Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Brown Bag" Resolution


I decided yesterday, after purchasing yet another over-priced 1/2 sandwich baguette from my favorite little lunch spot, Pret a Manger, that one of my {many} new year's resolutions moving into 2010 will read as follows:

"Brown-bag healthy lunch to work at least 4 times per week."

My hopes are that this spirited endeavor, (soon to to be logged into my Filofax for safekeeping), will a.) Save me some pennies b.) Hone my Top Chef gourmet sandwich-building culinary skills and c.) Result in lunches I will still find appetizing by noon on the same day.

So let's get the ball rolling! Last night's prep and this early morning's whirlwind sandwich assembly involved a panini. I recently discovered panini bread at Whole Foods (they sell 4 loafs per bag) and it's just absolutely delicious. Let it be known, I'm no panini master. I also don't own a panini press. But, with a little bit of creativity, I devised a tasty little sandwich for lunch today that was super easy, quick, and deeeelish reheated in the communal office microwave. Coworker envy may have ensued. Just maybe.

Step 1. Cut up yellow squash, zucchini, red onion, and roasted red peppers.

Step 2. Saute veggies in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (I'm embarrassed my skillet looks absolutely filthy in this picture. I promise it's clean...I just haven't taken the scrubber to it in a good, long while).

Step 3. Add in some Balsamic Vinegar and coat the veggies.

Step 4. Admire panini bread.

Step 5. Slice open panini bread, avoiding any bodily injury.

Step 6. Generously spread goat cheese on one side of the panini bread.

Step 7. Top goat cheese with some balsamic-sauteed veggies.

Step 8. Heat up grill pan, (mine is cast-iron and weighs about 20 lbs), and place panini on grill.

Step 9. Take a heavy pan, (here I use my cast iron skillet), and place on top of panini to press.


Step 10. No, it's not a grilled piece of chicken. It's a scrumptious panini! Wrap in tinfoil, stuff in bag, put in fridge at work, and heat up later in the day for a tasty, tasty homemade lunch.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fast. Good. Cheap.


My Father has a framed print displayed on the wall of his office that reads:

Fast.
Good.
Cheap.
Pick Two.

The idea is, if you choose two words - let's take for example, "Fast" and "Good" - that leftover third word describes what those first two words put together will not be. Something that is "Fast" and "Good" probably won't be Cheap. Something "Cheap" and "Fast" probably won't be Good. More often than not, especially concerning food, travel, transportation, and shipping costs, this always seems to be the case.

Which is why when the stars align and you come across something Fast, Good, and Cheap, well - that's mighty worthy of a late-night blog post.


Introducing The Bolt Bus. I recently climbed aboard this past weekend on the route between NYC and D.C. We left Manhattan on Friday evening at 5:30 p.m. sharp, and arrived in Washington D.C. promptly at 10:00 p.m. There was no traffic on the return trip Sunday evening and I was magically door-to-door in 4 hours and 15 minutes. Elation! That may seem like a long time on the road, but the Bolt Bus has a power outlet available in each seat, functioning (and surprisingly decent) free onboard wireless, and of course - a bathroom. All that combined with a nap (and not driving), makes the time fly by. The bus was also very clean, the seats comfortable, (except next time I may tote along a neck pillow), and the service prompt and orderly. The drivers, most importantly, drove safely and were courteous and helpful to passengers.

The farther in advance you purchase your tickets, the cheaper they are. The website is clear and concise, and I had no issues with billing or obtaining my boarding pass. While I haven't yet encountered the seemingly elusive "$1.00 fare" they advertise, $38.00 round-trip still can't be beat. Less than a tank of gas one-way.

The Bolt Bolt travels between major cities on the East Coast. Be sure to check it out if you're looking for an easy, affordable, safe, and reliable means of transportation.

One satisfied, soon-to-be-returning traveler, signing off.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Please Proceed to Register


In Manhattan, you learn to reluctantly accept the fact that there will probably be a gargantuan line wherever and whenever you walk into a popular store to buy something specific. This coincidentally occurs precisely when you finally have the free time to go out and make said purchase. Which is when - surprise! - everyone else in the city has their free time too.

