It’s been raining ever since I arrived in Los Angeles. Pouring, actually. The weather reminds me of the 1997-1998 El Nino. It’s all good though. I’m here at a university working on a book project and the rain is keeping me indoors where I’m squirreled away in the library.
The last time I was out here to “work” I got a wee bit distracted and spent my days catching up with friends, visiting my old haunts, eating at my favorite places, etc. This time I’m being good.
“I picture you in a dark, dusty room all alone as you sort through archives,” my husband said to me on the phone the other day. Well, sort-of. I take the documents out of the dark, dusty room to a bigger, lighter conference room. And that’s pretty much where I’ve been the whole time – the exact same spot I was ten years ago as a grad student, typing notes on my laptop (do you ever have the feeling that you’re making no progress in life whatsoever? Anyhoo…)
Last Friday the weather channel called for rain Saturday and Sunday, so I planned to push through the weekend and continue working. But when I woke up Saturday morning, I felt sunlight on my face. I jumped up and ran to the window . . . sure enough it was a bright, shiny morning. The Pacific Ocean sparkled. I had to enjoy the sun while it lasted.
I was starving, so I gobbled down a veggie sandwich (tomato, California avocado, cucumber and sprouts on toasted whole wheat). Then I dashed to the bike path, buckled my rollerblades and – Zoom! – I was off. I bladed all the way to the end of the path, turned around and bladed back, and then turned around once again. I was like the Energizer Bunny . . . I kept going and going and going (‘cept for the part where I rounded a curve way too fast and hit an unexpected pile of sand).
It was the best. The veggie sandwich was certainly a tasty beginning to the day. But I tell ya, its sunshine that feeds my soul.
Had my first cup of coffee in a long time the other day (well, a month, which is long for me!). I was on an airplane heading to Los Angeles and there is nothing I like about planes. Can’t stand the smell, the sounds, the uncomfortable seats, the bathrooms. Can’t stand how my head feels when I read (dizzy) and how my body feels no matter how still I sit (woozy).
I wanted something pleasant. The coffee smelled good, and I figured a cup or two wouldn’t hurt (I mean, heck, those cups on the plane are so little). Well, the next day I had a massive headache. So much for my theory that it wouldn’t hurt – it hurt a lot. I think on the flight home I’ll opt for decaf.
Since arriving, I’ve been sipping non-caffeinated herbal teas like crazy – it’s cold and rainy. Anyway, one of the many things I love about California is the fresh produce. With year-round farmer’s markets and a city full of restaurants that serve up lots of organic fare, it’s great to be here again.
I visited my old book club group the other night where there was a delicious raw veggie salad from Wolfgang Puck’s. Been eating fruit medleys (yum – it’s been awhile since I’ve had fresh, flavorful fruit – wish I could share it with all of you braving the winter snow back east). Today I enjoyed an organic greens salad at my favorite lunch spot, Coral Tree Café (I also had a big, ol’ brownie there – not so healthy, but very tasty).
I do miss cooking though. I’ve really come to enjoy making homemade meals. My husband was shocked when he looked at our budget the other night and realized how much we’ve cut back on eating out at restaurants. Ends up I have a mini-fridge in the hotel out here. In the morning I’ll be off to the local grocer to cobble together some wholesome goodies I can make right in my room.
Jessica Seinfeld is out with a new cookbook: Deceptively Delicious. Her kids wouldn’t eat veggies and she was trying to figure out how to incorporate the healthful plants into their diets. One day while pureeing butternut squash for her baby she realized it was the same color as the mac & cheese she was making for her older kids. Bingo.
She was on Oprah recently. I missed the show but I laughed when I heard about her clever concept. I sneak veggies into meals all the time…for my husband Ron.
The man hates peppers. Can’t stand beets, doesn’t care for mushrooms, won’t touch tomatoes.
Do you know how many recipes call for tomatoes?
My friend Michelle gave me a recipe for turkey burgers. Ron loves them except for one ingredient – onion – which he picks out with his fork. But one night I chippy-chopped the onion into extra small pieces. He didn’t even notice. Afterwards, he kept saying, “There was onion in the burgers? Really?”
Works great for sauces, meats, pizza, whatever.
Here is the recipe for turkey burgers: Sautee 1/4 cup finely chopped onion in olive oil. In a bowl, combine onion with 1 small apple (grated), 1 T chopped fresh chives, 1 t celery salt, 1/2 t ground sage, 1/8 t pepper. Add 1 pound uncooked turkey and mix well. Form into patties. Sautee in oil (we grill ‘em).
The carrots I hold in my hand are fresh from a local garden. They’re dirty and have wild bushy green tops. I wash and peel the carrots then pick up the knife. I have a long way to go until I can maneuver this utensil like those chefs on the Food Network, but I’m getting better. Faster.
I cut the carrots, chop the onion, dice the celery, slice the mushrooms and throw everything into a skillet with water. While the veggies are steam sautéing I boil tri-colored pasta in a medium pot and steam spinach in a small one. I add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the skillet. When the pasta and spinach are ready I add those too, along with garlic and oregano.
My husband, Ron, wanders in the kitchen.
“What’s for dinner?” he asks.
“Italian Skillet Casserole,” I say.
He leans over my shoulder and investigates the simmering dish on the stovetop.
“Almost all veggies,” I point out.
Cooking healthier foods has been challenging in certain ways, but one thing I completely forgot about when I started this new path is that my husband can’t stand vegetables. He’ll eat certain items (broccoli or beans or salad) because he knows they’re good for him, but he would prefer them as a side dish, not the main dish.
But it just so happens that his company is having a Vegetable Challenge this summer.
So perfect timing.
I scoop out the meal into two bowls, light some candles, and sit down.
It’s delicious, and I look at Ron to see what he thinks. He’s pushing a piece of onion, a hunk of tomato, and a mushroom slice to the side. “I can eat them when they’re small, but these big pieces…” he shakes his head.
“You need to retrain your taste buds,” I suggest softly.
He’s a good sport so he takes a huge spoonful, onion chunks and all, and gives it a go. He likes it. This truly is one of the tastier dishes I’ve made, and when I’m done I push my bowl aside and lean back in the chair.
“Hey, what’s that?” Ron says, peering into my bowl.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Uh-huh,” Ron nods, smirking.
Okay, okay. So I really do consider myself a vegetable lover, but I’ve always struggled with cooked carrots. There is small pile of them left. I guess we both have some retraining to work through.