Thursday, December 29, 2011

kpzor's Cookbook Review

The cookbook shelf. It's getting out of hand.
Tonight I've realized that I've become a really good cook (if I do say so myself). This was after creating a masterpiece of Mulligatawny soup. We had a lamp shoulder steak (chop) thawing in the fridge from Clark Summit Farms. We have produce to munch up before leaving for a week. I recently subscribed to Cooks Illustrated (America's Test Kitchen) for a free 1-month trial (in a desperate need to find a fudge recipe that did not call for marshmallow creme). This is the first time I used my subscription outside of the fudge incident -- yes, it was an incident; luckily I pawned my failed fudge worth $18 in chocolate off on my unsuspecting coworkers in a gesture of holiday gift giving -- I know I'm awful. Anyway, back to the soup. I had all the ingredients, the stars aligned and voila. Deliciousness! Satisfaction! A happy husband! This soup was not easy to make. It had many steps and a terrifying step of pureeing everything in a blender - boiling hot soup in a blender anyone? Alas, I overcame the challenges of something that 6 years ago I wouldn't have even tried and made an incredible romantic dinner for two. Hooray!

When R & I met nearly nine *gasp!* years ago, I could barely boil potatoes. Things have come a long way since. I can braise, poach, blend and create memorable, healthy and loving dishes. Before, R had to help me saute stir fry. We've come a long way. But, we had a lot of help. 

It all started about 5 years ago in NYC. In our closet sized kitchen (I'm not lying), I started to get interested in eating healthy. I realized in high school that if I was going to stay a healthy weight and be healthy, I needed to work out. Well, getting to the gym everyday wasn't happening and my genes didn't bless me with a high metabolism. In fact I'm certain I have a high genetic probability for heart disease and diabetes. Yeah, no thanks. So I started small after I went into sales and missed the mixing of small amounts of liquids in the lab - I traded that in for cooking. I bought a Le Creuset pot on sale at Bloomie's and got to it. I wanted to cook with whole grains. So I got the "Whole Grains" book by Lorna Sass. Awesome stuff. Tells you how to cook any grain you want and has fantastic recipes and great food porn (of food people!!). For my GF friends, I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Then came Jaques Pepin. His book, "Fast Food My Way" taught me that OMG, I should actually eat more veggies! His recipes are fantastic, but not really "fast" in the American sense; they usually take an hour. Still, it launched me into my love of cooking. In a serendipitous encounter in the Williams and Sonoma in Columbus Circle, I found Heidi Swansons "Super Natural Cooking" book on super sale and fell in love instantly. Her recipes center around superfoods, natural sweeteners, vegetables and other good for you foods. Another favorite. 

Since I've adopted the philosophy of food is medicine, "Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair is my most go-to book. It's literally falling apart and completely food stained by many hasty nights of cooking. If I'm to give a gift, it's this book (just sent one to A & T in Paris as a house warming gift). Plus, for those with families or who want to have a family, it gives suggestions on how to adapt the recipe in question for baby. And I love how she has great suggestions for pairs to make complete meals; ie carb, veg and protein (another philosophy I have that each meal should have all of those components). I have to include Bi-Rite's "Eat Good Food" here too because it talks all about the very things I'm passionate about - eat good food, locally, organically, in season and sustainably. This book gives the recipes of some of Bi-Rite's dishes that they sell and also information on how to buy and store produce and meats. Just got this book, but I've already given one as a gift and love it to pieces (but it's still intact - tee-hee). 

Two books I'm in love with recently are "A Spoonful of Ginger" by Nina Simonds and "Heirloom Beans" from Rancho Gordo. The Sp. of Ginger book is excellent because it follows Chinese Medicine and gives suggestions on what to eat when you're not feeling well or what the recipe can be helpful for. The recipes are simplistic and full of flavor. It's all Chinese food, but traditional Chinese food, not Chinese restaurant food. This is a great one. The Heirloom Beans book is what I used to make the Good Mother Stallard soup the other day. This is a recent purchase and I haven't used it much, but this is to solidify my commitment to eating more beans.

