Uncategorized

cacao buckwheat zucchini breakfast muffins

Muffins

These muffins have a zillion healthy-ish things crammed into them, and they’re also gluten-free. Yum. Recipe at the bottom.

Recently I’ve hosted both my sister and my mom in Copenhagen and nothing makes you appreciate the city you live in more than serving as a semi-tour guide. I guess it helps that for most members of my family, my existence in Copenhagen has been a bit of a mystery. What does she do? Where does she live? Who is this extended Danish family she keeps talking about? (Yep, me and the ol’ host family are still really close, and it’s extended to both sets of host-grandparents, who cheer on my slow progress in Danish lessons). I’ve now spent a total of 1 year (working) plus 4 months & 2 weeks (student) in Denmark, so providing my family with some context is really nice. Seeing and participating in the bike culture in Copenhagen. Checking out my work, where I grocery shop, my favorite cafes. And nothing opens your mind to a place you sometimes take for granted than having visitors – their joy and curiosity leads you to discover new places and new phenomenon. 

An example being: there is a large park in Copenhagen that hosts free dance lessons and open dancing with music many nights during the summer. It began in June and I’m sad to say I only checked it out for the first time last night, where I learned some salsa moves and spent two hours dancing with abandon with my sister, a friend from work, and various random Danish men – some of whom were awkward, strict, nerdy, friendly, focused, etc. It was just a good time. The event draws individuals of all walks of life: ages, sizes, couples, passer-by, etc. Everyone danced with everyone and at some points they would stop for a random non-salsa song or two and then the Danes went wild and broke it down in the love-able way that only Danes do while dancing.

dans

Living abroad has so many ups and downs. And you really have to learn to take each day as it comes and not freak out, sometimes. My friend Charlotte who lives in Beijing told me that there expats talk about having ‘a bad China day’ where everything will just go wrong and the system will get you down and life seems miserable, and I like that concept because at least it means that you can label it, expect it, and process it as just ‘a bad COUNTRY HERE’ day and not a complete breakdown of your entire existence. So while having my family visit was wonderful, I can’t say I didn’t also get pretty homesick. I gave myself a few days of self-pity and then picked myself up and went out into the world again and let Copenhagen court me until I remembered why I love it so much, and how much it makes me smile. Although I still wish D.C. and Copenhagen were located right next to each other, just for ease of obtaining almond butter and, of course, seeing my family. 

When my mom was here one of the best moments we had together after exploring was just being in the kitchen together like I was home again – her at the stove stirring up a spicy daal, me making some strange gluten-free healthy muffin concoction like always. It was perfect. No matter where you are in the world, no matter which kitchen, being with familiar people and creating is always home.

Cacao Buckwheat Zucchini Breakfast Muffins 

slightly adapted from Clean Food Dirty City

dry ingredients

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

4 tablespoons raw cacao powder, or cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

wet ingredients

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla or vanilla powder

2 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, heated so it is liquid

1/4 cup coconut cream (the solidified top part of a can of coconut milk)

2 tablespoons coconut milk or coconut water

1 banana, peeled, mashed

1 cup finely shredded zucchini

coconut flakes, to top

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, combine all of the wet ingredients. Use an immersion blender to completely blend the bowl of wet ingredients until the batter is uniform and there are no lumps. Combine with the dry ingredients. Batter should resemble the texture of thick pancake batter and not be either too doughy or too runny – adjust with more buckwheat flour or coconut water/milk as needed.

Pour into greased muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Centers should be set but don’t over-bake, nobody wants dry muffins!

Standard
Uncategorized

two wheels spinning

Know why I love to bike in Copenhagen?

Because it requires nothing of you.

Just two wheels spinning.

A helmet if you want to be extra safe. A basket for the double bags of groceries, or books, or flowers, or, let’s face it, those two bottles of wine, a loaf of bread, and cheese. Your legally obligated front and back lights, so you can join the twinkling rows of merry-makers at midnight on a Friday, heading into town to shed coats and step into smoky bars and sip cold, sweating glasses of Carlsburg in uniform sea of black and beauty.

So you might need a few extra things, but it’s just two wheels spinning in the end. You don’t need attitude, you don’t need years of experience, and biking doesn’t have to define you. It will become an essential part of you, make no mistake, but Copenhagen biking isn’t roped off for the hardcore, the ‘gangs’, the fixie-junkies, the road-ragers, the Portlandia-esque gauged ear million tat folks. It’s for everyone. It’s for the girl in high heels, the man with his kid in the back, the old folks, the unsure, the five year olds with their first whiff of independence.

If I am not biking in Copenhagen I do not feel like I am in the city at all. Driving is sterile, removed. Walking is nicer, but slow. Where’s the rush of wind? Where’s the montage of sights that shift with every minute, the changing of light, the snatches of sound, the snapshots of neighborhoods as you flash by, a scent of something lingering (is it the bakery? is it someone’s perfume? is it a fall fire?).