Every so often though, as you stand there in line waiting impatiently, you begin to absorb and understand the "fellow shoppers' bond." You see, there's no hurried New Yorker that particularly enjoys biding their time in line. BUT if the price is right, well, then everyone knows that everyone else realizes those extra ten minutes of wait-time are deemed a worthy and economical sacrifice.

Let's take a case in point: Trader Joe's Wine Shop in Union Square...(Friday night, post-work nonetheless).



This photo, via iPhone stealth-mode, depicts my exact position in the Wine Shop check-out line at time: 11 minutes, 42 seconds. Within sight of the registers people! This is a big deal considering my journey in the queue started only steps away from the main entrance. I kid you not: Trader Joe's employees were also stationed outside on the street regulating another line down the sidewalk. This one was just to set foot inside. Several minutes later, after touring the wine regions of Italy, France, Spain, and Napa, I had also taken a roundtrip scenic tour of the store's inner circumference and read through all labels on the Charles Shaw/Two Buck Chuck varietals.

Is this really worth the wait, you ask?

In a city where an 8.9 oz. box of Cheerios will cost you no less than $5.00, cheap GOOD wine is hard to come by. And since I thought blood-orange mimosas this weekend would be fantastic, I sprung at the chance while I was in the area to purchase two bottles of decent bubbly for $20.00.

I'll raise my glass to that. And, well, stand in line too.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Home on the Free-Range


After a relaxing Thanksgiving hiatus that turned into a lovely tour of the Northeast, (namely Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut), it's back to NYC and my cozy little apartment. I say cozy because my room only measures a mere 10' x 12' and the building's thermostat is currently set on "inferno."

Some R & R over the past few days was certainly a refresher for the mind, body (well, maybe too much pie on that front), and soul. Now, I'm all geared up to tackle the remainder of 2009 with fervor and embrace this joyous holiday season with open arms.

Which leads me into the completely unrelated topic of free-range chickens.

My Mother is a born-and-raised Vermonter. (Thanks to her; a love for Grade A, Dark Amber Maple Syrup). This Thanksgiving, per the norm tradition on major holidays, we traveled up North to visit family. As we pulled into the road that leads up to my Grandparents' house, we were thrilled to be greeted by the neighbor's newly acquired free-range/cage-free flock of 35 chickens and 2 roosters.






I've seen many a chicken, and well, tasted them too. But never before in my life have I seen chickens so healthy and happy. They were going about their own chicken business as chickens are meant to do: scuttling about in the woods, scratching the ground for insects to eat, running across the grass, flapping their wings, and in the evening - diligently returning to their clean, well-built and roomy shed together to roost. (A chicken, like any bird, naturally likes to perch while it sleeps). Every single fowl had unhindered access to fresh food to eat, clean water to drink, rocks to climb on, and plenty of room to stretch their legs. No hormones. No antibiotics. Just plain happy Green Mountain chickens.

We harvested twenty-four of their freshly-laid eggs and whipped up some omelets two days later for breakfast after refrigerating them overnight. They tasted absolutely delicious. Hearty, bright yellow yolks, and perfectly natural and nutritious the way nature intended.

Even if quality eggs and meat backwardly cost me slightly more in this industrialized food society of ours, and I ultimately end up eating less of them in my diet, I have vowed to try my very best never to eat a NON free-range/cage-free chicken or egg ever again. Because if the living conditions of the animal whose product I buy are anything but what I had the pleasure of experiencing, it's not worth the creature's suffering or inhumane treatment. A chicken with a life well-lived, with clean air to breathe and grassy patches to roam, is simply the more responsible and ethical choice on my plate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Frozen Turkey? Have No Fear!


The perfect golden turkey. A Martha Stewart-esque color-coordinated table setting with cutesy handmade place cards. A variety of several delicious side dishes, fresh rolls and desserts, all cooked to perfection and ready at precisely the same moment. Everything conjured up from scratch and organic wherever possible...

These were the high standards my sister and I set for ourselves last year in preparation for our family's Thanksgiving feast. Due to circumstances, we happily volunteered to cook and pull together the ENTIRE meal for our family from stuffing to pumpkin pie. We were both excited to tackle the task with gusto! However, my sister is a vegetarian, so it was me flying solo on Turkey duty. (Mind you - I had never once roasted an entire bird, let alone a 12-pound turkey in my life).

