Failure

I want to talk for a minute about failure.

Sometimes I think we, as Americans in the 21st Century, stress too much and obsess too much about failure.

In the last six months, perhaps even the last year, I’ve hedged a lot of bets on new things. Some are simple things, like buying a car. Others are more complex, like accepting a new job and later a promotion into a position where I have no experience, only passion and my wits.

I enjoy new experiences, not everyone does. I love learning. I love challenges. I love some competition.

But with that comes failure. And sometimes we spend so much time on the failure that we don’t see how much progress we made before we failed.

It’s not even 9 a.m. on the last day of a long weekend. Probably my first relaxing long weekend since I started my new job in April. My time off prior to this was filled with parental duties or medical appointments.

Of course, I’ve slept in until 7 a.m. every day so the alarm tomorrow is going to be brutal. I have some very important projects on my desk and some meetings this week that also give me some concern.

The living room is completely dismantled, unpainted, and the furniture will arrive by the end of the week.

The teenager has a holiday concert on the same night I agreed to attend a party with my CEO. (In my defense, I thought she had her interior design class, which she does so she’s double-booked, too.)

Etc.

But this post is about failure.

If you look a few posts back, you’ll see that a good friend inspired me to buy The Whole 30. I read most of it, even did some grocery shopping, but never implemented it. It did force me to think more about what I was eating. I started tracking my macronutrients again and reducing my carbohydrates. Not in a low carb way. In a balanced way.

I am debating canceling my Planet Fitness membership. It’s been seven months and since school started, my teen and I have only gone 2-4 times a month. We both need it, but we’re not going. And I have free weights and the tools I need to get started again here at home. I joined the gym to motivate her and have more options since I’d maxed out at home.

So right now the gym is a failure, but at the same time fitness is very much on my mind and I wish I had it in me to resume my disciplined body building. (I did two or three home workouts this week. My goal is to break my bad habits before considering “New Year’s resolutions.”)

And finally, for the first time since I started making homemade bone broth a decade or so ago, I failed at that. For two days, I’ve had chicken bones from my freezer and the Thanksgiving turkey carcass in my crock pot. Somehow, overnight, ALL the liquid boiled off. ALL of it.

My “waste not, want not” attitude kicked in and mourned this tragedy. Then I remembered: I don’t like poultry broth. My daughter used to love chicken soup. But she doesn’t so much anymore. And I don’t really have room in the freezer. So maybe we didn’t need homemade soup right now.

Failure isn’t always bad. Sometimes it keeps you from expending energy in the wrong direction.

Fire Up the Ninja

While I was recovering from my minor winter ailment, somehow I stumbled upon Gaz Oakley, the Avant Garde Vegan on YouTube. I’m not even sure how or why, but something mesmerized me.

I spent eight years as a vegetarian before my daughter was born and went vegan for six months back in my twenties. I never was a big fan of meat and I hated touching it. I also disapproved of factory farming practices and the use of hormones and antibiotics in our meat. Basically, I never had a problem with eating meat, but I did have a problem with the big business of food production and the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the standard American diet.

When my daughter was young, I made 90% of her baby food, most of our bread products and bought a lot of our food from local farms. Not the Farmer’s Market but the actual farms. I also gardened and preserved our food in the almost-lost art of canning.

As life got busier, I lost some of my good food habits. And I burned out a few food processors making homemade nut butters, blending dates for use in snacks and grinding my own flours. Oh and I made ridiculous amounts of hummus.

Something about Gaz and the way his cooking style incorporated the types of foods I like had me hooked. It was his high protein meal prep that truly mesmerized me and made me want to eat it all. I needed to cook again. Really cook.

And he did the things I used to do when I destroyed my blender.

So what did HE use?

A Ninja.

I read all the comments on his videos about the blender system and its comparison to a Vitamix. Now frankly, I don’t want a Vitamix. It’s a blender. I have a nice Black and Decker blender with a glass pitcher that suits me. I need a food processor.

Then I saw it at Target. The Ninja Professional. $199.

I wanted it so bad. So I made a Facebook comment. Suddenly, my family is offering to buy me a Ninja.

I had no choice.

