This used to be on my "about" page but I decided I need to be a little less woo

I am hungry for more. I want to see the whole and the particulars, and to how everything fits together. I have more questions than answers.

I am a wanderer forging my own meandering path. A mother, a lover, a writer, a gardener. I believe in the spiritual power of pleasure, that food is more than nourishment, movement more than exercise.

Where I find myself now: In the middle, the transition from youth to maturity. In Crossfit and yoga. In the kitchen. In contemplation. Breathing.

Where I've been: I grew up in Colorado and came east for graduate school where I earned a masters degree in English. I grounded my foundation as a writer in my studies of women's memoirs, mother-daughter relationships and French feminist theory; it's no surprise, then, that I eventually found my profession in women's online media. Along the way I wrote restaurant reviews for the Brooklyn Rail and started my own food blog. And because it's never just about personal gratification for me I joined the "good food" movement, helping to organize the first Brooklyn Food Conference in 2008 and becoming the communications manager for the Brooklyn Food Coalition that arose from it. Food, writing, and my commitment to enhancing women's lives all came together when I became the food editor at SheKnows.com. Now as a freelance contributor to several different publications I have broadened my focus to wellness: fitness, movement, health, homerelationships and yes, food. Always food. 

Welcoming in ease

One aspect of ADHD for me has been the expectation for everything to be hard. Without all those helpful neurotransmitters my brain grinds away trying to keep up, sometimes overheating, and that's become my normal. I am just now realizing I spend my days with a furrowed brow and eyes wide with an expression of consternation. I walk fast, always. I don't know how to stroll slowly. It's taken me years to lower my shoulders down from around my ears. The answer to every challenge has always been I just have to try harder, and so I overdo things, or I overdo things that don't need so much doing. And because our national religion is Hard Work none of this seems amiss.

Even before I learned about my condition I'd been talking about my need to focus more on working smart rather than working harder. But I couldn't figure out how.

I feel like I'm finally figuring it out. Now, in middle age. I'm discovering ease. I'm learning I don't have to earn my self confidence, which is mind-blowing. That there are all kinds of cognitive techniques that flip the script in my brain. And they're so simple. I'm learning this from my coach, and from meditation, and from having a clear enough head thanks to the L-tyrosine and protein. It's working. I don't know for how long, but it's coming together.

Lately I've been letting my brow relax, letting my eyes soften, and taking the urgency out of my steps. I breathe slowly and welcome in ease, trusting its possibilities.

 

Resilience is a creative act

Just before Labor Day weekend I had the end-of-summer sads on my mind. I wasn't feeling it so much for myself, but for my son and for other people around me. (Sometimes I absorb other people's stress.) So I wrote about it for Lifehacker. And since resilience has been an ongoing project of mine, I went straight for that aspect. Dealing with a difficult transition requires resilience, doesn't it?

So what I learned from art therapist and professor  Dr. Einat Metzl is that resilience isn't trait you either have or lack. It's a process we all have access to.

And that process isn't linear. It's kind of an ebb and flow, a fall and a rebound. Somehow you grow from whatever challenge or setback you experience. But of course you need something to help you grow. So what is that something? For Dr. Metzl, it's some sort of creative expression--yes, even if you don't consider yourself a creative person ("that's just a story you're telling yourself," Metzl says). Or it's a ritual. Putting yourself in a creative space helps you see your situation differently, and that's what helps you grow.

I've been listening to a seminar/podcast by meditation teacher Tara Brach about resilience. She says it's when your heart and mind are awakened, and you grow. And key to that is you retain a sense of locus operandi--you are the actor in your life. You're not taking the role of a passive victim. And you don't see a difficulty as a negative. You see it as an opportunity to grow. 

Oh I know, many of us wish we had fewer opportunities for growth!

I connected this with some of the work I'm doing with an ADHD coach. She has been helping me with an exercise in which I try on new and different thoughts and feelings about certain challenges. We were talking about the times when I feel anxious about doing something, but I managed to do it anyway. How do I do that? I thought about it and realized that those are the times when I felt a sense of agency even though I couldn't control the whole situation.

This isn't to say that I always do this. But teasing out the things you're doing well so you can do more of them is just as important as pinpointing unhelpful behaviors.

Anyway, do you know that feeling? Do you ever feel a sense of agency even in situations you can't completely control? If not, how do you cultivate that? I don't know. It's a kind of grace I've been given. I think it would be amazing to teach other people how to do that. Hell, I'd like to figure out how to cultivate more of it in myself. But I think imagination is key.

It's like that Charles Darwin quote: "It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." What makes you adaptable? I think it's having the imagination to see things differently.

I love that, because it lets you off the hook of trying to get through life through sheer willpower. That's exhausting! We're all worn out from that, aren't we? What if you grow from life's challenges by getting yourself into a creative space? That sounds too fun to be true, doesn't it. But what if that's what actually works?

 

The space between

I've been starting my work days with a 10-minute meditation. I keep it pretty simple. I lie on my back, staring at the ceiling or out the window. I count to 4 as I breathe in, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4, repeat a few times. And then I just try and feel how I feel, staying with the now, gently leading my mind back to the now over and over again.

Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing some sort of empowerment mantra, or some sort of visualization about how I want to feel. If I do that, though, am I leaving the now and avoiding how I really feel?

So today I kind of put myself in the in between place, aware of how I feel now (irritable, a little tired) and how I want to feel (powerful, energetic, optimistic). I felt tenderness for the struggle and energy in the yearning.

Anyway, I don't have any profound insights about that...just that it was an interesting place to be, and I think I'll go there again.

