Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Anniversary...

I am coming upon the one year mark of my life radically changing course. I did not think this anniversary would have any kind of impact for me. In fact I thought it would be a relief. I am noticing however moving so quickly into fall, that I remember almost nothing of the weather last year, but vividly remember so much pain that I found almost nothing of my normal life recognizable. I exercised deep trust knowing I would not get lost in that place, and lose myself. I am remembering now, how I choose all of the actors and scenes on the stage of my creation. I am reflecting now at how completely and lovingly I choose to shift everything. I did not understand then how I was the master of my own orchestra. I only saw myself get swept away with heartache, despair, grief and betrayal. I now tenderly thank my past partner for having the courage to gift me so deeply. I thank his new partner for being part of my miracle. I hold myself when more tears flow as I think of how you, me, us, all do such human things to each other. I tried putting labels on everyone's actions this past year in an attempt to skirt my own feelings of loss and responsibility. But I kept on opening to the grief and found that all I had left was the love. And in love for myself, I discovered that all of my disruptions are self-created events to open my heart to more loving. Trying to find our way through suffering, humanness, dualistic thinking; these are the gifts of unimaginable depths. I had no idea a short year ago. I had no idea what I was capable of. I had no idea of the road ahead. I had no idea that it was not about good or bad, right or wrong. It is about the love. How far can our heart expand to accept and love what is happening in front of our eyes? An infinite amount is my answer. And now, as I have said my sad goodbyes to a life and a love I thought would last, I am full of tenderness for us all. I am filled with a knowing  that we all have the capacity for transformation from our most difficult experiences. Life is a series of gifts. I am teary with gratitude for all of mine.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Olive Oil Gingerbread Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This past weekend I went to the Eat Real Festival in Oakland. It was a showcase of all things food. There was a place to check your canvas bags in case you wanted to check out music and not be holding your recently purchased jars of local cinnamon plum jam or sauerkraut. There were hundreds of vendors and food trucks selling everything from local sustainably harvested oysters to gluten free cupcakes. Beer sold in mason jars, grass fed and pickled everything. Top Chef alums doing demonstrations of DIY sausage, sourdough demos, and of course the brightest and best small batch coffee and popsicle vendors. Apricot curry popsicle anyone? Thousands and thousands of people patiently waited in long, long lines to get the city's most local food offerings. No plate of food was over $5 either. The affordability keep a great momentum going to sample lots of different foods. I kept thinking that food is what might bring this country together in our diversity of politics, social policy and religion. We all have to eat, right? It was quite a sight. I felt completely at home.

So, I came home from my food filled weekend to cooler temperatures and crisp air. Gingerbread kept coming to mind. Salted caramel kept coming to mind as well. That was a leftover thought of the weekend, because at the festival, the only thing missing for me was Bi-Rite Creamery and their salted caramel ice cream. I would climb a mountain for that ice cream. So, salted caramel it was. On gingerbread. I changed a basic gingerbread recipe around and added olive oil instead of butter. Molasses is dense and strong. I wondered if the grassy flavor of extra virgin olive oil and the addition of cardamom would make it more mysterious. I opted for buttermilk to keep the cake lively, springy and moist. Really, the cake only took about 10 minutes to put together. The caramel took a little over ten minutes and the butter cream another 10. Then, I stood in my kitchen and started forking out pieces of cake, slathering on the caramel buttercream, because I absolutely could not wait until everything was room temperature or say, on a plate. I managed to eat three pieces standing in my kitchen and I realized this cake was not safe in my house. Or really, I was not safe in my house with this cake in it! I proceeded to gift out the rest of the pieces to friends doorsteps to celebrate the arrival of fall.
This cake is as easy as making cornbread. Heavy on molasses, rich on flavor, but light and moist. Powdered cardamom might not be in your spice pantry, but is easy to find. It makes the gingerbread cake a bit more exotic. It is also lovely for making your own chai at home this winter. Or putting in shortbread cookies or in rice pudding. I purposely made a small cake here because gingerbread burnout happens quick. A little goes a long way. Plus, I wanted to make sure there was enough frosting to cover the whole cake.

Olive Oil Gingerbread Cake

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. powdered cardamon
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, add flour, spices, salt and baking powder. Stir with fork.
In another bowl, whisk egg with fork and add sugar. Add olive oil and molasses and lightly whisk with fork.  Add to dry ingredients.
In a cup, mix buttermilk and baking soda. Add to rest of the ingredients. Pour into a buttered dish. This will make 6 cupcakes or a 9x9 pan. I used a slightly larger pan than 9x9 (an oval casserole dish) so that the cake would be thinner for more frosting.!
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes depending on thickness. Use a toothpick coming out clean to test for doneness.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
(makes about 2 cups)

1 1/2 sticks butter room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbls. water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. salt

in saucepan, add sugar. Pour water on top of sugar. In a separate bowl mix vanilla extract and cream. Heat on med-high heat without stirring until mixture starts to turn a dark amber color. Remove from heat. Remove from heat and slowly add cream mixture with wooden spoon into hot sugar. Stir constantly until fully incorporated. Set aside to completely cool (about 25 min)

With an electric beater or stand mixer with paddle attachment, whip room temperature butter and salt until light and fluffy (2-3 min). Add powdered sugar and beat a minute more. Add room temperature caramel and beat another 2 minutes. Let cool in fridge for about 20 min. before using.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Saffron Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes

I took a bath this morning and loved the light streaming in so much, that I got out of the tub, dried off and grabbed my camera. I am having a out-of-sorts day. Yesterday I took my homeopathic constitutional remedy. I am now enduring the lovely healing crisis that sometimes accompanies a remedy. A good sign mostly. When things are off kilter for me, I get into the bathtub.

