Happy new year to you! Sending all of my big hugs. The time for personal betterment is upon us (as always). But first, some soup.
A snow storm drove us indoors right in the midst of holiday time, so I’ve been going hard with the nesting/self care thing. I love to make a vegetable-heavy soup with miso, shoyu/tamari and ginger when I feel a bit off, whether I’m hungover or just generally space-y. The steamy ritual of it brings me back to earth and offers a bit of reconnection. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated; just whatever vegetables you have around, a nice broth and some quiet time to enjoy. A version of it was my breakfast of choice for a while, a blast of perfect silence to get the day rolling.
This particular version follows the theme of intense nourishment. I took every immune-boosting, deep-warming, feel good vibe-inducing ingredient I had and put it into this healthy and delicious bowl of love. You get to hold your head over the pot of fragrant broth while it simmers and deepens in flavour. I’m pretty fond of these pour-over style soups. Get the broth crazy hot, splash it around some finely cut vegetables/precooked noodles etc, and instant comfort is yours for the moment. If you batch-cook some broth, tasty and fortifying lunches are a cinch throughout the week.
There’s a lot going on in the pot and I’m confident that some ingredients can be substituted/left out altogether and you’ll still wind up with something tasty and soothing–very much a freestyle kind of effort. I used shiitake mushrooms (stems + caps), ginger, lemongrass, chilies, miso, tamari, cilantro (stems + leaves), thyme and some other aromatics. Pour that potent and mega hot broth over a tangle of vegetable shreds, garnish with sprouts and herbs, a squeeze of lime, some drops of sesame oil, maybe a dab of sriracha swirled into the mix. The process of it leads to a surprisingly heady food-life experience. Simmer, chop, pour, garnish, breathe it in, spoon lifted, instant calm.
Once you get into it, slurping everything up gives you a lightly sweaty flash of food-induced warmth that feels so good. It’s that deeply restorative, whole body satiation that snaps everything into focus and makes you feel ready. Nourishment and power in the palm of your hands. 2013, bring it.
a magic healing soup
notes: Whatever vegetables you decide to use, make sure they’re sliced up rather finely. You’re depending on the heat of the broth to soften them up, so rustic chunkiness is less desirable in this recipe. A vegetable peeler, which is what I used to make the strands of broccoli stems, is very helpful with achieving fine-ness.
1 five inch piece of lemongrass, bashed up with the back of your knife
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 onion, quartered
4-5 shiitake mushroom stems (slice the caps for the soup)
1 three inch piece of ginger, sliced
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 chili, sliced in half
4-5 sprigs thyme
handful of cilantro stems (save the leaves)
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
2 tsp miso (add at the end of simmering time to preserve nutrients)
1-1.5 cups finely sliced vegetables per person (I used carrots, snow peas, broccoli stems and the shiitake caps)
sliced green onions
sprouts (I had pea shoots)
toasted sesame oil
Make the broth: combine all of the broth ingredients except for the miso in a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat. Pour 5 cups of water over top. Bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour or so (or longer if you want a more concentrated stock). Strain the broth and return it to the pot. Keep the broth hot. Add miso to the pot and stir right before serving
While broth is simmering, you can slice up the vegetables and garnishes.
Arrange vegetables in serving bowls. Pour/ladle hot broth over top. Stir it up a bit. Garnish as you like with herbs, sprouts, sriracha etc.
Why? This is an important question to ask of everything you do. In my own life, if it doesn’t make my eyes go wide or bring me some kind of release, it has to go. I try to stay in the light, always inching towards brightness as a way of being. This very basic mantra applies itself easily to work endeavors, relationships, literature and music of choice, what I eat, awareness of my tone of voice at a given time, whether or not to risk driving way over the speed limit in a situation.. You get the idea. I try to move and speak with kindness whenever possible. It makes any confrontation with the big WHY a touch simpler.
The aspect of intention is something I think about often, especially with running this small space. Why a post on one particular recipe or ingredient? What does that say about my space in time? Can people relate? Is that important? Is it accessible? Should I say this? Is it better to say nothing at all? Is an expression of some deeply inner and unusual thing necessary? Is the specification of Mexican oregano douche-y? What is driving the visual component? Maybe that needs to be fleshed out or more inspired? What are we even doing here? …The second that I feel like I’m preaching to the converted or that everything is the same, I want to change it all, move away from the paradigm towards something that feels new and more productive.
