FLEX

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It occurred to me in the wee hours of Sunday morning, mid-way through an exquisite little bite of Kentucky bison burger with smoked bacon and jezebel sauce poached from a generous friend’s plate, that I have become far more flexible in my food choices since moving back to Kentucky. The thought might also have struck me several weeks ago, as I was whipping up (and, naturally, tasting…) a batch of sugar-bacon topped flourless chocolate cupcakes with maple meringue and gray sea salt for my friend’s “mustache meat-off” birthday party…or a month before that, when I sampled some of the melt-in-your-mouth boston butt that my dad dry rubbed to perfection and smoked gently for no fewer than 12 hours one Sunday afternoon.

Now just to be clear, all this coming from a girl who turned vegetarian the moment she left home at age 15, and has happily (with the exception of the addition of some cold water fish in recent years) been a vegetable-queen ever since. And not in a “secretly dreaming of filet mignon” kind of way, either. Really, for about 15 years, with very few exceptions, I haven’t given a hoot about protein of the animal persuasion. My eating choices suit me. I would happily wolf down a plate of garlicky sautéed greens every day of the week (twice, if offered), and would miss them far before most other foodstuffs one might wrest from my pantry.

Not that I self-identify by my food choices. Well, let me rephrase that…clearly my identity is wrapped up in my food choices to a certain extent. I mean, I am a nutrition counselor after all – so what I eat day to day is a big part of “walking my talk”. Perhaps what I mean to say is that I don’t happen to think that being Vegetarian is any more “swagger worthy” than any other way of eating…or that straying from “the path” is anything to be ashamed about. In fact, I daresay that in my experience, trying to eat with your head to the exclusion of your mouth and your stomach often ends up causing more harm than good.

Am I saying that we shouldn’t thoughtfully consider our food choices? Certainly not – make no mistake. Eating is a complicated business in this day and age, and everything from food’s impact on your digestive system and arteries to the environmental and social impacts of food production and distribution practices must be pondered if we’re to have any hope of navigating these muddy waters with clear conscience and happy belly. BUT, even in a field narrowed by parameters like locality, carbon footprint, glycemic load, humane treatment, fair labor practices, seasonality, biodiversity, and sustainability (…the list goes on), there is a veritable cornucopia of food from which to choose. If there’s one thing from which we American’s don’t suffer, it’s lack of choice.

So what do I make of these recent forays into the world of four-legged-beasts? Honestly, I have to say that if I were to genuinely see myself reflected in some narrow term describing my food choices, Flexitarian would probably fit the bill. I kind of like the sound of it. I think it implies simultaneously a level of consideration of the impact of my food choices and a delightful allowance for making whatever choice feels right in a given moment for my unique body and mood. Usually, I choose kale. Sometimes (if I’m really listening) I choose a bison burger. Or a sugar-bacon topped flourless chocolate cupcake.

I think the key is curiosity. When you are curious enough to ask what’s really going on, you have to be flexible enough to accept the answers – even if they aren’t always the answers you expected.

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Listening to: The Avett Brothers: Emotionalism, I and Love and You
Munching on: Sautéed Greens with Garlic and Chile Flakes

WE ALL SCREAM FOR…

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we all scream for ice-cream

I’m not going to lie. Life has been a tad stressful lately. Changes of location, changes of relationship, changes of home, changes of schedule, routine, weather, underwear. You name it, over the past 2 months I’ve probably changed it. (Well, okay, hopefully we’ve ALL changed our underwear, but the other parts…maybe not so much).

Between school (tackling a slew of pre-med classes in preparation for graduate school) and work, most days I have a grand total of 60 minutes of downtime between 6am and 9:30pm, and I spend those driving. Today, I had a rare and miraculous afternoon free, and decided to postpone other pressing concerns for a couple of hours of baking therapy.

I (like everyone I know who’s tried it) have been a tad obsessed with Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss Ice-Cream since tasting the sweet creamy nectar a year or so ago. It is SUCH an enormous improvement upon all other non-dairy ice-creams in taste, texture and integrity of ingredients, that I’d say it’s nothing short of a revolution. I’m not kidding you when I say that everyone (from your steak mawing carnivores to your wheatgrass sipping vegans) *loves* this stuff. I’m also a fan of Tofutti Cuties, though (unlike Coconut Bliss) Cuties have some ingredients that I’m not 100% sold on.

Since I can’t get Coconut Bliss anywhere within 3 hours of my current home, I decided to try to make my own version – I mean, how hard can it be? The ingredients are basically coconut milk and agave nectar, both of which are pretty easy to come by. My favorite part of the Cuties is the soft chocolaty wafer cookies between which the ice-cream is sandwiched, so naturally, I decided to make some of those to envelope my homemade ice-cream.

Please understand that I bake mostly by sight, and as a result these amounts are approximate….

Vegan Mint-Chip Ice-Dream
1 can coconut milk (not light)
1/4 to 1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
1 tsp (start with less and add to taste) peppermint extract
1/2 dark chocolate bar (I used 70% cacao) chopped

Directions:
Whisk coconut together with agave nectar, vanilla and salt until smooth and well combined. Add peppermint extract (I would add this in 1/4 tsp. increments) until you reach your desired level of mintyness. Place the whole shebang in the fridge until it’s well chilled. (I was impatient and threw mine in the freezer – just don’t forget it!) When cold, pour into ice-cream maker and follow instructions (for mine, you basically just pour it in and wait 20 minutes). Right near the end, add your chopped chocolate and allow to mix thoroughly. If you’re making sandwiches, spread your ice-cream out about 3/4 inch thick onto a baking sheet that’s been covered with saran wrap and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours to get firm up. If you’re just going to eat it – enjoy immediately or freeze for several hours for harder ice-cream.

wafer cookies

Perfect Chocolate Wafers
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you could try bob’s red mill gluten free flour if you’re avoiding wheat, or use spelt pastry flour or whole wheat pastry flour…I just didn’t have any)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Green and Black)
3/4 cup agave nectar (give or take, depending on how sweet you want your cookies to be) or maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 tablespoons Unrefined Coconut Oil (you could use unsalted butter here instead)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix thoroughly. Add coconut oil (should be solid – refrigerate first if need be) or butter, cut into small chunks, and vanilla. Pulse several times. Allow the processor to run until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl. If your mixture isn’t wet enough, add a couple of tablespoons of milk/soy milk/yogurt. Make sure dough is evenly blended.

