kuri squash sweet bread with cardamom & orange

with the winter solstice just a few days away and a forecast of dark rainy sky, seattle is seeing very little daylight. the gloomy days make me want to stay in bed well past our dreaded 6am alarm. and later in the days around 4pm, the sun starts to set and i fight the urge to crawl back into bed to hibernate until winter ends. this is when i need a little pick me up. teatime. and today, an extra special treat! red kuri squash sweet bread with cardamom & orange zest. 

my oven sees a lot of use for savory dishes. we eat loads of roasted root vegetables this time of year, and use the broiler to make toast for breakfast. rarely do i turn my oven on with the intention of baking something sweet. but earlier this week a client requested a gluten free sweet bread so i sifted through some recipes for inspiration and baked off a loaf that smelled so delicious that i had to remake a loaf for myself at home! 

this loaf is beautifully fluffy, moist and has a perfect crumb. i had leftover steamed red kuri squash in the fridge that made for a perfect addition - but you could easily use canned pumpkin or another homemade squash puree. i adore the flavor combo of cardamom and orange, but if you prefer a more traditional "pumpkin bread" flavor, just substitute for pumpkin spice blend. 

kuri squash sweet bread with cardamom & orange 
adapted from kitchentreaty
1 cup almond flour
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 navel orange
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup steamed or roasted red kuri squash (or canned pumpkin)
3 large eggs
1 + 1/2 cups raw walnuts
2 tablespoons raw pepita/pumpkin seeds

preheat oven to 350 and rub a metal bread loaf pan with a bit of coconut oil. if using steamed or roasted squash, roughly measure a cup of cooked squash and add to a blender with the melted coconut oil and eggs. blend until smooth. if using, canned pumpkin puree you can simply stir together in a bowl with oil and eggs.

in a larger bowl, mix together dry ingredients along with the orange zest. add wet ingredients and walnuts and stir to combine. transfer mixture to oiled loaf pan and sprinkle the top with pepita seeds. bake for 40-55 minutes, checking with a toothpick after about 35 minutes to see if center is still wet. continue baking until the toothpick test comes out clean. let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes then use a knife to loosen loaf from pan and gently transfer loaf to wire rack to continue cooling. you can slice into it at this point, or let cool completely then wrap in foil or store in airtight container.

serve with strong coffee and continue to hang in there... next week, the days will start to get longer!

yuzu-ginger avocado toast

folks, i think i've created something magical. it's almost to simple of a non-recipe to write a blog post about, but it's also too delicious to not write a blog post about.

yuzu-ginger avocado mash... it's like a japanese gaucamole. plop in on toast with some gomasio and it's like the best damn avocado toast you've ever put in your pie hole. but you can come up with other fancy things to do with this magical mash. put on top of rice noodles and stir fry, or over some sushi rice with sashimi, or maybe fry up some little wontons and serve it as a dip! oh the possibilities...

last month my band retreated to orcas island in the san juans to play a show at the doe bay resort. we gathered a good group of friends to join us, stayed a few nights in adorable cabins near the ocean and played a rowdy live show in the retreat yoga studio for all the retreat guests and our friends! we enjoyed several meals at the amazing doe bay cafe and spent an afternoon at the island hoppin brewery catching up one of my oldest and dearest friends who now lives on the island. before catching a ferry home, we stopped into the natural food coop to pack a picnic lunch and i saw some samples of island-made gomasio that looked delightful. i snagged a sample and packed it home with me. 

in case you didn't already know, gomasio is a dry japanese condiment made of toasted sesame seeds, salt and sometime dried seaweed. i often used to buy the eden brand gomasio from my local coop, until they stopped carrying eden products all together due to the company's anti-birth control scandal. and the gomasio sold at nearby asian food markets were all laden with msg. so i was thrilled to find this particularly special gomasio! it's made with kelp and nettles foraged from around orcas island and blended with toasted sesame seeds. what a nourishing treat! after gobbling it down with my avocado toast i regretted not buying a full jar of it from the orcas coop! luckily, you can order online from the maker, landsea

yuzu-ginger avocado toast ~ serves 2+
sliced & toasted baguette 
1 avocado, mashed
crushed garlic
fresh yuzu or bottled yuzu juice
fresh grated ginger
thinly sliced green onion, optional
spicy chilis, optional
sea salt

combine ingredients adjusting proportions to taste. i liked tasting more ginger flavor than garlic flavor. if you don't have yuzu juice or fresh yuzus, simply use some lime juice. top over toasted baguette or sprinkle with gomasio or toasted sesame seeds! 

tarragon, mushroom & barley soup

in my last post i explained why david and i challenged ourselves to follow a fully vegan diet for the month of october. there were a few slips ups on eggs and cheese while traveling one weekend and when david found himself at a work-related dinner without any vegan options. but besides those few slips, we did pretty well!

the shift in diet was fairly easy for me, but i already ate primarily vegetarian and had an expansive repertoire of vegan recipes. i guess the more surprising part was the lack of cravings for animal products (besides runny eggs!) also, i'm not sure if it was the change in diet or the change in seasons to colder, wetter weather, but i found myself eating a lot of carbs (grains, sweet potatoes, sprouted grain bread) and my sweet tooth was raging! david's sweets consumptions didn't change much though, so i'm not going to blame the vegan diet. but now for november, i'm considering giving up sugar for the month to recalibrate myself!

moving forward, i think we will both shift our diets towards more vegan foods. although i'm still not ready to give up pastured eggs and the occasional fancy cheese!! david enjoyed the fact that he wasn't buying lunches as much this past month, and i enjoyed the culinary challenge of coming up with new creative vegan meals - like this soup recipe - that would satisfy even our biggest meat-eating dinner guests. and if you didn't follow my suggestions from the last post, go now and watch cowspiracy!

tarragon, mushroom & barley soup ~ serves 3-4 
* you could easily double this recipe to serve a crowd or for extra left overs! 
1/2 cup hulled barley
1/2 cup french lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 medium size yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 quarts water
2 sprigs each of tarragon and fresh thyme
1 heaping tablespoon takii mushroom umami powder (reduce added salt if using takii)
1 small bunch toscano kale
pinch red chili flakes
salt & pepper to taste

notes: i cooked my lentils and barley in separate pots, so that the finished broth was less cloudy and each ingredient was cooked to tenderness without getting mushy. i'm sure you could also make this a one-pot-meal, instead of dirtying three pots if you prefer. if you don't enjoy the flavor of tarragon, you could use only fresh thyme or add in some rosemary. finally, the takii powder is an amazing umami boost to the broth, but purely optional. the mushrooms, onions and herbs will give the broth plenty of flavor! 

simmer barley in 3 cups of water until tender, but not mushy - about 40 minutes. in a second pot, simmer lentils with 2 cups of water until tender, but holding together - about 25 minutes. once fully cooked, strain and rinse and set to side until stock is finished.

for the stock: crush/mince garlic and set aside for 10 minutes before adding to heat. slice onions and sauté with olive oil in soup pot for 5 minutes. add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and sauté for an additional few minutes until mushrooms are almost fully cooked. add chopped celery, garlic, chili flakes, salt, pepper, takii powder (if using) and 2 quarts of water. simmer on low for 15-20 minutes. during this time, you can clean the kale, remove the ribs, and slice into thin ribbons.

once stock is made and lentils and barley are fully cooked and rinsed, combine together in soup pot. make a small bundle of the fresh herbs, tied with kitchen string, and add to soup along with the sliced kale. if it looks like there isn't enough broth, add a bit more water. bring soup to a simmer for about 5 minutes, to wilt the kale and infuse the broth with the fresh herbs. serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

vegan october & tofu scrambles

david and i don't own a tv. we watch netflix from our laptop set out on the coffee table while we munch on messy bowls of nutritional yeast coated popcorn or dark chocolate bars. when we run out of shows to watch and - as usual - can't agree on a movie, we opt for documentaries. there were two in particular that have made some considerable impacts on us both recently. 

first we watched forks over knives, which made a powerful argument for the health benefits of a plant-based diet and explained some astounding connections between health epidemics and meat consumption over the past several decades. then we watched cowspiracy which made me regret ever ending my decade of vegetarianism. i promise, this is not a film that guilt-trips you into being vegan because of animal cruelty. peta's got that covered. instead, cowspiracy provides some mind blowing reporting on the huge environmental impacts of the meat industry. it was so undeniably convincing that david turned to me after the film and said "we should go vegan." this was the instantaneous and only partly joking reaction from a guy who has been eating meat all his life. 

i could go on and on about these two films, but instead i'll let you check them out yourself. form your own opinions. but for us, we decided to go vegan for the month of october. it's been a bigger shift in david's diet than in mine. but one thing we both miss terribly is eggs. i've never been a huge fan of tofu scrambles, but i gave it a few go's and eventually came up with a spice mix to add to the tofu that i'm really quite pleased with! i don't think i want to eat soy every morning for eternity, but i've been craving these tofu scrambles almost as much as i've been craving eggs. almost. 

tofu scramble spice mix ~ enough f
or 16+ scrambles
2/3 cup nutritional yeast powder
1/3 cup turmeric powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon, or less, cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

combine ingredients together and store in airtight container to have on hand for quick, flavorful tofu scrambles.

tofu scramble ~ serves 1
4-5 oz firm or extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon tofu scramble spice mix
1/2 - 1 cup veggies
olive oil

use a non-stick pan for easy clean up. heat a teaspoon or so of olive oil over medium heat. crumble tofu into preheated pan and then turn up to high heat. saute until the moisture from the tofu has cooked off and tofu starts to brown. now add 1 tablespoon of spice mix and scramble tofu until evenly coated with spices. once coated, if you like browned crispy bits, let tofu cook for a bit without scrambling. if you want more seasoning or salt, adjust to taste - or adjust your spice blend mix after you've tested it in a scramble once! 

when to add the veggies? you can scramble in leftover roasted veggies or tender greens just before the scramble is finished. or you can start sautéing heartier veggies (like mushrooms or onions) in your skillet before adding the tofu so that veggies are fully cooked after a few minutes of scrambling with tofu. top finished scramble with raw veggies like avocado, sliced tomatoes, kimchi, green onions - whatever you like! for a truly vegan breakfast, smear smear some coconut oil or smashed avocado on toast. 

fall foraging & chanterelle toasts

i can't claim to be an experienced forager. in fact, i'm a true novice. for years i've wanted to forage for mushrooms, but didn't know anyone who could lead me out in the woods... until recently! without even knowing that my friend becca had a secrete chanterelle spot, she offered to take me with her this week. how could i pass that up!? it's not too often people let these secretes out so willingly. i hopped in her car one early morning, picked up her friend, emily, along the way and headed about an hour outside of seattle and into the woods. i toted my camera along to take some early morning foggy mushroom photos. unfortunately i was so giddy to go that morning, i had forgotten my camera's memory card at home. so you'll just have to imagine the beauty of this foggy forest and the variety of colorful mushrooms we stumbled over. 

after the gals show me a few examples of true chanterelles and poisonous false chanterelles, i'm let loose to forage on my own. emily tells me that i have to think like a chanterelle to find them. they like to hide, but their vibrant color gives them away. we tread lightly through the pine needle-covered forest floor, watching our every step, and pausing to turn around and look back because so often you can only see them from one particular direction. it was a hugely successful hunt. we gather 6 or 7 pounds, with the bulk coming from the two experienced foragers. but my take home haul was still impressive! 

that afternoon, i invited my chef friend liz from eat seattle over and we spent the afternoon cleaning and cooking them, spooning them over toasts, sipping on white wine and chatting about food photography. it was a splendid day! the toasts turned out so incredible, i remade them the next night for a dinner party. we sat down with our toasty appetizer but our guests weren't certain they knew what chanterelles looked like raw. i made a move to get up and snag the leftover shrooms from the fridge, but david halted me and said "use your arm"... our guests gave me a look of confusion, expecting some kind of charade game, but what david really meant was for me to show them my chanterelle tattoo. oh right! that! i've got a sleeve of botanical vegetables, with one lone fungi thrown into the mix. although, according to this personality quiz from the shroom cookbook, i identify more with the king trumpet mushroom. perhaps i need more fungi tattoos... 

chanterelle toasts ~ serves 4-6
2 cups thinly sliced chanterelles 
1-2 small cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 glug - a big splash - white wine
olive oil
salt, pepper or chili flakes 
crusty bread

optional additions:
sorrel, arugula or micro greens
soft goat cheese 
lemon zest 
aleppo chili flakes

use a brush to gently clean dirt or pine needles from mushrooms, then thinly slice into roughly equally sized pieces. crush garlic and de-stem thyme. preheat cast iron or non stick skillet over medium heat and add mushrooms along with at least a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. cook until mushrooms are just nearly cooked through. then turn the heat up to medium-high and add garlic, thyme, black pepper or chili flakes and white wine. cook until white wine has evaporated off completely.

drizzle olive oil lightly over one side of sliced bread. broil until browned on just one side. remove from oven and rub toasted side with 1/2 clove garlic. salt and pepper then top with mushrooms and other optional toppings! serve with a little extra olive oil drizzled over each toast. 

moroccan chickpea & delicata squash salad

yesterday was officially the first day of fall and my leisurely summer schedule abruptly collided with a somewhat hectic start to the new season. maybe it's not even all too hectic, but my ability to prioritize and my tolerance to stress seems to have slacked off over the summer. david finally went back to teaching this past week (after an eventful seattle public school teachers strike!) and even though i'm not the one going back to school, the change in season feels like a push to get my butt back into gear... nudging me to settle back into a consistent weekly routine, kick up a bit more work for myself, and accomplish the to-do list of things i had been ignoring all summer. 

