Monday, January 27, 2014

Let's Have Dessert

For starters, I've missed you.

This past year was a big one.  Bigger than I can even wrap my mind, or my arms, fully around.  A quick review: I left DC, helped get my sister married off, moved to a farm in the middle-of-nowhere Northern CA for almost 7 months, road-tripped to Portland, Oregon, road-tripped back home to AZ, and here I am.  Phew.

I thought I was going to move to a coastal place, maybe San Francisco, when I left my beloved DC.  Instead, I have curiously found myself back in the Phoenix area, with skies like this one on the regular:


It's a funny thing, being home...like slipping into your favorite worn-in sweater and wanting to wear it forever.

One of the things I've had some time to do again is cook.  Not much, but a little, and it's a nice start.  For example, we had a game night with stir-fry, wine, Cards Against Humanity, and these Honey-Ricotta Turnovers for dessert.  I could've had four of them, but I consoled myself with two and a bite out of my neighbor's.



The recipe's not too hard, a little messy, but perfectly decadent with crunchy phyllo dough on the outside and creamy-sweet ricotta (with blackberries!) on the inside.

After these turnovers, I'm fully ready to embrace this new year with all of it's dreamy possibilities and unexpected surprises.  Let's do this, 2014!


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Going Local (with Strawberries!)

For fellow book nerds out there, you know what I'm talking about when you just fall into the pages of a great book.  It's a full dive in, head first, and there isn't too much that can tear you away from it's grasp (not laundry, not the need for sleep, not your new Netflix rental, not even freshly baked cookies). 

I had a moment this week when I actually had to set my alarm to pull myself away from my current read:  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by the fantastic Barbara Kingsolver.  My love of Kingsolver's novels goes back eight years to The Poisonwood Bible (which I chose to read right before living in Ghana for half a summer) and has been followed up with some of her other novels:  The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, and now: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  This book, unlike my other Kingsolver novel-obsessions, is non-fiction.  It's about how Kingsolver, her husband, and their two daughters left Tucson for Appalachia, and turned their typical world of weekly grocery lists inward to their own struggles and joys of growing and raising food to feed their stomachs, as well as their relationships to each other and the world around them.


I'm not even halfway through and I feel like I've made some important and life-changing revelations.  Things that I knew to be true, but now actually feel true somewhere deep in my gut.  It was this feeling of epiphany on the importance of eating seasonally and locally that has cloaked my work here over the past week and a half: while tearing the garden lettuces for dinner and feeling their cool, crunchy leaves; slicing the onions into slivers of green and purple and white; cracking eggs that are brown, speckled, and even a light blue-gray into a mixing bowl (with only one hand, no less!), filling ice-cold glass bottles with milk from our cow, Chloe, and all the other countless kitchen preparations that deal with the gorgeous foods that are produced by our little farm.  I'm well-fed here because I am eating well, and I'm eating (for the most part) locally, seasonally, and amongst people who get it.

Speaking of getting it, I got into the strawberry patch yesterday and picked several cups of ripe, ruby berries and thanked my lucky stars.  As a kid I adored strawberries.  I would dream of sitting (quite literally) in a wooden barrel of strawberries, to munch away at my leisure.  My love for them had waned in the past few decades, (probably due to truck-ripened gargantuan strawberries, rather than sun-ripened little guys), but good news! I have re-discovered my love for these tiny jewels, and, thank goodness, it's a true love indeed.


 I love a strawberry patch.  Finding a perfect strawberry is practically a treasure hunt: lifting the big, shady leaves to find which ones are hiding the loot.  It's an adventurous way to go berry-picking, and (bonus) there's no thorns! This is what's a called a win-win situation, friends.


For my fellow farm-workers, I made this Strawberry Coffee Cake recipe (via Joy The Baker), and with a few changes (more butter and berries, of course), it's a keeper.  Please trust me on this.  The entire pan of coffee cake was gone within 20 minutes of the first slice.  Hooray!  My first coffee cake, with strawberries from the garden outside the kitchen window no less.  Perfection, I have found you.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Pesto Change-o

It's time to breathe deeply.

I still pinch myself every day with the decision I made to leave DC for a farm in Northern California.  And every single day, I am thankful that I did.

Broccoli.  It's actually little flowers! (Florets?)

