Seoul South Korea

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It has been five years since I went on the RAvolution, sometimes that seems hard to believe and other times that time feels very real. I went on the RAvolution in the depths of grief to find life again and something to look forward to and hope for. Sometimes I feel so different from the person who went on that journey, more settled while still less sure, more confident while understanding the value and need to be more vulnerable, less rocked by life’s swift changes and my resounding loss. I got a lot from that year – I learned to drive, ride a bike, I traveled and it very certainly saved my life, it brought me back to life. It gave me moments of pause in my pain, it brought me friends, and it brought me to places around the world.

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It has also been five years since I was last in Asia, that is of course until a few weeks again when I went to Seoul, South Korea. I loved being back in Asia, I loved the markets overflowing with people and things for sale including the bizarre face masks made with snail and collagen. I loved the dried and fresh fish in baskets by the road, and small stalls of food hot and steaming and demanding to be eaten as I walked.

 

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I loved the Bibimbap and BBQ – hot meat dipped in sauces and wrapped in lettuce. I loved the ancient palaces that seemed to go on for eternity each building leading to another and another, some meticulously painted on every inch and some stark white and wood.

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I loved the shrines and offerings in unexpected places. I loved the legends and history.

 

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I loved hiking through Namsan Park in the early morning up to the North Seoul Tower. I loved the K-pop and crowded streets and underground malls. I loved seeing the people in traditional dress taking pictures and walking around.

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I loved the way the subway made music when it arrived in the station. And the view of the mountains that surrounded the city and the way it would make me think of M*A*S*H and watching it as a kid at a friend’s house in Berkley. Life has taken me far from home and I have loved the journey.

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I had a wonderful time getting lost and wandering. I thought a lot about why I travel and why it’s such an important part of who I am.

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I travel to find myself again, and again. To reconnect. To see myself outside my life and to gain a vantage point on my life.

I travel to challenge myself – to find a way to survive in an unknown and new way. While being lost is frustrating when I make a train to a connecting train and can learn to navigate in a new place the feeling of accomplishment is so great.

 

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I travel to see life and the world with fresh and new eyes. I travel to try to understand this life and try to understand other peoples experiences in it.

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I travel because I am curious. Because I like eating different kinds of food and I want to try them in their native countries. Because I love art and history and stories and people.

I travel to gain perspective.

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I travel because there is nothing more breathtaking then walking down a street that looks like it could be familiar in my own city and turning a corner to see an epic and ancient palace that I could never have imagined.

I travel because life is fragile and fleeting and the moments I feel the most alive are when I am traveling. Because at the end of my life if what I have to look back on and replay our my experiences I will be happy to look back on my journeys.

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Traveling is certainly not for everyone but I found again in Seoul how deeply it is a part of me and how happy it makes me and how grateful I am for the places my life has taken me. I am happy to look back on my memories of Seoul and know the city has made an indelible mark on my life.

 

고맙습니다

 

Ramona

 

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31

03 2016

Korean Style Chicken

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Life takes us on many different paths; some we diligently plan and research for, some are unexpected, some are pleasant and enjoyable, and some feel like we are hiking up hill through mud and over boulders. In my life these paths have brought me to all different corners of the world and I certainly have not lost my wanderlust or global curiosity.

Recently I was offered one of those unexpected paths by way of my next job. It was an offer (my first of this kind) to do a job outside the US. As a side note I have wanted and worked towards these jobs before and come up just short of the opportunity. But this time the path was there and I quickly agreed to follow it. All of this to say my next job will be taking me to Seoul Korea!!! It’s a pretty exciting path I agree!

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I will be in Seoul working for a week and then spending a few additional days getting to experience a new country and culture. It’s been five years since I was last in Asia and I am so thrilled to be returning. My days have been full with work but at night I have started to dream of the wooden Hanok houses, the Joseon era Palaces, Buddhists shrines and temples, all to the sound of K-Pop. I can’t wait to eat the Bibimbap, Bulgogi, Kimchi, and just about everything else!

