Wednesday, September 8, 2010

fire and ice, yin and yang

I really feel sometimes like my life is just a continuing sequence of dichotomies.  I suppose there are some days that are all good or mostly not-so-good, but then there are a surprising number of days like today.  It was the kind of day that just flipped and flopped back and forth between elation and despair.  Despite my affinity for wallowing in self-pity at times, I really am an optimist and I make a serious [if not strenuous, at times] effort to find the fabled silver lining.

The day started very well - I only required one of my two alarms to jolt me out of bed.  I got moving on time and out the door with plenty of time for relaxed and cheerful conversation with Kylie while she prepared my matcha tea.  I got into my car, started it, and headed to work with plenty of time to be early.  Actually, this is starting to sound a lot like my wedding day debacle, but that's another tale for another time.

Anyway, here's where the day started to go a little downhill.  Actually, that's probably an understatement.  About 5 blocks into my 30-mile commute, all the lights on my dashboard lit up as my car promptly stopped running with no warning.  I managed to pull to the side of the road so I could contemplate my situation without preventing people with functioning cars from getting to their gainful employment on time.  It seemed clear my car did not want to make the 30-mile voyage, so I tried to convince it to at least make the 10-block voyage to "the doctor." was not terribly interested in that course of action either, so we sat together on the side of the road and waited for the tow truck.

A little boy and his father came out of their home (in front of which my car sputtered and died) to look at the truck with all its flashing lights and fun.  Kind words from the father and the child's innocent happiness (unaware that tow trucks really are not what you want to see near your car) allowed me to look at things a bit differently.  For a few moments, I was able to deceive myself into thinking how fun it was that I got to sit in the big truck!  You know...the one dragging my lifeless and uncooperative car behind it.

Once I returned home, I decided to take advantage of the unexpected day off and called my dad to see if he wanted to have lunch.  Because he's such an awesome dad, not only did he meet me for lunch, but he went where I wanted to go and followed my foodie lead.  We lunched at the Basic 4 Vegetarian Snack Bar in the Reading Terminal Market.  I ordered the Philly Steak, which was seitan, grilled with soy cheese and served in a whole-grain roll with marinated lettuce and tomato.  I have had the vegan steaks at Gianna's Grill (RIP) and the veggie cheesesteaks at Steve's Steaks, but I can honestly say, the one I ate today at Basic 4 was absolutely, hands-down, unarguably the best I've had (that's kind of a big thing here in Philly).  I was also thrilled with my father's food choice - a pizza veggie burger in a pita with fresh ginger beer.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Reading Terminal Market, it is a huge indoor market with at least two dozen food stands - my dear carnivorously-inclined father could very easily have skipped over to another vendor to get different food while mine was grilling.  He didn't and that made me so happy!  Even though I tried to warn him about the big bucket of fresh ginger sitting right next to the juicer, he was still quite shocked by the taste of the ginger beer.  I had a sip and I don't think I'll ever have sinus problems again.  I would love to know the ratio of fresh ginger juice to soda water.

Anyway, after a thoroughly enjoyable lunch in all aspects, we took a short walk and then I went home to ponder my fate.  This never goes well. 

I pored through several automotive sites, trying to find the affordable middle ground between fun and responsible, just in case that was the final death rattle of my poor car.  I examined how I would get around if I didn't actually replace my car right away (or ever).  I tried to force my generally black & white, this or that brain to "think outside the box" regarding my present methods of financing my, well, life.  The longer I pondered, the more anxious I felt, but finally, I at least nailed down how I planned to get to work tomorrow and was about the walk out the door to buy my train tickets when the phone rang. 

Although the repair to my car is relatively minor and costs peanuts compared to the thousands I've spent since May, it still broke my heart to have to approve more work (=more money) on a car that clearly doesn't have much life left in it.  It was at this point that I had nearly worked myself into a tizzy, but I got a hold of myself and managed to get my tickets and a box of hair-dye before I had a complete breakdown.

So, before we spiral down the hole of hopelessness, let's bring it back to the happy - a new recipe!

Easy Tuscan Linguini

jar of prepared marinara sauce - your choice (or make your own!)
8 oz linguini
1 bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut crosswise into 1/2" wide ribbons
14 oz can of white beans (like cannellini)
4 Tbsp olive oil
8-10 cloves of garlic, pressed
sea salt, to taste
vegan Parmesan, optional

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic and allow to sizzle for a moment, stirring, then reduce heat to the lowest setting.  Cook garlic, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, taking care not to burn the garlic.  Add kale and stir to wilt.  Increase heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, 5-7 minutes, until the kale is deep green and reduced in volume.  Rinse the beans well under warm water and add to the kale mixture, stirring to combine.

By now, your pasta should be cooked.  Drain and add the linguini to the saute pan.  Reduce heat to low and cook a few minutes, allowing the pasta to absorb some of the garlic-infused oil.  Pour in just enough marinara to coat noodles and heat through.  Add salt, if you desire, and/or top with vegan Parmesan.

As always, please enjoy and let me know how it turns out for you!

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