Thursday, January 8, 2009

Simply Simple

A new year has started.

We’re back from a thirty-five-man strong New Year’s celebration in freezing, boozy Devon.

I have the flu.

In Israel, they’re playing yet another round of mine’s bigger than yours. Though I don’t hear the missiles or physically feel the attacks, they resonate within me. I can not believe the level barbarism. Why can’t these two warm, kind, giving peoples who share such a tiny piece of land learn from previous mistakes? Israel strives to be perceived as a first world country, and yet its tactics towards the Palestinians are primitive and tribal. My heart goes out to those in Sderot and Ashkelon, those whose homes have been destroyed, those who have been injured, those who have lost loved ones. But how can anybody believe that the aggression currently going on will achieve anything over the long-term other than a deepening of existing wounds?

In America, they are preparing to oust the clown of all clowns and hail a new era, a new chief, a new hope. Finally. I can’t believe I’ll be there on inauguration day or that I won’t live there to experience the changes first-hand. Still, I’m amazed at how much hope I garner from afar. I guess us mutts have more faith in one another than in those spawned from the clear-cut, vanilla majority that makes up the western world.

Back in London, on day-to-day earth, we’re in the process of buying a house and selling a flat. My flight to New York departs in (according to Virgin Atlantic) 6 days, 17 hours and 26 minutes. In that time, I need to pack up all our stuff – all of it – except what D will need for the five days until I return to London next week to move us in to the new house after which I do another 180 and head back to New York until April.

A year ends, a new one begins, and we find ourselves falling into the same pattern as we have so many times before: first there’s the round-up of best ofs, biggest, most, followed by another blitz of will-bes and look-out-fors. There’s the slew of articles about making resolutions; and then another round about how soon we will break them -- and by the very same people. The papers need to write about it, the news need to report about it, and we, addicted, need to keep watching -- because honey, let’s face it, you’ll never have those damn abs.

We live our lives in defiance of its natural cycles -- winter to summer, day to night, childhood to old-age – and we wonder why we can’t seem to weigh what we should, sleep as much as we need to, fit in everything on our to-do list before…

Before what?

It’s mass hysteria. Now that the Christmas decorations are coming down, it’s time to ring in the Easter Bunny!

For my part, after the madness, I’m trying to focus on the little things, pair down, simplify.

What a year it was -- definitely.

And what a year it will surely be.

I won’t forget the huge times – the travels, the wedding. Those are easy to remember. But what about the tiny changes, the little things learned, found, discovered?

My first taste of fresh coconut water.

The Diva Moon Cup.

Learning how to chop an onion into smaller pieces than I ever thought possible.

Watching a thunderstorm above Bangkok from our hotel room, D’s arms around me after ten weeks spent apart.

Handing SB a tub of the best hummus in the world in the old city of Jerusalem; walking up the snake path to Massada at sunrise with AN.

Watching my friend’s seven-year-old stumble out of their tent in the morning and thinking of the first time I held her when she was two days old.

Sitting at my mother’s, drinking a cup of tea at seven in the morning or two in the afternoon, or whenever we felt like it.

My first bite of bread in four years.

Looking around the table on a Friday night in Haifa, and enjoying the laughter.

Cashmere leggings.

My grandmother’s face when she saw me in my wedding dress.

Driving around Koh Pan Ngan on my little pink scooter, the stars bright above me, wanting to scream with delight.

Taking a yoga class with a view of the jungle.

My mother opening her "big sock" on Christmas Day

Roasting my first chicken.

Watching a wonderful, special, great friend I thought I had lost forever stride towards me in her black and silver trucker cap and enjoying the feeling of reconnecting again -- totally, completely, immediately.

Finding a wine I’d been looking for since I first tasted it six years ago at a bar in New York that was so small the address was only half a number.

It’s easy to concentrate on the life-changing events, the **TA-DA!** moments. The trick, for me, is to remember not to brush past the little things. At the wedding, my mother spoke about the rocks we will find on our way. And that is exactly it: it is only by going from pebble to pebble that I can make my way from one big rock to the next. And my challenge is to engage, to appreciate each pebble instead of focusing solely on the boulders.

2009 has technically started. Every day, another day in January passes, but still, I find myself in a holding pattern. For the house. For the flat. For the New York portion of this year. For the warmer weather. For my brother’s wedding. For the insanity to stop in the Middle East. For D’s fortieth birthday.

It would be so easy to keep waiting for the big changes, the things I won’t forget, no matter what. As I prepare to leave again, I am more aware than ever, of sharing dinner with D, clinking our plates together as others do their wine glasses, of the few rays of sun shining today through the dark, heavy sky, of the never-ending stream of newborns at our local coffee shop, of the pictures of our wedding that we’ve stuck in every corner imaginable, of how much I enjoy our kitchen in this little flat, with the one blue wall, that will soon be someone else’s.

