muffins-2

Nava is 6 months old today. I’ve breastfed her approximately 1,800 times, she has consumed approximately 5,000 ounces – or 600 cups – or about one bathtub – of breastmilk from me, not including the 300+ ounces I’ve frozen.  I’ve used nipple creams, breast gels, frozen cabbage leaves, and nipple shields. I’ve nursed through swollen, bleeding, and cracked nipples, growth spurts, sleep regressions, and now we’re teething; in airports, retirement homes, cars, malls; and on park benches, beds, and floors. I’ve pumped on airplanes, at airport gates, at weddings and at all hours of the night. I’ve tripped over my pump tubing; battled an oversupply, plugged milk ducts, breast infections; and I’ve squirted my daughter in the eyes countless times when she unlatched unexpectedly. I’ve joined an online breastfeeding support group, taken my daughter to cranial sacral therapy to improve her latch; watched, read, and reviewed “latch” YouTube videos; and never used the word “latch” so many times in my life. I constantly worry whether she is getting enough breastmilk; I have a comeback ready if anyone tells me to cover my tatas in public; and I knowingly smile at other moms with small babies. I’ve spilled, wasted, and tasted my breastmilk.  Three words: vanilla ice cream.  Making it this far is my proudest accomplishment because it was hard won.

I’ve always felt a pull toward motherhood. As a child, my stuffed animals were my children, with feelings, in need of cuddling, and deserving of apologies if you sat on parts of their bodies. From middle school to graduate school, I cared for infants, multiples, and birthday parties full of toddlers. There wasn’t an arrangement of children I couldn’t handle well or easily entertain. Everyone told me that I’d be a natural mom one day. When Nava was born, I understood the feeling people obnoxiously refer to as a “calling” in life. Holding her felt instinctive, my love for was instantaneous, and even my maternal anxiety set in that first night in a terrifying nightmare.

And then, for that first week, we tried breastfeeding. Or — to paint a more honest picture — I tried shoving her tiny face into my sore, cracked and bleeding nipples while using my other hand to hold my breast and shape it into a nipple “sandwich,” remembering not to lean forward because that’s “an unsustainable breastfeeding position,” while protecting her fragile body from falling off the pillows and blankets propped under her and surrounding me for the right positioning  No one — not family, not friends, not Pinterest, not even the lactation consultant who led my breastfeeding class at Kaiser — told me that breastfeeding wouldn’t feel natural. So, I’ll just whisper to you a truth that no one whispers to you until you are a mom who is struggling with breastfeeding: breastfeeding is really hard, and you might hate it. 

Everyone does tell you to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” But when you’re a mom struggling with breastfeeding, you can’t sleep when the baby sleeps because, when the baby sleeps, you just can’t stop yourself from pouring over articles, forums, YouTube videos and online support groups so that you know what to do with your breasts when the baby is awake.  I saw swollen, bleeding nipples everywhere: in my miniature cranberry muffin (see below!), in the bulbous blackberries in my morning oatmeal, in mushy figs, and in the tips of lemons.  I dreamt that my nipples were elastic and that Nava could stretch them like pieces of gum. And when I filled up my water bottle, all I could see were my collection bottles filling up with breast milk. I could hear my breast pump talk. I had become desperate and deranged.

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At the end of our first week, my lactation consultant encouraged me that things would improve by six weeks — as if the babies get some email that they’re supposed to sleep more and chew on your nipples less. With tired eyes, I looked at my hungry, vulnerable baby and at my misshapen, ruby red nipples and could only think, “That’s, like, 400 more breastfeeding sessions.” I didn’t want to quit, but I wannnnnnted to quit.  Breastfeeding my daughter was something my body was made to do, something that mothers everywhere have always done, so why couldn’t I?  I didn’t feel like a “natural” mom at all. When Nava cried, I felt dread. I felt fear. More than a few times, we cried together.

