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I have nothing to say to you today. It’s not personal, I swear. I like you all, every single one of you just the same amount, and the amount is rather significant.

It’s possible I’m suffering from a less known, and yet quite peculiar form of the Samson Syndrome. (Remember the story of Samson and Delilah?) I got a haircut today, and quite possibly along with the hair I lost my brainpower.

Another explanation could be hiding in my estrogen high. The hormone’s levels have been rising for a few days now, and such high tide usually pushes all reason away through my ears. There’s probably one lingering thought still roaming inside my skull. If I stay still for a minute I can actually hear it stumble upon pieces of leftover furniture in my head. It falls down, bounces against the walls, and….Wait, I can hear it now… Holly cow, I think the last rational thought I had left has just committed suicide and jumped off the cliff!

Popcorn anyone?

Luckily, I have a recipe sitting around that I had put together for my clients earlier, and now I can just pretty much copy & paste it here for your satisfaction. That requires little to NO thinking on my part. And who knows, you may actually go bananas over the salad. Check it out!

GREEN SALAD WITH MANGO & BASIL VINAIGRETTE

This guy’s name is Foeniculum vulgare, or simply Fennel for close friends. Boy, is he vulgar! And it has anise flavor to add insult to injury. Hence, it makes a perfect sense paired with sweet and tart mango and intermixed with intensely green greens. Toasted pignoli not only add body to the salad, but also round its edges. Try it and you’ll understand what I mean by that.

Fennel may look scary at the first glance, but in reality he’s a pussy cat. With a sharp knife chop the green top off, then quarter the bulb. Using the tip of your paring knife cut out the “core” in each quarter, as it’s too hard to bite, thus no longer pleasant. Now slice the fennel into paper-thin pieces. Voila! Ready for the salad.

Ingredients:

–       1 bag of green salad mix

–       fennel, thinly sliced

–       ripe mango, diced

–       1/4 cup raw pine nuts (pignoli)

–       scallions, chopped

–       fresh basil, a bunch

–       extra virgin olive oil

–       white balsamic vinegar

–       honey

–       salt + pepper to taste

Get comfortable and toast your nuts, then set the pignoli aside to cool. Empty the greens into a large bowl. Add paper-thin slices of fennel, mango cubes, chopped scallions, and the pine nuts.

Using a blender or Magic Bullet, mix together 3 tbsp of olive oil with 1 tbsp of vinegar, a bunch of fresh basil leaves, salt, pepper and a touch of honey. Taste the dressing, and if approved by your taste buds sprinkle it over the salad mix, toss about, and serve along the Chicken Thighs dish we made last time. (You know, that night you and me had an online rendez-vous playing with those THIGHS and sipping white wine by the candlelight…shhh!)

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I am the mother to Cosmo, a 4-year old shihtzu. My dog requires a bath every 10 to 14 DAYS. Otherwise, the white parts of his paws start to resemble an old pair of UGG boots dipped in mud and then sun-dried, and he secretes the scent of a homeless person. If I were to stretch the time between his baths and let him walk around au naturel, we would all get evicted from our building in no time.

The best part comes AFTER the bath. When in the tub, Cosmo relinquishes his power and hands over authority to the person pouring water all over his body. He stands motionless, startled, with his eyes W-I-D-E open and mouth shut tight. He endures all that rubbing and scrubbing without uttering a single cuss word despite the fact that we give him enough reasons to call us every name in the book.

Then comes the towel… The challenge is to get as much moisture out of his coat as possible before Cosmo torpedoes out of the bathroom. When he’s out, he’s gone! With crazy eyes, he gallops across the house back and forth, non-stop, for about 3 days straight, pacing and barking at himself, his tongue hanging out and drops of water splashing all over the walls, floors, and ceiling. Suddenly, he stops for a moment to catch his breath, after which he takes off all over again and slaloms between the legs of the dining table and its chairs. If you find yourself in his path, you best run for your life. Nothing stops Cosmo when he’s in DRYER MODE.

Inevitably, the spectacle ends and Cosmo finds his way to me. Putting on his cutest face, wagging his tail, waving his eyelashes at me, he asks,  “What’s for dinner, mama?”

“Dog food for you, you little mischievous bundle of love you” “Roasted Asparagus Wrapped In Pancetta for me and daddy.”

In my effort to break the cycle of cushioning my midsection during the holiday season, I’m breaking the bank in search of ideas for flavorful yet light meals. Starvation and deprivation are two words that longer belong in my dictionary. They should never be an option for you either. Eat whatever you want, just be smart about it, and love yourself no matter what!

ROASTED ASPARAGUS WRAPPED IN PANCETTA served with a side of Mâche with Avocado Salad with Strawberry Dressing makes a beautiful and delightful dinner for two, and most importantly leaves room for dessert.

To start, preheat the oven to 400°. Snap the ends of the asparagus spears off and drizzle them gently with olive oil before seasoning with black pepper. You don’t need salt because of what’s coming up next: wrap a paper-thin slice of pancetta (or pastrami) around each spear and lay it flat on a baking sheet. Place the pan in the oven for about 12-15 minutes until the asparagus is cooked, but still has a little bite to it.

