Spring Green Veggie & Herb Lettuce Cups | On Transitions

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Confession: I have spent a disproportionate amount of time tethered to my bed lately. Zoned out in front of my computer screen, binge watching the show UnREAL (which is this truly miraculous combination of wry feminist commentary on professional power dynamics/female relationships and unabashed soap opera. I highly recommend). 

While I have been giving into my body’s recent pulls towards sloth-ness unapologetically and with as little judgment as possible, I have also been struck by our recent seasonal energetic shifts. Have felt small jolts of energy, flickers of desire to move, to create. I have been reading a little more and writing a little more.

For the longest time though, I didn’t want to write. I wanted to want to write…but I just couldn’t get there. All I could feel was that wanting and my resistance to the doing. So instead of forcing myself to write for others, instead of wrestling with inspiration that wasn’t there, I decided to write for myself. Decided to get curious about why I was struggling so much to engage with my preferred mode of creative expression.

My fingers tapped onto the screen:
Where is this resistance coming from?

One silent beat and then:
Fear.

—Of what? 

Kept asking myself questions that I then kept answering. Reminded myself of this acronym used often by one of my greatest teachers:

False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

Fear. False beliefs that we internalize. That destabilize. Debilitate. Seduce us into self-sabotage, into drowning our voices, inhibiting our own growth.

Fear that I will not meet my own standards. Fear that my work will not be valued, be recognized. Fear that my ideas are repetitive. Better expressed by other people. So I do not write. I listen to myself give counsel to countless people in my life and I witness my own wisdom. I see them soften and bloom before me. I see, hear, feel how far I have come in my own thinking, my own awareness, my own relationship to the world, to what I believe to be possible, to my own soft heart and self. Yet I cannot write it. I feel stuck. Feel uninspired or without flow.  

Deep inhale.

Deep exhale.

And then, something surprising. Calm. A crack, a small opening that offered a soft shard of light and within it, some clarity. Presence. Allowance of the emergence of something deeper than my cognitive mind. A softening in my tender heart. Fear and release and a glimmer of courage and spark all at once.

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The earth tilts and the dark veil of winter is lifted as the sun, its warmth, its radiant light begins to emerge. It is calling to us. Beckoning us out from our homes, our hibernation, our long journey within. We can harness this energy. We feel awakened, catalyzed by it. Magnetized by the sun, the awakening of the earth and its brilliant blooms that surround us.  

Transitions are, most often, not easy. The sun claims its many extended moments hovering in the sky yet our days are still interspersed with rain. Transitions take grace, take flexibility, take presence. They take moving through discomfort, take meandering routes, take time. Seedlings must be nourished by the sun and the rain alike; can only ever emerge in the exact time they take to do so. They do not grow anxious with their development, do not spite the sun for not blazing more steadily, do not question or argue with the journey they are on.

I have felt the warmth of the sun, seen the delayed dusk of these days, felt my drives shift with the reawakening of the earth around me. I have acknowledged Aries season and the inspired, enthusiastic action it offers, it bolsters, it demands. I have spring cleaned, made exercise and eating vows, recommitted to writing, to creating, to keeping this blog alive. And. I am fucking tired. I feel exhausted in my bones. I am not sleeping well and am processing a whole host of other things in my life.

I am in the infancy of a transition and I want to be at the end.

I want to be recalibrated.

But, dear ones, dear self as well—

The only way to be recalibrated is to ever so slowly recalibrate. And the only way to recalibrate is to first and foremost meet yourself where you are. And then to make a series of small, aligned, manageable choices from there. To be real with yourself about all the weight you’re carrying, the fears, the hopes, the judgments, the love, the dreams. To allow it all. To hold it all with tenderness. To give it space to pour forth from you, to express itself, to move through you. When the river runs through, it clears and it creates anew. You cannot rush your healing. You cannot rush your growth. You cannot rush your creative process, your meeting of milestones, your getting to where you are going. It all takes the time it takes. And. You can support your healing. You can support your growth. You can nurture and bolster and take lovingly the hand of your creative process, your meeting of milestones, your getting to where you are going—to where your divine self and inner light want you to go.

