Summer Berry & Fig Vegan Muffins

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This week has been especially rainy, so I’ve been fighting the seasonal melancholy that I get when the grey days stretch on forever. My joints have been swollen from the high humidity, but I have been trying not to let these things get me down. To stay present by breathing through the pain and resting in bed on the days it’s difficult to move. Since I’m on the injured list again, biking and swimming has been therapeutic – and, of course, seeing friends. The combination of rest and laugher is what I need right now. I’ve checked out a dozen books from the library in the past couple of weeks and Kevin and I have spent the last few weekend mornings reading next to one another, drinking tea, and just being together.

Last night we laughed with friends over the dinner table about how everyone is talking about winter. We debated the accuracy of the Farmer’s Almanac and the existence or non-existence of El Niño. The Northeast makes you fickle about the weather, but none of us were ready to admit that this is an entertaining topic of conversation – it’s on it’s way no matter what we do. Still, you can feel the pressure to eek out the last moments of sun – travel up to the mountains, bike around as much as possible, and generally enjoy walking outside.

It seems like the warm months fly by in a blur of work and sun. There is a kind of frenzy in the city going on right now where everyone is packing their last six weekends of warm weather. Between Red Sox games and community events, the city is reaching its peak of activity. The students are all returning to the city in the next week or so, which is roughly 500,000 people. Boston is a city where so much of the population is transient. I always get excited when the school year is starting (even though I’m long past graduation at this point) because I like to drop in on the university lectures around town. It’s one of the few places where you have access to libraries, lectures, art, and music from a bunch of different universities.

During these last few warm months, I’m hoarding summer fruits in our apartment – eating berries whole and baking them into cakes and muffins. Summer is so sweet, both in terms of food and enjoyment. Blueberries are one of the summer fruits that I love. Back in California, where I grew up, there is a blueberry farm down the road from my house. I remember going there as a kid and picking blueberries, eating them by the handfuls. The blackberry bushes behind our house were always raided by the neighborhood kids and I remember sinking my teeth into my first fig that grew behind the house of a family friend. When I found there were raspberries behind our apartment, I was pretty excited to pick them off the vine. I combined all of these berries and memories together into these vegan muffins and chowed down on them all week.

Most people get into work so early that it’s difficult to have a proper breakfast – whatever that looks like for your diet. It felt like a treat all week to unwrap these at my desk. It was funny to see something handmade amongst everything, but in a way, these remind me of home – that place in my memory that is fixed in eternal summer.

Summer Berry & Fig Vegan Muffins

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Prep Time: 15 min | Bake Time: 25-30 min | Yields: 1 dozen

Since I’ve been a kid, muffins are one of my favorite weekend treats. I love to bake berries into bread because it brings out their sweet, and in some cases sour, flavors. The mix of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries in these muffins brings out all my favorite flavors of summer. The coconut oil is a nice alternative to butter and provides a little bit of extra nutrition along with the oats.

1 ¼ cup almond milk
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup oat flour
1 cup oats
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup turbinado sugar
1 cup mixed summer berries
½ cup figs
½ cup coconut oil
1 flax egg
2 lemons, juiced

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line a dozen muffin pan with muffin tins or apply a thin coat of oil to prevent muffins from sticking to the side.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together almond milk and apple cider vinegar. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  3. While the milk is thickening, mix flour, oats, baking powder and sugar together in a food processor. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  4. Whisk oil, flax egg, and lemon juice together with almond milk and apple cider vinegar.
  5. Make a well in your flour mixture and pour in wet ingredients. Thoroughly incorporate the wet and dry ingredients before gently mixing in your mixed berries and figs.
  6. Fill each muffin tin 2/3 of the way full, topping with slices of figs or berries, and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden.

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Cos’ the very thing you’re afraid, afraid of
It keeps you clean but unclear
Clean but unclear

Is the dirt that you’re made, you’re made of
And that’s nothing to fear
No, it’s nothing my dear

-Nick Mulvey-

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Warm Kale & Lentil Salad w/ Maple Sesame Ginger Sauce

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Each week that I’m able to grab vegetables from the garden, I’m grateful for having the tiny space. If you’ve been around here, then you know that it’s not always this way. Some mornings I’m rushing to get to work and struggling to find time to water the plants and make sure I’m staying on top of the weeds. Tonight, I came home to an empty apartment and went to the garden to grab a few pieces of kale for tonight’s dinner.