All was going smoothly, until I went to grab the turkey out of the fridge at 10:00 a.m. That's when I stared down in utter disbelief and had a minor Thanksgiving meltdown. It was a frozen block of turkey-ice.

So, with this cooking-centric holiday only a few days away, I'm here to share with you what your average cookbook will not: how to actually pull off a successful Thanksgiving turkey dinner, beginning with the first ingredient: one very frozen turkey.

Chronological steps to take, upon realizing your turkey is frozen solid on Thanksgiving morning:

  1. Panic. This will probably occur naturally.
  2. Place phone call to culinary-talented boyfriend (or friend or family member) hyperventilating, eyes welling up in tears. "Please help me, what do I do?!"
  3. Deep breaths. "You will not ruin Thanksgiving dinner," they say. Take this person's reassuring and sound advice, and begin defrosting the turkey in a clean kitchen sink under running lukewarm tap water.
  4. Be patient. For the next 1 ½ hours, (I suggest wearing an apron and popping in a good CD), slowly massage the turkey to defrost. Make sure water pours into the cavity and that it stays lukewarm. Hot water will start cooking the turkey, which is bad.
  5. Slowly work open the cavity.
  6. Have vegetarian sibling, who is in charge of cooking side dishes, take photograph of you in utter horror. Brace yourself. You’re about to remove the neck and giblets from inside the turkey cavity.
  7. Scream and shriek together when you remove the turkey neck from the cavity. Do a “that was so icky” dance around the kitchen.
  8. Follow Ina Garten’s recipe for the perfect roasted turkey (below). She's a miracle worker in the kitchen and I find that her recipes are always straight-forward and give you amazingly precise results.
Perfect Roast Turkey

Courtesy of Ina Garten's cookbook, Barefoot Contessa, Parties!


Ingredients:

1 stick unsalted butter

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 fresh turkey (10-12 pounds)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh thyme

1 whole lemon, halved

1 Spanish onion, quartered

1 head garlic, halved crosswise


Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the zest and juice of the lemon and 1 teaspoon of thyme leaves to the butter mixture. Set aside.
  3. Take the giblets out of the turkey and wash the turkey inside and out. Remove any leftover fat and leftover pinfeathers and pat the outside dry.
  4. Place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the turkey cavity. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, halved lemon, quartered onion, and the garlic.
  5. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the turkey.
  6. Roast the turkey about 2 ½ hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes.
  7. Slice that turkey and serve!
In the meantime, while the turkey is roasting and you are preparing succulent side dishes, set the table. Click here for the official Martha Stewart "How to Set a Formal Dinner Table" guide. Light candles for added ambiance. This is what our final dining room table 'scape looked like last year.


Have faith! I PROMISE that you do, in fact, have the culinary ability to cook a delicious Thanksgiving turkey, (though I highly recommend NOT starting with a frozen bird). Turn to the defrosting steps above only as your emergency contingency plan. You can also be reassured that the Barefoot Contessa's "Perfect Roast Turkey" recipe is quite tasty (frozen turkey or not) - we received rave reviews all around even before the pumpkin pie.

Best wishes for a happy holiday, and good luck with your culinary adventures!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Vampire-Chic


The Twilight Saga: New Moon, the highly anticipated flick based off of author Stephenie Meyer's second book in the Twilight series, debuts tomorrow in theaters nation-wide.


It's an understatement to say there has been excitement revolving around the release of this film..."Twilight mass-hysteria" would be a more-fitting phrase. Click here to see the reaction of "Twi-fans" to heartthrob, Robert Pattinson's (Edward Cullen's), appearance on NBC's Today Show. I’ll be the first to admit. He’s pretty dreamy for a blood-sucking vampire…

What the Twilight cast is to Hollywood, though, Twilight Beauty will be to the world of cosmetics. Recently launched to coincide with the second movie installment, this brilliant new line of beauty products is unveiled to us mere mortals by Cristina Bartolucci, (celebrity makeup artist and creator of the DuWop makeup brand). The cast supposedly wore this makeup in New Moon, which means we too now have the ability to transform our lips into that perfect shade of vampire crimson red.

