Chicken Tinga Tacos and Deep Feelings After Nine Years

Every September the feelings return, the deep missing and longing, the hollow aching hurt of sorrow. In less then two weeks it will be nine years since I lost my mother. She always marked anniversaries and the next year by jumping ahead so she would be saying that in a few weeks we will be working on a decade without her. And this year as the feelings took me by surprise I remembered the calendar and how easily I could be brought back to that night almost nine years ago. To the night that stands like a dividing line between one life and next, like the continental divide imperceptible to the naked eye but where to one side the waters run in one direction and on the other side they run the exact opposite course. It is hard to explain how much can be lost so fast, because certainly to anyone who has yet to lose an integral figure the feeling cannot be conveyed, its a deep vacuum that consumes the certainty from the world, a certainty you never knew you existed with until the existence is gone and can never be replaced. You learn to live without that certainty without the comfort you once took for granted but sometimes you remember what was lost and the bone deep ache for that person and the life they lived with you returns. As the years go by I am stronger when these feelings arise but I am always humbled by how much the deep longing can still exist.

Later this month my sister, Anne, and I will be taking a writing retreat in the mountains of Santa Cruz with two of our favorite authors. And so this September as the feelings are there they are mixed with anticipation and also a deep sense of memory of what that lost life once was like. A few years ago I joked to my sister that I thought we were raised Jewish-Mexican. We were culturally Jewish lighting the Chanukah candles while frying latkes and dipping the bitter herbs in salt water each Passover, and living in the Mission then a predominately Mexican neighborhood with burritos and tacos from 24th Street being our most common meal. When we were sick our mother would either make us matzo ball soup, bring home whatever left over soup was at Martins, or more often run to the taqueria across the street for a pint of Tortilla soup. I can remember the comfort of countless Friday’s eating burritos while watching a movie sitting at my mothers side on our well worn blue couch while the 27 Bryant passed the window outside.

Food can transport us, can comfort us, can express who we are or would like to be. Mexican food is by far the thing I miss the most not living in California (ok my family, but the tacos are a very close second and far less complicated). When I found this recipe for Chicken Tinga Tacos I jumped at the chance to make them. They are not the most traditional but something about them felt like home to me, they tasted like those Friday nights with my mother on a blue couch. They felt like a comforting whisper of a life that has passed but never left me.

These tacos are so easy to make (even easier when you use a store bought rotisserie chicken) and I like mine slathered in a Mexican style coleslaw, something about the hot cold drippy mess makes them feel even more like home to me. These tacos are the thing food should be transportive to another place, another time, deeply imbued with a feeling. A feeling that lasts well past 9 years and I am pretty sure will last the rest of my life.

CHICKEN TINGA TACOS from Pinch Of Yum
Ingredients:
 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup roughly chopped onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup canned crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie chicken works great!)
 
12 corn tortillas for serving 
1 avocado for serving
 
My Mexican Coleslaw:
1 small head of cabbage shredded or narrowly sliced
1 shallot minced
1/2 cup of cilantro chopped
1-2 pickled jalapeños finely chopped (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup vegenaise (or mayonnaise or sour cream)
Juice of lime
 
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. 
  • Add in the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Stir in the chipotles, oregano, and cumin, and toast for a minute. 
  • Add in the tomatoes, stock and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for 7 minutes. 
  • Place the tomato mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. 
  • Return the sauce to the pan over low heat. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes together. Taste and add more salt if necessary. 
  • For the coleslaw, combine the vegenaise and lime to make the dressing. 
  • Add the cabbage, shallot, cilantro, and jalapeño to dressing. Taste for salt and pepper and add as necessary. 
  • To assemble the tacos warm the tortillas (either in a microwave or wrapped in a low oven). Take a slice of avocado and mash onto the bottom of each tortilla, add chicken on top of avocado, add coleslaw on top of chicken. 
  • Wrap and eat and be messy and happy with each bite. 

