I’ve never been good at keeping things alive. In college, I had a pet fish named Kit Kat who’s living conditions caused perennially concern. After moving to San Francisco, I decided to downgrade to a houseplant. Surely that would be easier to care for…? Well…Mikey the Ficii has about 3 leaves as of last count if that gives you any indication of my propensity (or lack thereof) for gardening. Despite my questionable track record with plants and pets, I still harbor this romantic dream of moving to the middle of nowhere, living off the land, sowing what I plant, etc, etc.
For now, I’m settling for the next best option: berry picking! Strawberries are in season right now, so I dragged some friends with me to Half Moon Bay to give it a shot. If you like me fantasized that these strawberries would be on the cheap, I’m here to set the record straight. Turns out, you pay a premium to engage in the activity of berry picking and the prices are the same (or higher…yikes) as buying from the grocery store. So you haul ass to your local farm, break your back to gather 5 pounds of strawberries, and then pay extra for it all. But, there were so many great photo opportunities…? Right. I’m that person.
So what does a girl do with 5 pounds of strawberries? I really did consider trying to eat them myself, but some terrifying PTSD surrounding my weeklong smoothie obsession kept me from going down that path. Truthfully, I wanted an excuse to make cute little labels anyways, so it didn’t take much deliberation before making strawberry jam. You could omit the balsamic vinegar for a more basic version, or add your own twist with herbs or other spices. I’d love to try this with some basil – maybe next spring once I forget how expensive berries are…
I’ve been biting my nails since Wednesday waiting for my developed film, which is totally ridiculous given that a) two days is not long to wait for anything b) this is not some emergency documentary evidence that we are processing here c) I could’ve just used a digital camera instead of opting to be a neurotic hipster but that would’ve been way too easy right. I’m willing to forgive my silliness and anxiety though, because for the first time in 6 months I’ve felt inspired about cooking again.
..oh my. It’s been 6 months. Hi. *embarrassed*
Sure, there have been meals in between this and now. Not so many though. In fact, I can probably summarize what I’ve eaten into just a few categories:
- Indian takeout. Delicious but not exactly food blog material. Unless I change course and start blogging about the many Indian takeout places that I frequent which come to think of it would not be the worst idea in the world.
- New Years Resolution Meals. We all feel that tug around January and even into February to eat Heathy Things. I had some pipe dream around this time to be writing twice a week…lol. So yes, there were a number of lackluster salads that made me feel more like a dinosaur eating leafy greens than the SF blogger/social media whore that I aspire to be. Sigh.
- The obvious: emotional cookie dough. Usually in high volume batches.
- Emotional glass(es) of wine to supplement the above.
All and all, a culinary uneventful string of meals turned to weeks turned to months. I think many people can relate to this feeling – I couldn’t find pleasure in the things that used to make me happy. That is until a week ago when I became obsessed with this lavender poundcake I ate in Stockholm I needed to bake it and I could hardly wait. Yes, I’m belong completely melodramatic, but I have to cop up to the fact that this poundcake turned me a lil manic. Who frantically searches for lavender in Swedish grocery stores two hours before their flight?? Who steps off a 10 hour plane and instead of going home to shower heads straight to Whole Foods to buy oranges and yogurt?? THIS GIRL.
But now YOU can reap the benefits of my lavender-induced insanity. And I can finally sleep easy with this checked off my bucket list. Win win.
The Swedish inspiration for this loaf struck the perfect balance of flavors – not an easy task. Lavender is a finicky thing. Too much and it tastes like a mouthful of soap. Yuck. Paired with citrus though, the intense floral is subdued. I used yogurt and olive oil here to pretend to be healthy and the result is a lighter version compared to the original – rich, moist, but not nearly as dense. You can practically call it a breakfast food. You can thank me later.
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 Dolores 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.
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!
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.
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.