glowing strawberry-mango guacamole

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This weekend was exhausting. Although I love consulting, and enjoy the fact that I live a creative life without being chained to a desk five days a week, sometimes my flexible schedule means I have to work nights and long weekends. I wrote a lot this weekend, so much so that all I want to do is lie supine and not write. From finalizing the final draft of my novel for submission to creating recipes for a fun work project to writing positioning and marketing copy for an appliance and a new type of agency, I’m a little spent. Exhilarated for what’s to come, but spent. So apologies for the super short post. I did want to pop in and humbling thank everyone who sent me kind notes regarding the first chapter of my new book. I’ve been tethered to these characters for so long it feels as if I’ve been writing in a black box, a box so dark no light gets in. Imagine me putting on blinders after sharing 14 pages and getting such a warm reception, suggestions from friends on editors to whom my agent should submit my manuscript, and virtual fist pumps.

Thank you! Your fist pumps mean the world and back, and then some.

So don’t mind me as I lie on the floor, spooning this guacamole into my mouth.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook
2 medium avocados, pitted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (I nixed this as I don’t dig onions in my guacamole)
1 fresh mango, pitted, peeled, and finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped hulled strawberries
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, to taste
Fine-grain sea salt
Corn/gluten-free chips, for serving

DIRECTIONS
In a medium bowl, gently mash the avocado, leaving some chunks for texture. Rinse and drain the chopped onion (if using) in a strainer to wash off the sulfurous compounds. This makes the taste of the raw onion more pleasant. Fold the mango, strawberries, onion and cilantro (if using) into the avocado. Season with the lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve immediately with your favorite corn or pita chips. Avocado tends to spoil quickly, so leftovers won’t keep for longer than 12 hours or so. Makes 3 cups.

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creamy tomato soup with roasted chickpea croutons

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Truth be told, I can’t wait to see my allergist on Tuesday, because this itch (a reaction to god knows what) is OUT OF CONTROL. I’m told that I have to nix the antihistamines three days before the appointment, but know that I’m taking my Quercetin supplements because going to bed feeling like you have the chickenpox is not fun. Some have told me that this is all the garbage making its way out of my body (two weeks of unknowingly eating vinegar in my Sakara meals dressing + drinking Kombucha — both of which have yeast, another sensitivity), still, but my doctor and nutritionist think I’m reacting to something else; they just don’t know what.

Another thing I’m learning: don’t take cookbook recommendations from people who don’t have food sensitivities/allergies/conditions because the books will invariably have a pile of recipes I can’t eat. Frustrated with having purchased a pile of gluten-free cookbooks that are loaded with dairy-rich recipes, I decided to hit the bookstore and find tomes like The Oh She Glows Cookbook, books that I will sully and stain after a few days of use. For me, the mark of a successful cookbook is yelping in the kitchen over the fact that I got it wet (my counter space is MINIMAL, at best), or that I’ve managed to spill some sort of sauce all over the pages.

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So I broke down and bought a PALEO cookbook. WHO AM I? Someone who’s plagued with a Twilight Zone-level of itch, apparently, lest I forget. At my local bookstore, paleo books practically have their own shelving unit, and after grimacing to an extreme, I picked up The Paleo Kitchen. Thumbing through the book, I found myself nodding along, thinking, I’d actually make this. I’d actually EAT this. Scores of soup and salad dishes, grand entrees and desserts that didn’t send me fleeing in rage from the oddity of it all. There’s a creamy cauliflower soup somewhere in this book, and you know me and cauliflower are epic lovers, the Romeo + Juliet of our time.

This means I will have to tear myself away from The Oh She Glows Cookbook, which is, quite frankly, the gift that keeps on giving. Every recipe works and every dish is GLORIOUS.

