Embracing discomfort and The Kitchen Daughter ribollita soup

Today is the end of week 6 since I left my full time job and I’m starting to get a little anxious. I’m starting to feel a little aimless. I feel like I should have a better structured day by now. I should be able to blog 3 times a week without a problem (believe me, I have a super long list of blog post ideas I want to share!). I should be a better cook, have a cleaner home, have a fitter body, have a handle on my inbox, have a plan for life. Should, should, should… but I don’t. Makes me want to scream (and cry) a little. Instead I’m going to embrace this discomfort and learn from it.

On January 3, 2011 I came home after work balling my eyes out. I remember this date because it was the first work day of 2011 and I woke up that morning giving myself a little pep talk about how productive I was going to be. How this year I was going to be on top of everything. I was not going to get emotional – I was going to get my work done efficiently so I could keep getting better at what I did. So I could keep growing professionally and continue climbing the corporate ladder like I knew I could. Instead, about 2 hours into the day I realized that while I had a long list of things to do, I had zero motivation to get any of them done (I would eventually… I always did!). I watched the clock all day, trying to get some things done. Waiting for a reasonable hour to strike the clock so I could finally leave. I came home crying not because my boss was mean to me (my boss was the nicest guy ever!), not because I was unhappy with the pay, but because sitting at my desk, feeling like every fiber in my body was rejecting this, felt like torture. I wanted out. But first I needed a plan.

Here is where it gets sort of tough. You often hear people say to “Follow your dream!” but for that – you first need a dream. And so I desperately started searching for it. I like fitness; I like food; I care about the environment, about organic produce and humanely raised animals. I like helping people. Where does it get me? I don’t want to be a chef, what can I do with fitness… and how the hell can I help people and still make money? Can my skills in finance be used? I read a million articles on food careers; I talked to gyms about personal training (and realized that I hate the sales part of it!), I started blogging more hoping that would open doors for me… but I didn’t know how it would. Work got busier and busier. I was getting so burnt out and uninspired that by the time I got home all I wanted to do was plop myself on the couch and eat. I was going at 100 miles an hour and yet I was no closer to finding my dream. I was sad and fat and… still dreamless.

So I decided that I needed to quit my job first. I needed to let myself get bored. I figured that if I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted, I would figure out what “whatever” actually was. The thing is – sitting here right now I’m realizing that I didn’t really follow through with my plan. I didn’t give myself permission to really do whatever. I filled my to-do list with new things I should be doing. I created a new cycle of “I have a million things to do – I’m too tired – I don’t want/don’t have time to finish them all – I feel guilty – I’m eating – I still have a million things to do”. So here I am 6 weeks later, still aimless.

So here is the “new” plan – I’m going to embrace the discomfort and use it as my guide. This morning I started writing a completely different post… that just didn’t feel right. I kept trying to force myself to write but it wasn’t working (and I refuse to publish a post that doesn’t feel right to me).

Here is what discomfort told me: I’m not a natural writer (already knew that!) so whatever my future is, writing should not be at the center of it. Working with Cooking Matters has seriously been the highlight of the last 6 weeks. I loved how active it was. Honestly I loved being away from my computer and actually interacting with people, helping them in such concrete ways. I still don’t have a plan but maybe it will become more evident through the process of elimination Smile

To tune in, I’m officially giving myself permission to slow down. To throw away the list of “shoulds” and fill it with “wants.” This instantly reminded me of the book The Kitchen Daughter.

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I read it during the New Orleans trip and loved how the main character – Ginny – had this real connection to food. How present she was during the making of each dish. How romantic it made the whole process of slowing down and cooking. I wanted to spend days getting lost in my thoughts (dream revealing thoughts?) while stirring a big pot of soup. It was only appropriate to start with Ginny’s ribollita soup (Tuscan bread soup) and share it with my family.

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It didn’t take hours but it sure was comforting. It was simple yet flavorful, fresh and so homey. My dad said it was something he could see on a Sweet Basil menu (<– my family’s favorite restaurant serving incredible Italian comfort food). I need to find another soup to stir!!

ribollita soup

Ribollita soup (serves 4-6) – recipe based on Ginna’s ribollita soup from The Kitchen Daughter

  • 14oz can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 14oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed, leaves cut in ribbons
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano to taste
  • 1/2 loaf of rustic bread, cut in 1” cubes
  • olive oil
  • shredded parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions:

  • In a medium pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté minced garlic until golden (not brown).
  • Add chicken broth, a few shakes of dried oregano, salt, pepper, beans, tomatoes (with juices) and kale. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer until the flavors meld (I probably had my pot for an hour, while making the rest of the dinner). Adjust seasonings prior to serving.
  • In the meantime, sauté bread cubes in olive oil. I had a fresh loaf of bread and enjoyed how it soaked up some oil and remained soft on the inside with a bit of a crust on the outside. You can also toast the bread cubes with a bit of olive oil if you want crunchy croutons.
  • Serve the soup with croutons and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Did you ever have to work at finding a dream? What’s your favorite way to distress to reflect?

