Lunch

Avocado Pizza + Arugula, basil, & lime

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You guys. I won't disappear for months again, OK. I've got it together now. (Fingers crossed). This pizza is surprising. Its creamy rich avocado-y goodness baked into the crust. Balanced by the bitter/sweet arugula/lime/basil topping. OH MY. Seriously. Don't add cheese. It is SO good without. You want to let the beauty of the avocado shine on through.

Keeping on with that plan is another works in Food & Fiction.


SPIDER BY THE LIGHT

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.

Four soft, tiny wings

fell gently where the door swings.

Spider's full belly

wing skeletons for kelly.

It once was a moth

flying on wings of silk cloth.

Guilt entered my mind

To all but light, moth was blind.

I turned off the light

no capture of moths tonight.

Palm spread eagerly

gathering wings gingerly.

The wings are not waste

death. beauty. forever encased.

A gift in the night

from the spider by the light.


RECIPE - Makes 2 pizzas (feeds 4)

Dough (Slightly adapted from Peter Reinhart's neo-neopolitian pizza dough)

2 Cups + 2TB - unbleached bread flour (or all purp flour)

1/2TB - Honey

3/4tsp - active dry yeast

1 Cup + 1TB - warm water (between 100 - 110 degrees F)

1TB - Olive oil

  1. Combine the warm water, honey, and yeast in a small bowl. Whisk until dissolved & let it sit aside for 5 - 10 minutes until it starts to bubble/foam. Then combine your yeast mixture, flour, & salt into a mixer & mix on low speed for 1 minute with a dough hook. (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon). Then let the dough rest for 5 minutes. This step lets the dough fully hydrate.
  2. Change your mixer speed to medium-low for 2 -3 minutes (or continue mixing by hand). The bread is done when it feels somewhere between tacky & sticky. It should still be really easy to work with. If you feel it is too wet add another TB of flour. If you feel it is to dry, add another TB of water. Turn the dough out onto an oiled sheet pan & divide into two pieces. Form these two pieces into rounds & place equal distance a part on the sheet pan. Cover the top with plastic wrap & place in your fridge overnight.
  3. 1.5 hours ahead of pizza baking time, remove the pizza from the fridge so it has time to warm up & proof in room temperature before baking. Now move onto pizza baking step.

Avocado Base + Toppings

2 - Avocados

4 - garlic cloves, peeled

6TB - Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 Handfuls - fresh arugula

1 Handful - fresh basil

1/4 - Medium/small red onion, slivered

2 - Limes

Salt/pepper - to taste

  1. After letting the pizza dough ferment in the fridge overnight, take the dough out of the fridge 1.5 hours prior to baking to let it warm up to room temp. Place a baking stone in the oven & preheat it to 500 degrees. If you do not have a baking stone then get out a large baking sheet & lightly oil it, but still preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  2. In a small blender such as a smoothie blender or small food processor, combine the avocado meats, 5TB oil, garlic cloves, juice of one lime, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. It should be spreadable but still thick. The thickness will depend on the ripeness of your avocados. If you think it is just too thick, thin it out with a tiny bit of water. Set this aside.
  3. In a large bowl toss together your arugula, basil, and red onion. Whisk together the lime juice of your other lime and last TB of olive oil. Toss this together with the arugula mixture and lightly season with salt & fresh ground pepper. Use your hands to toss this mixture together (slightly massaging the greens). Set this aside until later.
  4. Roll out one of the pizza dough rounds on a floured surface and if you are baking using the baking sheet, place on the oiled baking sheet. Top the pizza with half of the avocado mixture & spread evenly with a spoon. Then transfer it into the oven & bake for about 15 -20 minutes (until it is cooked & the crust starts to golden). If you are baking on a pizza stone then open your oven & use a glove to pull out the rack the baking stone is on. Drop on the pizza crust, quickly top with half of the avocado mixture (spreading with a spoon), and close the oven. It will be done in about 10 minutes or less (until it is cooked & starting to golden in spots).
  5. Once the pizza is cooked, remove from oven either with a metal spatula or with mittens & place on a cutting board. Top with half of the arugula mixture, slice, & enjoy!
  6. Repeat process with second pizza dough.


A deep oregano & chile sauce + roasted mushroom tacos

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You should turn me in for neglect. I'm guilty of blog abandonment. I apologize and I want to commit to once-a-week again with you but I don't want to be called out on broken promises and leave you with that empty feeling. For now tacos (as I always say - the perfect food) will fill this physical emptiness. Although, I am sad to say there is still a void to be mentioned. We lost Gabriel Garcia Marquez last month. I want to thank him for his contributions to magical realism with an excerpt from one of his famous novels One Hundred Years of Solitude and of course, with tacos.


When they woke up, with the sun already high in the sky, they were speechless with fascination. Before them, surrounded by ferns and palm trees, white and powdery in the silent morning light, was an enormous Spanish galleon. Tilted and slightly to the starboard, it had hanging from its intact masts the dirty rags of its sails in the midst of its rigging, which was adorned with orchids. The hull, covered with an armor or petrified barnacles and soft moss, was firmly fastened into a surface of stones. The whole structure seemed to occupy its own space, one of solitude and oblivion, protected from the vices of time and the habits of the birds. Inside, where the expeditionaries explored with careful intent, there was nothing but a thick forest of flowers. - Page 11 & 12 One Hundred Years of Solitude  by Gabriel García Márquez


 Gabriel García Márquez in 1975. Photograph: Isabel Steva Hernandez/Colita/Corbis

Gabriel García Márquez in 1975. Photograph: Isabel Steva Hernandez/Colita/Corbis


José Arcadio Buendeía had not through that this wife's will was so firm. He tried to seduce her with the charm of his fantasy, with the promise of a prodigious world where all one has to do was sprinkle some magic liquid on the ground and the plants would bear fruit whenever a man wished, and where all manner of instruments against pain were sold at bargain prices. But Úrsula was insensible to his clairvoyance.

"Instead of going around thinking about your crazy inventions, you should be worrying about your sons," she replied. "Look at the state they're in, running wild just like donkeys."

José Arcadio Buendía too his wife's words quite literally. He looked out the window and saw the barefoot children in the sunny garden and he has the impression that only at that instant has they began to exsit, conceived by Úrsula's spell. Something occurred inside of him then, something mysterious and definitive that uprooted him from his own time and carried him adrift though an unexplored region of memory...

...But since the afternoon when he called the children in to help him unpack the things in the laboratory, he gave them his best hours. In the small separate room, where the walls were gradually being covered by strange maps and fabulous drawings, he taught them how to read and write and do sums, and he spoke to them about the wonders of the world, not only where his learning had extended, but forcing the limits of his imagination to extremes. It was in that way that the boys ended up learning  that the southern extremes of Africa there were men so intelligent and peaceful that their only pastime was to sit and think, and that it was possible to cross the Aegean sea on foot by jumping from island to island all the way to the port of Salonika. - Page 13 & 15, One Hundred Years of Solitude  by Gabriel García Márquez



Recipe : Makes a large batch of sauce good for eating with friends or for freezing.

Garlic - 6 cloves, chopped

Sweet onion - 1/2 medium, sliced

Mushroom broth - (or veggie) 2 Cups

Oregano - Dried (3TB)

Pasilla chilies - 3 (dried)

Chipotle chilies - 4 (dried)

Tomato paste - 3 ounces (1/2 a small can)

Diced tomatoes - 16 ounce can

Oregano - fresh (1TB) plus extra to top

Filling

Mushrooms - assortment. (shitakes, portobellos, oyster, cremini), quartered. At least 16ounes for 2-3 servings or more to share with friends!

Garlic - 2-3 cloves, minced

Olive oil - 4-6 TB (depending on how many mushrooms you make)

Salt - to taste

Cilantro - chopped

Avocado - sliced

Lime wedges - optional

Sour cream - optional

* Note: If making homemade tortillas (recipe link below), you might want to make them first to have them ready and reheat. Or make them at the very end to have them piping hot.

Place the mushroom broth in a medium pot over medium heat with the dried oregano and dried chiles ( cut the dried stalks off the chiles). Cover the pot and bring it to a simmer. Then stir the mixture to get everything hydrated and let it sit to infuse, covered, ideally for an hour.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Chop up the rest of your veggies for the sauce & filling (garlic, onion, and mushrooms). Toss all the mushrooms in a bowl with the olive oil, 2 -3 cloves of garlic, and some salt. After the mushrooms are coated, spread it on a sheet pan and place into the preheated oven. Roast for 15 minutes and then check on the mushrooms. If there is a ton of liquid in the pan, pour it out, and then return it to the oven for another 15 minutes. Check your mushrooms again. I only needed to roast mine for a total of 30 minutes but, depending on your mushrooms - they might need a little longer.

Now back to the sauce. Once the broth is infused, pour it out into a bowl and set aside. Put the pot back over medium low heat and add in the garlic, onion, and 2TB olive oil. Let them soften, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Add in the tomato paste and do your best to stir/incorporate it with a spoon for a minute. Add in the diced tomatoes and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Then add in the mushroom broth/chile mixture, stirring, until it reaches a simmer. Once it simmers for a few minutes, pour the mixture into a blender and blend several minutes until smooth. Pour the mixture back into a pot and bring to a simmer and let it cook down into a nice thick sauce for about 10 -15 minutes, scraping the pot frequently. Season with salt.

Place your roasted mushrooms in a corn tortilla (recipe here) and then top, liberally, with sauce. Now you embellish: spoon over some sour cream (if desired), top with avocado slices, sprinkle with cilantro, and squeeze over lime juice. Enjoy with loved ones over magical realism.

Herby, scallion & leek pancakes made with chickpea flour


Story 4 in Food & Fiction


My sketchers were mostly white, a little dusty from the walk. I was now standing with the trees to my back. I peered into the field in front of me. There a large rock had anchored itself into the earth, breaking the horizon. I adjusted the stick resting on my shoulder, the contents in the bandana at the end bounced slightly. So far, this was the farthest I had traveled alone from home before. I watched for ticks on my socks as I moved through the tall grass, just how my Dad showed me. The amber bristles tried to paint my legs as I walked. They tickled past me in waves. I floated across the sea. Drifting steadily towards the island.

The rock was part concrete. It was a ruin? A shipwreck? I inspected the base and found old bits of newspaper stuck to the hardened mixture. I was curious at my discovery. I dropped my bundle, crushing the saltine crackers which were so preciously tucked into my knapsack. It was one of the few items I selected for my journey. I tried to read the bits of newspaper, trying to find clues or a date. It was unreadable and I moved on. There were little imprints of leaves hardened into the concrete. I spent what felt like hours tracing fossilized leaf veins with my finger tips. I loved my rock, it was my secret of unknown histories. I climbed on top of my ship and looked out at my grass ocean. It swayed gently, the waters were calm. I sat down and hugged my legs to my chest and sipped on a mini plastic bottled water I brought. I marooned myself.

