dinner on the deck: apple pie, fig salad + chicken cutlets


While I’ve always loved food, I didn’t start cooking until I was in my mid-twenties. As a child in 1980s Brooklyn, I ate what was available, what my family could afford. We were inventive with $1 bodega chicken legs, bags of sprouting potatoes and cans of Chef Boyardee. And although there was a summer where we subsisted on bags of potatoes and food that was best suited for hot pot cooking, limitations gave way to creativity. I’ve always harbored a deep respect and appreciation for good food because for so long I wasn’t privileged to have it. I didn’t have a real salad until I was in college–back then salad felt frivolous because who would spend $10 for a plate of leaves when you could get a whole meal for that money? And I didn’t get serious about cooking and baking until recovering from a drug problem forced me to do something else to occupy my hands.

Back then I cycled through a handful of recipes I’d learned from my best friend’s mother (fettuccine alfredo, lasagne, Thanksgiving herbed stuffing), but it wasn’t until 2002 that I purchased my first cookbook, Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. Nights that were usually reserved from blackout drinking and drug use were now spent indoors, catatonic, watching The Food Network. Nigella made cooking accessible, fun, and my first experiment was a cheesecake where I used confectioner’s sugar instead of regular sugar (I rationed: was there really a difference. Answer: Indeed there is) and no one had a second bite. I purchased springform pans and sheet pans. I stocked a small cupboard in an apartment I shared with a friend with spices and flours. I baked chocolate cakes that splattered my walls. I made scones that resembled hockey pucks, and I managed to somehow screw up pasta.

For two years I failed miserably, but I kept on because there was something comforting about the alchemy of ingredients. And even though I made cakes that no one would dare eat or dinners that sometime resembled science experiments, the idea that I could possibly create something from nothing, that I could create instead of ruin, kept me going. I made a simple pound cake again and again until I got it right. All the money I’d spent on drugs and nights out were funnelled into shopping bags of food. Back then no one really photographed what they made, and I’m grateful since I made the kind of food that was hardly photogenic.

Over the years I always returned to the kitchen when I was lost, confused, heartbroken, and stressed. When I lost a great love and we divided one home into two, I stayed up late drinking vodka out of the bottle and making muffins. When I lived in an apartment building where an unhinged man played jazz until dawn, I made stuffed shells and coconut macaroons. When my then best friend came over my Brooklyn apartment (the one with the Pepto-pink bathroom), I made her pancakes and maple bacon, and when I lost her I kept thinking about her, and how she loved those cakes. I invited scores of people into my home for a clothing swap, which was really a vehicle to road-test these red velvet cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. The year I resigned from my job and lost Sophie, I’d spend days bound to an oven.

However, it wasn’t until last year that my relationship to food dramatically changed. In a course of four years I’d gained nearly 40 pounds and lost my taste for good food. I shoveled lunch at my desk while answering emails. I came home and collapsed onto my couch and then ordered pizza, thai food or pasta smothered in oil and cheese. I stopped reviewing my credit card bills because I was embarrassed by how much I ordered from Seamless Web.

And then I started to get sick. Really sick. Like stomach pain so bad it felt like my appendix would burst. I would lose my train of thought so often that it became noticeable. I was forever tired, sluggish, and sick. A visit with my doctor (who’s also a gut specialist) and a nutritionist revealed that not only was I on my way to diabetes, I had a leaky gut and I was literally beating up my insides because of my diet.

Because kale smoothies don’t count when you spend the rest of your day binging on paninis, bagels and pasta.

Sometimes I look back on my childhood and I can barely recognize it. There were months when my fridge was anemic and now, as an adult, it’s abundant. I’m humbled by my privilege and the fact that I can afford to shop at farmer’s markets and buy organic. What bookends these two versions of myself were constraints. Back then I was limited by income, now by what I couldn’t consume. For a year, I couldn’t eat gluten, dairy, and yeast. For 6-7 months the list of foods I couldn’t eat was so unbearable that I spent the holidays alone.

At first I was apoplectic, but then I got wise and creative. I forced myself to eat vegetables I’d never previously considered (cauliflower, brussels sprouts). I purchased vegan, paleo, Middle Eastern and Asian cookbooks, and over the course of a year my palate changed and my repertoire expanded. As a result, I’ve noticed that I now cleave toward salty/savory vs. sweet. I eat pasta and bread a couple of times a month instead of multiple times a DAY. And I focus more on the quality of the food I consume rather than its caloric content.

