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Hotbox Hipster

a pittsburgh hippie chick's unbridled love for all things food related

FOODIE FANTASIES

many a night i spent dreaming up ways i could make a food delivery service come to fruition.  i’d turn over scenarios in my head… catchy names, food truck artwork,  meals that would be eaten easily while standing or sitting in the grass, visions of hipsters noshing on a paper lined boat of my fabulous ‘something or other’ and posting about it on twitter or the FB.   i imagined rolling through Larryville in my converted mail truck throwing peace signs out the open door/window here and there.  rocking out to death cab for cutie… wearing an apron with the words ‘SHARE GOOD VIBES’  on it.  i could finally get that cute little spoon tattoo on my hand at the base of my thumb!   and then maybe later a santoku knife on my other wrist (cause you know you’re always thinking about your NEXT tat the minute you leave the parlor)…   this is literally how i would fall asleep more nights than i can remember.  i still do sometimes… even though i have done the homework and know how hard it is to turn even a meager profit while manning a food truck biz.  it is a labor of love, as a brick and mortar restaurant would be as well.  be prepared to be married to it they say.  fourteen hour days are the minimum, with sixteen hour days being more realistic, after preparation, clean up, book keeping, and maintenance woes on a daily.  not to mention finding a co-owner, helping hand or hired staff you can trust and rely on always.  not a good look for a wife and mother of two.  life is hard sometimes.  you know what you enjoy doing… you know you are good at it… you know people would LIKE what you sling… but you meet roadblock after roadblock when thinking of how you can get there.  more often than not, it’s money.  things cost money. A LOT of money.  to get a food truck up and running and stocked with equipment, etc etc- you’re looking at at least 30G’s start up cost… rockstar trucks decked out with bells and whistles… 70 G.  but hot damn are they beautiful.   if i was rich/ aka a trust funder or one of those lucky SOB’s who hit a powerball ticket with a group for 4 mill a piece… Hell to the Yezzesss i’d be all over this.  i’d service private picnics or corporate events…  do festivals and fairs… have FUN with it.   but for now, i am a nurse.  i make a fine and comfortable living doing it.  make no mistake in thinking me ungrateful for said career.  i worked hard to become a nurse, and it was not easy.  i feel proud of this accomplishment in my life- especially deciding to do it late, as i was about to turn 30 and already working as a social worker after college.   nursing has been good to me.  to us.  but this post is about passion.  about the Foodie world that exists in my mind.  so i do what anyone in this situation would do.  i think small.  what can i do that would simulate being a part of the food service industry while allowing me to harness some of my entrepreneurial spirit???  i seek out small groups of people that would like me to cook for them.  ie: a pediatrics office full of busy, hungry medical professionals who get an hour lunch break each day;  a group of hungry policemen who are notorious for working up appetites  while out fighting crime.  the latter had me cooking for them a week before Christmas this year… and they were pleased as punch with the whole foodie event!   prior to this i cooked for my co-workers, who also found the whole delivery yummy and satisfying!   so i am having fun with it… but on a small scale.  my food truck is my silver Subaru… and i am finally using up some of the hundreds of containers i bought online late one night when i was feeling extra ‘ready’ to make this REAL.   after all, a girl’s gotta dream.  if you never CHASE you dreams you will never CATCH them.

micro side salads
micro side salads
chicken parmesan over penne with red sauce
chicken parmesan over penne with red sauce
small batch homemade vinaigrette
small batch homemade vinaigrette
slow cooked sausages sliced over cavatappi with red sauce
slow cooked sausages sliced over cavatappi with red sauce

 

garlic bread - lined up like little soldiers
garlic bread – lined up like little soldiers
hot soup, ready for 16 oz containers.
hot soup, ready for 16 oz containers.

Here piggy piggy….. melt in your mouth pork roast…

soooo… i just have to be honest here. i have never met a pig i didn’t like.  i mean let’s be honest. they are adorable to look at when they are little, they are fun to watch when they are MASSIVE… and when my hubby worked part time on a local farm to help pay the bills last winter, the stories of the big pigs were always my faves!  at one point he had to fight one of them off with a broom handle to avoid getting knocked over and trampled in the mud! they can be brutal and mean! but they are so funny and somehow still cute even at 600 pounds!  it was hard to keep a straight face when he told me that story.  when there are farm animals around, the first thing my kiddos run to are the pigs. they love feeding them with baby bottles, and listening to their oinky cute sounds.

piggy pic

however…….  (and i know i’m gonna get flack for this next statement)  i have never met a more tasty animal.  i mean come ON…. bacon?? enough said.   a big succulent slice of ham at Christmas time??? shut the front door.  crispy sausage links dripping in maple syrup alongside your cinnamon french toast??  hold the phone Ma.   sweet italian sausages slow cooked in red sauce all day long and sliced over a bowl of pasta??  That’s Amore.  shall i go on??  crispy yet melt in your mouth pork belly tacos with mole sauce and cilantro??   just yes.   carnivores… you’re feelin’ me?    but the one piggy dish i love preparing most is a slow roasted pork butt with a nice spice rub… dotted with garlic cloves… and served atop a nice sturdy bun with a drizzle of BBQ sauce, a heap of coleslaw and some spicy bread and butter pickle chips.  smack my ass and call me Sally.  this meal is sure to please, and with ease.

