I started grad school year two of five last week. It felt like I was going into battle with not enough time to prepare.
In an effort to hold onto some semblance of control in my life I started running 2-3 days a week. I've had a love hate relationship with running since childhood. My family is runners, I'm a runner, and I've turned to running in an addictive way many times throughout my life. I've started again after a couple years of hiatus and it feels SO GOOD. Something about working at a hospital all day, sitting with people through their pain and suffering, holding it together to offer them some bit of understanding and support leaves me feeling cooped up and emotionally drained. And when I run I let it all out, I sweat, I race to Kelly Clarkson and all the other female-power artists in my spotify library and it feels so good. Yes, the idea of burning some calories and loosing some of the first-year-of-grad-school weight sounds appealing but even if I don't loose a pound I know that running makes me feel good on the inside. Mentally it feels so therapeutic.
I always remember learning in teacher training years ago that after animals experience a stressful events they run and shake and move their bodies as a way of releasing that tension. Humans just hold it. For me running seems to release it all in a way nothing else does. This morning I listened to an episode of NPR's "On Being" called Running as a Spiritual Practice and it resonated so strongly with me. I've been listening to this song that repeats the lyrics "slow down" as I run, and even though my body is going fast I find that my mind is able to let go, slow down, and connect to all of the sensations of the present moment in a way that feels so healing.
I made this quinoa salad a couple weeks ago. It's my nod to the end of summer. Hearty whole grain salads have always filled me up and made me feel nourished in a way lettuce never quite could. This quinoa salad is no exception. The juicy sweet pluots offer the perfect nod to summer while the warm toasted hazelnuts seem to welcome fall. The basil keeps it fresh and the balsamic vinaigrette adds a zingy bite. It's really so good.
Feel free to skip on the goat cheese for a dairy free option, or substitute regular plums if you can't find pluots. This salad is intended to be simple and fuss-free.
Serves 2 as a main, generously
Adapted from: The Year in Food
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 small shallot, diced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey (or agave/maply syrup if vegan)
pinch of salt & pepper
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (about half a can)
small handful basil
1-2 small pluots (or plums)
salt + pepper to taste
Place the water in a small saucepan over high heat, rinse the quinoa then add it to the water. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat but keep covered for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork then toss with a generous amount of salt. Set aside to cool.
Make the dressing. Combine shallot, olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar (I use a mason) and shake to combine.
In a small saucepan toast the hazelnuts over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, tossing & watching regularly to ensure they don't burn. Once slightly browned and fragrant remove from heat. Thinly slice the pluots and the basil.
In a medium bowl combine the quinoa, hazelnuts, goat cheese, chickpeas, basil and dressing and toss. Gently stir in the pluots and serve.
My dad’s side of the family lives in El Paso, Texas. We've visited every couple of years for as long as I can remember. There isn’t much in El Paso but it’s proximity to Juarez means it has some pretty excellent Mexican food. We've been going to one particular family-runned restaurant called Avila’s for decades. I have such fond memories of going there with my immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As a kid, I remember staring in wonder when my dad told me his mole had chocolate in it. I remember thinking chocolate steak, gross!
As a kid (and who am I kidding, as an adult too) our favorite was always the sopapillas, these puffy, deep-fried hollowed Mexican doughnuts. We’d poke a hole in the corner and pour in as much honey as possible. It was always a delicious mess. The last time I went they began offering cinnamon sugar covered sopapillas, but I still prefer the original. Every meal ended with sopapillas, a dessert we never seemed to be able to find after we headed back to southern California. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who had even heard of them, which to my brothers and I, made them feel even more exclusive and special. They were our best kept secret.
Every meal ended with sopapillas but every meal also began with chile con queso. Sharp white melted cheddar with soft roasted green chilies. We’d slather it on tortillas and eat it with chips. Most of the time we ate so much chile con queso that we were full before the meal got there, but that didn’t matter because everyone knew it was the best part anyway. And as delicious as it was, this queso is nothing like that.