What once had been a hobby that busied my hands became the core of how I would cultivate relationships with people. When I stopped drinking, I’d have friends over for dinner instead of playing the role of detective with my receipts after a night out. Now we connect over our most primal of needs–food, instead of a bottle of wine that merely serves to rob us of memory. We are our most vulnerable selves when we eat, and my friendships are richer, deeper because of it.

When I moved to California I chose my apartment specifically because it’s an open space and I have a deck for outdoor entertaining. From where I’m writing this I face my kitchen and it feels normal to live in a space that combines art, words, work, food, and friendship.

Last night I had my friend Jamie over for dinner, and we spent hours on my deck, talking, eating, marveling over how almond meal renders chicken juicier. While we were talking, I thought about alcohol and other anaesthetic agents. People sometimes ask: do you miss it? Drinking. And I think about how much anesthesia rubs away–you always end up with less than what you started. And then I think about food, which, in my strange math, is always about addition and multiplication. Friendships are fertile. Love festers and grows.

For the filling
4 pounds apples, peeled, quartered, and cored (I do a mix of tart + sweet–whatever’s in season)
1 lemon, zested
Juice of the lemon you just zested
1/4 cup cane sugar, plus 1 tsp to sprinkle on top
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground allspice

For the pie crust
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) very cold salted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp cane sugar
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening (I use a non-hydrogenated kind I get from Whole Foods)
6 to 8 tbsp (about 1/2 cup) ice water


Preheat the oven to 375.

Chop each apple quarter in thirds crosswise and combine in a bowl with the zest, juice, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside. Don’t worry about the apples browning — the acid from the fruit will halt the oxidation process.

Now you’re ready for the pie crust. I can’t stress enough how COLD the ingredients need to be. Dice the butter in tablespoons, and store it in the fridge while you prepare the flour mixture. Add the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Introduce the cider vinegar, butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. You can also make this by hand with a pastry blender or the two fork method. However, after the nonsense with the apples I sometimes want to take the path of least resistance.

Once the dough is cold, cut it in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust.

Roll out half the pie dough and drape it over a 9-inch pie dish to extend about 1/2-inch over the rim. Don’t stretch the dough; if it’s too small, just put it back on the board and re-roll it.

Fill the pie with the apple mixture. Brush the edge of the bottom pie crust with the egg wash so the top crust will adhere. Top with the second crust and trim the edges to about 1-inch over the rim. Tuck the edge of the top crust under the edge of the bottom crust and crimp the 2 together with your fingers or a fork. Brush the entire top crust with the egg wash, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, and cut 4 or 5 slits.

Place the pie on a sheet pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours (start checking after 45 minutes, and make sure you rotate your dish half-way through the cooking process so the pie will brown evenly), or until the crust is browned and the juices begin to bubble out. Serve warm.
Apple pie

For the salad
2 cups baby spinach
2 cups baby kale
8-10 figs, halved and quartered
olive oil/sea salt

For the chicken cutlets
2 tbsp olive oil + 1 tsp butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup almond meal
1 tbsp fresh minced thyme
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 lb chicken cutlets, pounded thin (this serves 4, but I cook the whole lot and store the leftovers for salads


Making the salad is as simple as it looks. One important note, though. I’d wait to dress/toss it in olive oil just when you’re about to serve the salad as you don’t want the leaves getting limp.

The chicken cutlets work like an old-school assembly line. Heat the butter/oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the salt. In another bowl, mix the almond meal, thyme and pepper. Dunk the cutlets in the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture. Fry on both sides (4-5 minutes each) until slightly charred. I kept the cutlets warm in a 175F oven.


kale, chickpea, cherry + wild rice salad with spicy yoghurt dressing


Maybe it’s the weather or possibly I’m bananas, but I bolted out of bed this morning with the feeling of so much possibility. Over the weekend I sent out notes to contacts in my network, alerting them about my pending move out west and I was so thrilled that so many folks responded with well wishes and offers to help once I get settled in. I also mailed out little gifts to my closest friends, people who continue to be home to me–friends who shouldered some of my difficult moments this year. And finally, I mailed out my tax payment checks, relieved that I don’t have to deal with the IRS until next year.