It's not to say that I don't miss my life, mostly the people, from my good ol' hood in DC.  I do, terribly.  But being here just feels right.  It feels good to see mountains bordering the horizon and not buildings.  It feels good to see the stars at night and the occasional sunrise.  It feels good to hear wild turkeys calls and cow moos rather than sirens and cars honking.  Nothing is inherently wrong with city life, and relatively soon I'll probably be returning to some version of it, but for now, this break in nature is a settling one.

Redwoods

Farm days are by no means lazy, though it may seem like a dreamy idyll.  Standing up (rather than sitting down) all day, working with my hands, getting dirty, lifting things, working till 8/9 at night after starting early---these things are tiring, but at least balanced with mornings and sometimes the middles of the day spent reading, writing, doing yoga, meditating, or just splashing around in a river.  There's a balance that I'm slowly settling into, a little bit each day, and it is a damn good thing.

Collecting kale, chard, chives, parsley, and broccoli leaves for garden pesto

Another good thing:  all the food tips I'm learning!  For example, last week I made fresh egg pasta as well as a batch of oatmeal cookies with just-cracked walnuts from a tree by the kitchen.  Naturally, the only solution to all of these new things that were in front of me was to make a big ol' pasta dish with Walnut Pesto as a fancy Friday dinner treat.  HELLO, WORLD.

Fresh Garden Pesto with basil, kale, and parsley from the garden and walnuts from the tree?  I think I just went to heaven, but I know I'm somewhere in California.   Friends! Come visit me here!  Food is local and magical!

Garden pesto with homemade orecchiette pasta

Pesto in general is killer easy to make as long as you have a food processor or blender, and delicious enough to keep around to put on anything from veggies to meat to pasta, (plus it's so lovely and green to look at).  Your pesto-filled summer ahead is already thanking you, as are your friends. 

Also? The Legendary Boonville Beer Festival was this past weekend, put on by Anderson Valley Brewing Company, which was oh-so-fun and I saw an impressive amount of 80's clothes and neon tutus.  Did you know they speak a dialect in that area of Mendocino county called 'Boontling'??


It's true.  Wineries and breweries and boontling, oh my.  As the good people of Boonville like to say: Bahl hornin!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Beginners

Hello fellow Vagabonds!  You might have noticed things had grown quiet here for the past few months, but quite a few things have happened.

The gist of it all is that this AZ-turned DC-gal is now headed to cook (until October) at a farm in northern California!  It's time to vagabond my way back to the west coast, be outside again, learn some farm things, some cooking things, discover what farm-to-table and sustainability really mean and be somewhat closer to my family. 

Vineyards en route to Mendocino

For those who of you who want more information on where I'll be, (or want to come visit!) check out the 100+ year old organic farm and guest ranch known as Emandal in Mendocino county.  I can't wait to work with my hands again, meet new people, and hike on the regular.  And the food! Swoon.

Welcome to Emandal

This of course is accompanied with an extreme sadness to be leaving the dear ones I've met here in DC... it would take pages upon pages to list these friends and the multitude of ways in how they're the most amazing people ever, so I'll save you the reading.  But it is with a  heavy heart that I am journeying back out west, and I am ever so grateful to my colleagues, my friends, and my family in the District for the last four and a half years of love and laughter-filled memories. 

And to you, the readers... I can't wait to share these new adventures (and recipes!) with you.

I'll leave you with a quote that I just found today on an incredible blog called Honey & Jam.  Please check out her lovely photography and foods here
 
"Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.
No feeling is final."

--Rainer Maria Rilke

XOXO to all.  To never having stopped adventuring, and to always being open to the new, the wild, and even the uncertain.  Follow your passions, wherever they may lead.  Cheers!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

For The Love of Cheese


I’ve decided that 2013 will be a year of learning. Taking as many classes as I can, reading as much as possible, doing as much as possible, 2013 is a year that will be dedicated to taking advantage of the life that I have.  (And learning French.  If I write it down, it will happen!)
So far, I’m on a pretty good roll. Despite a somewhat dubious beginning to this year (ahem, being knocked out by a horrific sinus infection for nearly two weeks!) things are starting to pick up a bit. I’ve taken a tango class, had a fantastic day of Inaugurating President Obama, and I’m also getting into the ancient and delicious art of cheesemaking.

Oh yes, Vagabonds. Oh, yes. We are taking The Vagabond Table to new and adventurous and dizzying heights this year! Are you excited yet??