I was stooping over the plants the other day and had my forearm resting on my knee while the other hand was pulling out the weeds – just like my granddad. There was dirt under my fingernails and everything smelled like a mixture of metal and cilantro. I called my sister and asked her if she remembers him this way: stooped over in the garden with his forearm resting on his knee, eating half the strawberries he picked for dinner. I could hear her laughing on the phone, she knew the image well – could smell the warm dirt and sweat in the hot sun. I’m glad that I have her to tether my memories and make real the things that exist in my head.

Tonight, I came home to an empty apartment. It was just me, the plants, and a heaping mound of kale. I took my camera to the garden and snapped a few shots of the plants. Believe it or not, this has been painful for me. Stepping outside the box and doing something unexpected – answering the questions of other gardeners and neighbors as I’m standing in the garden with my camera.

I know that otherness is so much more pronounced from different vantage points, but I can feel it creeping up in my body like an old ghost. When you grow up gay in the forest, otherness becomes the thing that defines you, but at some point in your life you have to settle into your skin and make friends with the things that make you, you. That’s what I’ve been trying to do these days – to get out of my own way.

Sometimes I settle into my old ways, thinking all my ego work is done. Not long after that, I’ll find myself comparing, seeking external validation, and looking outside myself for happiness. Seeing our delusions is one of our greatest challenges. The garden helps me cut through the things that make me feel small and it helps me focus on the process. After all, isn’t all of this process.

Warm Kale & Lentil Salad w/ Maple Sesame Ginger Sauce

Last-imageI find that summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads. The greens are fresh from the garden and I can have endless cold or warm salads, depending on the temperature for the night. The Tuscan kale has been growing like wild in our garden, so this recipe was inspired bywhat’s in-season – or by what is taking over the garden. This warm salad is perfect for stormy New England days when you feel the mix of summer fever and winter nesting. The fresh greens are light, but the sweet carrots and smoky shiitake mushrooms provide this recipe with some heartiness that can be enjoyed with a glass of wine – or your favorite summer drink.

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 30 min | Serves: 2-3

2 tbs olive oil
2 carrots, peeled + chopped
½ sweet yellow onion
1 large bunch Tuscan kale, coarsely chopped
1 cup lentils
3 cloves garlic
4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 tbs toasted sesame oil
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs tahini
1 tbs maple syrup
½ lemon, juiced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled + grated977_988

  1. In a large cast iron skillet or saucepan, warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until the onion is lightly brown and caramelized, roughly 12-15 minutes. Add chopped kale and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until leaves are tender. Remove the ingredients from the cast iron skillet and saucepan. Set aside.
  2. In the same cast iron skillet or saucepan, mix lentils, garlic, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until lentils are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate small saucepan, warm 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add shiitake mushrooms and heat for 2-3 minutes on medium heat, or until crispy and brown on one side. Flip the mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes, crisping the other side.
  4. Drain the lentils in a colander. Return to the cast iron skillet or saucepan with kale mixture.
  5. To prepare the dressing mix together sesame oil, soy sauce, tahini, maple syrup, lemon, and ginger. Pour over the warm salad before serving.

How to Make Chickpea Flour

how to make chickpea flour

Regardless of the season, I pile chickpeas up on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven with smoked paprika and turmeric. I’m used to baking them or pureeing them into hummus. A few months ago, I picked up chickpea and fava flour to use in my cookies at home and really like the results. I regularly use chickpea flour in my chocolate chip peanut butter cookies, which gives them the chewy texture that I’m always after when it comes to making cookies. There are some great brands out there selling chickpea four, including my personal favorite Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo & Fava Flour. I thought it would be nice to try to make chickpea flour at home.

My general cooking philosophy is eat plants, a lot of them. Eat what tastes good and helps your mind feel calm and your body feel energized. Sometimes, this means indulging in cake and morning pastries, while other times it means diving head first into a green smoothie or salad. It depends on the day. Regardless of what I’m eating, I try to stay curious about nutrition. I try to diversify the vegetables I’m eating with seasonal ingredients as well as different grains.

Most people are familiar with chickpeas because everyone loves falafel, but their nutlike flavor makes them a great addition to your baked goods, from cookies to bread. In The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, Sheldon Margen, M.D. writes that chickpeas have at least 9 grams of protein, 3 milligrams of iron, and 49 milligrams of calcium per serving size. Incorporating chickpea flour in your baked goods is a great way to sneak in a little more nutrition and reduce the amount of gluten in your diet.

Chickpea flour can easily be prepared at home using dried chickpeas and your food processor or blender. Once you’ve made a fresh batch of chickpea flour, then you can try your hand at some amazing recipes. I especially love these chickpea parathas from A Brown Table and these versatile tartlet shells from Green Kitchen Stories.

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Shopping & Storing

When shopping for dried chickpeas, make sure that you inspect the legumes before putting them in your basket. If the chickpeas are in a box or bag, then you’ll want to check to see if there is any damage. The chickpeas should be brightly colored without any insect damage. The easiest way to find insect damage is to look for small pinholes in the surface of the chickpeas. If the legumes are cracked or broken, then you may want to look for another box or bag. If you can’t find dried chickpeas in a bag, then I would suggest looking at the bulk section in your local health food store. You can store chickpeas in an airtight container for up to a year. Make sure that you keep the beans away from moisture.

How to Make Chickpea Flour 

Making chickpea flour is as simple as loading a cup of dried chickpeas into your blender or food processor and turning it on full speed. It takes anywhere from 3-5 minutes to fully process the chickpeas. I was left with a small amount of coarse chickpeas after processing, so I simply returned them to the blender and started over. I recommend doing this one cup at a time so you don’t exhaust or burn out your food processor or blender. After done blending the chickpeas, you’ll find that 1 cup of chickpeas yields about 1 ¼ cup of chickpea flour, or 150g.

  1. Add 1 cup of chickpeas to a food processor or blender.
  2. Pulse until smooth and use a sieve to filter chickpea flour into a large bowl.
  3. Return any larger pieces to the blender and repeat until smooth.

how to make chickpea flour

Lemon Chia Seed Upside Down Skillet Cake

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On Sunday morning, I get a FaceTime notification from an unknown number and I’m staring at Kevin in amazement. Who would FaceTime me with a number that I don’t know? A few minutes later I get a notification on my phone and it’s my dad – looks like I forgot his work number! After laughing it off, I call my parents back and chat with them while laying on the couch. They are still waking up with their coffee and I’m just getting back from the garden. There isn’t a day that goes by without a new published article focusing on our relationship to technology, but in these moments, I’m grateful for this handheld device that gives me a small window back home.

I left eight years ago to come to school in Massachusetts and ended up staying. I don’t know if I had the intention to stay, but here I am! Discussions about home are tricky because it’s easy to fall back on nostalgia. Your family, chosen or biological, are some of the few people who will know you well. They have seen you evolve over the years and can tell you stories about the person you were that will make you feel like a stranger to yourself. Like that one time your split your chin open on portable stairs or the time your family convinced you that you were adopted (thanks for that one dad!).

The people who matter know your vulnerabilities. They know how to ask you the questions that make you question yourself. They know your blind spots. It’s with these people, that most of us feel safe enough to finally let the windows open to air out some of the dust that’s been building up inside. We all need that someone.

There are plenty of books out there about marriage and partnerships, but few about friendship. A google search on friendship doesn’t turn up anything show-stopping, yet life without close friends feels less human. It feels like the opposite of home.

This month, you’ll find me kickin’ it with friends, chatting over news, hail storms, and how badass this article about leisure is. Maybe there will be more cake on Fridays and video chatting with nephews and nieces who call me ‘nuncle’ and have plenty of tales to tell about ‘blue slides’. You’ll find me in the garden, on the trails, and swimming to give my body some rest for the late summer months.

