The banana replaces the binding quality of eggs in this recipe and also adds a delicious extra dimension of flavor. I sometimes substitute the cocoa powder with vanilla or chocolate hemp protein or whey protein powder.* You can use chunky or creamy peanut butter, but make sure it’s the natural kind that you have to stir first.

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder*
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 very ripe, medium-sized banana
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, stirred
2 tablespoons sunflower seed oil, plus more to prep pan
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease bottom and slightly up sides of a 9″ round cake pan or an 8″ square pan with a little oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa or protein powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well with a large fork or whisk.

In a medium bowl, mash banana until smooth. Mix in sugar. Add milk, peanut butter, oil and vanilla. Mix well.

Add banana peanut butter mixture to bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips just until evenly distributed.

Scoop batter into prepared pan and even out surface with back of spatula or spoon.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean (there may be melted chocolate on the tester, but not uncooked batter).

Cut into 8 pieces.

 

 

A Tech Stretch

April 19, 2020

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
~ Maxine Hong Kingston

I created a short, under 5 minute video to demonstrate my Tech Stretch, a little self-care for the wrists and shoulders that anyone can do. I developed this a few years ago, when the mobile game Pokémon Go launched and a client injured his shoulder one Sunday, chasing Pokémon around the Long Beach Aquarium for 12 hours.

I designed this simple, seated yoga flow to encourage a full range of motion for the wrist joints and offer some light stretching for the shoulders, in order to counter the effects of the repetitive motion of scrolling and clicking on devices.

Devices had, for many years, already been taking a toll on our wrists, thumbs, elbows, shoulders and neck. Now that so many of us are connecting with the world via phones, tablets and computers for several hours more each day, taking a break now and then to be kind to those joints is even more important.

You can do this right now, sitting at your computer. If you are on a hand-held device, sit up or stand briefly to try it out. Show your hard working wrists and shoulders a few minutes of gratitude for all of the work they do for you:

Thank you to my friends at Butterfly Effect Day Spa in Sierra Madre for posting the video on their YouTube channel 🦋
~~~~~~~~~

After you’ve given your wrists and shoulders a little love, show your taste buds and tummy some too, by stirring up some creamy, crunchy Avocado, Parmesan and Pepitas Pasta. Who says comfort food can’t be creative?

Avocado, Parmesan and Pepitas Pasta
This is one of the tastiest, creamiest, yummiest pasta dishes I’ve ever made. The salty, crunchy pumpkin seeds and crisp bacon crumbles (vegetarians can omit the bacon) combined with a cheesy and creamy avocado sauce provides an ecstatic experience of both taste and texture. Everyone I’ve shared the recipe with has loved it and it is one of the rare pasta dishes that is as good or better the next day. You’ll want a very ripe, creamy-style avocado (such as Haas) for this recipe.

This recipe doubles or halves easily

2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 large, ripe, creamy-style avocados (such as Haas)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
(plus a bit more course-ground or cracked black pepper to serve)
Salt to taste and for pasta water
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more to top)

One or both of these toppings (I used both):
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled crispy-cooked bacon
1/4 to 1/2 cup roasted, salted shelled pumpkin seeds
(Pistachios are also delicious here, if you can’t find pumpkin seeds)

12 oz fusilli, penne or spaghetti pasta

Boil water for pasta.

Cut garlic cloves in half and rub cut ends all around bottom of a large serving bowl to flavor. You can also lightly smash the cloves with a fork and swirl them around to flavor that way. Discard used garlic cloves.

Halve the avocados, discard pits and scoop pulp into bowl. Discard peels. Add the lemon juice and zest, black pepper and oregano. Smash avocado with a fork or a potato masher until smooth, with no chunks remaining (alternatively, you can puree the avocado in a food processor before adding to the bowl, but I like to have less stuff to wash, so I just mash in the serving bowl). Stir in the 1/2 cup of cheese and mash some more until fully mixed and super creamy.

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water, according to package directions. Make sure not to overcook it. The pasta should be al dente (on the firm side).

When the pasta is near ready, slowly stir in about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water into the avocado mixture and mix to create a creamy sauce. Taste and add salt, if needed (I added just a tiny pinch – remember that the toppings will be salty).

Once the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the bowl with the avocado sauce. Toss to coat completely.

Top with pumpkin seeds and/or bacon crumbles (I used both and it was spectacular), additional Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

Serve warm.

Note: This pasta is also delicious made ahead and served chilled, so leftovers will make a lovely next-day lunch or side dish.

Serves 2 to 4

 

The Upside of Down

April 11, 2020

“And so I wait, like a lonely house
till you will see me again and live in me.
Till then my windows ache.”
~ Pablo Neruda, Sonnet LXV

 

It’s OK to be sad. We are individually and collectively grieving so much that has been lost to the current crisis. We are all in this together, as they say, but “this” can seem a lonely and precarious place to be.

Feeling down is often perceived as a failure, but low is a perfectly natural location to find yourself when the balloon of hope and enthusiasm that holds us up in more certain times is temporarily deflated.

Be patient with your heart if you feel it sinking at times. In fact, giving your heart the space to lay low for awhile can actually be a good thing. For example, if you happen to be a raw egg, being down is a position full of potential. Here’s why:

The best way to test the freshness of an egg is to gently drop it into a bowl of water.

If the egg sinks and stays at the bottom of the bowl, laying on its side, it is very fresh.

If the egg stands up partially or even upright, it is still safe to consume, but should be cooked and eaten, used for baking or hard boiled very soon.

If, however, the egg floats to the top, it is no longer fresh and should be thrown away.

The reason this test works is due to the porous quality of eggshells. Air enters into the egg through its porous shell, decreasing the egg’s shelf life. As time passes and air continues to enter the shell, the egg’s buoyancy increases, eventually causing it to float.

The egg that appears to float above it all may be close to finished, while the egg that is temporarily down can look forward to one day emerging from its shell, with its golden heart sunny side up.

 

So take heart, all of you good eggs out there who might be feeling low. Give yourself permission to be exactly where you are, for now. There’s an upside to being down.

