Hi Oakland!

In August, Alex and I left LA, our home of 8 years, and set out for a new adventure in Oakland, CA! We settled into our amazing cottage – 400 square feet of charming, tiny loveliness – and are getting acquainted with our new city!

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While Alex has jumped straight into his Master of Landscape Architecture program at UC Berkeley, my chapter has had a slower exposition. I made the conscious decision to hold off on the job hunt and take a little breather. I spent our first month in Oakland marinating in this big change and trying to settle into life without a structured routine.

I knew it would be difficult – I’m the type of person who always has a goal or a schedule or a to-do list. I mean literally the day Alex decided on Berkeley, I was already on Indeed scouring the internet for a job that would appeal to me and help us pay the rent… So you can imagine how it was tricky for me to force myself to act against my instincts and just sit back with the knowledge that I didn’t have a plan.

It’s been even harder than I thought. I have found that I get up each morning with the same mentality I had when I was working 50+ hours a week just a few months ago. It’s hard to let go of the routines you’ve had for years. Like really fucking hard. Freedom sounds great from afar but when you have it, it’s really strange how claustrophobic it can feel. In our society, we jump from one thing to the next and are told to always have a plan or a goal – to strive for the next thing and line up your next venture before closing the door on your current one. I don’t think I’ve ever taken time for myself like this before. Like ever. I wonder how many people go through life in this country without ever fully having a break. One friend put it really well when comparing the US to her time in Spain where people don’t feel they need to earn a luxurious lunch or free time to relax, it’s just accepted in the culture as part of enjoying life.

I guess I’m a true American because I wake up with a sense of guilt that I have no clear To Do list or place to be or people who need me. The latter is the hardest for me. I spent the last 3 years of my life being a rock for a community of 250 students and parents and a staff of 15 who needed me. That really has defined who I have been – someone who could be depended on to keep things running smoothly and to support those who needed me most. Without that – who am I?

Well…for one thing, I’m a nester. The second we got here I poured my energy into making our home the comforting haven I needed it to be. And with only 400 square feet to work with – the clutter of boxes wasn’t really a viable option. Every nook and cranny needs to be used effectively while still aesthetic since there’s nowhere to hide things…so it’s been a fun project. I’ll share photos of the cottage in a post soon!

For another, I am a devoted partner to an insanely busy graduate student. I guess I’ve dumped the attention I used to spread amongst hundreds of students and their families, my awesome team of teachers, and a group of loving friends, onto my one and only Guy. His graduate program is an all-consuming intensive program and he’s working around the clock to become the best designer, scientist, and ultimately – landscape architect he can be. So supporting him has been a large component of my first months here in Oakland.

And finally – I’m a baker. The second I got to Oakland I tried out our miniature oven and baked some of my best sourdough loaves yet. Baking has always been therapeutic and healing, a type of mindfulness for me. But now that’s been even more important for me – using my hands to create nourishment for myself and those around me is truly my calling. And stripping away all the other stuff has really helped solidify an inkling I’ve had in the back of my mind for awhile…Baking and producing food is more than a hobby for me. I want to see where this could lead me and so I’ve decided to pursue a baking job.

Don’t tell my grandma – I haven’t told her yet. She might be disappointed since she loved thinking of me as her granddaughter who was working for Gustavo Dudamel to spread the gift of music to underserved students. Not sure if she’ll be completely on board with this new direction…but she’ll come around if I explore it fully and am able to create something truly amazing out of it.

While I wait for a badass bakery to take me on – I need to keep learning and growing as a baker and this means baking a LOT. Since Alex and I can only eat so much bread and cookies…I’m trying to start a little Community Supported Bakery. If you want in on this chance to support a friend AND receive homebaked breads and treats, reach out about joining my Bread&Butter club. I’m thinking members will pay $20/month and receive a weekly sourdough loaf as well as a bonus treat once a month (baker’s choice!).

So…hello Oakland! Let’s see where this next chapter takes us.

 

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Multigrain Sourdough Loaf

I am so excited to share this recipe with you! As I mentioned in a previous post, sourdough is a new kind of monster for me, so I didn’t want to post a recipe until I had experimented and felt like I had a handle on it.

Well…it is so fun! Alex and I have had a blast caring for our little sourdough starter baby, trying new recipes (sourdough pancakes anyone??), and of course…eating our homemade bread. I highly recommend it…BUT it does take some effort to get your starter up and running. In my post about starting a sourdough experiment, I included some links to articles I found helpful when researching how to make a sourdough starter and I also added some tips that I learned through trial and error.

Once you have your starter…here’s an awesome recipe that I just made and fell in love with. It has the taste of sourdough, but the nuttiness of hearty multigrain bread!