So with the guiding idea of kindness and a general desire to dwell in the light, I want to make this space better. I know that I’m unworthy of being in a position of concern over the improvement of a personal and completely unnecessary thing that exists on the internet. It feels ridiculous, now as ever, but it does exist. And if it does exist, it should be as incredible as my own human achievement will allow. So I’ll be letting that thought marinate over the next couple weeks. It’s a mindful powering down in order to power-up sort of effort, if you will (I hope you will).
Be safe and warm over the holidays, friends. I’ll see you in the new year with a smile and something delicious to eat, I promise.
Chocolate has a serious hold on my heart all year, but lately it feels like a love for the ages. This is mostly to say that I can’t seem to stop it from being around me at all times. Snow flies, we’re in the thick of December, treats abound. Love has proven to be a dangerous and rather heady thing across the entirety of existence and yet, oh weird, there’s my fingers getting to work on another sparkly wrapper. Love and excess is perhaps a more relevant, still timeless, pairing that I’ll accept for the moment. It’s too real and never enough.
So to keep that whole gravely serious thing going I made a very seriously delicious thing. Chocolate cups with tasty fillings are nothing new, I realize. My little version here is pretty wholesome and crazy rich though. It’s vegan appropriate and a very simple gluten-free-friendly adjustment can be made. This combination was a bit of an experiment for me and it worked out so pleasantly. The vanilla, walnut + bourbon butter is a touch intense on its own, but in a sweet little chocolate case it’s perfect. Happy sparkles of vanilla bean-flecked fleur de sel grace the tops and the world feels right.
This recipe is easy and highly adjustable. You can swap the walnuts with any nut or seed you like. I use some graham cracker crumbs for body in the filling, but they aren’t necessary at all. If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you could stir the maple syrup, coconut oil, bourbon etc into some store-bought nut butter for total ease. I’ll be toting these to any holiday gathering I find myself at for sure. Hope you’re all still enjoying this lovely season of warmth and togetherness. If anyone needs me, I’ll be listening to my favourite sort-of-Christmas-y-but-not-actually-a-Christmas-album and passing out on the couch from way too much chocolate/love :)
Oh, and another lovely thing: the holiday/winter issue of FoodieCrush Magazine is out! I have a recipe for a sticky and wonderful demerara sugar and vanilla breakfast bundt inside along with a little story on our holiday traditions. This beautiful publication is full to the brim with great recipes and content by some seriously talented bloggers (and it’s free!). Check it out here.
salted maple walnut + vanilla bean chocolate cups
serves: makes around 20 small/mini cups
notes: It’s good to grind up the walnuts and make a walnut butter base before you add the maple syrup and everything else. Nuts/seeds tend to zap the moisture out of everything around them when they’re getting ground into things. Also, I would make up the walnut butter right before you intend to assemble the cups to avoid any oil separating issues.
1.5 cups walnut halves, toasted
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, divided
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (use a GF brand or leave them out if need be)
1 tbsp bourbon or other brown liquor of choice (very optional)
1 1/4 cups semi sweet chocolate chips/pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk of your choice (I went with almond)
pinches of fleur de sel or other nice salt
Make the walnut filling: Place the toasted walnut halves and half of the vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to chop the nuts up small. Turn the food processor on to high and process nuts and vanilla until a smooth paste begins to form, about one to two full minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and process again. Add the graham cracker crumbs and pulse a couple times. Then, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, bourbon and a pinch of salt. Process on high until fully combined. Scrape walnut butter into a small bowl and set aside.
Mix 1-2 tablespoons of fleur de sel with the remaining vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl/vessel. Pinch the salt and seeds together until the little black flecks are evenly mixed up with the salt. Set aside.
Combine the semisweet chocolate chips and milk in a non-reactive bowl. Set the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water in the saucepan). Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is totally melted and you have a smooth, homogenous mixture.
Assemble: Set out 20 or so small paper cup liners (or 10 big ones). Divide half of the melted chocolate amongst the liners. Drop heaped teaspoons of the walnut butter into the center of the first layer of chocolate. If you have the cups in an actual muffin tin for assembling, bang and twist the pan on the table to settle the initial layers. Pour the remaining melted chocolate on top of the walnut butter layer. Sprinkle cups with vanilla bean fleur de sel. Place cups in the fridge to set.
Brassicas = mustard-y cabbages, brussels, broccoli, cauliflower etc goodness. This hearty winter salad is one of the better things I’ve made as of late. As you can see, it’s unapologetically golden brown. I’ve tried before to roast these babies and keep some green intact for the sake of aesthetic presentation, but for real? The more brown edged bits abounding, the better. Embrace the brown.