~~~~~~~~~

Remember, Easter Bunnies are essential workers during this quarantine, so give them your thanks and plenty of space to work 🐰

After your living room Easter egg hunt is over, here are three ways to give new life to your hard boiled eggs: Pretty Pink Pickled Eggs and Spring Veggies; Turmeric and Ginger Pickled Eggs and Springtime Noodle Soup with Shoyu (soy sauce-flavored) Eggs.

Pretty Pink Pickled Eggs and Spring Veggies
You will need a quart-sized mason jar with lid for these. If you can find them, use eggs from happy hens, such as Vital Farms pastured eggs or eggs from a local hen house. Eggs from pastured hens contain up to 20 times more omega-3 acids than factory hens.

1 medium beet, scrubbed and cleaned
1 & 1/2 cups water (to cook beets)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon organic sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar (and a bit more, if needed)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 fennel stalks with tops
2 spring onions or 3 green onions
2 small red or pink radishes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 hard cooked eggs, cooled and peeled

Slice beet into thin, 1-inch pieces. Add the beets and water to a large saucepan and cook, covered, over medium-low  heat until tender, about 30 minutes. Make sure you have 1 cup of cooking water remaining in the pan (it will be colored by the beets). Add more water to make 1 cup, if necessary.

Meanwhile:
Clean and dice the bulb (white part) of the fennel. Save some of the fronds and chop them fine.

Clean the radishes and slice thinly.

Clean, trim and slice the spring onions, include some of the green part.

After the beets have finished cooking, while the liquid is still warm, add salt, sugar and vinegar and stir to dissolve. Add the garlic, fennel, radishes, onions, parsley and peppercorns. Stir to combine.

In a quart-sized mason jar with lid, layer eggs and veggies until jar is filled. Pour liquid over to cover. If there is not enough liquid to cover, you can top it off with a bit more red wine vinegar. Seal jar with the lid and give a gentle shake to mix contents. Refrigerate for 24 hours, gently shaking the jar occasionally.

To serve, cut eggs in half to reveal the pretty color. Serve with some of the veggies, along with crackers, chips or bread.