In the meantime, prepare your salad as you would with the Mustard Dressing. Except this time, instead of Dijon mustard, add a handful of chopped fresh strawberries and whip the dressing in a blender or Magic Bullet, if you have one. Then dress your greens and avocado gently, drop a few chunks of strawberry around for extra blush, and serve everything with a toasted slice of baguette.

The salty and crunchy bites of the Asparagus contrast, thus emphasizing the delicate leaves and flavor of the cow grass dipped in strawberry juice, making this an exquisite and sophisticated meal .

Who even needs a dessert after that?

Working from home turned me into a Neanderthal woman.

Now, what does working from home entail? The fact whether you get paid for it or not is an irrelevant technicality. Remember that money never defines you. My new trade consists of whipping out versatile dinners for at least 5 nights a week, tossing loads of dirty clothes through the laundry machine (most of it Jason’s since, you know, the Neanderthal factor), vacuuming the three area rugs spread across our apartment twice a day of all the nasty little wooden shells that have been falling off the trees surrounding our apartment and consequently dragging themselves inside our chamber of love underneath ours shoes for the last MONTH. Gasp for air. Other activities of a house worker involve watching Oprah and Food Network, Skyping with Mother, Cousin, and our handsome gay neighbors, scrubbing the bathroom floor with a toothbrush (oops, nope, that’s Jason), and writing.

Anyone who’s ever tried as much as to write a letter understands that the task is unlike riding a bicycle – once you’ve written something good it doesn’t mean you’ll now produce quality pieces with ease happily ever after. And it never gets easier. True, there are days I shoot out articles in no time, as if I dissolved 3 tablespoons of verbal Metamucil in a glass of aloe vera juice with a heavy drop of senna extract and washed it down my throat. However, quite commonly I just sit in front of my laptop and glance at its blank screen with such intensity I make myself run to the bathroom even without drinking the above-described concoction. That helps putting down the first paragraph on the page. Then nothing, nothing for a long time, and a little more nothing before the next paragraph sees daylight. Sometimes I find myself walking Cosmo, washing dishes, and knitting a sweater between single sentences. So when people (women especially) tell me “Don’t talk to me about pain till you give birth”, I scorn the challenger with the ole good “Been there. Done that. Three times a week, at least.”

Yes, art requires sacrifices. First went the manicure and pedicure. Next, I killed make up. I take that back. I never leave the house without a few touches a concealer on my skin and brushing my eyebrows. The latter is especially crucial if I want to avoid causing any traffic accidents when women faint and children scream terrified by my sight, while old people gawk at me thinking “I thought I had seen it all…” It also takes an effort to ensure I have a fresh shirt on my back every morning. I suspect I could save money on heating the apartment if I finally got the nerve to burn all my bras. My boobs haven’t seen one in months, because, why bother? There are days I forget to shower. It’s gotten so bad in fact that lately I started having nightmares where my various …uhm… [I’m whispering that one] hairy parts are being exposed in public.

Irrefutably, crazy love and pure exhaustion keep my boyfriend from running away, maybe even blinded. When he comes home and hands me “You look beautiful. I love you” like a bouquet of flowers, I instantly look behind me expecting to see Eva Mendes stretching her baby-oiled body against the wall and sporting the Calvin Klein underwear. Is he really talking to me?

Such an image inevitably brings forth fear and motivation. For instance, I have already showered three times today, filed my nails, put on some make up even though the only things we had planned for the day was a quick trip to a coffee shop and a walk with our dog around the block. I applied all sorts of grooming, which I shall NOT describe. My efforts paid off faster than I thought when Jason and I walked by a Victoria’s Secret’s store and left with three new pairs of lace unmentionables.

All that pampering made me feel like a woman again, the modern variety with manicured hands, waxed unthinkable places, and trying to fit in clothes two sizes too small.  As such, I couldn’t fathom feeding my body with anything more than a simple salad.

MÂCHE WITH AVOCADO AND MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

The name of the salad pretty much says it all. If you’re not familiar, mâche is also known as cow grass. Its leaves are very delicate and it is mild in taste.

Empty a bag of mâche into a large bowl; dice a ripe avocado and spoon it out on top of the greens. Feel free to add chopped scallions and diced tomato if you crave some color. It will all go swimmingly together. Now drizzle your salad with the dressing (recipe below). Gently toss everything around, and voila! Enjoy the treat and feel healthy, light, and beautiful. Size does not matter …in this case.

MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE

–       3 parts of good quality extra virgin olive oil

–       1 part of white balsamic vinegar

–       1 tsp of Dijon mustard

–       1 tbsp of honey

–       sea salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk it in a small bowl, or shake it up in a closed jar, or best – mix it together in a blender (or Magic Bullet) until the vinaigrette is evenly emulsified. It’s that simple. And so delightful!

Smacznego!

There’s this thing on a certain social networking site, known as Facebook, where one writes up 25 things about themselves and sends the list to 25 people. The idea is to share intimate, less known facts about yourself with people of your choice. Instead of writing down my 25 things and posting it on the above mentioned website, I thought I’d toss them here and make a salad out of it.

