roasted root risotto

roasted root risotto

roasted root risotto

Seasons work differently in San Francisco. I grew up on the East Coast, where September meant leaves turning, apple picking, and bundling up. On this coast, September looks more like shorts and tanning at Delores Park. So while I don’t often miss the cold, I was thrilled to travel to Copenhagen and get a little taste of fall (pun intended). The food there is incredible – fresh and distinctly Nordic.

Nothing gets me craving comfort foods like brisk temperatures and the Danish know how to satisfy this craving. Maybe it was the wall of potatoes the lined the grocery store, but I found myself on a mad hunt for root vegetables. Lucky for me, these are aplenty in Denmark. I found this particular recipe in a Danish cookbook and painfully translated it. Mostly though, it was made up on the spot to maximize hygge (Danish for coziness) and inspired by the beauty and hospitality of Denmark. You can make this with any root vegetables you have on hand. It’s perfect for the fall – just choose which ones appeal to you at the grocery store and go from there.

roasted root risotto
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chocolate babka

vegan chocolate babka

vegan chocolate babka

vegan chocolate babka

I try not to eat my feelings, I really do. But life has been hard recently and I can’t help but turn to sweets. I’m looking at you chocolate peanut butter cups from whole foods. In an effort to someone curb my ridiculous sugar consumption, I’ve started baking more. When I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be in my belly. Chia seeds bring a shade of health, and also drastically reduce the overall preparation time – which means you can decide you want to bake this and eat it THAT DAY. Which is pretty much how any sweet craving of mine goes. Cheers to chocolate!

vegan chocolate babka

vegan chocolate babka

vegan chocolate babka

vegan chocolate babka
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one-pot pasta

vegan one-pot pasta

One of the biggest pieces of feedback I’ve received about my blog goes something like this. Oh – it all looks good – but it’s too hard for me. And I get that. We’re busy and working and sometimes (read: almost always) you don’t want to spend an hour prepping and an hour over the stove for a weeknight dinner. People in general, myself included, tend to showcase those things about themselves that are most aspirational. Food blogging is no exception. I really don’t think you want to see pictures and instructions for that night I ate saltines and peanut butter straight from the jar. Though I’m flattered if you do.

This one-pot pasta is my answer to you. It’s easy enough for weekdays and adaptable for whatever you have lying around in your fridge. That being said, I wouldn’t hesitate to serve this to guests. As the name suggests, there is only one-pot required for this dish, which makes for a cleanup situation that we can all appreciate.

vegan one-pot pasta

vegan one-pot pasta

vegan one-pot pasta

vegan one-pot pasta
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asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

Many recipes, as you well know, ask for lemons. And for many times and recipes and years, I have ignored this. Lemons – in fact citrus fruit in general – I thought to be an unnecessary addition. It wasn’t an omission driven by hate but rather by laziness. What’s the juice from a measly half a lemon gonna do? Who’s gonna notice that teaspoon of orange juice, right? Is a dash of lemon zest *really* that important? Nothing, no one and hell no.

Or so I thought. This marinade, though, is making me reconsider. Sure, it only calls for a half an orange – not even the full monty – so it might be easy to consider leaving it out. You may have the rest of these ingredients at home already, so why not just go ahead without. DON’T DO IT. Go buy that half an orange. Go beg your neighbor if you must. Spoiler alert: it makes a difference after all. My first attempt at this dish, I opted to go without and the results were good – Spencer loved it, I loved it and we finished the meal without much thought. Round two, however, I had an orange on hand and oh my heavens I will never look back. The citrus and ginger combination, with the spike of cayenne and sweet of maple, balances every flavor group. I want to marinade everything in this and I’ve been trying just about all vegetable without fail. I’ve also been known to sneak a spoonful of the stuff now and again. It’s addicting. You’ve been warned.

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes

asian-style baked sweet potatoes
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lemon strawberry layer cake

vegan lemon strawberry cake

vegan lemon strawberry cake

vegan lemon strawberry cake

It’s not obvious from my blog, but throughout childhood and entering adulthood I had a wicked sweet tooth. I was that girl who subsisted off of candy and cookies and ice cream. Come Halloween, Dad would come home with industrial size boxes of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from Costco and I would eat peanut butter chocolate monomeals well into November. In high school, the student lounge sold chocolate chip cookies the size of my head and you bet I had those for every meal and in between. And let’s not even talk about the time sophomore year I went for two months eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast…and lunch…and dinner. Two months. I’m not exaggerating. It’s shocking that I didn’t contract scurvy.

