Vegan

Veggie green chili to warm your winter

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 This post I'm breaking rules. I never buy a load of fresh green chiles in the dead of winter, but like I said, I'm breaking rules! Another rule is the Colorado Green chili cannot be vegetarian. DONE and BROKEN. I'm also shattering realities this week in my own life. I'm selling things from our home and life, we're packing all our stuff in boxes, and saying goodbye to this lovely piece of farm and woods we've called home for the past few years. So yeah, I get to break rules this week and find comfort in a hearty, warm, chile-packed bowl of white bean chili. You should break rules too. (You can also serve this the Denver way. Poured over top a burrito).

6 - poblano peppers
4 - anaheim peppers
1-2 - jalapeno peppers (depending on your desired spice level)
1 - large yellow onion (diced)
8 - garlic cloves (grated or minced)
3-4TB - olive oil
1 bunch - green onions (slivered) I use it to about half way up the green stalk.
2 cans - tomatillos (11 ounce cans of tomatillos, drained) chopped
2 cans - white beans (drained and rinsed)
4-5 cups - vegetable broth
1-2 - big handfuls of cilantro
2 - limes (juice of 2 limes and zest of 1)
3 TB - cumin
2 TB - coriander
1 TB - chile pepper
1-2 tsp - paprika
salt to taste
Sour cream, thick greek yogurt, tortilla chips, cheddar, pumpkin seeds (optional toppings)

Roast all the chiles until the skin is blistered and soft. You can either do this by roasting the peppers over the flames of your gas stove, rotating every few minutes (like pictured in the photo above). Or you can roast chiles in the oven, rubbed with a little oil, at 475 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, turning once.

Once peppers are roasted, set them aside until they are cool enough to handle. Once cool enough, peel off the charred pepper skin and discard (keep just a few pieces of charred skin to chop up with your peppers). De-seed your roasted peppers and then chop them into small pieces and set aside for later. Chop up the garlic and onions, place into a large pot with 3TB of olive oil. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, drain your cans of tomatillos and dice them up, also slice up your green onions.

Add in your cumin, coriander, chile pepper, and paprika to the onion mixture. Stir and cook for a minute. Then add in all your roasted chiles (along with the few bits of reserved charred skin) and green onions. Stir for a minute or two and then add in all your diced tomatillos and both cans of white beans. Stir gently. Then add 3-4 cups vegetable broth. If the chili seems too thick for your liking at this point, add in a little more vegetable broth. Bring the chile up to a simmer and add in the lime zest. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes and then add in the lime juice and cilantro. Add in salt, to taste, and also adjust your spices here, if desired. Serve warm, topped with a dollop of sour cream or thick greek yogurt with tortilla chips or pumpkin seeds.

Tempeh lettuce wraps with a habanero plum sauce

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We are eating colorful meals to celebrate the end of summer produce. These photos highlight some of the best-of-summer from our lives this year. We were lucky to get in a trip to Guatemala where we ate tortillas in cities of colorful plaster walls & wild looking begonia vines. Long, bumpy rides through the jungle in a pickup truck to reach a river oasis. Swimming through dark caves with no lights, holding only a candle, and jumping into pristine blue pools of Neverland. Hiking up active, smoking volcanoes and toasting marshmallows over hot pockets of lava. Ahhh. Guatemala. Enough already, just go. The people are lovely, the country is beautiful, and the food is delicious. 

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Perhaps the most famous folklore legend of Guatemala is the story if El Sombrerón. It is a story based around the idea of a boogeyman... but one that it a bit more magical and in-a-way romantic. Although I enjoy the story itself, the lesson of the tale is one that is drenched in traditionalism. Lessons for daughters that bad things happen to them when they go off with men in the night. Reguardless, El Sombrerón  is an interesting character. Below is a little information about El Sombrerón - gathered from Wiki.

This character's main characteristics are always the same: a short man with black dress a thick and brilliant belt; he wears a black, large hat and boots that make a lot of noise when he walks.

He likes to mount horses and braid their tails and manes. When he cannot find horses, he braids dogs. He also likes to court young ladies who have long hair and big eyes. When he likes one in particular, he follows her, braids her hair, serenades to her with his silver guitar; but he also puts soil in her plate and she is not able to eat or sleep.

El Sombrerón appears at dusk, dragging along a group of mules carrying coal, with whom he travels around the city and its neighborhoods. When a woman corresponds to his love, he ties the mules to the house's pole where she lives, unhooks his guitar and starts singing and dancing. Some residents from the neighborhoods of La Recolección and Parroquia Vieja say he still wanders at nights when there is a full moon.

Sauce

Garlic - 4 cloves, minced

Yellow onion - 1/2 a medium onion, diced

Ginger - 2 TB finely grated or minced, fresh

Habanero chillies (or other desirable chilles), seeds removed and sliced

Plums - I used about a generous pint, about 2 cups once cut in half & pits removed.