so here’s what it looks like before going into the oven.  (get about a 3.5-4 lb pork butt roast- boneless or bone in- either way) whatever looks good to you. try to pick one that has a nice layer of thick fat on the top.

rub it down yo
rub it down yo

this rub, i just make it up in a small bowl with all flavors i envision imparting good flavor.  it goes something like this.   take your 1/4 tsp spoon, and pull out some garlic powder, some chili powder, some cumin, some dried parsley, some dried mustard, paprika, onion powder (if you have it, i never do), dried thyme and black pepper- you’re lookin to add even amounts of all of these.   a pinch of cayenne, add a whole tsp of salt, and add a whole Tablespoon of brown sugar.  mix it all up in the bowl, and rub that sucker down good on all sides.  i always do this inside my foil- so that it catches all the ‘crumbs’ in the vessel i’m gonna bake it in.  stab it a few times to create little slots for the garlic and jab some peeled cloves in those slots.  hit it with a drizzle of olive oil all over the top.  flip it to FAT layer side up.   so yeah, the Foil… lay out a big sheet, then put another sheet going the other way, etc- unless you have that lovely Heavy duty, extra large foil… in which case you’re golden.  the goal here is to wrap this up so well and tight, so that the juices are trapped in the foil.  ya’ll are crafty.  fold and pinch this foil like it is your job.   place this foil in a pyrex dish, just to catch any juices that will inevitably escape.  see visual below:

ready for oven
ready for oven

i always start this out at 425* for like 25 minutes, and then i turn heat to 270* and let her go for five hours at least. i’ve done six before when i had to leave and didn’t get to do the pre-game 425* part.   still perfect.  never, under any circumstances unwrap this during the cooking.  when it is done, remove from oven and let it sit for ten mins or so.  unwrap, drool, and then let it sit for ten mins more.  perfect time to pluck off the corners and stand around taking pictures and sipping a cold beer if you’re anything like me.   See below for the big reveal:

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drooling on my camera
drooling on my camera

SHRED THE PORK now in the baking dish you cooked it in… allowing all the juices created to run into the pan as you gingerly remove the foil from around the meat.  use two forks, or however you like to do this. i like some big chunks coupled with small shreds- i feel that makes a good sandwich.  Add BBQ sauce if you have a favorite, honestly it is tasty enough to stand alone on the bun or plate.  i like mine as i described above- with a healthy serving of tater tots or crispy crowns-  and an ice cold craft beer.  Life doesn’t get much better than that folks.   Enjoy!!

Stellar.
Stellar.

 

 

Spag balls 2.0

it was Christmas eve morning, and i sat, making a mental checklist of all that still had to be done… trying to remain ‘jolly’ all the while.  i am sure every other mama in the world felt the way i felt  – and at times it is just that very fact that puts things into perspective for me.  you are not alone woman… suck it up buttercup.   one of the ticks on the tick list was to make meatballs.  enough meatballs for Christmas EVE, and Christmas DAY.  that’s a lot of balls.  i call my meatballs Spag balls… as my friends call me Spags.   as i sat cringing at the thought of pan searing all of those balls in olive oil, and the mess that comes with, i thought to myself… there has GOT to be an easier way.  THE OVEN!!  flash bake them at high heat for a snap, and then transfer them to the sauce bath in the pans to finish cooking in the oven.  YESS!!  i’m gonna try it.  so i created the balls, and as i rolled them out, i placed them about an inch apart on Silpat lined baking sheets.  (parchment works here too, PS)  set the oven to 425*, and bake them, one tray at a time for about 10 minutes or so… you will see them start to get a bit brown.  this browning bit helps them hold the ‘ball’ shape, and allows an easy-peasy transfer with a large fork right into the tray of sauce you will have waiting patiently.  Bake the next pan same way- once they are all par-browned and in in the sauce bath,  BAKE, uncovered, for about an hour at 325*.   top with freshly shaved Parmesan cheese when they come out, (if you like) and you are DONE!  could it get any easier??    here is the original recipe for my Spag balls.

ready to be flash baked.
ready to be flash baked.
mouth watering meatballs
mouth watering meatballs

spicy wheat berry chili… with or without sausage… you’re gonna like it!!

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what berry??  wheat berry.  WHAT??  what the hell is a wheat berry?  this is how the conversation began when I started to tell my hubby about my dinner plans last weekend.  he immediately jumped on the laptop and proceeded to educate himself, and admittedly, me as well… on just what in the hell the wheat berry was.  I saw this recipe that made my eyes widen a bit while looking at Eating Well.com,  on there it was listed as ‘zesty wheat berry black bean chili’… and my recipe is an adapted version.   I tweaked it a bit, but not a ton-   it was a vegetarian recipe to start with… but the omnivore in me felt compelled to start it out with a bit of ground hot sausage, browned well, thus leaving a beautiful crust on the bottom of the pot, only to be ‘deglazed’ right the hell into the mix once the veggies began to sauté over it.  this created a ‘cooked all day’ taste, especially when the chicken broth was added.   so yeah… wheat berries.  this little guy is a superstar in the grain world.   easily put, the wheat berry is the whole grain form of the wheat, in its most natural state before any processing has occurred.  it’s full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.  it brings copper, manganese, phosphorus and selenium to the table.  most of which are hard to find in every day foods.  selenium is great for our immune systems and our thyroid gland, and manganese helps boost our metabolism.  all good, right??  if the pure healthy reputation isn’t enough to convince you, the taste will.  wheat berries have a chewy, almost nutty sweet texture that blend seamlessly with even the boldest of flavors.  they could have easily stood alone here, (they even have protein!)  and  I compel my veggie friends roll with this recipe sans sausage.  just jump right in at sauté the onions, peppers, etc.  (and sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth)  Golden!! have it both ways.

