Cooking for the ones you love: Why Italian mamma’s are always so happy

Sometime last week I was making dinner and wondering why it just felt different. Was I still easing my way into the new kitchen? Was I too lazy? Were the issues I was dealing with hampering my appetite?  These were all legitimate and probable ideas, but then it dawned on me halfway through. Chris was out, coming home sometime, and I wasn’t exactly making dinner for us. I was making dinner for me, myself, and I. And he would stumble in sweaty from basketball, ask what pans I was using, and then make dinner for himself.

Perhaps loving him made eating healthier, especially in the early stages, more enjoyable. I wasn’t nourishing my own body but someone else. I had another set of taste buds to please (or to wallow with me when I made a stinker of a meal.) Perhaps that is why I still regularly save a small spoon or fork full for him whenever I try out a new Thai-inspired sauce, which I’ve been doing quite often as of late. Part of me thinks I’m still showing off, but maybe I’m just trying to keep that small sliver of mutual satisfaction alive.

So this epiphany, though bittersweet, has inspired me to add another dimension to living a healthy lifestyle. It goes beyond healthy eating, exercise, mental clarity, and self esteem. You got to do it from the heart. And I mean do it from the heart for someone else. Love yourself. Love yourself a lot. But don’t forget to love others too when it comes to working out (invite a friend on a run or to yoga class!) or trying a new all natural skin care recipe with a gal pal (there is always so much left over anyway) or, in the case of this blog post, cooking a meal for someone (only the Pope should have to eat alone.) This other person doesn’t need to be a lover. It can be an old friend, a new friend, a sick or down classmate/co-worker, or your parents. Even if it is once a week—or even once a month—try making a commitment to that person (or large group of people) to get together and cook for each other. I know I had tons of fun making cookies and sangria when the girls came over awhile back. The meals don’t need to be extravagant. Bring your seven layer dip, your favorite mixed drink recipe, or your mom’s perfect chicken marinade. There’s no need for a theme, or dressing up, or pomp and circumstance (unless you want all of those , in which case pomp away.) As long as you are surrounded by people you enjoy (people that will gladly help you wash dishes) then I think that is love enough!

Okay, enough with the sap. You want a sappy black woman talking? Go watch Oprah, mmmhmmmm.

Here’s the recipe for the aforementioned Thai style meal: an orange-soy glaze over scallops.  Where I shop a pound of large scallops (not the small ones) is $16.99 and  that is probably on the cheap end. Check to see if your market sells scallop pieces, which I get for $7.99/LB! Your stomach won’t be the wiser, but your bank account will be much, much happier.

 

Seared Peppered Scallops with Orange-Soy Glaze

From Bon Appetit (don’t tell my internship supervisor @ EatingWell!)

“ Ingredients

4 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (I used coconut oil. Feel free to use whatever you have around)

1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, patted dry with paper towels

2 teaspoons ground peppercorn blend, or ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)

1/2 cup orange juice (freshly juiced if possible!)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon (packed) grated orange peel

Preparation:

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet over high heat. Sprinkle scallops with pepper blend and salt. Working in batches, add scallops to skillet in single layer; sauté until brown on outside and just opaque in center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer scallops to plate, leaving drippings in pan.

Add garlic and remaining oil to drippings in skillet; stir 30 seconds. Add orange juice, soy sauce, and orange peel. Boil until sauce thickens to syrup, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.

Pour sauce over scallops and serve.”

I served this with a plate of green beans covered in salt and pepper that I cooked up in the cast iron. Okay, I do admit this recipe might be the one you make with a LONG TERM significant other or a best friend that you’ve known for ages, you know the one that held your hair back as you puked. Why? This sauce is to die for. Like, lick the plate clean to die for—I speak from experience. Your besties or beau will love you (well, they might have a disturbed look on their faces), but the first date and new found friend might, well, not call you back for round two!

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Pad Thai Oh My!

When I go out to a restaurant the last thing I order is something I can already make at home; you’d be hard-pressed to see me ordering some basic salmon or grilled chicken. Why pay a premium mark up when it’s something I can make for a fraction of the cost? Nope, I tend to frequent restaurants that make time consuming dishes that I don’t have the ingredients, patience, or cultural prowess to whip up. Case in point: Thai food. I was introduced to Pad Thai sometime in high school. I dabbled around on Thai menus—some drunken noodles here, some yellow curry there—but I always found myself returning to the “spaghetti and meat balls” of Thailand.  Thankfully, Pad Thai isn’t expensive (I don’t think I ever have paid more than $12 for a heaping dish), but I always wanted to try it out in the kitchen. You could imagine my discontent when I pulled up a recipe and was greeted with an ingredient list that rivaled the one I would put together for Santa Clause. Jeeze Louis. Not to mention many of the spices you need for Thai food aren’t necessarily going to be found in a bulk bin or be very cheap.

For months I thought I could only get my Pad Thai fix at the local restaurant…and then I met Pinterest. I was doing my daily peruse of the platform, pinning DIY projects I know I’ll never get around to, when I spotted an easy (and apparently more “authentic”) version of my favorite, noodle dish. If only I had a fainting chaise. I didn’t need to buy any bean sprouts, I could easily leave out the peanuts, and I finally could snub my nose at the long parts of scallions that I always picked out and unceremoniously wiped on my napkin. But would it taste good or be a subpar version of those “DIY Pad Thai Kits” you can get in the International aisle of the grocery store?—do yourself a favor and never, ever get those.

I won’t leave you with baited breath through the pictures and ingredient list, wondering if this recipe made me swoon. I’ll be upfront: it did. I’m officially in love. True, it tastes very little like the Pad Thai of restaurants, but the new flavors were refreshing, muted, and a welcome change. Not to mention it was so easy to pull everything together. Major plus: it reheats far better than the restaurant kind, which is great because they always give you such massive portions, and  I’m always stuck with deciding if I should bring it home and try to reincarnate it the next day, or shovel it all in and accept the inevitable food baby. So many problems are now solved!

Pad Thai

Serves 4 (more like a meager 4 or a hearty 3)

8 ounces dried, wide and flat rice noodles
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 squirt (about 1/8 teaspoon) Sriracha (optional)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, separated and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs, light beaten (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts

  1. Soak noodles according to package instructions. Drain.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and Sriracha.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.
  4. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add eggs and cook, scraping skillet with spatula until eggs are almost set (about 30 seconds). Transfer eggs to a plate.
  5. Add noodles, scallion greens, and sauce to skillet. Cook, tossing constantly, until noodles are soft (about 1 minute). Add egg mixture and toss to coat, breaking eggs up gently.
  6. Serve noodles with lime wedges, topped with cilantro and peanuts.

I happened to have some fish sauce that I’d just bought for another recipe this week, so I did 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and a little less than 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Leave it as is or add some chicken or shrimp.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn