The concept of unlimited

sunflower

By nature, I am an over-indulger. I used to believe that over-indulging equated happiness and frankly, I lived for it. Through TV binges, clothing, sale items, money, shoes, dates, and my favorite past-time, food binges. Going out to dinner knowing I could eat whatever and however much I wanted while glugging down delicious wine and cocktails was heaven on earth. It felt like this type of “letting go” meant I was free. In reality, it had me in chains.

When I wasn’t over-consuming the tangible, I would go on information binges. Yay, internet! Yay, forty books! It was excess, always. That’s just my nature, because I am hungry for it all. I always make things harder, better, faster than they need to be. I want to consume the world; literally eat the entire planet and solar system until there is nothing left. If you know about the galaxy we live in, you know thats a CRAZY amount. And you know what? It still wouldn’t be enough. Because when you are starving on the inside, like I was, unlimited is never enough.

For emotional eaters, this over-indulgy personality is slippery territory. Letting our guard down is dangerous. One cupcake and I want thirty. One second of chocolate bliss and I want it to last forever. I’m full? Child’s play. It’s going down. I remember being on Weight Watchers several years ago when they switched over to the new points system and you could have an unlimited amount of fruits and vegetables and I was like HALLELUJAH. I can eat as many bananas as I want! So I ate when I wasn’t hungry. All the time. Just because I could. Because, unlimited. Our brains are wired to love the fact that we can go hog-wild at any moment.

But what happens after these prolonged, delicious moments of excess? After I’ve pictured myself like a Roman God being fed grapes over and over and over? After I’ve done them too many times, all of the time, in all ways I know possible? There isn’t a way to cherry coat it: you feel like shit.

Total shit. Because if it’s unlimited, there is no end in sight. You stuff yourself over and over and over again. If we dissect this concept from a spiritual perspective, we can see overindulging as a way to move away from the present moment. Of what’s here, now. Because at our core, this act never satisfies us. There will never be enough. There can never be enough until our bodies’ or minds’ slow, first whispers of “enough” turn into begging screams of “please, no more”.

So what are we looking for?

Something else, to take us out of here, now. We want something bigger, something to tell us that all will be okay, that we’re being watched over and guided. This hunger for more is a desire for nurturance. Something that will hold and nourish us during those moments that we can’t seem to think ourselves out of. We want it to tell us that there is something else behind what’s here, that there is something working behind the scenes in our favor. That there are invisible forces taking care of us.

We are looking for the invisible things.

As someone that has been plagued by this concept for most of her life, I’m here to tell you there are so many ways to access the invisible. To get what we are really looking for. Because that invisible wants you, too. It’s always been there, and it’s waiting for you.  

We can start by acknowledging what’s here. Soaking it in. Looking. By prayer, thinking, and breathing. By looking at flowers. By looking into your boyfriend’s eyes. By laughing. By moving your body. By painting, doing yoga, telling your truth. Writing. Expressing yourself. Moving through fear. Staying still. Asking. Listening. Receiving. By being with your parents and friends. By being in nature. Cooking. Chopping. By loving. By creating what you need to create. Doing what you need to do, whatever it is, right now. And paying laser-focused attention to it.

Once you begin to pay attention, a sense of knowing that what is here is enough becomes enough. Be courageous enough to take in deep inhales and exhales to tap into that all-knowing source. Because the force is here. Always. Waiting for you to come back. To remember that it’s here. When you honor it, it will reward you. With inspiration, with love, with faith, with the ability to stay, endure, and move far beyond that which you do not believe possible. Tap in, because it’s what you want. It’s a fountain that keeps on giving. Because it is truly the only thing in this world that is unlimited.

Roasted pumpkin & goat cheese salad

Isn’t it weird how when we were children we thought pumpkin’s only purpose was to symbolize our ghostly holiday? Is this just me? Did you haphazardly carve a wacky face into them that might or might not be vomiting seeds? Did your parents get you that super cool carving kit that let you go all-out with the decoration? They were scary jack-o-lanterns with a candle inside, illuminating their insides and faces with its familiar yellow glow, and suggesting trick or treaters or costumes. For a large portion of my life, that’s all I thought pumpkins were, a Halloween accessory.  I can’t believe I had been missing out on eating this lovely little literal creature. I have always seen canned pumpkin, as it’s everywhere in sight, but I guess I never thought about where that came from exactly….the word “pumpkin” on the can didn’t seem to give it away for me. I never knew you could take that lovely and perfectly wavy and ruffled hard skin of a pumpkin that I loved to feel and touch, peel it and carve it in an entirely different way, and eat it in a rotating wheel of assortments.

