Sweet Potatoes with Peanut Butter on Them

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If the title of this post is all you need to know, then Go Forth! You have my permission and my blessing to eat sweet potatoes with peanut butter on them. 

If you are curious and would like some tips, here you go: 

  • Oven somewhere between 400° and 425°. Feel it out. 
  • Cut your potatoes. Not too thick or they will take forever. Not too thin or you will forget about them and only remember when you smell them burning. MAIN THING: Evenly. Same size. No black sheep. Uniform.
  • Oh yeah, don't peel them! Just wash them and scrub if they need scrubbing. 
  • I like to cook sweet potatoes in coconut oil. They just go together for me. Because my coconut oil is usually solid-ish (why so cold right now, LA?), I: 
    • Put my pan in the oven as it heats up. After the potatoes are cut, I take out the pan and put about 2 TBLS of coconut oil in the bottom of the hot pan and watch it melt. Coating the bottom of the pan with oil helps the potatoes cook more evenly and not get burned on the bottom. You can also totally skip this step and just put coconut oil directly on the potatoes and let it melt and distribute in the oven. If you're using olive oil or non-solid coconut oil, then, awesome, don't waste your time with this bullet point. 
  • Pan prepped, put the potatoes in and and spice 'em up. I love cinnamon, turmeric, and a little cayenne on my sweet potatoes. And salt salt salt. Slosh them around so the oil and the spices get distributed. Don't be afraid of flavor. Dash away. 
  • Don't crowd the pan. Give each slice some space. No pieces on top of other pieces. Use another pan if necessary. 
  • Put them in the oven. Check on them about 30 minutes later and shake the pan around or move stuff with a spatula so all sides of the potato get equal love. 
  • They will probably take an hour, hour and fifteen, depending on your oven, how many pans you have in there, what temp, etc. 
  • To me, they are done when they are very forkable and crispy on the outside. 
  • Eat them with peanut butter. Pour it on top, put it on the side. Go wild. 

 

 

Self-Care Starts in the Kitchen

I have a bunch of super smart high achievers in my life who don't feed themselves very well. They have the fork-to-mouth mechanics down, but when it comes to planning, prepping, preparing or cooking food it is either a) not high on their priority lists or b) something they have a hard time executing. 

This is, immodestly, something I am really good at. So, for my friends who are good at other things, a philosophy and a plan: 

Philosophy

1. Self-care is not selfish. 

2. Food is medicine. What and when we eat has a direct impact on our overall health, well-being, mood, energy level, and productivity. 

3. The time we take to prepare and eat good food is not wasted. It comes back to us later in the form of more energy and clearer focus. We spend less time distracted by our bodies (bloating, constipation, inflammation, headaches, mood swings, irritability, fatigue and co.) and more time in our bodies, using them to do whatever it is we do. 

4. Convenience is a myth. Preservatives, stabilizers, factory farming, pesticides, and airplane food are all convenient. This doesn't mean they're good. Lies are convenient. Also not good. Processed food and lies will all catch up with us, either at the end of the day in the form of a sugar crash, or later in life with more drama: think heart disease, Diabetes, depression, or a big ol' fight with someone we love (that would be the lie coming back around). 

It might be convenient—and even cheaper—to skip breakfast, take Beano, and eat what's available instead of what's elevating, but, ultimately, this convenience has a price. This price may seem to just be the body's to bear, but what happens to our physical forms is inextricably connected to our thoughts and emotions—our essential us-ness. And vice versa. If you've ever broken out because of stress or felt nauseated after receiving horrible news, that's the body processing your anxiety and taking on your grief. 

In Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett makes the point of the mind-body-soul connection very elegantly. Mind and spirit, she argues, "are as physical as they are mental."   

"...how we inhabit our senses tests the mettle of our souls.... I'm factoring in a love of our bodies...a frankness about them, a fidelity to them. We can trust the wisdom our bodies offer, again and again, and in the most ordinary circumstances. Convenience is an illusion, merely shifting the burden of process and consequences. Labor is real. But so is pleasure real and enduring."

If your work and obligations, be they intellectual, emotional, physical, creative, or care-taking pursuits, are what's keeping you from really nourishing yourself,  then know that taking care of yourself does not mean draining the well you draw from to pursue them. It is the same well. 

And if you are gassy and bloated, by all means use Beano or whatever to give yourself some relief, but also ask why you are bloated in the first place. The question will demand to be answered eventually, so you might as well investigate on your own terms.

