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In my early teens, I was obsessed with this magazine called YM – do you remember it?  “Young and Modern.”  Shortly after, I moved on to the slightly mature Seventeen and then to the ever-trampier Cosmopolitan.  Like most young women, I looked at the pimple-free Cover Girl faces and toned-stomach beauties, agonizing over how they could possibly look so good and, still, so happy.  As the years went on, I graduated from “how to lose that arm jiggle” and “what not to do in bed” and turned my attention toward the word of colorful, delicious, creatively designed food.  I subscribed to Bon Appetit, invested in a gorgeous collection of cookbooks, and regularly drool over photos of imaginative food design from the creative minds on Instagram and throughout the food blog world.

But now, in my late 20s, reading through my blogroll creates the same facade of beauty that those magazines did all those years ago.  The posts we all see are nothing but the same photoshopped, untouched photos of Britney Spears that made us suck in our stomaches and drink cayenne-spiced maple syrup water for days in our teens.  The food blogger world creates the illusion that what happens in our kitchens is not only delicious but also art.  All the time.

Last weekend, I had the biggest #kitchenfailure of my life.  It was so bad.  Bad like when I left Adam and my mom to handle dessert once, and I walked in on them chopping up peppermint candies to put on top of an apple pie.

Car, meet cheesecake.

I woke up early last Saturday to make a cheesecake for my friend’s birthday.  If you live in San Francisco, you know that last Saturday was 75+ degrees and there was, obviously, sunbathing to be had.  So, my friend had his birthday party at the beach.  So, okay, you’re thinking — cheesecake for a beach party?  Bear with me.

Everything went smoothly in the morning — I popped the cake into the oven, and in the last 10 minutes of baking time, I noticed steam shooting through the top of my oven.  I opened the door for a peek, and within seconds, my kitchen filled with smoke, my eyes started burning, and my hair began to frizz.  I pulled the jiggling cheesecake out of the oven and thought, “What the hell do I do now?”  I could bring…apples?  So I let it sit.  (In my mind, the baking equivalent of turning my computer off and on.)  I left the apartment to — you know — breathe, and when I came back, my apartment wreaked.  The air tasted like the bottom of a burnt oven.  And my cake was a wobbling mess.  I threw it back into the smoky oven and the whole miserable experience happened again.  That’s when I realized my springform pan had a leak.  At that point, there was no time to throw the cake into the fridge (a cheesecake must), and I had come so far, that I figured I would just bring my wobbly cake to the party and everyone could just … deal with it!

I put some strategically positioned strawberries on top of the cake, sat it on the car seat next to me, and drove seven blocks before I looked over. When I did, the entire top layer had slid down onto one side of the cake and my strategically placed strawberries were drowning.  After screaming a zillion expletives, I frantically called all of the two people I knew who lived within a few blocks to borrow an oven and recook that damn cake.  No one was home.  I drove to my aunt’s house, hoping and praying the my cousin was sleeping in late, and he did not disappoint.  I re-cooked that baby, washed and replaced my strawberries, and headed to the beach.  With one hand on the wheel, one hand holding my cake straight on the center consul, cold air blasting in the hopes of helping the cake “set” faster, I drove like a psychopath, an hour late to the party, completely frazzled and frizzed out.

I parked, reached for my cake, and then the corner of my jean jacket swiped the top layer, creating a nice big crater.  I thought, “@#$fhdfaj!!!!” Never one to miss an opportunity like this, I tasted the cake on my jacket and nearly gagged.  It was completely burnt.  Again, I thought, I’ve come this far, my friend’s going to, at least, see this cake and hear every detail of this miserable story.

I brought the cake to the beach, and — no surprise here — it melted in under 10 minutes.  Completely defeated, I pushed it to the side, covered it with a dish towel, and talked about it ad nauseam.  Everyone was all, “Oh yeah … cheesecake is hard,” and I wanted to scream, “NO! It’s not! My oven this … the car that … the strawberries … my jean jacket…”  We hung out at the beach and had a great time for a couple of hours.  When I got ready to go, I lifted up the cake, and the soggy mess fell through the bottom of the springform pan and all over someone’s beautiful beach blanket.  I would have cried if I wasn’t so fed up with this damn cake.  I picked up everything and threw all $40 worth of cheeses straight into the garbage, including the miserable pan that started it all.

The next day, I needed a corrective experience.  I had a bag of blood oranges that were too soft to eat and went from there.  It was so much fun. There was juice everywhere, thyme leaves all over the floor, and sticky fingers for hours.  But it was so worth it.  It was so easy.  Although I can no longer participate in the illusion that everything that happens in a food blogger’s kitchen comes together swiftly and seamlessly, I can tell you that making a fancy popsicle sure makes a girl feel good.  Enjoy!