After awhile I poked through my supplies and I sprinkled the crushed saltines in the grass for the birds. The last thing I packed was my journal. I stared at the cover. It was denim with a rhinestone butterfly. I opened the inside cover and read my own hand, it said "Do not read. Please." I obeyed my own rule and closed the journal. I tried to remember why I came out here by myself, why I wanted to run away. I had been angry, that is all. I could not remember anymore, all that mattered was my oasis. A silent place with something no one else found interesting. From my lookout I saw a car coming down the road that cut through the field. The car kicked up a cloud behind it. I jumped down and hid behind my rock... I did not want to expose my location. The car passed and my hideout was safe. I folded the journal back up into the bandana and tied it in a knot at the end of my stick, like I had seen in cartoons. I began to worry that sharing my saltine crackers with the birds was a mistake... a grave error in my operation. I knew there was more food back at the house... but should I return?

I looked back from where I had come, I could see my house from behind the trees. It's red brick peaking through the planted evergreens.  I wasn't far away from my home after all. I could come back to my oasis whenever in need. I headed back towards the tree harbor... to shallower grass waters of the back yard. I had not even been gone an hour.

Years later, long after the rock was hauled away, the field was leveled, homes were built, and I had moved away; I would think about that oasis. Some things, like that rock, just exist somewhere out-of-place. But really, they are exactly where they need to be.

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Recipe (Servers 2)

Chickpea Flour - 3/4 Cup

Baking powder - 1TB

Egg - 1

Butter - 4TB, melted

Milk - 2/3 Cup

Ground coriander - 1 tsp

Fresh Herbs - 1/3 cup - 1/2 cup, chopped. (I used dill, cilantro, and parsley)

Olive oil - 1TB

Leek - 1 - sliced into thin half rounds

Scallions - 3, sliced thin (using both the white & the green part)

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Salt/pepper - to taste

Chard - 1/2 a bundle (enough for a handful or two), chopped

Lemon juice - 1/2 a fresh lemon (scant 1TB)

Butter or coconut oil (of other fat/oil) to coat pan for cooking pancakes

Chop up  leeks, scallions, herbs, and garlic, then set aside. Trim and chop up the chard into slivers. Place in a bowl with the lemon juice and a tiny pinch of salt & drizzle of olive oil. Toss the chard and then place in the fridge to marinate while you make the rest.

Add the 1TB olive oil to a medium skillet on medium low heat. Let it get warm and them add the garlic, toss for a minute, then add the scallions & leeks. Cook, tossing occasionally, for several minutes to soften. Turn off the heat and then dump the mixture into a bowl. Set these cooked onions aside for now.

In a large bowl mix together the chickpea flour, baking powder, coriander, 1/2tsp of salt, and a 1/2tsp of pepper. Stir this together and then make a well in the center. Add the egg, milk, and melted butter. Combine well with a fork until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps. Add in the cooked scallion mixture and fresh chopped herbs. Combine well.

Heat a small amount of butter or other oil in the same medium skillet - just enough to coat the surface - over medium heat. Once warm, place a heaped 1/4 cup serving of batter into the skillet. Let it cook several minutes, until bubbles are coming up in the center of the pancake. Flip and then cook a few more minutes on the other side. Repeat this with the rest of the batter.

Serve the pancakes warm with a generous handful of lemony chard piled on top. You can also serve with a dollop of high-quality sour cream or creme fraiche. This is completely optional. Next time I'd go without - but it makes the photos look nice! Makes two large servings.


No-pity bright winter salad: Cabbage + Arugula + Lemon + Olives + Dill

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Khaos

(a series in food & fiction by Kelly Ridenhour)


I did not know what to expect when I asked my shadow the question. I did not even know if it would work. It was the book that convinced me to try or that is my excuse. Truthfully, it was my longing for something unrealistic to be... not so unrealistic. If I did not work in a library where more books than I could ever possibly read surrounded me, I would never have found the book; the book that led me to the question. I couldn't help but wander long silent corridors and sweetly brush my fingertips along the spines of hardbound books. In lonely corridors I would break dust for the first time in decades. The pleasant dust, a crisp crust on fine crème brûlée. Inside a library, your mind wanders. It is suppose to wander. As an employee, the library's silence, the endless comfort of rows, the organization, it either becomes a meditation provoking thought or something that stirs chaos. 

On the day I found the book, I felt its draw, like a beacon shinning out from the sea of muted books. It was a dusty gray color, the color of muted night sky. The book became a secret I harbored. I could see its history on the backside of the front cover. I always feel a little pity when I discover a book like this one. A book whose existence no one knows of or an existence long forgotten. The inside cover was white, virgin, no inked dates to mar its page. The book's knowledge was all mine and I felt its gratitude. This book was not the type of book the people in my community want me to read. It made the secret dangerous and intoxicating. It was called Nyx. It is a book dripping with modern magic and Greek mythology. I would take the secret out underneath the apple groves that dotted the Utah landscape and read listening to the sound of irrigation runnels. Everything would become still in those hours, so still I became part of the landscape. The deer treated me as they did the apple trees, a solid object, part of nature.

I read for days about gods and goddesses of Greek mythology and the way those concepts and ideas have translated into modern life. Something I never learned before, it did not exist in my world. I was astonished that the ancient Greeks believed in these gods. It was not the incredulousness of these gods but the impressiveness of the things Greeks did to show their affections and loyalty; the things they built! I could not help but feel cheated. How exciting would a world be when filled with mythical creatures, gods who shoot arrows of love, nymphs, goddesses... and a world with scandals between gods and mortals? Even if these gods and goddesses were not real, the attentiveness of the Greeks made them real. I began to wonder about the realities of my own world and the one God that I worship and if someone would discover a book about my beliefs and my God 2,500 years from now. 

In Nyx the author discussed rituals and practices of the Greeks. There was one bit that stuck with me and my brain grew with questions. One question led me to my shadow. A shadow is not just one thing by itself; it is many things. It is light, it is dark, it is the ground, it is you, and it is air. The landscape in this combination is air. Air in Greek mythology is not necessarily one god. Air is the space where everything happens and it is the oldest of all gods, it is Khaos or as we know it, chaos. Shadow has been with everyone, at all times. It was there 2,500 years ago when the Greeks lived and it is here with you now. Think of all it has seen, all of the places it has been, all the space it has occupied and all the chaos that has passed through it. Filled with questions and too dark to read.

Despite what you believe, you know the powers of a full moon, or at least you are aware of the myth. If I told you the full moon produces a special kind of shadow would you believe me? No? You want to believe me don't you? That is how I feel when reading the book. I want to believe everything. Something so different from my world, something to pull me out and take me away. There is not one specific idea that convinced me I could ask my shadow any question I wanted under the strength of a full moon and in return, I would get an answer. It was more an accumulation of knowledge and feeling. Ideas put into practice. I felt my evenings in the apple grove grow more powerful as the moon waxed. I wanted to ask my shadow is magic is real, if myth was real.... and if it was there was it would be myth no longer, it would be chaos. My life as I know it turned on its side and my realities lost. I wanted that. On the night of the full moon I wandered into the apple grove, my shadow faithfully trailing me. I asked my question.

I won't tell you what happened. All I can tell you is that your realities are what you make them. I toss you my apple, I give you the chaos of asking questions.


I can't explain how much I love this salad. It is inspired from my favorite salad in a little greek restaurant near my parent's house. I love to eat it by itself or wrapped up in some flatbread. Or eaten with a side of  flatbread & hummus. Make it your own. It may sound simple but, seriously, it doesn't need any pity :).

Recipe (1 large salad or several small salads)

Green cabbage - 1/4 head of cabbage on the generous side, shaved or slivered

Arugula - 2 big handfuls

Red onion - 1/4 onion, shaved or slivered

Kalamata olives - 6-8, the meat cut off the pits

Olive oil - 2TB

Garlic - 1 clove, small, minced (optional - I don't event do this all the time)

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Dill - 2Tb, fresh, chopped fine

Salt/pepper - to taste

Toss together all ingredients & kind of gently massage the greens with the juices & herbs. Eat right away... or it tastes even better after it sits in the fridge and the flavors infuse for 15-30mins or so. Enjoy.

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Roasted beets & lemon greens wrap

Horror!

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All she could hear was her breathing. Everything else was silent. She set down the knife. It was red with crime. An un-blooded portion of the knife reflected her own face and glimpses of the carnage in front of her. She never knew she could be so violent. Heads chopped off from bodies and dismembered, there across the table and floor, was her proof. She gently and calmly wiped her hands clean with a rag; it was a white rag. The red soaked in deep, binding with the fibers, the contrast seemed to make her violence more permanent, more dramatic. She had been hungry before, and had simply set out to make a meal... before...

The phone range.

"Hello?"

"Hey, sweetheart, I'm on my way home. Do you want me to grab dinner?"

She glanced behind her at her crime, ripe with juices, and nibbled at a bit of red on her fingernail. It was sweet. Her heart should be pounding but she felt nothing was wrong. In fact, she felt the opposite. A different type of hunger began to grow in her...

"Oh, no, love. I'm making something at home for us." She hung up the phone.

She set to work cleaning up her mess; trimming and cutting away at the bodies, forming them into manageable pieces. It was an unusual meal. She pondered over a recipe, something simple. All that chopping had left her tired. Tired and hungry. Maybe... roasted in their own juices until tender? Salt and pepper of course, oh and olive oil! Certainly, olive oil! A little lemon to make the flavor pop. 

The smells from the oven were heavenly. She salivated. The dogs were in the kitchen licking at the floor in their primal states. Waiting for more tasty morsels to drip from the counter.

The door open and he walked in. He saw the red soaked cutting board and her stained hands. He stopped. 

"You're making beet wraps!"

Whoever thinks vegetarianism can't be gruesome has never cut their way through two bunches of fresh beets. 

This wrap is great, I've made it a few times and it has turned a beet hater (Ty) into a roasted beet lover. 

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Recipe (About 6 wraps)

Beets (with greens) - 2 bunches. Beets trimmed into thin rounds and save the greens)

Red onion - 1/4 cup, slivered

Goat cheese - 6TB (about 1TB per serving)

Lemon - Juice from 1 large lemon

Olive oil - 3TB

Salt/pepper - to taste 

Yogurt Flatbread (adapted from plenty)

Flour (any flour, this time I used spelt) - Generous 2 cups

Baking powder - 1TB

Salt - 1tsp

Whole fat plain yogurt (or greek) - 1 1/2 cups

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Begin with making your flatbread dough (or use a pre-made flatbread). Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then stir in your yogurt with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes workable with your hands. Knead for a few minuets. If the dough seems a little too sticky or dry, add in a little more flour. Cover the bowl and let it chill in your fridge while you prepare the rest of the wrap.

