Springtime Greens, Herbs & Citrus Salad with Warm Pistachio Vinaigrette

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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.

Sarah B.'s Coconut-Quinoa Coleslaw with Minty Tahini Dressing

Sarah Britton is one of the most infectious people I've ever met: infectious in her absolute love and lust for making nourishing foods taste delicious; in her unparalleled capacity to geek out about the properties of whole foods that foster vibrant physical health; and in her unflinching wonder at and gratitude for the bounties that the earth provides. I think you'd be hard pressed to find any writing about Sarah B. that doesn't completely gush about her, both as a person and as a holistic nutritionist/educator/plant based chef. Clearly, I am not immune to this particular condition.

Before I knew Sarah as a person and had the pleasure of calling her a friend, I knew her through her writing on her stunning blog My New Roots and via cooking up an endless number of the recipes she shared. Back in 2012, when I was first getting into food and teaching myself how to cook, I devoured food blogs like it was going out of style (rather than just coming into it). Yet, not caring about this person's kitchen remodel or that person's trip to Hawaii, I would routinely skip directly to the recipes at the bottom of each post...until I found My New Roots. A blog that was as engaging and educational as it was absolutely fucking gorgeous. For a week straight, every moment not spent in class at my grad school program or in the kitchen actually cooking, I spent reading My New Roots, cover to cover.

Without ever having spoken to her, Sarah taught me about the difference between refined and whole grains; the nutritional and digestive benefits of soaking pulses, nuts and seeds; why refined sugar is so damaging to our bodies and what we can replace it with; why dairy is so hard to digest; and how to make healthy food taste delicious, among countless other things. Her writing was passionate, totally goofy, incredibly informative and inspiring beyond measure. My personal whole foods revolution had begun and Sarah was instrumental in setting it in motion.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at a workshop she led in January of 2013. Like a total nutcase, I impulsively offered my editorial services to her after she shared with the group that she had just secured her first cookbook deal. Luckily for me, Sarah didn't think I was as batshit as I felt; shortly thereafter, she asked me to copyedit her self-published eBook, Stocking the Pantry. We became friends. In July of 2015, I spent five days in Copenhagen assisting her as she created and shot recipes for her second cookbook, Naturally Nourished. And now the book is finally here!

The clarity and enthusiasm of Sarah's writing and recipes (not to mention stunning photography), which permeate My New Roots and amplified my own excitement around learning to cook and eat well, are present on every page of Naturally Nourished. It is the perfect book for anyone and everyone, but particularly for those of you who are less confident in the kitchen and/or have limited access to fancy/intimidating ingredients that often pop up in plant based recipes. Constructing every recipe exclusively from foods that you can find at your run-of-the-mill supermarket, Sarah focuses on simple cooking techniques and flavor combinations that you can use to transform everyday whole foods (vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, herbs) into divine tasting and super satisfying meals. 

Broken into chapters based on course—Soups, Salads, Mains, Sides and Small Plates, and Savory and Sweet Snacks—Sarah helpfully includes an introductory section in which she discusses the building blocks of composing a meal, why your freezer should be your new best friend, and how to boost flavor in any dish. With this, you'll easily develop an understanding of the why behind the recipes tasting delicious when you make them, in addition to skills to help you easily integrate healthy, from-scratch cooking into your everyday routine.

I chose to share Sarah B.'s Coconut-Quinoa Coleslaw with Minty Tahini Dressing for a number of reasons. #1: Tahini. I am totally obsessed. (Sarah is too, incidentally.) #2: Mint. My absolute favorite herb, enhancing everything from salads to shakshuka to smoothies. #3: Seasonality. We're just now starting to see produce turn from winter to spring, but not enough that I felt comfortable taking on any of her spring-focused recipes. Cabbage is not only abundant in winter, but all year long! This means you can make this dish now as well as a few months from now. Which is great, because...#4: Picnics. Everyone's favorite summer pastime, whether at a park, a creek or the beach. This recipe is great for a crowd, super easy to transport and totally satiating (which will come in handy when you need something to absorb all that picnic beer).

A mayo-free, much more flavorful (in my humble opinion) riff on coleslaw, this dish is like a crunchy, vibrant party in your mouth. Filled with protein from the quinoa, antioxidants and fiber (nearly 1 gram for every 10 calories!) from the raw cabbage, natural sweetness from the toasted coconut and healthy fats and calcium from the tahini sauce, coleslaw never made your body so happy. Seriously.

So hey, go make this slaw. Then go get yourself a copy of Naturally Nourished and dig in to initiate the whole foods revolution that will, slowly but surely, change your life. 

Sarah B.'s Coconut-Quinoa Coleslaw with Minty Tahini Dressing
From Naturally Nourished, by Sarah Britton
Serves 6 as a main, 8 as a side

Ingredients
Quinoa
1/2 cup (85 g) quinoa, soaked if possible
Scant 1 cup (250 ml) water
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Minty Tahini Dressing
1/2 cup (125 ml) tahini
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
3/4 cup (185 ml) water
pinch of sea salt, plus more as needed
1 packed cup (25 g) fresh mint leaves

Vegetables
2 packed cups (130 g) shredded red cabbage
2 packed cups (130 g) shredded green cabbage
3 medium carrots, julienned
1 red bell pepper (stem, seeds and ribs removed), julienned
1/4 cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut

Directions
1. Make the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa well. In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cook, covered, until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa grains are tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a blender, combine the tahini, lime juice, olive oil, maple syrup, water, salt, and mint leaves; blend on high until smooth and creamy. Season with more salt as needed. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the cabbages, kale, carrots and bell pepper.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt together and pour over the vegetables. Toss well and lightly massage the liquid into the kale and cabbage, then let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Preheat a dry skillet over medium heat. When hot, toast the coconut, stirring often, until golden brown and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and set it aside.
6. Finish the salad: Add the quinoa and coconut to the vegetable bowl. Toss well to combine. When ready to serve, dish out portions and allow guests to pour the dressing on their salads.

Healing Blood Orange Hot Chocolate

Patience is a virtue is probably one of the best known axioms, one that we’re directly taught or absorb through any number of spheres—familial, educational, social—at a very young age. As with many modes of behavior, including kindness, generosity, honesty, and attentiveness, we’re taught to cultivate patience in relation to other people. To be patient with our siblings, our classmates, people who operate differently than we do. If we're lucky, we're taught to be patient with ourselves in times of frustration, particularly when developing a new skill, like learning how to divide fractions (super frustrating) or play trombone (probably super frustrating?). Yet the patience with self generally stops there. Which, I've learned as I've grown older, is highly problematic. Because as sentient humans, we don't just feel stuck or frustrated with ourselves in regard to activities; we often feel it in regard to habits, emotions, and our deeper ways of being.

I've been sitting with waves of processing in the past few months, simultaneously fluid and disarming states of centeredness and grief. Noticing the ways in which I am fine and not fine all at once. The ways in which emotions can feel addressed and released, only to suddenly resurface and be exhumed out of nowhere, rising and falling like the tides.

It is easy to feel frustrated with this process, especially if it is in regard to emotions you've been experiencing for a long time. This is where the vitality of deeper patience with self comes in.

The long and short of it is this: healing takes time. And it's allowed to.

Grief is such a complicated beast. Mourning. It can be intense and overwhelming, sad or angry, resigned or numb. It can be completely enveloping or sit quietly with you, humming in the background as you gather yourself together and go about your days. It can slip so far into your bones that you have moments, perhaps many, where you lose sight of it completely, until something comes out of nowhere and triggers the pain all over again—and suddenly, you are overcome.

I’ve done a fair amount of grieving in my time. Mourning the loss of love, of friendships, of places I called home. Mourning the loss of futures I envisioned for myself that disappeared when those things tied to them did. And of course, mourning the loss of life. Of family I held so dear. And now, of friends.

Sitting alongside Patience is a virtue in the neatly packaged axiom box is Time heals all wounds, which I think, to a large extent, is true. But time itself is not a cure-all; it must be lived through with attention if true healing is sought. And with a particular type of attention, too: attention that is kind, compassionate and non-judgmental. Attention that is simply present with what is. Healing will occur, albeit sometimes quite slowly, through processing. Tenderness. Patience. Loving care—even amidst fits of rage. Space for the wounds to be, to breathe. 

When we meet anger, frustration or pain with anger, frustration or pain, it cannot heal. It cannot be moved. We resist ourselves, we feel agitated for still feeling what we feel, and we stay stuck in that place. It is only through compassion for ourselves in whatever mental and emotional state we’re in—for however long we are in it—that we will be able to process those feelings, wrestle with them, feel them fully, and over time, begin to let them go.

So, I accidentally made this blood orange hot chocolate. It was pouring rain here for weeks on end and I found myself making endless variations of cozy chocolate drinks, pairing nut milks and raw cacao with different natural sweeteners and spices. This one was so surprisingly delicious that I knew I couldn't keep it to myself. I want to talk briefly about what raw cacao even is and why it is such a potent, healing food, but first, a brief PSA: 

There is—and there absolutely must be—immense joy in eating healthfully if it is to become a pillar of your life. No one ever achieved joy through depravation, restriction or judgment. For these reasons, we must not only be flexible in our psychology and choices around food, but must also learn to prepare nutrient rich, powerful and health supportive foods in ways that delight us and pleasure our senses. This can seem like a daunting, overwhelming or time-consuming task, I know! It is important to remember that it's a process, not a life overhaul that happens overnight. And, like the process of developing any new skill set, you must be patient with yourself. Start with the basics and expand your knowledge over time. The plus side of this particular skill set is that you get to enjoy delicious food and develop an increased state of physical—and often mental and spiritual—wellbeing as a result.

It also helps to start with chocolate.

Swapping out whatever cocoa powder your have in your pantry for raw cacao is one small action you can take that will have a huge payoff. Raw cacao tastes quite similar to unsweetened cocoa powder, but nutritionally there is a world of difference. The unsweetened cocoa powder we're familiar with is processed using high temperatures, which kills a significant amount of its potent benefits. (Don't even get me started on the sweetened hot chocolate powder...you should most certainly steer clear of that stuff. Read the ingredients next time you encounter some and you'll see why.) Cacao powder, on the other hand, is minimally processed at low temperatures, so its medicinal properties are retained.

It might surprise you to know that cacao is actually one of the most nutritionally complex foods on the planet! It contains over 300 beneficial chemical compounds, including vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and magical compounds that do things like raise serotonin levels in our brains (elevating our moods) and stimulate libido. Cacao is abundant with antioxidants and contains phytochemicals (naturally occurring plant chemicals that have protective properties) that can help lower cholesterol and support heart health. It has sulfur which contributes to healthy hair and nails; magnesium which helps maximize our use of oxygen to naturally boost energy; and is the highest known plant-based source of iron! Seriously, y'all. All this in the plant from which we make chocolate.

Suffice to say that incorporating raw cacao into your diet is one surefire way you can have your cake and eat it, too. It's great in smoothies and raw desserts (including chocolate bars from scratch!). You can also easily bake with it, although some of the potent nutrients will be compromised when exposed to the heat of the oven. And, my favorite, it's perfect for making healing hot chocolate!

When making hot chocolate with raw cacao, it's important to use a nut milk (homemade is best) or coconut milk rather than cow's milk, because the dairy inhibits our bodies' absorption of many of the antioxidants in cacao. Natural sweeteners, like maple syrup or raw honey, are best to sweeten the hot chocolate because they're whole foods that have trace minerals in them, too. From there, go crazy! This version is vibing with the abundant produce of winter—blood oranges for some tartness and a pinch of ginger for extra spice and warmth. May it help you endure the last stretch of winter before spring begins to bloom.

Healing Blood Orange Hot Chocolate
Serves one

Ingredients
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. nut or coconut milk*
2 Tbsp. blood orange juice, fresh squeezed
2 Tbsp. raw cacao powder
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch pink or sea salt

Directions
1. Combine all ingredients In a small saucepan over low heat.
2. Whisk continuously until all ingredients are dissolved into the nut milk and liquid is gently steaming. Serve and enjoy.

*I used homemade cashew milk for this, which is super easy to make! Simply soak 1/2 cup raw cashews for 4-8 hours; rinse; put in a blender with 2 1/2 cups water, a pinch of salt, a dash of cinnamon and some raw honey if desired, and blend on high until smooth. Keeps for 5-7 days.

Rye Berry, Blood Orange, Pistachio & Herb Salad

I think it's fair to say that America is pretty unrecognizable right now. We see the reality of this moment mirrored in history books, familiar to us through stories we’ve learned about America’s less than commendable past. But this is not—surely cannot be—our America. 2017 America. Except each day we wake to find that it is. And that the America that many of us embraced in the past eight years, celebrated even, we now know that we’ve also taken for granted.

As the baffling, fear and hate based edicts continue to pour in, we are being mobilized into action because we must be. This is not a time for complacency.

I often feel conflicted about how much I should or even want to talk about politics here, because this is not a space designated for political analysis or commentary. Rather, it is a space that is dedicated to the vulnerable, courageous discussion and generation of personal wellness, in myself and hopefully those of you reading. But here's the thing: valuing wellness in a culture that predominantly values consumerism and professional success is, in fact, political. 

This blog is implicitly political because it is personal. And yes—the personal is political. As a woman who refuses to be a doormat, I am inherently political (even in 2017). As a person with a uterus, I am inherently political. As people who fundamentally believe in equality, we are inherently political. It is time that we all acknowledge the magnitude of this fact and, like thousands of Americans are doing each day, start to show up. We must begin to show up for our country, for our inhabitants who are being put in positions that resemble those that many of our ancestors were horrifically subjected to, and we must begin to show up for ourselves. Believing in and valuing equality is not enough today. We must put our money, our phone calls, our bodies, our emails, our art and our writings where our mouths are.

I’m interested in this act of Showing Up on a deep level, far beyond its relation to politics. I'm interested in what it means and looks like for each of us to show up for ourselves in the smallest and most profound ways, every day.

Showing Up is an act that becomes a mode of being. In America, we are often taught to show up for other people: to be generous, kind, caring, reliable, and honest in our relationships, whether they are personal or professional. But rarely, if ever, are we taught to show up for ourselves. When was the last time you got home, sat on your bed, took a deep breath and said yourself, “Hey self, whom I love so deeply, how was your day?” How frequently do you take a deliberate moment to tune into the communication from your muscles and organs to see how they’re doing and what they need; to notice the state of your mind and see if it's yearning for some some meditation, poetry or journaling to help it relax and reset; to check in with your heart and receive the information it has ready for you as soon as you’re willing to listen?

This, my friends, is self-care. This is Showing Up. Placing deliberate attention onto your mind, body and emotional states to ask, with curiosity and tenderness and without judgment, how you are doing and what you need. Showing Up means slowing down enough to make choices that align with your best interests and your truest expression of self rather than choices that align with the ways you have historically operated. It means asking yourself if you're doing something out of habit or conscious awareness; out of fear or trust. 

I will be the first to admit that pausing to take a deliberate breath and directly addressing yourself can feel anywhere from mildly awkward to downright ridiculous, especially if you've never done it before. But you know what? Its impact is huge. Saying a wholehearted "Good morning!" to yourself upon waking makes you feel acknowledged as a being and sets a distinct tone for your day. Taking a deep breath and a moment to tune into your levels of hunger before you nose dive into a bag of chips or cookies at the end of a stressful day at work, only to realize what you really need is a warm bath or some serious sleep, is a giant expression of self-love and care. Placing a hand over your heart and gently saying, "I love you, it's okay" after a perceived failure or argument can make all the difference in the world. We are conditioned to seek care and support from others, but this is the most incredible, most resourceful thing: What we need is ultimately ours to give ourselves.