Water - 1/3 cup

Tamari (or other soy sauce) - 1TB (generous)

Mirin - 1TB

Honey - 1TB (generous)

Anise seeds - 5 stars

Cloves - 6-8 cloves

Fennel seeds - generous 1 tsp

Cinnamon stick - 1 stick

Olive oil or coconut oil - 2TB

Prep your garlic, ginger, onion, habaneros, and plums. Place oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add garlic, onions, and ginger. Let cook, stirring frequently, until everything is fragrant, soft, and translucent. Cook for about 10 minutes and then add habaneros and plums and cook for another minute or two. Add water and then the spices. I put the spices into a tea bag (or tea) ball to steep. Cover & cook until everything is soft, bubbly, and very fragrant. Another 10 minutes. Remove spices & turn off the heat. Add in the liquids of soy sauce, mirin, and honey. Stir until combine & then transfer into a blender. Blend until smooth & then set aside until later.

Wraps

Radicchio (or other lettuce) - 1 head. Honestly, I thought the radicchio was a bit too spicy for this dish and that it would work better with a sweeter cabbage or iceburg.

Tempeh - 1 package, crumbled

Shallots - 2, small, slivered

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Carrots - 1 carrots, minced

Sweet peppers - 1 generous cup, sliced

Water chestnuts - 1 small can, diced

Tamari (or other soy sauce) - 1 -2 TB

Peanuts - a few TB, crushed

Cilantro - 1 handful, minced

Green onions - slivered

Coconut oil or olive oil - 1TB, generous

Chop up all the vegetables. Place oil in a large skillet and place over medium-low heat. Add in garlic and shallots, cook for a minute. Add in the tempeh and cook for 5-6 minutes until starting to brown. Add in the water chestnuts, sweet peppers, and water chestnuts. Stir and cook for several more minutes. Add in peanuts & stir. Toss in the tamari and stir. Turn off the heat. Take the head of lettuce or radicchio that you are using and slice it off the base and gently peel it off the head, so that each peeled lettuce head makes a "bowl."

Spoon scoopfuls of tempeh mixture into the lettuce bowls and spoon over the plum sauce. Then topped with chopped cilantro and green onions slices. Wrap it up & eat. :)

A summer zucchini soup in a curry-coconut broth

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Today, I leave you with something short.

The first zucchini I ever saw, I killed it with a hoe.”
— John Gould, Monstrous Depravity: A Jeremiad & a Lamentation about Things to Eat, 1963

This soup is one of my favorite dishes. We leave for Guatemala tomorrow and I could not be more excited (stayed toned on a future post featuring.... I don't know... Guatemalan chocolate maybe?). I've been frantically trying to eat up garden produce before we leave. Nothing is sweeter than summer squash straight from the vine (well, maybe summer tomatoes). This dish originally started with making Hedi Swanson's summer squash soup found in her Super Natural Every Day. The first time I made it was when I was living in Charleston, SC. I've been making it for 3 summers now and it has adapted into my own dish. I hope you do the same to yours :).


Recipe (Serve 4 large servings or 6 small)

Curry paste

Turmeric root (fresh) - 2 small numbs, peeled, about 2 - 3 TB

Hot pepper - 1 (deseeded), chopped in half. (I've used every type of hot pepper here. I've tried jalapeño, ghost pepper, habanero, and thai pepper. My favorite is actually the ghost pepper but used whichever pepper you have or to your heat preference.

Garlic - 4 cloves, peeled

Ginger root (fresh) - One small numb, peeled, 1-2 TB

Miso - 2tsp (I used yellow miso)

Soy sauce  - 1 TB (I used tamari)

Shallot - 1 small shallot, peeled  coarsely chopped (I've also used a few TB of red onion when I did not have shallot around)

Lemongrass (fresh) - 1 - 2 small stalks of lemongrass. The papery outer layers discarded. You only want to use the soft/tender inner parts of the lemongrass.

* Place all the curry paste ingredients in a small blender or food processor. I use a small "magic bullet" type blender for this... it just works so well! Blend until smooth & set aside for later.

Soup

Coconut oil - 4.5TB

Vegetable broth - 2.5 cups

Coconut milk - 16 ounce can (I used light but regular would taste wonderful too)

Zucchini - 1 large zucchini, cut into thin half moons

Yellow squash - 1 small, cut into thin half moons

Tofu (extra firm) - pressed & cut into medium chunks

Soy sauce - 1.5 Tb (I used tamari)

Cherry tomatoes - 1 cup, halved

Red onion - 1/4 a small red onion, slivered

Eggplant (optional) - I had a few baby eggplants that I added this time ( 3 baby eggplants), sliced really thin, like 1/8 an inch.

Fresh basil - chopped (any type if basil will work)

Salt - to taste

* Chop up all your ingredients. Place the squashes, eggplant (if using), and red onion in a bowl together. The tofu & cherry tomatoes can remain separate. Place 1.5 Tb of coconut oil in a large skillet and heat on medium heat. Once the oil is hot add all of your squash mixture. Cook over medium heat for 5-8 mins. Until all the vegetables are tender but still have a little crunch. You don't want them too watery & soft. Dump the vegetables back out into a bowl.