Multigrain Sourdough Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sourdough starter (levain)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3.5 cups white flour + more for dusting
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T flax seeds
  • 1 T rolled oats
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 – 2 T pepitas

Directions

  1. Day before: Activate your starter! Get it out of the fridge and feed it (discard all but 1/2 cup of it, then add 1 scant cup flour and 1/2 cup water. stir and leave on counter covered lightly but not air tight). Feeding it the day before will get it active!
  2. Night before: Approx 12 hours after feeding it, take 1 tablespoon of your active starter and mix it with 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Leave it overnight to feed and get really active! This will yield approx 2/3 cup starter! You can also just measure out 2/3 cup of starter 12 hours after feeding it but I have had better results with the 1 Tablespoon, 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water mixture. (Put the rest of your starter back in fridge until you want to use it again.)
  3. Mix your active starter in with 2 cups of warm water. Use your hands to ensure it is dissolving in there.
  4. Add the olive oil and rye, spelt, whole wheat and white flour to the water mixture. Total amount of flour is 5.5 cups (you can switch up the amounts but the majority should be white in order for it to have a high enough gluten content to hold together and make a good textured loaf!). Use your hands to mix it together – stop once it is fully incorporated.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least 30 minutes for the dough to rest and absorb the moisture (called the autolypse).
  6. Add the 1 T of salt and sugar and knead into the dough by folding it in. If you need, add a little bit of water to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Mix until you no longer feel grains underneath your hands!
  7. Fold in the oats, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds – no need to knead the bread a lot, just get them in there.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and leave 4-6 hours in a warm spot so it can rise. Keep an eye on the bread and every once in awhile you can give it a few folds by pulling the dough over itself from top to bottom, rotating the bowl so you do it four times on each side of the dough. This helps get air into it to form the nice bubbles you want!

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    Dough after folds!

  9. Tip: If your kitchen is really cold, I sometimes turn my oven on WARM just for 5 minutes then turn off the heat and pop the bowl in there. If it feels TOO hot, let it cool down for a second before popping the bowl in. It is just nice to make it nicer than room temperature to help the yeast do it’s job and make the dough rise.
  10. Coat outside of the dough with pepitas and lightly flour it! After 4-6 hours and the dough has risen (maybe doubled in size), scrape the dough out of the bowl and roll it in pepitas (or sprinkle them on top of it), pressing them gently into the dough so they stick. Place the pepita covered dough on a lightly floured work surface. Fold the dough again by pulling the dough over on itself, rotating the bowl so you do it 4 times in each direction. The loose bits should be facing up, while the side on the counter is smooth and coated in flour.
  11. Shape the dough into a round shape by rotating it on a nonfloured work surface. Pinch the loose bits together and then carefully pick up the dough and flip it so the loose bits are down – place it on a non-floured area of the counter. Gently cup the dough with your hands and rotate it multiple times on the counter. It needs to be an un-floured area so the surface tension helps the dough stick to itself and form a tight ball.
  12. Line a bowl with a lightly floured kitchen towel and place dough in it (bottom up) for a second rise. Let it rise 30-40 minutes while you preheat the oven!
  13. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place your dutch oven inside it so it heats up.

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    ❤ my dutch oven!

  14. When you are ready to bake, carefully tip your dough out of the bowl and into the hot dutch oven. Heating up the dutch oven ensures your bread won’t stick. If you don’t want to heat your dutch oven, you can put corn meal in the bottom – that has also worked for me!
  15. Use a sharp knife to score the bread. Simple is once down the middle or a cross on top. I’m still not an expert at scoring, I’m excited to try fun shapes. The important part is that you cut it enough that the dough can open up. Creating this weak spot for your bread to expand will ensure your bread doesn’t crack in other places!
  16. Bake covered in dutch oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. 
  17. Reduce temperature to 425 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes covered. 
  18. Uncover the bread and allow it to bake another 20 minutes at 425. Keep an eye on it – the crust should get golden brown, almost to the point where you think it’ll burn – this helps it develop a nutty flavor and delicious texture inside.
  19. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool on a wire rack before you cut into it!
  20. Store in an airtight plastic bag! Enjoy 🙂

Banana Oat Chia Muffins

Long weekend means a road trip up the California coast to spend time with friends on the cliffs of Cambria. We’re taking off early so I wanted a breakfast snacky I could bring on the road and share around. Since I had some forgotten bananas looking lonely on the counter and I didn’t want to leave them to rot over the weekend, I decided a tasty and hearty banana muffin was the way to go!

