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February 28, 2011

Why all the hate, Twitter?

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I did. Admittedly, the show dragged on a bit but there were some nice moments and a couple of great acceptance speeches.

I also did something I had never done during an Academy Awards broadcast: monitor my Twitter-feed. Last year at this time, I was a Twitter-phobe, but I took the plunge last fall—and have really enjoyed it since then—so I was looking forward to hearing the reactions of the Twitter-sphere to what was happening at the Awards last night.

Unfortunately, the tweet-stream during the Academy Awards resembled what my young children tell me about the bullies at school. Too many of the tweets were nasty and personal—and not in a clever or satirical way. Just plain mean. I know I’m late to the social media dance, but as the night wore on, the ugliness, insults and nastiness left me depressed, tired and disappointed. I had to log off.

Believe me, I’m not naïve to the culture of celebrity ridicule. And I get that mean-funny/funny-mean is part of online culture. But today I started to wonder, what is it about the internet and social media that gives these torrents of venom such comfortable homes? Why do otherwise smart and sensitive people create some of the most obvious and tacky insults when they are online?

Twitter is a highly efficient mass communications platform—anyone can sign up and be an instant broadcaster. I’ve generally found Twitter to be a civil place within the digital realm. Twitter has helped unite movements for human and political rights, and it has become a vital platform for expression in suppressed societies.

But more often recently, I am seeing it used for the primitive self-indulgence of cheap insults. And the same way that Twitter can accelerate a positive movement, like in Iran and Tunisia, it can also quickly and exponentially multiply a toxic atmosphere of cynicism, apathy and negativity.

Shouldn’t there be a wall between the snarky things people would normally whisper to a spouse or close friend—or just think to oneself without saying—and broadcasting them to the world on Twitter? Shouldn’t that require a filter and a little more thought?

As my grandmother always said, it’s easy to be mean. Kindness requires generosity and an understanding of the human condition—and lots of self-awareness. Reading Twitter last night, it felt like we were going in fast reverse toward becoming an evolved people. It seems as though people have lost their self-control and are indulging their egos in a way that makes me uncomfortable. So many people ask me to get Jerry on Twitter. But I would be hard pressed to convince him to be part of a realm that’s starting to feel more and more like a rampaging mob.

When I mentioned all of this to friends today, some told me to simply unfollow the people I didn’t like. But here’s the thing: I followed them in the first place because I thought I DID like them. And I think there’s a good chance that these are actually good people who say mean things because that’s the club mentality on the internet.

Am I crazy for wanting to change that mentality? Or should I just unfollow all the people in my feed who add hate into the atmosphere?

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Personal Thoughts

February 25, 2011

Farmer’s Market in February

I stopped by the Union Square Farmer’s Market in NYC on Wednesday morning. In my dream of dreams I was hoping for some sign of spring…a radish, a pea…anything! But I knew in all likelihood that I was bound to find jams and dried flowers, the typical end-of-winter fare.

What struck me, though, were the beautiful potatoes, sunchokes, turnips, carrots and parsnips that were no worse for wear after a few months of storage. I was amazed at how well they had lasted since they were harvested early November. As a matter of fact, I think they have survived this long, cold winter better than I have.

So, I changed my attitude and, instead of wishing winter away, I decided to embrace the humble parsnip and whip up a batch of parsnip fries with ketchup spiked with grated fresh ginger.

Parsnip Fries with Ginger Ketchup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: serves 4

1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into sticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Heat oven (with oven rack in middle) to 400°F. On a rimmed sheet pan, toss together the parsnips, oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper (6 turns on pepper mill). Roast, stirring half way through, until the parsnips are golden brown and tender, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the ketchup and ginger. Serve with the warm fries.

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Delicious Recipes

February 24, 2011

February Cooking Music

Listening to music in the kitchen can be relaxing for some people, but for others who are already freaked out just by having to cook, music can be distracting. I change the music I listen to based on what’s going on in my house and, of course, my mood. It just depends on how focused I need to be. If my kids are running in and out of the kitchen and I am in a rush to get dinner on the table, I play something mellow and groovy. If I am having friends over for a meal, I might play some Celia Cruz, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz or Charlie Palmieri—energetic and fun salsa that my kids start dancing to, instead of trying to get my attention. Other times, I love a little soul or R&B. I’ve put together a list this month that’s got a nice kitchen vibe. I hope you like it.

