Archive for January, 2013

Stuffed Peppers For Mara: Our Meeting – Part 2 With Quinoa And Feta

“We’ll be friends forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. ‘Even longer,’ Pooh answered.” – AA Milne

It is funny when you think back about friendships, there are some that I could tell you exactly the moment we met or when a friendship began and others that become the very fiber of who we are so gently over time I could never recall its genesis. Mara is one of the former stories; I could never forget or exchange how I met Mara even if I tried.

We were probably two years old and both playing at the old Dolores Park, and by that I mean the real Dolores Park before yuppies took over with their pampered children before the pretty sleek new structures existed that now fill kids’ days. Back in the late 1970s we played on a wooden boat where children inevitably got large deep imbedded splinters that didn’t stop them from exploring their world from the ship’s surface. We climbed the green hill and rolled down to the bottom under palm trees and fog. In that sand box in the heart of a youthful and far different Mission District is where we met. The story goes that I was peeing in the sand box, but I have always protested that it must have been someone else, even going so far as saying it was my own mother who was peeing where all we wee children were playing in the now damp and dirty sand. Mara was in the sand box of infamy and when her mother met my mother and her friends drinking six packs of beer beside their children, she decided this was who she wanted to be friends with and raise her daughter near.

Our mothers and our young friendships flourished alongside each other. I was there when Mara said her first full sentence. In 1979 a group of women took their then toddlers to see the movie HAIR at the Castro Movie Theater. Moved by the infectious Rock and Roll and the Age of Aquarius, all of the kids danced through the theater naked, except for their diapers, making our own music that I can only imagine the other patrons where not too thrilled by. Our group was asked to leave. All of us mothers and children—we danced our evicted asses out of the movie theater just as Mara said her first full sentence “we get kicked out of movie”. The mothers laughed so hard that the story goes Mara kept saying the sentence as we danced down Castro and most likely right back to the same Dolores Park where we had met.

To my dear dance loving spirit and to your mom, my other heart of hearts another stuffed pepper. You have both stuffed my life with joy, compassion, adventure, laughter, and so much to be grateful for. I will never stop thinking of how a friendship can start by peeing where you play and the person who puts up with that is someone to hold onto for life.

I love you forever, even longer,

Ra

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa & Feta:

This recipe is something I came up with when trying to use up extra peppers, feta, quinoa, and arugula. It has a grate combination of sweet and savory and excellent vegetarian high protein source. It comes together in about half an hour and I love it with all of the different variations.

Ingredients:

5 large bell peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, or a combination)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

¼ cup pine nuts

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup whatever onion you have on hand chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

2 cups arugula or baby spinach

1 cup cut tomato into dices

Cilantro chopped (optional. I love the frozen pre chopped cilantro)

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup feta cheese diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the peppers in half-length wise and remove seeds. Brush the pepper halves with oil, inside and out. Place cut-side up on an oiled baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender but still holding their shape, about 15 minutes.

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly with cool water. Bring 2 cups of water to boil and add rinsed quinoa. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to the lowest setting. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes covered off of heat.

In a dry skillet toast pine nuts being careful not to burn as this happens very fast. Place pine nuts in dish to side.

Add olive oil to pan and sauté onions until translucent and then add garlic and arugula/spinach until wilted. Add tomato and continue to sauté until tomatoes burst and release juices. Add cilantro, salt and pepper.

Remove veggies from heat and add quinoa, half of the feta cheese, and half of the pine nuts.

Fill the roasted pepper halves with the quinoa/veggie mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese and pine nuts and return to the oven for 5-10 min until the cheese is melted.

21

01 2013

Stuffed Peppers For Mara – Part 1 With Polenta Cheese And Corn

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” –Anaïs Nin

I am very lucky to have friends who have known me for so long in my life and have decided not to throw me overboard on a boat or out the window of a moving car. One of those friends and indeed one of my longest lasting friendships is with my dear friend Mara. It is Mara’s birthday and it made me think how very lucky I am to have her as a friend, as a coconspirator in this life, a journeyer with me, a questioner with me, and an all out wonderful kick-ass woman!

I will save how I met Mara for a post tomorrow for Mara indeed is deserving of many posts as she has held many places in my life. We have traveled to Hawaii, Big Sur, Disney Land, and this last summer to Spain together. She shared one of my favorite New York days on a visit here that we dubbed Eat, Play, Love. She was there when I learned to swim, and when a giant obese person dove into the pool and landed smack on top of me; I saw my watery life go past my eyes. She sat beside me as I went on my first roller coaster and found a love for fast and exhilarating things. She was whom I called when I got my period for the first time and was at home alone with my math tutor Jim. She was the first person to be with me when I drove on 4-lane freeway; she stayed calm as I drove her car and she insisted that I had to go faster than 50 miles per hour no matter how scared I was. I guess you could say she is the kind of friend we would all be lucky to have in life.

Awhile back she asked if I had any recipes for stuffed peppers and indeed I did and I told her I would send them to her. It has been a while since that conversation and I am ashamed to admit I still haven’t sent the recipes, but then the other week I was thinking about what to make for dinner and I recalled this and thought I will make both recipes and put them here as a little gift. So for 2 days, I will post 2 recipes that I love for a friend I love as dearly as one can love a friend.

Happy Birthday Mara, I hope it is a great year ahead of you for you deserve only the greatest and so much more.

XOXO

Ra

Stuffed Peppers with Polenta, Cheese, and Corn:

This recipe is from Moosewood Simple Suppers.