Twilight Beauty is comprised of two luscious collections: "Luna Twilight" and "Volturi Twilight." Luna Twilight features products for eyes, lips, face, and body, whereas Volturi Twilight for eyes, lips, and body. In line with the DuWop brand’s use of high-quality ingredients including plant extracts, antioxidants, as well as a strict no-animal testing policy, Twilight Beauty features a yummy cocktail of mascaras, lip glosses, body shimmers, eye shadows, blushes, and lip stains.

Luna Twilight Collection

Volturi Twilight Collection

In my opinion, the Luna Twilight collection is housed in much more sophisticated packaging, albeit the price points are slightly higher. But both lines, nonetheless, capture our Twilight lust with tantalizing names such as “Just Bitten Staining Balm,” “Femme Fatale Lip Gloss,” “Twilight Venom” (does Lip Venom by DuWop sound familiar?), “Mortal Glow Blushing Crème,” and color palettes in shades called “Bella” “Victoria” “Rosale” and “Alice.” So fitting for a mysterious night out on the town…and a simply genius concept marketed to the perfect target fan base.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Leonoids in New York


Years ago, when I must have been in middle school, we took a family white-water rafting/summer camping trip on the Colorado River. One night, as all of us (two guides, and another family) sat around a campfire on the side of the riverbank, I remember staring up in amazement at the Milky Way Galaxy overhead and its clusters of sparkly star-clouds. Miles away from civilization, that night sky in particular looked strangely foreign to me and unlike any I had ever seen before on the East Coast. It was alien-like. Raw. Three-dimensional. Then suddenly, in a single fleeting moment that was over just as quickly as it began, we witnessed the most breathtaking astronomical occurrence of our lives:


It was a shooting star. Blazing across the heavens in a spectacle of white, red, fiery orange, purples and pinks, it arced over our heads momentarily, then disappeared into the horizon. It was such an intense spectacle, to this day I can still hear the "swoosh" of its mass and particles burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Fast forward to the pre-dawn hours of this morning, November 17, 2009 and North America's "showy peak" viewing of the Leonoid Meteor Shower. Well, you guessed it. There was nothing for this high-rise living New Yorker to see. The sky is always empty and black, the streets glaring and bright in this city. One finds neither silence nor complete darkness, and it saddens me that a starry night sky in major cities around the world has simply disappeared.

A National Geographic article titled, "Our Vanishing Night," describes light pollution in the following context:

"In most cities the sky looks as though it has been emptied of stars, leaving behind a vacant haze that mirrors our fear of the dark and resembles the urban glow of dystopian science fiction. We've grown so used to this pervasive orange haze that the original glory of an unlit night—dark enough for the planet Venus to throw shadows on Earth—is wholly beyond our experience, beyond memory almost. And yet above the city's pale ceiling lies the rest of the universe, utterly undiminished by the light we waste—a bright shoal of stars and planets and galaxies, shining in seemingly infinite darkness."


Map of Earth at Night

While there are certainly trade-offs of living in a bustling metropolis versus a rural area, it's humbling to stargaze when you can actually see the stars in all their glory. It is only when doing this, that one can truly FEEL the overwhelming presence of our vast galaxy. I like to imagine what Earth's night sky must have looked like as viewed from ancient cities thousands of years ago. How beautiful, powerful, and inexplicable it must have been. It was, after all, a mystical realm of curiosity and wonder. In some areas of the planet untouched by man's light pollution, the night sky can still be viewed the same way it has been for millions of years.


Science and technology have allowed us to gaze deeper and deeper into the Universe. Time will only tell what the next big galactic discovery will be. But with your naked eye, take the time to venture away from the din of street lights and glaring LED-lit advertisements. It can be an awe-inspring experience that might just turn into one of the most memorable moments of your life.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stylish Book Worm


I know, I know. "Don't judge a book by its cover."