 

 

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What You Need

2 1/2 c blood orange juice (about nine blood oranges)

1 T fresh thyme leaves; finely chopped

1 can unsweetened coconut milk (full fat)

4 T agave nectar; divided

2 tsp vanilla extract

 

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How To Do It

In a small bowl, juice the blood oranges, mix in the thyme, and add 2 Tblsp agave nectar.  Set aside.  In another small bowl, combine vanilla, coconut milk, and 2 Tblsp agave nectar.

Pour the coconut milk mixture among the popsicle molds evenly.  Freeze for about 10 minutes.  Pour the juice mixture among the popsicle molds evenly.  Freeze for another 30 minutes.  Add the sticks and freeze for at least four hours.  Enjoy!

 

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Persian Cookies 1

Purim is coming a little late for me this year.  Just as I’m crawling out of my upside-down life, it wants to pull me back in.

There used to be so much time.

And then I went from student to professional.  And then Adam got mono.  Then I spent a weekend in New York and, before I knew it, our apartment was covered in papers, shoes, cups, kleenex, we had eaten chicken soup for two weeks, and I hadn’t updated my blog in three months.

I had completely lost my rhythm.

I don’t know how you feel when you find yourself in transition, but I can become crazed — I never drink enough water; if I can make it to the gym, my workouts are pitiful; the fridge looks repulsive; and my inspiration is tucked somewhere between last week’s recycling and the canvas bags by the door that I keep forgetting to put in my trunk.

I

JUST

CAN’T

WIN.

And then I have one really, extraordinary, completely awful, terrible day and my world feels irreparably upside-down.  The only thing that can bring me comfort in this (extremely dramatic) moment is indulging the type-A psychopath inside of me grasping for some balance:  I need to make a list.

“… Drink more water … this is how I’m going to drink more water … Absolutely work out on Tues and Thurs  … and make overnight oats and get some more dry shampoo so I can fit in a workout before work … Sort through all the recipes I have bookmarked in the last six months … actually cook some of those recipes every other weekend …  and I will do this … and I will do that … ” until I feel the balance returning to my life and I can breath a little slower.  And after finally getting a pulse on the parts of my life that have been  sl o  w   l    y          d      y          i            n             g, my world feels right-side-up and the inspiration actually starts buzzing.

When I open the fridge, the radishes start dancing along my shelf, cuddling up against the kale, and the yogurt starts smelling lemony and sweet with honey, and — just like that — I’m frying up some quinoa falafels with a sweet yogurt sauce and pickled radish.  I always thought that inspiration was something I had to let creep up on me, in it’s own time.  It’s not.

Purim is the time of year when everything is upside-down.  The Purim story is one of unexpected victory, a story about how an event intended to harm the Jews eventuates in its opposite.  We don masks and costumes, drink excessively, take on roles and act in ways that are completely absurd compared to our normal lives as a sign of the freedoms we enjoy.  The essential lesson of Purim is to try to embrace the way the world can turn upside down in a single moment.  In a time of persecution, it’s an empowering message.  But I’m just sitting here wondering what the lesson means in times of freedom and when things are working.  How much do we heed the message to embrace how quickly everything can change?

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These celebration cookies appear on Purim and in weddings.  They are buttery soft, melt-in-your-mouth (but not in your hands), can’t stop won’t stop (if you like cardamon), diet destroyers.  Perfectly paired with black tea.

Makes about 28 cookies

Recipe adapted from Gil Marks’s Encyclopedia of Jewish Food

What You Need

1 c butter

1 1/3 c confectioner’s sugar (+ a tiny bit extra for garnish)

4 egg yolks

2 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 tsp cardamon

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 c rice flour

poppy seeds to garnish

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How To Do It

Beat the butter for approximately one minute with an electric hand mixer.  Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating for about another 4 minutes until the dough becomes fluffy — it will look super crumble until *magically* it becomes creamy and fluffy.  Add one egg yolk at a time, beating the egg into the butter and sugar and then adding the next.  Once the eggs are incorporated, add the vanilla, salt, and cardamon until well combined.  Gradually add the rice flour, beating until fully incorporated.  Cover the dough and set in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line two pans with parchment paper and create 1-inch balls with approximately 2 teaspoons worth of dough.  Flatten into a (1/4 inch) disc with the palm of your hand.  Garnish with poppy seeds.  Bake for 10 minutes until the cookies have set but have not browned.  Let them sit for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack until they’ve cooled completely.  Once they are cool, garnish with a little confectioner’s sugar.  Enjoy!

