Friday, April 19, 2013

Taking time for ourselves

Let's be honest . . .

There are times when we just don’t have the energy to do what we should do. Times when we, or someone in our inner circle has just gone through surgery. Times when an elderly pet isn’t feeling so well.
Times when our heart simply aches.
And, that’s okay. We're human, after all.
These are times when it is good to just stop and grieve a little. To wipe our tears and surrender to the poignancy of having a body and being alive on this earth.
No pretending. No striving. No beating ourselves up for not feeling perky or perfect. Truly, there are times when perfection sucks.
This is one of those days for me. Maybe it is for you, too.
In the words of the great Sufi master and poet Hafiz (translated by Daniel Ladinsky in his book The Gift):

Just sit there right now
Don’t do a thing
Just rest.

For your separation from . . .
Is the hardest work
In this

Let me bring you trays of food
And something
That you like to

You can use my soft words
As a cushion
For your

Can this be a day when you cozy into your favorite chair with some tea and a book? Perhaps thaw something comforting, a bowl of soup, from your freezer to enjoy while you rest?
Here is what I will enjoy today (along with a good healthy dose of self-care):

For 6 to 8 servings
3 (15 ounce) cans Great Northern or cannellini beans
8 cups cold water
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 leaves fresh basil, rolled and thinly sliced (or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
Salt, pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry Vermouth
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (I love San Marzano tomatoes)
4 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved

Drain and rinse the beans. Bring beans, water, rosemary, sage and bay leaf to boil in soup pot. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until beans are very soft, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard herbs.

Set aside 1 cup beans. Puree remaining beans in a blender (or with an immersion blender), adding broth from pot as needed. Return beans to pot and cook over low heat while you prepare the tomatoes.

For chopping garlic, I find it super-easy to use my Alligator.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, basil, 1-teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and sauté until soft, about 7 minutes. Add wine and cook until pan is almost dry. Add tomatoes and simmer over medium-low heat 5 minutes.
Add tomato-onion mixture to pureed beans in pot. Add reserved whole beans and cook, covered, over low heat 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.

TO PREPARE IN ADVANCE: Refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze soup in single-serving containers for just the right moment.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Life as a Work of Heart

How did your five-year-old love to play? 
Did you make up games? 
What were they? 
What did you truly love?

Recently, speaking on the subject of Life as a Work of Heart, I asked this question of my audience. Gradual smiles softened their faces as they remembered.

In mid-life, this very self-inquiry changed my life. I realized it wasn’t food preparation that had led me into my long career in cooking and entertaining; it was the result—the gathering of people around the table in celebration, in sharing ideas, in connection! And so I then reinvented what I was doing and my career turned into something infinitely more satisfying.

Will you take a moment to recapture what gave you joy? 
Where did your inborn love lead you?

(Above is a Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake for your five-year-old.
You can keep them in the freezer--they thaw in only a few minutes for an
afternoon treat for yourself or when a friend drops in.)

It is so important to pay attention to what our hearts tell us. These words from the poem Love After Love by Derek Wolcott (click on the title for the whole poem), remind us of the deep meaning of our lives.

. . .Love again the stranger who was your self.
. . . Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

With all the Go Red for Women events put on by the American Heart Association in February and March, here is a great gift for yourself. Marci Shimoff's new book, Love For No Reason is an astonishing teaching of the experience of pure love for its own sake. What I call Divine Love. Truly, every page is filling my heart with joy!

And, what better time of year, when hearts as a symbol of love are everywhere, to use something we take very much for granted, fresh strawberries, as a sign of celebration? This is so easy. I hope you will love it!

• Small log of goat cheese
• Roasted sunflower seeds (can use honey-roasted)
• Strawberry slices
• Honey to drizzle over all
Serve at room temperature with thinly sliced bread or crisp crackers