Here is a Sunday afternoon and everyone has taken to the lake, dappled light dancing on water, and I catch a glimpse of the swans as I lazily slide past the bridge, and now here is a young couple kissing, and next is a teenager learning chess, and now I am pausing at a red light to listen to the sound of a herd of brakes, quietly shifting like metal grass blades.

And here is the city on a Monday morning, and every single Dane is yearning for sunlight, and I catch the smell of a dozen freshly showered citizens heading to work, and there are toddlers babbling in the bike lane strapped to the backs of their long-haired mothers and bearded fathers, who coo at them in the gutteral Nordic language of which I am only beginning to be able to pick out melodies.

Biking is meditation. It is the cure for everything, they’ll tell you: a bad mood, a hangover, a feeling of joy that you fear may erupt inside you if you do not move fast and sing. You can sing in the bike lane, at night if you’d like, weaving in between glittering carcasses of beer bottles. It’s lifeblood, this way of being. It’s 3D. It’s surround-sound, it’s IMAX.

You begin biking in Copenhagen because although daunting it welcomes you, promising you don’t need to be anything other than yourself. And then before you know it, you’ve drank the koolaid. You’re just on top of two wheels spinning. You’re ruined forever.

Standard
Uncategorized

tiny apartment cooking like a boss

greetings from my tiny copenhagen kitchen.

 

salad

two things that i made this week that were really good were the soup (pictured above) for when i was feeling sick. and then, this grain salad. perfect for summer transitioning into fall. good heated or chilled.

i’m still at a total loss for how to proceed in danish grocery stores. i fear they think i may be shoplifting because i spend so much time staring at things, then shoving them into my bag, then putting half of them back, then taking forever to check out. it’ll happen. my basic formula is that things are cheap only when very seasonal. frozen foods are always good. quinoa, sadly, is very expensive. as are avocados. toilet paper is very cheap here. nectarines are cheap as well. and peppers. and i found some kale the other day randomly and wanted to raise my fist in the air like a hunter with fresh kill.

two-bit vegetable soup for one

three cups water & a proportionate amount of bullion, whatever kind ya like

1 yellow zucchini, ribboned in a mandolin or sliced really thin

1 green zucchini, ribboned in a mandolin or sliced really thin

frozen edamame

1 small white onion, diced

1 bulb garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent. add the water, bullion and remaining vegetables. add salt and pepper to taste. if feeling adventurous or like you may have the onset of a cold, add chili powder or red pepper flakes. cook on medium low heat for 20 minutes, until the zucchini ribbons are soft. yum.

two bit salad for one…for lunch 4 an entire week

4 cups water

2 cups of farro

enough bullion for 4 cups of water

1 clove of garlic, minced

add all of these ingredients in a pot and cook over medium heat for about 20-25 minutes, until the farro is cooked but crunchy. then stir in:

3 red peppers, diced or sliced thin

1 cucumber, diced or sliced thin

1 small red onion, diced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 tablespoons of white vinegar

Serve hot or cold!

Standard
Uncategorized

oatmeal, maple syrup, denmark

Image

There is one food I will never tire of and it’s oatmeal. Oatmeal doesn’t photograph well. But oatmeal is really comforting, and that’s why I had it for my final breakfast before leaving for Denmark. I mean, let’s be real, I have oatmeal a lot anyway. But I’ve spent the past month eating peaches, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and everything else summery and fresh from the farmer’s market, and ol’ oatmeal was calling. I tried the overnight oatmeal phenom that’s been making the rounds in food blogs and I think it’s perfect for hot summer – you get creamy oats without the heat. Another tip I recently tried is to boil hot oatmeal with a tea bag in the water or milk, which gives it a mild but really good flavor depending on what type of tea you use! (I tried chai, and earl gray.)

When I went to New York last week to visit family we took a trip to Crown Maple at Madava Farms. Basically the place is trying to become the Napa Valley of maple syrup – complete with beautiful grounds, a garden, a restaurant with food from the garden & maple syrup baked goods, and an extensive and informative tour of the … factory? distillery? I have no idea what to call it, but I recently toured a gin distillery in DC and I have to say the maple syrup facility looked about twice as complicated — a long way from the ol’ tap & bucket routine. But, as a result, the maple syrup is by far the best I’ve ever had, and I come from a family where I didn’t have fake syrup, period. It was banned in our house (my dad is from New England) except for that one time my diabetic grandma came to visit and we bought sugar-free maple “syrup” but even then my parents sort of sighed about having it in the house. At least that’s how I remember it. Anyhow, during the tour we “sipped” different maple syrups after smelling them like wine. So…good! More pricey, but if you can find Crown Maple and are totally into maple syrup and/or breakfast foods, do not hesitate to buy.