Getting my mind and body to stay together in the same place

Having ADHD means worshiping the God of Hard Work. Until you're diagnosed and get that the problem is chemical and not a lack of effort or caring or discipline you're constantly trying harder--at everything. And that includes trying to stay present in the moment.

And that brings us to meditation, which is something I keep meaning to do. I've been listening to a podcast by meditation teacher/therapist Tara Brach centered on embodied presence. She talks about the trance we live in, where we're just going on autopilot, always chattering to ourselves in our minds, thinking about what's next, and she describes this as the unlived life. And this makes me feel sad because it so aptly describes much of my own life.

Paying attention has been the greatest, fiercest struggle of my life. 

When I mentioned to my ex-husband that I have ADHD he said, "Well of course you do. It's always on to the next thing, on to the next thing. I've been telling you this for years." And he probably has been. People who get diagnosed as adults often say they're diagnosed multiple times throughout their lives but they just keep forgetting. Because who knows where you really are at any given moment? Probably not right there, with your body, getting that information.

But being present is hard for everyone because then you have to feel your feelings and that can often be yuck. As Brach puts it:

When we’re coming back in to our body some of the layers we have to live through are uneasy. That’s okay if we’re willing because what we find in that willingness is a quality of aliveness, presence, and tenderness and that’s home. But we have to be willing to be with the uneasiness

And Brach also asks, "What are you unwilling to feel right now?"

I asked myself that question this morning and the answer was immediate: fragile, weak, vulnerable.

Still, being awake in the moment is so delicious, so necessary. And I need to practice regularly. So I'm carving out a designated time in my schedule to practice paying attention--doing meditation. Systems, not goals, my friends. Instead of trying harder, you make it easier.

I have ADHD and this explains everything in my life

Apparently I've had ADHD all this time. Well, since puberty, probably. I remember 6th or 7th grade I had a teacher who would sneak up behind me and yell "boo!" just to entertain the class--because I was always so spaced out. In high school I couldn't remember my locker combination, ever. I've always mixed up my words, starting with the wrong consonant, or starting one word and then changing my mind halfway and uttering some bizarre portmanteau. "Dismapointed" for dismayed and disappointed. Once when I was introducing my favorite, most beloved professor at a public event I blanked out on her name. I can't remember entire swaths of my life because I wasn't paying attention at the time. My mind was elsewhere.

I didn't know this was ADHD. I thought that was something hyperactive little boys had. I didn't know there were different types, like inattentive, which is what I probably have. What people are saying now is that boys are overdiagnosed and girls are underdiagnosed--because ours is quieter. We're just airheads. And anyway, isn't everyone distracted these days? (The reason why the H is still in ADHD even though hyperactivity isn't a component of all or even most cases is a long boring story but there you go. Some doctors remain very much attached to that H.)

Anyway, I didn't seriously consider that I might have ADHD until recently. Ashwin and I had a series of arguments because I kept spacing out in the middle of our conversations. He would say "red" and I'd go off on a reverie about cadmium and cochlea bugs. That sort of thing. He was frustrated because he wanted a PARTNER who was PRESENT and he wanted to feel CONNECTED and you can't do that if one of you is thinking about cochlea bugs. That and I kept leaving projects unfinished. I have a major block when it comes to mailing anything larger than a letter. 

I kept telling him that we're just wired differently. He's a linear business guy, I'm a creative, bla bla bla. But I started noticing more of what I called my quirks and I realized that not only were they disruptive to a relationship I care deeply about, they were disruptive to just about everything. So we started reading and found out about the different types, and I read more and realized I'd been playing with this deck since the age of 10 or 11. It's hard to realize you have something if it's all you've ever known.

I did one of those spit-and-urine diagnostics to test the neurotransmitters in your system (which only measures what's in your digestive system, not your brain, so it's not perfect, but it's something). And then I've taken a million quizzes and tests. And it looks like I'm also maybe a little bit low-key depressed as well. Basically I'm low in all of the neurotransmitters, which is the secret sauce in my menopause sandwich. How am I even still functioning?

So. What am I doing about it? I'm wary of meds, so I'm working with a naturopath and trying amino acid therapy (nootropics), first. I think I've been able to offset some of the effects with morning exercise and eating mostly whole foods. Now I've started taking (in case you're looking for a supplement K-hole to lavish your afternoon on) L-tyrosine, rhodiola, L-methionine, and macuna in the morning, and Taurine, amino-phenylbutyric HCI, L-theanine, and hydroxytryptophan at night. Also iron, magnesium and a bunch of other minerals, high-EPA fish oil, and a bunch of vitamins. And yes, that's a lot.

We'll see how it goes. I'm already feeling like my night dosage is too much. I felt like I was on ecstacy last night, but also really sleepy. Honestly, no one needs to feel such an enormous sense of well being as they're dropping off to sleep. And then I was kind of groggy in my workout. I had to ask twice as many questions as usual. But once the dopamine-growing aminos started kicking in I started feeling pretty good. I mean, I still squandered half the morning doing meditation, but I'm feeling fine. 

Anyway, no wonder resilience has been such a struggle. I feel like someone just turned on the lights, you know?

The perimenopause mothership has landed

A few months ago when I did a blood test we found out I'm perimenopausal. That means the years-long process of closing down the baby factory has begun. It's still operational. In fact, supposedly I have the reproductive system of a 37-year-old, which, as a 46-year-old is ... what, um, neat? Anyway.