BUT...
I think Pottery Barn, Martha Stewart, Real Simple, West Elm, AND Anthropologie would all agree that these eight Penguin Group classics, newly released in vintage-inspired cloth hardcovers, are certainly beautiful design elements for any bookshelf or side table. They'd also be lovely stacked on the floor in one of their, "Ha! Good luck trying to make your living room look as chic as ours," holiday catalog.

Aside from the pretty covers though, the pages bound within are indeed literary masterpieces: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Cranford, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, and Great Expectations. True, it would take a mustering of determination to read through them all, but at least the task becomes a little less daunting when one can look stylish and oh-so-of-the-era in the process.

Available online via Penguin Classics ($20.00 each)...or perhaps for slightly less in the realm of Amazon.com.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Maelstrom" on the Met


American artist Roxy Paine's special exhibition will soon close on November 29th. But before it does, it's definitely worth an hour or two to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Surrounded by the stunning panorama of Central Park, Paine's spectacular stainless steel sculpture, Maelstrom, measures an impressive 130-feet-long by 45-feet-wide. It dwarfs the roof deck's square footage and wildly intertwines above the roof itself.


The fun part about this sculpture is that you can walk through it. It's like exploring a labyrinth of giant tree roots, alive and organic, yet simultaneously harnessed and contained by their rigid, industrial welding. According to the artist's interpretation, "...the installation explores the interplay between the natural world and the built environment amid nature's inherently chaotic processes."

No matter what your individual interpretation of Maelstrom is, I highly recommend checking it out...and if the sculpture and setting aren't quite enough to draw you there, the Met's Roof Deck also has a quaint little bar/bistro that serves espresso, sandwiches, wine, beer, and martinis!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Doughnuts and Donuts



Welcome, to the Doughnut Plant.

379 Grand Street (near Essex Street)
New York, NY 10002
212-505-3700
Bakery Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Established in 2000 and located in Manhattan's Lower East Side, owner/mastermind/head chef Mark Israel built a gourmet donut institution from the ground-up. This tiny bakery, only 200 square feet, doesn't look very impressive from the outside. In fact, when I first trekked downtown to check it out, I walked right past the storefront. But, if you do make it through the doors, (and IT IS well-worth the cross-town expedition), be prepared for an exceptional culinary experience.

What makes these donuts so exceptional? High quality ingredients and fresh preparation. Here's a snippet from a 2008 Edible Manhattan article titled "Pedestrian Pastry Goes Gastro," which perfectly illustrates this point:

"...Israel fine-tuned his cake doughnut recipe for five years, and has all the flour milled to exacting specifications, simmers his own preserves for the jelly-filleds, and roasts and grinds peanuts for the PB&Js. He changes the fry oil daily, and twice a week hits the Greenmarket for glaze ingredients like strawberries, white peaches and apricots. The coconut custard-filled number is born of fresh coconuts; even the ho-hum-sounding flavors showcase Valrhona chocolate and real vanilla bean. All this trouble for doughnuts? "If you saw what the ingredients cost," confides the master, "you'd know we're charging way too little."

Tres Leches Cake Doughnut (left), Blackout chocolate Cake Doughnut (right).




Yeast Valrhona Chocolate Doughnut

I have a weakness for the little cake donuts - they're about the size of your palm which may sound small, but oh, do they pack a powerful punch. Try the flavors Tres Leches and Blackout...then say hello to a life of spontaneous Doughnut Plant donut cravings.

Good news too! The Doughnut Plant distributes a selection of goodies to local Dean & Deluca, Oren's Daily Roast, Agata & Valentina, Citarella, Zabars, and Joe's Art of Coffee locations within Manhattan.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Google Doodle

If you're an avid Googler, you've most certainly cracked a smile over the past week typing into a search field gazed upon by a slew of Sesame Street characters. Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, and The Count have recently been THE shining stars in the past six "Google Doodles." And it's anybody's guess which muppet may show up tomorrow, if any. There are several more Sesame Street characters that hold potential doodle-worthy clout...Snuffleupagus perhaps? I can visualize his eyes forming the two "O's" in "Google".

