Vegan Turmeric Eggnog | On Navigating the Holidays

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The first blog I wrote, back in 2012, was entirely about food. About the nutritional properties of certain foods and how eating (primarily plant-based) real food facilitates vibrant health. Three years later, I birthed Pollinate with every intention of following the same through lines here. Yet as I grew older and began to weather the personal, professional, physical and emotional storms that adulthood can and often does bring, I learned one of the most important lessons that I’ve yet gleaned in my life:

It doesn’t matter how much healthy food you eat; in order to be truly healthy, you must first and foremost have a healthy relationship with yourself.

And so, my focus shifted.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot these days, as I navigate all the sweets and parties and stressors that have come to typify this season for most of us. The “temptations” that abound and the internal dialogues we have about them—about our allowances of or denials of or relationships to them. How many of us succumb to indulgences, feel badly about it for one reason or another, and then feel compelled to cleanse or deny ourselves certain foods in January to compensate; how the initiation of the new year is always marketed to us as an opportunity—or mandate, really—to develop the “new you”, as if the versions of ourselves who existed previously were faulty, lazy or somehow not enough.

In her weekly newsletter a couple weeks back, Molly Goodson, the co-founder and CEO of the SF women’s club The Assembly, shared what she dubbed an “Anti-guilt guide” for the holidays. The simplicity and lucidity with which she articulated her thoughts struck a chord with me:

Wellness is a tough word because it conjures up one set of behaviors, when in fact it is the intersection of the pieces. Some days the wellness I choose is prioritizing socializing over fitness. Some days it's knowing what I need and going to class instead of the party. This time of year, many days it's eating the damn cookies and going to the event and missing the morning run.

Instead of feeling guilt, feel ownership. The things you choose to do with your time are your wellness. If you continue to check in with your own energy and make the small adjustments to keep that in a good place, you are doing enough. Truly. You know you, so listen to that.

What if we each found space to embrace our choices and accept the non-linear way that wellness looks on a day to day basis. It's a big picture and you're always moving forward. 

Whatever you choose for December to look like — with workouts, with eating, with resting — let's try to take the guilt out of it. The world is heavy enough, so be easy on yourself. 

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I loved not only the gentle urging in Goodson’s words for us all to be easier on ourselves, but also the implicit presence in the whole thing. That in order to make choices, without guilt, of what we are to do, we must be actively present with ourselves. Attentive. Mindful. Showing up to the ebb and flow and particular asks of each moment.

I am reminded too, in these times of heightened obligations and opportunities for self-judgement, of one of my favorite descriptions of self-compassion. As described by writer and healer Daphne Rose Kingma:

Self-compassion is a series of choices, a moment by moment conscious turning away from that which will harm your spirit toward that which will nourish and sustain you.

It is choosing, in any particular situation, and over and over again, whether you’ll treat yourself well or beat yourself up; whether you’ll deny yourself or treat yourself as lovingly as you’d treat your child or your most precious friend.

Self-compassion means looking at yourself with kindness, with a conscious awareness of your sufferings, and in time, with a deep appreciation for the way you have transformed them.

And so, in addition to a delicious and stealthily healthy recipe for a favorite seasonal treat, I offer you here a reminder to be gentle with yourself, now and always. To relish the season and the joys—edible or otherwise—that come with it. To cut yourself slack and not feel obligated to say yes to everything. To cultivate wellness in the myriad and unique ways that it looks for you.

Wishing everyone a joyful, delicious and relatively stress-free holiday season!

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Notes on the recipe: I had the pleasure of co-developing this recipe for a project at work and got to make and share it with our entire team (definitely snag Navitas Organics Turmeric Powder and Cashews for this if you can; they’re amazing quality—and I’m not just saying that because I work there!). Eggnog has loooong been a favorite of mine, but since becoming health-aware and vigilant about checking the ingredients in processed foods, I steer pretty clear of the stuff sold in grocery stores (which is, most often, full of junky ingredients). The added bonus about this recipe is that it is vegan—so everyone can enjoy it—and is refined sugar-free without compromising any of the thick, luscious texture or sweet, nutmeg-y flavor! The taste of the turmeric is subtle but adds a bright golden color and anti-inflammatory benefits, which certainly never hurt this time of year.

Vegan Turmeric Eggnog
slightly adapted from Will Frolic for Food
serves 2-3

Ingredients
I Cup raw cashews, preferably soaked 4 hours 
4 Medjool dates, pitted
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
¼ tsp. cinnamon 
¼ tsp. cardamom 
¼ tsp. turmeric powder
¼ tsp. vanilla extract or paste 
pinch of sea salt 
grind of black pepper 
3 Cups water, hot but not boiling 

Directions
1. Add all ingredients to a high speed blender.
2 Blend on low and then increase to high until smooth and creamy. Garnish with extra cinnamon or nutmeg. Enjoy!

Roasted Broccolini with Browned Butter Tahini Sauce & Za'atar | On Self-Care in Trying Times

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Goodness, what a week. What weeks. What a lot we have to process. Fires raging throughout California. Evacuations. Homes, community centers, businesses burnt to the ground. Lives taken. Thousands of acres of natural landscape scorched. And the fucking relentless, hate-fueled shootings. The mass shooting at a dance hall in Thousand Oaks, CA. The mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The mass shooting at a yoga studio in Tallahassee. The mass shooting at a supermarket in Jeffersontown, KY. And the continuing chaos in our country’s capitol (in spite of some groundbreaking, historical wins in the House and gaining back the Democratic majority, neither of which should we lose sight of).

So much loss to process. To hold each other in. To hold while figuring out how to continue to find hope of creating a different world.

On top of grappling with the seeming homeostasis of tragedy and tumult that typifies our current reality, we have…the holidays. Not at all to be compared in likeness to the aforementioned traumas; solely acknowledged in this context as a time, in spite of its best intentions, of additional stress. A time rife with social expectations and obligations; extra financial spending; potentially activated triggers around food; potentially activated triggers around family or lack thereof; and on and on.

It’s a lot.

It’s a lot in and of itself. And. It’s especially overwhelming during this time of year when our natural inclination is not actually to be hyper-social, but to turn inwards. With the shorter days, the extension of darkness, winter’s slower, more contemplative energy emerging as we draw nearer to her dawn, the fibers of our being that are energetically tied to the earth are asking us to slow down, too. To rest. To get ready for our winter hibernation, as metaphoric as that may be. I wrote about this energetic shift and what it asks of us around this time last year. The trouble is, what the earth is asking of us now and what society is asking of us now are in rather direct conflict with one another.

Which is why it is paramount—especially at this time—that you give yourself permission to take care of yourself.

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We all process things differently. Some of us recharge and recalibrate by being around and in conversation with other people. Some of us need solitude and quiet spaces to regroup. The array of ways that ‘taking care of myself’ can look are vast and are all entirely valid.

Let yourself have what you need to take care of yourself.

If you don’t already know what the spaces or activities are that help you process, reset and recharge, I invite you to sit in stillness for a handful of minutes, focus your attention on your breath, and see what arises. What ideas, what longings, what images in your mind’s eye. Stillness is essential, for it is in stillness that the intuitive wisdom of our bodies has space to emerge and where our attention has the opportunity to listen.