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So, dearest ones, dearest self— 

Let yourself be where you are. Like that liminal space between winter and spring. In the messiness of your transitions. In the darkness and the light. In the exhaustion and the energy; the confidence and self-doubt; the seductive comfort of staying stuck and the deep, fire-y drive to evolve ever forward. Honor that part of your process. Ask yourself what you need to begin to move towards the life you seek to create. Water your soil and douse yourself with sun. Lean into the thoughts, the choices, the practices, the challenges, the connections that nourish you. Be kind to your fear; hear its wounds and its worries. Allow the darkness that is in you and lead it steadfastly towards the light. There is no hurry in this. The transition is the alchemy, the releasing and the creating that will lead you to where you want to go. It is in itself a string of present moments, each divinely perfect in their imperfection, each exactly where you are meant to be.

Happy springtime, all. May this season of renewal stoke all of our fires so that we may shine that light into our own hearts and out into the world <3.

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Notes on the recipe: Super simple and fresh, this is essentially a handheld salad that celebrates the early bounties of spring. I opted to stick with lemon and olive oil for the dressing to let the brightness of the vegetables shine through; if you’re keen to douse the lettuce cups in tahini or have a green goddess or other dressing that you like, definitely do! Great as a side dish, these lettuce cups can easily become a full meal by mixing in some flaked salmon, chickpeas or other protein of choice.

Spring Green Veggie & Herb Lettuce Cups
Makes 4 lettuce cups

Ingredients
1/2 bunch asparagus
1/2 lb English peas (in their pod)
1 Meyer lemon
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup mixed herbs (mint, dill, chives, parsley, chervil are some nice options), roughly chopped
1 avocado, sliced
a few handfuls alfalfa sprouts
4 large butter lettuce leaves
salt & pepper

Directions
1. Cut off the bottom woody ends off the asparagus (1”-2” up from the bottom) and discard. Cut each asparagus stalk into 1/4” slivers at an angle and put into a medium sized bowl.
2. Zest the lemon and set zest aside. Squeeze the juice from the entire lemon over the asparagus. Add a couple pinches of salt, toss and set aside.
3. De-pod the English peas, adding the peas to the bowl with the asparagus as you go. Mix the two together.
4. In a small pan, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat until golden brown, 5-7 minutes, stirring or tossing frequently. Once they’re golden, transfer immediately to a cutting board so they don’t burn. Roughly chop.
5. Add the olive oil, lemon zest, 3 Tbsp. of the chopped herbs and a few grinds of black pepper to the asparagus and peas. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
6. Assemble the lettuce cups: In each butter lettuce leaf, place a layer of alfalfa sprouts, slices from 1/4 the avocado, and a couple spoonfuls of the asparagus and pea mixture (and its lemon-oil-herb dressing). Finish off with a few pinches of chopped pine nuts and the remaining fresh herbs.

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

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

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

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

It’s a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take good care, dear ones. <3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— options

                                - nayyirah waheed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemony Fava Bean Tartine
Makes two toasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can imagine how I felt about that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sarah B.'s Coconut-Quinoa Coleslaw with Minty Tahini Dressing | On 'Naturally Nourished'

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.

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

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.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Pickled Persimmon Tacos | On Becoming 'A Mindful Nation'

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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.

Summer Stone Fruit, Cherry Tomato & Chickpea Tabbouleh | On Mindful Eating

Ten years, one feature film, and thousands of rave reviews later, I finally conceded last week and sat down to read Eat Pray Love. Okay, fine, conceded isn't actually the word. I asked my oldest friend if I could borrow her copy, interested not in seeing what all the fuss was about but in diving with an open heart and mind into the wisdom that Elizabeth Gilbert might actually have to offer. My friend—whom I had rolled my eyes at the first time she gushed about the book all those years ago (you see, I was a terribly pragmatic-bordering-on-cynical creature in my youth)—squealed with delight at my request, hearing words that she (and I) never would have dreamed I would utter.