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Tradition.

TRADITION!

Tradition?

Thanksgiving is a holiday I have always spent with my dad’s family. And Thanksgiving is “my dad’s holiday.” My Aunt Sarah does Channukah and my Aunt Amy does Passover. (You can almost hear Tevya, snapping his fingers and curling his wrists.) The Thanksgiving location has changed over the years as my dad and stepmom have seized the opportunity to live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle, but the details of the meal have remained fairly constant.

My dad handles the sweet potatoes. Outside of Thanksgiving, the only things I have ever known my dad to cook are meatloaf (please no, not ever) and an unbearably delicious steak. His sweet potato “draws a little from my mom,” but he has also “picked up a few things” over the years and “added his own twists,” like caramelized pecans and bourbon. Aunt Sarah makes the mashed potatoes with chives and a salad, and Aunt Amy brings the buns and apple pie. (I may already be getting grief for misremembering that one of my aunts usually brings much more than that, like multiple bottles of very expensive pinot noir. (I’m SORRY!) My stepmom slaves over the turkey for days, makes the gravy, sweats (hope not!) over the stuffing and handles everything else. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve even begun to contribute to the meal, and Adam’s culinary cocktailing may be expected to reappear for dinners to come. And then all of us. Around a big table, talking over each other, asking someone to pass a dish 37 times, exasperation, bursts of laughter, every year, over the same food, all of the same irritations and, still, acceptance. Thanksgiving is an intensely comforting time of year to me.

So, TRADITION! …… Or tradition?

This gondi dish is me . . . politely and hopefully suggesting that you GO BEYOND a roasted turkey for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Now, I have ZERO illusions about my family. In fact, someone’s probably texting me right now saying, “Forget it. You know what I’m referring to.” So, yeah. This is me . . . cowardly and cautiously begging you to eat the meal I cannot live.

Gondi — pronounced go-n-dee — is a Persian Jewish dish traditionally made from chickpea flour and some type of ground meat (either turkey, chicken, or lamb), rolled into balls, cooked in a clear broth, and served on Shabbat. Kind of like matzo ball soup. But that’s not how my family does it. In Anthony Bourdain’s show Parts Unknown, he recently traveled to Iran where he noticed that if you go into 40 homes, you will find 40 different ways to make the same dish. Learning to cook “traditional Persian food” can be maddening to the novice cook for this reason. But there’s something so incredible about the recipes taking on their own shape inside each home such that they almost become family heirlooms. So naturally, in my family, the gondi are made from ground turkey, spiced up, and loaded with cups and cups of all the best herbs, cooked in a mildly sour sauce made from tomatoes and dried lemon, and eaten whenever.

Once you have convinced your family to evolve this Thanksgiving, the most important part of this recipe is to leave your home after these have cooked and walk back inside. Do you smell that? That’s my childhood. My great-grandma, Mama, and my grandma, Amo, spending hours and hours feeding all of us unbearably delicious, fragrant Persian meals. It also reminded Adam of his Tunisian grandmother’s cooking. Something about the flavors just makes you want to curl up and look through old photos . . .  anyone’s, really.

So which one is it? In the end, I think it’s more like tradition?! We should question it, allow it to evolve, but also know when to embrace it. Gondi, cooked this way, is intensely comforting, and I hope that you create new memories and new traditions with this dish on your table, whether its for Shabbat, every day life, or even for Thanksgiving. Enjoy!

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Makes 12 tennis ball sized gondi, or 15 smaller gondi

Recipe slightly adapted from a family recipe I received from my grandfather’s niece, Linda.

What You Need

For the Sauce

1 medium onion; diced (about 2 cups)

1/2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp ground pepper

3 T tomato sauce (OR — I blended a can of diced tomatoes because I didn’t have tomato sauce and it was great)

2 fresh tomatoes; diced (about 1 cup)

2 dried lemons; cracked or punctured – see photo below – (or 1 tsp dried lemon powder) *you can find these at any Middle Eastern grocery store and sometimes at Asian markets.

6 cups of water (or vegetable/chicken stock) + approx 3.5 cups of water if you use brown rice (see below)

For the Gondi

1 onion; ground (about 1 cup)

1 lb of ground turkey

1 c raw, white basmati rice (*you can use brown rice if you prefer, but you will need to cook the gondi for 1 – 1.5 hours; also, continue adding water, approximately 3 cups, throughout the cooking process so the gondi remain submerged)

2 bunches of parsley; finely chopped (about 2 cups)

1 bunch of cilantro; finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 little bunch of mint; finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1 bunch of dill; finely chopped (about 2 cups)

1 bunch of tarragon; finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 tsp cumin

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How To Do It

This dish can be made in advance, frozen and thawed when you’re ready to eat it. It also holds up well in the fridge for several days and, in my opinion, tastes better the longer it sits.

