A few misty days on the Santa Cruz coast with loved ones was the needed reminder of the multitudinous blessings in my life. My mother’s compassion, my father’s understanding, and my brother’s bright spirit fill my heart with more joy than any girl should be lucky enough to experience. Saying goodbye is hard, but I know that it is because we do that we all have been able to grow and flourish as individuals.
Family can mean so many different things and take shape in so many different ways to people around the world. The nuclear family, parents and children, play a crucial role in our understanding of the title, but family can also take shape as a group of people who are generally not of blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals.
Lucky are we, the ones who have opportunity to gather with multiple families and share love and ideas and passions from different angles and perspectives. We move in and out of different groups and pollinate ideas from one unit to the next; creating this crazy cool opportunity to grow and developing the understanding of how truly connected we all truly are in this world.
Our peripheral families may come and go in life, and it is important that they do, but through it all there will be one that is constant. The kind that no matter where you are in life can hold up a mirror and say, ‘hey, this is who you are and I love you.’
For me, that family just so happens to be the one I was born into. Gratitude overwhelms me.
This morning I had the opportunity to cross paths with my brother’s college family by cooking up brunch for 15(!) to celebrate the joys of being alive. In addition to my own, I pulled new recipes from my most treasured blogs, whose authors I would like to think of as part of my food family. I added and omitted here and there, but this post is to honor the originals. Their beautiful perspectives helped create a special moment in my family’s time line that will be remembered for years to come. Please visit their sites for instructions, words of wisdom, and more.
Happy Earth Day, everyone (April 22)! Shaun and I will be spending the afternoon volunteering at the Balboa Park Earth Fair with Plant With Purpose, a non-governmental organization that uses environmental restoration to create sustainable economic development in the third world. Environmental degradation effects everyone, especially the poor. Plant With Purpose believes that restoring the relationship between people and the environment in areas plagued by deforestation and extractive international economic models is key to resolving many of the world’s social, economic, and environmental problems.
While Plant With Purpose’s work is exclusively international, I think their mission applies just as importantly here at home. If we can restore the relationship between the protection of the planet and human well-being then maybe reversing issues like global warming will become more of a priority.
Some of my colleagues in the environmental politics realm tend to look down upon the “little things add up to make a difference” hypothesis. While I agree that the gravity of the world’s fundamental environmental conditions cannot be alleviated by recycling or turning off the water when you brush your teeth, I do believe that these small behavioral changes can lead to greater and more impactful changes into the future. A person who has never run a day in their life isn’t about sign up for a Marathon on a whim, right? I can feel their scathing looks now. Time is running out! I know! But if it’s all or nothing, I’d rather have some than nothing at all.
Because I don’t expect you to sell your car, live without electricity, and forgo showering in the next week… here is a compiled list of things you can realistically start with today and carry on into the future to show your mother Earth you care every time you cook, eat, and clean up the mess you made after.
1. Replace all plastics (cups, tupperware, baggies) with glass or wood. “Two classes of chemicals from plastic are of serious concern for human health: bisphenol-A or BPA, and additives used in the synthesis of plastics, which are known as phthalates. BPA is a basic building block of polycarbonate plastics, such as those used for bottled water, food packaging and other items. BPA is a synthetic estrogen and commonly used to strengthen plastic and line food cans.” Scientists have linked it, though not conclusively, to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike. I love mason jars for their versatility and ease of cleaning.
2. Ditch your non-stick cookware. According to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group, in the two to five minutes that cookware coated with Teflon is heating on a conventional stovetop, temperatures can exceed to the point that the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. At various temperatures these coatings can release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens.
3. Replace toxic chemical cleaners with natural alternatives. Ingesting ammonia, bleach, chlorine… no thank you. Check out Real Simple’s 66 All-Natural Cleaning Solutions article for more on how to use lemon, baking soda, vinegar, even vodka(!) to clean and disinfect.
4. BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag. Preaching to the choir on this one I’m sure. But wait! I know those Whole Foods bags designed by Sheryl Crow are pretty, but recent research shows that after multiple uses, resuable bags have become breeding grounds for bacteria and food-borne illness. Use canvas and throw them in a hot wash with your dish towels every week.
5. Look for the “9.” Check the numbered stickers on fruits and veggies. If they start with #9, your produce is organic, meaning it’s grown pesticide-free. Producing and distributing takes 5.5 gallons of fossil fuels per acre.
