baklava ice cream pie

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This is not a typical Monday morning recipe. This is not a typical October recipe (no pumpkin — sorry folks!). This really isn’t a “typical” anything, but I like it and I’m feeling celebratory, so here goes.

Last week was one hell of a week. I’m currently recovering from some hybrid cold thing, brought on by lack of sleep and traveling and a couple gluten bombs that threw my immune system out of whack, but so many wonderful things happened that I have to do what I normally don’t do: a diary-esque, recap post. Welcome to a little peek into my life!

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On Monday we had our first round of movers come. I wasn’t sure when exactly they were going to arrive, so I spent all day on alert, doing last-minute packing and waiting for that big truck to pull into my driveway. Eventually two nice guys started packing up a third of our belongings and I mainly tried to stay out of their way as they assembled boxes, wrapped dishes, and hauled bikes and vacuum cleaners out the front door. We later heard that our shipment weighed 888 lbs. WHOA.

After the movers left, Andrew and I cleaned up and went over to our friends’ house for an extraordinary dinner and a screening of the series finale of Breaking Bad. Grace and Tom have been wonderful friends to host us every week for the last season of our favorite show — together, we’d all hunker down in the living room with snacks and drinks and collectively gasp at Walter White’s latest schemes. This time was a little more special, as it was not only the last episode ever but also our last day to spend with our friends. They were leaving the next day to move to Alaska, and so we combined all sorts of endings and goodbyes into one evening, complete with a 12-boy chicken curry dinner that was out of this world. A bittersweet night.

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On Tuesday morning I packed a little bag and drove my Honda Civic to Dallas, where I met my parents for lunch. They had agreed to bring their truck to the city to haul a few Ikea items I wanted to purchase, plus drive me back home after I left my car at the shipping facility. We are one month out from our Hawaiian move, and we want our car to arrive about the same time that we do. Interestingly enough, they put the vehicles on a semi, drive it to LA, and then scoot the cars across the ocean to a port in Honolulu. Wicked.

Lunch with my parents was wonderful. I hadn’t seen them for a couple of months, and as always it was a blast spending time with them and catching up in person. We navigated Ikea for the perfect bed frame and a new bookshelf, then lugged the boxes back to the suburbs to our cousins’ house for dinner and beer and conversation and a good night’s rest.

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We were up early the next morning. I needed to vacuum out the interior of my car, wipe down the surfaces and give it a good scrub on the outside before I dropped it off at the shipment center. In addition to having miles and miles of paperwork, your car has to be empty, pristine, and with no more than a quarter tank of gas. I was a little stress ball all the way up until they took my keys, nervous that I was missing something or that I had left a crucial piece of the puzzle back at home, four hours away.

Thankfully, everything went off without a hitch and — bonus! — I even saw our friends Grace and Tom as they were dropping off their car to get shipped, mere hours before they flew out to the Great White North! It was so sweet to get to hug them one last time.

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From there the Robertson clan loaded up into the truck and began our trek back to my house, making only one pit stop at World Market for some goodies — chocolate, a couple make-your-own six-packs, and some perfect floor cushions. The drive was long and flat and boring, and my dad was a trooper to drive us the whole way. We made it back in the early evening, got everyone’s stuff unloaded, and commenced dinner plans.

Instead of staying in our small, partially disassembled home, my parents found a little condo to rent for the duration of their stay — it was definitely the MVP of the trip. With a couple extra bedrooms, comfy couches and ESPN2, a kitchen and a grill, we spent most of our time relaxing there. On Wednesday night we grilled steaks and watched a movie, and on their last night there we had our own little tailgate party to watch the Razorbacks play Florida State over a meal of homemade pork ribs.

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On Thursday, my parents and I bopped around town while Andrew was at work, visiting some little shops, the local water lily garden and running a few errands. Eventually my mom and I dropped my dad back off at the house so we could go for mani/pedis — what a treat! When we returned, my sleepy dad was in the same place we had left him, watching Despicable Me on television. That’s when you know you’re on a vacation!

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On Friday I dropped Andrew off at work early in the morning and headed straight to a friend’s apartment to meet their movers. Said friend had to move to his next assignment before he could get his packers schedules, and so I was filling in for him to supervise, sign papers, and generally get in the movers’ way while they did their jobs. It was a long day, to say the least, and at the end I was wiped. But I had some incredible events to look forward to — that evening Andrew and I took my parents out to our favorite (and the nicest, by far) restaurant in town for a four-course meal and a bottle of wine. From the amuse bouche right down the decadent desserts, we enjoyed gourmet food and great conversation, basically like we always do but in a fancy setting. Afterwards we went out to see a late movie, and decided on GRAVITY, shown in 3D. It was intense. This movie is less of an action flick and more of a psychological thriller, with little dialogue but amazing special effects. Sandra Bullock shone in her role as the survivor struggling to hold on to hope, and through it all the audience was privy to staggering views of Earth from space. I recommend it.

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Saturday morning was brunch by me — we had cherry-tarragon sausages, scrambled eggs, chocolate zucchini bread, coffee and OJ — followed by a field trip out to the Eola Schoolhouse Restaurant & Brewery.   This is one of those quirky places that we like to take all of our friends, and my parents in particular were no exception. They loved it. We sampled craft beers and greasy onion rings, listened to a couple of old guys play Merle Haggard songs on the guitar, and took in the vast expanse of farmland plains around us.

We got home in time to put in a batch of pork ribs and settle down for the pre-game show. While we waited for the game to start, my mom and I took a field trip to Ulta for new mascara and to Sam’s Club for a temporary military membership for me. Did you know that Sam’s Club is offering free membership to military members during the government shutdown? It’s a wonderful gift they’re offering while most commissaries are closed to ensure service members and their families have access to quality groceries at good prices. I for one am thankful for it. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks put up a good fight in the first half, but the last half was disappointing. I don’t want to talk about it.

So I had an amazing, exhausting, stressful, relaxing, full and precious week.

What have you been up to lately? If you haven’t already, I suggest you celebrate the big and the little things with some pie or some ice cream or — better yet — an ice cream pie. Yeah, sure, maybe it’s starting to get cool around your parts, and the leaves are turning and the days are getting shorter, and you might say that this isn’t an appropriate time for ice cream. To which I would reply: It is always an appropriate time for ice cream.

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Baklava Ice Cream Pie

Crust:

1 c. medjool dates, chopped

½ c. raw pistachios

3 Tbsp. olive oil

½ c. chopped assorted nuts (I used Nutcase Crunch)

¼ tsp. sea salt

Remove pits from 10-12 dates and pulse into a fine paste in a food processor, adding a little olive oil to keep things moist. Combine with nuts, salt and remaining olive oil in food processor and blend until uniform. Press the mixture into a pie pan greased with olive oil, and reserve in the freezer until ice cream is finished.

Ice cream:

50 oz. (4 cans) coconut milk

3 Tbsp. grass-fed gelatin

6 eggs, divided

1 c. honey

2 tsp. orange blossom water

2 Tbsp. amaretto

1 c. raw cashews

8 oz. water

In a saucepan, whisk together coconut milk, egg yolks, gelatin, honey and bring to a low boil, stirring continuously. Remove from heat to cool. Meanwhile, whip egg whites to stiff peaks, adding orange blossom water. Fold gently into custard mixture and remove to fridge to cool, overnight if possible.

Soak cashews in water for at least 30 minutes before blending in a high-speed blender with the cooled custard mixture. Add the amaretto before pouring into ice cream maker. (I used some of the tips Zenbelly offered in her recent post on making dairy-free gelato. Genius!)

Once ice cream has thickened, spread a layer evenly into the prepared crust and reserve to the freezer to harden. Drizzle with honey and toasted pistachios before serving.

