Return of the Mack

When I embarked upon my blogging journey on December 8, 2013, I shared my favorite Sunday meal with anyone who would listen. In speaking to my love of food and the crispy skin on a home roasted chicken, I promised to infuse this space with stories, humor, my verve and most importantly, recipes that can be created in your very own kitchen. In return, I asked that you please not be a stranger. You weren't strangers. You sent me inspiring feedback. Many of you shared jubilant messages documenting successes in your kitchens. Some of you allowed me to cook for you. You gave me likes and smiles on my Instagram images. One of you sought me out while I was biting into a burger at a local haunt. My heart pumped custard in that very moment. Beets and Bratwurst had found a small following. 

It has been nearly seven months since I last visited this space. 91 blog entries later. I feel guilty, embarrassed and disappointed beyond reason for my absence. I have no excuse except that the past ten months, my time, energy and efforts were devoted to other arenas. Long commutes, a new challenge, relationship management, learning another language, just being in general. A week and a bit ago, I found myself at a crossroads. For the first time in my life, I was 100% able to appreciate the notion of mindfulness. I took in the cold afternoon's air, felt the warmth of the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I paused and captured that very moment. I was able to stretch time out and it was glorious. Life is short. Be happy. The day closed with a marvelous webcam chat with my brother Keith, who lives in Los Angeles. We spoke to a myriad of topics including a Banksy print that adorns his wall. A little girl is grasping for a balloon that is floating away. Don't we all sometimes feel that when something is so close, it is not entirely attainable? After we hung up the phone, I cranked the music and poured a robust glass of red to toast the next chapter. The following Friday morning, Keith sent me a profound email that read: 

"Today is going to be a beautiful stress free day because all the problems of the world are in your rear view mirror. Get your yoga in. Get your exercise on. Make yourself some fxxking cookies and have a great day. The real world can wait until Monday." 

Oh praise the sound wisdom of little brothers. I took his advise. I did do yoga on that day. Hot yoga at my favorite studio in Charlotte, Charlotte Yoga. I fell in love with yoga once upon a time but with the new regimen, did not care to find the time. I am officially back. I forgot how therapeutic yoga can be. Not to mention a darn good workout to boot. A cause of my more fluid schedule these days, I am dancing around times and finding new instructors. I still have a favorite and she knows who she is. We share a love for Mexican food, back deck barbecues, libations and general livery among other things. A week of yoga last week and I am back in business. I am also training for a half marathon. I printed off what appears to be a manageable 12 week schedule that I plan to extend to 16 weeks, maybe more. Rome was not built in a day people. A friend has asked me to run with her in Las Vegas come the fall. Apparently runners transform the famous Strip. To be continued. I am signed up for a 10K in Charlotte on April 11. Anyone care to join me? I am enjoying finding new apps to track my progress as well as explore new routes throughout my city. My cousin Kathryn in Cape Town, South Africa linked her Jawbone to mine so we motivate one another. What a better way to stay inspired during the colder months than to have a champion? Mine happens to be across a large body of water but we stay on track in real time. On this Friday I also tidied the house. I bought some fresh flowers. I had a facial and purchased a gorgeous red lipstick. I did pick up chocolate chips to have on hand, just in case. I met a friend for a fabulous dinner at a favorite spot famous for their soy infused brussel sprouts and truffle frites. And I slept like a baby that night.

As you know, it is always my goal is to inspire sound health throughout the winter season and especially the New Year. I always like to kick off with clean eating to combat what is usually a holiday season marked by gastronomic debauchery. I will regale you all with our December culinary tour of Manhattan later in the week. We are still in recovery mode. Now that February and winter are upon us, clean eating is very manageable thanks to combining in season produce with the most basic of ingredients  Roast your vegetables, get the good grains in, toast your walnuts and make your own salad dressings. Garnish everything with a zest of lemon, squeeze of something and a chop of herbs. Sauté your greens. Right now, I am very into making my own chicken broth. Elementary and nearly impossible to botch. Once your broth is finished, you are left with lovely pieces of chicken, a smatter of vegetables and herbs to toss and an irresistible broth that you can tizzy up however you please. I like to make a pair of meals out of the bird and the broth. Pair the chicken with roasted vegetables and a sexy salsa verde. Add fresh vegetables to the broth. Perhaps some beans or noodles. These days, we are all about red lentil rotini from Tolerant

I have recently come across a superb platform called Aloha. A site complete with informative and cool content that you need to be reading. Advise from experts, relevant life instruction and sensible health tips. Thanks to this information, I have begun skin brushing every morning to combat cellulite, deep breathing before getting out of bed, learning ways by which to make running fun and absorbing tips for better managing my anxiety. Aloha is also a terrific resource for the types of sublime recipes that ensure nutrition and provide valuable antioxidants. Why not test out one of their recipes from the Recipe Center? Their quinoa bowls have inspired me and I will soon be trying out a rendition of the beet burger. Until then, check out the below. Something else to feed your soul. Great for your health and perfect company for Storm Octavia. Thanks for your patience. I am thrilled to be back, sharing my meals with you. Happy slurping.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Thou Shall Procure

4-5 lb organic roasting chicken, which you should generously salt before you begin
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 onion, you pick the color, chopped in half
1 leek, chopped
1 fennel, chopped
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch or rosemary
1 bunch of thyme
1 dried birds eye chili
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 TBS star anise
Cracked pepper
Kosher salt
*You can add whichever vegetables you please but I advise against potatoes for the broth creation stage.

Hey Baby, It's Your Party

1. Clean out the bird, note that this is partner-in-crimes job and he always likes me to inspect the entrails. I guess it is 'our thing'. Pat the bird dry and generously salt your bird. Put all your chopped goodies at the bottom of a pot. Tuck the bird on top, breasts up. Fill with water and note that your water should cover the bird. Add your spices and generously salt the water.

2. Bring to a boil and then lid on, lower to a simmer. Every now and then, check on your broth and skim the "stuff" off the top. This is totally normal. I like to let mine simmer for 4 hours but 3 will also suffice. Heck even 2 might. You can gauge based on the doneness of the bird. When you poke at it, limbs should detach themselves from the body.

3. Once the timer sounds, carefully transfer your chicken to another dish. Season your broth to taste. This means, if you need more salt or spice, add it in. You can throw out the herbs and vegetables as most of the flavor has been transferred to your broth. Now onto dissection of the chicken. Remove the skin and pluck of whichever meat you will add back to the broth or serve on its own. Later in the week I will teach you how to make salsa verde, which is magical with your boiled chicken. 

4. You can refrigerate your broth overnight. If you do this, a layer of fat or schmalz will appear on top. Do not throw this out but rather move to a small container. You can use this in lieu of olive oil for frying eggs, sautéing vegetables. You can even be truly naughty and smear it on your morning toast. If you wish to immediately attack your broth - which is how we traditionally roll - throw a bunch of vegetables back in. This last go around I added chopped fennel, leeks, dill, butternut squash, carrots, celery, kale and red lentil pasta. You can add garbanzo or black beans, chicken, zucchini, tomatoes, rice noodles, gluten free egg noodles, quinoa noodles. A generous grate of a hard cheese and drizzle of olive oil on top. The world is your oyster. How do you prepare your broth?

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