Place the skillet back over heat and add 2 TB of coconut oil. Add in your tofu and cook on high, tossing frequently, until the tofu gets brown & crispy. After about 5 - 10 mins of crisping up the tofu add in the soy sauce & toss to combine. Dump out the tofu into the bowl with the squash. Then return the skillet to medium heat & add in your cherry tomatoes. Cook for a min or two until blistered. Then dump into the bowl with the rest of your veggies.

Then get out a medium pot & heat it over medium high heat. Add in your last TB of coconut oil. Once it is hot add in all of your curry paste. Stir to combine & let bubble for 1 min. Then pour in your coconut milk. Stir to combine and let it cook for a min or two, until the coconut milk starts to bubble around the edges. Then add in your veggie broth. Let cook for a few more mins, until the broth is thoroughly heated through & bubbling. Add in your basil (reserve some basil for the top - if desired) & salt to taste (remember the miso & soy sauce is already pretty salty). Distribute the vegetable/ tofu mixture into four bowls. Distribute the brother into the four bowls evenly. Sprinkle basil on top, if using.

Enjoy!

* If you are saving leftovers, I would store the veggies & the broth in separate containers.

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.

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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Winter fresh rolls with edamame paste & chile carrots

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As I write I am listening to the mixed sound of soft thud & sharp pops that comes from the wintery mix beating down on the skylight above my head. Last night, I kept waking up in the early morning and doing a quick peak outside, hoping for snow, and disappointedly I would snuggle back into bed. I really wanted to see my dogs' paws and noses happily buried into the fluffy snow, I wanted to make oatmeal cookies and hot cocoa and I wanted to curl up by the fire and read fairy tales. Alas, the sleet and ice is here, snow will have to wait until next week. While a good portion of the country is under snow and ice right now, you think I'd have something like hearty warm soups, or a cassoulet, or perhaps a veggie packed shepherd's pie. Nope, I have for you spring rolls.... well, winter rolls. 

After Thanksgiving marathon eating and the patchwork of holiday parties and gatherings that come over these next 3 weeks... some lighter food is needed in between the decadence! Don't worry, the ample amount of ginger and the addition of spicy chile carrots make these fresh rolls satisfying on a winter's day. Unfortunately I did't get many in-process photos... winter's darkness creeps up on us quite quickly. So I'm providing some photos of-late via my iphone :). Don't worry, one of the next posts I have in mind will be extremely winter-appropriate and warming to boot. 

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*Also if you don't want to make these all at once, store the carrots & edamame past in separate container in the fridge and then just assemble to order. :)

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Winter rolls (Makes 15)

Spring roll wrappers - I got a packet of 15

Edamame - 16 ounce bag of frozen/shelled edamame

Scallions - 3 scallions, chopped

Light coconut milk - do not shake it - 1 can - use just the top 1/3 portion - the thick, white part

Garlic - 4 cloves - grated on a microplane or minced really fine

Ginger - 1-2 TB (depending on taste) I used closer to 2TB -grated on a microplane or minced really fine

Greens - a small handful or two of dark greens (I used baby kale)

Carrots - 1lb bag - peeled & julienned

Sesame oil - 1Tb

Rice vinegar - 3Tb

Soy sauce - 1Tb plus extra for dipping (I use tamari)

Mirin - 1-2 tsp

Sesame seeds - 1TB, I used black sesame seeds

Dried arbol chiles - chopped fine, plus a few extra seeds or substitute dried chile flakes

Salt - to taste

Hot water

* This would be extra yummy if you let the chili carrots sit in the fridge overnight, or a few hours, to get extra spicy, but it is an optional step.

Peel & julienne the carrots and place into a bowl. In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, tamari, mirin, sesame seeds, & dried chile. Pour the sauce over the carrots and stir together with your hands, massaging in the sauce as you go. Set the carrots aside. 

Set on a medium pot of water over high heat to boil. Meanwhile chop up your scallions, grate or mince your garlic & ginger and add these into a blender or food processor. Once the water is boiling, dump in your bag of edamame. Let the edamame cook a few minutes until they are not longer frozen and they are soft and bright green. Drain the edamame really well and then add it to your blender or food processor. Add in the coconut milk to the edamame mixture and a good pinch of salt. Process the mixture until it is well combined and smooth, stopping and scraping as needed. Taste and adjust for salt. Dump the mixture into a bowl and set it aside with your carrots.

Heat up enough hot water to fill a large bowl halfway, so you can dip the rice papers in easily. Prepare a clean work surface for rolling your spring rolls and set out your rice wrappers, bowl for hot water, bowl of edamame paste with a spoon, greens, bowl of carrots, and a clean platter. Once the water is done heating, pour it into your prepared bowl. Now you are ready to assemble. Dip one of the rice wrapper into the bowl of water until it starts to "melt" and get really soft and translucent. Takes about 20 seconds or so (If the water if too hot to handle, throw in an ice cube or two). Pull the rice wrapper out and lay flat on your prepared surface. Smear on a spoonful or two of the edamame paste across the center of the rice wrapper... stopping and inch or so from the edges. Add in a little pinch of fresh greens and a small handful of carrots, all the while stopping about and inch from the edges. Fold in the side edges of the spring roll and then grab the end closet to you and fold it over the center ingredients, tucking and rolling it over on itself until it becomes a roll! Yay! Place on the clean platter and then repeat with the other 14 rice wrappers. Serve with a bowl of tamari for dipping.