In anticipation for my trip I cooked this Korean inspired chicken the other night and it was fantastic! While it is not a traditional Korean recipe it has all of the flavors I am so looking forward to – sweet from the apple sauce, fresh with ginger and garlic, salty from soy, and a subtle hint of spice. The recipe can be made either on a grill or as I did in an oven, served with rice and steamed broccoli it couldn’t have made me happier.

I seriously can’t say enough about this chicken -its delicious and easy.This chicken will take you on its own path and you won’t need a passport or suffer from jetlag but I promise you the journey is so worth it!

Love,

Ra

Korean Style Chicken from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, plus more for topping
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions, white and green parts

 

In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, apple sauce, onion, sesame oil, ginger, brown sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. 

Reserve ¼ cup of the marinade and transfer the remainder to a Ziploc bag with the chicken. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour.

Oven Version:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the marinated chicken and all of the marinade and reserved sauce in an oven safe dish. Bake for about 20 min or until done.

Grilled Version:  Before making marinade. In a Ziploc bag or between plastic wrap pound chicken breast to an even thickness, about ½ inch thick. Marinade chicken same as above.

Over medium-high heat, grill the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until it no longer sticks to the grill.  Turn the chicken, spoon the reserved ¼ cup of marinade over each breast and grill an addition 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve chicken sprinkled with green onion and sesame seeds.

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02

03 2016

Baked Endives with Ham and Cheese

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My yoga teacher reminded me yesterday how fast time can go by and how we don’t even notice all that we do or have done with that time. A flash and whirlwind. Its winter here in New York, we have finally gotten the snow that came late this year and this last weekend we had the deep freeze that always makes me want to stay in my kitchen with the oven and stove working on overtime. And one of the things I have loved making on these colder and wet/snowy days is this braised or baked endive. I have no emotional connection to these, no family member ever made these in my childhood, and yet I have seen recipes for this time and again and again and each time I immediately long to cook these.

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I love endive in salad and the idea of braising it always seems comforting and warm. And excuse me cheese yes please!! The bitter endive is milder when cooked but retains it’s bite. Wrapped in ham and then covered with nutty savory cheese makes for the perfect bite. Served with a green salad and some crusty bread to soak up the sauce, you will want to lick the plate and bread is usually a better option then my finger wiping the plate clean. Its simple yet feels slightly old world comfort food that is perfect for a cold, snowy, rainy, or foggy night. 

I hope you enjoy and are staying warm and that time is not going too fast to simply be for a few moments.

Ra

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Baked Endives with Ham and Cheese adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients

6 Belgian endives, halved vertically

Juice of a lemon

Salt and pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper (this is optional but I think it elevates the dish)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature

4-5 slices cooked ham from the deli, halved

2 ounces grated Gruyère cheese 

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  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Remove the outer layers of the endive, trim the bottoms and cut in half and remove the cores. Put the endives, cut-side down, in a large skillet with small pat of butter. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with lemon juice. Brown one side of endive for 5 min flip over and add 1/3 cup of water to the pan, cover and bring to a boil. Cook until water is evaporated and endive is tender, approx 5 min more. I usually have to do my endive in batches and then let cool on a plate.
  • Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, whisking all the time. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper and cayenne if using it.
  • Take about 1/3 of the béchamel and lay in the bottom of a baking dish that is large enough to hold all of the endives in a single layer. Wrap each endive in a piece of ham and place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Spoon the remaining 2/3 of béchamel over the endives. Sprinkle with the cheese. Bake the endives for 15 to 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has browned. Serve hot.

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17

02 2016

Olive Oil and Coconut Granola For The Ones I Love

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It has been a week of family health and keeping so many in my thoughts and prayers. Everyone is doing well now but anytime someone I love is in the hospital it reminds me how fragile and precious this life is.

First both my godmother and long time family friend Timmy had to have surgeries in the last week. They were on opposite sides of the country and the surgeries were unrelated but I received the news about both less then 24 hours apart. Then Zelda had an unexpected health scare and small procedure; three times in a week I found myself thinking about loved ones as they underwent their procedures. I am happy to report that ALL are doing well, and I am always reminded how important people are in my life in these moments. I have spoken of Timmy here before, of his creative nature, his wise soul, his compassionate heart. And I have spoken of Zelda but will speak more in the future of her large role in my life, the extended family she brought me into that after more then 30 years I consider my own, her gifts, her influence, and her Aunt’s brownies and meat balls.