There's a poet named nayyirah waheed whose writings routinely stop me in my tracks. She has an unbelievable way of expressing the deepest truths of life in the most raw yet gentile ways. In one of my favorite poems, she writes:

there is you and you.
this is a relationship.
this is the most important relationship.
— home

If America is ever going to change—which I believe it will—it is imperative that we start with ourselves. We cannot authentically teach trust, love, kindness and acceptance if we are not actively trusting, loving, kind and accepting of ourselves. Our energies vibrate, our opinions of self are palpable, we teach by example. The road ahead is long. It is going to be trying and surely disheartening. But we are resourceful and we are many. If we begin to truly value and tend to ourselves, we will be so much better equipped to show up in this world as beings to be reckoned with.

Notes about the Recipe: As I became an increasingly adept cook and found myself eating a disproportionate amount of meals out of bowls, I began to develop an expanded definition of the word 'salad'. To me growing up, and to many still, a salad was a plate of greens that maybe had some other vegetables thrown in. To me now, a salad can be made of greens, grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, herbs, nuts and seeds. Basically, as long as whatever you're eating is mixed together, it's a salad. This is one such dish—reliant more on grains than greens and completely satisfying as a meal in and of itself.

The kernels of whole grains, for some reason, are called 'berries'. Wheat berries, rye berries, spelt berries...these are not bizarre gain-fruit hybrids, but the complete edible kernel of the unprocessed grain. You cook whole grains just as you would rice, but they won't absorb the water as much. Soaking your grains overnight in water with a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon will help unlock their nutritional benefits and make them easier for you to digest after they are cooked. Whole grains are a fantastic source of fiber, often have significant amounts of protein and are quite chewy and satisfying to eat. Rye is particularly high in magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate the body's use of glucose (blood sugar) and insulin production. In helping control blood sugar, rye has been shown to help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. I chose rye berries for this recipe because that is what I had on hand, but feel free to sub them for wheat berries, spelt berries, or whatever whole grain you're curious to try out!

Drawing from winter citrus and aromatic Middle Eastern flavors, this is a bright salad for cold months. If you particularly like tart or biting flavors, feel free to throw in some olives, preserved lemon or thinly sliced red onion, too.

Rye Berry, Blood Orange, Pistachio & Herb Salad
Serves four

Ingredients
Salad
1/2 cup rye berries, preferably soaked overnight
1/2 cup pistachios, de-shelled, lightly roasted if they're raw, and roughly chopped
3 blood oranges
1/2 bunch mint, roughly chopped
1/2 bunch chives, minced
1/4 cup sheep's feta, crumbled

Dressing
1/4 cup cold-pressed olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
zest of 1 blood orange

Directions
1. Rinse the rye berries. If you soaked them, strain and rinse them. Put in a pot with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 25-35 minutes.
2. Zest one orange and place zest in a jar with the remainder of the dressing ingredients. Shake vigorously to emulsify and set aside.
3. Peel and segment the oranges. Cut each segment into thirds and set aside.
4. When the rye berries are cooked, strain, pour into a large bowl and then immediately toss with half of the dressing. (Grains and legumes soak up flavors much better when they're warm.)
5. Add the herbs, half of the pistachios and oranges to the rye berries and gently mix. Sprinkle the remaining pistachios and feta on the top of the salad (or on top of the salad on each individual plate). 

Salad can be enjoyed warm or cooled. Keeps for 4-5 days, but I would keep the feta separate if you're able.

Sweet or Savory Ancient Grain Porridge (with Dates, Pear & Pomegranate)

In 2016, I learned and thought a lot about language. Which is funny, because I figured that after 17 years of formal education plus grad school, I knew pretty much everything I would need to know about language in this life. Like many of us who were privileged to learn from excellent educators in the humanities or the arts, I was taught how to write properly and how to write persuasively. I was taught how to write poetically too, but that one didn't go as well. After I was taught how to write, I was taught how to think. Not in the brainwashed sort of way; rather, how to think critically and creatively. I was taught these skills, which are essential for success in many of our current professional realms and imperative for verbal self-expression, dissention, innovation and the creation and preservation of certain forms of culture.

But in 2016, I learned something different about language: The direct role that it plays in personal wellness, health and growth, both mentally and physiologically. It's fascinating and is a theme I intend to talk about in varying capacities in this space as it grows. Now over halfway through January, many of us having formed and some still carrying resolutions or intentions for the year ahead, the time feels ripe to begin the conversation.

I am proposing a small yet mighty task for you. You, who seeks to do something differently this year, to support yourself in a new way, to build a new habit or mode of being that is more aligned with your true self. Whether that's drinking more water or emphasizing balance in your life, increasing the amount of time you exercise, speaking up for yourself more often or shifting your relationship with money; I have an invitation for you.

The invitation is this: choose determination over discipline.

Here's the low down. The thoughts we have and the ways we speak to ourselves directly impact the things of which we believe ourselves to be capable, the decisions we make and actions we take, and our bodies' physiological responses to those ideas and actions. Our thoughts feel so ingrained and automatic that we fail to notice the authority—the choice—we have over them. In failing to notice our agency over our thoughts, we are unable to recognize how framing their language or content differently might change our lives. It is this recognition that I yearn for you to crack open.

In the pursuit of achievement, "discipline" is a word that comes up a lot. This year, I am going to be more disciplined and get to the gym five times a week. If only I had more discipline, a.k.a. self-control, I wouldn't eat that second piece of cake. I know I possess the discipline to sit through this 30 minute meditation without flinching. I need to have the discipline to practice my musical instrument every single day if I am going to nail that audition. None of these are invalid or unimportant ambitions or pursuits. But is discipline the kind of motivation that will make you feel excited, empowered and capable of getting there?

Think, for a moment, of a goal you've set for yourself this year. It can be large or small. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in followed by a slow exhale, and say to yourself, "I have the discipline to ________." Good. Now, using that same goal, close your eyes, take a deep breath in followed by a slow exhale, and say to yourself, "I have the determination to ________." Did that feel different in your body? In your heart?

Discipline, as a word, has a connotation of rigidity, sacrifice, something achieved through contracted and imposed efforts rather than ease. Determination, on the other hand, rings of purpose, positive energy motivated by a belief in the value of that which you are pursuing and an earnest drive to succeed. 

And so, I invite you to show up to that which you desire for yourself with determination rather than discipline. Set goals that hover in the sweet spot of realistic, achievable growth, so when you do fulfill them, you will feel motivated to continue recommitting to that practice. And when you slip or miss an opportunity to enact your goal, approach yourself with compassionate understanding, then gently reset your determination. There is no space for shame or guilt here; that mindset is not warranted, productive, nor kind.

I was recently discussing this linguistic distinction with a dear friend of mine, Briana, who also practices healing work. In her infinite wisdom, she extended the linguistic and energetic re-framing even further: to devotion. It's a place I'm still working towards, and I admire the heart in it. If you can show up to yourself, your intentions, and your new year's resolutions with devotion, with deep reverence for the ways in which they will enrich your life, then the energy to make them a reality is sure to materialize in ways you've never experienced before.

Language has power. Why not wield it to support ourselves in being the selves we wish to be?

Notes about the Recipe: This porridge is inspired by a divine, 5 grain porridge at a local cafe called Bartavelle. I love its robust texture and heartiness and have been attempting to sufficiently replicate it at home for the past two years. In addition to being super satiating because it is made of whole grains and seeds, which are packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats, it is also GLUTEN-FREE! Horray.

To simplify things, I've scaled the porridge down to four "grains": Quinoa, amaranth, flax and brown rice. Most of these are actually seeds, but "Sweet or Savory Seed Porridge" sounded kind of like a thing for birds...so we'll go with the common misconceptions. Quinoa is one such seed that is generally acknowledged as a grain. It is also one of the few plants that contains all 9 essential amino acids that make a complete protein. Similarly, Amaranth is a tiny seed that behaves like a grain and was a staple food of the Aztecs. It has a toasty flavor, is also a complete protein, and is rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C. Flax seeds are revered for their high omega-3 content, which is a type of essential fatty acid that is necessary for healthy functioning and can only be obtained through the foods we eat. Flax is also a great source of fiber, antioxidants and minerals including manganese and magnesium. Brown rice is delicious. And, unlike white rice, contains a hefty amount of fiber to help keep our guts and hearts healthy!