Whether you’re heading out of town or staying in to enjoy the long weekend at home, these muffins are a perfect breakfast or midday treat. 🙂

Banana Oat Chia Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Mix the coconut oil, brown sugar, and maple syrup in a large bowl. Add the mashed bananas and mix. Whisk in the eggs and almond milk – it is best if they’re not super cold because the coconut oil will clump up and harden. Add vanilla, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the whole wheat flour, rolled oats, greek yogurt and chia seeds until just combined.
  3. Grease a muffin tin with coconut oil or cooking spray – they can get stuck so make sure you oil it well OR you could use the little muffin tin liners.
  4. Evenly distribute the batter into 12 cups. Mine were filled almost to the top. I sprinkled with some extra oats so they didn’t look naked! 😉
  5. Pop into the oven for 25 minutes. Set the tin to cool on a wire rack or in a cooler area of the kitchen. After 30 minutes or so, use a knife to gently pop out the muffins, scraping around the edges if necessary!
  6. Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container for maximum freshness and deliciousness!

Enjoy your long weekend!

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Starting a sourdough experiment

As a kid, our annual trips West to see grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were a special time of year. To me, California was an incredible place.

Bakersfield was a wonderland (ha!) where my Grandpa Gordon took me on rides in golf carts and I would spend all day playing in the pool with my cousins.Los Angeles was home to my Grandma Betty and her fantastical paradise of a garden where I learned about the natural world. From the squash she grew herself to the box turtle who lived in a corner of her backyard farm to the baby bird we saved (temporarily) and fed with an eye dropper…it was a miraculous place filled with discovery where anything and everything was a science experiment. And Cambria, where my Grandma Barbara had (still has) a magical beach house on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific was the world of….sourdough bread.

When I wasn’t busy creating pulley systems out of strawberry baskets and string with my brother to transport our stuffed animals from the entry way to the loft two floors up, I was begging my grandma to let me eat a piece of sourdough toast even though it was in between meals. I loved the tang, I loved the airy bubbles that soaked up the butter, and I loved that it was special because I only ate San Luis Sourdough when I was in Cambria (40 miles North of its origin).

To be clear, I’m not sure why we didn’t eat sourdough when we were at home in Arlington, Virginia. I am sure they had it. Hell, maybe my dad even had it in the house and I didn’t even know. But whenever we were on the Central California Coast, it was all I wanted.

Fast forward 15 years and I now am lucky to call California my home. While my sourdough consumption is no longer limited to one time a year, it still has a special place in my heart and every time I bite into a perfectly buttered piece of toast, I think of those summertime visits.

When I began baking bread last year, I knew that sourdough was something we were going to have to try! Especially once we started experimenting with kombucha and reading about fermentation and yeast – I knew it was the next project.

Starting a sourdough experiment

So now we’ve done it! We have made sourdough bread with a homemade sourdough starter. There’s a lot to read about sourdough – it is quite overwhelming actually. It was pretty intimidating reading all of the articles using lingo I didn’t understand and and the recipes that only make sense if you have a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients. But I struggled through it and gathered information and in the end realized that while it takes precision to make really good bread consistently, sourdough is also quite resilient and we have yet to completely mess it up…

Instead of writing my own complete beginner’s guide to sourdough – I’m attaching some links I found helpful. Once I perfect a recipe, I’ll post it, but for now I’m still experimenting and every loaf turns out a little different!

 

Recommended Literature

Sourdough Starter from King Arthur Flour – clear and easy to follow (not intimidating) directions on how to make a sourdough starter. King Arthur Flour also has a lot of recipes that are not as intimidating as the sourdough aficcionado bloggers, but I found that other recipes were more interesting and yielded better tasting bread.

How to Make Sourdough Bread from Kitchn– complete with definitions of terms (starter, leaven, autolypse, bulk fermentation, proofing, etc.), suggestions for kitchen materials you should get, a recipe including weight but also cups/tsp if you don’t have a kitchen scale, pictures of all the steps, and gentle encouragement not to get intimidated!

Tips

Sourdough Starter

  • Don’t freak out It’s hard to mess up your Sourdough Starter. We found it difficult to keep a perfectly timed schedule of feeding it, and it hasn’t died yet…It’s quite resilient!
  • We use mostly all purpose unbleached flour, but sometimes mix in half whole wheat.
  • Feeding it can be a hassle but you get used to it – our routine is to measure out about 1/2 cup to keep into a measuring cup. We throw the rest away (wasteful but necessary so you don’t drown in starter that grows exponentially) and scrape out the container. Then pour the 1/2 cup back into the container, add the fresh flour (scant 1 cup) and water (scant 1/2 cup) to feed it with and mix it up with a silicone spatula!
  • If you keep your starter in a mason jar, it’s fun to put a rubber band to mark the top of the freshly fed starter because then you can see how much it rises!

