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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sharing: Plates, Thoughts and Tequila

A week night out with two great gal friends begins with a Cosmorita - a Cosmopolitan (my favorite) brightened with tequila.  The tequila also makes the drink a bit more edgy and I hope it doesn't impair me for work the next day.  It is wonderful.

Some nights, ordering food is simple and others you can scan a menu of hundreds of items, dozens of times and still not have any idea what sounds appealing.

Some nights, it is far easier to let someone else make the decisions.

Tonight, one friend and I talk it out and agree we want soup and to share a dish.  The soup special is chicken orzo but the broth has a bit of tomato as well.

What goes best with soup?  A bit of girl talk comfort and of course a sandwich, so we order the crispy chicken wrap to share with french fries.  Have I ever mentioned my love affair with french fries?  I am quite obsessed and possessive of crispy, golden, salty, deep fried strips of potatoes. 

The food, the friends, the warming effect of the drink and I am comforted, satiated, content and soothed.  It has been a bumpy journey recently, but with an unshakable support team, I have been able to remain Fed Well.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

McDonald's Big Mac Monday

The desire for a fast food fix is fairly rare, but when it flares up it must be obeyed.

And, if one must have golden delicious deep fried potatoes in the iconic cardboard container,

they certainly must be paired with the classic heart attack on a bun, the Big Mac.

Yes, I sometimes sing the song in my head.  Especially if I have to wait for fast food.  2 all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Oh yeah.

A customer spills soda, a child leans on the booth behind my friend and I, same child whines and walks along the window sill as the parents eat mindlessly.  Yes, McDonald's is the place to be.

How could we possibly follow up our lunch date?  You guessed it, with a lunchtime trip through Wal-Mart. 

How can I begin to compose or post about a lunch at McDonald's on a blog titled, "Fed Well?"  Life is about balance and moderation and making good choices.  For food and diet it may also include giving in to an occasional craving without a boatload of guilt or falling completely out of the boat into a sea of unhealthy eating.  Family members have made fun of me for my ability to only eat a handful of M & M's and put the individual snack size bag away. 

I came, I saw, I ate the Big Mac, now I can move on and continue to be Fed Well.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Solo Breakfast Burger

Wanna know a secret?  Sometimes, I eat alone.  Yeah, with nobody else.

(Sorry George Thorogood fans)

But seriously, when my friends aren't at work who take the "breakfast train" with me, it is a little bit lonelier.  I love though when my biggest decision is what to order.

I have a few favorites like a hard boiled egg on whole wheat toast, but it was time for what I have nicknamed, "The Breakfast Burger."

Sausage on a grilled hard roll (no butter) and cold tomato slices.

For the past few years I have discovered I have a real thing for having tomatoes in the morning. 

No topics of conversation when I eat solo... but I confess, that is when I like to surf the internet for a few minutes and check a few fellow bloggers or a bit of celebrity gossip. 

What's your go-to breakfast?
How do you pass the time when you are eating alone?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Customized Eggs Benedict with a Side of Personal Life

Turning a corner.  A powerful phrase.  Strong emotions are attached when one turns a corner in life, whether by choice or force, the turns are far more difficult than the straight lines.

Faced with the latest in a series of events that combine to create one of only a handful events that change a person's entire life, I reach out to friends and family.  We share stories, theories and feelings over meals.  On a fine Sunday morning, I meet a friend that I have known for all but about 8 years of my life.

I don't need a menu.  I know what I like and am not feeling adventurous and so Eggs Benedict but with the substitution of tomato slices for the English Muffins and a cup of tea with milk. 

I am thankful for being accommodated in my request but did not think to ask for the tomato slices to be left cold rather than grilled.  Unfortunately, a large portion of the tomato is left on the plate but the poached egg, the Hollandaise and Canadian bacon more than satisfy.  The eggs are pillowy, yielding a creamy yolk and topped with a rich, luscious sauce. 

My friend orders French Toast but offers me quiet understanding and let's me empty out all of the latest chain of events.  I have learned that I make new discoveries in the telling and it is quite therapeutic.  She offers a point of view, advice and thoughts. 

