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The Art of Living; I Had Wine and Sunflower Seeds for Dinner

burn with desireLife has been such a shit-show lately, that I made the executive decision (after a long day at work and a bad haircut), to have a liquid dinner. I know, I know, ‘Liquid Lunch’ sounds better, but the truth is, it was a liquid dinner. Oh, and I had a handful of sunflower seeds.

Liquid as in white Bordeaux. As in, I-pretend-to-be-strong-but-I-need-a-hug-but-there-are-no-appropriate-hugs-to-be-found, kinda liquid dinner.

It’s a sin to drink vintage wine alone. Alas, a woman has to do what a woman has to do. Besides, if I weren’t alone, I’d be with some young, ballsy stud muffin, and that my darlings would be a bad, bad thing. Bad as in, despite the temptation, my true love is worth more than that. As in, I think I’ve finally grown-the-hell-up.

Le freaking sigh…

You see, a big part of who I am is the savoir faire that I’ve acquired during a lifetime of hard-learned lessons that most folks never see in a lifetime. Combined with a calling to serve, I have an intimate knowledge of the ticking clock, counting down to an unknown end.  I do believe that despite my over-the-top caring and anxiety, I have at least gleaned the porch-light of nirvana and the art of living.

Each day I stare mortality in the face, and it’s a tremendous opportunity to remind my sassy-assed self  what truly matters.

You’ve all heard Thich Nhat Hahn’s wonderful saying;

No Mud, No Lotus

Well, if you’re like me, you’ve had about enough of this mud business. You’ve had enough of being knee deep, slogging through the stinky stuff. You’ve had enough, enough, enough…Enough anxiety-riddled panic attacks, insecurities, and weeping.

Lessons in  life  come like lightning bolts from the ground; people you never expected to learn anything from other than how to control your temper and keep your patience,  become fast teachers like beggars at a feast.

This week, I had what I like to refer to as a ‘Jazz Hands’ moment.  After an hour on the couch, I decided that I’d had enough. I’d had enough beating the hell up on myself, holding my tongue, holding my breath, and holding the damn bag of responsibility for every one else like I was some iron, emotionless maiden.

E-freaking-nough!

My sense of humour, and my ability to be silly, light-hearted, and unapologetically sensual are my gifts. I am not patient, graceful, or saintly. I’m merely capable of being myself. I am just who I am; simple, straightforward, and as lovable as hell.

That’s also why I know that during days like today, it’s ok to be silly, to drink a bit too much, to flirt with my honey, to joke around, appreciate the cut of a fine garment, an interesting mind, or even admire the courage it takes some young gentleman to ask an older, sexy, wise, broad like myself out on a date…for the second time.

This life of mine has always been about living fully and completely. It’s been about giving all of my heart and soul to everything I do, even though I know people will be careless with them. It’s always been about giving my best, so that at the end of the day I have no regrets. I leave it all out there, hoping that the people I care about know that I’ve given all of me.

If you’ve  forgotten how wonderful it is to rejoice, to be silly, and to really let yourself go and enjoy life, you need to step back and give your head a shake. Life is short and precious.

If circumstance and relationships have caused you to make yourself small; careful of your words and wants and actions, if you’ve left your tender heart alone to cry for the suffering of those who are dear to you, you need to remind yourself it’s ok to move on.

You need to step out of the shadow of the past so you can create something you love.  Like the rest of the world you need to know that your gifts are alive, appreciated, and loved. But first, you need to love them, to hold them up as an offering to the powers that be, and honour the simple gifts that you bring to your lover, your friends and to your work.

Silliness is the art of living in the moment, despite being immersed in the awareness of our own shortcomings, mortality, and limitations.

Silliness, humour and the ability to see a lighter side combined with a heart that aches for those who are suffering, is my gift to the world. Whatever your gifts are, my wish for you is that you recognize them, and that you have people in your life who honour them in such a way that you feel loved.

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A Good Excuse for Ladies Who Lunch

clunyFrom the beginning of time human beings have gathered around food; hunted, gathered and prepared as a community while sharing stories, passing down wisdom, and nurturing the divine within each person.

Food then, is not just nutritional sustenance, it is a tangible vehicle through which we come to know and care for one another.

