Craving Kindness

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Do we want to be angry? I, right?  That sounds silly.  Why would anyone want to be angry? Well, to me, living in a big city and having social media, it seems like a lot of people do.

This morning I was driving to work, and I work on a busy street (Highland Avenue in Hollywood).  I put my blinker on and slowed to part along the sidewalk, and a man who was driving no further than 8 inches from my bumper nearly hit me and honked his horn for much longer than necessary, while speeding next to me shouting at me out of his window.  Was all of this really necessary?  Maybe I should have put my blinker on sooner, maybe he shouldn't have been following so closely behind me, but come's not the end of the world.

People go out of their way to write mean things on the internet. I've written about this before so I won't exhaust it, but maybe it's the anonymity or maybe it's how easy and fast it can be done, but people will go out of their way to seek out trouble online.  People on Facebook will write cryptic posts about others and bait them, only to play victim when it's discovered.

Blog posts will be written about how people who like a celebrity, a politician, a song, a movie....are all less important and beneath the author.  In the era of Trump, it is always "Us Vs. Them" and "Winners and Losers."

I'm sick of it.

Horrible things happen every day.  Horrible people exist and life is hard and if you let it get to you, it's easy to get swallowed whole by the awfulness in the world.  Maybe that driver tailgating me this morning was rushing to the hospital to see his wife have his first child.  Maybe he was late for the biggest job interview of his life, and he has been out of work for a while.  Maybe those folks you make fun of on your blog or Instagram posts like something you think is silly because it reminds them of someone they love, or a time they were happier and they're going through a rough time.  Maybe someone is going through a big break up, and they see your faux-cryptic post on Facebook about them. How would that make you feel?

Truth is, we are all going through something at any given moment that is hard or unpleasant or devastating.  It sounds so first grade teacher, but we should be working together instead of trying to come out on top or be the "winner" in a game that has no winners.  Life isn't about winning, it's about living and loving and being the best and kindest person you can be with the hand you've been dealt.

Any time anyone yells at me on the road, or puts down something I like, or puts me down, I just try to think that maybe they're having a not-so-great time right now, and this isn't the best representation of themselves.  It's very easy for me to get angry back at someone and lose my temper when I think I'm being wronged, but these days I'm less apt to be angry than I am to be concerned or empathetic.

It's a hard battle for each of us every single day, and we are all in this thing together.

Mushroom Bourguignon a la Julia Child

Thursday, January 18, 2018

My dad used to always watch cooking shows when I was a kid.  Sometimes he would leave the TV on that channel and continue with his day, and I would sit and watch by myself.  I remember Julia Child distinctly, and she had a few shows that would air on that channel in syndication.  She was great.  She was so full of personality and life, and had a way of making things look so effortless.

I've made French dishes for this blog before, and it is always surprising how easy it is to adapt French food, no matter how full of butter and cream, to fit a plant based lifestyle.  I watched the movie Julie & Julia a couple nights ago while Alex was at band practice, and was really inspired by Amy Adams's character.  I felt a connection to why she started cooking and blogging, and to be honest I've been feeling a real block when it comes to my cooking AND my blog.  I don't have a crazy amount of readers or followers (though I do have some, and I'm thankful for all of you!) and I wasn't really seeing the point of sharing.  But it's something that I love doing, and no matter who is negative, or who rips off my recipes, or who does or doesn't read, it's not about how many followers it gets me on Instagram, it's about sharing something that I really love with other people, and that's why I started doing this in the first place.

But aside from inspiring me to keep blogging, it inspired me to make classic French meals again.  I also got to use my vegetable stock that I made from scratch last week!  This dish turned out great, and was hearty without being heavy.  It is a bit time consuming, but the good news is you can make the mushrooms and sauce a day ahead.  This dish is also super fragrant and makes your home smell like...home.  It's so comforting and it's such a hearty, flavorful meal you can't be sad or grumpy when you eat it, or when you're making it.

Portobello mushroom caps, sliced thick
5 carrots, roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
1 shallot, sliced thin
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup red wine
4 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
tbsp flour, mixed with water


Head about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan. Add mushrooms, salt lightly, and saute until browned.  Remove from pan, and place aside in a paper towel lined strainer or bowl. 

In the same pan, add 2 more tbsp of olive oil and toss in carrots.  Saute until they are beginning to brown and then add the onions, and when they are transparent add the shallots.  Saute until caramelized and then add the vegetable stock and wine to deglaze the pan.  Add in your salt and pepper, garlic, and thyme, and simmer for about 25 minutes until carrots are almost cooked through. Whisk flour and water together until a thick, milky consistency with no lumps and add to the pan.  The heat should be low so that the sauce does not reduce or evaporate. If it does reduce a little, add in more vegetable stock. 

