Smoked Salmon Salad in Cucumber Cups

I’ve been thinking a lot about the #MeToo movement. I heard someone say they didn’t think this movement would have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected president. This collective anger that women feel, in fact, is in direct relation to Donald Trump being elected, and the fact that he himself has been accused of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault by at least 16 women. Call it making lemonade out of extremely sour lemons, but it is our current reality. Women are frustrated and fed up with having to just accept that so many of us will experience sexual violence in our lifetimes. We never agreed to this when we were born with vaginas.

I am continuously inspired when I read another woman’s story, or talk to a friend about her experience navigating the world as a woman. We are in the midst of fourth-wave feminism. Some folks argue that every wave of feminism has had a backlash, and this wave will not be spared from experiencing the same thing. This may be, but I do think it is helpful to take the long view of history when thinking about larger social issues. Since the first-wave started back in the late 19th Century fighting for women’s right to vote, the quality of life for women as a whole has greatly improved. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the current wave of feminism is any less important; one of its main goals is to end sexual violence against women.

There was a recent episode of This American Life titled “Five Women” that was fascinating. I was completely rapt listening to this episode; it should be required listening for every human being on this planet. It was a different angle on the #MeToo movement. It’s not only the story of how five women were harassed and/or assaulted by the same man, but it also explores the women’s personal stories before their encounter with this man. The women talk about how they were raised, what they were told by adults about what being a woman means, how they individually played down/accentuated/ignored their sexuality based on the aforementioned. If you have time, give it a listen.

This week’s recipe is perfect for when you want a light brunch/lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up. I love smoked salmon, and the rich fattiness pairs beautifully with cucumber, which offsets the heaviness with crisp acidity. I ate these babies like potato chips.

Smoked Salmon Salad in Cucumber Cups
Adapted from myrecipes

Yield: 34 cups

1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
2 tablespoons plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, divided
1 (12-ounce) package cold-smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
3 cucumbers
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1.Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir in 2 teaspoons dill and chopped salmon.

2. Cut cucumbers into 3/4-inch-thick slices, and scoop out seeds with a small spoon or melon baller, leaving bottom intact to form a cup.*

3. Spoon about 1 tablespoon salmon mixture into each cucumber cup. Sprinkle cups evenly with remaining 1 teaspoon dill and pepper.

*Scooping out the seeds is completely optional. I left the seeds intact, and just piled the salad on top of the cucumber slices. 

Cauliflower Crust Pizza w/ Spinach, Mushrooms & Sausage

Well, I survived the holidays. I was very nervous about it, as it was the first holiday season after the death of my sister. Tears were shed, but there was also lots of laughter. My parents and I are trying to navigate our way through the messiness of grief. Now, spending time with my family and my sister’s friends feels like getting an IV drip – a very simple yet essential input for me to continue living.

I am battling with insomnia again. It might just be the seasonal blues that always hit me over the head in January, but it can be brutal. Sometimes, it only has a mild effect on me and I don’t feel the overwhelming exhaustion of not getting enough sleep. But yesterday wasn’t one of those days. I woke up at 4 a.m. I knew it was going to be a long day when, at 7 a.m., I was hit with a powerful fatigue and my brain became foggy. When this happens, I tend to panic and visualize a non-productive day laid out before me. What’s more, I crave sugar and carbs when I am bone-tired. There must be some biological reason for this, but it doesn’t help me in any way. Luckily, I have enough experience with insomnia that I know how to navigate my way through it. I did a decent job of exerting enough energy to get me through the day without having a meltdown, and I ate fairly healthy. I did have a brief crying spell in the afternoon, but I think it was necessary; I felt calmer and more clearheaded afterwards.

My husband and I watched Patton Oswalt’s latest Netflix special a few months ago. Towards the end of his set, he shares a story about his wife who died recently. She had a simple mantra, “It’s chaos. Be kind”. It has stuck with me ever since. There are no guarantees in this life, and even if it is just all random chaos, genuine kindness is one of the most powerful acts human beings can provide to one another. There is profound meaning in that. Let’s all try to be kinder as we navigate through our lives.

