Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Light summer eggplant burgers

I can't believe I have been M.I.A. for almost two weeks. I think this is probably a first for me.

The three words that sum up my lack of cooking and posting these days are: work, diet and work.

I won't get into the whole description but I promise every child-free minute I had these days (and some none free-child hours) I spent working.

Oh, and of course my son got the dreaded stomach flu just as I was nearing my deadline... but I will not go into that either, because I really think that would be too much information.

Last but not least, when you are desperately trying to drop a few pounds, having a cooking blog is not ideal. So the only logical thing for me to do (yes, I know it is not an original solution, but hey, I missed you guys) is to share some of my ideas. I know some of you out there are in the same situation and even if you don't need to get rid of some winter blubber, who doesn't want to eat healthy, right?

Because the word diet makes me run (excuse the pun), I need to convince my brain I am eating normal food, real food. So I try to use the best quality ingredients, I make my dishes colorful, I try to come up with original ideas and to keep things as tasty as possible. Which, by the way, helps convince my family to eat what I am having without too much of a problem.

And so I present you the eggplant burger... yes, a vegetarian burger made with eggplant, but an inverted one, and lighter than the one I made here.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tuna and swordfish ceviche

The other day I finally made it to the hairdressers. I was greatly in need, my hair was extremely grateful.

Saying I dislike going to the hairdresser is an understatement. What seems to be a national passtime here in Italy, especially among the older gals, is something I dread. I mean, when you have a job and kids, the last thing you want to do is waste away your precious Saturday sitting at the hairdressers fighting throngs of other women. I can think of so many other things to do in those hours. Like stuffing some of the clothes overflowing from my laundry basket into the washing machine. Or running an errand. Or making a meal in daylight that I can actually post about. Or, so much better, spending the afternoon at the park with my family and maybe eating some sushi for lunch. Even pulling the fuzz balls off of my wool sweater has more appeal to be honest.

Besides hating to wait around for hours even if I have an appointment, I feel like a Christian in the Colosseum fighting off lions the girls insistently offering manicures, pedicures, special treatments, hair masks or their $50,00 bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

Not to mention going to a decent hairdresser is an expensive affair and you usually purposely mess up what you just paid for with your own hands the minute you turn the corner. And that on your walk home you realize every other woman has your hue of golden blond with warm highlights. I mean, is it just here that every woman over sixty seems to have the same puffed up bad hair color with blonde highlights that look like they were painted on by a road line marking machine?

Unfortunately the older you get the harder it is to walk around in your bed hair and to be taken seriously in life. Another unfortunate thing is that when you turn *beep* you have  a new problem to deal with, or rather a new color. White.

Why do men "grey"? Why do they get to call their white hair appealing things like pepper and salt or speckled? Why do George Clooney and Richard Gere just get sexier?

When a woman gets white hair, it is the beginning of the end. It is all downhill from there. They even dedicated a whole episode of Sex and the City to Samantha's discovery down south.

And why is the only white hair I have located exactly on the top of my head, where my hair parts, sticking up obnoxiously for the whole world to see, just in case people hadn't already noticed its annoying, wiry, thick texture. Couldn't I have more, but strategically hidden on the sides, under layers of youthful  hair? Not me, nuh-uh. My scalp seems to be saying: we ain't got much, so we might as well boast it.

So this is the story of when I went to the hairdressers to hide those little suckers and for the first time (because it wasn't a Saturday and I wasn't in a rush and because I had said no enough times) decided to go with the flow and have the half hour treatment to pamper my hair with nutrients and such.

And lo and behold I discovered a new world. The lady I was assigned to put on Barbra Streisand from an IPad lying next her station, she pulled out a foot rest from the chair I was sitting in and pushed a button that got the rollers going in what I discovered was a massage chair (I instantly felt like Sally hanging out with Harry in The Sharper Image). She then proceeded to massage a personalized concoction into my hair and I decided to enjoy it for the few mintues it lasted.

Little did I know the massage would last the whole half hour of hair mask. The woman massaged my head, my neck, my shoulders, my face. She even massaged my ear lobes! Who even knew ear lobes liked massages? Well, let me tell you, they do. 

When it was over, not only did the camouflaged white hair make me look 5 years younger, I also felt a decade younger. Lady, why didn't you just tell me I would get a free massage with my hair treatment???

Because I am still feeling good, and because I am trying to improve my eating habits and lose a few pounds these days, my recipe today is a healthy and tasty dish that is good for the body and soul.

