Category Archives: cooking

A Lotus Grows in the Mud by Goldie Hawn

I can’t remember where exactly, but Goldie Hawn’s book, A Lotus Grows in the Mud was recommended to me while I was reading some respectable piece of literature, and so I ordered it and set it aside for a month or so. I finally got the chance to read it over spring break, and it was surprisingly delightful–thanks in no small part, I’m sure, to “co-author” Wendy Holden.

Lotus Grows In The Mud

image from powells.com

Hawn has led a fascinating life, and her book really tries to get at some of the wisdom she’s gained in this life. And, you know what? Some of that wisdom was pretty darn inspiring and insightful.

Here’s what impressed me–Hawn follows her purpose, even when it is not obvious, even when she has doubt, even when others criticize her and roadblocks threaten her faith.

When I think about my purpose in life, I often have doubt and uncertainty. However, the predominant narrative one hears about one’s path is that it is easy and clear. But, that hasn’t been the case for me. I was an English major because I liked reading, but that seemed incidental. Now, I’ve made an entire career out this. I love practicing yoga because it is good for me, but a lot of times I phone it in, or have to talk myself into going, and sometimes I don’t go at all. I’m never the most flexible, most enlightened, or coolest person in the class. Still, I trained to teach yoga, and I’ve been teaching it since 2008. Most days when I enter into that classroom to teach, it feels really, really *right*. Same goes for the garden, for writing, for my friendships, for My Love.

So, I loved the message of her book. She was brave. She did hard things. It made me feel like I could be brave. I could do hard things–all while making a living and having Kurt Russell unexpectedly waltz in and save me in the final hour and then stay for the remainder of my decades. Yeah, I’ll have what she’s having.

In perfect timing, just as I finish this book, I see that Hawn is teaming up with Amy Schumer in a new film called Snatched. It looks lovely and hilarious, and I can’t wait to see it. I love seeing mother/daughter duos (that’s in the book too).

pumpkin, flax & walnut muffins

For the past few months, I’ve been throwing away and donating clothes and household items that I no longer use. I’m beginning a new era of my life, and so suddenly a lot of things feel like garbage. While this is a normal process to go through every year or two, there was a certain frantic emotional energy to my process—like a “Hey, shit that I don’t want, get the fuck out of my life” kind of energy. And I’m not done yet either.

In this process, I also reorganized this kitchen cupboards. Which is where I found an enormous can of pumpkin puree. Bygone plans for making a pumpkin pie a few years back, I guess. The can was nearly expired (sounds delicious, doesn’t it?!), and so I decided to make pumpkin muffins, which I’d never done before. And, I’m not going to lie. I don’t love pumpkin. Or squash or sweet potatoes, but I took one look at that can of pumpkin puree, and my body said yes. Maybe it was just saying yes to the Vitamin A. Warning: these muffins turn out sort of…sticky. I used a lot of pumpkin puree (for the Vitamin A). Maybe you want to use less. Maybe you don’t want to make these at all.

I have to make my own recipes because, in a breakfast muffin, I pretty much just want palatable high fat, high fiber, and high protein, with enough gluten (or equivalent) to hold it all together. Other recipes use way too much of sugar and only dollop of the good stuff (walnuts, flax seeds, pumpkin, etc.), and so I have to make my own goddamn recipes my own goddamn self.

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pile of decent pumpkin muffins

Here’s what I did:

Pumpkin, Flax & Walnut Muffins
Preheat oven at 350. Mix together dryish ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately. Then, combine the two. Lastly, fold in walnuts ingredients. Spoon dough into muffin tin. Bake at 350 for about 25+ minutes or until done. (Insert and remove toothpick. Muffins are done when the toothpick comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 min. This recipe made about 16 large muffins, weighing in at something like 212 calories apiece.

Dry ingredients:
1½  cup gluten-free flour blend
1½  cup oats
1 cup shredded flax
¼ cup flax seeds
1 teaspoon of baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
Lightly sprinkle in ground ginger and ground cloves, cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg to taste.

Wet ingredients:
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 large egg
½ cup sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil or butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chunky ingredients:
1½ cups walnuts

Enjoy!

Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

I recently became re-inspired to ferment something. This happened once, a few years ago, when I tried and failed to make a crock of sauerkraut. I love homemade sauerkraut (my Mom can make it effortlessly). It’s supposed to be the easiest thing to ferment in the history of fermentation (maybe with the exception of fruit ciders). This time around, as I was reading about sauerkraut, I realized what I did wrong the first time: I kept the crock too cold. Last time, I put it directly into the basement to forget about for a few months. My basement isn’t freezing cold, but I guess it stays pretty cool–too cool for adequate fermentation. Months later, it was just a salty muck, and I threw it out.

This time around, as I was studying fermentation, I read accounts of Germans keeping crocks of sauerkraut by the stove. People said they kept crocks in their kitchens, etc., where it was warmer, and then placed them in a cooler location once the sauerkraut reached it’s idea flavor. So, I tried again.

This time, I kept the container (I’m using a glass jar) in the kitchen, and within a day, it was a frothy and bubbly. Recipes said it could be ready in as few as three days, and it’s true! Within three days, I had sauerkraut. I fully intend to keep it in the kitchen until the flavor it just right. When it’s good, I’ll refrigerate it for easy access.

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second attempt at sauerkraut

While researching fermentation, one book kept reappearing and that was Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. So, I got a (very well used loved) copy from the library and read it in one day. The author’s enthusiasm for fermentation is contagious. I like fermentation as much as the next guy, but this book pumped me up even more. The first few chapters provide some good history and context for fermentation. There’s also some nice philosophical musing throughout regarding the divine and omnipresent nature of microscopic organisms like yeast.

