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.

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.  

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

Gourmet S’mores

Homemade Marshmallows

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 One

Peeling the skin back from my eyes
I felt surprised
That the time on the clock was the time
I usually retired
To the place where I cleared my head of you
But just for today, I think I’ll lie here and dream of you.
 – Matt Johnson

This is a food blog.  I am a food blogger.  As a food blogger, writing a food blog, I’m expected to write about, um, er…food; I’m expected to be light and bubbly and happy, bringing baked goods and witty banter to your world.  But, larger than this blogger’s persona, I am decidedly human with human emotions and, this morning, I am the antithesis of happy.  I’m trying…I’m truly trying to wiggle out of this melancholy, but today, I’ve lost the battle.

This morning, the kitty sprawled across my desk lacks softness, the candle flickering in front of my nose is scentless, my French-pressed coffee is water in my mouth.   Where is the sun? This morning, I am bereft, hollow, yearning for a missing piece of joy that darted from my gentle fingers. I’m trying to move my mind to other things, but a shower to refresh my thoughts brings him to my mind, a walk to clear my head recalls our evening strolls, the music from my speakers is the soundtrack of us.  Even my baking doesn’t distract…and I mourn.

Allow me my melancholy today.  Tomorrow, I will be better.

Today’s Recipe:
Making marshmallows is messy business.  Around step 3, and covered with goo, I was wondering if they were worth the trouble.  However, after toasting my first sample, no more convincing was needed.  Toasted homemade marshmallows are soft and gooey and not too sweet, adding refinement to this ubiquitous campfire treat.  


Gourmet S’mores

Toasted homemade marshmallows are soft and gooey and not too sweet, adding refinement to this ubiquitous campfire treat. Ghirardelli chocolate squares in various flavors such as caramel or raspberry add sophistication.


Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅔ cup plus 3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • 32 Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares in various flavors (milk, dark, caramel, raspberry, mint, etc.)
  • 1 box graham crackers

Directions

  1. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan with canola oil. In a medium heatproof bowl, mix the gelatin with ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons cold water. Let stand for 5 minutes and then microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until gelatin is completely melted. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and ⅓ cup plus 2 Tablespoons water. Bring the syrup to boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until syrup registers 250⁰ on a candy thermometer. Immediately pour the hot syrup into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the gelatin and vanilla and beat at high speed until mixture is fluffy, glossy and sticky, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Spread the marshmallow in the prepared pan and smooth the surface. It helps to smooth the surface by using a slightly damp hand to avoid sticking. Press a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper on the surface and set aside for 3 hours.
  4. Run a sharp knife around the marshmallow. Lightly dust top of marshmallow and work surface with confectioner’s sugar. Add more confectioner’s sugar as needed to avoid sticking. Invert marshmallow onto work surface and cut into 16 2” squares. Cut each square in half horizontally into 32 marshmallows. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
  5. To make S’mores, break graham crackers in half. Cover the lower half with a Ghirardelli square of your choice, cover with a toasted marshmallow (either toasted over a campfire or by blowtorch), and sandwich with remaining graham cracker half.

Recipe adapted from Dominique Ansel.