07 . 06 . 14
Paradise in Plain Sight, Karen Maezen Miller
Chapter 10, pg. 82-83
We experience our lives through the senses, a truly marvelous thing. In the split second after the pure cognition of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and thinking we form a reaction to a sense object: attraction or aversion, liking or disliking, the subjective judgement of good or bad. No matter how we react to our environment, the environment has no gripe with us. Every war is a war with ourselves. Everything is empty and ephemeral. We can turn anything into a weapon to wreak havoc and destroy peace, as we do.
If you doubt any of this, remember what you took on faith in fourth-grade science. All matter is composed of atoms. Atoms are empty space. By definition you can’t see emptiness. You can’t even imagine it. But you can be it. You already are it. Now, to live and let live in emptiness: that is the secret to paradise. It’s a secret hidden in plain sight, but it can take you forever to crack the code.
First, be quiet. Give away your ideas, self-certainty, judgements, and opinions. Drop your personal agenda. Let go of defenses and offenses. Face your critics. They will always outnumber you.
Lose all wars. All wars are lost to begin with. Abandon your authority and entitlements. Release your self-image: status, power, whatever you think gives you clout. It doesn’t, not really. That’s a lie you’ve never believed. Give up your seat. Be what you are: unguarded, unprepared, and surrounded on all sides. Alone, you are a victim of no one and nothing. You are ready as you’ll ever be; you were born ready. The possibilities are endless. Reject nothing. What appears in front of you is your liberation – that is, unless you judge it. Then you imprison yourself again.
Now that you are free, see where you are. Observe what is needed. Do good quietly. If it’s not done quietly, it’s not good. Start over. Even now, as you read along, are you formulating an objection to this in your mind? Because that’s what I do, and that’s what I have to stop – the endless, imaginary debates, the pros and cons of this and that. They wear me out.
I push back from the fray and step out into the garden where the leaves rustle and bend in gentle rhythm with the wind. The air is fresh. The sky is blue. It’s an amazing place we live in when we’re not at odds with it. Who can contain the love that this one life brings with it? It is boundless.
Lavender Berry Pavlova
We made this sucker a few weeks before the wedding (sneak a peek here, we’ll share more photos here when they come in). I got a little heavy handed with the lavender on my first batch of whipped cream. HOLY moses. It was a little like eating one of those sleepy eye masks. Do be careful when you’re adding it to the mix, the essential oils are quite potent!
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup super fine sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2-4 drops food grade lavender essential oil
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp lemon juice
Separate yolks from whites, allowing whites to combine over a medium mixing bowl. Beat whites by hand with a good whisk until firm and formulating stiff peaks (5-10 minutes). When the peaks are firmed, tip bowl upside down and nothing should move. Slowly fold in sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla with a rubber spatula.
Pile the meringue onto a parchment covered baking sheet in the shape of a thick, stout frisbee. Bake for 1 hr at 200’ F. Remove and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile prep the lavender whipping cream and berries for serving. In the basin of an electric stand mixer, whip cream on high. When it starts to thicken, add sugar, vanilla, and a few careful droplets of essential oil. Chill before serving and assembling the pavlova. **If fresh lavender is more readily available, an alternative method is to steep 1 sprig of fresh lavender in cream over low heat for 20 minutes. Strain cream and allow to cool before creating whipped cream.
Combine the strawberries, blueberries, and whatever summer fruit strikes your fancy in a bowl and toss with a bit of sugar and lemon juice, just enough to coat the berries lightly. To assemble, place cooled pavlova on serving dish. Spread whipped cream evenly across the surface and top with generous heaps of berries.
02 . 18 . 14
We spent Saturday evening in the garage. Shaun turned on the propane heat lamp and Caroline and I watched the boys build a spice shelf for Corbyn and her newlywed digs. Drinking beer from the can and sitting next to a woman I admire and respect more than she’ll ever know, I felt my pulse physically slow for the first time in months. I’ve missed this. Quiet, thoughtful moments without pressing emails to respond to, where tense decisions and terse dialogue are not on the regular, when the pendulum between fight and flight rests heavy.
Sunday continued at the same easy, tender pace. We went for a long run and treated ourselves to waffles and the NYTimes, laundry to Olympics coverage, and an afternoon bike ride to pick up frozen berries to satiate a brief craving for summertime. I love how Denver rewards us with a splattering of perfect days like these in the deep of winter. I swear they always show up at the right time as if to say, STOP! LOOK! The day is beautiful and you are here and very much alive to take in this moment and remember how to enjoy the miracle that is your life.
The fact that the weekend felt so precious is an indicator to me that the cards need shuffling around here. These weekends need to feel more ritual than they do unusual and surprising. I’ve quietly dedicated my time over the past six months to a local project that has called me to stretch, push, break down, pick up, and humble myself before a dizzying array of interpersonal dynamics in ways I do not yet have words to describe. I’m feeling a bit numb right now — to the success and failure, to what the work gave and what it took away. Regardless, I’m certain the impact of “it all” is positively permanent, and that the excruciating and thrilling days are teaching me something. For now I’m just feeling in the moment, and the moment isn’t good or bad… the moment just is.
“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
― Pema Chödrön
Cardamom Oat Crumble
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Don’t sell yourself short and try to use fresh fruit for this recipe in the wintertime! Ya’ll know I love Chile, but berries picked before they’re ripe and shipped by boat from the Southern Hemisphere taste like cardboard. Frozen fruit is dandy in the off-season and I’d encourage you not to poo-poo it. I tend to prefer darker berries with cardamom, but feel free to substitute as you feel inspired.