My interest was piqued sometime last year when a dear and inspiring friend recommended Gilbert's latest publication, Big Magic. Many months later, I happened to catch a snippet of Gilbert's conversation with Krista Tippett on On Being and was surprised by the thoughtful and intelligent ideas she offered. (Apologies if my surprise about this fact offends any of you.) Not quite ready to commit to actually reading her books, I watched her first TED talk on the idea of creative genius, in which I found her to be not only sharp and insightful, but also charismatic and damn funny. 

So here I am, a mere few weeks later, sitting in bed with a copy of Eat Pray Love by my side. If you hate this book or don't care about this book or are absolutely exhausted by the ten years of hearing about this book, please stay with me for a moment; this post is not actually about Eat Pray Love

...Barring this note: In one segment, Gilbert recounts an experience she had in a busy office building in New York. Upon rushing into an elevator, she caught a glimpse of herself in the security mirror and registered her reflection as a friend of hers, reacting for a fleeting moment with surprise and joy. Gilbert quickly realized her mistake and laughed it off in embarrassment. She shares this story with us readers in the midst of a night in Rome, where she has been living most vivaciously, when she finds herself suddenly overcome with depression and loneliness. Turning to her own self for support, Gilbert thinks back to this incident in the elevator. She scrawls in her journal: "Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend."

That is what I am interested in. This idea—no, this necessity—that we treat ourselves as our best, most unconditional, most unwavering friend.

But what does that even look like? There are countless ways in which we can be better friends to ourselves. I've already written about some of them. The way things are going around here, I could conceivably re-title this blog "Meredith's Writings on How to Be More Self-Compassionate and Eat Delicious Food While Doing So (A.K.A. the Story of Her Life)." In all seriousness though, this is a real thing. It's a Big Deal. It is arguably one of the most important things we can do in our entire lives: learn to love, value and care for our own selves.

So where does that process begin? I could easily write about combating negative self-talk or expressing gratitude or giving ourselves credit for our achievements or operating from a place of trust and truth rather than fear, which are all super important practices. But that's not what we're going to talk about today. Today, we're going to talk about the practice that sparked the journey of self-care, in truth, for me. We're going to talk about food. 

Or, rather, the way we eat our food.

Mindful Eating, or The Gateway Art of Attentiveness

I first encountered the concept of mindful eating in Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food (which I highly recommend if you have not read it). He espouses this simple yet somehow radical—in today's overly connected and multitasking world—belief that when you eat you should just eat. Don't eat and scroll through any media or communications on your phone. Don't eat and watch TV. Don't eat and read the newspaper or Bon Appetit magazine. Don't eat while driving. Don't eat straight out of the fridge while making your ritual boredom lap through the kitchen. Don't eat standing up, rushing out the door. Don't eat at your desk, working through your lunch break. Eat and give your full attention to your meal (and your present company, if you are sharing the meal with others). Eat and relish the colors, textures, scents and tastes of your food. Take your time. Put your utensil down between bites. Chew thoroughly. Savor the flavors. Take deep breaths and feel the reactions of your body to your meal. Appreciate the care that you put into preparing your meal, or that someone else put into preparing it. Acknowledge and appreciate the hands that nurtured and harvested the raw ingredients and the wonders of our earth that enabled them to grow. And, while we're at it, also be sure to eat off of proper dish ware, treating yourself like the deserving human that you are. You wouldn't serve your guest breakfast straight out of a blender, a wrapper or a tupperware, would you?

I can hear you thinking, "That seems like a lot of effort." Or, "I don't have time for that." Or, "I won't get to read the paper if I don't do it over breakfast!" Or, "I would feel super awkward eating at a table by myself with no distractions." 