My lactation consultant gave me the names of several local breastfeeding support groups where I could find support among other moms struggling to breastfeed. I rolled my eyes inside and around my head imagining a bunch of emotional wrecks sitting in a circle with their engorged boobs hanging down to their belly buttons as some stranger with really cold hands grabbed their breasts. What a snob. I should have gone. Eventually I found camaraderie among the strangers in an online breastfeeding support group. There were thousands of moms sharing their desperation to quit but asking strangers to encourage them so they could get to that magical place where breastfeeding is “amazing.” A lot of stories made me laugh, a few stories have made me cry, and all of these women gave me perspective: watching blood from their nipples trickle down the side of their baby’s mouth while nursing, snipping and laser-cutting their week-old babies’ tongue and lip ties, thrush, midnight fevers from infected breasts.  I waited for someone somewhere to confess: “and then she completely bit off my nipple.” #Normalizebreastfeeding? #Normalizenipplepain! Those strangers, their success stories, their much-worse-situations gave me the strength to continue. Struggling to nurse is not shameful. It is normal. It could probably even be funny with the right script and the right actors.

Like everyone told me it would, eventually things improved for us but well beyond six weeks. Then things got tough again. And then they improved. Right now, breastfeeding is sweet, euphoric. Nava raises her warm, baby palm against my mouth, searching for my tongue with her tiny fingers. She twirls my hair. She gently waves the palm of her free hand across my chest, back and forth. She groans from pleasure. She takes breaks mid-feed to stop and smile at me and then furiously buries her face in my chest. Everything in her world can be wrong until I bring her close to me to nurse. It’s my superpower.

After weeks of Nava grabbing and lunging at our food, I knew it was time to introduce her to solids, but I came up with lots of reasons why we should keep waiting. Like any parent, I was excited to see her face contort when she tasted sour apples and mushy bananas, but also, I was a little bit jealous. For six months, I’ve been her preferred source of comfort, the first thing she explored when she entered the world. I didn’t deserve to be replaced by produce. When she made her first face of disgust, I was like, “Yeah, this sweet potato is whack. Let’s go nurse, Navi! You want mama!” Look, after what we went through, I’d be crazy not to breastfeed this child until she’s in college.

I never thought I’d breastfeed after six months. It has been an unexpected ordeal, a huge commitment, and it is so exhausting. It is all hours of the day, a few times at night, in outfits that don’t come off easily, in really hot weather, and in the ugliest bras that you have to sleep in foreverrrr. It has pushed me to the outer edges of my limits, teaching me about my own determination, commitment, willingness to sacrifice, and strength. Knowing there will be a not too distant day when we will have our very last nursing session together honestly makes me kind of nauseated. I’m not ready for it. But I also know that being her mom will involve a lifetime of letting go and allowing her to flourish as she is meant to. And so, as I teach her, she teaches me, and I trust that she’ll let me know when she’s ready to leave this stage behind, and I will be there to guide her through the next one.

This week, I am sharing a recipe for cranberry muffins with you – an homage to the early days of nipple creams, walking around topless, screaming in the shower, wincing in pain from a terrycloth towel, and all of that.  These muffins are only slightly sweet. They’re mostly tart and you shouldn’t feel bad if you eat five mini muffins because they’re mini. Enjoy!

muffins
Makes about 15 regular muffins or about 24 mini muffins
Inspired by this recipe
What You Need
1/2 c coconut oil (measurement is melted)
1 c greek yogurt
1 1/4 c coconut sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oat flour
1/2 tsp of the following:
     baking soda
     baking powder
     ginger
     cardamon
     salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 c fresh cranberries
chocolate shavings (optional and as much as you want)
How to Do It

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line your muffin tin with muffin papers, or don’t – doesn’t matter. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the coconut oil, yogurt, coconut sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until smooth (about 20 seconds). In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cardamon, nutmeg and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk just until combined. Do not overmix! Fold the cranberries into the batter and add the chocolate shavings, if you’re using them. The batter will appear very dry. That is okay.Fill each muffin tin to the top with batter. Generously sprinkle the tops of the muffins with coconut sugar and bake for 25 minutes. Enjoy!