Eaten straight with no salt, this porridge is incredibly savory. When you add salt it's still savory, but tastes a lot better. I love adding a generous teaspoonful or two of melted ghee to the porridge regardless of my toppings, as its rich toasty flavor balances out the earthiness of the "grains" super well. If you don't have ghee, you can use browned or melted butter. From there, the toppings are up to you!

Sweet or Savory Ancient Grain Porridge (with Dates, Pear & Pomegranate) 
Serves two

Ingredients
Porridge
2 1/2 Tbsp. short grain brown rice
2 1/2 Tbsp. quinoa, any color
2 Tbsp. amaranth
1 Tbsp. flax seeds
generous pinch or two sea salt

Sweet
Ghee
Chopped dates
Pure maple syrup
+ Seasonal fruit toppings
Pear slices
Pomegranate seeds

Savory
Ghee or cold-pressed oilve oil
Soft boiled egg
Flaky or herbed salt
Gomasio
+ Seasonal veg toppings, if desired
Sauteéd mushrooms
Caramelized onions
Sauteéd kale

Directions
1. If you can have the foresight, soak the quinoa, brown rice and amaranth overnight (but not the flax) in filtered water with a splash of lemon or apple cider vinegar. In the morning, strain and rinse well.
2. If you weren't able to soak the grains overnight, the porridge will still work! It just won't be activated. Place the grains in a fine mesh strainer and rinse, rubbing them together with your hands to clean thoroughly. 
3. Place the rinsed grains in a small pot, add the flax and 1 cup of water. With the pot covered, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook undisturbed for 25 minutes.
4. Turn off the heat and let the porridge sit, still covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Add salt to taste. Finish off with sweet or savory toppings and enjoy!

Browned Butter & Spelt Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last night, as I slept, I turned 30.

Beginning in my late teens, whenever anyone asked me my age, I would follow the number with the essential addendum, "...but I feel like I'm 30." It wasn't that I was a particularly old soul or anything, I have just always possessed a certain level of maturity that made me feel ready for all the things I imagined adulthood would be. No drama, stable relationships, a fulfilling career, self-assuredness. You know, the simple things. 

As far back as I can remember, I have been eager for the ways of being that filled my heart to match my reality, to have my life catch up with my desires for myself. 

There are moments now, sometimes a beautiful and robust string of them, when I feel wise. But it is an entirely different wisdom than I had imagined adulthood would bring. I don't feel wise because I have all my shit together or because I embody all the qualities and circumstances that I assumed come neatly packaged with 30 years on this Earth (which I definitely don't). I feel wise because I have begun to understand and accept the uncertainty of life. I lean into what feels right without knowing or having grand expectations of where it will lead. My life looks absolutely nothing like I imagined it would at this stage. Nothing. But instead of the deep distress, depression and resistance I responded to that with in my mid-20s, I have come to a place of trust in and patience with the unfolding. It's a kind of wisdom I couldn't have comprehended when I previously dreamed of 30 because I hadn't yet lived enough to know it would be necessary.

I have been feeling an internal storminess the past few weeks, waves of deep grief crashing against the yearning to acknowledge and celebrate personal milestones. A significant birthday. The 1 year anniversary of this blog. Holding that, while consciously and purposefully sinking into a space of darkness. Honoring the lives of the 36 people who died in the horrific Ghost Ship fire in Oakland on December 2, two of whom were my friends. Grieving, sometimes deeply and sometimes shallowly yet always presently, over the incomprehensible travesty and unfairness of their loss of life and our world's loss of their presence in it. 

I feel my breaths differently since they died. 

Em and Donna were such beacons of light. They were unfailingly warm and vibrant people. Genuine and generous, inquisitive and unassuming. A poet and a healer. It is still so incomprehensible that they are gone. The fire took the lives of college students and elementary school teachers, musicians and publishers, activists and filmmakers. People devoted to our communities, to showing up in our world as their authentic selves. There is no sense to be made of it. My heart breaks every single day. 

As people gathered across the Bay to grieve and honor the lives of Donna, Em, Johnny, Kiyomi, Griffin, Hanna, Vanessa, Benjamin, Edmond, Micah, Nicole, Alex, Michela, Ara, Jennifer, Jason, Draven, Joseph, Peter, Barrett, Jonathan, Billy, Alex, David, Travis, Sara, Brandon, Cash, Nicolas, Riley, Chelsea, Jennifer, Amanda, Wolfgang, Michele, and Nicholas, I began to think about ritual. As I began to think about celebrating the 1 year anniversary of this blog in this space and celebrating my 30th birthday in physical space, I thought about ritual even more. The reasons why we gather and commemorate. Honor and draw particular attention to a thing. To acknowledge. To create meaning. To remember. To cherish. To heal. 

It's important. It makes us feel connected, feel valued. It helps us articulate our humanness, together. 

These are my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Share them with people you love and tell the people you love that you love them. Breathe deeply. Be kind. Create beauty in the world, whatever that looks like to you. It's been a hard year. We all need it.

*Note: These are, in fact, the best ever chocolate chip cookies...and you should trust me on that, because I've baked a lot of chocolate chip cookies in my life. For many years, I was in search of a recipe that would yield a cookie with as much heft as those you get at fancy bakeries, with crispy edges and thick, gooey middles. After conducting some aggressive research, I found out that melted butter results in crispy cookies, whereas creamed butter results in thicker cookies. SO! The secret trick is to melt half the butter and cream half the butter, which gives you the best of both worlds. And as long as you're melting the butter, you might as well brown it, right? I also threw some spelt flour into the mix because I am physically incapable of baking things without at least 50% whole grains. In addition to a nutritional boost, the spelt lends a nice earthiness to the cookie, which balances out its sweetness. I have tested these babies on at least a dozen people, from California to Indiana, from 12 year-olds to 90 year-olds (and the 30 year-olds in between), and they have all given them a resounding endorsement. Not that I should have to convince you to make cookies, right? 

(Best Ever) Browned Butter & Spelt Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
Makes 16

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks, 16 Tbsp) butter, softened
1 cup muscovado (unrefined brown sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup superfine raw cane sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup spelt flour
1 + 1/4 cup unbleached All Purpose flour
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup dark chocolate discs, or chopped from a bar
Maldon or other flaked salt, to sprinkle on top

Directions
1. Place 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) in a small pot and set over medium heat, swirling the pot semi-frequently to prevent burning. Continue to heat the butter after it has melted. It will begin to foam, eventually clear and start to turn amber. At this stage, you will see little brown specks form and stick to the bottom of the pot. As soon as there is a collection of these browned specks, remove the butter from the heat and transfer it to a small bowl, browned bits and all. Be attentive with this; it can go from browned to burned very quickly!
2. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed (or with a vigorous arm), whip the remaining 1/2 cup softened butter with the muscovado sugar until fully creamed, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
3. Once the browned butter has cooled a bit, add that and the cane sugar to the mix and beat until whipped, about 2 minutes.
4. Beat the egg into the mixture until fully incorporated, and then the egg yolk. At this point the batter should be smooth and much lighter in color.
5. In a separate large bowl, mix together the flours, salt and baking soda.
6. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet batter and mix at a low speed until just incorporated. There can still be a few bits of flour peeking through. 
7. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently mix in the chocolate chips with a large spoon.
8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, stick it in the fridge and forget about it for 1-2 hours.
9. At this point, the dough should be firm enough to make into balls. Scoop out 2 Tbsp. of dough and smoosh together into one hefty dough ball, then place in a large tupperware. Repeat with remainder of the dough.
10. Refrigerate overnight. 