These are all valid concerns, but hear me out. Mindful eating has incredible physiological, psychological and emotional effects. For starters, when we take the time to slow our eating and chew more fully, our bodies actually have greater access to the nutritional benefits of our food. Believe it or not, chewing is the first step in the digestive process. When we chew completely, our teeth essentially liquidize our food, which enables our bodies to digest it more easily and frees up internal resources to focus on absorption. Our saliva also contains digestive enzymes that are necessary to break down the food for optimum conversion into energy. Slowing down and chewing fully means we physically gain more benefit from the food we eat!

When we savor the process of eating, we are also able to tune in to our levels of hunger and satiety, more easily avoiding overeating and feelings of post-meal discomfort (as well as unwanted weight gain and chronic stress on our digestive system). Additionally, as our minds and bodies are constantly in relationship, eating with attentiveness helps us remember the experience of having eaten, which actually keeps us feeling fuller longer. 

And then there's the joy bit. The benefit of pure pleasure that comes from truly noticing and appreciating how delicious your food is, how curious of a sound it makes, how many hands it took to get from the field onto your plate, or how wonderful that even amongst your hectic/frustrating/disappointing/exhausting day, you took time to create something for yourself. By making an effort to eat away from your desk, or off of real dish ware at the dining room table—even if you're by yourself—you are actively showing yourself that you're worth caring for. That, in itself, is something to be practiced, savored and celebrated.

Words really cannot express how radically the practice of mindful eating has changed my life. It has so many benefits and an incredible ripple effect. You start paying more attention to your food and your eating and suddenly everything in your life seems deserving of increased attention, care and even reverence. Trust me. You'll see.

While I encourage you to harness your mindfulness the very next time you eat, this salad is a particularly great dish to practice mindful eating with because it is a total party in a bowl of bright, sweet, juicy, and fresh flavors and textures. This is a very unorthodox take on tabbouleh, which is a Middle Eastern salad composed of mostly parsley, speckled with bulgur, tomatoes, onion and a hefty zing of lemon. In less traditional versions, you may see mint and cucumber thrown in too. But here, as a celebration of the waning summer, I got really crazy. I threw peaches into the mix because they're fragrant and delicious, black chickpeas in the mix because, hello, BLACK CHICKPEAS!?! and because I'm a fan of fiber and plant protein, and swapped the bulgur for quinoa because it's gluten free, so more bellies can enjoy it. There is so much winning in this salad, I can't even.

Summer Stone Fruit, Cherry Tomato & Chickpea Tabbouleh
Serves 4

Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried chickpeas, black or white (or a can of chickpeas if you don't want to cook your own)
2 ripe peaches or nectaries
2 Persian cucumbers
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup minced mint
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/2 bunch chives, minced
1 lemon
high quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Directions
If you are cooking the chickpeas from dried:
1. The night before, put dried chickpeas in a very large jar and fill it with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
2. Once the chickpeas have soaked for 12 hours, drain and rinse them.
3. Place chickpeas in a large pot and cover 2" above with fresh water. You're welcome to throw in some smashed garlic, half an onion, a carrot or celery, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, or a sachet with any spices you like to enhance the flavor.
4. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let chickpeas cook until tender, 40-60 minutes. If the water level sinks to the surface of the chickpeas, add more water. If white foam collects on the surface of the water, skim it off with a spoon.
5. When the chickpeas are tender, strain and rinse them and remove any aromatics you added to the pot.
6. Congratulate yourself for cooking chickpeas from dried and marvel in how much better they taste than the canned ones! 

To assemble the salad:
1. Rinse quinoa and place in a small pot with 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, prep your produce. Chop your peaches or nectarines and cucumbers into 1/4" cubes. Quarter your cherry tomatoes, making an X with your knife from the top down. Mince your herbs, if you haven't already.
3.  When your quinoa and chickpeas are ready, add a generous drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon and hefty pinch of salt to each. Toss to coat.
4. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and add more olive oil, lemon and salt as needed.