Finally, I landed in Denmark. I’ve spent the past two days fighting the tough battle against jet lag, driving into the city to check out my future apartment, and spending time with some of my host family (my immediate host family comes back from Italy tomorrow). In some ways Copenhagen is very familiar but living somewhere is very different from visiting as an abroad student – it will take a lot of patience and flexibility on my part. It’s been nice, but also challenging, especially after a summer spent at home. Life as a foreigner certainly isn’t very easy at the beginning, but of course I knew that this would happen and this is why, in part, I went!

Standard
Uncategorized

Steak & Salad

I’ve really never been much of a steak eater. We didn’t have it a lot growing up, preferring fish as a dinner treat. I remember going to Ruth’s Chris in high school for my then-boyfriend’s birthday, and being completely oblivious as to what to order. I received a petite steak (don’t ask me what cut) sizzling in butter, and it melted, all salty-deliciousness, with that marked taste of iron richness, in my mouth. I enjoyed it. But I still never crave steak that much. Perhaps it is for the best. I definitely need to know how to cook steak, however. That is an important skill. For even if you don’t like something, there are things that you simply must know how to prepare.

I made my first steak today, choosing New York strip. I seasoned it simply, with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. It was good, but I need to work on achieving the perfect outside sear while at the same time maintaining the essential rareness inside. I’ll get there.

What I spent a lot of time thinking about was what to pair with the steak. “Steak dinners” make me think of the ’50s. I think a fair amount of people here still associate steak with mushrooms, or mashed potatoes, or simple vegetables. But to me that seems too heavy, too filling. And mashed potatoes are so – so thick and sort of boring after the first few bites.

Image

Steak and salad gets a few eye-rolls. It’s very urban, it’s too New York, it’s “I like steak but I’m watching my weight, ooh lala”. People make fun of that. But why? As a steak outsider, I’d argue that the perfect salad actually complements a steak far better than any mashed or steamed vegetables do. After all, shouldn’t steak be the absolute center of the meal? Why fill up your stomach with white potatoes when you should be focusing on the salty, fatty richness of melting-on-your-tongue beef? The perfect complement is instead something light and zippy, something zesty, something tangy, something with a crunch. It complements the steak in flavor and mouthfeel, but doesn’t make you clutch-your-stomach-full. It allows you to savor the meal’s starring food. It cleanses your palate in between mouthfuls. This is such a salad – the clean, snappy, slightly sweet taste of thinly sliced fennel pairs well with sweet onion, olive oil, and lemon. Add shaved sharp parmesan, and I swear, it may not look like much, but this will have you giving those bland potatoes the side-eye.

This salad is simple, so use the best ingredients you can find to ensure peak flavor.

Fennel, Lemon, & Parmesan Salad (Steak’s Best Supporting Salad)

1 head medium green lettuce (Not iceberg. Not romaine. Not pre-washed and bagged. Organic, if possible.)

1 medium sized fennel bulb (should not be tough or discolored)

1/3 cup thinly, thinly sliced sweet onion

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

6 ounces hard aged parmesan

Wash, dry, and chop green lettuce so that there aren’t any monster pieces. Put into a serving bowl. Prepare the fennel bulb and dice into small pieces. Sprinkle the diced fennel and thinly sliced sweet onion on top of the green lettuce. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, salt, black pepper, zest and juice of your lemon, stirring until combined. Pour over the salad and toss lightly to ensure all is coated. Shave, thinly slice, or grate parmesan on top.

Standard
Uncategorized

Some Ultimately Non-important Yet Still Great Things I Ate This Month

It’s February first tomorrow, guys. It’s the mental page-turning of what was a pretty cold, dark month into a new, fresh, one-step-closer-to-spring month. I’m already excited. So, new month, new page, let’s get started. Recently I’ve been reading a bit about gratitude journals. That sounds very flowery. Now, I do not keep a gratitude journal. But I have started writing letters and emails — to my grandparents, that overdue thank you card from Christmas, a postcard to a friend — and just taking that five minutes a day to remember why I appreciate someone and their place in my life is really nice.

Continue reading

Standard
Recipe, Uncategorized

“Trust me on this” cake {black bean avocado chocolate snacking cake}

It’s January, so perhaps I need to be
 posting more about juices and carrot cumin salads, and while I have been enjoying quite a few carrot cumin salads, I made this cake the 
other day on a whim and it really shocked me (and a few people that
 were around at the time). I pretty much view making healthy things 
as one part challenge, one part useful. Healthier desserts are
 useful because yes, they tend to be better for you, but I’m also
 not into the cult of total holier than thou health
food. And hey look, it’s still sugar, and it still
 should taste good. So, when it comes time to make something sweet
 healthier, especially CAKE, I’m thinking, COOL! This is
 an experiment! A challenge! Chemistry, if you
 will!

Continue reading

Standard