11. When you're ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay out 6 dough balls, spaced evenly apart. Sprinkle each ball with a pinch of Maldon or other flaky sea salt.
12. Bake until firm and golden around the edges but still a touch undercooked in the middle, about 12 minutes. It is important to take them out of the oven before they are fully baked because the residual heat from the tray will continue cooking them once they're out! No one likes a dry cookie.
13. Cool completely on baking sheet. Then, finally, enjoy!

The Sqirl Cookbook: Everything I Want to Eat | "The Sprouty Pod": Mung bean sprouts, crunchy buckwheat, and roasted delicata squash with pomegranate, labneh, and cilantro pistou

I have a habit (perhaps personality trait?) of becoming vehemently promotional of the things I love. If I find out that you have never seen My So-Called LIfe, I will likely exclaim, "WHAT?!?", take a deep breath, detail all of the reasons why it is the best television show ever created and then generously force the DVD box set upon you. I can talk for hours about the depths of my love for Sufjan Stevens, complete with commentary about why The Age of Adz is his most underrated album. If you live in or travel to Los Angeles, I will implore you to eat at Sqirl; if you aren't in its vicinity, I will direct you to their menu online—attempting to connect you with a sliver of the experience of being there.

Sqirl fills up an unreasonably large portion of my heart. Chances are, if you're appraised to current food/restaurant trends, live in LA, or know me personally, you've heard of it. If you haven't, here's a snapshot: Sqirl is a tiny, bright and booming breakfast and lunch joint on the east side of Los Angeles, which serves up some of the most playful, innovative, fresh and flavorful food I've ever had the pleasure of eating—and possibly being made in America today.

I first heard about Jessica Koslow in 2012, a year after she had started an unusual little jam company called Sqirl (as in, "squirrel away"). As a burgeoning foodie and lifetime creative who was spending my free time making things like rosemary cashew butter from scratch, I was instantaneously compelled by Jessica's seasonal and atypical jams, like blueberry tarragon and strawberry rose geranium. Not long after Sqirl got its legs, Jessica expanded it into a simple breakfast spot for people to gather and enjoy her beguiling jam in the best way possible: on toast. But not just any toast. A cartoonish-ly thick slice of locally made brioche, with the jam sometimes nestled amongst heaps of house made ricotta or hazelnut almond butter to boot. Something magical was happening here. People were starting to talk.

When I moved back to LA from London in the summer of 2013, Sqirl was on my shortlist of new restaurants to check out and possibly approach about kitchen work. Scoping it out and grabbing a bite as soon as I was able, I became instantaneously smitten. From the painstakingly handwritten chalkboard menu to my bright and flavorful spiced carrot socca pancake topped with zippy fresh greens to the barista who gave me a complimentary house made almond milk latte after I had inquired about their almond milk ingredients and process, everything about Sqirl glimmered with vibrancy, intention, generosity and love. Sqirl is generous in its portions. It is generous in its commitment to local and ethical sourcing and the farmers with whom it works. It is generous to the earth through its seasonally changing menu. It is generous in its exuberance for its community. When I met Jessica that summer and found out they weren't hiring, she generously offered to connect me to some friends who own a locally revered bakery instead. She is becoming food world famous and she still stops to say hi when we cross paths, still remembers me every time.

While I have a lot of love for the heart of Sqirl, I have just as much love for the food that Jessica and her amazing team create. Almost every element of every dish is made in house. They pander to the indulgent and the health conscious in equal measure, with equal exuberance. They draw from culinary palates and traditions spanning from Asia to California to the Middle East. They make vegetarian dishes hearty and vegetables taste amazing (not to mention their baked goods). I could not have been more excited when I heard they were releasing a cookbook. When I found out that it would be titled Everything I Want To Eat, I thought, "Yes! Duh." That statement literally epitomizes how I—and from the looks of it, many other people—feel about Sqirl. Good move, Jessica.

Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking is a strange and beautiful book. It includes recipes for every type of diet and level of culinary experience, from the complete novice to the person who literally cannot wait to beet cure her own salmon. Its images are more closely related to pop art than on-trend food photos; as the review in the New York Times notes, "The book itself looks less like a cookbook than an exhibition catalogue". 

The dish I'm sharing with you here is disarmingly delicious. You figure it'll be tasty because it's composed of a lot of individual tasty things thrown together on one plate, but then you take a bite and your brain is like, WHAT IS THIS?!? Because the way the flavors play together in your mouth, the zippy punch of the cilantro pistou clashing against the caramelized sweetness of the squash and the earthy toastiness of the buckwheat and the thick, creamy tang of the labneh is something your mouth has never experienced before. The other thing that I love about this recipe is that it can be either quick and easy or moderately involved, depending on what you feel up to. Jessica explains how to turn yogurt into labneh and dried mung beans into sprouts, but if you don't have the time, energy or curiosity for those processes yet, then just go ahead and buy some thick greek yogurt and mung bean sprouts. It comes together much more quickly than its long title would have it seem.

If you live in or are ever visiting Los Angeles, I implore you: eat at Sqirl. And wherever you are, get yourself a copy of Everything I Want to Eat from your library, local bookstore or the Internet. Take it into your kitchen and let its strange wonders into your life. And if you're pressed for time, you can always start with this recipe, right here.

The Sprouty Pod —
Mung bean sprouts, crunchy buckwheat, and roasted delicata squash with pomegranate, labneh, and cilantro pistou

from Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow
Serves 6 as a light lunch or a first course

Ingredients
Crunchy Buckwheat
1/2 cup hulled buckwheat groats

Roasted Delicata Squash
2 large or 3 small delicata squash (3 lbs total)
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cilantro Pistou
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

To Serve
1 clamshell mung bean sprouts (see the book for how to sprout your own)
1 cup labneh or plain whole milk Greek yogurt (I love and used Straus) (see the book for how to make your own)
1 cup pomegranate arils
1/2 bunch cilantro
Really good olive oil
2 limes, halved
Fleur de sel

Directions
Crunchy Buckwheat
1. Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
2. Spread the buckwheat out on a dry, rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown and crunchy, about 10 minutes.

Roasted Delicata Squash
1. Adjust the oven temperature to 425F/220C.
2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, but do not peel the skin—it's tender and delicious.
3. Cut the squash into 2- to 3- inch chunks (I botched this direction; don't follow my photos) and set on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with just enough oil to barely coat, about 3 Tbsp. Sprinkle the coriander evenly over the squash pieces. Season lightly with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
4. Bake until tender all the way through and a little caramelized on the bottom, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool.

Cilantro Pistou
1. In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice, and salt. Blend on low speed until the garlic is finely chopped and mostly incorporated into the lemon juice.
2. Cut the sprigs of cilantro right at the point where the leaves start branching from the stems. Take the leafy top part and drop it into the blender. Blend on the lowest speed until the cilantro is coarsely chopped and there are still big pieces of leaves, about 10 seconds.
3. Gradually increase the speed while you slowly pour in the oil. Once you've added all the oil, blend on high speed for 20 seconds. The pistou will be emulsified and flecked with green cilantro leaves.
*(You can also make it by hand, first chopping the garlic and herbs, then whisking the lemon juice and oil together.)

To Serve
1. Schmear 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the labneh in the bottom of each bowl. Scatter a small handful of sprouts and pomegranate seeds over the labneh, then drizzle with 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the pistou.
2. Top with a few pieces of squash, more sprouts and pomegranate seeds, and a spoonful of crunchy buckwheat.
3. Sprinkle some cilantro leaves over everything. 
4. Finish with a drizzle of oil, a final spoonful of pistou, a strong squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of fleur de sel.

Kabocha Squash & Miso Hummus

Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't bat an eyelash at seeing some roasted squash hummus on a Thanksgiving table (yes, even if it had miso in it). Growing up, my family always made pretty traditional items for Thanksgiving: smashed sweet potato rounds hidden beneath a thick blanket of singed marshmallows; overly soft green beans tossed with store bought, oven refreshed bread crumbs. It was as All-American as All-American gets. The first Thanksgiving I shared with my family after living abroad for two years and falling in love with food, I made this amazing, bold, and very Middle Eastern dish of roasted butternut squash and red onions with tahini, parsley and za'atar for the Thanksgiving table. Some members of our party were skeptics, but the undeniable deliciousness of the dish won them over. (I also, after quite a contentious argument, persuaded my parents to make the stuffing with whole wheat instead of traditional white bread. They may remember differently, but I'm pretty sure no one noticed.)