Maybe taking care of yourself looks like spending half an hour out in nature, by yourself or with someone dear to you. Maybe it looks like a hot bath with Epsom salts and essential oils. Maybe it looks like going to a dance class or a restorative yoga class—engaging in some form of cathartic movement. Maybe it looks like meditating. Maybe it looks like journaling. Whatever you need to slow down and reconnect with yourself is of utmost importance in these trying and demanding times.

And while we’re getting comfortable with the practice of giving ourselves what we need to take care of ourselves, here’s another gentle reminder: You have the right to say no. To invitations. To cooking requests. To eating any food item. To demands of your attention, your presence, your time. Acting in alignment with your bandwidth, your desires and your needs is a huge part of showing up as your authentic self. We so often agree to things out of a desire to please others (or, in the inverse, out of a fear of displeasing others or “falling short”); yet this only breeds resentment and exhaustion within ourselves. Boundaries are an essential aspect of self-care. You can say “no,” still be kind about how you articulate it, and maintain your positive relationships all the while.

As we practice this prioritization of self-care, we will be better equipped to empower others to take care of themselves, too. Better equipped to honor each other’s individual needs—even within these next couple months of heightened obligations and expectations—and especially within these trying times.

Take good care, dear ones. <3.

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Notes about the recipe: For such a simple recipe, this roasted broccolini packs a flavor punch. It makes for a great side dish at holiday meals and can just as well be eaten for lunch on any given weekday. Use whole sesame tahini if you’re able (this is my favorite brand). If you’re unfamiliar with tahini or that there are different types out there, you can read up on the amazing ingredient here! Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made out of sumac, sesame seeds, thyme and salt. You can totally make your own, or purchase it from a Middle Eastern market or specialty spice shop. I get mine from this local cafe in Berkeley called Bartavelle because it’s the best za’atar I’ve ever had in my life, so. Thanks, Bartavelle! Lastly, this recipe is also absolutely delicious with roasted Brussels sprouts instead of broccolini. I make both on a regular basis. Enjoy!

Roasted Broccolini with Browned Butter Tahini Sauce & Za’atar
Serves two hungry people or four as a side

Ingredients
1 bunch broccolini
1 Tbsp. avocado oil, coconut oil or ghee
2 Tbsp. butter (organic & pastured/grass-fed, if possible)
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
small clove of garlic, grated on a microplane
1/2 Tbsp. za’atar
sea salt & pepper

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim the bottom 1/4” of the stems off the broccolini. Toss in oil (you can rub it with your hands if it’s not melted) and season generously with salt and pepper. Lay on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spreading out the broccolini so that they aren’t overlapping.
2. Roast broccolini for 6-8 minutes, until browning on the bottom. Flip the stalks over on the tray and roast for another 4-6 minutes, until tender.
3. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Swirl the pot consistently as the butter begins to bubble to prevent it from burning. As soon as the butter turns an amber color and brown flecks begin to develop on the bottom of the pot, remove it from the heat. Pour the butter into a heat-proof jar with a lid, using a spatula to scrape all the browned bits into it too.
4. Add the tahini, lemon juice, grated garlic and a hefty pinch of salt to the jar. Shake vigorously. Taste and adjust lemon and salt as needed.
5. Place roasted broccolini on a serving plate. Pour sauce over the broccolini in whatever way your heart desires. Sprinkle evenly with za’atar. Serve immediately.*

*Note: Because butter is solid when cold, this sauce will become very thick once it cools. If you have any sauce leftover, reheat it before using. Alternatively, add water (1 Tbsp. at a time, so as to not compromise the consistency) and shake vigorously until the sauce reaches the consistency of runny honey.

Pickled Peach, Burrata & Pea Shoot Salad with Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing | On Filling Our Cracks with Gold

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"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
—Henry Havelock Ellis

At certain times throughout our lives, we find ourselves at crossroads. Faced with difficult decisions. To continue or to cease. To cling or to abandon. To stay or to go. We choose what is worth fighting for. In these instances, we must notice the quality of our effort: When effort is required, is it is emerging from a deep, internal drive, or is it forced, not easeful? When moving through the challenge or mending what seems broken, is there possibility of fruit bearing at the other side? 

Letting go is often one of the hardest things to do in this life. Letting go of ideas, hopes, work, people. Things we have cared for, tended to, envisioned for ourselves. We are creatures of connection, of attachment. Oftentimes we keep on keeping on with something that isn't aligned with our greatest good or intentions for self because we feel like we 'should'. Like others—peers, parents, colleagues, society, hell, even our own judging selves—expect us to. Because we think we have invested too much to give up. To release. To relinquish. Because we have become attached to the parts of our identities that have become, in our minds, inextricable from that thing. Yet we fail to realize that sometimes, releasing something from our lives (be it a person, a project, an expectation, a judgment, a story we tell ourselves about ourselves) is one of the most freeing things we can possibly do. One of the most vital actions to create space for whatever the great unknown will bring next; what we will sink into, encounter, find anew to fill ourselves up. What new opportunity, new connection, new compassion or love for self we will find. Ashes have the capacity fertilize our soul's soil and in rich soil, new things grow.

And yet. There is a flip side to this coin. The shadow side of release is running away. Burning as an act of avoidance. A refusal to do the work, pick up the pieces, to stand in the fire; to face the hard truths that may in fact be the things to bring you to and through your evolution. Sometimes, holding on is key. Staying when all the hurt and pain and fear in you wants to leave. To bolt. Wants to make excuses or cut ties or drown yourself in distractions. Showing up to meaningful people or projects or ambitions when they are challenging takes as much courage and vulnerability as walking away. The key is developing the presence, awareness and discerning muscle of intuition to know when to hold on and when to let go. And to trust that even when a meaningful thing seems broken, if you show up with compassion and integrity and a willingness to do the work, there is often great brilliance on the other side.

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Kintsugi: the ancient Japanese art of mending what is broken. There is a beautiful metaphor here. In this practice, shattered pottery is restored by affixing pieces back together with a paste of lacquer mixed with powdered platinum, silver or gold. What were initially flawless ceramics, then fractured pieces of a thing once whole, become transformed: whole again yet different, polished clay laced with webs of lustrous precious metals.

This ancient practice of repair operates on multiple visual and philosophical levels. Highlighting the cracks with shimmering metals, it punctuates the history, the once brokenness of the thing. It draws precious attention to its evolution rather than attempting to make the object appear as though it was never damaged at all. Rather than negating its life and transformation, it makes them unapologetically visible.

Kintsugi. This tradition of mending by the weaving of gold also, counterintuitively, elevates the value of the once-broken object: it is made more beautiful, more precious, more valuable, because of the breakage and repair it endured. 

There is no shame in feeling broken. Or in having once felt broken. Or in feeling something you worked to build has broken. Fissures let light in. Our healing and our relationships to our scars help make us who we are.

The founder of modern chemistry, a French nobleman and intellectual named Antoine Lavoiser, once said, "Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything transforms." This is as true for the world on a molecular level as it is for ourselves, in our lives. The question is how we come to and facilitate the transformations. When do we choose to stay and work through a challenge, an argument, a situation, a project or a relationship that seems—or maybe in some ways is—broken? To embrace what emerges in our lives and hold it tenderly rather than negate or disengage from it? And when do we choose, from our place of centeredness and highest self, to let go? And in both instances, what do we use for our gold?