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Cauliflower Caldo Verde

Autumn. 

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This week was an explosion. After the cold spell of last weekend and our first hard frost, the leaves decided that it was Autumn. Sprays of orange, red, and yellow arched over all the roadways and street trees, their clipped canopies look like brightly colored Christmas ornaments dangling over the sidewalk. I love this weather. The forests get excited too, dressing up for a fancy party once a year. I get equally as giddy, how could you not with all these fancy, well-dressed trees around? Fall time is where energy is directed downwards, into the roots, a very building time of year. I've rooted down deep into the things that I am doing, and I am building them. Enjoying my job, building my side business (Forest Things), and working here in the space. I'm excited for this fall time, for root building, and for soup eating.

This soup is vegetarian take on a portuguese soup called caldo verde. It is usually a potato soup with sausage and kale or collard greens. I've adapted my recipe from this recipe on food52. I was particularly drawn to it because cooking cauliflower with paprika is one of my favorites, something my grandmother use to to a lot when I was a kind. Served steamed, drizzled with melted butter and paprika. Delicious. 

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Recipe (Makes 6 servings) 

Cauliflower - 1 large head, chopped into pieces

Yellow Onion - 1 medium onion slivered

Garlic - 2 large cloves, minced

Mushrooms - 1/2 heaped cup, chopped

Mushroom broth - 4 cups

Collard greens - 1 bunch, tough parts of the stalk removed and then slivered

Lemon juice - juice from 1 lemon

Olive oil - 5TB

Paprika - about 2TB

Cumin - about 2TB

Cayenne - 1-2tsp

Salt - to taste

Toasted pine nuts - to top (optional) 

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and chop/prep your cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Toss the chopped cauliflower in a bowl with 2TB olive oil, 1TB of the paprika, 1TB of the cumin, 1tsp of cayenne, and then a few good pinches of salt. Lay the cauliflower out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 30 minuets, turning half way through. 

Meanwhile, heat up 2TB of olive oil in a large pot on medium and add in your garlic and onions. Cook and caramelize your onions for about 20 minuets, stirring frequently. Then add your chopped mushrooms and cook stirring frequently for another 10 minuets.

Once the cauliflower is done roasting, pour a little liquid into the pan to de-glaze. Then scrape the cauliflower and loosen the stuck-on bits into the pot of onions and add in the mushroom broth. Simmer for 10 minuets. Place the soup into a blender and blend for a minuet or two, until smooth (or use an immersion blender if available). Add the soup back into the pot and keep on low, adding in a little water to thin out the soup to the desired consistency. Taste and adjust for spices adding more salt first. Then add in the rest of the paprika & cumin and the cayenne if needed. 

Heat up the last TB of olive oil in a medium skillet on medium heat and add in the collard greens, tossing as you cook for several minuets. Add in the lemon juice and salt, cooking it until it is wilted but still vibrant and green. 

Add the collard greens into the soup and stir. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with toasted pine nuts, if desired, and another sprinkle of paprika.

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Spelt farfalle in a creamy butternut squash sauce with roasted broccoli

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I've admired film and photography for most of my life. I've always been particularly responsive to visuals and to sounds. Also to words. I remember my life in little clips and frames. I have an unusual amount of memories from early years... from when I was one or two but they are mostly visuals. I think of them as memory vignettes. They are places that were very comforting to me or of places where I first felt strong emotions.... a favorite carpet or the feel of petting a dog. We lived on the coast in New Bern, NC. Brackish waters are everywhere there, including the pond in our back yard. There was this wooden board walk through this marshy area and tall pines to the dock where my Dad use to set crab traps. I don't really remember the board walk but I remember sitting in the back yard and looking at the thick bed of pine needles and ivy that grew around the start of the boardwalk. In my eye is the coarseness and texture of the wood.

I also remember being taught to shell a crab. Feeling the moist steam of a boiling pot of water and my Dad helping my fingers pop out unwanted parts of a crab. I was confused at the yellow smears of crab gunk on my fingers. I remember my Dad telling me that we needed to get rid of the gunk because it was poisonous... and being afraid that I might accidentally be poisoned by crab in the future. In my nose is the smell of salt and fish. These little frames, moments, memories of experiences are who we are. It is art when I am able to read someone else's experience, and get a frame into their life. It is a point where lives touch in a deep and internal way, a private world. It is why we write, why we take photos, and why we read. The look in a strangers eye from a photograph, or the way colors bounced off each other in a landscape description; they touch me and remind me of my personal vignettes that I guard. I loved this, it was a secret to me. I was consumed in this private life, so much so that I use to be a rather quiet child around strangers. I just absorbed all the visuals without vocalizing much in return. I wanted to be a photojournalist, it is what I started out doing in college for the first few months. I was set on working for national geographic... and who wasn't. Any of us would love that job. At some point I became very hard on myself, I lived in an unrealistic world, or maybe it was the mindsets of other people that made me feel this way. I changed my major, to another design degree, landscape architecture. I had considered it before and it is something creative, involving the environment, helping people, but technical and marketable... it seemed safe.