Ceviche, as I am sure most of you know, is a Central-South American seafood dish prepared cooking the fish in citrus juice, usually lime, instead of heat. It is often accompanied by fresh cilantro (coriander), chili peppers and raw vegetables like onions, avocado etc. I left out the heat factor for my kids and used tomatoes, small green peppers, cucumbers and chives to make it as refreshing and light as possible. I also added a tablespoon of dried unsweetened coconut and a pinch of banana chipotle salt from  Farm Candy to give it a tropical hint and a teeny touch of heat. You can really play around with ingredients and quantities, so I am only giving you guidelines. Use any vegetable that appeals to you, or none for that matter, choose your favorite citrus (I am partial to lime), pick any fish you like but make sure it is very fresh.

This will make a great appetizer served with some toasted bread or tortilla chips or a healthy salad for lunch.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Of breakfast, oatmeal (or porridge) and steel cut oats

My son is sitting on his chair having breakfast, sipping cold milk out of a blue plastic cup and spooning dry cereal into his mouth. He is chatting away, and often opens his mouth to show us the content and laughs happily when we make disgusted faces. Every once in a while he offers us a cornflake and we gently refuse, thanking him.

My eyes flit towards the clock on the oven.


We are tired, we want to go to bed.

My son doesn't usually have breakfast that early. And no, we usually don't let him eat cereal in the wee hours of the morning.

Let me turn the clock back a couple of hours. My son screaming red faced and snotty, waking everyone  in the whole building except my daughter (thank goodness for that!). Me cradling him in my arms, trying to calm him. Him sobbing and pushing me away. 

He woke up the first time at midnight, crying. I went into his room, stroked his cheek and gave him his pacifier and went back to bed. When I had just fallen asleep he started crying again. Up I got, stuffed the dummy back into his mouth and left. He has been doing this a lot lately, he sometimes has bad dreams or wakes up and is afraid of the dark. The third time he woke up crying I found him sitting in his bed. He said his ear was hurting.

I took him into our bed and tried to get him to calm down and sleep again, to no avail. Finally I remembered some drops I had in the medicine cabinet and put some into his ear. He was not happy and started crying even louder, turning his head and making the drops run out all over my pillow. He cried and screeched. He pushed and kicked. He wanted Daddy. Then he wanted Mommy. Then he wanted neither of us. When the drops didn't start working I gave him some paracetamol. It took a little convincing but it was hurting enough that he miraculously gave in. We waited and waited. And waited. There were more tears, more tossing and turning.

Then suddenly, in between tears, he told me he wanted to get up. So I stood up and held him in my arms, thinking the pain would perhaps diminish.

But no, he wanted to stand. And then, sniffling but calmer, he requested shoes.

"Your houseshoes?" I asked, with my fingers crossed. The thought of a tantrum to go out in the middle of the night made me sick to my stomach.


I gave a sigh of relief, went to get them and put them on him. Then he took my hand and said:

"Vieni Mommy. Come" and led me into the kitchen.

When I asked what he wanted to do he said: "Breakfast" . I told him it was nighttime but he insisted he was hungry and I remembered he hadn't had much at all for dinner.

So I gave him breakfast, because I realized he was probably really hungry. And because I wanted to avoid another crying marathon. And mostly out of relief because there was no more mention of pain.

So despite my son being up at 2:04am eating cereal, F and I were happy to watch him play and laugh and chat.

Thank you paracetamol.

Talking about breakfast, I have been on an oatmeal kick. Or porridge if you please. Made with steel cut oats. I only recently started using these because I've never seen them here and a relative sent me a care package. I know they are all the rage on the other side of the pond and most of you probably know how to make them, but some of you may find these simple instructions handy if you don't. I know I would have. I had to do a little research on the Internet before learning.

Also, just the other day a friend was asking me what porridge means. He had read a book that often mentioned it (I guess it was not translated?) and could not figure out exactly what it was. So this is for him too.

I make a big batch on the week end and then heat it up in single servings in the morning with a little semi-skimmed milk (but you can use anything from cream to coconut milk to anything else you fancy) and whatever else I feel like. The texture doesn't spoil, it actually turns creamier although keeping its toothsomeness.

Here are a couple of combinations I had recently.

Oatmeal with chopped up dried sour plums and Farm Candy ginger spice sugar.

Oatmeal with maple syrup, cinnamon and bananas.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A trip down memory lane

Driving down that road, through this breath taking landscape, I seem to travel through time. Names, places and faces I had long forgotten start making their appearance in my mind again. As I look out at those majestic mountains, famous for their pink hue, I can't help but remember some the best years of my youth.

It was the roaring '80s, we had puffy hair and wore way too much make up. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston sang on the radio and life was all about surviving in an all-girls' boarding school, skiing and catching a glimpse of the boy you had a crush on.

We were teenagers, everything was either fantastic or tragic, black or white. We were at the top of the world (excuse the pun) one minute, and crying bitter tears into our pillows the next.