Last night I made a huge bowl of this creamy tomato soup, and although I was temporarily freaked out by the soup’s pinkish hue (as a result of the creamy cashews), I love the richness of this soup and who can refuse a chickpea. (Parenthetical: If I’m allergic to chickpeas, it’s over, kids. I give up). The soup is filled with all the frees: dairy, grain, gluten, soy, and will keep you full and sated for DAYS.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Oh She Glows Cookbook
For the chickpea croutons:
1 (15-ounce/425-g) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp (5 mL) grapeseed oil or melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried oregano
1/8 tsp (0.5 mL) cayenne pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) garlic powder
1/4 tsp (1 mL) onion powder
3/4 tsp (4 mL) fine-grain sea salt or Herbamare

For the tomato soup:
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
1 small to medium yellow onion, diced (1.5 to 2 cups/375 to 500 mL)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup (125 mL) raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 3 hours
2 cups (500 mL) vegetable broth
1 (28-ounce/793-g) can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
1/4 cup (60 mL) oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
3 to 4 tbsp (45 to 60 mL) tomato paste
1/2 to 1 tsp (2 to 5 mL) dried oregano
3/4 to 1 tsp (4 to 5 mL) fine-grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/4 to 1/2 tsp (1 to 2 mL) dried thyme

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DIRECTIONS
For the chickpea croutons: Preheat the over to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Place the chickpeas on the paper towels and place a couple of paper towels on top. Roll them around until any liquid on them has been absorbed. Discard the paper towels.

Transfer the chickpeas to a large bowl and stir in the grapeseed oil, oregano, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and then spread the chickpeas in an even layer on the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes. Give the pan a shake from side to side and cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, watching closely, until the chickpeas are lightly charred and golden.

Let cool on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes. The chickpeas will crisp up as they cool.

For the tomato soup: In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.

In a blender, combine the soaked cashews and the broth and blend on high speed until creamy and smooth. Add the garlic-onion mixture, tomatoes and their juices, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste and blend on high until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into the saucepan in which you cooked the onions and set the pan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then stir in the oregano, salt, pepper, and thyme, all to taste.

Gently simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the flavors have developed.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with 1/3 to 1/2 cup (75 to 125 mL) of the Chickpea Croutons. Garnish with minced fresh thyme, a drizzle of olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper.

Tips: The chickpeas will lose their crispness in the soup, so be sure to add them just before you sit down to eat — or you can even add the chickpeas as you eat the soup.

If you have leftover chickpeas, make sure they’re cool, then pop them into a baggie or container and throw them in the freezer. Freezing the chickpeas seems to retain their crispness better than leaving them at room temperature. To reheat, simply pop the frozen chickpeas into the oven at 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) for 5 minutes or so, until thawed. Voila — instant roasted chickpeas!

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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.

cooling avocado + cucumber soup (and a woman overcomes a decade-long allergy)

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Can we talk about 2002? Hmm, let’s not and say we did. In all seriousness, that was a turbulent year for me. I was living in Little Italy with an absent roommate, who was blithely unaware of my escalating drug and alcohol addiction. It was the year of blackouts, of me listening to Chinese arias in the alleyways, and falling asleep to the theme song from The Godfather, blasted by the owners of the restaurant, La Mela, below.

However, 2002 was also the year I quit blow and needed to do something with hands. I needed to be occupied. I had put myself through war and my body sought asylum. So instead of going out on the weekends, I holed up in my apartment and watched hours of The Food Network–back when The Food Network was actually good. I passed days watching Ina Garten bake chicken and fix green goddess dressing, or Nigella cooing over a Babel-esque cupcake tower.

2002 was also the year I discovered THE AVOCADO. In avocado, I trusted. Avocado for president, and the like. Me being the addict I was, I subsisted on avocados for weeks. In retrospect, I could’ve written a book detailing all the ways in which one could consume said fruit. As a result, I developed an allergy so horrifying, a spoonful of guacamole became the equivalent of appendicitis. My body saw the fruit as an invader, another substance trying to wheedle its way in, and it went on the defensive. Team Felicia, etc.

I haven’t been able to stomach large quantities of avocado until today. My nutritionist recommended this soup because it would be a slow introduction back to the fruit, rather than me taking a fork and plunging in. You can’t imagine the trepidation I had while blitzing this soup. I had to clear the calendar in the event that I’d be rolling around in pain in my home.