It’s only been in maybe the past couple years that my taste buds have ever so slightly matured. I’m proud, or maybe ashamed that it took this long to eat like a real person. That’s not to say my sweet cravings are a thing of the past. In fact, this month, they’ve been in full-fledged super craving mode. I’m particularly obsessed with cakes lately. It’s less about making and eating a sugary concoction, though that certainly has it’s appeal, and more about baking something beautiful. Inspired by Copenhagen Cakes and other culinary Instagram porn, I wanted to create picture worthy cake. I won’t lie, this comes at the expense of health. You simply cannot make a decent frosting without margarine (trust me, I’ve tried). Cake there is more wiggle room – you can substitute flours, refined sugar for natural sweeteners, etc. But frosting – creamy and spreadable – really needs fat. I’ve tried to avoid it, but when a girl’s gotta make a cake, a girl’s gotta make a cake. Sorry health police.

Speaking of frosting…oh my lord this stuff is addictive. Since I started avoiding animal products, I’ve been skeptical of margarine. Taste wise, could it ever compare to butter, I thought? And health wise, what’s the point of following a plant-based diet only to eat something like margarine, which I admit seems so very….unnatural? Well, the taste speaks for itself – this is some of the best frosting I’ve had, bar none. I’ve also discovered that nowadays, even margarine has alternatives. Woah. It’s really not a bunch of horse shit, though, and these margarine alternatives don’t have hydrogenated oils and preservatives like the original. Basically, the options are a whole lot healthier than I once thought.

And since I used strawberries in the cake this is practically a serving of fruit, right?! Nuts to garnish makes this a complete and balanced meal ;) I hardly need an excuse to eat a slice, but if I did, I don’t think I’d have any problem convincing myself. So you shouldn’t either – enjoy this guilt-free (and cruelty-free) cake!

vegan lemon strawberry cake

vegan lemon strawberry cake

vegan lemon strawberry cake

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panisse burger

vegan panisse burger

vegan panisse burger

I’ve been harboring an addiction to House (…ironic considering the namesake’s own drug dependency). Literally, I can’t go a day without watching an episode. Some people may like long relaxing bubble baths, but I much prefer my hour of doctor, blood and sarcasm.

Most recently, I watched an episode revolving around a sixteen year old patient and his girlfriend. The plot is irrelevant – mostly I was alarmed that anyone could be convinced that these actors were mere teenagers! They look well into their twenties…maybe even pushing thirty. I realize, though, that this is all a matter of relativity. Being in my early twenties, I’m much more discerning about this age range than say, people in their sixties or children in their sixes. Ever met a know-it-all tot who insists that being four and three quarters is SO much older than four and half? Exactly.

The same logic applies to food. In this case, I’m talking about panisse, crispy fried chickpea slices traditional to Provence. What to the French is probably greasy pub food, to me seems like a sophisticated hour d’ourve. Even the name panisse recalls images of dainty napkins and upturned pinkies. I’d like to think this is not all in my head, though, and that panisse is actually a better lighter version of American fried finger food. While appetizers like onion rings tend to feel heavy because of breading, panisse sits light, with a smooth interior reminiscent of polenta.

Of course, I couldn’t just make plain old panisse. I apologize in advance to any French I’m offending with this blatant American basterdized version. I swear it is out of love and upmost admiration of French food. I live in California though, so this would not be complete without a bun and avocado. Inspired by the many tempeh burger incarnations I enjoyed in Bali, I decided to spike my panisse with sautéed mushrooms and kale and serve it burger style. The crispy fried exterior of panisse lends itself well to burger form. Don’t be afraid to embellish this recipe with your own favorite burger toppings. I’ll be adding tomatoes and pickles next time around.

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bali: ubud and balian beach

Ayung_Ubud_Miyachi

Bali, the Indonesian province no bigger than the state of Delaware, provides dramatically different experiences from coast to coast: sun-kissed beach resorts in the south, untamed natural wonders in the east, unbridled nightlife in the west. Perhaps this is why Bali attracts so many wanderers, people searching for calm or chaos. Maybe too this is the secret to Bali’s otherworldly charm. My own wandering journey was a tale of contrasts; the bustling roads my gateway to Bali’s lesser known destinations.

On an island known for it’s beaches, only an extraordinary place can draw people away from the coast. Thus I began in Ubud, the artistic hub of Bali, about an hour’s drive inland from the airport. At the height of dry season, the entire island was ripe: coconuts ready for harvest, juicy papayas hanging heavy on trees. Though the road to Ubud feels like an unmapped side street, a booming tourism industry has introduced fleets of t-shirt hawkers and congestion upon arrival. I chose to avoid this, renting a bungalow west of town in the Campuhan Ridge, whose unmarked winding paths have not lost yet lost their charm.

