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.

Vegan Turmeric Eggnog | On Navigating the Holidays

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

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

And so, my focus shifted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a lot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take good care, dear ones. <3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

pea1.jpg

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.

Sweet or Savory Ancient Grain Porridge (with Dates, Pear & Pomegranate) | On the Deterministic Power of Language

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

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

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

The invitation is this: choose determination over discipline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kabocha Squash & Miso Hummus | On Overhauling Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

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

Miso: Your New (Probiotic) Secret Weapon Flavor Bomb

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

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

Kabocha Squash: Butternut's Cooler Cousin

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

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

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

 

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

Kabocha Squash & Miso Hummus
Makes enough for a small crowd

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

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

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

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

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.