However, I am happy to report that I am ALIVE and KICKING, to quote Simple Minds. While I only had a small portion, it was enough to sustain me. The soup is deceptively creamy (avocado), yet cool and light (cucumber, coconut water). I made two versions: one with cilantro and one with parsley, and both were equally divine.

Brief parenthetical: this clean eating business has me buying herbs and greens like you don’t even know. Below is a snap of the contents of my fridge. The second shelf is 80% filled with spinach, kale (3 kinds), and HERBS: cilantro, mint, dill, scapes, parsley, 2 types of chives, and I can go on. I’ve taken this notion of reframing this mindful journey as one which involves copious amounts of seasoning.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar
1 large ripe avocado or 2 small ripe avocados
1 large cucumber or 2 small cucumbers
1 green spring onion, chopped, plus extra to garnish (I used onion chives, as that’s what I had on hand)
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ cup coriander (cilantro) leaves (I made another version of this with parsley, and it was lovely)
1 1/2 cups/125 ml coconut water
juice of ½ lime
1 pinch of cayenne pepper or ground cumin
full-fat organic yoghurt, to garnish (I nixed this)
Season with salt + pepper

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DIRECTIONS
Combine all the ingredients except the yoghurt in a blender or food processor until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add more coconut water. Pour into serving bowls and cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Serve garnished with a dollop of yoghurt and some spring onions.

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roasted veggie salad

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When you come home from work and you are absolutely DONE with chicken, I’ve found that this roasted vegetable salad is saving me from the road to ruin. I’ve written about this salad before, however, I’ve since added a kit + kaboodle of veggies to the mix. My recent remixes include: kale (curly kale is best), brussels sprouts, violet + orange cauliflower, sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) to the mix. Any veggie worth roasting deserves to be in this dish. Last night I came home and threw all the goods in the pan, making sure I struck a balance between cruciferous + colored greens. And believe me when I say that nothing compares to a hot bowl of charred veg slathered in a faux-cream sauce while watching old episodes of Gossip Girl.

Though I still miss my beloved SCONE. I need to keep that real.

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lentil salad with chicken + mustard vinaigrette

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Feasting on a different dish is easy when you have oceans of time to spend at home, cooking. Since I don’t lead a Gwyneth Paltrow lifestyle, where one has hours to putter about the house and chop things, my meals have to be simple, yet abundant. Especially for the days when I’m in the office, sitting through back-to-back meetings. One needs nourishment, a meal that has the ability to cut through the length of the day.

I’m on-site with a client three days a week, and typically I’ve vacillated between making bad choices in the company cafeteria–telling myself that I’ll make it up at dinner but I never do–or packing simple, carb-rich lunches. Pasta with bolognese, that sort of thing. Part of what I’m learning is that I can’t just leave things to chance; I’ve got to have a plan and a back-up plan for the day. To that end, I’ve revamped my packing list for the week. Sunday afternoons are now spent making dishes and packing tupperwares with snacks and delicious foods for an easy grab-and-go situation when I’m bleary-eyed in the morning.

This week, I’m packing this delicious lentil salad, which I found in the lovely Sophie Dahl’s cookbook. I’ve punched up the original recipe with some chicken, and I plan to either bring a prepped side salad or soup to round out the veggie mix.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food (modified slightly)
For the salad
1 1/4 cup/225g French puy lentils
a handful of cherry tomatoes, finely chopped (I nixed the tomatoes)
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 cup/150g feta, crumbled (I opted not to use the feta as I’m off dairy for the month)
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 lb/16oz of chicken breasts, sauteed, + cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt/pepper for seasoning

For the dressing
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

DIRECTIONS
Place the lentils in a pan, add water to cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes. Drain. In a serving bowl, mix the lentils, tomatoes, celery, cooked chicken, and feta. To make the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together, dress the salad and toss with the parsley.

