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 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 toxic partner 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.  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.  

Rocky Road Pie

Today’s Musings:

It’s a new year.  It’s time to shove 2020 out the window and welcome 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 Three

 “You dodged a bullet,” they said.

Lying flat on my back in the dirt, my affection, my commitment, my trust slowly oozing from the crater in my gut, I dodged nothing.  He smiled, looked me in the eye even, as he pulled the trigger.

I could have dodged a bullet – in the early days, when I was left questioning.  I could have walked away then, unharmed and unscathed by knowing him.  I didn’t.  I faced him, unprotected, unafraid – and unarmed. 

The bullet has done its damage, and I convalesce, waiting for the disbelief, sadness and, now, humiliation to abate.  “Don’t poke the wound; let it heal,” I remind myself, yet the damage, both tangible and intangible, festers from new injuries inflicted in succession, even now:

Things I don’t want to know;
Things I must know. 

His aim was true, precise, heartless.  I am gun-shy now; gun-terrified and flinching.  I didn’t dodge a bullet, but I will survive this one. I’m done being his victim.

Today’s Recipe:

This isn’t your kid’s rocky road.  I developed this pie because I wasn’t sure what to do with the remainder of my oh-so-tasty, soft and fluffy homemade marshmallows.  I highly suggest making your own marshmallows for this recipe, if you have the time. The chocolate mousse isn’t overly sweet and, if you replace the 5 tablespoons of water with strong coffee, this becomes a very adult pie, indeed.


Rocky Road Pie

A chocolate-almond crumb crust with a rich chocolate mousse dotted with marshmallows turns rocky road into an adult dessert.


Ingredients

    CRUST
  • 40 chocolate wafer cookies
  • ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 Tablespoons water, divided
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • ¼ cup plus 3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 ½ cups mini-size marshmallows (I used homemade)
  • TOPPING
  • Mini-size marshmallows
  • Toasted sliced almonds
  • Chocolate shavings

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰. In a food processor, pulses chocolate wafers, roasted almonds and salt into crumbs. Add butter and process until clumps form. Press crust along the bottom and up the sides of a pie plate. Bake for 10-12 minutes until set and fragrant. If crust puffs up, push back down with the bottom of a glass.
  2. Combine chocolate, butter and 2 Tablespoons water in a heat proof bowl and melt over a simmering pot of 1-2″ of water. Set aside.
  3. In another heat proof bowl over simmering water, combine egg yolks, remaining 3 Tablespoons water, and 3 Tablespoons sugar. Whisk constantly until thick, 7-9 minutes, remove from heat, and whisk into melted chocolate. Cool to room temperature.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, increase speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold ¼ of egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites.
  5. In the bowl of the stand mixer, whip heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Add marshmallows and fill cooled pie crust with chocolate mousse. Decorate with marshmallows, toasted almonds, and chocolate shavings. Chill at least three hours before cutting.

Fruited Irish Soda Bread

Today’s Musings:

It’s a new year. Time to shove 2020 out the window and welcome 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 Two

“Each relationship when it ends really damages me; I never fully recover. That’s why I’m very careful with getting involved because…it hurts too much.”  – Celine, Before Sunset

They say mothers forget how much labor and childbirth hurts.  This forgetting is perhaps the body’s attempt to ensure additional offspring.  If the agony is remembered, perhaps the act would not be duplicated.  The same appears to hold true for heartbreak. 

It’s been some time since I’ve allowed my heart access outside of its protective cage and, had I remembered the sensation of heartbreak, I may have chosen a safer path.  Yet, here I am – again.  Everyone has advice and comments on how to find my groove again, from “get back on the horse as soon as possible” to “we never liked him anyway.”  Most advice is unhelpful.  However, I’ve managed to cobble together the following steps which have helped me, if not heal my heart completely, patch it up enough to fight another day. 

Treat yourself as if you are sick. Heartache is a sickness.  If you had a fever, you’d treat yourself with kindness – maybe stay home for a few days, lie on the couch in your jammies, binge on Netflix.  You wouldn’t beat yourself up for not being “over” your fever.  You’d veg on the couch for a few days to get over the worst of it and then slowly start doing things to make yourself feel better –  getting plenty of rest,  eating well,  building up your strength again.  Allow yourself three days of the jammies and Netflix and then, with the kindness a sick person deserves, gently start your journey back.  If you have a relapse one evening, nurse yourself gently, get a good night’s rest, and begin again the next morning.

Pamper yourself.  Do a little something for yourself that says, “I love you” every day.  Think of all the little things you did for your ex to let him know he was special.  You deserve the same.  I bought myself fresh flowers, deep conditioned my hair, picked up a new candle, gave myself a dry-brush massage, bought a sexy new bra, steeped a cup of Earl Grey with honey and a splash of milk, and painted my nails bright red with a new polish. 

Move each day.  Exercise is known to increase serotonin and dopamine – mood-altering, feel-good brain chemicals. It doesn’t matter what you choose – go for a walk with a friend, ride a bike,  practice yoga, dance in your living room – whatever gets your heart racing.  However, try to avoid spending too much time on activities that allow you to think alone; you’ll end up ruminating about him.  If you go for a walk, listen to a podcast or an audiobook to keep your mind on something other than your heartache.

Talk him up to others.  Whether you like it or not, your friends and family (and coworkers and acquaintances and the dry cleaner) are going to give you their condolences and, possibly, ask you about why the relationship ended.  By taking the high road, instead of playing the victim – you take the power back. Tell them about the bits of him that made you smile – and keep the rest to yourself.

Don’t prod the relationship wound. Just as heartache is a sickness, the relationship is probably feeling like a tender, unhealed, open wound.  When you are injured, sometimes the best treatment is to just give it time to heal.  Poking and prodding at the sore just makes it bleed and possibly get infected.  Don’t moon over pictures of the two of you in happier times, don’t open the folder where his email letters are kept, don’t visit the places where you had your fondest memories.   Let the wound scab over and heal.  There may always be a scar, but scars don’t hurt, do they?

And slowly, very slowly, you will recover.  Just remember it takes time. 

Today’s Recipe:


Fruited Irish Soda Bread

Soda bread is a quick bread which uses baking soda for the rising agent instead of yeast. This version, with walnuts, orange and golden raisins, is slightly sweet.


Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cups buttermilk (or whole milk with 1Tablespoon white vinegar added)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup golden raisins, softened in hot water and drained
  • Zest of one orange
  • 4 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and frozen for 15 minutes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together; set aside. Combine walnuts, golden raisins and orange zest; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the very cold butter and pulse until the dough resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Pour flour mixture into a large bowl. Stir in the walnut mixture and make a well in the center. Pour buttermilk mixture into well and gently fold the dough together. With floured hands, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough just comes together. Shape into a 7”- 8” round loaf. Do not overwork the dough.
  4. Transfer loaf to baking sheet. Cut a deep X into the top of the loaf, cutting about ¾ of the way down into the loaf. Bake until crust is golden brown and center registers 200⁰F., approximately 50-55 minutes. If top of loaf browns too quickly, cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with lashings of butter. Bread can be stored wrapped in aluminum foil at room temperature for 2-3 days.

 Slightly adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction