spring flowers

it's been many many years since my life revolved around an academic school year schedule, but now that david is teaching high school math it means spring break is a thing in our lives again. we've been looking forward to a weeklong spring break vacation together for quite sometime, but unfortunately our plans for a climbing trip were delayed several days by a climbing injury to david's shoulder. but after a week of rest, we were both antsy to get out of town. 

we were headed north to squamish in british columbia, but made a detour to visit a fabulous chef friend of mine in edison, wa. i met chef ryan ross through a kitchen surfing gig, and instantly fell in love with her personality and flare for cooking nourishing, beautiful food. we grabbed drinks together with some other chefs after the kitchen surfing event and she told me about the incredible network of farmers, bakers and chefs growing together in bow-edison, where she recently moved to straight from brooklyn to be with her (now) fiancĂ©. once she set her roots here in the northwest, she started working in partnership with various skagit valley farms and producers to build the bow-edison food trail. when i heard about the food trail, i knew it would be worth the detour to spend some time in ryan's neck of the woods. 

we spent the day bopping around to various creameries and shops on the food trail, got a tour of the organic farm where we stayed in an adorable airbnb cottage, and then wandered over to ryan's home for an incredible meal and spectacular view of puget sound! ryan and her guy insisted that we check out tweet's and the breadfarm before leaving town, so the next morning we sat down at tweet's - the cutest small town cafe i've ever seen - for one hell of a meal and then snagged a smattering of indulgent baked goods from the breadfarm to sustain us on our climbing trip. from there, we took the scenic route along chuckanut drive through to bellingham, across the canadian border and winding up highway 99 gazing out at the islands until we reached squamish. this was the first time i had tagged along with david to climb in squamish, and already i can't wait to go back! the forest is magical, the scenery inspiring, and the climbing was fantastic! we met up with some seattle folk, climbed for two beautiful days in glorious sunny spring weather, and then packed up our campsite and begrudgingly drove home. 

it feels wonderful to have spring break back in my life again! such a wonderful opportunity to take time to appreciate the season and explore the pacific northwest in one of its best seasons! as we go further into the spring season, more of the seasonal farmers markets are opening up around seattle with growing quantities of spring produce each week. i've been enjoying spicy fresh radishes on a regular basis - tossed into salads or topped on my avocado toast. but today i wanted to share a simple yet elegant little bite inspired by the appetizer chef ryan was serving up when i first met her. her bites featured beautiful edible flowers grown near her home in edison (of course). although i don't have a garden in which to grow edible flowers, i did get my hands on some fresh origins edible flowers from the folks at marx foods. think of this little bite as a twist on the classic combo of radishes with butter and salt. delightfully springy! 

radish, chevre balls, edible flowers & sea salt ~ serves 4

adapted from chef ryan ross

1 bunch radishes, any variety

4 oz soft goat cheese, chevre
1/4 cup edible flowers petals, stems removed
zest of 1 lemon
fresh cracked pepper
several pinches maldon, flake or pyramid sea salt
olive oil
baguette (optional)

note: i used the micro flower blend, which included micro marigolds, sun daisies, dianthus, white mums, bachelor buttons, micro orchids and starflowers. whatever edible flowers you use, just be sure that they are organic! do not use flowers from a florist, as they will be laden will rather toxic chemicals and pesticides. 

smash goat cheese with a bit of fresh cracked pepper and the zest of one lemon. form cheese into 4 equally sized balls. cut or break off the petals of the flowers (play a long game of he loves me, he loves me not...) and place in a small dish. roll the cheese through the pedals and then toss around in cupped palms to flatten pedals into the cheese. 

serve with radishes, washed and halved, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt & cracked black pepper. i think the goat cheese is best served at room temperature, so that it can be easily spread onto a bite of radish without crumbling off your radish. 

raw shaved salad with mint & sumac

following one singular career path always seemed like a dull life choice. i always pictured myself pursuing multiple careers... when i got tired of one, i would develop a new one. however, i didn't think i'd be pursuing multiple careers all at once at the age of 26, but that's precisely where i'm at. there are pros and cons to such tactics: being human, there is only so much time i can commit to developing any one particular skill on a daily basis. but at the same time, if one aspect of my career (i suppose i'll use that term to mean my collective career paths) starts to waiver or business declines, i have hope that my other pursuits will pick up the slack. this is one theory. another theory, once told to me by a professional musician, was that if you put effort into "plan b," "plan a" is less likely to be successful. if i follow the musician's theory, should i assume all of my careers will fail? or do i just have multiple "plan a's"? with so many passions in my life, i can't imagine ending all other pursuits in favor of any singular career path!

