If I inspired you, I've done my job!

June 14, 2011

Chaos Vs. Order and Iced Coffee

I have been away, a way-way too long. I have been working on several projects at a time and contemplating on Chaos vs. Order dilemma and my vision have narrowed and focused on a certain point in space and time.

And this point became many, too many to keep in order. Sort of like a Monet painting: many chaotic brushstrokes, dots of different color freely dancing in an unorganized pattern.

Atoms, erratically bouncing inside the molecule of everyday life. And I am trying to focus on all of them at the same time, realizing this is a futile pastime.

I need to see the big picture. Like everything else in the material world we live, chaos has its limits. All you have to do is draw a line around, give it a shape, an outline. This outline will be the order that encompasses chaos. To see these shapes, I need to take a few steps back and focus on the big picture.

Now, from a distance, I can see the whole impressionistic painting that is being composed, brushstroke after brushstroke on the canvas of my life. I see the shapes, I see the order. An Order made out of Chaos. And it is as beautiful as it is impressive.

Chaos is part Order. Order is part Chaos.

Creativity is one of the manifestations of Chaos drawn into forms of Order. To be creative is to let your chaotic thoughts and ideas be incarnated in the organized shapes and forms. I have to remember to simply give my thoughts and ideas an outlet or outline to dwell outside my mind.

I'll continue on the path of creativity, no matter how chaotic it might become at times, giving it different shapes and forms.

There are several ways to stay creative and each individual has his own little tricks to stay connected to this force. I will not get into details, for my ways of staying creative are various and change often. One of them, however, quite carnal, I want to mention today: a good ole cup of coffee!

Although heat has relieved in our neck of the woods for the last couple of days, during summer I can't say no to an icy variation of a broadly welcomed beverage. But I find popular joints don't quench my thirst for a quality iced coffee. All they do is dry out my pockets. Thus, I make my own variation.

My father likes to 'upgrade' his cup of coffee with a splash of hard liquor. This inspired me to add vanilla extract to my glass. And my husband's family likes to drink cardamom spiced coffee and I also have grown a taste for it. I added another spice—cinnamon—and a teaspoon of heavy cream and in the end I had a fresh, simple home made and cheap but fancy beverage to get my creative juices circulating.

The purist in me wanted to roast and grind my own beans. This time I've took a shortcut and used already ground coffee. And it's OK!

Upgraded Iced Coffee
for each 6 oz water:
1 heaping T spoon ground coffee
1 t spoon ground cinnamon
1 t spoon sugar {optional}
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 t spoon vanilla extract
crushed/cubed ice
Milk, cream to taste {optional}

Brew the ground coffee in a coffee machine with crushed cardamon, cinnamon and sugar right inside the coffee machine.
While coffee is brewing, fill a 16 oz tall glass half way with ice, crushed or cubed.
Pour vanilla extract and milk/cream over ice.
Now when the coffee is done, pour it over the ice.
Give it a swirl and drink up.
Chaos has become Order once again: the coffee grinds, once disorderly and disembodied, orchestrated into one smooth beverage!

June 03, 2011

Grilled Lasagna

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But sure enough it is doable! But why grill? Because it is faster, than baking in the oven and the noodles have those attractive grill marks, which add a nice little crispy bite to the dish. I like to keep it simple—spinach, cheese, and tomatoes.

Grilled Spinach Lasagna
Serves 8
1 pack lasagna noodles, about 24 pieces, cooked al-dente (not too soft), rinsed with cold water
1 32-oz container ricotta cheese
2 cups leaf spinach, washed, dried and chopped
1 large egg, beaten
pinch of sea salt
1 t spoon freshly ground black pepper
1 28-oz can whole peeled roma tomatoes in sauce
few basil sprigs for garnishing
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

For grilling you will need:
Metal cookie sheet
Metal grilling tongs
Lasagna dish
  • Cook lasagna noodles, strain, rinse with cold water and arrange flat on the counter
  • In a bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, spinach, salt and pepper
  • Make the rolls: smear 2 T spoons of cheese mixture 3/4 of the way down the noodle, roll towards the empty end. Repeat, arrange them on a metal cookie sheet
  • Chop the canned tomatoes, pour them with the sauce into a lasagna dish, cover with some torn basil leaves
  • Preheat grill to 350°F. Grill lasagna rolls for 10 minutes on one side, flip with the metal tongs and cook for another 1o minutes, always with the grill cover on
  • Arrange hot off the grill rolls into the lasagna dish with tomatoes, cover with mozzarella and some whole basil leaves, put it on a metal baking sheet, place the sheet on a grill, turn off gas, cover and let lasagna stand there for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange the table
  • Sere with extra basil leaves and enjoy!

