I haven’t been posting lately. The blog makes me a bit sad, for some reason. Maybe because it’s going into ether, not sure exactly where. I’m a much better reader of others’ blogs.
I’ve been feeling fairly sad, and a bit somber, contemplative since my son moved out.
Reflecting upon the many years of raising my son alone. Single child of a single mom.
It is strange to be alone, to go into his now near-empty bedroom.
I keep the light on in there, as though he’s still here.
I’ve decided to feel all of the feelings, not to numb in any way. No wine, no booze, no over exertion, no working overtime. And it is easing – the grief.
I’m also sleeping at night. It has surprised even me. But I’ve put in place safety measures, and also, maybe I’m of an age where it just doesn’t matter that much if some danger occurs. That sounds depressive, but it’s not.
Anyway, we keep on keeping on. Grief is transient, and we live through, transition, and persevere.
I’m still cooking – mostly for one, sometimes for my folks too.
And my son has started making my and his favorite home dishes at his new home. That warms my heart. He tells me his cooking “tastes like home.”
This beautiful salad is a perfect start to any meal. Fresh and bursting with flavor and color, it is not your typical green salad.
I love fresh beets. Sometimes they do sit a while in the fridge as I forget just how magical they are. This is one of those recipes that you can rely on to transform that forgotten root into one of the best versions of beets ever!
I made this salad to accompany prime rib this Christmas, and there was not one bite left of it when we finished.
You can find beets, oranges, and greens year-round now, so if you want a lot of color and freshness to start any meal, this is a great bet!
Today’s adventure is a day trek, high, high into the mountains of Northern New Mexico.
This one is simply a cooking adventure!
However, I do anticipate that where I am going will not have many people there this time of year. It’s getting cold at elevations now, and this one is at nearly 8,000 ft.
I’m leery of bears, especially with really yummy foods with me, but I plan a campfire. And also, aren’t bears hibernating this time of year?
I have a really complicated menu planned. Why?
I’m experimenting with making different dishes in the wild and experimenting with light and photographs and video.
(All of my photos turned out horrible, by the way. 😂😂😂😂)
I’m learning. I will post some so you can all laugh too. 🤣
This was the planned “experiments” menu:
Vanilla Cinnamon French Toast
French Press Coffee
Scrambled Eggs with Lox and Fresh Dill
Chipotle in Adobo Braised Chicken Tacos
Weird menu, right?
Like I said, I’m experimenting with cooking – gourmet – over the fire and with my Coleman.
Anyway, here is how the day started: Coffee. This French Press Italian Roast is rich and smooth, heavy.
With a kick. Caffeine.
This is also probably the best photo on this blog, so enjoy. LOL!
Well, it’s almost 9:00AM – time to hit the road!
I’ve planned about an hour and a half drive, as I want to get pretty far into the mountains today, as I said.
Along the way, I stop along the Jemez river – this is early winter in Northern New Mexico. The colors are still glorious yellows and burnt auburns.
After about an hour and 1/2, here I am – pretty far into the mountains and at an elevation of almost 8,000 ft.
So still, I hear slight rustling of wind through the trees, every now and then a rodent scampering.
On the way up were people in trucks, seeking to cut their perfect 2021 Christmas tree. The pine, spruce, and fir are fragrant with dank pine scent.
Most are misshapen bold survivors amongst the few Christmas-tree perfect figurines.
Unloading, I set up my table, Coleman, water jug, and get my fire going.
This is not going easily today due to the cold and dampness. See the snow on the ground? Luckily brought some of my own wood. Good thinking, Gray! 😊👌
Finally going really well now!
I make more coffee.
I don’t know if it was the flavor of my cast iron pan or that the butter melted too quickly over too-hot coals, but my french toast had the flavor of burned butter. Notes to self! Cooking over the campfire is a bit tricky!
I didn’t even bother with a photo. LOL.
At home, to redeem myself, I made french toast the next morning. Here’s how it’s supposed to look:
This one I drizzled with some amazing honey I found recently at No Bull Prime Meats. All of their honey is jarred and labeled by zip code. Talk about specialization!