Our lives have become so busy that the cultivation, preparation and intake of food has been condensed to a faceless speaker and drive-thru window. Not good.

I work too much. I rush too much. I eat too much pre-packaged, prepared, processed food, and it makes me sad.

For the “Ladies Who Lunch”,  it’s been ten years, maybe twelve. We’re not really quite sure, and we don’t really care darlings.  What we know is that every year we can count on Summerlicious and Winterlicious to encourage a ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ afternoon of catching up with one another over a slow, delicious meal.

You see, sometimes a gal just has to get together with her pack of women. You know, the intelligent, beautiful gals who raise her up when she can barely lift her own head and who raise a glass to her every success, even if that success is just making it through the day without flipping the bird with her well-manicured hands.

We take time out of our busy lives to connect  with other intelligent, compassionate and kind women who know the same joy, pain, frustration and daily triumphs that women feel deep down in their bones.

Lately I’ve been neglecting moi. Yes, I’ve been time-starved. It’s made the-little-old-laid-back-lush that is yours truly, anxious and neurotic. The freak show that is currently performing in the three-ringed circus of my mind is a shit-show of the most grand order, requiring pharmaceuticals, but settling for the odd gin and tonic after a long day of being held hostage by the nine-to-five grind.

Summerlicious with the girls is something which requires planning, research, multiple telephone calls, and always last-minute-begging to change reservation numbers and times. It’s the event-planning equivalent of herding horny cats during a midnight rainstorm. But we’re fabulous cats, and it’s always worth the effort. Besides, it’s a wonderful opportunity to practice patience and not-being-attached to outcome.

Given my state of mind this year, I was pretty sure that I was going to forgo the event unless someone else picked up the ball and organized the event. Alas, I decided at the last-minute to create the event in the most simple way possible. Choose the venue, make a reservation for six, and go forward. Usually I take requests for locations on a first-come-first-to-be-called basis, and then dial a zillion numbers until I find a place which will take a Saturday Summerlicious reservation for a dozen or so. Not easy.

We started with a reservation for six and ended up with eleven ladies at our table. Cluny Bistro was more than gracious accommodating our group (We will all be back, and appreciate your patience). Some arrived early, some arrived late, but in the end, we all managed to take a few hours out of our busy lives to connect and share that face-to-face interaction that I’ve been so starved for, for so long.

Lunch with the ladies is something we say we’re going to do, but never get around to doing it. One of my friends and I have been planning lunch together, and had to think back almost four months since our last visit. Four months is pretty darn good. This year I’ve had multiple reminders that taking time to spend with friends who nurture me is something I’ve neglected for far too long. Months turn into years, and years and years…

Summerlicious may be a marketing ploy to open our wallets and spend more money, but we’ve used it as the excuse we need to come together, try a new restaurant and remind ourselves that our friendships matter, that we do not need to exist as solitary, stone angels who do it all.

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Savoury Sunday: Crevettes a la Grecque

Glasses
Glasses (Photo credit: Simon_sees)

It’s been a while darlings. It’s not that I’ve forgotten about you, I’ve just been terribly busy, pre-occupied, and frankly, enjoying the simple pleasures of the barbecue.

Alas, I am back with a delicious recipe for you to enjoy while dining al fresco under the stars after the sun has set and the humidity is blown away by  the cool evening breeze.

Shrimp in Mediterranean sauce is simple, easy and delicious; the way that food should be prepared and served. With a few fine quality ingredients and lots of love, you can enjoy this simple dish with your true-love without having to spend hours slaving over the stove.

Add a glass or five of Joseph Cattin Pinot Gris spritzed half and half with ice-cold club soda and a wedge of juicy lime. Be sure to have a baguette and fresh salad of baby greens with a simple vinegraitte, and you’re all set.

Don’t worry darlings, I haven’t forgotten the  ambiance. Please see my preferred selection below the recipe.

Enjoy!

Ingredients

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup olive oil

2 large garlic cloves (thinly sliced NOT crushed)

1 small red onion (finely chopped)

1 large lemon with finely pared zest

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. coriander seeds (lightly toasted)

1/2 tbsp. ground pepper

20 large shrimp or equivalent smaller shrimp

Fresh flat-leaf parsley (chopped for garnish)

Method

1) Combine wine, water, oil, garlic, onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, coriander seeds, pepper into a pan and bring to a boil.