6. Better yet, BUY LOCAL! Supporting local farmers is one of the best things you can do for the community, and your health. Knowing where your food comes from and who it’s cultivated by connects you to the earth and the way you approach food in a whole new way. Conventional food production and distribution requires a tremendous amount of energy— yet for all the energy we put into our food system, we don’t get very much out. A 2002 study from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimated that, using our current system, three calories of energy were needed to create one calorie of edible food. Studies that include transporting food estimates that it takes an average of seven to ten calories of input energy to produce one calorie of food. Yikes! Check out my “8 reasons to eat local” here.
7. Fill your freezer with newspaper or frozen water bottles, and wait until leftovers are completely cooled before saving in the fridge. This reduces stress on the freezer to maintain a cold climate and reduces energy costs. Allowing leftovers to cool before putting them in the fridge also reduces energy use.
8. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and get creative. Overall reduction to the consumption of disposable goods means less trash in landfills and oceans, and more money for meaningful activities with friends and family. If you’re addicted to almond butter, think of all the glass jars you’d have to store leftovers, flours, and grains. Check with your local health food store if they’ll let you bring them into the store and fill with items from the bulk aisle. Have fun with it!
Here’s my go-to take on the infamous green smoothie. Perfect for mornings on the run and after a good workout. Green, green, green… just in time for Earth Day. I play around with a variety of protein/spectrum powders. I like MediClear Plus, Nutribiotic, and Amazing Grass. What are your favorites?
2-3 cups packed spinach or kale
1 cup of frozen strawberries
1/4 cup banana
3/4 cup of plain pumpkin puree
1 serving of protein/vitamin supplement
Almond milk or filtered water until you reach your desired consistency
Blend. Pour. Enjoy.
Be kind to the earth, be kind to your body, love, forgive, and be happy.
During times of inordinate stress, pressure, or change, I find that more than any amount of yoga or breathing, the best meditative practice is simply the act of remembering. Remembering is an act of the heart. It gathers the images and energy of the people we associate with the past experience, and we cannot help to feel a pang of gratitude that we were there to share that specific moment in time together. It’s a practice we can do anywhere, anytime. Driving home from work, checking out books from the library, making the bed… you get the idea. We bring these memories into focus and suddenly the many worries and preoccupations of our day fade to the background. The wisdom of friends, family, and strangers who occupy these memories should remind us that the love and admiration we feel for them is reciprocal – they love and believe in us just the same.
Some of the most powerful memories we can access, especially during times of self-doubt or criticism, are the ones of our younger and enthusiastic selves. As children, we were not buried deep in worry, restraint, or stress. Our full time jobs were to explore a world in its limitless intricacies. We were constantly seeking, questioning, creating, laughing, and enjoying.
When I think of myself at three or four years old I see a little girl who was uninhibited, and free. She beamed with light and exuberance, and felt blissfully content to be who she was. The words “you can’t” were not in her vocabulary yet and she was assured that the entire world was at her fingertips.
I remember that girl. She was amazing. I remember her smile, her confidence, and certainty. But then I realize… hey, that girl is me! That same spirit and lightheartedness still lives inside of me. I can still be free like her; and so can you. We should remember the energy and lightness of our childhood and give ourselves permission to cultivate it in our seemingly constrained lives. Conjuring the memory of such a lightness and warmth can even be enough to push you up the hill on a hard day.
Carrot cake is a dessert that brings together the best memories of my both my childhood and of my mother. All twenty-one of my birthdays (which is actually in December) have been celebrated with an original carrot cake recipe that she has saved from the 80s. When I emailed her asking for the recipe last week I think she was probably expecting me to completely transform it into a fat-free sugar-free relative. But I couldn’t – memories associated with this keepsake are of an auspicious nature, and I needed to (mostly) maintain its integrity if for no ones sake but my own. A few tweaks to the icing and oils, but otherwise pretty darn accurate. For me, carrot cake celebrates life, love, remembrance, and the many more memories to be made in the future. May it bring you a moment of lightness and tenderness in the way it did for me this weekend.
Preheat the oven to 350′. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat the eggs and add the sugar. Slowly beat in the coconut oil, vanilla, and pineapple. Add the flower mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until just incorporated. Finally, stir in the carrots and walnuts. I decided to make these in mini loaf molds, but it would also work in large loaf or round pans. Depending on your preference, grease your pan(s) and fill to 3/4 full with cake batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes.Remove from oven and let cool before drizzling with coconut glaze
For the cream cheese frosting, beat together ingredients in a stand mixer until completely combined. Test for taste. You might prefer it sweeter or with more acid, add sugar and lemon and vanilla accordingly.
