Plum & Blackberry Fruit Salad with Rooibos Syrup

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when i was younger
i told my mother
i say, one day i’m gonna make you proud

now that i’m older
it’s so much harder
to say those words out loud

when i was younger, i asked my father
why are we so human?
now that i’m older
i think i figured it out
we’re just doing what we can

– Liz Lawrence –

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1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup raspberries
1 plum, pitted and sliced
1/2 cup cherries, pitted
1/4 cup strawberries, sliced
2 tbs chopped pistachios
2 leaves, spearmint
garnish with rooibos syrup

3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tbs local honey
3 tbs loose leaf rooibos tea

1. In a small pot, mix 3/4 cup sugar, 1 cup water, and 1 tbs local honey. Stir until sugar dissolves. Measure 3 tbs of rooibos tea into a metal strainer and submerge in the pan. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, cool, and stir in an airtight container.

2. In a small bowl, add fruits. chopped pistachios, and garnish with julienned spearmint and rooibos syrup. 

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Spring Onion Pesto & Olive Bread

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If you walk down the steps of our apartment, past the two doors on the end of our street, then you come to a long hill. One side of the road is lined with trees and the other is filled up with houses carved into black, crumbling Puddingstone. In the middle of the hill, you’ll find the Lower Crite Gardens fenced off by a short wire fence. The garden sits in between two small brownstones. The neighborhood has worked for years to keep the the space available. There is a pathway that winds its way up from the Lower Crite Gardens to the Upper Crite Gardens, where you’ll find bees and a peeling, turquoise building used for farm sharing classes and community meetings.

Our garden plot is at the front of four rows, closest to the street. I spent the afternoon there pulling weeds and hauling loads of compost. When I was finished, the neighbor came over and showed me around his garden plot. In the middle of his garden there are 3-5 foot kale stalks leftover from last year. He said that he dug a hole at the back of his garden and found remnants of old buildings. I asked one of the other neighbors about the history of the gardens and he heard a few places burnt down on the hill during the 1960s and nobody ever rebuilt them. And in an article I read, I found that our garden is one of projects that stemmed from a community effort, spearheaded by Augusta Baily, to preserve open spaces in the neighborhood.

At dinner with our friends the other night, I find myself telling them about all of this – ee, yikes! I can really go off like this sometimes. I like to know the details, especially when it comes to history. I can go on about Augusta Baily and why she was interested in open spaces. It can get really out of hand if I’m not careful. But it’s stories like these that help me find meaning in my surroundings. I can walk out the door and say, hey, old Augusta Baily was over there working on getting these gardens up and running.

The soil has seen forty years of gardeners, all coming and going with their own stories. I wish I could travel back in time and ask the people who worked in the garden before me about their lives – What were their hopes and dreams? How does the world look from 1960? I’ll never know the answer to these questions, but I can enjoy the bits and pieces of stories that make it through time. I feel like there is one thing I know about them – that we all share this love for seeing things grow from seed to stalk, digging our hands in the dirt, and feeling like a part of something greater than ourselves.

– Spring Onion Pesto & Olive Bread –

spring onion pesto & olive bread

I’ve been spending more time in the garden lately. Our neighbor showed me all the places to find fresh mint and spring onions. They grow between the garden beds, along the walkways. Almost every time I’m in the garden, I pick up mint and spring onions to bring home to cook into something. It feels nice to have an ingredient I can pick up right down the road. Sometimes when I’m making dinner, I’ll run to the garden to grab some to throw into a dish. Our basil plants are slowly growing, so I thought this would be a nice way to use all the spring onions that a lot of the gardeners think of as weeds.

1 cup spring onions, packed
3/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
generous pinch of salt

2¼ tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1 tbs raw sugar
3 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cups whole wheat flour
½ stuffed green olives

To Prepare the Pesto:

1. Add chopped spring onions to food processor. Pulse until finely ground. Add walnuts and pulse until it forms a smooth paste. Add olive oil and salt. Puree until smooth. You can add additional salt, olive oil, or nutritional yeast for extra flavor. 

To Prepare the Olive Bread:

1. This recipe makes 2 loaves of olive bread, so you can have one for tonight and one for tomorrow. In a large bowl, mix together yeast and ¼ of water. Mix in 1 cup of sugar until it dissolves. Let stand for 10 minutes. Then mix in leftover water, as well as the olive oil and salt.

2. In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix together the flours and salt. Once the liquid mixture has stood for 10 minutes, add half of the flour to the mixture. Slowly work in the remaining flour mixture and olives until a loose dough forms. 

3. Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic once it’s done. If your dough starts to stick to the surface, then add more flour. 

4. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and lightly brush the top with oil as well. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.

5. Remove the dough from the bowl and punch the dough down on a floured surface. Divide the dough in half and form into round or oval loaves. Place them on an oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let rise for another hour, or until doubled in size.

6. Preheat the oven to 375°. Run a sharp knife along the top of the bread. If you want to make a fun pattern, then you can also make cuts that stem from the center, which will make your loaf have a fun leaf design on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes in the center of your oven until the loaves are golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack before serving. 

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Rooibos Tea

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1 tsp per cup | 212° | Steep for 3-5 minutes

I drink tea all day long! I used to drink five or six cups a day, but I cut back because it was getting to be too much. Now, I enjoy my black tea or roasted mate in the morning and follow-up with a variety of herbal teas during the day. I’ve long been obsessed with rooibos tea, or African red bush tea. One of my friend’s aunts used to send him red bush tea from South Africa that we would drink after runs or when we were just hanging out. This quickly became one of my favorite teas because of its sweet, earthy flavor.

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History of Rooibos Tea

Unlike a lot of other teas, rooibos tea is from the Cederberg Mountains of South Africa. The tea leaves, or nettles, are harvested from the red bush, or aspalathus linearis. The tea was originally harvested and used by Cederberg’s indigenous communities, but the arrival of the Dutch in the late eighteenth century and a German settler with ties to tea manufacturing brought this type of tea to the world.1  Although the tea was introduced to the world market during the first half of the twentieth century, it didn’t take off until the 1970’s when Annique Theron published a book about the health benefits of tea.

Like many other teas, and wine for that matter, location matters. Rooibos is exclusively grown in South Africa. Since rooibos has been gaining popularity in the West over the last few years, tea production has largely moved to full-scale agricultural production versus harvesting wild rooibos. In fact, South Africa now exports 6,000 tons of rooibos every year.2 Like other forms of international tea production, making sure that farmers receive a fair wage for their effort is one of the most important factors. Tea cooperatives have given producers control over production, pricing, and processing, rather than having to work through middlemen that take a large cut of the profits. Alternative trade organizations and fair trade companies are mission-driven distributors that are trying to make sure small farmers receive the profit they deserve.

Health Benefits of Rooibos Tea

Except for the fact that rooibos tea is completely delicious, many people have picked up the tea drinking habit for the health benefits. Rooibos tea has a long list of health benefits, including its antioxidant content. If you’re cutting back on caffeine, then good news – rooibos is caffeine free! One cup of tea provides you with protein, calcium, magnesium, and enough fluoride to produce a anti-cariogenic effect, which means that it helps prevent tooth decay.3 When consumed too frequently, the high tannin level of black teas can have harsh effects on your body. Rooibos tea has a low tannin level, so it doesn’t interfere with digesting protein. Here are some of the highlights of the health benefits of rooibos tea:

  • Contains protein, calcium, and magnesium
  • Reduce nervous tension & help produce sound sleep
  • Rich source of antioxidants due to its flavanoid content4
  • Reduces oxidative stress

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Flavor Profile of Rooibos Tea

Now that you know all about rooibos tea, you might want to brew yourself a cup. The best rooibos tea can be found in your local health food store. Look for Fair Trade, loose-leaf tea. Brew 1 tsp of tea in 8oz of 212° water for 3-5 minutes. Rooibos has a sweet, earthy flavor that fills up your palette quickly. It’s delicious when added to cookies, breads, and pancakes.

