Category Archives: Journal

Christmas Spice Porridge

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William and I ventured out to a tree farm last weekend and cut down our first-ever Christmas tree. We then spent the day readying the house for the holidays, putting up lights, hanging stockings, decorating the tree, and rounding it all out with superfood hot chocolate and Harry Potter. I’m a complete minimalist and sometimes our home with so many empty spaces feels a little cold and less than comforting. Inviting in a tree after so many years without reminded me that the simplest traditions are sometimes the best comforts.

I’ve learned a lot this year about true comforts, what I need to thrive, and about seeking joy. I’ve even been sharing reflections about it over on Instagram. In addition to this porridge, a seasonal favorite which tastes like Christmas morning, I’ve collected a few bits of of inspiration towards taking care of yourself through the holidays and into this cold, dark time of year. Read along or find the recipe at the end.

 

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Self-Care and Introspection:
Renee’s 35 simple self-care practices for the highly sensitive person is absolutely essential in this season.
Dream Freedom Beauty is my new favorite podcast. It’s one for the intuitives/healers/spiritual/plant medicine people. I was led to it by episode 80 with Sophia Rose, which is one of many great ones.
Speaking of which, I love this Interview with Sophia Rose, in which she says:

There is very little in the outer world that is solid, unchanging, or steadfast. In reality, we are constantly flowing in and out of home, whether to go to the grocery store or travel to a foreign country.  Home is a construct.  All my things are there, and I have passionately devoted myself to the garden I’ve created, but it won’t be my home forever and I cannot predict the exact moment when this will shift.  Nothing belongs to us and we can’t take any of it with us when we go. Best to get real comfortable where we are, as well as comfortable in the knowing that it will all inevitably change, in ways both large and small.

and

Spend as much time alone in nature as possible. Spend time with people who delight you and who bring you into the world in ways that are foreign and novel. Make time to wander. And know that you might have to dissolve a bit first to make space for the magic that is trying to find you.  The world is not quite so solid as you might have thought. Be curious about what can shift within you, and the world beyond your own body, heart, and mind will begin to reflect this inner refinement.


A Good Book:

I’m recently loving Give A Girl A Knife
and more of a self-care/DIY inspiration manual, A Wilder Life
and the best I read this year, Paradise in Plain Sight.


To Listen: 

The playlist I’ve got on repeat.


To Make/Gift:

Kick-Ass Cookies. Five ingredients, all of them “more nutritious,” chocolate optional, and feedback of the best peanut butter cookies ever by William and a few of his co-workers. They hold up well too, for holiday gatherings or gifting.
Cashew Butter. (or any other nut butter). It’s suuuper simple and will make the best wholesome, thoughtful gift.
Muesli or Granola. I make one or the other every year to gift and my family loves the endlessly varying combinations I tend to come up with.
Spiced Nuts. Make the gently honeyed and salted hazelnuts, or switch them for pecans for a tasty, decadent treat. Add minced rosemary to turn them just a touch more special.
And if you must have all the holiday cookies, David and Luise’s Sunflower & Jam Thimbles are absolutely the best.


To Eat: 

I’m craving all sorts of warm, comforting, “soul-healing” meals lately and Renee’s spin on a super green miso soup definitely hits that mark, as does kitchari and countless variations on dals.
In fact, we ate dal the night before my marathon a few days back and while eating, I relayed to William, no wonder I like dal so much; it’s basically the exact same consistency as my morning oatmeal. He nodded along emphatically.

Speaking of oatmeal, this Christmas Spice version is the one I’m making daily. It’s loaded with creamy, sweet shredded parsnips, cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest. All together, it’s definitely infused with the flavors of the season, and will be a good start to any winter morning, but perhaps especially on days that are filled with meals rich with holiday feasting.

 

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Christmas Spice Porridge, serves 1-2

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal (gluten-free if necessary)
1 small parsnip, peeled and grated
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. sea salt
a good pinch of ground cloves and cardamom
1-2 Tbs. raisins, dried cherries or cranberries
1-2 Tbs. ground flax seeds
zest from 1/4-1/2 an unwaxed orange
additional sweetener to taste

  • Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add grated parsnips, spices, oats, and dried fruit. Turn down to low and cook until the porridge is soft and to your desired consistency, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in the ground flax, and zest the orange over the top.
  • Spoon into bowls and adjust sweetness as needed with maple syrup, honey, or stevia drops.
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sprouted wild rice + beet salad with muhammara bean puree

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In the moment 

I have a muhammara recipe bookmarked from a favorite cookbook and with a big bowlful of the last of the season’s peppers in varying shades of red, orange, and gold, all streaked through with green, I decide to make up a batch. In the last minute as I’m setting whole peppers in the pan to roast, I remember I have another muhammara recipe from a separate cookbook which I loved the last I made it. I double my peppers on the pan and make them both.