Wash and chop up the beets into thin rounds and put them into a bowl. Slice up the beet greens into slivers, discarding any extra tough stems and place them into a separate bowl. Add in the slivered onions to the beet greens. Squeeze over the fresh lemon juice into the greens and sprinkle with a small pinch or two of salt. Massage the lemon and salt into the greens and then set the bowl aside.

Now back to the beets. Toss the beets with the 3TB of olive oil and at least a teaspoon of salt & pepper each. Lay the beet slices out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minuets, until cooked and tender, stirring the beets half way through. 

While beets are roasting, go back to your dough and divide it into six balls. Heat up a skillet (cast iron works great here) on the stove top over high heat. Clean a work surface and sprinkle with flour. Place one ball on your floured surface and roll it out thin, into a round flatbread. Once your skillet is very hot, lay your flatbread on the skillet. When it starts to bubble up, flip the bread. When it starts to puff up with air, it is done and remove from the skillet. Repeat with the other 5 dough balls. 

After the breads are cooked and the beets roasted spread the center of a flatbread with 1Tb or more of goat cheese. Lay on top 1/6 of the beets and then top with a big handful of lemon greens. Repeat with others! The lemon greens and beets keep well when stored separately. Enjoy!

 

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Vegetarian take on fish tacos: Cornmeal baked zucchini with purple slaw & adobo cream.

Tacos.

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Right now I'm surrounded by broken bits of twig, twine, and dirt strewn along the floor of my house and nursing hot glue burns. I'm sure my project feels like a cruel temptation to my dogs... as they eye my large stick sign with longing. One night, in the beginning of making the letters out of twigs, Banjo carried off the 'O' and drug its entrails through several rooms. I imagined this inanimate stick object fittingly groaning "oooooo" with agony as it was ripped to shards. I wish I had the sign done, it is oh-so-close, I would show you a picture. It is lovely, considering I needed something cheap out of what I had... which was sticks! Things have been busy lately... and not just because of stick signs. I apologize for absence but believe me, I want to be here with you guys! I'll have more words and photos for you all soon but I needed to make sure you were fed first. Sorry I don't have very many photos... It was too dark for good photos when we had a chance to make dinner, so I took a few of the next day leftovers.

Now, I've mentioned that I believe tacos are the perfect food. I love them that much. I stand by my statement to the end. When things get busy and crazy, tacos slide into the menu often. This recipe, while not strikingly fall, is definitely a recipe you want to fit in before all the zucchinis disappear. You can find baby summer squashes at the farmers market right now since none of those babies will grow very big this late in the season.  Of course, normal sized zucchini can be used if cut down to proper size.

*When things are busy and I don't have time I have no problem buying pre-made tortillas. Sometimes it is fun to make your own though, but a tortilla press is a good investment if you plan on doing this. 

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Recipe (makes a lot of tacos) 

Summer squash - 1lb of baby squash (unusually little ones ya'll), but if using regular cut down to about 2" long sticks. 

Red cabbage - 1 cup generous, slivered

Red onion - 1/4 cup, slivered

Limes - Juice of 2 limes

Cilantro - 4TB, fresh, chopped

Chiles in adobo - 1-2TB of the sauce (depending on how spicy you want it. I went with 2) 

Sour cream - 1/3 cup

Eggs - 2

Coconut oil - 2-3TB (other oil will work as well)

Cornmeal - 3/4 cup

Flour - 1/2 cup (any flour will do)

Bay leave - 1tsp powdered (I threw dried leaves up in a clean coffee grinder to powder)

Ginger - 1/4tsp

Cinnamon - 1/8tsp

Cardamom - few pinches

Paprika - 1/2tsp

Salt/pepper - 1/2tsp

Chop/prep all your veggies. 

Preheat oven up to 350 degrees. And lightly grease a baking sheet with coconut oil

Toss together the cabbage, onion, lime juice, cilantro, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until combined. Set aside until later (this part can even be made a day ahead... tastes better that way!) 

Stir together the sour cream and adobo sauce in a separate small bowl and set aside until the end.

Beat eggs in a small bowl, set aside, and then combine the cornmeal, flour, and spices in a medium bowl. Now, one at a time, take a zucchini (or zucchini piece) and dip it into the eggs, turn to coat, and then drop it into the cornmeal mixture, turn to coat, and then lay it on the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the zucchinis. 

Bake the zucchini for 10 minutes. Take out the pan and flip the zucchinis while brushing on a little more coconut oil. Bake for 10 more minutes. 

Serve a zucchini or two on a tortilla (tortilla recipe below), top with slaw, and then drizzle with the adobo sauce. Enjoy this delicious piece of veggie heaven.

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Corn/flour hybrid tortilla recipe (Makes 12-16)

Masa Harina - 1 cup (found in the international section of grocery or carniceria) 

All purpose flour - 1 cup

Warm water - 3/4 cup, generous

Olive oil - 1-2Tb ( A hefty glug)

Salt - a pinch

Wax paper and a tortilla press. 

Mix together the masa, flour, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the water and olive oil. Stir together with a wooden spoon, slowly incorporating the sides until you form a ball. Then use your hands to get in there and knead until the ball comes together and there are no dry spots left. You don't want it sticky though... it needs more flour in that case. Add a splash more water if you think it is too dry. Make a thick disc with the dough and cut it into 12 wedges ( I cut mine into 16 wedges... but that makes really small tortillas). Roll each wedge into a ball, set aside. Cut off 6 strips of wax paper, big enough to cover the base of your tortilla press and place a skillet on high heat. Here comes the juggling part.

Place a piece of wax paper on the bottom of the press, top it with one ball of dough in the center, and then top it with another piece of wax paper. Press down the tortilla press all the way and then lift up. Peel off the tortilla and then lay it onto the skillet (once hot). After a minuet, flip the tortilla. It should be slightly speckled with brown. Let the tortilla cook another minuet on the other side, if it starts to balloon up, remove from heat and its done! Repeat the process with the other wedges using both sides of the wax paper only once.

 

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Summer pizzas. A basil + pumpkin seed pesto with cherry tomatoes & a baba ganoush inspired pizza with sweet pepers & arugula

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So much has happened in the last few weeks that it is hard to know where to begin. In short, I was living in Denver, CO, spent a week wandering the desert, drove across the country, and now I'm back living on the east coast in Charlottesville, VA where my current surroundings resemble a rainforest. Things have been dramatically nomadic and I've been absent from this space for too long. Perhaps I am still not ready to explain everything, well, at least my emotions of coming back to the east coast, my mind is still deciding how I feel about it. I can however provide you with some delicious pizza recipes I have been sitting on for a few weeks (sitting on the recipe that is... sitting on pizza for that long would be, erm, um, gross). I figure you need to make these before all our beloved summer veggies disappear. The first pizza, the basil pesto one, was inspired by happyolks, she is a love and so are her recipes. I made my own version of it recalling the beautiful photos in her post. The second was concocted from a desire to use some garden eggplants and my love for baba ganoush (a spread related to hummus but with eggplant instead of chickpeas). The eggplant pizza is amazing, my definite favorite of the two, but... why do you have to pick when you can make both?

I do want to share with you the experience of camping in the desert for a week. The harshness and beauties of the desert are so extreme that I barely feel as if it happened. While you are there, the intensity of emotion and feeling is so strong, that when you look around and there is no one else in sight for miles, you kind of have to question if it is reality.

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The first day was spent driving through western Colorado and pretty much, all of Utah. Utah is a drastically changing landscape. It is as if Utah decided to mimic a rubrics cube throwing on various faces of mountain, desert, farmland, and forests as easily as shifting squares of color. We ended our tour de Utah when we reached Zion National Park, but since we arrived so late in the day all the walk-in tent sites were full. In the state of Utah you can camp anywhere on public land for free and we cozied up on some BLM land near Zion. The skies were beautiful and streaked with meteors during the peak of Perseid meteor shower. Out there the skies are so huge, it appears as if the meteors last longer, their tails slowly fading out instead of quick flicks across the sky. The next day we hiked around Zion and up several miles into the canyon carved out by the Virgin River. Wading up the shaded canyon in the cool waters felt like paradise contrasting against the heat of the desert sun soaked into our skin. I couldn't help but think of pottery while rubbing my hand across the sandstone walls, layers of minerals deposited in a most unique glaze. The Virgin River: master sculptor. 

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WIld buffalo grazing, painted skies, and lush aspen forests were in our future at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Did you know the north rim is heavily forested? You could be lost in there for days never guessing you were in Arizona. The Grand Canyon is unbelievable... read it the way some people pronounce it with emphasis... un-be-liev-a-ble. It really is. Standing there the canyon does not only smack you with beauty but with questions of history and expanse of time. I couldn't help but envision the landscape as relatively flat with the snake of blue Colorado River flowing through it and then watch it carve and chip away the layers of earth into the vision I was seeing before me. The temperature was a pleasant 77 degrees and dipped down to 40 during the night as we slept huddled under the branches of aspen and pine, watching shadowy figures of deer grazing nearby through the window of the tent. 

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While driving to Glen Canyon we got sent on a very long, unexpected detour through Arizona. We will call it 'taking the scenic route.' When we reached Glen Canyon we grabbed a forest road map and picked a road the headed towards the water. The road was an unpaved dirt road that criss-crossed over several dry washes and through mini-canyons and opened up to a sandy bank. As the only ones out there; we spilled out of the car and headed straight for the water where we spent the rest of the afternoon. The sky faded into brilliant color over the lake, reflecting a perfect image of the horizon's beauty right back up to the sky as if she were admiring herself in the mirror. We decided to camp out there since we found campfire rings left behind from previous folk. We wished for no rain for the road getting back would be flooded and we'd be stuck until it dried out, and fortunately, luck was on our side. All night long I heard the excited yipping, yapping, and howling of coyotes hunting for rabbits and birds. They get especially loud after making a kill. I've camped and lived around coyotes, hearing them in the night is not a new thing for me, but I've never heard them that closely before or ever that many. I never get tired of listening to them, they are beautiful. 