Serves 3 to 6 as an appetizer

 

Turmeric and Ginger Pickled Eggs
These pretty yellow eggs make a delicious and eye-catching appetizer for a spring lunch. The flavor is tangy, sweet and lightly salty with delicate hints of turmeric and ginger.

You will need a quart-sized mason jar with lid for these. They take 24 to 48  hours to pickle. I let mine pickle for 44  hours to get the color in the photo above. If you’d prefer a paler yellow, let them pickle for less time.

 

1 cup sliced carrots
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 & 1/2 inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and thinly sliced
Or
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 & 1/2 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt (I used Himalayan Pink Salt)
1 tablespoon organic sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar (a bit more, if needed)
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Optional: 1 small fresh hot chile, diced fine
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 hard-cooked eggs, cooled and peeled

 

Add the carrots, garlic and turmeric with the water to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Make sure you have 1 cup of cooking water remaining in the pan. Add more water if necessary.

After the veggies have finished cooking, while the liquid is still warm, add salt, sugar and vinegar and stir to dissolve. Add the ginger, parsley, chile (if using) and peppercorns. Stir to combine.

In a clean, quart-sized mason jar with lid, layer eggs and veggies until jar is filled. Pour liquid over to cover. If there is not enough liquid to cover, you can top it off with a bit more vinegar. Seal jar with the lid and give a gently shake to mix contents.

Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours, gently shaking jar occasionally.

To serve:
Cut eggs in half to highlight the pretty color. Serve with some of the veggies, along with crackers, chips or bread or on top of butter lettuce or other salad greens. You can also mix diced pickled eggs with some mayo for an instant, eye-catching egg salad.

Serves 4 to 8

 

Springtime Noodle Soup with Shoyu Eggs
Shoyu (soy sauce) eggs make a tasty snack. It’s a quick and easy way to make left-over Easter eggs interesting. Simmering boiled eggs in soy sauce creates a dark caramel color on the outside of the egg and makes for a nice contrast when you slice them open. In this recipe, I have added them to a simple Japanese-style soup, but you could also serve them alone, as an appetizer.

You can sometimes find prepared fresh ramen noodles in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. Otherwise, buy dried ramen or chow mein noodles or vermicelli for this recipe and cook and drain just before making the soup. You will need 12 oz or 1 & 1/2 cups of noodles after cooking. If you are using the curly, instant type of ramen, you can add the dry noodles into the soup to cook, as you would for instant ramen mixes.

 

For Shoyu Eggs:
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup organic soy sauce

For Soup:
4 cups miso broth or chicken broth
2 green onions, trimmed and chopped
1 medium carrot, grated
4 button or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 teaspoons organic soy sauce
12 ounces (1 & 1/2 cups) prepared ramen or chow mein noodles
Pepper to taste

 

Make Shoyu Eggs:
In a 10-inch saucepan, heat the soy sauce over medium-high heat. When the soy sauce just begins to bubble, reduce heat to medium and add the eggs. Using a soup spoon, coax the eggs around the pan in the soy sauce to coat. Keep rolling the eggs gently around the pan until the soy sauce is super-thick and the eggs are a dark caramel color. Turn off heat. Remove eggs to a plate to serve or set aside, if making soup.

Make Soup:
In a medium saucepan, heat broth, onions, carrot, mushroom and soy sauce over medium-high heat.

If using the curly/instant ramen noodles:
Once soup is boiling, add noodles and boil for about 3 minutes, breaking up noodles and stirring with a fork, then turn off heat. Season to taste with pepper. Stir in sesame oil.

If using prepared fresh ramen or chow mein noodles:
Once soup is boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and add cooked noodles. Stir and simmer just enough to heat the noodles (about a minute). Turn off heat. Season to taste with pepper. Stir in sesame oil.

Divide soup, noodles and vegetables among two bowls. Cut Shoyu Eggs in half and arrange on top of soup. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

 

 

 

A Spoonful of Yoga

March 28, 2020

“If you smile when you are alone, then you really mean it.”
~ Andy Rooney

 

I made a short little video to help you keep smiling.

In this 2016 blog post, I wrote about how the physical act of smiling can help to slow your heart rate. A slowed heart rate is one indicator of the parasympathetic response, also known as the “relaxation response”. These results indicate that the physical act of forming a smile may help the body to reduce stress. What is especially interesting, in light of our current challenges, is a 2013 study out of Massachusetts General Hospital, which found that elicitation of the relaxation response (a physiological state of deep rest induced by practices such as meditation, deep breathing and prayer) produces immediate changes helpful to immune function.

Please share this with anyone you think could use a little lift. Thanks to my friends at Butterfly Effect Day Spa in Sierra Madre, for uploading it to YouTube:

~~~~~~~~~

OK, so along with paper towels and toilet paper, ice cream seems to have disappeared from the supermarket shelves. Whether you are a perpetrator or victim of this particular comfort-food hoarding, one of these recipes will work for you. If you loaded up on frozen desserts and have an excess, but are missing eggs, Melted Ice Cream Muffins are an easy-to-make treat that you can try while at home. If you, like me, were greeted with empty ice cream cases at your last two trips to the store, you can make Coconut Banana Sorbet with just a blender, a banana, some sugar and a can of coconut milk.

Melted Ice Cream Muffins
Left your ice cream out on the counter too long? No eggs to bake with? No problem! Not overly sweet, these delicately-flavored muffins are closer to a scone than a cupcake. Make sure to use premium ice cream, made with real eggs, milk and cream. Also, stay away from subtle flavors like vanilla. You want intense flavors and chunks of chocolate, nuts or fruit to contribute to the taste of the muffins.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pint premium ice cream, melted

Preheat oven to 425°F

Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners.

Mix dry ingredients well with a fork. Add melted ice cream and stir until just combined. Don’t over-mix.

Divide batter equally among lined muffin cups. Bake 18 to 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool a minute or two in pan and then remove muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.

These are wonderful for breakfast or afternoon tea/snack, served plain or with butter and/or preserves.

Makes 12 muffins.

 

Coconut Banana Sorbet
This unbelievably yummy sorbet is super easy to make and your vegan family members will love it! Be sure to use organic sugar (evaporated cane juice). It’s richer in flavor and more nutritious than refined sugar. Unlike for banana bread, you’ll want these bananas to be just-ripened.

2 medium-large just-ripe bananas
1 13.5 ox (400ml) can of full-fat coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional toppings: Dry toasted, slivered almonds and/or chocolate sauce

 

Peel and chop bananas into blender (1/2-inch chunks). Add coconut milk, sugar and cinnamon. Blend until smooth. Pour into a shallow glass baking dish. Cover well with plastic wrap, then foil. Place in freezer and freeze for at least 12 hours or overnight.

To serve: If sorbet is frozen a little too hard, simply leave out for 5 to 10 minutes until you can scoop it easily.

Top with toasted almonds and/or chocolate sauce, if desired.

Makes approximately 4 cups

 

Bake a Bun, Leave the Cannoli

March 21, 2020

Be crumbled
So that wild flowers will come up where you are.
You have been stony for too many years.
Try something different.
Surrender.”
~ Rumi

So, with most of us home and walking that tightrope between hope and despair, I decided to scour my old blog posts, going back to 2010 (when I first began posting), in search of a few easy, homemade bread recipes.

I encourage you to give one of these a try, even if you’ve never baked anything. There’s nothing like bread, just made and still warm, to comfort your spirit. Plus, you’ll feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment and also look super cool after you FaceTime your finished bread for your fellow shelter-in-placers.

Before you bake, remember to wash your hands. In case you were wondering why soap and water conquers this and other viruses and why the experts are stressing to make sure to wash for 20 seconds, here is a short video, showing why and how soap and water works:

 

And now that your hands are clean and virus-free, here are three super simple recipes for bread that you can make without a bread machine, without yeast and with little to no kneading:

Super Easy Homemade Bread
No need to let this bread rise or to knead it endlessly. With a texture resembling a biscuit or scone, and a choice of tasty toppings, this bread is a delicious warm treat from your oven with minimal effort.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk

1 egg, beaten (to brush top of loaf)
Choice of topping (see below)

Toppings:

Seeded
2 tablespoons of any combination of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or fennel seeds

Herb
2 teaspoons of your choice: dried dill, oregano, thyme or crumbled dried rosemary

Cheesy
1/4 cup of grated sharp cheddar or Parmesan cheese

 

Preheat oven to 350°F

Grease a 9-inch cake pan with butter and set aside

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add butter and mix well into flour mixture using a long fork. Add egg and milk. Mix until a sticky dough forms, then knead in the bowl using your hands until dough is smooth and formed into a ball.

Press dough into greased cake pan so that bottom of pan is evenly covered. Brush surface of bread with beaten egg (you won’t use all of it). Sprinkle topping evenly over surface.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove loaf from pan. Cut into wedges and serve warm. Or, if not eating immediately, let loaf cool completely on wire rack and wrap cooled bread tightly in plastic wrap.

Makes 12 servings