If ever you're feeling stuck or uncertain about a difficulty in your life, about whether to continue or relinquish, to stay or to go, sit with yourself and your breath for awhile. Simply sit. Let all of the anxiety of the situation fall away. Cultivate internal calm to the best of your ability. Tell yourself you are okay right now. And once you are feeling centered and grounded, just listen. Tune into your heart, your intuition. Notice how your body feels when you think about the difficulty or conflict at hand. Notice what emerges with as much compassion and non-judgment as you are able. Stay with the unfolding so that you can begin to identify what is necessary to move through it. Ask yourself what you (and the situation) need. More self-love. Deeper listening. More empathy, for yourself and for others. Patience. Trust. Vulnerability. Courage. Creativity. A shift in mindset. A release of judgment or expectation. Presence. All of the ways that we can fill our cracks with gold.

And know that on the other side, you will be shifted, changed, grown and transformed, even if in the smallest way. And always ever whole.

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Notes about recipe: Yikes, September! I'm squeezing in this summery salad as the darkness is setting upon our days a little earlier and the evenings are marked with the beginnings of chill. Hopefully you still have peaches at your farmers market or local grocer! (In California, we're spoiled.) This is a truly simple salad that presents itself as fancy AF. The sweet-tang of the pickled peaches plays well off the creaminess of the burrata, crunch of the pepitas and brightness of the sprouts and herb-y dressing. The dressing, made creamy thanks to the small yet mighty hemp seeds, is packed with essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids AND contributes complete protein to the dish! Hemp seeds are actually a nutritionally amazing food, y'all. Peaches can be pickled a couple days in advance.

Pickled Peach, Burrata & Pea Shoot Salad with Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing
Serves four

Ingredients
Pickled Peaches
1 large yellow peach, slightly firm, sliced into 12 wedges
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
16oz Mason jar and lid, preferably with a wide mouth

Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing
1/2 cup hemp seeds
6 large basil leaves
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 giant pinch salt

Toasted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
1/4 cup raw pepitas

Salad
1 container pea shoots
2 burrata balls
12 slices pickled peaches (recipe above)
Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing (recipe above)
Salt & pepper, to serve

Directions
1. Make the pickled peaches: In a small pot, combine all the pickled peach ingredients except the peaches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally until the honey and salt are fully dissolved. Let cool 10 minutes. While the brine is cooling, squeeze the peach wedges in the Mason jar. Pour the brine over the peaches, cover, and let stand at least 20 minutes.*
2. Make the dressing: In a high speed blender, pour 1/2 cup of filtered water and add all the dressing ingredients. Start blending on low, increase to high and blend until all the ingredients have become emulsified and smooth. Taste; add salt if necessary.
3. Toast the pepitas: In a dry frying pan (i.e., without oil), toast the pepitas over medium heat for about 5 minutes, flipping occasionally via shaking the pan. Pull from the heat as soon as they become aromatic and start to make intermittent popping sounds. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Assemble the salad: Layer handfuls of pea shoots, torn bits of burrata and a few pickled peaches on each plate. Pour dressing over the salad. Top with toasted pepitas, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

*Store pickled peaches in refrigerator if you make them in advance or have leftovers.

Rosemary Honey Cashew Butter | On Curve Balls & Creative Gifting

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For a brief yet impressing moment in time, I thought about starting a nut butter company. That was certainly one of the biggest curve balls of my life to date: coming out of a year devoted to completing my Masters in Contemporary Art Theory with a desire to become a fancy flavored nut butter entrepreneur.

It made as much sense to me – in context of my life at the time – as it was absolutely crazy. The part that made sense was this: Making nut butter from scratch was one of the most magical endeavors I undertook that year, during which I not only achieved my MA but also taught myself how to cook. Witnessing the nuts transform from solid to liquid astounded me, their natural oils releasing and completely altering their physical composition due to nothing more than an aggressively spinning blade. (Clearly I had no idea how much oil nuts contain.) What's more, it felt empowering. This food product that I had understood comes from a jar at the supermarket much the way an apple comes from the branch of an apple tree, I could make at home?! This meant I could not only control the quality of the nut butter but also the additional ingredients that defined it. The opportunities for creative deliciousness were endless! Maple cinnamon almond butter! Chai spice pecan butter! Or even something sweet and herbal, like...rosemary honey cashew butter.  

The part that was absolutely crazy about my nut butter entrepreneur pipe dream was, well, everything else.

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All of the holiday gifts I gave that year were food related. Educational. Homemade. I wrote out instructions for my parents (on graph paper with a wealth of colored pens) on how to make my favorite Oilve Oil and Maple Granola – customizable and refined sugar-free! – along with a "voucher" for a lesson where we would make it together. I made variety after variety of nut butter, some based on my preferences and some based on theirs. The gifts may have taken a bit more time than purchasing things online, but I could tell that they were deeply appreciated and meaningful. Unique. Imbued with creativity and care. 

The other great thing about gifting nut butter is that, if you are looking to give small gifts to many people, you can make a big batch with no more effort than making a small batch! Just saying.

While my dream of bringing inspired nut butters to foodies everywhere eventually fell by the wayside, I would be remiss to not mention that when I gave my former housemate a taste of this Rosemary Honey Cashew Butter the first time I made it, she literally freaked out and insisted that I start selling it at farmers markets immediately.  Even if you're skeptical and rosemary is not typically your thing, I encourage you to approach this one with an open mind. You may just find yourself surprised.

I hope everyone has a joyful and delicious holiday season – one that is nourishing in every sense of the word. Take time for yourself when you need it. Relish the sweets and listen to your body so you know when you should maybe ease up a little (that's, erm, some advice to myself that I thought maybe some of you may also relate to). Stretch in the mornings. Return to your breath in stressful times. Sink into the beauty of the season, in actions, words and things. Take good care. 

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Rosemary-Honey Cashew Butter
Makes about 1 cup.  Scale up for a larger batch.
Originally published on my 2012 blog, which I am not linking to because looking at it is like looking at your old yearbook photos, but which I am mentioning because, citations. 

Ingredients
2 cups raw cashews
2 tsp. fresh rosemary
2 tsp. raw honey
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp. cold-pressed sunflower oil, optional (for more runny cashew butter; it is quite thick otherwise)

Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 300°F.
2.  Spread cashews on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes, until fragrant. Stir a few times during roasting.
3.  Let cool for 5 minutes.
4.  Place cashews in food processor fitted with an S-blade and blend until the nuts turn into a smooth 'butter'. This could take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5.  Add rosemary and salt and process for another minute or two.
6.  In a small saucepan, melt honey over low heat until it is completely liquefied – much thinner than its syrupy state. Add to nut butter and process for another minute until fully combined. The nut butter will clump up again; keep the blade running until it returns to its smooth state.
7.  If you prefer your cashew butter even creamier, add the 1 tsp. of a sunflower oil.
8.  Carefully remove blade from food processor. Transfer nut butter to a glass jar with a lid and store in the fridge.

Black Sesame Tahini Banana Bread | On Beginning in the Dark

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We talk and hear a lot in this life about how starting is the hardest part. Initiating a project, turning the seeds of an idea into the fruits of a reality. It's true: starting something has its particular challenges, often marked by fear or anxiety on top of the practical hurdles of building something from scratch. But there is also (hopefully) the catalyzing energy of excitement in the beginnings of a thing. Even fear or nervousness are active energies, if you think about how they feel in the body.

