Do you get in those traps where you tell yourself (and everyone within a decent listening radius) that you’re soooo busy, but you’re also like, perpetually stuck in highly sneaky, time-wasting downward spirals? The end of the year brings a lot of heavy, life-y things into the foreground. How did we grow and change? What can I do differently? How can we make it easier? Add to that the million tasks, work, the gift guides, the merry-making… I think it’s easy to feel suffocated by your own life this time of year. Obviously some perspective plays into that, but you know what I mean.
All of the things have been veering on the edge of completely-out-of-my-control lately, so every night before I go to bed, I make a list of things I have to accomplish the next day (FYI: surprisingly effective strategy for getting a good night’s sleep) (Also, magnesium is some good shit). There’s the normal work stuff on those lists, but there’s also things like”remember to put chia seeds on the oatmeal,” and “eat some vegetables before work,” or “drink at least 3 litres of water,” and my fave: “pause and stretch before getting out of bed.” Cool thing? Silly as those reminders seem, I actually accomplish those little bits. The list makes for some structured intent on the wellness front–less of a wishy-washy, completely distant goal. It’s all right there in a quantified or qualified sense under a bolded date in capital letters.
So the legit work seems to follow along when I’m penciling out my stretches and veggie snacks. You know how they would strategically schedule nap and snack times in kindergarten? I guess there’s some wisdom there. I’ve been so contentedly living by the list that I’m experiencing pre-emptive relaxation guilt over our upcoming 48 hour sojourn in Denver this weekend. This also happened last Sunday when we took a little drive into the city to see a friend for a leisurely brunch. On the way there, my head was muddied with ideas of things I should have been doing instead of taking an entire day away from it all. Once I had that warm coffee cup in my hand, I stopped thinking about maximizing any renovation productivity, ingredients I had to buy for whatever shoot, or how my holiday work schedule could translate into any remote concept of free time. The meal and the gathering around it put me in the moment and brought some sense of relief. I think we all look for that in certain ways–whether it’s from a long day at work, unforeseen challenges in day-to-day being, the effing deluge of Black Friday emails, those self-imposed trappings of guilt, or obsessive list-making. Relief is release, however you arrive to it.
I decided to throw together this little warm-spiced fruit deal for our brunch gathering and I was so pleased with how it turned out–actually one of the better, simpler things I’ve made in a while. I just had this loose idea for a particularly pretty winter fruit salad with pine-y rosemary, cinnamon, vanilla rooibos tea, a good hit of maple and cool mint. The different bits of citrus and pomegranate are all juicy and tart, the persimmon is soft and delicately sweet, and I like to use bosc pears for a lightly crisp bite. The woodsy sweetness from the syrup helps to veer this dish away from being a simple bowl of fruit, which I generally love to serve alongside a traditional dessert at a dinner get-together anyway, just so that the option to go lightly is there for anyone in need.
festive fruit w/ rosemary + vanilla rooibos syrup
serves: 6 – 8, depending on what else you’re serving
notes: I don’t think a persimmon needs to border on rotten to be ripe. If you’re holding it, it should have the mush factor of a lightly worked-in hackie sack. Also, my favourite vanilla rooibos of EVER is by Mariage Frères (and it comes loose or pre-bagged).
1/4 cup maple syrup
big splash of water
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla rooibos tea
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 ripe persimmons, sliced
1 grapefruit, peeled + segmented
2-3 satsumas or clementines, peeled + segmented
1 pomelo, peeled + segmented
2 bosc pears, cored + sliced
1 pomegrante’s worth of seeds/arils—>Life Hacker comes through with a (EFFIN LONG) tutorial
juice of 1 lime
handful of seeds (I used sesame + pumpkin)
1 sprig of mint, leaves sliced fine
In a small saucepan, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Put it over medium heat and bring it to a simmer, swirling the contents here and there. Once it’s boiling a bit, take it off the heat and set aside. Allow it all to steep for a good 10 minutes or so.