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Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 30-45 min | Serves: 12

Fresh fruit is my favorite during the summertime, like most people. We don’t have an ice cream maker or paletas molds, but we do have cake. And even in the summer – I like cake. Not the towering ones with chocolate and sweet frosting. The type of cake that is more like fruity bread is exactly what I want to be eating for dessert. The lemon cake is refreshing during the summer and the chia seeds are a nice substitution for poppy. We had a can of coconut cream in the back of the fridge that I whipped together with a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla to drizzle on top.

1 1/2 cups non-dairy milk, cashew or almond
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup & 2 tbs sugar in the raw
1/2 cup & 2 tbs sunflower oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tbs oat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

3 tbs vegan butter or coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup raspberries
1/4 cup blackberries
1/2 cup strawberries
1 plum, sliced
2 figs, chopped
1/2 apple, sliced
2 tbs basil

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Prep vegetables by cutting strawberries, figs, plums, and apples. Add chopped basil. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together non-dairy milk and apple cider vinegar. Let stand for 5 minutes & whisk until frothy. Whisk together with sugar in the raw, lemon juice, and sunflower oil until completely mixed together.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, oat flour, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until the batter is completely smooth.
  6. In a cast iron skillet, heat butter and maple syrup for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture turns deep gold. Remove from the heat, let cool for 2-3 minutes. Add fresh fruit and cover with batter.
  7. Bake for 45-60 min, or until a toothpick or fork is removed without batter.

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Spicy Lentils with Coconut Cauliflower Rice & Mint Salsa Fresca

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I’ve been logging more mileage this past month. Now that my injuries have healed and my body is coming back into balance, I’m excited to head out on long runs along the ocean. In the morning, I lace up my shoes and head out on the pavement. Nervousness is usually sitting on my shoulder, no matter how many miles I run. At this point, I’m used to the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, but each run carries unexpected pains and joys. Last Sunday was warm and sunny. At 6 am the air was already thick like syrup and the birds were determined to wake up the entire neighborhood. Sometimes, I think that I love the mix of air and warm sun on my skin more than the road. Other times, I’m enchanted by the way my body (and all bodies!) can move through space and time. Sure, this probably sounds bizarre, but I find it liberating – to be able to walk out my door on my own two feet and cover 20 miles. Some days, running is about feeling strong in my own skin, and other days it’s about leaning on my friends. Running is a peaceful practice that helps me feel present in my body, but it can unexpectedly bring up the painful stuff.

I’ll occasionally crash a few days after my long runs where I feel generally moody and mad hungry. Does this happen to other runners? I’m trying to figure out if this has to do with nutrition or it’s my body naturally coming back into balance. This week, I turned to Pema Chodron and Tara Brach for wisdom, took long baths, and fell asleep on the couch at 9 o’clock. If you’re at a stage in your life where you want to look deeper into physical and emotional pain, then check out this episode about exploring pain through meditation. In all honesty, I have a fickle relationship to meditation, but it’s always there to pick back up when my head feels turned upside down. Sometimes my practice is woven into my long runs and other times I just need to stop and give myself the space to sit.

Despite the digital milieu that often encourages unhealthy competition, consumerism, and general nastiness – I’m grateful for these digital oases. Whether I’m listening to the Rich Roll Podcast or Jessica Murnane’s One Part Podcast or browsing through recipes and stories from Happyolks and The First Mess, I’m thankful for all of their awareness, gumption, and generosity that keeps me moving and inspired.

Last weekend brought up some of the painful stuff, like feeling uncertain and small. These are early warning signs that I’ve been spending too much time hiding behind a screen and not enough time chatting on the phone with friends, calling my sister to let her know that I love her, or having those tough conversations that expose my heart. It’s easy to feel small and hide away with the curtains drawn. There are so many wonderful people in this city that I’ve been too shy to ask out for dinner or jog alongside down by the river. Last night, I finally found breathing room in the kitchen over lentils, spice and mint, which have become some of my favorite summer flavors. Sometimes, it just takes the quiet of my apartment kitchen to help me reconnect with the parts of myself that want to be imperfect & unafraid.

 

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Prep Time: 20-30 min | Cook Time: 15-20 min | Serves: 2

We eat a lot of rice around these parts, so I’ve been looking for something else to change it up and came across this idea to turn cauliflower into rice. Instead of olive oil, I used coconut oil to give the rice a lighter flavor. I also wanted a somewhat sweet oil that would pair well with spicy cumin and coriander in the lentils. As always, summer is about lightening up, opening the windows, and and making meals that won’t bog us down in the heat. I like this meal because it’s filling, but not too heavy, with the right amount of kick.

