soba noodle salad with rainbow vegetables + sesame dressing

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Today I watched a child walk, but it was more like hurtling because she ran down the street with abandon. Arms flailing, preparing for flight, she was a sight to see. Her joy, her presence made me smile more than I’m used to, and I found myself wondering why it is that children have such a capacity to leap on the ground and beyond while we adults are forever crawling back. Is it because we want the hours back, or is it that we’ve grown cautious, have lost our sense of wonder, that we feel silly being the kid flying down the street.

I think about this as I’m set to board a plane to Dublin tomorrow night {recommendations welcome!}. I’m going with my father, an auspicious journey as he’s the sort of man who is far from itinerant; he’s happy to remain on his farm and tend to his horses while I need to move. I view travel much like how Megan does — it’s a time to take a brief glance back, reflect, and then leap forward. Pose the big questions. Breathe through the things that unsettle us. There’s still my novel to finish. There are taxes that need filling and a debt that needs to be repaid. There are these questions about money and my ability to pay for things, and several job offers I’ve politely and humbly turned down because all I know is this — I’m still not ready to put on that cloak of the full-time employee who sits in front of a computer and pounds on it all day. I’m content with what I’ve created within the past year: mindfulness about what goes in my body and how I take care of my house, friendships deepened, great work done for people — from agency and start-up CEOs to managing directors — whom I admire, so many words written, photographs taken, miles traveled. I want more of this. I want more clarity in this.

I don’t want to return like that cautious adult to all that was before. Rather, I want to be that small child feeling the ground beneath her feet and racing into the unknown.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Sophie’s Dahl’s Very Fond of Food {original recipe here}
250g/9oz buckwheat soba noodles
2 cups of flat leaf kale {baby or lacinato} rough chop
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, grated
4 spring onions {scallions}, finely sliced
1 tbsp sesame seeds
3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp brown rice vinegar
1 tsp tamari {or soy sauce}
1 tsp honey or agave syrup
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DIRECTIONS
Cook the noodles as per the packet instructions and then drain and leave to cool. I rinsed the noodles with a little cold water since buckwheat tends to starch up. When the noodles are cool place them in the bowl you are going to serve them in and add all of the vegetables – shredding, grating and thinly slicing.

In a small frying pan, toast the sesame seeds for a minute or so. Add to the noodles. Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients {from the sesame oil onward} together in a small bowl, adjusting according to taste and pour over the noodles. Serve.

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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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white bean salad + carrot salad with carrot ginger dressing + ripping the band-aids off

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When you begin to realize that there are divisions in your life that are not mathematical, is when things start to get dicey. It’s as if I’ve spent the past four years blissfully asleep, content in my ignorance, happy to let the world and all the beauty within it, slip, and then I woke from this night terror, confused and disoriented. The costs of ignorance are incalculable, I can’t even begin to do the maths on this one, and while I work on getting my personal house in order I’m growing concerned about the world around me, about the people in it and how they’re content to go through their day under anesthesia.

Have you ever seen the film, Carnival of Souls? A woman who was meant to die in a car accident, doesn’t, and you watch as she roams, soulless, through Utah. She’s a fragile wisp of a thing, prone to hysterics, but at the same time she’s comfortably uncomfortable in her self-imposed isolation from love and faith. In a few scenes in the film, you see her running through a department store, park or a crowded thoroughfare, screaming. No one can hear her, and this terrifies her — the threat of being alone in her torment, the idea that she can’t be heard when she wants to. This silence forces her to face the specter that was there all along — her death, physical + spiritual.

This is a roundabout way of saying that at times I feel very much like this woman. When I’m surrounded by people whose greatest lament is not getting their preferred Soul Cycle class, when an awkward silence falls when I talk about the world and all the monstrous things in it (The AP scandal, brutal rapes in Rio and India), when people can’t fathom going beyond their own sympathetic brunch because being a friend means you have to be there for the long haul, not just for a clasped hand and a few nods and a brunch paid — when all of this, all of this happens, I feel as if I’m alone in my lament.