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the day you’re gonna make this, go ahead and cook the wheat berries ahead of time, as they take one hour to cook.  the preparation?? EASY PEASY LEMON SQUEEZY.   put the wheat berries in a heavy pot. cover with water two inches or so above the grains.  bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.   once cooked, drain into a colander, rinse with cold water and set aside. This recipe calls for two cups- cooked.  I bought two cups of dry berries for 1.99/pound at my local Whole Foods.  i’m guessing any health food store is gonna have these guys.  they were listed as “hard red winter wheat berries” .  when they cook up, they plump a bit- so you end up with more than you need. Add what you think looks right to your stew,  (at least two cups but I did more) and then put the rest in an airtight container to use over salads, etc. for the rest of the week.  heck, they’re so versatile you can even add them to your morning yogurt!  ok, moving forward.

WHAT YOU NEED:

olive oil

about a half a pound of bulk hot sausage (ground not links) -anything under one pound will do.

1 large yellow onion (diced)

1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and small diced)

1 yellow bell pepper (diced) – (red would work here too, but i’m a ninny and think about the visual of the end product)

1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)

5 cloves garlic (minced)

2 cans black beans (rinsed and drained)

your wheat berries from above

2 tsp chili powder

1.5 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 can chicken broth

1/2 cup water

2 tsp brown sugar

1 avocado (diced)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro- chopped

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

OK, like any recipe I tell you guys about, I say prep all of your ingredients first, and that way they are waiting on your ass when it’s go time.  trust me, it makes your life sooo much easier when you’re starting out doing these recipes.  it makes it hard to ‘mess up’ that way.   I still cook this way for the most part- and that is probably one of the reasons I keep loving it so much.  the old nursing adage applies here: work smarter, not harder. 

so hit up your pan with some olive oil- just a swirl will do…. and start to brown your hot sausage.  start out at medium high, breaking it up with your spatula as it cooks.  you have to keep at this, flip it around, break it up continuously until it is small lovely browned pieces…. ready to add in later.  remove the meat to a plate, and set aside.  the bottom of your pot should look crusty and a mess at this point.  perfecto.  we are gonna work all of those lovely browned bits into the mix here in a sec.   reduce heat to medium and add your pile of chopped onions.  stir around for a few minutes while they warm up.  add a bit of the diced tomatoes, maybe a 1/4 cup- and continue to try to ‘clean’ the bottom with the ingredients.  add in the bell peppers and the jalapeno and turn the heat up to medium high.  stir for a few mins and then add in the garlic and all of the dry spices.  stir around a few more mins, at this point, your pot should be deglazed, if not, a bit more tomato and make it happen.  once you’ve achieved that, add in your chicken broth, water, diced tomatoes, beans, brown sugar and add the sausage back in.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer like this for 25 minutes.

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remove lid, stir well,  and go ahead and add in your wheat berries.  like I said, at LEAST two cups, but I just dumped in what I thought looked good as I gave it a stir. I wanted it to be thick.  it’s your rodeo people…. take charge.

cook it for like 5 minutes more,  and then remove from heat. give it a stir, and then you’re adding in the juice from one whole lime, and at least a half cup of chopped fresh cilantro.  (again, I did not measure, just take a big rip and chop it)  I reserved a smidge of the cilantro to sprinkle on top of the bowls, mostly because I love love love cilantro.   after you stir in your cilantro and lime juice, you’re ready to eat!!

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serve up a bowl and top with a few pieces of diced avocado (if you dig it) –  and get ready for a flavor explosion in your mouth!!  I love this recipe, and can’t wait to cook it up again soon.  multiple co-workers liked it, my mom liked it, and hubba-lish liked it too!!  winning!!   Enjoy!

peace and love yo!  spags.

zesty chili pic

 