Lastly, a few loved boutique books that are great are "The Flavor Bible" and Tartine's baking book. The Flavor Bible is best if you're trying to pair flavors together and not following a recipe. It's a great reference book. And I made the most incredible Chocolate Flourless cake out of Tartine's book. For my GF friends, this book probably isn't for you, but it's my dream to one day follow their 15 pages of instructions on how to make croissants! Even though I shouldn't eat them... so what. I'll suffer just for the opportunity to try to make croissants! I didn't photograph Chez Panisse's "Vegetables" book, but that's a great one too if you have a CSA and don't know what to do with that f*&!ing veggie that they gave you. I like her style too- she doesn't give many measurements, more just gives suggestions on how to make excellent seasonal food.

In the new year I'll have a post on essential kitchen equipment that I recommend. It's not much, but it is essential, and in my opinion, some of the best ways of cooking foods.

One caveat here: I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen. I get home from my 9 hour day at work and 2 hour commute and spend about 2+ more hours in the kitchen chopping, sauteeing, cooking, eating and cleaning. It's a lot of work. But SO worth the effort. Being gluten free, it's the best way that I can ensure a healthy, tasty lunch the next day! And a wonderful way to end the day!

Any favorite cookbooks you'd like to share with me? Any fantastic recipes you cannot live without? I'm a bit of a cookbook whore, so please share with me your loved books! I want to try them!

I'll be back the second week of January as we're headed to Cozumel for a week to celebrate my Dad's 60th Birthday! Cannot wait to go blow bubbles at some fish (ie scuba dive), relax in the sun, catch up on the "Game of Thrones" series (on book 4! agh! SO good!) and find some good tequila to bring home. Please have a safe and enjoyable New Year's!

Be well.

P.S. kpzor is my baby name that my big bro gave me - pronounced k.p.zor (K.P. is my first and middle initials). :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 In Review

Two hearts hanging from electrical wires

‘Tis the season for reflection. I’m seeing so many “best of” lists on the blogs, news outlets and twitter feeds that I read. It’s forcing me to think about my year in 2011. The ups and downs, the amazement and the joy of living.

My year started off stressful - planning a wedding was not a favorite fun filled activity. Most girls enjoy wedding planning. I loathed it. But once I realized just how many people would be at our wedding and multiplied that by the hours of everyone attending, I realized that I was planning for 500+ hours of time (got to love being married to someone so analytical that they can point this out). I also did 2 weeks of work travel in January. This was followed by a rash of unfortunate events in my family - I’ll spare the details, but essentially it was Murphy’s Law. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, including me tearing my MCL in a stupid fall on a black diamond run at Kirkwood. It was a season ending tumble and I was in a knee brace for 8 weeks, but able to walk. Depression settled in, in the form of a lack of endorphins and seratonin from not being able to exercise. Healing from my injury sent me into summer, where everything flew by. A few weekends in Portland to plan the wedding, an epic bachelorette weekend in Whistler with my girlfriends, a beautiful wedding, an amazing adventure in Tanzania (a climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, a safari and a few days on the beaches of Zanzibar), and work travel to New Zealand and Tunisia. Autumn was full of discovering a new passion for road biking, personal travel to NYC, Seattle and Portland, and easing into the holiday season full of festivous. Not to mention the whole discovering my passions (insert Traditional Chinese Medicine reference here). And here I am now, detoxing from my weekend of celebrating winter solstice and reflecting on the incredible year I’ve had. This year has been unique as I’ve seen nearly all of my friends from abroad - one good thing about having a wedding and being able to travel. We’ve been fortunate to see our friends from Belgium, France, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Kansas City.

