Food for thought

I am not a food blogger, nor am I a professional chef, nor have I been to culinary school (although these past few months I’ve been thinking about it, more on that in a minute). Despite all those truths, I’m not going to let perfection be the enemy of something good. So here are just some thoughts about food, because it’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot and I finally feel like have something to say about it. This will be my first imperfect step to writing something different, something new. Whatever this something is, it is a first draft that I know will continuously evolve and change with time. 

I’ve always had a love for baking in the kitchen. When I was in school, I baked for my county fair’s open class baking competition, just for the fun of it. I chose open class because the competition was looser than 4-H and I didn’t get to hear the judges’ comments, I only got to see the outcome—the pretty ribbon placement when I went into the only air-conditioned building the first day of the mid-July fair. (Many 4-H jugeds are harsh when it comes to critiquing work. Even though I did so many other projects in 4-H, I heard judges were even harsher when it came to food. I didn’t want to hear their comments on how I could’ve made my batch of chocolate chip cookies more even-colored on the bottom. Baking was purely for fun and enjoyment. I was determined to let it be only that.) When I was in level one French as a sophomore in college, I made my classmates chocolate French moose for our final class. We had to create a presentation in French and mine was on French cuisine. I decided to make the moose at the last minute. The night before my speech I stayed up until midnight, not practicing how to pronounce the French words correctly, but baking moose. (And I think it paid off. My presentation wasn’t the best but I got an A.) Within these past few months, I’ve baked to relieve stress and tension. Baking has almost been a way of meditation for me. Watching the dry ingredients mix in with the wet ingredients when making cakes or cookies or loaves of bread is mesmerizing. Learning skills and reading new recipe books is an escape from reality while still being present enough to be doing something practical—preparing food so you don’t starve. It’s been a way to bring the stressful things into perspective and bring my loved ones together by the warmth of food. 

When we were all told to stay home in March, one of the first things I thought to myself was “maybe this will give me more time to cook and bake.” Although my love for baking and cooking has always been apart of my natural human rhythm, only lately have I had the realization that food is close to my heart and I can explore that concept and further hone my skills. Maybe professionally, but maybe just as a self-taught baker who loves to cook for her family. And I could write about it. I was quarantined for over 50 days and through that time I discovered and acknowledged a lot of things, but this little nugget was one of them. 

It was my Plus 1 who brought it to my attention that I’ve been cooking a lot recently, and maybe I could pursue it further. I was sitting with him in my yard. We were trying to do yoga but as we sat, Sukhasana on our mates, letting Yoga with Adrienne continue without us, we faced each other and started talking about life. He wants to go back to school, and I think he totally should. Whatever path he chooses to take career-wise, if it leads to first going back for more schooling, he should hop on the train and go for it whenever he feels the time is right. I said that I’m still trying to carve out a place too, figuring out what I want to do with myself a year out of college. I remember saying that if I had to go back to school, I would pick culinary school, slightly joking since I’ve also said that I will never, ever, in my wildest dream go back to school again. And then he said: “Why not? You really could go back to culinary school. Or at least look into it. You love to cook, why not pursue it more?” But it was from that point that I looked into his face and realized that I could do something like this, even without a formal education, I could start now with the skill set I have. I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and by no means am I jumping into anything, maybe self-teaching is the way to go for me. But until now, I never thought the topic of cooking and food as something that I could bring to the table in my work. 

I’ve struggled with what to write on this blog for some time now. Honestly, I’ve struggled to write since college. I don’t know whether it’s a craving for perfection, lack of motivation or inspiration, or just being in that post-college funk where I’ve been given the education of how to write mixed with the freedom of writing anything I want without a professor guiding me with assignments for the very first time and I don’t know what to do with myself. This world is big and scary and a lot to take in all at once, then finding a place in it all, it seems almost impossible. But food, I think I could write about food. Putting the perfectionism aside, letting this evolve as it would on its own, taking inspiration from the food writers I love to read and then letting my creation changing into something of its own, into my voice that will speak out into this little corner of the internet. 

