Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles

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I grew up in a town where purchasing tamales from a random kid selling them out of the family car in the Walmart parking lot was a completely normal and legit means of acquiring them. Growing up, there were more Mexican restaurants than I could count, at least two full-size Hispanic grocery stores, multiple panaderías, a carnicería, and many other specialty stores. Suffice it to say, I grew up eating a lot of amazing Mexican food and it’s this type of food that I associate with home.

My favorite place to eat when back for a visit is at the taco wagon. There are actually several, but there is one that everyone knows about when a trip to the taco-wagon is mentioned. It is a slightly sketchy-looking truck that sells the exact same thing at the same price as what I began purchasing 10+ years ago in high school. It’s a place where there’s always a wait, and all the locals can be found, from the hispanics to the farmers to the visitors back in town for a couple days to the locals that never left.

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Tacos are our ultimate fall-back food for busy days and we eat them in all sorts of variations. I won’t even attempt to make a taco that tries to compete with a taco-wagon taco, however, and all the thrown together versions we eat are hardly worthy of a recipe. So when The Recipe Redux challenged us to take a good look into the freezer, cupboards, and pantry and find an ingredient or two that had been forgotten for this month’s challenge, I took a good look at all the ingredients that needed to be used, naturally skipped over the fish sauce and wasabi, and gravitated right towards the makings for Mexican-food.

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William bought me a giant bag of tortilla chips last summer when I was running a lot and craving salt. They’ve been hanging around the back of the pantry since then because I forgot about them when the weather turned last fall and I never got back to them. They’ve since turned slightly stale.

They were perfectly in need for being made into a dish I’ve been meaning to make for months, Chilaquiles. Oddly enough, I did not grow up eating Chilaquiles. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I had even heard of them. Basically, they are a way to use up stale corn tortillas and are cooked in a sauce with meats or vegetables, or scrambled with eggs. Most variations contain eggs, cheese, and/or chicken. I decided to forego all of those ingredients because I wanted a super tasty meal that can be made with only a few pantry staples, quickly.

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This variation fits the bill because it contains several ingredients already on hand: frozen corn, diced tomatoes, tortilla chips, black beans, and a dried poblano pepper.

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Black Bean + Corn Chilaquiles, serves 4-5

These can be made even easier by using canned black beans and enchilada sauce, but you will compromise flavor. I tend to make big batches of black beans using this simple recipe. I tossed the poblano pepper into the pot, adding even more rich undertones, and slow-cooked it for the better part of a day. It sounds slightly time-consuming but we eat them for multiple meals quite often because they’re super good! 

1 medium onion, diced

1 bunch of kale, stems removed and chopped

2+ cups tortilla chips

2 cups cooked black beans

2 cups frozen corn

1 batch of spicy tomato sauce, below

cilantro, to serve

lime wedges, to serve

salsa, to serve

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • In a medium sauté pan, cook onion until slightly soft, about 5-8 minutes. Toss in the kale and cook just until it wilts. Remove from heat.
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss together the chips, beans, corn, sauce, and cooked onion and kale. Use your hands and mix gently so as not to break the chips too much.
  • Turn the whole lot into a medium-sized baking dish.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the mixture is heated through and simmering.
  • Remove from the oven and serve with cilantro, lime wedges, and salsa.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 tsp. garlic salt

1/4 tsp. onion powder

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried coriander

1/2 tsp. paprika

1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. black pepper

  • In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium-high heat. Saute garlic until just beginning to brown, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and spices.
  • Bring to a boil and then turn down to medium-low. Simmer for about 45 minutes to thicken a bit and have flavors develop. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. At this point, the sauce can be pureed if you’d like a smooth sauce, but I opted to leave it slightly chunky.


Miso Quinoa Polenta

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The other day, a girl in my high school group asked what I was like when I was her age. She asked what I did when upset, my teenage equivalent to eating a tub of ice cream in front of a sad movie. I thought a moment and suddenly remembered sitting on the floor in my room with the green carpet and sea foam walls, back pressed up against the bed, journal out and angry music turned up loud. I’d write poetry.