yesterday, after my yoga practice and a new apprenticeship program i started last week with my yoga mentor, i spent an hour sipping a soy latte at the new little oddfellows cafe inside the elliot bay bookstore, flipping through cookbooks and taking notes. sometimes i'll look for a specific recipe, but usually i'll just jot down notes filled with inspirational flavor combinations. i tend to get sucked into the corner of the store with the mediterranean cookbooks... surprise, surprise. i came home inspired to make something using the fall squash but with a moroccan flare. i conjured up something hearty, nourishing, and full of flavor! 

moroccan marinated chickpeas & squash ~ serves 3-4
1 medium delicata squash
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 15oz can)
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely sliced
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2-3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
cayenne pepper, allepo or harissa chili, to taste
salt to taste (i used about 1/2 teaspoon) 

preheat oven to 400-degrees. slice delicata squash lengthwise and remove seeds and stingy flesh. cut into half-inch thick crescents and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. spread squash out onto a baking sheet, seasoning with salt and harissa or aleppo chili flakes. roast for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through to brown both sides of the squash. let cool while preparing the marinated chickpeas. 

whisk together red wine vinegar, orange juice, the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and a good amount of harissa (aleppo or cayenne pepper works great too!) strain and wash chickpeas and toss with vinaigrette. add finely diced red onion, herbs and golden raisins. once the squash has cooled, cut into smaller cubes and gently fold into the salad. let marinade for at least an hour or overnight! initially, there will be a lot of excess marinade - but this will get absorbed given enough time! if you don't want the mint to blacken, reserve to mix in before serving! serve over semolina cous cous or grain free cauliflower "cous cous" or mixed salad greens! 

sweet summer corn chowder

this season, david and i made several drives north across the border to climb in squamish, british columbia. although david has been visiting squamish for years, this has been my first season and already we've been up on four different occasions! with each visit the forest landscape and boulders become more and more familiar. we've established our favorite free camping spot along stawamus river and settled into little routines to make our camp life comfortable and efficient... this routine usually involves a whole lot of prep cooking on my part before we leave so that we have some nourishing foods to whip up on our camp stove instead of eating out in town for every meal. on our most recent trip, i packed a big batch of homemade corn chowder in our cooler that truly hit the spot after long days of climbing. nourishing, hearty and sufficiently warming on the cool late-august evenings. i loved this chowder creation so much that i remade it for my private clients the following week and a second batch to bring camping with us tomorrow in leavenworth! 

this vegan chowder gets it's creaminess from a touch of coconut cream... i promise it won't taste like coconut corn soup ... although that wouldn't be unpleasant at all. it's thickened by simmering the corn cobs in the broth to release the starches from the cobs. a portion of the soup is then briefly pureed to create a perfectly hearty and creamy texture. it might sound labor intensive, but it takes less than an hour to make a big batch of soup to last you for days! it also freezes exceptionally well! 

vegan corn chowder ~ serves 6+
1 medium yellow onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons garlic, diced or crushed
4 medium carrots
4 sticks celery 
3 small yukon gold potatoes (about 1 pound) 
6 ears sweet corn, or 3 cups frozen sweet corn 
3-4 cups stock of choice, or water
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
5.4oz can coconut cream 
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bunch chives, to garnish 

dice or crush garlic and set to side. shuck corn, turn them on their sides and use a long wide knife to trim off the kernels. reserve 2 corn cobs for stock, kernels removed. thinly slice celery and dice onion, carrots and potatoes into small cubes the size of large peas. besides the carrots & celery, keep ingredients separate as they all have different cook times. 

once your veggies are prepped, heat olive oil in a large soup pot. saute onions over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. add celery, carrots, garlic, black pepper, thyme and salt to the pot. cover and let sweat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. then add potatoes, corn kernels and just enough stock or water to partially submerge veggies. nuzzle the corn cobs under the veggies so they are fully submerged. bring soup to a simmer, covered, and cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are tender but all the vegetables still hold their shape. do not overcook. 

remove the cobs and ladle 2 heaping cups of soup into a blender, along with the coconut cream and lemon juice. blend until smooth. return the portion back to the pot, stirring to combine. adjust thickness if needed by adding a bit more water or stock. serve each portion with a teaspoon of chopped chives.

