A warm, comforting fall pie stuffed with nutty beech mushrooms, winter squash, and potatoes
Today I'm sitting by the kitchen window, sipping some strong chai tea, and listening to the gentle strum of Sam Beam's guitar. The sunlight is bouncing off vibrant flower petals of zinnias, cosmos, yarrow, and nicotinias scattered throughout the yard, as bees make their way from one to the next, generating a quite hum of activity. Chaco is laying lazily in the shade, tossing his head up periodically to flash me a smile in the hopes I might give him more treats. Binx is hunting various bugs in the garden and Sila is nestled in furry pile on a big leather chair in the living room while Clarence chews on some carrot greens. Each of my mornings this week have passed this way- blissfully. When I was still taking classes, my mornings were obligatorily structured, but since the summer started they have been melting into an amorphous, ambiguous thing. I've been sleeping later, mulling around the house (or even worse squandering the first hours of my day poking around on the internet), spinning my wheels... Maybe that was right for summer, or at least this summer, which came at the end of such a chaotic and rigorously scheduled spring. But now fall has begun, and my work-from-home life shows no signs of being interrupted. And my increasing awareness that this lazy approach to mornings, ultimately, is not a kindness to myself has finally manifested itself into a shift in behavior. So, with the start of a new season comes the start of a new routine. Yoga, coffee, walk, tend to the plants, prepare a nice breakfast, and muse by the window with some hot tea before delving into work for the day.
Hearty, creamy stuffed zucchini with hints of lemon and thyme
I've been living a significant distance from home for a long while. 8 years now. Suffice to say I've grown used to the physical distance between myself and my family (and many dear friends) and accustomed to being more or less "on my own". While, admittedly, my moves have been slightly random and perhaps impulsive, I know that the choices I've made have ultimately brought such amazing people, experiences, and developments into my life that I could never begin to regret them. I have also enjoyed immersing myself in different cultures, climates, and landscapes, but some days it just seems unbearably difficult to be far away. And lately those days have been coming around more frequently . Last year my oldest sister and her husband got pregnant. I missed the majority of pregnancy but flew home the moment she went into labor in February. I was fortunate enough to visit twice this spring and in early summer to throw my sister Rachel (a different sister!) her bachelorette party and bridal shower and watch her walk down the aisle. I spent over three weeks with my family in a six month period, which is probably as much or more than I've been able to do in the past couple of years. It was so wonderful. Getting to be with my sisters (there's even one more!), my parents, my perfect, amazing, wonderful nephew... it was really special. And it sparked a strength of longing for home that I haven't had in a long time. It's always hard to leave after a visit and missing my family on any given occasion is common, but this was different. When I flew back to California after Rachel's wedding, I felt like a piece of me was being taken away. And I still feel that way.
Wine poached apricot, shredded zucchini, oat, and flax seed muffins
Today I feel so satisfied. I woke up early this morning and went straight into the back yard. Chris joined me after not too long. He cleared all the dead trees and dried up leaves out of the banana tree bed while I dug out another large sunken bed in the side yard. Afterwards I got four fruit trees that desperately needed to be planted into their new homes in the yard. It was almost unbearably hot by the time I finished. I was absolutely soaked through with sweat and covered in dirt. It felt good. Of course, I was also exhausted. But then the best possible thing happened. Dark, heavy clouds started rolling in. The wind picked up. Big, heavy drops started to fall from the sky. Thunder started cracking loudly in the distance. In a matter of minutes the rain went from scattered showers to an absolute downpour. Forceful winds and rain, beating down on the ground with an intensity I have never witnessed in southern California. The electricity flickered out pretty soon after all that started up and stayed off for nearly 4 hours. Chaco waited out the storm in the garage, Sila hid under the bed, and poor Binx spent half of the storm hiding out outside before he hurried back to the house during a break in the rain. I spent the first half of the storm glued to the window (while intermittently calling out for Binx) before falling asleep to the sound of the wind and the rain. That's a sound I haven't been able to enjoy for quite some time.
Vietnamese cold noodle salad with barbecue-pork-style tofu
I've recently awakened to my own passive attitude as of late. Slowly it's been working its way up to the surface and in the past few days I've come to see it with unmistakable clarity. It's not as if I've been a bump on a log, but I've been letting a number of things slide lately- in my own habits and, most notably, with work. Becoming passive about the state of things, my attitude about them, or just about keeping up with the routines, practices, and ideals that are important to me, is really not an area I care to wade into. I'm not one of those full of energy, always down for anything types (although one of my dearest friends is, and when I get to see her in a few weeks I'm going to try to catch some of her contagious vibrance!) but I am an active and productive person. And it suits me best. A little leisure here in there is fine- but if I stagnate for too long (in most any aspect of my life) it makes me very uncomfortable. And if I don't break out of that passive, stagnant state, it will inevitably start weighing me down, making movement seem impossible. There's really nothing farther from impossible, but it seems that way. Moments like this remind me of how tightly we tend to build cages around ourselves. Convincing ourselves a very many things about who we are and what we're capable of. Sometimes it makes us feel better- if I just can't change anything about my work situation right now and I simply can't bring myself to do anything productive anymore, then does it matter if I spend half the day watching 30 Rock and blogging? Cages can be cozy.
Easy to make slow cooker yogurt with a customizable taste and texture
Many people are puzzled when I talk about making my own yogurt. Why bother? Well, for starters, it's often cheaper even made with high quality ingredients. My last batch of yogurt was made with a local, organic grass-fed cow's milk and it was still a buck cheaper than the store-bought equivalent. This yogurt is also free of preservatives, artificial flavors, and any other unnecessary compounds that want to find their way into your food. It's also incredibly easy to make. But perhaps my number one reason for keeping up my yogurt-making habit, is that it is entirely customizable. The length of the cooking and culturing process controls the tangy-ness of the yogurt and the amount of time you strain it determines thick thickness. It seems to be a little known fact that the only difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt is straining. Straining your yogurt reduces the watery whey content and leaves you with a thicker, creamier yogurt with a higher concentration of protein per serving. This is also why Greek yogurt is so much more expensive- you loose about half of the volume of the yogurt in the straining process. I like my yogurt tart and thick, and I like being able to control that process as well as what goes into it. I'm sure you have your own yogurt preferences too- and this is sure fire way to satisfy them. Don't dig plain yogurt? Now worries- you can customize that too! See the "Serving Tips" section of the recipe, below.
Hi there! I'm Cara- plant ecologist, gardening addict, and whole foods enthusiast. My whole life revolves around plants, including my kitchen. Join me here at LWM each week as I post local, seasonal, plant-based recipes and write about my never ending quest to find balance and tranquility in this crazy little world.