When I am able, I switch roles and want to know about her world, her family and her life.  It is the give and take, the back and forth, with a serving of sincere caring that makes a relationship.  Any relationship.  I need to feel what it is like to be on both sides again, to come out of my selfish retreat of healing and feel my first steps back into the world may have appeared wobbly but felt strong and sturdy.

It is common for people to say things like, "we grew up together," and yet, are we ever really done growing?  I'm definitely in the middle of a growth spurt.

Our food finished, our dishes cleared and it is time to return to the business we go about on a weekend morning.  We are at our beginning, in the town we grew up in and I know we will always be in each other's lives.  With each of the circular chapters I move through, she has been there at various distances but sharing this experience with her leaves me feeling Fed Well.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Cocktail and Dinner at Cosimo's

I was meeting a special friend for dinner on a Friday and picked the restaurant based on geography.  I've been to Cosimo's several times in the past, once for a Hudson Valley Restaurant review and a number of private parties so I felt good about my choice.

I arrived early after a particularly difficult day and though I was tempted to meet my companion at the bar, I refrained.  We asked to be seated outside and after reviewing the cocktail list, selected a variation on adult lemonade with vodka and Chambord.  A smile in a glass.

I never even opened a menu.  I quickly glanced through the specials and decided on a soup and left the main course to my partner.  We were brought bread and seasoned dipping oil fairly quickly.

Plain bread could be found underneath this layer of a cross between focaccia and pizza.  Delicious, but for some reason I always expect bread to be served warm.

The soup is sausage, butternut squash and potato - no fancy name.  My expectation was that it would be creamy but in hindsight I do remember the description including the phrase "tomato broth."  It was quite flavorful but not as full bodied or creamy as I may have imagined.

Our main course to share, a whole wheat pizza crust with veggies and cheese.  I am now able to listen and enjoy the food.  The crust is quite crisp, the vegetables are al dente and though the first bite or 2 may require a fork, the slice can be picked up and eaten "New York" style if preferred.

I feel compelled to look at the dessert menu but refrain from indulging.  Though the al fresco dining area is not far from a fairly busy thoroughfare, we shared our stories and food and left feeling Fed Well.

Friday Fun Lunch Before...

We never know in life when our next huge hurdle will be thrown in front of us.  We can never really prepare for the jump, the motion of tucking our leg up and vaulting ourselves over the hurdle which is why we so often crash right into it, tuck and roll.

It is fairly typical and reliable for me to have lunch on a Friday with coworkers and we routinely go to either a Mexican or Chinese restaurant.  This week it was just two of us in the Chinese restaurant surrounded by tables of other coworkers.  This keeps our conversation quiet and we have a heightened awareness to not discuss business.

I am going through one of the most stressful times of my life.  I am facing life changing circumstances and trying to grow from the experience, not wallow in self-pity, not become depressed or bitter and angry.  It's not easy and sometimes require a deeper effort than others.  When I know I am feeling low, I am not afraid to lean on others a little for encouragement, support and even a bit of humor to lighten the load.

Wonton Soup - how traditional and comforting...

The next course has become one of my favorites - the Scallion Pancake.  The light, tender, crispy, flaky appetizer that just melts on the tongue.  Ah, a moment of silence to pay respects to the Scallion Pancake.

We whisper and laugh, conspirators and comrades, seated among potential spies...

We share war stories of the past, broken hearts, dreams that have turned to dust and we are not sad, but smarter.  My friend jokes about a statement made to me recently by someone who wants a fresh start, a clean slate.  "How far back does that person want to go?  The womb?"

I can't breathe with a mouth full of shrimp and rice noodles as the laughter bubbles up forcing an escape.

It is later in the afternoon that I face the hurdle.  Yes, I did crash and burn on the track.  Yes, I kicked at and confronted the obstacle.  Yes, I both yelled and cried. 

Quite sometime afterward, I thought about lunch and the moments of laughter and compared to the trauma, I'd rather remember the day as one in which I was Fed Well.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Leftovers+Chicken Voila = September Stew

My sons and I are in a constant state of coming and going from our home.  2 of us rise at approximately the same time while 1 of us is a night owl.  They are working and attending college while balancing a social life.  I am newly discovering the ups and downs of being alone and creating my own calendar.  However, I love to cook and especially for my family.  The problem, I never really know who or how many will be here for dinner or what time it will be.  The answer, make dinners that can be transformed into something else later.