Have you tried substituting cauliflower rice for your favorite carb yet? I’ve tried a few things, but my favorite is using it as a healthier pizza crust alternative. There are endless cauliflower crust recipes out there, but I like this one the best because it is dairy-free. It makes an easy weeknight dinner!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza w/ Spinach, Mushrooms and Sausage
Adapted from PaleoLeap

Yield: 8-10 slices

1 head cauliflower, stalk removed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup almond flour (whole-wheat flour works just fine)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Sea salt and black pepper
1/2 cup marinara sauce
8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, chopped and lightly sautéed
1/2 cup cooked spinach
3 chicken sausages, thinly sliced
1.5 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  2. Place the cauliflower in a food processor and pulse until finely shredded (you may want to do this in different batches).
  3. *Steam the shredded cauliflower for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well, let cool, and strain any excess water using a towel.
  4. In a bowl, combine the cauliflower, eggs, oregano, garlic powder, almond flour, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything thoroughly.
  5. Transfer to a pizza pan or baking sheet and shape into a pizza crust shape.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes.
  7. Spread marinara sauce on top of the crust. Add mushrooms, spinach, sausage, and cheese, and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until toppings are nicely cooked.

    *This is a VERY important step. Do not skip or you will have a soggy crust.

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

I went to a concert with a good friend last night. I bought tickets a few months ago, knowing that I would need to force myself out of the house during the month of November. Music has always been restorative for me; it makes me feel more intensely. I tend to intellectualize emotions instead of just feeling them. Towards the end of the show, I saw two elderly women singing along to the music and dancing in their seats. They were living in the moment and so full of joy. It made me smile. Whenever I witness someone saying or doing something that makes me feel the warm fuzzies I think, “That’s the kind of person I want to be.” I want to attend concerts and sing along to the lyrics when I am a senior citizen! Watching these women sing along to the music jolted me out of my despair. It was a good reminder that I am still alive, even if my sister isn’t. In a way, I am living life for both of us now. And singing along at a concert is definitely something my sister would have continued to do well into her eighties.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of positive examples of the type of adult I wanted to become. I did have a mother who was, and is, very kind, and I knew I wanted to be like her in that regard. I also had some good teachers along the way, who awakened my curiosity to the world. But I also had a lot of bad examples of adulthood–adults who were selfish, angry, fearful of the world, and cruel to other people. There’s the old adage about relationships that says you may not always know what you want, but you find out along the way what you don’t want.

For most of my youth, I had so much anger inside of me, and I was fearful of becoming an angry, resentful adult. It took many years to learn how to express my feelings in a healthy way. It took me even longer to learn that I have the ability to be the kind of person I want to be, regardless of my upbringing. I have a magnet on my refrigerator that reads, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.” It’s a great daily reminder. Even so, there are many ways I fall short of being the best version of me. But I hope I never stop striving.

I created this recipe four years ago when I wanted a sugar-free cookie that was fairly healthy but every bit as delicious as a “normal” cookie. I have fallen so in love with these cookies over the years that I now make sure that I always have a bag of these in the freezer. As soon as I see that I am down to one or two cookies, I make another batch. Obviously, I love the trifecta of banana-peanut butter-chocolate, but even if it’s not your favorite, I think you will like these. Because they are on the wetter side, I keep mine in the refrigerator. If you don’t want a wet cookie, feel free to add more oats to the recipe. Because they have oatmeal and bananas in them, I often eat these cookies for breakfast!

Peanut Butter-Banana Cookies

Yield: 16 cookies

3 bananas, smashed
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (if you use sweetened peanut butter, only use 2 bananas)
1 cup quick-cooking oats*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet.
2. Mix smashed bananas and peanut butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a whisk
until fully incorporated.
3. Add oats, vanilla extract, sea salt, and chocolate chips to bowl. Mix thoroughly. Mixture will be very wet.
4. Using a 1″ cookie scoop, scoop batter onto baking sheet, making a total of 12 cookies per sheet.
5. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before transferring cookies onto a cooking rack.
6. Store in refrigerator for up to 1 week, or in freezer for up to 3 months.

*If you prefer less wet cookies, add another 1/4-1/2 cup oats.

Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark

I’ve been trying to keep my head above water lately. I think I was in denial about my sister’s death for most of the summer. I went back to Minnesota frequently to spend time with my family, and somehow I was able to convince myself that Heidi hadn’t really died. Now that fall has set in and the weather has turned, sadness has enveloped me. It’s almost as if my body was waiting for the outside world to start dying so that it could accept my sister’s death as well. I’ve always loved the melancholy of fall, but this year it has taken on a different meaning for me. Like a lot of people I know, fall was Heidi’s favorite time of year. And so, I am thinking about her a lot. It’s her birthday tomorrow; she would have been 43. I plan on getting a carrot cupcake to celebrate my beautiful big sister. Sometimes I think about years down the road, when I am that much older, and my parents are elderly. How is it possible that she won’t be there with us? Neither of us had children, so this is the end of the line for my family. I am staring down my mortality these days.

Trying to stay busy helps to keep the sadness at bay some days. And other days, it’s useless. The tears can spring up when I least expect it: seeing another blue-eyed redhead sitting across from me on the subway, hearing one of Heidi’s favorite songs playing in the grocery store, or watching a movie that has siblings in it. For a while, I was baking obsessively simply because I didn’t know what else to do. My freezer is now full of cookies, muffins, and brownies.

In reference to grief, I’ve heard people say that they were initially scared about forgetting their loved one if they attempted to move on with their life. It’s a horrible catch-22: when I am feeling the full weight of my sorrow, I feel closest to my sister, and so in a strange way the rawness feels nurturing and restorative. And on the days where I am keeping myself distracted and not thinking about the loss of my sister, I feel very disconnected from it all. In order for me to feel closer to her, I want to get back to the sadness and pain. Maybe it’s just a necessary part of grieving, a way for our brains to force us to process our emotions. Regardless, I will get through it.

In celebration of Halloween, try this recipe for Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark. If you use chocolate that is 60% cacao or higher, it’s packed with anti-oxidants and other good stuff.

Happy Halloween!

Almond-Cocoa Nib-Smoked Salt Bark

20 ounces (60% or darker) chocolate chips

1 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1/4 cup cocoa nibs

2 tablespoons smoked coarse sea salt

1. Line a 8×8-inch square pan with parchment paper; set aside.
2. Gently melt the chocolate using a double boiler or microwave method.  Remove from heat.
3. Pour chocolate into parchment-lined pan.
4.Evenly sprinkle the almonds, cocoa nibs, and sea salt over the chocolate edge to edge.
5. Using the back of a spoon, gently push the almonds down to make sure each piece has adhered to the chocolate.
6. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes until firm.

Miso Slaw

Out of both frustration and desperation, I recently returned to focusing on self-care. I knew I hadn’t been taking good care of myself for almost a year, but I always had an excuse as to why I couldn’t make time for it. As most of my readers know, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism last spring, and it’s been a long journey trying to heal my thyroid. I tried a few different medications, but they caused me to gain weight. I also noticed that my hair started falling out, and I was having increased sensitivity to heat. I stopped taking the meds and am now focusing on my diet and detoxing my liver. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about the thyroid, and just health and wellness in general. It’s an area I’ve always been interested in, but have become even more so recently. One of the things I’ve learned is that the liver is a major player when it comes to so many ailments in our bodies. One of its main functions is to detoxify chemicals and metabolize fats. If the liver stops being able to function, it directly affects the thyroid. One of the biggest reasons for our livers becoming toxic is due to a poor diet. According to the American Liver Foundation, up to 25% of people in the U.S. are living with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

So, I am focusing on my diet.

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my life ever since my sister died. While I’m on this earth, I want to be healthy, without pain and ailments, strong, anxiety-free, and able to foster a quiet mind.

After just a few days of cutting out sugar (and most carbs other than veggies and fruit), I started to feel much calmer than I had in several months. My sugar cravings disappeared almost immediately. I’ve also started taking supplements that help detoxify the liver and support the thyroid. I read about dandelion root being a great herb to detox the liver, and I found this delicious roasted dandelion root tea that has a nice, nutty flavor to it.

I started going to therapy again as well. I forgot how helpful it can be to pinpoint habits and behaviors. My therapist diffuses essential oils in her office and I find it so calming during my sessions. I’ve always liked the smell of essential oils, but never put it together that they are the essence of plants that help calm the mind and enhance mood.

My goal for next month is to get back into my yoga practice.

Next step, move to Vermont….ok, maybe I won’t go THAT extreme.

Who doesn’t love coleslaw? It’s the perfect summer side dish. You can make it creamy using mayonnaise, or you can keep it lighter going the oil & vinegar route. Either way, I love it. A few years ago, one of my co-workers shared her recipe for miso slaw, which turns your standard coleslaw into one with an Asian flavor profile. I added the mushrooms myself, and you can go ahead and add as many other vegetables as you’d like. Go crazy with the additions to this!

Miso Slaw

Yield: 6-8 servings

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. white miso*
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, chopped
8 cups shredded cabbage

  1. In a large bowl, mix together sesame seeds, vinegar, miso, sugar, ginger, and salt.
  2. With a whisk, slowly incorporate sesame oil and olive oil into mixture.
  3. Add mushrooms and cabbage to bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to marinate. Serve chilled.