~~~

Piadina – Homemade Italian Flatbread
Piadina is the name for a popular flatbread in Italy. It’s easy to make at home and requires no yeast. There are many versions of the recipe, depending on the region and preference of each cook. Piadina is traditionally made with lard, which I’m not a fan of. This is my personal version of the recipe, made with butter (that’s a photo of mine above). You may substitute olive oil, if you wish.

3 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus some for rolling out)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
5 tablespoons butter, softened
2/3 cup milk
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Optional:
Additional warm water
Extra virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, add flour and make a well in the center. Add salt, egg and butter and mix with a fork until crumbly. Make a well in the center again and mix in the milk, warm water and baking soda.

Knead with your hands until soft and smooth, but not sticky (if too sticky, add a bit of flour; if not soft enough, add a small amount of olive oil and/or warm water). Continue kneading for 10 minutes total.

Make a ball with the dough, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour (you can refrigerate it at this point and let it come to room temperature for one hour before rolling it out).

Make the large ball into six smaller balls. On a clean, lightly floured surface, using a lightly-floured rolling pin, roll each of the balls out into large, thin circles. Put plastic between each as you make them, to keep them from drying out.

Heat a large griddle pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Prick each piadina over its entire surface with a fork. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until brown spots appear all over the bottom. Flip over and cook the other side.

Serve warm (I reheated them the next day with great results).

You can cut them into triangular pieces and use to scoop up dips, clean your pasta plate of tomato sauce or dunk into soup. You can use a whole piadina as a base for a quick pizza.

You can also top or stuff them with various fillings.
Here are some suggestions:
Grated mozzarella, mortadella, saffron mayonnaise
Smoked sockeye salmon, avocado, honey, smoked paprika

Bacon, arugula, burrata cheese, fig jam or balsamic glaze
Scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, chives
Sautéed mushrooms, soft goat cheese, thyme
Roast chicken or turkey, pesto mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese
Peanut, almond or sunflower butter, banana slices, grated chocolate

Makes 6 piadina

~~~

Ancient Roman Libum with Lavender
Libum was a type of bread made in Ancient Rome. This recipe is easy to make and results in the yummiest, moistest bread rolls. They are delicious with poultry, soups, salads, or served as an appetizer. Be sure to use lavender that you know to be free of pesticides. You can find lavender suitable for cooking at specialty stores and online. You could also substitute dried rosemary or thyme for the lavender.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
8 oz of whole-milk ricotta cheese or small-curd cottage cheese
1 large egg, beaten
2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender
Pinch of salt
Extra virgin olive oil, for greasing pan
About 8 to 12 sprigs of fresh thyme*
*If substituting rosemary or thyme for the lavender, you can use 4 to 8 dried bay leaves here.

Preheat oven to 400°F

In a small bowl, beat cheese with a fork until it is soft (use an electric mixer, if necessary).

In a large bowl, combine flour, lavender, salt, beaten egg and softened cheese. Mix until a soft, sticky dough is formed.

Grease a baking pan (one with a little bit of depth) with a layer of olive oil.

Divide dough into 4 pieces and shape each piece into a bun shape. Place buns on oiled sheet with 2 or 3 sprigs of thyme or 1 or 2 bay leaves under each bun (this helps keep them from sticking to the pan and adds flavor).

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a pale golden brown.

You can serve these with honey or cheese, but they are delicious just plain.

Makes 4 rolls

~~~

Happy baking! And don’t forget to smile while you are out there being socially distant 😀

Faith in Chaos

March 14, 2020

“If the flap of a butterfly’s wings can be instrumental in generating a tornado, it can equally well be instrumental in preventing a tornado.”
~ Edward Lorenz

 

Happy Pi Day!

