04 . 22 . 12
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.
Broiled Asparagus, a Poached Egg, and Charred Spring Onion and Garlic over Grits
- 1 cup coarse grits (polenta)
- 1 bundle (about a pound) asparagus
- 3 spring onions
- 2 stalks spring garlic
- Lemon juice, lemon zest
- 2 eggs
- olive oil / butter
Combine 1 cup grits with 5 cups cold water in a heavy, deep pot. Bring to a boil, toss in a bit of salt and reduce to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring very frequently and adding water and oil/butter to your liking. Meanwhile, prep asparagus on baking sheet. Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and zest of 1 lemon. Broil on the top rack for no more than 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from pan and set aside. Slice the white and light green portion of both garlic and onions and toss in leftover olive oil from the asparagus on the baking sheet. Squeeze the juice of the fully zested lemon over the garlic and onions. Add a bit more oil if you feel necessary. Return to the broiler, and check every 2 minutes to make sure they don’t burn. Pull them out when they have a nice brown char on the edges. Set aside.
Prepare the water for poaching the eggs in a deep pan. Once things come to a boil, it’s time to start prepping the serving bowls with the warm grits and asparagus. 1-ish cup of the grits, followed by half of the asparagus… bring bowls/plates over to the stove for easy transfer of the eggs.
I have recently adopted this bangin’ poaching technique, thanks to Bon Appetit: when the water has just come to a boil, create a vortex in the center by whisking a fork in a counter-clockwise direction. Once you’ve gotten up enough speed, set down the fork and quickly crack the egg into the middle of the whirlpool you’ve created. Now just watch. Seriously. Magic is happening. Cook for 4 minutes.
Place finished egg on top of the asparagus, and pile on a generous handful of charred onions/garlic.
04 . 15 . 12
Strawberry Basil Scones
The rope that tethers me to this place, this time, is growing thinner with each day approaching the big move (42, who’s counting). Things feel different, everywhere. My running route, the struggle to find parking on campus, our favorite restaurants, the farmers market, even the beach. It’s as if my mind has begun the emotional preparations for a new normal by disassociating from the old. More frequently now I find myself caught in the ordinary moments with a feeling of being there, but not really there in the ways I once was.
I drive through parts of town and see the places I lost myself, the places I really found myself. I see Shaun and I, younger, and the memories made in our relentless itch for growth and exploration. Everywhere there is a cacophony of light and dark, joy and pain, laughter and tears. It feels sorta supernatural. Hard to describe.
Standing at the edge of the shore this morning, I looked up to the clouds barreling across the sky after the good storm we had the past few days and felt an extraordinary sense of gratitude for the time, for the place — for all that it gave, for all that it took away. Four years have come and gone. I’m a different person now. I hope a better one. And it’s time. Time to let new faces and new seasons to teach me more about myself, more about the world.
The strawberries will be missed, California. But I’m so ready for new adventures.
- 2 ½ cups flour (I used a GF blend)
- 2 tbsp turbinado sugar
tbsp baking powder
- ½ cup cold coconut oil or butter, cut into chunks
- 1 + cup chopped fresh strawberries
tbsp minced basil
- ½ cup full fat coconut milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl stir together the dry ingredients. Scoop out or cut in butter or coconut oil. Stir in minced basil and hulled, and quartered strawberries. In a medium bowl stir together eggs and the milk. (Cream, half and half, or regular milk would work here too.) Add egg mixture to flour mixture in one pour. Stir together until completely moistened, using your hands when necessary.
Turn out onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Press into a 1” thick circle. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush with extra milk and sprinkle with sugar. If you use butter instead of coconut oil, place baking sheet with cut wedges in the freezer for up to 20 minutes before baking. It will make them magically fluffier and more scone-y. Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending. Finish with a good dollop of local honey or clotted cream.
02 . 06 . 12
Even after all this time,
the Sun never says to the Earth,
“you owe me.”
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky.
The words can’t quite come together for this one. Better not to force it. Alas, there is cake. Beet Cake. A bit more on the earthy side then carrots are to carrot cake, the beet variety with the added texture of the seeds and sweetened with brown rice syrup makes a more lasting impression than the former. Add a drizzle of the orange-poppy glaze to make it dessert, or enjoy plain with coffee in the morning. Red beets immediately stain the batter, but once baked you’ll cut into a fabulous rainbow assortment of color and texture.
Beet, Seed, and Blood Orange Cake
Adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater
- 1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- scant tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3/4 cup walnut oil
- 1 cup brown rice syrup
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups raw red beets, shredded
- juice of 1 blood orange
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup mixed seeds (flax, sunflower, pumpkin)
Blood Orange, Poppy Seed Glaze
- 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
- juice of 1 blood orange
- poppy seeds
Preheat the oven to 350′ and prepare a loaf pan with oil and line with parchment. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the oil and brown rice syrup. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Grate the beets and fold into the mixture, adding the blood orange juice, seeds, and raisins accordingly. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Slowly fold into the wet ingredients. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes. Test with a toothpick around 50 min to test for doneness. Let cool for 15-20 minutes before serving.
For the glaze, simply mix together brown rice syrup, juice and a bit of zest of a blood orange, and a few shakes of poppy seeds in a small jar. Set in the fridge while the cake bakes to serve chilled and thickened later.
12 . 16 . 11
I love this season. It’s cold. There are lights. There is hand holding. There is fellowship among strangers. Joy elevates the mundane, and cultivates memories to satiate and linger through the early months of another year, a new year. The blankets come down from the closet, there is ample excuse to bake, and we somehow find time, make time to connect.