While the syrup is steeping, peel and chop all of your salad ingredients. Throw them all into a large serving bowl, reserving a bit of the mint and seeds for the top. Toss everything in the lime juice. Strain the syrup in a fine mesh strainer right over the bowl of fruit. Toss it all together and garnish with the leftover mint and seeds. Serve it up right away.
This is something that I would make for me and me alone. My man isn’t a lover of mushrooms and seriously? How is it that none of my peeps see the gloriousness of the things-on-toast meal?! It’s a dish that lets me doctor up what I have by employing some other things that I have when there’s a golden pocket of me-time available. A thoughtful and meditative slap-dash, if you will.
I’m generally into this tray-lunch thing as of late. I roast a bunch of things with herbs, lemon, spice, or whatever’s around. Sometimes I transfer the goods to a bowl. Sometimes I eat right from the tray. It’s warm and I get to make some time for myself over it, while I bounce between the renovation duties, freelance work, emails, actual scheduled work, and tiniest fibre-like shreds of free time. I’ve never been “too busy to cook.” Maybe that’s obvious? When the world is spinning, I tend to go inward a bit and cooking helps. When I lived alone, I happily enjoyed a lot of solitary meals, but always looked forward to my post-school life where dining companions would surely be infinite and constant. My current schedule varies from the rest of my world’s seemingly unanimous 9-5, so yep. Still plenty of solo late lunches scarfed at 3 pm right before my shift starts on any given Saturday.
I’ve even been waking up earlier to cook alone too. I’m on this steel-cut oat porridge thing that demands a little extra time, which is kind of immediately annoying, but ultimately for the best. I sip a warm drink and stir, focused on that one thing. I don’t have the headspace for a large batch that can be pre-portioned and reheated throughout the week, and that’s honestly fine. The sleepy straining of tired eyes eventually fades, and I find there’s more strength for all of the things that need doing.
So this is a bit of a deluxe, but still completely simple, flying solo kinda meal (although I did design the recipe for two servings since it’s probably a bit more practical for most). Fun fact: the first restaurant family meal I ever enjoyed as an actual cook was a fancied-up version of mushrooms on toast. I remember being a bit rattled, sweaty, and slightly anxious when I sat down to the plate after service. It was calming in all of the predictable ways though. Holiday wildness is officially on us now, so it seems even more important to take advantage of those peaceful and simple moments. Seize them by putting the good stuff on toast, people :)
rosemary mushroom + chickpea ragoût on toast
notes: Any mix of sliced mushrooms is totally excellent. I love shiitakes, but I’m also not a millionaire, so I mix them half and half with creminis. Also, before I add the vegetable stock, I simmer it with the mushroom stems for a little bit–like 15 minutes or so. It’s just to intensify the mushroom flavour.
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 shallot, fine dice
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves chopped fine
10 ounces/heaped half pound mixed mushrooms, stems removed + caps sliced
splash of sherry vinegar
1 tsp tomato paste
1-2 tsp vegetarian worcestershire sauce (Annie’s brand is my fave)
scant cup of cooked chickpeas
1 cup vegetable stock
big splash of unsweetened non-dairy milk, something rich like cashew or coconut is preferable
1 tsp arrowroot powder (or non-GMO + organic cornstarch if you’re cool with it)
salt + pepper
2 thick slices of good bread
Heat the grapeseed oil in a large sautè or sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and stir. Once those are a bit fragrant, add the rosemary. Sauté until the shallots are really translucent. Add the mushrooms to the pan and stir them around. Add the sherry vinegar, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, and chickpeas and stir. Once the mushrooms have started softening just a bit, about 3 minutes, add the stock. Stir everything up and simmer until the liquid has reduced by a third and the mushrooms are quite soft. Add the splash of non-dairy milk and stir. Season the whole thing to taste. In a small bowl, combine the arrowroot with a little bit of the liquid from the pot. Make a little slurry and then add it back in to the pot. Simmer until lightly thickened. Keep warm.
Toast or grill the pieces of toast. Lay them in shallow bowls. Ladle the mushroom and chickpea ragoût on top. Finish with a bit more black pepper. Serve hot.