 

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I practiced photography occasionally, when I was somewhere beautiful and I could actually hold visual vignettes down the road and share them with others. I don't know why I use to give up on things I loved just because they seemed unrealistic. I should have put more confidence in myself and lived with a little less fear. I have a decent camera, I got it for about $400 years ago. It is the nicest camera I have ever owned. Of course there are much, much better cameras. I've never had any formal training in photography or in film, although I have worked heavily with photoshop in college... but mostly because of self education and interest. I've stopped myself from really trying to produce films and better photography and I've made plenty of excused because I am constantly comparing myself to the work of others whom I admire. That is where I have to stop. For me, it is all about the vignettes of memories, stories, and emotion, the things that make you who you are and I want to stop hiding. I'm aware that in comparison to the works of film and photography that are out there, I'm not outstandingly impressive. I'm ok with that, because right now, this is me with my point n' shoot, tripod jerry-rigged onto mason jars, imovie, wrinkled linens, and really delicious food. I'm proud of it, happy about it, and loving to show you and introduce you to the vignettes that make up my life. I hope you enjoy and share some of yours with me. 

 

Watch the video above, The song is Cristobal by the artist Devendra Banhart... one of my favorites.  

This recipe is delicious... I've already made the sauce two weeks in a row, so much beautiful autumn squash. It is definitely inspired by mac n' cheese... just one you can feel much better about eating. Just make sure you get the roasted squash blended into a sauce before eating it all, that stuff is ridiculous, like sweet candy. 

Recipe (Makes 6 - 8 servings)

Butternut squash - 1 large squash, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped into cubes

Yellow onion - 1/2 diced onion

Garlic - 3 cloves

Broccoli - 2 heads of broccoli, chopped of the stalk

Sage - 2TB fresh

Salt/pepper - to taste

Milk (or milk alternative- coconut and unsweet almond both work great!) - 1 Cup

Reserved pasta water - About 1 cup

Spelt flour - 2 cups + extra for dusting

Salt - good pinch

Eggs - 3

Extra Virgin Olive oil - Several TB (4-5 total)

Uncooked pasta - if not making your own pasta or want a vegan alternative

Directions including making your own pasta

Clean a counter top or a large cutting board and spoon your flour into a pile in the center. Sprinkle in some salt and mix together, patting the flour back into a central pile. Make a well in the center of your flour large enough to hold three eggs and a splash of olive oil. Crack in your eggs and then pour in a generous glug of oil.  Use a wooden spoon to gentle stir the eggs, breaking the yolks and slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Keep going until you whittle away at the sides of the flour, this will take a little while. Once the flour is too sticky for the spoon, flour your hands and gather the dough together, using your hands to incorporate all the rest of the flour. Knead the dough for several minutes, until soft and silky. About 5 minutes kneading.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Let the pasta dough rest on the counter while you chop up all your veggies and garlic. Set the chopped/prepped ingredients aside and pick back up with the pasta.

Take out your pasta dough and cut into 4 pieces. Flour a clean surface and roll out one of the dough pieces very thin... it should be a little translucent. (Of course, if you have a pasta roller, use that) Flipping and rotating the dough as you go, and adding more flour to prevent sticking. Try to roll the dough into a rectangle if you can. Trim the edges of the dough off, so that you end up with a rectangle. I saved the dough trimmings to roll out again in the end. Cut the flat dough, with a sharp knife, into about 1" to 1 1/2" rectangles. Get a little cup of water and place next to your working area. Now, pick up one piece at a time and add a little dab of water to the center and pinch the top and bottom of the rectangle together in the center. Then use your thumbs and index finger to pinch together/flatten out the sides of the dough, it should resemble a bow tie. This process can take a little while, but you will get into a rhythm. Of course, you can just cut the pasta into a different shape, like long linguine noodles, it would be faster. Lay the bow-tie pastas out on a baking sheet to dry a bit until we are ready to cook them. Repeat the process with the other three dough balls and then gather up all your trimmings into a ball and roll those out into bow ties as well. 

Toss the squash cubes in some olive oil and salt/pepper and lay flat on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until the cubes are soft, a little browned in spots, and very sweet. Toss the broccoli pieces together in the bowl you used for the squash (no need to wash) with some olive oil and a little salt/pepper. Lay the broccoli out on a separate baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until a little brown but still slightly crunchy. It works well to put the broccoli in the oven after the squash has been in there for about 20 minutes... so that they can both come out around the same time.

