Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Linguine with Cauliflower and Pancetta

To tell you the truth, I'm not the biggest fan of cauliflower, unless it's roasted. I've been trying to cook through a lot of my recipes, so I thought I would give this one a try. The flavor was really tasty, but I wasn't a fan of the cauliflower since it was just steamed. I think this dish would be a knockout side if you left the cauliflower out.

Linguine with Cauliflower and Pancetta
Inspired by Quick from Scratch: Pasta
Serves 4

1/3 cup pine nuts
1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), cut into small florets
1/2 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz. pancetta, diced
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound linguine
1/4 c. white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley 

1. Toast the pine nuts until golden brown, about 8 minutes, in a saute pan over medium heat. Put the cauliflower in a large frying pan. Add the currants, water, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and cook, covered, until the cauliflower is almost tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan.
2. Cook pancetta in frying pan until crispy, about 5 min. Remove from pan and let drain on paper towels. Put the butter in the pan and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the butter is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the cauliflower mixture, the oil, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until just done, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the linguine and toss with the wine, 1/4 c. of the reserved pasta water, the cauliflower mixture, pine nuts, Parmesan, and parsley. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the reserved pasta water. Serve with additional Parmesan. 



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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Remembering to Rest

I have a hard time making myself rest. I tend to over schedule myself with stuff to do, or I have too many projects I want to work on. I always forget that I need to rest for a whole day every once in a while. Unfortunately, I usually only rest after my body starts crying out for it in the form of illness.

I have also come to realize that I need more rest during the fall months. I've been noticing the past few years that I typically will fall sick a time or two (or more!) during October, November and December, but then I'm relatively healthy the rest of the year. I'm not quite sure why this is. It might have to do with the fact that these are my least active months. In winter and spring, I have skiing on Sundays to keep me active. In summer, I replace skiing with hiking. I also spend more time outside walking. But once fall comes around, I tend to not exercise as much, yet I feel like I need more rest.

Maybe this time of year is when my body is recuperating from all the activities I do at other times of the year. And so my homework for the month of December is to learn to rest before I get sick. And to learn how to relax.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

List of Pain

I've been spending way too much time on the computer today reading articles on stress and anxiety and how to deal with them. I found some great articles from Natural Health that are definitely worth reading. (here, here and here)

I realized that I have been keeping a lot of things inside that I need to deal with. I have been pushing them aside for years and years and I need to deal with them. I need to give myself time to ponder over things that happen and not just brush them aside, figuring I either will deal with them later, or don't need to deal with them at all. So I did what I do best, I made a list. A list of all the things I need to deal with and need to get out of my system. I had barely gotten through 5 things when I felt this sudden, intense urge to burst into tears. I had no idea that some of the things in there were so strong. Just reading the list makes my head hurt and I feel stressed. I definitely need to let them out and process them. But how?

I guess I'll do it the only way I know how, by typing them out. I'm not going to get to them today, but I need to get to them soon.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What do I want?

I've been on a search lately for a lot of thing. Mostly, who I am as a person. I feel like I'm going through a crisis of self, that I don't know who I am, I don't know where I'm going. And it scares me like no other. I've been having such a hard time keeping things in order. The stress has been getting to me too much lately, and I don't know how to fix it.

So today at work, I was not having a good day. I decided to go home and rest and try to get my head screwed on straight instead of just trying to plow through. I checked out the September 2004 issue of body and soul magazine from the library yesterday and I decided to read it. Nothing really called out to me until I reached an article about finding your spiritual path. I began reading it, figuring I would just skim it over like I do with most articles, but the first few paragraphs really pulled me in. It was almost as if she had pulled them out of my mind and put them onto a piece of paper.

"Occasionally, a strange feeling comes over you. You hear a call from inside your heart. A faint, faraway sound you can barely hear amid the office phones, the people who need you, the list of plans for the week, the month, the rest of your life. But when you breathe deeply, the sound is louder and you relax. Finally, one afternoon during your commute home, you hear yourself. You say you need to nurture your soul. But now that you have voiced this need, how do you respond?"

And that is the part that I am at right now. I know I need to do some soul searching. I need to nurture my soul. I need to find out who I am and what I'm supposed to do with my life.

"I reluctantly began a spiritual search when I was 25. I hated my job - my entire direction - and entered an early midlife panic. Many told me it was just 'the age,' but I knew it was more. These were the symptoms: A dull sense of separation from my own heart. An uncertainty about what I loved. A feeling that even my family didn't really know me..."

I feel all of those symptoms. And more. I feel disconnected. Dissatisfied. Just plain off.

The author then goes on to write about spirituality and how she tried many different religions before she found the right one for herself. I don't feel a need to explore my spirituality like she did, but I do feel a need to explore my soul. She included a 4 step path for others to follow, which I don't feel a need to follow but step 1 caught my eye.