What we don't talk or hear as much about is how hard it can be to sustain something. To keep showing up once you've started, once the shimmer of anticipation has dulled and all the other demands of life begin to take up equal space again. The challenge of continuing to be excited or trust that a project is worthy of steadfast effort even if it is unfolding differently than you had imagined. 

Three months ago, I got a full-time job for the first time in over two years. It's amazing and I love it. And. Holy wow has my life changed—particularly in terms of time. Bandwidth. Ability to devote myself to the activities and projects that nourish me. It is has literally been a challenge to figure out how to spend 8.5 hours at work, commute, cook/feed myself properly, go to yoga, spend time with friends and rest. Add to that my second job teaching 2x a month on Sundays (which started up again mid-September), traveling, being a bridesmaid in a dear friend's wedding, hosting an epic Rosh Hashanah dinner and dealing with a crashed laptop which left me computer-less for a solid three weeks (and without photo editing software for the following four)...you can maybe begin to get an idea of where I've been lately. Which has not been on here.

And still: I am sinking my feet into the practice of showing up. Of meeting myself where I am. Of allowing the ebbs and flows of life that are beyond my control to direct my activity but not dictate it. Of practicing presence, mindful prioritizing and re-commitment in each moment to the things that matter. 

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So that's where I've been. And where are we all now? Wow, November.

We're in the midst of a potent seasonal and energetic shift at present. Samhain (a Gaelic word, pronounced SOW-in), the Pagan festival of the Dead and the last day of the year according to ancient earth-based calendars, is a festival celebrating the end of the harvest and the beginning of the dark half of the year. In some traditions it is observed on October 31st; in others, it extends from October 31st until the moon is new in Scorpio, which falls this year on November 18th. The most mysterious of the Zodiac signs, Scorpio is the sign of life, death and resurrection, of passion and hidden depth. Of turning inwards; doing deep work. 

Samhain begins on Autumn's cross-quarter day—the midpoint between autumn and winter. Every season has a cross-quarter day, which is the time at which the energy of the forthcoming season begins to percolate, even though its visible manifestations won't emerge for another six or so weeks. I'm compelled by the idea of cross-quarter days, rife with wisdom and metaphor: The insistent slowness of and necessary patience with major transitions or energetic shifts. The fact that everything begins in the dark.

In many ancient calendars (including some that are still observed, like the Jewish calendar), each day ends and begins at sundown, beckoned with the veil of the dark. In Pagan and earth-based calendars, the new year begins on Autumn's cross-quarter day, aligned with the emergent energy of the darkest season of the year. Babies are seeds planted and nurtured in the womb. Ideas are sparked in the depths of the mind before they are ever brought to life in the physical realm. 

I find such peace and beauty in this: the idea, evidenced to us by the processes of the natural world, that just because we cannot yet see the physicality of a thing does not mean it is not there, brewing. Does not mean work is not being done. It substantiates the quiet. The ruminations. The seeds. 

The days are darker now than they are light. Let yourself align with it. Turn inwards. Slow down. Reflect. Release. Reconnect to recuperate. The earth is inviting you to; with such inherent wisdom, it seems rather wise to listen.

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Notes about the recipe: I actually made and photographed this tahini banana bread over Labor Day (that's the first weekend of September, for those of you non-Americans on here) and took it to two potlucks that weekend. Not to brag or anything, but multiple people from both gatherings asked me for the recipe. (Yeah okay I am totally bragging. But also trying to convince you that this banana bread is 100% worth making.) It's completely whole grain, has an atypical depth of flavor from the buckwheat, almond meal and tahini, and is made with relatively little sugar for a sweet bread. Win-win-win. Did I mention it's ridiculously delicious?

Black Sesame Tahini Banana Bread
Makes one 9"x5" loaf or two mini loaves
Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen

Ingredients
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or spelt or regular whole wheat if you can't find the white varietal)
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds (or brown), plus more for sprinkling
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup muscovado sugar (unrefined brown sugar)
1/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. tahini
4 ripe bananas, 3 mashed & 1 sliced lengthwise

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line a loaf pan with parchment. Set aside.
2. Mix flours, sesame seeds, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.
3. In a separate medium bowl, mix coconut oil and sugars together until the sugar begins to dissolve. Whisk in egg and vanilla extract until mixture is smooth and thickened.
4. Add tahini and the mashed bananas to the wet ingredients. Stir until thoroughly incorporated.
5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet. Gently stir together until just combined (it's okay if the batter is a bit lumpy).
6. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle additional sesame seeds on top, then place the two long slices of banana on top, cut side face up. Push them down into the batter so they settle a bit.
7. Set pan on baking sheet (it's easier to pull out of the oven this way). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about an hour.

Blistered Snap Peas with Miso Butter | On The Paralysis of Political Action

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“This work of connecting our light to the world does not need to be done through a mass movement, or by millions of people...
What matters is the level of participation: whether we dare to make a real commitment to the work of the soul.”

~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

 

“It is time to redefine power, to expand our concept of what being powerful really means. True power is love. It is not power over someone. It is everyone, all of us, standing together in a circle, building power side by side.

“As I build my power, I create a mirror, a reflection of power that you can use to build your power…I inspire you and you inspire me; and together we create a world of healthy, interdependent, creative people.”

~Lynn V. Andrews

I've been finding it hard to justify sharing pictures of food on Instagram these days. Been wondering what place and need there is for this work of mine when America is erupting with groundswells of egregious hate. I've been mulling over how to be an activist, how to contribute to positive change and purposeful resistance when I live in an incredibly liberal place and don't necessarily feel called to rally on the front lines of organized protests—as vital as I believe they are. Maybe you can relate?

Tomorrow, August 21st, much of America will bear witness to a total solar eclipse—the moon aligning directly between the earth and the sun, blocking out the sun's light and allowing us to see its outer atmosphere, haloed in glimmering light. This will be the first total solar eclipse to pass exclusively over the US since the country was founded in 1776 [1]. That's not only bonkers but also eerily resonant, as eclipses are considered to generate energetic upheaval, creating substantial opportunities for rewiring and growth.

As astrologist Cathy Pagano explains,

"Eclipses signify shifts, completions, endings, and releasing along with new beginnings, new directions and openings...This is a chance for all of us to wake up to our unity, and our responsibilities to each other, to Mother Earth and to the future. 
"So we can’t mistake the heavenly advice: America, wake up and pay attention. It is the American People, not the government or the power structures, that this Leo Solar Eclipse calls to. 
"It is our wake-up call to create that more perfect Union. Not only in America, but with the whole world.
"But first we have to be at one with ourselves…”

Why must we first be at one with ourselves in order to create a more perfect American (and worldly) union? Because we don't live in a vacuum. And as much as our egos would have us think the world revolves around us or that we are powerless in the grand scheme of things (among many other self-centered ideas), we are scientifically all made of the same matter and are energetically connected. If we are all ultimately one and contribute to a universal energy or vibration, then it follows that by raising our own individual vibrations (a.k.a. being at one with ourselves), it will impact our communities and will ripple out in ways we cannot comprehend.

