Nectarine and Burrata Salad (Or Friday I’m in Love)

Yesterday I decided to walk to the grocery store and stock up my (new) refrigerator since I actually live in my own apartment again.

I might have looked like a high end homeless person sporting a Prada bag while pushing my laundry cart full of wine, roses, and nectarines down Hollywood Blvd, but whatever. I was multitasking by getting exercise and groceries at the same time.

Today I made a nectarine and burrata salad with mint, arugula, and pickled onions from yesterday’s haul.

See?

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You should come over for lunch.

I don’t think the onions had time to pickle properly otherwise the recipe was pretty flawless. Next time I make it I will soak them in vinegar and sugar ahead of time and toss them with the peaches at the last minute.

If you want to make it, you can find it on epicurious here.

Happy Weekend!

 

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Mint Chocolate for My Mouth (Or Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls)

Remember how I was all into the Cookie Dough Protein Balls from PaleOMG a few weeks ago? (If not, you can find the Balls for Breakfast post here.)

Well, I am still into them. WAY into them. Only, I was eating a handful one day and thought, “What if I put MINT in here?”

If you’re thinking, “Mint with almonds? Have you taken leave of your senses, woman?” I understand.

But go with me for a moment here because it’ll be worth it.

I promise.

Spence the Spinosauraus Can't STOP with these things.

Even Trudy the Triceratops can’t STOP with these things.

If you think Trudy and I are on to something with the mint in our mouths, here’s the recipe.

Mint Chocolate Cookie Dough Protein Balls

1/2 C Trader Joe’s Vanilla Hemp Protein*
2 T Coconut Flour
1 T Coconut Sugar
pinch of salt
1 T Almond Butter
2 T Almond Milk
1 1/2 T Coconut Oil, melted
1/2 tsp Pure Mint Extract
2 T Miniature Chocolate Chips, Semi-Sweet

Mix the first four ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix the almond butter, almond milk, coconut oil, and mint extract together in another bowl and stir to create uniform consistency. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix to blend. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll into balls and allow them to firm up in the refrigerator.

Try not to eat them before they set up….

Oh, and the other thing I’m into right now?

Is this song by Thomas Jack.

Please don’t get all uppity about the Chaplin film that contains this speech and give me a lecture on sensitivity. I just like the words in the context of the song.

*Trader Joe’s also makes a chocolate hemp protein. That would probably be good as well. 

Healthy Strawberry Banana Mousse (Or Fluffy Goodness for Your Mouth)

Wanna know something?

Ice cream is hands down my favorite dessert on the planet.

Hands down.

But if I’m being really honest with you, it hasn’t always been an easy relationship. I had an eating disorder in college that left me with some really bad feelings about my favorite dessert. We made up last year, which was kind of spectacular and uh-mazing, but that’s a better story for my other blog ‘cuz it’s kinda long.

Anyway…

Even though ice cream and I are playing nicely now, I don’t indulge every day. I prefer to save it for a special occasion.

If I want something with a creamy texture that isn’t off the charts sweet for a regular day I make this.

So fluffy.

Get in my mouth, fluffy goodness!

“What is that?” You ask.

It’s a strawberry banana mousse, and it’s super light and satisfying. It gives me a taste of something sweet and also satisfies my desire for a smooth, soothing texture without being bonkers on fat and sugar.

Here’s the recipe in case you wanna make your own.

Strawberry Banana Mousse

1/2 C Frozen Strawberries, Sliced
1/2 C Frozen Bananas, Sliced
1 C Whole Milk
2 T Coconut Sugar*

Place the bananas and the milk in the food processor, and combine until blended completely. (You have to use a food processor to achieve the fluffy consistency; a blender will make a smoothie instead.) Add the strawberries and the coconut sugar, and whip until fully combined.

It makes about 1 1/2 – 2 C.

You have to serve it immediately otherwise the airiness will diminish if you put it in the refrigerator or let it sit out too long.

*If you have sweet, organic frozen strawberries, you can get away with 1 T of coconut sugar. If you’re using the cheaper frozen kind you’ll probably need the full 2 T of coconut sugar.

OK, that’s all.

I’m off to write my football script for a while.

XOXO

So Good I Eat ‘Em With a Spoon (Or Low Carb Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes)

This morning I’m munching on my delicious cookie dough breakfast balls, sipping my whole milk latte, and listening to Tritonal’s “Seraphic” absolutely on repeat. If you don’t know it, you should.

The song is helping me write my script. It’s also perfect for dancing alone in my living room because nothing unlocks me — or the emotions I’m usually not in touch with — like music.