June 02, 2011

I've Gotta Grilling!

Last year as we were remodeling our kitchen I was left without a stove, an oven and even without a sink. It would not be a big deal if we were fond of takeouts, but we're not. I had to improvise on a grill to create dinners. And for the sink, I had to use a garden hose suspended over the plastic container. Honestly, I loved my impromptu outdoor kitchen. It felt so primal!

I want to repeat it this year. Not the sink part, but as the temperatures rise, I have a feeling for grilling. The whole month! Last year, I have tried few dinner dished that are normally prepared on a stove top or in an oven. This time not only I will try to re-create them, add new ones, but also blog about my experiences! So stay tuned this month for dinner makeovers on a grill!
First one is my family's go to meal, herb roasted chicken. I roast chicken in the oven with onions and potatoes—the vegetable choice of my kids—and sometimes add green vegetables such as asparagus. Now, I'm grilling this roast!

As we all know, grilling starts not with firing up a grill but with proper preparation. And by preparation I mean the process of marinading. So, I took a whole chicken, quarter it and marinaded it with fresh herbs {sage, rosemary, oregano and thyme}, garlic and onion rings. Now, I could of used the whole chicken and roasted it on a rotisserie attachment, but a) I didn't have this attachment; b) the chicken, coming from local farm, was 5 1/5 lb. I had 8 hungry people to feed!

I am not going to post a formal recipe, just a description of what I did. I couldn't even find a proper name, but it's totally irrelevant! :)
Grilled Chicken With Grilled Potatoes, Onions and Asparagus
One medium to large {5 1/5 lb} whole chicken on a bone, skinned and cut into 4

For marinade:
Extra virgin olive oil—1/3 to 1/2 cup
Fresh herbs of your choice—1 bunch
Garlic—5-6 cloves
Black pepper corns—about a teaspoonful
Coarse sea salt—1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons

1 lb yellow onions, peeled, cut in 4 pieces across
2 lb yukon gold medium size potatoes, washed and cut across in halves
2 T spoon of olive oil for grilling
You will need:
A wire basket
Metal skewers, enough to fit all the potatoes
Metal (grilling) tongs
  • Mash herbs, pepper and salt with a mortar and pistil until all crushed. Add e/v olive oil and cover the chicken and onions. Let marinade for at least one hour.
  • You might also want to add one bunch of asparagus, although it's optional and need not to be marinated.
  • Preheat grill to 350°F (Grill)
  • Arrange chicken, cover and cook for 20 minutes, keeping the temperature at 350°F.
  • Arrange potatoes on the skewers and onions and asparagus in the wire basket.
  • Flip the bird, add potatoes on the skewers to the grill, cover and cook for another 30 minutes keeping the temperature same, at 350°F.
  • Check if chicken is done: it should run clear when poked, or if you have an instant read thermometer, it should read 165°F when inserted into the thickest part of the chicken. If bird is not ready, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. If it is, take it off the grill and arrange in a baking/serving dish and let it rest and re-collect all the juices under a sheet of aluminum foil.
  • Put the wire basket with onions and asparagus on the grill where the bird once was and flip the potatoes. Cover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until potatoes are fully cooked. Don't overcook potatoes, they will fall apart and may even fall into the grill.
  • Once potatoes are cooked, remove the chicken from the serving dish (temporary) and arrange the vegetables on the bottom. If desired, season the vegetables with a dash of sea salt and toss.
  • Put the bird back, now on the bed of grilled potatoes, onions and asparagus. Cover with foil and let it all rest for 5 minutes until serving.
  • Cut the chicken and serve with the side of grilled vegetables and some fresh green leaf salad.
I have to admit, if I was reading all this, I would probably think this is an elaborate idea. I have to assure you, however, it is very easy to prep and to grill this dish. In time it takes you to finish reading this post, your dinner could be on the table! Unless, you're a speed reader :)
Enjoy cooking and eating al-fresco!