Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter's Thaw

A friend told me that after the hard times, good will come again. And the worse the times, the better the outcome. So I cling to this – how could I not wrap myself in this sentiment? – and I look ahead. Left foot in front of the right, Monday into Tuesday, 2010 into 2011.

And I know I don’t live a hard life, and my hardships are just pin pricks to those who do suffer, but I find myself, maybe once a week, saying: “Are you kidding me?!” Each setback is a minor defeat, but as a whole body of work, it starts to eat at you. And by this I mean: I am tired.

Matt and I learned that our failed IVF cycle very well may not have been my lousy eggs' fault, but the fault of a cleaner that was used on the floor around the lab the same weekend I had my extraction. Three other women experienced the same thing: eggs that divided and, then, stopped - plum tired and puckered out. Who else does this happen to?

Relief is now anger. I had worked so hard these last few weeks to start the process of, well, maybe just moving on. It's easier said than done going into IVF with no or little expectations: right now I feel detached but by my second monitoring appointment I route for each egg, and get giddy when the number of them climbs to 4, 8, 12. My calls to Matt while leaving the appointment, my drives over the Betsy Ross Bridge. My mom's lucky socks, given to me at Thanksgiving, that she wore during both of her easy labors. I wore them to my last appointments, to my extraction, and had them on while we drove to our transfer appointment that was canceled. And now they are washed and ready to go again.

But when Matt and I were at the circus I saw a lesbian couple with two beautiful, adopted African-American daughters, their hair in braids and pink cotton candy sticky in their hands. And it was at that moment, coupled with so many others, I knew I would be able to let go and define family on our own terms.

And I knew whatever the outcome, through tears and shots and my mom's ugly taupe knee-highs, it'll all be all right (even if I have a good cry getting there).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I love beans in every which form (but you already knew that), and I particularly adore dishes that are quick, fool-proof and contain half a jar of cumin, so this sweet potato and black bean chili fit the bill. It's very similar to my speedy (and dare I say delicious?) vegetarian black bean chili, but with the inspired addition of sweet potatoes. The end result looks as heavenly as it tastes.

We always keep a box of Trader Joe's cornbread mix in the pantry and Matt whipped that up while I started sauteing the onions and potato. All in all, dinner was on the table (or kitchen island, in our case) in 40 minutes...and that's only because we were waiting for the corn bread.

Notes: The recipe in its original form is below. I added a bit more onion, did not have the ground chipotle so added a small dash of smoked paprika and (of course) additional cumin and the juice of one whole lime. The recipe makes four servings, but we only have enough for one lunch leftover, and you bet your ass I claimed that!!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
courtesy of Eating Well magazine

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
    1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, cumin, chipotle and salt and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add water and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the sweet potato is tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
    2. Add beans, tomatoes and lime juice; increase heat to high and return to a simmer, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Curry-Spiced Noodles

    I'm having a mini flare-up and it's entirely my gluttonous self's fault: like a beast I ate beef (and lots of it!) last week in the form of spaghetti and meatballs (mmm...meatballs) and a greasy burger and fries. Argh.

    It's good to return to vegetables this week. Over the weekend I made a comforting eggplant and chickpea stew, and then this: a simple veggie stir-fry with Udon noodles. The recipe in it's original form is below, but I suggest adding more spice. (This may be because we did not use the lemon grass, which was inexplicably missing from Wegman's when we visited - I'll have to take this up with my mother who works there! Complaint!!) Anywho, I don't do bland, so to compensate, and because we like the intensity of flavor brought on my oodles of cumin and additional curry paste (you can find curry paste with the Thai foods in the grocery store - great to stir into many Asian dishes) we added additional flavoring. I'm sure we were missing a huge component by neglecting to use the lemon grass, but again: totally not my fault! A few more notes: I also added about half a cup of chopped cilantro to the dish (in addition to topping it with the stuff) and threw in some sugar snap peas. I was also stoked to use my new Japanese bowls I picked up during our city adventure on Friday; hey, why not try to be authentic?

    This recipe easily made four servings, and we both had enough for delicious lunch leftovers the next day. Enjoy!