When I talk about my writing and my excitement for it, and for looking for a job that won’t compromise it, people stare at me blankly to a point where I always, inevitably, ask, Am I boring you? When I think about how I shouldn’t have created such a sharp divide between myself and my co-workers, and how I now don’t know how to be friends with them, even after we’ve left the place that threatened to undo us, many don’t understand.

Maybe I’m hypersensitive (it wouldn’t be a first) or overtly-critical, but I’m walking through life without medication, walking with all the band-aids ripped off, and I need to move toward people who are going to get it. Who are going to be there for the long haul. Those who know that in the end, our friendship was worth the stretch.

In the interim, I’m focusing on making my life (amidst all this complexity) as simple as possible. Naturally, every conversation in my life starts, ends, or involves food, and this would be no different. How simple is it to make a cold carrot salad and a hot white bean one when a friend sits across from you and says she’s scared of the world, too? Or when your best friend, the woman you’ve known for half your life, tells me on a phone line that she doesn’t care about petty politics, she just wishes people would climb out of their damn box. These conversations give me hope. Warm my heart.

INGREDIENTS: Recipes adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Of note, there is a different version in her cookbook, however, you’ll find that it’s merely a shift in serving size rather than an alteration of ingredients.
4 cups shredded carrots (this is for the salad)
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped (this is for the dressing)
1 large shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet white miso
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons water

For the white bean salad: Of note, I made some alterations to Paltrow’s original recipe, as I didn’t feel her version had enough thyme
1 14oz can of cannellini (or white kidney beans), drained and rinsed in cold water
2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 tbsp of olive oil
Salt/cracked black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
For the carrot salad + carrot ginger dressing: Pulse the carrot, shallot and ginger in a blender until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, add the miso, vinegar and sesame seed oil and whiz together. While the blender is going, slowly drizzle in the grapeseed oil and the water. Toss spoonfulls of the dressing (how much you add is to your taste, really. I prefer salads that are lightly dressed as opposed to drenched) onto the carrots. I added a handful of black sesame seeds for color and additional crunch.

For the white bean salad: In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat on medium. Sauté the garlic for 2-3 minutes until the garlic slightly browns, and then add the shallots and thyme, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the onions are slightly translucent. Add the beans and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Serve hot, seasoned with salt/pepper, or at room temperature — either way, the beans are delicious!

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ugly as sin, yet so, so good: buckwheat banana pancakes

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Arriving at each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had: the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places. ― Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

This morning I woke jubilant, anxious. Tomorrow I leave for a three-week European holiday. From Rome to Florence to Siena to Luca to Paris to Bordeaux to Biarritz to wherever the day takes me, I know I’ll return from this trip changed in some way. For the past few months I feel as if I’ve been smothered by the largeness of things. Boxed into a disturbance in one place, where the shapes that ghost my days are monstrous, chattering incessantly. There’s a whisper I’ve only now been able to shake, and in a city so large how is it impossible to feel so small? — the irony of which certainly does not escape me.

This holiday could not have come at a more opportune time, as I need to feel unsettled, off-kilter. I need to get lost in order to find myself again. My first week is a little manic because I’m itinerant: plane to plane to plane to city to unknown bed to dinner to lunch to train to hotel to unpack. I complain about it, but part of me knows this is perhaps what I need to do to shake the remnants of the last few months out of me. To come home, eyes-wide, belly full, heart open. To come home with more than what I left.

