while I’m away…

For the past few months I’ve been working with Paleo Magazine on various reviews and other freelance work. A couple of months ago I was given an exciting new project, and I’m thrilled to finally share it with you today — with the launch of the new and improved Paleo Magazine app, the editors will be releasing free guides and e-books to online subscribers, starting with my e-cookbook!

paleo e-cookbook

I developed and photographed 10 original Paleo recipes over the span of one hectic month, and the finished product is now available for free when you download the Paleo Magazine app. The entrees included appeal to all tastes and every season, and were inspired by some of my favorite flavor combinations: lime and cumin, shiitake mushrooms and shrimp, fresh peaches and roasted cherry tomatoes, sweet potato and chorizo.

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The whole experience was a learning process. Sure, I’ve been creating my own recipes and photographing the end result for years now, but the pressure was on to create something more sophisticated and streamlined. I used every tool in my arsenal to create inventive flavor pairings and visually appealing photographs, and spent a good chunk of an afternoon scrounging for props at the thrift store. It was hard work, harder than I imagined, and after this experience I have an immense amount of respect for cookbook creators everywhere.

But you’d better believe we ate really well at my house that month.

paleo e-cookbook I

So while I’m away, head over to the Paleo Magazine app and check out my first published cookbook. Try the recipes, put your own spin on them, and get back to me with your stories. While I won’t necessarily be whipping up delicious dishes while on the road and sharing them with you here, you can take a little piece of my Paleo perspective with you on your smart phone or tablet to enjoy this fall. Cheers and happy eating!

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a little reading for your weekend

I recently submitted a few essays to the Equals Record — not only did they say they wanted to publish, but they asked me to guest edit a column for their online edition and it went live today. Check out a few of my favorite books and why I love them over here.

One of my goals for the year was to submit some of my writing to a new-to-me publication, and boy did I get lucky with the great people at the Equals Record. Now that I’ve checked that goal off of my list I’m not stopping short, but my creativity is churning and my ego is boosted enough to propel me through several more submissions. Three cheers for goals and the thrill that comes with accomplishment.

Well Fed cookbook review + giveaway

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My copy of Well Fed came in the mail last week, and it only took a moment before I was already lost in the mouth-watering photos, the recipes, the stories, the flavor pairings and the wit of Melissa Joulwan, author and blogger at The Clothes Make the Girl. One of my favorite paleo bloggers, Mel has a tough-but-sweet attitude, and from what I’ve read she really knows how to tackle a challenge with style and grit. Not only that, but she’s an inventive cook with an eye for presentation and a flair for exotic spices, and her cookbook displays all of this.

Plus, nearly everything in Well Fed is Whole30-approved, which is such a blessing. I’m smack dab in the middle of my first Whole30 challenge, and if I wasn’t able to cook and eat the dishes that I was reading about I think I probably would’ve eaten the cookbook itself. Thankfully, it’s all systems go for these delicious dishes!

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I’ve already made her recipe for Creamy Mashed Cauliflower and the Coconut-Almond Green Beans, and I have plans to cook up her Creamy Spice Market Kale, “The Best Chicken You Will Ever Eat,” her Salmon A L’Afrique du Nord, her Turkish Chopped Salad, and her Velvety Butternut Squash in the coming days. It’s Well Fed-week on our menu planner!

How could I not want to cook all of her dishes after reading Well Fed? After reading the last few pages I was so inspired to start cooking and fiddling with spices that I could hardly bring myself to make what I had planned to cook for dinner. Mel’s Cinnamon Beef Stew or Scotch Eggs sounded so much more inventive than my simple veggie-and-sausage scramble.

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Mel certainly doesn’t turn her proverbial nose up at simple meals, however. She writes about her tried-and-true methods for putting food on the table despite busy schedules during the workweek, including the ever-important topic of meal prep. Mel takes a day to cook up large portions of protein, wash and prep veggies, do some preliminary roasting and sauteeing and pack snacks for the week in an afternoon — this way, she knows what’s available for meals and nibbles, and dinner is as easy as combining this chicken with those roasted veggies, adding a homemade sauce or a zingy spice blend, and then digging in with gusto.

I was so inspired that I undertook my own form of meal prep on Saturday afternoon. I washed and sliced several bell peppers and radishes, roasted golden beets, steamed greens, washed and spun lettuce for salads, hardboiled half a dozen eggs, thawed chicken breasts, made my own ghee, and cleaned out the refrigerator. I had plans to cook off some bacon and sausage later, and to make some of Mel’s famous sauces and spice blends too. Even though I work at home during the week and usually have plenty of time to make lunch or dinner from scratch, there are days when it all seems too much to do in one sitting. Plus I feel more secure about sticking to my Whole30 guidelines now, knowing I have tons of great prepped ingredients upon which to build meals.

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Overall, this cookbook was an inspiration to me as a Whole30 participant, as a new-to-paleo eater, and as a cook in general. It’s a small book and I like it that way. With just under 100 recipes, the cookbook offers plenty of recipes to try without being overwhelming — and the book itself is small and kind of square-ish, which is a nice change from the hefty hardbound tomes that take up so much space in the kitchen. The photography offers great detail and the layout is pleasing (in addition to being designed by one of my favorite creatives), and Mel’s lovely personality shines through with every anecdote and note on spices. It was a purchase well-made, and now more than ever I am feeling nourished and well fed.