Quinoa & Currant Bread Loaf

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Now that it’s spring, the sun rises in Boston around 5:30. I usually set my alarm clock to wake up at 5:30, but it never happens. My body is still in winter mode – no way am I getting out of bed that early (yet?). I am a morning ritual kind of person. The weird guy who wakes up early to go for a run, read, pour a cup of tea, and head off to work. It’s quiet. I like to wake up before the city, or at least before most people in the city are moving around. It gives me a chance to take a breath of air before the day gets going.

It’s warm (yay!) and the doc has given me the thumbs-up, so I’m running again. Much slower than I was a few months ago, but I’m running, finally. It felt good to get out and move my legs over the past few days. At lunch, I ran along the Charles River where everything is in full bloom. Around Back Bay, Boston starts to feel like a college town. The students at all the major universities in the city are graduating, so their families are here and the city is alive with so much change.

Despite all the newness, Boston is still known for its historical landmarks. A couple doors down from our apartment you’ll find the house of William Lloyd Garrison, one of the most famous abolitionists and author of The Liberator (says the plaque in front of the estate). We have a fort leftover from the revolutionary war. At the top of the hill there is a skyline view of Boston. In the morning, when the grass is still wet and the sun isn’t strong enough to make everything sticky, I lace up my shoes and hit the pavement (or trails if I can find them).

At physical therapy today, the PT told me that I need to take more rest days. Run less. Give my body a break. I’m the kind of person that’s all or nothing. It’s not that I try to be that way, it just happens. It’s kind of always been that way. I find something that I enjoy doing, or a song that I like listening to, and I run it into the ground. No balance.

Huh, what a concept?

She didn’t say do nothing. She suggested cycling, swimming, cross-training. Do something different. It was hard to hear, which I think goes for most times that I’m out of balance – it totally sucks when somebody has to hold up the mirror and says, hey don’t forget to work on this part of your life. And I have a bunch of resistance to running less. After she told me, I was just silent. I had to take a moment to get my composure, listen to what she was saying.

I have to believe that our bodies (sometimes) do things to send us messages about our lives – or at least mine does. She’s right. I was running too much. I’ve been doing too much. Luckily, nobody said we have to be the same people we were yesterday. There is always space to throw ourselves into something new. Here’s to having the patience, tenacity, and grace to be someone different than we are today.

Quinoa-Whole Wheat Bread with Currants

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I love rustic loaves of bread that I can eat in the morning with some kind of nut butter, avocado, or roasted squash. This whole-wheat loaf of bread is earthy and lightly sweetened with maple syrup, which gives it a nice caramel flavor. The currants add a tannic sweetness to the bread that gives the loaf more complexity that is super delicious. This recipe was adapted from Quinoa-Whole Wheat Bread with Raisins from Saveur.

Yields: 1 Loaf

Ingredients

¼ cup toasted flax seeds
5 tbs red quinoa
3 oz. active yeast
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 ¾ tbs sea salt
1 tbs maple syrup
½ cup currants

  1. Heat quinoa in a small pot for 2-3 minutes, until lightly toasted. Add 1 cup + 2 tbs of water. Reduce heat to medium and cover, so that the quinoa can simmer until the water is fully absorbed. The quinoa should be soft and fluffy after 25-30 minutes. Once the quinoa is done cooking, add toasted flax seeds and let sit until cool.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together yeast, flours, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour. In a medium bowl, mix together maple syrup and 1 ½ cups of water. Pour this mixture into the well until a loose, sticky dough forms. Add quinoa, flax, and raisins.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 4-5 minutes. Shape the dough into a tight, round ball and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 4 hours.
  4. Remove dough from the bowl and turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead for 3 minutes, incorporating more air into the dough. Let chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  5. Prepare your oven for baking the bread by placing one rack on the top third of the oven and the other on the bottom third. Heat oven to 480°. Transfer the dough to a baking pan and slice with a leaf pattern. Brush the dough with water.
  6. Bake the dough for 15 minutes on the bottom third of the oven. Transfer the bread to the upper rack for 15-20 minutes. Let the bread cool completely before serving.

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Flour and Currants

Quinoa and Dough

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Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Butter

pumpkin seed and hazelnut butter

When I was younger, I planted pole beans, squash, and strawberries all around our house. Nothing did that well because the canopy blocked out most of the sun. My great grandparents had land in California where they would grow grapes, cherries, squash, peppers, and a lot more. My other grandma planted fifteen tomato plants one summer and installed a greenhouse in her backyard. I guess, we are a family of small farmers – the kind that grow the necessary herbs and vegetables. On my great grandparents property, there was even a small shed where they kept all their canned food after the growing season, so they could enjoy their produce year-round. I hope that being around so many people who knew something about the land will rub off – I just found out that I got a community garden plot for the growing season!

On Saturday, there was a compost workshop in the gardens (which are right behind our apartment). I spent the afternoon talking to the neighbors and turning the compost piles. The neighbors are looking to transform the wooded area behind our apartment into a permaculture farm, complete with fruit-bearing trees. There is a bee keeping box that got its start this spring, chives that grow like weeds, and poppies that spill out onto the walkways.

I learned the neighbors by name – from the guy with all of his plants in the window to the one with the big house cut into puddingstone. We walked around the gardens and they were nice enough to share their knowledge about the best place in the neighborhood for a summer picnic, where to find fresh raspberries, and the story of how the gardens came to be. After Saturday, the neighborhood feels like it’s filled with more meaning.

I am sitting down this week to plan out which herbs and vegetables we are going to plant, but this time, I’m not eighteen years old trying to grow strawberries in the shade. I feel more certain. More honest about my limitations in the garden and where I can lean on the knowledge of other gardeners.

I can’t wait to see how the garden grows and changes this summer. Some of the other gardeners, who have been there as long as ten years, have their plans done well in advance. Some plots are already showing signs of growth. Ours is mainly just soil now, but I can’t help but wonder, if all of our plots are a reflection of where we’re at in life. I hope ours fills up with the same kind of passion that permeates our mid-twenties.

 -Pumpkin Seed & Hazelnut Butter-

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I’ve always had an affinity for homemade butters. I started by making peanut butter when I was a teenager and it’s been going ever since. I love this pumpkin seed & hazelnut butter as a snack – spread on crackers, toast, or an apple. Sometimes I get home from work and I need a little something to hold me over. I know that alternative butters can be expensive in the store and even when you make them at home. I was really inspired by this post about homemade nut and seed butter from Green Kitchen Stories. Not only did I like their recipes (still need to try the maple turmeric nut butter), but I was really appreciative of their tip on how to make those expensive/rarer nuts go a long way. Add seeds!

1 cup hazelnuts
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
2-3 pinches coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 300°. Roast the hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds together for 10-12 minutes. The nuts and seeds will be lightly golden and release a nutty aroma. Remove from the oven and blend in a food processor with sea salt for 10-20 minutes. Blend in 3-4 minute batches if you want to make sure that your food processor doesn’t overheat.

