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!

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than to receive

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I mentioned earlier this week that over the weekend our neighbor left a big box of bread on our doorstep as a gift. I’ve been thinking about that gesture all week, what it meant for him, what it means for me, and what it means when I read “It is better to give than to receive.” 

Our neighbors aren’t wealthy, by any means. At any one time there are five to seven people living in that house, with two travel trailers parked in the back yard and at least eight dogs barking through the fence. There are a couple of decomposing vehicles, waiting for a little love and repair, sinking into the dust of the driveway. They buy their bread in bulk from the discount bakery and put most of it in a deep freezer to preserve throughout the month.

We aren’t wealthy, either. We’re living off of one paycheck, augmented by sporadic bursts of income from my [freelance] end of the deal. We shop at the commissary, we put money into savings as often as possible, we rarely go out and we buy secondhand. But we have no debt from school or car payments, no crushing loans or credit card responsibilities, and we live comfortably.

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Lately I’ve been thinking about our neighbors when I bring home a big bag of groceries or when I shop at the farmer’s market. The luxury of it all. How is it okay that I’m in my kitchen, cooking macadamia-encrusted cod, while less than fifteen feet away they’re waiting on this month’s disability check? How it it okay that I can choose not to eat grains and sugar and instead buy fresh veggies and some grass-fed meats and eggs from a farmer when they subsist on Subway and Stripes?

I’m living in my own little world and it is insular and protected against the reality of poverty, of hunger, of financial security. What am I doing to alleviate those pressures on the world around me?

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So much is going on in my head and my heart. I’m reading Acts and Galations. “Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” (Gal. 5:14 MSG) My world is in a tailspin, thanks very much to Jen Hatmaker and her revolutionary book, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. (More about this later.) I’m in the middle of inventory-ing our home to prepare for our move and I’m facing the sheer magnitude of how much stuff we have. All good, beautiful things that we need and use. And all of this to say — we have been given so much, and what are we giving in response?

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I’m thinking about the national socio-economic divide that is displayed in the microcosm of my little neighborhood, my home next to my neighbor’s, and how much that relates to Dr. King’s revolutionary “I Have A Dream” speech we celebrated yesterday. I’m thinking about radical generosity — I am not thinking about socialism or political reform — and how Jesus loved and gave to the least, how Paul worked for what he needed and lived with what he could carry.

I’m struggling to make sense of it all and how it works realistically in my life. How do I give and serve without perpetuating the endless cycle of poverty? It’s the same question I face every time a homeless person asks for spare change: How is this going to help you? Does it make any difference in the long run?

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Heavy stuff for a post about enchiladas. I made these with equal parts joy and creativity combined with a good dose of solemnity, with one eye out the kitchen window to where that little ramshackle house sat. I’m trying my hardest to figure out what place I have in this mess. How to start small but make a big difference. How to get out of my comfort zone. How to shake up my concepts of service and generosity and love.

So far I haven’t accomplished much by way of revelation, and so far these ramblings have very little direction, but I’m leaning into the tension and looking for opportunities to act. To show that I care enough. To give. For it is far better to do that than to receive.

All of this from a box of bread.

SONY DSCVegetable Enchiladas with Salsa Fresca

6-9 med. plantain tortillas (or corn tortillas if you’d prefer)

1 med. butternut squash

2 med. pattypan squash

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 Tbsp. lard or coconut oil

sea salt + black pepper

1 c. homemade broth

1/2 c. coconut milk

1 tsp. smoked paprika

pinch of cayenne

Incredibly, all of this produce came from my farmers market — except for the plantains, that is. Those were dirt cheap from our commissary. I don’t think anyone else knows what to do with them so I’m counting myself lucky that they even exist in west Texas. 

Begin by making your plantain tortillas or, if you’re short on time or prefer the flavor of masa harina, use small prepared corn tortillas. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. of lard. Peel and de-seed the butternut squash and dice into small cubes. This will go into the skillet first, with a generous pinch of salt, to brown and soften. Once squash is tender, remove half of the amount from the skillet and set aside for the sauce. Add in diced pattypan squash and crushed garlic, plus a little more salt and pepper. Saute until all is tender.

Meanwhile, make the enchilada sauce: in a food processor, combine reserved butternut squash, broth, paprika, cayenne and coconut milk. Blitz until smooth and season to taste.