Recipes & Tracking

  • Try different recipes and keep a detailed written log of exactly what you do so you can track what works and what doesn’t. At first I was just kind of trying my best to stick to recipes (not my strong suit) and crossing my fingers that it worked but now I try to write down exactly what I did so that I can replicate if it turns out amazing!IMG_9367
  • Recipes that have a high proportion of water to flour yield a wetter dough (like the Kitchn recipe above). I find that it is harder to work with and way more frustrating because it gets stuck to your hands and is harder to shape…BUT it yields delicious bread with yummy crust. I’ve had great results with it when I put it in a loaf pan but have had trouble with high hydration dough when trying to bake a boule in the dutch oven.
  • Every kitchen environment and oven is different so your bread might need more time to rise or less time to bake than someone else’s. Be patient – it is so fun to watch your bread rise. I always get so proud when I watch it growing over time! AH amazing! 🙂

 

Baking Tools

  • Buy a cast iron dutch oven! It is so amazing to bake in! Mine is from Lodge and is 6qt. I dust the bottom with corn meal before tipping my bread into it and popping it into the oven. IMG_9754
  • I have yet to buy a proofing  basket – I use a mixing bowl lined with a kitchen towel and dusted with flour. I want to buy a proofing basket soon, I’ve just been lazy.
  • I bought a scale now ($25 at target) but I had fine results just measuring my flour in cups, so don’t be deterred by that. You can easily find conversion measurements online!

As we continue finding recipes and tips that we like, I’ll post more about our sourdough journey. 🙂 As always, my hope is simply to inspire you to experiment and have fun with your food. Cheers!

Dal, Saag “Paneer”, Raita & Naan

As you know well by now, Alex and I like making different cuisines in our kitchen. Sometimes we try to make it as authentic as possible and sometimes we try to incorporate different ingredients for the sake of experimentation or for using up what we have in the fridge. I think it is important to give yourself flexibility and room to breathe – do not hold yourself to such high standards that you are scared to try cooking the food of other cultures. Having said that, Alex and I are very aware that when we are preparing food from cultures other than our own, we will never be experts and our food will never be authentic. So when we made this feast, we were very conscious of the fact that it is simply Indian-inspired. We did not have all the traditional ingredients, so we have simplified the spices. I hope that makes these recipes accessible to you and that you are encouraged to try making these dishes.

When we go to our favorite local spot for Indian food, Radhika, Alex and I know we are going home with leftovers. It is one of those cuisines where we can’t help but order too much because 1) everything looks amazing and 2) the combinations of various plates is crucial to the experience! Like Thai food, when we go out for Indian we expect to get lots of plates and share. I cannot imagine going to an Indian restaurant and ordering Lamb Vindaloo and then sitting across from someone who ordered Veggie Korma and not getting to taste it. Ah, that would be torture! For me, the meal is made by the combination of the spicy, sweet, creamy, or tangy dishes on top of rice and bread.

With this in mind, Alex and I decided to make a full meal of Indian-inspired dishes. We have experimented with a few dishes in the past but had never made a full homemade feast. We had a great time preparing everything and an even better time eating it. Whether you want to try out just one dish or you want to go big and make the whole meal – enjoy!

Timing your feast:

  1. Prep your naan dough and let it rise 2-4 hours.
  2. In the last hour of dough rising, begin your Dal and let it simmer.
  3. Make your raita and pop it in the fridge so it’s ready when everything else is.
  4. Prep your ingredients for saag paneer and begin cooking the onions.
  5. Form and roll your naan so they’re ready for cooking. Melt butter.
  6. Add the other ingredients for the saag paneer and finish cooking – turn off heat and keep it warm!
  7. With everything else done – it’s time to cook your naan!
  8. Serve dishes and eat! 🙂

 

Naan

Since I’ve been having fun baking bread, we decided to try out Naan for the first time! It was so fun to make and it turned out amazing! It wasn’t quite as thin and crispy as we wanted it, so we’re excited to try it out again – but it bubbled up and had blackened bits just like in the restaurants, so we were thrilled and proud of ourselves.

Here is the naan recipe we used for guidance. Our notes and suggestions:

  • We left out the seeds.
  • Prep your dough earlier and let it rise for 2-4 hours. We didn’t plan in advance so we only let our dough rise 1 hour because we were hungry (it turned out great but we will try longer next time to see the difference).
  • Cook other parts of your meal during the last half hour of the rising process. Then roll your dough before you make your saag paneer and cook your naan last, once your saag is complete. That way it will be piping hot when you get to the table!
  • The hardest part for us was getting the dough to form a “teardrop” shape like they call for in the recipe. It was hard to control the dough and get it narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. We ended up using our hands to kind of push it into that shape but we also just decided it wasn’t our priority and kind of let it be whatever shape it wanted as long as it was thin!
  • Keeping it in the towel lined basket was perfect for keeping our breads piping hot until they were all ready and our dinner was served!

