Thursday, May 2, 2013

This Isn't About Food

It really isn't.  Sorry.  Those of you who used to read, and yes, admit it, ADORE (wink) my short but sweetly-lived cooking/family lore blog here at Barafare may be surprised to find this edition entirely void of food banter and my take on good family living.  Mind you, despite the fact that Barafare has taken a year-or-so-long hiatus, rest assured I still somehow feel uniquely qualified to share more than my two cents about both.  And I do hope to fully re-grow the little sprout again some day.  But in the meantime, I'd like to share something unique and exciting that I'm thrilled to be taking part in this weekend, on Saturday to be more precise, at 2 p.m. at the Providence Public Library.  Listen to your Mother is a live performance where writers/people who like to write/people-who-maybe-wrote-one-kinda-brilliant-thing-once (me) will be reading their beautifully articulated composite gem of thoughts and sentiment, some gripping, some hilarious, some awkwardly outrageous, about motherhood.   I'm one of 14 in the cast.  The experience of daring to audition for the Providence debut of this national production, then being selected and then fully lassoed into this gang of greatness has made a remarkable difference in me.  Those close to me may have noticed...  Is she a bit louder?  More confident?  A bit more silly and smiling?  And why is she swearing so much? (I've always loved to curse!)  In my work as a therapist I preach self-expression and "finding your voice" as if they're that magical mechanism that causes the last piece of landing gear to raise, allowing some massive plane to finally take flight and get outa dodge already.  And you know what, it's true.  I'm soaring.  The piece I'll be sharing is tough for me to read but it is my own therapy, my healing, the expression of me as I am now.  In reading it aloud on Saturday to what I hope will be a sold-out room I anticipate the awesome experience of seeing my warrior self come out and comfort in the most loving way the me that still feels broken after losing my parents.  I'd be honored to be joined by my Providence community of friends at this wonderful event whose proceeds benefit The Family Literacy Initiative.  (See link below for full show and ticket information.)

I haven't figured out why I quit writing my blog.  But I have figured out why I started writing it in the first place.  I used to think it was to document my attempts to cook creatively for my family.  Now I know it was the start of something much bigger.  So I do hope to write again here about food and family, cooking and my quirky take on things.  And I'm sorry again that this wasn't about food - but maybe it never was.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Time wounds all heels

My cat and my laptop are not friends, despite the fact that they have a couple of things in common (designed for laps, going to sleep automatically, generating considerable heat).  You can probably imagine why.  I’m not sure my laptop shares quite the same grudge but I can tell you that being in the middle of (or a bit under) this feud is not fun.  And I’d like to blame it for the fact that I haven’t written in quite some time.  It’s not that I don’t want quality time with my now 18 year-old cat.  I do.  I really do.  I know that someday soon or soonish my chance to sit with cat - at least this cat, in lap, will be gone.  Here’s the rub: sitting and doing something other than work feels so frivolous to me.  Indulgent.  And please don’t misunderstand - it’s not like I have a ton of time on my hands for sitting idly by watching the rain drip awkwardly from gutters that never got cleared or the dust bunnies sitting waiting to be tumbled around the floor by the other cat that doesn’t sit quite so much.  But in the spare time that I do have, I feel compelled to do work – progress notes, lack of progress notes, sorting out billing issues.  These activities are not soul food people.  While they need to be done, they are not what I need.  I need to ponder, to mull, to find my silly side, my serious side, sitting.  Why sitting?  Because thinking while doing may generate the sparks of cool ideas, but it doesn’t jog the brain like the act of coughing up words onto “paper.”  I wonder for those who may read this – what things that are good for you and that feel good to you do you put off doing?  For a while, for me (in addition to writing and doing other left-brain-type things), it was exercise.  And then, slowly but surely, I started running and going to yoga.  A couple of months, maybe less, into the building of what I hoped would be a new routine, I was forced to quit the running by some heel pain that I’d been ignoring for too many weeks.  Big bummer.  And not running definitely started to impact the rest of me – forgive the small sample size but I basically proved that there is a strong correlation between regular exercise and positive mood.  (My research teacher from grad. school would be so proud.)  Here’s how the abstract might read:  Running makes you happy and gives you energy!  When you’re happy and have energy you want to make an effort to cook adventurously!  When you make an effort to cook adventurously you want to write about it!  You see my point.  So please forgive the temporary blog void.  It’s not that I haven’t been cooking at all – I’ve managed to pull together a few decent meals here and there.  The pizza you see is a more or less copy from something I read off the menu at our local vegetarian restaurant, Garden Grille – it’s BBQ sauce, turkey bacon (they used tofu bacon, which tastes exactly like a REAL pork rind – remember those?), queso fresco (yum), corn, roasted sweet potatoes, mozzarella and cilantro.  Black beans would have been good on there too.  The other dinner-looking thing is my version of a hearts of palm burger.  The photo doesn’t do a whole lot for it.  (It got smushed when I tried to flip it in the pan.)  They were rockin’.  When I’m not so tired I’ll try to remember how I made them and jot it down.  The green goopy looking stuff in the blue bowl is Green Soup.  I swear by this stuff.  It's good health in a bowl and tastes WAY better than it should.  I picked it up from the Splendid Table radio show that I usually catch on my Saturday trip to the grocery store (how timely).  I'll put a link to it at the end.  The picture I’d like to show is the one my husband took last week of my kids eating cereal off the kitchen floor, at dinnertime.  Piper spilled the box and Mazie moved in, joining the feeding frenzy.  We were too pooped to intervene.  So sometimes, even oftentimes, dinner at our house isn’t exactly something to brag, er, blog about.  But whether off the floor or off an actual plate, we manage to eat.  And I can deal.  My energy will come back.   After all, don’t we know that time heals all heels?  