*You can substitute soy sauce if white miso is hard to find where you live.

Tuna Salad w/ Wasabi Vinaigrette

My sister died unexpectedly seven weeks ago. It was a tragic accident that I never thought would happen to anyone in my family. It’s strange how time slows down after experiencing the loss of someone close to you. I find myself pondering lots of existential questions and trying to make sense of everything. It’s so easy to just give in to the darkness and say, “fuck it” to the world. I did that for the first several weeks. I needed to cry and wail and feel the anger, sadness, and regret. It made me feel better temporarily. I still walk around feeling empty and very alone much of the time. I know these feelings will pass, and life will become bearable again, eventually.

Mr. K and I took a spontaneous trip to Connecticut over the weekend. We needed to get away and take time for ourselves. It felt restorative to walk along the water, breathe in the fresh air, and just observe people living their lives. I want to savor the sweet moments that I have with my loved ones. I keep wondering how much time is left for people that I love. It’s just where my brain often goes these days. I recently re-watched the finale of Six Feet Under, one of my favorite dramas. I had forgotten that Nate dies shortly before the show ends. The show does a beautiful job of portraying all of the messy and complicated feelings that people experience when they are grieving. When you lose a family member, you have your own grief to contend with, but you also want to be there for the remaining family members who are also grieving. Some days, it can be tricky to do both. At the very end of Six Feet Under, Claire is driving off to NYC to start a new chapter of her life, and while she is driving, we flash forward and see how and when each main character will die. Before Claire leaves, she tells her mom she doesn’t want to go to New York, but instead wants to stay there with her family. The response of Claire’s mom is extremely beautiful and gut-wrenching. She essentially tells her, “No, you are not allowed to stay here. Go and live your life.” That is the dilemma we face after a loved one dies. Part of us wants to die as well, but the best thing we can do to honor our loved ones who have died is to live a meaningful life. Most of us won’t ever know how much time we have left on earth, but we can be brave and live life with a curiosity, openness, and compassion that would make our loved ones proud.

I have only prepared a fresh tuna dish once or twice in my life. I need to do it more often, because it’s delicious as well as healthy. And so much better than the canned version. This salad is perfect for hot summer weather, as it only takes a few minutes to sear the tuna. Enjoy, and have a great week!

Tuna Salad w/ Wasabi Vinaigrette
Adapted from Rachael Ray

Yield: 1 serving

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 6-8 cherry tomatoes
  1. Coat your steak with a combination of five-spice powder, salt, and pepper. Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan, and heat pan over high heat. Add tuna steak to the hot cooking surface and sear tuna 2 minutes on each side. Remove tuna from heat.
  2. Combine greens, scallions, cucumber, avocado, and tomatoes in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk wasabi, vinegar and soy sauce. Whisk in remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to combine dressing. Drizzle dressing over your salad and toss to coat evenly. Slice tuna on an angle and arrange on the salad.

Maple-Oat Scones with Pecans

First, my apologies. Apparently, the latest version of WordPress has a bug and does not allow media files to be uploaded. Therefore, this will be a picture-less blog post. But I hope you can envision the scones after reading about them!

I went to the dr. recently and discovered that I have hypothyroidism. I knew something was wrong, but I had my TSH tested a year ago and it was normal. It wasn’t until I pressed my dr. to do more thorough tests that my thyroid appeared to be abnormal. It was both a relief and an added stress to find this out. A relief because now I am on medication and hopefully it will help my thyroid, and an added stress because from what I know about thyroid disease, it is extremely hard to treat, and people often times end up taking medication for life.

Because of my hypothyroidism, I’ve gained 10 lbs. in the last 6 months. It’s been very difficult emotionally. I had a very dysfunctional relationship with food throughout most of my life. It wasn’t until my late 20’s that I started educating myself on how to eat healthier while still enjoying sweets and higher calorie foods in moderation. As a result, I lost 25 lbs. Even then, it took several years not to feel anxious when I would allow myself dessert. I was always scared that I would gain back the weight I worked so hard to lose. Now, over ten years later, going through this has triggered all those old feelings of self-loathing and negative body image. It has affected my self-esteem and the way I carry myself. What’s more, it has severely impacted my relationship with food. I have regressed back to seeing food as the enemy much of the time. I am working very hard on eating healthy as much as possible, while still allowing myself an indulgence when I want it. But I have days when I want to just say, “F*** it. What’s the point if I am going to gain weight regardless of what I eat!” It’s an uphill battle.

