black bean taquitos with black bean guacamole + some thoughts on the big gooper's latest cookbook

chicken taquitos

There’s something about Gwyneth Paltrow that reminds me of dissecting earthworms in the 11th grade. The innards are gruesome to look at, but you can’t seem to turn away. In fact, you’re compelled to dive right in. Or maybe this is just the part of me who secretly wishes she had the drive and competency to be a surgeon finding its way into a blog post. There’s so much about Paltrow that’s worthy of ridicule: the patrician insouciance, the lithe frame, the pizza oven in her backyard, the unconscious coupling nonsense, the bad acting, the why-is-she-famous-while-Winona-stews-in-obscurity questions, Contagion, our laughter during Contagion–the jokes write themselves, so much so that it’s almost too easy. I unsubscribed to Goop two years ago because I couldn’t read her newsletter without wanting to take a shower afterward it was so banal, basic and out-of-touch. Paltrow-bashing, for most, has become a pastime sport.

But those fucking cookbooks.

Mostly I tell people that I like Julia Turshen’s (Gwyneth’s former collaborator) cookbooks. When I had to abstain from gluten, dairy, yeast (gluten-free bread was verboten FOR A YEAR), and 37 million other foods, Paltrow’s It’s All Good was a gentle reprieve. That and the Oh She Glows Cookbook whispered: you’re not going to die, face-down, in a bowl of gluten-free pasta. Not yet, anyway. Finally, I regarded cauliflower with a reaction that no longer resembled disgust.

Yet, I read her cookbooks with a perpetual side-eye. From the Kinfolk-esque photographs of her dreamily staring off into her multi-million landscape that breeds that “simple life” and the endless name-dropping (we get it, you’re besties with Beyonce) to a pantry that costs multiple paychecks to stock, it’s hard not to drop-kick her cookbooks while eating the delicious meals I made as a result of said cookbooks. It’s really hard.

I’ll be honest–I was looking forward to It’s All Easy because I wanted simple, healthy recipes that I could make at home on the days I have back-to-back conference calls and Powerpoint has me seeing double. But then I got the cookbook and sighed because, oh, it’s her interpretation of easy. Easy for the patricians, but rough for the plebeian-crunching lot. I cook often and have a pimped-out pantry, but some of the ingredients had me doing a double-take: who has Gochujang paste, Ponzu, Sambal oelek, kuzu root, and Bonito flakes on hand? I don’t even know what these ingredients are (although I’m clearly curious) much less have confidence that my local grocery will have them in stock. The point-of-view is curious–a mish-mosh of Tex-Mex, Korean, and vegan fare–to the point where the book felt a bit ramshackle even if the most of the recipes score well in terms of ease and flavor.  I paged through the book, read through her insufferable name-dropping and did that squinty thing I do with my eyes when I’m confused.

But some of the recipes (at least the ones with ingredients that were easy to procure) are pretty good. I’ve made her falafel (I did the chickpea soak thing and I am DONE with peeling shells), chicken salad, acai bowl, and eggs, and so far, so good. But still. I was disappointed with her follow-up to It’s All Good simply because these recipes aren’t easy, aren’t meals you can wrap up and store for later. However, if you love Goop, love Gwen, love this Kinfolk aesthetic, live your life and fawn over this cookbook.

These taquitos were really tasty. I changed her recipe a bit for my spice and flavor level, and they ended up being DELICIOUS. I have leftovers in the fridge, and I’ll update this post if they’re crap upon re-heating.

INGREDIENTS: Taquito recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, modified. Of note, I like this cookbook but it’s kind of comical to call it “easy”. I quite liked the spot-on L.A. Times review, and this recipe road-test was hilarious. // Guacamole recipe is my own
For the taquitos: This recipe serves 4
1 package of corn tortillas
1 15oz can of black beans, drained + rinsed, reserve 2 tbsp of the beans
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt, for seasoning

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
juice + zest of one lime
1/2 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt/pepper to taste
Reserve 2 tbsp of black beans

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400F, and grease a baking dish or baking sheet. Set aside.

Mix all of the ingredients for the taquitos in a large bowl. On medium/high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a small, non-stick pan. Add one tortilla at a time, and cook for 30 seconds on each side. Once the tortilla is cooked, quickly transfer it to a plate. Add 2-3 tbsp of the taquito mixture. Wrap tightly, tucking in the mixture as you wrap, and place the filled taquito, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas. Midway through the process, I had to add another tablespoon of oil to avoid smoking out my apartment.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the taquitos are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the guacamole. I like my guac smooth, not chunky, so I really get in there with the fork. Stir in the beans so as to not break them.

