Wednesday, March 30, 2011

First things First....and Amazing Roasted Asparagus (really amazing)

The Best Roasted Asparagus

I will start this post, the first of my recovery and rejuvenation journey with a confession; on one of my really, really bad days "inside", I actually Googled "How to be Happy". Really Julie, like it's that easy, why hadn't I thought of this sooner, I'll just find the answers to my problems on the internet.

Place that jewel of higher intelligent thinking up with self diagnosis for physical medical conditions including vaginal pain and swelling of the tongue, answering spam emails about winning a lottery in Bangladesh, and drunk texting your boss after attending the Wine Riot (that one actually happened, thank God my boss loves me and loves wine too or that could have been a disaster.)

So here I am...learning how to be Happy. Chapter 1.

I don't have much to write today as this meeting, was our first face to face meeting, and was similar to 8 minute dating, in the I like you, you like me, I think we can work together kind of way. I spewed what my major issue are and she told me how she works with people and did that sound good, etc. Aparentley I'm really good with the psychology language because I was using the right words to describe what was happening with me, including the "what if" mentality and "catastrophic thinking". I learned that people with cognitive behavioral disorders, read: me, have issues with Behaviors, Thoughts and Feeling - negative feelings leading to negative behaviors leading to negative thoughts: BINGO, DING DING DING, WE HAVE A WINNER!

I also learned that what I have was caused by the upside down U stress curve, basically if you take the letter U and make a Bell's curve out of it (turn it upside down) and look at it as a line for stress, its a good thing when your stress level is on the right hand side of the U, meaning that it is a positive force in your life, pushing you to do better, be more alert, etc. What happens with people like me is a force of some sort has pushed our stress level over the top of the upside down U - we're on a virtusal slip and slide down the other side of the U, causing cognitive issues, changing your life, behavior, etc - this is what has happened to me. I need to get on the other side of the U. I think that's going to be a long slow haul, but I've got my hiking boots on and I'm going to kick the shit out of that upside down U - at some point.

One nugget of info she gave me was a beautiful way of putting what can happen to the outlook of people who are on the other side of the U. She said we tend to look at the world through "shit colored glasses." People, is this my kind of therapist or what, she swore in our very first meeting. I love her.

Sooooooo, how bout that asparagus?
Really I'm not shitting you when I say that this is by far the best way to make asparagus. I even made a little drizzling sauce from scratch, like without a recipe, what what.

Ok, so asparagus put it on a lined baking sheet and either drizzle with olive oil or spray with olive oil spray (that's what I did) sprinkle with salt and pepper and then grate some Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake in a 450 degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. You can eat just like this out of the oven or you can hanker a try at this little sauce type thing I made in which I took molasses, balsamic vinegar a little bit of water and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and cooked it down in a sauce pot over low heat until it thickened a little. This sauce was awesome, and I dare say it was even better the next day when I drizzled it over fresh sliced strawberries.

Therapy = Good
Food = Damn Good

Saturday, March 26, 2011

And away we go….tofu and Spinach Stuffed Shells

Tofu Spinach Shells

I got into the kitchen the other day with the same vigor and enthusiasm that I used to have, back when I wasn't batshit crazy. It felt good; the washing, the chopping, the weight of the knife in my hand as I gave the vegetables the business side of things. I haven't wanted to cook in so long, and the smell of something home made filled the house with that warm cozy lived in essence. This activity was spurned on by the tremendous outpouring of love, encouragement and "at a way girl" that came from everyone who commented or emailed or just listened to me one on one. I cannot thank you enough, I repeat, and I mean it, I cannot thank you enough for all being part of my life and for caring. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve such amazing people in my life, I honestly still haven't figured that out, but I'll take it, that's for damn sure. 

Since I posted last week about my troubles and my decision to seek help and start therapy I've noticed a real sort of pick me up in my mood, sort of like the day that you are going to go to the hairdresser and get all your hair cut off, you will inevitably have the best God damn hair day of your life, just to fuck with you. But, I'm no fool, I know that this increased state of happiness has an expiration date if I don't get help, so the countdown is on, just a few more days. I will have to make something extra special fancy for that post…

So, Borders, poor sad Borders is closing some of its stores and yes, my store is one of the ones that will be vacated, so everything is on sale. Now, I usually turn my nose up at the recipe books with 1,001 anywhere in the title, purely because anything with 1,001 things in it clearly has not been vetted enough, but it was on sale so I thought what the heck and went ahead and bought a book titled 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes: Delicious, easy to make, healthy meals for anyone.