Polenta is heavy. Sturdy and coarse, it is not meek. I like the earthy smell polenta has of corn stalks and the slight milky odor that reminds me of my grandparents dairy farm as a child. It is hearty the way oatmeal or buckwheat groats are. Not light and airy like jasmine rice or quinoa. My polenta is from my grain share. It has a flavor that is buttery and lively. It definitely is different than polenta that has been sitting in a bulk bin. But, mornings and evenings are becoming more defined with fall's flutters and polenta fits the energy of going more inward. Saffron's muskiness is a great addition to the herbal qualities of polenta and the sweet notes of tomatoes. I do add butter to my polenta. I would rather eat half a portion and have it filled to the brim with everything that is full of flavor and lusciousness than eat a big bowl of something that is not. I encourage you to do the same.

This dish will be on your table in 35 minutes. Slice some tomatoes out of your garden, get the micro-zester out of the drawer and put a hunk of pecorino on a plate. This is hearty. Only eat a little if you find yourself getting nervous....or you could just make this day like the one you have always wanted to live. In this moment, it is all here.

Saffron Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes
makes two large or three small portions

small pinch saffron threads
2 1/4 cups stock
2 tbls. pecorino romano cheese finely grated
1/2 cup polenta (don't bother with the fast cooking kind)
2 small tomatoes
1 tbls. olive oil
2 tbls. butter

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, add stock and polenta. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to med-low and add saffron and olive oil. Stir every couple of minutes and turn heat down lower if it starts to splatter while bubbling. Cook and stir for 30 minutes. Add butter and pecorino romano. Stir and taste for salt.
Cook for another 5 minutes or until the polenta tastes tender.
Spoon a small amount into a bowl and top with sliced fresh tomatoes and a little sprinkle of salt on the top of the tomatoes.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Plum Cobbler with Rosemary Cornbread Topping

walking to the party


Jess on the left...



Oh you potent heart. Big love. Deep sorrow. Angst. Anger. Frustration. Euphoria. Passion.

Sometimes I feel like these things will topple me over. My hand trembled while giving them their invitations. Then getting ripped open to let the light in.

I go out into the world and find others may shield themselves from life’s potency. Buttoned-up lives like seatbelts. Buckled down for life’s big turns, no wind on their face.

You don’t have to distract yourself I say in a whisper. But, I know they are on their perfect road. Come closer discomfort so I can love you more.

All of the blindness in our hearts pushes us into corners, making for our half way experiences.  I can’t go back now. I took off the blinders.

So I was there last night in the wine bar with all of that.
Where are my people who would rather not?
Do that.
But do this.

                                                                                                                                                                    I wanted to dive right into the fall season that is quickly descending upon us, and thought a baked fruit dessert was a proper choice. The light is changing, and the air is starting to bring what is coming next. I find myself continually taken by surprise and filled with some uneasiness when seasons change. The change pushes me out of my illusion that there is steadiness in life.  Beginnings and endings of nature's cycles show us in a macro way, how we too have these starts and finishes. Some easy, some joyful, some painful. But always there. So alas, a recipe for my appreciation of the flux in life. All of it delicate like only life can be.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                                    I brought this cobbler to a going away dinner for my friend Jess. I not so secretly hope she will move from Ohio to our little town. She spent a good part of her summer here with her sister Sarah who is a dear friend. Jess was behind the purchase of a certain pair of silver high heels M bought while with her at a costume store, and they have become legendary in my house. M pulls them out almost daily wishing she were 16 (the age I told her she has to be to wear them out of the house). She parades around clanking on the wood floors hoping I will change my mind and let her wear them out sooner.
                                                                                                                                                             Jess's going away party was themed "comfort food". Roasted chicken, nachos, ribs, potato salad and cobbler. I thought this recipe up one night thinking about the french plums that were in my first grain share of the season. A big bowl of purplish plump jewels on my counter; special fruit I wanted to make something a bit different with. Once I had decided rosemary and cornbread would be a nice departure from biscuit toppings on traditional cobbler, I got to work. I decided to let the rosemary steep in the hot melted butter for 15 minutes to ensure the cornbread would be full of rosemary flavor. I also opted not to use any thickeners in the fruit filling so that the cornbread would soak up any extra juice. I love the caramel flavor that lots of butter mixed with sugar in the fruit imparts. I am loving the savory flavor in sweet things trend, so tried this recipe with that in mind. The first try with this recipe I used french plums, but the cornbread topping was too thick. Next try, I doubled the fruit (and substituted pluots for plums).  I halved the cornbread recipe topping and it turned out great. Buttery, full of rosemary flavor and very easy. I cooked the pluots on the stove first to start the caramelizing. Poured the hot buttery mixture into a dish and gently spooned the cornbread topping on top.
                                                                                                                                                             Plum Cobbler with Rosemary Cornbread Topping
                                                                                                                                                                    5 cups roughly diced plums (I used Pluots)
2/3 cup sugar plus 1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary
 In a skillet, saute plums with one stick of butter and 2/3 cup sugar. On med-low heat occasionally stir, cook for 20 min.
Melt one half stick of butter in sauce pan over low heat with two teaspoons of rosemary. Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir. Set aside for 15 minutes.  Whisk egg in a bowl. 
In another bowl, mix salt, flour and cornmeal. Add melted butter rosemary mixture. Add egg to wet mixture. In a cup mix buttermilk and baking soda. Mix with a fork. Add to the flour mixture.
In an 9x12 pan (or a round casserole dish close in size) pour plums. Spoon the cornbread mixture on top. 
Bake for 30 min at 375.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
Our river...
Looking down on a favorite swimming hole
First Day of Waldorf First Grade...lost her two front teeth this summer!

