"I wish I were at the beach" tropical granola

I can't stop. An addicting crunch, flavors of far-off places, and the image of a cerulean horizon have me constantly in downward dog as I pay my obeisance to granola. 

I know. The THRID recipe. But when it comes to granola, I feel like a mad scientist, sitting cross-legged on the kitchen table with a bag of dried something-or-other, and wondering how I can make into a crunchy pile of something delicious. 

I've talked about the little boys I babysit on here from time to time, but in case my explanations have been sporadic (as they often are), their names are Wes and Dylan. Wes, the younger at five years old, enjoys memorizing the names of hockey players and US presidents, playing the guitar, and the book Everyone Poops. Dylan, four years older, prefers neon colored sharpies and watching Master Chef Junior as we demolish package after package of seaweed. Both love dried mango. 

While dried fruit has a bad reputation as the less-healthy sister to fresh fruit, I think it has some solid redeeming qualities. It's got chew. It's got bite. It is nature's dehydrated candy that comes in gem stone colors and flavors inspired from the soil. Eating dried mango requires a pull of the teeth, a solid bite, a hearty chew. The experience cannot be compared to that of a fresh mango. They are two different entities and bring joy in unique and valid ways. 

So came the dried-mango inspired granola recipe. It tastes like a road trip along the PCH, a tropical night with your legs brushing across against a cotton dress, and the glow of tiki lights illuminating nature's path. Sprinkle it atop your favorite cereal, enjoy it with milk, or steal a few scoops before running up a mountain. 

beachy tropical granola

ingredients

4 cups of dried oats

1 banana

1 cup of pineapple

1/4 cup of orange juice

2 tablespoons of cinnamon, divided

1/3 cup of melted coconut oil

1/4 cup of maple syrup

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup of coconut flakes

1 1/2 cup of dried blueberries

1 1/2 cup of chopped almonds

1 6oz package of dried mango, chopped

1/4 cup of brown sugar

salt to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon)

directions

Add the banana, pineapple, orange juice, 1 tablespoon of cinnamon, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla into a blender. Puree until well combined. 

Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped almonds and coconut flakes and stir to combine. Add the banana-pineapple mixture to the oats, and stir to thoroughly coat.  

Pour the granola onto two parchment paper lined baking sheets, using a rubber spatula to spread it evenly across each sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring the granola after 10. After the first 20 minutes, add the dried blueberries and dried mango. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and remaining cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle this over each tray of granola. Gently stir and cook for another 20 minutes, again stirring at the ten minute mark. 

Allow the granola to cool before eating. (Or not. I fail miserably at this and end up with burnt fingertips, but that's okay too.)

*note! I like my granola salty, so I am heavy-handed when it comes to adding the salt. Use less if you prefer a sweeter kick. 

stay cozy!



A safe place, and some coconut flour pancakes

Last Saturday, post an evening of whiskey bar shenanigans, I attended a two and half hour handstand workshop at the neighborhood yoga studio with Rachel. NOTE: this was only possible because in between the whiskey bar and the handstands, there was buttery popcorn, 10 hours of sleep, and lots and LOTS of water. I am not the seven-shot superhero I was back in Freshman year.

Rather, in yoga, I felt more like a child. We started off class awkwardly gripping our ankles and rolling around like stoned infants,  eventually made our ways to our feet, and then back down to our hands as we cartwheeled across the floor to the tunes of Elbow and upbeat Iron and Wine. Full-grown newborns, we delighted in the way our feet looked clapping towards the ceiling. 

The heavy thud of feet on a wooden floor. The strum of a guitar. The ocean waves of breath. Our own symphony of yogis. 

Often in yoga classes, the instructor refers to the mat as a "safe spot." Your practice is always there waiting for you, like an immortal pup at the door, thrilled you have come back home. Recently, Ive felt the same way about this blog.  For me, writing and yoga are similar. They both offer their own unique challenges and moments of frustration. They have me (literally!!) falling down and placing my face in my hands and wondering "HOW?!" and sweating and sometimes crying and replenishing all that sweat and tears with copious amounts of chocolate coconut water. But like a long and winding marriage, I love them. I want to make it work. Like in all art forms, the critique works as a separate voice. We are the ones judging, not the writing craft or the practice or the music or the palette or whatever. All practices are unique; they have to be. Our bodies make shapes, our words make sentences, and together, we weave stories. 