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pumpkin seed and hazelnut butter

Pressed Boston Review

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Pressed Boston is one of the newest additions to the local food scene that is catering to Bostonians who value high-quality food on-the-go. A few weeks ago, we faced the less than average temperatures to make our way to Charles Street. A new on-the-go juice bar and eatery is nestled at the base of Boston’s Beacon HIll, just down the road from the historic Charles Street meeting house and the Boston Public Gardens. The street captures the most romantic elements of New England, from its cobblestone sidewalks to brownstone buildings. At the intersection along the public gardens, many of the buildings have extensions or rooftop gardens that combine both contemporary and old-world style. My favorite sight on the way is an out-of-place home that pays homage to traditional eastern european design with its high yellow fence, bright three-dimensional sunflowers above the door, and maroon foundry siding.

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At 120 Charles Street, Pressed Boston is nestled in a cozy brownstone about five or six feet above street level. There is a large set of windows at the front of the store where patrons can sit to enjoy a quick bite. The traditional entrance is balanced by the simple and sophisticated interior and that was designed by architect, Chris Kofitsas, who incorporated elements of modern, urban, vintage, and industrial design. The interior uses natural fibers, such as light wood and vintage metal lighting, to create a simple and natural aesthetic. The space is small, which caters to its clientele that come to pick up food while on-the-go or stop for a quick bite at the front windows.

pressed boston review

In Boston, it’s rare to find a quick and simple menu that includes everything from smashed avocado with roasted pepitas to non-dairy cashew ricotta cheese. The plates range from $9-13 and a fresh juice is anywhere from $9.50-$10. We split the Jackfruit Banh Mi (since discontinued, so sad!) and the Portobello, Cashew Ricotta, and Apple-Onion Jam Sandwich and washed it all away with fresh Selenium and Manganese juice. The sweet and spicy jackfruit was a refreshing twist on the classic banh mi, replacing seasoned tofu with jackfruit. I saw somewhere that jackfruit can taste like chicken, but I think it shares more similarities in terms of texture to tuna and the flavor profile is sweet and tangy. The selenium juice contains seasonal vegetables, like beets, fennel, and oranges that are perfect for an extra dose of iron or calcium. When the ground finally thaws in New England, I’m looking forward to trying one of their paletas, which range from cardamon vanilla plum to avocado tangerine. The founders, Ashley Gleeson and David Clendenin, carefully designed a simple and nutritious menu after meeting with chef Joya Carlton, who was the head chef of the well-known NYC juice bar, The Butcher’s Daughter.

pressed boston review

It’s rare to find a healthy grab-and-go in New England that has so many fresh recipes on the menu. The staff was patient and helpful as I indecisively scanned through the menu weighing my options – something that is rare for veggie lovers in Boston. The front window was too crowded to stay, so we ended up taking the food on the go and settling at home with our sandwiches and juice over a game of dominos.

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In March, I went back to meet with the owners/staff and photograph the space. I had so much fun hanging out with them for the morning while they opened up shop. They were nice enough to let me poke around and take some photographs. I asked questions and got to try a few more of their dishes and meet the chef. I really love the people behind Pressed Boston – they are down-to-earth, kind, and fun. If you are in the neighborhood, or need something healthy in a hurry, then stop by and see for yourself.

Weeknight Meals: Soba Noodle Bowl

bok choy and soba noodles

This weekend we went over to our friends’ place for brunch. It was one of those early spring days when the sun is shining, but the wind is blowing. It was really nice to sit around a table with friends and watch the sunshine stream through the windows and catch up after a long winter. I love tasting other people’s home cooking – the flavors, spices, and cooking techniques. Brunch was amazing & we finished off with pie – who doesn’t want to end brunch with pie?!

On Saturday, Lisa was drinking warm lemon water after brunch and she inspired me to replace my morning caffeine with something a little fresher. It’s the season for lightness and putting down the things we picked up during winter that helped us push through cold winds and snow. It’s time for opening the windows and letting our hearts go a little further.

I picked up my friend for yoga on Sunday morning, Design Matters with Debbie Millman blaring in the backseat. I love these early morning rides to yoga. We drop by my apartment and pick up my partner because he’s always the last to wake up. Sasha and I get time alone in the car together and it’s nice to just be with a friend on Sunday morning – waking up and chatting about the weekend. I love driving around with a group of people in the car drinking something warm and watching the city come to life on Sunday morning. Spending time with loved ones helps me feel rooted to the earth and to other people.

What helps you feel connected to the earth and to other people? I know that if I don’t spend intentional time listening to people’s stories and sharing the day-to-day with them, then I end up feeling totally disconnected. I’m going to work on keeping my heart open this week and spending more time feeling my feet on the ground.

happy monday!

 – Noodle Bowl: Bok Choy & Shiitake Mushrooms –

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During the week, Kevin and I are swamped with work and sometimes we just can’t get out of the rice-and-beans rut, not that there is anything wrong with that. Sometimes we go all week eating giant salads and grains, which is great, but can get monotonous. We have both been trying to mix more things into our diet and not let the weekend be the only time we are eating outside the regular. It takes time to find the simple indulgences you can whip up during the week. Am I right?

This is one of our latest staples because it’s quick, easy, and nutritious. I have had an obsession with soba noodles for too long now. I always go out to get them, but have steered away from them at home. I have no clue why?! These are simple to whip up with sautéed vegetables. Also, I think this spring is going to be all about bok choy in our house. As one of the powerhouse fruits and vegetables, bok choy has high levels of Vitamin K and Vitamin C. We both tend to get sick when the seasons change, so I’m keeping this one in my arsenal when I’m feeling a little scratchy or achey.

4-5 baby bok choy
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms
1 bunch soba noodles
1/2 cup + 4 tbs soy sauce, tamari, or amino acids
2 tbs rice wine vinegar
1/2 inch ginger
2 tbs vegan butter
4 garlic cloves
2 tbs toasted sesame oil

Prepare the sauce by mincing garlic and mixing it together with rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and sesame oil. Slice mushrooms into 1/4″ slices. Sauté in a medium or large saucepan with 2 tbs of vegan butter and 4 tbs of soy sauce. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until shiitake mushrooms are caramelized, or slightly brown.

veggies

Fill a medium pot 2/3 full with water. Once the water is boiling, place one bundle (10 oz) of soba noodles in the pot. You can use the back of your spoon to slowly slide the soba noodles down until they are fully submerged. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until soba noodles are soft. Drain, rise with room temperature water, and set aside.grid

While the noodles are cooking, wash and trim the ends off of the bok choy. In a large saucepan or wok, mix together soba noodles, bok choy, and shiitake mushrooms. Pour 4 tbs of soy sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes or until bok choy is wilted. Garnish with black sesame seeds and serve.

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Spinach and Strawberry Salad w/ Candied Cashews

spinach and strawberry salad

I have a habit of cueing in on other people’s conversations. I come by this honestly. My mom does the exact same thing. One minute you are talking to her and the next her eyes are entirely glazed over and you know that she has heard every word at the table behind her. I’ve had to practice how to tune out people’s conversations. It’s like my ears don’t have the best filter and they just wander around. I’m better than ever at staying present in a conversation, but when I’m by myself, the whole thing goes haywire.

I go to a gym in Boston that is bustling any hour of the work day. In the morning, I love listening to people talk about their lives. I get to hear all kinds of interesting tidbits about humans if I just do my natural thing – let my ears wander. The other morning, I lost myself listening to two guys talk about the weather – how one side of the country won’t get a drop of rain and the other can’t get its temperature above 45 degrees.