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tip for moving #4

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When faced with an impending challenge, my favorite way to tackle it is through preparation. Call me a Boy Scout if you will, but I will research and list-make and conduct dry-runs until I have conquered the situation. Moving is no different.

With a military move overseas, we will be sending two separate shipments — one is called the “unaccompanied baggage,” and it is smaller, arrives earlier and travels by air. The final shipment is referred to as “household goods,” and it includes larger items like furniture. This shipment usually arrives one or two months after the physical move, and travels on a barge, often going through the Panama Canal.

Trying to decide what items go in which shipment has been the  most complicated process of the move so far. I haven’t wanted to send anything too early that we will need in the weeks after shipping, but I certainly don’t want to be burdened by tons of luggage on our trip to Hawaii. Take into account the changing seasons and a week of cross-country travel to see family at the end of October before flying to a tropical island and you have one complicated situation.

So, to cope, I do what I do best: I made a list. A list for unaccompanied baggages, a list for household goods, a list of things to give away, a list of things to send home to my parents, a list of items to pack with us in our traveling luggage. Knowing exactly what we would need in each stage of this process was the first step to feeling more in control.

Last week Andrew had the brilliant idea to stage a practice run of our packing process, and this was the second step to arriving at a fine-tuned moving plan. With list in hand, I gathered everything I wanted to pack in check and carry-on luggage — including clothes for fall in the States and active living in Hawaii, a few kitchen items we will be using up until our move, an air mattress and bedding for when our household goods are shipped — and spread it all out on our bed. Various open suitcases were strewn about, and once all items were gathered we set about the arduous task of packing.

It was handy to have one person manage the list while another gathered items, and I recommend having a hard copy of the list available for note-making and the checking off of items. We had several instances where we realized we wouldn’t need something, or that an item would not fit or be useful; in that case, we simply made a note on the list and altered the other lists accordingly.

Now, this may sound a little extreme, but trust me when I say that it is a valuable exercise.

We undertook this mission one free afternoon the week before our first round of movers came, and it did wonders to soothe my worry and relax my tangled mind. No more concern over whether clothes will fit or what kind of bag we’ll have to put our files and important documents in — that puzzle has been solved.

After documenting what we packed and where we packed it, we set about un-packing — but this was the best part. Before unloading the clothes we had just packed (two weeks worth of transitional items for warm weather or as layers for cool weather), we took all remaining hanging and folded clothes and stacked them in a giant plastic bin. This left us with plenty of drawer and closet space in which to store the clothes we knew we would need for traveling and living until our goods arrived, and with no need to separate them from superflous items.

Not only is it a relief not to have to worry about sorting clothes, but it is a breeze to get dressed in the morning. Andrew and I share a tiny closet and it is always crammed full — although this speaks more to the miniscule size of our closet than the amount of clothes we have — but now, all of my favorite, most useful items are hanging, unimpeded, in my closet, and it is a relief.

For your reference, I’m including my abbreviated packing list. No matter if you’re moving overseas, PCS-ing with the military, or just hopping over to a new house across town, this list can be helpful.

bathroom:
toiletries
1 set beach towels, 1 set Turkish bath towels
laundry soap, dryer ball + sheets
shower curtain + rings

bedroom:
clothing for 2 weeks
shoes + jackets
jewelry in travel case
uniforms
iron
travel alarm
air mattress + pump
bedding + pillows

office:
travel safe
important files + documents

kitchen:
vitamins
sm. cutting board + knives
1 skillet
Blendtec
electric kettle
pour-over coffee maker + filters
dishtowels
travel mugs + water bottles
reusable bags
cookbooks: Well Fed, Quick & Easy Paleo Comfort Foods

carry-on bags:
laptops + cords
cameras + cords
travel chess set
snacks: EPIC bars, activated nuts, homemade trail mix, fruit…

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photo by katiekatt via flickr

goals for october

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// SEPTEMBER //

Get back into running. — I have so enjoyed leisurely jogs in the cool mornings or in the afternoon rain, and I have determined that those runs are more my speed than any kind of race. But I’m so glad I tried out a race — see my post-5K photo here.