Once the taquitos are out of the oven, let them rest for 1-2 minutes. I love stuffing the guac inside the taquito like it’s a little cannoli. Chow down and serve with arugula or your favorite mixed greens.

Untitledchicken taquitos
chicken taquitos
chicken taquitos

cookbooks gluten-free vegetable recipes

the captain awesome dinner party, chrissy teigen style

pasta a la norma chrissy teigen cookbook

Last night was a photograph worth taking. Ten incredible women feasted on cheesy pasta, brussels sprouts salad and grilled chicken and kale salad. I planned the party last month before I secured two incredible projects. Before my life resumed any sense of normalcy. Sending out the invites was a bet on myself, on my comeback. So much of my life feels tethered to the east coast, and last night was the first time I feel as if I’d established roots. I was surrounded by mostly New York transplants–people who wanted a different kind of life, women who wanted to break ranks without breaking themselves down–and it felt good to see my friends trade numbers and friend one another on Facebook. It felt good to have my friends Merrill and Meghan linger after everyone had left and we talked about the New York we used to know and the women we were a decade ago.

I take none of this for granted.

While I slowly work to pay down my debt, repay my friends, and get some semblance of a real budget in order (I’ve resolved that this will be the year I get my proverbial house in order, I’m making it my point to help as many people as I can. Experiencing random acts of kindness from friends and strangers saved me, and I want to be able to share that compassion and kindness with anyone whom I can help.

To be honest, I’m exhausted, but I wanted to share the culinary highlight of the evening–Chrissy Teigen’s pasta a la Norma. I passed around Teigen’s cookbook and everyone paged through the recipes and called out their favorites while feasting on this cheesy dish. And while I couldn’t eat a bite, it made happy to see my friends fawn over this dish. It made my night seeing them leave, stomachs full, new friends made.

It’s good to be home.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings
For the eggplant:
1 cup olive oil
2 1/2 pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp red pepper flakes

For the baked ziti:
1 pound ziti or penne pasta (with ridges)
Perfect Tomato sauce (recipe below)
2 cups goat cheese
1 1/2 pounds fresh mozzarella (buffalo)
1 cup basil leaves (hand torn)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes

For the Perfect Tomato Sauce:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions
2 tbsp finely minced garlic
3 1/2 pounds juicy ripe Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
For the eggplant
In a large skillet or a wide soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When you can see little waves in the oil, carefully add the eggplant and sprinkle on the salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook stirring once in a while, until the eggplant is soft and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

For the baked ziti
While the eggplant is cooking in a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the ziti to al dente according to the package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the eggplant (and any oil from the skillet) to the pasta along with the tomato sauce, goat cheese, two-thirds of the mozzarella, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Dump the mixture into a large baking dish and top with the rest of the mozzarella, gently pressing the pieces into the pasta.Bake until golden and bubbling, about 1 hour. Let stand for 5 before serving.

For the Perfect Tomato Sauce
In a 4 quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until translucent and beginning to turn golden, about 13 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and then 1 minute longer. Add the tomatoes, oregano, thyme, remarry, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, 25 to 30 minutes for fresh tomatoes, 20 to 25 minutes for canned.

brussels sprout salad chrissy teigen cookbook
cooking from chrissy teigen's cookbook
grilled chicken kale salad
brussels sprout salad chrissy teigen cookbook

cookbooks pasta recipes

cookbooks worth coveting: a roundup

cookbooks

I own a lot of cookbooks–so much so that before I moved to Los Angeles I had a massive purge because books are HEAVY and expensive to cart across the country. Many of my books were acquired in 2002 when I started making things as a means to occupy my hands. At the time, I was recovering from one of many addictions and I needed to create something from nothing instead of pillaging everything in my wake. My first cookbook was Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, where I learned how to make simple cakes and loaves. My experiences boiled down to a lot of trials, but mostly error, and let’s not talk about the time I used confectioner’s sugar instead of granulated in a cheesecake and say we did. Ina, Martha, Tyler, Giada–as my prowess grew so did my library. For nearly a decade, I identified myself as a baker of towering cakes and flaky pastries until a few years ago when a sickness ravaged my body and I had to gut renovate my diet.