While those are roasting, bring a medium/large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Also, heat up a medium skillet with 1 TB of olive oil on the stove. Once the oil is warm add in your garlic, cook for a minute and then add in your onions. Let it soften, stirring occasionally, while the broccoli/squash are roasting. Let the onions cook for at least 10 minutes. Add in your sage to the onions and cook for another minute or two. Remove from the heat and then pour onion mixture into the blender with the roasted squash, set this aside until the pasta is done cooking. 

Once the water is boiling add your pasta, I added the pasta in 3 batches, using a large slotted spoon to remove and drain the pasta. You will want to reserve at least 1 cup of pasta water to thin out the sauce. The pasta takes about 3-5 minuets to cook, or until al dente. Once you remove the pasta, let it drain in a colander and give it a quick rinse with cool water... so it stops cooking. Blend together your squash, onion mixture, 1 cup of milk (or milk alternative), and 1 cup of pasta water. Scrap down the sides, taste the sauce and adjust salt/pepper and add more pasta water if you want the sauce thinner. Depending on how fast you worked, the sauce might need to be re-heated on the stove before adding it to the pasta/broccoli (even though we were very happy eating it straight from the fridge, cold, the next day)  Toss the sauce, broccoli, and pasta together. Enjoy... this stuff is like candy... it is worth it.  

Directions for just the sauce.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Chop up all your veggies, sage, and garlic. Toss the squash in a bowl with olive oil salt and pepper and then lay the squash out flat on a baking sheet.  The squash will roast for about 35-45 minutes until it is very soft, a little brown in spots, and very sweet. Reuse the same bowl to toss your broccoli together with the olive oil and salt/pepper. Lay the broccoli out on a separate baking sheet. After the squash has been in the oven for about 20 minutes, add the squash in the oven as well... so they can both come out around the same time. The broccoli will roast for about 20-25 minutes, until slightly brown but still a little crunchy.

While the squash/broccoli is roasting, bring a salted pot of water on the stove to a boil, this will be to cook your pasta. Also heat up a medium skillet on medium heat with 1TB of olive oil. Once it is hot, add in your garlic, cook for a minute and then add the in onions. Let the onions soften for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the chopped sage. Cook for about 2 more minutes and then turn off the heat. Cook your pasta until al dente and then strain out your pasta, reserving at least 1 cup of pasta water, and giving the pasta a quick rinse with cool water. Toss the cooked squash, onion mixture, 1 cup of milk (or milk alternative), and 1 cup of pasta water in a blender and blend until smooth. Scrap down the sides of the blender, taste and adjust salt/pepper, and add more pasta water if you want the sauce thinner, and then blend again. Toss together the cooked pasta, roasted broccoli, and sauce. Enjoy... this stuff is like candy... it's worth saying twice.

 

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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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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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Mint grilled zucchini over a radish & couscous salad

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This quote has really resonated with me lately...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

- Mark Twain

I can't even begin to explain all the thoughts that go through my head on a daily basis, equal parts rational and irrational. Last weekend we went rafting the arkansas river and there was a moment in calm water when the guide asked everyone in the boat what they did. I responded with... "I don't know what I do yet." The whole boat responded with silence. I kind of felt like I had just been flung out of the boat. Since leaving my jobs/obligations behind in Virginia and moving to Colorado I have been applying to full-time jobs, and nothing has quite worked out yet. I do a few other creative things on the side but nothing that provides with me a solid, reliable, income. I feel like I am putting too much hope into that one, perfect, thing and maybe I am wrong in that. There is value in everything and as much as I live by exploring, dreaming, and discovering I am too stationary right now. I need to dive into something, forget any little tid bits of fault I find, and go for it. As Mark Twain advises, the only thing I'll regret is not doing it rather than the latter. 

Speaking of rafting, I did a considerable amount of cooking on the raft... and by that I mean with the two main ingredients consisting of the sun and my legs. My thighs have swelled up like plump little tomatoes. So you can picture me waddling around in my leggings and bathing in lotion despite the fact that is is summer and I want nothing to do with leggings. I only wish I had already had my sunburn remedy prepared... alas, this grilled zucchini over couscous salad will have to do. 

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Recipe (serves a crowd)

Zucchini - as many as you feel like eating (I made about 3 medium ones) cut into thin strips.

Lemon - Juice of 1 lemon

Mint - 3TB fresh, chopped

Salt & pepper - I like to use coarse sea salt here and generous amounts of fresh cracked pepper.

Couscous - 2 cups dried couscous (I used whole wheat)

Radishes - 1 bunch, chopped into half moons

Green onions - 1 bunch, slivered

Parsley - 4TB chopped

Kalamala olives -  1/4 cup pits removed, chopped in half

Extra virgin olive oil - 4TB

Fill a medium saucepan with 3 cups water and a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil. Add in your couscous and turn off the heat, let it sit covered and absorb the water. It will take about 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile, chop up all your other ingredients. Once the couscous is ready, pour it into a mixing bowl and fluff with a fork while adding in 2TB of olive oil. Add in your chopped radishes, green onions, kalamala olives, and parsley. Stir, then season to taste with salt and pepper - I am pretty generous with it. I also think it would be delicious to add in some almonds or walnuts here. Set the come to couscous aside to come to room temperature. 

