11 . 12 . 14
Here we are, home in the woods.
There’s nearly a foot of snow on the ground as I write this and the sky doesn’t look like it’s fixing to quit time soon. Erin Brockovich, my favorite movie of all time is playing and I’m perched on the windowsill by the fireplace waiting for a certain Elk that I know lingers around the house to make an appearance.
Loveliness and prettification has NEVER been my schtick, and I hate that the summary of my morning sounds like an Eddie Bauer catalog or one of those instagram accounts that are all leather goods and falling leaves –– BUT life out here does feel good. For all the confused looks we got for making this leap, there is nothing I’ve felt so sure about, next to marrying Shaun. We definitely didn’t know how life would change when we waved goodbye to the city, but we knew it would, and that it would for the better. They say “wherever you go, there you are,” which is true. We brought our same soggy hearts and issues and questions up the canyon with us, but… yeah… and HERE we are, choosing the front row to our own lives and experiences, away from that which no longer serves. I think the “there” can hold more water than we care to admit. But I’m biased. The mountains are my church. It’s impossible to not step outside, breathe deep, and get hit with this rush of perspective. For the first time in a very long time, I think I recognize the sound of my heartbeat again.
There’s this pull-apart bread I’ve been sitting on a while, though. I made it a month ago, the last shoot in the old place. I was feeling that sort of manic-compulsive desire to bake and make a wholly sticky mess of a half-packed kitchen (pro tip: wine bottles make A+ rolling pins). I’m the kind of person who turns to baking when things feel totally psychedelic and out of control. Unlike throwing together something grainy, herby, green-ish, crunchy, tangy in a bowl and calling it a masterpiece, baking requires a high degree of rule-following that tends to turn me off on most days (in the kitchen, and in life). But I appreciate the precision. The requisite patience. The attention to detail. I crave it when everything else in the world feels topsy turvy. I promise the pay-off is big on this one, guys.
Fig + Anise Pull-Apart Bread
For the dough (slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman):
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 4 cups AP flour
- 1/2 cup (additional) AP flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- dash of salt
- 2 cups dried mission figs, soaked + softened
- 2 Tbsp ground anise seed
- 10 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350’ F.
Start with the dough. Combine milk and butter in a small sauce pan. Heat until just beginning to steam. Turn off and remove from heat. Stir in yeast and 1/2 cup sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a stand mixer with a bread hook or in a large bowl with wooden spoon, stir together liquid with 4 cups of flour. Wait an hour for the dough to rise, then add 1/2 cup additional flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Place figs in a bowl of warm water to soften for 20 minutes. Strain, dry, and place in the basin of a food processor or a immersion blender. Add anise, melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Blend until a sticky paste forms. Add more butter or a bit of milk to thin if necessary. Set aside.
On a floured surface, roll out dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4” thick. Spread fig/anise paste evenly until it covers all of the dough. WARNING: the next phase is extremely messy. It’s unavoidable. Just have fun with it. Cut the dough into 6 to 8 strips, then stack all the strips into one stack. Cut the stack of strips into 6 slices. Place the stacks sideways into a buttered bread pan. If you’re me, you will probably feel the need to shove things in the holes… Dee recommends against this, but hey… it doesn’t always have to be pretty to taste good.
Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes and then check to make sure the top is not browning. Test the center… are things still gooey in there? Cover with tin foil and continue to bake for 10, 15, 20 minutes.
10 . 12 . 14
I wanted a perfect ending. I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, leaning into change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.
– Gilda Radner
Barely adapted from newly released Green Kitchen Travels by by
- 2 large onions, peeled and halved
- nub of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamom pods
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, quartered, stalks removed
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp shoyu or soy sauce
- 8 cups vegetable stock
- 1 head of bok choy, quartered
- fresh thai basil
- fresh mint
- 2 cups beansprouts
- handful of limes, quartered
- 1 lb brown rice noodles
- shaved sweet onion slices
Heat oven to 450.’ Place onions and ginger slices onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes until the edges are starting to brown. Place spices in a heavy-pot and dry roast until aromatic, stirring to prevent from burning. Add vegetable stock, shoyu, carrots, fennel, and roasted onions and ginger. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain soup base through a fine mesh strainer to remove vegetables and debris, then return strained broth to the pot and reheat. Cook noodles according to packet instructions. Prepare serving bowl(s) with cooked noodles, bok choy, beansprouts, onion, fresh herbs, and lime wedges. When ready to serve, pour over hot broth and serve immediately.