I have taken a wee summer break this past month. Sorry I have been a bit absent. There were rivers to swim in, friends to cook with and a new found freedom in my heart to celebrate. I have come a long way these last 10 months, and forgiveness has been the biggest gift of freedom I have given myself so far these 39 years of mine. Quite a bit of hard work to get there though. I had to give my life a through examination. I feel endless amounts of gratitude to my support system. They lovingly supported my process while never trying to rescue me from the grief or pain. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it made every step I have taken my own.
So, today is a recipe that I think makes up for my absence. It is so phenomenal and simple that it could turn anyone who even questioned beets as a palatable food into a believer.  Beets have started coming in my farm share these last weeks. I only do a few things with beets. Grate them raw for salads, roast them or make beet chips. I really like beets, but there are many other vegetables I choose over beets. I mostly cook beets because they are so highly nutritious and are in the vegetable share box.  They tend to be a bit earthy, strong and unmoldable. Beets easily over power a dish. And while most people tolerate them, I have found most don't crave them.
This soup could change all of that.
There was not a hint of earthiness in this soup. It was smooth,  luscious and not too heavy. The pickled cucumbers cut the creaminess and added wonderful acid. The Harissa spice perked up the whole thing and added nice note of  smokiness to it. The Harissa I used had caraway in it, and wow did that bode well. I used a Harissa blend my sister brought this weekend for me to try. It is from a company called See Smell Taste. They gave her a sample to try. She of course is so busy, she has very little time to cook. But, she thought to bring it to me and it is hands down the best Harissa I have ever tried. Danielle is working very hard to launch a soon to be internet superstar called Wantful.com. Most likely you have not heard this company, but you will, because I think it has potential to change gift giving as we have known it. You can order this Harissa from The Gourmet Online store if you would like it right away.
Harissa is a standard in North African cuisine, and it is generally a mixture of chili peppers and spices like coriander, caraway and sometimes mint. It is very popular in tangines, couscous dishes and chickpea dishes. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks has a recipes section dedicated to her Harissa recipes. It has gotten a lot of attention these last couple of years in western food dishes. If you are wanting to make your own, Heidi has a recipe and so does AllRecipes. 

If you have little people in your house, this might push spice boundaries. You can half the harissa and see if it is palatable for them. I found the spice to be a wonderful match to the bold beet taste. A note about serving this soup. It is late, hot summer here. 90 degree days. I have no taste for hot soup. So, after I roasted the beets and carrots, I let them cool for 15 minutes before adding to blender, The result was an almost room temperature soup with cold pickled cucumbers on top. Perfect for a hot evening. This is my new gazpacho. That is how much I love this soup!

Harissa Beet Soup with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
makes 4 small bowls (I will be doubling this tonight when I make it again!)

2 cups roasted beets
1 cup roasted carrots
glug of olive oil
salt for taste
1 cup lemon cucumber seeded and diced (a skinned green cucumber is fine too)
2 tsp. champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried Harissa powder
zest of lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

Wash carrots and beets. No need to remove skins. Roughly trim off tops and bottoms. Cut beets into fourths. Add carrots and beets to an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil (about a tablespoon) to coat and a sprinkle of salt. Mix with your hands. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degree for about an hour, or until the beets are knife tender. Remove from stove, keep tinfoil on pan and let sit out for 15 minutes.
In a blender, add 2 cups stock, lemon zest, pinch salt, lemon juice and harissa. Add the beets and carrots to blender. Make sure you get the olive oil in the pan too. Don't bother with removing the beet skins. Blend for a good 5-8 minutes in your blender. Stop and taste for salt.
In a separate bowl, add chopped cucumber, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons champagne vinegar and pinch salt. Let sit for 5 minutes, or up to overnight to pickle.
Dish about a cup of soup into a bowl right from the blender. Add a heaping tablespoon of cucumbers making sure to get a good amount of the olive oil and vinegar along with the cucumbers. Soup should be about room temperature or a little over room temperature. Keeps in fridge for a couple of days too.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Burrata makes it Better

