Dairy-Free Strawberry Ice Cream

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I’m too lazy to make a flag cake.  And I’m too much of a snob to buy one of those frosting-overloaded ones at the store.  And it’s 900 degrees out.  And I’d rather be outside.  And I’m filled with excuses.

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But I can make ice cream when I’m lazy.  And I can make it fast.  And it doesn’t make the house 1000 degrees.  And I’d rather have ice cream than cake.

The only thing? You need an ice cream maker.  But it’s one investment that’s totally worth it.

Dairy-Free Strawberry Ice Cream

(makes 1 pint, plus a bowl)

Note: I think the best fruity ice cream, when mixed with coconut milk, is a 1:2 ratio of fruit to milk.  Anything more and it turns into more of a sorbet.  Anything less, and the flavor isn’t as pronounced.

1 can coconut milk (about 2 cups)

1 1/3 cups strawberries, washed and quartered

1 shot vodka (optional, but keeps ice cream from getting that icy texture, since the alcohol won’t freeze)

1/4 cup superfine sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Using a potato masher, blender or an immersion blender, blend together the strawberries and sugar, either leaving bits, or blending it until smooth, depending on your preference.

2. Using 1 cup of the strawberry mixture, stir in the vanilla and coconut milk.

3. Freeze according to the ice cream maker manufacturer directions.

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Vacation

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My college professors believed that in order to be a good writer, you’ve got to be a good reader.

(And by good, they meant reading until your eyes go dry and you cannot possibly keep your eyelids open for another millisecond longer.)

I think the same thing can be said about life.  In order to be good at life, you have to be good at taking time off.

Since the last time I took time off was August, it was time.

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sandhikegoldie with a stick

We hit the coast for a day.  I got my haircut.  I read a book.  I slept in.  I did some mega yoga. We celebrated Groundhog Day by going for a hike.  And we watched the Super Bowl with a friend.

And when I returned to work five days later?  Everything was great. I realized I had been mulling over daily annoyances without seeing the big picture.  I think I was just deeply tired.

Vacations are absolutely necessary.  Going places and seeing new things are amazing, and can be totally mind-blowing, but it’s really, really nice to stay at home and know that you can do whatever you want, and there are days (versus just one) to get those few errands you wanted to get done, done.

And now I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and better.  And along the way?  I rediscovered a Negroni.  It reminds me of two extremes: bitter and sweet.  And when they meet, it creates a warm, orangey balance that’s just pure pleasure.  Like the balance you need from taking time off sleeping in and staying in your pj’s til noon (if you want to), and working until oblivion, or at least that point where you realize you’ve been plugging away for 12 hours.

Oh, and also?  It’s about the easiest drink to make and remember (ratio is 1-1-1).  Just don’t forget that orange peel.  It really links the bitter and sweetness.

negroni

Negroni

2 ounces gin (I prefer Beefeater)

2 ounces Campari

2 ounces Sweet Vermouth

Orange twist

Combine the gin, Campari and vermouth in an old-fashioned glass filled with ice and stir.  Garnish with an orange twist.

A Few Big Projects

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Every time at around this time of year, I crave a long project.  Something that will completely consume my time.  I want to pull out a 1000-piece puzzle, I want to get drawn into a thick plot in a t.v. drama.  I look for a fat novel to read for a long time.  There’s something about getting pulled into something big that produces a great deal of satisfaction.

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Last year was the same way.  I didn’t read a particularly long book, but I did get sucked into this.  And I found myself thinking endlessly about the characters in this show.  When I finished both of those stories, I felt like I was in a daze, realizing that everything had come to an end, but feeling so fulfilled by the entire experience.

the book

But now that we’re in the thick of winter, with no major holidays approaching (besides Groundhog Day), no prep, no events, or trips, it’s time to get into some big, long projects.

The Book: Poisonwood Bible

The [possible] t.v. series: Homeland

The exercise routine: Ultimate Yogi (thanks Mom)

And with all of these projects comes a food project.  In this case, it was lasagna, and it was delicious.  It takes hours, literally, to make, but it is so worth it.

lasagna

Classic Lasagna

Note: You can make the sauce a day ahead.