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I had visions of popping a car tire on the treacherous roads we drove out on the next day, I worried we would be stuck in the desert waiting for someone to come along and rescue us. We would have to drink the melted ice water in our cooler to stay alive and when that ran out I'd be searching for yucca root and we would be half-dead when someone found us. Dramatic? Yes, but that is what my mind does. It took us 4.5 hours to go 40 miles on this dirt road until we finally reached the highway. In the beginning we drove up sandstone mountains to the top of the plateau, the view was phenomenal and terrifying. We realized it was too late to turn around and we were on this road for the long haul, avoiding loose boulders and sharp rocks. The arid landscape stretched on forever and I became very familiar with the twisted and gnarled trunks of juniper and the skeletons of creeks that resurrect during rain. We spent the day and night at Capitol Reef National Park. This place is so appropriately named, I felt like I was walking through a coral reef of red sandstone flecked with lush green plant life exploding from the river, just like tropical fish pop with colors against the unending blue of the sea. Early mormon settlers came to this place and planted acres of orchards, irrigating them with runnels from the river. It seemed surreal, a weird sort of oasis wandering under the dappled shade of apple, pear, apricot, cherry, and peach trees with the views of dry sandstone desert moving into view at the end of the rows. There is so much life and hidden history of the desert.  Despite how harsh the desert is, it can be so life-bringing, so colorful. The bands and palette of reds, browns, and orange that streak through rock faces in layers. The brilliant papery blooms of flowers, the deep greens of foliage and cactus. The grays and whites of dried juniper trunks. Huge flows of green that kiss alongside the rivers, cutting the red landscape into two pieces. Pristine teals of river water paved in every imaginable color with stones sanded into smooth rounds. The skies at all times of the day; the morning with their soft glows of color, mid-day it is an idealistic sky with blues so bright and clouds billowing as if it was ripped from a storybook page, and the sunsets are vibrant bands of color growing more intense until the sun blinks out and the milky-way emerges with not a single artificial light to compete with it.

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I'm continually amazed at the early Pueblo people and other Native American tribes in the four corners, how brilliant and intuitive these people were/are. At the end of our trip we got to spend time at Mesa Verde, I long to be able to live like that. I'm devastated that those civilizations ended and mystified as to why. I'm even more devastated at the ending of later Native American civilizations, and ashamed as to why that happened as someone who comes from both European and Native American descent (like many of us do). The four corners region, culture and landscape is perhaps, one of the oldest regions in the country, the most amazing, and it still feels like a secret.

 

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Recipe (Makes two pizzas)

Pumpkin seed oil. Ok ya'll, you really should get some of this stuff. Not only does it have amazing benefits, especially good for vegetarians as an omega source, but it tastes awesome. It has a deeper, almost smokier flavor, obviously very reminiscent of pumpkin seeds. I get mine from here Mountain Rose Herbs and theirs is cold pressed, organic, and unrefined. In this pesto recipe you can of course substitute the pumpkin seed oil for olive oil, but if you get around too it, try the pumpkin seed!

Quick Dough (For 2 crusts)

All purpose flour - 4 cups
Ground flaxseed - small handful of ground flaxseed (optional)
Flaxseed - A tablespoon or two of whole seeds for look/texture (optional) 
Salt - 1tsp
Active dry yeast - 3TB
Warm water - generous 1 1/2 Cups between 110 degrees and 115 degrees
Sugar - 1TB
Olive oil - 4TB
 
Place warm water, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and whisk until dissolved. Set it aside for 5-10 minutes until it begins to foam. Meanwhile mix together the flour, flaxseed, and salt. Then add the olive oil into the water/yeast mixture. Make a well in the flour and pour in the water/yeast/oil mixture. Slowly stir together until moist and knead until slightly tacky but not sticky. Adjusting with a little flour or water as needed. Knead with your hands on a floured surface for about 5-10 minutes. Place the ball of dough back into an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let sit in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled. Meanwhile prepare the pizza toppings. After two hours, turn the dough out, divide it in two. Also, a recommendation is to make the eggplant pizza first, since the eggplant needs to cook first.
 
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Baba Ganoush, sweet pepper, and arugula salad pizza.

Eggplant - 1 small/medium eggplant. 

Lemon juice - 2 lemons

Tahini - 3TB

Olive oil - about 1/4 cup plus extra for drizzling

Salt/pepper - to taste

Sweet peppers - 6-8 sweet peppers chopped into slivers

Fresh cilantro - small handfull

Fresh arugula - 3-4 handfuls

Feta - 4TB (optional) 

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the whole eggplant in the oven on a baking sheet on the top rack and place another baking sheet filled with hot water on the bottom rack. Bake the eggplant for 30-40 minuets. Meanwhile chop up your sweet peppers into slivers. Remove the eggplant and let it cool until you can handle it. After you take the eggplant out, reset the oven temperature to 500 degrees. Once you can handle the eggplant, peel the skin off and discard the skin except for a few, small pieces. Add in the eggplant and few skin pieces into a food processor or blender along with juice of 1.5 lemons, tahini, and salt. Drizzle in olive oil while blending and stop when it has reached a consistency similar to hummus. 

Roll out your pizza dough on a flourd surface and transfer to a baking sheet. Spread over the eggplant spread (baba ganoush), top with the slivers of sweet peppers, then sprinkle over feta (omit for vegan), and then sprinkle over cilantro. Rub the crust edges with olive oil and then bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile massage the fresh arugula in a bowl with the rest of the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt/pepper. Once the pizza comes out of the oven top it with the fresh arugula. All ready to be eaten!

 
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Summer pesto and tomato pizza

Fresh basil - I packed a 5ounce salad green container with basil from my garden and used that much. So about 5oz weighed.

Arugula - I had a few, large, spicy arugula leaves in my garden so I threw those in. About 1 small handful. (optional)

Garlic - 4 cloves, chopped

Pine nuts - 1/3 cup

Pumpkin seed oil - 1/4 cup plus a little extra for drizzling

Salt/pepper to taste - go light on the salt since you are adding cheese to the pizza, which is salty

Cherry tomatoes - 2cups, generous, sliced in half. Feel free to use more or less.. I just purchased so many. 

Fresh mozzarella - 8ounces or to preference.  

Fresh pepper - cracked over top.

Preheat your oven to 500. Throw the basil, arugula, garlic, pine nuts, and pumpkin seed oil in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Drizzling in a little extra oil as needed. Taste and adjust for salt/pepper. Set the pesto aside and slice your tomatoes. Roll out your pizza dough on a floured surface, I rolled mine out to fit a baking sheet since I did not have my pizza stones in Denver. Transfer your dough to the baking sheet. Spread over the pesto, I was generous with the amount but I had pesto left over. Spread the cherry tomatoes halves evenly and then tops with tears of mozzarella. Rub the crust edges with a little olive oil (optional). Bake in the oven 10-15 minutes until the pizza is golden brown. Crack over some black pepper and enjoy! 

 

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Vermicelli + coriander carrots, edamame, & a lime-tamari sauce.

This and that. 

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I started a new book of short stories while on our last camping trip by Rebecca Lee called bobcat and other stories. There is a certain part of the story where the narrator gets a new perspective of the words 'this' and 'that' while enjoying a cup of coffee. She points across the room and asks if "[she] could have some of this cream." Most people would ask if they could have some of 'that' cream when referring to something across the room. Turns out, it is a philosophy when using the word this or that. It depends on your personal perspective on what you consider close to you or not. This little moment resonated with me quite strongly. One of those moments where you stop and re-read the sentences a few times over.

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Reflecting back I probably only use the word 'this' when I can physically touch an object, obviously, this is my comfort space. I do tend to be somewhat of an introvert, even if it is not immediately evident, but am I really that closed off? I suppose I have been more aloof than usual because I have no idea where my life is headed come August. It is exciting but scary, I am almost paralyzed by the freedom of it. I can dream for hours about what doing 'that' job or moving to 'that' place would be like but nothing has reached the status of 'this.' Nothing feels at home to me. For now my 'this' place has to be the life of a transient voyager and my 'this' place is in food.

I can transcribe this same feeling and personal choice of using the word 'this' or 'that' to choices in food. There are some dished when you see a picture of it or you read the description, this is it. This dish just gets you. I definitely order foods at restaurants this way... and sometimes I miss out because 'that' dish is not close to me. Vermicelli is one of those dishes I typically ignore. Most of the time it is because it is drenched with fish sauce and even if I order it vegetarian I usually end up with a midnight stomach ache and fish poots. Never fear, this fish-free vermicelli is here. 

*You want to prepare the carrots/cucumbers in this recipe several hours beforehand at least, so they can marinate. Preferably overnight.

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Recipe (serves 4) 

Rice noodles - 1 box

Carrots - 3 whole, large carrots, peeled and then cut into thing strips with a peeler.

Cucumber - 1/2 small cucumber, peeled and cut into large matchsticks.

Red cabbage - 1/2 cup, cut into slivers

Mushrooms - 1/2 a small container, cut into slivers (I used baby portabellas) 

Daikon radish - 1/2 small radish, cut into thin half-moons

Edamame - 1/2 frozen bag (just the bean, no pods).

Sunflower sprouts - 1 handful (feel free to use any sprouts) 

Ginger - 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or finely grated).

Coriander seeds - 1TB

Fennel seeds - 1tsp

Rice vinegar - about 1 1/2 cups

Cilantro - 1TB fresh, minced

Thai Basil - 1-2TB fresh, minced

Honey - 1TB (or agave if vegan)

Tamari - 4TB

Limes - 2, juice only

Sesame oil - 2-3TB

Red chile flakes or sriracha  - to taste

 *Peel and cut the carrots and cucumbers. Place them in a 2 cup mason jar and add in the coriander and fennel seeds. Then cover with rice vinegar mixed with a little water. Let it sit out for several hours at least, overnight it best. The marinating liquid can be kept in the fridge and re-used. 

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Cook the rice noodles according to the package. During the last 3 minutes of the rice noodles cooking add in the frozen edamame so they de-thaw. Once cooked, drain the noodle/edamame mixture in a colander and rinse with cool water until room temperature. 

Slice up all your veggies and have them ready, including the ginger. Add in 1TB of sesame oil into a small skillet on medium low heat. Then add in your ginger and let cook for 1 minute. Add in the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and slightly brown. Turn off heat and shake in a scant TB of tamari. Set aside.

Mix together the honey, 3TB tamari, 1TB sesame oil, lime juice, fresh herbs, splash of rice vinegar, and a good squeeze of sriracha or large pinch of chile flakes. Place the dressing in a large bowl with the noodles/edamame and toss together until coated. Distribute the noodle mixture into four bowls and top each bowl with a small handful of each vegetable (the carrot/cucumber mixture, fresh red cabbage, fresh daikon radish, gingered mushrooms, and sprouts. Top with some more fresh cilantro, thai basil, and sriracha if desired.   

Enjoy this meal. 

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Asparagus & arugula salad over mozzarella with mint & basil pesto

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Right, right, I know, I know, its 4th of July... I'm suppose to give you some grilling out masterpieces for you last minuet scrambling of grilling out plans and corn on the cobb marathons! Alas, I am doing the same thing, and decided to give you this recipe I made a little while back when I saw this salad in bon appetite. There is plenty of summer left for more grilling recipes and veggie burgers, in fact, we are just getting started.