Our 4th of July was at Lake Arrowhead in southern California. We were with M's grandparents and aunt. This was not so easy of a trip for me however as it was my ex-husband's father, sister and step-mother whom I adore and love. Families breaking up is like an unending amount of band aids being ripped from thin-skinned parts of your body. My friend and I have been emailing back and forth the last couple of days about this. She is about 3 months ahead of me in her own marriage breakup. We check in on occasion with one another. Is it better for you yet? Has the heartache softened? Are you crying less? Are your afraid your friends are tired of talking about this yet? Dating? Along with the immediate loss of a long term partner, extended family is a whole other ball of wax. I have struggled with feeling replaced and trying to understand how I will fit into families I have come to love when they are not mine, but are for my daughter. I start to cry thinking about how much time, energy and love I put into making connections with my ex-husbands family the past 11 years now knowing that I will most likely never talk to most of them again.

My girlfriend and I have also been talking about the fairy tale we as a society buy into. Girl meets man, man takes care of girl. No one mentions the rescuing, resentment and power imbalances that go along with the current acceptable "successful" marriage template. The power we willingly give away for a version of safety and security that is nothing more than a mirage. I never would have believed someone if they told me how painful a family breaking up is. Life is so mysterious in that way. So much of the most potent experiences are like heavy clouds, bursting with emotions, grief, relief, joy and suffering. We can look at the storm clouds and feel the wind, sense their intensity, hope we can seek shelter, and yet until we are rained on, we can never fully understand the experience. Storms are imperative for nature to survive. Like a forest fire raging out of control, it is necessary to release the precious seeds that only fire can for its ultimate survival. And so it is this for our hearts also. For my heart to grow, I need the storms. So I carry tissues everywhere for my tears. I seek solace in my friends who also seek soul storms and intimately understand their wisdom and power. I cry rivers and know my life preserver is loving the grief. I am sad and tender and open hearted. I am angry and scared and accept that it is ok to miss my life before that was so lifeless. I am thankful that even when it seems that everything is gone, it is also grace wiping the slate clean for our hearts to fill with a new and more authentic kind of love. Saying goodbye can be really hard to do.

After coming back from L.A. I had a dinner party. Dinner conversation with 5 women and 5 kids running around. I feel so lucky coming home. That day going to the coop, I noticed Burrata and the first heirloom tomatoes were in stock. Figs, shiso leaves and nectarines too. A whole dinner ensued that made me feel deep thanks that I have friends who do not shy from life and its struggles. Burrata, while perhaps being an older trend, it still on my top list of summer treats. A mixture of mozzarella skin filled with cream and leftover mozzarella curds, it is a showstopper! Creamy, rich, delicate and flavorful. I served fresh sliced heirloom tomatoes, high quality olive oil, local shiso leaves (mine are growing but not yet ready) sea salt and sliced burrata. A perfect celebration of summer's flavors with very little effort. Burrata is best fresh. It is a guarantee hit for any dinner. Burrata makes it better for me.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mango Creme Fraiche Salad Dressing

I was reading David Lebovitz in my facebook feed today and he has posted a link to Cafe Fernando blog story about their recent visit to Chez Panisse. Great photos, fun story. What caught my eye in the story was the creme fraiche dressing on the smoked fish salad with black cod and salmon. Stopped me in my tracks. So guess what I bought today at the coop? Creme fraiche. I wondered what they mixed in the dressing to make it so loose. I thought lemon juice if I had a guess. I tend to overuse lemon juice so I thought mango. On nectarines. With mint, on a salad.
I wondered if the fiber in the mango flesh would ruin the whole experiment. I wondered if the creme fraiche was too thick to blend in my blender. I wondered if it would need acid to cut the fat. Oh the mind chatter of my food mind! I decide to go simple and just blend the flesh of a medium sized mango and 1/2 cup of creme fraiche and a pinch of salt in my blender. It would either work or be a throw-away.
Here is how is ended...a certain 7 year old was caught with a small soup ladle in hand (a spoon was not large enough) scooping out a second "taste" after I let her taste the goods, running into the living room to be alone with her mango creme fraiche. Bottom line: it turned out pretty fantastic. And with THREE ingredients, super, fabulously, crazily, easy to make.
I used nectarines on the salad to add acid. I added fresh mint to the lettuce mix to add some verve and then ate it for dinner. This dressing would be wonderful on grilled fish, crab cakes, or to dip strawberries into. I could imagine a fresh blueberry scone too...oh the list could go on. I think what makes creme fraiche work so well in these instances is the slight sour taste that carries it, but its not overly sour taste. Either way, the hardest part of this recipe is getting out your blender and removing the flesh from the mango. If you don't know how..Simply Recipes has a great tutorial. This made over a cup, plenty for a couple of dishes.