04

09 2018

Peruvian Green Sauce from Skinnytaste

It has been a summer filled with days at the beach jumping waves, playing in pools with dear friends and their kids, road trips, lake side walks at sunset, and two dear friends weddings. For me its been a real New England summer with visits to Pennsylvania, the Farm in up State New York, New Jersey, Long Island, and a day trip to the Berkshires. But it hasn’t all been lazy nature filled days there has also been a whole lot of work. There was a work trip to California and more visits with family and friends. Its been fueled with fresh road side peaches, blueberries picked and devoured directly from the bush still warm from the sun, and so many vegetables.

While in San Francisco I saw this bus and laughed and sent the picture to my sister because it both felt like it summed up life but also because it reminded me of what I consider to be the San Francisco of my childhood home, and on every visit it feels increasingly disappearing like the receding fog . While talking about San Francisco there is a Peruvian Chicken restaurant called Limón, it serves delicious roast chicken with a side of the most amazing dipping sauces. Earlier this summer I found a recipe for one of these sauces (the green version, Aji Verde) and have not been able to make enough of it this summer. Its bright and fresh, has zip from mustard and vinegar, an elegant undertone from the sautéed onions, and heat from the jalapeños. Can I just repeat how amazing it is!

 

Just like that sign in San Francisco I have loved this sauce all summer with vegetables. Raw and dipped  into a bowl of the sauce, or my favorite was sautéing whatever I had fresh from the farmers market served over quinoa and then slathered in this sauce. Yep my life is powered by vegetables!

 

I hope your summer has been vibrant with delicious bites, sunshine, plenty of water, and an abundance of vegetables. And I hope you like this sauce as much I do.

 

 

Peruvian Green Sauce from Skinnytaste
INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a red onion chopped 
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (or I use vegenaise)
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (original recipe calls for white but I have used red wine)
  • 4 teaspoons grainy mustard 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 jalapeños, roughly chopped seeded but keeping the ribs (more or less to your level of heat)
  • 2 cups chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems rinsed well
  • 3 medium cloves garlic minced

DIRECTIONS:

  • Sauté the onion in a small skillet with 1 teaspoon of the oil until soft, approx 3-4 minutes. 
  • Transfer to the blender 
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the blender
  • Blend on high speed until the sauce is smooth and creamy. 
  • Enjoy. This will make a lot of sauce and it will keep nicely for a week in the refrigerator.

 

26

08 2018

Bon Appétit Simple Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust

The other week I received the most wonderful and unexpected gifts from Anne in the mail. She had seen some cake pans and thought of me and sent them along with a delicious loaf of Lopez Island bread. I savored the loaf of bread for the entire next week, each day a slice with butter and jam and an image of the Pacific Northwest island and its evergreen trees from my little apartment in Brooklyn. And I set out thinking what should be the first thing to bake in my cake pans…after some thought it came to me, I could make not a cake but a crustless quiche that I had once made in a pie plate but called for a springform cake pan.

The recipe comes from Bon Appétit and Healthyish and a trip they took to The Topanga Living Cafe. It is a simple but delicious quiche filled with sautéd kale and onions, cheddar cheese, and a crust made from sweet potatoes!! Layered in a springform cake pan and then released it is a perfect marvel of scrumptiousness and seasonality. As I purchased my ingredients from my Brooklyn Farmers Market it made me recall some of the farms I visit on Lopez Island and realized how perfect this would be on their little magical island! In fact this recipe would be good just about anywhere.