But not yet… First, I’ll spend some time tinkering in the kitchen, wearing down the jacket and pages of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook (realize that every time I type this something inside me curls and dies). Today I made her buckwheat banana pancakes, and believe me when I say these cakes have a face only a mother could love. They’re brown, bordering on grey, with bits of banana poking through, but to say these are delicious and hearty and filling would be an understatement. I love the weightiness of the buckwheat juxtaposed with the creamy banana, made luscious with the golden amber syrup. These cakes are surprisingly light, and I felt satiated without feeling sick. Plus, these are packed with so much goodness, you won’t feel horrible having pancakes for breakfast.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good, with modifications
1 1/4 cups almond milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tbsp maple syrup, plus more for serving
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup white spelt flour (substitute rice flour to make pancakes completely gluten-free)
1/2 tsp salt
2 small bananas (or one large), thinly sliced
1-2 tbsp coconut oil

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DIRECTIONS
Mix all the wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a slightly bigger bowl. Add the wet to the dry and stir just enough to combine – be careful not to over-mix (that’s how you get tough pancakes).

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of butter. Ladle as many pancakes as possible onto your griddle. Place a few slices of banana on top of each pancake. Cook for about a minute and a half on the first side or until the surface is covered with small bubbles and the underside is nicely browned. Flip and cook for about a minute on the second side. Repeat the process until you run out of batter, adding in the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil between batches. I ADORE coconut oil with this as it lends a delicious sweet flavor to the cakes. Serve stacked high with plenty of maple syrup.

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my “fever” salad: tofu + chinese broccoli with soba noodle salad

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Part of me wants to call this my fever salad, as “fever” is an often-used moniker for lemongrass, the crisp, astringent herb native to tropical regions of Asia and Africa. Two years ago I found myself in front of the Indian Ocean, the sand a blanket before my feet, and I remember feasting on a plate of noodles tossed with lemongrass. The meal was simple, citrusy, fragrant and delicious, and as the sun dipped into the ocean, rendering the water a vibrant pink hue, I felt feverish. I felt as if I’d never feel this calm or free again. I blasted the Bird and the Bee’s “Preparedness” on repeat and as Bali succumbed to the night, folded into its darkness, I lay down on the shoreline, plate by my side and counted the stars.

You may also have noticed I’m on a bit of a noodle kick. Between chowing on pasta and rhapsodizing about my major life change, I haven’t kept track of what I’ve been posting here, it’s just been raw and organic. However, I promise to hit the stand mixer soon because I’m missing my biscuits and fluffy cakes.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron (Serves 3, generously)
1 large bunch Chinese broccoli (you can also use spinach or bok choy)
2 scallions
2 cloves garlic
1 small piece of ginger
1 stalk lemongrass
1 package extra-firm tofu
1 lb (16 oz) soba noodles
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 lime
4 Birdseye chilies
1/4 cup hoisin sauce

DIRECTIONS
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Wash and dry the Chinese broccoli. Roughly chop the leaves (I’m not a fan of the stalks so I nix them) and finely dice the scallions. Set aside. Peel and finely chop the ginger + garlic, and set them aside as well. Chop off the ends of your lemongrass and peel the stalk until you get to the tender, pale center. The exterior will be pretty fibrous, and as your peel the herb will become more tender and fragrant. Finely chop the lemongrass core and set aside. Press out the excess water out of the tofu with a paper towel and cut into one-inch cubes. As you can tell I wasn’t entirely successful in the cutting process, however, as long as your tofu is drained of all water and is browned on all sides who cares if it’s not pretty as a proverbial picture?

When the water comes to a boil, add the soba noodles and cool until tender, 4-6 minutes.

While the noodles are cooking, line a plate with a layer of paper towels. Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in a medium skillet set to high heat and toss in your tofu, making sure that the tofu browns on all sides, 8-10 minutes. You want to stir occasionally, not like I did, and ended up making what resembles a vegan scramble, but then again this reminded me of the texture of pad see ew, so life is grand. Season with salt + pepper and transfer the tofu to the lined plate when done.

Drain the noodles and rinse with cool water. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the mirin, soy sauce, sesame oil, diced scallions and juice of 1/2 a lime. Toss until well combined and season with salt and pepper to taste.

In the pan you used for the tofu, add a splash of olive oil and toss in the broccoli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, whole chilis and cook for 2-5 minutes until the greens are verdant and wilted. Add the hoisin sauce and toss to combine.

