my morning smoothie + the art of self-care

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When left to my own devices, I will get a scone (blueberry, if you please) or a muffin where the edges are crisp and the cake is yielding. When I’m flush, I’ll scarf down an almond croissant dusted with confectioner’s sugar, and when I’m low I’ll feast on a bagel, and feel as I’m carrying boulders for the rest of the day.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this concept of self-care–the art of listening to your body, feeling yourself in your own skin: the space between your fingers and toes and the like. The first steps are listening and feeling, being present, paying attention, and then we do the things that are right for ourselves as opposed to the things we think we ought to be doing. Perhaps it’s taking the shape of a yoga pose we took previously, or lifting the weights that were once so effortless. Or maybe it’s the need to stay home and rest when the world demands your velocity. A good friend once told me that on your deathbed, you’ll never say, I wish I spent more time in the office or I wish I had more money or fancy finery to hang in my closet. In the end, we wish we would have lived more, loved more, paid attention more. And it’s only when we take some time to take care of ourselves do we have the strength to be our best selves with others.

I’ve been thinking about self-care when it comes to food, and I often equated self-care to self-medication. I need that scone because I need armor, protection against the host of meetings ahead of me. I need, no, deserve, that bowl of macaroni and cheese because, can I just tell you about the day I had? But the feeling of comfort is always fleeting, it departs as quickly as the sheets have cooled, and you’re back to where you started. The busy morning. The day worth shredding.

Instead, I’m thinking more about self-care, fuel, rather than anesthesia. And while this smoothie may not look glamorous, it gets me off on the right foot, as it were. Gives me the energy to start my day, sharp and clear-headed. Because I need to be healthy, present and strong for myself in order to be present for others.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup almond milk
1 ½ scoops of XyMogen OptiMetaboliX™ powder*
Fruit Options (I mix up the ingredients in my smoothie, daily): 4 figs (my favorite!); 5 strawberries; handful of blueberries; 1 peach; 1/2 cup pineapple or watermelon; 1/3 cup blackberries
Veg: a handful of kale or spinach
5 ice cubes

*Note: Here’s the rub: you can only get this powder from licensed nutritionists or medical professionals. If that’s not possible, feel free to sub in your favorite protein powder. I’d opt for vegan protein or hemp rather than whey.

DIRECTIONS
Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender (I start with the fruit + veg at the bottom to preserve my blades), and blitz until smooth.

green goddess salad with kale, pomegranate + roasted chickpeas

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Perhaps I’m riding the high from yesterday’s euphoric slash agonizing workout, however, before I head out for another session (just call me a masochist), I decided to hoover a large bowl of kale. I made some modifications to the original recipe, which called for cheese (dairy has been killing me softly with its song as of late) and anchovy paste (I can’t), and added it additional fruit and crunchy nuts so I’m filled, as my pop would say, to the gills.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Clara Persis, with modifications.
For the salad
6 cups Lacinato kale, pretty finely chopped
1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 roasted pistachios
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 Granny Smith apple, shredded
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the dressing:
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
3/4 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 tsp fish sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 small garlic clove
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS
Preheat your oven to 400°. Placed the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Drizzle with a little olive oil (1/2 tbsp) and toss to coat all the peas. Be generous with your salt and pepper, so you have the opportunity to have a truly seasoned and flavorful salad topper. Roast the chickpeas for 25-30 minutes until deep golden brown and crunchy. Allow them to cool slightly.

Make the dressing: Blitz all the ingredients in a blender food processor, and blend until completely combined and very smooth. Set aside.

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Place the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Using your hand, massage the olive oil into the kale a bit to soften the leaves. Pour in 1/2 cup of dressing and toss well to combine. Add in the chickpeas, pomegranate seeds, apple, blueberries, flaxseeds, and pistachios, and toss gently. Season with a little more salt and pepper. Spoon the salad into bowls, drizzle with a bit more dressing, and serve immediately.