Lots of mailing!

And so much goodness happened over the weekend! I finally secured a project that will allow me to work closer to home so I can resume a normal feeding schedule and not be bound to a daily four-hour commute. Also, I caught up with some close friends and brainstormed new side hustles, and I made so much good food.

I know I sound a bit scattered and far from poetic, but I guess sometimes you have to express your joy plainly. Sometimes you have to post a delicious kale salad and be happy that you’re starting off the week, exhilarated!

For the salad
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed from the can*
¾ cup wild rice
2 cups baby kale leaves, de-veined, coarsely chopped (you could also use spinach for this)
¾ cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
½ cup pomegranate seeds

For the yoghurt dressing
⅓ cup coconut yoghurt (I used a dairy-free version, but I quite like Sigis’ line of yoghurts)
2 tbsp macadamia oil
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Sea salt, to taste

*If you’re using dried beans, soak 1/2 cup dried chickpeas overnight, rinse, drain and cook for 1/2-1 hour until tender. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Soak the rice in a medium bowl filled with cold water for 30 minutes. Drain, rinse and add 2 1/4 cups of water to a medium saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes until the rice is tender. Drain and set aside to cool slightly. Now you’ve got a bowl of your chickpeas, chilling, and rice, resting.

Now on to the dressing! Whisk all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt and set aside.

Combine the rice, chickpeas, kale and cherries in a large bowl. Coat the salad with the dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and then add the pomegranate seeds.

Serve at room temperature or cold. This will keep in a airtight container for 3 days.


this is what happens when you listen to the sound of your own breath


JC holds curled rinds of pork to my mouth and invites me to try, to taste, this is so good you will not believe. At first I recoil having remembered salty chicharrones from my childhood, and how I’d need to hose down my mouth with grape soda to extinguish the taste of fried pork. However, we’re in a market–a stopover because the crew has to pick up fresh tortillas, blood sausage and beef for the carne asadas–and I’m feeling frisky. I break off a small piece, just in case, just to be polite, and I’m shocked by how quickly I become addicted to the flavor. I purchase eight bags of rinds for myself and the crew and we make our way to Apoya. In halting Spanish I ask if anyone wants a bag because I’m copping. They laugh and a woman half my age hands me a warm tortilla and tells me that pork rinds always taste better wrapped in corn. I imagine infants swathed in baby blankets but I don’t say any of this out loud because it’s kind of weird and I forgot the Spanish for blanket.

It’s manta.

New people frighten me. I don’t do well in crowds and I tend to recede in group situations. If given the choice I’d always prefer smaller groups, conversations with one other person, and last night I ate dinner with ten new people and I can’t even begin to explain the level of anxiety I experienced. But I was hungry, starving, since American Airlines doesn’t comprehend gluten-free, and I pushed food around my plate for about an hour while drunk Americans prattled on about how this thing here is unlike the thing they know back home. Always sizing up. Always comparing. Always believing that the thing we know, that which is familiar, is always, inherently, better. After a time I left and spent the better part of the evening chatting with JC, the owner of Hacienda del Puerto de Cielo, and we talk about travel, food, solitude and he understood everything. He told me that the whole of the hacienda will be free of tourists the following day and would I like to accompany him and his staff for a day trip to Apoya? Aside from the water, which has taken on a hue of blueish purple from volcanic eruptions–the color of certain bruises–I could kayak, swim, read, eat and be alone if I wanted to. Or not. Whichever you prefer, he says. I acquiesce, humbled and honored that he would invite a guest into such a private space.

In Nicaragua you can live in a grand house for $8,000. Driver’s licenses (licencias para conducir) cost $100 and a considerable amount of time to obtain, and when you’re working full-time to support your family how is it possible to take off work to learn how to drive? Fresh food is inexpensive and plentiful and to say that people here don’t work hard would be an understatement. JC tells me that the law mandates that employees who work for 12 months must be paid for 14, and after three months of nonstop bookings he thought it smart to treat his team for an outing.