As you can tell, even with the above, I am working on my photography skills, as I know these are not doing my food justice. Truly a learning curve.
Anyway, on to the scrambled eggs.
I’ll a post a link to the recipe in a bit, but essentially this is just soft scrambled eggs with cream cheese melted in, topped with lox and dill. Yum!
I’m going to skip along here, I’m starting to bore myself.
I did the salad rolls. They were my favorite thing of the day. Recipe forthcoming as well.
These are just finely chopped fresh veggies folded into a dressing of 1/2 mayo and 1/2 sour cream and then spooned into fresh rolls.
Very light and flavorful!
By the way, I am totally alone out here. There is no one out here except for a very occasional car along the nearby road. I am not afraid at all.
Daylight is not difficult for me at all – it truly is the night and the dark.
For some folks, reactions to trauma are like that – they remain isolated to the type of situations in which the traumatic event occurred. For me, it’s at night, when I am alone.
For others, reactions “generalize,” and extend to other types of situations. A panic attack at a train station turns into panic attacks anywhere in public. That’s actually quite common.
Tracking back to the original trauma may help, but also may worsen anxiety and avoidance associated with PTSD and in my opinion, should be done in the context of therapy.
I’m going to start my early dinner.
This recipe is very easy – in fact actually impossible to mess up – and I did not mess this one up today. 🤣
I heat my cast iron skillet over the grill, add a touch of oil and then a large skinless chicken breast (2 medium work as well), which I have lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.
This recipe does not even require browning of the chicken, but I do move the chicken around in the skillet and flip once to ensure it is not sticking.
Then to the skillet I add a whole can of chipotles in adobo sauce and a cup and 1/2 of chicken broth – just enough to almost cover the chicken breast.
Covering tightly with aluminum foil, I let this cook over medium-hot fire coals.
After 40 minutes this is the result: Pretty blurry from my lack of photographic experience with the afternoon slant of fall sunlight, but you can see the chicken is cooked through and liquid evaporated. I do not like my chicken tacos soggy!
This chicken is pull-apart fork tender and I shred simply with my fork along with some of the chipotle (a lot today, as I’m a bit cold) and assemble my tacos. This chicken is spicy, flavorful, and so tender!
After warming my corn tortillas quickly on the fire, I fill with the shredded chicken and chipotles.
And today, I made an avocado crema (1/2 avocado mashed with 1/4 cup sour cream), with which I topped my tacos, and added a bit of diced red onion. Served with my pinto beans made at home and warmed over the fire – yum! Cheers!
Here’s how this looked when I made it at home earlier this year (without avocado).
And these beans – so yum! I cooked the beans at home, topped with a bit of red chile sauce, avocado, cheese, and a fried egg.
The fire is ebbing and I’m heating water and heavy cream to make my Mexican hot cocoa. I would spike this one with whisky, but it is time to head home once this fire winds down.
It’s rich and warms me through to finish this wonderful late fall day.
You know the feeling – all weekend long you have been away from work – able to play, hang out with family, do your own thing, and go out with friends – all on your own time. Weekend chores notwithstanding, you’ve been free to relax and have fun.
And then Sunday afternoon arrives, along with that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. Tomorrow’s Monday, time to return to work, back to the office or the endless Zoom calls.
The feeling can be particularly distressing after a vacation or time away from work, and this holiday season has many of us particularly struggling.
According to a survey commissioned by LinkedIn, 80% of working Americans experience the Sunday blues, and Millennials and Gen Z workers had even higher rates, with greater than 90% reporting it.
While the feeling is very common, there are ways to cope.
Here are 6 evidence-backed methods of dealing with the Sunday blues:
Give yourself a reality check.
Sunday blues are often linked to underlying ideas that things will be difficult or even insurmountable. This type of thinking is called “catastrophizing,” or blowing things out of proportion. Remind yourself that it will be okay, that Monday is a typical day, and you will simply go through the day step-by-step.