Yes, that is a picture of my celebratory Pi Day bar of soap!

6.36619772368 seconds times π equals 20 seconds, the minimum amount of time you should spend each time you wash your hands to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Pi Day is the celebration of the mathematical constant π, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi or as it is symbolized, π, is an irrational number, meaning it cannot be expressed as a fraction, such as 22/7. Its decimal representation never ends and has no repeating pattern. However it is approximately equal to 3.14159. March is the 3rd month and today is the 14th, hence 3/14 celebrates the number that begins with 3.14.

Another number, .506, proved that small things can make a big difference.

Edward Lorenz was a meteorology professor at MIT. After entering some numbers into a computer program to simulate weather patterns, he left his office to get coffee and let the program run. He was repeating a simulation he’d run earlier, but this time he rounded off the variable .506127 to .506. To his surprise, that seemingly insignificant alteration drastically transformed the results the program produced.

This led Lorenz to the discovery that small changes can have significant effects, which came to be known as the “butterfly effect”, after he suggested that something as small as the flap of a butterfly’s wings could ultimately cause a tornado.

Some of the changes we are currently being advised to make are to wash our hands frequently; avoid touching our faces; stay home and avoid crowds and gatherings as much as possible and to keep 6 to 10 feet/2 to 3 meters between ourselves and others while out and about. These may seem like small actions, but if each of us takes them, together we can make a big difference in slowing the spread of this virus.

We may need to distance ourselves from each other physically, but we are all in this together. While you are spending time at home, check on friends and neighbors via phone or video chat. Find out how you can donate food and supplies to local food banks and community organizations.

And try your hand at baking a pie for pi day…. or any day, really.

~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of seconds, here is a recipe for a Frozen Avocado Lime Pie that you will want seconds of.


Engraved pi plate available here.

 

Frozen Avocado Lime Pie
A cool (pun intended) frozen treat, kind of like a key lime pie, but with a surprise ingredient. Be sure the use a creamy type of California avocado, such as Haas (the wrinkly black-skinned kind). Don’t use the smooth-skinned, watery avocados.

If avocados for dessert sounds weird, you might be interested to know that in the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia, Vietnam, Southern India and Morocco, avocados are often used for milkshakes, ice cream and other desserts, sometimes topped with chocolate syrup!

 

Ingredients:

For the crust

1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 2-piece grahams)
1/4 cup organic sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

For the filling

2 medium-sized ripe California (Haas type) avocados
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 limes)
8 ounce package of organic cream cheese, at room temperature
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
Zest of 1 lime

Optional: Sweetened whipped cream or shredded dried coconut, to serve

Directions:

Make the crust: Using a rolling pin, crush graham cracker cookies between two pieces of plastic wrap. Combine the melted butter with the graham crumbs, sugar and salt (if using) in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a fork. Press mixture evenly into the bottom and partially up the sides of an 8″ or 9″ springform pan. Refrigerate until set (about 1 hour).

Make the filling: Halve and pit the avocados. Scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl. Add the lime juice and mash together with a fork. Add the cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer on low speed at first to combine, then on medium speed until mostly smooth. Add the condensed milk and the lime zest and beat until smooth. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl a couple of times with a rubber spatula if needed.

Remove crust from fridge. Pour the filling into the crust and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pie to cover (to prevent discoloration). Cover springform pan with foil and freeze 4 hours or overnight.

To serve:
Remove from freezer. Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes. Carefully remove the springform ring and slice the pie. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and/or shredded dried coconut, if desired. Serve immediately.

Note: if you are not going to eat ll of the pie, immediately wrap any unused portions with plastic wrap, seal in a freezer bag or wrap in foil and return to freezer.

Serves 8 to 12

Frozen Avocado Lime Mini Pies
Use 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Divide the crumb mixture among the cups and refrigerate until set. Divide the filling mixture evenly among the cups. Be sure to cover the top of each mini pie with plastic wrap before freezing. This will make 12 frozen mini pies.