It has the aforementioned winter vegetables, light sweetness, sharp dijon plus so many textures and things popping at once. It’s a bit of a riff on a brussels sprouts dish I was into last year–the roasting treatment, a strong acidic component, the crunchy hazelnuts and a heavy dusting of pomegranate arils (love that word). This time I invited some other brassica buddies to the party, changed up the vinaigrette and steeped the roasting oil with Mexican oregano and a smashed garlic clove before I slid the veg into a really hot oven. The sour and juicy hits of pomegranate burst on the palette just when you need something to tame the overall heft of it.
My mother tells a really good story about the first time she tried a pomegranate as a child. A girl had brought one to school and shared it with her. Alight from the experience, she came home and told my Nana about it. The mysterious new fruit! So delicious, fun to eat and completely beautiful! Like any good mum, my Nana went right to the Italian market and splurged on one so that they could share it together at home. Maybe this isn’t so much a story as it is a nice way to remember my favourite ladies: a mini version of my mum picking out the little jewel-like seeds and showing them to my Nana for the first time and maybe a small amount of griping about how much work it was to actually eat the thing. Warm fuzzies are still pretty much guaranteed every time I cut into the fuschia holiday staple.
That sweet image was on my mind again when I was watching some morning news the day after we got back from a little time in Costa Rica. Young girls were full-on convulsing/crying at the hands of a Justin Bieber ticket giveaway gone awry. It was an instance of recognition that went along the lines of “Oh right, this continues to exist in the world.” I guess I wasn’t ready for it. Maybe someone should give those gals a pomegranate? Anyway. (No judgment–all love for Biebz) (But seriously, those young ladies would cry way too hard if someone gave them a pomegranate).
This could serve a lot of your peeps at a festive gathering for sure. If you’re like me, it MIGHT carry you over three lunches once you store it in the fridge. I couldn’t stop eating it, seriously. I went from tropical fruit breakfasts, ceviche all the time and 30+ Celsius beach days to some serious cold and gray Canadian winter vibes rather quickly. Pulling on the woolies, lots of hot tea, basking in some twinkle-lit glow, cozy music and giant (GIANT) bowls of cabbage-y darlings sprinkled with pomegranate and hazelnuts have all been pretty great things.
Hope you’re all easing into holiday time with lots of joy, gratefulness and cup-overflowing-levels of abundant health. Be kind, say thank you and eat some vegetables, friends. Big love to you all.
roasted brassicas with pomegranate, hazelnuts + maple dijon dressing
serves: a crowd
notes: I meant to throw a handful of crumbled sheep’s milk feta into this, but completely forgot pre-photo. It’s delicious without it, certainly, but dang if it wasn’t on a whole other level afterward. If you got it, do it.
vegetables + roasting oil:
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled (reserve after steeping)
1 tsp dried mexican orgeano
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed + quartered
1 small head of cauliflower, trimmed + broken into bite-size florets
1 bunch of broccoli, stems trimmed + sliced, florets broken off
salt + pepper
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp filtered water
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp dijon mustard
reserved garlic clove
salt + pepper
1/3 cup grapeseed oil
1 small pomegranate, seeds removed (a good guide can be found here)
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts, toasted + chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a very large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Make the roasting oil for the vegetables: in a small saucepan over low heat, combine the 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, garlic clove and oregano. Bring it to a very faint simmer, remove from the heat and let the mix steep for 10 minutes or so while you trim the veg. Fish out the garlic clove and reserve it for the dressing.
In a large bowl, combine the brussels sprouts, cauliflower florets, broccoli stems and florets with the oregano oil, salt and pepper. Toss until all vegetables are coated. Place vegetables on the parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Flip them around here and there.
Make the dressing: combine all dressing components in a blender and blitz a few times until a homogenous mix is achieved and the garlic clove is completely pureed. Check for seasoning and set aside.
Toss the roasted vegetables with the vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds and chopped hazelnuts. Place salad in your serving dish and garnish with a few more pomegranate seeds and nuts. Can be served warm or room temperature.
Everyone should learn how to make bread. I’m not being an idealist on this. It is a chief form of sustenance for many of course, but it is also a deeply meditative undertaking when you get yourself into it. There are repetitive motions to sink every strand of your awareness into, astute measures, risings to patiently wait for and monitor, that universally smile-inducing warm smell… Whole body, whole mind, loaves of bread. We all have the ability to bang it out; just a simple awakening to its powers is perhaps necessary. See where I’m going with this?