The first time I made this queso over Super Bowl weekend, I promptly texted my dad and his siblings “vegan queso!”. My dad's side of the family is hispanic and they know a thing or two about good Mexican food. I got a range of reactions and even some suggestions from my chile obsessed Uncle Mike. So I applied said changes and the result is something even my Texas family members could appreciate. It’s creamy and spicy and full of green chiles and fresh pico de gallo, and although you’d never know it, it’s completely vegan. Trust me, you won’t miss the cheese one bit, or even be able to tell it’s missing.
Makes about 3 cups
Adapted from: Food52
1 large tomato, seeded & diced
1 jalapeño, seeded & diced
1/4 large red onion, diced
1 small handful cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
1 cup raw cashews, soaked at least 4 hours
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup + 2 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (see notes)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 4-ounce can diced green chilis
Notes: 1/4 teaspoon cayenne makes this dish mild, 1/2 teaspoon makes it pretty spicy. I recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon and adjusting from there.
Make the pico de gallo, in a small bowl toss the tomato, jalapeño, red onion, cilantro, and green onions with 1 tablespoon lime juice and set aside.
In the bowl of a blender blend the remaining tablespoon of lime juice, cashews, chili powder, paprika, nutritional yeast, water, salt, cayenne, and tomato paste until completely smooth. Adjust to taste, adding more lime/cayenne if needed.
Reserve a scant 1/4 cup of the pico de gallo. Stir the remaining pico de gallo and the green chilies into the queso and top with the reserved 1/4 cup.
My life has become completely consumed by school. Literally I stay up until 2am every night of the week reading and writing, I go to sleep exhausted and then wake up and do it all again. I love what I'm studying, I really do. I know this because the thought that so often fills my mind is that in less than five years "I get to be a psychologist". How lucky am I? But that doesn't make it easy.
Last night I came home from class, and watched the Daily Show, something Nate and I watched together nightly before we moved. No laptop, no reading. Just me my dog and the tv. Despite having a different host, the stories, the soundtrack and co-hosts were the same. Then I turned on my favorite pandora station, the one I used to bake to every afternoon in California, and I caught up on reading my favorite food blogs. I was taken back to our apartment in Calabasas. To life as a full-time yoga teacher, with an achy low back from all the hours I spent in the car driving from class to private to class. To long, full days, and evenings filled with teaching in the absolute best way possible. To a husband who I got to come home to, eat dinner with, go to bed too late with in our little apartment surrounded by neighbors we knew in a life that felt comfortable. And my heart ached.
Nate has been away for four weeks now on a ship in the great lakes. I'm making friends, studying my ass off, barely teaching or making it to class myself. Having enough time to cook myself dinner, let alone spend an entire afternoon playing with ingredients in the kitchen, is a rarity. And by rarity I mean it has been months. And it makes me just so sad.
Sometimes I wish I could live consecutive lives because there's just not time to be all I want to be. Does anyone else feel this way? And right now all I want to do is blast ingrid michaelson and bake vegan cinnamon apple cheesecake bites while I wait for this new life to feel comfortable.
Simple Smoky Baba Ghanoush
makes about 1.5 cups
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Notes: Smokiness requires a gas stove, something I no longer have. So I broiled the hell out of the eggplants instead. The result? They weren't even a little smoky. Fail. Insert liquid smoke. I won't tell if you don't!
2 small eggplants
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lemon, ~ 4 teaspoons
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons parsley, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the eggplants in half length wise, drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place cut size down on the baking sheet and cook for 1 hour until the skins are dark and shriveled and the center looks brown and slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool.
Using a spoon, scape out the centers of the eggplant and discard the skins. Combine eggplant, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, liquid smoke, salt, and parsley in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until completely incorporated. Adjust to taste.
To serve top drizzle with olive oil, and top with parsley and sesame seeds. Serve with pita chips or vegetables.