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butternut-squash-soup-with-tarragon

Five days overdue.  Prays baby doesn’t come on Bay to Breakers.  Sciatica.  Questions acupuncture to induce labor.  Season One of Call the Midwife. Joyful; I’m going to be a mom!  Six days overdue. Seasons Two and Three of Call the Midwife. Serenity; a natural birth will be a breeze! Seasons Four of Call the Midwife. Lots of crying. Worries about labor, worries about baby.  Seven days overdue.  Rubs belly and sings to baby.  Searches Pinterest for ways to prepare for newborn.  Imagines laying in backyard with baby and smelling flowers.  Baby kicks ribs, punches abdomen.  Get this baby out of me.  Considers acupuncture.  Eight days overdue.  Prays baby doesn’t come on Bay to Breakers.  Pedicure and foot massage to induce labor.  Seven days overdue. Acupuncture to induce labor.   Prays water doesn’t break on Bay to Breakers. 8 days overdue.  Questions acupuncture. Massive walk in the Marina, lots of stairs.  Manicure on Irving St.  9 days overdue. Morning of Bay to Breakers, water breaks.  Panic. Friendly police officers with traffic guidance. Hospital bag.  Kaiser.  Delivery room with a view.  Family in waiting room.

Doctors can’t confirm water broke.  Insists it wasn’t pee.  Waits.  Bounces on yoga ball.  2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours.  Was it pee? Bounces on yoga ball.  Five hours, six hours. Doctors confirm water broke.  Waits.  Natural birth.  Jolly ranchers.  Monitors. Baby’s heart rate.  Nurses in and out.  Waits.  1 cm, maybe.  Walks hallway with Adam 46 times.  12 hours.  “Have you tried nipple stimulation?”  Woman uproariously moaning next door.  Walks hallway with Adam 46 more times.  New baby cries. Tears, mine.  Still 1 cm.  “Induce?” Natural birth.  Bounces on yoga ball.  “You know, sometimes nipple stimulation can help.” Morphine sleep.  Amateur cramping.  “Epidural?”  Fentanyl.  Raspberry jello.  12 hours. “We have to induce you.”

Disappointment.  Pitocin, 2 units.  Breathing.  My body was made to do this.  “Epidural?” Natural birth.  Hospital bed hurts. Adam sleeping.  Cramping.  My body was made to do this.  Breathing.  “Epidural?”  No.  Pitocin, 4 units. Deep breathing.  My body was made to this.  24 hours.  3 cm, maybe.  Pitocin, 6 units, 8 units, 10 units.  Deeeep breathing.  Deep stretching.  Oh. My. God. CONTRACTION.  Insane back pain.  Screams at Adam.  30 hours. “Epidural?”  No!  Breathing.  Deep stretching. Screams at Adam.  My body was made to do this.  CONTRACTION.  Hangs on Adam’s shoulders. CONTRACTION.  On all fours.  My body was made… this mantra is bullshit! Buries face in hospital bed.  Can’t get comfortable.  CONTRACTION. Breathing.  Here it comes. Breathing?  I can’t do this!  EPIDURAL!  EPIDURAL, NOW.  Adam discourages epidural, part of my “instructions.”  Screams at Adam.  Sees epidural needle.  Holy shit.  “Don’t move; I’m inserting the needle.”  WAIT, CONTRACTION! “Hold still…!”  Fire.  So much fire. Squeeze’s Adam’s hand.  Relief.

Raspberry jello.  Waits.  Raspberry jello.  Waits. Raspberry jello.  10 cm.  This epidural is amazing.  Friendly doctors.  Pushing. Embarrassing sounds.  Don’t care.  Sees head.  Holy shit, that’s a head.  Pushing.  I can do this.  Baby’s heart rate drops.  Fear. “We have to turn the baby.”  Doctor’s hands inside my body, turning baby.  SHRIEKS.  Pushing.  “The head is out.”  Adam, the head is out? “I see the head, Lauren!”  There’s a head hanging out of my body.  Holy shit.  PRESSURE. “Don’t push!”  MUST PUSH!  So slippery.  Immense relief.  Cord around neck.  Crying. It’s a… it’s a … it’s a girl!  Skin to skin.  Motherhood.

From my delivery room, I heard the deep grumbles and moans of the women around me becoming mothers, their hips expanding, their skin stretching and tearing as they pushed out the selfishness and made space for the sacrifice and love to come.  Then it was my turn. Holding our babies, we all existed for the first time as mothers.  On my drive to work most days, I’d sing  “Circle Game” to Nava inside my belly. We sang it at summer camp growing up, and the song made me nostalgic for my own coming of age. As we left the hospital to load Nava into the car, there was a farmer’s market in front of the hospital. I heard a folksy woman’s sweet voice singing “Circle Game,” and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Nava was so fragile, had so much experience ahead of her, and she was ours.