I bought a Ninja. And started cooking again.

I have cooked for four days straight. My husband teases that I can’t make a meal without firing up the Ninja.

I am in love.

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Gaz’s Sriracha Meatballs and my spinach yogurt sauce

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Gaz’s Sriracha Meatball Mix

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Salad in the Ninja

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Breakfast smoothie

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Gaz’s Falafel, Hummus & Flatbreads

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Hummus Mix

Birthday Breakfast for the Imaginary

In my free time, I write fiction. My husband says it makes me an easier person with whom to live.

My writing focuses on a Parisian high fashion house inclined to supernatural events. The creative director is Étienne d’Amille and he’s been in my life for decades.

So, he’s my best ever imaginary friend.

He was born during the interwar era in France– March 14, 1959. Every year I try to mark his birthday in some way. When he turned 50, I took a group of my friends (the ones who “knew” him, i.e. read about him) out for dinner and margaritas.

Many of my celebrations are quiet meals at home, where we often discuss what we’d get him for a present or what he might be doing now. 

This year, I made steak au poivre.

For breakfast.

A day late.



I had intended a lovely dinner, perhaps even by candlelight, for this charming imaginary Frenchman whose memories I confuse as legitimately my own. Then I agreed to work for a colleague in the evening and my mom visited taking my daughter away. (She would have been extremely disappointed if we ate the steaks without her.) To further complicate matters, my husband and I used the early afternoon for other activities (or more accurately, one adult activity) that I’m sure Étienne would have also enjoyed.

This particular version of steak au poivre has its own “comedy of errors” moments but let me say, it might have been my best ever. After college, I became a vegetarian. This lasted eight years primarily for two reasons: 1. I don’t approve of modern factory farming and 2. I hate touching meat. Étienne, though, as a Frenchman and a divorcé, likes to cook so I got over my discomfort of dealing with meat “for him.”

Étienne’s Belated Steak Au Poivre

  • 4 small chuck tender steaks, angus beef (I got mine on markdown at Target)
  • black peppercorns
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • half a stick of butter, cut into four equal pieces of on tablespoon each
  • garlic powder (should be shallots but I didn’t have them. I often substitute fresh chives but didn’t have them either)
  • 1/2 cup brandy (I’m a liar. I didn’t have brandy. I had ginger brandy and spices rum, so I mixed them. It worked.)
  •  3/4 cup heavy cream (I’m lying again. I didn’t have cream, so I used half and half)

The process 

(I put photos on Instagram: angelackerman.)

With a heavy-bottomed skillet (mine, of course, is Le Creuset), smash peppercorns. I couldn’t find my grinder, which had my peppercorns in it. I did find a small container of peppercorns and salt that had exploded from the grinder at some point.

Next, pat steaks dry and smash them with a skillet too. Cooking can be great as a form of anger management. I bet Thug Kitchen would agree.

Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and press the peppercorns into the meat. Cook them to desired doneness and place in a warm oven.

Now, the cream sauce.

Take half the butter and cook your shallots or chives or whatever. I added about two teaspoons garlic powder. When it’s appropriately incorporated pour in the alcohol. When that starts to bubble, add the cream and slowly bring it to a boil. Let it slowly thicken, then add remaining butter. When it melts and blends into the sauce and you just can’t take it anymore, smother those steaks and eat!



Maraq

I posted an entry on my food blog today about creating my own variation of the Somali stew, Maraq.

It shares a lot of my thought process in the kitchen and may even reveal a bit about my family. Don’t mess with us when we’re hungry.

It also includes my recipe… But we have no taste test until later…

http://bit.ly/1pwCO5w

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Health: Gluten-free cooking workshop at Warren Hospital (2004)

WarrenCookingThis article stemmed from a cooking workshop/presentation at Warren Hospital in Phillipsburg, N.J. It occurred almost ten years ago. The host was the executive chef of the hospital, Mike DiCenso. At the time, gluten-free cooking, Celiac disease, gluten intolerance and the connection between gluten and autism/sensory disorders was not quite as mainstream a conversation as it is now.

I pulled this article out of deep storage. The information in it remains pertinent, if not more relevant than it was a decade ago.