Slightly adapted from The Essential New York Times Cookbook

For the Sauce

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, two left whole, 4 minced

1/2 pound sliced pancetta, diced

Salt and black pepper

1 1/2 cups dry red wine

2 28-ounce cans crushed italian tomatoes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups lukewarm water

3/4 pound ground beef

1/4 cup grated parmesan

2 eggs

10 sprigs parsley, leaves only

1/2 cup flour

1 pound italian sausage

For the Lasagna:

1 15 ounce container ricotta cheese

2 eggs

2 cups grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese

salt and pepper

16 pre-cooked lasagna noodles

1. For the sauce: Heat 1/2 cup oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot over low heat.  Add onions, minced garlic and pancetta and cook until the onions have wilted.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Raise the heat to medium-high, add the wine, and cook until it has mostly evaporated, about 20 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes, paste, and water, and simmer for 1 hour.

*If you’re making this a day ahead, you can stop here, and store the sauce for the next day.  Heat the sauce in the Dutch oven before starting step 3.

3. Combine the beef, cheese and eggs in a large bowl.  Chop parsley with the whole garlic cloves until fine, then stir into beef mixture.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Using your hands, mix until ingredients are well blended.  Shape into meatballs and set aside.

4. In a large skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat.  Dust meatballs with flour, shaking off excess, and add to hot oil.  Brown meatballs on all sides, then transfer to sauce.

5. Wipe skillet clean with a paper towel, and brown the sausage over medium high heat.  Drain excess grease through a strainer, then add to sauce.  Simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

6. For the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine ricotta, eggs, parmesan, parsley and all but 1 cup of the mozzarella in a large bowl.  Season well with salt and pepper and mix well.

7.  Remove meatballs from the sauce, and coarsely chop.  Spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9 by 12 inch baking pan.  Cover with a layer of 4 noodles.  Spoon more sauce on top, then add a quarter of the meat and a quarter of the cheese mixture.  Repeat for 2 more layers.  Top with a layer of noodles and cover with sauce.  Sprinkle extra mozzarella on top.  I needed an extra pan, so I used the rest of the ingredients in a smaller, 8 X 8 pan, following the same layer order as in the big pan, but only using 2 noodles for each layer.

8. Bake until heated through and bubbling, about 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

The Power of Choice

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waterfront

This was the foundation when I arrived here almost seven years ago. This was the scene, this was the beginning to where I wanted to start my when-I-grow-up-I-want-to-live-here life.  And that’s not to say that I didn’t chose other things in my life; where I went to college, what I wanted to study, what I did with myself in my free time–but as for the important choices, this one, this Portland decision, was mine.  I owned it.  And if it didn’t pan out, well then I was the one to make that call.

Water

When I first arrived here, I felt this empowering liberation.  It was the power of choice.  Of doing something within my own rules, my own expectations, and seeing what would happen.  It was my decision that would prove whether I would need to bail, or if I could believe the hype and stay and love the place in which I lived.

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I totally made the right choice.

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I used to not quite know what to make of January.  It’s cold and snowy and rainy, and no real sign of spring honestly approaching.  It’s the end of the holiday season, which I used to find fun and different and indulgent.  But now as an adult, I crave the choices I have in January.  No holiday parties where we should show our faces even if we’d rather play Trivial Pursuit at home.  No pushes to get random presents for people that feel forced and not thought out.

mornings with hood

This is the time to do things that I want to do to make things better for me and the people [and pets] around me.  It’s time to get creative.  Read more.  Take a walk.  Cut down the phone and computer time.  Watch less T.V.  Listen to records.  Find a new place to eat or sip a cappuccino.

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So this year I want to make a few small changes.  No major moves.  But small things that will make a big impact.  And all in my choosing.  Like baking a bread bowl from scratch, and having it be totally worth the time it took to do it.

broccoli cheese bowl

Homemade Bread Bowls

You will need a few Pyrex oven safe glass bowls for this recipe, but they’re a good investment since you can store so much in them.  I got mine at Target–they hold 2 cups, which is the perfect bread bowl size.

From Alexandra Cooks

I have tried many times to bake bread, and it never quite comes out the way I like.  This, though, is amazing.  Especially when you fill it with your favorite soup.  I used this broccoli cheese soup which kept it light, but still hearty enough to stand a bowl made out of bread.

You will need 4 2-cup glass bowls.  Or you can use 2 4-cup glass bowls for huge bread bowls.

4 cups All-purpose unbleached flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups lukewarm water (mix 1/2 cup boiling water with 1 1/2 cups cold water)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 package active-dry yeast

1. Whisk the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

2. Measure the water in a cup that will hold 2 cups or more.  Stir in the sugar to dissolve, then sprinkle yeast on top of water.  Let stand 15 minutes, or until mix gets a bit foamy.  Stir to combine.

