Hope everyone’s been staying warm and easing into 2018 gently.
My New Year’s Eve plans were quiet; they involved yoga and meditation at the turn of midnight, followed by bed. None of that happened. My mom and I unexpectedly spent NYE in the emergency room. It wasn’t really an emergency; we knew we were being cautious when we went for her to get checked out. But of course it was a great relief to be discharged with the assurance that everything was OK.
It was interesting to observe my own reaction to the series of events. There was some natural anxiety and fear at first. Once it became clear that things were going to be fine, some less flattering emotions were thrown into the mix, including irritation at the interruption of my plans and silly, self-indulgent speculation about whether the evening were some sort of gloomy portend of the year to come.
If I’m taking anything away from that night—aside from gratitude and relief that mom was OK—it’s the experience of perspective shift under pressure. Just as those bad-tempered emotions began to surface, I got to thinking about how lucky we were, all things considered. We were relatively certain from the start that mom would be just fine. We were lucky to be admitted quickly to a place where she could get diagnosed. She’s health insured. We were possessed of a...
I whipped up this simple, savory mushroom farro last weekend and immediately got to using it in my lunch bowls early this week. I had every intention of sharing it right away, until a winter storm and an aggressive head cold swooped in and have kept me glued to my sofa for the last couple days. I’m still feeling flattened by the cold, but I’m mighty grateful for weekend batch cooking and a fridge full of soup and grains to keep me fed.
Farro is one of my favorite grains, thanks to its toothsome and chewy texture. I use it in wintery salads often because it’s hefty enough to hold its own with lots of roasted veggies and other ingredients, but I also love it in grain bowls or even as porridge, warmed up with soy milk and dried fruit in the morning.
Until now, I hadn’t really tried farro in the form of a pilaf or a stand alone grain meal. I figured its earthy, nutty flavor would pair well with mushrooms, and I added extra flavor to the dish with shallots, garlic, white wine (optional), and fresh thyme. This is a perfect, hearty grain dish for winter months. If you stir in some chickpeas (which I did—I had exactly a cup of them in my fridge...
In class this past week, one of my yoga teachers shared an excerpt from Nischala Joy Devi’s The Secret Power of Yoga, which is a woman-centric reading and elucidation of the yoga sutras (I picked up the book a couple days later, and I’m enjoying it so far—much less dense and relatable than the more scholarly commentaries on the text).
The section he pointed to is entitled “sweets make us sweet.” Devi describes being in India and sharing food with Yoga Master Sri Shastraji, who noticed her enthusiasm for the desserts on offer. When she admitted to loving sweets, he replied,‘What a great understanding of the teachings . . . The Vedas tell us that when we are able to experience the sukha [sweetness or happiness] of life in any form, it serves to remind us of the Divine Self. If we do not experience sweetness, we assume that it is not there. With the absence of sukha, our only option is to identify with the opposite, dukha [sadness or bitterness].Many teachers and translators of the scriptures encourage us to avoid the sweetness in life to better prepare us for the big payoff, enlightenment. It is actually the opposite. By generously sprinkling our lives with joy and sweetness, their seeds take root within us, reflecting our every action. This ever-present...
Black-eyed peas are thought to be a lucky new year food in the South, and I’ve always enjoyed cooking with them at this time of year, as late December gives way to January. In the past few years, though, I’ve branched out and started to rely on them as an everyday staple legume. I love their subtly nutty flavor and aroma (I especially love using them in this dish, which includes the slightly surprising addition of peanut butter).
This easy side dish of vegan dirty rice & black-eyed peas happens to have come together right before New Year’s Eve, but I have a feeling I’ll be making it year round. It’s a flavorful, fast, and versatile base for simple dinners, burritos, and more. When I made it a few days ago, I served it with steamed collards, which are another good luck food in the Southern tradition. But I’m keen to try it with other greens, steamed or braised, and tonight I plan to top the leftovers with some of my vegan chick’n style soy curls.
Traditional dirty rice, from what I understand, usually starts with bacon or pork and includes celery, onion, green pepper, and cajun spices (paprika, thyme, pepper). I’m not sure...
This sweet potato spelt galette with cashew cheese is about as fancy as my home cooking will get this holiday season! I spent my entire reading and finals week eating braised beans and kale with bread or grains, or turmeric rice and beans. And I’ve got another rice and bean dish in the works for later this week, because in spite of having a break from school I’m craving that kind of simple, one-pot, grain/green/bean meal lately.
Still. It’s nice, from time to time, to make dishes that are festive and pretty and the kind of thing you’d serve at a cocktail party—even if you don’t actually intend to host or attend a cocktail party. And that’s what this galette, with its pretty alternating circles of purple and regular sweet potato, is.