Dal

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin + more to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper + more to taste
  • 1 sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes + juice
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • salt + pep to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add diced onion and let cook for a few minutes until softened but not brown. Note: a lot of recipes call for Ghee (clarified butter), I have never used this. You can juse olive oil or vegetable oil just fine.
  2. Add ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper (& japapeño if using), sugar, bay leaf, salt, pepper and lentils to the pot. Stir to ensure the lentils get coated in the oil and spices. Sauteé for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and rice vinegar, then pour in the vegetable stock. Bring it all to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cover. Let cook while you prep your other dishes!

Raita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (we use a Greek variety)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 medium cucumber finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprinkle of cumin & coriander (optional)

Directions

Combing all the ingredients in a medium bowl (we use a tupperware so if we don’t eat it all we can easily cover it up and pop in fridge). Chill in the refrigerator until other dishes are done!

Saag “Paneer”

This dish of spinach, indian cheese, and spices is a favorite! My sister-in-law Jessica fell in love with Saag Paneer at her longtime favorite restuarant in DC, Masala Art because it is without fail a bright & fresh green color. However, she hates that when she and my bro try to make it at home it turns brownish! Alex and I aren’t as turned off by the brown as she is so it hasn’t bothered us in the past. BUT this time, it stayed green! I think it’s because we used a food processor to get the spinach really finely chopped and then we didn’t cook it for very long at all. We’ll see if using those same methods next time work magic again!

A lot of recipes give you instructions for how to make your own paneer (Indian cheese) at home but we have not yet attempted it! Instead, we use feta – not authentic but still delicious! We stick to a sheep’s feta that comes in a block and we cut it into small cubes. It has worked well for us but we are excited to make paneer at some point and try that out too!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cups fresh spinach, chopped VERY finely or blended in a food processor
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • sprinkle of cardamom & cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Directions

  1. Use a food processor to finely chop the spinach. If you do not have a food processor, chop it as finely as possible with a knife.
  2. Heat a large sauteé pan with olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally so the onion softens and gets aromatic without browning too much. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Add a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring to keep the spices from sticking to the pan.
  3. Add the spinach and stir. Then add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat before the spinach turns brown!
  4. Add the yogurt by the tablespoon, stirring after each one and stop when you achieve the desired creamy green appearance. Then add the feta blocks and stir.
  5. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, or cayenne pepper as needed!

After completing the Saag Paneer, put the top on to keep it warm and continue working on your naan! Once all dishes are done – plate your meal and serve! 🙂

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Have fun! 🙂

Spice Recommendations: We have enjoyed buying different Indian Spice Mixes from a spice store near us. It’s fun to add a bit of these mixes to these dishes. Right now we have Vindaloo VooDoo from SpiceStation. We have also purchased other curry mixes. However, the basic necessities are Cumin, Coriander, a pinch of Cinnamon & Cardamom, a little sugar and a little spice. So stick with those if you don’t have other mixes!

Brewing Booch

Now that Alex and I brew Kombucha, I feel like we have entered a new level in our development as hippy DIY foodies. I think I have a slightly weird complex about it. When I list the things I like doing – practicing yoga, tending to my succulents, baking my bread, going to craft breweries, and now brewing booch – I kind of want to roll my eyes at myself. But what can I say…? This stuff brings me joy!

Alex and I are brewing kombucha together. It’s perfect because he is patient and scientific, whereas I am quick to make decisions and do things on the fly for the sake of experimentation and efficiency.

I first thought that kombucha was a new craze,but I actually read that it has been around forever and has experienced a number of surges in popularity. Right now you can buy it in almost every grocery store and it seems like there are new brands on the shelf every week but it is not a new trend – booch has stood the test of time! Its probiotic properties, low sugar content and delightful tang & fizz have make it a delicious and healthy beverage. It also contains caffeine so it kind of serves as a better-for-you alternative to soda!

Scobys are weird. There’s no way around that. They are yeasty bacteria slimy things (scientifically known as: Symbiotic Cultures of Bacteria and Yeast) that somehow eat the sugar in the tea you feed it and ferment the beverage – giving it the vinegary & effervescent properties that booch is known for. It’s amazing and disgusting all at once. Lucky for us, our brew jar is opaque so we didn’t really see the whole process. Now that I’ve gotten accustomed to our scoby I kind of actually wish I could see the entire thing going down, but it definitely helped soften our introduction to kombucha brewing.

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We purchased our scoby online and it arrived quickly, complete with full instructions on how to begin brewing. I highly recommend this. It was wonderful to have a comprehensive guide to get us started. Now that we’ve done it once, we’re excited to start experimenting with recipes, but the simple instructions were perfect for getting us started.