1. Almost every morning, as I dress up my bottom, I glance in the mirror and smile with approval at the sight of my profile.

2. The more I cook, the more appreciation I gain for my mother’s culinary talents. I didn’t realize how good of a cook she was until I tried the trade myself. The goal is NOT to be able to make a few dishes I can later alternate when making dinners for my family. Instead, I cook to free my soul and go to heaven for having discovered and exploited my potential.

3. There’s something about Jason’s nipples I cannot simply resist.

4. I am on non-speaking terms with Starbucks for their new line of VIA Ready Brew. While the world screams “RECYCLE! USE LESS PACKAGING! STOP CUTTING DOWN THE AMAZON!” they come up with those tiny coffee sachets worth 1 cup each. Hello! Have you not heard of global warming and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is twice the size of Texas?? These Starbucks people are bananas! Argh!

5. The awesome thing about the holidays is that Jason can’t stop me from making peanut butter and chocolate brownies, or a shit load of chocolate cookies, or even a brownie pie!

6. My favorite candy store? Sur la Table for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

7. My favorite day of the week? The bra-free day. I like to keep my girls free and give them all the play-time they want before I get them to work for food when I get pregnant next year.

8. Hey, Mister! Have you not noticed your car has built-in blinkers? Nooo, these are not Christmas ornaments. You ought to use blinkers all year round dammit. Oh, yeah, that’s a huge pet-peeve of mine.

9. I grew up surrounded by books. Love ‘em to the last page. However, since I started this blog, I’ve been mostly purging words rather then inhaling them. I miss that.

10. Cosmo is a four-legged Pelè in disguise.

11. I have a vivid imagination. In my head, I see pictures of myself and/or people close to my heart in extremely catastrophic scenarios. Those images come to me randomly and out of the blue. Often they are so realistic I start to cry. I am unaware of the origin of this condition. I don’t know how to overcome it either.

12. Beauty moves me. It fills up my chest till it hurts and I start to cry. Again.

13. I secretly fart.

14. I haven’t used a hairbrush in six months, since I cut my hair short.

15. I was a witch in one of my previous incarnations, who lived in the woods and brewed herbal concoctions for various ailments.

16. – 24. Last night I made a salad, a twist on Coleslaw, that was so good the world stopped spinning for a moment. It was so fantastic in fact it’s worth 9 points of the 25 Important Things From Agnieszka Graczyk’s Life. Here’s how I did it…

I bought a package of shredded cabbage. I’d have gotten a whole head if the store offered one, as you know how I feel about the unnecessary packaging, etc. They didn’t carry the veg in its natural form. Back in my kitchen, I emptied the bag into a large bowl and added shredded Granny Smith Apple along with a bunch of chopped scallions. In the meantime, I toasted maybe a 1/2 a cup if raw walnuts, let them cool, and then roughly chopped them into small boulders of brain nuts.

Don’t they totally look like brains? The truth is they are really good for your brain, so it’s a clever tip to remember. The smurfs that write on Whole Foods web pages made my life easier for describing in detail the nuts’ magic:

Walnuts have often been thought of as a “brain food,” not only because of the wrinkled brain-like appearance of their shells, but because of their high concentration of omega-3 fats. Your brain is more than 60% structural fat. For your brain cells to function properly, this structural fat needs to be primarily the omega-3 fats found in walnuts, flaxseed and cold-water fish. This is because the membranes of all our cells, including our brain cells or neurons, are primarily composed of fats. Cell membranes are the gatekeepers of the cell. Anything that wants to get into or out of a cell must pass through the cell’s outer membrane. And omega-3 fats, which are especially fluid and flexible, make this process a whole lot easier, thus maximizing the cell’s ability to usher in nutrients while eliminating wastes–definitely a good idea, especially when the cell in question is in your brain.

The salad would not be complete without the dressing I quickly whipped up in our Magic Bullet. These were the components:

–       freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon

–       1 tbsp of honey

–       2 tbsp of heavy cream

–       3 tbsp of olive oil (the whole nine yards – organic, extra virgin, first cold pressing, etc.)

–       2 tsp of sea salt

–       1 tsp of black pepper.

Everybody in the bowl (the cabbage, scallions, apples, and nuts) got coated evenly with the silky dressing, then chilled in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes before consumption time. Then I took a bite, and with it I heard music and saw fireworks on a horizon. It was amazing, beyond delicious. There was the tartness from the apples and the dressing, but instantly the nut took off the edge and spread comfort and bliss in my mouth.

I didn’t need anything else for dinner. That was my delight of the day. For Jason, however, I reheated leftover penne over pancetta and garlic, and grilled three chicken tenders. Just like that. Nevertheless, the salad still took the Guest of Honor’s seat, and got a round of applause. Pure brilliance on a plate.

25. I am madly and uncontrollably in love with that white boy from Texas named Jason Blaine. Moreover, I am madly and uncontrollably loved by that white boy from Texas named Jason Blaine. He loves me just the way I am.

Gobble, gobble…!

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