That’s when the exploration really began.

My diet was paleo with grains, gluten-free vegan with meat–essentially, there was a hodgepodge of foods I could eat and a lot I couldn’t. My mainstays–pasta, paninis, muffins, and croissants had to be replaced with almond milk, nut creams, cauliflower and copious amounts of legumes and vegetables. The adjustment was a difficult one, and I purchased many cookbooks that inevitably gathered dust. I had to replace sugar and carbs with good fats and flavor, and it took me a while to regard my new batch of books without skepticism.

After last week’s burning hive assault (and my closing on a new project), I found myself returning to the cookbooks I’d briefly abandoned because over the past six months I’d slowly become addicted to cheese and yogurt and now those foods are verboten. Back to the drawing board, as it were.

Cookbooks these days are REALLY hit or miss. Many are published without the rigor of recipe testing or basic copyediting. Faulty measurements, obscure ingredients, and a bland finale often had me wanting to hurl my books out of the closest open window. Believe me when I say that these books are the BUSINESS.

The Paleo Kitchen: The only reason this fine book wasn’t included in the photo above is because I took the picture at 6:30am and I didn’t realize it wasn’t included until I started writing this post. Let me tell you, Juli Bauer’s book had me changed on the uber-trendy paleo lifestyle simply because the recipes are GOOD. The recipes are pretty easy to make (except for a cinnamon bun recipe that was lackluster), and most of the ingredients are probably in your pantry or easily accessible at your local market. Some of my favorites are the: sundried tomato sweet potato hash, sweet plantain guacamole, sage & shallot soup, pumpkin tomato soup, rosemary sundried tomato meatballs (WHOA), spaghetti squash chicken fritters (my top pick of the lot). I’ve made 70% of the recipes in The Paleo Kitchen and I was so pleased I purchased Bauer’s follow-up book, Paleo Cookbook.

The Oh She Glows Cookbook: After the purge of 2015, I now have about 50 cookbooks, and this one is in the top five. I LOVE THIS BOOK. As a proud carnivore, I’ve given a lot of vegan books the side-eye because I’m not a fan of faux meats or the idea that meat can be recreated, however, Liddon developed the most imaginative, tasty recipes. From her, I learned about using tofu and avocado in smoothies, desserts, and as a substitute for cream. I still think about my creamy avocado basil pesto pasta and faux vodka sauce made with cashew cream (so surprisingly good!). I made crave-worthy veggie burgers and a slew of soups, salads and main courses that won over the most discerning palates.

A Modern Way to Eat // At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Perhaps it’s the design of the books or the photography, but I use these two clean-eating tomes interchangeably and often. A Modern Way delivers wholesome, flavorful vegetarian recipes including green fritters (LOVED these), the perfect chili, squash tarts, pizza, hummus a million ways, chickpea and veg stews and some of the tastier desserts I’ve encountered. Judging by the markings in At Home in the Whole Food, I use this book a bit more. This is the book on which I relied to build and outfit a whole food pantry. Grains and legumes are discussed in excruciating detail, and I came away with a great deal of knowledge about the food I was about to consume (as well as the corresponding health benefits). From the simple red lentil soup and blackberry cornmeal muffins to the best cherry coconut granola you’ll ever make–the recipes are filling, complex and delightful. I’m loath to use the word marvelous, but you’ll feel a sense of wonder paging through the book. I’ve made over 50% of the recipes in this book and I’ve yet to encounter a flop.

Cravings: FML with this book. Of course, this book came into my life the very week I had to stop consuming dairy. Many of the recipes contain cheese and you will weep salty dairy tears. I wouldn’t dare say that this book is healthy by any stretch of the imagination, but the recipes are drool-worthy. You will want to make all the food and lick all the plates. I’ve made four dishes out of the book pretty successfully, and I’m trying to devise ways to manipulate the recipes for my palate. I’ve found that nuts + nutritional yeast + seasonings evoke the flavor of spicier cheeses even if I know in my heart that the alternative pales in comparison to the original. I’m having a dinner party this week and I’m making the brussels sprout + kale salads as well as the eggplant baked ziti with mozzarella bombs. I plan on staring at my friends while they feast on fried eggplant and cheese while I toss around dairy-free pesto pasta on my plate. SOB.