Filtered water + black tea + white sugar + white vinegar + scoby + 7-10 days = BOOCH!

After that initial period of fermentation in your brew jar, you bottle it with any flavoring you want to add and then you seal the bottles and leave them at room temp for 2 days to get bubbly, then pop it in the fridge!

Our first batch yielded 2 bottles full of this delicious drink – and we flavored it with slivers of fresh ginger. For our second brew, we doubled the recipe to yield more (image above) and are excited to experiment with juiced ginger, lemon, and other flavors to find our favorite combos.

I’ll keep y’all posted on how our experiment continues. But for now, I can tell you that making booch has given me the same satisfaction I get from all our DIY kitchen projects…no longer do I have to spend $3 or $4 whenever I want a bottle of booch. I feel liberated knowing that I can make it at home, and you can too. So get brewing!

Next on our list? Sourdough starter…can’t wait!

 

 

Sesame & Flax Crackers!

Making bread really changed my attitude about what is possible to make at home. I had never even considered baking it at home, so it really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Making my first batch of crackers was a similar experience. When I announced to my coworker that I had made crackers – she looked at me funny and then was like “Wait, how do you even do that?”

To be honest? It is so flipping easy, I wish I had discovered it sooner. The base is quite literally flour, water, salt and baking soda. Add a few extra ingredients to make it tasty. Roll it super thin and cut into your desired shape and TA DAAAAAAA!

The scary thing is how easy it is…because once you realize that, you’ll be making them all the time and eating your weight in these thin & seedy crackers. Not a huge problem, because I guarantee these crackers are more nutritious than those sold in a box, but everything in moderation is still a guiding principle I fully support.

So do what you will with portions- but definitely make these because they’re so dang easy and so delicious topped with cheese or hummus!

Sesame & Flax Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 – 3/4 cup spelt flour (I also did a batch with white flour & whole wheat flour – they were all delicious)
  • 3 tbsp melted butter (vegan? Veg oil or melted smart balance would work!)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional – I’ve done with and without and both were great)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (adds complexity and delicious flavor!)
  • Sprinkle of paprika (feel free to experiment with different flavorings…rosemary would be delicious!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Add in: 2 tbsp  flax seeds, 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Then add honey, vanilla, paprika and water. Once mixed, stir in the spelt flour. Mix and knead with your hands, forming a ball with the dough.
  3. Sprinkle salt and baking soda evenly over top of dough and knead until you are confident they are mixed throughout the dough.
  4. Add flax & sesame seeds and knead to mix thoroughly.
  5. Divide dough into 4 small dough balls. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen cloth so the dough is kept moist while you work with each piece.
  6. Cover a work surface with a rectangle of parchment paper and cover it with flour. (If you don’t have parchment paper – you can do it right on the counter and then transfer the crackers to the baking sheet after, it is just slightly annoying to transfer each cracker!)
  7. Take one dough ball and place it on your floured parchment paper. Use a rolling pin and some muscle to get the dough as thin as possible. If you think it’s as thin as you can get it…roll for another 2 minutes! The thinner it is, the more crisp your crackers will be. The first time I did this, the crackers turned out tough because they were too thick, so take this part seriously!
  8. Once formed into a very thin, large rectangular shape (the edges will be uneven, don’t worry), use a knife to cut the crackers in 1.5 inch strips. Then cut them into squares by cutting them the other way. The edge crackers won’t be square, but they’ll still be delicious and perfect for dipping into hummus.
  9. Lift the edges of the parchment paper and carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.
  10. Put into the oven for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, take them out and check how they’re doing. You want them browned on edges and crisp. If not ready, flip them over and put them in for another 2-5 minutes, keeping your eyes on them to make sure they don’t burn. When you think they’re ready, take them out of the oven and let cool. As they cool, they crisp up so don’t worry if they don’t seem crunchy when you first take them out.
  11. Sample a cracker once it is cool enough to eat. If you like the taste, do the same steps with the other 3 pieces of dough.
  12. If you want to add extra salt, feel free to sprinkle it on top of the crackers before baking OR mix more into the dough. I also added a lavender & oregano seasoning to one batch and it turned out delicious so you can get creative if you want to make different flavors 🙂

Note: Your first batch may feel difficult because you have to roll 4 different times and keep an eye on the crackers while doing the 4 different batches. After you make the crackers a few times, you’ll get the hang of the timing. I bake two sheets at a time and prep the next batches while the first two are baking – it just takes time to get the process down. It’s important to divide into small balls, if you try to do more dough at once, it won’t get thin enough!