2)Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

3) Add the shrimp and simmer for approximately 3 minutes or until the shrimp (depending on size) turn pink. Remove from pan and place in serving bowl.

4) Bring the liquid back to a boil and reduce it by half (approx. 5 minutes)

5) Pour over shrimp and serve warm, garnished with parsley.

***

What would a romantic dinner be without a little music?

I’m going to suggest a summery-remix of one of my favourites;

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Glampers & Foodies

glamping.
glamping. (Photo credit: ellekirshner)

No doubt those who consider themselves ‘glampers’  would proudly  raise their flaccid arms if asked who in the crowd were also foodies.

Glampers and foodies make me want to take a pistol to the back of my head and aim directly at my brainstem.

Glamping? Really? Honestly darling, quit trying so hard because clearly you’re an asshole.

Harsh? Too rough? No, camping is rough darling. That’s what it’s supposed to be. It’s a communing with nature, respecting her delicate boundaries, and not dragging more than you can carry into her great, sacred, naturally dark and wonder-filled interior.

Patio lights and designer melamine dinner ware?  Thank you for ruining the planet sweetie. Thank you for numbly buying every-freaking-fad-advertised and keeping our city planners building daycare centres on top of carcinogen-leaking landfills.

Oh, what’s that my sweet little ball of dumbass?  You’re also a foodie? Well, isn’t that swell.

Pour me a nice glass of bourbon sweetie, yes please, yes. That’s right. Pour it in that plastic tumbler that cost twenty-five dollars. That’s right. Oh yes, ice from the cooler you run off a gas-powered generator. Mmmm, does that ever hit the spot.

Mmm, what’s that? Heirloom tomatoes you say? Delish. You drove all the way to the other side of town to get them at the market? You’re an idiot. Do you even know what an heirloom tomato is without looking it up?

I’m continually astounded that you can prepare a delicious meal, and talk it to death at the table. I find that almost fascinating. Just kidding. No I don’t.

Next time I’m just going to bring an old cow and let you bore it to death in front of the barbecue. By the time you’re finished critiquing something you’ve never experienced, and only watched while scratching your Calvin-Klein-wrapped-package in front of the latest Food Network atrocity,  the poor cow will be wrestling me with it’s hoof for the pistol.

Say, it’s so nice to have this conversation whilst enjoying the sensual pleasures of mother nature. It’s so relaxing with the stars out overhead and the sound of bullfrogs. What’s that you say? It’s a jazz station, and those stars, that’s right, they’re the twinkle lights you bought on sale for $59.99.

Thanks for the totally gobsmacking glamping experience my foodie friend. If you hear a gunshot, please don’t roast my trendy ear and jowl bits. Just let the wolves get me.

 

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Savoury Sunday: Pasta Carbonara

Vineyards in the Italian wine region of Tuscan...
Vineyards in the Italian wine region of Tuscany in mid November. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really had fun putting this post together for you. Be sure to scroll down and play the Louis Prima/Keely Smith tune to get you in the mood.

Pasta Carbonara is one of my favourite Italian dishes. It’s easy to make, delicious and satisfying. There’s nothing like this simple, comfort food to accompany a shared meal with great friends or a cozy lover.

Finish up this rich dish with a nice light lemon gelato.

You can’t possibly  have a civilized meal without including some wine and music.

Experts have suggested everything from sweet Riesling to dry Syrah. Is that possible?!  Personally, I abide Billy Munnelly’s philosophy about wine; drink what you enjoy within your budget.

I tried Porcupine Ridge Syrah from South Africa (because that’s what I had in the house). You may also try a classic Italian wine to go with your rustic Italian Carbonara; Citra Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.

For music, it has to be Louis Prima and Keely Smith. I’m Queen of nothing if I’m not Queen-of-Over-The-Top. ( I’ve included a link for your listening pleasure just below the recipe.)