ANYWAY, enough about Tritonal, my emotional retardation, and my addiction to cookie dough breakfast balls. It’s time to talk about cauliflower mash.

Cauliflower mash is SO FREAKING GOOD I can eat it by itself. Cold. With a spoon.

I made it to go with my maple chili pork chops, but I made extra and I’ve been eating it all week — with almost everything. Or by itself. Cold. With a spoon. (Are you picking up on my obsession yet?)

Wanna see the mash in all its glory?

Fluffy. Creamy. Beyond.

Fluffy. Creamy. Beyond.

I ate the maple chili pork chop two nights in a row. Why not? (There were two in the package, and I live alone, so…)

The second night I added a little of the maple glaze to the mashed potatoes and they went from amazing to EXTRA amazing. Another time I added a little sour cream to them at lunch to make them a full meal.

Whatever turns you on, right?

Here’s the recipe.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

1 head of steamed cauliflower
3 small red skinned potatoes, steamed, skin-on
1 T cream cheese
Approximately 1/3 C of chicken broth, or to desired consistency
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste.

Steam the cauliflower and potatoes in separate pots, and then combine into one. (They have separate cooking times.)

Add cream cheese while the vegetables are still warm. Add chicken broth and blend everything together. I used an immersion blender to puree because I’m in love with mine. I’m sure a mixer would work too.

*If you want to make them more Paleo-friendly you could skip the creamed cheese and the three red skinned potatoes, but it’s up to you. 

Blend. Devour.

That is all.

Cookie Dough Protein Balls from PaleOMG (Or OMG, Balls for Breakfast!)

Guys, guess what? It’s Ash Wednesday! (Or the day everyone in LA tells me I have stuff on my face.)

See?

Excuse my hair situation. I woke up at 5:30 to get stuff on my face.

Stuff on my face.

It might seem strange that I get excited to let something go for Lent, but I love this time of year. I really do. There’s something about celebrating a season of new beginnings on Easter after 40 days of sacrifice and contemplation that just feels super cleansing. But maybe that’s just me. (More on that here.)

If you’re wondering why I’m wearing a purple Tinkerbell apron it’s because it matches my sweater (true story), and also because the photo was taken moments before I got into some Paleo-approved magic in my kitchen.

My friend Mike sent me this recipe for PaleOMG’s Protein Cookie Dough Balls*, and given that cookie dough is kinda like my kryptonite I figured they were worth a shot.

I’ll spare you the suspense… they were.

They can't stop.

Even my dinos were way into them.

I think these just might be my new breakfast obsession. I’m running the numbers, and I think they win the affordability battle over Luna Bars.

Besides, they’re balls. out. delicious.

*Full disclosure:

I didn’t use the protein powder in the recipe (which is why they’re dark). I opted for Trader Joe’s vanilla flavored hemp protein because everything’s cheaper at Trader Joe’s, and I refuse to go traipsing all over LA to find a protein powder that probably costs 9X as much somewhere else. Hemp is gluten free, so I’m not sure why the protein powder isn’t labeled as such, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

I also used Kroger mini-chocolate chips because I already had them in the house. (Most semi-sweet chocolate is gluten free anyway.)

Finally, I used 1 1/2 T of coconut oil instead of 2T of coconut butter because I had the former and could not rationalize investing in the latter for just one recipe. 

All of THAT boils down to THIS: my frugality didn’t wreck the recipe. They’re delicious.

This One’s For You, Justin (Or How to Make a Kale, Banana, and Nut Smoothie)

I’ll never forget the day as long as I live: It was Monday, November 12, around 5 pm. I was listening to the haunting, 80s-esque, synth sounds of Class Actress, and I was elbow deep in my aquarium, scrubbing algae off of the sides. I heard my mother’s ringtone, but I let it go to voicemail. My hands were wet and it wasn’t a good time to talk.

Also?

I had a to-do list a mile long.

I was starting a producing job for the Academy Awards the next morning, and I was trying to get my personal life in order before taking on the project.

My mother called again moments later, and I figured it was probably important.

In retrospect, I wish I had been kinder when I answered. My hands were still dripping with water, so I swiped my iPhone with my elbow and put her on speaker. “What?” I said, sort of annoyed.

“I have sad news.” Her voice was faltering, and I could tell she was trying to hold it together. I wiped my hands on my legs and picked up the phone so I could hear her better. “It’s Justin,” she said. Then she lost it. Like, gasping for air — sobbing — lost it. If you know my mum, you know she doesn’t break easily, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Yet somehow it almost didn’t register when she told me my cousin had hanged himself that morning.