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Recipe (served 4 as a side) 

Mozzarella - 1 ball, ripped into pieces

Asparagus - 1 bunch, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces

Arugula - Two handfuls, fresh

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - 1TB

Salt/pepper - to taste

Pesto

Basil - fresh, 1 packed cup, chopped

Mint - fresh, 3-4TB, chopped

Shallot - 1 chopped

Sunflower seeds - 1/4cup soaked overnight or at least 4 hours, then drained

Garlic - 3TB, chopped

 

Olive oil - A few TB, drizzled in

Salt/pepper - to taste

Place all the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender, with 2TB olive oil. Blend until smooth, drizzling in more olive oil as needed until it is smooth. 

Rip the mozzarella into pieces and add in 2-3TB of pesto and massage the pesto in until the mozzarella is covered. Place 1TB of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and toss in the asparagus pieces. Cook for about 5-8 minutes until soft and squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and then toss the asparagus in a bowl with the fresh arugula. Spread the arugula and asparagus over the mozzarella and then sprinkle with a bit more pesto and salt/pepper or lemon if needed. 

Happy 4th!!

 

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Moroccan inspired salad with harissa chickpeas, apricots, & a honey-mint dressing.

Beautiful, happy day.

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Today is a beautiful day. A beautiful day for human rights, a beautiful day outside, and a beautiful day in life events. Plus, I have a lovely friend coming to visit all the way from Athens, GA, so I have a beautiful next couple of days to look forward to. I hope your day is beautiful as well and maybe this salad can help make it so.   

“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”

-Tom Robbins Still Life With Woodpecker  

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Salad (Makes about 3 large salads) 

Chickpeas - About 2.5 cups cooked. 

Apricots - 3, pitted and sliced into 8 pieces

Salad greens - I used about a 5oz container or a platter full

Red onion - 1/4 an onion, slivered

Olives - About 6 kalamala olives, pitted and sliced

Dried currants - 3Tb

Harissa -3TB (recipe below or store-bought - usually found canned or near hummus) 

Mint - 1TB fresh

Honey - 2TB (or agave for vegan)

Olive oil - 3-4TB

Apple cider vinegar - 1tsp

Salt- to taste

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Mince your fresh mint and whisk into 3TB of olive oil in a little bowl. Drizzle in the honey while whisking. Add in the apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt, then set aside. Chop up all your veggies/fruit and have your harissa already prepared if making it. Heat up 1Tb of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add in your chickpeas. Cook for about 3 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in the 3TB of harissa and stir, distributing evenly. Cook for 2-3minutes. Add in two of the sliced apricots. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the last apricot, the red onion, olives, currants, and season with salt. 

 

Toss the honey-mint dressing and your salad greens together in a bowl until the greens are evenly coated. Place on a platter and top with the chickpea mixture. Enjoy, it is a beautiful day. 

Harissa, you can add harissa into a lot of things. Hummus, sandwich spreads, marinades, dressings, etc. This recipe makes about 1 cup of harissa.  

Harissa

Fresno Peppers - 5, deseeded and chopped. (You can sub other peppers) 

Habanero peppers - 2-3, deseeded and chopped

Shallot - 1 large shallot, chopped

Cumin seeds - 1Tb, slightly smashed

Coriander seeds - 2tsp, slightly smashed

Mint - Fresh, 2TB.

Olive oil - 2-4TB, depending on your peppers/juiciness of peppers.  

Salt- about scant 1tsp or to taste

Place all ingredients, starting with only 2TB of olive oil, into a food processor (or blender) and blend. Drizzle in more olive oil as needed. You want the consistency to be a thick paste but spreadable. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use as needed. Keeps about the same as hummus. 

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Tofu-q with a habanero, apricot bbq sauce + avocado & cabbage slaw.

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I'm sitting here in a coffee shop near my house enjoying a big cookie and a cappuccino, with two dogs at my feet, and acting like I've been a Denver resident my whole life. Ok... maybe thats how I feel but, in reality, I probably don't look that way.  Especially when I get on the light rail and ride 10 minutes before I realize I should have been on the bus, abandon mission, and trek half-way through the city by foot. This coffee shop has some parallels to the shop I worked in during college, so I really like it. It serves up giant cookies like the onces we baked, has comically large milk pitchers, offers you drinks in pint glasses meant for beer, has a large loose leaf tea selection, friendly baristas, bakes in-house, is next door to a bar, has a well-loved and welcomed slightly-crazy, semi-homeless person who leaves his bag behind the counter, is not over-decorated, really needs new tables/chairs, and serves up decent coffee with good foam but without the fancy, high-coffee style that comes with perfect pours. Give me a single shot cappuccino in a small cup spilling over with foam and I'm happy. 

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Anyways, I'm getting use to this place. Denver that is, not just the coffee shop. Although I do miss the trees and my dogs miss the grass. Don't get me wrong. There are lots of trees planted in Denver and it is a beautiful, green, cheery place but I'm use to being able to drive 5 or 10 minutes down the road and let myself and my dogs free and go trail running through a deciduous forest. I miss that... those plants and trees are friends I have left behind. Even though my dogs miss grass (it is too dry of a place to grow grass in dog parks and waste precious water resources by watering a lawn solely meant for dogs to pee on... which is a responsible thing for the city to do) they have so much to do, see, smell here. Everyone loves dogs and almost everyone has dogs. Seriously, our first morning here was an insane welcome with the manager of the restaurant we brunched at buying us "welcome to Denver, we love dogs cocktails" and providing us a list of dog-friendly Denver activities. 

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Last weekend we took advantage of the holiday weekend since Ty had Monday off work and we headed out towards The Great Sand Dunes National Park for some camping.  On Saturday we camped at a place called The Orient Land Trust where they have natural hot springs. This true, off-grid community can be found several miles off the highway on a dirt road. You know those types of roads that make you feel like you are in a secret, secluded place as the dirt kicks up around your car in a cloud that streams down the road as the largest feature in a broad, flat landscape. It is a special place. We were hoping to get a walk-in camping spot even though no one answered our morning call. Being Memorial Day weekend we arrived to find all the camping spaces filled up, they have a strict daily entry limit, and I was still hoping we could sweet-talk in a place for our tent. Fortunately they let us pitch our tent at some of the trail heads but we were not allowed to go to the hot springs. It was a little disappointing but more than understandable, we did take some beautiful hikes and watched the low-horizon sun play rumpelstiltskin on all the desert plants by turning them to gold before our eyes.  The rockies were dark silhouettes with a sunset cloak patterned in never-ending colors. Gawking over the sunset our dogs pricked up their ears and turned in the direction of the howling coyotes nearby and watched eagerly at the deer and elk grazing. We had the whole place to ourselves and in that moment we were the only ones. 

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The next day we woke up early and got to the sand dunes around 8 in the morning, before the welcome center even opened. I've been to a similar desert before and I know how hot the sand can turn under the fierce afternoon sun. There was only a handful of people at the dunes so early, lucky for us. (If you plan on going I recommend going early. When we left there was a streaming tail of cars filled with impatient faces waiting to get in.) We trekked the dunes from 8-12 and banjo sniffed the sand, pawed at it playfully and ran around in circles like she does in the snow. We kept climbing up big peaks, pausing to take in the view and then sprinted in a path straight down the dunes as fast as we could, with both hands failing in the air. Eventually we had to turn back even though each new dune peak was taunting us; begging to be climbed. The sand heated up and we had left our shoes behind at the car, while puppy paws had received an exfoliation treatment better than any spa could do. I love the duney desert, the grit in the air, salt in your mouth, and the wind in your hair. Leaving the dunes you resolve to an awe over how diverse and beautiful this country is. I've now seen this country from tippy-top north to low-country south and from east to almost west; it is truly magnificent. The weekend was for the spirit of remembrance, and gratefulness. Despite the bad, we have a whole country filled with beautiful things to be grateful for.

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On memorial day we felt a responsibility to use our roommates grill. After-all, it was Memorial Day, we are American, and neither of us had lived with a real grill before. Still sandy and with skin warm-to-the-touch, these spicy, tofu-q's with a cooling slaw hit the spot. You really want to factor in at least a few hours of marinating time, you can even leave it in the refrigerator overnight. 

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Tofu & sauce recipe (Makes 2 big ones) 

Buns - 2 buns

Extra firm tofu package - Pressed for 30 minuets and then sliced thinly.

Habaneros - 3, chopped (I didn't take the seeds out but you can)

Apricot - 1, peeled/sliced (I think you could use 2 without it being too fruity tasting)

Onion - scant 1/2 a sweet, yellow onion, chopped. 

Tomatoes - 2, chopped

Tomato paste - 6oz can

Garlic - 3-4 cloves, chopped

Honey - 2-3 TB

Apple cider vinegar - 1Tb

Liquid smoke - 1tsp optional (vegetarian version)

Chile powder - 2tsp or 1TB - depending on your desire for spiciness. 

Cinnamon - scant 2tsp

Paprika - 2tsp

Salt- to taste (about 1-2tsp for me) 

Slaw recipe - also makes a good side

Purple cabbage - about 1/6 a small head of cabbage, slivered

Onion - 1/4 an onion, slivered

Avocado - 1, sliced

Limes - 2, juiced

Salt - to taste

 

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Press the tofu for about 30 minutes. Once pressed, sliced into thin "patties" the size of the tofu block. While the tofu is pressing make the sauce. Chop up all your vegetables. Place the olive oil in a small saucepan on medium heat. Add your garlic and onions and let it cook for a few minutes, until slightly soft. Add in your habaneros and apricots and let cook for a few more minutes until soft. Add in the tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir until well combined and let cook for 3-5 minutes until soft, slightly bubbling, and evenly dispersed. Then add in all the rest of the ingredients and let cook for a few more minutes, until just fragrant. Add the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Adding in some water if needed to bring the sauce to the desired consistency. Taste and adjusted spices. Layer the tofu in between a generous amount of bbq sauce, making sure all the tofu is covered. Let it marinate on the counter for several hours (2-3 at least) or overnight in the fridge. The extra bbq can be stored for later use (think veggie kabobs or pizza sauce).

Heat up the grill (or grill pan) and cook the tofu straight on the grill (rubbed down with a little oil since tofu can stick) or cook on top of bamboo skewers on the grill (soaking the skewers in water for a hour first). Cook the tofu for about 5 minutes on each side. Brush over some more bbq sauce after flipping. We even threw our burger buns on the grill for 1 minute to crisp them up.

For the slaw, toss together the onion and cabbage. Add in the avocado and stir, slightly mashing up the avocado among the slivers of onion and cabbage. Squeeze over the lime and season with salt.  

To assemble the burger spread a little of the paprika aioli below (admit for vegan), top with strips of tofu and then pile on a good bit of slaw on top. No shame in adding some more bbq sauce too... bbq is suppose to be messy. Serve with grilled asparagus. 