silent meals in the alaskan wilderness

photo by candace faber

i have so many stories, images and recipes i want to share with you all from this past month. every time i sat down to write a blog post though, it felt too overwhelming. i can't possibly retell every story from my time in alaska, or share every image here. so a few memorable moments and one particular recipe will have to suffice. 

to me, meals should be a social experience - opportunities for conversations to flow freely, for friends or family to laugh and share stories. even if the food is incredible, i always judge the success of a diner party based on the conversation. so i was a bit nervous heading off to cook for a kayaking and meditation retreat where the majority of the meals would be in silence. on the first night of the retreat, we couldn't stop chatting. ten strangers, all wanting to know about each other and the reasons we had decided to join this particular retreat for young "change makers." we grilled some incredible local sockeye salmon and shared a few bottles of wine and settled into familiar, social conversations while we enjoyed our first meal together. but after the conversation ended, we settled into a noble silence that carried through to the morning rituals all the way to the end of breakfast. 

that first morning together, i served homemade olive oil & maple granola. a few guests had foraged an incredible amount of wild elderberries and blueberries the night before that i turned into a simple berry compote to serve along with the granola and plain yogurt. it was a simple, yet special breakfast. i was anxious to see how our interactions would be during silent meals. i assumed it would be sort of boring and dull. but that morning, one of the guests caught my eye as she was filling up her breakfast bowl and gave me a heartfelt smile that needed no verbal translation. it was a smile so filled with gratitude, that it flooded me with joy. as time went on and the group grew closer, and comfortable and goofy around each other, there were many more silent smiles and many less-than-silent moans of delight "mmmmm." there were even some non-silent meals in which the food itself simply left the group speechless and fully absorbed by the flavors of the meal. those were my most proud moments. 

olive oil & maple granola ~ makes about 5 cups 
adapted from whole grain mornings

3 cups thick rolled oat or rye flakes (gluten free if sensitive)
1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
1/2 cup raw hulled sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups chopped, dry roasted almonds - or other nut/seed
1-2 cups chopped dried fruit like raisins, dates or apricots *optional

preheat oven to 300 degrees. mix oats, kasha, sesame seeds, salt and spices together in a big bowl. add wet ingredients and stir to coat. spread mixture out in a thin layer on one large or two smaller baking sheets lined with parchment paper. bake for 30 minutes or so, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until oats are lightly golden in color. let cool completely and then add any toasted nuts or dried fruits you prefer. store in airtight container for up to 3-4 weeks.

serve with plain yogurt, or homemade almond milk, topped with fresh fruit or a homemade berry compote!

in addition to foraged berries, we also enjoyed some ginormous edible "chicken of the woods" mushrooms, tons of foraged seaweed (my paddle partner happened to be a seaweed foraging expert!), freshly caught sockeye salmon and tons of dungeness crab from the last catch of the season. i was thrilled to have so many foraged ingredients to work with, especially when i failed to put the giant dry bag of fresh produce into a kayak for a two-night camping trip. whoops. we had to discuss as a group whether or not we had enough food to stay the full two nights. i expressed my concern for letting all the produce go to waste sitting in that dry bag on the porch of the retreat house. but kurt, our leader, told us he was more concerned about wasting the opportunity to stay an extra night in such an incredible, wild place... after that brilliant comment, we were in full agreement to stay. our group persevered with our giant bucket of cooked crab, rice, oats, lentils, beans, candied smoked salmon and foraged wild edibles collected from the remote little island where we camped. it's true what they say... you'd have to be an idiot to starve on the pacific coast.

i want to tell you more about the time my chef knife unknowingly took a tumble into the ocean and spent 24 hours before my paddle partner pulled it from the silty sands of low tide like king arthur. about splashing our xtratuf boots in the phosphorescent waters under the milky way and shooting stars. and about the wonderful conversations i had with some of the most brilliant minds of my generation. but the depth of memories is endless. i'll let some of these lingering stories come to the surface in my future posts. i'll simply end this post with an image of sunset, taken from the beach of castle islands in duncan canal, where we spent two nights camped out in the alaskan coastal wilderness. 

photo by candace faber

chilled cucumber & watercress soup

there is rarely a moment in my day when i'm not listening to music. if i'm cooking, there is certainly music. sometimes it's just in the background, while i chat with my partner or dinner guests. if i'm alone cooking for myself or a client, the music is loud - cooking like it's a dance. moving through familiar motions, in a certain rhythm. i pour time into building the perfect playlists for my yoga classes. i play my drums for hours each week with my band. i wake up and wind down with music.