Imagine what you want.

What do I want? I've been asking myself that question a lot more lately, but I've been coming up empty handed. I used to think I knew what I wanted, but now I am realizing that I was wanting what someone else wanted. And now I'm lost. I don't know what I want.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I want stability, how much I want happiness, how much I want to love and be loved. I want to know where my life is supposed to go, what I'm supposed to do. I know that I want to have my own bakery and restaurants, but I'm not sure if I want to take that step quite yet. I have so many conflicting things in my head, they are all battling each other and there is no clear winner.

I guess I have a lot more soul searching to do in order to fully answer that question.

Baguette French Toast with Fresh Berries

Yes, I know, berries are no longer in season so this post is kinda late, but I'm really trying to post more food posts! I made this breakfast for myself a while back on a lazy Saturday morning. I had half of a baguette that was rapidly drying out and some fresh berries chilling in the fridge that needed to be eaten fast. Combine the two together and what do you get? Baguette french toast with berries!

Sprinkle a little powdered sugar, butter with a little butter, add a little syrup and you are on your way to one fantastic breakfast. You ready to face the day yet?

Baguette French Toast with Fresh Berries

1/2 baguette, sliced in 1" thick slices
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
fresh mixed berries
powdered sugar
maple syrup

1. Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg until mixed well. Soak slices for 30 sec on each side.
2. Heat some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add bread slices and cook until lightly browned, about 5 min. Flip over and brown for 5 more minutes. Serve with berries, a sprinkling of powdered sugar and a drizzle of maple syrup.



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Monday, November 14, 2011

Emotional Intelligence, Day 2

Exercise 2: Answer these questions

-What are your five greatest strengths?

Love of learning, kindness/generosity, modesty/humility, playfulness/humor, passion

-What do you consider your greatest or signature strength?  

The ability to make others smile and feel happy, even when I don't feel happy (kindness/generosity)

-How has your signature strength helped you deal with adversity?  

I have helped others get through rough patches in their life by being a source of happiness. I try to bring light into their lives when they are surrounded by so much darkness. It helps me out because I tend to care deeply for lots of people and seeing them hurt makes me hurt.

-How can you use your signature strength in a different or new situation?

I should learn to be happy myself instead of faking it for others.

-What are your weaknesses?

Leadership, self-control, caution, gratitude, sense of purpose.

-What one thing do you want to change about yourself?

I want to be able to identify which emotion I am feeling at a certain time, why I am feeling that emotion, and be able to express my thoughts and feelings freely, without hesitation.

-How would you go about making that change?  

My first start is by reading this book. Next, practice, practice, practice. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Emotional Intelligence

I was surfing the net the other day and came across a book titled, "Emotional Intelligence for Dummies." This intrigued me for some reason, partially because I had no idea what emotional intelligence was. I decided to check out the book and see what it was all about. I started to read the introduction, and the more I read, the more I realized how much I needed to find this book right now.

I have come to realize that I am not in tune with my thoughts, feelings or emotions. I am distant most of the time and I do not live in the present. Sometimes, I have reacted the completely wrong way to a situation. Other times, I just plain feel dead inside. This book supposedly helps you become more aware of your emotions and how to deal with them, which is something I desperately need.

There are some exercises that you are supposed to do while going through the book. I'm trying to read a chapter a day (although tonight I read 3!), and I need somewhere to write down my answers to the activities. Since I'm so much faster at getting my thoughts out when I type, I thought, hey, why not put it in my blog? So over the next few weeks, I will be unleashing my thoughts and feelings and try to become more in tune with my emotions, and I will let you know how the book helped me (or didn't help me).

Exercise 1: Record your responses to these items:

-I'm usually aware of how I'm feeling emotionally.  

No, hardly ever.

-I find it easy to express my feelings and beliefs to others.  

No, it's pretty much impossible for me to do so.

-I really know what I'm good at and where I lack skills.  

Mostly. I know some skills I'm good at, but I don't know where I lack skills.

-I know exactly where I'm going in life.

I thought I knew, but right now I have no idea.

-I depend on others when making important decisions.  

Yes, I definitely do. 
-People feel I really listen to them.

No, they feel as though I'm off in my own world and I'm not really paying attention to them. 

-I have many friends and acquaintances.  


-I spend a lot of time doing things to help others.

No, I wish I did though.

-I'm good at solving people's problems.  

No, I'm hardly adept at solving my own problems. I do try though. 

-I find it easy to change tasks.

Sometimes. Most of the time I switch from task to task before fully finishing the first one.

-I live in the real world and tend not to daydream.  

No, I daydream a lot. Too much. It was more of a safety net for me growing up. I would always think about what could happen and how I would react so that way when things happened, I wouldn't be caught off guard. Now it just causes me more heartache than it's worth. 

-I get through stressful situations without a lot of anxiety.  