JC is an architect, specifically of yachts for the elite. There are only 50 people in the world who do what he does, and often he competes for lucrative contracts. His work takes him to China, where business is good but not great, and forget Russia because the money isn’t what it used to be. And thank god the Americans have recovered and resume the task of spending their money again. He balances this heady work (he interrupts me while I’m writing this post to tell me that he is traveling to Granada tonight for his favorite pizza covered in chili oil before he leaves on Friday for a three-week rush job that would normally take two months, and do I want to come for pizza? I tell him no, the temptation is too great. I’ve barely survived breakfast without their luscious pancakes) with managing this hacienda, which, quite honestly, is one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever visited.

For a while, in front of lake painted azure, we talk about work. I tell him about a job that made me sick from the inside out, yet it taught me that there’s no nobility in putting a price on one’s integrity. There is no value in making money simply to show it off (please look at the finery I’m sharing on social media because it tacitly tells you that I’m somehow better off than you because of what I acquire rather than how much of my heart I’m willing to give). There is no meaning in squandering time for someone else’s dream when you can work for your own. Did you know there’s a new term going around? Brown-out? And apparently it’s so much worse than the bulbs in your body flickering and then firing out. I tell him about a man from whom I learned so much (the good and the horrific), and how American companies have devolved into the equivalent of a puppy mill. Let’s churn out these purebreds until they can no longer walk. Until they limp home from the latest show.

JC nods, solemnly, and talks about the importance of rest and rejuvenation. He nurses a beer and I try not to tackle the bag of pork rinds I’ve got hidden under a collection of Chekhov’s early stories. This is what today is about, he offers. Taking care of the people who take care of you. I say that I admire him, wish more people valued respite as much as he did, saw that it only increased productivity, creativity, and loyalty.

As I sit here typing, I listen to young men trade stories. Rested men, men who only a few hours ago sang along to Spanish songs on the radio and traded chips like baseball cards. Men who practice their English while I respond in halting Spanish.

On the ride home, I tell JC about a dish I learned how to make when I was in Granada, Spain. Fried eggplant smothered in molasses (or honey, if you have it), and he invites me into his kitchen to show the very incredible women, women who have made the kind of tostones that would bring you to your knees, how to make this dish. I slice eggplant (berenjena in the Spanish) while Taylor Dayne’s “Tell it to My Heart” blasts on the radio, and, in exchange, the women teach me the words for flour (harina) and onions (cebellas)–all the while showing me how to make salsa. One of the women, the younger of the two, holds up fresh cilantro for me to smell. We agree that this, everything, is beautiful.

On the way back to my casita I looked up and noticed stars blanketing the sky. I paused, turned round and round. I haven’t seen stars in a long time.

This is what happens when you breathe, when you listen to the sound of your own breath.


creamy red lentil + squash soup with purple potato chips

My story this week is one of exhaustion, but a good kind of tired. I’m not talking about the tired that comes from living a life in a conference room, clock-watching, because I’ve been there, done that, and have the war wounds to prove it. Rather, I’ve taken on two exciting brand projects and a large-scale strategy project for a national franchise restaurant brand–all of which require a lot of heady thinking, collaboration and planning. I’ve spent most of this week in meetings listening and talking to people, and the bulk of today holed up in my apartment, creating. All of this put me to thinking about a piece I read this week espousing the benefits of flexible schedules. I spent 16 years chained to a desk and tethered to a computer with the expectation that I produce swiftly and brilliantly. No one ever took into account that people have different or more productive ways of working, and I feel privileged that I’ve designed a life where I get to have the necessary solitude in which to think, balanced with the deep need to connect and learn from people.

But I’m still a little tired.

Now more than ever do I recognize the value in shedding unhealthy attachments–those intent to cleave, drain and smother. I don’t have time for the extraneous, the superfluous, the dramas and intrigues. I only have room for those whom I love, friendships that need tending to, and my own self-care. Everything else is periphery, background noise.

In this life I’ve designed for myself, I’ve recognized the need for “me” time. I’m not talking about staring at my phone or refreshing my Twitter feed (as I’m wont to do), but it’s more about doing something tactile, creating something with my hands. So every Thursday afternoon, regardless of my schedule for the week, I make something. I spend a few hours in complete silence chopping, whisking, mixing, stirring. It’s a moving meditation of sorts, allowing me a break from the writing, the marketing, the stories, the people, and allows for something, anything, to come in. I get clarity when I cook or bake–I find new ideas of simple salves for old problems. Or I just make something really lovely to eat, and today is no exception.