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pearl barley and baby kale, corn + sausage salad

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I’m closing on my first week without my beloved noodle, and it appears as if I will survive. I’ve stocked my fridge with vegetables, fruit, and meats, and my pantry with beans and whole grains. Thankfully, I’ve some pretty stellar cookbooks from which to draw inspiration, and today’s lunch will be a terrific one.

The original recipe {view it here} calls for mushrooms and red onions, two ingredients I abhor, so I opted to switch things up a bit, and nix the hummus {while I adore hummus, it didn’t make sense for my revision}, mushrooms, and onions. The result? Fresh, flavorful, filling.

And yes, I still miss pasta.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Jane Coxwell’s Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes, with modifications.
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup pearl barley {you can also use Israeli couscous}
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 sweet sausages, casing(s) removed {depends on how much sausage you want in the recipe}
1 ear of organic sweet corn
Maldon salt or other flaky salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice from ½ lemon
1 handful organic baby kale leaves
1/2 cup dill leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

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DIRECTIONS
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the barley and cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. If you’re using Israeli couscous, cook the grains per the package directions.

While the barley {or couscous} is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, stirring often to keep them for burning. Combine the pine nuts and shallot in a large bowl.

Using the same frying pan over high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the sausage(s). Sauté for about 4 minutes, or until the sausages have some good color. Add them to the bowl with the shallots and pine nuts.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, add some more olive oil if necessary and the corn on the cob. Cook the corn for about 5 minutes, or until it’s nicely colored all over. It’ll make a bit of noise and spit a tiny bit, but don’t worry—the heat shouldn’t be high enough to make it pop and splatter!

Drain the barley {or couscous, if you’re using} and add it to the skillet with the corn, and add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another minute. Give it a taste, then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.

Add the handful of baby kale leaves, pine nuts, sausage, and shallot, and mix well. Garnish with the dill and parsley and serve.

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spicy kale + tofu stir fry

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And away we go! My first day without refined sugar + pasta was harder than quitting blow. The sugar wasn’t the issue insomuch as I craved pasta. Before, during and after yoga, and for a moment I secretly thought of chucking it all because the last thing I wanted to do was chop. I had flights of fancy that involved orecchiette drenched in a butternut squash cheese sauce. I spied a cauliflower cream sauce recipe that I knew would pair perfectly with homemade tagliatelle. On the subway, I wondered if soba noodles were considered pasta because they had a higher protein content.

IS SOBA CONSIDERED PASTA? I NEED TO KNOW, AND I’M AFRAID TO GOOGLE.

But I pressed on. Today was pretty fantastic. I’ve closed on over one hundred tight pages of my novel-in-progress, and while I wanted to shove a muffin in my gourd, I opted for a…wait for it…a peanut butter power bar. {wail}

I made this stir fry last year to much fanfare and confetti, and I’ve made some tweaks, and found it to be filling and flavorful. While it’s not pasta, I don’t have to get all tortured and emo about it.

Spicy Stir-Fried Tofu With Kale and Red Pepper, courtesy of The New York Times, with modifications
INGREDIENTS
1 bunch flat leaf kale (about 10 ounces), stemmed and washed in a salad spinner. I love lacinato or Tuscan kale for this recipe
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or dry sherry
1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp Kosher salt (more to taste)
1/2 tsp ground pepper, preferably white pepper
1/4 tsp cane sugar
1 tbsp safflower (or canola) oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 red bell pepper, cut in 2-inch julienne
1 1/2 cups edamame pods, unshelled
2 tsp sesame oil

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DIRECTIONS
Bring a medium saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, add the edamame. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the pods float to the surface of the water. Drain, remove the pods and set aside in a small bowl.

Cut the tofu into dominos and place them on paper towels. Place another paper towel on top and prepare the remaining ingredients. I was lucky, and my market had tofu cut into cubes, so I simply drained the tofu and let it rest in a strainer.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, stock and cornstarch. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Have all the ingredients within arm’s length of your wok.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch steel skillet over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within a second or two when added to the pan. Swirl in the safflower oil by adding it to the sides of the pan and swirling the pan, then add the tofu. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes in a wok and 3-5 minutes on the pan, until it begins to color. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for no more than 30 seconds.