I’m letting this shape itself as I go, you’ll more than likely find stories of food, because food always brings people together and when people are together, stories happen. It’s just a given. Maybe at some point, you’ll find my recipes here, but for now, you’ll probably find links to other recipes that I’ve learned to cook from books and websites I’ve tapped into. You probably won’t find food reviews, lavish articles on technique, glossy-magazine foodie photos, or the inside scoop on what is the hottest dish during this season, because there are other platforms out there for those things. I’m not perfect or all knowledgeable about this subject, I’m learning as I go as much as you or anyone else is. I’m also keeping this space as pure enjoyment, not space for judges to come in and tell me how I could’ve made my batch of chocolate chip cookies more even-colored on the bottom, at least not just yet.

I know one thing for sure, that I will stay true to myself, my stories, the food that is connecting me to the people around me, the people I love.

Pictured above is the remains of Alison Roman’s coconut braised chicken with chickpea and lime, you can find the recipe in her book, Nothing Fancy.

Staying Home, No. 1

Staying Home, No. 1

This world is full of uncertainties. I know this, I always have, but within this past week, it has become an abrupt reality to me how quickly things can change in a short timeline. Things that I thought I had control over and now I don’t. The past several days have been hard, honestly, and I’ve been struggling to find words.

So far, the hardest part has been realizing that some of the hugs I gave to the people I care about were going to be the last ones for a while. Also, navigating the uncertainties of where this is all going to lead, the confusing information that keeps changing day-to-day, and wondering how long will it be before society returns to “normal.” But I’m sure you feel the same way. And I hope whoever is reading this is doing their best to stay well and healthy, however possible.

Today marks one week for me that I haven’t left my house. Since last Thursday, I have worked from home (which I’m very thankful to have to that opportunity) and I haven’t been out except for a few walks around my neighborhood. For the following two weeks, my family has decided to stay self-quarantined in our house for the safety of everyone.

Some of my favorite blogs are writing posts multiple times a week about what they’re doing during these odd times. They inspired me to do the same. So for the next two weeks, I will try to write a post a few times a week, featuring the food that I’m cooking, uplifting articles/books I’m reading, music I’m listening to, silly things that I find my pup doing, resources I find, etc. Basically, I wan’t to capture what it means to stay home and settling into this one place.

I might just be talking into the abyss of the internet, getting lost in the noise of everything going on right now. But honestly, I’m always worried about that when I write on this blog. It’s a hurdle I have to jump over every time I start writing and hit the publish button. And since I’ll be in my house for quite a while though, I thought I might as well start up a conversation, offering you to comment and tell me how you’re doing as well. Now more than ever is a time where the internet can a source of connection while being distant.

I hope these little posts can serve a purpose, to offer a small space of distraction and connectedness between ourselves while staying inside. As a writer with this little platform, it’s all that I can think of to do. Comment and share the things you’re doing too, I’d love to hear from you!

A note on wellness

I love essentail oils, so I thought that I would share a few that I’ve been useing these last few days.

Lemongrass — this essential oil has been my favorite for the past week. It’s bright, uplifting, and when diffused it makes my room smell fresh. Plus, it’s benefits are numerous: it’s detoxifying, reduces stress and inflammation, has antioxidant effects, fights the flu or colds, among so many other things.

Thieves — This is a blend of essential oils, consisting of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary. We made this concoction in a spray bottle so we can mist it into the air and spray it on our couch and beds. Not only is does this blend have such a comfoting and warm aroma, but it has so many benifits. Some of which are: boosting the immune system, having antimicrobial activity, fighting nasel and sinus congestion, promoting respiratory and cardiovascular health, energizing or uplifting mood

What’s on my plate

Being at home has been given me some opportunity to cook and be a little creative with what I put on my plate.

This morning was simple, I made myself eggs, clementines, and blueberries (for which my dog sat and begged from me the whole time I was eating.)

I’ve also been working on my latte art skills, where I’ve seen little to no improvement.