I haven’t made a mirepoix base for a soup in some time, and I enjoyed the earthy feel of this soup and its depth of flavor with the two potatoes and varying textures (creamy and crisp), and I never met a squash soup that I didn’t love.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Small Plates, Sweet Treats
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 small butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded and diced (about 3 cups diced)
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock (replace with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
2 small purple or yukon gold potatoes, very thinly sliced


For the soup: In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper. Cook the vegetable, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until tender but not mushy.

Add the red lentils, squash, russet potato, chicken stock, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simMer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup in a blender. Adjust the seasoning if needed and keep warm.

For the potato chips: In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced potatoes in batches and cook until golden. Drain them on paper towels, reserve.


creamy tomato basil pasta (vegan/gluten-free…I know, but it’s really good)


You should know that I used to be addicted to pasta. As someone who used to drink men under the table, under the floorboards, I know a bit about compulsion, about the need to feel anesthetized. To be here, but not really, and you know how it is. It got to a point where I went through several boxes of pasta a week. I’d have a pesto pasta for lunch and gnocchi for dinner, and I’d only post a photo of a kale salad or green smoothie, but you know all about that faux Insta life–it’s proliferated all over the internet to a point where one could call it a disease.

When my doctor and nutritionist broke the news, that even after these nine months of living gluten-free I can never eat like I had before, I was practically catatonic. I kept asking how did this happen? How did I allow myself to get to this place? How had I substituted a glass of red wine for a seemingly demure plate of cacio e pepe? Had I been asleep for the bulk of my waking life to only wake to a smack in the face? When I learned that I could only have gluten OR dairy once a week, that pasta would soon be relegated to an occasion meal, it took a while to accept this. It took a good two weeks to overcome my withdrawal from gluten.

Even now, even when there are so many terrific gluten-free pasta options (I found Bioitalia while I was in Spain and I’m hooked), I have to be careful. Because I’m swapping out gluten for rice, potato and other starches, which are fine in moderation but don’t for a healthy, balanced diet make. And I’ve got this thing for developing unhealthy attachments to specific foods (Exhibits A, B, C: pasta, avocados, chickpeas–all of which required individually-deployed fatwas). So know that when I post a pasta recipe it better be a DAMN GOOD ONE because I can’t have it for another week or two.

You should know that cashew/almond cream is the best thing to have entered my life since Cup4Cup flour. The combination yields the creamy texture and taste of heavy cream without the bloat and the sickening full feeling that invariably happens when you feast on any dairy-rich dish.

Trust me on this.

Part of me wishes I’d never found this recipe because now I have leftovers in the fridge that I can’t touch until the end of the week. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE GLUTEN STRUGGLE? It’s real, friends. Real.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, with modifications
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews (soaked for 2 hours, or overnight)
1/2 cup unsweetened, unflavored almond milk
9 ounces uncooked gluten-free pasta (basically 3/4 of a package)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, drained (I use San Marzano)
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
3 handfuls baby kale
1 cup packed fresh basil, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Start by soaking the cashews. Place the cashews in a bowl and add enough water to cover. Soak for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse. Blitz the nuts and almond milk in a high-speed blender until smooth and creamy (approximately 1 minute). Set aside.

Boil water and cook pasta according to instructions on package.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until translucent. Add tomatoes and kale and continue cooking for 7-10 minutes over medium-high heat, until the kale is wilted.

Stir in the cashew cream, basil, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until heated through.

Drain the pasta (reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water) and add it to the sauce. Add the reserve pasta water, and stir to combine well, cooking for a few minutes until heated through.


almond crusted chicken

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my body. Not the shape of it, not the slope of a hip, but I’ve been thinking about my insides. At the same time I read an insipid blog post about a woman who just turned 31, and her greatest lamentation in life was her inability to remain effortlessly bone-thin whilst hoovering chicken fingers at a rapid clip. The post put me to thinking of a girl I knew in college who ate the most horrifying food — arteries clogged or bust was her mantra, as she stewed everything in a vat of margarine — yet remained lithe. Once I joked and said, I may have ten pounds on you but you’ll be dead in thirty years. It was all ha ha, and let’s toss back another drink, but now I think less about the size of my hips and more about the kind of food that’s going in my body.