It's a hard time to be an American, for many people, right now. It's a hard time to celebrate what this country stands for. A hard time to even know what this country stands for anymore. (Though truthfully, we've always been a divided nation, although not always one so blatantly shameful.) It's also, for many, a hard time to feel grateful. The weight of a Trump administration is a frightening and heavy weight to bear.

When I first brought distinctively un-American flavors to the Thanksgiving table it was because, quite frankly, I thought they tasted better. But now that choice is striking me as a subtle political act, too. Not that it needs to be, by any means. I'm just curious about the metaphor that could rest within such a gesture of cultural diversity and inclusivity at a gathering in which we express thanks for our nation, our abundance and independence.

Instagram, food blogs and official food publications have been awash with Thanksgiving related recipes for days, if not weeks. I'm a little late to the game—but hopefully not too late for you to consider including this Kabocha Squash & Miso Hummus as part of your feast (or as a starter before the main event). I made this hummus for the Rosh Hashanah dinner I hosted at the beginning of September—the Jewish new year, another celebratory gathering of family and friends—and literally at least three of the ten people who attended asked me for the recipe. If it doesn't end up making the final cut for this Thanksgiving, that's totally chill. It's hummus, so you are literally justified in making it whenever you want (or whenever winter squash is available).

The cool thing about making things from scratch that you often buy at the store—like beans, salad dressings, or hummus—is that once you know the formula and process, you can get really wild with your flavors and mix-ins. Winter squash, chickpeas and tahini are a no-brainer together; the secret, wow-factor ingredient here is definitely the miso.

Miso: Your New (Probiotic) Secret Weapon Flavor Bomb

Miso, probably most familiar to Westerners in the form of miso soup, is a traditional Japanese paste made when soybeans, barley and/or rice are fermented with a fungus called Aspergillus oryzae. After hanging out with the fungus in a very dark spot for some months or years, miso is born and we get to reap its many benefits. If you hate kimchi (like I do), miso is a great fermented ingredient to incorporate into your diet. (I also encourage you to incorporate it into your diet even if you like kimchi, because it is far more delicious [subjective opinion] and far more versatile [objective fact]). As a probiotic, it helps support digestion and maintain (or enhance) the health of the bacterial flora in your gut—which is super important in our overall health! Additionally, miso has a unique blend of salty, sweet and umami (savory) flavors, which makes it an awesome staple ingredient to add depth of flavor to vegetarian cooking.

Because miso is a probiotic food, it should be stored in the refrigerator and never boiled or heated in the oven—else the live, active cultures, enzymes and nutrients will be decimated. For this same reason, be sure to buy organic, unpasturized miso paste when you shop for it. Miso comes in a variety of flavors or colors depending on its ingredients and the length of its fermentation process. Varieties range from "white" to "dark brown," with the lighter colors leaning towards a more mild, sweet flavor and the darker colors being more salty and pungent (you can get a complete guide here). Because of its lighter flavor, I find the sweet white or yellow miso to be best in recipes where no heat is involved, like dressings and dips.

Kabocha Squash: Butternut's Cooler Cousin

I had never heard of Kabocha squash until I worked at a farm-to-table online grocer two years ago. Once I first learned how to say "kabocha," my mouth could no longer articulate the word "kombucha". (I've since been cured of that particular affliction.) Once I first baked it, my taste buds refused to let me cook butternut anymore. It is somehow just a bit richer, a bit denser, a bit sweeter, and a bit more flavorful, cumulatively creating the most amazing winter squash experience I've ever had. To be fair, it is a pain in the ass to peel and cube. But if you are puréeing a squash for any reason, kabocha is the way to go. (And if for some reason you are unable to find kabocha at the market, you may sub Butternut in this recipe.)

Of Japanese origin, kabocha squash finds common ground with its winter squash kin as one of the most substantial sources of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene in our entire diet. These carotenoids are primary antioxidants, which help fight free-radicals in our bodies and have anti-inflammatory and immune supporting properties.  

Suffice to say that between the protein packed chickpeas, calcium and omega rich tahini, chock-full-of-probiotic miso and carotenoid crazy squash, this is one health supportive dip. I don't know whether it's a good or bad thing that no one will be thinking about how healthy it is when they taste how delicious it is. But hey, both nutritional health and real food flavor are small yet mighty things to be grateful for this Thanksgiving...even when our world feels like it's falling apart.

 

*Sources: SF Gate, My New Roots & WH Foods.

Kabocha Squash & Miso Hummus
Makes enough for a small crowd

Ingredients
Hummus
1 cups cooked chickpeas (from about 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, cooked following this method) (If you don't have time to cook your own, canned are fine. Just rinse them off first!)
2 cups kabocha squash purée, from one large squash
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup tahini, preferably unhulled
1/4 cup sweet white or mellow yellow miso, organic & unpasturized
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed (from about 1 large lemon)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. ice water
oilve oil, to finish

Maple Sesame & Pepita Sprinkle
2 Tbsp. raw, unhulled sesame seeds (brown or black)
1 Tbsp. raw pepitas
1 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. pure maple syrup
pinch salt

Directions
Hummus
1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Carefully cut the kabocha squash in half horizontally. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Smear a dab of coconut oil or ghee along the rim of each side.
3. Place both halves of the squash face down on the baking sheet and bake until tender, about 40-55 minutes. You will know it's ready when the top of the squash has deflated/collapsed in on itself. Once done, remove from the oven and carefully flip upside down to cool.
4. Place cooked chickpeas in a food processor and blitz until they have formed a stiff paste. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
5. Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh and measure out two cups. (If you have any left over, it's great to add to porridge or waffle mix!) Add the two cups of squash to the food processor and blend with the chickpeas until thoroughly combined.
6. Add garlic, tahini, miso, lemon, and salt. Blend until thoroughly combined.
7. With the motor running, slowly stream in the ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, stopping after 4 Tbsp. Let the food processor run for about 5 minutes, until the hummus is super smooth and creamy. Taste and assess the consistency and flavor. If you'd like it thinner, add more ice water. Add more salt, lemon and garlic to your taste preference and blend until smooth.
8. To serve, spread in a bowl or on a plate and garnish with quality olive oil and maple, sesame and pepita sprinkle.

Maple, Sesame & Pepita Sprinkle
1. Pre-heat toaster oven or big oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix together all ingredients.
3. Spread mix in an even layer onto parchment paper. Bake until fragrant and slightly browned, 15-20 minutes.
4. Let cool completely before handling or tasting. It will be very hot straight out of the oven and not completely hardened yet!

Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Pickled Persimmon Tacos

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I've been pretty quiet since Tuesday. Not quiet with friends or in my physical, "real life" interactions, but in the digital space. I've been doing a lot of listening. Reading. Absorbing. Questioning and contemplating. Empathizing. Picking up the pieces of a heart that feels so, so broken.

Late Tuesday night, my body tense and nauseous as the final four "too close to call" states slowly turned to red, I felt overcome by disbelief, confusion and anger. How could this even be? How is this the reality of 2016 America?

Wednesday morning, the sun came up, just as we all knew it would. The sky shone blue in Northern California. People got out of bed, got dressed, got in their cars, got themselves to work. On the outside, our world looked just the same as it had 24 hours before.

Wednesday morning, I woke up early. Showered before the sun fully showed itself in the sky. Got dressed, ate and headed out earlier than usual for my Mindful Health class at the California Institute of Integral Studies. It wasn't until I was firmly planted on the subway for my 30 minute ride into San Francisco that I checked social media and the news. And the fact of what half of America had done to our entire country began to actually feel real.