And this is just my year. This doesn’t address the excitement I have about M & A’s engagement, S & B’s beautiful little boy arriving into the world, R’s new job, N’s new career, S’s Yoga Teacher Training in Bali, C’s exciting changes in NYC, A moving from NYC to Paris to be with her partner T after 2 years of being apart, and so many more things that are escaping me right now.

Today, I was fortunate enough to spend an hour with an acupuncturist (not the one I currently see). I have taken a few classes from her at 18 Reasons and was asking her about a career in acupuncture the last time I took a class from her. She so kindly agreed to meet with me to discuss the good and the bad about being a practitioner. It was exactly what I needed! Our conversation showed me that I really can do something that’s my passion and enjoy going to work everyday. Not that acupuncture is the proper field for me... still figuring that one out. But, if anything, it was awesome to hear her experiences and talk about the field as well.

In walking to her office, I realized just how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful and inspiring city. I forgot to say, that my last post celebrated the 3 year anniversary of me moving to San Francisco. I’ll never forget my last day in New York City, freaking out that there was 3 inches of snow on the ground and the fact that they had to de-ice the place 3 times before we could take off. It seemed to take forever - and finally there was R at SFO to pick me up, with that adorable smile and cowlicky hair. He took a detour on our way to our new home, which I was not so pleased about after my travels, but he took me by a very famous house just a few blocks from where we live and they have an enormous Christmas tree all lit up. Then he surprised me yet again with having our little 2.5 foot Manhattan sized tree set up in our apartment with presents underneath - which he made me open. Adorable, this man. How did I get so lucky? I knew I was home.

Some wonderful views in the neighborhood; Eye of Mordor overlooking Dolores Park

Looking south to Noe Valley on Dolores Street (the street I live on)

 More reflection - things have been really slow in our lives lately. It’s wonderful to relax, but I am starting to get itchy for a more active lifestyle. Winter must be here. Have I mentioned how much I absolutely love winter solstice? In the meantime, I’ve been doing things that I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I made our holiday cards myself, baked a lot of homemade goods for coworkers for gifts, I’ve been cooking a lot, started (and almost finished) an album for our wedding and honeymoon in Africa (I hate to say scrapbook, but that’s what it is) and today we have almost finished rearranging our apartment. It feels so good to change our home and to realign the space (most notably, getting our desk out of our bedroom); something we've been planning for a few months.

And so here’s few updates on things I’ve discussed since starting this blog.

1. The whole not eating dairy thing failed. Epically. I just cannot live without cheese! I’ve decided to cut back on my dairy consumption instead.
2. I am in love with hot yoga. However, it’s going to have to be put on hold because the schedule sucks. So I’ll only be able to go on the weekends when I’m in town.
3. Next month I start an Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine course... cannot wait! It’s once a week for 2 hours over 6 weeks. I cannot wait to post what I learn.
4. The job still sucks.
5. My bean challenge is going pretty well. Tonight I made a soup with Good Mother Hubbard Beans. OMFG. YUM. And I recently got a crockpot, so I’m excited to use that for when I need beans to be cooked for me when I get home from work.
6. This blog has been good for me. Even R mentioned the other day that I seem to be calmer about everything. I guess less time on Facebook, more time on a blog. So, hopefully some of you are reading it! And hopefully I can provide some inspiration from the challenges that I experience in my life.
7. 2012 feels like it’s going to be quite the year! So much is unknown, but I’m feeling something in the air...

Good Mother Hubbard Bean Soup with Cabbage. YUM.
Lastly, I'll leave you with a fantastic article that I came across today that was from Grists' 2011 top 11 read posts. This is about the Medium Chill. Confused? Yeah, me too until I read it. Here's a quote:

About a year ago, I was visiting with an old friend of mine who lives in Portland now. He's helping to run a tech startup, working 80-hour weeks, half that on the road, with barely enough time at home to maintain a relationship with his dog, much less a romance. The goal, he said, is to grow like crazy, get bought out by Google, and retire at 40. "It's the big chill, man!" (No, Boomers, not the movie.)
I shook my head and laughed. "I'll take the medium chill!"
Just read it. I promise. It's worth your time.
Is it time for reflections for you? How was your 2011? What are your hopes and aspirations for 2012?