 

I wrote a lot of terrible poetry. I also wrote some poems that were quite good, words that I still have and to this day, can bring chills in their ability to convey a feeling, to put me back in the exact moment of their writing.

 

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My AP English teacher singled out a particular poem one day during my senior year. Standing at his podium, he read it aloud to the class. I still recall the moment because I was incredibly embarrassed. I mostly reserved my poetry-releases to funny bits in birthday cards, never sharing the serious ones. Though he didn’t say my name, I sat there petrified, afraid I’d be called out. I don’t know why I’d chosen that particular poem to submit for a class assignment; perhaps because it was powerful, those words having been torn from somewhere I didn’t know existed. Having them on paper was a vulnerability and the very act of sharing with my teacher was scary enough; having them read aloud to a room full of peers was unnerving. If only those words were safer, lighter-hearted, less mature, I would have been more fine in sharing.

 

Mr. Colley having done reciting, he and the others praised those words, commending their particular arrangement. As I listened, I allowed myself to momentarily separate, treating the words as if they were the work of another. In some ways their ownership wasn’t mine as in the throes of writing, I never really had a choice in putting them down.

 

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I share this memory because it’s exactly what I felt in writing and sharing my last post.

 

I cannot begin to express what it is like to sort through all the words, thoughts, and feelings inside and pull them out, one by one, getting them down on a page exactly as they were meant to be, and then having them composed, opening a window and flinging them out to the world haphazardly, not knowing why or what will become of them, knowing only they need to be flung.

 

I’m only just recovering from the result.

 

I am overwhelmed by the response; by the amount and depth of public and private messages received. The summary, if I can summarize, is that it is important to be real, to be vulnerable, to share the highs and the lows and to help each other out in our improving.

 

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My dear friend Kari shared a mantra on her blog that she spent a year striving to live by. I was so inspired by Kari’s mantra that I wrote it down and plastered it to the back of my phone. When it wore off, I tucked it away in my purse. On the days I am furthest from living by them, I seem to randomly pull that wisp of paper out and gain an instant paradigm shift.

 

Kari’s words:  Be brave. Be kind. Be true.

 

I don’t have preconceived notions that anything I say here is particularly important in the grand scheme of things or even inspiring to others, but I do know that Kari’s words stuck with me. I’ve been pondering them, applying them, being brave with them. In passing them along, I hope Kari’s mantra can serve as a guide for you, just as it has guided me. In whatever ways that apply, I hope you can be brave. I hope you can remember to be kind. And when life brings little nudges, I hope you can be true.

 

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Miso Quinoa Polenta, serves 3-4

I’ve been making a mess of polenta this spring and one day, realizing I was short on cornmeal/polenta, I grabbed the quinoa and my coffee grinder and inspiration was born. The result is a nice change from both quinoa and polenta, and combines the best of both. I used a tri-colored quinoa, so the result is a touch gray, but any type will do. Grind it down to a fine meal in batches. As for the miso, I have only tried this with a soy-free chickpea miso that I purchase from a big bulk container at the co-op. I think it is this kind, but I’m not entirely sure. Regardless of what you choose, I recommend a lighter type. 

1 cup quinoa

2 + cups broth of choice or water

1 Tbs. light miso

1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

3-4 spring carrots, finely grated

a big handful of salad greens

spring onion greens, sliced

4 eggs, fried, or protein of choice

sunflower seeds for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

  • In a medium pot, bring water or broth to a boil. Slowly, whisk in the quinoa polenta, making sure no clumps form, and turn down to medium-low. Cook until it is as thick as you desire, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add more liquid as needed. Turn off the heat and stir in miso and salt and pepper to taste.
  • While polenta is cooking, prep the vegetables and fry the eggs.
  • Spoon the polenta into plates or bowls, toss on the vegetables, sunflower seeds, and eggs. Enjoy!