This past Sunday night family dinner was fresh corn on the cob, roast chicken with potatoes. 

A day later, some of the chicken was magically changed into chicken salad with diced celery and Craisins.

The next night, I went through the refrigerator and gathered more celery, carrots, green onions, the roasted chicken and potatoes along with the corn, and made a big pot of stew in my favorite red pot.  It seemed odd at first to make a stew in 80 plus degree weather, but the reward came when my older son said, "You made chicken stew?  That's my favorite comfort food that you make," before eating 2 large bowls.

We each happily ate the stew for more than one meal and it is easily heated.  Using fresh vegetables, cooked just enough so that they still snap, and serving the stew to the ones you love will surely make chicken stew a classic dish that knows no seasonal boundary, never creates a mystery dish left to die in the refrigerator and ensures everyone feels Fed Well.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cinderella and Guacamole

"A dream is a wish your heart makes..." sang Cinderella in the opening musical number.

I am currently obsessed with her story.  I'm not sure if I want to modernize it, if I am jealous of a fairy tale, if it is literary poison, or I am simply stuck in it like a little girl that has to see it over and over again until I am absolutely sick of it.

For whatever reason, I also discuss it repeatedly.  I had already talked it over with a group of female co-workers but on a recent Friday lunch outing we invited one of our more outspoken and brutally honest male coworkers.  I had to do it, I felt compelled and could absolutely not stop myself from asking, "So, what do you think about Cinderella?"

I have to say it felt like clocks stopped ticking and everyone held their breath.

He looked around the table at the 5 women waiting for his response before saying, "It seems a little like a loaded question, don't you think?" 

He went on to share other thoughts once we'd all assured him this was not some women's liberation movement lunch.  While he really didn't offer any earth shattering insight from a male perspective, it certainly recharged the conversation among the women.

How many girls realize the King held the ball because he wanted grandchildren?  Would they care if they knew the truth?

Why was the footman out trying glass slippers on the young women of the kingdom?  Wouldn't the love-sick Prince be anxious to perform this task himself and be reunited with the woman who stole his heart? 

All of this while we wait for a fresh order of guacamole to be prepared table side.

Many people simply don't understand when I want to photograph the food when I am in a restaurant.  The gentleman preparing our guacamole was no exception.  When I explained I wanted to take a picture of the stand, he stopped and smiled at me and I felt bad aiming the phone at the food.  He seemed fairly confused but continued mashing the avocado with a set of forks.

The warm chips are almost depleted that we mindlessly consumed with the salsa and we need a fresh order for round two.  I soon realize I have a food crush as well and it is with freshly prepared guacamole. 

We continue to talk a bit more about Cinderella but then lapse into our comfortable lunch talk, celebrity gossip.  Guilty.  We are especially hooked on Tom Cruise and John Travolta lately.  What did Katie see, know, photograph, etc. to get herself that quickie-quickie divorce and why do stories of men and massages continue to surface around John Travolta?  Does it matter?  No.  But I know we are as addicted to the subject as I am to salty chips.  We're not spreading the rumors just sharing what we read online and hear on the radio.  But somehow, later, a connection is made between these men and Prince Charming.  Can you imagine?  Anyway, a little bit of less than nutritious food keeps us balanced and a light sprinkle of celebrity gossip helps keep our focus away from the serious side of life for just long enough to keep us feeling Fed Well.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Forrest & Jenny, Peas & Carrots, Potatoes & Eggs

Sometimes, the brain makes strange connections, well mine does anyway.  I have never in my life eaten peas and carrots together, but when I think of food duets it is one that always comes to mind thanks to Forrest.  And yes, I always say it in my mind with his voice.

Funny how some foods simply compliment each other in some indescribable way like potatoes and eggs.  I have my preferences, but these red potatoes with peppers and onions are fairly high on the list so when our regular grill master took a two week vacation from the work cafeteria, the substitute put these out in the morning and I was immediately addicted.

The first day I simply drooled over the idea of having two runny eggs over the potatoes.  I pictured the rich yellow yolk breaking, cascading over the crispy skins, seasoned well with salt and pepper, oh my.  I need a minute to compose myself.