**The publisher is letting me give away a copy to one (1) Happyolks reader. Leave a comment with an active email address and I’ll notify a winner by next Tuesday.
09 . 25 . 14
I’ve had a word document open on my desktop for the past month. The ticker at the footer reads 6,201 words. Oy. Everyday for the past week I’ve tried to sit down, stand up, walk around with the laptop getting things sorted out. Music, no music. Pants, no pants. Wine, more wine. You know when you throw out your back and you find yourself inventing new yoga poses to get that darn thing to pop back into place? Yeah, that’s how I feel about writing right now. Just. Can’t. Quite. Get. There. The stuff sorta hurts to get out and then ends up looking like a mess on the page.
Then I sat down with a friend. She’s a writer. She gets it. She also has a 13 month old daughter and pumps out about twice the content I can in a week and I think to myself: Jesus, Kels, SHE HAS TO TAKE CARE OF ANOTHER LIVING CREATURE AND YOU CAN’T GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. Anyway, we had this great chat about vulnerability, where it fits with the business of writing (and sharing that writing online) and how the word and concept makes us recoil a bit when we hear it tossed around so casually over coffee and cocktails. She said this, which I love: some secrets are worth keeping. Sometimes none of the words and thoughts and feelings we wrestle with need to see the light, and that’s okay. It takes guts to get vulnerable, i.e. share parts of ourselves that we fear will result in rejection. But guts for the sake of guts feels totally… disingenuous? It shows security, confidence to pump the brakes a bit, and decide, on our own terms, how and when and for whom we’ll strip down for.
I worry, sometimes, that my generation falsely associates vulnerability with sharing every moment tasted, every hurt suffered, every little nugget of wisdom that comes to us while washing our hair or taking out the trash. I feel like we relinquish a bit of our agency in doing so. We give up sacredness for the rush of affirmation –– I divulge, therefore I exist. We don’t get a chance to ever really feel something in a totally pure state without those feelings being tampered by the onlookers we willingly, or unwillingly, called to table. There is enough of that look-at-me-see-me-feel-my-heart-beat-but-don’t-actually-judge-me-or-tell-me-something-I-don’t-want-to-hear sorta thing on the internet and in the “real” world that we have to deal with.
So instead of trying to contort the ever-living crap of that diabolical mess of thoughts, I’m going to bank on what I know for sure: loosening the grip reveals new truths, and that space and distance do help us heal and sort through the things that weigh heavy on our hearts. It’s okay to let some things just be our own to ponder and wrestle.
Instead! Life update:
We’re moving. To the mountains. It feels right. We’ve grappled quietly with
getting out of dodge leaving Denver since late spring, and upon our return from Bali it felt like all lights were flashing GREEN GREEN GREEN to manifest on that tug for migration. Seattle and Portland, Maine made the shortlist, but we’re not quite ready to say sayonara to these Rocky Mountains yet. We’re under contract on a little place west of Boulder that backs up onto a bit of woods –– we’ll sign and get the keys on Shaun’s 26th birthday. Wish us luck.
Concord Grape & Mint Sorbet
I finagled a few shortcuts to this killer recipe from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s recent release, Vibrant Food. After watching the food blog community reproduce the summer chapter online when the book first came out, I felt like I should wait to share this number when the leaves started changing and remind you that the fall, winter, and spring chapters of this book are equally impressive. I had the huge honor of recipe testing for Kimberley as Vibrant Food came together and I’m telling you, she, and these recipes, are total keepers. Oh, and, the recipe for harissa, on page 97, needs to be bottled and sold around the world. It’s the best I’ve ever had.
- 2 lbs fresh Concord grapes, stems removed
- 12 mint leaves
- 1/4 cup sugar
- juice of 1 lime
Remove stems from grapes. Rinse. In the basin of a blender or food processor, combine grapes, mint leaves, sugar, and the juice of 1 lime. Puree the the mixture until all but a few specks of grape skin remain visible. Kimberly suggests straining the mixture through a fine mesh sieve or strainer, but I’m into the pulp. It’s up to you.
Churn the blended grapes in an ice cream maker for 25-30 minutes, until slightly frozen. The sorbet will still be soft. Pour into a freezer-safe container and freeze for three more hours to solidify.