Do you have any favorite soup recipes?

Sweet fruit goes savory

Before I forget, it’s Adam’s birthday tomorrow (Wednesday). He has finally joined the senior citizen status (as he likes to joke) and is officially as old as I am – 28. Ha! Please wish him a happy birthday! I’m sure he’d love to feel some love from my favorite readers. :mrgreen:

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the real topic at hand….

Last week I found myself with lots of seasonal fruit and a desire to take it easy on the sweets. Obviously, sweet seasonal fruit can replace traditional dessert and trust me, I’ve been snacking on peaches like it’s my job for the past month or so. I can’t get enough. It’s always a sad day when I go to a farmers market and they’re out… for the year. Thankfully, we have a bit of time until then so this past week I decided to turn my favorite fruits into some savory dishes… inspired by a few bloggers’ posts and a few cookbooks. :)

Since we already got on the topic of peaches, let’s start with a dinner I made last week. Adam was out playing poker with his buddies and that meant that I could whip up whatever I felt like. Nothing was off limits! This was going to be fun….

So I decided to make peach gazbacho, after seeing Sues’ post about it. She was in love with this undeniably refreshing and slightly sweet soup. And it sure looked pretty. ;)

My peaches came from the farmers market and were incredibly juicy and sweet. I tasted the soup while it was still in the blender and then started playing with the flavors. I didn’t really want dessert for dinner (at least not in soup form) so some acidity and spice were a must. I added some lemon juice, then a mango habanero sauce… still not spicy. Then a whole bunch of hot sauce. Much much better. Dinner was served.

The crunchy fresh pepper and creamy/fatty avocado were great garnishes. A Dr. Kracker flatbread was also a yummy “side.”

Overall – I didn’t love this. I think it still wasn’t balanced enough. I expected more. It sure was fun to play though. ;)

Next up I got up the nerve to make some peanut butter eggs…. kinda. :lol: I’m not going to lie, I actually enjoyed this breakfast yet this combo still sounds a little gross to me. And then again, I kind of want to make it time and time again. It’s like I can’t get over my own preconceptions. Let’s see what you think about it…

I made these egg, peanut butter and blueberry tacos last Friday, “inspired” by Cara’s recipe. And by “inspired” I mean scared yet intrigued because Jen also swears by the PB&J omelets. It was time.

I fried 1 egg + 2 egg whites, slathered them with some natural pb and stuffed them in these crunchy blue corn tortillas with fresh blueberries.

It’s hard to describe how this tasted. I think the corn tortillas were a bit too forward. That was kind of what threw me off at first, but then the whole thing grew on me as I was eating and I was full for HOURS. Like nearly 5 hours and the only reason I finally ate was because I had a lunch date. This never happens. Go protein and fats is all I can say. How do you feel about this combo?

Now that I thoroughly scared you with my “offbeat” dishes, here is something finally a little more “normal.” Corn muffins. Except with blueberries. Yes, this really works!

I followed this recipe (from Baking with Agave Nectar cookbook) for quinoa corn blueberry muffins and absolutely loved the addition of blueberries to this typically savory muffin. Actually, these guys are still quite savory with just a touch of natural sweetness from the blueberries and mild agave nectar, but they did work wonderfully with sweet spreads like almonds butter and preserves. I’ve been enjoying two at time for breakfast with a giant mug of coffee. Breakfast of champions!

One more comment on this particular recipe – I could taste baking soda in these muffins. I think I’m very sensitive to this as Adam couldn’t detect this. I’m in love with the blueberry/corn muffin combo but will either scale back on the baking soda slightly next time I make these or may even try a different recipe.

PS – I bought a new popover pan to make muffins. I like how they look like little bricks (popover muffin on left, regular muffin pan on right). Such cuties. :cool:

Have you ever used fruit in savory applications? Any success, or was it a bust?