My godmother Annie is one of the steadfast people in my life. She was there in the room when my mother gave birth to me. She was my mother’s partner for the better part of the first few years of my life. She is one of the parent figures who always looked out for me. Annie is widely creative, enormously intelligent, and endlessly curious. She is the one who introduced me to Shakespeare, The Phantom Of The Opera, 400 Blows, and Something Wild (although I would say the last might have been a little too early). She is the reason I have been riding on the back of motorcycles since I was a wee tyke. She has always been ahead of her time

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When I was a baby and then again as a young girl Annie moved to India to live in a small town in the Himalayan Mountains. Growing up I would study the panoramic picture she had of the Himalayas and wonder what it was like in such a far off place. When she returned when I was a young girl she brought me back the most beautiful indigo sari with gold and silver sparkling points like stars in a night sky. I am still sorry that I had to outgrow that Sari, as it might have been one of the most beautiful things I have ever worn.

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If I lived closer to Annie, Timmy, or Zelda I would deliver them soup or cookies. I would try to care for them however I know and food seems like the best place I can ever find to care for others. But I am not close, so I decided to do the next best thing and make something and send it them. Inspired by Annie’s time in India and knowing how she likes granola I thought I would make my favorite cardamom spiced granola. It’s not too sweet and with cardamom and coconut it feels exotic and enticing. The recipe I use is a combination of this olive oil granola, this granola, and a bit of my own doing. I hope Annie, Timmy, and Zelda will all enjoy this small gift and I hope they will all recover fast and know that I love them so much.

Love,

RaIMG_9723

Olive Oil and Coconut Granola

Ingredients

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats (I used gluten free for this recipe)

1 cup raw pistachios, hulled (or nut of your choice)

½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1 ½ cup coconut flakes unsweetened

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup Agave Nectar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¾ cup dried fruit of your liking (cranberries, cherries, diced apricot)

  • Preheat oven to 300°. In a large bowl combine oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut, maple syrup, agave nectar, olive oil, salt, spices. Mix well. I like to taste just a little here to make sure it is the right balance of sweet and spice.
  • Spread the mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer (you might need 2 baking sheets so as not to crowd the granola) and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden and well toasted. Be careful granola will go from golden to slightly burnt faster then you expect.
  • Transfer the granola to a large bowl and mix in the dried fruit of choice. Let it cool. Enjoy for many mornings to come.

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06

02 2016

First Prize Onion Casserole

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After my mom died there were so many questions – was I all right? Was my sister all right? Had we eaten? Did we need anything? Did I know where my mom had kept this or that? Months later when we cleaned out her house the questions were still there but had changed – What were we going to do in our lives? Where were we going to go? Could someone have this or that of our moms? And the BIG question – Do you have your mom’s recipe for – her chocolate mousse, her lasagna, her macaroni and cheese, her chocolate chip cookies, her chicken curry, her rice casserole?

I loved the questions about her recipes, her food always showed her boundless love to people, and the fact that specific items had resonated made her love feel received, recognized, and appreciated. I wrote here about finding her chicken curry recipe years after she passed, and finding her kugel recipe. In the last few months I had a similar discovery when looking for her friend’s banana bread recipe I came upon a recipe cut out from the SF Chronicle that looked familiar but instead of being called rice casserole it celebrated the onion. I sent the recipe to some of our family early on a Saturday morning and before too long my phone was ringing with calls and text messages “you found it! That’s her rice casserole recipe! I know what I am making for dinner for the family tonight.”

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It’s a very simple recipe but the first moment the onions hit the butter it smelled like my mom’s kitchen and Monday night dinners. Lately I have been having some tough emotions about my mom, I of course love her so much, unconditionally, forever, but as her daughter I saw more of her layers like an onion. She could bring people to tears in good and bad ways like an onion. To so many she was their rock, their best friend, the wisest woman they knew, the kindest and most fun. But like any deep relationship once you peel the layers of the onion and the day to day as her child at times felt harder – the buttons we pushed in each other, the complicated relationship she had with her family that was inadvertently transferred to me, the ways she could pour out everything for humanity but then be too tired and would take to her bed for days leaving me to take care of myself and at times my sister. Like an onion our relationship could be sweet or have a strong bite to it. But beyond everything she is my mother and just because you lose a parent doesn’t mean that your relationship with them ends or that the complicated feelings become condensed into only the good ones.