The discussion of poutine came up at work the other night because, yep, there was poutine for staff meal (and a giant salad so just relax a bit there). My coworker was telling me how she had recounted a story to some classmates at the yoga studio that she frequents. There was a visit to a local place that specialized in the ubiquitous Canadian calorie bomb. And then at the end of her story, sort of predictably, her peeps at the studio were grossed out by her totally personal food choice. Then I got home that night and saw this tweet from my friend, kindly asking for a halt to the same form of judgement. Funny how the universe always finds a way to communicate the fierceness of your own thoughts.
I have to tell you, the raw food experiment didn’t go well for me and there was no way I was forcing myself to carry it out over a whole month on principle alone. It’s not like I was half-assing it either (totally gave it the full ass) (had to). My body and boots, firmly planted in the cool grey of November in southern Ontario, were not adapting. There were bouts of lightheadedness, shivering despite wearing two sweaters, so much bloat, breakouts, constant hunger despite constant eating, and, most importantly, things that would normally just roll off my back became completely emotional huge deals. A good example: normally I would relish any opportunity to smash up something that causes me grief, but in the midst of clearing out the gross old plaster in our kitchen, I had to leave the room and then later cry my eyes out to Mark about how we would never, ever, EVER live there happily. I can be easily defeated sometimes, but this was shaking me to the core. In that moment, I knew some truer part of me, the part that sees and knows, was being denied.
When I went to the internet with my concerns (pro tip: if you want to keep your sanity, don’t ever do that), I read so many things that went along these lines: “Your body is just purging all of the evil things from the total misery that was your pre-raw life. It’s detoxifying, It’s AMAAAZING. Purification process!!! Etc.” I would never suggest that these well-meaning people are wrong, but as soon as a pile of rubble and some extra hours spent with a pry bar forced me into a crumpled shell of my former self, any concerns for vibrance and purity washed away real quick.
The admission of it here was weighing on me heavily though–the enthusiasm I shared early on, the acknowledgement that I’m extremely fortunate to have access to enough food if I’m perpetually hungry, the ridiculousness of going into it in the early stages of Canadian winter. When you’re privileged enough to have it regularly, your food choices become a belief system on some level and this one seemed too objectionable once I had some distance from it. In sum: I was worried what people would think, which is hilarious because when my coworker friend told me about that judgement-heavy moment at her yoga studio, my knee-jerk reaction was “OH FUCK THAT.”
So there’s all of that and yep. I’m feeling a lot better–the much needed warmth has returned to my bones, there’s satiation with less it seems and there’s that old tenacity creeping up in the challenging moments again. Since we could all use some of that good energy that buzzes in a low and warm kind of way, whatever our food/life choices, I thought I would share this everyday recipe with you. It’s a nice hot drink for morning calm, or any time you need it really. The base of it is any nut/seed/grain-based milk, maca powder, something to sweeten it up and a touch of raw cacao and cinnamon for my personal taste. Maca comes from a Peruvian root vegetable and it has a bit of a butterscotch-y/malt/sweet potato thing going on flavour-wise. I find it really does deliver in terms of an energy boost, but it’s less of a jolt than caffeine.
Sometimes after a cup of it, I’ll feel a little impulse to stretch out to the very tips of my toes and fingers and just breathe a little life into every inch of myself. It’s restoring/life-giving without being over the top, which I love. Anyway, I hope you’ll give it a go. I’ve seen maca in grocery + health food stores, bulk shops, and on Arrested Development, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you’re curious. Lastly, since I’ve been talking about house stuff with such frequency, I thought I’d include a couple little snaps I took the other day in this post (below). They definitely have a “in progress” kind of feel, which is true to life in all the ways you could imagine.
Sending all my good energy this week :)
my good energy drink
notes: There’s so many options for add-ins with this. I chose a teaspoon of raw cacao powder and a star anise pod, but you could reach for fresh ginger juice, turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, vanilla etc etc.