How do you measure a life? Nava has been alive for 171 days. That’s about 157 baths before bed. Approximately 423 bedtime stories.  About 1,710 diapers.  One large tub of Aquaphor. She sits, crawls, and says “buh.” She loves books, Hebrew prayers, and the word “toot.” She gives away smiles for free, is her most playful during the first hour of the day and the last hour before bed, and licks the mirror when she sees her own reflection.  She is determined, alert and patient. Although she hasn’t been here very long, it feels like she was here the whole time.  It has been a foggy, disorienting, and  – at times – chaotic 171 days, but loving Nava is so peaceful.

butternut-squash-soup-with-tarragon-2

This soup comes together in under 30 minutes, making it nap-friendly to even the worst of sleep regressing babies. Enjoy it with a huge hunk of crusty sourdough bread.

What You Need

2 tblsp coconut oil (before it is melted)

1 medium yellow onion (or about 1.5 cups of coarsely chopped onion); coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves; peeled

2 tsp salt

1.5 c of loosely chopped fresh tarragon

1 small green apple (about 1 cup coarsely chopped)

7 c of butternut squash; cubed

4 c vegetable broth

additional salt & pepper to taste

Optional: pumpkin seeds, yogurt, and / or cinnamon to top!

How To Do It

Heat up the coconut oil over medium heat. While that’s happening, saute the onion with one tsp of salt and the whole garlic cloves. While the onion is softening and browning, chop your apple and tarragon, and add them to the onions and garlic when the onion has slightly browned. Mix together for about 5 minutes. Mix in the chopped butternut squash, add another tsp of salt, and fill with veggie broth until all the contents are covered. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash has softened and bits of squash are peaking out through the liquid. Blend. Enjoy!

Israeli Salad

I always imagined that when I was pregnant, I would do everything right.  I’d eat super foods, take prenatal vitamins daily, exercise regularly and read all the books (shoots arm up with a mighty fist).   For the first 15 weeks of my pregnancy, I drank only sparkling apple juice, forced down bagels and cream cheese, and relentlessly chewed Trident cinnamon gum.  My tongue was torched, and my mouth tasted so bad.  All the time.  I made all the wrong food choices, but everyone kept saying, “Just eat what you can.”  So, I ate starbursts.  My vomit was neon.  I was exhausted.  I couldn’t exercise.  For the first time in my life, I was “underweight.”  I asked my doctor if I could get that in writing.

I want to just get a few things out of the way.  Prenatal vitamins taste like compost.  What to Expect When You’re Expecting should be re-titled How to Convince Yourself Your Baby is Dying.  Exercising is, like, really, really hard when your body is building another person.  Hair grows so fast.  Like, everywhere.  So that’s new.  And that’s about all I can comfortably disclose on a food blog.

Nobody tells you about the thin cloak of lies you have to wear during the first trimester (that is, if you wait until the 12th week mark).  Sending meat back at a restaurant, in front of your co-workers, because it is “100 percent raw” even though it’s clearly medium-rare, while you nonchalantly conceal it with some salad .  Telling your friends weekend after weekend, “it’s so weird, I still feel so sick…”  Feeling awful when one of them asks if you still want to be friends after blowing her off for three months because you “feel icky.” Casually slipping (running) away to the bathroom at work to vomit in a public restroom, in your heels, and coming back to your office “happy to stay late to work on a project.”

At 8 weeks, the morning sickness had me in tears.  I wanted to call my mommmmmy who had suffered through morning sickness with me for five months.  Can we just pause right there?  Five months?  After her shrieks of joy, she assured me that it was a good sign and wouldn’t last forever, and that actually made me feel better.  Then she asked to talk to Adam, who later told me that she said, “Can Lauren hear me?”  He said, “no.”  And she replied, “Morning sickness is the worst thing, like, ever.  I wanted to cut my leg off.”

At a certain point between 4 and 16 weeks, my body turned against Adam.  His breath, his skin, his pillows — everything smelled like a wet tetherball pole.  He bought a dozen different scented soaps but the only thing worse than wet tetherball pole is “Forest Man.”  I went onto one of those crazy pregnant lady online forums to see if anyone else experienced this with their partners and, as it turns out, some women would throw up at the smell of their partners, or even their own children.  We both felt better, but also kind of terrible.

