08 January 2011

Snow like Cotton

The snow fell like cotton early this morning and when I left the house for Saturday errands, the day was bright and pure.

January days have a clarity like no others in Northern Wisconsin. The sunlight reflects off the snow and brightens everything, showing only that which is necessary and true.

Today's light was not flat, but intense and sparkling.

Our moods are lighter today, and my husband and I joked while folding laundry. We are growing older together and taking pleasure in small everyday tasks. Our life together is simple and clear.

Our Saturday night supper will be simple, too: Small tenderloins with herbs de Provence and mushrooms and a salad of lettuce, tomato and olives.

There is a contentment in January, and an optimism in the young year.

I hope this is true for you, too.


03 January 2011

Kalyn's Pulled Chicken Salad with Green Olives and Celery


The start of a new year holds more charm for me than the winter holidays.

I like starting over.

This year, I am once again trying my luck with the South Beach Diet, which in 2007 kept me from rolling into Paris and instead strolling about that magic city feeling, if not slender, at least not fat. And that's essential in a city where all women are apparently slim and beautiful. The men aren't bad either.

You may already know that the first two weeks of South Beach are bread, pasta, potato and beet, pea, corn and carrot free. It's no easy feat avoiding at least a taste of those foods, but I can do anything for two weeks, right?

Right, but the absence of carbs and sugar (especially fruit) can get a bit boring.

So I turn to Kalyn's Kitchen for assistance. And Kalyn never fails me.

A few days ago she provided a roundup of Phase One recipes, using the photo for this particular salad. My mouth started watering immediately, but our house was full of holiday treats  and I am always meticulous about eating up what is on hand.

Besides, who wants to start a diet on Dec. 30 or 31? Only a seriously deranged person.

It should come as no surprise to Kalyn's fans that this salad was wonderful. I added lightly toasted almonds, but otherwise followed Kalyn's recipe to the letter. I used dehydrated green onions because I was unable to force myself to leave the house in frigid weather.

But oh, this was tasty! Preparing the salad got me through a rough spot and eating it was a treat.

I posted a new photo of myself above left - taken after a spa visit but before starting SBD - as a way of goading myself into weight loss. I was born with those cheeks, by the way.

02 January 2011

Kitchen Tools: Mortar and Pestle

For as long as I can remember, I have tracked the color of the sky once winter solstice has passed.

I don't need to remind those of us in the Northern Hemisphere that the lighter the sky at, say, 4:30 p.m., the closer we are to spring.

(And I love spring more than any other season. No reason to list a litany of reasons. You know what I mean: buds, birdsong, the angle of the sun.)

Observing the sky at a given time helps me to remind myself that winter, which can be beastly here in Wisconsin, is a temporary condition.

I am pleased to report that the sky was still medium blue at 4:30 in Northern Wisconsin. As I looked out my window to check, a bird flew across the tree tops, heading south against the coming night perhaps: One of those small moments that never fails to enchant me.

While we wait for spring, we spend winter nights and weekends experimenting in the kitchen. Most of the experiments never make it to the pages of this blog, but they provide a welcome distraction from snow and cold.

Inevitably there is a Christmas gift from my husband that makes my kitchen time fun and sometimes challenging. I'm still experimenting with the mandoline he bought me a few years ago. My back and feet thank him daily for the chef's floor mat he bought me a bit more recently.

This year's gift may be less comforting to my back. The mortar and pestle is one I chose myself from a little shop in a neighboring city that sells books and finely-crafted furniture and other household or decorative items. As you can see from the photo, this is no ordinary mortar and pestle.

It's heavy, too, something I did not consider. I only looked at its aesthetics.

My husband jokes that it provided traction during the month it spent in the trunk of his car.

I swear it's a lethal weapon.