Plan

1. Stock your larder. Here are some essentials: 

  • A good cooking fat. I love coconut. Also olive. Butter is delicious. As is ghee. Just make sure it's high quality and not processed. This might not seem like an item on which to splurge, but your food will taste like whatever you cook it in so get something that tastes good. 
  • Real salt. There's a healthy table salt vs sea salt vs rock salt debate happening on the Internet. All very interesting. I, personally, am fan of Himalayan pink salt. It's flavorful and pretty. 
  • Some nice spices. These are my desert island guys: Cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne. If I'm allowed two carry-ons: Red pepper flakes, cumin, cardamom. 
  • Eggs
  • A leafy green with some stamina that you can eat raw or cooked: Kale, Swiss chard, arugula, spinach. Lettuce gets really wilted and depressing looking real fast and since cooked lettuce is not a thing I usually only buy it if I know I'm going to eat it in the next couple days. (That said, chopping, rinsing, drying, and Ziplock bagging your lettuce will extend it's fridge life much longer than if you just leave it wither.)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar 
  • Raw, local honey 
  • Respectable bone broth, chicken or vegetable stock. Springbone, in NYC, could even deliver it you.   
  • A grain: quinoa, exciting rice
  • Apples. Keep 'em in the fridge. 
  • Nice nuts (raw + organic)
  • Good storage containers so your food has a place to go. I love these, these, and these

2. Spend one night prepping food for the week ahead. I like to do this right after I go shopping or get my CSA box. It's so tempting to do it later, but there is nothing less enticing than dirty vegetables with all their stems and leaves staring at you from the fridge when you are hungry and looking for something to eat. If you put the food away and forget about it it will forget about you, too. It will mold in retribution. It will go limp in despair. 

So, wash everything that needs to be washed. Put your apples in a pretty bowl. Cut up your kale. Chop your carrots or potatoes or squash so you can roast them later. Or, hell, just roast them now; you're listening to a podcast anyway. Soak some quinoa so it will cook faster and digest easier later. Really into the podcast? Cook the quinoa and put it in your fridge. There's your lunch with some sautéed greens and a fried egg. Give yourself over to an hour or so of prep.

Is this the most convenient thing to do? At the time, it might be more convenient to throw a bunch of plastic bags in the fridge and deal with them later. Or not go shopping at all and order takeout. But see above, point 4. CONVENIENCE IS A MYTH. 

3. Get into your food groove. I go through food phases and, depending on the season, eat a lot of the same things a lot of the time. When I am sick of eating those things my body tells me and we move on to something else. The beauty of eating seasonally is that right when I am so incredibly done with sweet potatoes is when the asparagus and rhubarb and first strawberries start showing up and my new cravings have a place to land. 

This is what's prepared in my fridge right now: 

  • Roasted sweet potatoes
  • Ribboned kale, massaged, sensually, with salt and olive oil. It's ready to be sautéed, braised, or eaten raw after another massage. 
  • Tahini dressing (tahini, lemon, olive oil, water, salt, garlic in the blender)
  • Homemade mayonnaise
  • Cut up lamb sausage

These are my building blocks. Really simple. Nothing elaborate. My goal is to always have something ready to eat in my fridge so I'm not faced with any of those Snickers' commercials scenarios when I'm hungry. We do weird things when we're hungry. We make poor choices. If my available food choices are good, it follows that I will make good food choices. I may also eat most of a jar of peanut butter, but that's okay. I'm okay. 

4. Learn how to roast a chicken. It's really easy

One more truth from Ms. Tippett: 

"As the era of care-less food comes to a reckoning, we're relearning the elemental delight in growing what we eat and preparing it as though it matters."

And this from Dan Barber: 

"When you are greedy for the best food, you are by definition being greedy for the kind of world that you want used in the proper way. That's the true definition of sustainability."

Change your diet, change your life, change the world. Easy. 

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Avocado Need I Say More?

Full Fancy Name: Shaved Asparagus Salad with Golden Roasted Chickpeas, Avocado and a Lemon-Miso Dressing

Here's what you need:

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 cup dried* or 1 can moist (yeah, I said it) chickpeas *if using dried, be sure to soak overnight
  • 1 avocado or like, three, let's be real here
  • fresh lemon juice
  • turmeric
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • olive oil
  • miso paste (Miso Master makes a great chickpea-based variety if you are avoiding soy)
  • maple syrup or honey

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Toss with a high-heat friendly cooking oil (like coconut), salt and turmeric. Roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are firm but still fork-friendly.

Use a mandolin or a vegetable peeler to thinly slice or shave the asparagus. If this is too finicky, simply slice the asparagus very thinly with a knife.

For the dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, a dash of miso and a little bit of maple syrup or honey to taste. Use water to thin the dressing out if necessary.

