Luscious Lucky Leftovers

My brain is in a dangerous place, it’s playing with alliterations. Try saying Luscious, Lucky, Leftovers ten times as fast as you can. Let me warn you of the potential side effects. In a few cases there are reports of the overwhelming desire to put Siracha on toast, scramble eggs with edema, and one report of a baseball announcer always alliterating announcing. Oops. I knew I shouldn’t have subbed for the guy. Moving on, I’ve never found a four-leafed clover, hit all the number on the gillion dollar Powerball, or caught a fish that weighed more than I do. That’s okay. What am I going to do with a four-leafed clover, gillion dollars or a fish that weighs more than me? I can do something with leftovers. I’m a lucky guy. I like leftovers. No, I love leftovers. Make that i love luscious Lucky Leftovers. I can think of a few things that taste better as a leftover. How about reheated pizza? I’m already hungry. Soup is another one. Maybe, I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

I live a simple life. I don’t buy what I don’t need. I’m at peace in nature. I like to be around family and friends. I like good music. And, I like to cook healthy, easy, with as little clean up as possible.  Today, I’m in luck. I have leftovers. Leftovers are a big deal. A really big deal. Having leftovers means I don’t have to go to the grocery. If you live alone, you know what I mean. I think HEB (my grocery) wants to hire me. I’m there nearly every day. I can’t buy a week in advance, I’ll waste the food. I can’t even think that far in advance. I buy day-to-day, sometimes I’ll go out on the edge and buy two to three days in advance. Not today. I have leftovers – Lucky luscious Leftovers.

Do I have a question from the audience? There’s a first-time caller from Dallas.

“Howdy, first-time caller from Dallas. What do you want to know?”

“I don’t like leftovers – convince me, pardner.”

“I’m going to grant your wish Dallas. Follow along, it will easy, healthy, and you’ll get your mess all cleaned up in no time.”

I’m glad Dallas didn’t ask me about BBQ. I don’t eat red meat. Don’t get me wrong carnivores. I’m not biased against red meat eaters. In fact, some of my best friends are red meat eaters.

Here’s what I’m working with: Mom’s leftover bean soup, quinoa, and black beans. Please notice the slow cooker liner. The soup is going in on high about noon. I’ll toss in the black beans and a splash of low sodium chicken broth, and forget about it until dinner.

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“Hold on, Ray. You’re going to make a meal out of that pittance?” Darn right. I head to the fridge and see what else is in there. I say a little prayer before I open the door. I hope there is something more in there besides flax seeds, wheat germ, and carrot juice. I’m in luck, look what I found: a bit of asparagus, a broccoli crown (in my last recipe post, I told you broccoli and asparagus were going to hook up), and a chunk of cabbage. I have a good idea on how to mix these three together. Read on.

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I get out my large pan, put non-stick Reynolds aluminum foil on it.

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I line the pan with my veggies. They are soaked in EVOO, my staple, sprinkled with ginger and crushed red pepper. Time to turn up the heat on these babies. I preheat the oven to 450, go into the study and check Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. I hear the bell on the oven. Time to go to work. Not much work – slide the pan in and check it in ten minutes. I use the ten minutes to make a healthy salad and put some frozen, organic blueberries in a small bowl.  Easy is the code word, folks. I check out the soup. It tastes great. It’s hot. And, I’m hungry. One caution, my asparagus is first of the season and tender. It finished up about three minutes ahead of the cabbage and broccoli. Asparagus is jealous of cabbage. What is it with broccoli?

Here’s my meal. The first photo is my plate of veggies. The other photo is the salad, quinoa, berries and soup. Are you going to eat all that, Ray? I took no prisoners.

 

 

 

You Are Strong

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” – Joseph Campbell

Life is an adventure. Today quickly becomes yesterday. Tomorrow rushes toward us. Would have, could have, and should have are excuses of no use to us. Our adventure constantly tests us. It asks you and me if we are up to living this wonderful gift called life. When we say yes to the great adventure. We have no idea if love will knock on our door. We hope it does. We have no idea as to the number of our days, we hope they will be many. We have no idea what challenges the next moment will bring, we hope we can master them and move on.