Lovely Day by Bill Withers
Don’t Lie by The Black Eyed Peas
Love Come Down by Evelyn “Champagne” King
It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me by Barry White
Get Together by Madonna
Betterman by Musiq Soulchild
I Need You by The Dey
I Wanna Thank Ya by Angie Stone
Just Breathe by Pearl Jam
Lovers In Japan by Coldplay

Or you can download all of these songs at once from my February Cooking Music playlist on iTunes (you’ll need iTunes to open it).

Posted by do it Delicious

February 14, 2011

The Shake Up

Last Saturday, after enjoying 4 (freezing) hours in Staten Island watching my son Julian play baseball, my friend Jen and I took him and her son Jake for pizza. We drove straight to Rigoletto’s—my favorite neighborhood pizza joint that I have loved since 1993. We were all famished after 4 hours of very intense baseball, and pizza seemed like the perfect relief.

Rigoletto’s offers many pizza variations—I especially love the Viva (sliced fresh tomato, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil) and the Padova (fresh tomato and artichokes). But you know those moments when you are so hungry that you cannot make a decision? I was having one of those, so I went for a straight-up plain slice, as did Jen, and we got the boys 2 slices of pepperoni each (they were having no such indecisiveness.) Then I went looking for the red pepper and oregano, with which Julian and I both like to top our slices, and some napkins.

I assumed by the time I got back, my pizza would be cooled enough to take a bite. And, rather than take one of those test bites that tell you the food is too hot before you commit to it, my better judgment was clouded by insurmountable forces. The cold day, the sheer hunger and the anticipation of the top-of-slice bite (that first crunch of the crust, the tomato sauce and cheese) all ganged up on me, telling me to just go for it and take a big bite. Big mistake. 

The pizza was so hot that I severely burned the roof of my mouth. Like scalded it. Completely. The searing pain diminished the extreme hunger, and I sat there with tears in my eyes (not the good kind) watching everyone else enjoy my favorite pizza.

When I tried to eat something later that evening, I nearly clung to the ceiling in pain. I had done such a number on my mouth. Who knew hot cheese presented such a risk? I tried to skip dinner because everything hurt. 

But I am not a “skip a meal” kind of girl, so I took the advice of a highly informed nutrition genius who suggested I try a Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer. I always dreaded the idea of drinking shakes, but for the next few days, out of painful necessity, my Berry or Chai Vanilla Vega shakes became my main source of sustenance. They are sugar, gluten, dairy and soy free, and full of protein, fiber and antioxidants. The canister also says this shake provides 100% recommended daily intake of vitamins and minerals, Omegas, enzymes, probiotics and phytonutrients. All the things we are supposed to eat, right?

I started getting into it—adding Chia seeds, cinnamon, ginger powder, cardamom and blueberries. I began to feel electrified with energy. I didn’t crave caffeine or sweets. I forgot to drink my daily morning coffee (that’s never happened before) and I even began to wake up before my daughter’s alarm rings (and wakes everyone else up but her.)

So, now I am in a quandary. I fully believe our vitamins and nutrients should come from eating nutritious, wholesome foods, but I have not felt this good in years. It makes me wonder if the healthful foods I’m eating have enough nutrients or if I’m eating enough of them. Take a look at this chart I found on Vega’s website:

Should I continue this experiment of incorporating the Vega shakes into my already balanced diet?

This requires more investigation on my part…

There are other products that are less expensive, but Vega was recommended to me as the best one because of its nutritional profile.

This product is not recommended for young children.

This is not a paid endorsement of Vega; I have no relationship with this company.

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Personal Thoughts

February 10, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

Since the flu season is officially upon us, we whipped up an easy chicken noodle soup chock full of vegetables and white beans for extra protein. We hope this soup will either help keep you healthy or nurse you back into fighting shape.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: serves 6

2 bone-in chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, sliced
4 carrots (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced into rounds
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 of a 1 pound box of spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces*
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 lemon, quartered

Place the chicken and broth in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover the chicken by 1 inch (4 to 6 cups) and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes (skim off any surface foam that arises.) Transfer the chicken to a bowl and, when cool enough to handle, shred into bite-size pieces; discard the skin and bones.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery, carrots and salt and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes.

To the simmering broth, add the spaghetti pieces and vegetables and cook until the spaghetti is al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the beans and chicken and simmer until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide among bowls and squeeze in the lemon juice.

*Feel free to substitute the noodles with a whole grain like barley or farro, or even throw in some lentils, 3/4 cup should do the trick. You can also experiment with quinoa, rice or whole-wheat pastas. Be sure to follow the package directions for cooking times.

Posted by do it Delicious
Category: Delicious Recipes