If I have time before leaving on Saturday, I’ll post about my favorite cookbooks and how I use them in my approach to cooking. Yum!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crustacean Action!

M (on the left) and R (on the right) getting our feisty crabbies into the pot! YUM.
Nothing says winter has arrived in San Francisco than full tanks of Dungeness crabbies. Let me just get this out there - I. LOVE. CRAB.

One thing that I absolutely love, aside from how sustainable Dungeness crab is to fish, how delicious it is to eat and how wonderfully nutritious it is for you, is that I feel that crab eating involves community. So last night, we had M & A over for dinner to partake in the destruction and mass enjoyment of lovely crabbies.

From a sustainable perspective, California Fish and Game changed the laws around fishing for crabs this year. The laws are quite strict about the size of the crab, the length of the season and how many you can catch in a day. Before, there was a weight limit of crabs, so all the fishing boats would go out and catch all the crabs at the start of the season. With the new regulations this year, there is a maximum number of crabs that can be caught per boat. This is great for the smaller fishermen, as there is much less competition with the larger fish companies who can afford a ton of boats and harvest most of the crabs at the start of the season. This new regulation levels the playing field. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, whom I personally look to for all things related to sustainable and safe consumption of seafood, Dungeness is a “best” choice.

Nutritionally, these crabbies are high in magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc and protein. They are very low in fat and carbohydrates. It can be pretty tough to get some of these minerals, so these crabbies are a fantastic way to get some great minerals into your diet.

R and I love to host dinner parties. We love to have our friends over and share in an amazing dinner with good wine and the best ice cream in the world from Bi-Rite, or some other delicious treat. The evening usually ends with us chatting about politics, science, life or sometimes in epic battles of Settlers of Catan. Most of all, I feel like enjoying Dungeness requires having friends over to sit at or tiny dinning room table and to pick crab. There’s nothing quite like digging into a crab to make things feel a bit communal!

Here are some tips for you if you want to start eating these delicious, tasty and wonderful for you and the environment crustaceans:

    • Get them live and keep them live until you decide to throw them in a pot
    • Ask for the feisty ones, make sure they’re active and have all of their legs
    • Keep them in the fridge until you want to cook them; purchase them as close to dinner as you can
    • Get a stock pot that has a pasta insert, then you can cook up to 4 crabs at once
    • If you feel really bad about steaming live crabs, stick them in the freezer, this will knock them out
    • Make sure that the water is boiling in the pot, take the crab out of the fridge and grab the butt of the crab with your hands or with tongs to put them in the pot; keep your fingers away from the pinchers
    • Once you get your crabs in the pot (sometimes easier said than done), put the lid on and ignore the banging around! I promise, it will go away soon...
    • Steam for 17-20 minutes, remove from the pot and let them rest/cool down for about 10 minutes (we usually start eating our sides at this point)
    • From here, take the top off the crab, split in half and wash all the insides out (check YouTube for videos on how to do this, can’t help ya here, M & R usually clean the crabbies for me!)
    • Get an empty bowl for shell, a napkin for your hands, a crab cracker and get to it!!!
Some sides I would recommend for dinner:
-Cole slaw
-Black rice with green onion, cilantro and/or parsley; season with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil
-Crusty bread from your trusted baker (I trust this to Acme here in SF)

Some sauces to enjoy your crabbage with, should you even need it:
-Chop up some ginger, add in brown rice vinegar (in a pinch, use garlic instead)
-Melted butter, salted

Most of all, get your friends together, enjoy the amazing taste of these crabs and enjoy the flying pieces of crab!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I had no doubt on this day! 

Doubt gives you insomnia; I was up until the wee hours the other night. Doubt give you headaches; I had a horrible tension headache (still battling that one). Doubt sucks.