Add the red pepper and edamame and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the kale, salt, pepper and sugar and toss together. Add the soy sauce mixture and the sesame oil. Stir-fry for another 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from the heat and serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings.

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kale, banana, almond + chia seed smoothie + a pasta-free challenge

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I used to think the extreme had the ability to make an impression, leave an indelible mark, but over the years I’ve come to realize that extreme actions tend to send me screaming in the other direction. For a time I did live in the extremes: I hated and loved passionately, and my life was linear, at best. There was only the absence of color and the totality of color, and nothing, not a speck of grey, in between. And the weight of it, a life lived so bombastically, was exhausting. Existing in polar states doesn’t allow for nuance and quiet, and it doesn’t make for a balanced life.

I’ll be candid and say that I’ve losing the good fight against an imbalance in my diet. While it’s true that I have my daily green drink and I eat clean, local and organic, I have a nearly diabolical obsession with pasta and bread. I rationalize that the pasta is dressed in kale pesto! The pasta is of a whole grain variety (or whatever that means)! And the need to keep my sugar in check is a reality.

Sometimes a sweet, positive voice leaves a deeper mark, it can stain. My friend + author, Jamie Shupak, recently launched a healthy living series on the Scripps network, and in three minutes she brings you heart-healthy meals with a smile. Jamie and I routinely have cooking dates, and I’m always inspired by the way she’s so evangelical about healthy grains, fish, and vegetables, and a diet meat and dairy free. While I won’t shy away from meat, I’m feeling the need to invite a lot more diversity (translation: kill the daily pasta dependency) in my diet.

For the next month, I plan to document my pasta + refined sugar free experience, DAILY. From revisiting grains and exploring new ways to invent the evening meal, I’ll document my misadventures on this space. This space will make me accountable, so please send words or missives encouragement along the way. I’ll need it.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups kale, packed
1 cup almond or rice milk
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 ripe banana

DIRECTIONS: Super simple: blitz in your blender into smooth. If you don’t have a high-powered blender or Vitamix, pour the smoothie over a sieve into a bowl, and then transfer your drink to your favorite tumblr. Drink immediately.

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mango, kale, spinach, + apple smoothie

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There is a reason for this demonstrable silence. You can’t know how much I’ve wanted to crawl into this small space of a home and inhabit it with words, and take hundreds of photos of the dishes I’ve been making (or, eh-hem, ordering). But two phone calls turned my week inside out, made me look at my life as if it was the first time I’d seen it.

The first call was from my agent, who is discerning, and brutally honest about the state of publishing, which has been the same state since I was employed by a publisher all those years ago. Everyone assures me that it’s worse. No one’s buying books. No one’s buying fiction. No one’s buying “experimental” literary fiction. If you’re not an alien, hobbit, vampire, or a mean girl, nobody cares, is the constant refrain from everyone, everywhere. So you can understand how I expected the worst, as my agent tends to only take on sure things. Big books. Big, sweeping things. On speaker, he started in about publishing (the usuals, the particulars), but then he said this: there’s something brilliant here.

You should know that my agent doesn’t toss around the word brilliant very often. Over a hundred pages, I somehow created a world where loss, love, sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, Jonestown, W.S. Merwin, The Shining, Carnival of Souls, adultery, peacefully co-exist. I can’t quite explain what my book is about, as I tend to obsess over characters and watch them play out on the page. Although I will say that I’m exploring loss, the definition of mental illness, hurt, feminism and love.

And my agent said the unexpected: he told me to prepare 100 tight pages for a small submission to publishers come November. He thought the book was that great.

I’m still recovering from our chat. By the way, I’m titling my book Mammoth.

The second call was a siren song from the west. A job opportunity that keeps coming back, and I’ve been moving through the interviews at ease, not excited, non-plussed — I’m just playing out the hand, seeing where it’ll all go. Yet, this morning it occurred to me that I don’t want this opportunity. It’s extraordinary, ambitious, and can give me the financial comfort one would think I needed. But…but…

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I don’t want it.