 

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Grilled asparagus recipe + paprika aioli

Asparagus - 1lb with 1 inch of the ends trimmed off

Olive oil - 2Tb

Salt/pepper- to taste

Egg yolk - 1 large egg yolk

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - several TB

Paprika - scant 1 tsp

Salt/pepper - to taste

Pumpkin seeds - a handful, coarsely chopped (optional) .

To make the aioli add in the egg yolk, lemon juice, and salt into a small bowl. Beat with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the oil in a very small, steady stream while whipping with a whisk. The aioli with start to thicken up and lighten as you whisk. I let my aioli get to about a medium consistency since I didn't need much and didn't want to use too much oil. Add in the paprika and more salt and pepper if necessary. Whip until combined.

Toss the asparagus in a bowl with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Lay on a pre-heated grill and cook several minutes, rotating the spears with tongs. You want the asparagus to get soft, a little brown in spots, but still retain a slight crunch. Lay the asparagus on a tray, top with some aioli and the sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

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Spring fava bean, quinoa, radish, avocado, & mint salad.

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I am so excited. I'm going to visit my Athens tribe. We are approaching our Denver move date fast! We leave in about 2 weeks. Sure there is a ton to do... packing things up, cleaning, finishing projects, getting things ready for the sublease... but I'd rather go see my dear friends and family who, right now, are about 9 hours away. Come Denver we'll be 22 hours away. I feel this is an adequate reason to forsake responsibility. I'm getting some time with my family too before dipping out to the Rockies but I'm assuming my Dad will use my Denver location as a great excuse to finally come out and have some river time. 

I have lots of things waiting for me in Athens this weekend. Lets see, it is twilight weekend (an international bike race that has athens busting at the seam), there are drinks in the Georgia warmth awaiting, a dear friend who is just back in from teaching in South Korea, brunch with the best, oodles of dogs at dog park time, art school exit show (featuring one of my favorites), desserts (last time we racked up a bill of somewhere around 50 bucks on dessert between 5 of us... uhh what?), a farmers market that I have missed, my best friends and all those lovely faces that I have so dearly longed for being tucked away up here in the mountains and of course no trip to athens is complete without music.

So this week I've been being extra good. Drinking smoothes, eating raw salads, and taking my herbs. This quinoa, fava bean salad is ridiculously good. It is one of those meals that you think while eating it, "I could have this every-single-day of my life and be happy." It really is one of those meals that I think I could have every single day if I actually thought I could eat the same thing every single day. 

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Recipe (serves 4 but makes great leftovers)

Quinoa - 1 cup dried

Fava beans - fresh pods, several big handfuls. (once shelled I had a scant 2 cups)

Radish - 1 bunch

Avocado - 1, sliced into small chunks

Apple - 1/2 and apple, cut into small chunks

Red onion - 1/2 an onion, finely chopped

Olives - I had 6 kalamata olives left in my fridge, I sliced the meat off the pit into slivers.

Feta - about 1/3 cup

Mint - fresh, 3-4Tb finely chopped

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Butter - 1TB

Olive oil - a drizzle

Salt/pepper - to taste

Chop everything up so it is ready to use, except your avocado, save that until the end. Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under water while shaking for a minute. Then add the quinoa into a medium pot and cover by a few inches of water. Bring the quinoa up to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Get another small or medium pot out and fill it up half-way with water, this will be to blanch your fava beans. Shell the fava beans and place the beans into a bowl, discard the pods. Once the water is boiling, add in your fava beans and let it get back up to a simmer. Once it gets back up to boiling, don't let it cook longer than 1 minute. Drain the fava beans and rinse with cold water.  Here comes the tedious part. Shell the fava beans and discard the shell, underneath will be this bright, green bean. Once you are done with the quinoa and fava beans, you can put them into a large bowl together.

Heat the oven up to 350 degrees. Chop up the radishes into thin slices. Add 1/2 the radishes into the bowl with the quinoa & favas. Add the other 1/2 the radishes into a small saucepan on the stove with the 1TB butter. Heat over medium heat and stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the radishes to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile add the apples, mint, feta, olives, onion, lemon juice, and drizzle of olive oil to the bowl of quinoa. Stir until well combined. Slice up your avocado and set it aside. Add in your roasted radishes and season with whole thing with salt and pepper, you should not need much salt. Add in your avocado last and stir, gently, until well combined. Enjoy it, I know you will. Why? Because it is just that good.

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Asparagus fritters + a chive sauce

Fritters.

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Fritters have kind of reached that "cult favorite" status in the foodie world, along with things like hand pies. There seems to be at least one fritter recipe in new cook books and a constant stream of new fritter recipes online. And, why not? They are delicious and adaptable, you can pretty much make any vegetables into fritters. What is not to love? But really, I think we just have an obsession with things that are bite sized, it makes it all the more fun. Fritters are not something I frequently make. I really like fritters but they have never been a meal sort of thing for me. They are more finger foods in my mind, really good for bringing to potlucks. So it really surprised me when I found myself making these. These fritters, served on a bed of spring greens and drizzled with a yogurt, chive sauce makes a really delicious fritter meal. Fritter, happier. 

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Recipe (makes about 10 fritters)

Asparagus - 1 bunch, sliced into thin rounds

Young vidalia onions - 3 (replace with shallots or a sweet yellow onion instead), sliced

Lemon zest - from 1/2 a lemon

Lemon juice - 1 lemon

Whole wheat flour - 1 cup, generously heaped

Eggs - 3

Milk - about 2/3 cup depending on the amount of your onions

Chives - 1/2 a bunch, finely chopped

Yogurt - 2/3 cup plain whole milk or greek yogurt

Chervil - heaping 1/2tsp (dried)

Salt/pepper- to taste

Coconut oil - 2TB (ok to use olive oil but I prefer coconut oil at higher temperatures)

Spring greens - a few small handfuls

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Slice and chop up all your vegetables. In a large bowl beat together the milk and eggs. Then beat in the flour. The mixture should be a thin cake batter at this point. Stir in all your chopped up veggies (except the chives) until combined. Then add in the lemon zest and juice of 1/2 the lemon, stir until combine. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. 

Heat up a large skillet on high heat with 1Tb of the coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, scoop in desired amounts of the batter onto the skillet and let cook on each side for about 3-4 minutes. As needed, add more coconut oil to the pan. I could fit about 4 fritters in the skillet at once. While the fritters are cooking in a bowl stir together the yogurt, chives, remaining lemon juice, chervil, and salt/pepper. 

Once the fritters are cooked, serve them on a bed of spring greens drizzled with a generous amount of the chive sauce. Enjoy! Fritter, happier.

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Brussels sprouts, crispy tofu, & mustard vinaigrette salad

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After sorrows such as Monday's there are few things I feel like doing, cooking especially, and most likely most of the country is with me. I huddle on the bottom of the tub with my knees hugged to my chest with the warm shower flowing over my head, crying. I ask over and over why; everyone asks why. We keep asking because there is no way to comprehend it, it is so against human nature. Not only this event, but all of them in our country, in other countries. None are more tragic than another. We are so compelled to find reason in the madness. Some way to understand the hate and violence. There is so much violence all around the world fueled by hate, terrorism, sexism, racism, politics, and none of the tragedies from these crimes ever leaves us. Sometimes we forget tragedies that happen to our brothers and sisters around the world until something like this happens so close to home. But really, no matter the reason why, there is no way to understand it. It doesn't make sense. There is no justification for such a horrid acts of hate. The only way to combat it is love. Love for the victims, love for the families, love for our community, love for our country, love for the world. Hearing the stories of love, empathy, and heroism that came out of the chaos is a bit of hope. Witnessing the true human spirit coming out to offer love and support and to hear the reactions and the responses of victims is amazing. I hope that people will spread the love they share with their neighbors and apply it to the rest of the world, we need it. It is the only thing that helps the soul heal and calm down. For all the hate and insanity from people in this world, there is more love. 

“Some people care too much. I think it's called love.” - Pooh

I made this salad last week. It takes me a bit to get back up and feel like cooking after all my emotions are drained. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did. 

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Recipe (Serves 4) 

1 bunch brussels sprouts (1lb) - Red brussels or regular. Sliced (I cut each into 1/6ths)

Yellow onion - 1/2, chopped. 

1 package tofu - cut into small cubes and pre-pressed if desired.

Tarragon - 1-2 healthy springs, chopped fine

Slivered almonds - scant 1/4 cup

Peptias (Pumpkin seeds) - a handful. 

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil - 3TB

Coconut oil - 2TB

White wine vinegar - 2tsp

Dijon mustard - about 2tsp

Honey - 1-2tsp

Salt/pepper - to taste

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Trim off the ends, and chop up the brussels sprouts into slices or into 6ths. Place in bowl and toss with 2TB olive oil and salt/pepper. Spread onto baking sheet and bake in oven for about 20 minuets, tossing half way through.  During the last 5 minutes, spread out the almonds on a separate pan and toast in the oven for the last 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile heat up a large skillet with 2TB of coconut oil on high heat (or olive oil, but in this case, on medium heat). Once hot add in your already pressed and cubed tofu. Toss in the oil and fry until crispy and golden. About 5-10 minutes. 

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Once Brussels sprouts and tofu is cooked, toss together in a bowl along with the chopped onion, tarragon, toasted almond slivers, and pepitas. Whisk together the honey, dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar. Then slowly drizzle in the 1-2TB of olive oil while whisking until you have reached your desired dressing consistency. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Lastly, squeeze over some fresh lemon juice, toss and distribute into bowls. If desired, top with a little extra tarragon.

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Chickweed goddess dressing over a spring salad + violets. How to forage for chickweed & violet

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Last night I came back from a nice, warm, summer night out that started with listening to Brazilian drumming with drinks and ended with Thai curry. We arrived back home, parked the car in our semi-gravel/semi-grass driveway, I stepped out with my shoes in hand, feet on the earth, and just dead stopped; I was transfixed by the sky. The deep, midnight, blue sky was flecked so brightly with stars twinkling around the silhouettes of budding tulip poplar branches that seemed to arc over me. It was one of those instances where your whole body feels sucked in and swallowed by what you are paying attention to. Like the sky was a giant magnet pulling the top half of your body up many miles to meet with it. I would have given anything in that moment to reach up and cup my hands around each and every star and plant a big kiss on those bright star cheeks. I wanted to say thank you to the earth.