Finish out the Whole30. — Read my recap here.

Teach a Pilates class. — Eight classes down and going strong!

Finish those refinishing projects. — I finally finished painting and staining a couple tables and a dresser, and now I’m ready to put away the sander for a while.

Celebrate. — A craft beer-tasting party and lots of brownies were the stuff of celebration for Andrew’s birthday, and I’m looking forward to doing a little belated-birthday celebration when my parents visit.

// OCTOBER //

Keep running. These short, relaxed runs make me feel great.

Soak up fall before heading to the Land of Eternal Summer. This means picking apples, wearing boots and sitting by a fire. And enjoying plenty of autumnal baked goods, like the pumpkin cinnamon-sugar muffins from Health Bent and chocolate zucchini bread from The Paleo Chocolate Lover’s Cookbook pictured above.

Curtail spending. I did well on my last spending hiatus, and after reassessing the month’s budget and re-reading 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, I’m recommitted to purchasing only the essentials (groceries, toiletries, etc). Not to mention the fact that soon our household goods will be in a crate on their way to Hawaii and we’re limited to a what we can carry in a few suitcases, so accumulating more is simply not an option.

Relax. This is the month in which everything comes together, and at the end of it we’ll move. I’m going to do my best to chill out through it all and enjoy the ride!

What’s going on with you this month? I love October, and I’m looking forward to soaking it all in without any pressure to achieve big things.

herbed [activated] almonds

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Water, a dash of salt, a pound of raw almonds, twenty-four hours. This simple equation is all is takes to transform something ordinary into something incredibly delicious and nourishing. By harnessing — and in this case, by encouraging — the force of nature upon a little seed, we unlock vast potential, almost as if a door has been opened and a flood of energy unleashed. Sound a little trippy? Embrace your inner hippie and come along on a biochemical nutritional geekery magic carpet ride with me.

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Almonds, on their own, seem like a healthy snack. In their raw form they are free of roasting oils and seasonings that would never be found in nature — BBQ or wasabi almonds, anyone? — and seem to be the best choice, as any wellness magazine would tell you. But in reality, almonds contain a host of warriors that fight against digestion and mineral absorption when consumed raw, and can cause more harm to the body than good.

I first learned about the chemical makeup of almonds (and most other nuts and seeds) from the nutritional tome Nourishing Traditionsif you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, I suggest that you do. I learned about the anti-nutrient contained in nuts and seeds that exist to protect the reproductive potential of the plant. Phytatic acid is what prevents much of the digestion of almonds and hinders the absorption of minerals in the body, often encouraging digestive upset, mineral deficiencies and a whole host of other problems, potentially leading to leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.

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Take a difference perspective: if you were a plant, you would want to protect your DNA-containing embryo that would help your species propogate. It’s the same reason why fowl protect their eggs and wheat kernels are so difficult to digest without some form of processing. The organism needs those seeds to survive in order for the organism’s lineage to survive.

It doesn’t only happen with wheat and almonds — when birds eat berries they are able to fully digest the fruit, but the seed of the blackberry or blueberry they just consumed passes whole through their digestive system and is spread across the country through their waste. This is one of the ingenious mechanisms of biochemistry that allows plants and animals to work together, synergistically.

So if we take into account the anti-nutrients contained in almonds and why those anti-nutrients exist, should we even eat almonds and other nuts in the first place? Yes, I contend, but in small doses, and with proper preparation.