One day, I walked into Whole Foods and walked past a man who smelled like he had bathed in vinegar.  I shot a revolted face at him, and then immediately felt self-conscious that he may have thought I was racist.  I tried to casually look at other things in his direction to, you know, throw him off and then continued walking through the store, mouth breathing. About 100 feet away from the man, I came toe to cap with a broken bottle of balsamic vinegar pooling in the floorboards.  I was a super hero.  I could smell my husband’s hormones, and I could detect vinegar from across a grocery store.

Around 16 weeks – 18 weeks, I started eating fruit again, about 12 clementines daily.  It didn’t seem like a lot at the time, but eventually, the acid started burning away at the lining of my stomach.  I moved on to pineapple – that is, an entire pineapple – and now I don’t really mind that “I ate too much pineapple” feeling like someone filed your tongue with an emery board.  I guess that was my “cravings” stage.

The food intolerances and sensitivity to smell have been replaced with sciatica, the inability to roll over without some gentle assistance, and the urgent need to pee 100 times per day.  The other morning, I laid in bed lamenting whether to put forth the effort to get up to pee or try to go back to sleep.  I eventually debated myself back into a slumber only to be abruptly awakened by the feeling that I was about to pee in our bed.  I should register for adult diapers, too.

Now that I’m beginning the third trimester, the pregnancy symptoms are  just par for the course, and I’m mentally preparing for motherhood. I’ve been thinking about the importance of not putting pressure on myself to be a particular type of parent like I did imagining the type of pregnant person I would be.  There is a lot I want to do, but my body is changing, my energy is changing, and there are so many other demands to consider in the balance.  There is a lot that is outside of my control, and I’m learning how to be okay with just doing the best I can each day, sometimes in each moment.

It was 75+ degrees in SF over the weekend.  We sunbathed, walked on the beach, and the heat got me back into the kitchen.  This salad is so basic, but it looks so damn beautiful.  Painting the tehina on the rim of the plate is something we saw at a restaurant in Tel Aviv, and it feels right that the first recipe I post during my pregnancy is one that I ate shortly before we decided we were ready to start a family.  Enjoy this at any meal and take it easy.

Israeli Salad-2

Serves 3-4 as a side

What You Need:

4 Persian cucumbers; sliced on a bias

1 12 oz box of colorful cherry tomatoes

1 heaping tblsp red onion; minced

1/4 c fresh flat leaf parsley; minced

1/4 c fresh mint; minced

crumbled feta (optional)

sprinkle of salt

juice from 1/2 lemon

Tehina (*taste as you go, and adjust to your liking; the tehina should should be the consistency of yogurt)

3 tblsp tehina

approx 4 tblsp water

juice from 1/2 lemon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp honey

How To Do It:

Cut up the salad components, and mix them in a bowl.  Arrange in the center of a large, flat plate.  Take a teaspoon and a drag tehina along the rim of the plate.  You can spread it flat or leave it artfully decorating the rim.  Serve so that each person gets salad with some tehina.  Enjoy!

Israeli Salad-3

Sweet Potato-4

So many big, happy changes.  Everywhere.

A best friend about to move across the country to save lives.  A friend who said yes – two actually!  Friends became lawyers, doctors, published authors and journalists.  Some sang on Broadway and had starring roles in films, others gave up high paying jobs to travel for months, became professional athletes, moved across the country, had a baby, changed careers.

I know a lot of people who followed their dreams.

When I was an adolescent, my friends and I always talked about the big milestones —  finding our first love, marriage, when we’d have kids, what we’d be doing at 25 years old, what we wanted to accomplish in life.  Why was it always 25? 25 is so young!  By now, I thought I’d be a journalist, traveling to war-torn countries, writing, photographing, reporting for Vanity Fair, somehow I’d also be married with a family and maybe also a politician.  What?!  Am I where I thought I would be when I was a teenager? Partly yes, mostly no.  Mostly happy about that.

The things I want out of my life have changed since I was a teenager imagining my future life.  And the way I want to exist in the world and impact it has also scaled down to something more local.  When I was young, I don’t know, I felt an obligation to think I my life had to “matter” and I had to change the world, and the only way I would matter is if I did.  It’s a lot of pressure to change the world!  Instead, my hopes for myself or more local — make someone laugh, inspire someone, help a family make better lifestyle choices — but it took some time to let go of the expectations I had for myself and make the space for where I actually am and what I actually want out of my life.