In 2004, I remember cleaning out my kitchen cabinets and nearly having a stroke after reading all the labels. The foods that I had perceived to be healthy — Nutri-Grain bars, granola cereals — were filled with sugar, preservatives and the evil HFCS. Since then, I’ve eaten clean {as much as I can control}, and lately I’ve been devoting more thought toward sugar, and how I can winnow out simple carbohydrates.

Can I tell you that my weakness, my proverbial Achilles heel, is pasta? Dressed in pesto, baked in bechamel, this white goddess is a predator posing as a house pet, and my doctor told me, in no uncertain terms, that I have to chill. Over the past year, it’s been a battle, especially in those stressful moments, to be mindful of food diversity. Not only do I cook and bake with alternative ingredients {coconut oils, gluten-free flours}, but I’ve made an effort to make simple swaps in my day {protein-packed smoothies versus bagels, apples and palm oil-free almond butters instead of cereal bars}, and I’ve absolved to imbue my diet with lean protein.

While it’s true that I made chicken with a bit of butter, I swapped out the canola oil for coconut {perfection with the almonds} and used a gluten-free panko instead of breadcrumbs, and while I’d normally be eating a second dinner after having pasta, I’m SO FULL, POST CHICKEN.

I invite you to make this recipe because it’s perfect for those nights when you want to face-plant into the nearest cushion, and it’s salvation for those nights when you want to eat pasta out of the pot.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart, with slight modifications, via The Budget Babe
3/4 cup panko {I used the gluten-free kind}
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs
2 tsp water
2 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 2 pounds), split
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds, broken into pieces
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, season bread crumbs with salt and pepper. Place eggs in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons water, and beat lightly. Dip chicken in egg, wiping away excess with your fingers, and dip in bread-crumb mixture. Dredge until lightly coated. Dip in egg again, and coat thoroughly with almonds.

Heat butter and oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Saute chicken until nicely browned, about 3 minutes, and turn over. Cook 1 minute more; then transfer pan to oven, and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

go bananas over this semi-virtuous banana coconut loaf


Stumbling upon Tara of Seven Spoons’ post on baking loaves was liberating. Over the years, I’ve built up a solid repertoire of swoon-worthy desserts: chocolate mousses, kitchen sink cookies, three-layer golden birthday cakes with tufts of cream cheese frosting, and my collection of loaves and simple breads. However, I’m insanely Type-A, so the idea of deviating from a recipe gives me vertigo, so much so that I repeat recipes month after month, and even though I have the ingredients committed to memory, I still need the book.

Following an outline gives me comfort. Take that for what you will.

However, when Tara said that all loaves have a core foundation of 2 cups of flour, 2 eggs and 1/3 fat, I stood over my kitchen counter, jubilant. I had no formal recipe of which to go off; I had no instructions, and I made myself go at it alone. I’ve been talking a great deal lately about being lost, and I’m wondering if forcing yourself to experience the dark is the first step in getting through it. So in my small way, this is me finding my way to light by stumbling and falling.

So I futzed with the flours. Spelt’s a grittier flour, but I thought paired up with the creamy richness of the bananas would yield a delightful texture play. But what I love most about this loaf is that it’s not entirely too sweet. The maple syrup delivers a smokier flavor, and I feel as if I can actually TASTE the ingredients {flaxseed, coconuts, etc}.

I was going to wait to publish this tomorrow, but I’m just so DAMN TICKLED.

And will you look at that? The sun just broke through the clouds. If you’re in New York, look out your window.

1 cup gluten-free flour {I used Cup4Cup}
1 cup spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil, room temperature
1/2 cup maple syrup {Grade A}
1 tsp almond extract {you can also use vanilla or coconut extracts}
1/2 cup buttermilk {you can also use almond milk}
3 medium bananas, ripened + mashed
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes

Special Equipment: One 9X5 inch loaf pan

Pre=heat the oven to 350F + grease your loaf pan {I used coconut oil or coconut oil spray, but you can use butter, naturally}. In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients {flours, baking soda, salt, flaxseed} until just combined. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk the coconut oil and eggs on medium-high until the mixture has combined. Reduce the speed to medium-low, and add in the maple syrup and almond extract. The mixture will appear like it’s curdling, don’t worry, all will be resolved when you mix in the dry ingredients.