I had my very first interview last week since I’ve started applying for jobs in September. I prefer to keep the company confidential, but the position was for sales. I didn’t do very well in the interview. It was pretty hard - a video conference via Skype and a role play selling their products. I’m camera shy, so being in front of a camera was not pleasant. I stressed out all week and did research every night for a few hours and did not “sell” very well - I’m much better in front of customers than that!

After the adrenaline high of the interview wore off, I was left thinking that if they offered the job, I’d take it - just to get out of commuting so much and for the opportunity to bike to work. If they don’t offer me the job, well, that’s fine too. I’m ok with that - it’s just another sales job. And truthfully, I’m not really sure that I want to go back into sales. I found out yesterday that they decided not to move forward with me, so that takes that question out of the picture! But still, doubt is in the back of my mind, “is sales a viable option?” At least I avoided this question by not moving forward in the interview process.

I know I want to get out of my current job. Ironically, just when I’m becoming more valuable to the company, getting more responsibility, higher visibility, more perks, etc and I’m ready to run out the door away from this company. I’m bored. I need a new challenge. And I’m quite exhausted with the corporate culture (that only took 15 months). I just don’t know what the right answer is from here. More doubt. I know I love to help people feel better. It’s corny, but I really want to make a difference in the world. And I can only justify helping the world so far from a cubicle.

Acupuncture is such an attractive answer. I’m stoked to learn more about Chinese Medicine. I cannot wait to take ACTCM’s public class on Understanding Chinese Medicine in January and February. But 3 years ago, I was obsessed with nutrition and wanted to become a registered dietitian (RD). I didn’t make it into grad school - which is awesome because thinking more about it, I wouldn’t want to be a RD as I don’t agree with the American Dietetic Association. So is this some new fascination? I’ve thought about med school, then I talk to my friends who are now residents and they look pretty exhausted. Scratch that. Nursing? Well, it would be pretty challenging to get into a school and my doctor friends tell me the job sucks. Registered Dietitian? Tried that, but thinking afterwards that I’d likely get stuck trying to help people lose weight who really don’t care about their own health. Holistic Health Coach? Interesting, the schooling is *much* less expensive, but marketing yourself afterwards sounds like a bitch and it’s difficult to find clients. I want to empower people to understand their own health. I want to heal. No other profession allows you to do that except Naturopathic Doctors (ND), Acupuncturists and health coaches. I’m thinking the ND route isn’t for me (I want to faint at the thought of doing autopsies on a corpse). Also, it would be nice if the job was at least somewhat steady, I could work part time if I need to (ah, the age when you think you might start having a family in a few years... got to love hormones). And then - voila. I have just now arrived at the interest du jour: acupuncture. Can be done part time, can be well paid and is gaining a lot of respect in the medical community.

But here’s where doubt rears its ugly head: its so expensive! Will I still like it after schooling? How would I have my own practice? It’s 4 years of schooling! Could I still ski on the weekends? Hike and bike in the summer? Will I have enough time to cook dinner in the evenings? Can I ever take a vacation again? Will my husband be ok with all of this? How will it effect us?

I don’t know what I believe, but I don’t really believe in fate, I don’t believe in god(s), I don’t believe in the cosmos, but I do know that when things don’t work out the way you want them to, it’s usually for your own good. Is that energy? Qi? The universe? Who knows. I won’t even attempt to answer this question that has been debated for millenia. What I will address is that when things haven’t worked out in the past, or didn’t go the way I expected, the future always brings new opportunities to life. This has happened to me so many times, so I’m learning to trust *it*. Whatever *it* is. So if I get the a new job in the short term future, I’ll take it for the change. I’ll still explore Chinese Medicine. I’ll sit back and patiently wait (fyi, patience has never been a virtue of mine). It sucks. But its also pretty cool to know that something will change eventually. And hopefully doubt will make its exit or at least diminish to the point where I can make a good decision.

