About Julie Seyler

Julie Seyler is a foodaholic, writer, and author of the blog, TwoBitTart.com. A graduate of culinary school and an itinerant student of gelato, pastry, and, most recently, Italian pasta, she labels herself neither Chef nor expert, but a chronicler of culinary vice. Follow her on Instagram: @TwoBitTart.

Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Rose Buttercream

Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Rose Buttercream on pink cake plate with a slice on a white plate

Today’s Musings:
I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask this witness of profound affections to teach me what she knows about Love. 

I spent time within her bosom just shy of a year ago, wan and unsteady, remnants of a lover’s row the night before, a state I would come to know too well.  In the Botanical Gardens, I strolled among her exotic foliage, hand-in-hand with a man who would soon enough misuse my love, although I didn’t know it then.  The day felt brittle, as if the sky was made of the thinnest glass.  Although I paid visits to her often in the past, I didn’t divulge to him that this Park and I were well acquainted – and she did not betray my secret.  With all our shared encounters, she was indifferent towards me that day.  She knew this was not Love and, thus, unworthy of her attention.

I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask this sanctuary of romance to teach me what she knows about Love. 

I first met her in 1989, as young hearts blossomed among her rose garden; He, Mr. Oxblood, and I, Miss Prussian Blue.  Two shy paramours meandering along her starlit paths. Without words, we spoke of our implicit love through scented floral filigree, as he cascaded pink-petaled missives down upon my head and together we tossed waves of scented bliss into the fountain.  He tucked a few of these sweet remembrances within his pocket.  I was happy then.  It was perfect – and she smiled and anointed us.

Did she realize then that this love would endure almost a decade?  Did she see that each would forever keep the other’s heart within them – even now?

I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask if she was aware, four years later, that he, brimming with love, recalled for me, reluctant and unsure, our countless nights spent drifting through her splendor:

“Why can’t you allow today to be like holding hands in Balboa Park? Park of Spanish Porticos and you, content.  We were like the courting frogs in the lily pond by the balustrade next to the Botanical Gardens.”

Content.  That’s all I’ve ever asked from Love.

I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and plead with her to share her views on Love.  I want her to explain why, on that Friday in July, 2010, she released his hand and let him slip from her embrace onto the asphalt below.

The newspaper headline read, “Man dies after jump from Balboa Park Bridge.”  Stark words to me who required a novel’s worth of explanations. I always knew, contrary to his friends’ assurances, as only lovers know, this would be his fate, and yet I still have things I yearn to say, of love and encouragement – and atonement for my missteps, if only time were mutable.

No silent grave to visit, I want to wander this “Park of Spanish Porticos,” alone, and listen for her answer to my question – Is True Love eternal?  I wrote to him, after I heard the news, just days after my own mother’s death.

“My Darling Mr. Oxblood,

The email arrived today, like a heavy book-kick to an already wounded dog.  Nikolaje said you died Friday night – underneath the Balboa Park Bridge.  He said you either fell or jumped.  My heart, or rather your heart that still resides within me, knows it’s the latter.  Two deaths in two days.

Did you visit the rose garden first?  It’s probably beautiful right now.  Did you stick your nose deep within the huge, heady, heirlooms?  Did you pull handfuls of petals from the bushes, scattering them about yourself, on the pathway, in the fountain?  Did you tuck one in your breast pocket as you did that first night?  Did they find it when they found you?  Did you think about it first or did you decide in the moment? Could I have stopped you?

I was never strong enough for you.  I could never nudge you – show you how beautiful you and your world truly were.  I was too much in reality – and you were forever in your romantic dreamland.  Did you know how much I loved you?  I wished a woman existed who could take care of you the way I never could (I wished I could have been that woman!).

It wasn’t easy for you here.  I wish there was some other way.  I do, however, understand. As you move on, you take a piece of my heart with you.

With My Love,
Miss Prussian Blue”

I long to wander Balboa Park, alone, and ask her to remind me that I already know all that she could ever teach me about Love. 