In the food processor, the first batch turns a lovely golden hue, subtly sweet from pomegranate molasses, but a little lemony to my taste. The second, the one I had loved before, is date-sweetened and much too sweet by comparison. The lemon is gone though and the paprika addition nicer.

In a dash of inspiration I decide to combine the two. I can’t stop licking the spoon and it’s not just that I’m performing this endeavor the morning after a marathon-season long run.

Muhammara, if you haven’t tried it, is the most delicious thing you’ll have all season. Traditionally a Syrian roasted pepper, walnut and pomegranate relish/dip for bread or meat, I next whim my way into pureeing half a batch into cooked white beans. When I want beans and rice to go down a treat, I take 30 seconds and puree the former in with a special sauce, and there’s nary a complaint of same old same. This is definitely what happens with the muhammara.

 

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sliding into the intuitive of it.

Next I bloom some wild rice. We’re into sprouting week in my raw foods cooking lab for my nutrition program, and though I’m arguably at the medium-experience level of sprouting as far as the norm of us goes, I’m learning new things. Sprouted wild rice is a dream that opens up into fat, fluffy grains, downright pillowy compared to standard wild rice. The extra few hours of hands-off sprouting makes all their nutrients more usable too, a practice I know I can stand to incorporate as much as possible.

After sprouting, I drain and rinse the rice and pour it back into my steaming pot, adding water afresh and steaming it for a further 40 minutes. It doesn’t need this extra step since we just sprouted, but on this day I’m craving warm and I have a feeling about this. I slide a handful of washed clean beets from the garden into foil and pop them in the oven.

I look in the fridge, grab the quick-pickle jar I emptied of onions but left the vinegar from a week ago, reserved for just such a day. I grab half an onion, slice it thin, and set it in the vinegar to marinate. William texts he’s on his way home. As he walks in the door, I’m later than usual, less rushing him as normal, and more like sliding into the intuitive of this dinner project.

Ten minutes, I say.
I’m sliding the rice off the heat, pulling the beets and slicing thin. Into the wild rice, going crimson by degrees as the steam rises. Cumin, a few sprigs off the cilantro that is almost ready for the compost, the slices of quick-pickled onion drained and spooned in. Salt. A couple dashes pepper. A little more vinegar. More salt, this time reaching into the back of the pantry for that crumpled bag of black-truffle salt, a fortune for such a small homely package. A dash is enough. A taste, and it’s done.


On the plates

A big spoonful of muhammara bean puree, moon-swiped over the half in a chef’s half pirouette and then heaps of the rice spooned atop.

If this is weeknight cooking, it’s the kind we shouldn’t be getting used to. A result of what happens when I’m sliding into the intuitive of the moment, letting my flavor memories and creative tendency take over. In the kitchen and on our plates, the experience is pure magic.

 

 

Sprouted Wild Rice  + Beet Salad
1 cup wild rice
5 beets, tops and bottoms removed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1/2 an onion, quick-pickled
1/2 cup minced cilantro
1/2 tsp. sea salt
black pepper
black-truffle salt (optional but adds subtle depth), to taste

  • To sprout the rice, start early in the day of cooking by measuring out 1 cup of wild rice, rinse well, and then soak in a 1 quart jar with 2 cups water in a warm oven on the lowest setting for about 6 hours. It will be ready when it has bloomed and the grains have become fluffy and open. Then, to cook, rinse and drain again, and bring to a boil in a small pot along with 1 1/2 cups water. Turn down, cover and steam for about 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.
  • While the rice is cooking, roast the beets by wrapping them in foil, and placing in the oven for about 40 minutes. They will be ready when they can slice through easily with a knife or fork.
  • To prepare the salad, slice the beets thinly and add, along with the quick-pickled onions, cumin, cilantro, and vinegar, salt(s), and pepper to taste.