Begin filling the tortillas with a scoop of the squash mixture and roll into little enchiladas. Fill a 9×11″ glass baking pan with the enchilada rolls — or, if you’re lazy like I was, layer the tortillas with the squash, stacking it up flat. Top with all of the enchilada sauce and bake until tortillas are starting to crisp and sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Serve with a big scoop of this salsa fresca:

Pomegranate-Sungold Salsa Fresca

2 qt. sungold tomatoes

1 med. pink pomegranate, seeded

1 lg. bunch cilantro, chopped

1 lime, juiced

1/4 red onion, sliced thin

In a bowl, combine halved tomatoes, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, lime juice, and paper-thin red onion slices with a pinch of salt. Toss to combine and let marinate while the enchiladas are baking.

a cheater’s tale

Whole30 day 12 and I miss ice cream. I also miss dark chocolate, red wine, gin & tonics, and my favorite movie-watching snack: Glutino pretzels and Enjoy life chocolate chips.

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On Sunday I baked a cake from scratch for a friend’s birthday — a gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free creation that took most of the morning and an extra pair of hands to execute, with two types of frosting. We delivered the cake and I had a piece in celebration with said friend and — you know what? — NO ONE DIED. The world, also, continued to orbit the sun and turn on its axis. I’m all for total compliance on a program like the Whole30. I don’t believe in “everything in moderation.” And I still felt great about that cake.

You know what else I feel great about? Cramming as many vegetables as possible into my day. Not having to weigh the pros and cons of having a cocktail after dinner or a handful of dark chocolate squares. Aiming for nutrient density. Not thinking all that much about what I’m eating. Is it a fruit? Mine. Is it a vegetable? Get in my belly. Is it high quality meat, simply prepared? Dinnertime.

I’m still eating my favorite zucchini soup for lunch every day and making eggs for most breakfasts, but lately I’ve been making these nonstop and I urge you to do the same. And yes, I’ve also been making this: a play on the “apple pie a la mode pudding” you might have seen in my last Whole30 recap and at Paleo Magazine. I contest that nearly everything can be turned into ice cream if you want it badly enough. And boy, do I ever.

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Apple Pie A La Mode Ice Cream

1 can full-fat coconut milk

1 pastured egg yolk

1 Tbsp. grass-fed gelatin

3-5 apples

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

In a medium saucepan, bring the coconut milk and apples to a boil and then lower to a quiet simmer for 30 minutes. If you forget about it and walk away for the better part of an hour, the flavor will be all that much more concentrated. If you’re not concerned with your sugar intake or would prefer more of a treat, include more apples or simply add in a half cup of maple syrup while on the stove.

Once the apples are soft, remove the mixture from the heat. Stir in spices, vanilla, egg yolks and gelatin. Let cool before pureeing in a food processor or blender. Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour or two, or until it is no longer warm. Warm custard makes for impossible ice cream.

Pour the cooled mixture into your ice cream machine and let it work its magic for 25 minutes or so, or until the custard has thickened to your liking. Eat all of it, immediately, with the cool white drops streaming down your forearm.

Or, if you’re of the patient variety, let the ice cream harden in the fridge for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. If you’re not on the Whole30 bandwagon, top this baby with applejack molasses cookies and/or oatmeal butterscotch cookies for the ultimate yum factor. I won’t be jealous. (<< lying)

who says you can’t go home

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Last week I was home in Arkansas again for a quick visit – too quick, in fact. The time I spend there goes by at warp speed, particularly in comparison to my days spent traveling to and from. My layover in one airport felt excruciatingly lengthy and the distance between my connecting flight and destination seemed to stretch agonizingly, even though I spent less than an hour in the air. There’s something about anticipating something good that makes time behave badly. It’s the same thing that makes it slip through grasping fingers like liquid when you want it to slow down, to savor something good that’s been a long time coming.

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Flying into the regional airport always gives me a thrill, anticipation notwithstanding: the plane descends over patchwork pastures dotted with grazing cattle or tiny golden bales of hay, casting perfect replicas of themselves in their shadows. Corrals and ponds make crop circles in the fields. We come upon clusters of trees so vibrantly green, rises in the elevation so smooth as to seem like silk. I’m sure the other passengers think I’m a novice traveler because I’m like a little kid peering through the plane window, my eyes stretched wide to see it all and my smile barely contained.

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It was good to be home.