Start with the sauce: in a large sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions when the oil is hot enough that the onions would immediately sizzle. When the onions are translucent, add all the ingredients (tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper, turmeric and dried lemons) for the sauce except for the water. Saute for about ten minutes. Add the water and bring the sauce to a boil. Allow sauce to boil for about five minutes and then turn off the heat.

*Note: to cook with dried lemon, use your hand or the bottom of a glass and apply pressure to the lemon. You want to crack it open so its unique aroma can pervade the stew. You can also use a knife and very carefully pierce part of the dried lemon in a couple of places. Same idea.

For the gondi: Combine all the ingredients (ground onion, rice, cumin, turmeric, salt & pepper, herbs) and mix well with your hands. Bring the sauce back to a boil. Shape the gondi to the size of a tennis ball or slightly smaller and add them to the boiling sauce. Add just enough water to cover the gondi (this is so the rice fully cooks). You may need to push the gondi around in the pot to make enough room. Cook over a simmer for about 40 minutes.* You’ll know it’s ready when you taste part of the gondi and the rice is thoroughly cooked. Walk out of your home and then come back inside. OMG that smell! Welcome to my childhood.

*Note: If you use brown rice, cook the gondi over a simmer for 1-1.5 hours, continuing to add water so that the gondi are always slightly covered. If you find your dish is more liquidy than you would like, cook it uncovered until the sauce reaches your desired thickness.

Gondi


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Watermelon Salad 7

Fish.

The word sounds like letting air out of a tire. It smells like somewhere I shouldn’t be. Just seeing the word on the page makes me sit back a little farther.

When I was two years old, my mom gave me tuna, I broke out in a body rash, and a handful of years later, a scratch test sent me into anaphylactic shock. Since then, I’ve carried an Epi-pen and Benadryl with me every day and to all the places that I go. Fortunately, I live in a very accommodating city. There are Bay Area food allergy support groups, allergy advisory boards (no idea what that is), and endless food options and substitutions. My allergy only becomes a problem when I travel or if I somehow end up across the table from some Chinese food.

As a kid with a food allergy, you learn how to speak up for yourself. In my small, child voice, I warned my friends’ parents about my allergy at sleepovers and remembered to ask if there was fish in my food and whether a knife or a cutting board that might have recently touched fish might have touched my food. I also learned how to be assertive in restaurants. When waiters appeared too casual, I would put my hands around my neck and make heaving sounds to send a more forceful message. I wanted to scare the people responsible for feeding me as much as I felt scared trusting them. Because when you have a life-threatening food allergy, even just an unfamiliar flavor can make your stomach sink with fear.

Having a food allergy can also make you act and think extremely irrationally, and god help the person who has to deal with you. When Adam and I visited Morocco, we packed into a taxi with too many too big people, drove three hours in the sweltering heat, stranger’s skin squished up against stranger’s skin, only to immediately turn around at our destination when I became hysterical, kvetching that the city reeked of fish and there was no way I would sleep there.

Another time, I went out with friends for vegan Chinese food on Christmas Eve. The restaurant had a page worth of fish dishes, and I thought: “This is my chance. I’ll order the “salmon.” Wow, this is really happening.” But then I became completely paranoid that the restaurant was lying about actually being vegan. There would surely be real fish brains in my fake salmon, and I would be gasping for air moments later. Instead, I ordered something with “chicken.”

And then there was the surprisingly cathartic experience of fishing for the first time in Canada. Although I fished for hours and days and never came close to catching anything, it was the first time that I felt powerful against my allergy.

The way Adam and I travel, meals are the tourist attractions. We just spent two weeks traveling through Greece, Italy and Croatia and had some unforgettable food experiences. I’ve included some photos of our trip below. I held lemons the size of melons, was shamed for choosing 0 percent Greek yogurt, ate tomatoes straight from the vine, and let freshly made pasta melt in my mouth. My allergy has often dictated the places I’m willing to travel to, and I’m sure there are people out there who, like me, allow their food allergies to prevent them from experiencing certain parts of the world. But returning from such an incredible vacation has left me wide-eyed, and I guess I just think it’s crazy to let fear get in the way of seeing the places you want to go.