The adventure never stops. Oh, sometimes it rewards us with an oasis where we rest and renew our strength. We’re not allowed to stay there. Ready or not, our adventure rouses us from our slumber and tosses out of the oasis into a new challenge.

You are strong. I am strong.  Don’t back away from the adventure. Life would not call you to face it if it did not think you had the “stuff” to handle it.

“When you are going through hell, keep going” ― Winston Churchill

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A Place Called Home

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” Maya Angelu

A few years back, I was traveling with four of my doctoral students to our research site. One of the doctoral students said, “Dr. Calabrese, where do you call home?” He knew my career took me to several states. Without hesitation, I said, “Home is where I am with my wife, the person I love most.” He didn’t understand. He said, “My home is Kansas. I knew he wouldn’t understand what I meant.

I’ve never thought of home as a house or a location. I’ve always thought of it as a place where I am with the person or people I love most in this world.

“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.” ~ Pierce Brown

In that particular place, whether it is a house, car, restaurant, or coffee shop, I am at peace because I know I am loved as I am. I have to be no other than who I am.

Now, nine months since Babe died, I am recreating a home. My five daughters live out of state and here I am in Texas, alone, but not lonely. Together with my neighbors and new friends, I am recreating a place I will call home.

“I don’t care if we have our house, or a cliff ledge, or a cardboard box. Home is wherever we all are, together,”  James Patterson

I hope you have a place called home.

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We Are Not Defeated

“The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it.”  Simone Weil

I enjoy walking barefoot on the seashore. There is something soothing, peaceful about the rhythm of the ocean’s waves. The seagulls and sandpipers dance above and in front of me. I look out over the great expanse of the ocean and marvel at this beautiful, awesome planet I live on. I see the beauty of it. I don’t snap photos with my iPhone. The photos will never do justice to the emotions I feel as I enjoy the scene. I know, at the same time, this peaceful place can turn its back on me and swamp me with high, crashing waves. I’ve seen the videos of the destruction and damage it can cause when its power is unleashed. We have not yet learned how to tame the oceans. It laughs at our puny efforts. All we can do is wait out the fury, knowing it will once again return to its peaceful place. And we can once again walk on its shores enjoying its beauty.

We have not yet learned how to tame the oceans. It laughs at our puny efforts. All we can do is wait out the fury, knowing it will once again return to its peaceful place. And we can once again walk on its shores enjoying its beauty.

It’s the same way with life. We find ourselves in a peaceful space and want to remain in that place for the rest of our lives. It doesn’t work that way. Life’s storms thrash us and knock us down. We are not defeated nor are we destroyed by life’s storms. We know the storms will end and we once again will find our peaceful space.

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Ray’s Recipe for One: The Dark Secrets of the Salmon Slider

A tabloid headline. Dark secrets. Maybe they’ll publish my blog at the grocery checkout next to the other tabloids. Did you hear broccoli is splitting with red kale? Broccoli has now taken up with asparagus. Go figure. My prediction it won’t last. Besides, asparagus is too good for him (switch the gender thing around if you prefer). It doesn’t matter, it’s not a dream match.

Enough of the tabloid news. I don’t want the paparazzi hanging around my front door. The HOA has strict rules against that kind of behavior.  Then again, my HOA has strict rules against everything.

Pop quiz: What’s the key ingredient for a salmon slider?

Did I hear you say salmon? You did your homework last night. Go to the front of the class. I use salmon with an attitude. That’s right, salmon needs an attitude. How do you pick salmon with an attitude?  It’s free spirited salmon. It’s wild salmon. I like wild salmon from Alaska. When I get my wild, Alaskan salmon, I can almost hear it say, “I’m going to give you a healthy heart. That’s my job.”

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If you’re wondering what the yellow stuff is on the plate with the salmon, it’s EVOO. I put my salmon filet in EVOO and make it double, not make that triple healthy. My heart is doing backflips and I feel like hitting the balance beam after I do my floor exercises. Score me a perfect 10, por favor.

