A Key Lime Pie in Winter

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There’s something so delightfully escapist about eating a slice of key lime pie in winter.

Winter is a season of slow crackling spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, with a lingering warmth to take with you into the cold.

But the citrus bite of a key lime pie in winter is a defiant shard of sun in a bank of snow; it’s a flashing yelp of joy before a wave crashes into you and tumbles you into the sand.

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The airy merengue dissolves onto my tongue like nostalgia, and I’m transported to a humid memory of myself in Key West as a kid standing next to the 90 Miles to Cuba sign, the closest I’d ever been to the land that gave me my name and a place I had felt but never seen.

I disappear into a recollection of my fingers sinking into soft wet sand behind me as I lean back and watch the waves lap my feet, until a wall of graham cracker crust brings me slowly back to reality.

The plate empties, but the sensation of this escape echoes faintly, like distant laughter lost in the length of a beach.

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I bought this pie from First Slice Pie Cafe, in Lillstreet Art Center on Ravenswood Ave. It was delicious. I challenge everyone dealing with the cold temps to enjoy at least one slice of really good key lime before the winter is over; it’ll give you hope and perhaps a pleasant daydream. If you live in Chicago, check out First Slice for great food with a mission and amazing pies and Lillstreet for beautiful art and classes.

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Brown Sugar Beer Bread

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Beer bread has become one of my favorite recipes in the past couple months, and it’s my second favorite way of consuming beer. (1. Drinking it, 2. Eating it in bread, 3. Eating it in cheese.) It’s such an easy recipe and the beer lends this quick bread a really wonderful hoppy bite. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the slightly sweet addition of brown sugar is a great complement. It all started with an impulse purchase of Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ beer. I loved the festive name and label, as well as the promise of a sweet finish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what I expected so I figured if I’m not going to drink it, why don’t I eat it? And it’s called “Brown Shugga” so why don’t I add brown sugar?!?! Thus, brown sugar beer bread was born. It’s wonderful shortly out of the oven when it’s warm, but it’s just fine with me toasted or warmed in the microwave in the following days. It’s a hoppy, slightly sweet dense bread with a somewhat crunchy exterior. Definitely a winter guilty pleasure–although I’m on a healthy, whole foods kick, I wanted to share this recipe because it’s just so easy to make and very appropriate comfort food for the cold months. (Um, try it with chili and you’ll never be cold again.)

Just a note: you don’t have to use this particular beer. You can use what you have on hand. It comes together in less than 10 minutes (and it’s especially easy using a standing mixer though it’s certainly not required.)

Recipe after the jump!

Continue reading Brown Sugar Beer Bread

I Need to Tell You About Chickpea Cutlets

If there’s one question I’m tired of hearing, it’s “But where do you get your protein?” You vegetarians & vegans out there know what I’m talking about. Turns out, there’s LOTS of alternative sources of proteins, and not just the fake meats you find in the freezer aisle.
For example, here are the grams of protein in a cup of various vegan foods.
  • Spinach, 5g
  • Peas, 9g
  • Quinoa, 9g
  • Tofu, 11g
  • Black beans, 15g
  • Buckwheat, 24g

And there’s more, trust.

Being a vegetarian who eats vegan most of the time, I’ve learned to get creative and try new things. I’m amazed at some of the incredible, creative vegan recipes I’ve found online. One of my favorite sources is Post Punk Kitchen, from one of the authors of Veganomicon, which is a crazy awesome vegan cookbook that belongs on your shelf.
It is from this glorious text that I first learned about chickpea cutlets. These cutlets make me want to go door to door and evangelize.
Ok, perhaps that’s an exaggeration…but there are so many things I love about this recipe:
  • It’s really easy to put together.
  • It’s a unique, delicious way to get protein and consume one of my favorite kinds of beans.
  • It’s easy to make a big batch to eat throughout the week. (Though I have been known to make a double batch only to eat most of it in one day.)
  • The cutlets have a slightly chewy toothsome texture is really satisfying. (Yep, I just used the word toothsome. So what?)
  • It’s versatile! You can dress these little cutlets anyway you want. They’re excellent with a vegetarian gravy or tossed in buffalo sauce.
You can find the recipe here on the Post Punk Kitchen website. I definitely encourage you to give it shot, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. Think of it as a little adventure.