Once spring finally hit us it stuck for one day and then immediately leaped to summer. When I moved a bit further north I thought I would be relieved to take a break from the suffocating heat of summer but now I realize how much I drink that warmth in. How replenishing it is. I wiped the literal sweat off my brow in relief at the return of heat. On an early April day of 90 degree heat I spent most of my day licking up the sun in my cutoffs and tank top while wandering around the woods in search of wild edibles. Successful in my venture, I made this salad and it never felt more nourishing than after a day in the sun. I realize now that as far as I move, as little or as frequently as I travel, I am some weird breed of southern girl. It's landscape, its sweltering humid heat, cicadas, common phenomenon of waving to strangers, fireflies, and biscuits are in my blood. Just as I adore and prefer to be in the woods and mountains, I have the salt and heavy air of the coast flowing through my veins since my birth. As much of a vegetarian as I am I have appreciation for a good seafood recipe and envy that I can't partake in a good shrimp n' grits or étouffée, it is the cajun in me. Some things you can't fight, its the soul speaking. I can't deny that even though I find some southern traditions and politics a little suffocating, I have love for the southern wild. I'm part of it and I will always find comfort in the return of the heat. So thank you chickweed, thank you violet, thank you stars.

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hickweed goddess dressing

vocado - 1, sliced

Garlic - 3/4 cloves, coarsely chopped

emon - juice of one lemon

Chickweed - 1-2 cups fresh, chopped into chunks

live oil - 2TB

Salt/pepper- to taste

Water

Put everything in a blender or food processor (except the water) and blend. Then add water a few TB at a time to thin the dressing out to your desired consistency.

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pring violet salad

Spring mix/violet leaves - Several big handfuls

iolet flowers or other edible spring flowers - 1 Cup

Red onion - 1/4 slivered

unflower seeds - 1/4 a cup

Pumpkin seeds - a handful

Chickweed goddess dressing.

oss the spring mix, onions, and violet flowers together. Then add in the dressing and toss to coat. Then add in the seeds and toss until combined! Adding the dressing before the seeds helps the seeds to stick and distribute more evenly rather than dropping to the bottom of the bowl. 

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Foraging for Chickweed

hickweed is one of those great common garden weeds that has so much overlooked potential. Chickweed is around you, I promise, and once you learn to identify it there is no reason not to thank it, pluck it up, and add it to your diet every spring. In short, chickweed is incredibly nutritious, I will elaborate on chickweed as an herbal superstar and healer in a later posting. Chickweed is a great source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B-complex, beta-carotenes, and bio-flavonoids. I have heard the flavor being compared to corn silk. That is not my first thought when eating it but it tastes similar to most of the "moderate" flavors of light, cooling, spring greens to me. You'll find it in open (untreated) lawn areas but also in and around the edges to younger woodlands typically growing in the mottled shaded patches. It is really quite easy to spot once it is pointed out to you once or twice. There really aren't many overly close poisonous look a-likes but of course never eat anything if you aren't sure and always triple check your plants, but chickweed is a great starter wild edible. 

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Chickweed is a low-growing, spreading radially along the ground about 3" tall typically, but it can get up to about 8" tall. It grows in mats up to a foot and a half in size with the leaves ranging from tiny to thumb sized. The leaves are oval, pointed, and opposite (meaning the leaves grow opposite each other on the stem). here are fine hairs on the stem of the plant and delicate white flowers at the end. The first time I looked at the flower I thought it had 10 petals but it turns out the flower only has 5 petals but each petal is so deeply cleft it looks like 10! Usually there are about 2-3 hairy flower buds drooping from the flower end as well. In addition, look up pictures online and familiarize yourself. Plus, if you are interested wildman steve brill has excellent books. Be sure to gather in areas that are not sprayed, are not exposed to a lot of road run-off, and are not a popular pet bathroom spot. 

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oraging for violet

iolet is another one of those lawn "weeds" that you probably already recognize. You know that tiny, delicate purple to white flower you have been admiring while walking along the sidewalk? Yeah that one, you can eat it. You probably have some in your very own yard as long as your lawn is untreated. Violet flowers and leaves are edible, not the roots or rhizomes, just stick to what is above ground. Also don't confuse native wild violet with the African violet house plants... you really don't want to eat those, they are poisonous. The leaves and flowers are great in salads but the leaves are very demulcent so a bit more slimy than your typical green. It is a fabulous cooling herb and rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and beta-carotenes. It is another wonderfully healing herb which I will expand upon in a later posting. Violent is a low growing, dense, clumping plant. Its flower is five petaled with deep purple, blue, to white nodding flower heads. The flowers grow on a single stem with no leaves on the flower stem. The leaves grown on separate stems and are rather glossy, heart shaped with the "tops" of the hearts typically cupping inward towards the leaf stalk. Sometimes the leaves are cupped so far inwards that they create a funnel of sorts. Violet will grow in open lawn areas in sun to shade. Be sure to gather in areas that are not sprayed, are not exposed to a lot of road run-off, and are not a popular pet bathroom spot. 

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t the end of the day I had happy bellies and happy dogs.

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Potato salad with snap peas, yogurt, and dill

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Potato salad is another one of those classic dishes that gets ignored. Or else we tend to think its only place is at bbq's and picnics mounded onto a plastic plate with equal parts mayonnaise and mustard. This is a fresh take on potato salad that gives you all the satisfaction of picnic fare, but with a better ingredient list.

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Recipe (Serves 4 as a side)

Potatoes - 1lb (I used very small potatoes so I didn't have to cut them)

Snap peas - 1 cup with the ends trimmed off and sliced into 1/4" slivers

Red onion - 1/4 of a red onion, chopped finely.

Yogurt - 1 cup (Plain, whole, yogurt)

Dill - 1tsp (dried)

Salt/pepper - to taste

Fill a medium pot up with water to boil. Add in the potatoes and let them boil until cooked and are easily pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and rinse under cold water. You don't want the potatoes hot to the touch, you want them slightly cooled. Mix together the sliced snap peas, red onion, dill, and salt/pepper. Stir until combined and then add in potatoes. Mash/chop with a fork very slightly and stir until everything is coated. Eat alone or served on a bed of greens.

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Chickpea & dandelion green sauté + apples & parmesan.

Dandelion greens.

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Dandelion greens are one of the most basic foods you can forage for yourself, it is a great starter foraging plant. You probably won't have to search any further than your front yard. They are very healthful and tasty if you are a bitter greens kind of human. I am. I love bitter greens. I cannot get enough of them really. Winter for me is roots and bitter greens (since I have been spoiled by good winter-long seasons of fresh greens in ungodly warm Georgia) but spring also means greens, along with lots of other tasty veggie morsels like asparagus. Oh yes, asparagus pizza will make an appearance here soon. Dandelion greens are a good source of vitamins A, K, & C, calcium and a great food to support digestion. I'm also a liberal user of lemon. Lemon makes so many dishes pop, especially ones involving sautéing greens. Lemon and greens were meant for each other like Topanga and Cory.

Speaking of Topanga and Cory, I've been having reunions with TV shows that I loved as a kid. I was a huge fan of Xena and Hercules but by far Xena was my favorite. No shame. I'm learning how amazing the sound affects were in the early 90s by re-watching some of them (thanks netflix!). The graphics too, two of my favorites are the time Xena jet-propelled herself out of the water like a dolphin and the time xena shot a tiny dagger out from between her breasts like a blowhole. It is too hilarious, but don't take my word for it, check it out yourself. Still, no shame. As a kid I was giddy to learn that my name Kelly is Irish for warrior women. Perhaps that is where my Xena kinship began? So how does all this connect back to dandelion greens? Not sure. To force a connection Xena was showed foraging from time to time on the show. Try it out and pluck some of your own dandelion greens, making sure you are gathering in areas away from spraying and popular dog potty spots. Make sure what you have is in fact dandelion or purchase them in the store. Honestly I don't forage all the time, the ones in the store are just so large and lovely they are hard to pass up! Try foraging at least once though, it is fun and rewarding. 

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Recipe (Serves 4)

Chickpeas - 3 cups cooked.

Dandelion greens - 1 bunch

Red onion - 1/2 an onion slivered

Garlic - 3 cloves minced

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Apple - 1 chopped

Parmesan - 1/4 cup grated

Olive oil - 2TB

Salt and pepper - to taste

Place a medium pot of water filled halfway up with water over high heat until boiling. Chop your dandelion greens into 3. Dump the greens into boiling water and blanch for one minute. Dandelion greens can be especially bitter so this blanching helps take some of the bite away. Pour the greens out into a colander and set aside. Heat a large skillet up with 2 TB of olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and onions and cook for several minutes until softened. Add in the cooked chickpeas for a few minutes to heat through. Add in the dandelion greens and cook for a minute. Squeeze over the lemon juice and the season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Dump out into a bowl and then add in chopped apples and grated parmesan, stir until combined. 

Enjoy with an episode of Xena... or not. 

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Spring rolls with radish & ginger mushrooms + a cashew dipping sauce

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I made these spring rolls the day before the equinox for a potluck at my last herbalism class. I made them without tofu at first but we had a hankering for ones that we didn't have to share, so with my left-over rice wrappers, I made them again but this time with tofu. I thought spring rolls were the perfect thing for that potluck, calling in the new season with their bright ingredients and fresh crunch. Although, it seems spring hasn't quite made it here yet, we've had several snows since, a particularly good one Sunday night. I am really ready for spring, not just ready, I crave it to help me get my act together. The warmth to thaw everything out and provoke motivation and clarity. I think this weather is actually following in line with what I am feeling. Just as spring peeks out, my hopes get up and then the temperature drops and down flutters the snow. I feel like I am just on the edge of something and I keep dangling over the cliff, testing the plunge but then stumble back again. I know there is suppose to be balance and it is coming, I have to believe that it is coming. Something to scoop me up from the uncertainty I've been a prisoner too these past 3 months. It has made me feel worthless, the type of worthless we all feel sometimes. 

My heart is just yearning for the fun that awaits us this summer. We are going to Denver, a place I think will feel much more like home than Charlottesville has, but also all the things we will get to experience because of it. I haven't had the opportunity to explore on that side of the country. I am really yearning for the possibilites of what we will see, even if we don't get to see everything. The list is endless; salt lake city with a long soak in the great salt lake, the desert in Utah, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the redwoods, the tetons, skiing, California, the Rockies, elk, Yellowstone, mesa verde, hot springs, red rocks, sand dunes, hiking, hiking, and more hiking. I know that soon I will feel invigorated again but I just need to get over this personal wound I have right now and accept that balance will come soon. Spring will come soon, I'll take the plunge and with it comes clarity. Clarity to balance these past months and lead me on to something. Something that will begin with Denver. 

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Spring Rolls (Makes 8)

Rice wrapping papers - 8

Avocado - 1 cut into matchsticks

Fresh basil - 20-25 fresh leaves

Carrot - 2 large carrots cut into matchstick size

Radish - 4 radish cut into matchstick size

Royal trumpet mushrooms - (1 container) cut into matchsticks

(optional) Tofu - 1/2 a container - sliced into thin, long strips.