Today’s Recipe:
These flavors are similar to those found in Persian Love Cakes, but this recipe was my own creation.  I wanted to highlight rose to accompany the musings above and raspberry-rose as well as cardamom-rose are two of my favorite combinations.  For the cake, I used this walnut cake recipe, substituting pistachios for the walnuts. I covered the cake in marshmallow fondant before decorating with oxblood and Prussian blue flowers.

Pistachio Cake with Raspberry Rose Buttercream


Ingredients

    Pistachio Cardamom Cake
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon cardamom
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs beaten, room temp
  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted well-chopped Pistachios
  • Fresh raspberries
  • Fondant (optional)
  • Rose Buttercream
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 – 2 teaspoon rose water (to taste)
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • food coloring (optional)

Directions

  1. MAKE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 ⁰ F. Butter and flour two 9” round cake pans. Whisk together flour, sugars, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix together the oil, buttermilk, water, vanilla and beaten eggs. Stir wet ingredients into dry until no lumps remain (don’t overmix). Stir in pistachios.
  2. Pour batter evenly into pans. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a few moist crumbs cling to a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake (do not overbake). Cool in pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn cakes onto racks and cool completely.
  3. MAKE BUTTERCREAM: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until fluffy and smooth. On medium speed, slowly add in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Add salt. Once powdered sugar and salt are fully incorporated, add rose water, milk, and food coloring, if using.
  4. Fill cake with rose buttercream and a layer of raspberries. Frost top and sides of cake with remaining buttercream. Cover in fondant, if desired, and decorate.

Thai Peanut Chicken Rice Bowls

A white bowl with composed salad and chopsticks

Today’s Musings:
It’s a new year and time to shove 2020 out the window, welcoming a fresh start.  The following handful of posts are a series, written a lifetime ago, that track my journey from a painful breakup with a man I adored, to the shock of discovering the truth behind his mask, to glimpsing the depths of his depravity, and finally acknowledging my own error in blindly trusting him.  This tale ended long ago, but only now am I ready to disclose it – and perhaps help others who find themselves in a similar situation. Thank you to those who shared evidence and convinced me to tell my story.

The Final Chapter

“First it hurts, then it changes you.”
– unknown

When you begin researching covert narcissists and realize you’ve endured this form of emotional abuse, the first descriptor you’ll likely come across is “victim.”  “Emotional abuse” and “victim” – those two words punch you in the gut and knock the wind out of you. When you first hear the V-word, your blood may freeze in your veins; you’ll most likely be in disbelief.  The tough, female warrior inside you may scream, “That’s not ME. I am not a victim!” Yet, this word clings to you, like the sour smell of booze after a night of too much drinking.  In our world, victims are seen as weak, helpless, unwilling to take responsibility for the role, however small, they may have played in this reprehensible charade.  No one wants to be the victim, but that’s what you are.  You unwittingly gave yourself to a con-man, an emotional con-man, who never cared about you, never loved you, and only saw you for what he could “get” from you – nurturing, sex, status, or money – each of these creatures is looking for something different to feed their ego. It is a disorder and this sickness makes him incapable of significantly bonding with anyone – even fabulous you. 

This will be the most difficult concept for you to comprehend – no matter what he whispered in your ear, no matter how sincere he sounded in the moments when he gazed into your eyes, no matter how many little kindnesses he did for you, it was all an act; he never cared about you. You’ll want to hold on to these little moments as “proof” that you made him feel something, but they are lies.  In his world, you are not special – you are replaceable, something to be used up, like a tube of toothpaste. The charming, good-guy mask he’s been wearing can only stay in place for so long. Finally, it will slip and you’ll be left hurting, alone, and profoundly confused. Where did Mr. Wonderful go? With the final discard, you will feel his tangible lack of empathy or remorse – when he is done with you, he is DONE. 

As you learn more – and you will – researching what just happened to you is part of the process victims of narcissists go through –  watching YouTube, reading books, listening to podcasts, joining Facebook support groups, maybe even talking to a Therapist – you’ll begin to hear the word “survivor.”  Survivor sounds tough, strong, invincible. Being labeled a “survivor” provides hope.  At first, you’ll think it’s just a dolled-up euphemism for “victim,” that shameful stench that still swirls around you.