My Facebook feed had transformed into a space of vulnerability and power. So many beautiful and brilliant friends expressing their deep sadness, their entirely substantiated fears, their anger at the system, their unwavering love for and commitment to the diversity of all the inhabitants of our country. My brother, who lives in Germany, turned his profile picture to a block of solid black. I struggled to fight back tears. Standing on the crowded BART train, I became keenly aware of the dichotomy between physical and digital space. All around me people sat and stood, glances cast towards phones and books and the vibrating walls, faces blank or calm as any other day. But in the digital world, it was anything but any other day. People were angry. Dumbfounded. Distraught. Fearful. Hopeful. Having trouble feeling hopeful. Vocal. Reaching out. For the first time, maybe ever, I felt grateful for that digital space. Felt like it was a facilitator for vital expression, for support, for coalition and for action. 

I eventually got off the train, emerged with the hurried masses from the depths of the city's underground passageways back into the light of the sun. Traffic lights changed, fathers pushed strollers, crumpled bills were exchanged for cups of caffeine. The world looked just has it had the day before, but inside I felt so sharply like it was crumbling.

The past three days, I have been more attentively tuned into the digital space—both in news articles and on Facebook—than ever before. It has been comforting, humbling and activating to see millions of people from across America voicing their concerns and their strength. Lifting each other up. Beginning to build a movement. And it was equally heartening on Wednesday to witness so many people, friends of mine and complete strangers, articulating the need to allow ourselves to grieve. Not to wallow, not to concede, but to create space to truly feel the shattering disappointment, fear, sadness and anger that pierced our hearts and coursed through our veins, penetrating to the bone. That in the gift of space for these feelings to be and to breathe, they would ultimately be better processed and transformed into energy for action.

I have read many words over the past three days and a handful have struck a deep chord, dug into the philosophies and approaches in which I believe wholeheartedly and do my best to embody every day. Compassion. Mindfulness. Hope. These things can feel small and personal, can feel vague and inconsequential, but they must be pillars for all of us moving forward.

As 15 distraught and powerful women sat in a circle in my Mindful Health class on Wednesday morning, our wise and grounded teacher Megan shared with us an excerpt from congressman Tim Ryan's book A Mindful Nation. It felt like a gift on that dark morning; I now wish to extend that to you. Ryan writes:

In a mindful nation, we will still misplace our keys. We still still forget people's names. We will still say and do things that may hurt others, including those we love. We will say the exact wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. But in each of these instances, with mindfulness we may do it just a bit less. We may see the humor in our mistakes and be able to laugh at ourselves more. We may be just a little less critical of others, and of ourselves. We may deal with our mistakes more quickly and with a more sincere and kind heart. We may more easily forgive the people who have hurt us. We may sit down and have civil political conversations with those who strongly disagree with us. My goal is not that America will become a perfect nation. My goal is that America will be a kinder, more compassionate nation, because I know down deep in my heart that we are a kinder, more compassionate country than is evident today. Reviving our compassionate spirit will allow us to listen carefully to each other, find points of agreement, and recapture the unity of purpose that made America great.
A mindful nation is about recognizing that we are all connected: we are in this together. At present, we feel divided and scared, and have been made to believe that independence means we are totally on our own. But our experiences—as individuals and as a country— tell a different story. We know that when we join together, work together, and care about each other, our freedom actually increases. Real independence emerges when we know how to support each other. The Declaration of Independence was a communal act.
...One of my favorite lines from the Art of War by Sun Tzu, an ancient manual for dealing effectively with conflict in war, business, and throughout life, is "Attain both hard and soft." To me, this means that in any given moment we need the ability to be firm and simultaneously the ability to be gentle. This can be challenging, but Martin Luther King, Jr., offered us an example of holding hard and soft together. He pointed out that love without power is ineffectual, and power without love is destructive.
When human beings combine these qualities, they're drawing on their innate mindfulness, awareness, and kindness. And neuroscience is starting to prove that all of these can be cultivated in grater measure, giving us an increased capability to approach our problems and challenges with nuance and awareness of the whole picture, the perspectives of other people, and the unfolding patterns that allow us to be insightful about dangers and opportunities that lie ahead—what the innovative thinker Thomas Homer-Dixon calls "prospective mind." In this way, we can hep re-establish our collective mindfulness and regain our sense of balance, which is what it means to be resilient. We can't determine exactly what the future will be, what tomorrow will bring, what the next moment will bring, but we can determine how we will be in our body and mind, whatever may come.

It feels a little ridiculous to post photos of food on Instagram right now, to share recipes, to have conversations that are about anything other than the political, social, economic and emotional state of America. But we need to eat. And we need to create. As people mobilize and artists of all kinds use their uniquely magical expressions to make sense of and shape our world, I am continuing to do what I do. Because the world keeps spinning and every act of generosity, thoughtfulness and nourishment counts. So here are some seasonal, mildly wacky, California style tacos. Beans from scratch that are infused with flavor by boiling them with spices and plant based aromatics. Sweet winter persimmons turned into tart pickled bursts of flavor. Food transformed through ingenuity, patience, care, attention, time. We will get there, America. There are too many of us with abundant love, compassion and power for it not to be so.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Pickled Persimmon Tacos
Serves 4
*Note: The black beans need to be soaked in water the night before and the pickled persimmon, while a quick pickle, takes 2 hours of soaking time in the brine before it's ready. Plan accordingly! :)

Ingredients
Pickled Persimmon
1 large or 2 small persimmons, diced into 1/4" cubes
1 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup or honey
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1 tsp. mustard seeds
a few peppercorns
1" knob ginger root, peeled and sliced thin

Black Beans
1 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight
1 large carrot, chopped in a few big chunks
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1/2 yellow onion, peeled
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. whole coriander
1/2 tsp. whole cumin

Roasted Sweet Potato
1 large sweet potato, diced into 1/4" cubes
1/2 Tbsp. coconut oil or ghee
salt & pepper

To Serve
8 corn tortillas (make sure the only ingredients are corn, water and lime, if possible)
avocado (I made an avocado creme by blending guacamole ingredients in a blender)
cilantro
lime

Directions
For the Pickled Persimmon
1. Combine all ingredients except the persimmon in a small saucepan and set over high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. Once it's boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. While the brine is cooking, put the diced persimmon in a clean glass jar with a lid.
4. After 10 minutes, pour the brine into the jar with the persimmon. Let cool.
5. Once cool, put on the lid and refrigerate. It will be ready in 2 hours.

For the Black Beans
1. Rinse the beans (which you have soaked overnight) and discard any split or broken ones.
2. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin and coriander, swishing in the pan frequently, for 3-5 minutes (you'll know they're ready when they darken a bit in color and become quite fragrant).
3. Put the spices in a loose tea holder or make a sachet for them out of a small bit of cheesecloth. You can also put them directly in the water, you just may have to fish them out later (or get a big bite of spice in your taco).
4. Combine all of the bean ingredients in a large pot and submerge in water, about 2" above the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 45 minutes. If foam collects on the surface of the water, skim it off.
5. When the beans taste almost soft, add a very generous few pinches of salt to the water.
6. Once the beans are cooked to the consistency you like, turn off the heat and let them cool in the water. 
7. When ready to eat, drain the water and discard the aromatics. Taste and add salt if needed.

For the Sweet Potato
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Line a baking tray or roasting dish with parchment or aluminum foil. 
3. Toss sweet potato cubes in oil (melt it first if it is solid) and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Spread them on the baking sheet in an even layer, so every cube has a surface touching the metal.
4. Roast for 15 minutes. Carefully toss. Roast for 10 minutes more and check for doneness. Sweet potato should be soft with some browning on its outer edges.

Assembly
1. I like charring my tortillas over an open flame on the stove. Do this carefully if you choose to try it, please! 
2. Pile beans, sweet potato and persimmon onto tortillas. Avocado/guacamole, cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime are all nice finishing touches.