One guy says to the other, “It’s gotta be global warming, right?” And his friend says, “Ya, I don’t know..”

That’s it. The conversation ends on that note. Nowhere to go from there. Global climate change is the end of all weather conversations. They’re both uncertain and I’m left feeling like the first guy didn’t get the assurance he was looking for.

It made me think of those places in my life that are filled with uncertainty right now. I could hear myself asking similar questions: is this going to work out? are we gonna make it? will everything be o.k.? It made me think of how stuck these questions make me feel & how lately I’ve been having a lot more let-those-thoughts-go kind of moments. And that morning it took two guys in a gym talking about the weather to wake me up to the places where I’ve been stuck because of uncertainty.

I’m sixteen chapters deep in Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodrön and the last chapter ended with this quote about life: “It’s all good juicy stuff–the manure of waking up, the manure of achieving enlightenment, the art of living in the present moment.” I have to take this grungy moment in a gym basement with two guys talking about the weather as part of my journey. It’s all here to keep us moving, even the moments of uncertainty.

– Spring Spinach and Strawberry Salad w/ Candied Cashews – 

strawberry and spinach salad

I eat a lot of salad during the week, everything from lentils piled on top of arugula to spring greens and fruit. My mom used to make sweet spinach salads growing up that were really delicious. Admittedly, strawberries aren’t in season in New England, but they remind me of spring in California. I love the sweetness from the cashews in this recipe and tangy-ness from red wine. This salad reminds me of spring & the mountains.

I have been trying to outfit my kitchen with items that have stories and really fell in love with these salad tongs. They are from Our Green House and are made from sustainably harvested wood.  These are hand-shaped, sanded, and rubbed with oils. They are really smooth and great for serving up salad out of a giant bowl.

3 handfuls of baby spinach
1 lb fresh strawberries

1 tsp salt
1 tbs red wine or red wine vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs maple syrup
3 tbs grapeseed oil

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbs organic maple syrup

cashews

maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, mix together cashews, salt, cinnamon and maple syrup. Spread evenly onto the baking sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until nuts turn deep brown.

While the cashews are cooking, whisk together salt, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, maple syrup, and grapeseed oil until fully combined. You can also place all of these ingredients in a jar and shake. You may need to mix this up a little before serving.

red wine vinaigrette

Wash 3 cups of spinach and set aside. Wash and quarter 1 lb of strawberries and set aside. The cashews should be done at this time, so you can pull them out of the oven and let them cool for 1-2 minutes. Scrape the cashews into a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix together spinach, strawberries, and dressing. Top with candied cashews and serve.

strawberry salad mix

Happy {Belated} Pi Day

lets eat pieSome of the best recipes are made on the fly. Others you mull over for days. You end up scraping the burnt part off after the first and second try. Maybe, you’re late to work one morning because you’re scrubbing flour off the countertops. The kitchen isn’t always glamorous. It all comes together on those rare days, when you think: this is where I should be right now. It’s that fraction of a second where you can just be present.

I turn off the lights to our apartment. Our kitchen and living room are dressed up in winter’s blue afternoon sun. I take the train to the airport. It’s strange to be moving in the city on a day when I’m supposed to be at work. On my first morning, my mom and I walk a loop around the apple farms, which is the same place I usually go for a run. There are so many versions of me living on this trail, like the time I went hiking with my friends in the mountains and spent the afternoon at the brewery OR the time the neighborhood dog almost bit me on my run. I wonder if those parts of me are still in the air.

My mom and I admire the sun at the top of the hill and she reminds me about the time I called her crying when our neighbors moved away. I’ve always had more feelings that I’ve known what to do with. I guess that’s why the past month has been difficult. My injury is still healing, so on Friday I end up walk-running on the trail that winds itself around the lake. I’m learning to go slow. This injury has jolted me out of all the ego junk that I picked up over the past few months. I can’t go any faster than my body will let me. I just have to accept what is or the process is a lot more painful, both mentally and physically.

Most Bostonians think that I’m from Lake Tahoe, per my recommendation, but it’s a lie. It’s hard to explain a town that is this small and attached to the base of the mountain like a barnacle. People know Coloma for gold and Tahoe for it’s ocean-like lake. Camino is just a road for most people, but not the people who live there or who grew up in the forest. Most Californians are quick to recognize the tourist name for the town, Apple Hill.

On Saturday night, my grandma and cousins are tossing around dice at the dinner table with my partner and I. They are laughing and he is teaching them the rules to our favorite domino game: kapicu. My parents are half asleep in the living room talking to my aunt and the house is buzzing with family and wine, lots of wine. I can’t believe my cousin is graduating college this year and that my younger cousin is in high school. Has it been that long that I’ve been gone?

Kevin’s cousin was over at our place today as I was putting this pie together for Pi Day! Kevin and him finished working early, but he decided to stay ‘till the pie was done. Who can say no to free pie?! Kevin was napping, Adiel was sitting in the office, and I was in the kitchen rolling dough. We all relaxed while the pie was baking and I was reminded of those days in California where my siblings and parents could just hang out as a big family and be together, even if that just meant moving around in the same space.

I love that feeling – of being in the same space as people with good hearts. Lately, I’m trying to be instead of do. We sat around the dinner table and woofed down pie, guiltily before it had time to completely cool. In honor of pi, here’s to the infinite love of family, late afternoon pie, and choosing to be present a little longer each day.

 – Pi Day Celebration: Apple Pie – 

slide of pie

I highly recommend picking up the book Ratio. It gives you all the things you need to know about making your own doughs from scratch – bread to pie crusts. This is a vegan version of a recipe adapted from Ratio. All-in-all the book inspired me to better understand how to baking and to teach me to trust my gut. When your pie dough doesn’t look like pie dough, trust yourself! This is the recipe that worked for me today, but you never know what’s going to happen based on the weather. I learned last week that cookies at 3,000 ft. elevation perform much differently then down here at sea level. Use this recipe as a guideline, but don’t be afraid to trust yourself.

3/4 cup unbleached flour + 1 tbs
3/4 cup whole wheat flour + 1 tbs
1 cup (2 sticks) non-dairy butter
1/2 cup water
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1 tbs raw sugar
1/4 tsp salt

4 baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs flour
2 tbs non-dairy butter
1 tbs vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325°.

Flour GalleryIn a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and sugar. Cut butter like a grid so that it is easy to mix into the dough.