First aired in 1969, Sesame Street is celebrating it's 40th anniversary of muppets, A, B, C's and 1, 2, 3's this year. And I'll admit: Google’s tribute has brought a fun burst of excitement to my morning of launching into my web browser's Home Page. Plus, don't we all enjoy (even just a little bit) clicking on the Google logo and being whisked away to links about the featured doodle? If you've missed the Sesame Street Doodles, here they are, (screenshots courtesy of the Huffington Post).







While I thoroughly enjoy a colorful burst of Google creativity in the morning, I must reluctantly say, however, that six consecutive days of Sesame Street muppets kind of gets uninspiring. Cute, but let’s see something new. How about a Googled rendition of the fall of the Berlin Wall? Albeit, this momentous occasion would have fared better today on the official anniversary, but it's still my hope tomorrow morning to tune into a brilliantly Googled event of historical significance rather than more fuzzy puppets of my childhood, (as adorable and innocent as they may be).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Here, Please?


Well, it's that time of year. Germs have finally worn down my immune system and I'm feeling a bit under-the-weather. Crave sleep, but ah, am currently having a delirious insomniac moment. So, a post it shall be to tire me out (no offense, but it helps). Here's what I've been wishing for within the past 3 hours:

A vat of homemade chicken soup and oyster crackers.

A relaxing pedicure with red nail polish.

Taxi drivers outside my window to stop honking at each because the only thing it accomplishes is keeping me awake.

A hot bath with lavender aromatherapy and lots and lots of bubbles.

Lying on this tropical beach about to go snorkeling with Flipper (and not feeling ill).


OR, snuggling in a flannel blanket in front of this fireplace, cup of hot cocoa in hand and snowstorm outside.


So, there you have it. I have no idea where either one of these serene settings is located, considering I obtained these idealistic photos via Googling key words "tropical beach" and "cozy cabin." But, if you happen to find one of these lovely places, please let me know. And take me with you?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reflections on La Vida


This article, featured in the Times' "Happy Days" blog and written by Todd May, author and professor of philosophy at Clemson University, is a powerful piece. Stunningly beautiful writing that helps put life into perspective. I'm posting the entire article below just in case this link fizzles out:

http://happydays.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/02/happy-ending/?em

So, if you are having a stressful day today, just take it all in stride. This article emphasizes what REALLY matters: living each day of life to the fullest, and not taking a single one for granted. It's something we can so easily forget in this past-paced world
.

____________________________

November 2, 2009, 8:25 PM
HAPPY ENDING
By
TODD MAY

In the spring of 2004 I took a flight from my home near Greenville, S.C., to New York to visit my dying step-grandmother. We had been close, and it would be one of the last times I would get to see her. As the flight was about to land, it abruptly ascended and headed toward the Empire State Building. The passengers on the plane became quiet; the aura of 9/11 was hanging in the air.

We flew over the Empire State Building (but too close to the antenna for my comfort) and circled back to La Guardia. As it turned out, a small commuter plane had decided to land without taking account of our aircraft, so the pilot had had to make a quick move. But in those moments when it seemed I was aboard another human missile, I revisited my life. I realized, almost to my surprise, that I would not have traded it in for another life. There had been disappointments, to be sure, but my life appeared to me to have been a meaningful one, a life I did not regret. This is not to say that I was not nearly paralyzed with fear. I was. At the same time, strangely, my life appeared to me as worth having lived. There are two lessons here. The first, and most obvious one, is that death is terrifying. Here in the United States, we have the technology to defer death, so we often pretend it will never really happen to us. There is always another procedure, always a cure in sight if not in hand. But in our sober moments we recognize that we will indeed die, and that we have precious little control over when it will happen.

The harm of death goes to the heart of who we are as human beings. We are, in essence, forward-looking creatures. We create our lives prospectively. We build relationships, careers, and projects that are not solely of the moment but that have a future in our vision of them. One of the reasons Eastern philosophies have developed techniques to train us to be in the moment is that that is not our natural state. We are pulled toward the future, and see the meaning of what we do now in its light.

Death extinguishes that light. And because we know that we will die, and yet we don’t know when, the darkness that is ultimately ahead of each of us is with us at every moment. There is, we might say, a tunnel at the end of this light. And since we are creatures of the future, the darkness of death offends us in our very being. We may come to terms with it when we grow old, but unless our lives have become a burden to us coming to terms is the best we can hope for.