I live in San Antonio. Guacamole goes with everything. I even rub it under my arms when I go out. Only kidding, I don’t want the Guac Squad knocking at the door. How hard is it to make Guac (Guac is guacamole’s nickname). It’s not. The hardest thing is picking the right avocado, that’s a crap shoot. Pick firm, but not too firm (lot of help, right? NOT). Mash up the avocado, add a bit of lemon juice. I add crushed red pepper and it’s ready. Be creative.

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Here’s the deal with a salmon slider. First, onions, a poblano, toss in a jalapeno and a bit of rosemary all in my already heated on high pan. The EVOO is sizzling, BAM, the mix starts sizzling right away. I keep an eye on it. Make that two eyes on it. I have Spotify playing in the background. George Strait is trying to make it to Amarillo by morning.

When the veggies are about ninety percent done, I turn the heat down to medium and add the salmon. I put the cover on the pan, check Twitter, post a photo to Instagram, and check my text messages. Time to flip the salmon, cover the done side with the veggies. Five minutes later, it’s ready for plating.

Man oh man, it doesn’t get any better. You’re going to love it. Your heart will too.

It’s All Good

“You sanctify whatever you are grateful for.” Anthony DeMello

It’s easy to be grateful when the sun is shining, I’m feeling good, everything is going my way, and each card I turn up is a winner. Why shouldn’t I feel grateful, I deserve it? Or, so I think.

Then life happens. I’m walking across a personal desert. The sun, which I once praised, is now threatening me with its scorching heat. My strength ebbs. I can’t turn a winning card. Grateful? Grateful for what? Or, so I think.

Sorrow and suffering taught me important lessons. I learned to be grateful for all that was. I am grateful for all that is. I will be grateful for all that comes my way. Each morning and evening I recall events with a grateful heart.

A good cup of coffee. Safe shelter. Friends. Neighbors. Daughters. A beautiful sunrise or sunset. A good workout. A chance to pray. The birds that visit the feeder. The ripe cherry tomatoes. The red roses, rosemary, and basil that grow in my garden. The warm sun, or rain. A text, email, or call from family or friends. The list goes on.

It’s all gift. When I receive a gift from someone, I send a thank you note. In like manner, I give thanks to my loving God for all. It’s all good.

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Wrestling With 2 A.M. Thoughts

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

Have you ever gone to bed, fallen quickly to sleep, only to awaken a few hours later with your mind running a hundred miles an hour? I have and it’s not fun. I have gremlins running on the treadmills of my mind. I’ll turn this way and that way. When that doesn’t work, I go for a sure-fire solution, I’ll flip my pillow over to get the cold side. Twenty minutes later, there is no cold side. I’m tempted to stick my pillow in the freezer for ten minutes. If the gremlins could eat, I’d get up and make them an omelet. I’d serve it with toast and coffee. I know it’s only wishful thinking. The gremlins must think they’re at a firing range because they’re shooting one thought after another at me in rapid succession. I wish I could follow Mark Twain’s advice. I’d toss a rope around the gremlins and drag them out and leave them homeless at the curb.

It’s not that easy. I wish it were. Here’s a mind trick I use and it often works. Perhaps it will work for you. It’s worth a try when the gremlins decide to fiesta at two a.m. Here’s what I do, I no longer wrestle with the gremlins. They didn’t RSVP. They didn’t reserve a room. They came uninvited. I have no idea when they’ll leave. I literally tell them (please don’t think I’m losing it), “I see you’re back. There’s food in the fridge. Use Netflix or Amazon, keep it down, please. And, oh, by the way, don’t let the door hit you in the butt when you leave.” I turn on my side (I’m a side sleeper) and let the gremlins have at it. I let the thoughts go where they want to go, I don’t engage with them. Then sleep happens. I usually go into a deep sleep. During my sleep, my visitors quietly leave and didn’t let the door hit them in the butt.

 

Thoughts are thoughts are thoughts. We all have them. I’ll give them a break, perhaps my subconscious is dumping them out of my mind and I’ll be in a healthier space in morning.

Sometimes it doesn’t work for me. In those nights I quietly say and visualize Psalm 23. I’m not one to memorize lots of things, but this Psalm is worth the effort.

Here’s hoping you have a great night’s sleep.

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

2 In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

3 He restores my soul.

He guides me along right paths

for the sake of his name.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,c

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

5 You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6 Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

 

 

for endless days.

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