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chocolate banana chia pudding

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Welcome to my new breakfast. After months of blitzing up my almond butter cup smoothie to only indulge in a scone once I hit the train station, I’ve finally found a breakfast that keeps me stuffed until lunchtime–no small feat, I assure you. Inspired by TV Dinner’s post + devouring expensive, yet insanely delicious, acai bowls at Tiny Empire, I decided to fix up a chia pudding of my own. Not only does this recipe feel like I’m having dessert for breakfast, but the protein and potassium boost give me enough energy to tackle my day. I’ve had this pudding three days in a room + I’m hooked.

So, friends, my gift to you.

INGREDIENTS
1 cup enriched vanilla rice milk
3 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract {coconut extract would also be lovely!}
2 tsp cacao powder
1 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp Truvia/stevia
1 tsp almond butter
1/2 ripe banana

DIRECTIONS
In a mason jar or a small bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the banana and almond butter. If you’re using a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store your pudding in the fridge overnight. In the morning, uncover, mix, and top with almond butter and banana slices.

corn, summer squash + zucchini fritters + a mini-rant on blogger trust

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This week I experienced the sort of rage that keeps you up pacing at night. The kind of rage where you pound out tweet after tweet, because you have to let the world know about your disappointment. I have to talk to you about blogger responsibility, trust and how a betrayal of that trust can be devastating.

And yes, we’ll get to these fritters.

A few weeks ago, I was scrolling through one of my favorite design and home decor sites. Vising this space is akin to getting lost in a great, old book–the pictures are coffee-table worthy, evocative and inspiring; when reading the posts, you feel as if your smarter best girlfriend is telling you about all the things you need in order to outfit your home. So when I discovered a series of photographs of an artist, which was available for purchase on Artfully Walls, I was JUBILANT. I even went so far as to do thing I rarely do: post a rave on my website even before the print arrived on my doorstep, because I made the critical error of trusting someone with whom I don’t have a personal connection, so much so that I allowed it to blind my judgment. Part of me is angry with myself for linking to Artfully Walls on this space before I received my item–something I will NEVER, EVER do again.

When I received the print, for which I’d pay $70, it was packaged in a file folder, without cardboard, and as a result, the “print” was bent and folded in places. The actual print itself was a piece of Xerox paper, of which the actual photo took out 40% of the page, while the remainder of the print-out was dedicated to Artfully Walls branding, and a Limited Edition seal, which marred the actual photo. Not only was the print on flimsy stock paper {I can’t even call this stock paper without laughing}, but I essentially spent $70 on a piece of paper I couldn’t frame and hang proudly on my wall. Heartbreaking, considering the photographer is exceptionally talented. I’ve purchased dozens of prints over the years; I have a watch. I KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS. And the time on Artfully Walls is 24-hours of WACKNESS.

Perhaps I’m still reeling from wasting $70, however, I’m starting to realize that I can’t trust bloggers whom I don’t know personally. Having worked in an agency that curried the favor of influencers with trips, product, and $, and then seeing a slew of bloggers who write sponsored post after sponsored post gushing about the things they’re paid to love, or promoting a friend’s product in an effort to do them a solid–I’ve become skeptical, suspicious.

Even the bloggers we love have the capability of being bought, influenced. They are capable of making grave errors in judgment.

I won’t disclose where I originally heard about Artfully Walls, as I’ve traded some comments with the blogger who seemed genuinely disappointed and upset on my behalf, however, I firmly believe that if you’re going to post a link to buy something, you need to stand behind what you post. Because if I trust you enough to buy the thing of which you’re promoting, trust is abandoned once that purchase is anything less than extraordinary.

How does this relate to fritters, you ask? Over a year ago I penned reviews for Medium, and I was privileged enough to receive cookbooks to review on the platform. I’ve since given up writing on all spaces, save this one, however, a kind publicist sent me Vibrant Food for editorial consideration. I love this book. So much so that I ordered it for a friend when it went on sale this week. I can’t WAIT until I give her a wrapped gift this weekend! I know what I’m about to say is controversial, but I don’t want to talk about anything on this space unless I’ve purchased the product with my own money and I can vouch for its awesomeness.

Because nothing hurts more than someone who visits your space and says: YOU SUCK.