Cut Butter

Pouring Butter

crumbled pie dough

Cut the butter into the dough using a fork or pastry cutter until it forms a soft dough. Mix in water and apple cider vinegar. Add additional flour if it’s too wet – i.e. doesn’t stay in a lightly firm ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. In the meantime, peel, core, and slice three apples. Mix in a large bowl with sugar, flour, vanilla, and cinnamon. Set aside.

apples

Cut pie dough in half. Roll half dough out on a floured surface until 1″ hangs over the side of a standard 9″ pie pan. Refrigerate for 15 min. Fill with apple pie filling (apples + sugar, etc). Roll out another 9″ circle using the other half of your pie dough and drape across the top. Pinch the corners to make a ribbed finish and slice in four ways in the center. Brush with 2 tbs of vegan butter and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the outside is lightly golden.

pie crust

pie with filling

pie bfore bake

pie carnage

Lapsang Souchong


lapsang souchong

1 tsp per cup | 212° | Steep for 4 minutes

There’s a campfire in our kitchen this morning, at least that’s what the upstairs neighbors must think. Meanwhile, 7,000 miles away it’s Wednesday or what I think must be too late for black tea, but in Boston the light still has the blue tint of late winter. I pour the kettle over a strainer filled with lapsang souchong. It’s smoky, like the lingering scent of campfire on cotton or like the things we don’t write down. I don’t know when this whole tea thing started, which gives me more grief then you might think because I have an obsession with origin stories. The footnote is my favorite form of procrastination.

lapsang souchong_2

I was introduced to lapsang souchong while working in the South End as a barista during university, or should I say, it found me. I used to work 40-60 hours and go to school full time. I still have no clue how I made it all work. Magic, I guess. I miss the rhythm of café life from those days, sometimes. It’s hectic, but there is something comforting about the regulars – the opera student getting her masters degree, the writer who does more reading than putting pen to paper, and the guy who always ordered large iced Americanos, light ice. Years later, your barista will remember your drink, if you are one of the regulars. It’s funny, how a drink can match somebody’s mood or personality, how there is more predictability in our day-to-day then we might think.

I had to wean myself off espresso that year because people typically wanted single shot etceteras and I couldn’t let the other one go to waste. Needless to say, my afternoons become absurd crashes for a couple weeks. I replaced espresso with black tea and roasted mate, and then my favorite, lapsang souchong. Unfortunately, I couldn’t save the wasted espresso – I had to save myself!

Lapsang souchong is also known as Zhengshan Xiaozhong, which is a special black tea produced in the Wuyi Mountains in southeastern China. The shoots of a local tea species, camellia sinesis var. senesis cv. Bohea, have been used since the 15th century to produce an earthy and smoky tea. It’s no secret that I’m constantly craving the mountains. I’m seriously starting to reconsider this city life idea – been dreaming of a place where the mountains are closer, like home. It is easy to get disconnected from natural rhythms in the city, but I find that tea helps to balance my energy.

The rich campfire smell and smoky flavor reminds me of growing up with a wood stove in California and filling it with pine and cedar. This tea, which centers me in my origin story, has quite the tale itself. It’s rumored to be the first black tea and is till grown in the region where the first black teas were grown, now the National Wuyi Mountain Nature Preserve.

Sometimes, I forget about the handiwork that goes into crafting something as delicate as tea. Lapsang souchong is made from an intricate process that involves plucking, withering, rolling, fermenting, fixing, and drying the sprouts. In Flavor Characteristics of Lapsang Souchong and Smoked Lapsang Souchong, a Special Chinese Black Tea with Pine Smoking Process, Yao, Guo, Lu, and Jiang outline an extensive manufacturing process that involves both knowledge and craftsmanship. The smooth and smoky finish on this tea comes from pan frying and drying the sprouts over pine smoke.

This morning, I’m wrapped up on the couch watching the sun rise in late winter, a whole pine forest roasting in my lap. A cup of tea to bring me home, to meet the day with two feet on the ground. What are the stories you are telling yourself today? What are you going to write down?

Blood Orange Vegan Bundt Cake

blood orange bundt cake one

This Saturday, Kevin and I left the city for the afternoon. I’ve been craving the road in some way or another. This was just a short trip down to Providence for lunch at The Grange and dessert at Wild Flour bakery. The restaurant, which calls itself a vegetable restaurant, was just the right escape from Boston that I’ve been craving and the bakery was everything that I wanted – soy cream next to almond milk, yes please! It was nice to be on the road, sun pouring through the windows, and singing like old times when we used to spend more days in the car.

Last night, we had friends over and I whipped together matcha cookies and we all snuggled on the couch to watch the Grand Budapest Hotel. It was nice to see everyone before we head out to California to visit my family on Thursday. It’s the first day of March and it’s snowing 3-6 inches tonight here in Boston, so needless to say – I’m excited to head toward warmer weather.

Confessions from a blogger: sometimes (or often) we fail. The first iteration of this recipe turned out as a complete disaster. When I’m working with egg substitutes, it takes me time to find the best ones that work with different types of baked goods. Apple sauce as an egg substitute didn’t give the lift that I was looking for. I had one of those kitchen meltdowns where you can’t look at the cake because you are frustrated by the couple hours you spent trying to put it together.

It’s in these moments that I know the kitchen tells me where my head space is at, if the little things are starting to not feel so little anymore – if i’m falling behind on being in the moment. I took a break and came back to this recipe with the lessons learned from my first failure and luckily found success, but it’s not always that way. Sometimes, a recipe refuses to cooperate for days on end, especially when I’m converting things from non-vegan to vegan. Sometimes, I can’t run because of injuries and the weather refuses to cooperate – it’s just remembering to be awake in these moments, to learn, not get too frustrated, to have patience with myself and the universe. That it will all work out, right? Everything is meant to work out. 

– Blood Orange Vegan Bundt Cake –
bundt cake table 1

The flavor of the season at our apartment is blood oranges. I casually slip them into water, smoothies, salads, and now cakes! Two reasons why I love blood oranges a) their sweet flavor and b) their colorful addition to my life in the dead of winter. This recipe combines the sweetness of blood oranges with the spice of ginger. If you want a list ‘spicy’ cake then feel free to halve the ginger and celebrate the blood orange.

bloog orange bundt cake_two

3 1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cup raw sugar
4 blood oranges
1/4 cup cashew milk
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups cold water
2/3 cup non-dairy butter or coconut oil
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 tbs non-dairy butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup blood orange mixture

Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a bundt pan and set aside.

blood orange_stage one

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, including flour, sugar, ground ginger, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a blender, puree the blood oranges and cashew milk until smooth.

prepared bundt pan

Mix the wet ingredients thoroughly in a medium-sized bowl, including water, oil, vinegar, vanilla extract, and 3/4 of blood orange mixture. Reserve 1/4 for icing. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Once totally combined, place in an oven and bake for 50-55 minutes.

bundt in oven

While the cake is baking, mix together powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and blood orange mixture to prepare the frosting. Once the cake is done baking, cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely before icing. Dust with powdered sugar & drizzle with icing.

bundt cake piece

The Sound of Friday: A Playlist to Soothe & Lift the Soul

Friday-Playlist

I don’t know about you all, but by the time Friday rolls around, I’m usually feeling pretty exhausted. Monday seems like a far way away and I want to ground my energy for the weekend ahead. No matter what happened between Monday and today, we’ve made it – through all the beautiful and stressful moments that the week has given us. Each one, a gift or an opportunity to learn something about ourselves – so my optimist side says.

Either way, Friday is always that day where things at work are wrapping up and I need something to sooth my spirits. Music reminds me to smile, breath, and let my heart be free. These are songs I listen to over a cup of tea in the morning, on my walk to the train, or at my desk while waking up to the sound of clicking fingers all around me, romantic, right? Here is to the nostalgia of Fridays & music, for it’s ability to calm and inspire whenever we need it. What’s on your playlist this morning?

Sodom, South Georgia – Iron & Wine

Sodom South Georgia_Iron and Wine

I had a friend who was in love with Iron & Wine, in truth, she is on the one who turned me onto them back when I was 17. I keep coming back to a few of their songs, including this one for its rich imagery + Beam’s soothing voice. This reminds me of a town of about 10,000 people, where so many people know how to play the guitar (except me) and hike the Sierra Nevadas.

