Ray’s Recipe “Not So Shrimp Salad”

Some word combinations drive me nuts (I apologize for any offense I caused almonds, walnuts, pistachio’s, Brazil nuts. I’d add peanuts, but peanuts, everyone knows you’re a legume. I don’t mind you crashing the nut fiesta, but be proud of your heritage.). What’s that? Did I hear a resounding, “No offense taken?”

The word combination I’m talking about is shrimp salad. For a growing guy, shrimp salad is an oxymoron. I need a shrimp salad like I need a hole in the head. Forget the simile, it belongs to my dad and I used it in a previous post. Shrimp salad is something that will cost me at least twelve bucks at a restaurant and I’m supposed to be happy with six grilled shrimp stuck in arugula, drizzled with the super secret, locked in the vault, even Wikileaks couldn’t hack into the file, recipe. I’m not talking the cost for drinks, appetizer, and tip. The snooty waiter expects a 25% tip, the extra ten percent is for the snoot factor. I leave feeling hungry (I suggest to my friend we head out for pizza, por favor).

My dilemma, I like shrimp. So I’m going for it. I’m making a man-sized, growing boy, kind of shrimp salad. Modify how I make it fit your appetite. I work out an hour and a half a day. I have to stay in shape to blog. That’s what my doctor told me. I don’t care if she’s a veterinarian. She’s patient friendly.

I’m keeping it simple, not for you. For me. I can juggle a Giam exercise ball on a good day. Yes, that’s one large, inflated ball that supposed to work the kinks out of my back. I start with the bowl. Of course, I choose a large bowl. I fill it with baby spinach and baby kale. Make sure it’s washed. Mom always told me, “Ray wash before eating.” The same goes for salad greens and the bowl. It gets lonely in a large bowl without friends, ever try it? It’s not fun. Let’s have a party, no RSVPs needed. Grape tomatoes, almonds (I made peace with the nuts, recall?), softened cranberries, Modena vinegarette, and a healthy splash (guy measure – what’s a tablespoon? Something to set on the table – so lame – don’t write the lame joke police) of EVOO.


It’s almost time to bring shrimp into the picture. Hold that thought. I don’t know about your shrimp, mine are mighty particular. They refuse to jump in the pan until it is the way they ordered it. I know a couple of people like that, not anyone reading this blog – you all know who I mean. Fill in the blank, right?

I put the skillet on, spray it with Pam and add two splashes of EVOO. How much is a splash you ask? Enough to swirl around the pan and see my reflection in the EVOO. I toss in rosemary (no, not a human being, the herb, and basil. Check out the first photo below, that’s rosemary and her friend basil. I have the skillet on high, the EVOO is telling me it’s ready – small popping noises. I toss in the rosemary, basil, and a scooch of garlic. I mush it all around until the garlic browns, and then …

IT’S TIME FOR THE STAR – OR, I SHOULD SAY STARS.  Yes, they arrive, ready for red carpet. There will be no prisoners, no leftovers, no waiting for lunch tomorrow to finish these babies. They’re hitting the digestive track tonight. It’s a six-step process – not hitting the digestive track, but in the shrimp prep.

Step one: Buy frozen, already cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp.

Step two: Take the bag of shrimp out of the freezer.

Step three: Count out the number of shrimp you want to eat – I counted 16.

Step Four: Put them in a microwaveable bowl and nuke them for 45 seconds, mas o meno. They should feel chilled, but not frozen when you take them out.

Step five: As soon as the garlic is brown, toss (lovingly) the shrimp in the pan.

Step six: Sautee the shrimp with the rosemary and garlic and any other seasonings until they are done.

Check the photos below: Looking at the bottom photo is making me hungry.

It’s not going to take too long. No time to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or call mom. Well, I can’t call mom, she’s with dad and Babe looking down on me and sending me a LOL.

Here’s the finished product. The green stuff at the top is guacamole. Fresh blackberries and strawberries for desert. It’s Texas, I have to have a Texas-sized iced tea to go with my meal.