a year ago i began attending mysore practice - a self guided ashtanga yoga practice - where the only sound in the room is breath and the occasional conversation between the instructor and individual students. whether music was a distraction or a comfort in my yoga practice before, i'm not sure, but it felt like something was missing. i remember realizing for the first time that one of my sports bras had a little clasp that squeaked. a tiny sound that had been buried by yoga music before. practicing in silence, i couldn't stand to wear the sports bra ever again. despite the lack of music, i continued exploring the mysore practice and eventually silence just became the norm. i think i'm even appreciative of the silence, as it's still a rare part of my day.

i went to bed last night with my ears still ringing from my band's show at the tractor tavern. a reminder that i need to check "buy ear plugs" off my to-do list. i woke up groggy, but pulled myself out of bed to teach an early morning class at ritual house. another class with music. but tonight, for the first time, i have an opportunity to teach an ashtanga class, where traditionally there is no music. without music, the sound of my voice just feels so exposed. the room feels empty. but i'm excited for the challenge and eager to share my experience and love for the ashtanga series with new students.

scroll down to the end of this post for a playlist i created of songs that i could happily listen to on repeat right now. but first whiz up this simple cucumber & watercress soup, and in the time it takes you to listen through the playlist, your soup will be adequately chilled and ready to serve! it's the perfect light snack or first course to a summery meal!

chilled cucumber & watercress soup ~ serves 4+

2 lbs cucumber, peeled
4 big handfuls of watercress, washed
1-2 small cloves garlic
1 cup greek or icelandic plain unsweetened yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
1 tablespoons fresh dill
2 tablespoons fresh mint
2 large pinches sea salt
olive oil for garnish

notes: watercress is dense in nutrients, bitter and peppery - sort of like arugula, but even more similar to the less familiar flavor of radish sprouts. the cucumber subtly sweetens the soup, and the yogurt makes it smooth and creamy. but if you're looking for a dairy-free version, try substituting a full rice avocado for the yogurt. equally as satisfying! 

peel cucumbers and cut into 2-inch chunks, or smaller if you don't have a high speed blender with a tamper tool. combine all ingredients in blender, reserving several sprigs of watercress for garnish. puree until smooth. adjust lemon juice, salt and garlic to taste. chill for at least an 1 hour, or overnight. to serve, ladle bowls with a cup of chilled soup, top with reserved watercress tendrils and a thin drizzle of olive oil. i had some leftover edible flowers from nash's farm that provided another layer of peppery flavor and vibrant color!

 play here

iced chai & cardamom almond cookies

several weeks ago i taught a really fun pizza making lesson to two lovely indian mothers whose kids adore pizza! both moms were fabulous cooks themselves, one even previously owned a restaurant in india. but making pizza dough and forming pizzas was a new experience for them. we made four different kinds of creative vegetarian pizzas, with fun homemade sauces and piles of veggies. not your typical kid cheese pizzas... and yet their kiddos didn't shy away from the unfamiliar broiled radicchio and balsamic reduction on top of their pizza slices. i was so impressed be their willingness to try just about any combination of veggies! these kids had taste. they ate so much pizza, hardly a slice got saved for the husbands. my favorite moment of the night was when one of them mom's turn's to the other, mouth half full of pizza, and says: "if this is pizza, what in the world have been eating?" ... 

mind blowing pizza. it's what i do... 

anyhow, at the end of the lesson, before we tackled the dishes and the dusting of flour that settles after a pizza making storm, the host made a big pot of chai tea. a little dash of this and that, a large amount of fresh ginger, all warmed with milk and served piping hot. it was such a lovely gesture and a reminder of how much i love chai! years ago, i fell in love with two locally brewed chai tea mixes/concentrates (traveler's and harmony chai). out of convenience, i've enjoyed many chai lattes made from these concentrates, but for something so simple to make, it's funny that i've never made it myself. 

this is now my second batch of homemade chai concentrate, and i'm looking forward to experimenting with adding additional spices like clove, coriander, or fennel. but for now, this simple recipe is satisfying my cravings for iced chai lattes. i've been enjoying it chilled, mixed with equal part date-sweetened almond milk. but it could certainly be enjoyed warm with any type of milk you prefer. paired with these incredible, chewy & soft cardamom almond cookies... afternoon tea is just heavenly. 

chai tea concentrate ~ makes 2 quarts
1/4 cup grated or minced ginger, peeled
40 green cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, or more to taste
1 ceylon cinnamon stick
1/4 cup assam loose leaf black tea
1/4 cup honey

peel ginger and grate with microplane or chop up finely in a food processor. crush cardamom pods with mortar and pestle, or in a spice grinder or food processor. they don't have to become a powder, but just opened up and slightly crushed. 

bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer in a small sauce pan. add grated/minced ginger and simmer for 2 minutes. add cardamom, black pepper and cinnamon and simmer for 2 additional minutes. remove from heat, add tea leaves and let rest for 5-6 minutes. strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth. dissolve honey into finished tea concentrate and transfer into large jars. let cool and store in fridge. 

mix chilled concentrate with equal parts milk of choice and serve over ice. i love using my date-sweetened almond milk for a little added sweetness. 

cardamom almond cookies ~ makes about 2 dozen
1 cup raw almonds
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom 
pinch sea salt
7 oz almond paste (not marzipan
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

note: this recipe is also wonderful without cardamom. you could add vanilla bean, cinnamon, or a touch of nutmeg instead, if cardamom isn't your "cup of tea"! 

pulse almond in food processor until finely chopped - slightly coarser than almond flour. add sugar, baking powder, cardamom, salt and almond paste and pulse until crumbly. add egg whites and extract and process until just combined. the mixture will be crumbly but sticky. transfer mix to a bowl. 

preheat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with lightly oiled parchment paper or a silpat baking sheet. use slightly damp hands to form 1 tablespoon at a time into small balls (damp hands helps the dough from sticking to your palms). space the cookies out on your baking sheet and bake for 14-17 minutes, until the bottoms are lightly brown and the sides and tops of the cookies just begin to turn a shade darker. remove from oven, let cool for a few minutes than transfer to a cooling rack. once cooled, store in an airtight container or freeze some cookies to be enjoyed at a later date. 

watermelon gazpacho

it's been wildly hot in seattle for weeks. damn hot. so damn hot i've got robin williams lines running on repeat through my brain. brewing coffee makes me sweat. anything involving the oven is completely unfathomable. i'm happily subsisting off of smoothies, salads and iced tea. nothing too worthy of a blog post... until today. 

despite complaining about the heat, i've actually had some exciting things occur in life recently. i won a baking contest for this recipe - although i still don't consider myself a baker... i finally overcame a fear and figured out a tricky transition into handstands ... but the biggest news of all is really really exciting! i'll be cooking for a kayaking and mindfulness retreat in alaska next month with inside passages. i can't wait to escape this heat, and head north to explore a place by kayak that i've always wanted to visit! there are still two spots available if you are interested in joining as a guest. the retreat is gathering together a rad group of folks in their 20's and 30's who are working to promote environmental or social change. i can't wait to meet them all and share in the experience together! 

ok, now a bit about this recipe. my guy and i recently had a date night out at tallulah's. we shared a number of tasty small plates, but the simple flavors of the watermelon gazpacho were most memorable. sweet, savory, bright and refreshing. flavors worthy of experimenting with. i've always loved the combination of mint and melon, so today i made an elegant watermelon gazpacho topped with a minted cucumber and avocado salsa. it was perfection on a hot day. 

watermelon gazpacho ~ makes about 6 cups
4 large red tomatoes (3-4 cups) roughly chopped
1/2 mini watermelon (3-4 cups) watermelon chunks
juice of 2 limes
large pinch salt
1 (or just a portion) seeded habanero chili
1 small clove garlic
olive oil for garnish

puree together in a blender until smooth. no not overdo it with a high speed blender, as you'll want to be able to strain out any seeds. i might suggest you start with just 1/4 of a habanero, and add more to taste. then sift gazpacho through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl to remove tomato and watermelon seeds. chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

minted cucumber-avocado salsa ~ for topping your gazpacho 
1 ripe avocado
1/2 english cucumber
juice of 1 lime
1-2 tablespoons fresh mint

cut cumber and avocado into long thin strip then dice into tiny cubes, combine in small mixing bowl. finely chop or tear tiny bits of fresh mint into bowl. toss with the juice of a lime.

to serve gazpacho, fill shallow bowls with a portion of gazpacho, top with several tablespoons of cucumber salsa, drizzle with a thin amount of olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. serve chilled.

an occasional sweet treat

at the same time i was asked to come up with an original recipe for a cookie contest hosted by marx foods and the inspiring ashley rodriguez of 'not without salt' i was also asked to take over the @iquitsugar instagram feed for the weekend. you might think this is ironic. i'd agree with you. but it's also a reflection of my personal food philosophy! i believe in nourishing our bodies on a daily basis with a plant-based diet ... without depriving ourselves of simple joys like perfectly baked chocolate chip cookies. 