 

You do not need the springform pan (although you do lose the impressive presentation of seeing the quiche stand alone when it is made in a pie plate). Regardless of how you make this quiche I encourage you to make this quiche and I will happily be making it for years to come in my new cake pans – Thank You Anne!
Love,
Ra
Ingredients:
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for pan
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch or smaller pieces
1 onion thinly sliced
1 small bunch of curly kale, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
12 large eggs
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (approx 1 cup)
1 cup Greek yogurt
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

  • Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Add potatoes, season with salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until well browned around the edges and slightly undercooked, 10–12 minutes. 
  • Transfer potatoes to springform pan and let cool; reserve skillet
  • Lightly coat sides of spring form pan with oil. Flatten potatoes slightly with the back of a spoon, packing into the seam where 2 parts of springform pan meet.
  • Preheat oven to 300°. 
  • Heat remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in reserved skillet over medium. Cook onion, tossing occasionally, until softened but not browned, 8–10 minutes. 
  • Add kale a handful at a time and cook, stirring, until softened but not limp, 5–6 minutes. Season with salt & pepper. Let cool slightly.
  • Whisk eggs, cheese, and yogurt in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. 
  • Set springform pan on a parchment- or foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. (This is important, I ignored this step and had a mess in my oven).
  • Top potatoes with kale and onions, then pour in egg mixture. 
  • Bake quiche until edges have puffed up slightly and top is just set with no liquid egg remaining, 55–75 minutes. Let cool before removing from springform pan and slicing. Enjoy!

06

07 2018

Intentions and Cauliflower Walnut Tacos

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I always have the best intentions, I will eat healthier, I will stop postponing any number of things I want to do, I will speak my mind more often, I will show up for myself more, I will blog/write more. And then between my work, between fun (in the case of the last months different friends weddings), between my second guessing myself (sure lets call it fear which it probably is), and between the horrifying news of late I simply can’t find my way to follow through on those intentions I held.

Intentions are a strange thing – held properly they can be transformative but more often they are acted on in ways that unintentionally hurt. We use our intentions as a scapegoat sometimes for the harm our actions cause. Years ago when I was in Kenya and had been temporally removed from the orphanage I called my dad crying from outside of my Kenyan family’s house. I told him what had happened as children and neighbors peered over the stone fence at the crying muzungu. I told my father I had come with the purest of intentions and in his good Catholic way my father repeated a phrase he says often “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I sniffled and in that moment I think I shed a layer of naïveté that I had carried the 34 years of my life up to that point. I could mean well, I could care passionately, I could try to understand but I might not be able to do more then show up in those moments humbly and accept that I might be able to change things or more often I might only be able to bear witness.

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Perhaps our intentions are something to hold lightly like our hopes – they can steer us but we must admit when they have failed us, when we have failed ourselves, or when despite our intentions the world feels too daunting to act on our intentions. Perhaps we can only bear witness in those moments and let them steer us later. When I returned to the orphanage a few days later I had a different perspective for my last 10 days – I had been changed forever by those children and perhaps I would not change those children in return, perhaps I could never deliver enough food, or stickers, or help. Perhaps I had to accept that my intention to make a difference was wrong and I had let the experience make me different.

With intentions in mind – I have intended to share a recipe but have felt I could never exactly sit down with what was happening in our country the last few weeks. I have been heart broken and sickened to watch and hear of family’s being separated and children detained in cages and tents along our border. I have not been able to understand who as a country we are or how we got here. I called and emailed my representatives and donated to charities helping in this battle. But how could I possibly do more or continue in life as this continued.

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As I think of intentions I think of the recipe I have been intending to share for cauliflower walnut taco meat, its really good, and every time I would stop to share this past week I would stop myself – world news seemed more important, that procrastination or fear – who cares about this recipe right now with what is going on in the world. My intentions dwarfed but they were still intentions – to feed myself good food, to share with others, to make the world in the smallest way kinder and better. I held onto my intentions and tried to remember Kenya and how complicated things were for me there and how the experience changed me. I held my intentions and understood it was all they were intentions that could either help but didn’t guarantee anything, but I showed up to bear witness with my intentions and perhaps that is all we can do.
Oh and here is that delicious cauliflower walnut taco recipe, trust me its good! I made this a few time last summer and couldn’t wait to make it again this summer. The best part of the recipe is the adornments – bean and corn salsa and pico de gallo made with everything super fresh and delicious.
With all of the best of intentions and a lot heart,
Ra
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CAULIFLOWER WALNUT TACOS from Pinch of Yum
INGREDIENTS
Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat:
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups whole shelled walnuts 
2 individual chipotles in adobo sauce (more to taste if you like spicy)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
Corn Black Bean Salsa:
1 can corn (or fresh off the cob if you have it)
1 can black beans 
1/2 of a pickled jalapeño (more or less to taste)
1/2 shallot 
Juice from half of lime
Cilantro to taste
Salt & Pepper to taste