Soooo to connect this to pancakes?! Let me try. I celebrate Julia Cameron's idea of "artists dates", or the general philosophy that one should make time to enjoy life's simple moments (aka, make yourself breakfast, homeboys and girls).  Simple moments = peace. The safe place of a yoga mat, or a blank page = peace. Pancakes = peace, duuuuuudeee!!!!!!

This recipe is from Foodie Fiasco, and I am very excited about it. I added sliced bananas and a rainfall of agave. The end result was moist, coconut-y cakes, nicely saturated with nectar. Good morning, indeed. 

- Stay cozy!

 

 

 

Sriracha cauliflower stir-fry

Back in California and the sun feels like a big ol' kiss. I had a lot of fun unpacking my Christmas presents and rearranging my room because it made everything feel neat and new. On Sunday, it was warmer outside than it was in the apartment (science!), and so I opened up the patio door, drank a beer, and hammered ariel's homemade dreamcatcher into the wall.

When it comes to food, I am rarely picky. I like to eat radishes and chocolate chips and hawaiian sweet rolls and dried apricots and granola and trout and bleu cheese. When I was 13 I couldn't stomach bleu cheese, but now I eat that shit with honey or riesling or totally plain and licked off a finger.  And as much as I love eating junk (DOMINOES) I also really love plants.

Plants!! They're so wonderful!! They come in a variety of colors, they make oxygen so that we can breathe, and they taste delicious. I love the way carrots tremble as the knife meets the cutting board and how tomatoes weigh down a palm like rubies. And when you're 24 and looking to keep your change purse somewhat sealed and your body healthy, plants are an affordable way to feel good. 

This recipe combines crunchy cauliflower, salty soy, and the sweet prick of sriracha.  It requires  a whole head of cauliflower, which is typically enough to feed a family of four as a side dish, but I make the entire thing and it's a meal.  If you need some protein, you could top this bad boy with a fried egg and call it a day. 

It feels good to taste the earth. 

Sriracha cauliflower stir-fry 

1 whole head of cauliflower

2 teaspoons veggie oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of soy sauce

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Splash of rice wine vinegar

1 lime, plus wedges for serving 

1 tablespoon sriracha

Break up the cauliflower into small and medium-sized florets.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then the cauliflower and garlic. Stir the garlic and cauliflower, allowing it to get very brown on some sides. Cook for three minutes and turn the heat to low. Add the soy sauce and vinegar, and squeeze in the juice of the lime. Add a sprinkle of green onion, reserving the rest for a garnish. Stir the mixture and cook for 1 minute, and then add the sriracha and stir. 

Serve hot in a bowl. Add the remaining green onions and serve with lime wedges. 

 

This recipe came from the Pioneer Woman's delicious chest of recipes. Thank you!!

- Stay cozy!

Ham bone and bean soup

Happy 2015I And thank you, 2014. You brought me adventure and challenges and lots of kale. I liked seeing Sedona and counting the different shades of hotel wallpaper and  lifting myself into a handstand and signing my first big girl lease. For that, I am grateful.

I've been sitting on this soup recipe for a while. I just got back to Los Angeles on Friday, but spent a wonderful, nearly two week period lounging around my Virginia home, cooking with my mother, and laying on my belly to watch football when my father cracked pistachios. Bottles of champagne have been poured and emptied (repeatedly). On New Year's Eve I shivered my tush off and romped around the freezing streets of Astoria with college buddies. I also made a ham bone soup.

Ham bone soup doesn't sound like New Years. If anything, it sounds like Halloween, and something you would concoct while pretending to be a witch and throwing a bunch of spooky vegetables (think white carrots) into a pot and pretend you're straight up out of Hocus Pocus. And as fun as that sounds, ham bone soup post the jolly season can be quite...JOLLY. It's one of those things you let sit on the stove for a while, allowing the scent to dance through the kitchen and up to the stairs into you family members' bedrooms. One by one, they scamper down the stairs, allow their noses to rest over the pot, and take in the scent of a lunch-made-with-love.  

(In addition, when you make ham bone soup, you've made a distraction that keeps others away from that box of boozy Vienna chocolates....Shhh....)

And ham bone soup works as a solid image of what I want 2015 to look like. Using leftovers (aka, expressing gratitude for what it is I currently have) and providing nourishment (to both myself and my loved ones). Because with the years moving like a buttered up kid on the slip n' slide, I don't want to miss a thing. 