what i love about the 'not without salt' blog and ashley's cookbook is the balance between nourishing plant-based recipes and recipes for truly special sweet treats. there's a big difference between mindlessly noshing on peanut m&m's everyday while sitting at your desk vs. putting love and effort into creating something truly magical and indulgent to share with a loved one. not only will you appreciate that homemade treat 100x more, you'll also have the awareness of what all went in to that treat, which encourages mindful (not mindless) eating. and what i admire about the work of sarah wilson and her 'i quit sugar' program and wellness brand is their mission to help people who are addicted to sugar break that addiction and experience life without sugar. breaking free from the addictions that pull us away from our health and wellness goals is incredibly empowering and impactful! 

for myself, i crave vegetables. intensely so. my body knows how good it feels when it is porperly nourished with plants. my cravings for sugar are much less then when i was a kid snacking on candy bars after school everyday (read: when i was highly addicted to butterfingers)... that said, i enjoy fruit daily and treat myself to a sweet bite now and then... like the incredible habanero & orange chocolate chip cookies from hello robin, a bakery just a few doors down from my yoga studio. this combination of flavors inspired me to come up with a fun treat utilizing ashley's salted chocolate chip cookie mix, paired with a vegan habenero & orange chocolate ganache. 

you can read my interview with the team at i quit sugar here. the interview inspired a new hashtag for myself: #edgyveggie ... ha! and if you are in seattle check out the cookie mix throw down event happening june 30th at marx foods! i'm excited to attend even if i'm not selected as a finalist! there will be lots of free cookie samples to judge and some of my favorite seattle food bloggers in attendance! oh my! ok, now for the recipe...

chocolate chip cookie tarts with habanero & orange chocolate ganache 
*dairy free ~ makes 6 mini tarts

for the crust:
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (or 1/2 cup butter)
1 egg (or egg replacer if vegan) 
1 teaspoon fresh orange zest

for the vegan ganache filling: 
2/3 cup raw cocoa powder
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup real maple syrup 
3 oranges
2 habeneros chili peppers

*a note about the cookie mix: i love that the ingredients are all packaged separately. you know exactly how much sugar and chocolate is being used. i wanted to experiment with using coconut oil, but you could follow ashley's directions to use butter if you prefer! also... you can easily freeze these tarts to be enjoyed at a later date, or scale down the ganache recipe by half and use half the cookie dough to bake salted chocolate chip cookies! i conveniently had a birthday party to attend that was the perfect excuse for gifting away the bulk of these treats!
*ashley discloses her recipe for the salted chocolate chip cookie dough here, in case you want to collect all the ingredients and make the dough from scratch too!

do ahead: use a vegetable peeler to zest two oranges. slice habaneros in half, carefully remove seeds and veins and add to bowl with the orange zest. muddle together the zest and chilies to release some of the essential oils. combine with 1/2 cup maple syrup. let rest while you prepare tart crusts, or ideally do it a day ahead to infuse even more flavor into the syrup! 

for the tart crusts: melt 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and add to large bowl. combine oil with 1 egg and the sugar from the cookie mix. use a whisk or electric hand mixer to whisk ingredients together until lightened in color. add the dry flour mix and a teaspoon of orange zest and whisk until flour is just combined. use hands or a spoon to stir in the chocolate chips. reserve the flake salt for topping the tarts! 

i used 6 x 4-3/4" mini tart pans. you could use other size tarts pans, or even simple muffin tins. oil whatever pans you are using with a bit of coconut oil and then spread equal portions of cookie dough into each pan to form a 1/4"-think crust. if using muffin tins, just work your crust 3/4" part way up the side of the tin. place the crust-filled tins onto on a cookie sheet and bake at 360-f degrees for 17-20 minutes (or less if using small muffin tins). when finished, the crust should be golden brown and slightly puffy. remove from oven and let cool in the tart pans. if the centers puffed up a lot, you can pat them down gently but leave the rim puffy! 

for the ganache: strain peels and chilis from syrup and transfer infused syrup to a blender. melt 2/3 cup coconut oil and add to blender along with 2/3 cup raw cocoa powder. blend on low speed until just combined and then poor or spoon the ganache into the cookie crusts. the ganache will be easier to spread smooth if the crusts are just slightly still warm. do not overfill tarts, if you have excess ganache eat it with a spoon or on a strawberry! set the filled tarts in the fridge for an hour or more until ganache is firm. when ready to serve, gently remove chilled tarts from pan and cut the tarts into quarters, sixths or eighths (whatever size you want!). top each piece with a sprinkling of the reserved flake salt and curls of orange zest from the remaining orange. they are best served slightly softened after sitting at room temp for 30 minutes or so, but they can also be enjoyed chilled!