 

Picco De Gallo:
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes halved or quartered
1 shallot
1/2 of a pickled jalapeño (more or less to taste)
Juice from half of lime
Cilantro to taste
  • Preheat over to 375° F and lightly grease a baking sheet
  • Pulse all of the ingredients for cauliflower walnut taco meat in food processor until the mixture is evenly ground, you might have to do this in stages.
  • Transfer to greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until tender and starting to brown. You will have to stir around halfway through.
  • While the cauliflower walnut mixture is in the oven make the corn & black bean salsa, and pico de gallo.
  • Corn/Black Bean Salsa – sauté ingredients in pan until heated through and well combined.
  • Pico de Gallo – toss all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
  • Assemble tacos or eat over rice or as part of a burrito. I like mine layered in a tortilla with a slice of avocado. But you do as you wish and I promise you will love these!

 

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25

06 2018

Karen Demasco’s Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

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We could call this post willfully baking spring into existence…or the mantra that went through my head as I grated carrots, measured flour and sugar, and mixed this all together, was similar to the movie FIELD OF DREAMS, “if I bake it spring will come

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Boy do I want spring this year and boy couldn’t we all use a little more warmth, vibrant color, and hopeful days in our lives. I am finally home again after a marathon of work travel and although it is only 38 degrees outside the persistent nature of spring is starting ever so slightly to bud along the streets in Brooklyn. And with this season change and hoping that the spring will come even faster in the next few weeks I could think of nothing I wanted to bake and eat more then these delicate carrot cupcakes with mascarpone frosting.

After a long break away from my oven I baked and listened to Vivaldi’s Spring  and imagined myself in an episode of Chef’s Table, which by the way how excited am I for the new season that will spotlight bakers and dessert!

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I have made these sweet and ever slightly spiced carrot cupcakes for years every spring and each time I remind myself that I should share this recipe, and every year I never get around to it. I have always loved a good carrot cake but have felt picky about what I want in a carrot cake. As a child I loved the thick slab slices from Just Desserts drowned in cream cheese frosting but it always felt heavy handed (no as a child I didn’t think this I just thought I could never finish a piece of the overly rich, dense, thick cake as much as I loved it.) I also was never a fan of carrot cakes loaded with things like raisins and nuts, why take a way from the light moist cake and a simple slather of sweet cream cheese hinted with lemon. But then I found this recipe and it was everything I had always wanted – light, beautifully flavored of spring’s sweet carrots, hinted at spice, with a beautiful sweet tangy light as a feather frosting with sour cream and mascarpone.

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It may not feel like spring outside just yet but as I floated through the simple notes of Vivaldi and licked the frosting from the spoon and ate my cupcake I rather felt like a small piece of spring had landed with me.

Happy Spring and Spring Baking,

Ra

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Karen Demasco’s Carrot Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:
1 pound carrots (about 4-5), peeled (I did not peel mine)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk

Frosting:
1 cup mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or I used ground vanilla
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F and line muffin tin with paper liners.
  • Grate the carrots, you will need a total of 2 1/2 cups.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, sour cream, and vanilla. Add the egg and egg yolk and whisk to combine. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Fold the carrots into the batter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full.
  • Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • To make the frosting, combine the mascarpone, cream, sour cream, sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon zest and beat on medium speed with an electric whisk or mixer until the mixture becomes thick, about 5 minutes.
  • Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the frosting over the top of each cupcake.
  • The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 

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09

04 2018

Palm Springs

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Hold things lightly; plans fall apart and other unexpected plans arise and take me by surprise, but I try to remember to hold things lightly as they will likely change. So was my thought a year ago when I was asked to do a job in Palm Springs, a place I have always wanted to visit. Hold the hope lightly but I remembered jobs fall through (this happens all too often) and sometimes jobs and opportunities happen with no time for hope to even take place (ah Seoul still a shining memory). But I held the hope that this job might happen when people told me it might be canceled, I held it lightly as I talked to friends about possibly meeting me, I held lightly but was ready for the trip to not necessary take place. Pleasantly I was surprised the job worked out and I planned for the start of 2018 to be in Palm Springs.