So delicious.  So decadent.  For a few minutes, the morning pauses at my desk as I block out the rest of the world and enjoy my indulgent morning plate of heaven.

The substitute cook remembers the next time I visit and offers me the same plate, but no, I want to branch out just a little.  How about one scrambled egg with the potatoes?

"Would you like me to cook it all together for you," he offers.

"No thank you." 

I am simply not ready to make such a culinary leap.  What kind of woman does he think I am, mixing my food all up together?  In his defense, he has never seen the way I circle around a plate, ensuring just the exact same amount of each food item is left in comparable amounts.  Forkfuls are carefully contemplated, thought out and balanced.  How can the food simply be scrambled together? 

The next visit, he offers again to cook the eggs and potatoes together and yes, I gave in.  Though I did not photograph the results, I can confidently say it was one of the best breakfasts I had ever had at work.  The skins of the potatoes were crisp, but the flesh was soft, the ratio of potatoes to peppers and onions was perfect.  The eggs were done just enough, not too wet, not dry and brown.  The plate itself was quite heavy with the generous serving and I was not heard from for quite a few minutes at my desk. 

Forrest sincerely told Jenny, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what love is," and while lately I am not sure I know what love is, I know what it is to be Fed Well.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Not Far From the Tree (or the pan)

Years ago, we went to New York for some sightseeing and while I don't remember our exact destination, we stopped to eat in a fairly empty restaurant.  We were seated intimately close to a table of 4 who were preparing to leave. 

To my sons horror, I leaned over and asked, "How was your meal?  What did you have?"

If they could, my children would have ducked under their chairs.

I received a passionate scolding for my behavior.

"MOM!  You don't talk to strangers."

"Well, not generally.  But, before we spend time looking over menus and wondering if the food will be good, it can't hurt to ask the people who just finished."

These same offspring generally had no problem telling me they really did not share my love of photographing food (and tourist spots), but we did enjoy a common bond in our admiration of a fabulous meal.

Fast forward about 5 years, I can't tell you the number of times I have caught BOTH of my sons taking photos of their meals with their phones.  My older son even posts to Instagram. 

When the older man-son came home last night, tired from working all day, then going to the gym and attending a long evening class with a test, he was hungry.

I have also encouraged both sons to be fairly creative in the kitchen so this is what he came up with:

a wheat tortilla shell,
loaded with cheddar,
roast beef,
then topped with 2 eggs

I snuck my picture while it was a work in progress thinking I would be admonished for crowding him and taking pictures of his food.  However, he proudly took 2 shots of his finished plate before we shared a few minutes about our days - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Sometimes I wonder what other habits of mine they have secretly accepted and how they will remember me when I am no longer here.  For now, I find comfort in knowing my sons appreciate being Fed Well and can provide themselves with a satisfying meal.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Take Out Lunch from Mountain View with My Man-Sons

Yes, Mountain View.

A holiday weekend, lunchtime, hunger pains, my man-sons and I are home and looking for a lunch treat.  It is quite rare that we are together for lunch and so a little splurge is more than appropriate.

I decide on the chili and cheese potato skins.  I know, I know, the photo shows beautiful, tender on the inside, delicately crispy, fried onions.  I swiped them from my younger sons order - I believe that is a mother's prerogative and is clearly in our rule book Section II paragraph c and I quote, "A mother is entitled to sample all food purchased for her children.  It is her duty as official taster and her privilege as provider."  Ok, I made it up, but I thought it sounded quite official and believable so you borrow it if you like or need.  The order of potato skins included 4 skins with chili and melted cheddar.

The appropriated onions were taken from this lovely Cowboy Burger order with fries.  Dripping with barbecue sauce, my younger son was quite happy with his burger.  I tried not to stare to see how he managed to bite into such a tall hamburger, and I can't really report on his technique other than to say, he did it.


Though the photo hardly does it justice, the sausage and pepper hero on end was man sized enough that my older son actually had a small piece left over he simply couldn't finish during his initial sitting but did manage to eat later.  This is a guy who NEVER leaves food on the plate but in his defense the sandwich was clearly half a loaf of bread, hollowed out and stuffed solid with sausage and peppers.