He was 25.

Justin was a vegan, a home brewer an organic gardener, and an avid cyclist. He was also an absolutely brilliant mathematician who had always struggled with the strict structure of school.

Earlier that morning I had received an e-mail from my his mother, my Aunt Myrna, asking me to pray for him. He had sent her an e-mail on Saturday saying that he wasn’t doing well in some of his college classes, and she was concerned about him. By the time I opened the e-mail and said a prayer for him, he was probably already gone.

After I hung up with my mother, I called my aunt. The police and a priest were still at her house. She asked me if I had gotten her e-mail. “I did. I said a prayer for him,” I told her, my own voice breaking. I barely managed to get out the words, “I love you,” before bursting into tears.

The rest of the evening was a blur. I cooked dinner. I continued to cross things off my to-do list. I called friends. It all felt hollow and unreal. I barely remember setting my clothes out for work. I think I may have pulled out old photo albums, but I really don’t remember.

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Even though Justin and I were separated by nine years and more than 1,200 miles, we spent a lot of time together as kids.

The next morning as I drove to work, my mother was simultaneously en route to my grandmother’s house to tell her that her only grandson was dead.

THAT I remember.

My aunt and mother had decided my grandmother needed to hear the news in person, so that fell to the only person still living in Michigan: my mother. Understandably, she was terrified to deliver the news.

“I’m praying for you. You can do this. I love you.” I texted, as I walked through the polished lobby of the ABC building, head held high. On the outside, I was perfectly put together. It was as if my bright smile and my professional ensemble hid my broken heart. I told no one at work what was going on. I put my head down and crossed tasks off of my to-do list.

Later that afternoon when I was trying to access a work document on Google Drive, I clicked on Google + instead. I never go on Google + and almost forgot I had an account until I accidentally clicked on it.

Staring right there at me from my news feed was this photo of Justin.

photo

The caption read, “Keep it real. Keep it vegan. Keep drinkin’ beer.”

It had been uploaded Sunday night. It was the last thing he posted before he died, and I’m grateful I accidentally stumbled upon what may be the closest thing my family has to a goodbye note. Justin loved kale and grew it in his garden, so it’s somehow fitting he’s holding it in this photo. His roommates later told my aunt and uncle he had made himself a late-night meal on Sunday when they were heading to bed. Some time between taking this photo and the next morning, he took his own life.

I haven’t had much closure since losing my cousin. Work got in the way. (Or rather, I let work get in the way.) I didn’t attend his memorial because I was working on the Oscars.

On January 10, on what would have been his 26th birthday, I was locked in a room at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 13 hours without access to my cell phone because it was the day the Oscar nominations were announced. Still I told no one about my loss; I put my head down and did my job. I was torn between feelings of relief for the distraction on his birthday and feelings of intense resentment that I couldn’t let my guard down and miss him even for a moment.

The week of the Oscars, My boss put me in charge of the massive “In Memoriam” gallery commemorating all of the filmmakers and stars who had died that year. It took all of my strength to hold it together as I put endless hours into a gallery paying tribute to strangers when I had hardly taken a moment to honor my own cousin. Still, I told no one at the office.

About a month later, I had a conversation with a close friend who was going to the beach to light a candle on the anniversary of her mother’s death. She has done it every year since losing her mother to cancer, and it struck me that I had done nothing personal to pay tribute to my cousin. Sure, I had contributed to Wheels 4 Life, the charity my aunt and uncle selected, but it didn’t feel like enough. I admitted to my friend that I felt guilty I hadn’t found my own way to honor my cousin.

Last night I had to absolutely drag myself to the grand opening of a new CorePower Yoga location. They were offering a free yoga class, but somehow that didn’t feel like motivation enough for me to drive a mere three miles to the studio. Yet something deep down was telling me to go, something stronger than a desire to take a free class. Something deep inside me kept telling me, “GO,” so I did. The class was great, and I even won a Manduka towel in the raffle.

But the best thing that happened was sort of unexpected… and it didn’t hit me right away.

During the reception after class, I tried a kale and cashew smoothie provided by a local vegan restaurant. I was surprised to discover that it was delicious. See, I’m crazy carnivorous and typically I steer clear of vegan fare, but this thing was actually awesome.

I’m on a bit of a Paleo/health kick right now, so I decided to make my own version of the smoothie today. It wasn’t until I looked over at this note from my aunt and uncle while my Cuisinart was macerating the kale that I realized I was making a smoothie my cousin and I could have shared.

