Matcha and cinnamon chia seed pudding

Post-Thanksgiving I was 90% wine and 10% whipped cream. It was a good feeling, but also one that I preferred remain temporary. After heavy amounts of apple cider vinegar, power yoga, and more wine, I feel that I have now gotten myself to an okay equilibrium and that I can go about my merry way. After all, it is a Saturday. 

I spoke on the phone with my father a few nights ago, rambling on and on about my anxieties regarding the world and growing up and decision making and all that super scary stuff that everyone tells me will be okay but I can never seem to believe. My dad is a good guy. His name is Russ, and I could never call him that, but I feel that he was named well. He is friendly, smart, and charismatic. He makes Mish and I cocktails while we cook, and he cleans up the dishes without complaint. He rubs my back and I walk on his. We have a good system.

Dad, aka Russ, told me, "you're 24. go be 24." I later told one of my friends, "you're 23. go be 23." (Now everyone knows where I get my advice.) While the fear of long-term commitment cause may cause trepidation (I know I am a victim), it's easy to commit to the moment. To be 12, 24, 36, or 82.  Relax and take it by day by day, because each moment is pretty and precious and exactly what we need.  We do our pushups, paint our pictures, and eat our pudding. 

Making pudding is pretty great. Especially chia seed pudding, which is so full of antioxidants and fiber and protein and all the things that allow one to stay strong and kind. Chia seeds need to soak a bit, so if you'd like this pudding for breakfast, you need to set some time aside the night before. I like standing in the evening light of the kitchen, stirring up chia seeds with almond milk and spices while listening to Holiday Folk playlist on Spotify. It's rare we get to make breakfast in the nighttime. Wrapping up a mason jar in the dusky, late hours and then sliding it into the fridge feels as if I am leaving myself a present. 

This pudding combines chia seed, matcha, cinnamon, and almond milk, making it a health powerhouse. In addition, it tastes really, really good. The spices make it perfect for the holiday season. I even added whipped coconut cream, because I can't allow my whipped topping ratio to drop down too low.  That will make me sad. 

Matcha and cinnamon chia seed pudding 

1 cup of vanilla almond milk

1 teaspoon of stevia (or agave, honey, etc)

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of matcha powder

coconut whipped cream (optional) 

Combine the milk, stevia, spices, and matcha into a large bowl or glass. Whisk until combined. It may be easier to use an immersion blender, if you have one. 

Pour the chia seeds into a half-pint mason jar or small bowl. Pour the milk and matcha mixture over the seeds and stir to coat. Refrigerate for three minutes, and then re-stir to break up any clumps. 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three hours, or overnight. Top with coconut whipped cream, if desired. 

Thank you Choosing Raw for inspiring chia pudding. I can't wait to test out all sorts of flavors. Oh and links! I don't have too many but, here's a few: 

This melty cookie is perfect for adult sleepovers and both kinds of spooning. // 

// I would really like to see "Wild" with Reese Witherspoon, and admire David Denby's words about her story. In the article, he mentions, "narrative art lives in small details woven through large emotions," and I could not agree more. 

Courage is only where fear exists. // 

-stay cozy!

Homemade chai lattes, and saturday morning links (!!)

I can't forget you. 

I can't quit your cozy layer of warm milk, exotic spices, and nostalgic whimsy. It's not worth it. 

Though a few months ago I pained through the grueling torture of coffee withdrawal, I have not gone completely caffeine-sober. I can't. No matter what science does to food and drink, there will always be caffeine in black tea. And there will always be black tea in chai tea lattes. 

My love affair with chai tea lattes began in girl scouts, after caroling, and at a Starbucks. I went to casually order my go-to hot peppermint hot chocolate, already feeling like a badass for being able to handle the "spicy" flavor of mint, when one of the older girls ordered a chai latte. I was 12, and figured if I started drinking something with the word "latte" in it, my maturity factor would skyrocket. So I ordered one too.  

