This particular morning in the East Bay, the skies are overcast and there is even a slight mist wetting my lashes as I walk to work. I blink a few times to clear the haze. The air is saturated with humidity, and below me feet, the pavement is slightly damp. The dirt path on which I walk releases a musty, earthy smell – not unpleasant, but comforting and almost warm. Can you imagine? My ballet flats leave just the slightest imprint on dirt, and with great care, I try not to disturb the leaves that have fallen and rested there. They seem soo at peace. At ease. Happy. And I envy these leaves. Because happyness (not a typo) seems to elude me. Doesn’t it seem so fleeting? So ephemeral! So impossible to achieve. The best you can do (it seems) is to chase it, as one would will-o’-the-wisps. And every so often, you get really close, but once again, it flips and darts just beyond your reach. These past few days, I’ve been in the best of company and have been experiencing new fun things – but it seems that I am only getting spurts of happiness here and there – it doesn’t last as long as it use to. Weird, right? At one point, I thought I knew what happiness was. And now, everything just pales in comparison. My spells of “happy” use to last days, weeks, months. Now I can only count them by the hour, the minute, the second. My friend poppy said that it’s a sign that we’re no longer naive youth. Perhaps that’s it. But then again, 5 weeks ago, I was blissfully happy with myself. What changed inside of me?
Source: Martha Stewart
A few quick notes – this cookie recipe, though delightful in texture [chewy, crunchy, hearty], lacks in flavor. I suggest adding another 1/2 cup of sugar and another stir-in ingredient to contrast all the other flavors that seem to meld into one homogeneous thing. I chose dried cranberries which have the perfect amount of tart to balance it all out.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
6 oz semisweet chocolate chunks
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
* 1 cups dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Slowly incorporate flour mixture, and mix just until combined. Stir in oats, chocolate, pecans, coconut and dried cranberries. Drop rounded balls of dough onto baking sheets, giving enough space for the cookies. Bake until golden brown or about 12-15 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to rack and allowing to further cool. Enjoy!
Spicy Cajun Shrimp
Who needs Boiling Crab when you can do this at home? This is a delicious savory-spicy-tangy dish that is so easily prepared in any kitchen. The initial richness of the butter sauce is immediately cut through by a sweet-tang from the fresh lemon juice and tomatoes that brightens the dish. The last impression you get from the dish is the “after bite,” a hot kick on the back of your tongue from all the Sriracha and peppers this dish has. It’s Cajun after all. And my own touch – added lemongrass to intensify the aromatic experience. The only way to enjoy the fully sensual experience of food is to engage all the senses. This dish does just that.
2 lbs whole shrimp [crawfish is good too!]
1/8 cup crushed red pepper flakes
2 sticks butter, melted
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Worchestire sauce [soy sauce ok!]
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sugar
1 large tomato, cut into 1/4″ wedges
1/4 cup Sriracha Sauce [increase as needed]
2 stalks lemon grass, chopped into 3″ lengths
2 Thai peppers (ot hiem), julienned
paprika, salt & pepper, to taste
2 cobs grilled corn, chopped into thirds
1 link kielbasa sausage, cut into 1-2″ lengths
3-4 red potatoes, cooked and quartered
In a small sauce pan, add all ingredients but raw shrimp, red pepper flakes and corn cobs. Test taste and adjust as needed. The liquid should be a bright red in color, be salty and tangy, and end with this wonderful sting on your tongue. The degree of that sting all depends on how much Sriracha and pepper you put in. Allow all the ingredients to simmer on the stove, allowing the lemongrass to release all its fragrance, letting the flavors meld together. Remember, cooking isn’t a science. It’s an art. Let your tongue guide you. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, season the fresh shrimp (head and shell still attached) with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Place in large pot and pour butter broth over the shrimp. Add grilled corn cobs and kielbasa sausage. Let sit to allow corn to absorb the sauce. On high heat, cook shrimp and broth until boiling and until shrimp is firm and red, gently stirring occasionally. Lastly add the cooked potatoes and try to stir minimally to avoid breaking the corn. Eat immediately! The broth is really good with some garlic-rubbed bread on the side or even white rice.
It’s also often said that we live for those brief moments of happiness. All our hardships and sorrow only serve to make those happy moments more valuable and meaningful. Maybe that’s what this is – maybe that’s where I am now. Or maybe I should adhere to the advice of my favorite writer – Alexandre Dumas:
“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live…..the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.”
Yes, I will wait and hope.