1 head cauliflower, ground
1 tbs coconut oil

1 cup lentils, cooked & drained
1 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
pinch of sea salt & cracked pepper

1 sweet onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 ripe vine tomatoes, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
handful of cilantro & mint
pinch of sea salt

  1. Chop cauliflower into florets. Leave the large stems behind and place the small florets into a food processor. Pulse until finely ground.
  2. In a medium saucepan or skillet, heat coconut oil. Add ground cauliflower and cook for 5-8 minutes, or until cauliflower is soft and fluffy like rice.
  3. In a food processor, pulse carrots and onions until finely chopped, set aside. In a skillet, heat 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil. Once oil is warm, add garlic and onions. Cook for 1-3 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
  4. Add cooked lentils, carrots, and spices. Cook for 10-12 minutes so that your spices have time to season your ingredients.
  5. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together chopped sweet onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, lemon juice, cilantro, mint, and sea salt. Add julienned mint and cilantro.
  6. Put this dish together by placing your spicy lentils on top of your cauliflower rice and finish off with mint & cilantro salsa fresca on top.

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You’ve broken all the promises you ever made
and few that you did, and they turned around
and broke you right back.
So bet it.

-Mindy Nettifee, Rise of the Trust Fall-

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Tostones y Mojo

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Half of the dinners around here are quinoa bowls and fresh greens. The rest are filled with arroz junto and tostones. I never tasted mojo and gandules verdes while living on the west coast. Years later, Kevin laughs at me because I keep a jar of homemade sofrito and acchiote oil in the back of the refrigerator like his grandmother, but hey – what’s a guy to do?! These ingredients aren’t easy to find at the store without loads of additives like MSG. This recipe for tostones, or fried green plantains, and mojo are staples that we have at least every month. If you’ve been to our apartment, then you know that it’s a rite of passage to sit around the table with us and load up tostones with avocado and mojo while playing dominos.

After work, I bike home through Back Bay to Roxbury. I bike down the road where his aunt lives. It’s nice having his family in the city when I’m so far away from my own. I know that I’ve made it back to the neighborhood when I reach Fuentes market on the corner of Tremont and Parker Street. There is a giant Puerto Rican flag hanging in the parking lot and the guy across the street always has bachata playing for the neighborhood. I love to stop at the market for plantains. I’ve recently let little bits of my budding Spanish vocabulary spill out over the counter. They’re always patient with my inability to conjugate verbs and smile, either apologetically or enthusiastically.

I’ve learned that I’m a person who likes to set up home anywhere I go. At my desk at work, you’ll find plants from my coworker and crystals from our apartment. If I start to get lost in the shuffle of the day, then these tiny objects remind me to come back into myself. Food is this way. There are so many scents and flavors that bring me home. When Kevin and I first started cooking these recipes together, they reminded him of his family. Other than being delicious, they didn’t mean much to me. Now, late night tostones con mojo remind me of the small home we’ve built here in Boston, of Kevin teaching me how to smash plantains in the kitchen two years ago, and the one time I out-did his arroz junto by doing some food blog trolling.

Our kitchen table has weathered some storms (including the snowiest winter in Boston’s history) and helped us celebrate our first meal with Kevin’s family. These days, singing in the kitchen and frying plantains together has become tradition. I feel more present in my body and connected to the world when I can let my guard down and be my goofy self, who only knows the chorus to Romeo Santos songs, sings back-up to an ex-gospel choir singer and who still believes that we’re all here, just trying to become our best selves.

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Prep Time: 20 min | Cook Time: 10 min | Serves: 2

2 green plantains
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1 tbs hot sauce
1/2 lemon, juiced
pinch of coarse sea salt
pinch of ground pepper

1 head of garlic
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbs water
pinch of slat & oregano

tostones recipe

  1. Peel green plantains and slice at a diagonal angle into 1″ thick pieces.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together hot sauce, lemon, sea salt, and ground pepper.
  3. Fry the plantains for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden.
  4. Remove from heat and use the bottom of a jar or glass to smash into 1/2″ thick plantains.
  5. Dip in aguacante and fry again for 1-2 minutes, until deep gold on each side.