I heard this article on NPR the other evening, on my lucky 50 minute (normally over an hour) commute home about how young people are starting to get into farming (usually organically and sustainably). I love this quote: "It [his love of farming] was born out of a concern for the environment," says Brian Bates, who plans to work at a farm in northern Michigan after he graduates from Penn State. "I spent the first two years of college with one question in mind – basically, how can I have the greatest impact in my life in the world. And the thing that I kept coming back to, that everyone connected to, was food." Because I completely agree with Brian. It does keep coming back to food. And you know what? Chinese Medicine uses food as medicine, which is also a personal philosophy of mine. So, while I’m not passionate about farming, I am about food, my health and the health of others. I want to heal. I want to change the world. Now exit stage left doubt. I have decisions to make!

P.S. Here's an amazing and inspirational blog post that has been going around. I like #7 (happens to also be my favorite number... interesting...)

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The look on my Dad’s face was priceless as he and my Mom drove up to Portland Airport to pick R and me up! This has been quite the week of celebrations...

Last weekend we arrived in Portland and surprised my Dad. Saturday night we went to Ping, downtown Portland, and had an awesome dinner. Their pork buns were the best I’ve had. The head chef is also the chef at Pok Pok (and a James Beard award winner). LOVE his food. We headed up to the Portland Grill for a foggy view of the city to have dessert and give my Dad his gift - a new watch for his 60th. The next day we went wine tasting in the southern part of the Willamette Valley. OMG. Such great wines. If you’re a pinot noir fan such as myself, you will not find any better wines in this country. Incredible. We visited Left Coast, St. Innocent, Bethel Heights, Chehalem and Hyde wineries. Left Coast is a new favorite and they had a fantastic lunch that they made right in the tasting room. The next day my parents and I went to Multnomah Falls and pretty much froze our asses off! Headed to Pittock mansion downtown Portalnd and then to New Cascadia Bakery. Had THE BEST gluten free cupcake of my life. Amazing. It rivaled “normal” cupcakes and was amazing. I almost cried. Cupcakes are my favorite treat and it has been an exercise of self-denial since I found out I was gluten intolerant. Awesome way to spend an important birthday with my Dad!

Hummingbird right outside my parents' kitchen window

Catching the $2 ferry to get to wine country

Sheep at Bethel Heights Winery

My Dad at St. Innocent Winery wearing my hat!

View of Mount Hood from my parents' house

My Dad and I freezing at Multnomah Falls on the day of his 60th 

The parents at Multnomah Falls

Carnitas - took 5 hours and 9 lbs of Heritage Pork Butt 

This weekend we surprised our friend M whose birthday always falls next to Thanksgiving. I’m sure he always has his birthday forgotten, so A, his fiancee, decided to have a surprise party at our place. A and I cooked all afternoon: carnitas, beans, rice, appetizers, chocolate Guiness Cake with cream cheese frosting and a cheesecake. We asked everyone to bring fun beers and had quite the party. The look on M’s face was also priceless! He walked into our living room where everyone was hiding and his jaw dropped when he saw everyone there. Good times.

Today has been a day of cleaning up after last nights’ party, starting holiday cards and enjoying the Seattle like weather from the apartment. I love days like this - when they’re infrequent! Makes me realize that this time of year we need to slow down a little bit. I tried to fight this in October when autumn first began. I was still riding 60+ mile bike rides and working out nearly everyday at the gym. I really didn’t feel so great; constantly tired and run down. I’m pretty sure this is why I have gotten 2 small colds since October. I’m starting to get really excited for the solstice. It means that the days will slowly start getting longer, winter will finally be here and I’ll settle in to making stews, soups and warming foods - letting go of the stubborn feeling that summer shouldn’t turn into autumn and winter and finally allowing myself to take a break. However, it really needs to start raining here in the Bay Area! No rain here means no snow in Tahoe. I really, really, really want to start skiing! I haven’t skied since the end of March when I tore my MCL and finished the season in a knee brace for 8 weeks. I cannot wait to get back on the slopes and start doing more backcountry skiing as well.