Crosses – José González

Jose Gonzalez_Crosses

If I have a weakness for a specific type of music, then it’s undeniably Swedish indie folk music. I was listening to a radio show today and the hosts were talking about the fallibility of the individual. That, in fact, we can’t do it all by ourselves. Gonzalez reminds me of this too with his lyrics,

“Don’t you know that I’ll be around to guide you
Through your weakest moments to leave them behind you
Returning nightmares only shadows
We’ll cast some light and you’ll be alright for now… ”

I’ll Get Along – Michael Kiwanuka

Michael Kiwanuka_Home Again

 

Every track on Michael Kiwanuka’s album is worth mentioning. I like this song where he talks about wandering…about getting lost.

After the Storm – Mumford & Sons

Mumford and Sons_Sigh No More

I saw Mumford & Sons live in Boston two or three years ago. It was getting to that point where they were on the radio all of the time, so I’ve taken a long hiatus, but lately, they’re back in my headphones in the morning. I think on Friday we all need to remember to overcome our fears & have a little more grace.

Slow Motion – PHOX

Slow Motion_Phox

I saw Laura Mvula at the Sinclair last year, which was A M A Z I N G. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t move the entire show. PHOX opened for her and the lead singer’s personality is unbelievably endearing. I like this song on Friday mornings because it reminds me to take it slow, forego the rush.

My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit_My Silver Lining

I honestly cannot get enough of First Aid Kit. I have seen two of their shows here in Boston and I will probably see them again. This song from their album Stay Gold reminds us to keep on keepin’ on. 

1957 – Milo Greene

1957_Milo Green

So I used to watch Andrew Heringer sing in coffee shops when I was in high school and now he’s on the radio and my friends from Boston post his songs here and there.

Sort of Revolution – Fink

Fink_Sort of Revolution

I think I’m a sucker for that nice humming sound, from this song to Drops by The Jungle, which is on repeat in our apartment, regardless of the day. This song is about portage – about moving, somewhere.

Follow the Sun – Xavier Rudd

Spirit Bird_Xavier Rudd

Every weekend is an adventure. It’s the time we have to dedicate to the people, places, and activities that we love. This song always makes me feel pumped about the weekend (even if there is no sun). It reminds me to get out, dare to try something new – to be the person I want to be. To follow my heart. 

p.s. i couldn’t find it on spotify, but check out Three Tree Town by Ben Howard.

Creamy Purple Carrot Soup + Turmeric Tahini Dressing

carrot soup

Ubiquitous orange carrots can be found at every grocery store, from tiny baby carrots to large root carrots. I have nothing against orange carrots, except that there are plenty of other colors with their own unique flavor – purple, white, and yellow. All these colorful carrots are derived from the wild carrot, which is one of the few vegetables that sustain us throughout the year. I remember discovering colorful carrots at a farmers market in California, needless to say I was obsessed with them (maybe, I still am) for a long time after.

I have been using the immersion blender a lot this month, despite horror stories from the New York TimesAs long as you keep the tip of the wand buried beneath the surface of your soup, then you should have no problem. And remember, never use your finger to try to un-stick the appliance.

This recipe combines the earthiness of purple carrots with the creaminess of non-dairy milk to create a soup that is simultaneously filling and refreshing. I am recovering from a serious running injury right now, so I have been sneaking turmeric into everything for its anti-inflammatory properties. This cheesy turmeric dressing is creamy and tangy, which complements the soup well. This has become a weeknight staple for late winter with a side of Irish soda bread from The Vegan Planet.

3 cups vegetable broth
1 yellow onion, quartered
4-5 carrots, quartered
1 head of garlic
1/2 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk, almond or cashew
1 cup hazelnuts, roasted
2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tbs tahini
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 425°.

purple carrots

cauliflower

Line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl mix together coarsely chopped cauliflower and quartered onions and carrots in 2 tbs of olive oil. Season with fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. Pour onto prepared baking sheet and nestle 1 head of garlic in to the center of the veggies. On a separate baking sheet, pour 1 cup of hazelnuts for toasting. Roast the vegetables for 30-35 minutes, or until you can pierce the carrots with a fork, and the hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they release a nutty aroma.

vegan carrot soup

In a bowl or small jar, mix together nutritional yeast, tahini, soy sauce, turmeric, and lemon. Add cracked pepper for additional flavor and 4-6 cloves from the roasted garlic.

After 20-25 minutes of roasting, bring three cups of vegetable broth to boil in a large soup pot. Turn to simmer and add roasted veggies and 4-6 cloves of roasted garlic. Puree with an immersion blender. Pour into bowls and top with chopped roasted hazelnuts and turmeric tahini dressing.

vegan carrot soup

Pistachio Matcha Cookies

DSC_0339

The marathon was scheduled for this Sunday, but there is too much snow and the temperatures are barely inching their way out of the single digits. Maybe I braced myself for this when the storms rolled in a few weeks ago, but after receiving the news from a friend over text late last night that the marathon is cancelled…I’ve been O.K. I am nursing an injury right now + it seems like this might have come at the right time. I went on a run today during my lunch break. I tried to skip the city as much as possible and ran out to the woods to see the trees – be with my people. An immense space is opening again after not being zeroed in on a specific goal. I’m enjoying the slow runs – the ones with no deadlines or expectations.

A few nights ago, Kevin and I sat on the couch together and I taught him how to crochet – I know my great grandma would be proud that I still got my old single stitch and double stitch skills. After living in the city so many years, I’m happy when I can feel rooted to the earth again. Cultivating stillness is an art that requires patience. This is what February has been all about – these small moments that I’ve been moving to fast over the past couple of years to just let myself sit in.

I know that spring is just around the corner, so I’m trying to savor the last moments of winter – sounds silly because everyone has been so frustrated by the snow, but it’s true. Each season has more to teach me than I ever expect. I’m in awe at how quiet the city becomes when it’s snowing & how people are changing even though everything seems to have passed. This winter, I’m thankful for the quiet of my own heart on days when there is nothing but snow.

One of my favorite bloggers + local Bostonians, Betty Liu over at Le Jus D’Orange, has an unbelievable collection of matcha recipes from her latest black sesame vertical roll + matcha mochi to one of my personal favorites matcha rolls with black sesame cinnamon filling. You don’t have to look far to find a wide collection of matcha recipes, but I’m happy to add this one to the mix.

Matcha is powdered green tea that can be made into a latte or mixed into your favorite baked good. The fine green tea powder is dissolved into warm milk using a matcha whisk. The green tea leaves that are harvested for matcha are ground into a fine powder, which means you are receiving all the antioxidants that are available from the leaves. If you are looking to replace your morning coffee a few times a week with a new flavor, then you can froth matcha with a non-dairy milk to make a matcha latte.

– Pistachio Matcha Cookies  –

matcha pistachio cookies

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tbs tapioca flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup non-dairy milk, cashew or almond 2 tbs matcha powder
2/3 cup sunflower oil or coconut oil
3/4 cup + 1 tbs unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 cup + 1 tbs whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a small sauce pan, warm 1/4 cup non-dairy milk for 2-3 minutes. You don’t need to bring the milk to boil, but make sure that it is warm to touch. Pour into small bowl and use match whisk to dissolve 2 tbs matcha powder. Set aside.

matcha cookies

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sea salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, vanilla, tapioca flour, and matcha milk. Whisk for 3-5 minutes until the mixture looks like smooth caramel. Slowly add the dry ingredients to your wet ingredients followed by pistachios. Cook for 8 minutes on the middle rack + snack away.