The recipes in the book are artfully crafted. I intended to skim through the recipe section (which is the body of the book), but I ended up reading most of the recipes anyway. The book sold me on the value of regularly consuming fermented food and the value of fermenting that food myself. (I didn’t really have to be persuaded.) Here are a few foods with recipes from the book that seem good and completely doable: sauerkraut, honey wine, yogurt, cheese, kefir, buttermilk (and it’s pancakes), sourdough bread, rye bread, cider, apple cider vinegar, horseradish sauce, and yes, even kombucha.

I’m from Oregon, and I know it’s a cliché that everyone in the Pacific Northwest is always fermenting everything, but it’s true! I grew up with a mother who pickled and fermented foods regularly. It’s the way of my people.

blueberry, zucchini, chia seed, & walnut muffins

My refrigerator is full of zucchini—zucchini that I fully intend to cook, but don’t necessarily think I can eat, so I decided to reimagine my not-too-sweet breakfast muffin. Once school starts, I’ll want something I can easily take with me, something that is not too sweet. My solution is these muffins that are dense in seeds and nuts, which I’ll freeze and use as needed. Since they’re not very sweet, I’m fairly certain these are not a “crowd pleaser,” but they work for me.

beware the berries do explode

beware the berries do explode

Here’s what I did:

Blueberry, Zucchini, Chia Seed, & Walnut Muffins
Preheat oven at 350. Mix together dryish ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately. Then, combine the two. Lastly, fold in chunky ingredients. Spoon dough into muffin tin. I used muffin liners, but I think those are optional. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until done. (Insert and remove toothpick. Muffins are done when the toothpick comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 min.

Dry ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
¾ cup oats
shredded flax (2 heaping tablespoons)
chia seeds (3 heaping tablespoons)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of light brown sugar
lightly sprinkle ground ginger and ground cloves

Wet ingredients:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup vegetable oil
1+ egg
2 cups shredded zucchini (I just blended it this time)

Chunky ingredients:
walnuts 1+ cups
blueberries 1+ cups

Enjoy!

plum, flax, & walnut muffins

Evidently everyone else doesn’t have a plum thicket in their backyard and are in need of easy, tasty recipes for said plums because I cannot find enough plum recipes online. I, however, do have a plum thicket. Last year, I used most of them to make plum jam. I also made cobbler, plum/zucchini bread, and biscotti to name a few. I still have some in the freezer from last year.

Plums were not as abundant this year. Only two trees had plums, and they were only over the roof of the garage. I think they bloomed early, and some of the blooms were killed by frost, save for those that were above the warm roof of the garage. So, Z’s brother came over to help me pick them, and by that I mean that he climbed onto the roof and then pulled me up there too, where I promptly scraped up my knee, grabbed a few of the closest plums, and then shimmied back down. Fortunately, Z’s brother stayed up there and picked several bags of plums. They were not quite ripe, but I figured I should get them while I had the help.

plum, flax, and walnut muffins fresh out of the oven

plum, flax, and walnut muffins fresh out of the oven

I put the under ripe plums in a cardboard box in the basement and now, about five days later, they’re ripening really nicely. In fact, I ate one today while doing laundry down there.

Below is a recipe on my own, using what I had here at the house. I’d add bran or even more flax seeds in the future because I was looking for a really gritty breakfast muffin that’s not too sweet.

Plum, Flax, & Walnut Muffins
Preheat oven at 350. Mix together dryish ingredients. Mix wet ingredients separately. Then, combine the two. Lastly, fold in chunky ingredients. Spoon dough into muffin tin. I used muffin liners, but I think those are optional. Bake at 350 for 20 about minutes or until done. (Insert and remove toothpick. Muffins are done when the toothpick comes out clean.) Let cool for 15 min.

Dry ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
¾ cup oats
shredded flax (2 heaping tablespoons)
flax seeds (2 heaping tablespoons)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon of fine sea salt
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ cup of light brown sugar
lightly sprinkle ground ginger and ground cloves

Wet ingredients:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup almond milk
1+ egg

Chunky ingredients:
walnuts
plums

Enjoy!

adventures in pesto

I did not grow up eating pesto. I grew up eating meat and potatoes, and I turned out fine! (Er?) Anyway, since childhood, I have grown to appreciate pesto. As you know, this year my patio garden is doing better than any of my previous attempts at a patio garden and that includes the herbs.

In the past, I’ve grown herbs just because the marketing is so cute. Who wouldn’t want a tiny little lemon balm plant growing in the kitchen window? Well, evidently, me. Turns out, I don’t use a lot of lemon balm…or mint.

basil bolt bouquet

basil bolt bouquet

This year, I bought rosemary and basil, both are plants I knew I would use in my cooking. And I bought sage and lavender because, even if I didn’t use them as much in my cooking, I still love walking by and covering my hands in their scent.

Part of my success in patio gardening this year has been in growing things I’ll actually use. This year, that included basil. My basil plant has been so spectacular this year. I’ve been using it mostly in fresh salads, but also in some cooked dishes. Because of my surplus, and because it sounded good, I even whipped up my first ever batch of pesto. It was fairly easy and tasty. I followed a basic recipe and used walnuts instead of pine nuts because that’s what I had.

bee on basil (in need of a trim)

bee on basil (in need of a trim)

The outcome was very good, but that’s because it’s hard to go wrong with fresh basil, cheese, and nuts. Next time I make pesto, I’m going to up my basil to nut ratio. It was a little on the dry side, and I think cutting back on the walnuts and adding more fresh basil will do the trick.