Make this...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


We were driving home from our spring break getaway to sunny Scarsdale on Sunday and I heard Arthur say to Maze, "Good sistering!" after she shared something with Piper.  I could see the object, likely a fraction of a fig newton (aka "newton bar" - not sure how that one developed, but now it's part of the Baraf lexicon) exchanged between two tiny outstretched hands in my rearview mirror.  I'm pretty sure I had never heard "sister" used as a verb, but I liked it.  A lot.  I am a sister.  I know what it feels like to be sistered.  And today of all days, I need a little sistering.  You see, four years ago today my sisters and I became, well, orphans.  Our mom passed away.  Breast cancer that came back.  Elsewhere.  We had lost our dad just months before.  Tonight as I sit and write this blog I'm not finding my usual find-the-humor-in-just-about-everything voice.  In fact, I'm tearing up watching Dancing with the Stars, my mom's favorite show, which tonight is featuring BALLET DANCERS.  For those who don't watch the show - they never have ballet dancers.  For those who didn't know my mom - she was a ballet dancer.  Those who have suffered great loss likely share my appreciation of these not-so-concidences that pop up as we go about our days, that leave us either smiling or sobbing - but regardless of which - feeling wonderfully comforted in that moment of awareness where memories of our loved ones and our experiences in the present moment connect and the universe or God or god says, Gotcha!

So today has been full of Gotcha moments.  Like when I mentioned the song, "White Coral Bells" to my friend as we walked through some woods together with our kids and heard her say, "I know that song." Whah?  No one knows that song.  And then, low and behold, there they were.  Lilies of the Valley.  Ok, need for another biographical note:  my mom sang that song to us a lot and I sing it to my girls, so I thought that today of all days, it would be cool to try to find some lilies of the valley on our walk.  Gotcha.  There they were.

So why the picture of the Indian food?  A couple of days ago a friend who recently had a baby girl returned some serving dishes to me that I had given to her (filled with veggie curry) a few weeks back.  Tonight I refilled them with chicken in coconut curry sauce, ready to give to another friend who also just had a baby girl.  Sistering.  I learned it from my sisters.  Thanks mom.

The recipe:

One crock pot
4-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
one medium onion, chopped
one box (or can) chopped tomatoes
two tables tomato puree
one can coconut milk
one half-box chicken broth
two teaspoons each: ground coriander, chili powder, cumin, turmeric
two teaspoons chopped garlic, or more if you don't mind sweating garlic like me
salt and pepper to taste

Toss in the pot, stir and simmer all day, stirring now and again - about 7 hours on low seems to be just about right.  Serve over rice or with naan.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Hungry Monster

Kids love to be chased.  By monsters.  Overall nice but kinda-mean-sounding ones.  I am that monster.  (Ok, we can say it, momster.)  I'm the weirdo parent often seen walking straight-legged, arms outreached (or reached out, whatev), growling something in a deep voice (so read it that way, ok?), "I'm gonna get youuuu," at the park.  Toddlers flee screaming, eyes and mouths wide open as they run in all directions - making mostly fake-sounding but nevertheless super high-pitched and likely-annoying-to-more-civilized-parents (and children) screams.