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I have always loved old Hollywood and the glamour and stories from a time past but held immortal in film and photos. I imagined Marilyn Monroe and the Rat Pack sitting beneath palm trees, next to ultra blue pools, amidst the mid-century modern houses of Palm Springs and wanted to visit. I extended my trip by two extra days and decided to spend one strolling the streets of Palm Springs and lazying by a pool with the beautiful book, THE BRIGHT HOUR. The other day I ventured out into the desert and to the awesome landscape of Joshua Tree.

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It was amazing driving to Joshua Tree National Park and as I started to see a few of the Joshua Tree’s along the highway the other-worldly appearance by the side of the road felt unreal. The town of Joshua Tree with its bizarre and fabulous art including the Crochet Museum, and then I turned into the park and the views as I drove just continued to surprise and delight me. The occasional tree growing into fields filled with trees, the giant prehistoric rocks, and the vast vistas of dessert, rocks, and Joshua Tree’s with outstretched arms up to the blue sky.

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My mom, sister, and stepfather used to come to the desert every spring, and I knew my mom felt the desert was a sacred place to her. As I drove I could imagine her sitting across from me, hand out the opened window with a slim cigarette dangling between her fingers. Walking among the giant boulders and down paths between cactuses I could imagine her smiling from ear to ear and looking skyward and saying how much she lovvvved the sun! Sitting amid the landscape she drew and spoke of so fondly I could hear her whisper how happy she was I was finally seeing this place. I felt honored to spend a day in a landscape that was humbling and inspiring in its natural wonder.

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As I held this trip lightly things changed and as it turned out the two days were just me and the desert and a town I had always wanted to see. It was lovely and delivered what I had hoped for, I loved the small town feel of Palm Springs with the mountains in the backdrop. I loved the combination of being a part of nature and being able to end the day by a blue pool because that might just be who I am. I am grateful for the opportunity to have visited this place, and for the realization of the little hope held lightly for a year coming to fruition.

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It was a brief visit but below are a few of the details I loved from my stay. I stayed at the Del Marcos Hotel and loved it, easy downtown location and friendly staff. I had some great meals at Cheekys, Jake’s, El Mirasol, and Natural Sisters Cafe in Joshua Tree.

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04

02 2018

Crusty Baked Cauliflower with Farro from The Smitten Kitchen

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As another year draws to an end and we look forward to a new one it is hard to also not look back on 2017. What a brutal year this past one has been for so very many people – with floods, fires, hurricanes, and these are only the natural pains not to count the current mood, one of collective sorrow and pain is at the forefront when I think of this past year. But there have also been glimmers of light between the dark days – the women’s march and the outcry of more people then has ever been witnessed in modern history; there have been friends and sighs of relief from individuals who overcame obstacles and healed; for me there were trips which is always a bright spot. As we approach the winter solstice and the darkest day of each year I always find it hard to also not find the hope and possibility that lingers in the vast dark that light has to reappear and that at this moment we can only transcend toward more light.

And on a lighter note (and slightly hungrier note) the other night I cooked what I realized was likely my favorite thing I cooked (and I did cook this on repeat) this past year. This is a recipe from Smitten Kitchen website and one she adapted from Ina Garten cookbook, and really in my mind that is the start of some really good kitchen pedigree. It starts with roasted cauliflower and mixes it with Farro, three kinds of cheese, capers, crushed red pepper flakes, sage, and lemon and bakes it to a crusty cheesy masterpiece. It is the perfect match of comfort and a unique zip from the things you mix in. It was perhaps the thing I made the most in 2017 and will be reappearing in the year to come.