3.  Add water mixture to flour bowl and, stir to combine (you can use your hands if it’s easier).

4.  Turn oven on; set to 400 degrees.  Set a timer for 1 minute.  When minute is up, turn off the oven (this creates a warm space for your bread to rise.

5. Cover dough with plastic wrap and put in oven.  Let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours (but no more) until it has significantly risen (mine was peaking over the bowl).

6. While dough rises, liberally butter your glass bowls.

7. Using 2 forks, remove dough from oven and separate the dough in half, and then in quarters.  The forks will help you cut through the dough.  Then, using your hands, quickly grab the dough quarters and put them in each of the glass bowls.

8. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Keep the bread bowls on the stovetop or another warm place, and let rise for about 20 minutes.  The key here is to keep the area slightly warm.  I have an electric stove, so I turned my burners on low and let them sit on them.  Bread should rise to the top or a little over the bowls.

9. Once oven is preheated, bake bread for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 25 more minutes.  Bread should be golden on top.  Remove from oven, and turn bowls over onto a cooling rack to release the bread.  If the bread isn’t golden on the bottom and seems a little soft, put on a cookie sheet and bake for 5 more minutes.  The idea is to have a hard exterior with a soft interior.  Perfect for soup.

10.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  Then, with a pairing knife, cut into bread, angling your knife inward towards the center of the bread (I pretend I’m cutting a pumpkin), but also leaving a 1/2inch wall so the soup will stay in the bowl.  Serve immediately, with a ladle of your favorite soup.

Bloody Mary with a Secret Staple

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Bloody mary

Everyone keeps asking me the same question.  How was your Christmas?  And I give the same answer each time with complete sincerity and honesty.  It was so good.

brunch

bloody mary

I could go into details and tell you that I woke up on my own.  That I got to make breakfast for friends, and practice my egg pancake cooking skills.  That I talked face to face (though through a screen) with family.  That I ate amazing food and opened thoughtful presents.  That I got to spend a quiet day with Scott, at home, in my pajamas.  We even played a game of Monopoly.

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I’ve noticed customers at my work sit down to drink their coffee, taking a moment to themselves before starting their day.  I watched this episode recently, and found myself keyed into the words of this book.  I loved that the French culture encourages people to enjoy things more fully.  To have a drink (coffee, tea, cocktail, wine) and notice the complexities.  To go to a cafe, order an espresso, and people-watch, rather than yell at cashiers and cut drivers off on the interstate.  I could sit here and wish our culture was more like that of France, where people took their time to sip their espressos, or walk to get a loaf of fresh bread, or enjoy how lucky they are to live in such a beautiful place.

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Or I could just try and live that life.  Even if it’s for a few moments in my day.

Bloody Mary

When we were cooking breakfast last week, Scott offered to make us all Bloody Marys, even though he isn’t a fan.  I prefer mine on the spicier side, with plenty of horseradish.  Tweak this how you wish, but don’t skip the secret staple: Guinness.  Add a splash on top, something we learned at this bar a few years ago.  It calms down the acidity of all the other ingredients and smooths out the drink.

Bloody Mary

This beverage is heavy on the ingredients, but it’s far superior with more complexity than keeping it simple.  

3 ounces vodka

1 tsp horseradish

2 teaspoons steak sauce

2 dashes tabasco

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon dill pickle juice

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon peperoncini juice

1 cup tomato juice

Splash of Guinness

Cracked salt and pepper

Pepperocini, pickled asparagus, pickles, parsley, celery, and any other garnish of your choosing

Mix all ingredients but the tomato juice, Guinness, salt and pepper, and garnishes.  Add tomato juice, stir, add a few cubes of ice and garnishes and enjoy.  I’ve found that it’s best enjoyed after a few minutes, to allow the ice to melt slightly and the flavors to meld together.

Old Fashioned

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I keep reminding myself that it’s December.

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My world has been spinning these past few weeks, and I’m still processing the fact that Thanksgiving was so last month.  Mornings begin before 6 or 5 or 4am.  These mornings have lunch breaks at 7:30am, and afternoons that go spinning from 2pm to 5p.m in one quick email.  I arrive home exhausted and starving, have a drink and something frozen from Trader Joe’s, and crash on the couch.

Sunday was different.  Both of us had the day off, and started the day with a brisk walk on one of my favorite streets in town.  It was still before noon when we were done, and I felt like I owned the day.  I was free to do whatever I pleased. So I turned the oven on, played chemist in the kitchen, watched football with Scott, and took advantage of having a home day.