This recipe was inspired by foods we ate during out trip — briny feta in Greece and thirst-quenching watermelon on the sizzling beach in Croatia. I love the color of this salad and the way it smells. The blackberries in the dressing are barely there, but they look beautiful so I couldn’t resist. Enjoy with someone you love.

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Serves: 2-3

What You Need

2 c of watermelon cubes

4 handfuls of arugula

about 2 oz of feta cheese (or slightly less than a deck of cards); broken into cubes

1 heaping tblsp red onion; finely chopped

1/4 c almond slivers

1 yellow peach; cut into small, narrow pieces

For the Dressing

1 tblsp of olive oil

juice from 1 lemon

2 blackberries; mashed

the tiniest dash of balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

salt & pepper to taste

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How To Do It

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and toss like a boss. Top with dressing, and enjoy!

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Warm Chickpea FG2

I’ve heard the story about my dad’s first day of kindergarten at least a dozen times. He was ready for the day. Excited even. But then he talked in class and was banished to the corner. It was cruel.  He barely made it out alive. When the final bell rang, he ran to his mom after class and exclaimed: “I did it! It’s over!”  Poor thing — he thought kindergarten only lasted for one day.

I only remember a few clips from kindergarten, let alone the first day. I recognized a girl in my class from JCC summer camp; she was crying and her mom was crouched down comforting her. And there was a blonde girl tending to a boy with a broken arm.  My teacher was Mrs. Kellams, I had a cubby above a kid named Jason, and I wrote about my crush on Jason in my diary.  When I think about the early years of school, the first thing that comes to mind is the smell of a freshly sharpened #2 pencil. In middle school, they had these monstrous, silver hand-wound pencil sharpeners that my friends and I would “meet” at during class to fight the boredom and pass notes. The smell would fill the class room and I was, like, crazy anal about getting the tip of pencil super sharp. I think about my immense pride dominating at four-square and all the “after school kids” who went to day care and were my earliest friends.  I have a lot of really sweet memories from the early years of school — learning how to be a friend, learning how to self-advocate, learning how to think.  And it is with loud, bursting joy that, 20+ years later, I am almost out of school and almost, finally, a real adult.

Three weeks ago, I typed the finals words into my last paper, emailed it to my professor, and just like that, I had finished law school. It was actually pretty unceremonious — especially because I had used a Crest Whitening Strip earlier that morning and my teeth were in such extreme pain that I was drooling down my neck, crouched in a fetal position on our couch, starving — but Adam gave me a pretty decent high five. In two months I’ll take the bar exam, and then I will throw out all my multi colored sticky tabs, post its, highlighters, toss a million half-used legal pads into the recycling, and retire an extremely long haul of student life.  Law school made me feel humbled, sometimes smart, mostly anxious, proud, embarrassed, and temporarily aimless, but more than anything, busy and extremely tired. At least that’s how I think I felt — now that it’s over, all I can see are rosy bushes, clean hair, and happy people jumping in gigantic bouncy machines.

I am so proud of what my friends and I have achieved, and so grateful for everyone, mostly my parents & Adam, for all the opportunities I was given that allowed me to make it this far.

Warm Chickpea Salad

What You Need

2 persian cucumbers; cut in half lengthwise and diced

2 c tomatoes; seeded and diced

1 can chickpeas

1 piece of bread; toasted and cut into cubes like croutons

1/4 c parsley; chopped

2 hardboiled eggs; grated

Dressing

2 tblsp raw tehina

juice of one lemon (if you can get the lemon pulp in there too, do it!)

a generous pinch of salt

2 tblsp water (or until your tehina reaches your desired consistency)

1 tblsp olive oil

Warm Chickpea Salad-4   Warm Chickpea Salad-3 How To Do It

Hard boil your eggs. Set aside.

Warm the chickpeas in a pan with some oil over low heat, stirring frequently until they are warm all the the way through.

Add all the salad ingredients. Dress with the tehina. Add extra salt and/or lemon to taste. Serve and eat immediately. Enjoy!

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Chardonnay Leeks-2

At a workshop a few weeks ago, a woman asked the group of us to think about the strongest message we received about money when we were young and write it on a sticker. Below it, she said to write down the strongest message we received about “giving.” Then she blind-sided us and said we had to wear the sticker. I felt so exposed. I wrote: “It’s hard to make a dollar” above “Give money to the arts.” Both of these messages came from my mom.