Happy New Year, Loved Ones. May the coming months bring joy and health, and inspiration and so much fun!

I leave for New York in 6 days, 14 hours and 54 minutes….


Like with everything else, in my cooking, I am trying to simplify. I’ve put on just over a stone, sixteen pounds, almost seven-and-a-half kilos. The time has come to stop drinking and start assessing. This time, however, with my upcoming holistic nutrition course in mind, and without the luxury of California living, I plan to manage my weight the healthy way.

Snacks, always a challenge, are first on that list. When you’re me, you can’t just waft into the nearest kiosk and pick up a candy or granola bar when the fancy strikes. I have to make my own and am forever searching for tasty, handy little tide-me-overs.

I’ll start with the sweet:

After baking truckloads of pumpkin breads, brownies and chocolate cakes over the holiday season, I need to wean myself off sugar again as candida has, once again, reared its nasty little ball-of-wax-head. However, I don’t yet want to say goodbye altogether and so I’ve put together an easy recipe for healthier but still sweet energy bars.
(note: they earned a full-mouthed “OHMYGAWD” from D. We ate three each while they were still-warm – I have no idea how I’ve gained all these extra pounds…)

Gluten-Free Energy Bars

1C brown rice flakes
1 ½ C water
½ C coconut flour
1/3 C whole flax seeds (ground)
7 prunes soaked and pureed
½ C each: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, raisins
½ t cinnamon
¼ C molasses
coconut butter for oiling the pan

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Centigrade (about 350 Fahrenheit)

Add the water to the brown rice flakes and let sit for about half an hour, until most of the water has been soaked up. Then add the coconut flour. Mix well.
Pour the molasses in bit by bit, making sure it is dispersed throughout the mixture.
Then add the prunes, cinnamon and the flax seeds, mixing well.
Once the “dough” is even, add the seeds, nuts and raisins. Once again, make sure they are uniformly distributed within the mass.

Spread evenly in a pre-oiled pan

Bake for about thirty-five minutes.

Once they’d cooled down, I cut the bars into squares and packed them individually so D and I can slip one into our bags on our way out the door in the mornings.

And now the savoury. This is the tricky one. As snacks, savoury things are usually greasy, heavy, overly salted, dehydrated, dehydrating or all of the above. My sweet tooth being the size that it is, it’s usually with the in-betweens that I find the most satisfaction – a piece of fruit, an energy bar, etc. But things being what they are right now, and what with aspiring to fit into my trousers at some point in the near future, I’ve been hard-pressed to come up with something…
Here’s my first shot.
It’s decent but not superb:

Yellow Split-Pea Nori Rolls

For the split-pea dahl --

2 cups dried yellow split-peas
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T coconut butter
1 T garam masala
a pinch of cayenne (to taste)
¼ - ½ t turmeric (to taste)
tons of water

In a pot, melt the coconut butter. Add the garam masala and allow the spices to rise in the oil. Then, add the onion and sauté for a few moments. The garlic should go into the pot once the onions are starting to become translucent (the spices might make this more of a guessing exercise than scientifically precise).
Allow the mixture to cook for a few minutes.
Add the split-peas and mix with the onions and the garlic until they are well-coated with the spices. Cover with four cups of water.
Raise the flame and bring to a boil.
Once the water is properly bubbling, lower the flame. Allow to simmer until all the water is soaked up. Then add more water, enough to cover and go through the process again. Do this until the split-peas are broken down and soft. This can take a couple of hours. Check often, stir, add as much water as necessary.

Note: Do not add salt until the very end. At this point, also add the cayenne and turmeric to taste.

This mixture is wonderful to add to rice, eat with green vegetables or avocado. I divided the portion into two: one we had for dinner with salmon, the I used to make the nori rolls.

Once the dahl has cooled, in order to reheat, water will need to be added.

To make the Nori Rolls --
5 sheets of nori seaweed. Both toasted and non-toasted are available. I prefer the non-toasted kind, purely because of my appreciation of raw food, but this is not necessary. I look for the kind with no salt added as there is enough in the nori as is.
A portion of yellow split-pea dahl
A small container of drinkable water

Cut the nori sheets into portion sizes. In my case, each sheet was divided into four more or less equal parts.

Spoon a Tablespoon or so onto each nori square.

Fashion in a log-like shape. Roll the nori loosely around the dahl. To close the roll, dip a finger into the water and run along the edge of the nori. Press together.

I dehydrated the nori rolls for about a hour to dry out the wet parts, but this can also be done in the oven on a very low heat. (this is comparable to blow-drying a wet patch on a shirt)

When I take it with me, because the seaweed can become sort of chewy when wet, and the dahl can dry up a little, I like to bring a carrot with me as a water-filled accompaniment, or add a side-salad if I’m in a place where that is an option.

I am, however, still on the look out for any other snack ideas….

1 comment:

A World in a PAN said...

THank you for sharing with us your plans, recipes, and reflections.