 oh the woes of a creative professional! 

in addition to working as a personal chef and yoga instructor, i carve away time each week for playing music with my band, climbing with my guy, and of course blogging. photography has always been an inherit part of the food blog, but more and more i wanted guidance! who knows, maybe it will become another "plan a" career path! i've never studied photography and new very little about how cameras work, so when i saw a portland workshop opportunity pop up with two incredible portland-based photographers, i jumped on it! plus, i take any excuse to visit friends and restaurants in portland! the workshop was led by eva of adventures in cooking and christiann of portland fresh... two inspiring women who create beautiful, romantic and often moody images of food! the workshop was a blast, but perhaps the best part of it all was meeting so many wonderful creative professionals that i hope to stay connected with as we all forge our own careers! i left portland full of inspirational ideas, oozing with creative juices and a belly full of indulgent food and drinks! 

 a few of my favorite shots from the workshop

i came home to seattle and set off on building a reclaimed wood tabletop to shoot on (pictured below). i couldn't be more proud of the final product! many thanks to surface theory for the reclaimed oak wood and advice, and to my dad, for having all the power tools and knowledge for overseeing this not-so-little project! and what recipe would be more appropriate for my first blog post from atop my new tabletop than the incredible salad chritiann made us all for the workshop! i added my own twist, subbing in sweet local pears instead of jicima, and incorporated a middle eastern flare with a dusting of sumac!

raw shaved salad with mint & sumac ~ serves 2
adapted from portland fresh

4 or 5 radishes
2-3 small beets
2-3 small carrots
1 anjour pear
1 small bunch fresh mint
juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons walnut or olive oil
1/4 cup raw or roasted cashews, crushed gently 
1/2 teaspoon sumac
aleppo pepper & flakey sea salt 

notes: for an incredibly colorful salad, mix and match with various types of radishes and beets! the salad can be made and chilled in advance, holding the cashews and mint on the side until ready to serve. 

wash and clean veggies. use a vegetable peeler to slice carrots into thin ribbons. use a mandolin to slice radishes and beets into thin rounds - as thin as possible but still able to hold their shape (not too floppy). slice and core pear and cut into thick match-stick shapes. in a bowl, whisk together lime juice, oil and sumac. toss with veggies and pears and top salad with crushed cashews, torn bits of fresh mint and sprinkles of sea salt and aleppo pepper. if you are using red beets but don't want your salad to turn entirely pink, dress the sliced beets in a smaller bowl and then serve salads with beets layered throughout the salad.

duck egg shakshuka

my affection towards shakshuka began with this idyllic moment in dahab, egypt. i don't know why i don't make it more often for myself at home. it's stupidly easy to make and incredibly satisfying. last weekend, we went to the farmers market a bit later in the day than usual and our go-to egg farmer was sold out of chicken eggs. he did however, have beautiful giant duck eggs for sale! they were far heftier than chicken eggs, with incredibly rich, large orange yolks that ran runny through the spicy tomato stew. and in celebration of spring, i tossed in some fresh radishes from the market as well and served it all up with some crusty olive fougasse bread from our favorite market vendor. it was such an incredible meal, you can certainly enjoy this dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner! 

i'd encourage you to splurge on some pastured duck eggs, but you can certainly use chicken eggs. note that they won't be quite as filling so you may want to cook 2 chicken eggs per serving, instead of one duck egg. you can also make a full batch of tomato stew and then just use a portion of the stew to cook individual eggs in individual-sized skillets. or store any leftover stew and simmer more eggs another day! heck, make a double batch of shakshuka stew and have a quick 5 minute meal ready to go all week! 

duck egg shakshuka ~ serves 4

1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin 
1/2 teaspoon (or more) harissa paste 
1 diced red bell pepper or 6 cherry bomb peppers, thinly sliced
28oz crushed canned tomatoes (or briefly whiz up any other type of canned tomatoes in a blender)
1 cup loosely packed parsley
4 duck eggs
4 radishes, optional
1/2 cup feta cheese (i used raw goat milk feta) 

serve with crusty bread for mopping up the stewy eggs! 

