on chicken soup.

Unfortunately, as soon as Christmas passed, I was struck with some kind of illness, and it appears that it will not go away before New Year’s Eve. This made me angry, of course, because I pride myself on trying to be as healthy as possible (although I do still nurture a penchant for good chocolate). And I haven’t been sick in so long I can’t remember being sick.

But alas, everyone I know has come down with the sniffles, and now it’s hit me, too. I’ve been downing teaspoons of elderberry syrup, taking Vitamin C supplements, drinking hot herbal tea with local honey and a lot of (good–not cheapy) cinnamon…I’ve even been downing raw garlic (which made me dry heave the first time I tried it) and once I wrapped my feet in garlic and onions, but I’m not sure what that did besides make our bedroom reek. Anyway, I’m still congested, but I do believe I’m on the road to recovery.

The good news is this: my wonderful husband made me chicken soup! And it has nourished me every day of my sickness.

Here is what he used and how he made it:

~ two split chicken breasts

~ 32 ounces of chicken broth (one box)

~ two chopped onions

~ four chopped carrots

~ four chopped celeries

~ four minced cloves of garlic

~ several bay leaves

~ a good amount of basil and oregano, or whatever herbs you like (those are just my fave)

~ salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, cover the chicken breasts with the broth. If it doesn’t cover them, add enough cold water so that they’re submerged. Simmer, covered, for several hours–we did four, at least. The longer, the better. Just make sure you aren’t boiling your chicken! A nice slow, soft simmer is all you need.

When the chicken is done, take it out of the broth to cool and add everything else to the pot. Simmer the veggies, covered, over medium heat until they’re done (I don’t like mine mushy, so it doesn’t take too long). When the chicken has cooled slightly, pull it off the bone and shred it, then add it back to the bot, and heat it all back up. Voila! That’s all. So simple. You could always add hot sauce if you want a kick, but I think it’s yummy as is.

Happy Holidays!

on the Moon and Sixpence.

It’s like a meandering Great Gatsby, only Nick is further removed from the characters and the story, and Gatsy is a boring and unbelievable (and unbelievably boring) sociopath.

Maybe it’s my problem. I’m no art expert, so I certainly don’t know enough of Gaugin (on whom this little book is based) to appreciate the melodrama and descriptions of isolated Tahitian life. My knowledge of Gaugin doesn’t extend much past his Yellow Christ. I’ll be honest, I doubt I would have even known that those post-impressionist paintings of half-naked Polynesian (?) belonged to Gaugin, except that Somerset Maugham has now enlightened me.

And so I suppose that is one good thing that has come out of my laborious reading of the Moon and Sixpence: I have learned a bit more of art. The Moon and Sixpence

However, should you decide to delve into these tedious and uninteresting pages, be forewarned: Maugham seems to be interested only in examining the life of a poor starving artist, but from a very safe distance. Charles Strickland, who serves as Maugham’s Gaugin (though in this instance, British as opposed to French), is emotionally desolate, uninspiring, and spends the whole of his life repeatedly confirming that he does not care about his family, his friends, or his brief (and eventually suicidal) lover.

I do understand Maugham’s dilemma: delving into the psyche of a great and strange artist would have to be intimidating at the very least. But instead of trying to do so, he steps as far as back from Strickland/Gaugin as possible, through the narrator (whose name escapes me–he does nothing except communicate Maugham’s opinions on Gaugin and women), and the result is like peering through a foggy window at what might be a beautiful landscape, or a decrepit ghetto, but you’d never know the difference for the thick cloudy windows between you and the real world.

Maugham does have a way with words, I’ll give him that. But, perhaps, not so much of a way with plot, or structure, and so his piece serves more as a fictional, lifelong case study than an artsy novella.

Here’s a little sampling of the Moon and Sixpence:

“When a woman loves you she’s not satisfied until she possesses your soul. Because she’s weak, she has a rage for domination, and nothing less will satisfy her.”

and:

“For men, as a rule, love is but an episode which takes place among the other affairs of the day, and the emphasis laid on it in novels gives it an importance which is untrue to life. There are few men to whom it is the most important thing in the world, and they are not the very interesting ones; even women, with whom the subject is of paramount interest, have a contempt for them.”

I’m not opposed to classics, and I would probably have enjoyed this one more if I had a better understanding of Paul Gaugin’s life and art beforehand, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a diehard Gaugin fan.

Happy reading!

on sweet potato smoothies.

Kind of an odd concept, when we’ve gotten so used to our same ol’ same ol’ kale-fruit-seed combo. But I have to admit, the sweet potato smoothie Timothy and I tried was a nice (and very fluorescent) change of pace.