Finally, I’ve made this blog a space I’m proud of. Finally, I’m writing, really writing, not just playing pretend with 300-word blog posts. I’m architecting a family, building a life. Finally, my head’s straight, clear, focused, and I’m off the sauce. Finally, I’ve allowed myself to love a new kitty, Felix. Finally, I’m allowing people in. Finally, I’m taking on the kinds of consulting jobs where people really respect me. Really believe in the work that I can do.

I don’t want to give that up.

So you can see how things have been out of sorts. How it’s been hard to come to this space and make the world simple. But I will say one thing that’s given me joy this week, and it’s the VITAMIX.

Friends, this is not a digression, but another step in making my life a healthier one. Every day I’ve made myself a green smoothie, packing it into a mason jar so I can get my veggies in on my way to the office or to run errands. Appearances are cruel in the way that they can be deceiving, but I honestly feel as if I’m tasting a mango smoothie. AND!! I’m also noticing a marked difference in my complexion. In short, I don’t look like a CORPSE.

All good things. Now only to get editing. Only to get to making a decision.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup chopped mango
1 cup kale leaves (not the curly kind), packed
1 cup spinach leaves, packed
1 apple, cut and cored
1/2 cup coconut water

DIRECTIONS
If you’re mad, like me, and made the fortitous leap to procure a Vitamix blender, simply add all of the ingredients and blitz away for 30 seconds – minute on high. You may need the plunger to ensure that the fruits get evenly diced.

If you’re of the normal stock, you can absolutely enjoy this smoothie by blitzing this in a blender and using a fine mesh strainer. Simply pour out your smoothie into a strainer nestled on top of a bowl and you’ll have a delicious morning elixir.

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a moveable feast: mango, avocados, greens + guac!

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To say that every day I wake to a typhoon or a circus or something in between would be a grand understatement. The past few months have been exhilarating, thrilling, frightening and magical all at once. Not only did I have a chance to explore unknown cities, I’ve had the luxury of rediscovering art, finding it, having it find me, and somewhere along the way I’ve managed to create a little bit of art of my own. I’m starting to learn who I can trust and who I can’t. I’ve become weary of the intensity of people, and am now drawn to the quietness and calm of others. I say Good Morning, I read Faust, I write longer emails to friends (from one line to a paragraph!). I don’t know what I want next, but I think I do. Every day is a stutter, a series of starts and stops, and the constant, the satisfying threadline through all of this has been food. Always the food.

I had a dear friend come round this weekend, and I prepared a feast that made us swoon. Verdant, flavorful and bright, it was a delicious melange of texture and taste, and not for a moment did we feel we were missing something because it was vegetarian and virtuous (or at least, semi-virtuous, as we had a heaping of fried millet falafel). Rather, we were sated, full, and excited to dive into my stash of French dark chocolates.

We spent four hours trading stories about our respective experiences the past few months, and it occurred to me that the other crucial threadline, perhaps one that supersedes food, are friends. Those great, magical people who are always there, who talk you off ledges, who encourage you to climb new ones, and those who tell you that although the millet falafels are far from attractive, they are DAMN GOOD.

INGREDIENTS
For the salad
2 cups packed baby kale
1 cup packed spinach
1 cup packed arugula
1/2 cup cashews, toasted in a dry pan
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
2 oz soft cheese of your choice (I used a truffled cow’s milk cheese that had the texture of brie, however, you can use goat, brie, or gorgonzola)
1/4 sundried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt/cracked pepper to taste

For the mango + avocado salad, dressed in a lime balsamic vinaigrette: Recipe adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
2 ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt
1 batch Balsamic-Lime Vinaigrette (we didn’t use all of the dressing, but used about 1/4 of it. That might have also been the case because I knocked over the dressing and spilled it all over the table.)
A small handful of fresh basil leaves

For the basil-lime vinaigrette
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 stalks of scallions, fine dice (all parts: white, green, light green)
juice + zest of half a lime
Sea salt + pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the salad: Toss all of the ingredients above. Only add the olive oil when you’re about to serve, as the leaves will wilt.