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But this casserole is only the sweet memories of comfort and care. The onions have a good relationship with a lot of butter that leave them only tasting sweet and caramelized. My sister and I joke if anything of our moms tasted good it was – butter, sour cream, or half and half – and this recipe doesn’t let down. I served it the way my mom always served it with a big green salad and as much love as I possibly could.

Love All-ways,

Ra

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First Prize Onion Casserole from Marion Cunningham and the SF Chronicle

Ingredients:

5 cups of water

1 teaspoon salt + more to taste

½ cup long grain rice

4 tablespoons butter

4 large yellow onions, cut into ½ inch dice

6 ounces Swiss cheese, grated (1 ½ cups)

2/3 cup half and half (or milk)

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  • Preheat the oven to 325°. Have ready a 9x13x2 inch baking dish.
  • Combine the water and 1 teaspoon of salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Slowly add the rice. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for just 5 minutes; drain well. Transfer rice to mixing bowl.
  • Melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add the onins and cook over medium heat, stirring until they are shiny and soft, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add to the rice.
  • Add the grated cheese and the half-and-half. Stir until well mixed. Taste. Salt and pepper to your liking (it will need it).
  • Spread the mixture in the baking dish. Place in the over and bake for 1 hour, until golden on top.

Serves 6

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29

01 2016

Mexico for the Holidays

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It’s freezing cold in New York and Sunday night we had our first dusting of snow this winter. But my mind is still somewhere far away on a white sand beach with palm trees gently swaying in the tropical breeze and a double rainbow after a brief late afternoon shower. To say the least I wish I were still in Mexico as I remember all of the wonderful moments my sister and I shared together over the holidays this year.

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We split our time in Mexico in half with the first part in Mexico City, the vibrant city at the country’s center. My sister had spent 5 weeks in Mexico this summer so she was my guide and translator (and she did an excellent job). We stayed centrally right off the Zócalo in the historic heart of the city. I arrived half a day before my sister and with my first afternoon I strolled the crowded central streets with vendors selling their goods, food being cooked on small carts by the side of the road and people everywhere eating, walking, shopping. The colorful streets made all the more colorful with the piñatas for Christmas strung everywhere you looked.

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One of my favorite parts of Mexico City was the layers, the ages built on top of one another all still visible in places. The Aztec ruins, the colonial churches, and the modern buildings all living and gently sloping and sinking together in a city that is so alive today you can feel the echoes of its history but also the pounding of its modern heart. I visited the Templo Mayor the incredible ruins built by the Aztecs in the 14th and 15th centuries.

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One of the main reasons I have always wanted to visit Mexico City was the Frida Kahlo museum. My sister had visited La Casa Azul this summer and had said we had to come together. At the fist look the vibrant colors of the walls and the sanctuary of the garden you feel transported back to the days when Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived here entertaining Trotsky and painting. The rooms and views out to the garden, especially where Frida painted and her bedroom with the bed from which she was confined and worked often in her life, feel like you are guests in the most intimate way. Her clothes, especially the braces she wore make her words “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” come to life in ways I never could have imagined.

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We visited Diego Rivera’s awe inspiring murals at the Palacio Nacional depicting Mexico’s history; I am still amazed at the size and scope of these works. We went to Christmas mass at Catedral Metropolitana.

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We strolled the streets and squares of Coyoacán and the Historic Center. We had unbelievable dinners in restaurants from 1912 and desserts at a sweet store from 1874, and on Christmas we had the best churros and hot chocolate of my life at Churreria El Moro that has been in business since 1935.

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I discovered that my friend Jenni was in Mexico City at the same time as us and we were lucky enough to meet up for one of the highlights of the trip and one of the most special and magical Christmas gifts. We spent Christmas night with Jenni walking and looking at the lights of the Zócalo. Watching an amazing light and projection show on the side of the cathedral; searching for Tequila, eating tacos and cerveza; talking about our dreams, our disappointments, our departed parents and life in the biggest and best ways!