Divide the soba noodles between three bowls and top the noodles with the delicious tofu + Chinese broccoli mixture. Serve hot, or you can absolutely feast on this as a cold salad.

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baked squash with millet and caponata

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Why not have a big life? — Emily Dickinson

Why not have a big life? Have the most extraordinary life there is? Why settle for anything less than extraordinary? Why not live every day jumping out of bed and hurtling yourself into the trees? Why not fall in love with yourself all over again? Why not sleep the sleep of children? Why not take the sun like sacrament? Why not read a book and then read it again? Why not ride the subway to the end of the line? Why not eat a slice of cake in the morning? Why not forget the calories? Why not watch cartoons like you used to? Why not email everyone you know and tell them you love them, love them, love them, just because.

Why not break ranks? Why not tumble out to the unknown?

Today I woke and fell in love with my life. And I finally could see myself here, and then myself, there. And I could finally draw a line between the two.

Did I mention I took my first French class today and that I. LOVED. IT.? And did I mention I got over my fear of eggplant and dove right into this delicious bit of healthy heaven? Did I…Did I?!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron Meals (serves 2; 525 calories/serving)
2 medium acorn squash
1/2 cup millet*
1 small zucchini
1 small eggplant
1 red pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley (2-3 tbsp chopped)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp raw (cane) sugar
2 oz goat cheese
2 tbsp of olive oil

*If you can’t access millet, I think quinoa or bulgur wheat would do quite nicely.

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DIRECTIONS
First, pre-heat your oven to 425F and put a medium pot of water to a boil. Cut the tops off the squash, then scoop out the seeds. Although this recipe doesn’t use the seeds, I love them roasted and tossed with some chili (yum!). But I digress. Drizzle the squash with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then place them in the oven on a baking sheet. Since the oil drizzled on my pan I managed to set off the fire alarm in my apartment every thirty seconds. Note to self: line the pan with parchment paper to prevent smoking.

Dice the zucchini, eggplant and red pepper (making sure you de-seed the pepper). Then chop the garlic and roughly chop the parsley. Once the water is boiling, add the millet and boil for 10 minutes, or until the it is tender.

Drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil into a medium pan, then turn the heat to high. Sauté the eggplant, zucchini and red pepper for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are soft. It’s important that you cut your vegetables around the same size so that they’ll cook evenly. You may need to add another tbsp of olive oil while your cooking the veggies. After 4 minutes, add the garlic and sugar, and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add the vinegar and most of the parsley. This is your caponata.

Once the millet is done, drain and add to the pan with the caponata. Stir until well combined, then remove from the heat.

Next, remove the squash from the oven and fill with your caponata mixture. Sprinkle the goat cheese over the top, then bake for 15 more minutes, or until the squash is completely tender. If you have extra filling, save it to serve alongside the squash.

Once the squash is tender, remove from the oven and garnish with the remaining parsley and DIG IN!

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heirloom apple salad with sweet potato + blue cheese

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Years ago we used to shout Merry Christmas from the rafters without apology. Along the way, the shouts were squashed to a timid murmur, and everyone now pantomimes Happy Holidays. I don’t actually remember when the shift occurred, but it was slight, imperceivable, and although stores felt comfortable hocking Christmas wares in October, everyone still dutifully obeyed the holiday greeting.

MERRY CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS. MERRY CHRISTMAS. EVE.

As I type this, I’m curled up on a warm couch with my kitty, nibbling on honey rolls. Readying myself from my annual Connecticut sojourn where I plan to eat my weight in cookies, beef and all sorts of terrific, culinary delights of which my dear friend Liz has in store for me. I plan to eat like it’s 2099, and in preparation I feel it’s wise to be a tad virtuous (hmm, we may want to nix the honey rolls).