For the mango + lime salad + vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, brown rice syrup, and lime juice together in a mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keeps well in a jar in the fridge for up to a week. Alternate slices of mango and avocado on a serving platter and scatter with a pinch of sea salt. Drizzle with the Balsamic-Lime vinaigrette; tear the basil leaves and sprinkle them over the top. Serve immediately.

For the guacamole: Cut + core the avocado and crush the meat with the tines of your fork. Add in all of the ingredients and serve with carrots, chips, or strips of red bell peppers.

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sweet + spicy quinoa hash

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Never settle for anything less than extraordinary. Every morning I say this to myself, and I believe it. You have this one great, sweeping life, so why should it be mediocre? Why should it be a thing through which you slouch rather than something to which you triumphantly leap? Even in my darkest days — and I’ve had my share, believe me — I try to ferret out beauty from even the most trivial things.

Today I witnessed someone settle. My friend Kate was trying on skirts and I was there to provide honest feedback and comic relief, and I watched as a woman stared at herself in a dress that clearly gave her discomfort. You could tell that she really wanted to make the dress work (she tried on various sizes, deliberated extensively with her friend and two sales associates), and stared at herself in the mirror as if willing the dress to be everything she wish it could.

It took everything in me to not interrupt. To tell her that there are other dresses, ones which will put her heart on pause, the kind that will make her jump up and down. But I didn’t, and I watched her skulk to the register and spend $200 on the ordinary.

Since I’ve returned from Europe, I’ve been having this craving for virtuosity. Call it a croissant rebellion, but I’m finding that I want quinoa, kale and piles of vegetables. However, eating healthy sometimes suffers a bad rap, and no matter how hard I soak quinoa it’ll never be a bacon cheeseburger and fries.

I MEAN. LET’S GET REAL HERE. LET US FROLIC IN THE WORLD THAT WE LIKE TO CALL REALITY.

I’m determined to find delicious recipes that will surprise me. Recipes that will not have me reaching for a bowl of cereal in an hour’s time. Enter the yummy sweet potato hash. When I found this recipe in Women’s Health, I ripped it out and was determined to make it, and I’m THRILLED to relay that the hash does not disappoint. From the extraordinary flavors to the fact that it was actually FILLING, my only regret was not making more of it. In future iterations, I definitely see me adding toasted pistachios or pine nuts, and perhaps a smattering of goat cheese.

My recommendation? MAKE THIS NOW. AS IN RIGHT NOW.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Women’s Health, with modifications
For the quinoa*
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup quinoa, rinsed under cold water for 1 minute

For the hash
2 tsp coconut oil
a pinch of red pepper flakes (1/8 tsp)
3/4 cup cubed sweet potato (this is about 1/2 of a large sweet potato)
1/2 cup chopped kale (I prefer baby kale leaves of Tuscan kale, not the curly kind)
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup of the cooked quinoa
1/8 tsp sea salt

*This will make four servings. I like to make quinoa in bulk, so I can add it to sweet + savory dishes.

DIRECTIONS
For the love of god, please rinse your quinoa. Your dish will benefit from sitting under a faucet for a minute. Once your quinoa is rinsed, add it to your stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it’s bubbling, reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking, melt your coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and the cubed sweet potato, then sauté for 5-7 minutes. Stir in the chopped kale, minced garlic and the sea salt, and sauté for 3 minutes, or until the leaves have wilted. Add the cooked quinoa and heat through for another minute.

perfect herbed grilled chicken + corn with kale + basil pesto

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What I’m about to say will shock you, but after three weeks of devouring copious amounts of fresh, rich cheeses, ribbons of homemade pasta, warm baguettes, and flaky almond croissants, all I wanted was a bowl piled high with greens. Much to my shock, awe and chagrin, I’ve learned that it is possible to tire of pastry and white flour.

It is possible to say: PLEASE, NO MORE CROISSANTS!

As soon as my plane touched down and I made my way through the labyrinth that is JFK, all I craved were kale and protein. Perhaps to punish myself for all the delectable eats I consumed during my three-week European food odyssey, I turned to the BIG GOOPER herself, Gwyneth. We’re going to ignore the People cover story, gloss over her I’m just like you, bit, and leap into the pages of her cookbook, which do indeed hold a fair amount of goodness. SMITE YOU, GWYNNIE!