What this means for me is that I'm producing less progesterone lately. And how that plays out for everyone is going to vary widely. No hot flashes for me, yet (maybe because I do so much sweating in the gym). But I am one moody bitch for 10 days out of the month. And I get bloated during the same time period. Like, human water balloon bloated. My waist expands by a full inch. I'm not exaggerating. I've measured before, during, and after and it actually fluctuates by an inch. 

I'm already doing all the other stuff that helps minimize symptoms, so my doctor has me on some herbal supplements and they seem to be working this month. I haven't made anyone cry (that I know of) and I'm not so bloated. We'll see how it goes.

When I bring up perimenopause with friends my age there's this palpable sense of relief. Finally, we're in a safe space to talk about this! Maybe it's because I work in youth-obsessed media, there's almost this paranoia about admitting you're old enough for that. Oh no, don't let the millennial readers find out! It will scare them way! They'll scamper off like frightened mice!

But we do need to talk about this more. Don't you think? Maybe it's just that it's new to me. I'm like that asshole parent who thinks she's the first woman ever to experience motherhood. Or those annoying people who think their new love is lovier than everyone else's. You guys, I've discovered this thing? It's called PERIMENOPAUSE! I figured it out. You're welcome.

I'll tell you what, though. As a friend of mine was just telling me, they need to call it something else. Because it sounds medical and dire, like something is terribly wrong with you. Why don't men have a terrible word like this? "I'm perimenopausal." "Oh my God, I'm so sorry. Can they do something about that?" "Yes, they're putting me down tomorrow. Now that I'm no longer reproductive I am of no use to the world. I'm leaving you my skinny jean collection, which I'm too bloated right now to wear."

Anyway, I have more to say on this subject. Much more. But this is just to say, let's have a conversation about perimenopause. And let's come up with a better word for it.

 

Flourless tahini brownies and don't make that face they're perfection

If you love a rich, moist, fudgy brownie but don't like the greasy, heavy reality that comes with it. If you feel like all desserts are way too sweet but you still want something kind of sweet. If you're trying to avoid dairy. If you're gluten-free these days. This brownie is for you. It's moist yet light, complex and flavorful but simple. I love the mineral notes in the maple syrup.

Tahini brownies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup tahini 
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup maple sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a bowl hand mix everything but the chocolate chips together. Once it's all well incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, then let rest half an hour or so before eating.

This brownie was inspired by an almond butter brownie I tried, so that or cashew butter would probably work as a swap for tahini. I topped with halva from Seed + Mill, which is also where I like to get my tahini whenever I get the chance.

 

A week or two of dinners 5.19.17

Oh man, I don't even remember what I made, when. But here's some ideas.

What do I do with these fresh chickpeas?

These seem like a good idea until it comes time to peel them all. Raw fresh chickpeas taste a bit like raw green peas, but a bit starchier and not as sweet. You can steam them in the shell, salt, and eat like edemame (not my thing). You can make hummus with them. I toasted some last night with salt and paprika to top a salad and liked that. But I kind of agree with Sarah Jampel of Food52 that they're a bit overrated. You're not going to get the same payoff you get for dealing with fresh fava beans.

Laziest wine-braised lamb shanks

Groceries: Bone-in lamb shanks, wine, tomato, harissa, garlic, rosemary

Are you busy? Do you have things to do? Brown a couple of salted lamb shanks in an Instant Pot and then pour in about a cup of red wine, toss in a hand-crushed tomato, a couple tablespoons of harissa, some garlic, and throw a wad of rosemary on top. Pressure cook that baby for an hour or so. The meat will fall off the bone. Strain the sauce over it. 

Ottolenghi-lite kofta

Groceries: Ground beef, ramps or garlic, pine nuts, parsley, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice

Ottolenghi recipes are notoriously complicated so I'm always simplifying for the busy weeknight cook. Combine the beef, minced ramps or garlic (I think we've seen the last of the ramps, actually), a handful of pine nuts, chopped parsley, and spices. Roll it into balls and then broil them all at once (couple minutes each side). For a sauce I whisked some olive oil with tahini and lemon juice. Use whatever proportions appeal to you.

I guess we ate out a lot these last couple weeks?

How to make any energy truffle you like

Time for some not-so-Schweddy's balls. I started out making the cookie dough truffles from Angela Liddon's Oh She Glows Every Day and I love her recipe. This is a generalized adaptation of it. I hope she doesn't mind this considering I have like 10 readers. Alice, don't be mad! Everyone, go get her book. It's good. I've since come up with variations of my own and now we all depend on them. People panic when we run out. They don't panic enough to learn how to make some themselves, but they panic. 

Energy truffles

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Nuts, any kind you like, roasted or not
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon nut butter, any kind you like
  • 1/2 cup pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Salt to taste, plus any spices you like
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chocolate chips, dried fruit, or any other mix-ins that strike your fancy
  • Sometimes I throw some hemp seeds. Chia seeds could also work if you don't care about smiling with dignity.

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, grind the nuts and oats together until fine, but stop before they turn into butter.
  2. Add nut butter, dates, and syrup. Grind again until well combined.
  3. Add chocolate chips or other mix-ins and grind until chopped to desired size.
  4. Roll dough into little balls, whatever size you want. Store in airtight container.

I keep mine out on the counter most of the time, but if you plan on keeping them longer than a week store in the refrigerator.

A week of dinners 5.5.17

So I have no stove for the week. Starting Wednesday the building shut off the cooking gas because they discovered a leak through scheduled testing. At first I thought, oh fine, safety first, we'll get takeout or something. But then I heard we may not get gas back for 7-10 days and I was like, DAFUQ??? I still have an InstantPot, an oven, and a microwave so I should stop being such a jerk.