Kitchen Stories: My friend Denise Hung, culinary pro and astute coffee connoisseur, is one-half of the genius duo who authored this great book. I met Denise while I was in Singapore last year and it was heart-at-first-sight. The book centers recipes around certain moods and emotional states, and although you’ll have to master the metric system (there exists no U.S. version of this book), the simple and delectable recipes are worth the stretch.

cookbooks

lentil salad with mustard dressing + shopping my cookbooks

lentil salad with mustard dressing

Getting rid of books is a painful process. It’ll take me months, sometimes years, to let go of a book I rationally know I no longer desire or need. While I’m able to discard clothing and household items with ease, tossing books feels like bloodletting. So know that when I put out over 40 issues of Gourmet, Martha Stewart Living, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, along with 22 cookbooks, I was exhausted. Know that as I watched passersby pilfer through the magazines and page through the books I wanted to run downstairs and snatch them all back. Even if I have no intention of making Ina’s salmon bisque in the near future.

When it comes to clothing I tend to rotate between 10 items in my wardrobe because it’s easy. Rarely do I have to think about what I’m wearing each day for longer than a minute. Sadly, I’m the same way when it comes to cooking. I have five cookbooks on my living room floor and I cycle through them until I buy another cookbook. Rarely do I find recipes online because I’ve been burned by so many blogs, and I’m old-school–I like the feel of pages clumped together from overuse, and the promise of a completed dish that only a glossy photo can offer.

However, I’ve forced myself to get surgical with regard to the items I have in my home because I have to pay to move them to California. Yesterday, I paged through every cookbook and magazine I owned and asked myself whether each still inspired. I wondered aloud if I’d still cook from this book given how much my life (and subsequent eating habits) have changed over the past year. Books I once adored suddenly felt like strangers. I’d lost interest in the old-school Food Network chefs I once revered, and my taste in desserts has shifted to the more virtuous. Sure, I’m down for a piece of rich pastry, but I’ve decided to only keep the decadence to a whisper. While I’m able to consume gluten sparingly, I don’t have the taste for it as I once had. And books that I’d purchased because I was drawn to the particular personality behind them, yet found the recipes uninviting to my palate (Rachel Khoo), found its way to the giveaway pile. Books that were beautiful but served no other purpose than offering me rich paper stock and gorgeous photos–they too became a member of the departed.

At my height, I owned upwards of 350 cookbooks. Now I own a lean 43.

all of my cookbooks

Over the next few weeks I’m going to “shop my cookbooks”, which is to say that I’m dusting them off and determining whether I need to trim down even more. Some cookbooks haven’t been used in years and I plan on returning to Nigella, Martha, Thomas Keller, and some of my old favorites to see if they stand up in my current life.

Can I tell you how thrilled I was to start with Sophie Dahl? There is SO MUCH GOODNESS in this book, and I plan to cook up her Mexican eggs, and scores of healthy eats. But first, these lentils.

Over the past year I’ve fallen in love with lentils. They’re filling, versatile, and packed with protein. From salads to soups, I’ve cooked all sorts of varieties, and when properly dressed it stands up against its gluten counterparts (orzo, couscous and the like). The dressing gives the salad some bite and the feta is creamy and silky smooth. You will love this dish + it serves 4.

A brief aside–you may have notice that this week’s snaps are a little crisper and sharper. After a year of saving, I finally purchased the Canon 50mm 1.2 lens.

WHOA.

All I want to do is take pictures.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food, modified slightly
For the salad
1 1/4 cups Puy (French) lentils
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
A handful of cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
A small handful of fresh mint, chopped

For the dressing
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard (my Dijon expired so I used stone ground dijon and it was fine)
1 shallot, finely minced
Salt + pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Place lentils in a medium saucepan and add just enough water to cover (for me, it was 2 1/2 cups). Bring to a quick boil, reduce to low, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, I did all the prep work (which took about 20 minutes). I also made the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients.

Once the lentils were cooked, I drained them in a fine mesh strainer and tossed in a large bowl with the chopped tomatoes and celery, and feta. I dressed the salad and tossed all the ingredients until the lentils were completely coated and then I added the fresh mint. You can savor the salad warm and it’s also perfect at room temperature.

lentil salad with mustard dressing

lentil salad with mustard dressing

book buff cookbooks gluten-free salad recipes

on reading as a writer + my towering babel stack of new books

Books I'm Loving Right Now
a lot of yellow here, right?