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Every hope that we can learn from the bruising pains this past year has brought so many of us (if not personally) then universally. May this moment be the one that brings the return of light. And may we have more moments filled with delicious cheese and baked goodness in 2018.

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Crusty Baked Cauliflower with Farro from The Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

1 cup dried Farro

3 cups water or broth

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

2 ¼ – 2 ½ pound cauliflower cut into small florets

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage

2 tablespoons capers drained

2 large cloves of garlic minced

½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Crushed red pepper flakes to taste

2 cups Fontina cheese shredded

½ cup ricotta

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese or parmigiano (I use whatever I have at the time)

  • Cook farro. If you think ahead and plan you can presoak the farro overnight in 3 cups of liquid and then only cook for 10 minutes of simmering until tender and then drain. With less planning simply simmer in liquid for about 30 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed and the grains are tender. Drain any excess liquid.
  • While farro is cooking heat the oven to 425°F. Drizzle the olive oil over cauliflower and toss with salt and pepper and spread florets in one even layer on a cookie sheet. Roast for 20 min until lightly browned and tender, checking it half way through the baking time and turning pieces over.
  • Reduce the heat to 400°
  • Assemble the casserole. In a large bowl add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper to cauliflower and farro and stir to combine. Stir in the fontina cheese. Taste at this stage to see if you need more salt or pepper or capers etc.
  • Transfer half of the mixture to a greased 10 inch ovenproof baking dish. Dollop rounded tablespoons of ricotta all over casserole. Sprinkle the remaining cauliflower farro mixture over the ricotta leaving pockets of it undisturbed.
  • In a small bowl mix the breadcrumbs with the pecorino cheese and 1 tablespoon olive oil until evenly mixed. Sprinkle over the entire casserole.
  • Bake for 20 min until browned and crusty on top. Serve with a green salad and enjoy.

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20

12 2017

Morning Glory Oats

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Today was the first day of snow this year here in Brooklyn; and earlier this week I returned from a long work trip followed by a lovely weekend visit with my sister. I am also at the tail end of a fierce cold, and today felt like the first day in months with no plans or necessary immediate errands. I always feel like with snow falling outside my windows I have every excuse to stay in bed a little longer, to curl up with books and TV…and well hibernate for a while. I went for a short walk through the gentle white flakes and breathed in the crisp clean snowy air. Then I came home and made the most delicious morning glory oats, because to me snow also feels like an excuse to keep my kitchen and stomach warm.

I have always been a fan of morning glory muffins – the earthy carrot, the spicy notes of cinnamon and ginger, the burst from currants or raisins, all tucked into a slightly sweet bite. Also I have always been a big fan of steel cut oats – the chewy bite of the oats and the warm comfort holding the bowl in my hands in the morning. When I came across this recipe that combined these two into one breakfast that might actually be more delicious then the two individual things I loved I knew immediately that I would return to this recipe over and over again on snowy, or rainy ,or well any kind of morning.

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Morning Glory Oats adapted from Whole Grain Mornings and Joy The Baker

Ingredients:

3 cups water

1 cup any milk of choice, plus extra for serving

1 cup steel-cut oats

1 cup grated carrots (about 2 medium carrots)

1/2 cup currants or raisins

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 tablespoons light brown sugar (I like to use turbinado or raw sugar in this recipe)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

  • In a saucepan, bring the water and milk to a gentle boil. Stir in the oats, carrots, currants, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt and return to a boil.
  • Decrease the heat to low and partially cover.
  • Cook the oats stirring just once or twice until it begins to thicken and the oats are soft yet chewy, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut flakes and orange zest. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Serve warm with toasted almonds and extra milk as desired.
  • Makes 4 servings. I like to make this and then keep leftovers and reheat each morning with some additional milk. 