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It was good to see the familiar sights of the chickens, the tangle of garden growth, the way the sun slants over the hill and into the horse barn in the evenings. It was good to walk barefoot on the grass and to ride in the old truck without a seatbelt. It was good to navigate through a mess of junebugs, with their whirring wings like lawnmower motors, just to get at the juiciest wild blackberry. All these things come back to me quickly even though they’re no longer a part of my daily life. Then they stay there, lodged in my heart like the stubbornest of brambles.

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My favorite part of the trip was my first night at home. My parents and I grilled outside on their patio and ate on the picnic table to the sound of peepers and the nudges of a begging puppy’s nose from beneath our seats. We had incredible steaks with truffle butter, grilled white asparagus and fresh tomatoes from the garden, seemingly still warm from the sun. We watched the stars come out from behind the trees and worked our way through a bottle of wine, as if to coax them out with toasts and clinking glasses. A few clumsy bats swooped over our heads. The insects of the night began to warm up their orchestra of wings.

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That was what it felt like to be home – those moments of closeness, of jokes, of intimate conversation with two of my favorite people, with our animals around us and the land of my birthright beneath my feet. If only every meal could be that powerful, that delicious.

SONY DSCSavory Tomato Tart (gluten-free, grain-free)

For the crust:

2 Tbsp. melted butter, coconut oil, ghee or lard

½ Tbsp. raw honey

1 egg, beaten

1 ½ c. almond flour

½ c. + 2 Tbsp. arrowroot (or cornstarch, if you don’t have any)

1 Tbsp. coconut flour

½ tsp. salt

¼ c. grated parmesan

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

Sift together dry ingredients. Beat together wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then combine, kneading until a moist dough forms. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic film – chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and make the filling. After the dough has chilled, press it into a tart pan. Prick the bottom with a fork and then brush with a little egg white. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust begins to brown.

Filling:

½ lb. fresh tomatoes, sliced thin

salt and pepper

fresh basil

Arrange tomatoes in par-baked crust. Sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, plus a good handful of fresh basil leaves. Cover the tart crust with a foil barrier and bake for another 15 minutes. After elapsed time, crank up the oven to 500 degrees for 5-10 minutes, until tomatoes are beginning to broil. Make sure the crust doesn’t burn. The end result should be a crisp crust with tender, jammy tomatoes and an herbal flavor throughout.

goals for august

big sky lake

// JULY //

Make more ice cream. I made coconut-vanilla ice cream and ate it with GF shortbread cookies and local peaches. Egads, it was good. Then I made this version of s’mores ice cream, and it was even better with homemade GF graham crackers and homemade marshmallows. I made it on the same day our air conditioning died and so it was particularly appreciated.

Harvest our first homegrown tomato. — We got three little guys out of our tomato plant before her season ended. I think she’s done for.

Watch fireworks.  Twice!

Do hill sprints. In my new Vibrams, no less.

Do my research. — Some semi-concrete decisions have been made about a car for us and school for me, and we’ve decided to wait until we get to Hawaii to decide on housing. Meanwhile, I’m trolling websites for job postings and praying that something good comes up.

// AUGUST //

Refinish furniture. — My goal number ten to accomplish this year, which includes a lingerie dresser, an outdoor table and two side tables, plus whatever else I pick up before we move. (I have my heart set on finding an old trunk and a wooden bench.)

Master the art of the pull-up. — This has been my summer fitness goal: that by the end of the season, I will be able to do at least one unassisted pull-up. Ideally, I want to do more than one, and I’m slowly but surely working my way toward it.

Learn to remix my wardrobe. — This series has inspired me to shake up some of my fashion ruts and really get the milage out of the pieces I have.

Complete a Whole30. — I’m doing some traveling this week and so won’t be starting on the first of the month, but I’m going to try my hardest to make it through the full version this time.

What are some goals you’re working on this month? Can you identify with any that I’ve declared?

to market

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCYesterday I walked downtown to the farmers market. I wanted fresh air and a good stretch of my legs; the bounty of summer for a dollar a pound was plenty to draw me out.

Made by the sun and wind and soil here, the tomatoes are radiant. The figs smell of honey. The funny little cucumbers taste like sweet cream and the elephant garlic never ceases to surprise me with its hearty cloves, its mellow flavor.

Call me inspired. I went to the market for some vegetables and came back with a  renewed appreciation for those who grow and tend and cultivate — both plants and people.