But believe me when I say that Kimberley Hasselbrink’s book is nothing short of extraordinary. So much so, that I’ve made seven recipes out of the book, all successful, and I feel even better about recommending the book because I’ve purchased a copy. I’ve also showed this to a few friends — from novice cooks to those who have food allergies — and I can’t get over the wide-eyes and gaped mouths because not only are the photographs bold and beautiful, but the recipes are ones you want to immediately make. I’m posting one final recipe from the book because, quite frankly, you need to buy it. If there is one cookbook you need to buy this season, this is IT.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Vibrant Food {Know that I plan to purchase a few more copies as holiday gifts!}
2 small ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1/2 cup grated zucchini {or green squash}
1/2 cup grated yellow squash
1/2 to 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced.
5 green onions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup flour
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS
Using a sharp knife, slowly slice the kernels off the corn on the cob. Add the zucchini, squash, jalapeño, green onion, basil, cilantro, and salt. Add the egg and mix until evenly combined. Add 1/4 cup of flour, mixing again until combined. My batter was on the wet side, so I added a tbsp at a time from the remaining 1/4 cup of reserve flour until the mixture was moist. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and using a 1/4 cup measure, drop 3-4 fritters into the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes a side until the edges are brown, and flip to cook for another 4 minutes. Place the fritters on a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat twice more with remaining batter, using an additional tbsp of oil between each fry.

Serve the fritters warm. DELICIOUS!

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because it’s not pasta: a woman makes homemade beef tacos

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Ever wake one morning and say, This is enough. I’m done with this nonsense? Over the past year I’ve been in this cycle where I keep eating dairy, believing that this intolerance will magically go away, that I’ll suddenly return to a time where I can devour sour cream, cheese, and oceans of milk {granted, I hate milk, but you know what I mean} without feeling as if my life would be better if my stomach were somehow excised from my body. After another night of writhing on the floor as a result of having consumed cheddar, and after another day of lapping up rice pudding — blithely aware of the sickness that will invariably ensue — I decided to just get real with myself and admit that I can’t eat dairy like I used to. There’s no point in making yourself sick just to replicate the person you used to be.

At the same time I confronted a new, burgeoning addiction. This white lady was cruel and taunting, and paired perfectly with the most delicate and richest of sauces, and she did not take well to being abandoned. Recently, I had a long talk with my doctor–who had noticed an uptick in my sugar intake–and while I’m able to speak freely about overcoming my predilection for drugs and alcohol, would you believe me if I told you that I was ASHAMED to tell my doctor that I was addicted to PASTA? That I secretly eat pasta EVERY SINGLE DAY? That I created this bizarre logic that if I had a kale shake it would somehow negate a bowl of white pasta with pesto? I cleaved to this insanity for too long, and last week I woke and said that I’ve got to quit it with the pasta and dairy.

I’m about to give you some real truth here: over the past week I finally don’t look like I’m pregnant. I’m finally sleeping through the night and not waking every three hours. I’m feeling less sluggish and more energized for my workouts. And while I feel the strongest I’ve ever been as a result of making fitness a real part of my life, I also know that my journey to strength, health and mindfulness is not a game of how long I can hold a forearm plank or how low I can squat or how high I could jump, rather it’s a mix of training and being smart about what goes into my body. Treating my body as if it were a house in which I plan to spend my life, and don’t I want this house to be feel like a home? Don’t I deserve to feel good and awake and alive every moment of every day?

This week a friend of mine told me about a woman who nearly fainted in her fitness class. After some probing, the woman revealed that she’d be watching her weight, and as a result, she hadn’t anything to eat for breakfast and only had coffee to drink. No water, no food–just a house in disrepair, a home unkempt. My friend shook her head and said, You need to eat so you have calories to lose.

It’s odd that these two examples of the extremes–a woman who denied herself, and another who consumed to excess–would force me to open my eyes. After careful thought, I plan on committing myself to a diverse, balanced diet coupled with the fitness lifestyle I’ve grown to love. To that end, I’m investing in a few sessions with a nutritionist, who can help me map out a menu of healthy options for the days when I come home late and all I want to do is fall into the couch and fondle my cat. I’ve stocked my fridge and cupboards with healthier snacks, and for the next month I’m eliminating pasta from my diet so I can crack the addiction and introduce it back into my diet slowly, allow for that indulgence to have meaning {homemade lasagna instead of a bowl of limp noodles}.