What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger

I tried something different yesterday – a track workout with Boston Performance Coaching. I had a good run last Friday, then another one on Monday. I was feeling like I’m really starting to get back into (and love!) running again. So when I received an email about this program, I thought it would be a blast. Thankfully my friend Molly was happy to join me. I was starting to get cold feet right before it started so I was glad to have a friend by my side.

We began with a few warm-up laps, walking lunges, kick-backs, etc. and then it was time to run timed laps. We were given pace tables to set our goals. Molly and I based ours on 8:27 minute miles at a 10K and our 400m lap goal was 1:37. Then we took off – three 400m laps. Molly stuck with me for the first 2 and then I told her to go ahead and finish strong. I did not have that much energy. My time: 5:58 for 1,200 meters. I definitely did not meet the 1:37×3 goal but there was no way in hell I could. After a few minute rest, we had to do it all over again. My time: 6:00. I was not in a good mental place anymore.

The good/bad news is that the coach noticed I had the wrong form. I wasn’t using my hamstrings or rotating my ankles. Apparently I was just propelling myself forward somehow without using the back of my legs so that’s why my quads and shins were screaming at me. On our next set I took it easy and concentrated on rotating my ankles and really lifting my knees up. It felt better but I didn’t push as hard as we were supposed to go and felt a tiny bit like a slacker. I know it’s better not to injure myself so I felt like it was the right thing to do but still. I didn’t even realize that I was having all these negative thoughts until Molly said: “Elina, you are doing great. You are so hard on yourself!” Whoa, I was being hard on myself!! Next set we did only 800 meters with 4 splits (pickup for 200, then jog, another pickup, then jog) and I finished in 3:55. A tiny bit faster than the first round but of course I had one lap less to do.

At the end I realized that I kind of shut down mid-way, and that’s not the right attitude. I talked to the coach later and she explained to me what I was doing wrong. I will work on rotating my ankles and picking up my knees. She said that I also have no hamstring strength, so I’ll work on that too. I’m actually surprised to hear that because I do lift weights and feel pretty strong, but we’ll see. Maybe a little more hamstring targeted exercises will improve my running form and will make it easier (and safer) for me to run.

The Harvard track in the distance…

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Molly and her dog, Sydney… she’s such a cutie!

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Molly and I – I hate this picture of myself. I look so chunky. :(

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Instead of taking the train home, I chose to walk back. I needed to clear my head. There were some gorgeous views so I snapped a few photos. So pretty :)

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My instinct when I’m down is to go to sweets. I was determined to NOT eat emotionally. Instead I made a delicious dinner.

DINNER

Tilapia in lemon/caper sauce, roasted asparagus, pickles and laughing cow with hot mustard on 12 grain bread + roasted tomatoes

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Such a delicious dinner!

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Then I turned my brain off and watched the Biggest Loser. It was emotional and inspirational. Exactly what I needed to lift my spirits! :grin: …. and then my amazing husband surprised me with this book:

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I was so giddy with excitement!!! By then it was nearly 11pm and I really should have gone to bed but I couldn’t close the book. Every single recipe sounded amazing and since Dreena’s reputation proceeds her, I in fact know that all of them will taste amazing. I seriously would like to try every single one (Julie and Julia style? ;) ). So yeah, the evening turned out just fine after all. I realize now that I was still running 8 minute miles (what was up with that stupid chart they gave us? just setting unrealistic expectations!!) and that the coach’s feedback was invaluable. I’ll be back there next Tuesday and see if she sees an improvement. :mrgreen:

Now let’s rewind to…

BREAKFAST

Banana walnut muffin + banana stuffed with Barney Butter + coffee

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Hearty and yummy. I’m back on the Barney Butter wagon. Can’t get enough of the stuff!!

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LUNCH WORKOUT

The track workout was a last minute decision but I also attended a pilates class during lunch. It was pretty easy although my abs were burning a few times. Love that burn!

LUNCH

Taco soup with 1/2 FFL english muffin

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This was a giant lunch. I pushed through it although I had to leave some chicken. I also saved the english muffin for later and enjoyed it with a tablespoon of Barney Butter as a mid-afternoon snack.

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TREAT OF THE DAY

Chocolate white choc chip cookie my co-worker’s wife made. Heavenly!

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How do you deal with stressful situations? Is it hard for you to be constructive while in the moment? Do you turn to food? I’m really happy I was able to deal with my frustrations in a non-destructive way. Sweets will never improve my running time so I’d rather feed myself right and work on that pace. :cool:

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