Research shows that cognitive (thinking) control techniques such are “reality checking” may increase activity in areas near the front of the brain that serve to dampen fear-based activity in lower regions of the brain associated with anxiety.
Take a deep breath and remember who you are.
Go for a walk, get engrossed in a movie or your favorite TV or streaming series. Talk to a friend or partner. Go to the gym.
Distraction is another technique designed to interfere with automatic fear responses in the brain, and similar research demonstrates the value in distraction techniques.
Visualization is a relaxation technique you can use by yourself to relieve anxiety. By creating a calming mental picture, visualization helps shift your perspective and mindset. You may choose your own mental picture such as relaxing on serene beach or in the mountains or may use suggested scenes.
While it may be temporarily comforting, alcohol is a known depressant and if used excessively is known to harm both physical and mental health. It may just make your Monday that much more challenging if you wake up with a hangover, not to mention causing potential relationship and other social problems.
There are many good options for treatment if you are struggling with excessive use. Suggestions include online quit support communities, AA, formal counseling, and medications. Newer medications such as naltrexone decrease cravings for alcohol and may be especially beneficial.
Ditch the job.
If it works for you, ditch the office job. Many people nowadays are quitting their stereotypical office job and do not like reporting to bosses and other authorities for the same reasons that underlie the Sunday blues. They seek to make their own hours, rules, and playbooks, and establish their own work-life balance.
Quitting your day job requires considerable and deliberate thought so don’t quit your day job unless you can!
Seek professional help.
If your distress at the thought of going to work on Monday becomes overwhelming or interferes with your ability to function, seek professional help. The mental health professional community includes counselors, social workers, nurse practitioners, doctors/psychiatrists, and psychologists, and all are versed in helping with anxiety.
Most of us have been “there” with the Sunday blues, so know that you are not alone.
With a few tips you can successfully manage the Sunday blues and ease into the work week, including even after the Holidays.
Gray Clarke, MD is a Board-Certified Psychiatrist. This is a personal blog focusing on mental health, wellness, and cooking, along with personal stories.
Warm up your holidays with this sexy, sweet, and spicy cherry salad!
Serrano and charred scallion vinaigrette add just the right amount of spice and smoke to the bed of sweet cherries you lay down to start this dish.
Creamy pinon nuts round out the flavor, along with a bit more “bite” from the scallion. Don’t skimp here – it looks like a lot of onion, but you need the spicy bite to balance out the sweetness of the cherries.
I really do love a good scallion.
In the spirit of yearnings and yum, I give you this recipe I adapted from NY Times last year. It reflects my New Mexico roots exactly.
This dish is perfect for Christmas or any time of year, but because I can’t easily find cherries here this time of year, at least in the US, I am naming this one “Christmas in July.”
No matter the occasion, when you make this dish it will be the one that no one has ever had before!
So, in the spirit of Christmas and loving one another, I wish you Merry Christmas and happy cherry hunting!
The best ever lamb dish is here! Easy and elegant, you CAN make this!
Ever since I found the wonderful local meat shop just a few miles from our house, I have been making all varieties of fresh meats – veal milanese, osso buco, saltimboca, bison green chile stew, and now rack of lamb.
All have been the best cuts of meat I have ever tasted, but this rack of lamb was the most tender and flavorful cut of meat I’ve ever had.
Overcoming avoidance is key to healing from trauma. This is a story about overcoming fears through nature and healing through cooking.
I thought I’d go back in time and tell the story of my solo overnight camping trip.
My son, his girlfriend, our big dog and I had gone on a trip to this same area of Northern New Mexico earlier in the summer and stayed a couple of nights, so I felt ready to do this. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but something was compelling me.
I wasn’t fully conscious of what was driving me at the time, but there was a transformation happening with me. That was something I had been aware of for a few months by then.
Anyway, morning of the trip, I pack up.
Even for one, packing takes some time. It’s very helpful to have bins of staple items ready to go, as with most types of adventures that require gear (camping, skiing).