Toss the asparagus in the dressing. Top with the roasted chickpeas and sliced avocado(s). Season as needed with salt and pepper.

Brownies With Salt On Them

Houdini brownies that disappear. 

You need: 

  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (or flour of choice)
  • good flaky salt to taste (I use Maldon)

Preheat the oven to 325°. Combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, cacao, and salt in a double broiler. Stir until all shiny, no clumps. 

Remove from the heat and let cool a little. Add the vanilla and gently beat the eggs in one at a time. Stir in the flour. 

Pour into an 8 x 8" baking dish, either with parchment paper lining the bottom and sides, or coconut oil coating the dish. 

Salt! 

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. 

Lemon Roasted Chicken a.k.a The Chicken

I stole this recipe from Nigella Lawson many years ago and have not stopped making it. I've internalized it at this point, so I'm not sure how closely mine resembles hers, but it is simple and delicious, which were the hallmarks of the original. 

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You need: 

  • A chicken from an upstanding farm 
  • 1 lemon
  • grass-fed butter or ghee
  • salt 
  • perhaps herbs

THE BASICS

Turn the oven to 425°. Rinse the chicken. Cover it with butter (this will be easier if the chicken is not straight-from-the-refrigerator-cold). Put half a lemon in the cavity. Salt copiously, all sides. Cook the chicken breast-side down so the juices collect at the bottom of the pan and keep the meatiest part of the bird the moistest. Sorry if you hate that word. 

THE BASICS+

Use a small, sharp knife to pierce the chicken skin but not the meat underneath. Make as many incisions as you can, breast to bottom. This will help the skin cook up crispy. Put fresh herbs in the cavity along with the lemon: sage, rosemary, oregano...whatever you got! Along with salt, cover with dried herbs and / or spices. I like fennel + rosemary and cumin seeds + rosemary. Crowd the pan with vegetables and other things you would like to eat that will taste like delicious chicken fat drippings. Potatoes, garlic, rhubarb, apple, onions, cabbage, mushrooms...I have used all of these things (though not all at the same time) and adjusted the spice profile accordingly. Rhubarb, apple, and onion is my current favorite. 

Cook the bird until it's done. Definitely longer than an hour (unless your chicken is really, really tiny) and probably no more than two. The kitchen will smell like roast chicken and the skin will be crispy and brown. I took this bird out too early once; we cut into it, decided not to risk it, and put it back in the oven. Twenty minutes later it was perfect. The whole thing is pretty forgiving. 

Don't forget to thank the chicken. And the farmer who killed it. It's a big deal. Take a moment. 

Rhubarb Banana Bread + Teen Angst

In high school my friend Lily could do everything and one of those things was cook. We always ended up at her house for massive slumber parties and in the morning she would make perfect crepes. She also made a rhubarb bread I was so obsessed with that I made her send me some at camp one summer. 

Meanwhile, back at my house, my mom was always making banana bread because my stepfather strategically bought too many bananas. The bananas would ripen, turn brown, and start to melt. That's when Charlie would cheerfully exclaim, "Looks like we need to make banana bread!" By we he meant my mom. 

This is a hybrid mash-up of two of my favorite recipes from two of my favorite women. Tastes like teen spirit. 

  • 1 cup spelt flour 
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a little or a lot of any of the following: cardamom, nutmeg, clove, all spice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 1 date
  • ⅓ cup honey 
  • 2 cups chopped and mostly peeled rhubarb

Pre-heat your oven to 350°. 

Stir all the dry ingredients together. 

Put the banana, date, honey, and vanilla in a blender. 

Beat the eggs. 

Add eggs and banana mixture to the dry ingredients and fold in the rhubarb. 

Put a loaf pan in the oven with a spoonful of coconut oil in the bottom. Wait a minute or two, remove the loaf pan, swish the coconut oil around to coat the bottom and sides, and pour the batter in. If you intelligently live in a climate in which your coconut oil is already liquid, congratulate yourself and skip this step. 

Bake for 55 minutes or so, until it's done. 

This is not overly sweet (it's actually kind of delightfully tart). It would be really nice with a dollop of sweet cashew cream. That's right: a dollop. 

The Sierra In The Desert Smoothie

Once upon a time my friends Joe and Tara and the princess Sierra lived in the desert outside Los Angeles, in a house with a pool and a pomelo tree. 

This was the smoothie I liked to make when I came to visit: 

  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 or 2 pomelos from Joe + Tara's pomelo tree
  • 1/2 an avocado
  • big handful of greens
  • 2 dates
  • some coconut oil 
  • cinnamon 
  • turmeric

Blend, pour, drink outside. Talk about life with Princess Sierra. 

