“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb. (Don’t Hesitate)”
― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems
Quick Pickled Vegetables over Herb-y Black Lentils
1 bunch tricolor radishes, quartered
1 cup pearl onions, halved
1 lb. baby carrots
2 cups cauliflower, broken into small pieces
1 bulb fennel, sliced
2 shallots, shaved
4 florets belgian endive, halved
4 cups white wine vinegar (or red wine, or rice)
4 cups water
1/4 cup mustard seeds
2 tbsp juniper berries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp salt
To make the pickling liquid: Place water and vinegar in medium pot along with sugar, juniper berries, salt, and mustard seeds. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar and salt. Place cleaned and prepped raw vegetables into the liquid and submerge. Cover and let cool to room temperature, place in refrigerator for 1 hour. Extra vegetables can be kept for up to two months. They make for great accouterments in a Bloody Mary!
For the Lentil Salad…
4 cups cooked black lentils (about 1 pound, dry)
1 cup watercress leaves
1 cup parsley leaves
1 cup celery leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/4 cup minced chives
2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
Cook lentils until al dente, about 30 minutes. Strain, rinse, and set aside. Mix with olive oil, lemon juice, and greens. Serve as a bed to the pickled vegetables. Dress with chives, serve cool, but not cold. Makes great leftovers for weekday lunches. Served mine today with lemon avocado aioli.
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.
We need more storms. The garden loves it and so does my spirit. When dark clouds build out West over the mountains I put a kettle on for afternoon coffee, throw open all the downstairs windows, and ready my reading chair with a book. Elizabeth Gilbert shared once in a TED talk how early cultures believed they had a genius, “a divine spirit that came from a distant and unknowable source,” that waited to pounce on people with “moments of brilliance… showing them new ways of doing things, bestowing new songs to their ears.” Gilbert described how the poet Ruth Stone often could look out, standing on the farm, and see a poem come barreling toward her over the landscape. It was chasing her, and she had to get up and run, as fast as she could, back to the house before it passed through her, blowing onward to find another poet. Ideas don’t always come sweeping over me with genius or brilliance or poetry, but I have found that if I sit and be present to a good storm, the thunder can shake loose new perspective in my heart that I usually need urgently, badly. Like Ruth, I have to be diligent and be waiting in the ready to capture that perspective fully.
And so, last week, I found myself wrapped in an old blanket in my reading nook, and tried surrendering to the energy of the storm. I was distracted about an earlier email from a reader that had left me unsettled and self-conscious about where I find myself pivoting from in this point of life. I know she meant well, truly, but her advice was somewhat bruising. I acknowledge and accept that by publishing parts of my life for the world to read, I make myself open to judgement and critique — both of which happen so rarely I feel silly even bringing it up — but it does reflect on the tricky business of having a blog. We, as writers, may feel a distinct and coherent story building month to month, year to year, but most often what our readers experience are “al a carte” moments, snippets of this phase and that. We, me, you, don’t always get the full picture. We can’t. And that’s okay. It’s not supposed to work like that. All that we are and all we believe cannot be packaged and delivered consistently in 1,000 words or less, so we chapter it all out, and continue, in earnest, to practice non-attachment and patience with those we invite into our lives (and living online spaces) — lives that are very much in-progress and under construction. This experience, of course, is magnified 10x in the flesh with strangers and friends and those we share toothpaste. But anyway…
My point in sharing this singular, harmless experience with a reader is to spotlight how, gulp, I too sometimes walk dangerously into the book of someone elses life, mid-chapter, and assume a level of authority or perspective based on the information I think I’m bearing witness to. Por ejemplo… Shaun and I have friends who have recently separated after a year of marriage and honestly I’ve been terribly hung up about it. Not about the divorce at large — as I don’t believe destinies or soulmates to be fixed things — but just about the loss on an energetic level for all of us young folk in love, angsty, and in becoming. There is a sense of sadness and realization on the whole, in life, not all good fights can be won… and it kinda blows. I look at these friends falling apart and see ALL of us falling apart, as we do, as we grow as individuals and in partnership and community. “No!!!” This was my knee-jerk reaction. ”Don’t let it break! WORK like fucking hell, friends! Relationships are hard!” It wasn’t until shaking the dust of that earlier email that I really realized how my consternation about the situation is entirely related to my own heart, my own struggles, and how when I look at these two beautiful people, wishing so desperately that “it all” could be fixed, I’m really just seeing the ways I want to fix myself. A bit of nemesism, really. And we do this, as humans, so often. We try to fix people as we would like to fix ourselves. We see our own lives mirrored back to us in the lives and choices and pain of others. We want them to be okay, we NEED them to be okay so we can be okay, too.