A little something related to the news

There has been so much misinformation going around on social media concerning the virus. Every morning, I’ve been trying to listen to the press conferences with the government officials to get my information and updates about where this whole world is going. This morning, I was listening to the Governor of New York’s press conference. Honestly, I was shocked how uplifting and relatively positive he was throughout the whole conference. Also, he took the initiative to say something I think is so relative: “Words Matter, at this point. Words matter.” (49:20)

As a writer, I closely connected with this, but it is so true for everyone at any time. In a time where there is information overload, a lot of us are quantized at home with the internet being our only source connection, the words we use are vital. “I believe communication is important and words are important. Say what you mean…” Along with this statement, he went through and started to define what the words “quarantine,” “isolation,” “shelter-in-place,”‘ and “modified shelter-in-place” (44:03) and how we need to watch the language that we use. I don’t live in New York, but the midwest has closely followed behind some of what the bigger cities are doing. Not only did this ease some of my worries I’ve had lately, but it made me hopeful for the coming weeks. 

Something to listen to

To end today’s little post, here is a playlist I made for the next couple of weeks. I’ll be adding to it every so often when I find songs that are fitting.

I hope throughout these few next days we can all find peace and wellness in our homes. If you have to go out, take safe precaustions and wash your hands. If you are sick, stay strong. We will all get through this together.

So this is twenty three

This past week was my golden birthday — I turned twenty-three on the twenty-third. 

I spent the day with my mom because, low and behold, it was her birthday too. We have always spent our birthday together. It’s been that way for the past twenty-two years and, even with a job and a full to-do list, this year was no different.

For our day, we went out to brunch at a local restaurant named Milktooth, which was dubbed one of the top 207 restaurants to eat at around the globe according to Conde Nast. I’d heard about the restaurant so often while I was an intern at Indianapolis Monthly this past spring, so I was so happy to finally try out their menu.

Both my mom, my brother, and I ended up ordering the same thing: Brochedi Donuts with bacon and eggs. Needless to say, it was delicious.

While driving this afternoon, I thought about how twenty-two was a good year. It was a year of learning, of surviving my last year of college, of figuring out what it was I wanted and didn’t want. A year of healing and finding patience in the unknown. Thinking about this next year, I can’t tell you where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing or how I will get to wherever ‘there’ is. I think that’s okay sometimes, not knowing your next step but trusting your gut, where the universe unfolds and leads you.

So far, twenty-three has looked like adding more business professional clothes to my wardrobe, going on a cleanse, and writing. Lots of writing.

Regardless of what I know or don’t know about this upcoming year, there are a few intentions that I know I want to move through. Here are a few:

  • Listen: to myself, to God’s soft whisper, to the voice of my mom and brother, to my friends, and my body. 
  • Read full books, finish them, stick with them, contemplate over them. Not rushing myself, but taking it slow. 
  • Focus on creating vs consuming. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, passively streaming a show, getting lost down the rabbit hole of YouTube. I spend way to much time with these consuming activities. It’s time to turn the table and start creating instead of constantly consuming media. 
  • Be mindful: about what I eat, about the quality of my breath, about listening to people, about each moment I find myself in, about what I’m working on and what I’m creating. 
  • Prioritize my health and the food I eat. Cook at home and bring lunches to work. Continuing my yoga practices. Be aware of what I eat and put on my skin. College was a good ride but I focused more on grades while my health was neglected. It’s time to change that. 
  • Have a heart of gratitude. 

No matter where I end up or what I do, I know that this next year is going to be a good one. A one of thriving, learning, seeking… and maybe hitting up Milktooth again.

Here’s to twenty-three. 

Garden Food

Garden Food

August: the official tomato season. All summer I’ve been protecting my tomatoes—warding off bugs, squirrels, and birds of many kinds—making sure the green sprouts have enough time on the vine to turn that glossy, sun-kissed red. It’s paid off. Although some of the baby tomatoes were eaten by wild life, most survived to be used to the full potential. This past weekend, I picked five tomatoes and used them in my weekend pasta recipe.

I have this new routine down where every weekend I try to make something new. I actually recycled a recipe that I used once already this summer but I used different ingredient this time, so I’m counting it anyway.