Lenten Fears and a Recovery Reflection

 

Nine years ago at the beginning of lent, I gave up eating after dinner. I did it for reasons that made absolute sense at the time. I found, late in the evening each night, around the time I should have been going to bed, I’d get a case of the munchies, and I’d indulge in what to me then was ‘too much’. It felt like something that was completely unnecessary, a temptation I needed to be able to give up.

So I gave it up.

I can see now, because of my personality, it was easy to forego eating. For something that was supposed to be a challenge, it just wasn’t. It felt like I finally had a safety. I had decided to do it, asked God for help, and then I did. It felt easier to lean on him when tempted, than the thought of not having control over my own actions.

And so it began.

What started as what I thought was a lifestyle decision to begin exercising a healthier habit (eating mindfully), became a ‘control every morsel of food’ obsession. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with my stomach growling and feel righteous that I had mastered my own will power. I’d wake up early on weekends and dutifully wait hours to eat until brunch began. I was running and working out several days a week, having found a new love in athletic activities. I compared my eating to my girl friends who were less active, who had slower metabolisms, and I was fooled into thinking I needed to eat just like them. Then I stopped eating calorically dense foods altogether. It got worse from there.

At one point, a moment in time I remember vividly, I sat on my bed writing in my journal about this thing, this beast inside of me that was my mind slipping into an obsession that I could no longer stop. I recognized then in that moment of clarity that I was powerless and I couldn’t climb out alone. I ignored that voice, tucked away my journal, and put my feet back down on the floor in the same spot. I didn’t listen, and from then on, I couldn’t. I was over the edge into denial and there was no problem. Life was glorious. I was skinny and getting compliments on both my appearance and my ability to be so fastidious. I was making meals smaller and smaller, more fervently tracking everything, and I felt superhuman. For the first time in what was a tumultuous life period, I was in control of something that most everyone struggles with–I had mastered control of self. (Except in all actuality, I had completely lost control; isn’t it ironic how we can convince ourselves?)

 

For my whole life up to then, I had always had a sort of fear/loathing/uncomfortability with my body and for the first time, at that point when my physical size actually was healthy, when I was active every day, when I had close connections with friends, was activity involved in my community and my faith life, I felt beautiful. I recognized my body, loved it, and felt at home in it.

Fast forward a few months.

I came home from class on a particularly windy, snowy late fall day and was so incredibly cold that I immediately shed all my clothes and jumped in the shower. I stood under the hot water longer than I can remember ever standing in a shower and finally, finally I was warm. As I got out, I glanced at the mirror, and I saw something horrifying. I saw a bony skeleton that I no longer recognized. This body wasn’t beautiful anymore. My pelvis jutted out where months before I had flesh. As I truly looked at what I saw in the mirror, a Jekyll and Hyde mind battled over the realization that this wasn’t okay, while a mwah hahha cackle echoed behind it, you’ve got it!; shrinking to nothingness is the ultimate victory.

 

 

My fears this lent, the ones that are underlying and what I thought I had ‘mastered control over’ these past few years, are that my body will betray me again. If my mind doesn’t consistently show it who is boss, it will slink back into that terrible thing it was before ‘all of that’, into the body I didn’t feel comfortable in.

Because the truth is, I am comfortable. Running and working out has made me realize how much I LOVE and ADMIRE my body. Not only what it looks like, but what it can DO for me. How awesome it’s abilities to accomplish and heal.