We see only what we see. Every day we get the opportunity to observe and take part in the lives of others, in the middle of their perfect and un-perfect chapters, with our opinions, often well-intentioned, knowing only what we know. I think it’s important, every single day, to try and step back and ask ourselves how much of our experiences with others are projections of our own desires, expectations, attachments. We have to remember that nothing needs fixing. We were put here to love, and that’s pretty much it.
So here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s all make a pact and try, really hard, to check our attachments at the door when experiencing the journey of another. It’s going to be hard. I know. Especially because half the time we don’t even know we’re caught up in the first place. Let’s try not to fill in the gaps for them. Not try to play out the before and after. Let’s just be with people, where they are, and love them, without judgement. Let’s be real with ourselves and recognize when and how and why we get caught up in the compulsion to mend. That’s where the genius is, people. Storm or not. Let it barrel on.
Grilled Carrots over Lentils with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
2 bunches spring carrots, stems reserved for garnish
1 1/2 cups french lentils
1/2 cup carrot greens, chopped
1 large handful baby spinach
1 handful parsley, chopped
1/2 cup chives, minced
1 shallot, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
Horseradish Yogurt Sauce
1 1/2 cup full fat yogurt
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp (or more) grated fresh horseradish
dash of salt
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Cook lentils until al dente, nearly 20 minutes. Rinse and set aside.
Rinse the carrots and remove stems. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast on the grill or under the broiler until blackened and soft through the center (10-20 minutes, depending). Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt and lemon juice. Grate garlic and peeled horseradish root on a microplane grater over the yogurt. Add a dash of salt then taste. Do you need more horseradish? If you’re like me, you like the kick and will need to add more. Cover and keep in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooled lentils, olive oil, spinach, parsley, chives, carrot greens, shallot, and salt/pepper. Distribute the lentil salad on a serving platter and top with grilled carrots. Fetch sauce from the fridge and drizzle yogurt generously over the carrots. Garnish with carrot greens.
When I start a copywriting assignment with a new client, the most important question I ask to get to know them is “where are you, what are you doing, and who are you with when you most feel like yourself?” They often smile, get a little quiet, and start to tell a story. Somewhere they visited, Saturday rituals at home… little details that reveal their personality and perspective. It’s more anthropological experimentation than it is helpful writing tool. Often, how they answer this question is entirely different than the manner in which they answer all the others. They haven’t prepared for this sort of prompt, so they have a chance to share in their sincerest form. How interesting is it that?
Using the exercise on myself, I become overwhelmed with a deep and exhilarating sense of peace and understanding as I am instantly transported to a time and space where things were just as they should be. When I find myself drifting off course or am sorting through serious life decisions, I try to practice this mediation. It has a funny way of bringing my head and heart back into alignment when the wires get crossed or cut. I’ve recently come to think of it as my “happiness compass.” Ultimately, when we are able to live out the truest, most authentic versions of ourselves, we can be the most happy.
I think so often we get caught up in creating an idea of happiness that we look too far outward, forward to things and elaborate ideas that will slingshot us out of a current state of fatigue, frustration, fear, etc. While I totally think happiness is something you can and should work to manifest, in times of uncertainty, it is best guided by the reminders living inside us all.Memories can’t provide direct answers for our troubles, but the process of remembering may lull the voices, our own and otherwise, that may be pulling/pushing us into a direction that leaves us feeling unsettled. It creates space for us to truly consider all that we know to be true, trust all that is yet to be taught, and go forward with a sense of empowerment to just be. It brings everything back to center. There may be chaos, there may be distraction, there may be consternation… but in our own answer, there can be stillness. And that is enough.
So I ask you this question, today…
Where are you, what are you doing, and who are you with when you most feel like yourself?”
Close your eyes. Listen. Let those places, people, spaces wash over you and fill you with love and light.
Feel free to shred, julienne, or dice anything your heart desires for these guys — spring rolls are incredibly versatile. I’ve mixed soft greens, crisp cabbage, and creamy avocado to diversify the texture. Add or subtract herbs as desired. Play with the sauce to your liking too, I spotted it in the magazine and knew it had potential.