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09

12 2017

Berlin & Copenhagen

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Some places just feel like home from the very first moment. Some places feel familiar and comforting and put you at immediate ease. Growing up in a home that was part Jewish I never thought about Germany in that way, the history and stories that filled so much of our culture made it seem possibly foreboding and threatening. I did of course despite that partly Jewish home also go to a grammar school firmly rooted in an old German foundation with its very German philosophies (my mother was nothing less then a contradiction in every sense – it was her choice to send me to the school and when I would diligently practice the required German she would look at me and say don’t speak German in this house). At school we learned German songs, we studied the very rich and diverse history of that part of the world, we celebrated holidays in a very German fashion with Christmas markets and advent circles, with May days and a Maypole, with special and magical visits from Saint Nicholas who left our shoes filled with oranges and small gifts.

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Years ago when I first arrived in Berlin I felt it, immediately that same feeling wash over me of returning home, of being surrounded by the familiar, and put at ease at how much things made sense to me there. I always attribute it to my education and the young formidable mind but I also know it might go deeper, it is the friends I have there, it is a place that reminds me of how I grew up and in an odd way Berlin echos San Francisco to me. But I think it is more,  I remember the first time I went to Germany with reservations it all felt so much – the history, the stories, the very real ghosts, but what I found was a city that doesn’t turn away from any of that but has folded it beautifully into itself. I am always moved at how Berlin a city once decimated has decided not to just rebuild but to honor that which was destroyed – building modern structures on the base of ancient and historic structures to become new and more beautiful, how they leave whispers of their history everywhere you turn as opposed to erasing and ignoring them. I love the way the past and present and future interweave. And as someone who is partly Jewish I feel more connected to my roots and the millions of stories irrevocably connected in and to this place.

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Last month I returned to Berlin for a weekend visit with friends. I love how when I arrive at Tegel I am always flooded with the same feeling of having returned to a place that I am happy to be reunited with. I spent my weekend with friends walking the streets, talking, laughing, and remembering how much I love this city. We ate home made soup followed by the remains of sparkling wine from a previous night, followed by coffee, followed by tea. We climbed bell towers and watched the sun set. I saw parts of the wall I never visited and thought about a history so complex it only seems harder to understand on each visit as my friends tell me stories of their childhoods and their families. On this trip I kept seeing and stumbling over the Stolperstein along the street that honor where victims of the Holocaust where last known to live or work. I can never return to Berlin without somehow feeling more then I did when I arrived.

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After my weekend in Berlin I traveled to meet my friend Gina in Copenhagen a city and country I have always wanted to visit. We spent the most wonderful few days walking the streets, taking boat rides along canals from Nyhavn. We saw the stature of the Little Mermaid that graced one of my childhood books and always captured my imagination. We went to Freetown Christiana and saw how a culture can live apart but within another.

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A few years ago my father and my god mother both recommended that I start to watch the Danish TV show Borgen and it quickly became one of my favorite TV shows. I loved the characters, I loved the way they dealt with issues like sexism and politics and the darkness in our world. The characters felt to me like fully complex friends who I both loved and respected but also could see some of their stumbling points. It was so wonderful to be in the city that plays such a large role in the show and walk the streets and see the sights from the show. One day to escape the rain we even went to Cafe Wilder from the show and enjoyed our Smorrebrod and sat until the rain had passed. It felt like living in the show I so admired.

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On our last day we ventured into the Danish countryside and took the train north to the town of Helsingør and the home of the castle that is supposedly the setting for the play Hamlet. It was amazing and changed how I thought about the play to walk the old wood rooms of the castle and look out to a gray sea under a cloudy sky. It changed how I read lines about the mists and will forever impact how I see and think of one of my favorite plays. While in the charming town of Helsingør we saw that Sweden and the town of Helsingborg was close, so close in fact a ferry went every hour. And in a truly spontaneous moment Gina and I decided to take the ferry and go to Helsingborg for a short visit and a coffee. It was incredible to see how close the two cities both are and how different.