No, I freak out and cannot stay calm.

-I'm thoughtful and I carefully plan my reaction to things.  

I'm thoughtful, yes, but I do not carefully plan my reactions.

-I tend to look at the bright side of things.  

I can when I'm in a good mood, but I've noticed that if I'm physically sick or in pain, my mood worsens and I become unhappy and negative.

-I'm usually happy.  

Yes, but again, if I'm physically hurting, then my emotions suffer also.

As you can see, I've answered no to most of these statements, which means I'm emotionally unintelligent, as I had figured. Boy, this hurts to realize that. I kind of always thought that I at least was somewhat in step with my emotions, but I'm really not. And it's hard to think that. It's hard to see that. It's almost like a slap in the face, saying, Wake up, Rachel! Step out of this fog that you are in and live in the real world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cooking Projects

I have so many cooking projects (along with all my other projects), that I don't know how to complete them all in a fashionable amount of time. Should I try to work on them all at once, or should I focus on just one at a time? If my interest in that one project fades, should I switch to another one? I have slight ADD, so I have a feeling if I did that last idea, I'd be switching all the time and wouldn't get anything done.

I also have the issue of wanting to cook too many things at once, and then not getting anything done. Does anyone else have that problem? You have so many things you want to do, but don't know where to start, so you don't do anything? I really need to work on that.

I've become so inspired to cook lately, all thanks to another good friend I've made. They have really given me a lot of good ideas and inspiration and I have really enjoyed talking food with them.

I am determined to decide every Sunday what I'm going to make for the week and I am determined to stick to that plan. Like tonight, I'm going to be making steak with roasted root vegetables (potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, butternut squash) and quinoa. Yum yum!

I hope to be able to post photos soon. My old laptop is having a hard time reading the SD card, so once I get that figured out, I'll be back to posting recipes.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Being Present

I've recently been realizing that I have a hard time being in the present. I'm always focusing on the future or the past, yet rarely focus on what is happening right here, right now. I get so caught up in my thoughts that I can't savor the moment. I feel disconnected. I have for as long as I can remember. I was in a fog, and I didn't know how to get out of it.

I thought for a while that by meeting the right man, he would help bring me out of the fog. I don't think that's the case anymore. I think I need to carry myself out. I need to stop thinking so much and just live. I need to let my thoughts cease and enjoy the moment.

I have made a dear friend in the past year that I thank God everyday for bringing them into my life. They have helped me in so many ways, and they continue to help me. Today when I talked with them, they mentioned being present and how important it was. Later, as I was watching Eat, Pray, Love, I realized that I don't live in the present. I'm always thinking, about the future and how I want it to be, or the past and how it should have been. I don't know how to not think. Yet I have such a hard time expressing my thoughts and my feelings. I keep everything so bottled up inside, and everything gets so jumbled up that I don't know how to express them.

I'm learning how to say things out loud. I have a hard time telling people how I really feel about them, partially because I'm afraid they won't feel the same towards me and I'll end up looking foolish. I find it easier to write things down, but I need to learn how to say them out loud. I need to learn to enjoy the moment, to stop thinking.

My thoughts are my worst enemy. They cause me so much pain, so much frustration. I need to learn to calm my mind down when I get wound up. I need to learn to not get so wound up. I need to learn to live in the present and enjoy what is right in front of me instead of focusing on how it could have been better or what I should have done differently. That moment has passed. I didn't get to enjoy it, so I'm regretting it and feeling guilty. I need to feel less guilty about everything. I'm going to train my thoughts so they don't become my worst enemy. So what if things don't turn out how I want them to. Yes, I believe there is a plan for my life, but I have no idea what it is, and that scares me.

I thought I had it all figured out, had figured out exactly how my life was going to be. And then I changed it. And my life keeps changing. I have no idea where it's going to go, how it's going to end up being. And it's scares the living daylights out of me. But what I've learned in the past hour or so is that I need to learn to be present for every moment. Not just the ones I think are going to be important, all of them.

Today was one of the first days I actually felt myself living in the moment. I was walking with my dear friend I talked about earlier and we were standing on the bank by the river. We were both silent for a little while, and I realized, I had no thoughts in my head. For the first time in such a long time, my head was clear. I had no worries, no anxieties, no fears. I felt happy. My mind was so clear and I was so into that moment. I need to learn to experience that more often, eventually learning how to experience every moment.

I'm learning so much more than I thought I ever would. I'm coming to realize that I really don't know everything. I hardly know anything. I still have so much more to learn, about life, about people, about love. I'm learning new things everyday.

Life is full of surprises and I just need to learn to accept that they are going to happen and I have no power to change that. I do, however, have the power to change how I react. I can react negatively, like I have for my whole life, or I can learn to laugh and smile and look at the positive of the situation. I will learn to be positive and be present.

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