And… get this: Happyolks has a free app for iPhone. Um, What!? Speaking of things that remind us who we really are, my incredible/handsome/kind little brother spent the semester in one of his engineering courses developing it for us. Hugs to Austin for his hard work. Download it from the App Store and check for updates and new features as the year progresses.
Submerge a single spring roll wrapper in a bowl of hot water until completely pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove, and gently set on a flat surface. Layer with cabbage, escarole, avocado, and herbs. Construct a roll like a burrito; start with the bottom and cover the horizontal line of veggies. Fold in both sides and press to seal. Roll up tightly to the top and seal the edge. Set aside. Repeat.
For the sauce “Place all ingredients plus 1/4 cup water in a resealable container. Cover and shake vigorously until well combined.”
What’s a paraben? Shaun asked me last week as he began to sort through the footage from the Sprout shoot. I’m about as low-tech as it gets in the beauty and skincare realm (yeah, I use coconut oil as shaving cream) but I know that parabens are not welcome in my bathroom. I thought about how to explain and realized that, actually, I have NO idea what a paraben actually is. My response: I know it’s bad for our health and the environment and that’s why we should use the natural stuff, and, err, stuff like yeah, it’s just bad.
So, in my own deficient understanding to the nasties of mainstream hair de-frizzifiers and face creams, I thought, hmm… I bet there are a lot of people who feel the same way about the “new” language about food that dangles from posters and is tagged on egg cartons throughout the grocery store. I sorta have a hunch that most people hear and see and recognize trending terms without knowing what they truly, fully mean. There is so much vernacular thrown around these days in the movement toward greater food consciousness and I think can get pretty intimidating for the layperson who is trying to figure out what is “healthy.”
So here’s the skinny… I’ve compiled a baker’s dozen of popular labels/terms to help you navigate the supermarket, and to combat any misperception you may find in dialogue with family and friends. Oh, and it’s kinda a long list. Totally geeked-out over this. I don’t expect you to read through the whole thing; maybe poke around, pick a term, and take it with you knowing this post will be here to help on an as-need basis.
Fair Trade: Products that bear a Fair Trade logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. Fair Trade USA, the most popular organization to label goods like sugar, coffee, bananas, grains, etc. helps farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. Fair Trade labeling indicates that the product has been grown, harvested, and produced within a disadvantaged international community that is taking ownership of the free market. Check out these sick videos to learn more here, and here, as well as this NY Times article that critiques the practice.
All Natural: Marketing ploy, all the way. The FDA actually has no definition for what “natural” actually means, so companies are free to label things “natural” as long as they don’t contain synthetic substances. Let’s compare a box of Cheerios to say, a sweet potato. Which one is actually natural? Well, the FDA says both. You shouldn’t buy into that logic. Food labeling expert Urvashi Rangan says, “the natural claim is one of the most vague and misleading green claims that we see out on the marketplace.” Check out this 90 sec clip featuring Marion Nestle on the “All-Natural” scam.
Cage-Free: Unfortunately, this label conjures a vision of chickens dancing about in an open green pasture eating worms and loving life when, in reality, cage-free just designates that chickens were not raised in high-density battery cages. According to Good.is, “By U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, hens that lay certified organic eggs must be given access to the outdoors. But even for this more-stringent label, there are no specifications on time and duration of outdoor access. Some “organic” producers might get their birds outside once or twice in the animals’ lives. It’s a misleading practice that goes against everything that “cage-free” and “organic” ideals were created to represent.”
GMO / Non-GMO: A genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes that enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides, cold extreme temperatures, pests, disease, and drought. Right now, the FDA does not regulate or label GE incidence in food so where you see a Non-GMO label, it has been verified through a third-party audit. Check out this mega James Bond-esque video that explains more, and find out more about the push to label GE foods from the “Just Label It” campaign.
Gluten-Free: Gluten is a protein that results when the proteins gliadin and glutenin join together with starch in the seed of grass-related grains such as wheat, rye, barley, durum, graham, semolina, spelt, farro, and kamut. Products labeled “gluten-free” mean it does not contain any gluten and is made with alternative grains such as rice, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, millet, and teff, or no grains at all. Gluten tends to cause inflammation in the gut that many people are sensitive to. In extreme cases where there is total gluten intolerance, a person may have Celiac Disease. The US Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that 1 in 22 are affected. Check in with Gluten Free Girl for an amazing list of resources and further reading.
rBST: Recombinant bovine growth hormone (also known as rBGH) is a genetically engineered drug produced by the Monsanto Corporation. It’s injected into dairy cows to induce them to increase milk production. About 1 in 5 US cows are given this hormone since it was approved by the FDA in 1993. rBST is linked to increased occurrence of mastitis a “persistent, inflammatory reaction of the udder tissue” and can cause hormonal disturbances in humans who consume the milk from treated cows. Check out this short interview with Dr. Jenny Pompilio of the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility to hear a more in depth explanation.