Now you have two options. Option 1 – roll your dough into a tube of the diameter that you’d like your cookies to be when baked, wrap with saran wrap and refrigerate until quite firm (an hour or so). Slice cookies off to desired thickness, rolling tube if it starts to get flat on one side as you cut. Option 2 – roll dough out between two sheets of plastic wrap (on a cookie sheet) and refrigerate until firm. Cut cookies with round or fluted cookie cutter, peeling away the “in-between” dough. Use a spatula to slip cookies onto another cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If they are too soft to move, refrigerate them again, and transfer them while cold.

Bake cookies on top rack of the oven for between 8-10 minutes depending on their thickness. I wanted my cookies to remain a bit soft, so I went for 8 minutes. If you want them to crisp up when cooled, you might try 10 – if you start to smell them, they’re probably ready to come out. Cool cookies, set aside for later. (*If you make slightly crisper versions, these are also terrific for making chocolate pie-crusts (like for cheesecake) or summer ice-box cake – anything that calls for a chocolate wafer cookie base.)

Putting it All Together
Okay – time to make some muthafudgin’ sammiches! So. You have your cookies, right? And your ice-cream is frozen into a nice 3/4″ to 1″ high sheet. Now, take your round cookie cutter and a spatula and cut little rounds of ice-cream to place atop your cookies. If your ice-cream is still a bit soft, you can push the cookie cutter down and then (while the cutter is still around the ice-cream) slip your spatula underneath and slide the whole thing onto your cookie, pressing the ice-cream down with your finger to dislodge it from the cutter. Top with cookie number 2, and voila! These will be best if you make them the night before and freeze them really well before enjoying.

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Listening to: Rah Rah: Going Steady
Munching on: Ice-cream, duh!

SOMETIMES HERE, SOMETIMES THERE

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spring

I know, I have been absolutely miserable at keeping up this blog lately. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking or photographing or ruminating, just not here so much. I’ve been channeling the bulk of my creative energies into Feed, my health counseling practice.

The good news is that you can find some of the great recipes I’ve been conjuring in my newsletter archive, which can be found here. Better yet, subscribe and you’ll get it every month (…or almost every month). I’m working on the next issue now, so it should be hitting an inbox near you in the next day or two!

Curious about what I’m chewing on day to day? You can follow me on Twitter @feedhealth.

Also, do keep your eye out for more regular postings this summer, when I’ll be hailing from western Kentucky. I have big plans for my Manu’s summer bounty, and I promise to share my creations with you.

Until then, read FeedNews, and happy spring!

THE WORLD IS SO FULL…

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vallejo

…of a number of things. This has been a rich week. A week of action. Of reflection, of observation and participation. It’s been a week of catalyzing and connecting. And of deep, deep appreciation for my time, here, now, for as long as it lasts, and for the people who share and enliven it.

Energetically, this week has been much more kobe beef than brown rice. No, I have not suddenly become a closet carnivore (though I did have one little bite –  I mean when a friend builds a stone hearth by hand, how can you resist?) I’m just saying that there are times in life for grounding and others for igniting.

What is the nature of passion? How does it manifest in each of us? I’m not just talking about physical passion, though that’s certainly a delightful and slippery topic in and of itself. I’ve been wondering about the kind of passion that lives within each of us, whether we are alone or joined with another.

For some, it burns brightly – a little wild even, spreading uncontained like so many California fires. In others, it is more of a smolder, needing perhaps some as yet undiscovered source of fanning to really spring to life. And some know a passion precise and directional, like the flame of a blow torch. Each of these people seems to have some flavor of work to do. For some, the challenge is to harness the fire. For others, to stoke it. Some need to soften and diffuse their torch, so that it can light the room instead of burning a hole in the wall. Perhaps each of us, at some point in our lives, feels the inner warmth of one or more of these fires.

But without spark, there is no flame. Which brings me to the question of ignition.

What lights us up? When do we feel most alive – every cell buzzing with the electric vibration of life? What cracks us open? What is it that makes us feel deep and connected and thoroughly engaged? What turns us on?

Rumi (I know, again with the Rumi…they don’t call him a sage for nothing, you know) said: “Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.” What’s yours? Can it be unbounded, unjudged? Could it look like a stone hearth on a cool fall day, or a firecracker in july, or a thousand tiny candles, or one?

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Listening to: The skillsaw outside my window
Chewing on: The bounty of indian summer –  unadulterated
Reading: Special Topics In Calamity Physics




About

i'm lindsay: holistic health counselor, designer and art director. though my roots are in kentucky i now call san francisco home. i love food and words, elegant design and challenging ideas. i'm a traveler, a used-to-be photographer and an untrained but passionate cook. i am generally a digger and loquacious to a fault. i like to stretch, have a love of the unknown and am a believer in life's fundamental goodness. change is afoot. this blog holds a little bit of it all. "pendant" is the home of my indian travel stories from 2006. "avant" holds some pre-india musings. "apres", despite the title, is my container for the here and now.