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil, and toss in fettuccine.  Cook until al dente, then strain and rinse. Salt again after rinsed.

Add back in the mushrooms and simmer for about 10 more minutes, until carrots are cooked through.

Arrange fettuccine  in nests, and spoon mushrooms on top.  Serve hot, and garnish with thyme leaves.

Bon Appetite!

Living Your Most Authentic Life

Monday, January 15, 2018

Living in a time when it seems like everything is fabricated and edited to show everyone's perfect life, it can be hard to live authentically.  It can honestly be hard to even know what that means.  Let's be honest, there is a LOT of pressure on everyone these days to be perfect, to be popular, to be "branded" and to have a bazillion followers on Instagram.  It's exhausting.  You see girls with perfect hair and outfits, who have kids yet still manage to apply perfect lipstick, who have clothing companies gift them great stuff all the time, and who don't have a "regular" job and get to blog FOR A LIVING.  Social media is so fun, and can help you keep in touch with friends that you may not live near, and it can help you stay informed with news and current events.  But it can also make you see problems where there are none, feel competitive with people you don't even know, and get sad about your life because you're not making a million dollars from your perfectly branded blog (and just FYI, most of those girls have managers who help them out with this stuff).

I fall prey to it too.  I get hung up on my blog reach, and how many likes I get per picture, and why I can't have 100k followers like my favorite bloggers.  On glaringly obvious reason is the fact that I have an exceptionally demanding job that requires me to work way outside of the normal 9-5 day, 5 days a week (and I honestly love it).  I would love to cook all day and post updates every day on my blog, but my time just doesn't allow for it.  It's fantastic that my favorite bloggers are able to work from home and blog full time, but I'm just not there yet and maybe I never will be.  And that's ok.

 I started this blog with the goal to share my recipes, to promote a lifestyle that I believe in passionately, and once I start feeling myself worrying about statistics and followers, that's when I know I'm not doing it for the right reasons anymore.

One of my New Years Resolutions is to live more authentically and only post content and interact with things that I feel genuine about.  I'm making a vow to all of you that I will not be inauthentic and I will not do anything or post anything for the sake of getting likes and follows. We've all seen the studies of how social media can harm your self esteem, and another one of my New Years Resolutions is to unplug more often and to be more present.  I'm not going to stop blogging or posting on Instagram, but I am going to cool it a bit and not worry about what my life looks like from the outside (not that I really did anyway, but you get it).

We should all make an effort to live authentically and purposefully, and not feel bad about not having the perfect life, because there IS NO PERFECT LIFE.

Once again, thank you all for letting me share.


Back to Basics: Vegetable Broth

Sunday, January 14, 2018

As we enter this year, and as I fully commit to being completely plant based in my life (it's honestly been great and I feel so much better!), I realized there are so many simple foods and ingredients that people overlook, or buy from the store (which makes a lot of them chock full of sodium), or maybe don't even realize they are missing.  Part of me becoming completely plant based is the desire to live a more natural and benevolent life.  I frequently have fantasies of living in a cabin somewhere remote and being completely self-sufficient. Of course, this kind of thing pretty much only happens in new Justin Timberlake promo videos these days (has anyone seen this nonsense?!), but its good to have a handle on the basics.  Americans have such a strange relationship with food, meaning we don't really have ANY relationship with our food.

I remember a time when I would grab dinner from a drive thru on my way home from class, eat stale french fries in my car, and chug a whole soda before I finished the 20 minute drive back to my apartment. An apartment that I lived in alone, and filled with every kind of junk food and carbonated, sugary beverage you could imagine.  I would frequently eat snacks as meals and rarely ever cooked.  Now? I would sooner die than eat that crap.  And honestly, you would see me eat a steak before you ever saw me eat some strange meat-esque substance from a drive thru (the meat replacements I eat are plant based and made from REAL ingredients).  My relationship with food has changed so much since I decided to give up meat, and even more so now that I don't consume any animal products at all.  I'm much more conscious of where my food comes from and I try to eat seasonally as much as possible.  Cooking has also enhanced my relationship to what I eat.  I care about quality ingredients and simple, attainable healthy meals that anyone can prepare and have access too.  Eating well doesn't have to mean buying the most expensive ingredients or living off what Gwyneth Paltrow tells you to buy.

