rage baking and cooking therapy

It was about 2pm in the afternoon when I received the email that put me over the edge. The frustration of weeks of working from home, increased work load, contractors arguing about simple requests, and a lack of sleep came to a boiling point. At this point I had been getting testier and testier. My tolerance was on vacation and my fuse was awfully short. Before writing a response I would regret, I shut my laptop, uttered a few words (only the most respectful and PG about my feelings…), and walked away. I needed space. I needed space from work, from thinking, from responsibility, and from my own mind. I walked into the kitchen and saw the mixer and one of my cookbooks. I decided to rage bake.

When I say rage bake, I mean baking to let off steam. I am thinking about putting all of my anger into crafting some decadent, delicious morsel that can bring a glimmer of joy into my current overly dramatic, angry world (I have also since learned there is a cookbook called Rage Baking, and I am not referring to it with my rant in this post).

Give me muffins or give me death… or something like that.

I decided to make some strawberry muffins. I love strawberry muffins. I actually love all muffins and would be doing a disservice to other types by limiting my praise to the strawberry variety. If somebody could find a way to have muffins be to healthy eating the way kale is… take my money. These muffins turned out so well for my first time making them. The recipe was so simple and that made the end product all the better

I have found that baking and cooking are therapeutic ways to work through frustration. The precise measurements in baking can make it an easy way to shut off the thinking in your brain. I just do what the directions tell me and turn this flour into something delicious. I also love general cooking because the instant satisfaction can take you from a place of frustration to a place of joy, reveling in the fact that you just made something that tastes so good.

The flaky salt on top just put them over the edge.

My wife recently made these incredible Brown Butter and Toffee Chocolate chip cookies (Thanks for the inspiration Rick: https://www.bonappetit.com/video/watch/from-the-test-kitchen-rick-makes-toffee-cookies). Ours did not come out quite the way they do in the video, but ohhh boy did they taste incredible. We realized the importance of gifting some away when we ate through a quarter of the batch before we knew it. I would like to think of that as bettering the soul, more than your heart health…

We have this unfortunate situation where we have no yeast. Because of this I need to make a sourdough starter. Until I overcome my fear of sourdough and just do it, I have been finding recipes that do not require yeast. So recently I made Irish Soda Bread and garlic flatbread. Both of these came out really tasty and have been a great supplement to our meals, or just a straight snack. Also, in case you haven’t graduated to next level living, heat your Irish Soda bread up in a pan with some grass fed butter. That bite is living your best life, FYI.

I will keep you updated on the sourdough situation. I am basically a coward who hasn’t let the words of his friends sink in when they tell him “it is not that hard.” So, stay tuned on that.

In the cooking world, I made a killer pasta with Vodka Sauce the other night (Thank you Molly Baz: https://www.bonappetit.com/video/watch/molly-makes-rigatoni-with-vodka-sauce. What amazing flavor from such a simple recipe. You all should do it!

For Easter, seeing as nothing is conventional about Easter this year, I made pork carnitas (Rick Martinez again: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/double-pork-carnitas). These made my wife, who is not a pork person, say “Ben, these are soo good.” #Winning.

I cheated and used store bought tortillas and salsa verde. 😦

I have been doing a lot of the Bon Appetit recipes because their youtube channel has helped get me inspired about cooking again. I recognize that many of these recipes are not healthy, but that comes back to my goal of moderation and keeping a food diary. If I can eat good food that makes me happy and helps my spirit, while consuming it responsibly, and while taking care of my body, why not? Even with these meals, I am working to balance my macronutrients, get a balanced diet in, and maintain a calorie deficit.

These have helped me. Cooking and baking has become another calming outlet for me when not all traditional outlets are available. You should try some of these recipes and let me know how they go. Does cooking and baking help you? I would love you you to leave some suggestions of recipes, cookbooks, food blogs, or chefs that I should check out.

Ohhh, and what is next? Well, this week I will be going for this crispy roast chicken cooked over potatoes by Chris Morocco (https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/cast-iron-roast-chicken-with-crispy-potatoes). I will probably mix it up and make it my own in some ways, but the though of cooking the potatoes under the chicken, thus getting all that flavor, excites me. Anyway, stay safe out there and keep in touch.

-Ben

my 5 lenten commitments

I’ve always found the ripples of this image to captivate me. Image credit: Benjamin L Crosby

Ash Wednesday was a week ago so I recognize I am a little late with this post, but I think it is worth reading. I am a man of faith and I try to let that help me be the best person I can be. I try not to judge and I try not to preach (unless asked), but I try to live an example that others would see good in. I also am a firm believer that holidays, celebrations, and religious tradition can inspire us even if we are persons of faith or not. This is where my Lenten commitments come in.

You will hear many talk about giving up meat on Fridays or giving up certain vice’s for the Lenten season. Why do we do this? Why do we put ourselves through this seemingly arbitrary practice of denying things we are used to during Lent? Some do it because they are told, others do it because they and their families always have (see tradition and legacy), and some do it because they feel that the act of giving up something pays respect to the man who gave up everything for us. My Lenten commitments do not follow the usual trend this year. My Lenten commitments are the type that can be adopted by all, and probably should be adopted by myself 365 days/year. I am choosing to do these out of respect for the God I have faith in, and also out of respect to those around me and my desire to represent the best person I can be.