While our lunch may not have been typical Labor Day fare, we are learning to make up our own traditions as we go and this allows us to always be Fed Well.

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Tour of the Winery - Basha Kill Vineyards

First, I must confess I only know one thing about wine and that is red gives me a headache.  As far as alcohol in general, I know 2 things; I am a lightweight and generally one glass of anything is more than enough and I prefer sweetish, fruity cocktails with a Cosmopolitan being my favorite.  So when I ran into a friend who suggested we meet at a fairly new local winery, I was hesitant.  Would I enjoy it? 

"Well," she said, "they also have live music on the weekends.  People bring their own snacks and just kind of hang out," she assured me.

Low key, low cost, low risk, I'm in.

Besides, my other choice was to stay home on a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon.  Nah.

I arrived a little early for our meeting time so I could take a few photos of the layout.

What a serene view under the shade, the sprinkling water from the fountain splashing on the pond,

the netted vines, basking in the sun.

Inside, a few interesting pieces of wall art and the announcement of Cave Tours?  Hmmm.

Back under the shade waiting for the 3:00 tour to begin.

Owner Paul Deninno greets visitors at the Cave door and welcomes us inside for a bit of information about the winery.

The room is cool and cave-like and Paul patiently takes questions from individuals in the group, including me, following his presentation.  When I explain my lack of knowledge and preference for sweeter drinks the Osprey or Barn Owl whites are recommended.

After tasting both, I purchase a glass of the Osprey.  It is somehow more delicate to me and though I simply don't speak wine, I can tell it is clearly sweeter and lighter feeling than the Barn Owl.  Plus, what cool names for wine.

I love the little details, the bottle label art, the glasses...

Soon my friend and her family arrive and she makes me a lovely snack plate which includes stone wheat crackers, white cheddar, pretzels, a bit of dip and fresh cherry tomatoes.  The salty crunch is perfect for me with the sweet white wine.

The singer was talented and mellow.  Debbie (not sure of last name) is the mother of five sons, performs in a variety of local venues and has a range of song favorites including Janis Joplin's Bobby McGee.  I recommend the Basha Kill Winery for groups of friends and family on a weekend afternoon.  Visitors bring their own snacks and lounge either under the pavilion or the shade at picnic and cafe tables.  A casual and inviting way to spend some time, learn a little about wine and purchase a glass or bottle(s).  Thank you to my friend for opening my world just a little bit and allowing me to feel that much more Fed Well.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Farm Stand, A Car Cruise & Apple Pie Jam

A selection of gourds on mini-hay bales a sure sign the weather will soon be crossing the bridge from summer to fall.  This selection includes a gourd that has been stained, ones that may be used for birdhouses and an apple gourd.

The jewel look of cherry or grape tomatoes to me are the most visually appealing and I can always imagine biting into them and having their sun ripened flavor simply burst on the tongue.

Magical beans, purple beans and traditional greens...

additional varieties of tomatoes truly meets the demand of something for everyone,

and unique produce that is simply picture perfect,

peppers and eggplants,

and a new favorite, the sun jewel melon.

A selection of jams including tonight's sample flavor all the way to the left, apple pie jam!  I'm not normally a huge fan of jam, but after having a small spoonful on a cracker and talking over what else this lovely product may be served with, I make a purchase.

I was told I may use the jam where ever I may normally use butter on foods like toast, waffles or pancakes as well as an ice cream topping.  While I seriously considered buying some soft-serve vanilla custard immediately and creating a reverse apple pie a la mode, I save my cute mini jar for the following morning at work when I join my co-workers for the breakfast train to the cafeteria.  We line up and walk together to share a few stories over the first meal of the day.  I share my apple pie jam and 2 of us enjoy it over pancakes.  Perfect!

The car cruise is held Wednesdays at Memory Lane Ice Cream Stand off of Winterton Road in Bloomingburg.  Winterton Farms sets up a lovely display of the freshest produce available for purchase.  Spend a little time with your neighbors, walk around and look at the classic cars, sit under the pavilion with an ice cream and bring home a variety of fruits, vegetables, honey and jams.  These are the moments in which you will feel Fed Well.