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So this might sound kind of nutty, but here's what I'm throwing out: On an energetic level, perhaps 'activism' looks like living in alignment with your full, true self. Are you with me? In order to be one with ourselves, we must first and foremost be present with ourselves. We must listen to all that arises in any given moment, feel it, name it and acknowledge it without judgment so that it can be dealt with or pass. We must act in accordance with that which nourishes us physically, emotionally and spiritually. We must listen to our passions, our callings, the things that bring us joy and pursue them without abandon. And we must be humble. We must know when to step into the power of our voices and when to check our privilege and listen attentively instead. We must do what is required of us to increase our awareness and to grow.

This, I think, is how we go on—how we do our own individual light work and not feel guilty about it when it doesn't directly address the dire sociopolitical situation at hand. We do it with intention and awareness. With acknowledgement that in stepping into our power we are creating mirrors for others to build their power. That might look like posting photos of food or the kittens we're fostering or the music we're making or the marathons we're running, even if they aren't inherently political acts or obviously contributing to the fight for a more inclusive and just society.

Do not, however, mistake this for a free pass to political disengagement. 

This does not let us off the hook—especially as white people. Our responsibility to be aware and critical of our inherent positions of privilege and power is perhaps more urgent than ever before. This is equally true for men. And heterosexuals. And cis-gendered folk (i.e., those of us whose gender identity aligns with our birth sex). And those who do not belong to targeted religious faiths.

We don't all need to be on the front lines, but we all must be doing the work of political awareness and engagement—however that feels doable for you. Read the news. Talk about it with your friends. Talk about it with your conservative family members. Approach conversation with openness and curiosity rather than shouting down from your high horse. Explore the plethora of resources on learning about white privilege, check some books out from your library...and then read them. Use the vast social web of the Internet to share what you've been learning, thinking, grappling with and to connect with others about it, too. And then begin to integrate what you've learned into the ways you and your privilege show up in the world.

We are in the depths of a great shift and things are going to continue to get worse before they get better. Yes, I am afraid. But I refuse to cower, to be complacent about the ways in which this system serves me, or to disengage because as a white person living in California, I have that option. I am committed to using this space to promote love, knowledge and healing. I am not a vehement political activist, so most often that looks like pictures of food and recipes and tools for mindfulness and self-care. We all need to keep doing our light work, trusting that it is imperative to our creation of a more just and inclusive world. And we cannot turn our backs to the social and political issues at hand. 

I am with you, all of you. If you have resources you're stoked about or ideas of how to be an activist in these urgent times, please share them in the comments. If you are a creator of any kind or are contributing to our world in positive ways, please share links to your work in the comments as well. Let us all stand in our power and bolster one another up as we do <3.

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Notes about the recipe: In all honesty, this is kind of a non-recipe. It's charred snap peas slathered in miso butter. Simple, simple, simple but whooooa is it delicious. The perfect appetizer for a low key evening of entertaining or side dish to a weekday meal.

Blistered Snap Peas with Miso Butter
Serves 4 as a starter or 2-3 as a side

Ingredients
1 lb. snap peas, woody ends cut off
3 Tbsp. room temp butter, organic and pastured if possible
1 Tbsp. sweet white or mellow yellow miso
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions
1. If you have a grill, place the snap peas in a grill basket and grill until blistered. If not, heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Place a third of the snap peas into the skillet and, using tongs, spread them out so that each snap pea is touching the surface of the pan. Cook until blistered, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook the other side for 1 minute. Repeat with remaining snap peas.
2. In a small container, cream the miso together with the room temperature butter. You will have leftovers (you're welcome).
3. Take a generous spoonful of the miso butter and slather over the warm snap peas. Finish off with a generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heirloom Tomato, Apricot & Cucumber Salad with Yogurt & Za'atar | On Balancing Energies

Hellooo there! It’s been a minute. Okay, it’s been well over a month since I last posted. I recently said, “It’s been a minute!” to this amazing kid who I used to nanny after not seeing him for awhile, and he responded with, “You say that a lot. Why do you say that so much?” It’s a funny feeling to get called out on pseudo-meaningless (or at least, not literally accurate) colloquialisms by a 12 year-old. Always good to be aware of your speech patterns though, right?

I’ve been struggling to find both energy and inspiration for this blog post for the past handful of weeks, sitting on the recipe and photos and not knowing what words to pair them with. Wanting all the writing in this space to be meaningful and resonant—to myself, yes, but especially to you. I’ve been mulling over the relationship between structure and creativity; thinking about the ways in which we can gently pull ourselves out of ruts, be they physical, energetic or creative in nature.

Last fall, I had the opportunity to TA a class in the Integrative Health Masters program at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Called Mindful Health, the course offered an in-depth examination of how and why meditation and mindfulness are essential practices in cultivating overall health and wellbeing. We talked a lot about energy, suffering, self-compassion, ambition, burnout, the nervous system, the brain and, taking these all into account, the ways we can manifest our own vibrant health—and support others in doing so for themselves. One of the teachings that Megan, our instructor, shared with us has felt particularly resonant as I've struggled to show up in this space over the past six weeks. As such, it feels worthwhile to share with you here, now.

Let's take, for a minute, a more expanded notion of suffering than the extreme situations that the word typically brings to mind. Suffering as any state of dis-ease, be it a habitual undercurrent of anxiety; stress related to uncertainties or obligations in one's life; heartbreak or shattering disappointment of any kind; and so on. Early on in the class, Megan re-framed suffering to be defined not by our circumstances but by our relationship to them. I appreciate this framing so much because it gives us agency, which is absolutely essential in the path to self-love, self-worth and mind/body/spirit health.

In this iteration, suffering is not caused by undesirable events or circumstances that are inflicted upon us. Rather, suffering is caused when we try to control the things that are not in our control and when we don’t give determination to those that are. Unfortunately, all too often, there is a confusion about which is which. We need surrender and volition, both. Compassion and determination, both. And we need the ability to identify which circumstances require which approach—which is a clarity that mindfulness and meditation help us cultivate.

According to the Vedantic tradition (one of the world's oldest spiritual philosophies), everything in existence embodies three basic energetic states at all times: sattva, which is balanced and harmonious; rajas, which is active and impassioned; and tamas, which is resigned or destructive. Called gunas, these energies exist constantly and simultaneously in different degrees. At any given time, they can be in balance—aligned more with sattva—or out of balance. 

Oftentimes, the suffering we can experience on a daily level is reflected in one or more of these energies being out of balance. For example, too much rajas might feel like overstimulation, crazy caffeine jitters, or incessant multitasking. Overly-exerted rajas uses a lot of energy but not necessarily in an effective way. It also leaves little to no space for reflection about the tasks one is doing. This energy is tricky because our culture actually values and promotes an overstimulation of rajas, even though it can easily result in burnout, disconnection from self and dissatisfaction. When rajas is in balance, it looks like circulation, movement and change—which are often, if not always, good things!

On the other end of the spectrum lies tamas, which when overstimulated manifests as resignation or complete depletion. Out of balance tamas is the, "Fuck this" energy, the "What's the point?" energy, the drinking-to-forget or total crashing energy. When in balance, tamas is the energy that allows us to sit, reflect, recharge, process and integrate all the activity of our lives.