Nia Fire

I’ve become a real fan of bourbon, especially in the cold, dark months of winter.  And when paired with orange, bitters, and cherry?  It’s the perfect drink to remind me that we’re half way through December.

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Old Fashioned

Note: We got talked into a $20 bottle of lime bitters a few years ago at a salt shop on the East side of town (read: hipster street), couldn’t find anything worth putting it in, and let it sit in the cabinet.  Scott found it one day, messed around and put it in the drink, and it’s awesome.  So if you find yourself with some hipsters who have lime bitters in their possession (wait, are we hipsters?), you can throw a couple dashes in your drink, but it’s not necessary.

3 1/2 ounces bourbon

1/2 ounce blood orange bitters

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1/2 ounce grenadine

1 ounce filtered water

1/4 teaspoon Agave Nectar

1/4 ounce lemon juice

2 healthy slices of an orange

Cherries, for garnish

Combine all ingredients but the orange in a rocks glass.  Stir, then squeeze the orange slices and throw in the drink.  Top with ice and enjoy!

Mom’s Cranberry Sauce

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Can I tell you a secret?  

When you’re asked to bring something for Thanksgiving, tell them you’ve got the cranberries.

You can totally multitask while you’re making them.  I looked at pictures on Instagram and ripped out and organized my pots/pans/baking dish cabinet while making these.

You only need three ingredients, not counting the water.

Cranberry sauce was always old news to me.  This is my mom’s dish.  Whether we stayed at home, or went to our neighbor’s for dinner, the cranberries were our family’s contribution.  I never realized the deliciousness of this dish until I heard the reactions.  The mmmms.  The shocked, “whoa-these cranberries are really good” reaction.  But there’s something to it.  The way the sweet, juicy oranges compliment the tartness of the cranberries, that compliment the rest of the savory Thanksgiving dishes.

Make it this year, well, unless you have your own favorite cranberry recipe.  I promise, even if you hate it, it will have only taken up 15 minutes of your life.

But I bet you’ll dig it.  And so will your Thanksgiving table.

Mom’s Cranberry Sauce 

Makes enough for 4-5 side servings

1 12 ounce bag cranberries

1 cup granulated sugar

1 11 ounce can mandarin oranges (soaked in its own juice), drained

Rinse and sort the cranberries, by tossing any that are white, or mushy.

In a saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and the sugar to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low.  Add the cranberries, and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Cranberries will begin to pop.

Remove from heat.  Add oranges.

Chill in refrigerator until ready to eat.

Can be made up to five days in advance.  Good for 1 week.

Popcorn Cookies

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Blogs are a weirdly creepy, yet crazy awesome thing.  I love that I can read about real people and the real things they’re doing.  I love that these people write about the time they accidentally ate a sleeve of thin mints, or fell off a bike, or made the best apple pie ever.  Every day, my inbox gets filled with all sorts of updates from JoyTracyDavid, and Heidi.  I feel like we’re friends.  I know what’s on their kitchen counter, and where they got to visit last weekend.  They’ve taught me how to cook, and how to experiment with food, and what restaurants to hit if I’m ever in their city.  We go way back.  But the one who has made the biggest impact on my cooking/food dreams is Deb.   From the pea pesto that changed my whole look on frozen vegetables to the chocolate peanut butter cake I made for a friend that goes down in decadence history, I owe her a great deal of gratitude.  And when she came to Portland, I got to thank her.  And I don’t think she thought I was creepy at all.

Her book is what can happen when your dream becomes your career.  Wowzers.

I haven’t had a chance to really dive into her book, but her popcorn cookies caught my eye.  Popcorn in cookie form?  Sounds crazy enough to try.  I even got to pop the kernels on the stove.  No microwave needed.

I used coconut oil after my first batch had a funky flavor from the vegetable oil that had been sitting in the back of the cabinet for I don’t know how long.  I was a little nervous using it, but it worked really well, and gave the popcorn a really nice flavor without a coconut taste.

After cooking for years now, I have just a speck more confidence to try something different, and feel that there’s a good shot it will turn out the way I want it.  I’ve also learned to trust.  Trust that these popcorn things will turn to cookies.  I don’t need to double and triple check.

They made the transformation.

Thank you, Smitten Kitchen!