Mango Creme Fraiche Dressing
Makes a big cup

1 med. ripe mango cut and skin removed (about 1- 1/2 cups)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup creme fraiche

Blend in blender until very smooth, about 3 or 4 minutes.
I tossed my salad in a small bit of olive oil before topping with fresh nectarines and fresh mint. I spooned about 1 tablespoon on each salad plate.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Homemade Lemon Teriyaki Sauce...and stuff to eat it with...

Summer is here. Tank tops, iced tea, nectarines, cherries, light meals, crickets, green everything.  Summer means I start having itches for dinner parties on lawns, picking berries with my lady posse and staying up late. Swimming in the river, wide brimmed hats and popsicles. I love that a hot summer day is reason enough to invite people over and drink something with fresh lime juice in it. This summer I want to experiment with some new flavors. Violets most likely. I am also experimenting with my new neighborhood. My two very cool and lovely friends happen to live on the same street as me. I know, the odds against that happening are sky-high, but here we all are. Kate and Sarah are their names. It was sheer luck and determination that we all found places to live together on our lovely one-way, dead-end street. I love it when the stars line up like that! We all have kids. We all just drop by each others houses and hang out. We have dinner together every week or more. Lucky us. The kids loop back and forth from house to house to yard. Like a real old-fashioned neighborhood before stranger danger ruined things!
Sometimes when I make a special dish, I get bummed if we are not all together and it turns out extra special. Tonight that happened. I made lemon, ginger teriyaki sauce. I always make my own because it is so easy and the flavors are light years better than the bottled kind.  Teriyaki is all about ingredients, so once you have the essential components, it just needs to simmer. I decided to eat it with grated carrots and turnips, toasted sesame seeds and a poached egg on top. I loved it.
Teriyaki is essentially a soy sauce marinade. Incredibly versatile. An easy way to impress your friends at dinner! This batch makes a modest amount (about 1/2 cup) so if you are cooking for a crowd, double or triple it.

Lemon Teriyaki Sauce:

1/3 cup mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tbls shoyu
1 tbls fresh lemon juice
1 tsp honey
1 tbls toasted sesame seed oil
1 heaping tsp. fresh grated ginger

Simmer in a saucepan until it coats the back of a spoon. Mine took about 15-20 minutes. Right before it is ready, it starts to bubble become slightly foamy. The sugars are starting to caramelize and the sauce is thickening.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

We have Lacto Fermented Soda! (Raspberry and Olallieberry to be exact!)

She is my fearless taster!
Captivated by the fermentation bubbles!

 My first lacto fermented soda experiment is over! It had a slight yeasty, boozy taste. Nice and carbonated. I have not had enough fermented soda to know if this was off the mark.  I put slightly more than 1 1/2 cups of sugar in my gallon of soda, which may have contributed to the aggressive fermentation.  But, I am still drinking it.  Even though no yeast was added, lactobacillus produces carbon dioxide, alcohol and lactic acid as a result of fermentation and I am wondering if my soda is reaching 1-2% alcohol due to this.  Now I am making batch number two and I have a good feeling about it. This batch above was raspberry and olallieberry soda and the next one I am making is blackberry ginger flavor. And I am going not going to put more than 1 1/2 cups of sugar per gallon (I added a bit more to make it sweeter this first time) because I think that made it over-ferment. I have wished about six times I had a 1-800 number to call for my fermentation questions. The most tense time of the whole experiment was tasting the soda before bottling for the second fermentation. Would the acidity really prevent pathogenic bacteria from flourishing in the starter culture? Would I start throwing up in 4-8 hours? Dang, those microbiology and mycology classes in college filled me with way too much information. But here is the deal; after my life these last 8 months, a little food poisoning is no biggie. Turns out however that our little friend (who attempted to spend the night last night) had to go home at 1am because of diarrhea and vomiting. So, M and I are drinking lots of soda today in hopes of bolstering our gut flora....
In other news, little M has graduated kindergarten. No more rice and beans day on painting day. No more Fairy Mother passing down her little ones to each child in the class. No more healing gnomes or silk scarves  or soup day on fridays. No more chopping vegetables, no more bees wax moldeling. No more good morning dear friends songs.  No more waldorf kindergarten. Her fly-away ceremony was heartfelt. Our good friend Jilan came to the ceremony and greeted little M with a bouquet of roses as we watched her fly away to her new teacher. The school moved the next day to our little downtown to occupy the old space where elementary school used to be. It is precious! Now we get to walk to school! It reminds me of the waldorf school in downtown Mill Valley in Marin. A day we will always remember.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lacto-Fermentation Soda Class

The lovely Shan Kendall teaching about lacto-fermentation!