 

the tomato pie experiment

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last evening was delightful.   it surprises me that i jump in with that statement, given the fact that we are in the thick of two tots at home with a nasty  childhood virus known as Hand Foot and Mouth disease.   which… thankfully so far has been completely bearable.  neither child has been febrile, (aka- no fevers; sorry nurse in my coming out) and their spirits have been high and completely untarnished.  they are… simply put… contagious.  so at home with me they have remained over the past few days.  yesterday was a lovely sunny autumn day in Pittsburgh, so we took advantage and lassoed up the poodle to visit our local off leash dog park.  he ran his heart out, as always, and we had fun watching and breathing in some of the fresh end of summer air.  my dinner plans had been in mental motion from late morning, as i looked at five or so impeccably perfect garden ripe tomatoes, as well as a small bowlful of yellow round cherry tomatoes with excellent flavor.  i knew i loved my friend’s tomato pie, i mean really loved it, the last time i visited her for a girls weekend with some pals.  she is always cooking up something wholesome and fresh and seasonal each time we visit… and knocking our socks off, which is probably why we get along so well!  she has the most charming blog as well, called Simplify Wellness. give it a whirl if you are wellness minded like i am.  so yeah, tomato pie.  i knew i could do it.  i obtained some important tips from WFOHBH (wellness friend of hotbox hipster), like laying the tomato slices out on paper towels to let them sweat for a half hour.  i was shocked at how wet the towels were afterward!  i found a lovely recipe for a ‘healthy’ pie crust (i know, right?) that used extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. not that i don’t like LOVE butter, make no mistake… but i am always looking for nice alternatives along my cooking paths.  i located the recipe at a lovely little blog called Chocolate & Zucchini. this is the LINK for your enjoyment!

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so the tots began preparing for a magic show they would put on for hubby and i later that evening, giving me plenty of ME time in the kitchen.  this pie was as simple as could be, layering tomatoes, freshly chopped basil, and cheeses…  but i wanted it to have another level of flavor.  ‘kick it up a notch’ if you will – in the words of wickedly talented Emeril.  how better to achieve that than with sauteed onions and garlic?  as the pan was heating for this task, i hit it with some olive oil, and then i sprinkled in a generous shake of red pepper flakes.

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i ended up almost caramelizing the onions/garlic over low heat, and the result was fabulous.  OK let’s get on with this rodeo…

THE CRUST:

2 cups flour (whole wheat or all purpose or a mix of both)

1 tsp of salt

1/4 tsp of black pepper

1/4  tsp dried thyme

1 tsp of dried rosemary

couple pinches of dried basil and oregano as well

1/4 cup of olive oil (i used extra virgin, but any will do)

1/2 cup COLD water

add dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.  stir to combine.  add in your 1/4 c of olive oil. mix with a fork a bit to combine. (won’t all be combined, and will be course to large crumbles)  mix in the cold water with same fork until starting to come together. set your fork down, and get one hand in there, finishing the job until you can turn it out in one piece onto a floured counter.  roll it, adding a sprinkle of flour as necessary, until it looks like it will fit your pie plate.  add it to the plate, shape it, flute the edges if you want, and fork the bottom a bit.  throw it in the fridge for a half hour.  then remove from fridge and bake it at 400 degrees for 25 or 30 mins. remove from oven and let cool.  you could literally use this crust for anything you can think up from a yummy veggie pie with zucchini, tomatoes and asparagus with swiss cheese… or an onion and swiss chard with bacon breakfast creation… a chicken pot pie with fresh mushrooms…  i mean the possibilities are endless.

THE FILLING:

four ripe medium to large tomatoes / or other heirloom variations

half a large onion, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

mozzarella cheese slices

provolone cheese slices

shaved or grated Parmesan for the top

fresh basil leaves (about a half cup, chopped) – reserve some to sprinkle on top after baking.

WHAT YOU DO:

Prepare your pie crust as instructed above.  While it is cooling from baking, you can begin preparations for the filling.  Slice your tomatoes (medium thickness) and lay them out on some paper towels to sweat.  saute in olive oil (with some shakes of hot pepper flakes) your sliced onion…. after about four minutes, add the garlic and then turn heat to low.  let it go for a bit, until onions take on a nice light brown hue. remove from heat.   once your pie crust has cooled down, begin layering.  First do a layer of provolone. (i think this took four or five slices)  then do a layer of tomatoes.  salt and pepper that layer, and add the chopped basil atop. then a layer of mozzarella.  then the sauteed onions. then another layer of tomatoes.  i ended with a layer of mozzarella, and then i topped it off with a bunch of sliced yellow small tomatoes.

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((i should add, that along the way, when i reached a cheese topped layer, i gave the whole thing a good firm pressing on with my hands.  ‘smoosh it down a bit, yo!’  ))  hit the top with some black pepper- and put it into a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes or so.  remove from oven, sprinkle with fresh basil,  shave some Parmesan cheese over the top, and let it cool off a bit before cutting.  (like 15 mins or so)  Pour yourself a nice cold beer… or a glass of wine…  and get ready to eat one of the most surprisingly unique and shockingly delicious meals you’ve made in awhile!

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we literally had to stop ourselves from eating this WHOLE PIE in one sitting… who ARE we??  no joke, it was THAT good.  I had a piece and a half… and I knew I wanted to enjoy it the next day… (if the nerd in me is being honest, seeing how it holds up for day 2 crossed my mind!)  tonight is the night- I am less than an hour from leftover heaven on a plate…  and since I have no cooking to do, these summer wheat beers I’ve had stashed away are tasting even sweeter right now as I wrap up!  how will you close out your last week of summer???  make this pie dude.  do it.

peace and love yo.

watching it disappear!
watching it disappear!

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Juicing… living the good life.