To that end, I found this delicious taco recipe in Cook’s Illustrated’s {I’m finally a subscriber!} compilation of their best recipes over the past 25 years, and can I just say that this dish is EVERYTHING. It’s filling, homemade, spicy and I feel proud that I’ve finally made a lunch that’s not a photocopy of the dozens that came before. Know that I also plan on a veg variation that will include chickpeas, lentils, and cauliflower. More to come, friends!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Cooks Illustrated
For the beef filling
2 tsp canola or safflower oil
1 small onion, chopped small (about 2/3 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1½ tbsp chili powder {the original recipe calls for 2 tbsp. As a result, my tacos were insanely spicy}
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 pound 90 percent lean (or leaner) ground beef
½ cup plain tomato sauce (see note)
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp vinegar, preferably cider vinegar {I used apple cider, and it as fine}
Salt + pepper to taste

Cook’s Illustrated Note: Tomato sauce is sold in cans in the same aisle that carries canned whole tomatoes. Do not use jarred pasta sauce in its place. We prefer to let diners top their own tacos with whatever fillings they prefer. There’s no need to prepare all of the toppings listed below, but cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes are, in our opinion, essential.

For the shells + toppings: I really veered off the original recipe because I really wanted a simple taco. I peeled + shucked 3 ears of corn and sauteed them in a pan with 2 tsp olive oil until they were charred + brown. I add some cheese + parsley, and it was divine. However, if you want to rock all the fixings, click here for the original recipe.
¾ cup corn, vegetable, or canola oil
8 (6 inch) corn tortillas
4 ounces shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese (1 cup) {I used shredded mozzarella instead}
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS
For the beef filling: Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, spices, and ½ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking meat up with wooden spoon and scraping pan bottom to prevent scorching, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar, and vinegar; bring to simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking meat up so that no chunks remain, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

For the taco shells: The taco shells can be fried before you make the filling and rewarmed in a 200-degree oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

Heat oil in 8-inch heavy-bottomed skilled over medium heat to 350 degrees, about 5 minutes (oil should bubble when small piece of tortilla is dropped in; tortilla piece should rise to surface in 2 seconds and be light golden brown in about 1 ½ minutes). Meanwhile, line rimmed baking sheet with double thickness paper towels.

Using tongs to hold tortilla, slip half of tortilla into hot oil. With metal spatula in other hand, keep half of tortilla submerged in oil. Fry until set but not brown, about 30 seconds.

Flip tortilla; hold tortilla open about 2 inches while keeping bottom submerged in oil. Fry until golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes. Flip again and fry other side until golden brown, about 30 seconds.

Transfer shell upside down to prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat with remaining tortillas, adjusting heat as necessary to keep oil between 350 and 375 degrees.

For assembly: Using a wide, shallow spoon, divide filling evenly among prepared taco shells; place 2 tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing toppings separately.

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green rice salad with nectarines + corn

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For a few short moments it stormed today. If you were in New York, you walked and brunched and laughed in sunshine, and then a moment later: darkness. Rain. Coming down in sheets. I cut a brunch with a friend short because of an email I’d received about my father and his health. I spent the next hour in the middle of a street in Williamsburg on the phone, gathering information, and trying not to get angry at my father, who is possibly the most stubborn man I’ve ever known. Although he’s not my birth father, we strangely share many of the same traits: we appear tough on the outside, yet we’re extremely sensitive. And we’re big on saying, I’M FINE. I’M JUST FINE. When it’s clear that we are anything but fine.

So while I’m on the phone with my dad–and he’s pulling the JUST FINE line, and I’m calling him on it because it’s one I’ve used ad nauseum–it storms. You’re really pulling this shit on me? You’re really playing back the tape we both made? I’m in the middle of N. 6th Street trying to convince my dad that he needs to see a doctor. That this is real fucking life, and can you not yes me to death, please?