So, are you a victim or a survivor? 

You are both.  The language we use has significant impact on how we view ourselves and how the world views us.  The word “victim” focuses on what has been done to us and, in the beginning, this is unfortunately where we need to focus.  A victim has been damaged and mistreated; they are defined by the pain that has been heaped upon them by the narcissist. Their strength and resilience has been assaulted and may even feel non-existent.  Victims are divorced from their power.  On the other side of this trauma is where the survivors dwell – and you will make it to the other side.  Survivors acknowledge the abuser for the pathetic creature he truly is. We’ve processed the disbelief, the hurt, the anger, the realization that people like this actually exist. We recognize that narcissists are incapable of feeling loving emotions and acknowledge our humiliation that, for all our savviness, we fell for their con.  A survivor moves forward, stronger and changed.  We not only continue to live, but we grow and prosper, sharing our human emotions the narcissist can only fake. As survivors, our power is reclaimed, and the narcissist, for us, shrivels into nothing and dies.

Today’s Recipe:


Thai Peanut Chicken Rice Bowl


Ingredients

    Cucumber Salad
  • 1 cup cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Peanut Dressing
  • ¼ cup bottled peanut sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Rice Bowl
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup edamame, sprinkled with salt
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Sriracha Sauce (optional)

Directions

  1. Make cucumber salad: Combine all ingredients and let marinate for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Make peanut dressing: Whisk together all ingredients.
  3. Divide rice between four bowls. Arrange edamame, chicken and cilantro on top of rice. Add marinated cucumbers.
  4. Drizzle with peanut dressing and sriracha, if using.

Slow Cooker Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Lamb Tagine over couscous in a white bowl

Today’s Musings:

It’s a new year and time to shove 2020 out the window, welcoming a fresh start.  The following handful of posts are a series, written a lifetime ago, that track my journey from a painful breakup with a man I adored, to the shock of discovering the truth behind his mask, to glimpsing the depths of his depravity, and finally acknowledging my own error in blindly trusting him.  This tale ended long ago, but only now am I ready to disclose it – and perhaps help others who find themselves in a similar situation. Thank you to those who shared evidence and convinced me to tell my story.

 Chapter Six

I learned a new term today, although I’d rather I hadn’t a need for it – trauma bonding.  At its essence, trauma bonding is a form of Stockholm syndrome.  It occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of love/reward and anger/withdrawal/punishment.  This roller coaster of emotion, this give and take, creates a powerful brain cocktail that contributes to a person’s “addiction” to a toxic partner – the reason we stick around when any “sane” person would run for the hills.  These chemicals include oxytocin (for bonding) endogenous opioids (creating pleasure and dependency), corticotrophin-releasing factor (creating feelings of withdrawal) and dopamine (creating feelings of craving and wanting).  The intermittent reward and punishment of a relationship with a toxic partner, such as a covert narcissist, amplifies the doses of these brain chemicals until the victim is powerfully bonded to the emotional abuser though the push-pull of fear, affection, sex, excitement, and withdrawal.  It’s a drug addiction. This traumatic bond is even stronger for people who have grown up in emotionally abusive households, because it feels to them like a normal part of any relationship (yup). Initially, a covert narcissist is inconsistent in their approach, with long stretches of love/reward, a Pavlovian technique, which slowly develops into an intense sturm und drang perhaps not matched by any of the victim’s previous relationships (yup!). The abused partner may even rationalize or defend the emotionally abusive actions, feeling a sense of loyalty to the abuser (yup again!), a result of the trauma bond.  They may blame themselves for the toxic relationship or hide the emotional abuse from others, hoping the abusive behavior will abate and things will go back to the idyllic “normal” of the first few months. It doesn’t. Get out.

Today’s Recipe:

This recipe calls for preserved lemons. You can find them at well-stocked grocery stores or make your own.


Slow Cooker Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Slow cooking the lamb results in meltingly tender meat.


Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. lamb shoulder, cut into 1” pieces
  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted and cut in half
  • ¼ cup preserved lemons, thinly sliced plus more for garnish
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups cooked couscous
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • ½ cup packed cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds

Directions

  1. In a slow cooker, combine lamb, dates, preserved lemons, garlic, coriander, smoked paprika, cinnamon, salt, pepper and ¼ cup water. Cook on high for 4 hours until lamb easily shreds with a fork. Add kalamata olives and heat through.
  2. Cook couscous according to package directions. Serve the lamb over the couscous, sprinkled with cilantro, toasted sliced almonds, and a few slivers of preserved lemons.

Paprika Chicken with Potatoes

Today’s Musings:

It’s a new year and time to shove 2020 out the window, welcoming a fresh start.  The following handful of posts are a series, written a lifetime ago, that track my journey from a painful breakup with a man I adored, to the shock of discovering the truth behind his mask, to glimpsing the depths of his depravity, and finally acknowledging my own error in blindly trusting him.  This tale ended long ago, but only now am I ready to disclose it – and perhaps help others who find themselves in a similar situation. Thank you to those who shared evidence and convinced me to tell my story.

 Chapter Five

I deleted the photos last night.  Every.  Last. One.  I almost said “our photos,” but there was no “our” about it.  It was a con, from the beginning to the end.  An emotional con – and I was the dupe.  For the majority of our time together, his actions towards me were sweet, kind, loving – but it was an act. He went through love’s motions without any emotion behind them. I deleted our numerous 10-page email arguments last week, but not before showing them to someone who specializes in creatures like him.  She sees how I tried with him and shakes her head at his pathetic responses, full of lies and gaslighting.

And the lies and the photos and the texts keep piling up. Unbidden by me, his friends continue to drop these pieces of evidence at my feet, like the bloody and lifeless mice my cats leave me as presents. To counterbalance these blows, some reassure me that he “cared” for me at some point.  Oh, how my tender heart wishes it were true, but he and I know the truth, don’t we?  He is incapable of it – devoid of any authentic feelings, except his own self-pity and feelings of persecution. He “cared” for me in front of his audience; he “cared” for me on his terms.

He knows he’s damaged, deficient in something essential – what did he call it that one night, “demons”?  He lacks empathy and has no remorse for how his actions injure people; just another day in the life of a covert narcissist.  I was not special.  I was a “source” for him, nothing more, and once he used me up, he discarded me and moved to his next sources already waiting in the wings (although I’m convinced they were in his bed while I was still there – in retrospect, the signs are too numerous to be coincidence). What’s ironic is that he’s not very good at them – all his lies.  They are mediocre and unimaginative, at best. Had I wanted to, I could have caught him out early.  I just chose not to see them. I chose ignorance in pursuit of what I thought was love.

How many times did he say, “If you believe nothing else, believe this,” only to have me discover later that he lied about that very thing.

And his secret – the one that’s recorded in yellow and blue?  Like Prometheus nailed to the cliff side, this one agonizing torment is his atonement for the damage he carelessly inflicts. It’s his subconscious trying to fill that insatiable void inside of him.  He may resist for a few months, but it will be with him forever.

Yet even now, after all he has done, against my rational judgment and friends’ admonishments, I still feel deep compassion for this creature. I cannot imagine living in a world like his.  I’m not sorry he’s gone from my life – I’m just relieved I survived. 

Hyperbole, you say?  Read this directly from a narcissist’s mouth.

Today’s Recipe:


Paprika Chicken with Potatoes

Chicken, potatoes and sweet onions are tossed in spices before roasting in the oven. Add a salad and you have a great weeknight meal.


Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons paprika (not smoked paprika)
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 ½ lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
  • 2-3 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼” thick
  • 1 sweet onion, cut into ½” wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 500⁰ F. Mix olive oil and spices in a large bowl. Add chicken, potatoes, onion and garlic, tossing to ensure all pieces are well coated.
  2. In a 13”x9” pan, layer potatoes along the bottom, cover with chicken, skin side up, and nestle onions and garlic under and around chicken.
  3. Bake until chicken registers 165⁰ and potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. If chicken skin is not crisp, broil another 5 minutes until skin is crisp and tips of some onions are black.