As a kid, I spent a lot of hours sitting in the car silently while my mom made work calls. She had a huge, white binder and sometimes I would read phone numbers out loud to her so she could call people when you were still allowed to hold your phone and drive. I remember she used a gravel-colored paper for press releases and that her business logo at the top of the page felt slightly raised under my fingers as they slid across the letters. I remember the smell of cardboard boxes, clay, and the sound of clear masking tape stretching across the middle of a box tightly packed and filled with styrofoam peanuts. I remember spending spring breaks at horse shows in Kentucky and in Scottsdale and getting a painful shot in anticipation of joining her in Guam for an unveiling of her art. It’s hard to make a dollar.

Every December, my whole family used to travel to Florida to stay at my grandparent’s place for the holidays. At nights, my uncle and aunts would pile by the piano to sing Carol King and Cat Stevens, and eventually the night would end with the whole family erupting into: “Those were the days my friends, we thought they’d never end…!”  I remember my mom playing piano and singing “Glocca Morra” for my grandpa while he and my grandmother softly harmonized, exchanging flirtatious smiles. I remember my eyes widening so big when my mom sang opera that the corners would begin to burn. I remember being at home in our apartment, eight or nine years old, sitting at the piano late one night with my mom while she patiently taught me “Heart and Soul.” She gave me the deepest hug, yelped from excitement when I got it right, and made me feel like I was exceptional. I remember walking by street musicians and my mom never passing by without giving a dollar or two to enjoy their sweet sounds. Give money to the arts.

I don’t remember hearing “money messages” when I was young. But I learned so much when she didn’t know I was looking.

Chardonnay Leeks

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Serves 2 overeaters or 3 people comfortably. Serve with a salad and it could serve 3-4 comfortably.

What You Need

Dough: No-knead whole wheat pizza dough — click here  OR easiest flatbread dough — click here (*If using the whole wheat recipe, make dough 12 hrs ahead) OR change this to an appetizer and just buy a sourdough baguette 

2 leeks; halved and thinly sliced

1 tblsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 c chardonnay (I used a cheap one — Charles Shaw)

1/2 tsp agave nectar (honey would be fine)

approx 2 tblsp goat cheese

approx 3 tblsp flat parsley; chopped (*arugula would be good, too)

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How To Do It

Get the dough ready, whether you are using the whole wheat recipe or the flatbread recipe. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees F.

While the oven is preheating, saute the leeks with the olive oil over high heat until they are soft, caramelized and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with salt. Add the chardonnay — the leeks should be just covered (not drowning) so you may have to adjust your measurement depending on your pan. Let braise over medium-high heat until the liquid has cooked out. Taste the leeks. Freak out about how good they taste. If the flavor is off, adjust with more salt or more chardonnay.

When the oven is ready, cook your dough without toppings for about 5-7 minutes or until the bottom begins to brown and the dough is nearly cooked through. Spread the goat cheese all over the bread, getting some on the crust and evenly distributing it over every bite. Spread the leeks all over evenly. Cook until the edges of the crust start to brown and dough is cooked.

Sprinkle with ample parsley (or arugula). Enjoy!

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Crumble

Some days you have to eat cake.  I don’t really like cake, so some days I have to eat scotchmallows from See’s Candies.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I drove to the mall to go shopping and eat candy but almost everything I tried on looked ugly.  Or didn’t fit.  I felt sad.  My body started to drift toward See’s and once I approached the counter, fully ready to deliver my order, a wave of heat flew up my body as I noticed that the scotchmallow display was empty.  “Oh no! Are you out of scotchmallows?” I asked the woman. She looked at me with a slightly annoyed but almost kind of empowered grin and said they’d been out since Valentine’s Day.  And in my mind, I popped 100 red, heart-shaped balloons with a very sharp pencil.

When I got home, I needed a corrective experience.  Shopping failed.  Scotchmallows failed. But I knew that a crumble like this could only succeed because it barely requires brain power. And desserts that require little to no brain power are my kind of desserts. The instructions should really read: warm fruit, mix dry ingredients, pour dry on top of wet, bake, stuff your face.  Parents, are you listening? This is so easy that you should 100 percent do this with your kids. Baking-challenged readers, are you taking note? Everyone who is short on time, can I get an Amen?!  Ease aside, this tart, berry crumble is delicious and goes a long way for for those like me who don’t like super sweet desserts and don’t have a lot of extra time in the evenings. Plus, the topping is made from heart-healthy ingredients that won’t leave you feeling unsatisfied. And dare I say, if you added some yogurt on top, you could call this breakfast.  Enjoy!