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A chickpea cutlet with some mashed butternut squash and baby broccoli splashed with vegan worcestershire sauce.
A chickpea cutlet with some mashed butternut squash and baby broccoli splashed with vegan worcestershire sauce.
On a slightly different note, I’ve started some mindful eating strategies: trying to plate everything I eat, even it’s a snack, eating while sitting at a table with NO screens on (tv, phone, computer.) I’ve been following these rules faithfully for the most part, but I’ve definitely faltered. Today for example, I was so busy with work, for lunch I just took one of my extra chickpea cutlets out of the fridge and ate it cold while working on a project on my laptop. Then I washed it down with a few truffles from Christmas. That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid doing. However, it’s a journey and I’ll get better. I’ve been having the most success with these strategies for breakfast so far. It’s really nice to start off the day quiet, enjoying a meal slowly. I just need to continue that peace for the rest of the day.
Adios and may your meals be mindful!
P.S. I looked up the word “toothsome” and as I suspected, it’s peak use was around 1900.
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Homemade Corn Tortillas Will Change Your Life

A week ago I learned how easy it is to make corn tortillas at home and how absolutely delicious they are fresh off the griddle. Want to guess how many times I’ve made them since then? Let’s just say it’s definitely closer to 7 than I care to admit…

All you need is masa corn flour (Maseca), water, and a little salt. That’s it. I pour a cup of masa into a bowl, add about 3/4 cup of warm water, throw in a pinch of salt, and mix to make a soft dough. I break off about 6-8 pieces and roll into balls.  Then I tear two square sheets of plastic wrap, place a ball in between and press. I don’t have a tortilla press (YET) so I just use my cutting board and a rolling pin to flatten it to about 1/8 inch thick. Heat a griddle or pan, carefully peel the tortilla off the plastic wrap, and place into the pan.  Heat it for about 1 minute then flip over to the other side for another minute.  Repeat with the rest of them and you have a hot stack of delicious corn tortillas that are much better than any cardboard imitations in the grocery store.

Maseca

There’s also something really therapeutic about pressing the dough into a delicate disk and placing it carefully in the pan. The attention it requires helps me slow down (even if I am moving fast) and clear my mind, like pressing pause on life outside my kitchen.

Now that I know how easy they are, corn tortillas will now be in my regular rotation.  The first time I made them, I used them for tofu breakfast tacos by making a tofu scramble and pairing with a sweet potato hash and Cholula.

Tofu B-Fast Taco

The second time I made tempeh tacos by crumbling up some tempeh and sautéing it with kale, tomato, and spices like adobo seasoning, chili powder, and oregano.

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I even made buffalo pear blue cheese tacos, which I regret not taking a picture of and will definitely have to revisit.  I topped a couple corn tortillas with sliced pears, crumbled blue cheese, and slashes of buffalo sauce, and then placed it under the broiler until the cheese melted. The combo of sweet pears, tangy blue cheese, and spicy buffalo sauce on a base of a fresh corn tortillas was a symphonic blend that put me in a state of pure bliss.

So in conclusion: Go out and buy Maseca. Make some corn tortillas. Change your life. Most delicious life hack ever.

My Favorite Vegetarian/Vegan Spots in Nashville

DCXV Mural
DCXV Mural
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I spent the past summer in Nashville for work, mostly stuck on a college campus with a mediocre cafeteria that lacked quality vegetarian options but was free for me while I was there. I quickly burned through the limp salad bar and ate more grilled cheeses than I care to remember, so whenever I got the chance I took advantage of Nashville’s numerous delicious restaurants, including a few spots with stellar vegetarian/vegan menus. If you’re ever in the Music City, give them a try!  (I’m currently deeply longing for dosa from Woodlands.) Here they are in no particular order:
Sunflower Cafe is a vegan cafe located in a small old house with two huge spools painted like sunflowers in the front. Their most popular item seems to be their veggie burger, which is no surprise. It is, no lie, one of the best veggie burgers I’ve had. In fact, I had many a veggie burger here during the summer and it definitely cost me; it was hard to leave here for no less than $13-15…but then again I was a sucker for the great sides, like the peanut noodles, and the vegan chocolate rose cupcake.  It also has a great deck to eat outside and enjoy a great summer read like Beautiful Ruins.
Sunflower Burger
Sunflower Burger
Woodlands is a cozy little restaurant tucked away on West End — and I’m not saying “tucked away” to be cute.  I completely missed it the first time I tried finding it since it is at the bottom level of a building that looks like a hotel or apartment building. The menu offers an extensive variety of Indian food, all of which is vegetarian. I had dosa for the first time here and I fell in love. A giant crepe stuffed with delicious fillings that is so huge it hangs off the already giant plate? Can’t go wrong. (Oh, and the naan and chana masala are also amazing.)
Dosa_Woodlands
The Wild Cow, located in east Nashville, is a favorite spot in the city for vegan food. I was addicted to their vegan buffalo wings but they’ve got lots of great options, like sweet potato black bean tacos. With salads, tacos, appetizers, sweets, sandwiches, and other entrees – there’s definitely a little something to fit whatever mood you’re in. Unfortunately, as many times as I ate there, I couldn’t find a picture so I’ll leave you with a drive-by of the Nashville skyline until I can visit once again.
Nashville Skyline