For no particular reason, there are some days when I am shaken by the absurdity of my blessings. I learned at a young age that the holidays are not all gingerbread and champagne for everyone. I remember that when everyone seemed to be getting out of school and taking time off, my mom’s private practice was just ramping up. While the “other moms” were planning progressive dinners, she was helping the mourning, lonely, and lost to navigate the hardest part of their year.
There can be just as much sadness as there is joy associated with this season. I try to remember this everyday. While I indulge in the sweet embrace of loved ones next week, I know that someone, somewhere, is alone. Someone, somewhere, is piecing together a semblance of celebration after deep, confusing loss.
It’s startling, to witness your own luck. How mind-blowing it is to have so much, again, another year.
Of course there are moments throughout the season that frustrate. Our relatives can make us crazy. You’ll bump into that person from high school you really would have rather avoided. You’ll feel obligated to attend certain neighborhood functions. Your partner will exceed the 50lb baggage limit. You’ll be late to work. Someone will forget to change the roll in the guest room. There will be thousands of crazy, maddening moments and interactions this season.
Remember that someone, just like you, somewhere on this planet doesn’t get those crazy, maddening moments. They have no one to burn the biscuits for. They are trying to understand the meaning of tradition when there is now an empty seat at the table.
Here’s the thing… I want every single crazy moment that comes with this time of year. I know that one year, if I am not so lucky as I am now, that I will cling to the taste and the touch and the sounds of all these moments and how they made my life so rich and full. I want to do the things I don’t want to really do, I want to see the people I don’t really want to see, I want show, express, and appreciate every bit of it.
Roasted Chestnut Spread
- 1 lb Chestnuts
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
Roasting and shucking chestnuts is more fun with a partner, so grab a partner and tell them to set the oven to 425.’ As the oven preheats, begin working with the chestnuts by cutting a large x on the rounded side of each shell. Place flat side down on a pan. I cover mine with parchment because it’s a bit “seasoned” if you know what I mean. Pour a cup of water over the cross-hatched chestnuts and roast for about 22-25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, the skins should have peel back a bit by now. Let cool for about 10 minutes before getting started on the peeling process. You’ll need to discard the tough, dark brown shell as well as the thin brown skin that coats the actual soft nut. From all my research, each nut has a different story. Some shells and skins are a nuisance while others come off quite easily. It’s a tedious job, but definitely worth it. Toss naked chestnuts into small pot and cover with 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water, depending on how many nuts you ended up yielding. I usually come out with a few nasty moldy dudes and some that crumble apart when I’m trying to peel, so my best guess is that I have about 8-10 ounces of actual nut when it’s all said and done. Add sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil and stir, allowing to simmer for about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat. Let sit in the pot for a bit before transferring to a food processer with the blade attachment. Process for about 5 minutes, adding a tiny bit of water or warm milk to the mixture to help things along. Transfer to a jar or serve immediately with crepes, toast, or apple slices.
Recipe adapted from Jennie. Cowl/Scarf made by Melissa. Find more music by the amazing (22 year-old!!) Ben Howard Here.
12 . 04 . 11
Muscle memory. By definition it’s synonymous with motor learning, a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. The idea is when a movement or thought process is repeated over time, a “long-term muscle memory” is created so that with practice that task can be performed without a conscious effort. It’s a concept that’s been on my mind lately. With the end of another semester upon me, I’ve begun to feel the usual stresses that accompany it.
With three and a half years practice, the muscle memory is pretty reliable by now. My mind and body quickly get with the program, summoning my emotion, faculty, and willpower to engage at full speed. In some ways this is great. Things get done. Books get read. Term papers get written. But what trappings have my conditioned mind led me into again? Unnecessary stress? Check. Anxiety? Check. Emotional highs and lows? Check. Silly stuff in the big picture.
I think the whole muscle memory concept is amazing when you step back and look at how it works in so many aspects of our lives. On the physiological level, a person can teach her legs, her heart, and her lungs to run, jump, skip, swim — and with time she can be active without a conscious effort. In the same way I think there is a sort of psychological muscle memory that exists too. We can program our thoughts and responses to variety of situations through repeated practice to a point where these things too can be performed without conscious effort. Over time instead of stopping and thinking, our brains skip thinking and our muscles just “do,” or react. In some ways, this can be incredibly powerful. We can condition positivity, optimism, and non-judgment to inherently color our intentions and actions. On the flip side, it also means we fall into traps of repeated emotions and behaviors that we’ve been programmed for so long to experience the condition in a certain way.
Here’s the awesome part: we can totally reprogram our muscle memory. It takes one conscious second to check yourself and say, “Hey, experience X, so we’ve been here before, how has my programmed response been working out? What if we tried this a little differently?” With enough practice (and a bit of patience and self-love) we can rewire our responses to certain experiences and situations to better serve us. There will be slips. We’ll fall back into those old habits and thoughts. It’s okay. We’re human. But in time those yucky, dark spots that we find ourselves falling into in certain situations will be obsolete.
I’m practicing, in oh so many ways. Final exam preparations included. It’s working. Start with a piece of Spiced Apple Molasses Cake.
Spiced Apple Molasses Cake
Slightly adapted from Real Simple
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
- 5 apples (I used fuji) peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
Heat oven to 350° F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl or stand mixer, whisk together the oil, molasses, brown sugar, egg, ginger, vanilla and ½ cup boiling water. Slowly stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Add the apples last, folding generously to disperse evenly throughout the mixture. Pour batter into an oiled and floured cake pan, or cast iron skillet. Bake for 45 minutes (closer to 55 with the cast iron) until it passes the toothpick test. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Enjoy as a dessert or breakfast cake with a cup of french pressed coffee.