I Like Who I Am

Let your hopes, not your hurts, shape your future.
– Robert H. Schuller

I am who am. I can be nothing more than what I am. It doesn’t matter so much if others like who I am as much as it matters that I like who I am. I do. I very much like who I am. I wasn’t alway this way. I tried to polish my image. I sandpapered the rough edges. None seemed to help. Then, one day, a moment of grace. I understood, at a deep level, I am the cumulative sum of all my experiences, the good and the bad. The joys and the sorrows. The successes and the failures. It’s all me. I knew in that moment if I were to ever love myself and like who I am, I had to embrace it all. All of it, the stuff I wanted and the stuff I wish never happened that made me into what I am today. I am grateful for all that was, and is and is to come. I like me, who I am, and what I am becoming.

Putting The Clouds Behind Me

On this long storm the Rainbow rose —
On this late Morn — the Sun —
The clouds — like listless Elephants —
Horizons — straggled down —

The Birds rose smiling, in their nests —
The gales — indeed — were done —
Alas, how heedless were the eyes —
On whom the summer shone!

The quiet nonchalance of death —
No Daybreak — can bestir —
The slow — Archangel’s syllables
Must awaken her! ~ On this long storm the Rainbow rose by Emily Dickinson

No one is a stranger to pain. It is one of the commonalities binding us together as human beings. When I watch the news and see a father grieving over the loss of his children or wife thousands of miles away, my heart grieves with him and prayers from my heart and lips rise to a loving God to bring healing to him. No one is a stranger to pain.
Pain doesn’t have the last word. Suffering doesn’t have the last word. At least not with me. I live in hope-filled expectation, that today will better than yesterday, and tomorrow will be better than today. I place my heart into the hands of a loving God and walk forward, my eyes ever ahead catching sight of a rainbow that is mine.
There is a rainbow waiting for you and your pain will turn into laughter and joy. As the poet Emily Dickinson says, “On this long storm, the rainbow rose.”
double rainbow.jpg

Alone But Not Lonely

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone. ~ Alone by Maya Angelou
Being alone takes a lot of getting used to. Anyone can make a bed, cook a healthy meal, exercise, and read a book.
Being alone takes a lot of getting used to.
Being alone is missing the mug clink with coffee cups in the morning. It’s missing the surprise kisses that come out of nowhere, for no reason other than someone loves you. It’s missing silly conversations, laughing together, and walking hand in hand, words not needed.
Being alone takes a lot of getting used to.
“That nobody, but nobody, can make it out here alone.” The truth in Maya Angelu’s poem resonates deep within me. I discovered that life calls me to reach out to others. I’m getting used to saying, “Hi, my name is Ray, what’s yours?” At first, it was difficult, extending my arm, smiling, and introducing myself. It’s not something most people make a daily habit. I do. And, it has made all the difference. I no longer feel alone, although I’m dancing alone. I discovered a genuine warmth, compassion, and love in the people I’ve met. In spite of the cable news, the world is a friendly place, people are good, and each person I meet brightens my life.
Hi, my name is Ray. What’s yours?

Ray’s Recipe: Joy of Pizza (Mexican, that is)

I’m in the mood for pizza, Mexican pizza that is. If I were living in New York, I’d head down to Little Italy. If I were in Boston, off to the North End. I’m of Italian descent, pizza is a marked on my DNA. At least that’s what came back when I sent a sample of my saliva for DNA analysis to Tony’s Pizzeria. I live in San Antonio, I go with the local cuisine, which by the way is awesome. Maybe I’ll a plug from the Chamber of Commerce. Then again, maybe not.

Mexican Pizza is perfect for an easy, good tasting, healthy meal. Let’s start with easy. It’s as easy as uno, dos, tres. It’s Mexican pizza, right? It’s a requirement I count in Spanish. What can be easier than a can of Bush’s reduced sodium pinto beans?

Step by step if you read directions. If you’re a guy, just go with the photos and pretend you’re reading. That’s what I do.

  1. Hold can firmly in the right hand, insert the can into the electric can opener. Turn on the can opener. Remove can. Don’t forget to recycle the top and the can when rinsed.
  2. Drain the can – caution, don’t dump the beans out when you drain the can (this warning is for absently minded challenged people – did I get that politically correct?).
  3. Put the beans in a blender. If you need a bit of salt or pepper or other seasonings, this is the time. You don’t want to do it after the dance is over. Where did that metaphor come from? Too much iced tea at lunch I think.
  4. I turn the oven on to 380 – It takes a few minutes to heat up. At the same time, I have a poblano pepper, onion, and green pepper doing the salsa in the sizzling hot pan. I toss in a bit of red crushed pepper (guy speak, toss means unmeasured, looks good, go for it).