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Our last day in Mexico City my sister and I took the subway and a small train out to Xochimilco and the canals and semi floating gardens and the colorful trajineras (gondolas). Slowly we were punted along the network of canals with gardens and the occasional house along the shores. Other trajineras would glide past us with an occasional mariachi or vendor selling flowers or preparing and selling food. Time was slow and peaceful. It was a perfect close to our Mexico City experience.

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The second half of our trip was spent on a small island in the Caribbean called Isla Mujeres. Our hotel was on a rocky beach but with perfect ocean views and morning sunrises. It even included free yoga twice a week (which I promptly took advantage of). The center of town was a short cab ride away, or golf cart by way of hitch hiking (yep we hitch hiked a golf cart!) It had one main pedestrian street lined with restaurants and stores. The houses were colorful and the ocean air was everywhere.

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At the north end of the island is one of the most beautiful white sand beaches with perfect warm turquoise waters. We swam as pelicans dived for fish and landed feet away from us. We floated and soaked. We dug our feet into the soft white sand as the palm trees gently swayed.

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We took an exhilarating and hot bike ride to an ancient hacienda one day. My sister was very patient with me as a yelled and cursed a good portion of the way. The parts of the Island where I was not almost being hit by taxis, motorbikes, or the very present golf cart, there were moments with beautiful beach and tropical forest views. I almost ran over an iguana but all wildlife (including myself) lived to tell the tale.

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We read our books and played cards. Ate countless fish tacos and margaritas. We went to a beach bar with swings and let our feet stay in the sand. We had double rainbows and a beautiful last sunset.

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It felt like a perfect vacation to me! With someone I love, relaxed, eating, drinking, talking, swimming, seeing art, trying new things, returning to things deeply beloved. A perfect combination of adventure and rest all topped off with what I had hoped for some of the best meals I could ever imagine!

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Having grown up in a neighborhood heavily influenced by Mexican culture and people I felt instantaneously at home everywhere we went. But more then anything I felt a deeper respect, understanding, and admiration for things I have taken for granted my entire life. Everything in Mexico felt more rooted and grounded but reminiscent of my childhood. I left feeling more love both for where I was raised and for the deeper connection and roots that it has back to a country that is far richer more vibrant more diverse then I had ever known.

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Our favorite places to eat on this trip:

Cafe Popular in Mexico City – lived up to its name and was very popular on our trip.

Cafe Tacuba in Mexico City – with the best enchiladas!

Sanborns de los Azulejos in Mexico City

Churreria El Moro in Mexico City – for churros and hot chocolate that will blow you away!

La Torta Brava in Mexico City – had great tacos al pastor

Dulceria de Celaya in Mexico City – amazing sweets

Compadres on Isla Mujeres – this was our favorite place on Isla Mujeres! Great Fish Tacos

Gelateria FraSe on Isla Mujeres – our favorite dessert on Isla and for the record my sister wanted this more then the fish tacos!

Gracias y besos

Ramona y Camila

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Photo credits: Ramona Collier & Camila Martin

21

01 2016

Tartine’s Chocolate Oatmeal Walnut Cookies

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I’ve just returned from the most beautiful and brilliant trip to Mexico with my sister! But I have also already returned to work and a project has me going full time for the next 10 days. So stories of white sand beaches, and turquoise waters, of swaying palm trees, and rainbows, of sinking cathedrals, Aztec ruins, butterflies, flowered boats, and unexpected reunions with friends will have to wait a short bit. But I do not come empty handed because I have cookies! Chocolate chip, oatmeal, walnut cookies that is!

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I made these cookies from my cookbook book club’s new fore that we are cooking from Tartine Cookbook. I baked these for friends a few weeks before my trip and my friends and I loved them. They are soft and chewy from the oatmeal and have the chocolate that makes life so much sweeter and more enjoyable (at least to me) and studded with small chunks of walnuts. They have that wonderful cookie feeling of being new but feeling like you have eaten these your whole life and would like to continue eating them your whole life (I in fact will continue to bake these my whole life!)