Whether or not you believe in these energetic principles, what I have found valuable in learning about them (and hopefully you will too!) is that they have enabled me to label my energetic states when I feel "off," not myself, stressed out or unhappy, and to then identify actions that I can take to help bring myself into balance—or, in other words, change my relationship to and reduce my suffering. Rajas and tamas are in opposition to one another; this means increasing one will help bring the other into balance. If I am feeling crazy stressed and overwhelmed, I can pause and actively choose to tap into tamas energy by taking a handful of deep breaths, doing some restorative yoga poses in my room, sitting in nature or journaling. If I am feeling aimless, unmotivated or physically depleted, I can integrate some active rajas energy to shake me out of my rut by going for a walk, dancing around my bedroom, or—hey!—even cooking something tasty to eat.

We are constantly in relationship with everything that falls into our lives—people, opportunities, failures, our phones, the news, our bodies, our food, our work, our free time, and even our histories. These things all have the potential to be a catalyst for suffering, to varying degrees, at any given point in time. It is essential to remember that it is our relationship to the thing that will dictate if and how much we suffer. By building the muscle that brings our awareness to the qualities of that relationship and beginning to act in ways that generate energetic balance, we can, little by little, begin to cultivate greater internal peace.

*Notes about the recipe: OH HEY, IT'S SUMMER! This basically means you don't have to cook at all if you don't want to, because everything is luscious and ripe and can be sunk into off the vine with your teeth (no silverware necessary). This salad is a celebration of the ease of summer eating and the inherent vibrant flavors that make the produce this time of year shine. It is a cooling salad with some Middle Eastern vibes because they're my favorite (full disclosure of cuisine bias here). The one ingredient with which you may be unfamiliar is za'atar, which is a Middle Eastern spice blend made of thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. It's delicious! You can make your own or buy a jar at specialty spice shops or Middle Eastern markets. I've also used unusual varieties of cucumbers and tomatoes here, because they're fun and you can only get them during the summer! If you can't find them, don't sweat it; a normal, ripe, preferably relatively local cucumber or tomato will do the trick just as well. Enjoy!

Heirloom Tomato, Apricot & Cucumber Salad with Yogurt & Za'atar
Serves four as a starter or two as a main

Ingredients
3 medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into large wedges
4 apricots, pit removed and cut into quarters
1 avocado, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 lemon cucumbers or 1 painted serpent cucumber (or 2 Persian cucumbers, failing those), cut into 1" chunks
6 Tbsp. plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. good quality cold-pressed olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 Tbsp. mint, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. dill fronds
1 lemon
1 Tbsp. za'atar
salt + pepper

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix together the Greek yogurt, 1 Tbsp. olive oil and a pinch of salt.
2. Spread the yogurt mixture on the bottom of your serving platter.
3. Arrange the slices of tomato, avocado, apricot and cucumber together on top of the yogurt. Scatter herbs and za'atar on top.
4. Finish off with a generous drizzle of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper. Adjust to taste.

Lemony Fava Bean Tartine | On Self-Doubt, Success & Creating Meaningful Lives

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you do not have to be a fire
for
every mountain blocking you.
you could be a water
and
soft river your way to freedom
too.

— options

                                - nayyirah waheed

I went on a run today, for the first time in over a year and a half. Okay, it was more like a 67% walk, 33% jog, but still. I was proud of myself. Proud of myself for listening to the tightness of my body and its yearning to move, for honoring my heart’s desire to get out of the house and absorb the extending light of these imminent summer days.

On the loop back towards my house, I took a slight detour to the Berkeley Marina. Headed down a narrow offshoot of a dirt path, got as close as I could to the water without clamoring down its jagged shore. Found a bench and sat, taking in the expanse of ebullient water, the Golden Gate, the city of San Francisco hovering off amidst the fog. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and began to meditate. Felt my body tall and rooted against the pressure of the aggravated wind.

There has always been something compelling to me about vast bodies of water. Their host of contradictions, serene and agitated, methodical and unpredictable, familiar and unknowable all at once. Never either/or; always both/and. The Bay was feisty tonight, its entire surface cast in vigorous ripples as far as the eye could see. As I watched the waves coalesce and rise and crash against the rocky shore, I saw the water transform from an elegant, smooth, dark mass to a mess of foamy white, splaying itself over and between the crevices of that which stood in its way, only to settle and reincorporate itself once again. Changed, yet still the same.

I sat and meditated on the effortlessness of waves. The way they are never anything but themselves, moving always with grace and sometimes immense drama, separating and reintegrating endlessly. I thought of their poetry, and then of the poetry in nayyirah waheed’s words. Wondered how I can better soft river my way to freedom, too.

I often wonder—in a very doubtful kind of way—if this blog will ever lead to anything significant for me professionally. If it will ever touch the tender hearts of large numbers of people and inspire them to be kinder and gentler with themselves, to find a bit more softness and joy in the often challenging minutiae of living. If the recipes I create and share will make it into scores of kitchens that are not my own. I wonder if my writing is too wordy, too heavy or dark. I wonder if and how I will ever stand out in this insanely saturated industry of food and wellness. And not having resolute answers to these questions makes me wonder if it’s even worth doing, when the goal is to achieve those things and they all, for better or worse, feel kind of impossible.

I struggle with myself a lot sometimes. Less than I used to, but there’s still a lot of self-doubt and negative talk within me. A lot of feeling like I’m not where I “should” be by now, especially professionally. Worrying that I’m never going to get to where I want to go. And yes, there is trust, too. The kind of trust that comes from the experience of making big choices that have been potentially risky yet always aligned with my intuition—choices made from a place of trust rather than fear—and witnessing them always work out. Or work out so far, anyway, in their ways. I am trying to lean into that trust more, to grow my patience more, but I’m going to be real with you: sometimes it’s hard.

This self-criticism and self-doubt recently brought up a question, while in conversation with a close friend: How do we change our personal barometers of worth in a society where the success = money = happiness model is so pervasive that we end up believing it’s true—and that it is what we truly desire? How do we keep showing up for ourselves in our passions and creative pursuits—especially if they are also the things we wish to become our livelihood—when opportunities for comparison and, by extension, self-judgment abound? 

As these ideas surfaced, Alicia offered a potent musing: What if, instead of collectively aspiring towards successful lives, we aspired towards meaningful ones? Or if we redefined “success” as measured by meaning rather than professional/material gain? Our entire world would be different. Success, she astutely observed, is directed inwards, towards ourselves; we seek personal achievements, be they money or status or other forms of external recognition. And we grasp for these things, believing that the having or lacking of them is correlated to our worth. Meaning, on the other hand, is achieved most often through a selfless or connective energy; we make offerings, sit in wide eyed curiosity and compassion with one another or our intrinsic selves, commune with nature. And it is truly in this giving of and connecting to ourselves that we grow. Become full.

In vocalizing my frustration and slight resignation around the potential of the blog to Alicia the other day, she challenged me by asking why it has to lead to anything. Why it can't just be valuable for the process of its creation. For me. And I know she is right. That I do it because I enjoy it and love creating the recipes and taking and editing the photos and writing, even if it is hard. But it is also, and has always been, an externally facing endeavor. Created for the purpose of connecting with and inspiring other people and hopefully, eventually, serving as a springboard for a career. And so, yes, it is difficult to detach from that aspect of it—from the yearning for it to be successful on those terms.