Storage: Store crackers in an airtight container. They should last a few weeks, but I doubt they’ll be around that long! Top with homemade hummus or other of your favorite dips and cheeses!

Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Jumpstart your healthy eating routine with this Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini!

The other day, Alex and I both became aware that our bodies were feeling a little bit sluggish and our pants were fitting a juusssssst a little bit snugger. Recognizing that we had enjoyed ourselves quite a bit the last few months, with brunches, birthday parties, happy hours, homemade cookies & crackers, etc. we made a conscious decision to clean up our act the next few weeks.

I don’t know about you, but when we decide to get serious about eating healthy – we have to make a plan that will actually work for us and not try to limit ourselves so insanely that we can’t sustain it for more than a few days. We’re not paleo people or low carb people – we simply commit to being more conscious of our eating and supporting each other so we make healthy choices together.

Here’s our go-to philosophy for clean eating regimens:

  • conscious of portions – no mindless eating!
  • eat when we’re hungry, not out of boredom
  • no alcohol during the weekdays
  • no baked goods during the weekdays
  • don’t have unhealthy snacks & chips in the house
  • pack healthy lunches & eat dinners at home during the weekdays
  • prep healthy grains, protein and veggies in advance so meals are easy to put together

A few samples of what this looks like in practice:

  • Breakfast: Overnight Oats with raw nuts, seeds & berries (no PB)
  • Lunch:
    • Salad with filling protein & delicious veggies
    • Warm Quinoa Bowls
      • with roasted chicken, chard, tomatoes, and sriracha
      • with chickpeas, roasted kabocha squash, chard, tomatoes, and tahini
      • with chicken sausage, saurkraut, and roasted beets
    • Healthy Wraps (multigrain or flax wraps with lower calories than bread)
      • with roasted chicken, avocado, hummus, cucumbers and sriracha
      • with roasted veggies, avocado, sprouts and balsamic dressing
  • Snacks:
    • Small yogurt or kombucha
    • Cucumber & carrot sticks with 1 tbsp of hummus
    • Hard boiled egg
  • Dinner:
    • Roasted chicken & veggies with green salad
    • Cumin crusted salmon with zoodles and mint yogurt
    • Tofu & Veggie Stirfry with quinoa (or small portion of brown rice)
  • Dessert???
    • Strawberries or mango for a sweet palate cleanser is my go-to when I really need a treat

Out of love for our bodies and compassion for ourselves, we try not to do strict diets where we completely cut out certain food groups or count calories – instead we come up with healthy recipes together that excite us but limit less healthy grains, sugars, and fats. It’s also fun to grocery shop with this in mind – we go crazy in the produce aisle and buy lots of veggies that will hold us through the week.

Over the next few days I will post guides & tips for a few of the meal recommendations above. To get you started though….

Warm Quinoa Bowl with Kabocha & Tahini

Ingredients

Meal Prep – quinoa and kabocha

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
  • Spices: cumin, paprika, salt & pep
  • 1/2 can chickpeas
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed
  • Coconut or olive oil for brushing

Lunch Bowl Add Ins

  • 2 chard leaves, chopped into bite sized pieces (or kale or other green veggie)
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 lemon wedge
  • 1 tsp tahini
  • sriracha

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Brush the inside of your kabocha squash with coconut or olive oil. Season with paprika, cumin, salt & pep. Optional: brush it with a little red curry paste. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet and put in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until it is golden and has some crusty bits on the edges. A fork inserted into the flesh should go in easily. Once done, set aside on the baking sheet and let it cool – it is verrrrrrry hard to handle when it’s hot!
  3. Put 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa in your rice cooker (or pot over medium-low heat on the stove) and cover with 3 cups water. Season with a few shakes of cumin and paprika and with salt & pep. Let it cook for 10 minutes, then add in canned chickpeas and give it a stir. Continue cooking until fluffy and the white ring on the quinoa becomes visible.
  4. At this point, you can store the quinoa and the kabocha in the refrigerator and use them throughout the week for lunches or meals at your convenience.
  5. When prepping your bowl, place about 3/4 cup cooked quinoa/chickpea combo in the bottom of your microwave safe tupperware bowl. Top with raw chard and tomato slices.
  6. Cut a wedge of kabocha squash and remove the skin with a knife or your fingers – careful not to lose a lot of the tasty orange squash along with the skin! Chop the squash into large cubes and place ontop of the bowl.
  7. Combine lemon juice and tahini and drizzle on your bowl, finish with a squeeze of sriracha or hot sauce.
  8. When you’re ready to eat it – microwave with a top on for 1-2 minutes. Leaving the top on will help the quinoa heat up without becoming dry, the steam from the tomato juices will help wilt & soften the chard and the tahini will flavor everything deliciously 🙂

Enjoy and feel good.