 

Extra

February 29, 2020

E. Edward Grey: You’re really over-qualified for the job. You’d be bored to death.

Lee Holloway: I want to be bored.

~ From Secretary (2002)

 

The line above is from the movie Secretary, a sweet, quirky love story from 2002, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. That particular piece of dialogue came to my mind recently, in reaction to current events. Never before has the phrase “I want to be bored” so resonated with me as it does now. I long for the return of days when multiple news stories worthy of exclamation points weren’t breaking on the hour.

The Earth takes 365.24 days per year to travel around our Sun. Leap day is added to most years divisible by 4 in order to keep all other years at 365 days per. If this adjustment weren’t made, our calendar would slowly gain an extra 3 days every 400 years, eventually shifting the timing of the seasons.

The leap part of the name, refers to how adding an extra day causes the calendar to “leap” over one day. Christmas 2019 fell on a Wednesday; in 2020 it will fall on a Friday, “leaping” over Thursday, due to the addition of the extra day of February 29th. Using the modern colloquial sense, the times we are currently living in could also be described as “extra”.

As a yoga therapist who teaches mindfulness meditation, I am well-versed in the benefits of choosing to live in the now. Currently, however, staying presently-focused has become a necessity. When chaos and conflict seem to be the norm, any illusion of control over anything but the present moment evaporates. Sorting out past and future “what ifs” is a futile exercise. Instead, I’ve decided to sort out my closets, drawers and cupboards. An early spring cleaning is a positive action for change that one can begin immediately, no matter what is happening in the world at large.

With the exception of objects holding irreplaceable sentimental value, a system I’m currently using to reduce clutter is to choose one of three options: give it away, throw it away or put it to use.

If freeing up the space in your house (car? inbox?) to free up the space in your mind resonates with you as well, be sure not to overwhelm yourself by attempting to do it all at once. Start by choosing three things per day that come into your line of sight, or pull one box from your closet or garage per week and ruthlessly reduce or eliminate its contents.  You may instead decide to scroll back and look at ten old items from your inbox each day to either print or delete.

Don’t let the enormity of the job keep you catatonic and resistant. Use whatever method is easiest and works for you. Figure out an action you can say yes to now, and begin. Little by little, progress will reveal itself. Say goodbye to the old chaos, so a new calm has room to come.

~~~~~~~~~

Basil isn’t just for savory dishes. Fresh Basil Sparkler is a not-too-sweet alcohol-free beverage that makes for a unique aperitif or refreshing palette cleanser between courses.

Fresh Basil Sparkler
A simple basil syrup, made from fresh leaves, forms the base of this lovely and refreshing beverage. Add fresh orange juice for an alternate flavor (both recipes below). Be sure to use basil free of pesticides.

Fresh Basil Syrup

1 cup fresh basil leaves (packed)*
1 cup organic sugar
1 cup water

*Note: before measuring, gently wash basil, then spin or pat dry. Tear leaves in half. Pack as many leaves as you can into a measuring cup.

To make the syrup:
In a medium saucepan, combine water and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook at a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Let mixture cool completely (about an hour). When syrup is cooled, strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing firmly on the leaves with the back of a spoon in order to extract all of the syrup and basil flavor.

Store syrup in fridge up to one month.

Makes 10 ounces of syrup (enough for about 7 to 10 beverages)

Fresh Basil Sparkler
Basil Syrup
Ice cubes (if desired)
Sparkling water
Lemon slices, orange slices, and/or reserved basil leaves, for garnish

In a 16oz glass, add 1.5 ounces of Fresh Basil Syrup. Add ice cubes, if desired, and top with sparkling water. Stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon or orange slice and/or a sprig of fresh basil. Enjoy!

Fresh Orange and Basil Sparkler
In a 16oz glass, begin with 1 ounce of the Fresh Basil Syrup. Add 1/2 cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice (about one orange). Stir to combine. Add ice cubes to halfway up the glass and top with sparkling water. Garnish with an orange slice and/or a sprig of fresh basil. Enjoy!