1. In a food processor, add garlic, lemon juice, water, salt, and oregano. Purée until smooth.

tostones recipe

tostones recipe

tostones recipe

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Coconut Granola w/ Blueberries & Almonds

coconut granola with blueberries and almonds

I’m sure you’ve noticed that it’s been quieter than usual around these parts. I dedicated the past couple of weeks to time away from the habitual and routine. I picked up my old copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude and found myself lost in story, again. Too much has happened since my last post to cover in detail – Kevin and I celebrated our anniversary, we went hiking up in the White Mountains and watched the sunset in a gondola together at a tiny amusement park up in New Hampshire. Summer is blissful, especially after the challenges of last winter. Our garden is slowly growing and I barely have enough time to water and pull weeds, but it’s all holding together in some kind of orderly fashion.

Whenever I call my older sister she has two little ones hanging off her clamoring to talk with me or grab her attention. I’m here just trying to hold myself together and not kill the cactus, while she’s over there taking care of tiny humans! I hope that I’m lucky enough to inherit some of her verve, wit, and patience. She’s the only person I know that can chat about her freelance writing gigs while making sure her kids don’t go haywire and (at the same time) listen to every word about biking to work, my job, and life in the city – all glamour and un-glamour at the same time.

I think about these moments a lot, or chatting with friends on the phone in London and California, not because I’m lost in nostalgia, but because when I slow down enough to experience these moments – I can’t help but smile.

 – Coconut Granola w/ Blueberries & Almonds –

coconut granola with blueberries and almonds

Prep Time: 10-15 min.   |    Cook Time: 30 min.    |   Serving Size: 4    |    Oven Temperature: 375°

This is a simple granola recipe that Kevin and I packed up on our way to the White Mountains for our anniversary. We had one of those trail moments where we couldn’t stop devouring it bit-by-bit. I love the way the sugars from the fruit melt into the oats and make crunchy and sugary clusters. I’m all about that sweetness.

4 cups organic oats
1 cup almonds, chopped
1 cup blueberries
1/2 toasted coconut, plain
1/4 maple syrup
2 tbs chia seeds
pinch sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare a baking 9×12″ baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, almonds, maple syrup, chia seeds, and salt. Once it’s completely mixed, add coconut and gently stir in blueberries.

3. Bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes, turn the oats over halfway through to cook both sides. Let stand for 15-20 minutes and grab some on the go or mix together with coconut cream for a delicious dessert.

coconut granola with blueberries and almonds

coconut granola with blueberries and almonds

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coconut granola with blueberries and almonds

Chickpea & Shiitake Turmeric Burgers

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“Whenever we’ve become addicted to judging and mistrusting ourselves, any sincere gesture of care to the wounded places can bring about radical transformation. Our suffering then becomes a gateway to the compassion that can free our heart. When we become the holder of our own sorrows, our old roles as judge, adversary, or victim are no longer being fueled. In their place we find not a new role, but a courageous openness, and a capacity for genuine tenderness—not only for ourselves, but for others as well.”

– Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance 

Chickpea & Shiitake Turmeric Burgers with Chili Lime Sweet Potato Fries

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1/2 cup cooked quinoa
16 oz chickpeas, soaked and drained or rinsed from the can
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 large shiitake mushroom
2 green onions
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbs oat flour
1/2 tsp ground mustard seed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbs olive oil
pinch of salt

2 sweet potato
1 juice lime
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbs light beer
4 tbs tapioca flour

  1. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425°. Wash and slice sweet potato into thin strips, leaving the skin on. In a medium bowl, mix fries together with lime juice, beer, chili powder, and tapioca flour. The tapioca flour will form a hard crust on the outside of the fries, making them nice and crunchy when they come out of the oven. Place in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes, turn the fries over and bake for another 15 minutes or until crispy.
  3. In a food processor, pulse chickpeas and shiitake mushrooms until coarsely chopped. Add quinoa, spring onions, garlic, lemon juice and cashews. Mix until coarsely chopped, then add raw cashews and pulse until incorporated into the mixture. Stir in mustard seed, turmeric, salt, and oat flour. Shape into patties and roll in breadcrumbs, covering the surface. Set in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes, or until patties firmly hold together.
  4. Remove the patties from the refrigerator. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Cook the burgers for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until a crunchy crust forms. Pop in the oven with the fries for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Top your burger with avocado smash, dill and alfalfa sprouts, sweet onions, and cheesy tahini dressing. I also kept some tahini dressing on the side so I could dip as often as I wanted.