Detach. In Buddhist thought, attachment is taught to be the root of all suffering. So what if I wrote Pollinate with the wholehearted intention of creating beauty and growing my own self, in both skills and thought, and with the hope that it might resonate with some people but not attached to the idea that it must? What if we pursued the things that make us full, savoring the process of them rather than being motivated by an idea of what they might bring us in our unwritten future? What if we were water, fully and always only what we are in any given moment, coalescing and differentiating when tides rise and waves crash, moving around boulders with deft grace rather than resistance and self-doubt? What if we trusted our hearts and paths enough to exist fully in the present and, ultimately, get out of our own ways?

We may find a bit more freedom in that, I think. And a bit more happiness, too.

*Notes about the recipe: This is a super simple celebration of spring. As the bounties of the season begin to pour in, we are blessed with vibrant and delicious produce that often requires little to no cooking. I also love the revelations that come with tasting fresh foods straight from the pod or the cob that you might eat from frozen at other times during the year; there is no comparison! Fava beans are less common in the standard American diet than, say, peas, which is a shame because they are suuuuper delicious. They also happen to be crazy nutrient dense, containing an array of vitamins (folate, thiamine, vitamin K, vitamin B6) and minerals (iron, manganese, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium) in addition to fiber and protein! 

I used dill and tarragon in this recipe because I seem to perpetually have leftovers of those herbs in my fridge as of late. This would also be delicious with mint, basil, chives, chervil, parsley, or some combination thereof. You can have it on toast or off; with an egg or without. The basic equation here is fava beans + herbs + lemon = yum. It's pretty much that simple.

Lemony Fava Bean Tartine
Makes two toasts

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup fava beans (from about 1 lb. favas-in-the-pod)
1 unwaxed, organic lemon, zested
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp. cold-pressed, good quality olive oil
1/8 tsp. pink or sea salt
2 handfuls pea shoots
1 Tbsp. dill fronds, fresh
1 Tbsp. tarragon leaves, fresh
Two slices sourdough, rustic or multigrain boule
Soft boiled egg (or cooked to preference)
Fresh ground pepper, to finish

Directions
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Fill a medium bowl with ice water and set aside. Cook fava beans in the boiling water for 1 minute, then strain and transfer to the ice water. Peel the waxy outer coating from the fava beans.
2. In a medium sized jar with a lid, shake together the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Add the fava beans to the jar and gently shake to coat.
3. Toast your bread — a toaster is great but a grill pan with some olive oil would be extra delicious.
4. Place one big handful of pea shoots on each toast slice. Pour the favas and their oil on top of the greens (you may have a bit of oil leftover; it makes great salad dressing!). Sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp. of each herb onto each slice. Top with an egg if desired and a few twists of freshly cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

Whole Grain Blueberry Apricot Olive Oil Cake | On Living With a Heart Broken Open

There's a quote that I love by the environmental activist/scholar of Buddhism Joanna Macy, which goes: 

"The heart that breaks open can contain the whole universe."

The moment I heard this sentence spill from the lips of a former mentor of mine, it immediately struck a chord. Like it was a sort of justification for my modus operandi as a deeply feeling and relentlessly vulnerable person. At that time, I interpreted it as referring to close or intimate relationships, indicating that if we give fully, love courageously, and show up with a vast openness, we by extension have an expanded capacity to notice, be present with and receive the intricate isness of the universe. 

When the quote floated into my head today, as it does on occasion, I unexpectedly began to consider it in a new light. What if the grandeur of this statement didn't exclusively relegate it to grand situations? What would it look like if we approached our lives in each tiny moment of every passing day with a broken open heart?

I have a vivid memory of an exchange I had with my therapist in London many years ago, on a day that I was feeling particularly defeatist about...basically everything. Prompted by something that I had said that I can no longer recall, she asked me if I thought it didn't matter whether or not I smiled at bus drivers as I rode my way throughout the city. I huffed a dejected, "No, not really." She sat, visibly aghast, and proceeded to earnestly detail to me why these seemingly insignificant interactions really, truly matter.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. As I stood in line at a small, local cafe, I noticed that the cashier was this guy who a friend and I had encountered in the same spot back in December. His expression was ceaselessly stern, unfaltering as he engaged with customer after customer; my friend and I found this to be, for better or worse, absolutely hilarious. Seeing him again, that same surly expression, I laughed to myself as I recalled our failed efforts to banter with him that day. Approaching the register all on my own this time, I couldn't help but utter something benignly jokey about his deadpan schtick. His initial response was vaguely defensive, perhaps simply based in surprise, as he rattled off justifications for his demeanor. But as our back-and-forth grew, a fissure was struck and he eventually caved into a good handful of smiles. 

There's nothing particularly remarkable about that story—having a genuine interaction with a stranger with whom you could have easily had a rote interaction instead. The remarkable bit is this: The following week, I returned to the cafe for a casual breakfast and card writing session (...because you can do that on a random Wednesday when you only work part-time). Halfway through my divinely comforting ghee drenched porridge, I felt a presence hovering nearby. "Hey"; I looked up and was surprised to find the guy from the register standing right in front of me. "You made me laugh last week," he said. "Uh...yeah, I did..." I mumbled, caught entirely off guard. "Thanks for that," he replied. He went on to say how easy it is to get caught up in the details and necessities of the job and consequently how important it is to be pulled out of that from time to time, to experience some levity and be reminded of his own and everyone else's humanness.

So yeah, apparently it does matter. And, needless to say, him coming up to thank me was definitely a highlight of my week.

A few days later, I attended a workshop about chakras, which are part of a fascinating energy system that I hesitate to oversimplify. For the purposes of this story, I'll quickly say that chakras are swirling energy centers in our bodies that filter physical and emotional energy. Each of the 7 main chakras reside in a specific anatomic location and are connected to particular qualities of being, i.e. creativity, material groundedness, communication, sense of purpose, sexual desire, and so on. They can be over-exerted, depleted or in balance at any given time. 

The heart chakra, which resides at the thymus gland (a bit below your collarbone), is the home of love and compassion. It works with emotions and is the connector between our physical and spiritual selves. In detailing the actions we can take to tend to our heart chakra, our workshop instructor encouraged us to volunteer, take ourselves on a date and...wait for it...connect to strangers. I couldn't help but smile.

So what if a broken open heart simply means moving through the world with presence, compassion, and vulnerability to the wonder that resides in the details? What if it means showing up in each moment with a willingness to connect, or a belief in the possibility that you might encounter some everyday magic? What if a broken open heart is the courage to acknowledge the humanity of another being through the simple act of eye contact and a smile? 

I don't have all the answers, but I think they're interesting questions to ask. It is so easy to move through our days with our attention turned inwards, caught up in our own dramas and stories and responsibilities, failing to be open and present to everything and everyone that simply is. But the fact of the matter is that we're all in this together, a seemingly disparate web of beings who, every damn day, collide. Maybe if we did so with broken open hearts, our collisions might be more rich, more playful, more surprising, more meaningful, more thoughtful and more beautifully human.