Slowly add the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the buttermilk, bananas and coconut flakes. Pour the mixture into your pan and level with an offset spatula. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to rest on a rack in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully turn the loaf out onto a wire rack + cool completely.


foodie finds: covet-worthy cookbooks

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

packing lunch for the week: easy skillet lasagna

INGREDIENTS: 1lb ground sirloin | 1lb tagliatelle {or any flat/wide noodle} | 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped | 4-8oz of your favorite homemade tomato sauce. I’m giving you a wide range, as I tend to like my pastas on the dry side, lightly dressed with sauce | 1/2 cup pasta cooking water | 6oz fresh mozzarella cheese |2oz fresh goat cheese | pecorino romano, salt, pepper to taste.

DIRECTIONS: Pre-heat oven to 350F | In a cast iron skillet, add about a tablespoon of olive oil, salt, pepper, and saute the meat until brown | While the meat cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta and cook to al dente | Once the meat has browned, add the sauce and basil | Once the pasta is al dente, add the pasta water and pasta to the skillet and toss to coat | Add the cheeses and mix to combine | Bake the lasagna for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted | Add pecorino to taste.

green goddess salad with kale, pomegranate + roasted chickpeas

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

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.


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.


cheddar + dill biscuits + living this one great life

Whenever you are faced with a choice between liberty and security, choose liberty. Otherwise you will end up with neither. People who sell their souls for the promise of a secure job and a secure salary are spat out as soon as they become dispensable. The more loyal to an institution you are, the more exploitable, and ultimately expendable, you become…You know you have only one life. You know it is a precious, extraordinary, unrepeatable thing: the product of billions of years of serendipity and evolution. So why waste it by handing it over to the living dead?George Monbiot

It’s easy to ghost through our waking life. Play the part of a somnambulant — a body that moves mechanically, with no purpose or passion. We live to be cartographed and programmed, and we cleave all too delicately to the everyday certainties that threaten to undo us: the traffic that is relentless, the job we slumber to, the boss who is possibly psychopathic, the beloved with whom we settle because considering options becomes a tiresome proposition.

My pop suffers from stiffened joints that make it sometimes difficult for him to walk, and when I press him on this, when I ask him to see a doctor, he says he’d rather carry this discomfort because the risk taken to learn that he may be sick, that something may be gravely wrong is too much from him to bear. So he chooses to live with this disquiet, this numb leg and the stiffness on a limb that used to move nimble, quick. I’m quiet as I know how far I can push him, that there might be a moment where his silence matches my own.

I have a friend who tells me she’s getting OUT. She says this in a voice that implies she’s speaking in all caps, and she often sends me notes reaffirming her need to quit his job. But the money’s so damn good, and it’s not all that bad, even during the dark moments when it is that bad. Sometimes she tells me that she’s an adult and it’s not like we’re twenty-three anymore; it’s not as if the world is still filled with so much possibility. There are mortgages to pay, purses to buy, expensive meds to refill. She sells herself a lemon life, and she’s masterful at it. Other times, late, she sends me texts and tells me that she lives vicariously through me, a single artist who can indulge in such flights! of! fancy!, and I have to remind her of my $130,000 student loan debt, the five-figure credit card debt, and, oh by the way, this artist has been working as a professional marketer for seventeen years. There is no flight of fancy. There is no ticker tape of golden skin on a Fijian beach, rather there is a decision to live your life uncomfortably comfortable or live your life with all the bandaids ripped off. And this puts me to thinking that sometimes a mortgage is not too far from a mortuary, and that safe is probably the more dangerous of all the four-letter words. Safe tells you that the world no longer glints and gleams, that there is no Santa Claus. Safe tells you that in 401K, we trust. Safe tells you that you’re an adult now, you can no longer dream now, the world is closing in on you now. Safe tells us you that your story has already been written.

We chose the hand we know we can play rather than the terrain undiscovered.