At some point when sweet potatoes were on sale, I stocked up and never ate them, so we decided to bake them all and then try them for breakfast. We typically try to make three servings of smoothie (one for me, two for Timothy), so you can adjust this recipe to fit your serving needs. All the amounts are estimated anyway.

We combined these in a blender:

~two cups of OJ

~one baked sweet potato (peeled, obviously)

~one teaspoon of fresh minced ginger (or less, if you’re not a fan of ginger–it gives a good kick)

~half a cup (at least) of fresh cranberries

~one handful of pumpkin seeds

~three pitted dates

~one spoonful of local honey

~one apple

~two chopped carrots

Salud!

on detox baths.

I’m not sure this was such a good idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bath. In fact, I’d probably take one every night if I could; I am so cold-natured I never feel warm in the winter, and I also love relaxing. I never get tired of hunkering down in a hot lavender- or juniper-scented bath, a candle lit somewhere nearby, with a glass of girly pink wine and a magazine I don’t mind splashing water on.

A detox bath, however, is not nearly so enjoyable.

I like being warm, mind you, but I thought my insides were cooking when I detox-bathed. The ginger, and maybe even the salt, made the water feel infinitely hotter than it actually was, and it turned my skin bright pink. I sweated so much. I hate sweating; I’ve only sat in a sauna maybe three minutes of my life, and it was horrible. 

But I saw in that murky mess for a solid hour, occasionally turning the faucet back on to fill up the tub (ours is a bit leaky, but it also helped me keep the water near boiling). I’m not sure how many toxins left my body, because the bathwater was swirling with undissolved ginger, but I like to imagine it was a lot. 

If you are brave enough to try a detox bath, here is what I did:

I combined two cups of Epsom salts, one cup of baking soda, and about three tablespoons of ground ginger in steaming bathwater, as hot as I could stand it. I had fresh ginger I could have grated myself, so I might try that next time.

Happy detox-bathing on this blustery Black Friday!

 

 

on breakfast smoothies.

Ever since we decided that Timothy was probably lactose intolerant and possibly sensitive to gluten, we drastically changed our breakfast routine and we haven’t looked back.

I used to be religious about my breakfast: some kind of health cereal + strawberry yogurt + half a sliced banana, alongside a cup or two of black coffee. And Timothy was more of a fan of apple-flavored oatmeal.

Now, though, we’ve tried to go relatively Paleo in our diet, and that seems to be the easiest at breakfast time.

We eat the same smoothie (more or less) every morning. To my surprise, not only did we stay fuller longer after drinking a smoothie than we did eating grainy breakfasts, but we seemed to have more energy, too. I’m sure there are a lot of smoothie recipes that pack more of a nutrient punch than ours, but if you want to give it a shot and see what you think, we generally follow this pattern to make about three servings:

~Pour a little more than 2 cups of orange juice in your blender. I know this probably isn’t the best liquid to use, and sometimes we opt for pineapple juice instead, but more often than not its OJ from a carton (not from concentrate).

~Add a handful (1/4 cup or so) of pumpkin seeds. Apparently, Brazilians eat pumpkin seeds to ward off or destroy parasites. I’m not sure what other health benefits they have, but I like to imagine that our intestines get cleaned out a little.

~Add a handful (probably around a 1/4 cup too) of chia seeds.

~Add a spoonful of maca powder. Sometimes, we use a handful of goji berries, or golden berries, or small amount of cacao crunchies. But we’ve got a big bag of maca powder, and it is really nasty, so we’re working our way through it spoonful by spoonful.

~Add a big hunk of kale. We get the biggest bags of kale that Whole Foods sells. The leaves are already torn up for you, but they’re pretty stemmy, so you won’t want to use this kale for anything other than smoothies/juices/etc. It’s not good salad food. And since we don’t always get through the whole bag before it expires, I’ve found sticking it in the freezer works just fine. As far as the amount goes, I normally grab at least two big handfuls of kale.

~Add three ripe bananas. If you use frozen ones, as we do pretty often, you might need to add more liquid (water at this point works fine) to thin out your smoothie.

~Add a couple chopped carrots. When apples were in season, we used two apples instead of two carrots. Or you could do one apple and one chopped carrot.

~Add a handful of frozen fruit. We like pineapple and strawberries best, because it seems to cut the bitterness in the kale and that bizarre maca powder flavor. Blackberries and raspberries are good too if you don’t mind seeds in your swallows.

~Add a slice of beet. This is optional, but it will make your smoothie much prettier to look at, especially if you haven’t used any blackberries or raspberries.

Blend and serve!

We still accompany this yummy treat with a couple of cups of coffee. For a good time, we’d recommend anything Counter Culture produces. We’re also going to try adding coconut oil to our smoothies, but I won’t recommend that until I’ve tasted it. 🙂

Happy breakfast!