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Tartine’s Chocolate Oatmeal Walnut Cookies from Tartine Cookbook

Ingredients:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate coarsely chopped into 1/4″ pieces or I used chocolate chips

1 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

¾ cups sugar

2 tablespoons molasses or blackstrap

1 large eggs

1 tablespoons milk

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (I left these out of some of the cookies for a friends kids and they were just as good)

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  • Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat liners.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and then stir oats into this mixture and set aside.
  •  Beat the butter on medium-high until light and creamy. Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed until light in color and fluffy. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the molasses and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, vanilla, and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and beat on low speed until well incorporated. Fold in the chocolate and walnuts.
  • Scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, the cookbook calls for these to be 3 ounce scoops but I stayed with a tablespoon scoop and still loved them. 
  • Bake until the cookies edges are lightly brown but the centers remain pale, 10-12 minutes. Rotate your pans part way through if cooking 2 pans at a time.
  • Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. I have been told they will keep in an airtight container at room temperature up to a week – 10 days but my friends and I didn’t have them long enough to test this.

Makes approximately 24 – 30 cookies

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05

01 2016

The Giving List – 2015 Edition

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It’s hard to believe another year is winding down and shortly we will be in January again and trying to remember to write a new year on letters and checks. I have to admit 2015 has been a year that has felt heavy and some what hard for me and more for the world. I don’t believe in the fresh start on January 1 but if ever there was a time to wish for a fresh start this year might be it.

Every year this list has become more and more a reflection of what has occupied my thoughts and my heart during these days, and this year is no different.

Wishing us all light and hope.

Love,

Ra

MARTIN DE PORRES HOUSE OF HOSPITALITY:

All-ways closest in my heart. I was raised in the shadow of these soup pots and surrounded by this community my entire life.

“Martin’s, as it is affectionately known, is a free restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch during the week and brunch on Sundays. Our mission is to serve in the spirit of compassion, understanding and love.”

Note: Quote taken from Martin de Porres Website. See link for more information. martindeporres.org

BUILD A SCHOOL IN BURMA:

Through the heaviness and darkness of the news this year something remarkable has also occurred in Myanmar.  The National League for Democracy, the party of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi won the popular vote in Myanmar’s first free and fair general election in over half a century.

In the past four years Build a School in Burma has built 15 schools impacting kids from preschool through high school.

“Build A School in Burma’s mission is to build schools in underserved areas of Burma (Myanmar) to educate children and give them a chance for a better future. Build a School in Burma built [their] first school during 2011 in Nan Ouw village.”

Note: Quote taken from Build A School In Burma Website. See link for more information. http://www.buildaschoolinburma.com/#!

Shining Hope For Communities:

I read Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book A Path Appears this year and was tremendously inspired by many of the stories and organizations but especially Shining Hope For Communities.

“We believe in the urban poor; in their strength, resilience and capacity to create a better future. Through grassroots leadership, we link schools for girls to community services for all, building vibrant, gender equitable communities where all are able to realize their full potential.”

Note: Quote taken from Shining Hope For Communities Website. See link for more information. http://www.shofco.org/

International Rescue Committee:

It is hard to look back at 2015 and not think of refugees. It is also hard to imagine the magnitude and the importance.

“The International Rescue Committee (IRC) responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. At work in over 40 countries and 25 U.S. cities to restore safety, dignity and hope, the IRC leads the way from harm to home.”

Note: Quote taken from International Rescue Committee Website. See link for more information. http://www.rescue.org/

The Compassion Collective:

Also, to end on note of hope and light The Compassion Collective. Started by Elizabeth Gilbert, Rob Bell, Cheryl Strayed, Brene Brown, and Glennon Doyle in the face of darkness choosing light and showing love.

“Today’s refugee crisis is the worst humanitarian emergency the world has seen since World War II. Just as the Greatest Generation’s response to the holocaust defined them, so will our response define us.

We want to be remembered as the generation that chose Love over Fear.”