Since I was a child, I believed in the power of books; they had the propensity to save, to whisk me away from the world in which I lived and plant me temporarily somewhere else. Immersed in a stack of books, I could fall deliriously in, imagine myself in different lives, countries, and taking on the shape and voices of different people. While that sounds slightly schizophrenic, it was magical for a child who also found that she understood the world through writing about it. Through reading and living there was the writing. Always the writing. I grew up reading poems, Sweet Valley High and Nancy Drew when I was a small, and then when I was 11/12, I started mixing those books with Salinger and Cheever, more sophisticated poems (Frost, Browning–even though I didn’t know what they meant, I loved the melodic rhythm of the words). When I was a teenager, I carried a bookbag of extra books to school–I wasn’t popular, at all–and I spent the days between classes and lonely lunches, reading. Often I was bored by my AP English reading lists because I’d read those books already, and sometimes didn’t agree with my teacher’s interpretation. I liked Cheever’s Bullet Park when everyone else called it a failure, and ever since then, I read only literary fiction.

All other books were like gnats, annoying distractions. I mean, I ran a very prestigious non-fiction series at KGB Bar years ago, and I struggled, even then, finding the books, save the memoirs, interesting.

Until a few years ago when I realized I’d been missing out on SO MUCH. My myopic view toward books started to work against me as a writer. I only exposed myself to the books I wanted to write, rather than challenging myself by reading authors who had stories to tell but didn’t always rely on language as a device to tell them. I started reading more non-fiction (I tend to like biographies, industry exposes, and anything with a story as opposed to books that center around the theoretical), YA fiction (OMG, YA HAS BEEN SO AMAZING OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS!), graphic novels (I tended to drift to ones relating to food), and food/travel essays. All of these books, styles and approaches started to infuse my fiction with a lot more light. The challenge with writers (as opposed to general readers) is that we’re covert sleuths. We look at books from two perspectives: the enjoyment we get from reading a good story, and then the vivisection, the how did he/she do this? We break apart, we dissect, we analyze. I actually ripped apart a book and started moving the pages around to understand how a non-fiction author structured her book in hopes that it could help my own experimental fiction novel. Crazy, right?

When I went to Spain I carted four books with me, two of which I left behind because I didn’t enjoy them at all. Ironically, I left the literary/experimental fiction behind, and found myself comforted by reading Peter Chapman’s Bananas: How the United Fruit Company Shaped the World. The book isn’t new, and I found it on someone’s stoop, but while I found the history of United Fruit, and its social, political and economic effects on Central America, and America, powerful. The company was often called “the octopus,” and that image was palpable as a writer. Thinking about how one entity can find its way into so many lives and change them, damage them. Oddly, reading this and going back to editing my novel felt natural, whereas picking up two of the lit books I brought felt distracting, annoying, filled with language tricks. If anything, it made me go back and see if I was annoying readers with too many tricks.

Other books I’m LOVING right now:

Darcey Steinke’s Sister Golden Hair (OMG. I have been waiting for a new novel from Steinke, author of Jesus Saves, for ages) | Eliza Robertson’s Wallflowers (Stories) | Janie Hoffman’s The Chia Cookbook (who knew?) | Hemsley + Hemsley’s The Art of Eating Well

Any great recos? Books you’ve loved? Let me know!

book buff cookbooks

gluten-free | health-conscious book gear

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Whenever I feel lost, I come back to books. Books have this arcane way of setting the world to rights, of being the salve for all that hurts. As a writer, I make sense of the world through prose; prose helps me navigate loss, love, and the ocean of emotions that fall in between. Books have the propensity to rebuild worlds we previously thought were ruinous, and I always come away from a book with a sense of hope. For me, books are always the answer. Always.

Last week I mourned the kind of life that had a stronghold on me. Habits that were at turns comforting and destructive, and after the dust settled and the anger subsided, I spent the greater part of the weekend immersed in books trying to make sense of the hows and the whys and trying to architect a new space I can occupy–a life lived mindfully. Below are a few of the books I’ve combed through, and over the course of the coming months I’ll share other writers and tomes that inspire me to nourish and rebuild.

After I had a minor rage blackout in my nutritionist’s office last week (in response to my laundry list of food sensitivities), she handed me her good friend Nadya Andreeva’s, book, Happy Belly: A Woman’s guide to feeling vibrant, light, and balanced. On the train ride up to Rhinebeck, I learned about proper food combinations, an individual food’s path to digestion (DYK that larger pieces of beef can take up to eight hours to leave your body?), that the less you chew, the more you make your digestive system work in overtime, and, as a result, fermentation starts to occur since food is in your system longer than it should be? Fermentation = yeast = bloat = digestive issues = heartbreak = I miss bread. I MEAN.