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What You Need

1 12 oz. bag of frozen berries (I used blackberries, strawberries, blueberries)

1/2 bag of frozen mango (1 cup)

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/2 c shredded, sweetened coconut

1 tblsp agave nectar

The Topping

1/2 c rolled oats (replace with any non-gluten grain or use gluten free oats if you’d prefer)

1 c almond meal

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c shredded, sweetened coconut

2 tblsp brown sugar

2 tblsp coconut oil

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How To Do It

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Over medium heat, warm the berries and mango until softened (stir so nothing gets stuck to pot).  Add the lemon juice, agave, and 1/2 c coconut and cook for about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix all of the ingredients listed under “the topping” except for the sugar and coconut oil.  Place the berries in dish and spread evenly. Next, spread the topping evenly over the berries. Finally, sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top and dollop the coconut oil evenly atop the sugar. Bake until the berries begin bubbling through the topping or along the sides (about 30 minutes).  When you serve it, just slightly mix up the berries and oat topping so it gets perfectly moistened. Enjoy!

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Breakfast Chickpeas

Because oatmeal is really depressing.

I’m, like, super particular about my morning food.  I have eaten the same smoothie every morning for the last three years.  Every now and then, I won’t want to clean the blender and I’ll pour a bowl of granola, but I get kinda bent out of shape if I don’t have my daily dose of frozen fruit.  But man, I must have blacked out when I made this breakfast.  I thought, oh, it’ll be cute to take a picture with a bite missing from the stack.  And then I completely lost my mind. Within seconds, I had eaten the entire stack of pancakes.  TWELVE pancakes!  And I’m not a 250 lb man!  I thought about skipping lunch.  I considered going to the gym.  And then I slid across my floor and danced a little jig (I had a nice sugar rush going) because there really wasn’t anything to feel guilty about.  Except not saving any for Adam.

All hail the banana.  The more I look, the more often people are doing amazing things with bananas.  A single frozen banana mixed with peanut butter and chocolate yields a totally simple, affordable, calorie-friendly alternative to ice cream.  A fried banana covered in nuts is OMG so good and easy.  And I never would have thought that bananas could replace flour in a pancake – I thought you’d at least need something like almond meal.  Now, before you get all negative-Nancy on me and question the consistency of these guys, I’ll come right out and tell you that these pancakes are softer than normal pancakes. But what do you expect? They’re flourless!  But hey aren’t mushy, can hold a shape, and stacked on top of one another, you wouldn’t hate the difference.  These particular guys draw quite a bit of sweetness from the agave-vanilla-BOURBON syrup, but the blackberries give a quick flash of sourness to calm it all down.  This is a great option if you are gluten-free, dairy free, trying out the paleo thing, or just curious! I’ll definitely make these again and I can’t wait to hear what you think.  Enjoy!

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Serves: makes approximately 10-12 pancakes

Inspired by this recipe

What You Need

2 ripe bananas; mashed

4 eggs

1 tsp cinnamon

about 10 blackberries; chopped

1/2 c sweetened, shredded coconut

2 tblsp coconut oil

pinch of salt

Bourbon-Vanilla Syrup (please feel free to use your own diet-friendly syrup)

1/3 c agave nectar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp bourbon

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How To Do It

Mash up the bananas until almost smooth, and then mix in the eggs. Combine the rest of the ingredients. Over medium heat, warm up a little coconut oil. Drop a tiny bit of the batter onto the pan and when it has cooked, you’ll know the oil is hot and ready.  Spoon as much batter as you want for your pancake, and fry for about 1.5 – two minutes per side.

For the syrup, just combine all the ingredients and pour.  I like my syrup warm so I heated it very slightly for about 10 seconds.

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Minimalism is in.  And, anyways, it feels good to say no.

It has been a slow stroll into 2014 for me. I’ve neglected my gmail account. I’ve turned my text alert off. I’ve forgotten my log in password for my school’s website, and heaven help me if I can recall my locker code tomorrow morning. But slow feels right.

Around the holidays — beginning with Thanksgiving and ending right after New Years — my creative juices fizzle against the pressure to pump out peppermint desserts, pumpkin flour pies, and latkes with the new “current,” random root vegetable.  The holidays make me want to dig my heels in and just say “no!” to my blog becoming another “thing” I have to do instead of a creative outgrowth of being alive.  So, I usually pick up a show, binge watch four or five seasons, and then it’s safe to come out from hiding.

I’ve said no to some other things, too.  Like running.  I hate it, so I’m not doing it again – unless it’s dark out and the N Judah is coming.  And high heels. Bunions hurt and my knees are angry.  I tossed some used books, sold old clothes, and hung artwork that was blocking doors and collecting dust. I dumped some eyeshadow from 2005, two of my three copies of Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird, and 42 lbs worth of notebooks scribbled with Farsi, course readers, and English essays from my freshman year of college. In my minimalist quest, I discovered $50 in Amazon gift cards, repurposed an old window, and I finally bought a container for what has got to be 1,000 sq feet of bubble wrap.  Kids, say no to drugs?  Say no to clutter! (and drugs.) 