Chicken Piccata Stew

A bowl of chicken stew

Today’s Musings:
It’s a new year and time to shove 2020 out the window, welcoming a fresh start.  The following handful of posts are a series, written a lifetime ago, that track my journey from a painful breakup with a man I adored, to the shock of discovering the truth behind his mask, to glimpsing the depths of his depravity, and finally acknowledging my own error in blindly trusting him. This tale ended long ago, but only now am I ready to disclose it – and perhaps help others who find themselves in a similar situation. Thank you to those who shared evidence and convinced me to tell my story.

 Chapter Four

To His Next Partner:

Please don’t hesitate to IM me!

I’ll be there for you after your first disagreement when he seems overly sensitive to a minor misunderstanding. Or after the next few, when he’s unjustifiably upset and leaves you wondering what happened to your perfect relationship and near-perfect boyfriend. Or after the next wave, when he begins gaslighting you, making you feel crazy, and he questions your character. When these arguments last for days – or even weeks – and he throws everything you ever did or said back in your face, unwilling to listen to reason and bringing you to tears. When you have to be the first to apologize just to end the battles, and you justify staying with him because you’ve convinced yourself the good times outweigh the bad on this roller coaster of emotion.

Please don’t hesitate to IM me once you notice he’s detached about things going on in your life that aren’t about him. After you discover he lied – about almost everything, including his feelings for you. And you’re shown the salacious photos he’s sent to other women that he swore were “just friends” – and hear of the intimate items he requested and received from them.  When you’re crushed by an account of his behavior while you were out of the country  – and when you discover he’s already lining up his next partners – some of them possibly rumpling his sheets while you still share his bed. Once you learn about the one he calls his “work wife” and the purpose of his “afternoon naps.” When you finally comprehend why the neighbor above glares at him and what she’s probably witnessed.

Please don’t hesitate to IM me when you wonder where that cute, charming, sensitive, boyish partner has gone. When friends tell you he’s a narcissist and you protest, “Impossible!  Every woman claims their Ex is a narcissist and, besides, narcissists are flashy, strutting peacocks and, if I know one thing, he is not that!” and then you Google something called “covert narcissism” and the description stops your heart; when you read words like “victim” and “emotional abuse” and you finally understand.

IM me – or call me, because I’ve been there and I can help you heal.

Additional Reading:
Click here for more information on recognizing a narcissist.
Click here for more information on the “work wife” role in a narcissist’s life.

Today’s Recipe:
Today’s musings took a great deal out of me; made me queasy, in fact, to splay myself in front of you, to hit the “post” button.  I can’t bear to follow them up with an overly complicated dessert recipe.  What today needs is something simple, something homey, something comforting like this Chicken Piccata Stew, which has been a favorite of mine for years.


Chicken Piccata Stew

This stew is light, hearty, and tangy, reminiscent of chicken piccata.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound boned, skinned chicken thighs, rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, liberally seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained and minced
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, separated
  • ½ cup white wine (or water if you do not have wine available)
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken broth
  • 1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
  • 1 8 oz. pkg. quartered frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 1 bunch roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, such as castelvetrano

Directions

  1. Cut each thigh into 3 chunks and coat in seasoned flour.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Add chicken in a single layer and cook, turning once, until browned,. Transfer to a plate.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add garlic, capers, and lemon zest and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add wine and simmer, scraping up browned bits until reduced. Add broth, potatoes, and chicken with any accumulated juices and return to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes.
  4. Add artichokes to pot and stir. Cover and cook until potatoes are tender when pierced, about another 10 minutes. Stir in parsley, olives, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slightly adapted from Sunset’s Chicken Stew with Olives and Lemon.                     

Today’s Tip:
When a recipe calls for chicken, I almost exclusively use thighs. They are juicier and more flavorful than most other options.