Popcorn Cookies

Adapted slightly from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

makes about 20 cookies

2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil

1/3 cup popcorn kernels

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

To make the popcorn: Heat coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan with a lid until the oil melts.  Add the kernels, and cover, shaking the pan to make sure all the kernels are in contact with the bottom of the pan.  As soon as you hear the first few kernels pop, shimmy the pan until all of the kernels pop (5 minutes or so).  Remove from heat, add melted butter and salt, and transfer to bowl, keeping an eye for any unpopped kernels.

Dough: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla until smooth.  Meanwhile, whisk flour and baking soda together.  Stir flour mixture into butter-sugar mixture, until combined.  Fold in popcorn, making sure to get dough well distributed.  It’s okay if the popcorn breaks as you’re mixing, and don’t worry about the lack of dough.  It all works out in the end.

Bake: Roll dough into mounds the size of a golf ball or slightly bigger.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure to leave a 2 inch gap between cookies.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Let cool for a minute or so on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

I thought I totally missed October.

I wanted to wear scarves, and bake things with cinnamon and pumpkin, and ride my bike on a crisp sunny day, and drink bourbon, and have a fire, and let a furry pet hang out with me on a cold day.

I got to do those things, plus.  Plus more.  Plus rake leaves, and go to the farmers market, plus watch football, and read this book, try a new tea place in town with a friend, and get moonshine at the local bar with Scott.

October is one of those months where I can’t keep the pace.  It has those random sunny days where you need to rake leaves, take a hike, ride the bike, clean out the gutters and the garden. It’s the last month before red, green and Bing Crosby.  Wrapping paper and how many pounds of turkey?  Organizing silverware drawers and needing Excedrin Migrane for seeing-so-much-red-my-head-is-pounding moments.

And when everyone has had enough of the pumpkin, I felt it was time to get it started.  I found this recipe from Joy the Baker.  It’s a moist pumpkin bundt cake with a cinnamon glaze.  The recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I’m kind of freaked out by veggie oil.  It always smells rancid and weird to me, and never seems to look great when you pour it in the mixture.  So I swapped it for this guy.

I’ve never cooked with Coconut Oil, but it’s waayyy better for you that uber processed vegetable oil, and since I bought it from Costco, I have 78 ounces of the stuff.

Anyway, the result was amazing.  And Scott, who doesn’t like coconut, didn’t detect any sort of flavor in the cake.  I don’t know what the veg oil would have done, but I noticed a lack of heavy, greasiness I’ve experienced with other recipes using vegetable oil.

As for the cake?  It’s sweet, but not overly.  If you’re looking for something other than pie, this is a good pick.

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Cinnamon Glaze

Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

For the Cake:

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup buttermilk (to make your own, pour 1/4 cup milk, then add a 1/4 tablespoon lemon juice and let sit for 15 minutes)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups (15 ounce can) pumpkin puree

4 large eggs

For the Glaze:

2 tablespoons softened butter

2 tablespoons softened cream cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray or grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, vanilla and pumpkin puree.  After it’s well blended, add eggs one at a time, allowing each one to mix entirely before adding the next.

4.  All at once, pour the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well, making sure not to miss any dry flour.

5. Pour batter into pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let rest for a half hour, before inverting onto cake platter.

6.  Using an electric mixer, or a good whisk, mix together all of the glaze ingredients.  Spread evenly over cake.  You can either drizzle over the top, or spread thinly over entire cake.

Cake will last for about 4 days unrefrigerated.

Home Sweet Granola

After a week of travel, it feels good to be home.

I learned a lot, and found new inspiration, and made new connections at work, but I felt like my week was like putting all my eggs in one basket.  It was all work, and no home.

I realized how much I need home, how much I thrive and feel complete when I’m in my own space, with my Scott and my Nia.  I realize that I can’t do what Anthony Bourdain does, even though deep down I want to visit all of those places and learn all about their culture.

I learned a lot, but not about the food.  And when I returned, all I wanted was flaxseed and vegetable juice, and nothing processed.  I wanted to kiss the ground when we came returned back to Portland.  Thank you for fresh juice, and choose your number flush toilets, and hybrids and electric cars everywhere.

Granola was calling.  I needed preservative free, be nice to myself breakfast.  With a little yogurt and honey, it was a much needed first meal of the day.  It feels good to be home.

DIY Granola

Makes enough for a few weeks worth of breakfast/snacks

2 cups old fashioned oats

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

4 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1/4 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil

1. Preheat oven to 325.  Heat oil and syrup in small saucepan over low heat, until coconut oil melts.

2. In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients.  Slowly pour liquid and fold into dry ingredients.

3.  Spread mixture onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent scorching.