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

IMG_5482.jpg
IMG_5444.jpg

“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.

IMG_5535.jpg
IMG_5563.jpg

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.

IMG_5587.jpg

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.

Kabocha Squash & Miso Hummus | On Overhauling Thanksgiving

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!

Bright Beet Hummus with Bee Pollen, Hemp Seeds and Fleur de Sel | On Cultivating Trust & Intuition

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!