I was inspired by a talk from Pope Francis that informed the following. I hope these resonate with you :

  1. Fast from hurtful words but speak with kindness
  2. Fast from sadness but practice gratitude
  3. Fast from anger but practice patience
  4. Fast from selfishness but practice compassion
  5. Fast from words but be quiet as to hear and listen

As you can see, I am not beating you over the head with a Bible.. That is not me. But what I want you to see is that I was inspired. I was shown things that I can try to do to be a better person. I know these should be “common sense”, but how often do you fall prey to acting these out? I know I do a lot. I can fall into a trap and be downright cruel. I can let anger control me and turn me into a miserable, selfish guy. And what does that do to us when we allow these actions to infiltrate our being? Are we being the example for our kids, family, friends, acquaintances? Shouldn’t we care about that?

I want to briefly walk through how I fail at these as to keep a benchmark for me to improve. I can be truly hurtful. I find that I have always been able to read people well and know their emotions triggers. Well this can be fine until I feel slighted, find through my ‘supreme wisdom’ they are wrong, or who knows what else. I can quickly turn and become a mean and hurtful person, exploiting others emotional triggers. And what gain does this bring me? Momentary superiority? The knowledge that I was a bully? This is the thing, acting this way benefits nobody. It drags somebody else down and does not build me up. Instead, kindness builds all up. So that is what I will work on.

Sadness cannot always be controlled, but trying to focus on what we are grateful for can be a strong step in the right direction. There are many things that get me down, but damn am I lucky to have what I have. Maybe re-framing my mind a little can bring about some helpful shifts to my outlook. And gratitude, along with patience, can also help with anger. I feel my sources of anger probably mimic many of yours.

Fast from selfishness but practice compassion. I will say I have always tried very hard on this. I really do try to see things through others eyes. I try to act with love and care and walk with compassion. Despite this I often find myself falling into a self-centered place. Why me? I deserve better. Before I know it everything I deal with in the day only matters in the sense of how it impacts me. This type of mindset does nothing to help those around me.

Finally, who here likes to hear themselves talk (Ben raises his hand)? Who knows somebody who likes to hear themselves talk? Do they hear you when you need them to? Are they present? Are you present? I am notorious for having to have my word inserted. Maybe it is my own insecurities but gosh, the amount of times I will talk so much that I end up hearing nothing from the other person. Being quiet allows us to hear things we would otherwise miss. Sometimes I wonder how much knowledge, information, good news, or anything I have missed because I felt what I had to say was more important than somebody else. Being quiet shows humility, and that is a sign of strength. Knowing this, I know I am not strong, but I know how to get there.

What are any of you choosing to do? Do these resonate with anybody?

-Ben

betterment requires balance

β€œThe mountains are calling and I must go.”
― John Muir

In striving to be a better Ben, this journey goes beyond weight loss and exercise. Our beings consist of more than our bodies. We have our minds and our spirits to contend with as well. And I have found that none of these exist exclusive of the other, but they all are codependent on each other. Each requires investment in the others to realize its true potential and neglect for one can cause decay in others.

I find peace in nature. The creation that surrounds us not only helps me to gain clarity, but speaks to me and reaffirms my faith. Life is full of noise and distractions. I live right outside of Boston, a major metropolitan area. I commute to work and I am sure many of you have heard about how cordial and kind Boston drivers are (for those who haven’t, I’m being VERY sarcastic). I work in a job that requires constant communication and interaction with demanding internal and external stakeholders. We often times are at odds and always have to reach consensus. I also have a toddler at home, am a millennial trying to figure out how to navigate student loans, and would eventually like to buy the house we want to raise our family in. So there is a lot of noise. With that noise comes neglect of self. I can narrow my vision to tasks and problems, getting hyper-focused on one thing at a time, and ignoring all else. This may be effective at ticking off tasks from a checklist, but it is horrible for recognizing everything else around me.

Noises distract us from our goals. They can fog our vision and push us to decisions we may not truly intend. One example of this is how I seek out comfort food when I am stressed. I am a stress eater. If I have a really bad day, I want cheap take-out, a beer, and to sit on the couch. If I am distracted from life being overwhelming I can make knee-jerk decisions that are based on emotion and not on my plan. I have purchased many things from amazon in times like these. “Screw it, I want this.” I can hear my internal monologue clear as day. Does this resonate with anybody? Am I the only one who finds my weakness come out when life is too noisy and distracting? It seems when the business and noise is too much, we seek the immediate gratification that certain things provide. Something to change the moment. These decisions do not look at the long run and often have no basis in logic, but here I am with a box of dumplings, a beer (or two), and a bruins game.

Getting outside and seeking refuge in nature is medicine to me. With every step I take into the woods or every wave I hear crash on the beach, a few of those noises and distractions leave and I can see and think clearer. It helps me to focus on the things that are most important to me. It helps me to care for my own mind and spirit so that I can best care for those I love. You cannot fill somebody else’s cup if yours is empty. When I spend time in nature, I can remember how beautiful and masterful the world is around me, gain more appreciation for how lucky I am, and reset my priorities with this readjusted perspective. For me, the key to getting better is to have this outlet. And even more importantly, I need to recognize the need to use that outlet.

Taking care of my mind and spirit is an investment into every facet of my life. I am definitely not an expert and I absolutely have no right to tell you all what to do, but we all need to think long in hard how we invest in our mind and spirit. What can you do to help clear the noise and find more clarity? Do we need to do it for ourselves? Do we need to do it for a partner, or a family? For our future?

I have realized that when I take the time to try and find more balance, when I actually try to give myself space, and when I try to allow myself to calm, Things get easier. I am a better partner, a better father, and a better person. I like to be somebody who others are drawn to and I want people to find comfort in me and my friendship. I cannot be that person when I don’t take care of myself. I can be that person when I do.

-Ben