As you’ll see, I wasn’t exactly all alone on this one – I brought my little dog, Nibbles, with me. She is my constant companion but not much of a “protector.” She does have a LOUD bark though.
The ride up is totally uneventful, but glorious. Windows open, taking in trees fragrant and brilliant green, we climb, above the 8,000 ft elevation mark.
For this car-camp, I want a semi-developed site, which means one that is off of the road but that is accessible by 4-wheel drive car. It’s muddy, and I definitely don’t want to get stuck out here all alone! Yikes!
These aren’t developed sites in campgrounds. They are ones where folks have accessed areas off-road and built fire rings with rocks and have flattened areas of ground with their tents. Some have remnants of plastic bottle lids, aluminum foil bits, and other trash.
Shaking my head, I wonder if it’s just carelessness, hurriedness, or other reasons people can be so thoughtless. Most complex behavior is multiply-determined, so I settle on that.
There are people around, but the “sites” are spread out enough that it would take a little bit to access.
I have a hard time finding a spot. There aren’t many and the ones that are accessible are all taken.
I’m nearly at the end of the canyon where the tall trees enshroud. Any further north along the road and the canyon opens up to a wide high plain. No one camps there. It’s too exposed along the road and not beautiful.
My spot is quite sweet – it even has a stream running right through the middle.
Nibbles is too afraid to get out of the car. This is new for her.
I know how she feels.
Letting her get her bearings in her own way and time, I set up camp.
Camp table, 5-gallon water jug, old Coleman grill, cooler.
I get out bags of food supply, flashlight, lighter, my bin of cooking and cleaning utensils.
Air mattress, pillow, and sleeping bag.
If you’ve ever been camping, you’ll know that one of the very first things you do is set up your tent. Did I do that? No.
This time we are sleeping in the car! 😜 😜😜😜😜😜
We go fishing down the road, didn’t catch anything today, so time to get a fire going and start dinner.
I wanted something really easy but yummy and light enough.
This is an egg and bacon green salad with radicchio, avocado, and grapes. Here’s how it looked when I made it at home:
It’s been a nice day. Earlier, a couple walked by my campsite. I could tell they were wondering what a middle-aged woman was doing up here all alone. Or maybe not. It’s funny either way.
Chilling by the fire with Nibbles, who has relaxed by now, I also feel totally relaxed, at peace.
Two cups of Mexican hot cocoa later, it’s getting pretty dark, stars becoming brighter in the night sky. Without the interference from city lights they are so brilliant. One of the reasons I love Northern New Mexico.
Did I tell you that my sister and I used to camp out just the two of us? We were young when we first started – age 11 – on the neighbor’s land. They owned 100 acres. We were never afraid.
That was before.
Nibs and I settle in the back of the car. It is definitely roomy enough, and comfortable. I am not afraid at all now. The windows are rolled up. And we both fall fast asleep.
Sometime later I wake to the sound of an alarm blaring. WTH??
It’s the freaking car alarm. Is there someone around? What is happening???
Grabbing the flashlight, I investigate each side of the car through the windows.
An animal? A person? Eek…
No – nothing. There is nothing out there.
And then it hits me: I probably set the alarm off when I turned over! It’s that darn auto-alarm feature! OMG, LOL!!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
I’ve experienced this before.
I find the keys and shut off the alarm, thinking about the couple camping aways down the road. I’m sorry, folks, I really am.
Anyway, I go back to sleep.
After that, I swear, I must have set that alarm off maybe 30 times. 😂😂😂
Sooner or later, I decided to just keep the car key in my hand so I could shut off within a second or two.
Those poor neighboring campers.
Feeling chagrinned the next morning, we were up pretty early. We pretty much booked it out of there. Hahahaha!!! 😆😆😆🤣🤣🤣
But we made it through the night – even got some sleep!
This is an enormous win for me.
I make some coffee, pack up, and clean up the site, looking around, thanking the wild for offering solitude.