 

And so, all these years later, we’re again near the end of the season when I think the most about what happened and where I am now. We’re at the end of a season in which I have decided to release something in order to grow. As lent began, I had been thinking, I don’t know if I can handle 40 more days in the desert. I don’t know if I can handle the unknowns. I just want to be on the other side, whatever that looks like, as long as it’s not here, down in the trenches, working at something that is so individual, so solitary, so invisible that I can’t explain to anyone who asks. Years ago, I promised myself I’d never give up food again for lent. That, more generally as a lifestyle, I wouldn’t set rules for food. And so, aside from the foods I don’t eat for medical reasons, there are no parameters. I eat what I enjoy, what my body craves, and try very hard to let go of that voice that often wants to negative self-talk. As I ended 2014 and began 2015, I recognize now I was slipping. My skinny jeans were getting looser. I needed to eat a damn cookie without justifying it with activity. I needed to take a good, hard look at the situation and not disillusion myself into thinking I was alright. I know there is a very fine line for me between eating enough and convincing myself I’m eating enough, and I can easily deceive myself.

 

I also still have a fear of the idea of being hungry, of being isolated again, of the obsessive, only-self-interested thinking that I had to fight like hell to climb out of.

Like most eating disorders, this whole thing is less about food. It’s less about body image. It is about control. I don’t get to have control over this life. I can’t determine what will happen tomorrow. I don’t know if my body will be the same body tomorrow evening as it is this evening. I don’t know if it will accomplish all the dreams I have for it.

 

I do know I want to find out. The beauty of this life is that we don’t get to go back. We move forward.

 

And so I ask myself a question today that I likely will need to ask myself every day: Am I giving my body what it needs so it can do all that I want it to? Am I setting it up for health in the long haul, or am I punishing it because today I’m afraid of letting go?

 

 


Savory Grape Syrup on Black Rice with White Beans + Collards

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I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
                                     – Breakage, Mary Oliver
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I was at church a few weeks ago, an hour before mass. The college-student musicians were rehearsing and as I spent a quiet hour in contemplation, the fits and starts of their rehearsal played out in my periphery. Soon my mind wandered to simply listening. Their music is just what I need each Sunday and one of the reasons I go to the ‘sinner’s mass,’ the last one offered. As I listened, I silently marveled at how such a beautiful performance in the next hour could come from a sub-par practice.

I let my mind continue its wondering, thinking back to my own practices growing up. I played the saxophone and piano. The noise made by a substandard seventh grade sax player was a horrendous thing to listen to, I’m sure; my siblings made it clear they’d rather I not practice. The music group at church is substantially more talented but like many rehearsals, theirs was remarkably un-put-together.

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I find that life is much the same as these practices. It’s rough around the edges with fits and starts, jumping from a particular staccato section to the line down the page so as to get the timing down, and then sweeping in and out of the harmony, dropping each one part way through and picking up at another spot.

There’s a randomness to it that is uncomfortable when our expectations are linear. It reminds me of this diagram of expectations versus reality.

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In moments when I most need them, the right words often come back to me, as if in having read them once months or years before, they were saved up for just the time I’d need them again. Ryan Hall’s Facebook posts often harbor the right words:

Sometimes your goals feel far from where you’re at in the moment. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, think ‘What can I be faithful with today to get one step closer?’ and celebrate progress.

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What I’m trying to say through the disorder of these paragraphs, is that life is not meant to be clear. We don’t know what we’re in for when we start. The way through can be equally hazy. As Mary Oliver says, there are a thousand words or experiences or paths to be sorted, each one to be picked up and puzzled back together into some semblance of sense.

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Beauty can come out of the fragmented practices. The hard going and the demanding everyday workouts prepare and toughen us for the real tests, the big performances, the meeting of monumental goals, and dreams that once felt far out of reach.

Sometimes we know what lies ahead; we are confident we can pull off the performance despite not having done it before. Other times we’re simply walking in faith, offering our best in each step and celebrating progress, even the barest glint of it, along the way.

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Savory Grape Syrup on Black Rice with White Beans + Collards
, serves 4

I spent half my childhood practically living at the home/nursery/farm of my two best friends down the road. Jari and Sheila, who I consider my second set of parents, gifted us the richest, grape-iest home-grown and pressed grape juice for Christmas. I’ve had gallons of it tucked away in the freezer for months, all the while trying to scheme up exactly the right way to make use of it. I boiled down a few cups into a thick, molasses-type concoction that is heavily infused with fresh ginger and rosemary. If you have an hour or so to mostly ignore a simmering pot, grab a bottle of grape juice and make syrup! It is simply the best with earthy black rice, white beans, and whatever greens are on hand this spring. 