Three years ago, I was a woman who cooked at home. Walked half a mile to the subway, just because. Eschewed meal delivery. I was fit, healthy and strong, and over the course of three years I somehow managed to turn into someone who downloads Seamless Web, uses it, and becomes addicted to it. Complains about walking anywhere. During my holiday, I walked for eight to twelve hours a day and I fell in love with it all over again. The way one can get lost, hatch plans and strange ideas, and feel alone, but not lonely — this is what walking affords you.

When I came home, my friend was barren, and I immediately stocked it with greens, meats, and fresh herbs. Can I tell you how good it felt to grill a chicken? It’s so minor, a shift imperceptible to anyone BUT ME, but my walking, my cooking, my need for space and quiet, reminds me of a version of myself that I miss.

Here’s to being back. Here’s to seeing where the day takes you. Here’s to eating virtuously.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good.
Serves 4
For the chicken
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh sage
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp very finely chopped fresh basil
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to barely 1/4 inch thick

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For the kale + basil pesto corn (I modified Paltrow’s basic pesto recipe to include kale. If you’re not keen on kale, just use one cup of packed basil leaves, instead.)
3 tbsp pine nuts
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup packed flat kale leaves (not the curly kind)
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
For the chicken: Combine the herbs, garlic, olive oil, lemon zest/juice, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl and rub the herb mixture all over each piece, being sure to get it on both sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken mariante for at least 1/2 hr (I recommend an hour), or as long as overnight. I marinated my chicken for an hour at room temperature, however, if you’re going for overnight, just make sure that you let your chicken come to room temperature before you grill it.

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Heat a grill or grill pan (I used my panini press, true story) over medium heat. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 2-3 minutes on each side.

For the kale + basil pesto corn: In a medium pot with salted water, add 2 cups frozen corn and cook until tender (6-7 minutes), stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Blitz all of the ingredients in a food processor until the pesto has a rough texture. To be honest, I’ve never tasted a difference when you blitz the nuts + garlic prior to adding the leaves, so I tend to add in the lot in one shot.

Add 1/4-1/2 cup of the pesto to the corn. I tend to like a light coating, so I used a 1/4 cup for 4 servings of corn. This is purely my preference.

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risotto with greens + a decadent chocolate cake — it’s all virtuous!

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The hardest part of telling people about the goodness in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook is getting past the hot mess that is Gwyneth Paltrow and that rarified world of which she believes to be our reality. In Gwyneth’s world, we’re sporting $850 leather shorts, charring paper-thin pizzas in our outdoor ovens, and frolicking through reeds of grass whilst munching on Amagansett apples. Part of me hopes that Winona Ryder will resurface from her stupor and launch the anti-GOOP, a noir-hued website where a chain-smoking, cheeseburger-eating life is as good as it gets. However, this idyll is very much a Waiting for Godot situation, and I’ve admitted, albeit grudgingly, that Paltrow’s book is quite good. My friend Hitha has decided to ignore Paltrow and instead give credit to Paltrow’s co-writer, Julia Turshen.

I very much like this strategy.

To say that Hitha and I adore food is an understatement. Devoted followers of the gospel that is Michael Pollan, ardent believers in the notion that our body is the home in which we want to live rather than the apartment we’re renting, my sweet friend and I often get together and spend days cooking, eating, and photographing our food. You’ll find us standing on top of chairs, adjusting plates, contemplating linens and trying to find that shot, and I’m humbled to have found such a kindred spirit. So on a day that whispers spring, we decided to give a bunch of Gwynnie’s recipes a go.

On the menu? A virtuous verdant risotto, a kale salad dressed with seasoned turkey bacon (I hope my Twitter friend Michael isn’t reading this!), and a decadent two-layer chocolate cake with “buttercream.” Hitha made the killer risotto and salad, while I focused on dessert, and I have to say that we did a pretty fox job! We marveled over the rich, satiny texture of the risotto (sans cheese!) and the buttercream that had no dairy or butter, yet tasted very much like the real deal. Here’s to eating mindfully and a meal that left us satiated.