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Make this bowl everyday for the week using the quinoa and squash you prepared. OR add quinoa to any green salad to make it more filling. Kabocha can be eaten as a side OR throw it into a stir fry or curry. I love kabocha so much I’ll eat it on its own as a snack – the consistency is buttery and delicious!

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Fresh Spring Rolls

As a kid I had lots of energy and was never quite able to slow down or stop moving- those who know me will say not much has changed in the last 20 years. Dinner was particularly difficult. Our family always sat down to eat together and I was usually so excited and energy-filled that I spent more time chatting away about my day, getting so involved in stories that I would be up out of my chair demonstrating things, than actually eating. At some point this actually became somewhat of a problem because living in a family with two older brothers – if you didn’t eat quick, you didn’t eat at all!

Filled with energy, I fondly remember the meals we got to assemble at the table. Often, my mom and dad would prep different ingredients and toppings for burritos or tacos and then we would each make our own. I enjoyed these dinners, funneling my energy into putting together creative combinations of toppings. It seemed like a dream come true, getting to play with my food and assemble the meal exactly how I wanted it.

Today, DIY meals are still some of my faves. Prepping a lot of ingredients and then allowing each person to make their own wrap, taco, or roll is a great way to have an interactive dinner party. Sushi tacos are one of those meals we like to bust out for fun dinners with friends – see recipe here.

Another DIY meal that is sure to please? Fresh spring rolls! Stuffed with your protein of choice, crunch veggies, and fragrant herbs, dipped in heavenly peanut sauce – these will impress guests OR can make a quick and healthy weeknight meal.

Fresh Spring Rolls

Ingredients

  • Rice paper wrappers (available in most grocery stores with other Asian cuisine ingredients)
  • Tofu (Or protein of choice – ex: shrimp)
  • Vermicelli noodles
  • Cucumber, cut into thin spears
  • Carrot, cut into thin spears
  • Avocado
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Hoisin Sauce
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp Sambal Chili Paste
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Sriracha

Directions

  1. Put vermicelli noodles in a pot or bowl. Pour boiling water on top and let soak for 8-10 minutes, until soft but not goopy. Drain and cut with scissors a few times, so the noodles are not too long.
  2. Prepare tofu by cutting it into small rectangles and pan frying them on each side until they’re lightly browned! Set aside. (If not using tofu, prep your protein of choice as desired.)
  3. Mix up the sauce by combining peanut butter, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sugar, lime juice, chili paste, and water together. Taste and add more of whichever ingredient you like the most. It should be nutty, tangy, and a little sweet! Add sesame seeds if you want 🙂
  4. Put hot water in a shallow bowl or pan and place on the table, along with all of your prepared toppings – including herbs, veggies and sauces!
  5. When ready to eat, soak rice wrappers one at a time in the hot water, dipping it on one side and then the other – careful not to leave them soaking for a long time. Once the wrapper has started to soften but is still holding together, place it flat on a plate.
  6. Load with your toppings, but be careful not to over stuff it or the wrapper will break! Tuck in the ends and then roll like a burrito, pulling it tight so it sticks together and makes a dense wrap.
  7. Make a bunch at the beginning of the meal and chow down without interruption, or make wraps one at a time as you eat them. We love making them one at a time – creates a fun dinner activity that is interactive and lets you play with your food!

PB Flax & Oat Breakfast Cookies

As a self proclaimed chocoholic at the age of 3 (“Grampa? I’m a chocoholic” is a family favorite quote from my childhood), a boyfriend-identified peanut butter addict last week (guess I should cut back a little?), and a lover of healthy and delicious treats…These cookies are the besssssstttt!

Easy to whip up, delicious to chow down, and nutritious to boot – these little drops of protein & salty sweet heaven will be sure to please! Eat them in the morning, afternoon, or evening – no guilt necessary because you deserve this treat and your body will thank you!

PB Flax & Oat Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar packed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (vegan? try 1 mashed banana or 1tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (I supplemented half Coach’s oats that are cut different)
  • 1/4 cup flour (spelt, whole wheat, white, or GF will work. I used white this time!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract & coconut oil together with a fork (or standing mixer if you have one). Soften coconut oil in microwave if necessary.
  3. Stir in egg (or egg replacement).
  4. Add oats, flour,  and baking soda. Mix well!
  5. Sprinkle in flax and chia seeds. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Take a golf ball sized amount of dough into your hand, squeezing it together so they are dense and round – place on greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, keeping an eye they don’t get too brown. They should be soft when you take them out – they harden up as they cool. Optional: While still warm, push down softly with a fork to spread them out a bit, being careful not to smoosh them so much they fall apart!
  8. Enjoy!!!! 🙂