3 cups grape juice

2 Tbs. freshly grated ginger

2 Tbs. finely chopped rosemary

1 tsp. ground mustard seeds

1 cup uncooked black rice

2 1/4 cups water, chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups cooked white beans

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 tsp. olive oil

1 large bunch collard greens, stems removed and chopped

a handful or two toasted walnuts, chopped

black pepper to taste

  • For the syrup:  In a medium-sized saucepan, bring grape juice, ginger, rosemary and mustard to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to cook until reduced to about 1 cup of syrup.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients by cooking the black rice, chopping the onion and greens, and toasting and chopping the walnuts.
  • When the syrup is reduced, heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the chopped onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, adding a splash of water or more oil, as needed. Then, stir in the salt, black pepper and greens. Cook just until the greens begin to wilt.
  • In a large bowl or on individual plates, stir together the rice, beans and greens. Top with walnuts and drizzle the syrup over the top, stirring through before serving.

Spring Greens + Honey-Grapefruit Vinaigrette, Two Ways

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Kitchen accidents happen. With me, they happen in epic proportions that I wish were captured in slow motion so I could play them back later when in need of a good laugh. I’m talking explosions. All the walls and surfaces and ceilings.

A few weeks ago in a moment of hunger, I popped an egg, broken into a little glass dish, into the microwave. I covered it and carefully checked every 15-20 seconds, as I know how egg-microwaving can quickly turn risky. It was all fine and well until I took the bowl out, carefully uncovered it, and leaned in close to make sure the egg was cooked through. At that exact moment, the egg belched out, blowing apart with all the noise and momentum of a volatile volcano.

I took a step back and blinked, looking around me in shock. Someone made a move in the apartment upstairs as if to look for a window. Or an escape route. No, I silently told my neighbor, you haven’t been attacked. It’s just me, standing in a kitchen on a Saturday afternoon covered in exploded egg.

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Egg in my eyelashes, my hair, in every corner of exposed skin. Thankfully I have the circulatory system of a skinny grandma and wear sweaters year round or I would have needed more than a change of clothes.

Egg on the ceiling. Egg on the living room carpet. Egg on every wall and surface in between.

After clean-up, I wasn’t about to try again. I’m officially cured of microwave-egg-cooking, I thought as I miserably ate the swollen, (seriously-how’d-it-get-overcooked?) half that was left in the dish. And I haven’t had another since.

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Weeks before the egg episode, I was in a similarly messy situation, thinking the exact same thing. I needed red wine for a recipe and in the exact moment of needing to add it to the recipe, I recalled that I had broken our bottle opener and our wine drinking had gotten so lax that it hadn’t been replaced. Recklessly bent on quick results and praying things would turn out right, I squeezed my eyes shut and violently stabbed a knife into the cork.

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Things didn’t turn out right.

Red wine, like the egg, exploded over the entire kitchen. The white walls and white cabinets looked like a three-year-old went to town with a red watercolor and designed something only a kid could qualify as art. I scrubbed until I nearly painted instead. By the end of clean-up, I really needed a glass or two. If only it wasn’t all over me.

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Through other episodes over the years, I’ve acquired scars that I can barely remember the occasion for, save they involved being too confident with hot surfaces or knives slicing through the air to land dangerously close to little toes.

I’m only now recovering from the last kitchen accident, which involved the vegetable peeler, my pinky, a whole box of band-aids, and a lot of blood.