And because I’m feeling so excited about this cookbook I’m offering one lucky reader a copy of Well Fed as a gift, from me to you. This is in no way affiliated with the author of the publisher, and I was not sponsored to do this giveaway — I just want to spread the good news and the great recipes far and wide. To be entered to win, please leave a comment telling me about your favorite meal, the one that makes you feel the most “well fed” and happy. I will randomly draw a winner next Monday, January 21 and your own personal copy of Well Fed will be on it’s way to your kitchen. You have until Friday, January 18 at midnight to enter. Good luck!

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All photos courtesy of The Clothes Make the Girl. From top to bottom: Mel and Jicama Home Fries, Scotch Eggs, Coconut-Almond Green Beans, and Chocolate Chili.

wish list :: books galore

There has been significantly more lazing-about and Downton Abbey-watching this summer than reading, and although I could argue the merits of the aforementioned non-literature related activities, I am happiest behind a page of words with a cup of tea by my side. I’ve been proud to read several books in succession since the big hullabaloo that was the month of May, including a collection of New Yorker essays and The Hunger Games (both read on the honeymoon), but my reading list is growing as my reading progress slows. This week, I share a few of my new additions and some I’m currently working on. The GRE test preparation booklet staring at me from my bookshelf is not included here…nor have the covers been cracked.

I started Atlas Shrugged on the 4th of July and have been slowly making my way through it — a little bit each day — since then. Rand’s skills with metaphor and the austerity of her settings are astonishing, and sometimes I re-read a sentence until it is etched in my brain. I’m learning a great deal about socio-political philosophies as well as the craft of writing.

As far as the Paleo fad is concerned, I recognize that I am severely behind the times. I’ve read some blogs and primal newsletters, and although what they all say makes a great deal of sense, I want to know the science behind the philosophy. Weston A. Price’s famous study is one that has been on my to-read list ever since I devoured Nourishing Traditions last summer. These books, combined with David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison, make for one nutrition-heavy reading list, but I’m not complaining.

My parents sent me a copy of the Best Food Writing 2009 for Valentine’s Day several years ago, and I would love to catch up on the latest trends and essayists with this newest compilation. This book provides a bridge between my nutritional research reading and the creativity/freelancing books I have gathered — I’ve heard nothing but good things about The Creative Habit and Creative, Inc. These, I hope, will be as entertaining and inspiring as they will be valuable to my future as a creator and writer. (Thanks to Holly the Healthy Everythingtarian and Elise Blaha Cripe for the heads up on these!)

Kinfolk has been on my radar for about a year now, but I just ordered my first magazine. I was wavering on my decision about ordering what seemed like such a frivolous expense, and then I saw that their summer volume was all about traveling and roadtrips and I was sold. Now I’m waiting desperately at my mailbox every afternoon for the UPS man to bring it home.

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What are you reading this summer? Let me know, I’m always curious!

all non-linked book images from Barnes & Noble

The Man Who Overpopulated Heaven

“On September eleventh, the Towers fell down.

All the people and rubble lay dead on the ground.

The nation was crying, the U.S. was weeping,

And still, in New York, firefighters were sweeping.

On October the seventh, we decided to fight.

And we bombed that one Arab with all of his spite.

But we are still searching, and we are still looking

For the man who overpopulated heaven.”

– poem by Erin R. Robertson, age 11, October 2001

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May we always remember the tragedy, the sacrifice, and the heroism of those who lost their lives that day.

May they and their families be in peace, and may God bless America.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver, Dream Work, Grove Atlantic Inc., 1986 & New and Selected Poems, Beacon Press, 1992.

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I’m dreaming for the days in which I can wander the cold pastures again and look up to see the goose-patterns in the sky.

That, my friends, is freedom. Praise God.

write!active

“Write passively…” is a phrase I stumbled upon this week. I don’t know where, I don’t know how – it literally flashed before my eyes on a screen and got me thinking…

Am I living a passive life? Am I being manipulated into non-action?

I think, in an as non-1984 way as possible, I am (and thus, we are). It’s less dangerous to live in passivity; one’s impact is certainly lessened by inactivty, by apathy and all other dangerous afflictions.

What was especially convicting to me was the phrase “write passively.” I am a writer by heart, and lately I have been yearning to write, to create, to express. And yet, I haven’t made time to do so. I think about it, I can pencil it into my schedule, but unless I carve out a significant portion of time to dedicate to my craft, I cannot do it at all. Busy-ness trumps creativity, unfortunately.

But you know what? I have time. I make time for things I need to do. I make time for things I don’t need to do, but should do. And so on.

This, a soul-refreshing desire of my inner being, should be prioritized. It should be honored.

And thus, I begin a new campaign: write!active.

write!active is half-personal pledge, half-social movement aimed at getting us off our chairs, our noses out of our planners, our eyes away from Facebook, our fingers off the cell phone keypad, and back to where we really need to be: in front of the blank page.

write!active

So what does this mean? To have initiative, to be forward, to be purposeful in finding significant time and effectively using words to communicate beautifully. To be intentional in pushing through the obstacles and writing for the sake of writing, not just for academic demands or work-related assignments.

As far as creative writing goes, we can’t sit back [passively], waiting for inspiration to come to us. We must stretch out, search for the golden kernel of truth, hunt down the right words and snatch them.

Last night I went to a reading, given by Nelly Rosario, a writer originally from the Dominican Republic and raised in Brooklyn. Her first novel, Song of the Water Saints, was published last year.

“Writers need time,” Rosario said, “and that’s the hardest thing about writing.”

“Once you make the decision [to write], you just trust – it’s a lot of trust and a lot of faith. Commit yourself to an idea and go until the end.”

Rosario asked a question crucial to the writing process: “What is the truth you’re wanting to say, right now?”

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So what is it? What’s your story? Where is the truth?

Where does your pen want to take you?

Where do you want to take your pen?

write!active