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There is a process — called soaking, sprouting or “activating” — that helps to neutralize the harmful phytic acid and make the minerals within an almond more bio-available (meaning, our bodies can absorb them better). By soaking nuts overnight in clean water with a pinch of salt, we activate the almond’s growing response and thereby “turn off” the production of harmful phytic acid. Think of it this way: the almond has been on the defensive, trying to protect itself and its genetic material for the future. But now, under the right circumstances, it is being encouraged to grow, to start a sprout, and to eventually produce more almonds. In this “safe place,” it no longer needs phytic acid to protect itself, but now can use all of its resources — resources that are nutritious to the human body — to propagate.

This is certainly more time-intensive than eating raw almonds straight out of a package, but it is worth it in the long run to reap the health benefits and negate the detriments of phytic acid on the body. Plus, by soaking/sprouting/activating the almonds, you open up a whole new flavor profile and an opportunity to customize. With my typical recipe, I soak and dehydrate almonds without the addition of spices, but this time I created an autumn-inspired mix with sea salt, dried rosemary, and a little extra time in the oven to promote a roasted, toasted flavor.

Look at this as one big science experiment and have fun with it — that’s half the reason why we get into the kitchen in the first place, to tinker and to play.

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Salted Rosemary [Activated] Almonds

1 lb. raw almonds

2 quarts water

dash of sea salt (or an acidic medium like apple cider vinegar)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sea salt

1-2 Tbsp. dried rosemary

Soak the raw almonds overnight in fresh water with a dash of salt or apple cider vinegar. This helps to begin the sprouting (or “activating”) process that removes many of the phytates and other anti-nutrients contained in the nut which prevent digestion and adequate mineral absorption.

After soaking, drain and rinse the raw almonds, shaking as much water off as possible. In a large bowl, toss the almonds with olive oil, salt and dried rosemary to coat. Spread on a lined baking sheet and leave in the oven for at least 12 hours at 170 degrees — the almonds are adequately dehydrated when they are crunchy and have a slightly sweet, toasted flavor.

Try other flavors and combinations:

smoked paprika + cayenne + garlic salt

pumpkin pie spice + maple syrup

cumin + chili powder + lime zest

oregano + tomato paste + olive oil + sea salt

honey + sea salt + sesame seeds

ginger + turmeric + honey

garam masala + sea salt

wake-me-up coffee scrub

SONY DSCI can feel a metaphor in here somewhere. Sloughing off the old to make way for the new, shedding dull skin for fresh growth, rebirth. Somehow the creation of this exfoliant is inextricably linked with where I am currently. Our movers come next week, and shortly after I will ship my car and take one final Ikea trip. By the end of next month, we’ll be out of here and on our way to our new home.

And in this transition phase I am feeling itchy, emotionally. All of the plans, the time crunch, our belongings packed hither and thither are rubbing me the wrong way and I am not reacting as gracefully as I wish I could. I’m starting to rely much to heavily on afternoon screenings of Parks & Rec and homemade waffles — too much of a good thing can be, well, too muchSONY DSC

But looking at all that’s around and all that’s ahead makes me excited for what’s next. It’s multi-faceted, filled with travel and simplicity, living with less.

Through it all it’s good to remember to pause, to take care of myself. I made this scrub out of things I already had around the house, and although it cost very little to make when I first used it I felt a sense of luxury and relaxation I hadn’t experienced in a while. Something about the warm coffee aroma mixed with the cloves spice reminded me of my college coffee shop and the mornings I would spend there after my early Spanish class, working on a big cup of black coffee, an apple and a granola bar. I knew the regulars, imagined their stories, watched the food service workers unload the trucks at the back of the cafeteria and listened to the baristas banter over opening chores. It was my ritual every Monday-Wednesday-Friday to sit near a window or out on the patio if the weather was nice and watch the campus wake up.

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In a way, I am on my way to waking up. Through this hurricane of change and preparation my sense of curiosity has been blunted by the all-too-present “to do list.” The pressing needs of the immediate moment smother the desire for adventure, the task right in front of me — wash and pack the linens, post the piano to Craigslist, take a load of books to the thrift store — takes precedence over what I’ve been dreaming about.

