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 . 21 . 14
Oh, baby. Last week I was an emotional and professional doozy. Without getting into specifics, I can honestly say that I have never felt more tested to dig deep, set my ego on the shelf, and be the person of (strength, character, restraint, kindness) I’d like to think I’ve been practicing for since I joined the human race on December 26, 1989.
On Wednesday the kitchen had no appeal whatsoever, so we headed out for dinner at a restaurant that was probably a bit indulgent for two kids in Nikes, bad hair, and puffy jackets but, it’s Colorado, and the rising full moon begged us to release a bit of hardness and practice self care. On this night, care came in the form of fancy kohlrabi salad, grilled octopus, and two glasses of wine… all of which we probably couldn’t quite afford at the moment but felt so necessary to our existence that it didn’t even matter. At one point I looked at Shaun and said, I love this. “This” not being eating out, but the day, the moment, the fact that we were laughing and crying and so full and so empty all at the once. I started to well up with happy tears because of how ridiculously good everything felt (being alive, earning a right to sit across from each other at the table like this) despite the enormity of my exhaustion and general feelings of sweet-baby-jesus-this-life-business-ain’t-for the birds that hovered about.
As we age I imagine our daily struggles will wear different shoes, and the lessons we’re served will get harder and and somehow easier… but I also have to believe that in those future years we will look back on days like these and think: they were everything. These early days reaching and scraping and believing we can make something good of our lives are so brutal sometimes, but also so intensely rich. I can only hope that in ten, twenty, forty years we’ll be this resilient, this passionate. I can only hope we’ll be this feisty, foolish, and humbled in our smallness. I can only hope we’ll love how deeply we loved, how bad we royally fucked things up, how hard we tried, and how explicit we were in our search for opportunities to be better.
“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
Late Winter Chocolate and Orange Tart
A few disclaimers before you make a go of it. I’ll call this a “special occasion” recipe because it does take a bit longer than most of the recipes I share. Not that it should be reserved only for special occasions, but, you get what I mean. Also, for aesthetics, I did not remove the peel or pith of the oranges. Some people aren’t into the bitterness, so I’d suggest supreming or removing the rind of your fruit before dressing the tart.
The tart shell is the exact recipe from Yossy Arefi’s mascarpone tart last year, which she adapted from Dorie Greenspan. Please visit her site for the instructions. Ingredients listed below:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 9 tablespoons cold, cubed butter
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 large blood oranges
- 3 large cara cara oranges
- 2 navel oranges
- 1 bar high-quality dark chocolate
For the tart shell preparation, see here. Set aside to cool while you prepare the pastry cream.
Warm the milk in a saucepan until it begins to steam, not boil. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add egg yolks. Whisking them together will create a crumbly-paste like mixture. This is totally normal. Pour warm milk from the saucepan into the bowl of egg-flour paste and store together. Once everything has combined, return mixture to the saucepan over medium heat. WHISK CONSISTENTLY. You will feel like you’re creating a ton of froth, but that’s okay, it will begin to thicken after a few minutes. Pause whisking after three minutes and see if it begins to boil, if so, remove from heat.
Stir vanilla into the cream and pour into a fine mesh strainer over a bowl in the sink. Push cream through the strainer to catch tiny bits of cooked egg. Place bowl in the fridge and let chill completely for 2 hours. To expedite the process, surround the bowl of cream in another bowl of ice. When the cream is cooled, stir in pomegranate molasses and lemon juice.
Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or water bath method. Spread melted chocolate over tart shell evenly. Pop in the fridge for 5 minutes. To prepare the oranges for garnish, hold the orange in your left or non-knife hand so that the navel is touching your thumb. Slice at your desired thickness, mine are about 1/4 inch. Retrieve tart shell with hardened chocolate from the fridge. Pour 3 cups of pastry cream into the center and spread as needed to cover. Arrange the oranges in concentric circles.