Chocolate Without A Bunch of Shit In It

Chocolate has a bunch of shit in it. 

You can change this. 

  • 1 cup coconut oil (I buy mine in bulk here)
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cacao (I also buy mine here)
  • maple syrup or raw honey to taste (maybe 1/4 cup-ish)
  • a dash of pink salt

Combine everything in a double broiler and stir until all the ingredients have melted together. The mixture will look glossy, like a pretty pony. It shouldn't get too hot -- test by dipping a finger in to taste it. And then again just to make sure.

Once you've created the base, get your Willy Wonka on. Add spices, herbs, essential oils:

  • cinnamon
  • vanilla
  • turmeric
  • cardamom 
  • cayenne
  • lavender 
  • peppermint oil...

Add adaptogens: 

Add things! Or don't. It is pure and delicious in its unadulterated state. 

Next, give the chocolate a good final stir. Liquid sweeteners like honey or maple syrup tend to sink to the bottom. 

Pour the chocolate into molds (ice-cube trays are great) or onto a baking sheet. This is a great time to put beautiful things on top: 

  • shredded coconut 
  • rose petals
  • entire roses
  • more spices
  • more salt
  • crystallized ginger 
  • dried cherries 
  • peanut butter / nut butter of choice*
  • maple cream...

Put your molds or baking sheet into the freezer. Hope your baking sheet fits in your freezer. Leave in for about an hour or so, until the chocolate is set. The chocolate will slide pretty easily out if the molds (just turn upside down and bang) and you can cut it into pieces off the baking sheet. Transfer to a sealed container and leave in the fridge. It will get a little melty at room temperature. 

*If pouring chocolate into molds experiment with making a chocolate peanut butter cup situation. One option is to pour a base of chocolate in the mold, freeze it, remove from the freezer, add peanut butter, then pour reserved chocolate on top and refreeze. If that sounds too involved, just start with chocolate, add peanut butter, then add more chocolate. It's all going to the same place eventually. 

The Costa Rica Nostalgia Smoothie

This is what I make when I miss Costa Rica. Soooo I make it every day : ) 

  • 1 cup water + some shredded coconut to make coconut water
  • OR coconut water FROM THE INSIDE OF A COCONUT*
  • 2 dates** (less necessary if using coconut water)
  • large handful of greens (kale, spinach, arugula, micro...)
  • large handful of frozen mango (because we're not in Costa Rica anymore)
  • 1/2 or whole lemon or lime (peeled)
  • an inch or so of peeled fresh ginger
  • turmeric (a few good shakes, or an inch or so of the root, if you've got it)
  • a couple shakes of cinnamon 
  • ground schisandra berry (a teeny, tiny amount)

Put it all in the blender. Put some bee pollen on top because it's so pretty. 

* I love coconut water. I love it so much. I don't love it when it's been pasteurized and packaged. In a pinch I'll drink Harmless Harvest, but it's still been put inside a plastic bottle. If you have a good knife and a little chutzpah, you can open your own fresh coconuts (in L.A. I found them for cheap at Thai grocery stores; in NYC and D.C. I buy them for not-as-cheap from Whole Foods). Another option: Make coconut water for your smoothies with shredded coconut and dates for a little sweetness. 

** I soak a bunch of dates overnight and then keep the wet ones on hand to use in smoothies. The blender likes them so much better and they're easier to digest. I keep my dates, soaked or unsoaked, in the fridge, and I buy them in bulk here

 

 

Cashew Cream: Two, No, Four Ways

This is hippie vegan plant food at its most delicious. It's a condiment, a snack, a meal. 

  • 1 - 2 cups of raw cashews, soaked overnight (or longer) in water you'd want to drink
  • More water you'd like to drink

Drain and rinse your cashews. Put them in your blender and have at it. The amount of water you'll add depends on the softness of your nuts (which depends on how long you soaked them for STOP SMIRKING). Start with a little, a couple of tablespoons. You want the mixture to be creamy but not milky (if you add too much water and end up with cashew milk c'est la vie). Once you get it to your desired, velvet-smooth consistency, decide if you're going sweet or savory. 

Either way, add some pretty pink salt. 

SWEET

  • A date or two or three or some maple syrup
  • vanilla
  • cinnamon 

CHOCOLATE same as sweet but add:

  • a tablespoon or two of raw cacao
  • maybe a little more salt

SAVORY 

  • a garlic clove or two
  • some lemon juice 
  • probably a little more salt 

AVOCADO same as savory but add:

  • half an avocado
  • maybe some cilantro 
  • probably a little more salt
  • maybe a splash more citrus 

Reblend. Taste. Tinker.