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Risotto with Greens: Adapted from It’s All Good, with modifications
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
1 quart vegetable stock
1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 leek, white and light green parts only, throughly washed and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
leaves from 6 sprigs of thyme
coarse sea salt
1 cup Arborio rice
2 cups baby spinach (we didn’t have this on hand, but will definitely add this next time)
1/4 cup chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper

Warm the vegetable stock in a small pot and set it on the back burner over low heat. Using a Microplane grater or a zester, zest the lemon and set the zest aside. Cut the lemon in half, juice it and set the juice aside.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot set over high heat. Add the onion and leek, turn the heat down to medium, and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme along with a big pinch of salt and cook until all the aromatics are, well, aromatic, another 2 minutes.

Turn the heat to high, add the rice and the reserved lemon juice and stir to combine all the ingredients. Cook until the lemon juice is just evaporated and then stir in a ladleful of the warm stock. Continue to stir the risotto until the stock is absorbed, then stir in another ladleful of stock.

Continue in this manner until the rice is cooked through and you’ve used all your stock, about 20 minutes. At this point your arm should feel as if it’s going to fall off and the rice should be luxuriously creamy and rich.

Stir in the reserved lemon zest, the greens (these will cook with the risotto’s residual heat), the basil and a few healthy grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.

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Kale Salad with Gwyneth’s “Momo’s Special Turkey Bacon”
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
6 cups of mixed kale leaves, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt/pepper
8 oz pack of turkey bacon (8 slices)
2 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tbsp maple syrup

Mix the greens with the carrots and toss in the olive oil, salt + pepper to taste. Set aside.

Pre-heat the broiler (or oven to 450F). Lay the bacon on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Whisk together the mustard and the syrup. Using a pastry brush (or spoon), “paint” half of it on the slices. Broil for one minute, then turn it and coat the other side of each slice with the remaining mixture. Broil for another 1-2 minutes, or until crispy. Break up the bacon into chunks and toss into the salad.

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Chocolate Cake + Darleen’s Healthy Buttercream
INGREDIENTS + DIRECTIONS
For the Cake: Click here for the recipe. Instead of using a cupcake/muffin tin, grease two nine-inch cake pans. Bake for 18 minutes at 350F (the recipe calls for 20, but I thought the cake too done. I’d start checking after 15 minutes), and allow to completely cool for 20 minutes before icing with the buttercream. I like to layer some cream in the middle and on top. Since I like my cakes to be a little rough around the edges, I tend to not go in for the luxe side-sweep, allowing for you to see the contrast of cake and cream from all sides. A woman loves a little crumble on her plate.

One thing Hitha + I noticed that we should bring to your attention. This cake dough is incredibly delicate. I thought this was a result of my flubbed measurements in yesterday’s cupcakes, but since you don’t have egg as the binding agent, the cake will fall apart pretty easily, so handle with care.

Another point to make, the recipe notes that one could use 8 and 9 inch pans interchangeably without denoting the change in cooking times, which is a MAJOR MISS. The density is a marked difference, and I would venture that I’d need 20 minutes for an 8inch pan (as you have a denser cake) and 15-18 minutes for the 9 inch. Although I love the book, I’m starting to see minor errors that can affect the dishes. Not critical for cooking, but tantamount for baking.

For the Buttercream
2 cups Spectrum organic shortening (room temperature). This is a non-hydrogenated palm oil, available at speciality and health food stores, as well as Whole Foods.
1 cup tapioca starch (or tapioca flour, which is the same thing)
1 cup agave nectar (or Grade A light maple syrup)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric (or stand) mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. The frosting can be refrigerated for up to one month, but bring it back to room temperature and rewhip before using.

While this whipped cream doesn’t taste exactly like the buttercream to which we’ve been accustomed, my knee-jerk reaction was that it resembled whipped marshmallow or marshmallow fluff. The texture is spot-on and the taste light and sweet. Hitha brought her hubby over and this was definitely a crowd favorite.