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we all want to do the best we can to ensure good health; not only for the present moment, but for the long haul down the road of life.  sometimes doing the right thing is a challenge, and I get that. sometimes with all of the hats we are donning and doffing… grabbing a healthy breakfast or lunch becomes an afterthought.  you find yourself grabbing a quickie packaged something or other from the cupboard and mindlessly consuming it at red lights on your way in to the office.  I am here to tell you that you deserve better. your body deserves better.  and it’s as easy as bulking up on your produce purchases and allowing yourself 15 extra minutes in the morning, a few days per week.  I am talking about JUICING.  I know, I know…. juicing seems to fall under one of those, “oh it looks wonderful, but who has time for it” or  “I’d probably buy the juicer and never use it” …and I’m here to body slam those negative thoughts.  I bought a juicer on Craigslist for 60 bucks. Rewind… first I BORROWED a juicer from a doctor pal of mine, and test drove it for a couple of months.  I was smitten.  then, when she asked for it back, I felt as if I’d lost a friend! (the juicer) -and I knew I had to have one of my own.  enter craigslist… and the very next day I was juicing once again.  the great thing about juicing, is that you can easily consume things that you would NEVER be consuming in their whole form at one sitting… unless you are a big fat bunny rabbit.  see visual below….

vegetable forward
vegetable forward

but somehow, when you put it all together, balancing the veggies with a nice tart apple and a chunk of citrus fruit… it tastes amazing!! keeping in mind, more often than not, the color is less than desirable. my hubby equates it to pond water at times.  However, that being said, if you throw a beet in the mix… prepare to drink, hands down, the most beautifully vivid liquid you will ever touch to your lips!! I was blown away by the bright bold hue of pure beet juice. not the purple watery liquid you strain from the can that inevitably stains your cutting board and counter… but PURE beet juice created from squeezing it mechanically.  ((see below))

one raw beet will do it.
one raw beet will do it.

I shared this blend with my seven year old daughter, who loved that it gave her a PINK moustache!  juice up fruits that are about to go bad, combine them with things that are wicked good for you, but that you may not want to consume on their own in their raw form… example, beets, kale, spinach, rhubarb, raw ginger, a big rip of parsley, the nice thing about juicing is that you can use the stems and all… I like to save the core of the pineapple, adding that into a mix for my sweetness one day, hence wasting less, and getting more from the pineapple than I did before! I also like knowing that the variety of items you see on my cutting board below will transform into a liquid that will supply me with over half of the vitamins and antioxidants I will need for the whole day!  literally, after I drink my JUICED breakfast from my mason jar in the morning, about a half hour later I feel like I could take on the world! the energy is SO PURE and SO FAST… you won’t even think about eating again until lunch time. juice your mix, and place in a mason jar with lid secured. stash in your work bag. when you arrive at work, give it a shake and sip away (or gulp like me) for good health!!  you just gave yourself a breakfast like no other.  I call it Rockstar food.   OK time for another pic.

one of my favorite mixes.
one of my favorite mixes.

OK so let’s talk health benefits. oh and before I do that… you will have the critics who will say, YES but you are missing out on all the fiber by juicing!!  -and to them I reply… take the back carriage off of your machine, and whisk in a few tablespoons of the lovely pulp to your beverage! VOILA! there you go.  this pulp helps make an AMAZING COMPOST by the way.  waste not.  so for starters, there are the vitamins. A,D,K,C, all of the B’s, chlorophyll, (linked an amazing little article there for ya’ll) enzymes, phytonutrients (help us fight off disease), and the list goes on and on. the take away point here is that you are feeding your body, your cells, your ‘machine’… LIVE FOODS… foods that nature created, and that your body knows EXACTLY what to do with!  –and your body knowing exactly what do with these foods, is the EXACT energy boost that you are FEELING almost immediately after drinking these juices!!  we stress our bodies to the max these days, not only physical stress and lack of sleep and sometimes lack of activity, but mental stress as well.  money troubles alone are enough to wreak havoc on our sense of well being and our overall body health. stress ends up breaking down and deteriorating our cells, thus causing (or opening us up to) degenerative disorders.  this is one small way that you can fight back and do something great for your body. for your health and well being.  I can GUARANTEE that not a one of you, after juicing for a couple of days, will utter the words- “man I wish I wouldn’t have drank that”, or “boy I sure feel lousy now”…. WON’T HAPPEN.  but did you ever feel that way after eating a big donut or two?? uh-huh.  how about after eating a pop tart and a diet soda? you’re feeling me.  those food are offering you nothing, yet we waste money on them and worse yet, consume them.  I challenge each reader to take ownership of your body. become accountable, and watch how your life changes.  show up each day.  think about what you are putting in your mouth and what it has to offer you. I am not saying you should deprive yourself of things you enjoy eating… treat yourself well.  I eat a frozen snicker bar next to the pool in the summer sun probably twice a week! -and I don’t think twice about it.  you know why?? because when you make healthy decisions a majority of the time, you’re allotted those freedoms!  it’s a give and take, and the old adage, everything in moderation is key.  but JUICING…. you’re gonna like it.

peace and love yo.