I’ve winded down to a bit of vacation time currently, it’s true —publishing this one from somewhere in Costa Rica, hopefully out in the surf at this point *waves hello*—, but deadlines, actual scheduled work, and loose ends abounded before an obligatory rum on the rocks found its way into my hot little hands by the ocean. I didn’t really know which of the umpteen-jillion things on my list I was supposed to finish first. So I did something that wasn’t on my list, or rather something that I didn’t know was on my list just yet. I made bread. (And listened to some 90s/early 2000s R&B).
Walking into any kitchen in any capacity to make bread with whatever equipment available is completely badass to me. Providing basic sustenance on a whim = a life skill supreme. Some of the coolest people I’ve met in my life were serious bread bakers and eventually I figured out why. I started to appreciate what the practice offered when I had to make it every day at a restaurant I worked at for a time. There is a slowness that you have to learn how to appreciate when you make it. It was such a non-stop-work-all-the-time period of my life (an aside: that is still actually a thing), but the small responsibility brought me some serious calm and quietude. So it was then, here I am now; hands in the flour working it all out.
This recipe from Kim Boyce is completely simple to remember. Focaccia is generally considered a good beginner’s bread undertaking. Equal amounts of whole grain and plain/softer flour, packet of quick yeast, fat pinch of salt, glugs of olive oil and whatever flavour/textural components you’re feeling at the moment. Easy.
I went very classic with this. Caramelized onions become the flavour salve of dreams in cool weather, going on everything to make it instantly better. Fresh thyme is easily my favourite herb, so it’s always poking out of some spot in the fridge, and I generally enjoy the crunch-surprise of seeds in almost everything bread-related (bagel memories, guys). Other ideas: dried figs, olives, roasted bits of squash, fried sage leaves, concord grapes if you still have them around, walnuts, a firm blue cheese (drizzle the whole thing with honey at the end-oooooh man), dabs of harissa and almonds etc etc.
spelt + seed focaccia with caramelized onions + thyme
very lightly adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain
serves: makes a large rectangular focaccia
notes: If you want to age the dough a bit for a hint of sourness/more depth, tightly cover the dough after the first rising and place it in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake it, remove from the fridge well in advance so that the dough can come to room temperature and then follow through with the second rising and baking steps.
1 package quick rise yeast (2.25 teaspoons)
1 tsp raw honey (or natural sugar)
1.5 cups whole grain flour (I used spelt)
1.5 cups light spelt flour (or unbleached all purpose)
1 tbsp flaky/sort of coarse salt (I used Himalayan pink salt)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp olive oil + extra to grease the bowl
4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
big handful of raw sunflower seeds
1 onion, peeled and cut into half moons
splash of sherry vinegar (optional)
Grease a medium-large bowl AND a large baking sheet with some olive oil. Pro tip: place a sheet of parchment on the baking sheet too to prevent heart-wrenching bread sticking (guess who forgot to do that..). Set both the bowl and the baking sheet aside.
In a large bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the packet of yeast, honey/sugar and 1 1/4 cups warm water. Stir them together. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes or so. The yeast should bubble a bit, seem foamy on the surface and bloom.
To the yeast mixture, add the flours, salt and 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix it all together to combine.
If you’re using a stand mixer: attach the dough hook and knead the mixture for 7-8 minutes, adding more flour if necessary to prevent sticking (I usually add around 1/4 cup extra). Mix until the dough is supple, stretchy and ever-so-slightly tacky. Scrape the dough into the greased bowl, coat it in the oil and cover. Let it rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
If you’re doing it by hand: start to knead the dough a bit in the bowl to get it going. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is supple and stretchy. There should be a slight tack to it when you poke your finger into it. Place the dough into the greased bowl and rotate the to cover in the oil. Cover and let it rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Make the caramelized onions: Place the half moons of onion in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Add a few thyme leaves at this point if you like. Stir them up here and there to promote even browning. The sizzling sound should be like a faint whisper. Keep stirring them here and there, adding splashes of water to prevent sticking if necessary. Once the onions are super soft, brown, juicy, delicious etc looking, add the splash of sherry vinegar, stir it around and remove pot from the heat. Set aside.
Second rise: Empty the dough out onto your prepared baking sheet. Stretch it out to fit the pan, dimpling it with your fingers (so fun). Once it’s all snug and fitted in the corners, cover the baking sheet and let it rise another hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Pre-baking: scatter the thyme leaves, caramelized onions, sunflower seeds and pinches of coarse salt over the top of the dough. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over the top as well. Dimple the dough very lightly, allowing the oil to sink into some bits of the dough and slosh around the edges for crisp end-results. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and allow the bread to slightly cool before serving.