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Food is at the center of our lives. Not only is it essential to our survival, but it can also be an expression of our emotions. We mourn with food. We celebrate with food. And today as I sipped my smoothie I somehow felt like I was closer to my cousin — like I was honoring him in a way.

As I enjoyed a vegan kale smoothie, I realized I had finally found my personal tribute to my cousin.

I haven’t seen his mother (or my own mother) since he passed away. They’re both coming to California next month for their sister’s birthday, and it will be the first time we’ve all been together since we lost Justin.

I decided today that I’m going to make these smoothies when they’re here, so we can all toast him together. We can raise a glass of kale to honor a cousin, a son, and a nephew — a beautiful soul who left us all too soon.

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Justin Russell Drawbert, this kale’s for you. Bottoms up.

If you want to make this simple, healthy snack for yourself, the recipe is below. Even though they’re vegan they’re actually Paleo diet-friendly since the ingredients are mostly alkaline and fairly low on the glycemic index. (More on the whole Paleo thing another time. I promise.)

Justin’s Kale Smoothie

1/3 C coconut water
1/8 C unsalted nuts (I used pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and almonds)
1 ripe banana
1 T agave nectar
2 C fresh kale

Add the coconut water, banana, and agave nectar to the blender and mix to combine. Add the nuts and blend until smooth. Add the kale and blend until you achieve a uniform consistency.

Enjoy!

I’m Baking Tofu and Falling in Love (Or How to Make Baked Tofu Stir Fry with Broccoli and Quinoa)

I made something healthy. Can you believe it?

So, remember how I said I was working on falling in love with the new Yeasayer album? Well, it happened. I’m in love. Now, I’m not saying it’s perfect or anything, but there are three tracks I can’t live without so far. The others may never move me in the same way, or their meaning will hit me at another time. For now I’m all about Longevity, Fingers Never Bleed, and Glass of the Microscope.

And the working on falling in love part? Let me explain. But first, allow me to digress for a moment. Last March I heard Scott Snibbe speak at SXSW. He collaborated with Bjork on her last album, and he was absolutely my favorite speaker at the conference. I have pages of notes from his talk, but there’s one thing I didn’t need to write down because it blew me away with its profundity. It was this:

“We’ve lost the falling in love phase with music and we’ve gone to the hooking up phase.”

Think about that for a moment, ‘cuz it’s totally true. We’re not taking the time to fall in love with music. We’re quickly buying the track we liked on XM, discovered on Pandora, etc. We’re not sitting with the liner notes. We’re not looking at the album art. We’re having this impoverished experience in a way. Because I absolutely can’t shut my head off ever and this blog is mainly meant for making shapes with frosting, I am spinning off and starting another blog here. With that blog I will delve deeper into the intellectual and emotional quagmires that absolutely keep me up at night. Every night.

So anyway…

I’m taking the time to fall in love with the album, but it’s because I dug the band in the first place. See, I don’t think you can make yourself love music or a person if there isn’t some sort of spark there initially. But the falling in love? That probably takes some time. In my 34 years on this earth I HAVE NEVER grown to love someone I didn’t feel a bit drawn towards in the first place. Not really. You just can’t force these things.

It’s probably the same with our polarizing friend, tofu. I happen to have felt a spark for the extra firm variety the first time I tasted it, so I was willing to take the time to play around with it. If you don’t dig tofu, this recipe probably isn’t for you. And don’t worry: I’m not trying to turn you into a tofu convert. I’ll still be your internet friend if you don’t like it. I promise.

Baked Tofu Stir Fry with Broccoli and Quinoa

3T vegetable oil
3T rice vinegar
3T soy sauce
1 tsp red chili pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cornstarch

14 oz extra firm tofu
1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1 C quinoa

Preheat the oven to 425. Mix together the first five ingredients. Drain the tofu and apply light pressure with your hands to remove excess water.

Slice the tofu in 1 cm (roughly 3/8 inch) slices. Cut each slice into thirds. Submerge the tofu slices in the marinade and then place them on a baking sheet.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and slightly brown on both sides. You will need to flip the tofu over after roughly 10 minutes, so keep on eye on it.

Prepare the quinoa according to the instructions on the box. While the tofu is baking and the quinoa is cooking, bring water to boil in a separate pot. Add the broccoli florets and cook until al dente.
Add the cornstarch to the remaining marinade. Heat the marinade mixture in a skillet over low heat.

Serve the tofu and broccoli over quinoa, adding sauce to taste. If you prefer a less salty sauce, try using low sodium soy or cutting the sauce with a few tablespoons of water.