I have been on thyroid medication for one week now, and am hopeful that it will treat my hypothyroidism. If not, this may have to be my new normal. I know a lot of women struggle with acceptance surrounding their bodies and weight, so I am not alone in this. It’s just hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On a more positive note, I made scones! And delicious scones they are. I am a big fan of the maple-pecan combination in sweets, so I tweaked one of my favorite scone recipes. It’s from Amy’s Bread, where I currently work. We carry these oat scones every day of the week, but the fruit/nut mixture changes every day. My favorite is the almonds/currants combo. My sister is visiting this weekend, so I thought these would be good with brunch.

Maple-Oat Scones with Pecans
Adapted from Amy’s Bread

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, cold, 1/2-inch dice
2 1/3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup, pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top

  1. Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line the sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the 2 flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda, and process them for 5 seconds, until they are just combined.
  3. Add the butter and process again for 10 to 15 seconds, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. The largest pieces of butter should be about the size of tiny peas. The butter should be suspended in tiny granules throughout the flour, not rubbed into it to make a doughy mass. Transfer this mixture to a large bowl and stir in the oats and pecans until they are evenly distributed.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, maple extract, and vanilla extract. Remove 1/3 cup of this mixture and set it aside. Pour the remaining liquid over the dry ingredients and lightly and briefly stir them together, just until everything is barely moistened.
  5. Using your hands, drop free-form portions of dough about 3 1/2 inches in diameter onto the prepared baking sheets. Evenly space 6 scones on each sheet. Using a pastry brush, dab the reserved buttermilk mixture generously all over the tops of the scones and sprinkle them lightly with turbinado sugar (white sugar will work fine if you don’t have this on hand).
  6. Place one pan on each oven rack and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F and rotate the pans from top to bottom. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the scones are a deep golden brown on both the top and bottom. A tooth pick inserted in the center of a scone should come out clean. Remove the scones from the pans to cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts

l1050692I let a few months pass in-between posts again.  Like a lot of other people in this country, I have been trying to find healthy outlets for my anger, sadness, and disappointment in the election. I have been doing a decent amount of holiday baking.  One day, I came home from work and just decided to start looking for craft projects online. If nothing else, I figured it would be a nice distraction for me, and a way to channel my feelings into something creative.  My mom, being a very crafty lady, is very happy about this.

Mr. K and I had a pretty rough autumn with both of my grandma’s dying within one month of each other. We flew to Minnesota for both funerals, and in between those trips we moved to a new apartment.  The past few weekends have started to feel “normal” again, as we slowly return to our old weekend routines and attempt to create new ones. We moved to Harlem and we are both very excited about trying new restaurants and discovering all of the little gems that define our new neighborhood.

I am taking advantage of living in Manhattan again. Before we moved to Astoria, one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday was to go to a matinee and/or bring a book along and sit in a coffee shop and read. I did that last weekend and it felt so indulgent. It was a good reminder for me that I need to force myself out of the apartment on the weekends. Being around other people, and just being out in the world observing things, always helps my state of mind.

Word of caution:  if you make these candied nuts, you might not be able to stop eating them. They are incredibly good, with the perfect combination of smoky, salty, and sweet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
l1050695Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon of hot smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside.
2. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add walnuts, and stir to coat evenly.
3. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated. Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Almond Butter and Apricot Bars


I got a call from my dad last Tuesday saying my grandma had become unresponsive. The nurse told my dad and his siblings that she would most likely pass in the coming days.  I asked my dad to call me as soon as she passed away. I waited for the call. It was excruciating. By the end of the day Thursday there was still no change. By then, I had become extremely anxious and wasn’t sleeping well. I needed to numb the pain and not deal with my feelings. I didn’t know what else to do with myself, so I started to eat and didn’t stop until Saturday night.  I ate potato chips, ice cream, pizza, chocolate and cookies. I couldn’t shove the food in fast enough to fill the hole.  I hadn’t eaten like that in years. I actually went to bed Saturday night feeling sick. My dad called Sunday morning to tell me that my grandma passed away Saturday night with several of her kids by her bedside. And just like that, the bingeing was over. Now that my grandma was gone, I could let myself feel the pain of losing her. I wanted to go for a run and process my grief while listening to music. It was the most nurturing thing I could think of to do for myself. I blared Beyonce in my earbuds and started to run, all the while thinking about my grandma’s life. It wasn’t an easy one, but I hope that she had true moments of joy and contentment.

