Moroccan Carrot Salad

A bowl of Moroccan Carrot Salad on a silver table

TODAY’S MUSINGS:
I wrote the following last month, but never had the chance to post it.  Synchronicitous procrastination, perhaps, as I was recently reproached for doing this very thing – my ruler, their life. A misunderstanding; that wasn’t my mindset at all, but still a gentle reminder to walk my talk.   Fences mended, yet the irony is not lost on me.

My first yoga teacher, Marlene, would often read this quote during savasana at the end of class.  It stuck with me because Emerson equates my contributions to this world as equal to those who have taken a more traditional route.  A belief you may dispute, but, then again, your belief is your own measuring stick, not mine. They are not interchangeable.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Smarter humans than you have made a similar mistake – a very public, very expensive, very embarrassing mistake.  I’m sure you’ve heard about the 1999 disaster of the Mars Climate Orbiter that burned up in Mars’ atmosphere.  A NASA review board found that the problem was in the software controlling the Orbiter’s thrusters.  The builder of the Orbiter, those clever engineers at Lockheed Martin Astronautics, calculated the force of thrust needed in pounds (The English or “Imperial” measurement) while the equally brilliant team over at JPL used the standard metric form – millimeters, meters, and newton-seconds.  The result?  125-million dollars’ worth of Orbiter toast.  The lessons?  Many, but for my purpose, “Don’t measure me with your ruler.”

Just because I chose not to have children doesn’t mean I haven’t contributed to this world.  What is an appropriate use of a life – to sacrifice individual potential, hopes, and dreams for another person – and teach them to do the same, the snake eating its tail – or to explore our own possibilities, our own potential, and nurture ourselves?  Yes, your child may grow up to be President…but, then again, you could have, too. Just because I choose to live alone doesn’t mean I’m lonely.  I’d rather do what I want, when I want with whom I want, than be trapped in a claustrophobic, tension-filled, lackluster union of convention.  There’s only one marriage I admire – and it’s not yours.    Just because I don’t have religion does not mean I lack a moral compass.  I intrinsically know the difference between right and wrong and have compassion for the suffering of others. I don’t need 10 written rules to tell me so.  Just because my house is small and well within my means doesn’t mean it is not a home.  I don’t require a better zip code to build a sanctuary of peace, warmth, and joy.  Just because my career doesn’t look important on paper doesn’t mean I’m not changing lives. My job is to bring joy and happiness to others – a lofty goal that makes me proud when I accomplish it. Just because I didn’t take a path of higher education doesn’t mean I’m not as smart as you.  My teachers are varied and many.  Just because my life is in stark contrast to yours, that doesn’t mean I regret my choices.

Don’t measure my life with your ruler. 

TODAY’S RECIPE:


Moroccan Carrot Salad

  • Servings: 8 servings
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This simple, easy-to-throw-together salad shone at a recent gathering, adding an exotic flair to the standard backyard barbeque.


Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. carrots, halved lengthwise and cut diagonally into ½-in pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic, cumin and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil mixture.
  3. Steam carrots about 8 minutes until crisp-tender. Add warm carrots to bowl, sprinkle with parsley and cilantro, and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature.

Mom’s Easy No-Bake Strawberry Pie

Strawberry pie with recipe and old poloroids

Today’s Musings:
I left my mother in her home town of LaPorte, IN, safely nestled at the foot of her parents’ graves.  Yes, my heart still aches with loss, but it is tempered by the feeling of “rightness” in our actions of bringing her home, participating in a ceremony of honoring, and closing out her life’s final chapter.

Perhaps this is what is meant by “closure.”

In the airport, waiting for my flight home, I began thinking about ritual and why it’s an important vehicle to help transport us through life.  How can the simple process of taking someone’s ashes to another location, placing them in the ground and saying a few words (or, in this case, singing a song) make the world appear to realign itself?  It felt like I sent forth a giant mantra of “let all be well” to my mom and the earth and all the mysteries of life.

Still, I’m left asking, “why does it work; why is it important?”  Donna Henes says, “Ritual practice is as old as humanity, developing from people’s compelling need to understand and connect with the infinite, archetypal, unexplainable mysteries of life. Rituals offered our ancestors a glimpse of the divine order as well as a sense of belonging to something bigger. It’s a ceremony of sorts which begins with thought, purpose and an identified aim. Also, it’s not passive, but participatory. There is no way to benefit from a ritual by just watching it, or by reading or hearing about it. It must be experienced to be affective, or effective, for that matter.”

Maybe that’s why it works.  It allows us to take a bit of control. We are no longer solely being buffeted by the uncontrollable events around us; we are able to take this small ceremony and manage it, focus our attention to it, set an intention and participate towards its fruition.  I cannot control life and death, but I can control this.