Like bake them into cakes or souffles or pies, boil them into soups in which you use the pumpkin as a bowl (so cool), puree them into pasta or stuff that puree into thin sheets of ravioli. Or roast them. Simply, preferably, with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, over what is the prototype of my food dream: goat cheese cream. I would seriously gobble this stuff up like a turkey or use it as lotion if skin could taste or something to require forever permanence in my life. The pumpkin seeds are also utilized, they’re roasted with salt and pepper, another childhood halloween memory for me.

When you go get a pumpkin this year, buy two and enjoy both of them in different ways, because you don’t want to eat a rotting pumpkin. Have one with your family, in the form of carving and act as a simple spectator. Let it be that symbol. Make the other to open your world up to eat it entirely, the way nature intended it to be.

Roasted pumpkin & goat cheese salad

Adapted from Jeremy Sewall

Makes enough to serve 4 as a light lunch or dinner, 8 as a side

Notes: Don’t limit yourself to thinking pumpkin is the only squash you can use in this recipe. Feel free to use sugar pumpkin, butternut squash, acorn squash or delicata squash. Simply peel, halve, remove the seeds, and chop as you would a regular pumpkin.

Acorn squash and delicata squash skin is soft enough to eat, and not necessary to peel. I’d definitely peel the other varieties though.

When it comes to peeling, make sure you have a sharp knife. Duller varieties can make peeling squashes dangerous. I’ve detailed instructions below on the best way to cut your pumpkin.

For the goat cheese, use a fresh variety. This is the one that’s found in the grocery store in log form. Specialty stores sell it in tubs when it’s fresher.

1 large pumpkin or squash

Olive oil

4 sprigs thyme or rosemary

Salt and freshly ground pepper

8 ounces fresh goat cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream, chilled

Balsamic vinegar

1 small bunch parsley or arugula

Peel & roast your pumpkin

Cut the top and bottom off of your pumpkin. Starting at the top, hold your knife closely, firmly, and deliberately to the skin and peel the skin from top to bottom, rotating around the pumpkin til it’s skinless. Halve the pumpkin lengthwise and remove the seeds, setting them aside. If you’re using a sugar pumpkin, the halves can be roasted whole. Rub the halves with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste and place the thyme or rosemary sprigs on top. Arrange the pieces cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast until tender, about 45 minutes – 1 hour. Cool slightly and slice each half in half, and cut the pumpkin into 1/2-inch thick pieces crosswise.

(Alternatively, you can slice the pumpkins into pieces of your choosing and roast them flat on a baking sheet. The reason we roasted and then sliced is for the clean presentation of the dish.)

Meanwhile, rinse the seeds and remove all of the stringy stuff. Toss them with a glug of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Stick them right in your oven with your pumpkin, and roast them for about 45 minutes or until they’re crisp, tossing them around every 10 minutes or so. Cool and set aside.

Make the goat cheese cream

In a food processor or with an electric mixer, puree the goat cheese until smooth. Add in the heavy cream slowly, pureeing just until combined. We don’t want to puree it too much because it will whip, and although we want it light we also want it with a bit of substance.

Arrange your salad

Place a big dollop of cream in the center of the plate and spread it around. Arrange the pumpkin slices on top. Pour a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, to taste. Sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and some parsley or arugula.

 

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How to make brown sugar

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Cuban style black beans & picadillo

The cuisine that truly makes my heart sing, the one that tastes like home and is arguably the most delectable (next to Italian of course…it’s different, though) is the one I least know how to prepare. What does that even mean? Is it because for 85% of my life thus far I was surrounded by a kitchen-lurking grandmother who was like an Iron Lady Chef WAY before that was a mere thought? Is it because of the aforementioned that I felt no necessity to learn how to cook Cuban cuisine because I was spoiled with homemade food perfection? With a grandmother whose house smelled like sauteed onions and cumin, and greeted us all with warmth and a bosom-laden hug that bordered on too tight, and was the place where my parents, my sister and I were served dinner at least four days a week. As I got older, she would greet me with a merienda or an afternoon “snack” consisting of a full meal: garbanzo and ham pies, broccoli casserole, rice and beans, shrimp in a tomato sauce, breaded steak and chicken, homemade t-o-s-t-o-n-e-s (oh. yes.), torrejas, black beans, and picadillo.

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Coconut milk & ginger black eyed peas

In a time where daily life is laced with fast-paced-ness, the people around us and us included are always on the go. I find myself checking email at breakfast or in the bathroom (yes), responding to friends texts or calls at red lights (when did friend communication resort to this?), spending my nights reading cookbooks or working on the computer, and my days in kitchens, either mine or someone else’s working, working, working. Everyone goes through this. This time where the day blurs and then finishes in what seems like two minutes. I see the light, I guess, but that light is going to take a lot of time to reach. I feel like lately, life is all about the journey of reaching that light, staying in the moment, and trying not to let it catch up with us too much. Continue reading