Given the peaceful nature of its surroundings, I’m not surprised that Ubud attracts many travelers looking for reflection. My own interests are less spiritual and more tangible: I wanted to fully embrace Balinese food. Indonesian cuisine is by nature very vegan-friendly, and in Bali, traditional food combines ancient Hindu roots with foreign influences brought by 20th century Dutch colonization.

In recent decades, a new wave of yoga-practicing immigrants brought vegan food to the forefront. I started my day at one such product of the vegan food movement, Alchemy, a raw food cafe that sits conveniently on the major road connecting Ubud and the Campuhan Ridge. The oversized chaises and bright vintage décor are welcoming; it is the type of place where you could spend an afternoon reading and nibbling, and in fact, many people do. I feast my eyes upon the breakfast bar, which offers a wild buffet of raw granola, vegan yogurt and fresh fruit.

Alchemy is perfectly situated to begin my walking tour of the Sayan rice terraces, a lush and peaceful oasis that is worlds apart from Ubud’s busy roads. Starting at the Sayan Terrace Hotel, I traced the side of the Ayung River, which afforded stunning river valley views. The surrounding rice terraces are bursting with life and the vivid green paddies cover the rolling hills for as far as the eye can see. Wandering through the fields is an activity in it’s own right, and I’d recommend setting aside some time to enjoy the tranquil landscape.

Alchemy_Ubud_Miyachi

Caspuhan_Ubud_Miyachi

Following my walk, I was eager to try tempeh, the fermented soy food and Indonesian staple. Often shamed as a “meat substitute” in Western dishes, tempeh is a star in Balinese cuisine, and the preparations I had in Bali rocked my world.

One of the best tempeh dishes is served at the Yellow Flower Café, a lovely eco-conscious spot tucked amidst bungalows in an unassuming Campuhan neighborhood. Nasi campur, or mixed rice, is a popular Indonesian dish, and Yellow Flower Café is home to my favorite. There are no rules to nasi campur; it is simply rice served tapas style with other small dishes. At Yellow Flower, these include a mouth-watering fried tempeh, a spicy spinach dish, kang kung, and local cashew nuts.

Yellowflower_Ubud_Miyachi

After my drive to Ubud, I was weary of getting back on the road. Transportation in Bali, like in many other Southeast Asian nations, is a thrill – and not always in the pleasant sense. Major transit roads are a mess of precarious eighteen-wheelers and whizzing motorbikes. It is not unusual to witness cars weaving through one-lane streets, dodging in and out between oncoming traffic. But if any destination is worth an additional drive, Balian Beach is it.

The biggest challenge is finding a driver who knows Balian Beach. This isn’t shocking considering that just 15 years ago, Balian was little more than some farmers, roaming cows, and maybe a couple wayward surfers looking for waves. Now, the town is home to a bohemian community of beach lovers. This is not the glitzy white sand beach you see in travel brochures, but rather a stretch of black sand and pounding waves. The only crowds here are in the water, where surfers gather to catch the powerful swell. Forget about lawn chairs or umbrellas – Balian’s appeal is not curated, but natural and rugged.

I lunched at Mai Malu, a vegan-conscious joint serving Balinese staples. The food here is simple, well priced and beautifully plated. A standout was the watermelon banana smoothie, one of many drinks at Mai Malu highlighting Bali’s host of native tropical fruits.

Next I headed to the beach, surfboard in hand. The afternoons tend to be mellower than the mornings, when the locals wake up without fail for dawn patrol. The coastline around Balian is magnificent: towering cliffs encircle the beach like a gate to paradise. I struggled to paddle the long distance to the break, but I was rewarded with remarkable views of the coast and front-row seats to watch Balian’s best surfers.

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Balian_3_Miyachi

Balian_Miyachi

After a couple of hours in the water, I walked just up the road from the beach to Deki’s Warung. This local surfer joint has the best beachside view in town, a perfect capstone to my day. I feasted on a delicious, albeit fried, tempeh burger – hands down the best burger I’ve had – with a perfect crispy exterior and dressed with fresh tomatoes and spicy Balinese chili sauce.

I arrived early to snag a table at the front, where I could watch the surfers and the sunset. My muscles ached from battling the ocean, but the pain is dulled by fantastic traditional medicine: cheap beer and a great view. The afternoon gives way to night with pop tunes blaring in the background, as one by one, surfers returned to shore. I watch until the sky went dark, every single star brighter than any I’ve seen back home.
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