I hope you enjoy this week’s Savoury Sunday.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta, such as spaghetti or rigatoni
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan)
  • 1/4 pound chopped pancetta, or traditional bacon if you don’t have pancetta
  • 1/4-1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • Red pepper flakes to taste ( I use 1/2 tsp – 1 tsp)
  • 4 pressed cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Method

1) Put a large  of water on to boil. Add a liberal  amount of salt and the pasta. Cook to al dente (8-10 mins)

 2) Heat  a large pan over medium heat. Add the  olive oil and pancetta/bacon

3)  Brown pancetta 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes,  garlic, peas  and cook a few minutes more

4) Add wine and stir up all the pan  drippings.

3)In a separate bowl, beat yolks, then add about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.

(This tempers the eggs and keeps them  from scrambling.)

4)  Drain pasta well and add it directly to the other ingredients in the pan

5) Pour the egg mixture over the pasta. Toss rapidly to coat the  pasta without cooking the egg.

6) Remove pan from heat and add 3/4 cups of  cheese.

7) Season with  lots of pepper, and salt to taste.

8) Continue to toss and turn the pasta for a few more minutes  until it soaks up egg mixture and it thickens.

9) Add extra cheese for garnish.

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Savoury Sunday: Slowcooker Cashew Chicken

" The trick is to enjoy life. Don't wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead."~Marjorie Hinckley~
” The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.”
~Marjorie Hinckley~

Spring has sprung my delicate flowers!

It’s time to get out there and take in some fresh air, winding your curves through the gorgeous-great-outdoors.

While you’re out letting mother nature put some pep in your step and colour in your cheeks, let a delicious dinner cook slow and easy for you at home.

If it’s sunny and warm, bundle up and enjoy your dinner al fresco.

Serve this yummy dish over rice, accompanied with a tender crisp stir fry of onion, celery, broccoli and snow peas.

Be sure to have  a couple of nice, chilled bottles of Alsacian Willm Riesling ready. It’s dry and delicious!

 

Slow-Cooker Cashew Chicken

Ingredients

3 or 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or the equivalent of thighs

1/4 cup black pepper

1 tbsp oil

1/4 cup soy sauce ( I prefer President’s Choice  – lot of flavour and not so much sodium)

2 tbsp each, rice wine vinegar and ketchup

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 crushed clove garlic

1/2 tsp grated ginger

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup cashews

 

Method

1) Slice chicken into small strips.

2) Combine flour and pepper in large Ziploc bag and add chicken. Shake to coat all of the chicken.

3) Heat oil in pan and brown chicken about two minutes on each side.

4) Place chicken in slow-cooker

5) Combine the rest of the ingredients except the cashews and pour over chicken.

6) Cook on low for 3 to 4 hours.

7) Add cashews and stir.

***If you’d like to have sauce to pour over the rice, double the sauce ingredients***

 

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Savoury Sunday: St. Patty’s Hangover Casserole

"Here's to a long life and a merry one.    A quick death and an easy one.    A pretty girl and an honest one.    A cold beer-and another one!"
“Here’s to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold beer-and another one!”

St. Patty’s Day Hangover Casserole

My favourite holiday is here, and for you my darlings, I offer up a simple, hearty casserole.

It’s sure to cure you of your annual March 18th Green-Ale-Flu.

Serve with festive green beer , or a glass of ice water accompanied by two paracetamol.

*****************

Ingredients

1lb peeled white potatoes, sliced thinly

1 cup each diced  Jerusalem artichoke, carrot and parsnip

1 tbsp oil

1lb ground lamb

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 cups chopped onions

1 tsp thyme

2 cups chicken/veggie stock

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 cup grated cheese

Scant 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Method

1) Boil  potatoes until tender but not mushy. Remove from boiling water, but don’t dump the water out.

2) Add Jerusalem artichokes, carrots and parsnips to leftover boiling potato water. Cook through and drain. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

3) Heat oil in a pan and add lamb and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook through, remove from pan.

4) Add onion to pan and saute until almost golden. To the onion add the Jerusalem artichoke, carrots, parsnip. Toss with thyme.

5) Stir in chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and  balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine, and cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce is reduced.

6) To a buttered casserole dish, add half of the potatoes, reserving the other half for the top.

7) Add meat mixture on top of potatoes.

8) Cover the meat mixture with reserved potatoes.

9) Sprinkle cheese and parsley on top.

10) Bake uncovered at 350 F until the top is browned, the cheese is bubbly, and your tummy is hollering for dinner.