Place your other 2TB of olive oil, 2Tb of mint (reserving 1TB) and zucchini strips in a bowl and toss. Season with just a little bit of salt and pepper (a pinch or two) but not all of it. Heat up your grill or grill pan and then lay your strips of zucchini over and cook about 3-4 minutes on each side. (If using a grill pan, squeeze over the juice of a lemon and shake for a minute before dumping out onto a platter.) Remove the zucchini onto a platter and squeeze over the lemon juice and top with more course salt, cracked pepper, and the last TB of fresh mint. If there is any oil left in the bowl from tossing the zucchini, then drizzle that over top too. Serve the zucchini over the couscous or on the side.

Explore. Dream. Discover.  

 

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Paloma, I love you

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Covered porch, a well-used swing, soft breeze, early evening warmth, citrus juice on fingers, bare feet, radishes sprouting nearby, sleeping dogs, two palomas.  

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Recipe for 1 large paloma

Tequila - 1/4cup (cold)

Pink grapefruit - 1 large, cut in half and juiced over a strainer

Lime - Juice of 1 lime + a slice of lime to garnish

Agave - 1TB (or other sweetener)

Club soda - 1/8 - 1/4 cup depending on taste (I used closer to 1/4)  (cold)

Sea salt - for the rim (optional) 

A few ice cubes

Apparently, the paloma is the most ordered drink in Mexico and it is made a variety of ways. Sometimes it is made with fresh grapefruit juice and them sometimes with a grapefruit soda - typically jarritos. I chose the fresh juice route. I also sweetened this with agave because I think it compliments any tequila drink but feel free to use honey or a simple syrup. 

Wet the rim of your glass with juice or water (if using salt) and dip the rim into a saucer of sea salt. Juice the grapefruit (strained) and combine it with the tequila, lime juice, agave, and a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker (just stir this well into your glass with a spoon if you are not using a cocktail shaker). Shaker (or stir) until combine and pour into your glass. Top with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge. Enjoy! (Best enjoyed over tacos)

 

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Dandelion & sorrel pesto for spring.

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esto is one of the best condiments to have around the house. I love to toss it into something; scrambled eggs, pastas, salads, sandwiches, smeared onto toasted pita, etc. One of the better things I decided to do with this was add it into my favorite vegan lasagna recipe. This lasagna is so good, I honestly prefer it over regular lasagna. This pesto is definitely best used in recipes with pesto as the focus. It is such a special spring-time pesto that you don't want it to get over-looked. 

 

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 * Also! There is a give-a-way. I was fortunate enough to have been gifted the lovely and inspirational The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook from my sweet Aunt. She sent it to me thinking that I would enjoy it. Of course, she was right, I love the cook book but I had already purchased it for myself! I was swayed after seeing Heidi Swanson's post and was anticipating it's release. My favorite recipe in here is the edamame dumplings. Ridiculously good, they are steamed in a broth scented with lemongrass. I really like to curl up in bed with a good book... a number of those being cookbooks. Seriously, there are almost as many cookbook on my bed side table as in my kitchen. So now this beautiful book can be passed onto you dears. To enter just leave a comment about what your favorite pesto is or what your favorite way to eat pesto is. I'll pick the winner on Monday 5/6 and then ask you for your address so I can mail you this lovely book.

 

Pesto ( Makes about a scant 3 cups)

1 bunch sorrel - coarsely chopped

1 bunch dandelion - coarsely chopped

Red onion - 1/4 a red onion - chopped

emon - juice of 1 lemon

arlic - 4 cloves, chopped

Sunflower seeds - 1/4 cup

Salt/pepper- to taste

Heat up a medium pot of water to boiling. nce it is boiling toss in your dandelion greens and cook for about 2-3 minutes and then strain out. In a blender or food processor add all you ingredients, make sure the dandelion has drained well before adding it. Process until the pesto is smooth. Store in an airtight container the the refrigerator. Good for about 2 weeks.  I highly recommend that you make this vegan lasagna with it. 

Vegan, spring, pesto lasagna. Layers of creamy filling, tomato sauce, arugula, & noodles.

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I made this lasagna once, over a year ago, and haven't made a lasagna since. I like pasta dishes but I really don't make them often. Occasionally, I'll get the urge (if I have time) to make some homemade pasta dough but that is a once-a-year thing if at all. There was the time last year where I took home 90 free eggs from work. Ok... what do you do with 90 free eggs? After half a day of kitchen time I stocked our freezer with loads of homemade ravioli (3 kinds..mushroom, arugula ricotta, and butternut squash) and mini quiches. It was insane but I used up a lot of the eggs that way. Bad part was, we still had some mini quiches in the freezer when we lost power for 4 days in a snow storm. To try and save the quiches, I buried them outside into the snow where they were devoured by wild animals. At least somebody enjoyed them, right?