Ingredients:

5 large bell peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, or a combination)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

4 Cups water

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup polenta cornmeal

1 ½ cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

1 ½ cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese

½ cups chopped Spanish olives

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the peppers in half-length wise and remove seeds. Brush the pepper halves with oil, inside and out. Place cut-side up on an oiled baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender but still holding their shape, about 15 minutes.

While the peppers roast, in a heavy saucepan, bring the water, salt, and red pepper flakes to a boil. Add the polenta in a slow, steady stream while whisking. Cook on medium heat, stirring often, until thickened about 5 minutes but being careful as polenta has a tendency to spit and splatter some. Stir in the corn, oil or butter, 1 cup cheese, and the olives. Remove from the heat.

Fill the roasted pepper halves with the polenta mixture. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining cheese and return to the oven for 5-10 min until the cheese is melted.

20

01 2013

Letters To A Young Poet And A Chili To Warm The Winter

Along with my father as the number #1 fan of this blog – thank you pops, Timmy is at the top of the list. Timmy has been in my life as long as I can recall. He is an artist, a lover of dogs and nature, a seeker, and a friend along with many other things. Timmy used to take me every Friday along with our companion and friend–his dog Voltaire. We had adventures of every kind that he collected in the most stunning book for me called FRIDAYS, yes Timmy, somewhere in the attic on Bryant Street it is still resting, I read it many times as I grew up.

Timmy has always sent me treasures – autumn leaves, post cards from far off places or from long past historic times. He sent our family art made of found objects that he put together into heightened scenes; he single-handedly started many of my book collections (including copies of RAMONA by Helen Hunt Jackson). Since I have started the blog Timmy has sent me notes, cards, and e-mails about many of my posts. At times he has even quoted me back to me. He has always had insightful and delightful things to share. And so it happened the other night that I received an e-mail titled Destiny about the latest post here. And in it he sent me this note

Dear Ramona, When I read about your Cheerios destiny, I was reminded of that famous passage from Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” which your mother loved:

I want to beg you as much as I can–to be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek answers which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is to live them.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer–take whatever comes with great trust, and if only it comes out of your own will, out of some need of your innermost being, take it upon yourself and hate nothing.”

Thank you Timmy so very much for all the light you bring into my life, all of the gifts, art, cards, and notes. And in a strange way it comes full circle for at the start of the year I found myself needing to start a new Morning Pages book and the card I choose to look at each day just happened to be from Timmy with this very same quote. And thank you Timmy for that too.

In addition to a new book for my daily ramblings, I started the new year with a big pot of this delicious chili that I wanted to share here. My sister asked me a few months ago if I had a good chili recipe and it tasked me to finally write my recipe down. This is a recipe I have used for years every winter as it combines three of my favorite recipes into one. There is a lot of play to this chili though, while it is vegetarian you could easily add meat. I change the way I garnish it almost every time, sometimes I want more heat and I add a jalapeno or I change the beans. But this base recipe never fails me, and it never fails to warm my winter inside out.

Timmy I am sending you big hugs and a chili recipe.

Love,

Your friend and fan from an early age, your co-adventurer every Friday,
Ra

Chili

2 cups chopped onions
1 red or green bell pepper diced
1 or 2 carrots diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced or pressed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon unsweetened coco
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 15 oz can beans red kidney beans with liquid
1 15 oz can mixed beans or black beans depends on mood you could also use a second can of kidney beans with liquid
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes (I really like using fire roasted with green chills not spicy but gives yummy flavor but up to you)
2 tablespoons chocolate chips

In a big heavy bottom pot cook onions, bell pepper, and carrot in oil.

When veggies are starting to get soft and onion translucent add garlic and saute for a min until garlic starts to smell.

Add salt, chili powder, cumin, coco, and cinnamon and sauté for a min or less. Add beans with liquid and tomatoes with liquid.

Add chocolate chips (I know sounds crazy but so good). Reduce heat and simmer rapidly uncovered for about 20 min-30 min  or until most of the liquid has cooked away and chili is thickened, stir frequently to prevent scorching.

12

01 2013

What is your Destiny?

When I was two and three years old my mother and I had this ritual of sorts, at least to her. Each morning she would look across the table and stare intently into my sky blue eyes, and would inquire with all seriousness,

“Ra, what is your destiny?”

On most mornings I would look back into her green eyes with equal love and bewilderment at what she was saying and I would answer,

“Cheerios.”

She would get more earnest and look even deeper into my eyes and say,

“No really, what is your destiny? This is big.”

I would think and then reply again a little less sure,

“Cheerios. Cheerios.”

This would go back and forth a few times and then she would grow tired of what she viewed as a game to me—her young sprite, and she would say,

“This is important Ra, you have to think about this. You have to consciously consider it every day, what is your destiny? You can’t forget it even if you don’t know what it is, you have to seek it and ask yourself about it.”

I could always tell she was serious here but didn’t know about what. All I could say was,

“What is destiny? I want cheerios for breakfast.”

I have thought so many times of the question of my destiny since those days with breakfast cereal. I wish it were easier to discover. I wish it were written in my clothes the way my name had been before going on camping trips with Eddy Shine Summer Camp. I wish thirty years later I wasn’t still asking myself that same question every morning with just as an uncertain answer as Cheerios. I wish I could ask my mother how I discover the answer, where I look, what practice to follow, what questions other than this one to ask.

08

01 2013