The momster doesn't just rear her ugly (Mud-hens baseball hat-adorned) head at park time.  I wake up that way, minus the threatening 'I'm gonna get you' bellows.  (And nooo, I don't really think I'm ugly - for those of you who were concerned about that sentence).  So lately, I'm finding that our usual a.m. barafare isn't satiating the beast and I've been trying to break out of our weekday breakfast rut - cold cereal (the kind in boring boxes from the "natural food" section of the grocery store that still contains about the same amount of sugar as toucan sam), frozen waffles, fruit smoothies, cheese toast.  I found this recipe in MSL and it looked sooo delicious and easy.  I picked up some grainy, perfectly crusty bread from 7 Stars Bakery on Hope St. and added just what was called for in the recipe:  ricotta cheese, dates (I bought organic Medjool ones from WH), bananas, and honey.  I skipped the pecans, because those got used in a salad earlier in the week, and the bread from 7 Stars was nutty enough.

The cameraman and I each had two slices and felt FULL.  As in, wow, we're really stuffed.  (But in a good way - not a 'I think I'm gonna be sick' way).  So for those of you who thought ricotta was just for stuffing into shells and tubes and between layers of lasagna noodles and smothering with tangy, garlicky, mouth-watering red sauce, think again, ok?  The momster is asking nicely.

Note:  As I look at the picture, I'm thinking the dates look a lot like bacon.  Next time, I'm subbing in bacon.  That would be so goooood.  Anyone who likes to dip their fries in their frosties knows what I mean.  You people are my people.

Monday, April 16, 2012


My 3 year-old is obsessed with bandaids. She calls them ban-day-jes. As in, she knows the word bandaid, and has heard the word bandage, so she combines them, turning that second "a" into a long-vowell sound. It's cute. She's cute. But what is not cute is that we NEVER have bandaids, bandages or ban-day-jes around when we need them. Thankfully, we don't need them very often. (Which is surprising given at least one of my children's love of being not just barefoot but entirely naked in the outdoors.) Why am I telling you this? Because tonight while I was trying to make dinner, she was trying to find where I'd last stashed the most recently purchased box, screaming at me, "But mom, daddy needs one for his owie!" For the record, Arthur did not have an owie. But I did. Why, you ask? Because a yellow crayon-shaped bandaid was pinching and pulling at my arm hairs. Still not sure when she managed to plant that one on me, that little bandaid bandit. So here I am (or there I was), trying to make this fairly easy (but certainly requiring of at least some amount of concentration) meal that featured one of my own obsessions, mushrooms, and also appease the little bandit. "Why don't you color?" "Do you want to read books to your babies?" "Has anyone seen Piper?" (Ok, I didn't actually ask the 3-year old that one.) Perhaps I'm too tired to make my point creatively. So here it is: we all have obsessions. Some come and go. Some "stick" around for awhile. (Har har.) We do need to indulge in what makes us feel well, indulgent, every so often, but in doing so, we need to make sure we don't lose our grip (assuming we have one in the first place) on reality. And in my house reality reads like this: dinner needs to be cooked, people need to eat. Sometimes, cooking dinner gets a lot of my focus. Other times, being a willing patient and ending up covered in bandaids by my 3 year-old gets my undivided attention. If you share my obsessions with cooking and/or with mushrooms, you'll love the recipe below. If you share Mazie's obsession with bandaids - my only advice would be to guide your kids to place them on your least-hairy spots. You'll thank me for that.