Well, things here are coming along. Never had I expected the roller coaster of emotions like divorce brings though. Big, big, big waves. It is as though the universe won't let one little bit of unresolved emotion get by. I am looking in all the nooks and crannies, uncovering all the parts of myself that are coming forward to be set free by my self-forgiveness. Until going through this experience, it has felt like I have had blinders on that shielded me from my own capacity for loving. It has felt a bit like I am reprogramming my dna when in all the  moments I want to blame, shame or escape, and I choose not to. Well, I do sometimes at first, and then I go inward by mediating, journaling, listening, processing. It is easier to blame someone else in the moment when have you have a story that your life has been ripped to pieces by their actions. But, then what? You get up in the morning and everything still hurts. Your relationships are still the same. No relief. So, then I know it is time to get back into the sacred waters of transformation and start finding the loving for myself. It has been there, and only there I have shown myself these last 8 months that this is a process of opening my heart and trusting my life. It has shown me that every disruption in my life, every single one, is to get me into my loving. This is a challenge. When I am sitting in the shower sobbing, or losing my house, or playing the story that I was replaced by a younger woman in my marriage, it can be tricky. I have had a lot of help re-framing everything though. It was not about being replaced by a younger woman. It was about reclaiming my authentic life and finding the deeper love for myself. It is a constant re-framing. My moments of this deep knowing are stretching out farther and farther each time I step foot into the waters of forgiveness. The more I forgive myself and my beliefs about myself, the more I let the loving in and the easier it is to come back to that spot. So, how do you forgive yourself? I move into whatever emotion I am feeling and look for the belief I am carrying about myself that is not true. When I hit upon a false belief I am having about myself, I usually can feel it in my body and feel that I have hit a tender spot. It can be feeling unlovable, unworthy, useless, powerless, etc. Then I say "I forgive myself for believing I am unworthy of love". I take a breath and let it go. It has been a process that is not about changing what is in my life, but changing my relationship to my life. I am using my fear to unlock rather than to lock down. I am working in the fields of trusting my disturbances.
Rebecca Skeele has a great website and book "You Can Make It Heaven" that goes into detail how to do this yourself. She also has a radio show I podcast every week. Rebecca mentioned a few shows back about the Mayo Clinic publishing articles about forgiveness on their website . I googled "Mayo Clinic Forgiveness" and quite a few articles showed up. I even saw an article a week or so ago about Lady Gaga's bikram yoga teacher talking about self-compassion! Well, enough about me....

Last night I went to a Lacto-fermentation soda class. It was taught by the local chapter leader of the Weston Price/Nourishing Traditions, Shan Kendall. Wow, she is a wealth of inspiration and information. Along with making ginger soda, kombucha, root beer and fir-tip ale, we ate her sauerkraut, kimchi and her chicken and coconut soup. I was inspired to take this class after being at the Ferry Building a month or so back and buying a bottle of lacto-fermented rose geranium soda made by DrinkWell Softers. Wow! I thought it blew kombucha out of the water. It was the best soda I have ever drank. Drink Well uses whey to ferment their drinks. Shan however, taught us how to use ginger root to make a lactobacillus starter for soda. It utilizes the lactobacillus on the ginger root, along with sugar and pure water. Most of the sugar is eaten away by the yeast which then makes the soda nice and fizzy. Since you were not able to be in class with me last night, I found a website that has a how-to video and instructions and a recipe if you would like to lacto-ferment your own soda at home.  I am going to try the blueberry soda. What are the advantages to a lacto-fermented food or drink? It has enzymes and lactic acid bacteria that build up healthy gut flora. Lacto-fermented foods are healing to the gut. They have been a staple food in cultures that typically live long lives and have lower cancer rates that the rest of the world. Lacto-fermented foods are also easily digestible. It is a truly living food. If you decide to make lacto-fermented soda tell me! I would love to hear how it turns out...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Someone Special Had A Birthday Party!

Jilan, a good friend and photographer took this with her ultra-cool camera


Yesterday was little M's 7th birthday party. I made food for three days for her special day.  My little darling had a notebook with the details of how the party was going to go down. She managed to get all her wishes granted. Pinata, garden treasure hunt. friends, music, sun, drinks. I think all bases were covered. I absolutely adore all of my friends, so for me it was a party with them too. I perhaps went a little overboard on the food, but I love a reason to cook. I think that maybe the french onion dip was the winner. There was a lot of feedback about that one. I posted that recipe recently. So easy to make too!
I have been getting into my new garden. I mowed the lawn last week. I have never mowed a lawn before. It reminded me of my friend freshman year in college that did not know how to work a washing machine. Better late than never right? I took extra long to mow because I loved it so much. I am growing some starts as well. Today I started cowpeas, english peas and shiso. I finally am going to have my own shiso plant!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Creamy French Onion Dip

Many of my holidays growing up were spent at my grandparents house. Easter Sunday always included a ham spiked with cloves, and the very popular french onion dip appetizer. A package of Lipton french onion soup mixed with sour cream along side a plate of celery and carrot sticks. A vivid memory in my mind. I have tried making it from scratch before, mixing sour cream, mayonnaise and sometimes chevre with onions to create something vaguely similar to what my childhood mind remembers. I never was able to get it just right however, until now.
I decided to skip the sour cream and mayonnaise component and instead opted for creme fraiche. I wanted a slight sour taste that had a mostly creamy taste and texture. Mayonnaise has a flat flavor note that I thought would cover the subtle taste of shallots and onion. I was right. Creme fraiche turned out to be the perfect blank canvas for caramelized onions and onion powder. This dip was incredibly easy too. A perfect throwback to the old days of my Easter dinner traditions. Serve with carrot sticks, celery, sourdough toast points or plain potato chips.