 

Synchronicity

so i go through spurts where i plug through a span of days taking care of business, nose to the grind (ok i lied, those words have never been used to describe me) and in general ‘making it happen.’  — i’m getting my 7-8 hours of sleep, i’m packing lunches, i’m sipping coffee, i’m feeding my family, i’m working on my body, laundry,  ironing, dusting, vacuuming, organizing, homework, tending the tots… wake up next day, repeat.  you feel me.  ……and then i will have these days…. these lovely transcendental days… where all my mind wants to do is think about WHY…. yes why….and wonder… how….  and swim in my intuition… and realize how in charge of my life and my thoughts i really am… and find connections in how i got to my ‘here and now’…  and i think about, without that, not this… and if not this… then that…. and well, today is one of those days…. and on days like these… not much gets done (in the way of tasks, etc)  because it is a most delicious place to be in… and i have a hard time unfocusing my mind and my SELF to become again alert to less meaningful activity.  have i lost anyone yet??  anyway… this is the part of me that loves to write and create and.  just.  be.  sadly, this is a part of me that many others never get to meet.  my co-workers? never.  being a nurse requires critical thinking and continuous interruption of thought as a rule.  discussions are scientific, as they should be when focusing on physical medicine, especially in an emergency medicine type setting.  my friends?  maybe a smidge.  even in the best scenario, ie: a quiet dinner over drinks, where discussions can flow and evolve… interruptions exist. our phones, the food, time constraints, things you hold back saying, counter opinions, a loss for words.  even some of the best philosophical conversations i’ve had with others, were mediocre at best.  sometimes i think booze or drugs could help elicit a response… an openness… a lovely path upon which the conversation can bounce and bumble and frolic….  and ripen.  even with this goal in mind, both have at times left me a blubbering mess, incapable of a clear thought. lol. it’s a fine line… one i tend to have trouble walking and balancing on.  my family? again, a smidge.  some reading this will assume transparency where husband and wife are concerned… but i can assure you, such is not the case.  although i have had the quintessential words uttered to me (on numerous occasions) “i know you better than you know yourself”… which i always laugh at hysterically.   the human mind is a miracle unto itself… and a proclaimation like that… well, i would never claim such a feat.  there are things about my spouse i would never even pretend to understand, reaching far into the psychological aspects of parenting and his childhood… analysis far outreaching my capabilities.   my point in all of this??  if clarity is even seldom found amongst ourselves, in our own minds, with our own private knowledge… HOW can we ever expect others to see who we really are?  inside each of us is a gem.  a precious gem.  we can choose to polish it, or chip away at it… both of which others get to see from time to time as they catch a glimpse of our gems in living our lives…  when others see your gem, will they smile at its shine, will they envy its beauty,  will they sadden at its cracks, look away from its blackness,  grab a cloth and help polish, or grab a hammer and help destroy?  (damn that was good, i should write that shit down and publish it!!!!)  (goodness i wish the right person would discover me one day and get me the hell out of medicine. lol.)  a while back, i read a portion of a blog article on success in life, and key ideas for happiness as a way of life… you feel me.  well, a portion of this article never left me, and i use its concepts often in my daily life.   here it is:

Gratitude and Appreciation as a Secret for Success by Jack Canfield
Jack Canfield, America’s #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul© and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success.

The best attitude you can possibly aspire to express year-round is one of gratitude and appreciation.
Being truly grateful for what is already present in your life will automatically and effortlessly attract more good into your life.
Make a conscious decision to appreciate and acknowledge all that you have already been blessed with. These emotions are of the highest vibrational frequency, and through the Law of Attraction they will attract even more to be thankful for.
Try to be grateful for even the difficult and challenging situations that arise in your life.
It is often through these situations, that we experience the most profound spiritual and emotional growth. You can learn to view each apparent obstacle as an opportunity to develop a new quality, strength, skill, insight or wisdom and be grateful for the lessons. Each challenge is an opportunity for growth and expansion.
Rise to these occasions, and appreciate all that you are learning in the process. Keeping your attitude positive and appreciative through these times will not only help to avoid attracting more of these difficult situations into your life – it will also create a field of positive energy that will attract more of what you do want.
“Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely
the attitude of gratitude is the most important,
and by far the most life-changing.”
– Zig Ziglar

A Token of Gratitude
Try carrying a small token, stone, crystal, or some other meaningful object with you each day in your pocket. Throughout the day, each time you reach into your pocket for your money or keys it will serve as a tangible reminder to stop and think of something you have to be grateful for. This is a great way to increase your awareness of all that you have to be appreciative of.
Take a moment to breathe, and really feel the emotion of gratitude. This simple mindfulness technique helps to raise your vibrational frequency and keep you in a state of constant gratitude.

Your Gratitude Journal
Start keeping a daily Gratitude and Acknowledgement journal. This is a necessary and valuable tool in the development of your growth and awareness. This book is not intended to be a long, drawn out “diary” sort of thing, just a short, simple list of things you are grateful for on that particular day. This is a place to honor and appreciate the good in your life.

Gratitude:
Each evening, before going to bed, take a few minutes to review your day. Think about the day’s events. Become aware of how many good things actually happened on that day, and remember to appreciate even the challenges that you encountered. Select the five things, or people, or events that you are most grateful for. There is no right or wrong here, just whatever, or whoever you are sincerely grateful for on that particular day. It may be the warm sun on your face, a cool breeze, a kind word, a friend, or just feeling good about what you got accomplished that day. It may be the way you handled a particular situation that would have thrown you into a tailspin in the past.
Anything you are grateful for. As you write them in your journal, feel the gratitude and appreciation. Give thanks.