Anyways, lasagna. I really like this lasagna from a recipe in a cookbook called The Big Vegan. It's funny, this cookbook really isn't my typical style but there are some really great ideas and recipes in here. The following recipe is an adaptation of the recipe in the book. I felt like making lasagna because I had about 3 cups of this homemade dandelion & sorrel pesto to play around with. I didn't want to overwhelm this yummy pesto with a bunch of dairy, so I turned to this tried and true vegan lasagna. This lasagna is so good, really. I'd bet that you could fool people. Give them a piece of this lasagna and they will have no idea that it is vegan unless you tell them.

* Also! There is a give-a-way. I'm not really use to how give-a-ways work, honestly, I'm not up on my blog etiquette. The reason I am doing it, other than I love you of course, is that by fate I have two of the same cookbook, The Sprouted Kitchen. The give-a-way is being held on the sister post to this one, the pesto post, which can be found here

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Recipe (I made it in a oval, 9" casserole dish and it was filled to the brim)

Filling recipe 

Vegan pesto of your choice - 16oz (here is the dandelion/sorrel pesto recipe)

Tofu - 1 packet of soft tofu (14oz) 

Artichoke hearts - 1 can, drained

Nutritional yeast - 2TB

Miso - 2TB

Olive oil - 1Tb

Salt- a pinch

 Tomato sauce recipe

Can of tomatoes (I used whole, peeled) - 14oz, drained half-way

Onion - 1.5 cups, chopped

Garlic - 3 cloves, chopped

Basil - 3Tb, fresh, slivered

Fennel seeds - 1tsp

Oregano - 1.5tsp dried, or 1tsp, fresh

Salt/pepper - to taste

Other layers

Packet of vegan whole wheat lasagna noodles (or spinach) 

Arugula - a few handfuls

(optional) Almond meal or pine nuts - to top

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Preheat you oven to 400 degrees about 15 minutes before you are ready to bake. Place all your filling ingredients together in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Dump out filling into a bowl and clean the blender, you will need it again. Put a medium pot of water with a pinch of salt over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling you will add you lasagna noodles and simmer for about 7 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water. Meanwhile, chop up your onion and garlic. Heat up a deep skillet with 1Tb olive oil and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute and then add in the onions. Cook for a few minutes until soft. Add in the can of tomatoes and all your spices. Cook for a few minutes until bubbling and soft. Taste and adjust salt/pepper. Transfer into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. 

Get out your casserole dish. Layer about 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom. Then lay down a layer of noodles, top with about 1.5 cups of filling, and then a handful of arugula. Then noodles, tomato sauce, filling, arugula. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up, adjusting as needed, ending with the last of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with almond meal or pine nuts if desired. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes, if you can wait, because the filling will be very hot. 

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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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Banana, cherry, almond, walnut, & chia seed granola

Granola. 

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Granola. Pretty much all of us love it. Maybe that crunchy satisfying sound of munching on granola is in the same satisfaction family as intentionally stepping out of your way on the sidewalk to crunch fall leaves under your feet. I know you know what I am talking about. Whether you are a granola breakfast person, a granola snacker, a granola bar person, granola for hikes and after workouts, or a granola-omg-all-the-time-person. I use to make granola much more frequently at home than I do now, but I got a lot of granola-making obsession toasted out of my system when I had to make gianormous batches of granola at a time for a job. Also, in the colder months, I am a big lover of warm breakfasts but come nice warm weather I want granola, yogurt, museli, berries, and smoothies for the every-day breakfast. Homemade granola is one of the most flexible things to make that you really have to try making it, at least just once. No shame in store-bought granola, I do it all the time, its just satisfying to have a homemade granola occasionally, you'll see. You could substitute in all sorts of grains, nuts, dried fruit, sweeteners, oils, etc. Just play around with it add, subtract, substitute.... in the end it all comes down to that same happy crunch.

 

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Recipe (Makes a large batch, store in a air-tight container)

Oats - 4 cups

Bananas - 3

Walnut oil - 3TB (Or any oil) 

Dried cherries - 1/4 cups

Walnuts - 1/2 cup (crushed) 

Almonds slivered - 1/2 cup

Chia seeds - 1/4 cup

Cinnamon - 1tsp

Honey - 1/3 cup

Preheat the oven up to 400 degrees. Break the bananas into the blender with the oil and whip with the paddle attachment until the bananas are smooth and creamy. While the mixer is running, drizzle in the honey and add the 1tsp of cinnamon. Toss together the oats, cherries, walnuts, almonds, and chia seeds. Turn off the mixer and add in the oat/nut mixture, scraping with the spatula when needed.

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Spread the mixture out into an even layer on one baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes on one side. Flip over the granola and bake for about 10 minutes until it is slightly golden in coloring (you might need to adjust the cooking time slightly, I recommend check it a few times before it is done... ovens can be different and the ripeness of the bananas can change this a lot). Granola hardens up a lot once cooled. Break it up into pieces and enjoy!

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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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