Thankfully, there were no limbs burnt or bruised, no toes carved in the process of creating this post. Instead, the March Recipe Redux theme is Two for One: cooking once and eating twice or ReDuxing leftovers into a new dish. William and I cannot seem to get through a whole bottle of wine these days before it starts to taste off, even when we have dinner guests. Instead of volcanizing it all over the kitchen walls and ceilings, I decided to share how I repurpose wine into vinegar instead.

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First let me say I really love vinegar. I’m one of those people that can go to the oil and vinegar shops and happily forego the oil and bread, and just slurp the different flavored vinegars.

Making vinegar is quite simple. The word itself actually means “sour wine” in French, and when any liquid with less than 18 percent alcohol is exposed to air, the vinegar-producing bacteria will attack it and gradually turn it sour. It simply takes time.

To make vinegar from wine, I often leave the leftovers sitting out on the counter with the cork off. It’s ready when it tastes like vinegar instead of wine, in about two months. Recently however, I’ve done more research and found that if a vinegar mother–the starter used for vinegars–is used, the process is sped up and the vinegar is more consistent in its taste. We have a local brewing supply store–because seriously, Oregon–and they are currently growing a new mother for me. In the meantime, I’m making vinegar the same old way, with patience.

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I tend to splash together vinaigrettes depending on my mood but am sharing two different grapefruit vinaigrettes that use white wine vinegar. These two recipes more or less form the backbone for my vinaigrettes on any given day. Because I like vinegar so much, I tend to go for a one to one ratio of vinegar to oil, which is significantly higher than the standard one to three ratio.

In these recipes, I opted for grapefruit juice in addition to the white wine vinegar and often use other citrus juices like orange or lemon when I’m feeling fancy. Pick one to try and toss together with simple spring greens, herbs, and thin radish or carrot slices. Salad will feel extra special and delicious!

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Grapefruit-Tahini Vinaigrette

2 Tbs. white wine vinegar

2 Tbs. fresh grapefruit juice

1-2 tsp. grapefruit zest

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. tahini

1 Tbs. honey

splash of water

salt and pepper

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Honey-Mustard Grapefruit Vinaigrette

3 Tbs. white wine vinegar

3 Tbs. fresh grapefruit juice

1-2 tsp. grapefruit zest

2 tsp. wholegrain mustard

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. honey

splash of water

salt and pepper

Directions for both vinaigrettes: Whisk all the ingredients together and drizzle over greens. The leftovers can be stored in the fridge for several weeks!


Savoy-Savoy-Potato

 

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On V-Day 2004, I wore all black in solidarity, a statement of my disdain for a loved-up marketing ploy of a day. Also, I was single and in high school and just beginning to get the feel for rebelling against the world. Cue the dramatic trumpets.

 

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

That same day, I was also asked to prom with a dozen-roses-and-a-singing-choir-disruptingly-traipsing-into-honors-English-to-sing-me-a-valegram. Well, call me sorta kinda not that nice, but I said yes, and then I said no. OOOPSSie, THE SAME CAN BE SAID FOR WHEN WILLIAM PROPOSED.

 

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Pistachio Raisin Muesli

 

That wasn’t the only year I did something quite mean on Valentine’s Day. In 2008, I pretended to fall asleep watching a movie with my date, and in 2009, I was chased out of class by a turfgrass dude I had never met. Upon being asked for a date, I simply replied, “No thank you”. Needless to say the guy huffed off in the other direction shortly thereafter and we never talked again. My girls gave me HELL for that response.

 

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Aghadoe, County Killarney

 

Somehow, thankfully, William knew of my disdain long before our first Valentine’s together and he did the sweetest, kindest, most-Rebecca-way-to-valentine. He bought me yogurt, an apple, and a teeny leather journal for list making. This guy gets me.