Monday: Ramp pesto farro risotto

Groceries: Farro, stock, wild mushrooms, basil, ramps, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, olive oil

Make pesto with ramps; it's super EZ! Chop up some ramps (the whole thing, greens and bulbs) with some basil, maybe, plus cheese and nuts. Add olive oil and puree away. I tried to introduce a little more fiber and nutrients into the usual risotto by using farro. I liked the chewy texture, but I was in the minority. Did you know wild mushrooms are loaded with minerals? They are. 

Tuesday: Beef paratha tacos

Groceries: Parathas or other flatbread (be creative! go out on a limb! Woo, best life ever), ground beef, onion, chili powder, greens, salsa and/or whatever other toppings you like.

Inspired by Goa Taco I decided to use this Indian flatbread instead of tortillas. It's like the food version of my relationship. I was quite lazy with the filling, simply browned ground beef with onion, cumin and chili powder. But it's just Tuesday, you know?

Wednesday: gyro, shwarma, and falafel from the farmer's market

I had book club that night (The German Girl).

Thursday: Panko-crusted tofu sticks and coconut rice

Groceries: Panko bread crumbs, firm tofu, eggs, rice, coconut milk, broth or stock, greens, condiments of your choice

This was a bibimbap-inspired rice bowl. I cooked brown basmati in coconut milk and a little homemade stock; we love coconut rice this way. I used the InstantPot on the rice setting. Meanwhile I cut tofu into sticks (pat dry, first), dredged them in eggs, then panko crumbs, and then baked at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes each side. Once the rice was done I removed it and used the saute setting to wilt some kale. 

To assemble, start with a layer of rice, add greens, then tofu sticks, and top with whatever you like. I topped with kimchi and gochujang sauce.

Friday: Hummus with parathas and green beans

Groceries: Chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, garlic, pita or other flatbread, green beans, ramp bulbs, fresh mint leaves

Well, well, well, if it isn't Cinco de Mayo. We will not be celebrating with Mexican food out of protest. I'm not whipping out my Mexican card just because a bunch of gringos want to get drunk on frozen margaritas and Dos Equis. Instead I'm making hummus (by request) and microwave-steamed green beans with ramps and mint leaves. Yeah, that's right. I'm putting ramps in everything. Because. RAMPZZZ.

P.S. I'll probably make myself a margarita, neat, just because everyone's talking about them today and I am easily suggestible.

In which I learn how to fail well

This morning we were working on back squats at the gym. This is when you squat with a barbell on the back of your shoulders. (The fabulous Elizabeth Akinwale demonstrates above.) Typically we'll work our way up to our "max" weight—so we start on the lighter side and with each set we'll add a little more weight.

Before we got started our coach explained what to do if you're at the bottom of a squat and you can't get back up. This is a bit dangerous, because with back squats we're usually dealing with heavy weights, maybe too heavy for a spotter to help. So if we're stuck, we let the weights fall to the back while we shoot our hips forward, out from under the barbell. Simple enough, right?

This would have been a good time to do some visualization exercises to really internalize that process. But I excel at hearing what not to do and then doing exactly that. And I kind of didn't think I would need to dump my weight because I don't usually do crazy heavy.

But today it happened. I did a squat with my body weight—a first! And then next set I added five more pounds. And then five more after that. My breath was off this time. I inhaled before starting, but I exhaled as I sunk down, instead of waiting to exhale as I stood up. Too late, I had nothing to push up with.

I could feel the weight pushing me forward. The barbell was going to roll over my neck, which is terrifying. You don't want 100+ pounds rolling over your neck. Panic forced a ridiculous animal noise out of me, kind of a roadkill deer bleat. My coach was there, reminding me to push the weight back. Not today, death, I thought. Not today. I awkwardly maneuvered the weight behind me and avoided breaking my neck. Phew.

So. Now I knew how that felt. I hadn't anticipated was how much exertion it would take to fail well, to throw off the weight safely. You don't just passively collapse and let the barbell roll off your back. You actually have to force it back.

After a rest I went one more time, five pounds lighter, but my confidence was a bit shaken. I got stuck at the bottom of my squat again. This time my body knew what to do. I shoved the weight back and kind of wriggled forward. I was disappointed that I'd failed again. But what a relief to have dumped my weight more safely this time.

So I was thinking about this on my way home afterwards. About how failing well enough to recover and do it again still takes skill and exertion. What if I'd started each rep visualizing success and visualizing a "good" fail? Can I hold both ideas in my mind at once?

What does that look like? How do you plan for success and give yourself the best chance while also rehearsing for failure? Because failure is inevitable. Any time you're reaching for something big, something that scares you a little, that you're not 100 percent sure you can pull off, failure is lurking behind you. And if it's failure's turn we can either let it crush us or we can have an emergency plan and exert the will to throw off that weight so we can live to fight another day.

That's something I'm mulling over this morning. 

A week of dinners 4.28.17

Sunday: Pati Jinich's Mexican Dreamboat Dreamboat Hot Dogs with salad

Groceries: Bacon, hot dogs, onion, tomato, pickled jalapeños, hot dog buns, cheddar cheese, and ketchup/mustard if you don't already have them. Salad greens.

A craving for this came clear out of the blue—maybe it's the warmer weather. But Sunday was the day for Pati Jinich's Mexican dreamboat hot dogs. I learned about this recipe, based on a beloved street snack in Mexico City, when I interviewed Jinich almost a year ago. (Speaking of dreamboats, she was such a delightful interview.) I cheated a bit and used salsa instead of making her mustard and ketchup sauce. Still rocked. 

