Special Dish for the Week: Black Bean Veggie Stir Fry

After a weekend celebrating the upcoming wedding of a friend, indulging in very delicious Dijon mustard and herb cheese fondue, several crêpes, French onion soup, and lots of other sugar- and carb-rich treats, I strongly crave some plain old veggies; however, as I do not do plain, I make a delicious:

Black Bean Veggie Stir Fry

Black Bean Veggie Stir Fry

Black Bean Veggie Stir Fry

Following only my taste buds for this dish, I peel, grate, and slice some garlicginger, and onion. These I sautée, till soft, in generous amounts of cold pressed virgin olive oil. I add some chopped cilantro stems to enrich the base flavour. Plus some slices of red Thai chili pepper for a little added spice.

Coarsely dicing red, orange and green peppers, I add these along diagonally sliced zucchini and broccoli flowerettes. Finally, I add some black beans.

For flavouring, I shake on some cuminthyme, and black pepper, and splash on some fish sauce and Bragg soy sauce.

I let all the veggies cook—covered, to soften, releasing and intermingling their plentiful juices—for about 15 min.

Black Bean Veggie Stir Fry Dish

Black Bean Veggie Stir Fry Dish

I serve the black been veggie stir fry over a bed of cinnamon jasmine brown rice with sweetly moist and delicious raisins, to add more flavour and complement the spiciness of the hot peppers. I intensify the flavours by sipping a glass of Côtes du Rhône.

For dessert, I enjoy a cup of vanilla rooibos tea with a teaspoon of eucalyptus honey and some lovely memories from Nice.

Les offres de la vie – Offers from Life

The week after I return from my Book Writing Retreat 2014 Barra de Navidad, I share in my French class a short homework assignment that uses French vocabulary for “offering, accepting, and refusing”. Mine turns out to be a poetic piece, which I come up with while lounging one day on the Mexican – Barra de Navidad beach.

(French original and English translation)

Les offres de la vie

La vie nous offre des choix :
vivre; ou mourir;
faire quelque chose avec elle; ou passer à côté.
Nous pouvons accepter les choix
et l’offre de la vie,
ou nous pouvons les refuser
et croire que nous n’en avons aucun.
Mais ce qui sera, sera.
Généralement, l’acceptation des choix offerts
nous donne plus de contentement
que leur refus.

French Poetry Inspiring Barra de Navidad Beach

French Poetry Inspiring Barra de Navidad Beach

Offers from Life

Life offers us choices:
to live; or to die;
to do something with it; or to squander it.
We can accept the choices
and the offer of life,
or we can refuse them
and believe that we don’t have any.
But whatever will be, will be.
Generally, acceptance of the offered choices
gives us more contentment
than their refusal.

Book Writing Retreat 2014 Barra de Navidad

I spend a week mid-January adjusting to the time change and unpacking from my Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice while also packing for my month’s-end Book Writing Retreat 2014 Barra de Navidad, in sunny and warm Mexico. Somehow I feel more balanced in my emotionally draining writing, which demands the re-living and re-digesting of painful thoughts and memories, when I am living more intensely in the present as well. Writing in less familiar and differently inspirational surroundings feels like more intense living. It keeps me motivated to write, and to live.

The Writer's Beach and Patio Workspaces / Sunrise Rooftop Artist Date

The Writer’s Beach and Patio Workspaces / Sunrise Rooftop Artist Date

This organised group writing retreat offers outdoor morning, nearly “hot yoga” classes, followed by writing classes and personalised coaching. Being instructed in the mechanics of storytelling is perhaps useful in the long-run; however, it reminds me too much of high school English class—and I was not a big fan of it then either. I park the information for future reference, but at this stage, I choose to concentrate on discovering where the organic telling of my story takes me. However, inspired by some feedback to a short piece of my writing, and supported with some clarifying instruction, I find that the piece I am working on during this retreat possibly lends itself to applying the technique of “showing”—through a dialogue between the characters—over the descriptive and explanatory “telling” technique that I, thus far, predominantly apply in my storytelling. It goes quite well.