*Notes about the recipe: This cake has relatively few ingredients, is 100% whole grain and is ridiculously easy to make. It is adapted from this Rhubarb Almond Crumb Cake, which I made for a BBQ last weekend and wasn't totally happy with. I loved the consistency (white whole wheat flour is the WAY TO GO with whole grain baking), but it was overly almond-y and the rhubarb was too sour for my taste. Because I am a perfectionist and because I left that entire cake at the BBQ couldn't handle not having any leftovers for myself/my housemates, I remade it the next day with a few adjustments. Olive oil instead of butter because olive oil cakes feel fancy and are delicious. Apricots and blueberries because SUMMER FRUIT!...that isn't rhubarb. Half the amount of almond extract because balance. I wasn't even planning on sharing it on the blog (hence the lack of process photos/still lives of fruit), but it came out so damn well that I knew I had to. So here we are!

Whole Grain Blueberry Apricot Olive Oil Cake
Makes one 9" cake

Ingredients
2 eggs
1 cup raw cane sugar
1/2 tsp. pink or sea salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract
6 Tbsp. cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (the flavor will come through in the cake, so quality olive oil is encouraged!)
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour (this is a variety of wheat that is lighter than traditional wheat. You can find it at Trader Joe's or in bulk sections of some health food stores)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 apricots, sliced into 1/8" thick wedges
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" round baking pan and line the bottom with parchment. Set aside.
2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a vigorous arm), whip together the eggs, sugar, salt and almond extract on medium-high speed until light, fluffy and nearly doubled in volume, about 5 minutes.
3. Mix in olive oil.
4. On a low speed, mix in flour and baking powder until just combined.
5. If using a stand mixer, remove the bowl. Gently fold in blueberries by hand. 
6. Pour batter into prepared baking pan. It will be quite thick; use a spatula to even it out on top.
7. Starting in the middle of the cake, create a spiral with the apricot wedges. Sprinkle the sliced almonds around the perimeter of the cake.
8. Bake for 75-80 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Springtime Greens, Herbs & Citrus Salad with Warm Pistachio Vinaigrette | On Surrender

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There’s a quietly potent thing that happens in stillness. An absorption. A settling. An enigmatic connection through breath.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies momentum. Acceleration. That thing you learn about in physics that makes it easier to keep going once you’ve started, or harder and more jolting to stop. It's an equally powerful and important force. Momentum is often imperative in getting shit done, whether it’s a responsibility you’ve been dragging your feet to accomplish or a personal project that becomes ever easier and more exciting once your creativity begins to flow.

The catch with momentum is that, in excess, it can become an overwhelming state of being. It can leave us lost, rattled and threadbare. Going, going, going all the time, with no space or time to process the daily whirlwind of our lives. There is a delicate balance between motion and stillness that must be struck. A give and take that is necessary if we are to not only prevent burnout but also show up in our lives from a place of alignment, authenticity and love.

Why? Because it is within quiet, solitary being-ness that the space for self-connection is born. In attuning to our internal rhythms and our breath, we are better able to notice the state of our bodies and our hearts. From this awareness stems an invaluable capacity for reflection and processing. Absorbing and rebuilding. Moving forward with concerted awareness rather than the gravitational pull of perpetual motion.

Lately, as I have been sitting with my breath, I have been working to exhale into surrender. I would have historically thought this to be a ridiculous state of being to choose to cultivate (and you very well may too), but hear me out.

I’m not sure if this is the universal experience, but I certainly learned about what it means to surrender from Captain Hook and movies with saloon hold-ups and history lessons about soldiers who dejectedly laid down their axes, guns, or swords. It was a relinquishing, a white flag, a giving up. Nothing positive—nor of any strength—was to be found in the act of surrendering.

Five years ago, deep in the midst of the most emotionally and existentially trying period of my life, I sat in an Airbnb in Barcelona with my oldest friend. She had brought with her a box of Angel cards—spiritual “guides” that I had unabashedly rolled my eyes at when she first shared them with me a year or so before. But life was different now—I was different now—and I felt a fissure inside myself that urged me to be open to the possibility of their power.

Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I asked the wisdom (or meaningless caprice, if that’s your thing) of the cards to give me guidance about a job in London that I had just applied for and wanted with all my heart. The card I pulled read, “Surrender.”

You can imagine how I felt about that.

The gentle offering of a different perspective that flowed from my friend’s mouth changed my life in a most unexpected and profound way. Surrender, she suggested, was not a resigned giving up but a courageous letting go. It embodied a state of knowing that I had done my part, shown up in the best ways I knew how, and then stepped away with faith that the rest would play out in the way it was meant to—even if it was not the way I wanted. Surrender as a state of release rather than grasping; a state of trust rather than fear.

There is a beautiful surrendering that happens in stillness. The kind of surrendering that simply means being with what is. Not only accepting all the realities of the present moment in your life, but leaning into them. Allowing them to be what they are without any resistance. And trusting that the universe will catch you; that you are exactly where you are meant to be.

It’s not easy. But, like most things, it becomes easier with practice. The more frequently you choose to be in relationship with yourself, your life, and the world or realms beyond you from a place of trust, the more easily you will be able to surrender when things are hard or feel misaligned with what your heart wants. Knowing that you’ve shown up as best as you could in any given moment. Knowing that you have not been left behind. Knowing that there is so much still unknown, still unfolding, still to be revealed.

So I recently made a new friend, Alanna, who happens to be an immensely talented blogger/photographer/food maker extraordinaire (don't take my word for it; go see for yourself). She also happens to be a super generous human being who spent an afternoon with me a couple weeks ago styling food and sharing her props and teaching me how to change the aperture on the manual setting of my not-always-the-most-intuitive camera. If you're thinking these photos look wayyyy fancier than my normal ones do, it's because they are. Thanks, Alanna!! You're the best.

This salad quite possibly epitomizes the transition from winter to spring, pulling together late season citrus and a whole mess of fresh, sweet and peppery spring greens (including pea tendrils!!! If you haven't had those before, you're in for a treat. They're seriously amazing). Essentially, this means that this is a salad for RIGHT NOW, while farmers and locally-inclined markets still have unusual seasonal citrus like Cara Cara oranges overlapping with get-em-while-you-can spring greens. It's vibrant and fresh, great for supporting your body in its transition towards lighter, warmer weather foods, while still being quite satiating thanks to the healthy fats from the avocado and pistachio vinaigrette. 

Springtime Greens, Herbs & Citrus Salad with Warm Pistachio Vinaigrette
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 bunch watercress
1 head frisée, roughly chopped
1 bunch pea tendrils (or sub other fresh, leafy spring green if you can't find them)
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
2 Cara Cara oranges, sliced into 1/4" rounds
3 Tbsp. dill fronds (fresh)
3 Tbsp. tarragon leaves (fresh)
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar (or sub white wine vinegar)
1/3 cup raw pistachios, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp. sea salt
black pepper

Directions
1. Toss together all the greens, fennel, avocado, orange slices and herbs and place in a large serving bowl or on a platter.
2. In a small frying pan, warm the olive oil over low heat for two minutes. Add the minced shallot and cook for a few minutes, until translucent.
3. Add the vinegar, salt and a few grinds of black pepper to the saucepan and stir to combine. Add the pistachios and toss to coat.
4. Spoon the pistachio vinaigrette over the salad. Finish off with a couple more grinds of black pepper and finishing salt (if you have it) to taste.