As a welcome bonus, the galette is surprisingly easy to make in spite. No more difficult than a fruit galette, and particularly easy if you use a store-bought vegan soft cheese (some contenders:
I’m perched upon my sofa right now in a sea of pre-holiday mess: as-of-yet-unwrapped gifts, Scotch tape and scissors on the floor, a Christmas tree that needs watering and has been shedding needles without subsequent vacuuming from me, a countertop covered in flour for the bread that probably needs longer to proof than I have time to give it. There are unwashed dishes in the sink, work emails I meant to send before Christmas and didn’t, cards I wanted to mail to friends that somehow didn’t get out in time. And I’ll definitely need to run out this afternoon for a few last minute gifts.
A year ago at this time, the stockings were hung by my tree with care, and that tree was meticulously decorated and groomed. I’d smartly made a Christmas breakfast dish ahead of time. I’d followed through on a detailed baking schedule and had the gift-worthy cookies and scones and quick breads to prove it. My cards were written, gifts wrapped prettily, and I’d worked around the clock to tighten up work odds and ends before Christmas Eve. There wasn’t so much as a ribbon or crumb or pine needle out of place.
It wasn’t right, though. All of the trimmings and festive touches had been piled upon an atmosphere of tension and unease, as my partner and I delicately tiptoed around the rift that...
I was originally going to call this recipe what it actually is, which is braised cranberry beans and kale. I don’t cook cranberry beans as often as some others, but I do love their creamy texture, and I tend to get them during the holidays because their mottled, white and red exterior (which becomes pink as they cook) always strikes me as being appropriately festive.
As I was making the recipe, though, I realized that one of its upsides is that it can be made with pretty much any bean you’ve got: navy beans, cannellini or great northern beans, black beans, chickpeas, pinto or kidney. This is truly more of a cooking template than a recipe, but I like it so much—and am so sure I’ll be making it regularly from now on—that I couldn’t help but share it.
My normal process for batch cooking beans is to soak them overnight, then boil them till tender. I like this because it allows me to use the beans any which...
Shortbread was one of the first baking recipes I ever learned. This makes sense, I guess, since it’s such a simple cookie: the most basic recipes call only for butter, flour, salt, and a little sugar. And it doesn’t require any ornate decorating. Some rolling, scoring, and a few fork pricks are just fine.
Needless to say, my first few shortbread batches involved regular butter and flour. Today, I modify the recipe to be vegan, and this holiday season, I’ve also created a version that’s perfect for gluten and wheat-free eaters. This vegan, gluten-free holiday citrus shortbread is festive, simple to make, and it tastes every bit like the orange-scented shortbread cookies I loved making when I was in middle school (guided by my trusty stack of Martha Stewart Christmas cookbooks).
This is my first attempt at gluten-free shortbread, in spite of the fact that I’m always trying to find holiday baking recipes that are both vegan-friendly and GF. So many friends (or family members of friends) need one or both accommodations, and I love baking edible goods that everyone can...
A week ago, I wrote about bullet journaling and starting new tasks without expectations of permanence. I stuck with a very basic form of the journal through the week, and as I did I started to feel not only a sense of pleasure at having a new way to stay organized, but also the pleasurable experience of feeling as though I was reinhabiting an old self. It was the self who could accomplish ten tasks before noon, who rose with the sun and immediately started doing, who stayed up into the wee hours in spurts of productivity.
It’s been a while since I felt like that person. She kept me good company all through my early years of blogging and book editing, through my post-bacc, and through my first year back in New York. She is efficient, driven, and no-nonsense; she has no patience for delays or stopping points. At many times in the past when I felt as though I couldn’t get it all done, she told me not to worry: she was capable of anything she put her mind to.
Then something shifted toward the end of the week, on Thursday morning. I woke up inexplicably exhausted and low; I dragged myself through the day aimlessly. I made a list of tasks and crossed off none of them. It was the least satisfying...
Easy comfort food is the name of the game this week: rice n’ beans on Tuesday, and this simple, warming, and filling tomato orzo soup with kale today.
Over the summer I made an orzo and chickpea dish with roasted tomato sauce, which I loved. The only downside of that meal is the time involved: the roasted tomato sauce is relatively hands off, but it’s homemade from fresh tomatoes, so there’s a bit of a wait. 2-3 hours of a wait, to be exact. Great for a slow weekend, not so great for a busy weeknight or a hectic season.
This dish is similar: a mix of orzo, beans, and tomato. But it’s more of a soup than a pasta dish, and—thanks to the use of chopped tomatoes from Pomi—it comes together a lot more quickly. The orzo will be ready after about 15 minutes of simmering, and all that remains after is to cook down the kale. It’s a true comfort food meal that be ready in about half an hour.