I took a cab home and the first thing I did was make a meal, because this is how I deal. I open a cookbook that bears the promise of light–a beautiful book filled with abundance and color, and, for a moment I can breathe. Kimberley Hasselbrink doesn’t know me, but today her cookbook gave me the gift of breath. My meditation is shucking corn and making pesto. My return to self is creating something from nothing.

This is how I breathe.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes, and Colors of Each Season {I received this lovely book as a gift}
For the green rice
3/4 cup brown basmati rice {I used white, as that’s what I had on hand}
1 1/4 cups water + 1-2 tbsp for the sauce
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped
Zest + juice of a small lime
1 tbsp olive oil
Fine sea salt

For the grilled corn
2 ears fresh corn, husks and skin removed
Olive oil
Fine salt
1/2 lime

For assembly
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 medium-sized nectarines, pitted and sliced thinly lengthwise
1/2 cup crumbled quesa fresca {I nixed this because of my ongoing dairy issues}

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DIRECTIONS
In a saucepan, combine the rice and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and summer, covered, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes {truth be told, my rice was done in 15}/ Let the rice stand for a few minutes and then fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Pre-heat the broiler.

To grill the corn, lightly oil both ears of corn and place in a small baking dish. Broil about 6 inches from the heat source, turning every few minutes, until golden and blackened in spots, 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside until cool enough to handle. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the kernels from the cob to yield about 1 cup. If you have more than this amount, save it for another use. Transfer the kernels to a bowl and toss with pinch of salt and a squeeze of a lime. Set aside.

Transfer the rice to a large bowl. In a blender, combine the cilantro, parsley, jalapeno, lime zest and juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbsp of water. Blend until smooth. Add up to one more tbsp of water to thin the sauce if it’s too thick. Spoon the mixture over the rice, scraping any remaining sauce out of the blender with a spatula, and mix until the rice is evenly coated.

To finish, add the corn and additional parsley and cilantro to the rice. Toss to combine. Transfer the rice to a serving platter. Sprinkle the nectarines and queso fresco over the rice in even layers. Garnish with additional parsley + cilantro. Best served immediately. Can be made up to one day in advance; bring to room temperature before serving.

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brunch for two: lemon chicken + roasted veg salad

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LEMON CHICKEN INGREDIENTS: 2 large {or 4 small} chicken cutlets pounded to 1/2 inch thick | 1 cup whole wheat flour | 1 tsp cracked black pepper +1 tsp sea salt| Zest + juice of one lemon | 1 lemon sliced thin | 2 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp olive oil |

LEMON CHICKEN DIRECTIONS: Mix the salt, pepper, lemon zest, and flour in a large bowl | Dredge the cutlets so both sides are covered | In a large pan melt the butter + olive oil | Add the chicken and lemon juice | Fry for 3-5 minutes per side | Remove the chicken from the pan, and add them to a bed of your roasted veggie salad {I added 2 cups of kale + an additional tbsp of oil to the original recipe} and add the sliced lemon, and fry for a minute on each side until the slices are golden brown | Add the slices and remaining juices to your culets | Serve pipping hot!

mexican quinoa

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After two straight days of writing {decks, strategies, articles}, I found myself lying on my floor, fearing the computer screen. I’m keeping it quiet around these parts today, with the exception of a fun group workout tonight, but know that I Hoovered this quinoa like it was my last meal on earth. The dish is the gift that keeps on giving. Also, cheese.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Kitchen Simplicity, with slight tweaks. Snaps to Hitha for the lead.
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of kosher salt
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well and drained
1¼ cups chicken broth
1 can (1½ cups) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup corn {I used frozen corn and let it sit on the counter for an hour}
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 quarter of a lime, juiced

DIRECTIONS
Add the olive oil to a medium-sized pot set over medium heat. Add garlic, cumin, jalapeños and a pinch of kosher salt to the pan and stir until combined and fragrant {30 seconds to a minute}.

Mix in the quinoa, broth, beans, corn, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked and liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, cheese and lime juice. Spoon into bowls and serve with sour cream, tortillas, tomatoes, the lot!

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