10 ounces milk of your choice, unsweetened is preferable (I did a mix of coconut and almond)
2 tsp maca powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon + extra for dusting if you like
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp raw cacao powder
1-2 star anise pods (so, so optional)
I start this drink by blending everything in an upright blender (except the star anise if you’re using it) to get all the powdery bits incorporated. Then I gently heat in a small saucepan over medium heat (with the star anise) until it’s really simmering. You could easily skip the blending step and just whisk the mixture lightly while it’s heating. Drink it warm with a dusting of cinnamon.
I had this whole thing typed up about all these life-y bits and frustrations. Then Mark and I took a trip to the dump on Monday. It was rainy, cold and the wind would pelt you in the face when you just got around to forgetting about it. I was chucking gnarly old tree roots and heaps of lath into a giant, depressing garbage bin, next to 5 equally depressing garbage bins, when I realized that my glance needed re-adjustment. I was steady-bummed for a while because the whole renovation situation felt a bit unfamiliar and outside of my immediate grasp. There were a lot of defeatist comments being thrown around.
I keep forgetting that there is an entire universe of vivid and ecstatic energy bundled up within. I’ve been thinking small, that I’m small, that we’re small, that everything else is too big. Then, on that miserable day at the dump, I realized it’s kind of amazing to be uncomfortable, to be far flung outside of your cozy, blanket-wrapped elements. I’m learning heaped handfuls of life-y things every day. We’re gaining strength, understanding and stretching a little bit deeper all the time. The frequency of it just takes a little getting used to. Anyway we’re still here, I’m embracing my inner “big-ness” and now there’s a little bit of cake too.
This is a raw and vegan affair that comes together pretty simply once the cashews are soaked and the carrots are grated. I reserve the walnuts for the top, rather than mixing them up into the already unique texture of this raw “cake.” My favourite carrot cake ever has plenty of orange zest in the frosting, so I went in that direction for mine. Lots of warm spice, vanilla and smooth coconut oil too. Also, the ratio of cashew-based frosting to cake is 1:1 and I don’t even feel the need to qualify that one. Go have some cake for breakfast, friends. xo
RAW & VEGAN CARROT CAKE SLICE WITH TANGY CITRUS FROSTING
SERVES: makes an 8 inch square cake
NOTES: I make the cashew icing in my Vitamixbecause the high speed makes for a really dreamy frosting. I imagine this would work out alright in a food processor though, maybe a few more textural bits, but still tasty. Also, you want the icing to set in the fridge to a point where it becomes spread-able, not rock solid. You could probably speed this up in the freezer if you need to.
1 1/4 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
1/2 cup almond milk
1/3 cup raw honey/raw agave nectar/maple syrup
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract/liquid vanilla
pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
zest of 1/2 an orange, about 1 teaspoon
1 cup pitted Medjool dates
splash of water/orange juice
1 cup almond flour
1 cup hazelnut flour (or more almond if you like)
1/4 cup liquid coconut oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch fine sea salt
zest of 1/2 an orange, about 1 teaspoon
1 cup finely grated carrots
Line an 8 inch square pan with parchment paper, with some overhang, and set aside.
In a blender, combine the soaked and drained cashews, almond milk, raw honey/agave/maple syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and salt. Blend on high until you have a smooth and creamy consistency. With the motor running slowly, lift off the top of the blender and drizzle the melted coconut oil in slowly. Once you have a homogenous mixture, shut the machine off. Scrape the frosting into a bowl and fold the orange zest into the frosting. Cover the frosting with cling film, pressing it onto the surface. Allow the frosting to firm up in the refrigerator for about an hour.
In a food processor, pulse the dates with the splash of water/orange juice until you have a chunky paste (you could also just chop the dates up fine to make a paste). Scrape the date paste into a large bowl. To the date paste, add the almond flour, hazelnut flour, coconut oil, spices, salt, orange zest and grated carrots. Mix it up with a spatula or your hands until everything is evenly mixed. Press this cake mixture into the parchment lined pan until you’ve achieved an even thickness and you’ve filled out the pan. Cover it up and place in the fridge until you’re ready to frost it.