But chai lattes do more than bring on the air of false maturity. They're warm, comforting like the blankets are your grandparents house, and layered with the smooth bite of nutmeg and cardamom. And they pair quite nicely with the strum of a mandolin and a flowy bathrobe. 

In college I drank them on snowy mornings with a shot of espresso. Those were called "dirty chais." I really miss those guys. 

So I sat, chai latteless in my apartment, and reviewed my options: wait in the longer-than-life lines of the Los Angeles Starbucks (NO) or deal with the super $$$$$$$$ chai in independent coffee shops (also NO). Going without chai was not an choice, and I've got all them crazy Los Angeles bills to pay, so I took matters into my own hands and made my own. 

I've got a big ol' crush on it. 

homemade chai lattes

5 thin, round slices of fresh ginger 

2 cinnamon sticks

2 teaspoons black peppercorns

3 teaspoons ground cloves

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground cardamom 

6 cups cold water

6 bags of black tea (preferably Darjeeling)

Milk and sweetener to taste

Add the first six ingredients to a medium saucepan. Use a large spoon to gently break and bruise the whole spices.  Pour in the 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the two teabags. Seep for five minutes and remove bags.

Combine 1/2 cup of chai, 1/2 cup of desired warm milk and sweetener (agave, stevia, sugar) to taste ; and store the rest in the fridge for future chai lattes (the recipe makes about six cups of pure chai.) The black tea will keep up to two weeks.  

Variations

Dirty Chai - Combine hot chai, milk, and desired sweetener. Add one shot of espresso. This is delicious and will have you buzzin' for hours. 

Coconut Almond Chai - My personal favorite. Use coconut almond milk in place of regular dairy milk. It tastes like Almond-Joy-Chai-Craziness. 

Chai White Russian - Add your sweetener and milk to the chai mix, 1/2 shot of vanilla vodka and 1/2 shot of kahlua. WOAH. 

Iced Chai - This works best with the chai you've refrigerated. Pour 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup chai mix, and sweetener into a mason jar. Seal tightly and shake. Pour over ice. (You can add vodka to this too!)


Plus links! So much for perusal these days. 

//  One of my favorite bloggers Beth takes a trip to Harrisonburg's very own Blue Hole, and takes lovely photographs. 

This info about the best way to reheat cold pizza is of the upmost importance. //

// LA folk! My new favorite place for a Manhattan is just around the corner at Bigfoot West

Seeing First Aid Kit this Wednesday, and am clapping my hands in glee. // 

// Now contributing to the beautiful Wolftree magazine, next issue to release in January (!!) 

This spices and seasons pairing guide is helpful and lovely. // 

// Molly's words continue to rock me. 

Have a wonderful weekend, friends. I hope it's full of adventures, even if that means nothing but a good book and soft bedsheets. 

- stay cozy 

 

Joshua Tree National Park, plus a birthday

This weekend was all about camping, dessert wine with desert smores, midnight birthday trade-offs, and tutus paired with hiking boots.

I turned 24 on Sunday (yay! hello, new year!) and spent my first few hours of this life phase in the dust of Joshua Tree National Park. My friend Tessa and I filled up my car with granny smith apples, coconut water, and batteries, and made the three-hour drive out to the Mojave Desert. 

A few months ago, I joined a wonderful group called the Ziji Collective, which consists of 20 and 30-somethings with an appreciation for honest conversation and finding mindfulness in everyday life. We planned this little camping trip in order to celebrate one another and the entrance into Fall. Party favors would include vegetarian hobo packs and spirit animal discovery circles, so I was more than happy to make the venture out into the desert wilderness. (As a former girl scout, I will always have a soft spot for the hobo pack.)