Is anyone else ready for a simple pot of rice and beans? I know I am, not just as a counterpart to more festive and celebratory holiday fare, but also because this is the food I crave when I’m busy, stressed, distracted, whatever. (Come to think of it, I crave this food all the time, but especially when I need grounding.) I make a lot of rice and bean dinners, but lately I thought to use my turmeric rice recipe as the base. This one pot turmeric rice, beans & greens dinner is the happy result. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s quick, nutritious, and good, and that’s more than enough for me.
Turmeric rice has become a bit of a staple around here, a dish I make for bowls, burritos, and a lot more. As it turns out, the rice works as nicely in a cohesive dish as it does as a side or a component of a meal. I changed the recipe slightly here: the onions are thinly sliced and caramelized, rather than chopped and sautéed, which adds a little more flavor to the dish. I increased some of the spices in order to flavor the beans and greens as well as the rice. And I finished...
A few days ago, fending off a serious case of overwhelm, I started bullet journaling. I did so without a fancy journal, rolls of decorative washi tape, or web tutorials and downloads to guide me (there are plenty of those out there, if you’re interested). I don’t really know what I’m doing. I know that the system, at least in its most basic formulation, is fast, and it’s keeping me organized through the December crazy.
Approaching something this way—implementing it long before I feel any sense of mastery—is new for me. I’ve always struggled to make starts with things, because the perfectionist in me demands that I be proficient before I even begin. I’m all too prone to researching things endlessly and becoming so overwhelmed that I never do them at all. Or telling myself that I’ll begin this or that project “when I have time,” which is code for “when I have time to teach myself how to be perfect at it.” It’s a great way to delay things that would probably be enriching my life in the here and now, if only I’d let them.
Sourdough baking has been a similar experience. I’ve been baking loaves regularly, sometimes a couple times a week, but so far it’s the same, basic, approachable recipe that my friend Emily taught me. I am...
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about intuition. Merriam Webster defines it as “quick and ready insight,” “immediate apprehension or cognition,” and “the power or faculty of attaining to direct knowledge or cognition without evident rational thought and inference.” The gist, I think, is that it’s a kind of understanding that presents itself before rationalization kicks in.
Intuition has been on my mind in the context of my nutrition coaching work. In the last few weeks, many clients have expressed to me what other clients in the past have shared, too—that they have a gut feeling about something that’s going on with their bodies, which may or may not be getting validation from healthcare practitioners or clinical investigation.
I’m not a doctor, and it’s not my job to take guesses at the cause, but it is very much my job to listen, to take whatever physical manifestations are showing up seriously, and to assure my clients that, if they feel or sense that something is awry, then they’re probably right—even if the origins are multifaceted, psychosomatically mediated, or otherwise difficult to pinpoint. It’s also my job to help them find ease, peace, and nourishment with food, so that eating doesn’t become (or remain) a source of additional stress.
As I was working to gently assure my folks of their “quick and ready insight,” I got to thinking about...
The first time I heard about roasted squash and grapes as a pairing, I was surprised. I’d tried roasting apples, pears, and some stone fruits, but it had never occurred to me to roast grapes. And with squash? I was skeptical—until I tried it, and I was impressed at how delicious it was. The grapes highlight the natural sweetness of squash, but butternut is mild enough that the sweet notes aren’t overwhelming. Somehow, it works, and it works well.
This party-friendly roasted brussels sprout, butternut squash & grape salad with quinoa is a tribute to this classic, autumnal side dish, but the roasted components are combined with fluffy quinoa and crisp greens. I loved adding brussels sprouts to the squash and grapes—their slight bitterness and crispy skins were a perfect contrast with the other ingredients.
I created the salad with tender spring mix from Earthbound Farm. I love Earthbound greens: they’re always fresh, flavorful, and organically grown. You could...
Yesterday I mentioned a new baking recipe and collaboration that I’ve been excited to share. This is it: salted chocolate peanut butter cup thumbprints that are eminently snackable and wonderfully sweet/salty/chocolatey—basically, everything I want in a treat.
The cookies are part of a new collaboration with the wonderful folks at Cake in a Crate. If you haven’t heard about it, Cake in a Crate is a new experience for veteran and newbie bakers alike. The company delivers quality, pre-measured ingredients and a baking recipe card in a recyclable box—in other words, it’s the very first meal kit for dessert. All of the recipes are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free.