Coconut Oil - 2TB (Or olive oil)

Soy sauce - 1TB

Fresh spinach leaves

Red onion slivers

Ginger - a good nub minced. 

Cashew dipping sauce.

Cashew butter - 4TB

Sesame oil - 1TB

Soy sauce - 1.5TB

Rice vinegar - 2tsp

Lime - Juice of 1 lime

Sriracha sauce - a good squirt / to your taste

Heat up a kettle of water to boiling, at least 4 cups. Turn off the boiling water an set aside until you are ready to assemble the spring rolls.

Slice up all your veggies into match sticks save the spinach/basil and mince up your ginger. Heat up the 2TB of oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add in the minced ginger and slivered mushrooms and tofu. Let cook about 5-10 minutes until starting to brown. Pour in the 1TB of soy sauce and stir to coat. Turn off the heat and pour into a bowl.

Pour the hot water into a bowl and add in a few ice cubes to lower the temperature until it is just cool enough for you hands to handle touching it. But you want it to be as hot as you can handle. Arrange all your sliced veggies into piles along with a bowl of the tofu/mushrooms, the basil and spinach, and the stack of the rice wrappers. 

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Take one of your rice wrappers and dip into the bowl of hot water until it softens and turns clear. Take it out and lay out the wrapper on a cutting board, handeling carefully, it tears easy. Lay down three leaves of basil in the center of the wrapper and top with a few pieces of spinach. Top with some slivers of radishes on one side, red onion and carrot on the other, top the center with the gingered mushroom/tofu and slivers of avocado. Folding is tricky, do it the best way you find but here is how I did it. I folded the bottom half over the center filling while pressing and tucking under the filling with the bottom end of the wrapper. I then folded in the sides of the wrapper and grabbed the roll and rolled upwards until the top end of the wrapper is all rolled in. Repeat with the other 7. 

Make the dipping sauce. Add in the cashew butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce in a bowl. Take the back of a fork and mash against the sides of the bowl until it all becomes incorporated. Squirt in the sriracha and juice of the lime and stir. Check the consistency and add in more sesame oil, soy sauce, or water to adjust the flavor or to thin out the sauce.

Dip and enjoy. Welcome spring. Welcome clarity.

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Spring equinox egg salad made with yogurt & fennel. + Watercress & black bread.

Spring.

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Happy Spring Equinox! March 20th was the equinox. A time for new beginnings, putting the past and the dreamtime of winter behind you. It is time to birth those creations you have been hibernating with all winter. I am really trying to kick my arse and be productive about this things I THINK I want to do. I'm letting go, leaving all the grief and uncertainty and questions winter leaves us stagnated with. Spring truly is about new beginnings and branching out into a new life. You can feel the soil thawing out from under you, it is a mindset of accepting this new season. Spiritually and physically. For me, this spring does mark a significant period of change, even this website is one of my new beginnings. My herbalism course ended on Tuesday and we went out under the moon that evening to give thanks for our experiences and honor the coming of spring. I am so thankful for having the experience of this herbalism course and the teachings I have received. Not to mention all the beautiful people I got to study with, it truly has made my beginning months in Charlottesville much better. They are kindred spirits whom I will be sad not to meet with every Tuesday from here on out. Ty and I made a recent trip down to GA & NC to visit friends and family. Being in Athens really rejuvenated me and filled me up with all the love that is there; something I think I have been lacking a bit of up here this winter.

I do have exciting things to look forward to and have finally been able to make a decision, at least a small one. Not one so grand as "what in the stars will I do with my life?" One battle at a time right? Ty got an internship (that will lead to a job once he finishes grad school) in Denver, CO. I've decided to hold off on working here in Charlottesville, VA and move to Denver with him for the summer. I'm extremely excited, I've never been to Denver but have always held the idea of Colorado in a very special spot in my heart. I'll be doing some work there this summer but I cannot wait to get into those mountains! Spring really is for new beginnings and for me this spring it's Colorado and all the changes that will unfold because of it. I'm just afraid we won't ever come back! 

I've always had a weird love for egg salad. A lot of people hate it and its a shame! My Mom said that when she was pregnant with me that she had mad cravings for egg salad sandwiches with chocolate milk. I really like both of those things... but not together. Though it might be why I have a peculiarly strong appreciate and cravings for egg salad. This recipe actually does combine chocolate and egg salad but in a very delicious, balanced manner. I chose to eat egg salad today though because it is the spring equinox. Spring is for new beginnings and what food better represents new beginnings than eggs? 

This black bread was slightly adapted from the beloved smitten kitchen blog. I love pumpernickel bread and have made it several ways but I love Deb's version.

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Russian Black Bread (suped-up) Two loaves.

Active Dry Yeast - 1.5TB or 2 packages

Sugar - good pinch

Warm water - heated between 105 & 115 degrees to create the right yeast environment.

Coffee - 2 cups of fresh brewed strong coffee.

Molasses - 1/4cup

Apple cider vinegar - 1/4 cup

Butter - 4TB unsalted

Cocoa powder - 1.5TB (unsweet)

Whole wheat flour - 1/2 Cup

Dark rye flour - 3 Cups

Bread flour - 3 Cups (unbleached)

Wheat germ - 1 Cup

Caraway seeds - 3TB (some people grind these, I like the whole seed texture)

Fennel Seed - 2tsp (some people grind these, I like the whole seed texture)

Salt - 1tsp

In a small bowl combine the 1/2 Cup of warm water, yeast, and pinch of sugar. Dissolve and let sit aside for about 10 minutes until it gets foamy. This provides a nice warm environment and food (sugar) for the yeast so it can activate and begin to breed, eventually making lovely air pockets inside your bread.

Make your coffee (I made a french press) and, if the coffee is still hot, add it in a bowl with the butter and stir until butter melts (if not then heat up on a stove with the coffee until melted). Then add in and combine the molasses, vinegar, and cocoa powder. Set aside. 

Combine all your flours together in a bowl and whisk until evenly distributed. 

In a bowl fitted with a dough hook add in 2 cups of the flour mixture, the wheat germ, all the seeds, and the coffee mixture. Let stir until almost combined on a low setting. Then add in the yeast mixture and stir until almost combine. Keep adding the rest of the flour about a 1/2 cup at a time until the dough starts to come together. Increasing speed as needed. I had a scant 1/4 cup flour left which I reserved for later use. The dough should be tacky but firm. Sprinkle a counter with some of this flour and knead several minutes to help the gluten continue to develop. Form the dough into a round and place into a oiled bowl, flipping the dough in the bowl to coat with oil. Leave in a warm place covered with a cloth for 1.5-2 hours or until doubled in size. 

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into two. Shape the two loaves into a desired shape. You can make a round, a loaf pan, or any shape you desire. I made two bâtard shapes which is basically shaping a round (a boule) but adding pressure while rolling towards the ends to elongate and taper off. I placed each loaf onto a lightly greased baking sheet. You could also try just baking them on bread or pizza stones if desired. Let sit and rise for 45 minutes or an hour. You want it almost doubled again. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. I then brushed the tops of my loaves with olive oil and put the rest of the flour in a sieve and sprinkled to coat the tops of my bread. Then I took a bread knife and slashed the loaves with three angled lines. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes - 1 hours. It took me closer to an hour. The internal temperature should be around 200-210 degrees. The bread should be a dark color and a hollow thump when tapped on the bottom with a knuckle. 

*Nice thing about making two loaves? Stick one in the freezer for later. Having homemade bread twice with half the work!

Cool it and eat it! It is so good. Or make an egg salad sammie.

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Egg salad with yogurt, fennel, & watercress. (enough for 4 sammies)

8 eggs - Hard boiled, peeled, and chopped

Yogurt - 1/3 cup. Plain, whole milk.

Dijon mustard - Scant 2TB

Fennel - 1/4 a bulb finely diced

Celery - 1 stick, finely diced

Red onion - 1/4 an onion, finely diced

Dill - 1TB scant, dried.

Salt and Black pepper - to taste

Watercress - as a topping a small handful for each sandwich. 

Combine the yogurt, mustard, and dill together. Stir until well combined. Add the fennel, celery, red onion and stir to coat. Stir in egg and combine evenly. Taste and season with salt and pepper to desired taste. 

Assemble the sandwiches. Slice medium/thin slices of the black bread and toast. Lay down some watercress on one slice and then top with 1/4 of the egg salad mixture. Top with the other piece of bread. Enjoy! Mmmm egg salad, happy spring!

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Russian beet salad wrap

Beets. 

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I made this salad as a quick, simple dinner. We were getting a few things done and were excited for the snow that was to start falling in a few hours. It was suppose to be a heavy snow and those are rare down south but not up here in mountainy Virginia. I had been waiting all winter long for something substancial but up until now all we had were frequent dustings. Well, that definitely changed, but we'll talk a bit more about that later. 

I have to admit that I am fond of the idea of beets, the beautiful color of beets, the history of beets but they are not my favorite root to eat. (If you are more curious about the rich and magical qualities of beets, just click the magic word.) Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sweetness of them and have a hard time eating a lot of it. To me, they are well suited to a juiced or to be baked. Yet I adore this salad, somehow the creaminess in the yogurt cuts the sweetness of the beet and the dill/celeriac/onion compliment it nicely. I believe russian beet salad usually contains celery but instead, I used raw celeriac (celery root) and I think the slight spiciness made a huge difference but feel free to substitute celery. 

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Recipe - (Will make 4 wraps)

Wraps - I used a whole wheat lavash wrap but use your favorite.  

Fresh spinach - a few handfuls to add to the wraps. 

Beets - 3 smallish red beets. Peeled and quartered.

Celeriac root - 1/2 a small/medium root. Peeled and diced.  

Eggs - 2 (hard boiled)

Red onion - 1/4 large red onion, chopped fine.

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Greek yogurt - 3/4cup I used whole/plain. 

Apple cider vinegar - 1/8cup generous

Honey - 2tsp

Fresh dill- 2-3TB

Salt - 1/4tsp

Pepper- a few good pinches

Set a medium pot 2/3 full of water on the stove to boil with your eggs, leave to boil until the eggs are hardboiled. Trim, peel, and chop all your vegetables. Remove the eggs once hardboiled (8 minutes or so) and add your beets to lightly boil until soft and can be pierced with a fork. Combine all your celeriac, onion, and diced hard boiled egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl make you "dressing" - mix together the yogurt, vinegar, minced garlic, honey, salt, pepper, and dill. Once the beets are done, run them under cool water, dice them up and add to the other veggies. Add your dressing to the veggies and stir until well combined. Set out 4 wraps, add a small handful or two of fresh spinach and then spoon in 1/4 (or desired amount) of beet salad. Wrap it up and enjoy, pink drippings and all! 

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