Sometimes, the simplest ingredients are the most overlooked and we have lost the ability to make these things ourselves.  It wasn't until relatively recently that we humans lost the knowledge of where our food comes from.  Most families relied on each other to fill in the gaps of their crops and you knew literally which kitchen your food came from and who made it, and you had a relationship with them.  Even meat eaters had a better appreciation for the lives their livestock gave, and respected them for their sacrifice in order to survive a long winter.  Though we no longer need meat to survive, we do need other things.  And humans like to eat food that tastes good and that is fresh (believe it or not) and the modern home has store bought broths, butter, cheese, bread, etc. and most people don't even know how to make these things.

I'm beginning a new series of posts that explore making simple ingredients that I will then use in complete meals.  It's good to have a few recipes in your repertoire for vegetable broth and bread, so that your meals that require these things will be infinitely better than using store bough ingredients.

Here is my simple recipe for vegetable broth, which will be a staple in your home for sure.  You can can or jar this broth and I don't know about you, but I use broth constantly so it won't spoil.


First, you need a good base to your broth.
A good base consists of 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, and an onion.
For this recipe I skipped the celery and it turned out great.  Alex isn't a huge fan of celery, and honestly, it doesn't really tickle me either.

Next you'll want to add in the flavorings. Good things to use are:
Bay leaves

For this recipe I used a handful of rosemary, a handful of sage, a handful of thyme, 4 garlic cloves, and about 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms.

Next, you'll need to add seasonings.  I use a tablespoon of black peppercorns, and black salt to taste.

Put all of this in a pot, and cover with water.  How much water you add will affect the potency of your flavors, but you don't want to add too little water, because then it will be overwhelming to anything you put it in. I'd say about 4 quarts is good.

Bring all of this to a boil, and then reduce your heat and simmer for about an hour.  Strain you vegetables out of the water and then transfer to containers for storage.  If you're going to use this within the week, mason jars in the fridge are fine, but if you aren't you can put them in tupperware or plastic baggies and freeze them.  I like to have some on hand all the time, so I use half and freeze the other half.

This broth is great for soups, sauces, gravy, and I even add it to my pot pies and Wellingtons. This will be a staple in your house for sure. And you'll save so much money, as well as feel better about your food and what you feed your family (and yourself).

Hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Christmas Dinner: Mushroom Wellington

Monday, January 1, 2018

This Holiday Season I wanted to make main dishes and sides that were different and out of the traditional vegan repertoire of Tofurky and roasted vegetables (though I did make a few roasted veggies....wups).  Tofurky is grand, and I made a great Tofurky Hassleback Ham, but a diet full of soy based foods and meat replacements isn't great for you, and eating one meat replacement after another can weigh on you (literally).  So as a test of my skills and a desire to eat something traditional yet not, I decided on Mushroom Wellington.

This dish, of course, is inspired by Beef Wellington.  Traditionally this would consist of a filet coated with paté and wrapped in pastry.  Most people will connect the name of this dish to the Duke of Wellington, who was responsible for defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but alas, there is no connection other than the name.  The Duke was actually not a big fan of food in general. Of course he ate, but didn't really care about what or how.  Truth is, no one knows where this dish came from. Meat cooked in pastry has been a staple of English cuisine for some time, but there is no mention of the name "Beef Wellington" until 1939 in the Oxford Dictionary.  Some thing it is a revision of a similar French dish, to rebrand it as patriotic for the English kitchen.

Puff pastry (I use a brand that comes with two sheets, which is perfect for this recipe)
2 portabella mushrooms (of similar don't want a lumpy Wellington)
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 large white onions, diced
2 handfulls of baby spinach
dijon mustard, enough to coat top of mushrooms (see photos)
thyme leaves

olive oil
splash of red wine
splash of liquid aminos
salt and pepper to taste
enough butter to brush the top of the Wellington

In a large pan, heat your olive oil to medium and add the onions.  Reduce heat to low and sauté until transparent.  Add in the carrots and cook until flavors are mingled.  Add in the red wine and liquid aminos and sauté until the wine is reduced.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In the same pan, add olive oil and brown the mushrooms on both sides, seat aside on paper towels to catch the juiced the mushrooms will release as they cool.

Again, in the same pan, toss spinach with a teeny bit of olive oil until wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter your roasting pan. Then roll out one sheet of the  puff pastry and spoon the onions and carrots on top.  Place the mushrooms side by side and top with spinach, then the dijon.  Sprinkle the thyme leaves on the top and season with salt and pepper.  Roll the second layer of puff pastry on top and pinch the sides together with a fork.  Score the top in a crisscross patter (making sure not to go all the way through).  Brush with butter and pop in the oven.  Your Wellington will be ready in about 30 to 35 minutes, when it is golden brown on top (make sure not to burn the bottom).  It is best served immediately.  Slice and serve with mashed or roasted potatoes for a perfectly English Christmas dinner.