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 quick cooking oats
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup candied ginger, chopped
- 1 heaping tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 4 cups frozen cherries
- 2 cups frozen strawberries
- 1 cup frozen blackberries
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 apple, sliced
- zest and juice of 1/2 orange
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch (or) xantham gum
Mix flour, oats, sugar, brown sugar, candied ginger, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom in a large bowl. Add melted butter and stir together. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 375’. Butter 9″ deep cast iron pan. Add fruit to just below the fill line. Mix together with orange zest, juice, starch, and sugar. Pour and spread oat topping to cover the fruit completely. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the fruit is bubbling, thick, and the topping is beginning to brown. Let cool for 30 minutes to set before serving with ice cream or creme fraiche.
01 . 09 . 14
It’s 2 am and I just ate the last piece of molasses cake leftover from the New Years Eve gathering we hosted a few days ago. I never saw anyone eat a slice, but the next morning I found the bundt half gone on it’s stand, covered by a dish towel. I like that people can expect a treat when they’re at the house. I’m often asked why I cook and my answer has evolved and simplified over time: to love, to nourish. It’s a small thing, on my list of big things, of ways to say I love you.
In any case, there is a vent beneath the counter that warms a patch of tile on the kitchen floor and I stood on it, camped out in my bare feet, eating, listening to the creaks of the house and sorting through a stack of mail beside me. I turn over what appears to be a credit card offer and start scribbling a shopping list. Cauliflower. Horseradish. Greens. Coffee beans (!). Chemex filters (!!!!!). Toothpaste. Chocolate chips. Goat’s Gouda. Dates.
I love January and it’s everyday-ness. I’m glad for a regular pulse again. The holidays are great but it’s the stillness that I crave at the end of it all. We took our little evergreen out to the curb promptly when we returned from California and I filled the house with white ranunculus and put my Dad’s Neil Young album, Harvest, on our new record player to fill the house with something… normal.
New Years resolutions have never been my bag. Not on the 1st, at least. I want to cover my ears, close my eyes, and shout la la la la la la la la la la la when “goals for 2014″ comes up in social conversations because here’s the deal: A new year starts whenever I say it starts. You guys know me, I’ll preach intentionality ’til I’m blue in the face, but, erase the numbers on the calendar and the year restarts fifty times, even one hundred times in 365 days, if we want it to. I like the idea of resolving and revising my life, intentions, goals, and boundaries throughout the entirety of the year. My blueprints look nothing like they did a month ago, and I’d wager they’ll look different next month. Without grandeur or pomp or circumstance, there are always occasions that beg a breaking down and rebuilding the foundation. Fate and free will do their dance, and we are presented with, or choose, change.
That’s the beauty of this human life we get to live here on planet earth. We get to revise. We get to shift lanes. We can stop what we’re doing at any point of the day, month, year and say hey, you know, I think I’m going to to try doing things differently from here out. We are constantly being called to look in and look out at they way we treat people, how we spend our time, how we think about ourselves, and the respect we show our bodies and our planet. Instead of cramming in all that self-reflection and goal setting for the sparkling brevity of a ball-drop, I’d ask you to consider celebrating a new year, a new you, whenever you can. And those days are worth celebrating. The Thursday in March where you wake up, put your feet on the floor, and say to yourself: today will be different, today I will… (fill in the blank)… that’s gold right there. There will be no confetti or champagne. But it will be perfect, and you did it all on your own.
Happy New Year, today, and every day.
Shiitake Bok Choy Dumplings
It’s cold out! If you live in a winter-y climate, skip the juice fast and feed your Qi with warming, nourishing foods. My acupuncturist, Anna, says it’s an order. For the wonton sheets… I could only get my hands on the itty-bitty variety, which, if you have fingers that aren’t on the dainty side like me, folding can be a bit of a challenge (albeit a worthy one). If you can find wrappers that are bigger, i.e. 3x3in, I’d suggest doubling the filling for this recipe.
- 25 wonton wrappers
- 4 bulbs bok choy
- 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms
- 2 large carrots
- 1 inch nub ginger
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tbsp tamari or Braggs liquid aminos
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- + extra bok choy to line the steam basket
Orange Teriyaki Sauce
- 1/2 cup tamari
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 2 tsp water
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp cornstarch
Get the sauce out of the way: Combine ingredients (except for cornstarch and orange zest) in a saucepan on medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in cornstarch and zest last then remove from heat.
For the dumpling filling: chop boy choy, shiitakes, chives and carrots into very small pieces. Using a microplane grater, shave garlic, ginger, and orange zest into the vegetables and mix together. Warm sesame oil over medium heat in a pot or sauté pan. Add vegetable mixture and the tamari and stir to soften for no more than 5 minutes. The veggies should be vibrant and al dente.
Assemble the dumplings by placing one sheet on a flat surface. With a bowl of water near your dominant hand, dip a finger or two in the water and wet the perimeter of the dumpling so when you fold it all up it will stick together. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of cooked filling in the center and fold together by adjoining the two opposite corners with a pinch and then repeating with the remaining corners, sealing the edges together as you go like a present. If your wonton wrappers are circular, you can see detailed instructions on how to assemble here. Repeat until all filling has been used.
Prepare your steaming mechanism (pot with steamer lined with bok choy or lettuce, ghetto white girl style like moi… or by using a real-deal bamboo steamer as seen here). When there is sufficient steam generated, place as many dumplings as you can fit without touching one another. Cook for 5-8 minutes.
Serve warm and dip as desired.