Enter this yummy heirloom apple salad. Words cannot express how much I adore this salad. You won’t feel deprived, rather, you’ll find yourself digging in, fork first. The vinaigrette provides a sharp, fresh tang against the the pungent cheese and sweet potato. In all candor, this is a lot for two people, so I’d recommend this salad as a side for four, a generous portion for 3.

Hopefully, this will divert my attention from the magic bars in the freezer!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Blue Apron
2 apples
1/4 cup roasted almonds
1 clove garlic
1 bunch arugula (2 cups)
1 head green leaf lettuce (4 cups)
1 small shallot
1 celery stalk
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
4oz blue cheese
1 baby sweet potato
1 bunch tarragon (3 tbsp)

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DIRECTIONS
First, put a small pot of water to a boil. Peel and dice your sweet potato, then chop the celery. Next, dice the apples, then chop the tarragon. Finely chop the shallot, and set it aside in a small bowl with the apple cider vinegar. Lastly, smash and chop the garlic until it resembles a paste, then add it to the vinegar with the shallot.

Next, toast the almonds in a dry pan over high heat. They only need to toast for a few seconds — be careful not to burn them! Remove the almonds from the pan, then roughly chop them.

Add the diced sweet potatoes to the boiling water. Blanch them for 4-7 minutes, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Then, drain the sweet potatoes and rinse them under cold water. While the sweet potatoes are blanching, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the apple cider vinegar, shallots and garlic with the olive oil, chopped tarragon, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Next, wash the lettuce and arugula, then shake off the excess water. Finely chop the greens together, then set them aside in a large mixing bowl. Add the apples, half of the almonds, celery, half of the blue cheese and sweet potatoes to the mixing bowl with the arugula and lettuce. Toss with enough of the vinaigrette to dress the salad. Divide the salad between two plates and garnish the remaining blue cheese and almonds. Enjoy!

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if this be a home, how would you keep it? {kale and coconut quinoa salad}

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We do survive every moment, after all, except the last one.― John Updike

If this be a house, how would you keep it? Would you festoon the walls with faded old pictures that give the appearance of a life lived, or would you whitewash all the windows shut because lying was never really your strong suit? Inevitably, photographs pale down to sepia and sometimes you find yourself pointing to people and wondering how you know them. Do they still think of you, or never at all? Sometimes this keeps you up at night. Lately, you’ve been having trouble sleeping. When you were young your bed faced a fire escape, and you stayed up all night listening to the squirrels ravage through the trees. This was a time when there was always a late movie playing on the television and staying awake felt dangerous, so you slept on top of the sheets not wanting to disturb them, with one foot draped over the bed. Ready to run. One night you woke to all the lights on, windows and doors open, and there was a note on your bed: we liked watching your daughter sleep.

Now you don’t notice when you check all the windows and lock all the doors before you climb into bed. It just feels natural this way. Even now.

If this be a house, would you tend to it, rake it and hoe it, or would you let it go wild? Wake to find weeds tangled in your hair? One night you come home, two bottles in, and you fall into bed. Chinese arias lull you to slumber. Come morning you open your mouth to find wildflowers blooming, sprouting up through the floorboards that are your teeth. The waves aren’t receding. And then loneliness comes knocking like an old friend whispering, did you miss me? Children used to anger you because they were lucky. They got to be children while you were an adult saving everyone out of the womb.

People used to tell you that you were a forest. To which you’d reply, how is that even possible? I’m drowning.

If this be a house, would you crowd the rooms with people, having them sit on your couch and handle all your things, or would you barricade yourself in because your heart was a landmine — it could blow at any minute. Six years of safe was driving you mad. Six years of excising old friends out of photographs put your heart on pause, and you worry that at some point all the safe will slow the beat to a full stop. Six years of living the plan was making you come undone. {You know our couch? Our beautiful couch? Totally toxic.} At a market in Provence, you wound up a gramophone and the music blared bold and strong, and you leaned in, all the way in, because you wanted to rewind the tape and do it all over. Because this — all of this — wasn’t the harvest you had intended.