Bright Beet Hummus with Bee Pollen, Hemp Seeds and Fleur de Sel

There's this great website that I was introduced to earlier this year called Mystic Mamma. It's a wellspring of wisdom, housing resources for reflection, reverence, healing, and tuning into our interconnectedness with our incomprehensibly expansive world. At the start of each month, the site offers insights about the month's energetic theme. I'm still on the fence about how deeply I believe that the themes presented, which are based on celestial phases and other such scientific/mystical readings, are actually true, but I do find them to be provocative food for thought. 

October's theme of balance does indeed feel appropriate for this time of the year, as we teeter through the seasonal shift that I was bemoaning in my last post. It's interesting to think about the myriad physical/mental/emotional/temporal/behavioral states that pepper our days, which can all be in or out of balance at any given point in time. We can easily assess our personal balance of work and play, activity and rest, social and solo time. Our energy levels and mental states send us clear signals letting us know if and when these need some adjusting. But there was one particular commentary in Lena Stevens' writing about this month's theme that really gave me pause. She shared:

Another area of balance is the relationship you have with trust and intuition vs needing to know. The need to know can cause severe anxiety when the information simply is not available yet. 

As a recovering control freak/perfectionist with a highly active brain and a lot of question marks in my life, I suddenly felt like Stevens was talking directly to me. Like, Hey, Meredith, I know what's been going on in that noggin of yours and you really just need to LET IT GO. Sit with the uncertainty. Continue to trust your intuition and deep knowingness that all will be revealed and work out in time. Relax. "You will sleep better," Stevens wrote at the end of the paragraph. So damn pragmatic. After taking a deep breath and letting the all too resonant advice sink in, I couldn't help but smile.

Finding patience in the unfolding of my life and sitting comfortably with uncertainty are two of the biggest psychological shifts that I've been working on strengthening throughout the latter half of my 20s (which are, needless to say, nearing a close). Residing hand in hand with those two mental/emotional states is a strengthened trust in my intuition. The more you learn to tune into, trust and operate from the truth of your intuition, the more you will be both challenged and able to sit comfortably with uncertainty—especially if your intuition is guiding you along a path that is not what is expected (by you, your family, society, or whomever), traditionally respected, or "safe".

So how does one cultivate this trust, this radar for noticing and identifying one's intuition? And then have the courage to operate from within it? It's like a muscle. The more you flex it, the stronger it becomes. 

My personal journey with noticing my intuition started out unconsciously—compulsively, even. I found myself making choices that were potentially risky but that I absolutely had to pursue if I wanted to do more than simply survive. Moving from Los Angeles to the Bay without a job or a home and only a tiny network of friends was one such choice. That choice, that gut feeling of needing to get the hell out of LA to try and create a better situation for myself, I suppose sprung from the deep and difficult work of learning to love and value myself, even in the worst of times. It was a decision that seemed completely nonsensical—irresponsible, even—to some people in my life, but I didn't feel like I even had a choice in the matter. I trusted it. I knew it had to be done. And here I am, over two years later, making it work. Still striving for more but also so much more myself.

Another one of those "this is probably irresponsible but my gut is telling me I have to do it" decisions I made just over a year ago when I chose to leave a job at an incredible non-profit because my role and responsibilities didn't align with what I knew I truly wanted to be doing professionally. I left behind the very real possibility of a full-time job with benefits and a decent salary at an organization whose work I deeply believed in to nanny part-time (while relying on the savings I had built up to cover the balance of my expenses), practice yoga, and regroup. To figure out what it is I am truly passionate about. Reading over that sentence, I am struck by how charmed that situation sounds. Let me assure you, though: it was fucking hard. I felt so lost for the first few months. I set unrealistic goals for myself (practice yoga five times a week! eat healthily all the time! become a self-educated holistic nutrition expert!) and was unreasonably hard on myself when I wasn't able to realize them on a daily basis.

But you know what happened? With patience, self-compassion and self-awareness, things began to fall into place. That fall, I started this blog. That winter, I found out about and enrolled in an entrepreneurship course for wellness practitioners. I began to practice meditation on my own for the first time. I slowly developed some clarity around the content that I want to engage with personally and offer to the world. I met the friend with whom I devised and facilitated my first food and wellness workshop this past August. I am woefully strapped for cash but I am discovering how resourceful and resilient I am. Above all, I am becoming ever more grateful for all of the things that make my life full, in spite of its hardships, and trusting of the way the details unfold.

Ultimately, that's one of the most valuable qualities that I have cultivated throughout this journey, and that I wish for all of you: trust. That's not to say that I don't feel disappointment or frustration or anxiety, or that I don't obsess about the outcomes of any variety of efforts I make, whether personal or professional. But that's where the balance comes in. Knowing when to push for something and when to let go. Trusting that, if I've acted in ways that are aligned with my intuition and my true self, the outcomes will be in service of me and my wellbeing, even if I can't immediately see how. And in the meantime, practicing being fully present and accepting of things as they are. Trusting that they will change or reveal themselves when they are ready, when I am ready. When the intentions and efforts that I have put forth and the mysterious flows of the Universe synchronistically collide. 

So, I made some hummus. And I put beets in it because who doesn't want to eat food that is beautifully and naturally bright pink?! Also, some may argue that it makes the hummus extra delicious (and undeniably extra nutritious). I originally assembled this hummus for its glamour shots in a bowl with some minced parsley, swirls of olive oil, and the company of crackers and crudités, while snacking on some leftover brioche that I had in the freezer from an earlier project (because photographing food whilst hungry is dangerous business and I do not recommend it to anyone). The styling and shots were mediocre at best. As I glanced over at the leftover toast, the synapses in my brain fused together its playful shape and pallid palette with the fuchsia hue of the hummus, imagining the eye candy taken even further by the addition of bright yellow pellets of bee pollen and greenish white hemp seeds. Suddenly my party appetizer dip turned into a breakfast toast that was visually suggestive of white cake with pink frosting and sprinkles! 

Sometimes it's good to shake things up a bit. Trust your intuition. Sneak vegetables into your breakfast. Make your food look like a party because it engages your creativity, it's a simple pleasure, it makes life more fun. If you don't have bee pollen or hemp seeds, don't sweat it. Sprinkle some other things that you do have onto this toast and see how they taste. Or stick with the classics and eat the hummus with crackers, cucumber sticks, pita, whatever. Either way, you'll still be eating a food that is delicious, super nutritious and bright frickin' pink, so at the very least you can marvel at that!

Bright Beet Hummus with Bee Pollen, Hemp Seeds & Fleur de Sel
Serves 6-8 as a starter, or enough for many mornings of toast

Ingredients
Hummus
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (from about 3/4 cups dried chickpeas, cooked following this method)
2 medium beets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup tahini, preferably unhulled
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed (from about 1 large lemon)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbsp. ice water

Toppings (get creative!)
Bee pollen
Hemp seeds
Fleur de sel, Maldon or other finishing salt
Parsley
Mint
Toasted walnuts

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Chop stems off beets, scrub thoroughly and wrap beets in tin foil. Place on a baking sheet and roast until they are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork, 45-60 minutes. Carefully flip beet parcel over halfway through the roasting to make sure the bottoms don't burn. Once they're tender, remove from oven, unwrap foil and set aside to cool. (You can do this step a couple days in advance.)
2. Place cooked chickpeas in a food processor (if you're using canned ones, make sure you rinse them off first!) and blitz until they become a stiff paste. You may need to start and stop it a few times to scrape down the sides with a spatula until the desired consistency is reached.
3. Once the beets are cool enough to handle, use your thumbs to push/slide off the skins. Chop them into medium sized cubes.
4. Add beets to food processor and blend until thoroughly combined with the chickpeas.
5. Add tahini, lemon, garlic and salt and blend until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides when necessary.
6. With the motor running, slowly stream in the ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, stopping after 4 Tbsp. Let the food processor run for about 5 minutes, until the hummus is super smooth and creamy. Taste and assess the consistency and flavor. If you'd like it thinner, add more ice water. Add more salt, lemon and garlic to your taste preference and blend until smooth.
7. Garnish with whatever fits your fancy and enjoy!