The second, less obvious lesson of this moment of facing death is that in order for our lives to have a shape, in order that they not become formless, we need to die. This will strike some as counterintuitive, even a little ridiculous. But in order to recognize its truth, we should reflect a bit on what immortality might mean.


Immortality lasts a long time. It is not for nothing that in his story “The Immortal” Jorge Luis Borges pictures the immortal characters as unconcerned with their lives or their surroundings. Once you’ve followed your passion — playing the saxophone, loving men or women, traveling, writing poetry — for, say, 10,000 years, it will likely begin to lose its grip. There may be more to say or to do than anyone can ever accomplish. But each of us develops particular interests, engages in particular pursuits. When we have been at them long enough, we are likely to find ourselves just filling time. In the case of immortality, an inexhaustible period of time.

And when there is always time for everything, there is no urgency for anything. It may well be that life is not long enough. But it is equally true that a life without limits would lose the beauty of its moments. It would become boring, but more deeply it would become shapeless. Just one damn thing after another.

This is the paradox death imposes upon us: it grants us the possibility of a meaningful life even as it takes it away. It gives us the promise of each moment, even as it threatens to steal that moment, or at least reminds us that some time our moments will be gone. It allows each moment to insist upon itself, because there are only a limited number of them. And none of us knows how many.

I prefer to think that the paradox of death is the source not of despair but instead of the limited hope that is allotted to us as human beings. We cannot live forever, to be sure, but neither would we want to. We ought not to mind the fact that we will die, although we really would rather that it not be today. Probably not tomorrow either. But it is precisely because we cannot control when we will die, and know only that we will, that we can look upon our lives with the seriousness they merit. Death takes away from us no more than it has conferred: lives whose significance lies in the fact they are not always with us.

Our happiness lies in being able to inhabit that fact.


Eat Your Veggies


In lieu of this past Sunday's New York City Marathon, I am filled with new-found inspiration to run the 26.2 myself next November. Also, with the holidays just around the corner, I'm entirely committed to making a concerned effort to munch on more vegetables and leafy greens...like these!





Ok, so it also has to do with currently reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and wanting to grow a quaint vegetable garden just like the Obama family. (Sadly, apartment living does not allow this).

Shopping "veggies for one" is a tricky process, though. I tend to overestimate how much celery I can actually eat in a given week, and always seem to end up with some of it squished and forgotten in the back of the fridge. Or worse - lettuce. I can't tell you how many heads of lettuce have gone rotten before I've even had the chance to stuff some leaves in a pita.

I've adapted a new method though! It's not anything revolutionary, but I think it's going to make my life a little easier. Upon returning from the farmer's market or grocery store, I wash, peel, cut and STORE my veggies right away so they are, from that moment on, at the ready for snacking and cooking. Basically, the less effort it takes to eat some carrots and hummus for a snack after work, the more inclined I'll be to opt for that combination over say...my favorite vegan chocolate chips.

Tonight, I thoroughly washed a head of red-leaf lettuce, spun it in the colander, and stored it in the crisping drawer of the fridge. No more scrambling around in the morning for lunch material. Having healthy veggies and fruits readily available in the kitchen is one of my many life-long goals (simple as it may sound). After all, as Michael Pollan writes, "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rain and Wellies!

Rain, rain, rain. Thanks to you, rain boots, my pants are saved from the depths of flooded subway entrances and 6-inch puddles. Rushing water on the street is no match to your impenetrable rubber soles as I plow across the crosswalk with confidence.

But Winter, well that's another story. No matter how beautiful the snow looks as it's falling to the ground in New York, it inevitably ends up as dirty, sloppy slush. Puddles of sloppy slush. Which is why this season, I'm calling in the troops. On my wish-list: Hunter Wellies. Not only are they incredibly durable, stylish, and colorful (who says the rain can't be fun?), but one ALSO has the option of purchasing a cozy fleece Wellie Sock lining for cold weather! For the time being, my $15.00 boots from Target do their job, but come freezing rain this Winter...I'll be opting for a little extra reinforcement, better fit, and warmth. Hunter boots are available on-line from Zappos for $114.95.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food, Inc.