 The town of Joshua Tree is sparsely divine. Along the main road sits a handful of coffee shops, yoga studios, and nutritional grocery stores. Tessa and I stopped at Joshua Tree Outfitters to rent a tent ($17 for a two person, woo!) and “paid” the entrance fee (FREE for camper's appreciation day, woo #2),  and then there was nothing left to do but lose our cell phone service and drive into the desert. We did it in style; blasting gypsy music and clapping our hands with glee.  It felt like Thelma and Louise, minus the whole running-from-the-law-to-avoid-a-lifetime-in-jail kinda thing. (Though that would have been kinda cool.)

The beauty of Joshua Tree upon the entrance into evening is unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. Cacti pop up in random clusters, their spindly arms reaching towards the sky. It's hard for a plant out there, and one hundred percent survival of the fittest. The depression of the day's sun painted a golden light on the smooth rocks, allowing the silhouettes of evening hikers to decorate the horizon.

We didn’t meditate while I was there, but camping by itself instills a wonderful sense of mindfulness. It's impossible to think of anything in the past or future, because everything in the moment is just so darn beautiful. The air smells like fire and wood and the silence plays in a melody thick as molasses.  When the clock struck midnight, the sky was spray-painted with stars, and there were still plenty of logs to toss in the fire. It was very good.

 As for the rest of the day, I drove as newly-24-year-old  from the Mojave Desert to Venice Beach, all the way singing loud rock music and loving the Chai latte season. One year older! Cool! This time last year I was working at the Pennsylvania Faire, celebrating as Lorna “Doom” O’Carroll and crushing on Ketel One like there was no tomorrow. Funny how things work out.

As 24 morphed into 24-and-a-day, I sat in the living room of our Palms apartment for the Sunday Night Cozy Party. It seemed very appropriate to spend half my birthday exposed to nature and the other half nestled in literal blanket nest.  My friends and I played board games and drank wine, and I was grateful for the moment we all decided to take the West Coast plunge

 Looking back, the whole weekend was very symbolic of the things I want. And that’s comforting to say because I don’t think I’m a person who always knows what she wants.  I do, however, know that I want exploration, good friends, starry skies, a well-crafted egg roll, and lots and lots of blankets.

So hello HELLO, New Year! I can now say I’ve seen the Milky Way for REAL and that I’ve lived on more than one coast of the United States. I’m so excited that I’m squealing.

-stay cozy

 

 

Gluten free s'mores blondies

It's S'more Season!!! This is something I've just made up, so technically any month will do, but August seems rather appropriate. We're entering the time of year where summer starts to fade (not yet though), and so the amount of camping trips and outdoor bonfires hike on upward.  I made an insane amount of s'mores the month before I went off to college; my high school friends and I would drive out to camp off Route 7 in Virginia, where we could stay up as late as we wanted and come home well after the sun rose.  We simultaneously felt very young and very grown up. 

Our s'mores mostly consisted of the traditional honey graham cracker, Hershey's chocolate bar, and large marshmallow, though we would occasionally get crafty and sub out the grahams for two Keebler Elf Fudge Striped Cookies. They were amazing, and perfect for the last moments of freedom before we all bounced off to our respective universities. 

Wes and Dylan might not be heading to college, but they are well on their way to kindergarden and the 3rd grade! S'mores were definitely in order. 

Their mom, Cathy, is gluten and dairy free, and so her treats tend to be a bit harder to find recipes for. Luckily, Food 52 offers an amazing recipe for gluten-free blondies. We made two versions: one with chocolate chunks and marshmallows (so not REALLY all the way dairy free...) and one with dried blueberries and dried cranberries.  I"m sure they would work well with a variety of other dried fruits/chocolates/nuts as well, but the point is: they were YUMMY. 

IMG_0088.jpg

I also love love love getting this little guy in the kitchen. He spent all morning in his hockey gear, and then promptly swapped into an apron. (Even at five, the process is oh-so-important!) I fed him pieces of chocolate as he stirred, and fell all the more in love. 