This recipe is an Ina Garten one that I tweaked simply because I had apricot jam in my refrigerator that I wanted to use. I love the combination of almond and apricot, especially when almond extract is involved. Of course, you can easily swap out the almond butter for peanut butter and use strawberry jam in lieu of the apricot jam if you want a straight-up classic combination. But it’s fun to try new flavors, and if you haven’t experienced the almond/apricot pairing, I encourage you to try this. Even if you’re not a seasoned baker, it’s a very approachable recipe.  It also feels a bit autumnal, which is absolutely perfect for this week.

Almond Butter and Apricot Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten

Yield:  24 bars

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups creamy almond butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups apricot jam
2/3 cups almond slivers

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x13x2-inch cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla and almond extract, eggs, and almond butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.
4. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the almond butter mixture. Mix just until combined.
5. Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula. Spread the jam evenly over the dough. Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don’t worry if all the jam isn’t covered; it will spread in the oven.
6. Sprinkle with almond slivers and bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely, and cut into squares.


Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo and Pomegranate


I went back to Minnesota in August to visit my family. It was a really great trip overall. I had really nice moments with family, and had some quiet moments to myself that allowed me to reflect on how far I’ve come in my relationships with my family members. We’ve all done our share of personal growth, and it’s been manifested in the way we interact with each other. Of course, we still have our moments, but we can work through them much faster than we did in the past.

I visited my 88-year old grandma while there. She has had dementia for a while now, but she has been holding on fairly well. I know that people with dementia can deteriorate pretty quickly, but I was still not prepared for what I saw. She has whittled down to almost nothing, and she was barely lucid during the two short visits I had with her. My grandma has not had an easy life. Her husband was not a good man – he was mean, was never around, and had several affairs. She raised 8 kids largely on her own. I’ve often wondered what her life would have been like if she hadn’t met my grandpa. I think she always yearned for a bigger life. She wanted to contribute something to the world other than being a mother and a housewife. She is a very smart woman who liked to stay informed of politics and social justice issues. I remember her once telling me she was so happy that I had moved away from my small town. I think the little joy she got out of life she obtained through other people who were living happier and more fulfilling lives.

It was heartbreaking to see her now in this condition. However, my dad truly impressed me with the way he interacted with her during our visit. He was very loving and tender – making sure she had enough water, asking her if she was too warm. It almost brought me to tears. Because my dad was not a very warm and nurturing person while I was growing up, his kindness today can often times stop me in my tracks. It’s such a beautiful thing to see how people can evolve and become better human beings. My dad was never close to my grandma, and, in fact, I think they had a bit of a contentious relationship when he was growing up. Knowing this makes his caretaking of her now that much more touching.


I lurrrrrve sweet potatoes. However, I think I am unusual in my disliking of them in a sweet preparation. That will NEVER happen in my kitchen. People, they are already sweet to begin with! And they pair so nicely with bitter, savory, and umami flavors. One of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes is to turn them into french fries, covered in rosemary, garlic and sea salt. It beats McDonalds fries any day of the week. Ok, maybe not when I’m pms’ing, but you get the point. This is a great recipe to make this time of year. Summer is winding down and the first few hints of fall are in the air. It’s a hearty dish but it’s still light enough that it won’t weigh you down. Of course, if chorizo is hard to find in your neighborhood (or you just don’t eat pork), you can substitute chicken, beef, lamb, etc. I bet lamb would be extra delicious in this recipe.

Loaded Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo and Pomegranate
Adapted from Food & Wine

Yield: 4-6 servings

1/2 pound fresh chorizo, casings removed
3 cipollini onions, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup pure pomegranate juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for garnish
Salt & pepper; Course sea salt
Crème fraîche or sour cream
Sliced avocado
Pomegranate seeds
Finely grated lime zest

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Set each sweet potato on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with course sea salt.
2. Wrap the potatoes in the foil and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the chorizo and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the onions, chile and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo is cooked through and the onions are softened, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Add the pomegranate juice and cook until nearly absorbed, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper.
5. Unwrap the sweet potatoes and arrange on a platter. Cut a lengthwise slit in the top of each one and fluff the insides with a fork. Season with salt and pepper and fill with the chorizo mixture.
6. Top each sweet potato with crème fraîche, sliced avocado, pomegranate seeds, grated lime zest and cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.