Spread the tangy citrus frosting on top of the cake and garnish it with chopped walnuts, more orange zest, currants, whatever you like. At this point, I like to let the whole thing set up all nice in the fridge, but you don’t have to. Lift the cake by grabbing the parchment overhang. Place it on a cutting board and slice into squares. Keep leftovers covered in the fridge for about 5 days or so.
This is an easy one, completely by my own choice. Eating raw foods with regularity, while simultaneously trying to make it varied, is HARD. (Feels way awesome though, trust.) My brain is always in a future-thinking mode where food is concerned. I need to soak almonds because I’m almost out of almond milk! That granola needs to dehydrate for 8 hours, which means I should be around to check it later on, probably… I should pick some greens and celery now and put them in the fridge so that I don’t get lazy about juicing tomorrow morning. Salad is the one thing I’m eating everyday that allows for spontaneity (oh, and raw chocolate + banana shakes, I’m having those everyday too).
I wanted to make one that would be suitable to gathering ’round though, a little more baller-time. If I’m in a potluck situation, I always volunteer the salad portion. Mostly because I don’t want to eat a crummy salad, but also because I want my peeps to get real jazzed about vegetables. I know I can fix them up pretty well, so the token salad offering becomes this sort of greater mission thing. I was thinking about holiday time and all of that indulgent heft, the need for a fresh counterbalance that still felt rich in certain ways.
I love a tangy and creamy tahini-based dressing. It seems like a bit of a hippie-dip staple, but for good reason. It has a luscious texture that really fills out a salad/slaw. Its undeniably fatty feel on the tongue carries flavour really beautifully too. Citrus, cumin and garlic tag along, all with a quick blitz in the blender. Then I just did some small shreds/cuts on a bunch of my fall faves. The beets and sweet potato stay crunchy. The apple is lightly tart and juicy. The brussels sprouts fill this out and the celery was kind of a last minute addition, super fresh though.
I ate this with a big helping of greens and half an avocado, you know, just for fun. Pretty refreshing and perfect as far as Fall lunches go. Anyway, gonna keep it short today. This gal’s got seeds/nuts to sprout, buckwheat to soak, cherry tomatoes to dry, lathing to tear out in a future kitchen (!!!), trim to paint, and other fun things :)
shredded brussels sprouts + fall vegetable salad w/ garlicky orange tahini dressing
with tahini dressing guidance from Tara
notes: You could easily mix up the veg here. I went with beets and sweet potatoes (because yay! Just found they’re kind of awesome in their raw state), but kohl rabi, celery root, little turnips and fennel would all be so tasty. I use a very basic Benriner Japanese Mandolin to make quick work of the shreds. I’ve had it for years and it’s still so sharp–highly recommended small investment.
1/2 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed + finely shredded/sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 small-medium beets, peeled + cut into thin matchsticks
1 small-medium sweet potato, peeled + cut into thin matchsticks
1 apple, cored + thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, sliced into little slivers
salt + pepper
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp grainy mustard (or dijon, whatevs)
1/3 cup raw tahini (or regular, NBD)
juice of 1 orange (a generous 1/4 cup)
raw honey/maple syrup/agave nectar to taste
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper
splashes of apple cider vinegar/water for thinning out (if necessary)
big handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
In a large bowl, combine the sliced brussels sprouts, celery, beets, sweet potato shreds, sliced apple and red onion slivers. Season all of that with some salt and pepper and toss. Set aside.
Make the dressing: combine all of the dressing ingredients in a blender on high until you have a smooth dressing that will coat the back of a spoon, in a decidedly thin way (you might have to add splashes of cider vinegar/water etc to get there). Check it for seasoning, adjust and set the dressing aside.
Pour the dressing onto the salad and toss it up. Garnish with the pumpkin seeds and parsley. I think it could hold up in its dressed state, sans apples, for a couple hours if you had to bring it somewhere. Just add the apples and garnish it up right before serving.