I’ve been admiring Cake in a Crate’s creations from afar for a long time now. The company has partnered with some of my favorite bloggers on all sorts of wonderful desserts, and I was honored when Asha, the owner, approached me about a vegan cookie for the holiday season. Better still, I had an opportunity to create something using delicious, fair trade, organic dark...
Thanksgiving this year was a surprise.
For weeks, I looked forward to it as being a homecoming of sorts. It was the first Thanksgiving that my mom and I have had on our own since 2012, when we ate at Candle 79. We did the same this year, and I think a part of me expected the whole ritual to be as if nothing had changed. I thought it might momentarily feel the way things did before the end of my post-bacc, before coming back to New York, before me and Steven, and before some grievous losses in my mom’s life.
It didn’t, of course, and in spite of how badly I wanted to reclaim time this week, memories kept catching up to me. I spent the day or two before the holiday feeling broken open and weepy, rather than excited for time off or eager to celebrate. I’d had it in my mind that this Thanksgiving would somehow offset last year’s Thanksgiving, which was difficult for a lot of reasons.
That isn’t how it went, of course. My mom and I were together, as much of a team as ever, eating at the very same table we ate at for Thanksgiving 2012 (and with the same wonderful food). But we couldn’t help feeling certain absences: the loss of my grandmother and my mom’s partner, the...
I know it’s a bit of a cliche to talk about simple food after a holiday week, but it can be such a relief to get back to basics after even a few days of nonstop cooking, eating out, or travel. I didn’t cook a Thanksgiving meal this year, but I did do a lot of cooking in general the week prior. I’m very happy to have all of the ingredients I need to make these wholesome roasted vegetable & kale puff nourish bowls with creamy hemp herb dressing tonight.
Nutrition clients often ask me about strategies for getting back into a grounded, steady cooking and food routine after the holidays. Every person is different, of course, but my strategies have always included the following:
I started incorporating more savory breakfasts into my routine a couple years ago. At first, it was just a handy way to use up leftovers more quickly. Over time, I started to really enjoy the variety that savory breakfasts afforded me—so many new options to try, a welcome change of pace from my usual routine of oatmeal or toast.
Savory breakfasts have stuck around, and I find that it’s especially easy to love them as the weather gets cooler. Leftover soup and bread is pretty great fortification for a frigid, windy morning. So is any time of dal, or chana masala with homemade chapati. If I’ve got random odds and ends of meals, like the last cup of a bean dish and some leftover cooked grains, it’s easy enough to throw them into a whole grain tortilla with a few avocado slices. These meals keep me full for hours.
This tofu red lentil shakshuka is my latest favorite savory breakfast or brunch. It’s a very simple and plainly non-traditional spin on shakshuka, a popular Northern African and Middle Eastern breakfast that usually...
A couple weeks ago, a reader passed along Carrie Arnold’s insightful article into treatment of chronic, adult anorexia. It’s been a long time since any reading material about EDs has brought up so much emotion for me.
One reason may be that much of what I read about anorexia is focused on teens and young adults. I was eleven when I became anorexic for the first time, which means that the disease and its relapses shaped my adolescence and early adulthood. With each passing year, it all feels farther away, and I suspect that part of this is because I’m growing older as I move further into recovery. I remember self-starvation less vividly, but I also remember being twenty less vividly, and in my case those memories are linked.
This article is different: it describes the ongoing challenges that face adults who have had anorexia for a long time. Habits are all the more difficult to change simply because they’re so established. One physician is quoted saying, “The longer you have anorexia, the more anorexia creates physiological changes in the body and the brain that then create a self-sustaining cycle. You do it today because you did it yesterday, no longer because you decided to go on the Atkins diet when you were 15 or because you broke up with a boyfriend and you decided to lose...
I mentioned last week that it’s a quiet Thanksgiving season for me. I keep meaning to test a new pie or make stuffed squash or mash potatoes or do something else that feels seasonally appropriate, but I’ve had my hands full with work and school lately, and in the down time I’ve been prioritizing life outside the kitchen. I may catch up on festive cooking by the time Christmas rolls around, but for now, it feels alright to be taking it easy.
Still, the upcoming holiday is on my mind. This week I got to thinking past Thanksgivings, and about how I’ve always overshot with my cooking, no matter how hard I try not to. During our first year in NYC together, Steven and I had my mom over for Thanksgiving dinner at our place. While I was delighted to take charge of the meal (I’d never really been able to do that before), I overextended myself so much that by the time we all sat down I could barely keep my eyes open. I don’t even remember what I made.
I’ve learned a lot about cooking for friends since then, and I like to think that if I do a Friendsgiving next year I’ll be able to avoid holiday meal-prep burnout. It’s taken me a long time to realize that guests are usually happy—maybe even relieved—to eat simple...