Sweet 61% Darkness

I don't like buying gifts when I go on trips. I always wind up looking for "the perfect gift", spending more of my time searching for that special something than enjoying my trip. It's always there in the back of my mind, nagging me, "What can I bring for So-and-So??"

Sad, because I love to bring back the perfect gift.
I don't want to just settle for that last-minute airport quickie -- the shotglass, keychain, or t-shirt. They're fine for people who collect them (like me), but even among shotglasses, keychains, and t-shirts, there are the good, the bad, and the "gee-thanks".

Before I left for Paris, I asked J what he wanted me to bring him. Years back someone had brought him a tie from Hermès. How do you top that? Certainly not with a t-shirt, shotglass, or keychain. So I bought myself a lovely bottle of Un Jardin sur le Nil. After all, J would get to enjoy the second-hand scent, right? Close to the perfect gift, but no cigar.

We love to collect local honeys. And I found some beauties, like Provençal lavender, eucalyptus, limeflower, and thyme. But I kept imagining having to lick it off my clothes after landing and discovering the bottles had broken mid-flight.

I found some wines. Same mid-flight-explosion nightmare.

Hmmm....

And then, miracle of miracles, I found Kaoka, chocolat noir biologique éclats de fèves de cacao caramélisés!! Doesn't that sound mysterious? 61% of purely delicious chocolate darkness, blissfully laden with caramelized (!!!) cocoa nibs. And it's organic and fair trade!!

I keep trying to convince J that this perfect gift must be shared, but we don't quite see eye to eye on that one. Now why didn't I buy a whole case of these, the perfect gift??

J keeps asking me if I'm absolutely sure this isn't available in the US. I've not seen it before, but believe me, I'm now scouring the internet for it. If you come across some, buy it -- it's perfect!!

From now on, trips will be much less stressful. It's simple: Buy chocolate.

Lesson learned.

Matter of fact, I think I'm going to approach Whole Foods to see if they will consider ordering and carrying it. That way I can perfect the lesson with weekly purchases :)

Autumn Weekend Tofu Scramble

Here are some photos from our weekend at the lakehouse. The tofu veggie scramble at the bottom of the mosaic is what fueled the autumnal work. The colors of nature made it all a pleasure.


Time Flies –- Eat a Good Breakfast!!

It's been a long work week, and I found myself on more than one occasion wishing I was still on vacation. That got me to thinking about how vacations are little milestones or markers on the highway of life and how we so often measure time relative to our vacations.

First we look forward to our trip, counting down the months, then weeks, then days and even hours before the vacation. Right now I’m counting my five more weeks till Boston.

Then it comes and goes and we begin counting the time since the trip. So it's been more than a week since we've been back from Paris. About 6 weeks since we've been back from this year’s annual trek to Colorado. Two years since Broken Bow. Four years since Australia? Seven years since Antigua? Eleven years since Germany?

What? That long?? Already??? Really????

Wow, tempus fugit...at a mind-numbing speed. Must be why we feel jet-lagged all the time, eh?

Spring ‘09 - gone.

Summer ’09 - gone.

Fall ‘09 – whoosh. It’s flying by as quickly as the colors are turning on the trees. Ah, we’re tumbling through autumn. As are the leaves. Piles and piles of leaves.

In the city, we’ve got a huge oak tree in the backyard that is so very generously raining its fruit upon everything in its shadow. The roof sounds like an old typewriter as the acorns drop from the branches that overhang the house. Walking in the backyard is a veritable acupressure treatment for the feet. And the sloping driveway has turned into a roller rink, with wham-bam roller derby sound effects as the car tires crunch over the acorns.

At the lakehouse, we’ve got everything from flowering maples festooned with deep pink flowers to Japanese maples cloaked in brilliant scarlet, to oaks cloaked in shades ranging from umber to chartreuse, to redbuds which have nary a leaf left on their little branches. The ground is a crazy quilt of all the above.

With each falling leaf, I thought I could wax poetic this morning, rambling on oh so metaphorically about the falling of the leaves corresponding to life.

But looking at it all just makes me hungry. Because I know that each one of those brilliant little palettes of color eventually has to be raked and bagged.

Thus, the need for a nourishing breakfast of champions. Breakfast today is going to have to last us till dinner time, till our acre of autumnal splendor is packaged into stuffed recycle sacks neatly stacked at the curb.

So, as I head out into the ukiyo-e of East Texas autumn leaves, feeling a little bit Renoir and a little bit chain-gang, I leave you with the Tofu Scramble I made this morning. I used the veggies I had on hand. Like the colors of the leaves, mix and match the ingredients as you like.

Veggie Tofu Scramble

2 tablespoons oil (I like coconut or evoo)

1 baby-fist-sized shallot, chopped (or ½ cup chopped sweet red onion)

2 small potatoes, cooked and cubed (I like Yukon golds with the skin on)

1 zucchini, diced

½ teaspoon freshly ground comino

1 package tofu, well-drained (I like firm, but any type will do)

1 teaspoon turmeric

Salt & pepper, to taste

Sprouted corn tortillas

Cheese (I like Alta Dena’s raw goat cheddar)

Sliced tomatoes

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium high. Add the shallot, potatoes, zucchini and comino, stirring till all veggies are golden.

2. Crumble in the tofu, sprinkle with turmeric, and stir so it doesn’t stick.

3. Season with salt & pepper.

4. When the tofu is heated through, heat another small skillet over medium and heat the tortillas on both sides, one at a time. After I flip the tortilla over, I layer on some of the cheese and allow it to melt slightly and the tortilla to crisp a little.

5. Plate the tortilla, spoon on some tofu scramble, layer on some tomato slices, try to roll up or fold in half like a taco, and enjoy. It’s messy, but it’s good and filling.

NB: You can use fresh mushrooms, cooked eggplant chunks, diced tomatoes, shredded cabbage, peas, cauliflower. You can use different spices, as well, like marjoram, curry powder, chiles. The combinations really are endless. Instead of rolling into tortillas or wraps, this can be served alongside bread and jam for a more formal breakfast. It can be served for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, depending how it’s served up.

Lastly, we’re at the lake where the internet is too slow to upload photos. So, pictures will be posted later.