S'mores Gluten and Dairy Free Blondies

Inspired by Food 52 Blondie Recipe

1 cup coconut oil or buttery substitute, melted

2 cups light brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla

1 1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chunks (or carob chips, to keep dairy-free)

1/2 cup marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a 9x13 pan with parchment or foil. If using foil, be sure to grease. Let the eggs and oil/fat reach room temp before using. 

Mix the butter and brown sugar with a whisk until they reach a caramel-y color and smooth consistency.  Add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly incorporating as you go. Add the vanilla and stir.

Blend the flours together and stir in. Once combined, add the desired mix-ins and fold into the batter. Once everything is evenly distributed, spread the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the tops are a golden brown. 

Let cool in pans, and then place in the fridge before cutting into squares.

P.S. my awesome friend Maddie is unleashing her self-written music and it's beautiful! I'm really proud of her. 

-stay cozy

when the mood swings come a-knockin'

I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm posting about yet ANOTHER smoothie recipe, but I can't stop.And I have a good reason. 

At times, maybe while running on the treadmill or when I'm murdering my hair with the straightener, I start connecting weird thoughts and sentences. Sometimes these moods instill a feeling of fear, sometimes they trigger beautiful clauses that  I instantly tap into my iPhone's notepad. Melancholic seems too sad. Ambivalence implies something more distraught. I feel at peace, while simultaneously a little useless, and pensive.  

It's almost the sensation of walking on a tightrope. Weirdly balanced, but acknowledging the fall. Seeing the other side. Seeing the hard work it demands. It makes me want to lay on my back and collect golden teardrops in my palms. 

I hang out in these places. Feel the feels. Wonder if it's due to menstruation (about one fourth of the time, it is. And if you are grossed out by reading that, go slap yourself with a car. Kidding. But seriously. If men can talk about the shape of their poops then I'm allowed to bring up PMS.) Once that's all over and done with, I instantly try to think of a remedy, form of comfort, or at least something useful so I don't sit in my brain like a hottub of chocolate pudding. (Hottub of chocolate pudding. OMG.)

And I have found a wonderful solution.

Matcha green tea powder. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) 

If green tea is the mood-boosting, metabolism-ass-kicking tomboy little sister, Matcha is the matriarch of all things green and delicious. She is Red in Orange is the New Black (**SPOILER**) before all that kitchen shit went down. She is Heisenberg.  She is Beyoncé singing Drunk in Love at the Grammy's. If there was a fictional movie about this stuff, Chloe Moretz would play regular green tea and Meryl Streep would play Matcha.  And then somewhere, Steve Martin would pop up as some trippy herbal shit, and chaos would ensue. 

The point is, this stuff is legit. It gives you clean energy, as well as a natural sense of balanced euphoria. It makes the road seem a little bit easier, especially when the road is pretty damn expensive, and you're planning an eight-day road trip on a post grad's budget. The leaves are grown solely in Japan, and then are powdered down into a fine heap of green dust. You can mix with water, milk, or use it as an ingredient in smoothies (!!), cookies, cakes, or anything else. At a writer's conference last Spring, we ate it in the form of ice cream out of white chocolate graham cones.  I would like try a matcha tiramisu, though this might be the last thing I do ever, because I'm sure the ecstasy from such a treat would launch me into a blissful, and somehow weirdly productive, coma. 

Image

Kale and Matcha Green Smoothie

½ cup greek yogurt (I like vanilla for this recipe)

1 cup ice

½ orange juice

1 tbs. matcha green tea powder

half a frozen banana

2 bunches of kale, leaves torn

spurtle of whip cream (optional, but not to meeee.)

 Combine in a blender or VitaMix and blend blend blend!!!

There are so many variations on this so I don’t know if this can be improved, I’m sure it can. I may try adding mangoes, or swapping in almond milk. It’s great pre or post-workout, or all on it’s own. 