P.S. - for those of you who may be wondering about the green stuff that often tops the various patties pictured on my blog - it's coriander chutney, purchased at a local Indian market. Talk about obsessions. Have you tried the stuff?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Come and get it

Ok I confess. The reason I cook so much is...I love eating good food. And I love the satisfaction of making something really delicious. So many rewards - great flavors to savor, a sense of "hey I actually have something tangible to show for my efforts" (we don't get that a lot in my line of work - counseling), and of course the "this is awesome" commentary from my cameraman. I found this recipe about a month ago in MSL, and because I'm constantly on a search to try new grains (and legumes) and then work them into our regular diets, I bought myself a bag of red lentils. Tonight was the second time I've made this dish - and made some adjustments that made the meal come together really exquisitely. Yes, I said that. I made something that I feel is exquisite. The link below shows the recipe. I followed it for the most part with a few changes. I did not have feta but instead used regular goat cheese (I crumbled it from a log of really good but not pricey organic goat cheese I found at WH), and instead of using the green part of the scallions for the slivered green lines you see nicely crusted into the cakes - I used chives. Better flavor. I also didn't use a non-stick pan. The surface of mine is starting to flake off - and I've banned it from use until I do some research about its potential carcinogenic properties. So I used the always excellent but horrible to clean All-Clad skillet and a fairly generous (for me - I'm stingy with the stuff) amount of safflower oil. The recipe calls for mint and I think watercress. Not a mint lover. (Unless the leaves are crushed with sugar and lime and floating about in a pool of rum and ice and whatever else makes mojitos so damn good.) I tossed some red leaf lettuce with my new favorite (store-bought) vinaigrette (pictured) and no, it does not have any strawberry juice in it. But it tastes like it does - and its sweetness was the perfect counterpart to the somewhat creamy tartness of the yogurt sauce (to which I added a little olive oil because it needed a little more of a buttery quality and less tang, and a little salt because, well, it needed that too). I threw in some sliced avocado and meant to add cucumbers for some crunch - but alas, the naked cucumber (I did manage to peel it) sat on the counter until I discovered it at clean-up time. Sorry little guy.

I implore you to try this meal. Pardon me if that smacks of bravado. It's not tricky. Mind you, I have no real cooking skill or technique - just some whacky (that word so needs an "h" - am I right?) internal drive to make good eats. (Thanks Alton Brown for stealing that phrase so that now as I say it I have to 1. feel kinda weird about it and 2. give you some kind of credit for making it a thing. Geez man.) One thing - harissa is not a type of flour. That's something else whose name I can't recall right now but that sounds like harissa. It's a red hot pepper paste used in North African cooking (yes, I googled that). Totally worth the 3 or so bucks at WH. Or, just come get some of mine. As good as this meal was I'm guessing I won't make it again for awhile, and making use of the rest of the jar of harissa could be a challenge. Most of you know where I live. I'll leave it in the milk box.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is it summer yet?

My mouth is ready for summer. The flavors of summer. As much as I do love stews and those creamy-type comfort foods (remember, I'm not afraid of condensed soups, after all - every decent casserole's primary ingredient), my palette is longing for some zing and freshness. Tonight we approximated summer flavors. And although I settled for pan-fried turkey burger sliders instead of an actual grilled burger, the meal wasn't disappointing at all. And it was quick and healthy. Here's how it went down... I realized I mistakenly bought 99% lean ground turkey (that must have been one skinny bird) and figured out that, because the grill was all wet and I didn't want to deal with removing a sopping cover (sensory issues? um, yeah) and therefore would not be grilling the sliders, I'd have to add a little cooking oil to the indoor grill - aka skillet - so that the little guys wouldn't stick like crazy. I added aforementioned oil with great effect. The burgers didn't stick. Two (no longer) secrets to great indoor burgers - brown lightly on both sides and then cover the pan with a lid of some sort. The burgers will hold in their juices while continuing to cook. Yum. And add a little garlic powder (not garlic salt - way too hard to control how salty they get). Double yum. I served them with freshish Florida corn that was actually REALLY delicious. And served them on whole wheat hot dog buns - which are perfect for sliders because you just cut them in half. I found a whole bin of them at WH - I wondered why they were all tossed into a bin instead of positioned nicely on a shelf. My guess is that they were a little undercooked or something - they were really mushy. So I toasted them a little and that remedied the problem. Quick meal. So easy and so good. Not quite as satisfying as grilled corn (if you haven't tried it, make this the summer you do!) and grilled burgers, but hey, the propane tank is full and summer will be here before we know it!