 

The River Liffey, Dublin

The River Liffey, Dublin

 

The Salthill Prom, Galway

The Salthill Prom, Galway

 

Since then, we’ve reverted back to not-celebrating mode and jump straight into all things green and my most favorite holiday of all. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE St. Patrick’s Day because it involves celebrating orange-haired fair-skinned people who eat cabbage and have a gift for malarkey. ;)

 

Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry

Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry

 

Cliff's of Moher, County Clare

Cliff’s of Moher, County Clare

 

Healy Pass, County Kerry

Healy Pass, County Kerry

 

I’ve significantly upped my meat and potato intake these last few weeks in preparation, and though I’ve mostly strayed from my floury-potato-three-different-ways-in-a-meal-and-a-big-hunk-of-meat roots, the country knows how to make simple fare taste delicious. When sourced as locally and as fresh as possible, those ingredients don’t need much fancying-up. William loves this time of year because meat, potato, and Ireland. His favorites.

 

Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry

 

Below is a list of the Irish-inspired meals we’ve been enjoying and another of recipes I’ve shared on this site in the past. I use recipes more as a guide so we’ve been enjoying variations on the links. A few hints if you’d like to go all traditional for a Paddy’s Day feast: Darina Allen‘s Forgotten Skills of Cooking is my favorite cookbook of all time. I use it more as a DIY guide and get creative from there. Donal Skehan is seriously the most fun Irish guy to follow on YouTube and his books and recipes are great for what my girlfriends dub healthy man food. For beautiful photos, accurate history, and recipes contained in a coffee table cookbook, The Country Cooking of Ireland is a real treasure.

 

Gluten-Free Irish Scones

Gluten-Free Irish Scones

 

Celeriac, Mushroom, and Beef Stew from Ard Bia

Mushrooms and Garbanzos on Toast with Cider and Thyme

Ballymaloe Chickpea and White Bean Stew

Roast Beef with Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Carrots and Savoy Cabbage with Caraway

Boxty

Irish Soda Bread

White Wine Chicken Roast with Asparagus, Parsnips, and Rutabaga

Colcannon

Rhubarb Cake

 

Irish-inspired Recipes I’ve shared in the past: (some are not gluten and dairy-free, though most can be adapted)

Breakfast: Irish Scones, Pistachio Raisin Muesli, Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread

Lunch : Mushrooms and Garbanzos on Toast with Cider and Thyme, Irish Vegetable Soup

 

Irish Vegetable Soup

Irish Vegetable Soup

 

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Mushrooms + Garbanzos on Toast with Cider and Thyme

 

Dinner: Shepherd’s Pie, Curry Pie

 

Curry Pie

Curry Pie

 

And for a touch of green: Spring Green Fennel Millet Cakes

 

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I simply can’t wait to Savoy-Savoy-Potato! How will you celebrate?


Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce and Hazelnut Ganache

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Closer to ‘Walden Pond’ than the ‘Joy of Cooking’, I read off the back of the book to Will as we drove from the library.

You do know ‘Walden’, yes? I asked.

No idea, he said.

It’s a great American classic! I astonished, the former English major in me kicking in. You should have read it in 11th grade along with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’, and Jonathan Swift’s satire about eating Irish babies. Yes?

No idea. I hated English. I almost failed that year.

 

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Whoompf. Deflated, I let the conversation sink in.

No wonder I don’t get any poetry. 

 

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And then recalling all the frustrated exchanges about technology, the wireless button this, the computer gidget that, the tiny intricate parts on his truck I really should stop asking about, the movies I’ve never seen nor heard of, and his daily exasperated, why-don’t-you-stop-clicking-random-things-for-god’s-sake!?! 

 

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That year he lived and worked with my parents, they were incredulous he didn’t know a halter or a hoof-pick. Walter good-naturedly gave him a hard time for all the daily first time learnings. We don’t all grow up on a ranch, dad, I wanted to say when I learned of it.

 

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And then, the last we were home, Will gave the ribbing right back when he taught Walter about an iPhone, and we could all see the dawn of realization come across dad in knowing all those second nature morsels of truth in the ranching life were his and there he was being the one who didn’t know.