Lisbon, Portugal

Some nights are made for afghan blankets, and some are made for nostalgia.  Thursday I spent the evening at my old stompground, the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, to visit friends, pick up a rug, and see the Christmas Spectacular, "A Dickens of a Christmas."  Sentimentality, commence.  I'm one of those people who saved the napkin-my-used-to-be-best-friend-wrote-a kind-of note-on for me, so this visit had me gushing and hugging. My brief trip consisted of draft beers in festive dive bars, fir-scented garlands in a mansion, and a few rounds of Fluxx in ye olde common room.  So surreal to see the place blanketed in snow. Several people asked me about Portugal , and I found myself searching for the right words to describe that country. It's been over a month since I trekked across the pond with Alex into the playground that is Lisbon. I've neglected to write about it, most likely because I liked to keep it secret for a short bit.  More likely out of laziness.  The memories felt safe in my mind, but now I have to write about because I don't know how long they'll stay in my brain without proper documentation.

To put it simply: Portugal was freaking amazeballs. 

photo (15)

Like, really amazeballs.

Image

The film pictures are from Alex, and he is kind enough to let me share them here; the rest are from the iPhone.  I have a few digital photos, which will find their way to internet-land shortly, but for now these will do.  Day one consisted of jetlag and complete dependency on a Lonely Planet guidebook.   Said guidebook solved miracles, and jetlag was quickly remedied with two glasses of wine at lunch.  This was a mission of ours: we wanted to have two glasses of wine at lunch at least once. I was inspired by an episode of Gilmore Girls to add this task to our Portugal Bucket List. For those of you who have seen this show, Richard and Emily are arguing one evening and the topic of international travel arises.  Essentially, Emily is gonna pack her bags, sling them over her bony shoulders, and shout "BYEEEE" as she avoids letting the door hit her on the ass on the way out. It goes down something like this.

Emily: I'm going to go to Europe all on my own. And I'm going to order room service, and sleep in, and drink two glasses of wine at lunch.

Richard: Only prostitutes drink two glasses of wine at lunch!

And so that's how we became prostitutes. Totally worth a good Pinot Grigio.

Image

After two glasses of wine and two shots of espresso, we visited a restaurant called Guilty, where we ate salty pizza and drank sangria.  Rather than call a cab, we opted to walk home without any idea of how to get back to our hotel. A would-be disaster in many a foreign country, the high hills of Lisbon allowed us to pick out our hotel from the tip of a skatepark, and we walked back with a sense of discovery.

On Tuesday, our first full day, we ventured into Alfama to visit Feira da Ladra, the thieves market. There were all sorts of bizarre knick-knacks. There were all sorts of tourist traps. There were all sorts of black and white pictures of Portuguese people from how ever many years ago. I gleefully purchased a pair of gypsy pants (which Uncle David later hated on) and two tiny juice jars to serve as Alex and I's wine glasses for spontaneous sips along the water.

Image
Image

Lunch was ham, cheese, and butter sandwiches Alex had prepped for us back at the hotel, along with a bottle of white wine. We ate on stone steps and watched the waves. There was a dog who decided to be our friend. A man tried to sell us weed, and then sunglasses. We declined. It was nice.

We heard rumor of a place called Principe Real, a neighborhood with a little park and several adorable little shops for browsing, including a patisserie with a large oil painting of Marie Antoinette and pistachio flavored macaroons.  Fortunately and unfortunately, we had a very vague idea of how to actually find said neighborhood, which meant an uphill adventure through the winding and colorful backstreets.  As useful as a guidebook is, it will never properly illustrate the gleam of Portuguese desserts through shop windows, the feel of the cobblestone underneath one's foot, or the delicate roar of a foreign melody dancing in a traveler's ears.  Neither will it satisfy the accomplishment of finding Principe Real all on own's one, AKA stumbled upon randomly after taking several wrong turns.