I think I’ve talked about my love of cheese before. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love cheese. How much I love mac and cheese, cheese and crackers, cheese on toast, cheese and apples, cheese in pie crusts…basically if I can put cheese into something, I will. And now, with this fantastic cheesemaking kit that my equally fantastic sister gave me for Christmas…I can make mozzarella. Fresh, delicious, mozzarella whenever I feel like it, and it is so easy. 



I wish I had a recipe to give you, but instead I have a kit that I can’t recommend enough, which I hope will suffice for now. 

 
(If you’d like to make cheese (or butter!) Visit the Roaring Brook Dairy website and delve into this with me.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.)

Armed with a pound of mozzarella, I gave half  to my friend Caitlin and we promptly made a pizza and ate the whole thing.  I later made a delicious tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad with some surprisingly ripe tomatoes from the grocer. 
 
Two days after that, I stuffed all of those same ingredients in a crusty loaf of bread and had a great sandwich.  There are just so many things to do with fresh mozzarella! I can’t even comprehend all of my options right now, but trust that they are delicious.
 
Here's to 2013, Vagabonds!  Forgive the absence…I’ve been traveling, my computer died, and I now have no internet at home.  But never fear. Whoever let a few setbacks throw them off their game? Pssssh.  Challenge: Accepted!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Salsa, With Love

In eleven days, I will be on a real (!) honest-to-goodness vacation (!!) in PERU (!!!)


I haven't been out of the country for going on six years now.  I haven't gone anywhere for over a solid week (that wasn't home for the holidays) in just as long.  As they say:  It Is Time.

In part of my ongoing preparations for hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and Peru in general, I've learned a few things:

A) Trust the friendly folks at REI. They know their stuff.
B) I need to go to the famed La Mar restaurant in Lima for ceviche or I will never forgive myself, and
C) Be good at salsa dancing. I hear the Lima crowd doesn't mess around.

With salsa dancing on the brain, it was just a short hop and skip over to my first salsa love: the kind you eat. I'm sure there are no surprises with this one but I LOVE SALSA.  I swear, if you get me a nice bowl of salsa and some crispy tortilla chips, along with a margarita or Negra Modelo, I'll be your friend for life. Unfortunately, good salsa is hard to find here in DC, so those of us with salsa-inclined brains have learned to make our own. 


Inspired as I was by this post on Cup of Jo from Homesick Texan, I jazzed this Roasted Tomato Salsa up a bit.  With a thickness lent from toasted pepitas ground up with the salsa, as well as chipotle, smoked paprika, or smoked sea salt, this salsa is served warm (fresh from a good roasting of the veggies in the oven) and is usually gobbled up within the hour.  Every. Single. Time. I never get any leftover for the week! Next time I'm tripling the batch.


Somewhat smoky and spicy, this salsa has proven itself to be my go-to in the past several months. And while I might have mastered one salsa, it's time to get back to practicing the dancing kind or I'll face epic wallflower shame in the bars of Peru.  Photos and recipes to come, te prometo.

Photo from the Wikitravel page on Machu Picchu.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And Then a Hurricane Struck

Being based in DC, and due to the tendency for us to generally freak out during any sort of weather display, I'll admit that I didn't take Hurricane Sandy too seriously at first.  And yet I spent the afternoon (and evening, and night, and next morning) at a friend's because I was too chicken to go home in the 90 mph winds and rain.  No, I stayed inside.  The lights flickered and their apartment leaked enough to fill a few buckets of water.  Throughout the night and next morning we stayed glued to the television and watched as Hurricane Sandy barely scraped DC and discovered that it had instead saved it's horrible strength for New Jersey and New York.

I cannot believe the images I have seen coming out of New York City and the Jersey Shore these past few days.  I cannot.  I cannot believe the stories of loss and heroism that I have read today.  I cannot believe these things happened a few hours drive from where we were hunkered down, but I must.  The death toll continues to climb, and our neighbors are struggling to repair the damage done to their homes, communities, their very lives.  We must help our neighbors, despite what our eyes may not believe, and what our ears might not understand.  We must help our friends in need.  Whether you know them or not, they are our responsibility.

Please consider donating what you can to help recovery efforts.

UMCOR (The United Methodist Committee on Relief) has a top rating by Charity Navigator, and you can donate to their Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts here.

As always, there's the American Red Cross, who needs not only monetary donations, but hundreds of blood drives had been cancelled due to the hurricane and they could use all the help you can give.  http://www.redcross.org/