notes: cherry bomb peppers are spicy, so if you are sensitive to heat, use red bell pepper. harissa is also optional, but i love the added heat of both the fresh peppers and the harissa chili paste! 

crush garlic cloves and let rest for 10 minutes before cooking garlic. heat oil in a wide skillet and saute onions over medium heat for 5 minutes. add garlic, peppers and spices. saute for another 3 minutes over medium-low heat. add crushed or blended tomatoes and bring to a simmer. continue to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. in the mean time wash and chop parsley, thinly slice radishes and crumble feta to set aside. 

after tomatoes have stewed for 15 minutes, remove lid and make 4 divots in the stew - spaced evenly apart but not too close to the rim. crack duck eggs into each individual divots. cover again and simmer for 5-8 minutes. check firmness frequently after 5 minutes. for duck eggs, you'll want the white to be fairly firm but the yolk should still feel giggly. for chicken eggs, remove from heat when whites are just set. top with parsley, feta cheese and radishes and serve with crusty bread or toast. 

hemp seed falafel salad

warm sunshine and springing the clocks ahead an hour this past weekend got me all giddy for springtime! it has inspired some lovely sunny afternoon walks,  the creation of all new seasonal menu offerings on kitchen surfing, and a burst of spring cleaning projects at home. it's been a very productive few days, and it's not even technically spring yet... on our latest trip to farmers market, we hauled home tons of root vegetables and winter greens, and a small bunch of radishes - the first little inkling that spring veggies are on their way! i'm bubbling with anticipation for asparagus season, when i can swap my daily routine of kale and eggs for asparagus toast. i'm equally excited for artichoke. there's usually a couple of months each spring when i steam artichoke on a near nightly basis, lapping up leaves dipped in my favorite vinaigrette, and fighting over the artichoke hearts with david. until then, my meals tend to revolve around kale, root vegetables and pantry staples like grains, nuts and seeds. 

this particular recipe, inspired by a post from sarah wilson, incorporates one of my new favorite superfoods... hemp seeds! these little jems are packed with protein, omega-3s and vitamin e. i'll use them in smoothies, sprinkled on top of salads or mixed into raw energy balls. experimenting with them today in falafel was a huge success! the addition of fresh parsley, shallot and lemon brightened the flavors of these seed & nut based falafel.

hemp seed falafel ~ serves 2-3 hungry people

1/2 cup raw cashews
1-2 cloves garlic
2 shallots, peeled
1 cup loosely packed parsley 
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons hulled raw hemp seed hearts
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
large pinch salt
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, raw works ok too!
1 tablespoon olive oil

preheat oven to 425-degrees. line a baking sheet with foil and grease foil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. set aside.

combine cashews, shallots, garlic and parsley in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. add 1/2 cup hemp seeds, lemon juice, zest and salt and processor until combined. transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and stir any unincorporated bits.

the mixture will be sticky, so wet your hands a bit to keep the mixture from sticking to your palms as you form a heaping tablespoon into a ball. don't worry about shape too much, just try to create evenly sized falafel.

in a clean bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds with 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. one at a time, roll the falafel balls in the seeds until coated. once you've coated them all, wash and dry your hands then roll the coated falafel in your palms to reform perfect little balls and place them on the prepared baking sheet. you can leave them round, or gently flatten them a bit. 

bake for 10 minutes, flip and then bake for another 7-10 minutes until falafel are nicely browned on both sides. serve warm! 

for the kale salad:
1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed & sliced into thin ribbons
2 teaspoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
avocado *optional

massage prepped chopped kale with oil, lemon juice and sea salt until evenly coated and slightly wilted. sprinkle with hemp seeds and top with warm baked falafel, sliced rice avocado & harissa-tahini dressing (see recipe below). 

harissa-tahini dressing ~ makes 1/2 cup 

2 tablespoons tahini
3-4 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
harissa paste to taste (i used "dea" brand)
pinch salt
pinch smoked paprika

combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth. add just enough warm so that tahini sauce is pourable. adjust spiciness to taste. i used about 1 teaspoon of harissa paste, but i have a high tolerance to spicy heat!