7.5 ounces Creme Fraiche (213g)
1 heaping cup finely chopped onions (150g)
3 Tablespoons finely chopped shallots (1.5 oz)
1/2 teaspoon salt (1.5g)
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon onion powder (18g)
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (.5 oz)
pinch salt

Saute onions and shallots with olive oil and small pinch of salt over medium heat until caramelized, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Cool in a bowl to room temperature after cooked.
In a bowl, gently mix onion powder and salt into creme fraiche. Add the room temperature onion mixture. Refrigerate overnight, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Super Natural Every Day Book Signing

When I think of Heidi Swanson, I think graciousness and style. Her book signing was no exception. It was a bit of a blustery but clear night in San Francisco at Omnivore books. The place was packed! Three tables were set up, all filled with Super Natural recipes people brought to share. I loved the metal tubs sitting on the front window ledge filled with chilled Sorelle Bronca Prosecco, which just happens to be my favorite prosecco! Super Natural Every Day is filled with recipes I would want to feed the world with. They are simple in their preparation, but interesting. I think pulling that off is a serious skill.

I especially liked Heidi's mustard recipe. I have been tinkering with mustard in my own kitchen in the last month, and could not figure out why my mustard kept turning out so hot and spicy until I read in her book that if you leave the mustard in the fridge for a couple of weeks the flavors mellow out. There is a lot of very useful information she provides in the book like that, along with online resources, cooking tips and stories about her cooking life. Reading her book, you really feel like you are getting a glimpse into her world.

Heidi's smile lit up the whole room. It was fun night. I just peeked on Amazon and it is currently 29th in the top 100 books!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Booksignings and Happiness

Just wanted to let you know how living right here in this moment is working out for me; really well. To celebrate, I am going to Heidi Swanson's book signing at Omnivore Books this thursday. She sort of put my Kale Pesto on the map and I am looking forward to supporting her newest book. Plus, you know it is going to be super cool because it is Heidi.
I will try to take photos for you.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Salad with Miso

Our St. Patrick's Day Feast!

I am posting a photo of friends. We all came together on St.Patrick's Day. I made my first (and successful..yipee!) corned beef and cabbage. Of course the most wonderful part was spending time with friends. I consider myself very, very lucky in the friends department.

Today I made this salad with sweet potatoes. You could also make it with butternut squash or cauliflower instead of sweet potato.  I have increased our miso intake with the possibility of radiation from  Japan blowing over the pacific. I really love Japan. One of my most favorite places really. All the dishes I have made these last two weeks with miso have been a celebration for my love of Japan. I thought to post a new recipe today so we can celebrate Japan together. I choose to eat my miso raw (never boil or bake it) to keep all its enzyme goodness intact. It contains dipicolinic acid which has been theorized to detox heavy metals and some radioactive elements out of the body. I personally love it like a cup of tea with a squeeze of fresh lemon, or mixed in a bowl of beans or mixed with cultured butter and spread on a cracker.
So, get your miso on. And, if you want to get technical about it, try for 2 tablespoons a day, which is how much has been theorized one needs to get all the wonderful benefits. I searched high and low for all the goodies about miso. This was my favorite: History Of Miso from Soy Info Center.

I had to share this poem. It was in my email box this morning from my friend Christi. Have you been to her blog yet? http://www.christimider.com. I continually go to her blog for inspiration, and as you know I have required a bit more of that lately. She has this amazing ability to post something that is exactly what I need to hear. She is a very gifted healer.
Well, here is the poem...
below that I am posting the recipe.


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
—Naomi Shihab Nye

Sweet Potato Salad with Miso
makes 2 big or 3 small servings

1 large roasted yam cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes to make 1 1/2 cups worth
2 tbls. toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp umeboshi vinegar
2 tbls toasted sesame oil
1 tbls fresh squeezed orange juice
pinch salt
1 tbls miso
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 tbls extra virgin olive oil

Roast yam on a cookie sheet in the oven. 375 degrees until knife tender (about 50 min). Remove the skin from the yam after baking. Let cool to room temperature then cut into cubes. Try to handle the cubes as little as possible to keep them intact.
In a bowl, mix umeboshi vinegar, toasted sesame seed oil and miso. Whisk with a fork and pour over the yams. Then add 1 tbls of sesame seeds. With your clean hands, gently mix. 

Slice cabbage very thinly (any type you like) and coarsely chop it. Put in a bowl and set aside. Add olive oil, fresh orange juice, pinch salt, apple cider vinegar and 1 tbls sesame seeds. Toss well.