Monday: Milk braised pork chops with salad

Groceries: Pork chops, milk, garlic, fresh herbs, salad greens

We had milk going sour on us so I decided to braise some pork chops. Cooking with sour milk is perfectly safe, by the way. I browned the chops a couple minutes on each side, browned a few cloves of garlic in the pan, and then covered with milk, throwing in some fresh thyme. I can't remember how long I braised (covered), but it was at least 45 minutes. Makes for extra tender chops and no, you can't taste the sour.

Tuesday: Indian delivery, oh yeah! 

Sometimes the Seamless spirits call out to you. This place near us makes a tasty Kerala chicken curry and their mango lassi is not too sweet.

Wednesday: Beef and ramps sliders

Groceries: Ground meat, ramps, greens, brioche or other rolls, any toppings you like

The farmer's market returned to my town on Wednesday. Joy! I picked up loads of ramps and mixed them with ground beef for burgers topped with some chimichurri and loads of greens on mini challa rolls. Thinly slice 3 ramps, including the greens, and mix with a pound of beef (or other ground meat). 

Thursday: Purple sweet potato stew with chicken and spring produce

Groceries: Stock, 1-2 purple sweet potatoes, 1 pound chicken thighs, ramps, rhubarb, spinach

I love Stokes purple sweet potatoes, especially what they do to a stew. I started with a homemade pork stock (pressure cooked for 4 hours but chicken stock would also work) and dissolved 2 tablespoons yellow miso and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar. Then I  added chopped potatoes and chicken. Once those seemed mostly cooked through I added chopped ramps (greens and bulb), 1 large stalk of rhubarb, and at the very end, some spinach leaves. I'll take this over a unicorn latte any day.

Friday: Sardines and salad

Groceries: Fresh sardines (1-2 per person), garlic, lemons, paprika, fresh parsley, salad greens plus toppings

It's a warm day so we'll go light with some little fishes. I'm going to do a variation on this grilled sardines recipe. Since I don't have a grill I'll probably pan broil them instead. I'll make an olive oil-based dressing and maybe top it with hazelnuts and blackberries.

My high protein, low sugar granola recipe

I didn't want to be the kind of person who makes her own granola. I put it off for as long as I could. But I just couldn't find the granola I wanted, something more on the savory side, no loaded with sugar, and higher in protein. Bola's Barely Sweet comes pretty close, so I get that sometimes. But mostly I make my own.

Yes, this is the granola from my home page. And yes, I need granola. I like breakfast to have a crunchy, nutty texture to it on weekdays. It just gives me the strength to do what needs to be done. It makes me feel nurtured and fortified. I have granola over yogurt mixed with spirulina and protein powder. Or I'll have it over a bowl of smoothie. My favorite nuts for granola are hazelnuts, but use whatever you love.

Adriana's high protein, low sugar granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 1 cup of nuts, any kind, crushed or chopped
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • Sometimes I'll add in a scoop or two of protein powder or 1/2 cup of hemp hearts
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons nut butter (any kind)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients.
  3. In a small saucepan melt coconut oil with nut butter. Remove from heat and stir in maple syrup and vanilla. 
  4. Pour melted ingredients over dry ingredients and stir to incorporate. Spread over a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and bake for another 15 minutes or until you get a toasty color. The granola will still be a little soft, but that's okay. It gets crunchy as it cools.

Store in an airtight container like a glass jar.

 

A week of dinners 4.21.17

Coming up with dinner ideas day after day is hard. I've got ideas for you. Here's how this works. Every week I'm going to keep track of what I cook for dinner. I'll write up some quick notes and grocery lists for each day. Take what sounds appealing. Dinner is solved!

Sunday: Honey and zaatar-rubbed fresh ham, roasted, with a mixed greens, green apple and cashew salad (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and tamarind sauce dressing)

Groceries: 3.5 pound fresh ham, honey, zaatar (make your own), mixed greens, granny smith apple, cashews, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, tamarind sauce

For the salad dressing I whisk 2 parts oil with 1 part vinegar with a tablespoon or so tamarind sauce, then dump in salad and dress with your hands. Get in there. You can wash your hands after. Fresh ham is not the same as cured ham! I roasted this at 450 for the first 1/2 hour, then turned it down to 350 to roast for another 3. For extra flavor, pour some broth and garlic/onion/herbs in the roasting pan.

Monday: Cromlet (eggy chickpea flour pancake) topped with sauteed Swiss chard, morels, poached eggs, crushed pistachios, and tahini.

Groceries: Chickpea flour, cashew or other nut milk (but you can even use water), eggs, Swiss chard or other dark greens, morels or other wild mushrooms, pistachios, tahini

I skipped the fennel salad and yogurt sauce from this recipe, but they look good. Everyone loved the cromlets. I doubled the recipe.

Taco Tuesday: Black beans cooked with ham bone, tortillas, cheese, salsa, greens.

Groceries: Dried black beans, leftover ham bone, chicken stock, corn tortillas, salsa (I like Xochitl), cotija or other cheese, salad greens or cabbage

There was plenty of meat left on Sunday's ham bone, so I soaked some dried beans a couple hours and then pressure cooked them with the bone and some chicken stock for 2 1/2 more hours.

Wednesday: Farro with basil and pistachio pesto and broccoli.