 

Muhammara, makes about 1 1/2 cups
9 oz. / 250 g roasted red or orange peppers
3/4 cup / 3 oz. / 75 g toasted walnuts
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. / 20 ml pomegranate molasses
3 Tbs. / 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika (smoked or regular)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt

  • In a food processor, puree all the ingredients and then taste, and adjust seasonings. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

 

Muhammara Bean Puree
half batch Muhammara
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans or 1 can, drained and rinsed

  • To make the puree, leave half the muhammara in the processor, reserving the other half for another use. Add in the white beans and puree until smooth. Spoon into a small dish and heat gently on the stove or in the microwave to serve.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Black Beans, Tomatoes, Cumin + Kale

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“Rain split the cherries. Cut your harvest check in half.” 


The line, straight from The Farming Game of my youth goes through my mind as I snap a small handful of cherry tomatoes from the vine in-between rain clouds.

I swear half my childhood was spent staying up into the wee hours of the mornings playing that game with siblings and anyone else who could be coerced to “become a real farmer.” If you’ve never heard or played, the game is a lot like Monopoly, only much more realistic and centered around the topic of all things farming. The largest takeaway, I think, is that crop diversification is key to farming/food growing success.

The same can be said in real life.

 

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Last year we were up to our elbows in zucchini, eating lots and lots of noodles. This year, the squash bugs came out in force and that crop was a major loss past early July, five plus cucumber plants never did make it beyond a few inches growth before they struggled, and the collards set to flowering early. William babied his first crop of corn so much I joked he’d get lucky and they’d all have worms. And then the team effort, me picking out the variety, him doing all the subsequent work and babying, me finishing up by harvesting every last ear at the right time and turning it all into tasty meals, worked out. The corn was the biggest success. And I’ve never been too keen on it, particularly.

The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants too, blasted by a lot of summer heat, produced in leaps and bounds to the point that we’re almost out of nightshades, earlier by far than most years, and can I even tell you how glad I’m going to be when we pull all the plants out and I forego most tomatoes until next year?!

I’ve a friend who I told recently that I’m the most unattached and hands-off gardener, to which she replied, oh no, you’re not. But she’s wrong. I mostly don’t care about the bugs, often letting them grow in population a little too much, hence the squash bug outbreak that got past the manageable stage. And the amount we’ve been harvesting would be significantly reduced if it weren’t for William needing to detox from office life every evening through summer with his watering and audiobook situation. I left him happily to it and rejoiced in harvesting, planting, occasionally fertilizing and deadheading flowers. Oh and unemotionally yanking out whole plants and insect-infested sections, because as my mother always says, if a plant dies, just replace it with something else.

That’s pretty much my motto too. Along with crop diversity, so I have the luxury of being completely unattached to any one thing.

 

Anyway, enough chattering on. The rain did split my cherry (tomatoes). And in a couple weeks I’ll wipe out that whole section and plant winter cover crop instead. But for now, we’re enjoying the last of that particular summer treat atop oven-roasted sweet potatoes and black beans in this easy weeknight favorite that can be either fancied up or pared down, depending.

What about you? What have you been enjoying in this transitional seasonal?

 

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Black Beans, Tomatoes, Cumin + Kale, serves 4
The Recipe Redux September theme is Sheet Pan Meals, with the idea of throwing ingredients together on a sheet pan or baking dish and roasting for a simple dinner to make busy weeknights manageable. I may have cheated a bit since the only roasting that needs to happen here is the sweet potatoes, but this is one of my favorite simple dinners by far, and in a jif–and perhaps if you’re blessedly fresh out of summer tomatoes–if comes together quick with roasted sweet potatoes, canned black beans, a few handfuls of greens, some salsa and seeds. For a nicer, fancier version, take a few minutes more to slice and dice some peppers and tomatoes with toasted cumin and fresh lime juice and make your black beans from scratch. And perhaps enjoy the last couple weeks or two of warmer weather. Enjoy!

4 small sweet potatoes
2 cups cooked black beans
6-8 cups chopped kale
1 lb. cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 large sweet bell or Italian pepper, diced
small handful cilantro or parsley, minced
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive or avocado oil, divided
2 Tbsp. lime juice, divided
a few pinches sea salt
additional lime wedges
pumpkin, sunflower, or hemp seeds

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, and then gently poke a few holes in their skins. Set on a piece of foil or in a baking dish and bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until soft when pierced with a fork or knife.
  • In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds until fragrant.
  • Slice the tomatoes in half, dice the pepper and parsley, and combine in a small bowl with the toasted cumin and half of the oil and lime juice. Taste and salt as needed.
  • Finely chop the kale and add to another small bowl. With the remaining oil and lime juice, massage the kale gently to soften.
  • To serve, top each sweet potato with heated black beans, the tomato + cumin salad, kale, and seeds.
  • Finish with additional lime juice as desired.

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