The other ceremony that comes to my mind is one I participated in 25 years ago.  Up to that point, I had struggled with the repercussions of an abusive childhood. I had read books about forgiveness, I had journaled my anger and bitterness in hopes of releasing them, I had made excuses for the abusive behavior and I tried repressing the memories as well.  Nothing seemed to alleviate my pain until I found myself, during a vacation in Sedona, participating in a medicine wheel ceremony.  During that ceremony, I was given the gift of allowing myself to leave one large piece of “baggage” behind within the wheel.  At that spot, in the middle of Boyton Canyon, on the hot dusty ground, I set down my bag of anger, hurt, bitterness and grief  – and I never looked back.  I left my baggage in Sedona, the best luggage I could have ever lost on vacation.  Could I have done it without the medicine wheel, without the burning sage, without the ritual, without the intention? I hadn’t been able to before.

Rituals and ceremonies with honest, sincere intention seem to somehow place our personal, spinning world back on its axis. They are a bit of control in the uncontrollable world.

Today’s Recipe:
In general,  I’m known for multi-step, slightly complicated desserts.  Today, I’m sharing an easy one with you.  For each family-member’s birthday, another ritual, mom would make us our favorite dessert. When I was young,  I always requested this pie.  I remember “Happy Birthday” spelled out in slivered strawberries across the top.  Lucky for me,  my birthday falls around the beginning of strawberry season, ensuring peak flavor.


Mom’s Easy No-Bake Strawberry Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
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This is an easy, no-bake pie to make in Spring and Summer when strawberries are at their peak of flavor.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 graham crackers)
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 8 oz. mini marshmallows
  • ¼ cup whole or 2% milk
  • 4 cups (about 1 ½ lbs.) cleaned, hulled, and thickly sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream

Directions

  1. Combine graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press along bottom and sides of a 9” pie plate. Set aside.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt mini marshmallows and milk in the microwave for approximately 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until marshmallows are completely melted.
  3. While marshmallow mixture cools slightly, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form.
  4. Stir sliced strawberries into marshmallow mixture. Fold in whipped cream in four additions. Spoon filling into crust until pie is generously filled. Chill for at least 4 hours before enjoying.

Swedish Apple Pie

Swedish Apple Pie on a blue background with pie cutter

Today’s Musings:
I first visited Mt. St. Helens in 2000, 20 years after the devastating blast in May, 1980.  The landscape didn’t appear substantially changed from the stark images I saw in Life Magazine immediately after the eruption.  Except for the blue sky,  it was as if we had driven into a black and white photo; shades of ash and smoke surrounding us.  Waves of fallen monochromatic grey tree trunks remained scattered across the somber mountainside, reminding me of images I’d seen of the civil war dead.   The area appeared decimated, lifeless.  But once we parked at the visitor’s center and started to stroll along the paths,  signs of life became apparent – dun-colored grasses,  knee-high alder saplings, purple lupine, fuchsia fireweed flowers, all punctuated by a few scurrying squirrels.   Slowly, life was reemerging from the destruction. 

My mother died, her adult children around her, in late August 2010; my former Love, and man who still possesses a chunk of my heart, ended his own life two days later.  Two people torn from my life in the span of 48 hours.  In the weeks and months following these losses,  I numbly went about my routine, elbowing waves of grief into the periphery, feeling as obliterated as St. Helens’ landscape.  I met Jake two and a half months later.  Opening myself up to a new relationship was like the first violet lupines popping their heads above my ash-covered earth.  I was tentatively taking the first steps towards reawakening, acknowledging I’d likely be hurt in the end, but possessing an optimistic soupçon of impetus to try.   

When I arrived at the wine bar for our first date,  the afternoon sun shone directly through the front windows, blinding me and obscuring Jake in shadow.  As I turned around to finally see him, my back to the window,  I felt like the bachelorette on The Dating Game when bachelor #3 rounds the corner and she can’t wipe the tinge of disappointment from her face.  He was shorter than I imagined – about 5’ 9”– and his teeth were in a terrible state, with a prominent chip in the front.  I later learned that was a result of an unfortunate run-in with a fork.  His eyes were a pale sky blue; his complexion ruddy. I noted and approved of his style – Vans, Levi’s and a rockabilly plaid shirt.  I glimpsed a tattoo on his wrist, a sneak peek of the ones I’d discover later. I’m a sucker for a tattoo.  His hair reminded me of Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20.  In fact,  he resembled Rob Thomas – after a bender.  I didn’t fall for him until our second date; I remember pulling up to the Oaxacan restaurant, finding him waiting for me outside and thinking, “Yeah, he’s cute.”  I almost didn’t agree to that second date.  By our third, I was enamored with that adorable, weathered, chipped-tooth face and found myself, sated and lying naked in his arms, tracing the tattoos on his chest with the tip of my finger.

Time heals,  we survive, and eventually poke our heads above life’s greyness, renewed.

Today’s Recipe:
How did I not know about Swedish Apple Pie?  Thank you to my friend, Joan, for turning me on to the easy-to-throw-together “pie.”  Of course,  true to form, I zhuzhed up the recipe a bit. If you over-fill the pie plate, be prepared for a butter pool in the bottom of your oven. 


Swedish Apple Pie

  • Servings: One 9” Pie
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Apple pie on the bottom, giant cookie crust on top. A winning combination.