Nadya’s book explained all the complicated science quite simply, and the Ayurvedic philosophy, of which most of the book is based, really resonated with me. I’ve been exploring self-care and deep listening lately, and while it may sound bizarre to you, listening to myself chew my food has made a complete difference in the way I come to a meal.

However, I was also angry, which you would expect when you tell a woman she can no longer have pizza, bread, turkey, sweet potatoes, pasta and did I mention, BREAD? I needed humor, anger and some sentitmental education, and April Peveteaux’s breezy, hilarious, yet informative, memoir, Gluten is my Bitch, was just the ticket. I discovered April’s book will typing in certain expletives + gluten in Google search, and I’m glad I did. A celiac, April breaks down the science of our suffering, while at the same time making me laugh through the pain. She also presents a lot of great recipes and some optimism with regard to science and celiac.

When I was done punching walls and kicking pillows around the apartment, I settled into Cara Reed’s Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious, Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets. Thumbing through the recipes, I saw a lot of my beloveds (coffee cakes, chocolate cakes, crackers and chocolate chip cookies) made without gluten and dairy, and let me tell you this: A WOMAN FELT HOPE. I plan to bake from this book over the next few weeks, but I already thoroughly loved the coffee cake muffins I baked this weekend.

After foraging through my agent’s expansive garden in Rhinebeck, he handed me this lovely book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen: The Girlfriend’s Cookbook and Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer by Annette Ramke + Kendall Scott. While my condition is nowhere nearly as serious as cancer, I found a lot of their mindful healthy eating tips smart, and their vegetarian recipes (most of which are gluten-free!) inspiring. Their approach is holistic and self-nourishing, and I’ve already bookmarked a lot of dishes I plan on making.

I’ve had many extensive conversations with my nutritionist about Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook, and let’s just say that while Dana likes the idea in concept, she’s not a fan of the execution, as well as many of the high-fat recipes. While I agree, I did find Sarah’s book an eye-opening read. Quite simply, it made me aware of just how much sugar we consume, and the fact that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Look at your labels. Take the total number of carbohydrates, subtract the dietary fiber, and divide that number by 4.2. You’ve just discovered how many TEASPOONS of sugar are in your meal, and how easy it is for us to get addicted to something for which we weren’t built (from an evolutionary standpoint) to regulate. Just for the knowledge alone, this book is worth the purchase, and I did find many of the recipes, rather than the program, to be wonderful, in moderation.

Finally, one of the best acquisitions I made this year was Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes, and Colors of Each Season. I’ve already bought four books for holiday gifting, and if this book doesn’t inspire you to eat well, I don’t know what will. Kimberley offers up incredible seasonal fare, inventive recipes, and I’ve made her fritters more times than I’d like to share.

If you’ve discovered books that have inspired your food journey, please let me know!! You guys have been so awesome with the recommendations, and I have tons of new apps I’ve downloaded and bloggers I’m now following, as a result!

cookbooks gluten-free mindful health journey

summer nectarine berry crisp

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Once a year I stumble upon a cookbook that seizes me, the kind of book I casually thumb through only to realize, hours later, I’m still curling the corners of pages. The kind of book that demands I have a pad nearby because I’ll need to scrawl down lists of ingredients. Even though I’m ensconced in the middle of my living room lamenting the loss of my penmanship {how is that my handwriting has devolved into CHICKEN SCRATCH?}, I’m already making mental notes to send emails inviting friends over for a crumble and a fritter.

Last year a friend invited me to contribute recipe reviews for a new section she’d been curating for Medium. At first I resisted because I typically find recipe reviews a bit dull and formulaic–a staid vivisection of the table of contents with a few photos and adjectives thrown in for good measure. Recipe reviews read cold to me, and I absolved to do something different: merge recipe and story. If you think about, recipes inspire stories. An author becomes somewhat of a surgeon in the way he/she compiles and assembles their food narrative–conjuring memories of love, loss, heartbreak, friendship, success and failure–and in that work we are inspired to forge stories of our own. I never viewed recipes simply as a list of ingredients and a methodology for production, rather I saw a stranger handing a piece of their heart to someone else in hopes that that person will deliver their heart to someone else, and so on and so on. Maybe that sounds trite, but I can’t think of a single great memory that didn’t involve food. For Medium, I only wanted to review that which inspired me to weave a new narrative of my own, or take an existing story in a different direction. Otherwise, the task of making food felt medicinal.