BPA / BPA-Free: Bisphenol-A is a plastic and resin ingredient used to line metal food and drink cans, and it’s a main building block for polycarbonate (PC) plastics. Even at low doses, Bisphenol A has been linked to cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, obesity, and insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes. Refer to the Environmental Working Group report on BPA for more information. Look for cans labeled BPA-free like Eden Organics and re-usable water bottles made of steel like Klean Kanteen.
Organic: The USDA Organic label means produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows: “[crops] are produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.” USDA certification is often arduous and expensive, meaning small farms that adhere to organic standards sometimes cannot afford to follow one or a few of the USDA’s arbitrary guidelines. Talk to your farmers at the farmers market and ask about their practices.
Pasteurized: I think most people know what this means, but I put it on the list only because when I first moved to San Diego I was grocery shopping and overheard a few college kids debating what pasteurized meant in the dairy aisle. A girl about my age proclaimed, “pasteurized means they get to walk around in a pasture and eat grass.” No, I’m not joking. She really said that. Pasteurization is actually the process of heating food to a set temperature for a set amount of time and cooling it to slow spoilage and reduce microbial growth in the food.
Wild Caught / Sustainably Farmed: You’ll find labels like this at the seafood counter. Wild Caught may seem pretty self explanatory, but turns out that the modes of “catch in the wild” can be pretty brutal. In some cases fishing methods such as dynamiting reefs, high-seas bottom-trawling, and drift nets are used in the open ocean. On the bright side, ”wild-caught can also encompass more desirable lower-impact techniques, such as hand-lines, divers, or the use of pots or traps” according to the Huffington Post. Because of over-harvesting and pollution, a new technique of fish-farming is booming. Farmed fish generally gets a bad rap (and for good reason, some farms feed their salmon corn… um, yeah?) but Seafood Watch has done the hard work for you in compiling updated lists of what seafood is best for the environment and your health. Check out their super-awesome smartphone App or print a nifty guide tailored to your region and stick it in your wallet.
CSA / Local: Local is relative to the distance between food producers and consumers. “Local” labeling often identifies when certain products are grown, or produced within an 100-mile radius of purchase. Traditionally, Community Supported Agriculture programs require membership to a certain farm where individuals buy a share of the farm at the beginning of the growing season to “provide farmers with up-front capital to grown and manage the farm in exchange for weekly delivery of fresh, seasonal produce.” Today, farms also collaborate with local co-operatives where consumers can find seasonal goods within a supermarket-like setting. See more on the changing nature of the CSA via NPR.
This recipe was created for the Wisconsin Cheese Council and their quirky-cute “Grilled Cheese Academy.” Check out the video how-to of this sandwich and the creations of Sara Forte / Sprouted Kitchen and Ashley Rodriguez / Not Without Salt here. Shaun shot the footage, which as then edited by an outside party. **We were compensated for the creation of this recipe, which, is a mega-helpful contribution to the post-grad piggy bank.
Grilled Carrot + Carrot Green Pesto + Asiago Grilled Cheese
1 bunch farmers carrots, greens attached
1/2 – 3/4 cup shaved asiago (rBST free!)
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
salt/pepper to taste
4-6 1/2″ slices of sourdough boule
Butter, ghee, or olive oil for the pan/bread
Preheat the oven for 450.’ Remove the greens from the carrots and reserve for later use. Place on a heavy baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes until they just begin to brown and blister. For the carrot top pesto, place washed greens in the basin of a food processor with the blade attachment. Combine olive oil, garlic, and the juice of one lemon. Blitz until smooth, adding a little olive oil if it feels too “pulp-y.” Shave the cheese super thin, set aside.
Warm a shallow, heavy pan over medium heat while you prepare the sandwiches. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Lay flat and layer with cheese, then pesto, then 4-5 grilled carrots. It’s okay if the stems stick out. Finish with another layer of cheese, if desired, and the other slice of bread. Place in the pan and grill on each side for 2-4 minutes until browned as you prefer. Cut in half. Repeat. Enjoy.