    5. I place two, high fiber, high protein, low calorie tortilla on a baking sheet. I baste them with EVOO and zip them in the oven for two and a half minutes. This step lets the tortillas know I mean business. No fooling around. It frijole time. I smooth my bean mix over the tortillas, artistic enough to be sold at a garage sale for fifty cents if you’re into tortilla ornaments. I pace sliced tomatoes around the edges of the tortillas, basically to cover up the spots I missed with the beans. There I go, spilling the beans. Forgive the lame joke, por favor. I stick the bean and tomato covered tortillas back in the oven for three minutes to get them good and hot. When I pull the pan out, I cover my tortillas with my poplano, onions, and green pepper mix. I add non-fat mozzarella from Kraft, and put the whole thing back into the oven. Now, it’s eyeballing time. I can’t watch ESPN. I can’t check my Twitter feed. I can’t text. Well, I can do all those things, and I can do them all at once. I can even use the remote at the same time. I force myself to keep a close eye on the oven. I know it’s ready when the cheese is perfectly melted. Now how hard is that? On a scale of one to ten, I’d give it a 7. That gives me three spaces to play with.

    Finished product. I hide one pizza from view (it looks good BTW). Please take note of my guacamole (guacamole goes with everything even my oatmeal). If you make this meal, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and as much I did writing this post.

Look Back With Kindly Eyes

 Look back on Time, with kindly eyes —
He doubtless did his best —
How softly sinks that trembling sun
In Human Nature’s West — by Emily Dickinson
Now that I am dancing alone, when I pack for a flight, I try to keep it light and simple. I take all I need in one carry-on and my backpack. When my carry-on is full, it’s full and that’s it. Everything else stays behind. It’s easier that way. I don’t have to check baggage. I easily pass through TSA. Okay, I get a pat down now and then. I have to remove my shoes and belt. You all know the drill. After I pass through security, I go to Starbucks, get a coffee and head to the gate. I’m relaxed and ready to enjoy my flight and destination. Traveling alone is a teacher.
I’m learning to “Look back on Time, with kindly eyes.” The poet Emily Dickinson had it right. I’m learning to pack only good memories, and consider the rest excess baggage. I can look back and know, “He doubtless did his best.” I think knowing I did my best is a good thing. All the would have’s and could have’s and should have’s are excess baggage I’ve discarded. Here’s hoping you “Look back on Time, with kindly eyes,” too.

Grateful for the Storms

A Grateful Hearts Sings A Joyful Song

I’m grateful for the storm
Made me appreciate the sun
I’m grateful for the wrong ones
Made me appreciate the right ones
I’m grateful for the pain
For everything that made me break
I’m thankful for all my scars
‘Cause they only make my heart
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, oh
Grateful  (Written by Diane Eve Warren; Performed by Rita Ora)

Some years ago Babe and I and our five daughters and dog moved to a small western Massachusetts town. I had a new job. Four of the girls were going to new schools, and the youngest, only two years old, stayed at home with Babe while I went to work. The town, Belchertown, is in a picturesque setting near the Quabbin Reservoir, built in the 1930’s. Quabbin.pngThe state appropriated four towns and flooded them to provide water for Boston and 40 other communities. The reservoir is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the U.S. Soon after moving to Belchertown, I rode my bicycle out to Quabbin. I had no idea it existed at the time. My route, not by design, took me past Quabbin, I turned in, crossed a huge dam and soon began to climb a steep road, a mile long. The view from the dam and climb were breathtaking to me. When I reached the top, I pulled my bicycle into a pullout and stared at the water, huge hills jutting out of the water, and eagles soaring high in the sky. Excitedly, I rode home, packed Babe and the girls in our Volkswagen van and headed back to Quabbin. As months went by, we always enjoyed hiking and berry picking in Quabbin. Yet, the initial excitement and wonder disappeared. We became used to it. I think that is why we need storms in our life to appreciate the sun. I don’t like the pain, nor wish pain for anyone, but the storms turn on a gratitude button within me that I want to make present 24/7.

I appreciate the extraordinary wisdom the songwriter expressed in this song. Her wisdom touched me at a deep place in my human spirit.

I’m thankful for all my scars
‘Cause they only make my heart
Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful, oh