Image

Principe Real was Mt. Olympus, essentially. It sat on top of the city, allowing us to peer down at the glorious city lights below. We wandered, and then dined at Lost N Esplanada, a part restaurant/part gypsy camp overlooking the yellow windows of Lisbon. We sat on cushions, accompanied with iron lanterns and silk slippers on dark green walls. Tea lights hung from the ceiling. Fellow explorers lounged while they sipped their red wine.  Alex and I had our own little corner carved in the giant mountain of shops and restaurants, privately glancing over the city that we so barely knew. When we left, we somehow made it back to the main road in five minutes, despite our blatant intoxication. I made friends with the cab driver and tried to convince him Alex and I were brother and sister. I cannot remember if he believed me.

Image

Porto was next. Porto was beautiful. Porto was our private flat where we danced to Miley Cyrus like "cultured Americans" and perched on our balcony with cheap glasses filled with cheap wine.  There were sketchbooks on bed, and The Best Spongecake in the Universe in the sheets.

Image

We met Miguel number one, a Chai Latte gent with green eyes and a leather jacket. (News Flash: Portuguese men get a thumbs up.  If I knew the words, "I am a single and not looking for commitment" in Portuguese, I would have said them. Unfortunately, our guidebook had no such translation, although it DID have the phrase, "I have many diseases." I didn't need to use this, BTW.) Anyway, Porto was even better on day number two when we rented bicycles and sped along the coast up to the beach.  We opted to buy beer from a convenience store rather than the ritzy restaurant, and sat on the rocks rather than in chairs. You know what feels amazing? Getting saltwater splashed while holding a can of Superbock as you stand barefoot on the rocks.  There's a lot of ocean. I'm glad I get to see it from multiple angles.

Image

Lesson learned from our day in Porto: I will always run into the ocean, no matter how cold it is or how see-through my shirt will become.  I have pictures from this instance, but mama always said don't put your nudes online for free.

In the evening we witnessed live Fado.  Fado is Portuguese music, sung by Portuguese people, about how much they love Portugal.   While watching the red lips of our music artist, Alex and I dined on cod fritters, fava beans, and sheep's milk cheese from the Azoures. At one point in our lives, Alex and I ate Dairy Queen in a parking lot. I like our friendship.

Image

Alex jumped for joy the day we went to the Ocenario. It was my first Aquarium, and now I can never go to another one ever because I'm positive this is the best one that has ever existed.  There was a scary crab and a sneaky Octopus.  I liked the sunfish, because it was awkward and yet still demanded attention and I think I identified with that.  That night we were lazy and drank in the hotel room. I sang Alanis Morissette to our bidet, and we ate cheese and clementines and climbed onto the balcony, where we scared away pigeons.

Image

To end the trip we took a renegade tour of the city where we were able to say goodbye to each of these places. The sun was setting and we took pictures, and at the end of it all we drank ginjinha, a cherry liqueur that is the bee's knees of Portuguese booze.  Miguel number two, our two guide, thought Alex and I were the bee's knees of the tour group, and gave us the remainder of the bottle to chug on our own time.  We did so after drunkenly walking through the botanical gardens around 10/11 o'clock at night, while sitting on stone and overlooking the city (again, God bless the hilly geography of Portugal.) Miguel #2 also recommended that we skateboard down the hills on trashcans, but we neglected to do this. Next time.

SAPPY MOMENT WARNING. As lucky as I am to travel, I am even luckier to have had such a good companion, especially one who loves eating and drinking and walking as much as I do. Alex is a friend who constantly makes me feel like dancing. We have a rhythm and language. My Uncle David tells me that when the two of us are together, we tend to disappear into our own "Alex-and-Amanda" land. We are a little insane with one another, and always have been. We've eaten raw sugar cookie dough on the playground and recounted the story of "Kiki's Delivery Service" via Photobooth. We are the picture definition of weird-o's.  Below is 2009!

Image

Foreign travel is a B-L-E-S-S-I-N-G!!!!!!!!!!!! Having a friend who will run through the streets of life with you...is even better.  :)