As a result of some of the reviews I’d written for the greater part of last year {I’m really proud of these in particular, as I worked harder on some of those reviews than I have in the short stories I’ve published}, I’ve gotten on a few publisher mailing lists and imagine my glee when I received Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food, I was jubilant. Not only did the hues {the book lives up to the title’s promise} draw me in, I found the simplicity of the dishes inviting. The book focuses on a celebration of seasons, and many of the recipes have already made their way into my repertoire, including this summer crisp, of which I plan to selfishly devour alone. I’m packing the leftovers in jars to give as gifts to a few friends I’m seeing this week. I’m already excited by the kinds of stories, moments and memories I plan to create as a result of falling in love with Hasselbrink’s book {if there’s one cookbook I’d encourage you to buy this year, THIS. IS. IT.}. Much like how I fell deliriously in love with Joanne Chang last year, this year will be the year lived in vibrant, bold color!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe via Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food {modified version of the recipe can be found here, although I used the cookbook version, as written below}, modified slightly based on what I had on hand.
For the filling
2 ripe nectarines, diced
3/4 cup blackberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup strawberries, hulled + quartered
1/4 cup raspberries
1/3 cup cane sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp dried ginger

For the crisp
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup mixed pecans + almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup dark rye flour
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) cold butter, cubed

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DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine the fruit. Gently fold in the lemon juice, sugar, flour, and ginger. Pour the fruit mixture into a large baking dish + set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl together the rolled oats, coconut, nuts, flour, sugar, ginger, salt, and cinnamon. Using your hands, work the dry mixture together with the cubes of butter–softly squelching the butter so it adheres to the oat mixture–until a loose topping comes together. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes, until crust is browned and edges are bubbling. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. I actually really prefer my crisps cold, so I put this in the fridge for an hour, and then I paired it with salted caramel chunk ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery, and it was EVERYTHING.COM, .EDU. .JP.

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cookbooks pie + tart recipes sweet recipes

foodie finds: covet-worthy cookbooks

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Years ago, I remember watching an episode of Nigella Bites, where she opened the doors of her expansive larder to reveal rows of spices, chocolate, tins and exotic foodstuffs from faraway countries — artificats from her life-long affection for food. After I wept over the fact that her larder was the size of most New York apartments, her collection of food souvenirs remained with me. When traveling, I’ve never been the sort who cares for trinkets and knick-knacks. During my visit to South East Asia, my guides were befuddled over the fact that I didn’t want to shop. What kind of American doesn’t crave silk scarves and hand-carved totems? Rather, I asked after the food markets.

Take me to the food, is my constant refrain.

Over the past few years, I’ve curated {oh dear, what an overused word} a collection of spices, biscuits and books that can only be found in the country of origin. While it’s true that you can get everything here, never will I procure six ounces of saffron for $2, or a cookbook from a revered Irish author for $13, on sale. While in Ireland last week, I managed to score three exceptional tomes, of which I found myself obsessively poring over. From cakes to cookies to soothing soups and crisp greens, I can’t wait to cook my way through the books penned by authors from another country. In the midst of the sweet, you’ll also spy a farm-to-table cookbook, Nourished Kitchen, which I received prior to my leaving for Dublin. It’s a fantastic journey back to the roots of our land as well as an impeccable display of delicious, mindful dishes. No doubt you’ll see some recipes from that book on this space in the coming weeks.

Jennifer McGruther’s The Nourished Kitchen | Rachel Allen’s Cake | Rosanne Hewitt-Cromwell’s Like Mam Used to Bake | Clodagh McKenna’s Homemade: Irresistible Homemade Recipes for Every Occasion

cookbooks foodie finds

love. life. eat. of the week

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There was a time when I believed that throwing all of my time, energy, and hours into a problem would inevitably fix it. When working 14 hours a day, positioned in front of a laptop, was a constant state. After reading this piece, I realized the pressure to keep working at full-tilt is less about happiness than our perception of it.

Speaking of happiness, remember when we were kids and adults asked us what we wanted to be when we grow up? We’d rattle off a list of things: writer, lawyer, doctor, however, never did we realize that our jobs are what we do, not who we are. How is that this brilliant teen has all the answers? Because, right now, all I want to be is happy.

