Wednesday, June 17, 2015


We are getting very close to the first day of summer but it almost feels like we've skipped a month of the calendar, here in Portland. The heat has been going steady for about a week now. The sun doesn't set till around 9pm now, and that still feels so strange. June has always been one of my favorite months. March, the month of my birthday, is nice and all, but it can be cold and a bit harsh still. But June, June is all exuberance and desire, as though Spring and Summer were slow dancing into the heat of July. June, too, means cold cherries straight from the fridge, and strawberries that barely last a few hours before they start to grow weary of their own sweetness. It means apricots tinged with blush, lovely and delicate, and big green salads, every which way. 

And it's going by much too fast. Summertime, and the 'livin ain't always easy. But Billie Holiday, you sing it so sweetly.  

I made a spring salad the other day with blue cheese, walnuts, strawberries, radishes and butter lettuce and it was of the more satisfying lunches I've eaten in a while. If you haven't ever put fruit in your salads, I suggest starting now. I also had a salad at P's & Q's Market the other day with frisee, fresh figs and house-made bacon that was wonderful and very pretty. As my dad would say, "duplicate it," and I shall I try. When you keep a jar of vinaigrette around, you can improvise the other ingredients, just keeping a good balance crunchy and leafy. When I'm alone, I've gotten into the habit of eating straight from the big bowl usually reserved for tossing, and that makes me happy, if not partly because I don't have to wash a separate vessel. If inspiration ever runs dry I know I can always count on that old Italian standby, arugula with lemon and olive oil, topped with shaved Parmesan. Like a pair of bright white sneakers, it's a true classic that never disappoints. Maybe I'm getting a little carried away, but green salad in June just feels right. 

I've also started making smoothies again, because I prefer super cold drinks when it's warm outside. I was remembering when my mom used to make this creamy shake once in a while with banana and milk and a dash of cinnamon, always in the afternoon, not the morning. Perhaps sometimes she added ice cream, or a capful of vanilla extract. She might have used soy or just old-fashioned milk in place of almond. Anyhow, it was delicious and I was thinking about it today when I saw a recipe for a breakfast smoothie while perusing Food52. I love anything anything with dates in it so I liked the idea of making a "treat" smoothie with almond milk and dates as a sweetener. With my sister's turbo-charged Vitamix, the drink comes together in a matter of seconds. It most certainly is not "cooking" but there are times when such laziness is appropriate. And like so many edible things, it's not particularly photogenic. I'm thinking of all the things you could add, some that might improve its color (cherries? malted milk powder? cocoa?), but really it's just perfect the way it is. 

Banana- Date Smoothie

Adapted from Food52

1 ripe banana, preferably frozen
2 medjool dates
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
A few shakes of cinnamon
1 Tablespoon almond butter (or other peanut butter)
A capful of vanilla extract
A handful of ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until very, very smooth. 


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Karlie Kookie's, and an update

Can a cookie be healthy? I'd sure like to think so, at least for your emotional well-being. At their very best, they give you a little lift. I think cookies are magical in the sense that they make people happy without much fanfare. As you may know I also have a thing for diminutive treats - the kind you easily polish off in a one or two bites, or share with someone you like (a lot). Popular culture has taught us we should follow that instant high with a hefty dose of guilt but in my opinion that is just wrong. It goes without saying I feel that way about food in general, that it should be, above all, pleasurable. I used to have a lot more guilt about food but I made a conscious effort to let it go and I feel so much freer now. Maybe if you had a whole box of chips ahoy while lying on the couch then yes, you are allowed to feel a little guilty (sorry Chips Ahoy). But one cookie never hurt anyone!

All that said, the cookie recipe I've been working on is particularly guilt-proof. It is free of refined sugar and flour, but it still tastes delicious, and has plenty of chocolate chips for good measure. I got the idea from the model Karlie Kloss, who started a company called Karlie's Kookies with Momofuku Milk Bar pastry chef Christina Tosi. She is a runway model but apparently loves to bake. I almost bought some on their website but the shipping was going to cost more than the package of cookies so I decided to try to make a version of them myself. I changed a few ingredients and scaled down the recipe but otherwise stayed true to the core idea of a gluten-free, not-too-sweet treat that could in theory have after a workout.

I'm still tweaking the recipe, experimenting with coconut oils and olive oil, but they are getting pretty close to perfect I would say. They have almond flour and oats, two of my favorite ingredients, too. I'm working on treats for my sister's business and these are one of the contenders so far. My 2015 if off to promising start, happy February everyone. I changed my blog name and so far I feel good about it. I hope you agree. Let's all stay warm and drink endless cups of hot chocolate until it's Spring! 

I leave you with this gem.

"Sometimes me thinks, 'what is a friend?' And then me say, 'friend is someone to share last cookie with."

 - The Cookie Monster

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Morning Routine

I feel lucky I got to spend so much time with my dad in the year before he died. I was living at home at the time, so almost every night we'd have dinner together, the three of us - my mom, me and my dad. My sister would join us when she visited, too. On sunny days he'd "fire up" the Weber barbecue on the deck, and we'd make burgers or chicken or a skewer of some time. Sometimes I'd catch a glimpse of him outside while he chatting on the phone with one of his buddies, and he would look so content, laughing at some joke, pacing like one does on the phone, all while keeping a careful eye on whatever we were grilling. 

It's been a little over four years now. Four years since his last paddle out into the surf.  

My dad had so many wonderful idiosyncrasies, ways of saying and doing things that were unique and endearing. Anyone who knew him saw this.  I would push him away sometimes because he would annoy me - he would get on my nerves when I was feeling impatient, but I didn't realize how good I had it. I wish I had been easier on him. He was always trying to connect with me, even if he didn't always know what to say. He was flawed, but he was honest, with a strong moral compass. He was kind, and interesting, and funny. 

I miss him. I miss the barbecues and the chats about books and movies and shows we both enjoyed. I miss him telling me to "pace myself." I miss feeling certain of his love. I miss sneaking chocolate malt balls from the bulk bins with him. I know I'm biased, but he was one of a kind. 

Now, when I think of him, I try to remember all those little idiosyncrasies that made him who he was, from my perspective. The other day I was trying to think about all the things he taught me, about everything from cars to socks to showing gratitude. I even started a list. Some of them are strange and I don't always adhere to them, but I certainly think about them all the time. He liked to joke about oddball characters but he was somewhat of an oddball himself. 

He liked routines, especially in the morning. My father was a morning person, like me, and woke up hungry, like I do. He truly believed that the best way to start the day is with a freshly-squeezed glass of orange juice. That, and toast with lots of butter, coffee and cream. It was just the way things were done.  

I've been incorporating this tradition somewhat into my routine since I moved to Portland five months ago. I inherited a juicer so it seemed like a good incentive and citrus season is now in full swing as well. For years my parents made each other orange juice everyday from Valencia oranges and drank it first thing. I'd wake up to our large electric juicer making that familiar whirring sound. Without fail, he would offer me some, or just make it for me regardless with the hope I would accept. It pleased him when I said yes, I could tell. I don't know what it is exactly, but lately I've been craving that jolt of sweet tartness in morning. I drink a glass and I feel like I'm in a Tropicana commercial or something, all happy and nourished. Nothing else will do. Sometimes I mix grapefruit and orange and it tastes like the essence of a sunny winter morning, bright and beautiful and fleeting. 

A few sips, and it's gone.