Still, I have these little dreams that I keep in my pocket that have nothing to do with who I am from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  They’re the things I want to do on the side of my job that are unrelated to the realities of life, like paying off debt or paying a mortgage.  One of those little pocket dreams is happening in a couple of weeks.  Adam and I are hosting “Jerusalem West,” the first in a series of Middle Eastern pop-up lunches.  If you live in San Francisco, here is the Eventbrite link.  I’d love to see you there.

I’m not where I thought I would be at this age, and I have a lot of friends who aren’t either.  Many of them have packed their bags and changed the course of their lives completely, and it’s incredible to be so brave.  I’m pretty happy where I am right now, but their bravery has inspired me to think about my dreams and find the courage to make one of them happen.

Sweet Potato-2

As promised, like, one hundred years ago when I last posted, this recipe is a great make-ahead dish to have ready for the week or to feed some hungry friends for brunch.  You honestly can’t mess up this recipe either.  If you do, let’s talk.  Experiment with the toppings — try different herbs and lots of them, pine nuts, maybe ditch the yogurt and top with feta and chickpeas? The options are endless.  Just have some fun!

What You Need

Serves at least 4

4 sweet potatoes

2 tblsp butter

1/4 c pistachios (I prefer salted, but if you can always salt them yourself)

smoked paprika, cinnamon, cumin; a few good shakes of each one

1 cup of yogurt

juice from one lemon

2 tblsp honey

scant handful of parsley; chopped

(*optional herbs: tarragon, mint or dill would be yummy.  Make it a full meal with some chickpeas or beans for added protein)

Sweet Potato-3

How To Do It

Preheat your oven to 425 F.  Scrub and wash the sweet potatoes.  Poke some holes into each one with a fork.  Rub a little bit of oil on each potato and wrap each one in aluminum foil.  Cook the sweet potatoes for 50-60 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and slice down the middle.

Over medium heat, melt the butter with the pistachios and some salt (unless you’re using salted pistachios).  Let the butter foam until it turns brown (a few minutes).  Pour the butter and nuts over the sweet potatoes evenly.  Sprinkle some salt, and a few light shakes of cinnamon, cumin, and smoked paprika.  When in doubt, do a little more sprinkling.

Mix the lemon and honey with the yogurt.  Let the potatoes cool slightly and then top with yogurt, sprinkle a little more cinnamon and smoked paprika, and top with chopped parsley.  Enjoy!

Sweet Potato

Roasted Chickpeas-2

Everybody always thinks I’m a vegetarian.  In college (and on really bad hair days in law school, which was every day), I was told it was because my hair was really long and wavy and kind of frizzy, and I wore turquoise, and animals are cute, and I love them, and I don’t eat fish, and well, duh, vegetarian!  Although I’m kind of on-board with making any and all assumptions based on one’s hair, I am just not a vegetarian, or at least not today.

In college, I couldn’t afford to buy meat so I was a vegetarian.  I ate a concerning amount of tofu until one day I broke out into a body rash from too much soy.  My vegetarian roommate shamed me and now I’m scared of soy.  I’m also scared of deodorant, so, wait, am I a vegetarian?  After I watched Food Inc., I was a vegetarian for 72 hours, okay maybe 48, okay for, like, one night or something.  After reading An Omnivore’s Dilemma, I was super self-righteous for about a day, and then my mom wouldn’t make anything else for dinner, and I was home for the summer, and so I had no backbone and I carved the meat off of the chicken’s.  Ouch!  That was bad.  There was a long stretch of time where chicken made my mouth really, really itchy, my lips would get red and bumpy, and a lump in my throat would start to form.  My doctor said it was the preservatives the chicken was pumped with.  I went on a chicken strike.  I guess you could say I am still on a chicken strike because, honestly, chickens are monsters these days!  They’re all pumped out, caged up, and angry.  Poor things can’t even stand!  Or are those the turkeys?  Well, they can’t move either.  The only animals that seem to get any activity these days are the cows, and they’re bleached, and sitting in their own feces, and unhappy, and eating corn, and how can we keep consuming them in California when giving up just 4 lbs could save the same amount of water as if you didn’t shower for an entire year?

Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I still have vegetarian struggles, like trying to eat enough protein.  I’ve begun to enjoy finding surprising ways to incorporate protein into my diet.  That’s where today’s post comes in.  I make these little fellas and sprinkle them on almost everything.  They’re good to have on hand for extra protein, extra flavor, or to eat straight out of the jar as a snack.  But I warn you: I once made salt & vinegar roasted chickpeas and that became a dire situation.  Do not eat 2 cups of chickpeas in one sitting.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then, well, bless your sweet, naive, innocent heart.

I love vegetables, legumes, people with long, wavy, frizzy hair who wear turquoise.  I love it when animals are treated right, and until more of them are, I don’t want to eat them.  But I’m just not a vegetarian.  So, I eat the well-treated animals when I can and continue finding eyebrow-raising ways to incorporate non-animal protein into my food, like black bean brownies, which are coming up.  Enjoy!

 

Roasted Chickpeas

What You Need

2 c chickpeas

2 tblsp olive oil

1/4 tsp: coriander, cumin, smoked paprika

1/2 tsp: sriracha, salt, za’atar

*Note: if you like spicy food, these really just aren’t that spicy so up the sriracha or, better yet, throw in some cayenne you crazy thing, you.

How To Do It

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until crispy.

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Brussel Sprout Salad

I have this super random memory from sixth grade.  We were all in Mrs. Mc-something’s science class and the end-of-class bell went off early.  She shh-shh-ed us all, then it happened again a few minutes later.  Out of no where, this kid Chou-Chou threw his arms up and screamed, “Damn you clock! Why must you mock me?!”  20 or so 12 year olds busted up laughing, and I’ve never forgotten the memory.  Although it was funny, I totally identify with his exasperation.

Many new lawyers like myself lament measuring our lives in six minute increments.  There is no Jewish girl alive without keen awareness of her biological clock and it’s loud, rhythmic nagging.  And we’re all aware of the clocks inside our bodies telling us when to sleep, when to wake, when to eat, and when we’re full.  It seems like all the time we’re learning more about “the biology of time,” as I heard it called on NPR the other day, and the importance of keeping a rhythm.

Every now and again I become foolishly emboldened to override the clock..  I’ll make a pb and j in the middle of night, when I’m not hungry.  I’ll stay up until 1 a.m. watching crime t.v.,  eyes burning and exhausted.  These decisions are almost always followed by regret, frizzy hair, and a weird taste in my mouth.  When I override my clock, I pay the price.

I’m sure there are hundreds of other clocks and rhythms happening in our bodies all day long, trying to monitor normalcy and keep everything in sync.  The demands of today mean that we’re all overriding our clocks in one way or another, on a regular basis, and usually not for fun things like midnight snacking and tv binging.  But I try to avoid it as much as possible.   There is no way I would make it through the week without weekend prep and some quick tricks that keep me fed, asleep as long as possible, and save me time.   For the next few weeks, I’m going to be posting work-related recipes — recipes that help me beat the 3 p.m. hunger pangs, the salads I make on Sunday that take me through Thursday, breakfasts that make themselves, and easy little snacks packed with protein that keep me full.  With preparation, it’s a lot easier to achieve my weekly goals and I’m hoping it will be for you, too.

 

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Serves 5-6 (I make this salad on Sunday and don’t dress it.  I find that it holds up well until Thursday this way. I would hold off on the leeks if you do plan to make this to last more than one or two days though.)

What You Need

3 c kale; chopped

3 cup brussel sprouts; shaved (grated)

3 T pomegranate seeds

3/4 c almond slivers

3/4 c quinoa, millet, farro, buckwheat, ANYTHING

2 c leeks; roasted & chopped (optional – instead, you could chop a few green onions)

Salad Dressing

4 T balsamic vinegar

2 T whole grain mustard

1/2 c olive oil

4 tsp maple syrup/honey

salt & pepper

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How To Do It

Mix the salad ingredients in any order you want.  If you’re using the roasted leeks, preheat your oven to 400 F.  Toss the chopped leeks with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt + pepper.  Roast until crispy (approx 20 minutes), shaking the pan about halfway through. Wait till they cool to top on the salad. Enjoy!

 

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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.

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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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