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On our train ride back into Copenhagen we stopped at the amazing Louisiana Museum for one of the most amazing art experiences of my life. Set in a small Danish town and overlooking the sea and on a clear day with views to Sweden is a museum that truly must be seen and experienced in life. A sculpture garden outside so that each view from within and outside the museum feels perfectly curated and composed. Space to breath and take in the art and let the experience of art wash over and saturate you. We saw the brave exhibit by Marina Abramovic and the singular experience of standing within Kusama’s installation Gleaming Lights Of the Souls. It all felt like the most wonderful and rewarding experience.

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Some places immediately feel like home and others make you want to change how you see the world, they open your eyes and they touch your soul. It is never lost on me how fortunate I am to travel as extensively as I have in my life. It is a commitment I made to myself on a hilltop in Tuscany and it is one that has continued to be one of the most important things in my life. To continue to see the world (both near and far). To not be afraid of that which is different then me. To challenge my preconceived notions and be willing to learn from my experiences. To see that no one country or people has everything. The world is complex and diverse and as it may seem smaller it might be more important then ever to both move together to learn from other cultures while holding onto each individual cultures heritage, history, the stories, the perspectives. Travel opens my eyes to myself and to the world. It is the greatest gift I have ever been given and in large part is the gift I continue to give myself, and hope I always will.

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10 2017

Gluten-Free Blueberry Oat Muffins

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This summer has flown by in a speedy blur, its been good with multiple beach days, an afternoon at a friend’s lake house, yoga in the park, the eclipse, adventures both near and further a far (and another on the very near horizon). As a kid my summer’s seemed to extend through what felt like the most wonderful weeks of trips to the farm, camping at Mt Lassen and Big Sur, and trips to Lake Tahoe; the days and weeks felt long and time before returning to school felt like epic seasons of fun. Today summer’s feel like they end just as they start but the years too seem to speed by faster then I can even understand where May, June, July, and August have gone.

But as all of these weeks have continued to march by there is one thing that I did enjoy more then most other things this summer – blueberries. For me it felt like perhaps it was the summer of blueberries, they were so very sweet and delicious, the farmers market seemed to be adorned with the blue juicy jewels and every week I went back for more. I ate them – one, two, three just like Sal in the classic children’s book, as I walked home from the market; I ate them over yogurt, in pancakes, with chia pudding, in smoothies, in salads, any way I could. I am rather surprised I myself did not turn into a giant blueberry like Violet in Willy Wonka. On the last week that the market seemed to be filled with the plenitude of this summer’s blueberries I made what may be my favorite thing all summer, these-gluten free oat blueberry muffins.

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I have made my share of blueberry muffins over the years (some healthy, others less so) but I always felt like there was nothing to shout about, a little too sweet, not blueberry forward enough for me, and just lacking in the something special that would make me return and return to a recipe. But because I like blueberries and muffins I have never given up and kept looking and trying recipes. I found this recipe on Skinny taste and loved it! Its not too sweet, full of the blueberry flavor I love and somehow complimented by the oats, it walks the fine line of delicious and healthy. And I loved them! I made these gluten-free because I had some gluten-free flour left over from baking for a friend, but you could make these with regular flour and they would be just as delightful.

Another summer may be approaching its close but the long days and the memories will stay with me, plus I have a few of these muffins frozen for a nice fall day to recall the bounty of this summer and to relive the splendor of all of those blue beauties that I enjoyed.

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Gluten-Free Blueberry Oat Muffins from Skinny Taste

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups quick gluten free oats
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large egg whites
1 tbsp coconut or canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup Bobs Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners.
  • Place oats in a food processor or chopper and pulse a few times. (I didn’t have time for this step so I just soaked the oats directly and I liked it fine). Soak oats in milk for about 30 minutes.
  • In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, honey, apple sauce, vanilla, egg whites, oil and mix well.
  • In a third bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and whisk to combine.
  • Combine oats and milk with sugar, applesauce mixture and mix well.
  • Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in blueberries.
  • Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 22-24 minutes.

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08 2017