Acknowledgement:
Take a moment to acknowledge the changes that are occurring for you personally. Write them down. Acknowledge just how well the Law of Attraction is working in your life. Write down any specific event where the Law of Attraction was at work- the parking space you envisioned, the meeting you wanted to schedule, the bonus check you received, the grade you wanted, the person who said yes when you asked them out.
Miracles can and do occur on a daily basis. They are happening all around you. Honor them, and notice them. Through acknowledgement, you will become more and more aware of the amazing synchronicity that is already at work in your life.
Make the time you spend in contemplation and writing in your Gratitude and Acknowledgement journal a sacred part of your daily routine.
Your continued expressions of joy and gratitude will draw even greater joy, love and abundance into your life.
You will begin to notice a change in your perception of each day‘s events. You will become more aware of the positive things that happen all around you every single day. Your focus will shift, your energy will shift, and you will begin to appreciate how blessed you already are. And … the Law of Attraction will respond to the higher vibration you are creating.
Enjoy the journey.
Live each day in joy and gratitude.

good stuff. believe me when i tell you… it’s all true.  i’m living it.  it works dude.  give it a shot… what do you have to lose? other than negativity maybe.  so the title of my blog is something i’ve been looking into more recently.  the concept of synchronicity.  first introduced in the 50’s by psychologist Carl Jung.  talks about ‘meaningful coincidences’.   cliff notes version: in my own words-  tells us that life is not a series of random events, but each of us holds power and insight to express and create order in our lives… a spiritual awakening- by simply being mindful more times than not…  of events and ideas and objects around us.  this higher awareness in turn can have an avalanche effect on other parts of our lives… seemingly unrelated, but in fact… meaningful.  to the average person, it sounds like a crock of bullshit, but to me… i find this kind of thing absolutely intriguing.   obviously i’m not the only one… for there are too numerous to count articles on this subject… and leading into Buddhist principles and zen masters teachings… one could get lost in the beauty.  in fact, this whole thing has been compared to the Buddhist principle of  ‘pratityasamutpada’… (don’t ask me to pronounce it)… think Karma… think ‘this is, because that is’… etc.

wikipedia tells us a bit about it (that long word above) through a translation by Thich Nhat Hanh (a famous Zen master) :  ‘~In the sutras, this image is given: “Three cut reeds can stand only by leaning on one another. If you take one away, the other two will fall.”  For a table to exist, we need wood, a carpenter, time, skillfulness, and many other causes. And each of these causes needs other causes to be. The wood needs the forest, the sunshine, the rain, and so on. The carpenter needs his parents, breakfast, fresh air, and so on. And each of those things, in turn, has to be brought about by other causes and conditions. If we continue to look in this way, we’ll see that nothing has been left out. Everything in the cosmos has come together to bring us this table. Looking deeply at the sunshine, the leaves of the tree, and the clouds, we can see the table. The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one.’

i dig it yo… i could spend hours on this stuff… well, i just did.   become present.  love your life and live your life. 

peace and love yo.

Tuna fish and noodles… easy weeknight meal

soul food
soul food

I have been eating tuna fish and noodles since I was a child. it was a go to meal for my father (who did most of the cooking in the house) – and it was always a very comforting meal at the end of the day. most meals were rounded out with a nice piece of butter bread, maybe two… and they usually found us watching Andy Griffith, Dukes of Hazzard or the the like while we noshed. the warmth of the home, smells from the kitchen and the buzz of the console TV still linger in my senses. a likely reason as to why I find myself preparing this one dish wonder at least every other week. I make mine in a wok, because of size and ease of mixing mostly. it works, so i keep doing it that way. the ingredients are simple. ultra simple. and few as well.

WHAT YOU NEED:

a bag of wide ribbon egg noodles (or no yolk – either way)

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup (i pick one fat free and one regular)

milk (using 3/4 full of one of the cans)

can of peas (drained)

2 cans of solid white albacore tuna in water (drained)

salt and pepper

HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

cook your egg noodles to al dente.  drain and set aside in colander.

take  your wok (or equally large non stick skillet)  and give a swirl of olive oil or a pat of butter.  open all of your cans, drain where needed, etc. -turn your heat to medium high.  Add your mushroom soups, and take one of the soup cans and fill it 3/4 full with milk (i use skim or 1%) and add into pan.  stir well to combine.  Add in a 1/4 tsp of salt and a 1/4 tsp of pepper and stir well.  (add more pepper later once all combined.) Add in your cans of drained tuna, breaking up the pieces a bit with the spoon or the back of your spatula. Add peas, stir.  once all combined, bring up to bubbling. Add the noodles, (if they are all stuck from sitting there, run under hot water and shake well – then add them)   and cook over medium heat for maybe five to ten more minutes, stirring occasionally.  THAT IS IT!  Add more salt and pepper to the top if desired, i like to hit it with cracked pepper at the end once it is ready to serve, i think it looks so pretty against the white noodles.  turn it out to a serving platter or bowl if desired, or serve straight from the wok.  butter bread encouraged.   Enjoy a classic… heck, go watch the Duke boys.