If this be a home, would it be everything you ever needed? Last night an old friend {from way back when we…} and you talked about the paralysis of want and personal velocity. She lives in a home surrounded by banana trees because she couldn’t make it work with all the noise, all the senseless want. And you no longer want to be safe. All this time you thought a home was a place and that place was New York, but you’re suffocating in all the memory. The smallness of things. The people you love who have emigrated elsewhere. The mother who wants to steal all the coins out of your wallet if she could. The people who are supposedly your friends but you never see them because people practice busy lives like witchcraft. All this feels very musical chairs and your head is spinning.

Your home will be the place where you bring your heart to harvest. Where you divorce yourself from want and consider need. When you slow down and realize that the words self-destructive and safe mean two very different things. Where you break ranks. Where you go off the grid. Where you tend to a garden {perhaps making this kale salad you see here?}. Where you fall madly, deeply, shamelessly, in love.

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INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, with considerable modifications
For the salad
1 cup rinsed quinoa
1 cup light coconut milk
1/3 cup chicken stock (or water)
1 large shallot
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup dried cherries and strawberries
4 cups Tuscan or flat kale
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
For the dressing
2 tbsp orange juice (or lemon)
2 tsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
In a small pot, combine the quinoa, coconut milk, water and a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, this will take about 10-12 minutes. Empty quinoa into a bowl and allow to cool.

Slice the shallot width wise into thin coins. Heat up the oil in a 8-10” saute pan (you don’t have many to crisp up). * If you don’t have coconut oil on hand, grapeseed oil will work as an alternative, it’s just not that great for you. Once it’s just shimmering, add in the slice shallots. Stand by them, as they’ll burn quickly. They will dance around a bit, and once you see the edges turn golden flip them over or move them around. Set up a double layer of paper towels, remove the shallots just as they turn brown and drain on the paper towels.

In a small bowl, mix the orange juice, thyme, olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper.

You want to make sure the quinoa is room temperature before you toss, or it will wilt the kale, and that would be criminal. In a salad bowl, toss the kale, half of the cooked quinoa, half of the dried fruit and half of the pumpkin seeds with desired amount of dressing. Your choice as to what ratio you want, you can save the rest of the quinoa for later, or toss it in, again, the ratios are up to you. Garnish the top with the rest of the fruit, pumpkin and all of your crispy shallots. Add pepper and salt to taste and enjoy!

squash + broccoli rabe lasagna

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There is much to be learned from failure. For example, take this deceptively simply butternut squash lasagna. Longtime readers will remember my initial lasagna triumph, and how I swore I’d never go back to the traditional meat and sauce version. NEVER AGAIN!! However, I got a little arrogant, a little crazy, me being the overzealous, I-can-replace-whole-milk-with-anything type of cook, and I initially botched this lasagna by adding in almond milk. My rationale? The rabe will cut the nuttiness and will complement the squash. Not true, my friends. Nothing could be further from the truth. So I tried again using soy milk and I have to say that although nothing compares to the rich creaminess of basic bechamel, this was a decent substitute. Certainly, you could nix soy and rice altogether and opt for full-fat milk and this would be perfection.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, with modifications.
For the Filling
2 2-lb. butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons olive oil plus more
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 pounds broccoli rabe (rapini), tough stems removed
Crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, coarsely grated
1/2 pound gruyere, chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

For the Béchamel and Assembly
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 cups (or more) 2% (or soy/rice) milk
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 pound whole wheat no-cook lasagna noodles

DIRECTIONS
For the Filling: Preheat oven to 400°. Place squash and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season generously with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat squash. Transfer to 2 rimmed baking sheets, spreading out in a single layer, overlapping slightly. Roast until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Quickly blanch broccoli rabe in a large pot of boiling salted water just until it wilts, 1–2 minutes. Drain; briefly cool under running water. Squeeze out excess water; coarsely chop and transfer to a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes; drizzle with oil and toss to coat.

