Happy Thanksgiving, my loves! Hope everyone had a delicious and cozy holiday. I love this comic from The Awkward Yeti - so apt to my favorite holiday of over-indulgence (the rest of the site is pretty good, too).
And we saw our first snowfall of the year! We went to New Jersey, and after an appropriate digesting period, J and I went for a moonlit walk through his parents' neighborhood, and everything was quiet and softly blanketed in snow and the air was so so cold and it was perfect.
I know I've been slow with the posts lately - I'm blaming it on inertia and a tryptophan-induced haze.
Enjoy the week ahead, my dears! There will be more to come. Until then:
Poster by KeepCalmShop, available here.
I know we're in full pre-Thanksgiving mode, but I thought I'd take a break from the ultimate turkey guides and stuffing recipes and plethora of pies (I want one of every kind, please) and share something that falls on the lighter side.
Our favorite restaurant on our Mexico trip was Los Aguachiles in Playa del Carmen. The name comes from a spicy Mexican ceviche (you can read more about it here), but what we really fell in love with there were the lettuce wraps (or los figurines, as they were called on the menu).
Loaded with fresh seafood, bright vegetables and creamy avocado, with a plethora of homemade salsas on the side, we couldn't get enough.
It wasn't my first time eating food wrapped in lettuce (including the amazing Korean fried chicken at Momofuku), but with our first meal at Los Aguachiles came the revelation that we could do this at home as an easy, healthy weeknight dinner.
So then we did - three times so far, and we've only been back I think two weeks.
The first night we made fish wraps: J pan-fried some cumin-spiced haddock (any meaty, mild white fish works well here), then topped it with a cilantro crema (this recipe, with a pinch of sugar added in). We added some shredded red cabbage, slices of creamy avocado enlivened with a touch of lime and sea salt, and lightly pickled red onions, and it was delicious and filling.
Later that week, the lettuce wraps were reprised, this time with a Japanese influence. J made some karaage (Japanese fried chicken) - using this recipe, and if you've never watched Cooking with Dog before you really, really should. We topped that off with some fresh bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro.
Then we did another round of fish tacos, and they were just as good as the first time.
There's a lot of room for versatility and creativity here, so I've come up with a few other combinations that I think would be good to try out:
The best lettuce to use is Boston or Bibb, but we've made these with leafy green lettuce and it worked out fine too. Have you made lettuce wraps before? What's your favorite filling combination?
I went to spin class for the first time in awhile - we went on vacation, and then I hurt my foot, and then another vacation (!!), and in between there were all the times I made excuses and weasled and talked myself out of going.
(Convincing myself to not to the very thing that would be the best thing for me to do is one of my most developed skills.)
But I'm finally back in the saddle, and it felt so good: within a few minutes of hopping on the bike, there was a smile on my face.
That smile was wiped off, of course, after a few more minutes of grinding, climbing, heavy work. But I found the joy in my ride, and when I walked out of that studio, my step was lighter and my head clear. I swept the cobwebs out of my brain and the sludge out of my veins and I feel focused and strong.
Here's the thing: I love this class. The music is good, I really like the teacher, and it's a great workout that pushes me and challenges me and leaves me feeling healthy and strong. I feel better when I go. I can handle life better when I'm working out regularly. Things get hard when I don't exercise. But it's so, so easy to talk myself out of going.
I was on Facebook the other day (ok, every day, but this is from the other day) and saw a quote someone had posted, the gist of which was: that resistance is a sign that something is important - we resist and we fear the big changes, the things that propel us down our paths rather than letting us sit still and stagnate. The greater the resistance, the more important the change.
Which makes sense. It's always the things that push us, that challenge us, that shake us - these are the things that end up shaping our lives, but they're always the scariest. Fear of the unknown and the new and all of that. But if we allow that fear, that inclination towards inertia, that resistance to overcome us, then nothing changes. We don't learn, we don't grow, we don't live.
This idea comes up mostly in relation to the big moments; the big, life-changing, gut-wrenching, soul-shaking, irrevocable decisions that are the markers and milestones in our lives. The big ones are the scariest ones.
But these big decisions arise rarely (and thank goodness for that).
Our lives are shaped and formed and lived in the minutia, the countless small decisions we make - or fail to make - every single day.
We can still find plenty of resistance in our souls against even the mundane, so we procrastinate or convince ourselves not to (do the dishes, return that phone call, go to the gym - insert your own adventure here).