My first foray into this 1,001 recipe odyssey was this recipe, chosen purely because I had a block of tofu in the refrigerator threatening to walk away on its own if I didn't do something with it soon. And my suspicions were correct, these recipes will offer you the base for a great recipe, but tweaking will be needed to make them really good. I made this recipe according to the instructions and Chris and I both decided that the recipe would have been much better had the stuffing mixture been blended in a food processor instead of being left chunky, so - if you make this recipe, do as you want, but we both thought that it needed to be processed to make the recipe really good.

Shells Stuffed with Spinach and Tofu

1 1/2 cups chopped onions
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 package (10 ounces) baby spinach
3/4 cups finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 package (14 oz size) firm tofu finely chopped
1 1/2 cups (6oz) fat free mozzarella cheese (I used low fat or part skim)
2 tbsp grated fat free Parmesan cheese (I used regular)
20 jumbo pasta shells (6oz) cooked, warm
2 cups tomato sauce (I made sauce from scratch with diced tomato, tomato paste, garlic and onion)

1. Sautee onions and garlic in a lightly greased skillet until transparant, 3 to 5 minutes. Add spinach, parsley and basil and cook, covered, over medium heat until spinach is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly; stir in tofu and cheeses.

2. Stuff each shell with about 3 tbsp cheese mixture. Arrange shells in baking pan and spoon tomato sauce over. Bake 350 degrees, loosely covered, until hot 20 to 25 minutes.

Rating = Meh, I really think this could be much better if everything was processed and perhaps fresh basil was used, throw in some sun dried tomatoes…you get the picture, I'd make it again, I's just tweak it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Cleaning...this blog going forward, at least for a bit

This blog going forward, for now, will be twofold. You may have noticed over the past months that I haven't been blogging that much, there are a myriad of reasons why this is, including an increased travel schedule and helping Chris with his new business, but mostly its because I just haven't been that into cooking and or writing. If you have been reading this blog for a bit of time, you might remember an entry mentioning the fact that I had been diagnosed with vocal chord polyps, a side effect of an increased stress level. At the point that I was diagnosed I knew that my stress level had gotten to a stealth like point within my body, it was attacking me and I didn't know how to stop it. I tried a number of things to try and alleviate the stress, I downloaded meditation podcasts, started doing yoga again everyweek and began listening to meditation and chanting music in the morning while I got ready for work. None of this helped, in fact, I've just been getting worse the stress has grown and evolved into a part of me, a second voice, talking in my head all day, and its no longer just about the stress of work, or Chris' business, the only way I can describe it is, it's like the stress opened up a wound inside of me, a wound that has always been there, maybe I always knew it was there, maybe I ignored it, maybe I was unaware, but whatever the case, I've become incapable of being "okay". I wake up every morning wrestling with the thoughts of what I did wrong the day before, all the things that could I could have done better. I drag myself out of bed, look in the mirror and belittle myself for the not taking better care of myself, for having had that second glass of wine, "why couldn't I have had just one?" and don't even get me started with the self loathing that happens every morning when I get on the scale, and yes, I get on the scale every morning no matter what - and that inevitably causes a heated inner dialogue about how much easier and better life would be if I wasn't such a fat fuck. There are days when I actually think I can feel my body expanding into the fat suite that I wear subconsciously all the time. And sometimes, when I am alone, my chest, my heart, it just aches and I cry, because I just want to be happy. I just want to be able to enjoy this life I have worked so fucking hard to create. I want to wake up and not have to tell Chris that I am "having a hard day, inside."

This, what you have just read, is so very hard for me to write, please know this, but, what was even harder was admitting that I needed help, that I cannot conquer this alone. So, I have indeed reached out to a therapist who specializes in stress and anxiety disorders, I start therapy on 3/30. I'm anxious, nervous, excited and scared, but most of all I'm relieved.

It is my hope that I will see her regularly, and then blog about my experience and my journey; being as honest and forward as I can be. All the while, staying true to form within this blog, meaning, this blog will still be about food; well, me and food. Getting back into the kitchen, getting back to cooking, something that I love to do is - is far overdue. I love this blog, I've strayed from her, from me, from everything for long enough. 

So, here I am, at the beginning of this journey, follow it if you want, I promise the recipes at least will be good.