Ingredients

  • 3 – 3 ½ large tart apples, peeled, cored, cut in half, and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Freshly whipped cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9” pie plate. Combine apples, zest, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon. Arrange in pie plate.
  2. Stir together flour, sugars, and salt. Combine melted butter, egg and vanilla and stir into flour mixture just until combined. Spread batter over the apples.
  3. Bake at 350° F. for 50 minutes until top is fully cooked and crisp. Serve warm or room temperature with freshly whipped cream (optional).

Key Lime Tart

Today’s Musings:

Jump!
“I can’t.”
Jump!
“I’ll fall.”
Jump!
“I’m afraid.”
Jump!
“I don’t know how.”
Jump!
“I’m not a jumper.”
Jump!
“Others can jump further.”
Jump!
“Who am I to think I can jump?”

 Jump!
“We will steady you.”
Jump!
“You’re so close!”
Jump!
“Trust us; We will catch you.”
Jump!
“You’ll be great at it.”
Jump!
“Be Brave!”
Jump!
“We believe in you.”
Jump!
We’ll jump with you.”

Thank you for requesting baking demos until I said, “yes.”  Thank you for telling me when my words on the page move you. Thank you for giving feedback on my recipes. Thank you for believing I can write a book worth reading.  Thank you for reminding me I’m worthy of love. Thank you, to all my friends, who support, encourage, and push me just a little further.  I’m better for knowing you.   

Today’s Recipe:


Key Lime Tart

  • Servings: One 9-inch tart or six tartlets
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Mouth-puckering Key lime custard in a shortbread cookie crust garnished with raspberry coulis sauce.


Ingredients

    Crust
  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 Tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 28 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup key lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons grated lime zest
  • Raspberry Coulis (optional)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons water
  • 12 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 1 Tablespoon raspberry or orange liqueur (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and melted butter. Pat dough on the bottom and up the sides of a 9” tart pan. Bake about 20 minutes until beginning to brown. Remove from oven and cool 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine condensed milk, Greek yogurt, lime juice, and lime zest. Stir until combined and pour into crust. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until tiny pinhole bubbles burst on the surface of pie. Do not brown. Chill tart thoroughly before serving. Garnish with raspberry coulis, whipped cream, shaved white chocolate or grated lime zest.
  3. To make coulis, combine sugar and water in a heat-proof liquid measuring cup. Microwave on high power for two minutes and stir to ensure all sugar crystals are dissolved. Combine simple syrup with thawed raspberries in a blender. Blend until smooth. With a rubber spatula, stir and push puree through a fine-mesh strainer to catch the seeds. Add liqueur, if using. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.

Classic Italian Tiramisu

Today’s Musings:
I have a feline heart.  Treat me as you do a cat.  Do not approach me straightaway or immediately attempt to wrap your arms around me, for I am sure to ignore you and wiggle free.   Do not call my name and pat your lap expectantly.  I will find other things to occupy my interest.  Ignore me.  Become absorbed with something else, then I will quickly and adamantly demand your attention, sprawling myself across whatever it was that you were working on.  Leave that spot on your lap available.  I will find my way to it – eventually, on my own terms.  Once I have decided to stay, then you may love me and I will purr with contentment.  Do not fuss too much over me. Hold me too tight or keep me too close and I will flee.  Lock me out of a part of your life and that’s where I’ll want to be.  Come to me on my terms, be patient with me, do not frighten me, and I will show you how I love — enduringly and deeply, but always like a cat.

Today’s Recipe:


Classic Italian Tiramisu

This is my version of the classic tiramisu I learned during culinary school. It’s exceptionally rich and heavier on the alcohol than most restaurant versions. Tiramisu means “pick me up,” but if bedtime is right around the corner, you can always substitute decaf espresso for regular.


Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • pinch salt
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 16 oz. mascarpone
  • Italian savioardi (crisp lady’s fingers)
  • ¾ cup espresso or strong coffee
  • ¾ cup marsala (traditional), dark rum, brandy, or Kahlua
  • Cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Over a bain marie of simmering water, make the zabaione by constantly whisking the yolks and ½ sugar until mixture is light, thick, and sugar has melted (I use beaters to make quick work of it but if you don’t want to dirty beaters, a whisk works fine). Remove from heat and whisk in mascarpone.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Add remaining sugar slowly, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Lighten mascarpone mixture by adding ⅓ of meringue. Fold in remaining meringue into mascarpone.
  3. Combine espresso and alcohol in a flat container. Very briefly soak each savioardi in espresso mixture and place on bottom of an 8”x 8” pan. Cut to fit, as needed. Cover with ½ of mascarpone mixture. Add another layer of soaked savioradi and finish with remaining mascarpone. Cover and let rest in refrigerator for at least 24 hours for the flavors to meld. Dust with cocoa powder before serving.

Today’s Tips: 
By adding a bit of meringue to the mascarpone mixture first and then adding the remaining,  it helps the two textures blend together without overly deflating the meringue.

This meringue is uncooked.  If salmonella is an issue in your area,  you can use pasteurized egg whites.