But saying no to the little decisions only leaves us unprepared when it's time to say yes to the big ones. And it leaves our daily lives that much more empty and gray when it would take just a little more effort to be vibrant and full.
So I'm embracing my resistance. I'm going for it.
It's almost Thanksgiving, aka the best food day of the year. Lately our crisp autumn weather has been replaced by bone-chilling polar vortex cold, but I'm still feeling the seasonal spirit.
Lobster tails were on sale at Whole Foods and it's a polar vortex, so J made lobster mac & cheese on Sunday. It was everything you want on a blustery weekend afternoon: comforting and cheesy and warm.
J used this Martha Stewart recipe as his base, and then added his own special touch (lobster).
The Martha Stewart recipe is a good one because it calls for lots and lots of cheese: J used sharp cheddar, gruyere, and a little parmesan.
While boiling the macaroni, J made a standard roux - butter and flour - then slowly whisked in heated milk. Then he adds the cheese to the sauce, and coats the pasta with it.
The lobster tails make a perfect addition to the mac & cheese: tender and briny and sweet.
After cracking the shells and removing the meat, J tossed them in a buttery-lemony-garlicky sauce, with a little bit of cilantro thrown in. Amazing.
Then everything gets assembled in a buttered casserole dish: first half the cheese-sauce-coated macaroni, then the lobster, then the rest of the pasta on top (the shot above is after the lobster and before the second half of the pasta).
Finally, it gets topped off with a layer of toasted bread crumbs - remember the buttery-lemony-garlicky sauce from the lobster meat? J toasted the bread crumbs in the remaining sauce in a cast iron pan.
Chuck it in a hot oven and bake it 'til it's done (or, about half an hour at 375 degrees, per Martha Stewart).
Feast for days. Start the diet next week.
Mexico was phenomenal. I don't even know where to start.
Obviously it's gorgeous: the white sand beaches, the endless turquoise waters, the lush palm trees against a bright blue sky spattered with the puffiest white clouds. Oceans so blue, blue, blue it makes you squint because how can anything be that completely blue.
First up was Tulum. We stayed in a little eco-boutique hotel (Cabanas La Luna) with a hammock right outside our bedroom and a beach that was practically empty except for us. Yummy fish tacos for lunch, excellent pina coladas at dinner time, and a night sky full of stars.
We also caught some baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean - it felt miraculous. It was miraculous. The first day of their lives and we were there! And there were so, so many of them and they were so, so small. I didn't even see them until one crawled over my foot.
While we spent most of our time in Tulum planted on the beach in front of our hotel, we did take some time to visit the Zona Arqueologica de Tulum - Mayan ruins overlooking the beach making for some spectacular views.
After Tulum was Playa del Carmen. We had some really excellent meals here, and the beach was still gorgeous and perfect.
Playa del Carmen was a much more "happening" spot than Tulum. Our hotel, the Playa Maya, could only be entered from the beach. Just behind it was Avenida Cinco, the main shopping/touristy drag. Tons of people and restaurants and brightly colored flags and balconies overflowing with flowers.
And the food was incredible! So many fresh flavors and excellent seafood. Plus, there's really great Italian food in the area, including our favorite, La Famiglia.
We went on an excursion through the jungle: riding ATV's (way more fun than I would have thought), rappelling, ziplining, and swimming in a cenote. Holy cow, the cenote was awesome. The water was so cool and clear and calm and there were little fish and lots of fruit bats and amazing stalactites and stalagmites and it was so, so cool.
And that was Mexico! I can't wait to go back :)
Mexico was amazing, and there'll be a post on that soon, but I wanted to take a moment before diving back into everything just to be glad to be back. Vacations are good and important, and this one was especially perfect and magical, but there's no place like home, and I feel so lucky to have a home that I'm happy to come back to.
What I missed the most while I was gone: Murphy and Mao.
They drive me crazy as often as not, and most days I dream of a house that isn't just floor-to-ceiling covered in cat hair, but I can't imagine my life without these two little buggers.
Murphy is just rotten, but he's one of the cuddliest cats (the cuddliest anythings) I've ever encountered. Mao is more stand-offish, but terribly smart and incredibly loyal. And when there's a moment of peace and calm (meaning that Murphy has stopped trying to destroy Mao), and the two cuddle up next to me (even better if they are willing to cuddle with each other!), I just want to squish them so much.
So yes, as sad as I was to leave our Mayan paradise, I was so happy to get back to these guys.
(Mao of course rewarded that sentiment by promptly vomiting on our bed, so.)