Spring Green Veggie & Herb Lettuce Cups | On Transitions

lettucecups1.jpg

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.

asparagus1.jpg
englishpea.jpg

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.

asparagus2.jpg
untitled (6 of 11).jpg

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.

lettucecup2.jpg
lettucecup3.jpg
lettucecups_duo.jpg

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.

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.

White Peach, Fresh Corn & Shredded Kale Salad | On Coming Home to Yourself

I went back home to Los Angeles last week. The home of my past selves. The home of my elementary and middle school self, who was joyous and carefree and destined for greatness. The home of my high school self, whose mind was ever expanding and whose heart felt perpetually bruised. The home of my post-college self, who had a burgeoning career she loved and a boyfriend she loved and friends she loved in a city she loved. So many selves contained in photos and diaries, coursework and notes passed in class. Selves written into the bedsheets, into the rough and fading dusty rose carpet that has forever cradled that floor, into the piles upon piles of mementos that I can't seem to throw away. So many selves that are intimately familiar, yet so far gone.

It's hard to go back to that house in Los Angeles. To enjoy the things I still love deeply about the city without free falling down the rabbit hole of my past. At 24, I left all that history behind and made a new home for myself in London. The city magnetized me, drew me to it and activated me in ways I could never have dreamed. At times, those two years in London were devastating and inconceivably challenging, yet I somehow managed to show up for myself like I never had before. I built the most incredible home, fell in love with a city, fell in love with food, fell in love with amazing friends and communities and conversations. And then, because of a situation well beyond my control, I had to leave. 

In the two years following my move back to the States, I would often tell people that I left my heart in London. But if home is where the heart is and my heart was 5,500 miles away, where did that leave me? 

There are so many things that can make a place feel like home. Comfort, familiarity, community, ease. Home can smell like pine trees or eucalyptus or mothballs or ocean air. Home can feel like a lover's embrace or the squeeze of a mother's hand. It can be the taste of empanadas or matzo ball soup. It can be the sinking into a well worn armchair or sitting atop a vista overlooking the city where you grew into you. It's strange now to say I'm going home when I take a trip down to LA and then to again say I'm going home when I get into the car to drive back up to the Bay. But that's another thing about home: it is multiplicity, evolving, physical and emotional, transient and eternal all at the same time.

The making and leaving and re-making of homes is one aspect of adulthood that I was definitively unprepared for. No one tells you how challenging and joyous and heartbreaking and perpetual it is. 

Through all of this, I'm coming to learn one essential and not often discussed thing: at the end of the day, the most important home I can make and return to is—surprisingly—within myself. When everything else is in chaos or falls away, if you can sit with yourself, be with your breath, and hold yourself tenderly, you'll ultimately be okay. There are so many reasons to become best friends with yourself and to love yourself unconditionally, as hard as that may be. But listen: if home truly is where the heart is—which I believe it to be—and your heart resides firmly inside your chest, then the best and most important home you can make is with yourself. It's infallible logic, no? And the best part about it is that it's a home you can count on, a home that grows with you, and a home you never have to leave.

All Aboard the Kale Train! (there's a terrible Caltrain joke in there somewhere...)

Kale salads have become a bit ubiquitous these days, which is actually a great thing. Everyone knows that this dark leafy green is mega good for you, but do you actually know how good it is? A member of the cruciferous vegetable family (along with broccoli and cabbage), kale is bursting with vitamin K (promoting bone health, preventing blood clotting, and crucially regulating our bodies' inflammation), vitamin A (supporting healthy vision and skin) and vitamin C (maintaining our immune system, hydration and metabolism).  Kale also contains high amounts of manganesefiber, and calcium (more calcium than milk, calorie-for-calorie!). Of all the leafy greens, kale boasts the highest level of carotenoids, which lowers our bodies' risk of developing certain types of cancers (in the case of kale, this includes breast, colon, prostrate, ovary and bladder cancer).  On top of all this goodness, kale is also super detoxifying, as its high amounts of fiber and sulfur help maintain healthy liver function.* Pretty amazing.

A quick note/advance warning that this recipe also asks you to massage your kale. Yes, you heard that right. Massage. Many of you may be familiar with this technique by now, but in case you aren't: vigorously rubbing raw kale leaves for 2-3 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon and/or vinaigrette is a wonderful method to use when serving it raw because breaks down the leaves' tough and fibrous cellulose structure, making it much easier to chew and digest. It also mellows out the bitter taste, which I think merits extra bonus points. So wash those hands and get ready to get intimate with your salad! 

I've been on a crazy raw corn kick this summer because raw corn is so sweet and delicious. Succulent, ripe white peaches work alongside the corn in this salad to bring an aromatic sweet note to offset the bitter undertones of the kale, while basil provides the punch of fresh herbs and feta rounds out the plate with its salty creaminess. This salad screams of summer. Maybe not as much as a caprese, but pretty damn close. And it's a lot more creative. So what are you waiting for? Summer won't be around for much longer, better celebrate it while you can!

*Nutritional information from WHFoodsMindBodyGreen, & My New Roots

White Peach, Fresh Corn & Shredded Kale Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 bunch lacinato kale
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels sliced off cob
2 ripe white peaches, sliced into 1/4"-1/2" wedges
12-15 basil leaves
3 oz. (generous 1/4 cup) feta cheese
1 lemon
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
salt + pepper

Directions
1. Remove the stems from each kale leaf. Stack about 8 of the leaves on top of each other into a horizontal pile and roll them together into a long log. Using your fingers to keep the leaves rolled together, slice the log perpendicular to the roll into strips as thinly as you can (this technique is called chiffonade). Repeat this with the remaining kale.
2. In a large bowl, drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil onto the kale and massage with your hands by rubbing the strips vigorously between your fingers until the kale has softened and vastly diminished in volume, 1-2 minutes.
3. Add corn kernels to the kale. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon, season with a generous pinch of salt and a crack or two of black pepper and mix gently.
4. Stack the basil leaves as you did with the kale, roll into a log and cut into thin strips.
5. Add basil, peach wedges and crumbled feta to the salad. Toss gently.
6. Taste and adjust dressing and seasoning. If your palette is anything like mine, it may need more oil and will definitely need more lemon. Enjoy!