Fellow Retreating Writers (and Food Lovers)

Fellow Retreating Writers (and Food Lovers)

This interesting experience also allows me to reflect on the notion of re-writes. I can see that my dialogue form will need a second look, at least to make it sound more like speaking than the complete sentences I currently have my characters expressing. No one speaks in complete sentences. All manner of speech is indeed imperfect. Spurred in part by this experience, I realise that my view of editorial re-writes of my story is evolving: I am more open to the idea that I will not get my story down perfectly the first time and that drafts will be necessary. I realise that this will be necessary, not only to improve the writing, but also in order to get it written at all. Aiming for perfection, particularly in one-go, tends to be paralysing.

The Writer's Apartment Workspace

The Writer’s Apartment Workspace

Sometimes writing from my apartment, sometimes from the apartment’s rooftop, other times from oceanfront drink bars and restaurants, I look for opportunities to be inspired in an Artist Date kind of way. I am rewarded with at least two.

After one mid-day writing session, I take a short walk to the end of my street, to peruse the world-renowned, tiny hovel: Beer Bob’s Book Exchange, where I find several (book) gems. On my way back to my writing task, seeing my initial carved in ficus-tree in the street prompts me to take notice of an elderly woman on a second-story balcony. She is painting, clearly for the sake of pure enjoyment, not knowing her activity is being observed and is inspiring another person. I take a leaf from this tree of worldly wisdom for my book endeavour.

Book Exchange and Painter Encounter Artist Date

Book Exchange and Painter Encounter Artist Date

My second Artist Date reveals itself during my rooftop smoothie breakfast and writing session at sunrise. I notice the dew beaded across the table to keep me company, thinking myself alone. I take a picture of this one of nature’s beauties, and only when I look at the dew through the lens of my camera do I notice that I am joined for breakfast by a tiny red creature sipping from a dew drop. In that moment I am reminded that sometimes much is revealed when one changes the lens from which one looks at the world.

Mexican Delicacies

Mexican Delicacies

My evening meals, and some of my mid-day ones, too, I spend in the company of my fellow retreating writers. And the food is amazing: delicious, (mostly!) healthy, and oh, so colourful. I simply cannot get enough! My favourites become guacamole and salsa with corn chips, chased with a lemon laced Corona cerveza, particularly on a warm oceanfront patio, shared with my new friends.

Homemade Mexican Breakfast in Vancouver

Homemade Mexican Breakfast in Vancouver

Upon my return home, I keep the memories of being warm and of eating delicious Mexican dishes fueled by keeping my apartment warmer and by reproducing the luscious guacamole, salsa and taco experience from my trip.

In my French class later in the week, I share a short homework assignment that uses French vocabulary for “offering, accepting, and refusing”. Mine turns out to be a poetic piece, entitled Les offres de la vie” (“Offers from Life”), which I come up with while lounging one day on the Mexican – Barra de Navidad beach.

Special Dish for the Week: Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

Staying in Thailand for this week’s Special Dish for the Week again, with fond memories of my travels there with my good friend who enjoys delicious and interesting food almost as much as I do, I prepare:

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry

I start off with preparing the base components of this dish: Jasmine brown rice and red lentils, for the protein, fibre, and other nutrients.

While these cook, I loosely follow a recipe, and sautée grated garlicred Thai curry pastered Thai chili pepper, chopped cilantro stems in some coconut oil, releasing their flavours and intermingling them.

Next, I cut into bite size pieces a couple of light purple Chinese eggplants, a bunch of soaked overnight shiitake mushrooms, and an orange pepper. I stir fry these with the sautéeing spices, adding the mushroom water for added flavour and to keep the veggies moist.  I then season the dish with some salty fish sauce, sweet maple syrup, and fragrant kaffir lime leaves.

When the veggies are heated through and softened slightly, I add coconut milk, and when that heats up, Thai basil.

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry Dish

Eggplant and Shiitake Mushroom Curry Dish

Serving the Thai curry over the Jasmine brown rice and a side of red lentils, I garnish the dish with more chopped cilantroThai basil leaves, and the juice of half a key lime. I enjoy these with a glass of undetermined-grape red wine, which was gifted to me and tastes rather flavourful. Another successful and enjoyable meal, which I get to enjoy for my lunches during the week as well!

Meal ideas & recipes from “International Thai Cooking: Authentic Thai Food” book acquired during my 2009 Southeast Asia travels.