Cheers! And Happy New Year. 

ham and bean soup

olive oil

8 cups vegetable broth

2 cans of cannellini beans, or dried, if you prefer

3 large carrots, diced

2 large celery stalks, diced

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 hambone

3 teaspoons kosher salt

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 cups of spinach, or another leafy green of your choosing. collards would be tasty.

freshly ground black pepper, for serving

grated parmesan cheese, for serving

 

Place a large pot over medium-high heat and add about one tablespoon of olive oil. Add the diced onions, celery, and carrots, and cook for about five minutes, or until the veggies have softened. Add the garlic, and cook for one minute more. 

Put the ham bone and bay leaf into the pot. Add the tomato paste, vegetable broth, vinegar, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, add the beans and then simmer for one hour. Taste and season, if desired. About 15 minutes before serving, add the greens and stir. 

Remove the bone and the bay leaf. Some of the ham bitties might have fallen into the soup, which is A-OKAY in my book. 

Serve with parmesan cheese and black pepper, if desired.  

 

- Stay cozy!

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!

Stovetop popcorn with rosemary-infused olive oil

There are so many reasons to smile.

It may be warm-weathered holiday season, but the holiday season is here nonetheless! Californians love their holidays, and I'm loving that almond milk eggnog is now a thing. I've been celebrating the increased cheer with late morning hikes alongside Kaitlyn, raw doughnuts at the yoga studio, turkey handprints with the boys, and explosions of cozy cooking. I've found that apple cider kombucha and champagne make an exceptional cocktail and have learned that the gypsy cat outside of my apartment is named Phinneaus. He's really digging the sunlight. 

Seasonal cuisine encourages us to explore our kitchens. November and December are the months where even the most culinary-shy bust out their grandmother's cookbooks and a deep-fryer for an experimental turkey recipe. Cooking is expected, so we often dare to try new things. 

As a junior at JMU, roasting a turkey was a new and terrifying thing. I gave it a shot, and specifically remember crying and holding a meat thermometer in the closet-sized kitchen of my college home. My seven roommates and I had offered to host the theatre-kids Thanksgiving, and I promised that if everyone gave me money I would make them a legit, skin-on, stuffing-stuffed, TURKEY.  It seemed no different than roast chicken, and I just really wanted to play hostess. What I didn't anticipate was the two-day defrost period, and learned this little fact about 12 hours before my house was raided with hungry, and often stoned, theatre kids. 

After a quick meltdown and a consultation with the internet, I found a method that would safely defrost the turkey as long as I was constantly around to change the water every 30 minutes. I skipped all my classes, turned on Netflix, and made myself comfy in the kitchen. I was also a vegetarian at the time, and so yanking the gizzards and guts from the bird's interior required opening a bottle of wine. Thankfully, the turkey came out and no one had food poisoning, but I have yet to make a turkey since. 

Instead, I just make lots and lots of popcorn. 

Anyone who has spent more than a day with me understands my affinity for popcorn. On average, I replace two meals a week with a big bowl of the stuff.  While it's great anytime of year, this batch is especially perfect for this dip into the holiday season. The rosemary lays like fallen pine trees, and fills the kitchen with an aroma that requires knit blankets and massive snuggling. 

Here in Los Angeles, it will serve as road trip food for Kaitlyn and I as we drive (topdown!!!) to Slovang for a Dutch-and-Wine-Country Thanksgiving with David and the rest of the Ballantine clan (but more on that later). For now, I'll leave you with a recipe for this simple and delicious snack. You can offer it up as pre-Turkey Day munchies, during holiday movie night (HOME ALONE, I repeat, HOME ALONE), or feed it to someone special. Back in Virginia, I made when it snowed, drank it with a glass of something bubbly, and watched the black sky illuminate above the newly white ground. And I smiled. 

Stovetop popcorn with rosemary-infused olive oil 

Popcorn

1 cup popcorn kernels

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rosemary-infused oil

Salt

Rosemary-infused oil 

1 cup olive oil

6 sprigs of fresh rosemary 

 

To make the oil: combine the olive oil and rosemary in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the oil to cool to room temperature. Remove the sprigs and set aside.

Stir the popcorn and kernels and 1/2 cup of the oil in a large, heavy pot. Cover and cook over medium heat until all the kernels have popped, shaking the pot throughout the cooking process to prevent the kernels from burning. Transfer the popcorn to a large serving bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of oil. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve. 

 

Thanks to Food Network and Giada De Laurentiis for this recipe! 

-stay cozy!