Mix mozzarella, gruyere and next 2 ingredients in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Squash, broccoli rabe, and cheese mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill.

For the Béchamel and Assembly: Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; stir until slightly thickened (do not allow mixture to turn brown), 2–3 minutes. Increase heat slightly; slowly whisk in 5 cups soy milk, 1/2-cupful at a time, allowing béchamel to thicken between additions (adding milk gradually will help to prevent lumps from forming). Add a bay leaf.

Reduce heat to low and cook, thinning with more milk if too thick, until sauce is a milk shake–like consistency, about 10 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium metal bowl. Set bowl over a large saucepan of gently simmering water. Cover and keep warm.

Ladle about 1/4 cup béchamel into a 13x9x2-inch baking dish; spread evenly over bottom. Line dish with a single layer of noodles, cutting as needed to fit (use large scraps in subsequent layers). Layer 1/3 of squash over. Scatter 1/3 of broccoli rabe over. Dollop 1/3 of cheese mixture randomly over greens. Drizzle 1/2 cup béchamel evenly over ricotta mixture. Repeat process 2 more times for a Total of 3 layers, finishing with a layer of noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over; top with remaining cheese. DO AHEAD: Lasagna can be assembled 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Return to room temperature before continuing.

Preheat oven to 375°. Bake lasagna uncovered until bubbly and starting to brown, about 45 minutes. Turn oven to broil. Cook until browned and golden, 4–7 minutes. Let rest for 20–30 minutes before serving.

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healthy eats: black rice salad with mango

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I spent last weekend with women on the verge, dear friends who see the past behind them as if it were a battle they had conquered, and then what lie before them — darkness shrouding a vast terrain — and they wondered if now was the time for them to charge forward. To leave the comfortable uncomfortable behind for something bigger and more beautiful than they had ever imagined. It’s a sweet thing to witness this fever, this anxiety, this fervor, and having been inspired by their passion and light, I found myself confessing my future plans that — shock, oh shock — involve food.

I won’t say anything on this space, but the shoreline is clear and specific and I’m patient in my need to work to that place, to now want to rush to it. Because right now is not my time, and that’s okay.

Today, after a grueling workout, where I damn near collapsed on my medicine ball, I was thinking about a virtuous lunch. Typically, I feast on scrambled eggs and buttered whole wheat toast (YUM!), but today I was besotted with a black rice salad with mango, featured in Bon Appetit‘s June issue. And can I just say I’m glad I embarked on this miniature adventure because lunch was incredible, downright biblical.

Black rice, otherwise known as “Forbidden Rice,” in the Chinese culture, is high in cancer-preventing antioxidants, and has a rich, nutty flavor. I marveled as it transformed the cooking liquid to a psychedelic blackberry hue, and married with the sweet fruit and the astringent limes, this salad is fresh, light, wholesome and unbelievably filling.

I tinkered with the recipe a little bit to suit my liking, but I invite you to pair this with a salmon or a piece of steak (DROOLING).

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Bon Appetit’s June 2012 issue, serves 6-8 as a side; 4-6 as a main salad
2 oranges
1/4 cup (or more) fresh lime juice
2 tbsp safflower oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 cups black rice
2 just-ripe mangos, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2″ dice
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, rough chop
6 ramp leaves, thinly sliced

DIRECTIONS
Remove peel and white pith from the oranges. Working over a medium bowl to catch juices and using a sharp knife, cut between membranes to release orange segments into a bowl. Squeeze membranes over bowl to release any juices. Strain juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; reserve orange segments.

Add 1/4 cup lime juice, oil, and fish sauce to bowl with orange juice; whisk to blend. Set dressing aside.

Bring rice and 2 3/4 cup water to a boil in a large saucepan. Season lightly with salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer to all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes.

Spread out rice on a rimmed baking sheet (I just a large cookie sheet), drizzle with dressing, and season lightly with salt; let cool.

Place mangoes and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Add rice and toss gently to combine. Serve!

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