Speaking of warming foods, I made this “quick” dinner this week while R was away travelling for work. It’s so easy and is packed full of antioxidants, fiber, minerals, vitamins and everything good for you and very beneficial for this time of year. Try it. Even if you don’t like squash. If you don’t like it at least you’ll have the sauteed veggies for dinner!

Stuffed Squash
2-4 servings (depends on the squash!)

1 squash, cut in half, seeds and strings removed
10-15 shiitake mushrooms, cubed
1 onion, diced
1 bunch of dino (or lacitino) kale, washed, finely shredded
2-5 cloves of garlic, minced
Cold first pressed extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
Truffle oil, to taste

Heat oven to 425degF. Choose your favorite squash (I recommend acorn, butternut, kobocha or hubbard) and cut in half with a *very* sharp knife. Get someone strong to help if needed; I always ask R to cut them for me! Remove the innards and stem. Rub the squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes. The squash will be finished when a knife easily pierces through the skin.

Heat a saute pan with a tablespoon or so of olive oil (add some butter too if you like). When the pan is hot, add in the shiitakes and saute for 3-5 minutes, then add in the diced onion. Once the onion has become soft and translucent, about 4 minutes, add in the garlic and kale and top with salt. The salt will help the kale wilt. Turn off the heat once the kale has wilted.

When the squash are finished, place one half on a plate, cut side up, and fill with the sauteed mixture. Top with truffle oil, grab a spoon and enjoy!

Side suggestions: brown rice, crusty bread

  • Add freshly grated parmesean cheese after you stuff the squash; broil in the oven for 1-3 minutes
  • Bake the squash the night before if you want dinner in about 20 minutes
  • Bake the squash on a silpat for easy clean up
  • Cut the bottom or top (the stem) off the squash before cutting it in half; this will give you a stable platform to cut the squash in half
  • Keep the seeds from the squash and roast for a nice snack
Be well!
Stuffed Acorn Squash

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Time to Purge

No, not because of Thanksgiving. But it is true, I ate too much. That’s just what we do in this country in order to celebrate one of my most favorite holidays. Not that I’m in the business of advocating excess eating… quite the opposite. But sometimes we just need to have a feast! And feast we had – but I’ll get to that at the end.

Back to purging. And I mean healthy purging. My husband and I have been spending our precious spare moments on the weekends, when we have them, not relaxing like we should, but systematically going through our 1000 square foot apartment closet by closet, room by room and purging all the useless built up crap that we never use. And damn, after 3 years of living in SF, it feels great!! Pretend that you’re traveling abroad and you’re having a fantastic time. Are you thinking about that new whatever-you-just-bought item the week before? Or the sweater from 5 years ago that is lost in the back of your closet? Maybe. But likely not. That’s what I’m talking about. Get. Rid. Of. It. The crap, clutter, sh*t, knick knacks, papers and useless items – Donate it, recycle it, sell it, take it to waste management for e-recycling or other recycling. Just off load it (but *please* try not to throw it away). *Stuff* can be such a burden, weigh us down – so why keep useless items around?

I was reading this article this week and I love the author’s approach to *stuff.* I agree, we too have enough hiking, camping, skiing gear to outfit a few Marines. I too am fond of my things. I cannot even bear the thought of parting with my Le Creuset enameled cast iron pots or my fat Vokle Kiku skis. But what I’m addressing here are the non-functional and useless items that we all have.

Here’s what I challenge you to do – attack your closet. Go through your clothes and donate or sell everything you haven’t worn in the past 6 months or year. And for the next 6 months, only purchase clothing that you really need. I mean something that is functional, beautiful, skillfully crafted and made of materials that will last a long time (bonus if it’s 100% cotton – double bonus if that cotton is organic, 100% wool and made in the US). Try this for 6 months and see how you feel. Or tackle that linen closet that is bursting with products, chemicals and items that you’ve been hoarding for the past 3 years, where half the items are expired - if you cannot stomach your monster closet.