DSC_0337

New Beginnings

Live where you fear to live.

I see the quote on my instagram profile laughing at me in this very moment. After spending this past weekend developing new recipes and posting to the blog, I woke up this morning with the same feeling I’ve had for a couple of months now, like something is missing from this space, like every time I post a new recipe, a small part of me is missing and its becoming more and more noticeable.

All that being said, it’s time for a few changes around here (recipes are here to stay). I have been slowly working on my photography, picture after picture, writing and deleting posts that feel almost right, but not quite right. I spent time here trying to figure out what is missing, only to find that the answer in the absence of something concrete. I started writing here during a time that I needed my focus to narrow in on food. Recipe by recipe, building up a repertoire of meals that were nourishing and sometimes decadent. I’ve had so much fun over the past couple of years recreating, adapting, and authoring new recipes. My kitchen is a much livelier place and its given me a whole new excitement for date nights at home and gatherings with my friends.

Last week, my friend told me that if I’m not feeling passionate about what I’m doing, then it’s time for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I’m passionate about local, sustainable, and veggie-based foods, but I’m also interested in materials, art, music, people, and places that share similar hopes and dreams.

There is more that I want to bring to the table, from marathon training, to small ways we are keeping a sustainable apartment in the city, to the gay history that keeps me alive, and all the beautiful people and places that make life worth living. I wanted to write a post about the passing of Keith Haring, but knew that it was time for this confession first.

I guess this is my way of telling you that it’s time to take my own advice – to let this space be what it was intended for – somewhere to feel free to explore & connect with all of you. I will continue to post recipes and stories each week, but I hope you’ll stick around as I play with new post types, focus on new content areas, discover, laugh, and continue to explore. Afterall, the full quote from Rumi reads:

“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

Beetroot Chocolate Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting

chocolate beet cake

I like cakes that are savory and not too sweet. There have been too many strawberry desserts this valentine’s day weekend. I mean, come on, strawberries?! I wanted something that erred toward seasonal fare and was savory for our dessert this weekend. We had a few beets that have been kicking around the back of the fridge. I picked up a grater on Friday night, after borrowing one from our neighbor’s to make a parsnip cake last weekend, and thought I could put it to use with more root vegetable cakes.

I wasn’t so sure about beets, but a few years ago I started going to the farmer’s market in Copley Square and there was a stand that had huge golden and red beets. I would ride my bike home across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, beet greens waving in the wind, to go home and roast them in the oven with olive oil. I used to mix them into quinoa with kale and sit on my front porch to read under the beadboard at night. There is no going outside right now, but beets are the perfect winter root vegetable. I was reading a chapter of Fäviken the other day about storing root vegetables in the basement or cellar by covering them with layers of sand. I’m hoping that my application for the community garden near our house gets approved so that I can try this next winter, here is to hoping & blizzard baking.

 

2 cups of almond milk, or non-dairy milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup + 2 tbs organic raw sugar
½ cup + 2 tbs sunflower oil
4 beets, peeled + grated
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 tbs tapioca flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt

4 tbs non-dairy butter
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
4 oz non-dairy cream cheese
¼ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 350°.

vegan beet cake

Grease, flour, and line two 9” cake pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 5 minutes.

vegan beet root cake

Peel and grate four beets. Set aside in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, mix together dry ingredients including cocoa powder, tapioca flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla extract to the milk and vinegar ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk together until smooth. Slowly fold in beetroots. Pour the batter into prepared 9” pans and bake on the center rack for 25-30 minutes, or until you can cleanly remove a toothpick.

Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pan and cool. While waiting for the cakes to cool completely, mix together the Minimalist Baker’s ingredients for cream cheese frosting and toast hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they release a nutty aroma.

vegan beet cake

Remove the dome from each cake layer, frost one layer and sprinkle half the toasted hazelnuts, then frost the exterior and decorate with the rest of the hazelnuts.

vegan beet cake

what does love smell like: laundry detergent

Kevin and Austin

Mormon Emigrant Trail runs along the southside of the lake. The damn slopes at least a hundred feet down the right side of the road and a thick metal wire is bolted between rectangular cedar posts. During the summer, oncoming cars dodge enthusiastic runners who spend their days finding themselves in the red dirt along the water. And on early winter nights, high school students bring their friends to small clearings for bonfires, booze, and music.

Down the road from where tourists go to recreate the 1983 drama between Cheers characters, Diane and Sam, my running group makes its way through record snow banks on a Wednesday night run through the city. I notice that freezing air means little to no scent. We are all afraid of slipping on ice or misstepping in the snow. I tell my friend Cara that I’m afraid I won’t be fast enough next weekend for my race and she reassures me that everything is going to be O K. I believe her because she has a kind of smile that is reassuring.

Back in the woods, there is a forest green volskwagen jetta with a leather interior that smells like ambercrombie & fitch cologne, cigarettes, and the dust from an electric car heater. At night, we drive home with the windows and sunroof rolled down, mixing together the smell of dry bark and bitter pine. We don’t talk much on the road, but I lie on his shoulder and close my eyes. We hold hands and pretend that our lives aren’t duplicitous, which is to say that there is no difference between our daytime and nighttime selves.

Nothing says Christmas more than the Du Pont Mansions in Delaware, with French-style gardens and indoor plants. My younger self is stuck in the orchid room, pausing to remember my ole grandma’s favorite flower is the orchid, and half-noticing the giant tree fluttering with mechanical butterflies. Everything smells like cinnamon, even the water. There is so much holiday cheer that I don’t even remember what the orchards smell like anymore. I start wearing his cologne that year, borrowing his slippers, underwear, kept drinking from the same mug that I drink from almost every morning to this today. I now know what it feels like to run on the ocean at night and how to transition from lovers to friends – that fireflies smell like humid summers in the midatlantic.

A series of years are antiseptic, or unidentifiable, or some mix of the two. On Monday afternoon, I jog into work because the train was shut down from the snow storm. I pull out an old pair of running tights and dig around for a long sleeve shirt. We are in the habit of borrowing each other’s clothes, sometimes I’m not sure if the shirt is mine or Kevin’s. This particular one, is undeniably not mine, the long blue sleeves and wick-away technology are all my partner’s.

I’ve named this smell old Kevin, like the guy who likes to watch nick-at night in his boxers and dance to michael jackson in front of the computer. No matter how many times I wash the shirt, it keeps the same smell and floats around like a lifeboat for shipwrecked memories. “It’s just a detergent,” I tell myself. “No, some part of old Kevin is definitely in this shirt,” I reason. I rest my head on his shoulder during our car ride through his childhood neighborhood. He sits on the front of the car and tells me, “I’ll wait for you as long as I have to.” This night smells like old Kevin, feels like light filtering through closed blinds. I wake up this morning at 5:30, listen to him breath, and I smile.

Winter Porridge w/ Roasted Hazelnuts

winter porridge

 

“We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves–the heavty-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities that we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds–never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye from being fully awake.”

– Pema Chödrön-

winter porridge

recipe adapted from bon appétit brown rice porridge w/ hazelnuts + jam

1/2 cup brown rice
2 cups almond milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped and roasted
1 tbs maple syup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 dried date
1/2 blood orange, sliced

In the winter we crave food that fills our bellies and gives us the energy to traverse through snow and below freezing temperatures. When the long days of summer are gone, our bodies naturally turn toward breads and fats that will sustain us throughout the day and warm us up at night. I like the tartness of milk, but it is missing from a lot of non-dairy alternatives because of the high sugar content. I prefer the rich and sour flavor of milk versus the sweet alternatives or at least the nutty flavor and aroma of almond or cashew milk. A lot of non-dairy baking calls for soured milk, or a non-dairy milk that is spoiled with an acid. I love the taste of soured almond milk, which is thick, creamy, and tart.