These evocative photos of children + a dog on a most ethereal farm make me want to pack up + go rural. And when I run away, I want to throw all my clothes in one of these bags.

On the subject of travel, I’ve already booked two trips this year, one with my pop to Dublin in March, and one to India come May. This year is all about adventure, taking risks, paying the rent and being happy, and if I hadn’t booked India, I’d be rafting in Patagonia. And when I do leave, clearly I will need to follow Hitha’s sage advice on packing your personal item, because my handbag tends to resemble The Twilight Zone, a seemingly endless vortex of pens, wrappers, books, and Kind bars.

My dear friend, Summer, is such an exceptional illustrator, that whenever I visit her I ended up buying everything she’s created. I’ve a few prints from Summer in my home, including this one, a simple display of formidable cookbooks.

Today I plan to spend the day baking pastries with a friend. When it comes to photographing food, there are so many online tutorials you’re bound to get bleary-eyed. However, this one focuses less on the mechanics of your camera, and more on the scene and mood you create. I’ll be studying this before my friend arrives with cocoa and chocolate.

Finally, looking for new blog reads? I update my links fairly frequently, and I’ve got some great finds in the rotation. My new delights include Grace of Stripes + Sequins and Megan of The Fresh Exchange. While you’ll marvel over Megan’s clean, crisp photographs, you will fall in love with Grace’s ebullient energy, her admirable earnestness, and her affection for beauty in all its forms (from glitter to photography to finding the beauty in falling in love with your body)

Image credit: Piperlime.

cookbooks foodie finds

buttermilk biscuits with parsley + sage + an ode to joanne chang

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You may have noticed that I’ve been kind of addicted to Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe. I first encountered the famed owner of Flour Bakery + Café this summer when my editor sent me her sequel, Flour, Too, for review. Not only was I enamored by a woman who made a radical career change, making the radical leap from management consultant to baker, but the glee she imbues within each recipe — as if she’s rediscovering pastry and cookies and biscuits for the first time — was infectious. You wanted to say yes to Joanne, regardless of what she was hocking.

1112p95-flour-cookbook-lNever did I think that I could adore a cookbook as much as I did Flour, Too, but Flour is truly remarkable. For those of you reading this space, you know I’ve just come off the gastronomic blitzkrieg that was the Kinfolk affair, replete with failed recipes and practiced humility, so I needed to return to recipes I could trust, recipes made with a practiced hand and acute sensibility. So when I saw Flour in my local bookstore, I thumbed through the pages and then ran to the register.

It should be noted that I haven’t been this in love with a cookbook since Karen DeMasco’s The Craft of Baking {if you don’t own this book, you should}. Not only will you find your classic cookies and crumbles and cakes, you’ll encounter some delicious delights {homemade oreos and fig newtons, milky way tarts, and chocolate filled brioche}. The instructions are clear, meticulous and exacting, and I haven’t made one dessert out of this book which wasn’t a tremendous success.

These biscuits? I plan to ambush my friend at yoga with a bag of these, since my bounty is starting to pile up. Ah, the days of office life when you can pile up goods in the kitchen and run.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Joanne Chang’s Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 to 10 pieces, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
1/2 cup cold nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 cold egg
1 tbsp finely chopped sage
1 tbsp chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until combined. Scatter the cold butter pieces over the top and mix on medium-low speed for about 1 minute, or until the butter is broken down and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cream, egg, and sage until well combined. With the stand mixer on low speed, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Mix for 10 to 15 seconds, or just until the dough comes together. (There will still be some loose dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.)

Unscrew the bowl from the stand mixer. Using your hands, gather the dough together and turn it over in the bowl so that it picks up the loose dry ingredients. Turn the dough a few more times, until all of the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into a 1-inch-thick round. Using a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out biscuits and place them on a baking sheet. Gently recombine the dough scraps, pat into another 1-inch-thick round, and cut out more biscuits. (Repeat if necessary; you should have 8 biscuits total. At this point, the biscuits can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week.)

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the biscuits are entirely golden brown. (If baking frozen biscuits, add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.) Remove, place the pan on a wire rack, and let cool. In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter and parsley. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the butter while they are still warm.

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Book interior image credit: Cooking Light.

cookbooks savory recipes scone + biscuit recipes