Note: Quote taken from The Compassion Collective Website. See link for more information. http://thecompassioncollective.org/

23

12 2015

Mexican Hot Chocolate

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As a child growing up in the Mission District of the 1980s my father used to take my sister and I to breakfast at this little Mexican restaurant called Aunt Mary’s (or as my sister called it Saint Mary’s). Aunt Mary’s was on 16th street just off of Valencia, it sat between an auto repair shop and Cafe Picaro, it was non descriptor other then its red vinyl booths and the smell of beans that still make me feel like being at home. We would always order the same thing – my sister would get pancakes with Viggy (the word I taught her was the name of the pig that made her bacon) and I would get huevos rancheros; and my dad would treat us to a mug of mexican hot chocolate each.

The Mexican hot chocolate would arrive first steaming hot and heavily scented with cinnamon, vanilla, and chocolate. It was rich and thick and dark. I would savor my cup not sipping it but rather taking it spoonful by spoonful daintily blowing on it and then slurping it like a soup. Each taste of deep chocolate hinted with spice not overly sweet, complex and exhilarating. I would make my cup of hot chocolate last until my breakfast arrived a golden yellow yoke like a sun swimming in a pool of red sauce; I would dip tortillas into the runny yellow, red, now orange mess and sip the hot chocolate now a cooler room temperature. And as I finished breakfast I would wipe up the last of the colors and flavors off my plate with a tortilla and always leave at least a sip or two of hot chocolate to finish the experience. I loved our mornings at Aunt Mary’s – the comfort of people who cared, the music of wandering mariachi, and the flavors that have come to be some of my favorite memories.

Growing up in the Mission I was surrounded by the flavors, colors, culture, sound, and people of Mexico. It is what has always made me feel at home. Yet I have never traveled to Mexico myself, that is until next week. My sister and I are spending our holidays together in Mexico this year and I couldn’t be more excited to walk the streets, meet the people, see the art and architecture, and TASTE THE FOOD! In getting ready for our tip I made Mexican hot chocolate in my own home yesterday, it wasn’t difficult and the smell and taste reminded me of what I loved at Aunt Mary’s – rich, thick, spicy, sweet, chocolate at its heaven most (ok I may have gotten a little carried away). Sitting in the present moment sipping my hot chocolate and thinking back to my childhood while looking forward to my trip to Mexico, reaching back to my past while stretching forward to my future all while savoring every single sumptuous sip.

Wishing everyone happy memories, happy travels, and happy sipping. With great thanks to Annie for helping with my memory and helping to form so many of them.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate – adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 cups milk 

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of cayenne pepper (unless for los niños and then you might want to skip this)

Fresh whipped cream for topping (optional)

Place the milk and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, vanilla, and spices. 

Allow to steep for a few minutes. Then reheat the hot chocolate over low heat until it simmers.

Strain the chocolate into mugs. Top with whipped cream if you so desire. Sit, sip, and soak in the memories.

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19

12 2015

Life In Links

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The other night while I took the subway home from a dinner with friends one of the usual performers started to play a song on a set of bongos, he was as Happy as the song he played, he collected his donations and as he moved onto the next subway car he said “As the world gets worse let’s each of us try to get a little better.” That phrase has stayed with me, I liked it.

Here is some of what I have been reading, watching, thinking about.

I loved these quotes

I went to see Henry IV last week at Saint Ann’s Warehouse and I am still thinking about how great it was!

One of my favorite films and books this year was Brooklyn!

I went to the New York Film Fest back in October and saw Where to Invade Next, Steve Jobs, and Microbe et Gasoline

Also, saw I The Danish Girl that was beautiful beyond words; and Spotlight and now I am outraged and inspired at the same time.

So moved by The Displaced in the NY Times

I just heard about this cookbook Soup For Syria

The Dalai Lama’s Daily Routine & Information Diet

Understanding Happiness with the Dalai Lama, a British Rabbi, an Episcopal Bishop, & a Muslim Scholar

My sister and I have always lamented the terrible sympathy cards out there, but she told me about these empathy cards and I love them

More empathy and what to say when life is hard (because it can and will be hard!)

My dad loved this video on ripping off the labels and I agree, also Between The World And Me is at the top of my want to read list

Feminism video “Its not what’s on my head, its what is in it!”

And just for fun because this makes me smile when I here it!

Love,

Ra

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12 2015