Preheat oven to 400°.

For this recipe, we start by souring the almond milk with apple cider vinegar. In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the two together until bubbles form around the rim of the liquid. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly coagulated. Mix brown rice, soured milk, vanilla, and maple syrup together in a medium sauce pan and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook covered for 50-60 minutes, or until brown rice is soft and fluffy. While waiting for the rice, roast 1/4 cup of blanched hazelnuts for 8-10 minutes, or until they release a nutty aroma when you open the oven. Coarsely chop hazelnuts and set aside.

Once the rice has finished, top with chopped hazelnuts, sliced blood oranges, dried dates, and maple syrup.

You can use other grains in this recipe, like millet, oat, barley, or white rice. I chose brown rice because I enjoy the nutty flavor of the grain and I anticipated that it would pair well with roasted hazelnuts. I also want to try this recipe with rye or triticale, which is seasonally available in the northeast through the fall and winter, because I think it would add more earth to this recipe.

winter porridge

thanks green kitchen stories for this song, providing me endless light + calm today.

Seasonal Eats | Leek + Pomegranate Salad

leek + pomegranate salad

W I N T E R  I S  H E R E ! On the weekends, it’s hard to convince myself to go outside because the temperature has dropped significantly. If you live in the Northeast, then you know that there is nowhere to put the snow we have right now + more is on its way. I have a tendency in the winter to huddle down with books or stay inside + work on projects that will come to life in the spring. This is where I’m at now, except, I’m also reminding myself to G E T  O U T !

During the cold months, I’m likely to stock up on bread + soup, because who wants to eat freezing cold food when it is below zero outside?! This winter is a little different. I find myself gravitating toward the bounty of winter fruits and vegetables at the market – mainly blood oranges, grapefruits, pomegranates, leeks, and cauliflower. I’m amazed at the abundance of produce in the market right now + trying to incorporate these beautiful foods into my meals (p.s. I know ‘blood oranges’ aren’t blooming in the Northeast, but hey – we are all trying, right?!).

Eating fruit + vegetables, combined with all the light from the snow has me feeling pretty content about winter these days. Kevin + I are yurt hunting right now to escape for a weekend up North. We are both looking for a place to unplug for a little bit – read, write, snow shoe, and ultimately slow down. We want something small + quiet, a place where we can look at the trees in the morning and hear our own heartbeats.

I have this thing, when I plan new travel destinations, where I’m always assessing for ‘gay friendliness’ – does anybody else do this when they travel?! I guess, maybe, it’s a lifestyle hazard OR maybe it’s just a hangover from growing up in the backwoods of California that has me extra cautious. Either way, there are plenty of options in the Northeast, which is a blessing. It’s interesting how the world moves + advances, but sometimes our hearts are still experiencing the small + old version of ourselves. Not much more to say about this, other than…huh…how easily our hearts remember fear + how much damn work it takes to overcome it.

I get excited now when I can recognize a fear blockage. It’s only through recognition that I’m able to move through it – to see fear as a road sign and say, S E E  Y A  L A T E R ! I told you that thing about the yurt, not so it would sit with you like a stone, but so you could see that we all have our work cut out for us. This whole grace + ease thing takes a quiet enough mind to cut through the noise. There will be yurt stays + more fears to cut through this winter, but we just gotta keep moving with one foot on the ground and the other aimed at where we want to go.

– Leek + Pomegranate Salad

leek + pomegranate salad

I am eating lots of salad this month, but not as  a diet fad or a new years resolution – it’s because my body is craving nourishment during the cold winter days. My friend Jac, from the Vegetarian Baker, also works for Looly’s Pearls, which produces handmade moroccan couscous while providing its workers with wages and social support. He asked me last month for a product review – I’m usually weary of product reviews, but the social mission of Looly’s felt like a good fit. You can hear more about the story of the Looly’s women + how they work ‘beyond fair trade’ on their website.

The couscous: delicious. It comes mixed with turmeric + thyme. The pearls are finer than any I’ve seen in the store + it complimented the flavors in this dish perfectly. Feel free to use any type of couscous, but if you want to try something new + give your dollars to a company that is seeking to provide education and housing for their workers, then check out Looly’s. In other news, winter means L E E K S + P O M E G R A N A T E S! Leeks are amazing alliums that carry the earthy taste, similar to garlic and onions, that help you feel rooted + present. Pomegranates have always amazed me and in this recipe they are little pops of sweetness amongst a sea of savory. This salad is nutrient rich, from leeks that are high in Vitamin K to hazelnuts that c contain phytochemicals that support overall brain health and circulation.

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2 leeks, chopped
1 head broccoli, coarsely chopped
1 pomegranate, seeded
20 grapes, halved
5 oz arugula
1/2 cup hazelnuts, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs nutritional yeast

1 cup Looly’s CousCous
1 cup water

2 tbs tahini
1 tbs nutritional yeast
2 tbs amino acids or soy sauce
1/2 lemon juice

leeks

Prepare the leeks by chopping off the white portion + 1″ of the greens. Chop the root end off + slice the remaining piece in half, lengthwise. Run the leek under water to clean out dirty from the inside. Chop into 1/2″ slices and saute in 1 tbs of olive oil in cast iron skillet until the greens are slightly golden. Set aside + clean out cast iron skillet.

pomegranate seeds

Coarsely chop broccoli and massage with 1 tbs olive oil + 1 tbs nutritional yeast. Saute in cast iron skillet until slightly golden, sed aside with cooked leeks.

In a small bowl or pot, prepare combine couscous with 1 cup of boiling water and let sit for 7-8 minutes, or until couscous fully absorbs the water. Let cool completely before mixing with other ingredients.

In the meantime, seed the pomegranate by chopping it in half, widthwise. Slightly pull the pomegranate apart with your hands until seeds start to loosen, but don’t tear the pomegranate in half. Turn each half over a bowl and tap the backside with a wooden spoon. This will loosen the pomegranate seeds so you can then easily remove then from the husk. Chop grapes in half + coarsely chop hazelnuts.

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Mix together couscous, arugula, leeks, broccoli, pomegranate seeds, and grapes. Top with chopped hazelnuts + lemon tahini dressing (prepare by mixing ingredients together in a small contained).

pomegranate + leek salad

Broiled Grapefruit

broiled grapefruit

“Possessing by letting go of things was a secret of ownership unknown to youth.”
– Yukio Mishima –

broiled grapefruit

Grapefruits are one of my obsessions this month, from warm grapefruit sake made to broiled grapefruit for breakfast or dessert. I’m skeptical about warm fruit, but pears and grapefruits have taught me that fruit actually tastes great when warm. Fruit sugars caramelize while cooking, which makes the fruit much sweeter. I often associate grapefruit with a bitter or sour flavor. Broiled grapefruit removes the bitters and replaces it with a juicy + decadent sweetness.

broiled grapefruit

Broiled Grapefruit

broiled grapefruit

Turn your oven to broil. Halve a grapefruit across its center, as if you were going to eat the grapefruit with a spoon. Rub with brown a tsp of brown sugar + spices. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

broiled grapefruit