From the start, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to make Happyolks an extended dissertation on current events, politics, or world affairs. My studies in international affairs keep me on the treadmill circuit of strategy, policy, issues, institutions, outcomes (you get the idea), and this blog is sort of a refuge from the demanding and complex focus of my school days. If you’re a visitor to this site, it’s likely that you are searching for yummy recipes and pretty pictures as a form of escapism too. The hour we spend researching, planning, and preparing a meal can be incredibly meditative and rejuvenating after the over-stimulation of our busy days. Careful mincing, flash searing, and watching the broiler are all tasks that require our full presence and attention. Subsequently, our brain sends out “hold the phone” signals to our endlessly swirling thoughts and emotions about the events of the day. Shaun is often bewildered that the first thing I want to do after a twelve hour day on campus is to break out the peeler and knives. He will ask, “don’t you want to relax for a minute?” Like any woman on a mission I respond, “nope, I just need to chop.” Ahh… Exhale. I hope you can relate to this feeling, because creating a nourishing meal should never be stressful.
I run into a problem with this promise though. No, I don’t want to discuss politics. But when I read things about the international system and food supply that have direct implications for our foreign brothers and sisters that are imposed by health food consumers like you and me, I can’t hold my tongue.
Recently in the New York Times there was an article published on how quinoa’s global success has created negative consequences on the grain’s indigenous cultivators in Latin America, particularly Bolivia.
Quinoa, a plant related to beets and spinach, is a nutritional powerhouse known for its ideal amino acid profile and anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s one of the few plant foods that provide a complete protein making it an ideal grain for vegetarians, athletes, and the rest of us for that matter. The demand for the crop has grown exponentially and at first, the surge raised the incomes of the producers in the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Great right? Well, not really. An increase in demand has destined Incan quinoa harvests to go straight to the global free market for export, not local consumption. The price of local quinoa for Bolivians and other Latin American citizens is now too costly to consume, and malnutrition in these areas is on the rise as locals turn to packaged and processed foods that they can purchase within their tight budgets.
The Bolivian government claims to be in the process of legislating domestic policy to increase the affordability of local quinoa, but it’s on us too as health-conscious consumers, to limit our consumption and only purchase products that are produced sustainably and fair trade certified. If we can’t afford the fair value price of the grain, then we shouldn’t consume it. Tough love, I know. But you vote with your wallet. Food policy around the globe is tragic, truly it is, and Bolivia isn’t the only country that bears the cost of our unprecedented standard of living. Bananas in Nicaragua? Hello. For Latin America and beyond, If we all take small individual steps, we can reverse these exploitative and unbalanced patterns of the world economic system — and really, they’re easy to take in the kitchen. Idealistic? Sure. But it matters.
So, quinoa lovers out there… here is a recipe that honors this beautiful “lost Incan” grain and the hard work it took to produce it. Please be a conscious consumer and use fair trade, certified organic products! Baby Artichokes and Hearty Veggie Quinoa
1 basket of Baby Artichokes (if you’ve never seen ‘em, then go with the canned version, the hearts taste better anyway!)
1 basket cherry tomatoes
1 ½ – 2 cups fingerling potatoes, halved
3 small shallots, chopped roughly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup of pitted Kalamata olives, halved
Large handful of Italian parsley, chopped
Zest of ½ a lemon
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for roasting the artichokes
Salt and pepper to taste
If you find baby artichokes at your local farmers market or Whole Foods, chop off the ends and about ½ inch off the top and peel away a few of the outside leaves. Cut in half, and toss into a pot with a steaming crate. Steam for 12 minutes until nice and soft. If you don’t have baby artichokes (and unless you live in San Diego, that’s probably the majority of you) break open a can of artichoke hearts and rinse. With your prepared artichoke variety, toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and set aside. Turn oven on to a high broil setting.
In a small pot, prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. Like rice, it’s a 2:1 ratio, grain to water or vegetable broth. Bring water and grain to a boil, then reduce heat and cover for 12 minutes. Remove from heat when finished.
Meanwhile, using the same pot that you steamed the chokes in, refill with a bit of water and steam the potatoes until tender. Set aside. In a sauté pan, over medium heat, sauté the shallots and garlic in some olive oil until golden (3-5 minutes). Add the potatoes, cherry tomatoes, olives, and parsley and stir over low heat. Add a little lemon zest and a bit of the olive liquid from the jar if you feel the mixture is too dry. The oven should be ready for the chokes, so send em in for about 5 minutes or until they are lightly browned on the edges. Add chokes and olive oil liquid to the sauté pan, removed from the heat source, and stir. Finally, add the quinoa, a few sprinkles of salt and pepper and garnish with a few sliced almonds.