Groceries: 1 package of farro, basil, pistachios, Parmesan cheese, broccoli

Making your own pesto won't save you money. Surprise! But I do it anyway because it's so good fresh. No recipe -- I just eyeball it. One big bunch of leaves, a cup or so of nuts, half a cup or so of cheese cut into chunks, maybe a clove or two of garlic, maybe some lemon juice, and plenty of olive oil. Put it all in a food processor and go. Taste, see if you like the proportions, and adjust as you like. 

Instead of pasta I used it on farro, which I love for its dense chewiness. It feels so much more substantial than pasta. 

Eat those broccoli stems. Just peel off the tough outer layer and cube. 

Thursday: Super inauthentic larb with Swiss chard and coconut rice

Groceries: 1 pound of ground meat, ginger, fish sauce, limes, mint leaves, large-leafed greens like Swiss chard or lettuce, rice, coconut milk

Larb is a Laotian dish usually consisting of ground meat, fish sauce, fresh herbs and lime juice. I kind of wing it with whatever I have, in this case ginger and garlic. I was missing the fresh herbs (mint or cilantro) and lime, but everyone stilled liked it. Just cook the ground meat, add fish sauce, lime juice and herbs. You eat it with your hands using leafy greens. 

For this rice I just swap most of the water for coconut milk. It gives you a rich, subtly-coconutty flavor.

Friday: Back by popular demand, more comlet with salad. 

I try to avoid making the same dish twice in one week, but the heart wants what it wants, and who am I to refuse my people? I'll probably make a salad with this one.

18 Vegan sources of protein

I rely a lot on meat and fish to get protein. AND I'M NOT SORRY. Animals are delicious. But for the sake of variety I've been trying to diversify my protein sources to include not-animals. Here's a bunch.

Soy beans: 1 cup = 68 grams of protein

Pinto beans: 1 cup = 41 grams, incomplete low in methionine/high in lysine so eat with rice

Chickpeas: 1 cup - 39 grams

Seitan, 1/3 cup - 21 grams (could it be... SATAN??? Heh)

Tofu: 1 cup = 20 grams

Lentils: 1 cup = 18 grams

Chia seeds: 100 grams = 16 grams

Farro: 1 cup, cooked = 14 grams

Mycoprotein (quorn), 1/2 cup cooked = 13 grams

Hemp hearts: 3 tablespoons = 10 grams, incomplete because low in lysine

Pumpkin seeds, 1 ounce shelled = 9 grams

Quinoa: 1 cup, cooked = 8 grams

Ezekiel bread, 2 slices = 8 grams

Peas, 1 cup = 8 grams

Peanut butter, 2 tablespoons = 7 grams

Buckwheat, 1 cup = 6 grams

Almonds, 1 ounce = 6 grams

Cashews, 1 ounce = 5 grams

 

 

I am a fool at play

So... I kind of suck at rowing. Every time we do the row machines in a workout I'm pretty much the last one to finish. I'm moving fast, but as far as accumulating meters goes I'm so very slow. Like this morning, when we did 4 sets of 500 meters (along with other fun stuff). There I am, disco music pushing me, my heart pounding, my hip flexors aching, and I feel like I'm rowing through a tar pit. With little dinosaur arms. Everyone else jumps off after finishing their 500 meters and I'm still struggling through the last 50-100. When I get up I feel rubbery and weak—until, miraculously, the last set, when I somehow feel okay. Kind of good, even.

I have a little pep talk I give myself when I discover something I suck at. It goes something like, WOW, this is great! A learning opportunity! Gee, let's find out why I suck and this and I'll be stronger in the end! Totally cheesy, yet effective. This is how I learned to do box jumps, and it's how I learned how to properly poach eggs.

So what I've learned about rowing, from practicing and pestering my coaches for advice, is that I'm doing it wrong. The key for me is to focus more on pulling long and hard, and pushing my elbows back.* Because the rowing machine doesn't care how fast you can hustle; it cares about how strong you can pull. Learning this didn't automatically improve my rowing. Clearly I am still struggling to implement this knowledge. But at least now I know what to do to improve. 

Being curious when I discover something I suck at is important. But I think almost as important is not taking myself too seriously. And that can be much harder, sometimes. It's when I admit that I'm just a fool who needs help that I have my best breakthroughs. And when I admit I'm a fool I can be more open and playful and willing to experiment.

So that's me. I'm just a fool playing around. Sure, my teeth are gritted and I'm sweating. I'm working hard. But also, this is my play time.

*This is for me, particularly, not necessarily for other people. I probably also have some mobility/strength challenges in the glutes and legs which will improve over time. For more general tips I like Breaking Muscle's 17 Commandments of Rowing.

The Instant Pot risotto I make all the freaking time

One of the weirdest plot twists of my life has been falling in love with a picky eater. How does an obsessive cook and food writer manage to connect so deeply with someone with the palate of an American toddler? Whose boss once described him as "too lazy to chew his own food?" Who would be perfectly happy to eat the same dish day in, day out, just so long as it was one of his favorites? Dear readers, I am yoked to such a person. It is a testament to the strength of all his many other virtues that I overlook his food issues on a daily basis.

Anyway, one of the foods the keeper of my heart loves is mushroom risotto. Of course he does. It's soft, creamy starch. And since I mentioned it in an article I wrote recently on Instant Pot I thought I'd share my recipe.

I always make my own chicken stock for risotto, usually just before. This week I made a light, springy broth with leeks, half a lemon, and some thyme.

Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1-2 T cooking oil or fat (duck fat is my favorite for risotto)
  • 1 cup cremini or other mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup aborio rice
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Chicken stock to cover (about 2 cups)
  • Fresh thyme or rosemary 
  • Salt to taste
  • Grated Parmesan

Instructions:

  1. In the inner pot of your Instant Pot melt the fat on the saute setting. Cook mushrooms until soft and water released. Remove and reserve. Now add aborio rice and toast in remaining oil. Add garlic and cook until just soft.
  2. Pour in wine and stir until absorbed.
  3. Add mushrooms back in (unless your kid, like mine, doesn't like mushrooms and then reserve them to add into individual servings like the short order cook you've become) and pour in chicken stock until it covers rice by 1 1/2 inches. Add a few sprigs of herbs and salt to taste.
  4. Cover, seal, and pressure cook for 7 minutes.
  5. When done, stir in cheese and serve.

I used to make this at least once a week but I've got us down to every other week now because for crying out loud. Since some of us still need a little variety I'll add things in every so often. Pesto is brilliant. Chicken is nice but my partner found it disturbing. Maybe someday I'll get away with shrimp. What do you like in your risotto?

 

 

Blackberry tequila lemonade

Blackberries are loaded with antioxidants and tequila is not so terrible for you if it's not that shitty gold stuff with corn syrup. So let's pretend this is a "healthy" cocktail.

  1. Fill a small wine glass about half full (oh you know, 2 ounces) of tequila and add 2 blackberries. Muddle.
  2. Fill the rest of the way with lemonade. I'm loving that Belvoir elderflower lemonade these days.
  3. Stir and enjoy.

I remember the first time I had Belvoir elderflower cordial. It was 15 or so years ago at the Williamsburg loft of an art collector friend, and he'd had it specially shipped overseas because you couldn't get it here. It was very special and fancy indeed because DRINKING FLOWERS FROM EUROPE. Now you can get it at Whole Foods, which is where my 13-year-old son saw it and pulled it off the shelf. I said okay, knowing I would be introducing it to the tequila very soon.

Beyond pocho beef and sweet potato hash for taco filling, or not

I went to do a riff on Wes Avila's (Guerilla Tacos) pocho tacos but I had regular tortillas instead of crunchy taco shells and I was missing a bunch of the ingredients. I carried on and when it came to filling the tacos I realized what I had was a tasty hash that needed no masa shell at all.

Also, instead of russet potatoes I used purple potatoes, which I discovered ages ago and am still obsessed with. I mean, look at them. But of course other sweet potatoes will work just fine.

Beef and purple potato hash

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef 
  • 1 large sweet potato chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • Salt to taste
  • Salad greens
  • Cotija cheese

Directions:

  1. In a hot pan brown beef. Remove and reserve.
  2. Depending on how much fat you rendered you may want to add a tiny bit of oil (grass fed beef tends to be lean). Add chopped sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, nuts, and spices and saute until toasted. Add chicken stock and salt and simmer until potatoes are soft.
  3. Add beef back in and stir to combine. Cook until just heated through.
  4. Fill bowls with salad greens, spoon hash over them, and top with cotija or other cheese.

Your body is yours, take it

There's this TV ad for a gym in heavy rotation lately that makes a big deal of saying it's a "judgement free zone"—which is very close to another gym's catchphrase, "no judgments." I don't know if fear of judgment is something gyms have identified as a barrier to participation through focus groups or what. But it makes me wonder. Is that really such a big deal? Or do people avoid exercise because it's boring, uncomfortable, time-consuming? All of the above?

I think about this as I do my accessory work. This is exercise you do to support your workouts, which sounds like the very definition of insanity. But that's where I am now. And to tell you the truth, I almost think the accessory work is more important than my Crossfit workouts when it comes to its real-life benefits.

I have a set of exercises my coach developed to help me correct my imbalances—one leg being stronger than the other, one arm being stronger than the other. These imbalances have led to lower back pain (oy, my sacroilliac joint) and other issues. The exercises also help me strengthen lazy muscles that are letting other muscles to all the work and take on too much stress. Ignore this and I'll likely injure myself in my crazy-ass intense Crossfit workouts. But these imbalances and weaknesses can also wreck me when I'm doing every-day type stuff like carrying groceries.

I keep thinking ... what if instead of talking endlessly of LOSING FUCKING WEIGHT* as the be-all and end-all of exercise, we talked more about exercise as something that prevents physical pain and helps you move better? As part of your self care? 

I wish we felt like physical exercise belonged to all of us. That you didn't have to consider yourself an athlete to do it. That maybe it's just a few minutes or so of a few simple movements you do so you can live your life well. Keep working at the restaurant, keep baby wearing, keep spending the day at the museum, keep doing all the things that cause wear and tear on the body over time. This is my dream. Fitness as something anyone can claim. Just by being human, you are fit enough for it.

And I keep thinking of this passage from Helene Cixous's Laugh of the Medusa, especially the line, "you are for you; your body is yours, take it." Now that I'm out of graduate school, in a judgement-free zone of my own (haha), I can interpret that however I want. And this passage reminds me of so many things we aspire to. It's everything we long to do, everything that's already ours, a part of ourselves, that we mistakenly believe is too grand for us.  

And why don't you write? Write! Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. I know why you haven't written. (And why I didn't write until the age of twenty-seven.) Because writing is at once too high, too great for you, it's reserved for the great--that is for "great men"; and it's "silly."
Besides, you've written a little, but in secret. And it wasn't good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn't go all the way, or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension further, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty--so as to be forgiven; or to forget, to bury it until the next time.

Your body is yours, women. Take it. Find the movements that help you live the full life you want to live.