peace and love.

preparing the sauce
preparing the sauce

 

 

my journey into fermentation…

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so yeah… Kombucha tea.  it’s happening.  it’s been happening for months.  i am in the thick of it.  i’ve shared one SCOBY already, and i’m ready to gift my second upon completion of this batch.  i have ARRIVED, i suppose you could declare, as far as the Kombucha brewing crowd is concerned.  what IS Kombucha you ask???  it is a fermented tea, helped along by something called a SCOBY.  which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.  it begins as a batch of plain and simple tea… with a cup of sugar added… brewed under near sterile technique… but that, my friend, is the boring part.  the real magic happens when the SCOBY is added to the jar with a cup or two of the starter liquid, and it is left unattended in a dark and lonely space for 7-10 days or so.  when you bring that lovely and hard working jar out into the light of your kitchen, and you note the bubbles around the scoby- and you remove your paper towel and rubber band…. VOILA! you see that your scoby has grown, seemingly doubled… from living and breathing and working with your sugar and caffeine in the tea.  it is ‘foodie science’ at it’s finest people.   set aside the probiotics and other health benefits you are about to experience, although these are huge… i am addicted to the TASTE of this stuff.  it has the most lovely balance of sour and sweet, and it’s FIZZY!!  how did all of this happen from plain tea??  you feel like you are a part of a science class, and you just aced your class project.  if you are any part nerd, like i am, you are gonna dig this whole scene… trust me.   enter then more coolness… the ability to do a second ferment- adding some juice or dried fruits to your cleaned (boiled if glass) bottles, adding tea up to the neck, capping, and allowing them to sit out at room temp (in same dark space) for three more days.  this builds carbonation, naturally, and gives it the fizziness as well as allowing it to feed a bit on whatever fruit or juice you have added.  the first time i brewed, i added some dried cherries to one or two bottles, a few slices of dried mango to another, and some “just blueberry” juice to the others.  just make sure your juice is 100% juice without additives- and of a high quality.  when i started out doing this, i used cleaned and sanitzed small coke bottles so that i could squeeze them a couple of days into the second ferment… if they were stiff- i knew there was carbonation happening.  warning: do not neglect or forget about these bottles, they can explode. unlike soda, which does not continue to carbonate as it sits… these WILL.  they are living and working cultured drinks.  putting them in the fridge nearly stops the fermentation process, and they can be stored and enjoyed for up to a month.  the recommendation is to start out slowly in your Kombucha consumption.  4 oz. a day is a good rule of thumb.  also, drink PLENTY  of water after enjoying.  although kombucha has a sweet taste, keep in mind that it IS an acidic beverage, and consuming too much can wreak havoc on your system, throw off your acid/base balance and literally make you sick. as with everything in life, too much of even a good thing, is… well… too much.   after a week or so of adjusting and comforting your body to the presence of the Kombucha, you may find a morning and night routine to be appealing.  i find that when i consume a few ounces of this before bed at night- it aids greatly in digestion and does it’s best work while you sleep- at a time when you’re not adding anything else to your tummy.  just my two cents… but it works well i find.  you will read these things about kombucha as you leave my blog and do some homework:  it is low in calories and sugar, it may or may not contain trace amounts (1% or less) of alcohol as a by product of the short fermentation process.  it is full of probiotics and antioxidants, which our intestines love. It  can boost overall health, aid in anxiety and depression,  heart burn, arthritis, improve your skin and nails and the list goes on.  pretty amazing stuff actually.  no wonder it has been consumed for centuries in ancient China and touted “the elixir of life.”   enzymes boost metabolism.  this is a proven fact.  so you do the math.  although you may actually see a one or two pound weight GAIN when you start on this, it is simply due to it causing your gut to function WAY more efficiently.  for a short time, i know, TMI… i saw a decrease in output for a few days… maybe i wasn’t drinking enough water, who knows… but shortly there after, i was on the regularity train, and how!!   Kombucha tea costs anywhere from 2 – 7 dollars a bottle when you buy it at health food stores, no joke. it’s not cheap.  when you brew your own… we’re talking pennies a bottle when it’s all said and done.  if you don’t have filtered water (either on your tap or a Brita in the fridge) it is recommended to use distilled water.  i buy a gallon of it each time i brew. just to be safe. the last thing i want to do is mess up my scoby. lol.  i look at that thing as my mother ship to all future brews… well, because it IS!  i have decided to NOT advise you how to brew Kombucha on this blog… simply because it is a lot of typing, a lot of steps, and i would feel AWFUL if i missed an important step and it didn’t work out for you.  google it. you will have fun clicking from site to site- learning as you go. take notes. heck, start a little journal, jot down notes with each brew and then add notes about taste and whatever you encounter with your body as well.  again… there’s the nerd in me coming out.  i found some useful info on the wholeliving.com  site, as well as thekitchn.com .  there is kombucha eric- who is a high energy dude with oodles of good info for you surrounding kombucha.  he is one of the founders of kombucha brooklyn.  you can order scobys from them, starter kits, flip top bottles, etc.   but most sites you will visit will link you to places and hook ups for starter kits.  anyway, yeah… Kombucha… i’m loving it.  enjoy!!

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