To plate divide cabbage salad into two or three plates and gently top with sweet potato mixture.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

You know how some people have totem animals? Every time they see a wolf or bear it somehow represents them? I do that with food. Some of mine; truffles, tomatoes, goat cheese, olive oil and meyer lemons. I love that meyer lemons are seasonal and when they are gone, they are gone. You have to think and dream about them until they come back into your life again. A bit like a food love story. Meyer lemons are all over the place now. They have a sweeter and muskier smell and flavor than year round lemons which makes them more sophisticated and special to me. I had some friends over the other night and I made a butter lettuce salad with this vinaigrette. It really was spectacular. I topped the salad with baked pumpkin seeds and some shavings of hard parmesean. The next day I made more and drizzled it over some oven roasted asparagus. I think this vinaigrette is so versatile, I would eat it over brown rice or with sliced radishes or even over braised endive. The mustard helps emulsify the lemon juice when adding the olive oil so it does not separate like some vinaigrettes I make. That makes it a great candidate as a sauce or a dressing. I used chopped parsley in this. I would also use tarragon in a heartbeat. I would reduce tarragon to 1 tablespoon because of its strong flavor though. My mouth is watering thinking about putting a tarragon meyer lemon vinaigrette over a warm slice of quiche. Wow!
Either way, the flavor can't be beat. This vinaigrette is like the taste of spring coming, a ode to all the daffodils waking up our gardens right now. A sneek peak of what is to come in a few short months.

Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette
makes around 1/2 cup

zest and juice of 1 meyer lemon
pinch salt
couple of grinds of fresh pepper
2 teaspoons of stone ground mustard or dijon mustard
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
2 tbls. of fresh chopped parsley or 1 tbls fresh chopped tarragon

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper and mustard. While still whisking by hand (I used a fork) slowly drizzle in olive oil and then add tarragon or parsley.

Roasting Asparagus
I trim the bottoms of the asparagus, toss in a small bit of olive oil and sea salt, and bake on a cookie sheet 350 degrees for around 15-20 minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

All Moved In!

I put up a "before and after" photo of my living room. A big transformation took place! I am thrilled with the paint colors I picked and pinching myself every morning when I wake up and realize I can walk downtown in two minutes.  It has been a soft landing. M and I said goodbye to each room of our house before the movers came by recalling a special memory for us both. Our friends came during the move to be with us, and provided a massive amount of support. I needed it that day.
My new kitchen is very small and cozy. I am adjusting to the lack of counter space, and loving the vintage stove. I have been cooking little bits here and there. I made a chickpea salad with an orange tahini dressing. It did not make the cut however to share with all of you. There were chickpeas in my grain csa and I have been thinking about them constantly. I will try again soon though.
Right now I am making old fashioned tapioca pudding. We have been craving comfort foods to ground ourselves and isn't pudding just a sure thing for that?
Next up is my garden. I need serious help with that. Although I have a degree in biology and botany, I have no gardening skills. I know I want to plant lemon verbena, shiso and lots of heirloom tomatoes.

The top photo is a little buddha figurine a japanese translator I met while visiting Japan some years back gave me. It has always sat on my little altar. I love how joyful it looks. I have had Japan in my thoughts constantly. I have been deeply moved by the earthquake and tsunami. I have been sending love and light to Japan constantly. Japan, I am thinking about you. I am loving you.

Monday, February 28, 2011

San Jose del Cabo

Walking on the beach.....

View from our room.....
View from the Hilton looking south...
Aunt Danielle with her biggest fan....
View from our cabana at the pool.....
Swim up bar!
No Kindle..just a book for me
Our second dinner at Las Ventanas
Las Ventanas!
Me and M

Just flew in today. I was so sad to leave beach paradise. I did not bring my computer on this trip, so only checked my email a few short times during my stay. It was nice to be unplugged. We stayed at the Hilton San Juan Cabo San Lucas. For what it was, it was perfect. Beach and pool and atmosphere all blended together evenly. I always had in my mind that Cabo was a touristy, party spot, but our week was restful, full of great food and lots and lots of relaxation. I had a very important dream while I was there and it helped me tremendously with my grief and I felt some pretty profound completeness around my marriage ending. I felt more like myself (or rather my new self) than I have in almost 5 months. I ate, swam, thought, wondered, rested and remembered who I am after throwing off some big sad stories I have been carrying around that I just don't need anymore. On the airplane today M and I were talking about how we are moving in 3 days. She said "Mama, aren't you excited? This is what your dreamed about!" While I did not know what dream she was recalling, I have noticed that she has been very symbolic lately, so I took in deeply what she said. I realized that yes, my life radically shifting has been bone chillingly scary, but once I get past that,  I am getting the life I have always wanted. Truth, honesty, love, authenticity, my sweet daughter, choices, fabulous friends, health, and community. This trip helped me see that. This trip helped me see my beauty. And from those places comes my passion for creating food and healing and the journey we all take to nourish ourselves.
Well back to the nitty gritty. Here are some funny observations I had on this trip though:

Everyone and their brother except me has a Kindle at the Hilton
Getting a pool chair during a busy week at this Hilton requires secret ninja moves
Swimming lessons for a six year before a big beach trip is worth its weight in gold
Packing 4 boxes of crackers and snacks in our suitcases for the trip was a great idea
Las Ventanas is my dream destination resort...hands down
I have officially recovered from my fear of food borne illness in Mexico
I would love to bring all my girlfriends here asap
I love deserts


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