Seven years ago, I stopped drinking and told myself that I’d lead a safe, controlled life. I created routines, only cleave to that which was familiar, and I told myself to get serious about the business of being an adult. Because I’m someone who observes the extremes, I interpreted safe as the antithesis of reckless. No longer would I be the twenty-five-year old who brought drugs on a plane and woke up in a different state. No longer would I play detective with crumbled up receipts and call records. I got a cat and I lived this very vibrant and verbose life, online, but rarely did I leave my phone. And for a while this worked until my home and office resembled one another in the sense that they resembled the inside of a tomb. I wasn’t living life, I was hiding it from it with over 140-character count witticism and perfectly composed blog post. Exasperated, a friend once shouted through tears that I was impenetrable, and even after listening to my friend in pain nothing registered. I couldn’t feel anything, and it would be a year later until I’d realize that I traded in one form of anaesthesia (alcohol) for another (solitary confinement). It would be two years later until I’d started the long road to repair that friendship, to open all the doors and let people in.

When I read George Monbiot’s article, I paused because it reminded me that there is no joy living in the extremes, of inhabiting a word until it becomes you, and you are only defined by how you are not living. His words articulated that there is something brilliant and beautiful in the middle of reckless and safe, that there is color and sound and feeling in taking giant leaps of self-faith. As a woman inching toward 40 I’m finding that I need to revisit children’s books because they remind me that a story survives on its own velocity, that it can always be retold and rewritten as long as it’s good. As long as that story keeps a child’s eyes wide, but then softly sings them into a slumber.

So far I’ve booked trips to Ireland (a journey with my pop who’s from Dublin) and India this year, and while I still don’t know how my story ends, I like the art of writing it, and rewriting it as I go.

All this thought while working from home, making biscuits.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of A Pastry Affair.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter
2 tbsp fresh dill, minced
1 cup (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 + 2 tbsp cup heavy cream
1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (220 degrees C).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or with two forks until mixture resembles a coarse sand. Mix in the fresh dill and cheddar cheese. Gradually pour in the heavy cream and milk, mixing until just combined.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and bring together until it forms a ball. If you need to knead the dough to bring it together, do so but no more than 10-12 times. Flatten the dough ball to roughly an 1-inch thick round and, using a 2-inch round cookie cutter or drinking glass of equivalent size dipped in flour, cut out biscuits until all dough is used. Place biscuits on a baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until tops of biscuits are lightly browned.

Allow to cool slightly on a rack before serving.

pasta milano: savory, simple + delicious

Believe me when I say that this is one of the days where I don’t want to leave the house. Right now I’m content with streaming episodes of The Twilight Zone and preparing my lunch for the week. The benefit of an Odyssean work commute and an office park where one has to drive to the nearest Starbucks, is the need to bring your own lunch. This necessity prevents me from ordering a daily slew of garbage. This necessity makes it imperative that I potter about the kitchen on Sundays, filling plastic containers with fresh food, salads and a little sweet.

On deck this week is a little pasta milano. I have to say that out of all the cookbooks I’ve purchased while in Australia, hers has proven to be a star. There’s no real flash in this book, rather, Janelle Bloom offers a steady stream of meals that are simple to make and satisfy the palate. From fried chicken to protein-packed salads and quick fixes (free-form Bolognese pie and Turkish pockets stuffed with spinach and feta), I’m excited to cook my way through the book and share my finds with you.

So this week you’ll find me munching on pasta, sipping on my green smoothies, and savoring homemade cookies.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Janelle Bloom’s Fast Fresh & Fabulous, with significant modifications*
500g (1 lb, 4 links) chorizo
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup chicken (or beef) stock
400g (1lb) pasta
1/4 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
50g pecorino romano cheese (1/2 cup), grated

*Cook’s Notes: The recipe called for an additional 1/4 cup of heavy cream, which I eliminated. I also dialed up the shallots and chili flakes and used homemade tomato sauce I had on hand. I also used chorizo sausage instead of Italian sweet sausage.

Using a sharp knife, remove the sausages from their casings. Roughly chop the sausage meat and set aside.

Heat oil in a large frying pan (or a cast-iron skillet) over medium heat. Add the shallots, with a touch of salt, and allow them to cook until lightly golden (3-5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Increase the heat to high, and add the sausage meat to the pan, cooking the meat for 4-5 minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned. Add garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring, for one minute.

Stir in the tomato sauce and stock. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened slightly. While the meat is cooking, cook pasta until al dente. Drain and return to the saucepan.

Combine the mascarpone and parsley and stir into the meat sauce. Add the pasta and pecorino cheese to the meat sauce and stir over heat until well combined. Season with salt, pepper and serve.



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