 

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We each have our knowings, interests, and talents. The divine interweaving of their chaos into our social network is a special kind of art; you like this and I like that, and we still love each other and are friends and can relate; the somehow perfectly messy order of it is beautiful and awe-inducing, don’t you think?

 

(and if you don’t and it’s just me then point in case!)

 

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Strawberry Chia Sauce + Hazelnut Ganache

adapted from Dolly + Oatmeal

makes two 6-inch layers

gluten + dairy-free

The Recipe Redux February theme is chocolate pairings. Unlike most of the ladies I know, I generally choose chocolate last when given a choice of flavors. Chocolate, for me, is either a simple square of plain dark after dinner or super fancy special occasion layer cake. There’s no in between. I’m just not into chocolating-up granola bars and breakfast and smoothies and the like. Sorry not sorry. This cake is definitely in the special occasion category. It is intensely dark, and for a discerning chocolate snob, about the best damn chocolate cake I’ve had. William tends to like fluffy white cake-mix type cakes and is real particular about sweets. He gobbled this up day after day. Considering recipe testing, this is a stamp of approval in the truest sense! 

I haven’t mentioned it often, but I’m all over the eating locally lifestyle (an ongoing gradually-more-over-the-years change), so I paired the chocolate with the abundant locally grown hazelnuts and strawberries picked fresh from the farm last summer. They are the most insanely delicious strawberries. Mixed with chia seed to thicken up into a sauce, they require no additional sweetener. Add them between the layers with the ganache and serve them on the side. Depending on your berry availability, sweeten them up as necessary. As for the cake, I trialed it with and without eggs. The egg-free version is denser and more brownie-like than the version with eggs. We didn’t think it lived up to the egg version on the first day, but it won out as the days went on, so if you’re slow at eating sweets, perhaps give it a try with two tablespoons ground flax mixed with 6 Tbs. warm water to form a flax slurry in lieu of the eggs.

for the cake

  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal (ground from toasted and shelled hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup raw cacoa powder*
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (soft, not melted)
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened hemp milk

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • 4 cups frozen strawberries
  • 2 Tbs. chia seeds

for the hazelnut ganache

  • 7 oz. unsweetened hemp milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 275 grams high quality dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut meal
  • chopped hazelnuts for garnish

for the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350° F and line the bottoms of each cake pan with parchment paper.  Then rub a little coconut oil up the sides of the pans and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the honey and coconut oil with a whisk and a strong arm until it’s light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time until incorporated; then add the vanilla and milk; mix again until  it is combined.  Next, a bit at a time, stir in the dry ingredients to the wet.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check after out 20 minutes so as not to over bake.
  • Transfer the layers to a cooling rack and allow to cool for about 20 minutes; then remove layers and rest them until completely cool.

for the strawberry chia sauce

  • place the strawberries and seeds in a food processor and puree until smooth or still slightly chunky (your choice). Then turn into a container and place in the fridge for firm up for an hour or more (this might depend on the water content of your berries).

for the hazelnut ganache

  • in a in a food processor, puree the hazelnut meal and chocolate together until finely ground. In either a small bowl in the microwave or a small pan over the stovetop, heat the milk to frothy and boiling. Next with the food processor running, slowly pour in the hot milk to form a thin sauce. Pour into a bowl and leave to sit out at room temperature or if you’re impatient, put in the fridge for an hour or two. It should become quite thick, like buttercream frosting.

assemble

  • Level the cake layers, if necessary, with a long serrated bread knife.  Place one layer on the cake stand or plate, and using a cake spatula or thick knife, put about 2-3 tablespoons of ganache on one cake layer and spread evenly.  Spread roughly 2-3 tablespoons of the strawberry sauce over the frosting, leaving about 1/2 inch of space from the edge.  place the other cake layer on top and frost the rest of the cake.  Garnish with extra chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

If keeping the cake around for longer than a day or two, store in the fridge.

*for reasons to start using a little more raw cacoa instead of cocoa powder, Sara gives a great explanation.

 


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