    Curry-Spiced Noodles
    courtesy of Cooking Light magazine
    • 8 ounces dry udon noodles (thick, round Japanese wheat noodles) or spaghetti
    • 4 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
    • 2 cups julienne-cut carrot
    • 2 cups julienne-cut red bell pepper
    • 1 cup julienne-cut green bell pepper
    • 4 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 8 ounces)
    • 3 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh lemongrass
    • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
    • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 8 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 cup organic vegetable broth
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 teaspoons lower-sodium soy sauce
    • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
    • 1/4 cup chopped dry-roasted, unsalted cashews

    1. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Set noodles aside; keep warm.
    2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons peanut oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add carrot to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add bell peppers; sauté 2 minutes. Remove carrot mixture from pan.
    3. Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms; sauté for 2 minutes. Add lemongrass and the next 5 ingredients (through garlic); cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth, 1/2 cup water, soy sauce, and salt. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thick. Add noodles, carrot mixture, and onions; cook for 2 minutes, tossing to combine. Divide noodle mixture evenly among 4 bowls; top with cilantro and cashews.

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    A Hat and A Goat

    Have you seen the PBS six-part documentary called "Circus"? Well - Matt and I did - and he subsequently became totally entrenched in the lives of the featured circus performers in the show, all a part of Big Apple Circus. I'm not really keen on any form of circus and for the life of me I will not understand clowns (I find them more annoying than creepy), but this boy was DAZZLED. (I have no sense of childlike whimsy so I was more like, "eh".) Anyway, for Christmas, his parents got us tickets to the show which is currently stationed in Manhattan. After a delay (we were originally scheduled to go on the 26th but the big snow storm nixed that and made me a stressed-out, flustered mess) we trekked up in the train this New Year's Eve. Here is a short pictorial of our day in the city, staring Matt and his hat:

    Instead of New York chic, Matt went with "Igloo Chic". Here he is driving to the train station as the sun was rising and wearing my bedazzled sunglasses. He's sassy like that.

    Since I know my way around the city I asked him what kind of food he wanted to eat, and the boy replied "TACO CART!" I asked again and he replied that a taco cart was non-negotiable, so here he is at....yes....a taco cart for lunch. We got the chulupas. (After a week of eating horribly, and my stomach already churning, this was not the best decision on my part...)

    We strolled through Central Park, which was glistening and bright. Snarkiness aside, it was rather lovely and made me feel all nostalgia-y for the city. I never found New York particularly romantic (more tiring, sooty, lively or whatever) but this was definitely....nice. Matt, his hat, and I really enjoyed our morning.

    We made it to the circus! (And here is that hat.....again.) He noted how stylin' he was since he saw "native New Yorkers" (his words) wearing them. Sigh.

    In our (read: his) excitement, we got there rather early. Here is the view under the big top.

    I felt rather awkward as I think we were the only couple without kids in the audience. It just felt creepy and wrong, UNTIL this act with goats and dogs came out. Then I let out a hoot and a holler and really got into it. Look, there are a few terrific, cosmic couplings known to man: peanut butter and jelly. Burt and Ernie. And now? DOGS AND GOATS!

    Get this: the goats jumped on the backs of these mini-horses and road those beasts around the ring! This is when I decided the circus ain't all bad, and that goats are marvelous animals (well, I already knew that...). I was positively giddy for the rest of the day and vowed to get a goat.
    This is a really bad photo of me, but let's ignore that and focus on the sign. Here we are waiting to get into Momofuku. When I asked the dear boy what type of cuisine he wanted for dinner (thank god it wasn't "taco cart"), he said, "I heard an interview on NPR with this chef; it sounded good...something like FooFoo's Noodle House?" I was so proud of him...this little burgeoning foodie! I said, "Do you mean Momofuku noodle bar?" and he exclaimed "YES!" I was surprised because he is the opposite of trendy and here he was suggesting the restaurant du jour in Manhattan that all the hipsters flock to - my, how the tables have turned. Here we are waiting to get in; by the time they opened for dinner there was a line 50 people deep. We were first. I was damn sure we were getting in! (And dinner was delicious.)

    It was a long day. We walked from Penn Station to Midtown East (you know, for the taco cart) then through the park to Lincoln Center (where the circus was), then took the train downtown to Soho and Chinatown for some shopping at Pearl River (amazing home goods), then walked over to the East Village for dinner, then to Union Square, and then, gosh darnit, we hopped back on the subway for home. Here he is underground with the subway station critters on 14th Street. And yes...still wearing the hat.

    I don't know what it says in that we were home and in bed by 10:30 pm, and then turned on the television to watch the ball drop where we just were, but I suppose that's par for the course. Anyway, I heard those Times Square goofballs wear Depends to keep their spot in the crowd, and honey, that just ain't my scene.