amaranth bowls for breakfast, lunch or dinner

my daydreaming and brainstorming has caused a recent bout of forgetfulness and utter spaciness. last week, i was walking home from a physical therapy appointment (apparently there is a limit to how many root vegetables my neck and shoulders are comfortable chopping each week...) and realized just how intense my brainstorming state had become. i was managing to make my way towards home on auto pilot, but felt completely disoriented. i couldn't remember what i had done that morning but could clearly remember my dream from the night before - or was that reality? - and didn't remember sending an email that i was receiving a response to. i couldn't manage a clear train of thought for more than a few seconds. at first, i thought i was just loopy due to the deep breathing exercises and neck adjustment my therapist had just worked with me on. in other words, my head was literally just not on straight... later, i realized i was getting a head cold, which was contributing to my loopiness. but before the neck adjustments, before the onset of the head cold, i had been lingering in this lucid-dream state, so wrapped up in my own brainstorm that it had become disorienting. 

it's pretty incredible to realize that in the last few weeks i have found so much inspiration that my brain literally could not handle it all. i was trying to process the brilliance of dr.daphne miller's book 'farmacology' and was diving fast into pages of 'the third plate.' i was discussing ideas wit inspiring women through a local young female entrepreneurs group. conjuring up grand ideas with my brilliant and supportive mom over lunches and coffee. and listening to podcast interviews with women who truly inspire me. my brain was overloaded with encouraging ideas! 

the solution - besides hydrating and resting to manage the head cold - was to declutter my brain and organize my thoughts on paper. write out goals and set some action steps to guide me in the direction i hope to be heading with my career. i also directed some inspiration from listening to an interview with claire ragozzino on pure green magazine's podcast to create a few recipes for nourishing and grounding meals using amaranth. the first recipe was inspired by claire's maple-maca porridge recipe on her blog. the second, was a warming one-pot meal inspired by her discussion on ayurveda and eating simple, warming foods during the winter months. so if you've never used amaranth before,  go hunt it down in a natural foods store and delight in the unusual flavor and texture of this ancient grain. 

maple-maca amaranth porridge (adapted from vidya) ~ serves 3
1 cup amaranth grain
3 cups water, or swap out half for favorite non-dairy milk
2 tablespoons grade b maple syrup
2 teaspoons maca powder
1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried apricots or other unsweetened dried fruit, diced
1/3 cup hemp seeds

notes: i used equal parts water and homemade date-sweetened hazelnut milk for this particular batch (see my recipe for homemade almond milk and simply sub 1 cup of raw hazelnuts) 

bring water/milk to a simmer in a small sauce pan. add amaranth and simmer for 25 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent amaranth from clumping. stir in maple, maca, oil, vanilla and apricots and let simmer for another 5 minutes or so until amaranth is plump and porridge thickens. serve with additional almond milk and a few tablespoons of hemp seeds over each bowl of porridge. the porridge stores well, so you can make a batch ahead of time and add a bit of water or milk to gently reheat it in the mornings for a quick breakfast! 

amaranth and root vegetable indian curry ~ serve 5-6
1-1/2 pounds root vegetables (sweet potato, carrot, turnip, parsnip, golden beets)
1 small head cauliflower 
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1-1/2 quarts vegetable stock 
2 tablespoons ghee
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 or more teaspoon cayenne 
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 cup amaranth
juice of 1 lime

notes: this recipe was inspired by a bag of mixed root vegetables from a local farm that included carrots, parsnips, turnips, golden beets and jerusalem artichoke. you can use any blend of root vegetables, but i highly recommend adding sweet potato into the mix as well!

crush garlic and let rest for 10 minutes before adding it to any heat to preserve the medicinal qualities of raw garlic. in the mean time, brush off any dirt from root vegetables, but do not peel. slice vegetables into small cubes the size of hazelnuts. chop cauliflower florets into 1/4" strips and then roughly chop into smaller bites. 

heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat and saute diced onions for 5 minutes. add spices and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. add prepared vegetables, amaranth and stock to the pot. the vegetable stock should just barely cover the vegetables - adjust volume if necessary. bring soup to a simmer and cook covered for 25-35 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until vegetables are fork tender and amaranth is plump. remove from heat, add the juice of 1 lime, and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.