I’ll be honest; R and I had reason to purge. Getting married and getting new *stuff* will tend to make you have to purge. Especially in our apartment with limited space. But I can tell you after finishing our filing cabinet over the holiday weekend that I feel lighter. My apartment feels lighter. And overall, there’s less stuff to think about and have around me. Give it a try, even if it’s only one small corner and see how you do. Also, be sure to watch the “Story of Stuff” by Annie Leonard. It’s brilliant. Think about what you purchase. The impact it has on your life, the planet and all the peoples’ lives that the item you want to buy impacted. Do you really need to purchase it?

This holiday season R and I have requested that no one purchase or give us gifts unless they are edible. Back to the whole wedding thing- we really, truly have everything we need. We also are not giving gifts, except edible ones and donations. I plan on gifting my adorable nieces and nephews with a yearly membership to the aquarium. I’m on a kick of only giving things that will be used and cherished.

Back to Turkey Day. We were invited over to our friend J & D’s loft to celebrate as we stayed in the city. About 10 bottles of wine, turkey sausages (I hate turkey, but sausages will do!), porchetta (also known as the new turkey), my family recipe of mashed potatoes, sweet potato spoon bread, kale and shiitakes and cranberry/cherry pie pops (J even made gluten free ones for me!) – and of course, copious amounts of Bi-Rite ice cream (OMFG - yum) – later, we were stuffed, a couple pounds heavier, and very happy to have enjoyed another yearly national past-time. Cannot wait for next year!

Mashed Potatoes on the left, ready to be baked, Sweet Potato Spoon Bread on the right.

Cranberry/Cherry Pie Pops

J & D getting the Porchetta ready

Yoga update: I went to hot yoga on Saturday! It was awesome, but really kicked my ass. A 1.5 hour class and it was so great. I perspired rivers. I did so many sun salutations, I don’t even remember the pain. And, I had a bit of a sore throat. It worsened and I saw J, my acupuncturist, on Monday. She chided me for doing hot yoga with a sore throat and joked that if I went to school for TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) training, I’d know that hot yoga with a sore throat is a huge no-no. Oops. Also, I told her I was drinking sage/ginger tea. Another oops as ginger is not so great for a sore throat either! Word to the wise, sage tea is awesome. Just steep some sage leaves in hot water and voila – sage tea. Great for sore throats (thanks to E & W in Portland for sharing this article)! J patched me up with some acupuncture and herbs and by yesterday, I felt as good as new. One thing I do love about her, though, is that she told me that if my sore throat didn’t get better in a few days to see a medical doctor (I had white crap growing on my tonsils – my inner microbiologist wanted to culture it). I love this idea of East meets West. If I had continued to feel bad, I certainly would have gone to a MD and received antibiotics. Lucky for me, it wasn’t necessary and the herbs/acupuncture did wonders.

Avoiding dairy update: yeah, uh, Thanksgiving sort of threw that one out the window. How does one make our family’s recipe for mashed potatoes without sour cream and milk? Yeah, that wasn’t going to fly. Then there was the left overs… ugh. My type-A self must eat leftovers and must not throw away food. I have noticed that I’m less phlegmy when I don’t eat cheese and milk, so it’s worth exploring for a few more weeks. So I started over again on Monday, but have decided that I will avoid dairy as much as possible, but in some cases it’s really hard. For example, I write this post from 38,000 feet up in the air on my way to Portland to visit the parents. We were in a rush, so I ordered tacos from the airport and forgot to ask for no cheese. What did I do? Ate the damn tacos. And they were pretty good for airport food. Can’t wait to get to Portland and see the look on my Dad’s face – our arrival is a surprise as it’s his 60th birthday!

Be well.