*I respect that weight loss is a serious goal for many, many people. What I'm saying is, exercise is about so much more than that.

How to cope with boneless skinless chicken breast

I was not put here on earth to eat boneless, skinless chicken breast. It is sad and dry and flavorless. But we recently ended up with a large quantity of it recently. It happens. There are ways of dealing with this bounty.

Best case scenario is you have a large vat of chicken fat for poaching. Nope. Next best thing is chicken stock. Out of that, too. So I poached all that chicken in a bath of lightly salted water with thyme and rosemary. I've been storing the chicken in its poaching liquid and hoping for the osmosis best. Here's how I've used it.

  • Smothered in the sauce left over from the braised beef cheeks
  • Sliced for sandwiches for my son's lunch
  • Topped with pesto for my sandwiches
  • This lovely sweet potato salad I made last night inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe I saw a couple months ago

Roasted sweet potato and citrus salad

Ingredients

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1 lemon thinly sliced
  • 1 orange thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups of that chicken, torn apart
  • About 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Bunch of mixed salad greens
  • 1-2 sliced green onions
  • Toasted pecans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large bowl combine sweet potatoes, citrus, spices, and enough olive oil to coat everything well. Scatter over a baking sheet and salt to taste. Roast until soft and starting to caramelize, 15-20 minutes.
  3. Toss chicken in more olive oil and add to roasting sweet potatoes. Cook for another 5-10 minutes just until heated through. God forbid we dry the stuff out even more.
  4. In a large bowl (probably the same one you used for the potatoes because you believe in not creating extra work) whisk balsamic vinegar with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Toss salad greens in dressing by hand. 
  5. To serve, lay a pile of the dressed greens and top that with the sweet potatoes with chicken, and then garnish with green onions and pecans.

Someday someone is going to write an "unpopular opinion" think piece about the virtues of dry chicken breast. But not me. Not today.

How much protein do you need to eat?

Are you eating enough protein? Well? Are you? ARE YOU?!?

Yes, you probably are. The current recommendation for women is around 46 grams of protein a day (56 grams for men). Most adult women eat over 70 grams daily, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey. Pregnant women need an extra 10 grams and nursing women need 20 extra, and something tells me the women in this survey weren't all pregnant and/or nursing.

But! (BUTT) I am trying to build more lean muscle mass mostly so I don't break when I'm an old lady, but also possibly for reasons of vanity. Let's be honest. Anyway, if that's the goal the recommendation is to increase protein consumption. I could go into a detailed explanation of who recommends how much, but no one here wants to read that. The general consensus seems to be that a woman my size could do well enough on 80-95 grams of protein a day.

As an omnivore who tries to eat mostly plants I haven't been anywhere near there. I started tracking my protein a few weeks ago, which is super weird for me because I've never tracked my diet in any way before. I'm not sure how I feel about it. Seems like I'm stepping onto an unhealthy road. Like, follow the yellow brick road to the magical land of Ozzzbsessed with your diet.

I'm hoping is this Mas Protein transition will become my new normal and at some point I can stop tracking. Surely my life has meaning beyond my daily lists of chicken, yogurt and cashews. I'm not tracking everything else I eat because 1. I already know I eat plenty of fresh vegetables especially dark leafy greens and 2. I've got other shit to do, you know?

Anyway, here's what I've done to eat more protein. This may not work for everyone, but it works for me.

  • Keep a working list of protein counts for various foods so I'm not constantly Googling everything. 
  • Make sure every meal includes protein -- more than 10 grams' worth, at the very least. 
  • Make sure that's high quality protein. Pasture-raised meats and egg, whole milk yogurt, low-mercury fish, nuts, seeds, legumes, all cooked with love. No processed junk. No added sugar. 
  • Know my protein heavy hitters. For example, 1/2 cup of chicken, a serving of Good Culture cottage cheese, and 1/2 cup of chick peas each has 19 grams.
  • Pay attention to portion size so counts are reasonably accurate. I'm not getting fastidious with the kitchen scale, though. Mostly I'll either use a measuring cup or I'll eyeball it. Because. This is just food, not a matter of life or death.
  • Prioritize protein-rich foods and fresh vegetables (especially leafy greens) first, and if I have room left for other foods great. If not, oh well. 

And that's pretty much it. We shall see where this little experiment takes me.

 

Braised beef cheek tacos

Beef cheeks are brilliant. Not only are the loaded with protein and iron, they're also collagen rich. And they're relatively cheap, making that local grass-fed beef more affordable. Braise these for a few hours and you'll get the most velvety, unctuous, melty meat. 

This makes about 3 servings.

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: Just over 4 hours 

Ingredients:

  • Handful fresh sage leaves or 1 T dried sage 
  • 1-2 T Cooking oil (I used coconut)
  • 1 pound beef cheek
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup red wine or sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 cup chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a hot griddle toast sage leaves. Remove from heat and reserve.
  2. In a Dutch oven or heavy, oven-proof pan heat oil. Season beef with salt and pepper and sear, about 3 minutes each side. Remove from heat.
  3. Add onion and garlic to oven or pan and soften about 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and cook until just toasted. Pour in wine, scraping up browned bits. Stir in chipotles and adobo sauce, stock, and sage leaves. Nestle beef back into pan.
  4. Cover pan, place in oven, and leave for about 4 hours. Remove from oven and pull apart cooked beef with forks.

I used this meat for tacos with pickled onions and guacamole. But you could puree the braising ingredients to make a sauce for smothered burritos.

Pictured here are Siete Family Foods' cassava and coconut tortillas, which you can find at some Whole Foods markets.