If there is anything you should say yes to, however, it’s this breakfast.  Oh. My. Gosh. Honestly, I was just craving my favorite hummus from Tel Aviv, and I ended up with this dish that is lip-smacking delicious.  The chickpeas are really smooth, the cumin and cayenne are warm and subtle, and the lemon is perfectly bright.  The kale gives a crunchy texture and the drippy yolk slides right over your tongue like it ain’t no thang.  This is the kind of breakfast you make for someone you love. Including yourself. Enjoy!


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Serves 2 – 3 people

What You Need

2 tblsp olive oil

1 leek; halved and thinly sliced (or approx. 2 cups)

1/4 tsp cumin seeds (if you don’t have these, just use a little more cumin)

2 garlic cloves; minced

1 c white mushrooms; thinly sliced

6-7 cherry tomatoes; quartered

1/4 c kale; chopped

harissa/cayenne pepper/something with a kick (to your taste)

1 can of chickpeas

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

1/2 c veggie broth

1-3 eggs over easy  (depending on how many people you are cooking for)

cayenne pepper & chopped kale to garnish

 

Breakfast Chickpeas

How To Do It

Saute the leeks and cumin seeds in olive oil over med-high heat.  Once the leeks soften add the mushrooms and garlic.  After about 10 minutes, stirring so the leeks don’t burn but become a golden brown, add the tomatoes, harissa (or whatever spicy substitute you’re using) kale, chickpeas, lemon juice and salt. Continue stirring for a couple of minutes and then add the vegetable broth.  Cook until most of the liquid has disappeared.  Top with an over-easy egg and garnish with cayenne pepper and chopped kale.  Enjoy!


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Some weekends remind us how far we’ve come.

Half of the time, I grew up in a Splenda house.  A non-fat milk, sugar-free chocolate, ten-calorie popsicle, crazy-fiber-muffins-for-breakfast-make-for-super-embarrassing-drives-to-school kind of house.

The other half of the time I spent eating cantaloupe for dessert.  Cantaloupe or Jell-o with whipped cream.  Cantaloupe is what you eat when you’d rather be eating brownies.  Cantaloupe tastes like the back of a fridge.  Cantaloupe is diet food, and I can’t look at a cantaloupe today without feeling bad about my body.

I spent my entire adolescence eating around the food that was actually good for me.  I thought I knew what the “right” food choices were.  But do you know how much better coffee with half-and-half actually tastes?  Or how much better simple olive oil, balsamic, and salt tastes than some Newman’s reduced-calorie vinaigrette that oddly never seems to mold or expire?

I can’t say I’m wholly reformed today.  I still sit in classrooms ignoring important career panel discussions because I’m deciding if “it’s a good idea” to get another cookie from the buffet spread.  But these days, I’m more scared of the non-fats, low-fats, sugar-frees, and Splenda, than I am of going back for seconds.

A couple of weekends ago, I sat on the couch and fisted handfuls of homemade granola into my mouth with a demented half-grin on my face.  I drank an enormous cup of delicious, over-priced coffee that had some real, full-fat cream in it.  Then I stood up, waved my freak flag, and felt proud to have entered a new phase of my life where eating has more to do with satisfaction than with fear.

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Makes two 8 cups of granola — or 2 quarts (in mason jar language)

What You Need

“The Granola”

3 C rolled oats

1.5 C shredded, sweetened coconut

2 T fennel seeds

2 T sesame seeds

1/2 C sunflower seeds

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cardamon

1 C dried, unsweetened cranberries (reserved for after)

“The Glue”

2/3 C agave nectar

3 T (heaping) coconut oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

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How To Do It

Just a warning: this granola is unbearably addictive.  Parental supervision required.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a pan with parchment paper.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the granola except for the cranberries. Over medium heat, melt the agave, coconut oil, and vanilla. Pour over the granola and mix until all the granola is well-coated.  Spread the granola onto the parchment paper so it is evenly distributed.  Bake until the edges of the granola begin to crisp up (about 10 – 15 minutes), remove from the oven and mix it all up again.  Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until granola is a nice golden color.  Mix in the cranberries.  Leave your house and walk back in so you can enjoy the smell.  Let cool on the stove for at least 20 minutes.  Store in an airtight container.  Enjoy!

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