Standing in the shower, scrubbing the rough patches of skin on my elbows and knees, I thought about the me of four years ago, lonely and lost on the patio of a cafe, clinging with my little hands to a buoy of ritual. And now, clinging to some semblance of familiarity, of comfort, to transition into the newest phase, I see so much of what was to be in that person.

I still have some of the same rough patches, some of the same feelings of being lost in a great big ocean of “shoulds.” But in the same way that cicadas shed their skins when the seasons change, slipping out of the old for a fresh perspective, I’m seeing a little of the same transformation.SONY DSC

Wake-Me-Up Coffee Scrub

1 c. dry coffee, finely ground

1 c. coconut oil or your favorite liquid oil: jojoba, hemp, olive…

15-20 drops clove essential oil

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

To melt the coconut oil, place the sealed jar in a sink of warm water until the oil liquifies. Measure out desired about (one half to one cup) and shake in 15-20 drops of clove essential oil. Cypress or another earthy, spicy scent would be delicious and equally stimulating to the circulatory system.

In a separate bowl, sift together coffee grounds and spices. Stir into oils with a non-metal spatula until smooth. Pour into a jar and keep in your shower — the steam and hot water will liquify the coconut oil if it solidifies in a cold bathroom.

Apply anywhere that needs a good scrubbing or a boost in circulation and massage into skin in wide, circular motions.

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Additionally, I just found out that today is National Coffee Day — fortuitous, as I had no knowledge of said holiday before I drafted this post! This morning I’m drinking a variation of butter coffee, this time with coconut oil, Pure Indian Foods Digestive Ghee, grass-fed gelatin and a little dab of local honey, all blended up until frothy and perfect. This is my version of a pumpkin spice latte, and I definitely prefer it to the over-priced, over-sweetened version from Starbucks. What are you drinking this morning?

around here

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis weekend we got the first taste of fall in the form of chilly mornings and bright blue September sky. We harvested our final tomato and made pumpkin pancakes in the span of two days — a sure sign that autumn is around the corner. There’s a beauty to seasonal eating, and the overlap that characterizes the switch from summer to fall. It’s not as if the leaves begin to turn and the pumpkins ripen on the exact day of fall equinox, but instead we have this gentle season of transition that is  not quite one thing and also not quite another. We wear long sleeves and scarves in the morning, but by lunchtime we’ve shed our layers, thankful to be wearing sandals instead of boots.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetI think it’s a shame to wish away one season in favor of the next. Already Halloween decorations are out in the stores and coffee shops are advertising their version of pumpkin lattes. Why not relish this last stretch of summer here and now, work on our flexibility and adaptability as we traverse varying temperatures and a mixed bag of bounty from our farmers markets?

I like this time of year. It keeps me on my toes. And only recently have I arrived at a place in which I can be content in the present instead of wishing it away for the future. Autumn is my favorite season, but I can say with confidence that the here and now is my favorite place to be.

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Speaking of favorites, Saturday was Andrew’s birthday! We celebrated all weekend long with big brunches, steak dinners, a craft beer tasting with friends and plenty of his favorite brownies. We saw a special showing of Fight Club at our local theater and went on a couple of hikes to stretch our legs and soak up the gorgeous weather. Happy birthday to my love — may we celebrate many more in the years to come!

goal #13

5K goalThis morning I ran my first 5K, the Run to Remember event to benefit a local Big Brothers, Big Sisters chapter and to memorialize the lives lost on 9/11. It was a hot, bright morning, and the races began at the same times that the towers were hit 12 years ago. The course zig-zagged through the local college campus and across dirt fields, along the cross country course and back again to where we started. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but I crossed the finish line strong and crossed another goal off of my list for the year. And of course, big love goes out to my husband and coach, my cheerleader and my biggest fan. He rallied my spirits at the end of the race and was there with a smile at the finish line.

Nine goals down, four more to go!