Tag Archive: summer

  1. Lavender Berry Pavlova

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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  2. Caramelized Fig Ice Cream

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    Dear friend,

    Many years ago I was on a flight from Boston to Dallas after the funeral. My heart was swollen with grief, my head pounded with rage and questions about loss. Sick and lonely, I sat in an aisle near the front of the plane and stared blankly at two stewardesses gossiping and locking, unlocking, locking cabinets in preparation for takeoff. A little girl lept, literally, across the threshold of the plane behind them. We made eye contact and I smiled at her. She was four years old, maybe five, I never can tell the ages of children. Turning back to her mom, then back to me, she bounded toward the corner of my seat and placed her tiny hands on my crossed knees and shouted “You are the most beautiful princess I have EVER SEEEEEEENNNN!!!” I began sobbing, instantly. I don’t remember anyone looking at me, the hot, soggy mess that I was. I don’t remember being embarrassed. I only remember feeling more peace, anguish, and assurance than I had ever previously known, or have perhaps known since.

    I share this with you, friend, because I know that little girl is looking for you right now. She is bounding down the aisles of your life to tell you, remind you, that despite your brokenness, you are a bright shining light in this world. You are worthy of joy and happiness. Despite your mistakes and wrong turns, you deserve the sun and the moon and all of the stars. The pain you feel, the questions that keep you up at night, the sadness you harbor, the wounds you hide for friends and colleagues — all of this, all of these things, will make sense one day. Not today. And that’s totally fine. It’s okay that things are not okay.

    If you lived here, I would hope to find you sitting on my front porch tomorrow evening as I returned from errands. I would hold you. I would hold you so tight. Then I would make you a grilled cheese sandwich and we might drink the good wine straight from the bottle and I would tell you about the little girl and the plane and how wonderfully fucked up and outrageously mind-blowing the Universe seemed in that moment. Because that’s what there is, you know. Madness and wonder. Joy and agony. Fear and freedom. All at once, all the time.

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    Remember that night in Beijing after we had that god-awful duck and saw a show at the Peking Opera house and it was so cold in the theater that we could barely feel our toes? We found a bathroom in a bar down the street at intermission and the insides of the stalls were completely covered in mirrors. Everywhere. Head to toe mirrors in front of us behind us, above us. We laughed hysterically and you asked me from the stall next door, “have I been drugged?!!” I sat with my pants at my ankles and laughed, “well, if you’ve been drugged, so have I.”

    We were in China. Sick and stuffed with duck and happiness. We were also in China, having no idea, really, where we were, and had found ourselves in a bathroom where it was impossible to NOT look at our tired, pale, puffy-faced, half-naked selves and wonder about the meaning of life. I remember blowing steam on the wall to my right and watching my reflection become hazy. I closed my eyes and prayed that we’d never forget who we were and how we felt in that moment. The magic. The hysteria. The total confrontation of self in the most bizarre and unknown circumstances. There was this feeling that the situation reflected upon how perfect and awkward and hilarious and terrifying the best and worst moments always are.

    I mean this in all seriousness. For you and me, girl, there will be times in our lives that will somehow all boil down to one vulnerable minute, sitting on the John, and really seeing ourselves… seeing ourselves, and coming to terms with what’s looking back. I think you’re upon one of those times. What do you see?

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    Dear friend, I want you to know that you are the most beautiful princess I have ever seen. Your losses, regrets, sins, and secrets. Your exstacies, braveries, dreams, and triumphs. All of it, a masterpiece. Every last bit.

    Breathe in, breathe out. Dig deep. I love you.

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    Caramelized Fig Ice Cream with Mascarpone and Honey Pecans

    • 1 1/2 cups milk
    • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup mascarpone
    • 1/3 granulated sugar
    • 1/2 tsp pink salt
    • 2 egg yolks
    • 1 lb Black Mission Figs
    • 1 lemon, juiced
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 2-4 tbsp water
    • 1 cup honey roasted pecans, roughly chopped

     

    For the fig-swirl: Melt butter over medium heat in a saucepan. Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Halve all of the figs and toss in the saucepan with water and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until you have a chunky-jammy mixture. Add salt with one or two stirs, set aside and let cool completely.

    Ice cream: In a small pot over medium heat, combine milk, and granulated sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and the milk is just barely lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolks. Set mixture in the fridge and wait until the fig mixture is cooled.

    Using an ice cream machine, pour liquids into the frozen basin and process according to manufacturer instructions, i.e., let spin and thicken for 20 minutes before adding mascarpone, fig jam mixture, and the nuts. Continue to process for +/- 10 minutes. Pour semi-frozen mixture into a pyrex dish or glass tupperware. Freeze for at least two hours before serving.

    No ice cream maker? The Kitchn can help with that.

    Happyolks | Caramelized Fig Ice Cream

  3. As to fix

    68 Comments

    Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com

    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.

    Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com

    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…

    Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com
    Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com

    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.

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    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 with Horseradish Yogurt www.happyolks.com Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce over Lentils Happyolks-27 Grilled Carrots with Horseradish Yogurt Sauce over Lentils Happyolks-28

    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.

    (Serves a crowd)

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Let's get in Touch

I wish I could make coffee dates with you all. In the meantime, feel free to drop me a line with questions, comments, concerns, or just to say Hi. I like that. There is nothing more uplifting than an email from a a fresh contact or kindred spirit.

I can be reached through this contact form and at happyolks [at] gmail [dot] com.