This One Pot Summer Pasta recipe that was introduced to me through A Cup of Jo has been amazing. The recipe is from the book Every Day is Saturday by Sarah Copeland. It’s simple because all the ingredients—pasta, herbs, veggies, onion, oil—get placed in the pot and cooked all at the same time for abut 15 minutes.  Plus, the ingredients can fluctuate depending on what’s in your fridge or the produce aisle.

It’s the perfect kind of dish to make for a millennials on a budget who don’t want to get all technical in the cooking scene.

This was the second time I cooked up this pasta. For my initial go at the dish, I mixed together a sweet onion, kale, and rainbow chard. The second time, I chose to dice up some of my summer tomatoes and throw them into the mix, along with broccoli, a handful of basil, and another sweet onion. 

It turned out delicious. Topped with parmesan, it was sweet and creamy with a little zest to it. Perk: it made my kitchen smell heavenly.

One side note: The original recipe doesn’t have meat in it, just pasta, herbs, and vegetables. So if you’re looking for something a little heartier, I’ve also made the recipe with grilled chicken on top. It complements the flavors while adding a little protine to the meal.

If you’re interested trying out the recipe for yourself, check it out here.

What recipes have you been experimenting with this summer?

Summer Garden // 01

When I was a kid, my mom used to grow a huge garden every summer. It was a raised garden bed, made out of wood two by fours. The bed was about four feet wide but rain the entire length of the yard. Our yard wasn’t that big, but the garden always seemed huge to me. It hosted an array of plants–peas and green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes, carrots and lettuce, and a variety of herbs ranging from thyme to rosemary. There was also a smaller garden on the side of the yard where a strawberry plan liked to expand its vines, always came back larger and larger every season.

I remember that garden because it provided the staples for our summer dishes. We’d make jams and jellies and chop up the carrots to go along with the chicken ‘n noodles. We had so many tomatoes and cucumbers that we’d canned some of them for the colder months.

My Mom’s Garden – Circa 2012

I’ve had relatively small gardens myself since then. Nothing more than a few herbs, tomatoes, lettuce, and, this year, spinach. They are in raised garden beds, but not the kind made out of wood slates that are a big as the yard allows, but ones that are plastic and sit nicely on a patio deck.

When spending all of the prior cold months inside, it makes me excited to spread out all the green and tend to something that I can harvest later. It also reminds me of when I was a kid, gardening with my mom in the months of May, June, July, and August.

Since this spring was my senior year in college, I spent most of my time with my head in the books while on campus. I didn’t have much time to shop at gardening stores or Lowes for seeds or even started plants. However, my school has its own greenhouse on top of the science and technology building, and–at the end of every semester–the biology club sells the pants from the greenhouse. So, miraculously, I picked up the few staples I grow every summer thanks to the break that I took studying and the biology club.

The only small thing that this came with was I had to bring the plants with me to class the rest of the day. It wasn’t so bad, I just had a lot of people commenting on my plant babies.

They had a nice little box to sit in while I toted them around.

Now that they’re planted in my garden, they have been growing steadily. My tomatoes have stemmed out and have become fuller, while my lettuce is becoming leafier. I’ve already harvested a few leaves from the basil plant. The rosemary and parsley haven’t grown too much, but they’re a bit slower at growth. I added fertilizer to the beds a few days ago, the growth of all the plants started to become stagnate and it made me worry, but as soon as I fed the little baby plants they’ve been lively since. I planted spinach by seed a few days ago. It’s slightly late in the spring seasons to plant the first batch of spinach, so they haven’t sprouted yet. Hopefully, they will sprout soon.

I’m looking forward to harvesting the first of my lettuce soon, hopefully, the tomatoes will come shortly after. I’ve been looking for good recipes so I can use my herbs in summery dishes. Maybe I can make a full-on meal with everything I’ve grown, substituting a few things from the grocery store.

The whole process of growing plants and getting to use their harvest is both humbling and satisfactory. I hope this tiny garden that I’ve had the past few years can grow into a larger one in the years to come, just like the one my mom used to tend to in the summer months when I was a kid.

Who knows, maybe I’ll even get into winter gardening, something that’s always peaked my interested but I’ve never ventured out to try.