"Food, Inc. exposes America's industrialized food system and its effect on our environment, health, economy and workers' rights....our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health..." The global food crisis. Cloning. Nutritional labels. Genetic engineering. Pesticides. Foodborne illness. Obesity. Farm worker protection. Organic and local foods. My, oh my. Delicious topics. What's not to love?

Which is why...I CAN NOT WAIT TO SEE THIS DOCUMENTARY! I have my bag of organic corn kernels on the stand-by for stovetop popping and shhh, smuggling into the theater. Since a large segment of this film is supposedly devoted to exposing the evils of corn in our food chain, I think it would be an oxymoron if I were to order up a bucket of movie buttered popcorn.

I find the issue of what we eat, (or don't eat), incredibly fascinating. Just get me started, and I could talk on and on...and on. Needless to say, I'm a frequent farmer's market shopper in Union Square, and Michael Pollan's
Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food (this one I'm currently reading) are both well-worn paperbacks warmly snuggled into my bookshelf. Since I give high praise to these two masterpieces, (and can't get enough of local market goodies this time of year), I'm quite certain I'll be enamored with this film. It promises, "You'll never look at dinner the same way again." I just hope it doesn't scare me off from eating a hamburger ever again...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Something Shiny

I've never been a girl to wear many necklaces, and I really don't know why. I completely love the way they look! I think necklaces can evoke a sense of individuality, creativity, and can really stand for something quite special. Plus, who doesn't love adding a little shine to an outfit? True, with long hair, I've encountered many a tangle after a long run. But in any case, I'm going to make more of a necklace-wearing effort here because I was recently introduced to Satya Jewelry after my sister gave me a necklace as a gift. So, I actually need to to give HER credit for discovering this company and getting me hooked: thank you little sister!

Using earthy, natural materials, gemstones, gold and silver, Satya Jewelry is not only created with global consciousness, but is yoga-inspired. Every piece blends spiritual symbols and sacred meanings. But whether you seek comfort in the meaning a piece represents or not, one thing is for certain: they're just so pretty!

The necklace above is a new design whose pendants symbolize the following: "Two lotus flowers hang side by side symbolizing the beauty and support in all relationships. This exotic blossom rises from the mud every day to face the sun with a clean and lovely cluster of fresh petals, and has been adopted by Asian cultures as a symbol of regeneration and personal growth...a day-to-day totem to remind you of the potential within."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Shallot Risotto



Oh, how I do enjoy a well-prepared risotto. Arborio rice has a naturally creamy texture, and it can be crafted into a very healthful and well-rounded meal. Risotto leftovers also reheat wonderfully for lunch the next day! This week, my culinary goal is to tackle this new risotto recipe. It's adapted from a fabulous cookbook calledFarm Food by Chef Daniel Orr, which I purchased after dining in his delectable restaurant Farm Bloomington, in Bloomington, IN.

In anticipation, I've typed up the recipe below and will post a photo of the completed dish later this week, (let's keep our fingers crossed!). This recipe is dairy-free. Note: while I can tolerate goat cheese, (it's a different protein than dairy), be sure to omit it if you can not.

Happy feasting!

Caramelized Shallot Risotto with Toasted Walnuts, Goat Cheese, and Pears.

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked arborio rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

2 caramelized shallots, roughly chopped

1 pinch lemon zest

2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

Garnishes: sautéed pears, black pepper, goat cheese

Method:

  1. Sauté onions in olive oil until they are translucent, but not colored, over medium heat.
  2. Add the arborio rice and toast; stir with a wooden spoon, so all the rice gets toasted.
  3. Stir in 1 cup of broth. Continue cooking and stirring until all the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Gradually stir in remaining broth 1 cup at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup.
  5. Fold in the sautéed shallots, zest, and walnuts and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon into a bowl and garnish with some sautéed pears, black pepper, and large crumbles of goat cheese.

...and voilà! The finished risotto as per this past Saturday night. It was really quite yummy: walnuts, goat cheese, and pears are a perfect match made in heaven. Plus...plenty of leftovers for lunch the following day.