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Mango Turmeric Sunrise Smoothie

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We stood in the garden in hiking boots and a fistful of seeds that hold so much hope and promise for the future. I look out over our garden plot and it’s just dirt. A big pile of dirt. I can’t call it a garden yet because we haven’t planted a thing. Do I really know what I’m doing? Without my grandparents to help me out this whole garden business is feeling a lot more serious than I imagined. Inside I feel worried about whether or not these tiny seeds will actually grow or if I’ll remember to water them every day this week.

I run into the garden organizer and she asks me how our garden is doing. I mumble through some sentences about how the lettuce is just starting to grow and how about how I accidentally killed the strawberries. I let her know that our tomatoes haven’t come up yet and a smile crawls across her face. And she tells me that tomatoes don’t do well when they are sewn directly into the soil. Oh boy, why didn’t I think of that? I look at my feet. I’m sure she can tell that my face has flushed with embarrassment.

I look up and she’s smiling, so is Kevin. He’s standing with our friends proudly showing off the tiny lettuce shoots and I hear him say, well we’ll just have to wait and see. My heart settles. Exhale. Between Ena and Kevin’s smile, I know it’s going to be o.k – whether the tomatoes grow or not, whether the strawberries die because I forgot to water them, or whether we grow the most bizarre lopsided vegetables. Too often, I can feel myself thinking like a full cup. I can’t find space for new ideas because I’m holding on too tight to the ones that I have. These moments are an all out tip. A forceful spill of the careful balance that I’ve been clinging on to for months. Most times, I don’t even know that I’m doing it.

When you have taken care of yourself for so long, it becomes a necessity to have all the answers. My early-twenties have been about trying to keep all the pieces together. In the last few years I’ve juggled moving to new apartments without a car and figuring out how to work mini indulgences into a budget that is hacking away at some pretty big student debt. It’s not easy. There are days I find myself worrying over the little things and wishing for more answers. For awhile, I felt like I was on this journey alone – but it’s not true. I’m not trying to tell you that everything is great and everyone out there is super helpful, but it’s the people that offer their forgiveness, love, and support when the times get tough who really make this life what it is.

It’s the warm smiles and laughter in the garden when you’ve just failed at growing tomatoes that can help you see the kind and gentle parts of this earth. I know that when I stay up all night to finish a freelance project so I can book a weekend away or get a new surfboard, that someone will be there to drink tea with me in the morning or grub out on coconut ice cream the night after when I’m falling asleep before 10 pm. Remember to meditate. Drink your smoothies. Things are going to be alright.

mango turmeric smoothie

I’m consistently drinking one smoothie a day right now. I’ve been putting together new smoothie recipes, because let’s face it, you can’t have a green smoothie every day of the week. Or maybe you can, but this is for those weeks when you want to venture out a little bit. I started taking turmeric a couple months ago when I was babying a running injury and it seems like I can’t get enough of it. Now that I’m all healed, I’m still spicing up drinks and snacks (like popcorn) with a little turmeric. This smoothie has a nice balance of sweet and savory and will thicken up the longer you let it sit.

Mango Turmeric Sunrise Smoothie

2 mangos, peeled and cut
1/2 cup almonds, blanched
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp chia seeds
1 cup cashew milk
1 cup cold water
5 dates, pitted and chopped
2 bananas, peeled and chopped

Combine all the ingredients in your blender; blend for 2-4 minutes until all the ingredients are smooth. You can add extra dates for a thicker smoothie or a pinch of 1/2 tsp extra turmeric. Add fresh bananas and chia seeds on top.

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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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Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Butter

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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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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.

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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.

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 – 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.

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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