This spring, I’ve been busy getting real about following my dreams… the ones that involve seeking freedom from urban captivity and planting myself in a greener place. I’ve been spending most of my weekends playing out the long-game of our move to the northwest, ferrying across Puget Sound and trekking across the wild Olympic Peninsula in search of a new habitat to call our own.
Yes, this holiday cookie recipe is a bit late to the party – but I’m sharing it today as my silly food-bloggy way of commemorating some new-life-news: believe it or not, I’m a married lady now! After 11 years together, Grant and I finally made it official over new year’s weekend and held a tiny elopement ceremony overlooking Seattle’s waterfront in a gondola aboard the Great Wheel. Love is magic – feels good, man!
The New Year is my favorite holiday, but there’s one sad thing about January: no more eggnog! If you’re a nog-lover like me, these cookies make a good antidote for the withdrawals.
Let’s talk about eating logistics. If you like to eat fresh/whole/minimally-processed/REAL food, you have to plan, shop, and cook. It takes some time and effort, but it is an essential form of self-care.
Luckily, since we have to eat every day, we get a lot of practice at this task. With experience, we optimize. We can get better at working smarter, not harder.
Done properly, getting systematic about your Food Plan can improve your quality of life. It can save you time, money and stress. It can help you align your goals with your reality. It can streamline your efforts, freeing up your creative energy for bigger and better things, while keeping yourself well-fed and SANE.
Lo and behold, HERE WE ARE. Moving is never easy, but we made it happen, and it is so exciting to finally find ourselves exploring this new world. And really, compared to what we’ve been used to in San Diego, Seattle is like a whole new universe. Even now, in the dead of winter, everything is ALIVE! We see flocks of birds take flight every morning, seas of trees in every direction, and practically every surface is covered with a fuzzy, friendly diversity of lichens, fungi and mosses. Life is beautiful, and this biological abundance is something I take a lot of comfort in.
Apparently 3 months have blasted by since I last made time to write here. Things have been a little chaotic, but I think the dust has settled enough that I can finally go public with an official announcement: this household is closing up shop in San Diego, and moving north. We are relocating to Seattle, Washington!
Welcome to the story of the latest chapter in my farm-to-table education: beekeeping! For real!! A couple of weeks ago I made the cross-country trek to visit my family back in Florida, where my mom has been experimenting with caring for a colony of honeybees. Since we’re both nature-lovers and food-tinkerers, we had been scheming to share a honey-gathering adventure together ever since she started her crash course in self-taught beekeeping, after a neighbor gave her the hive last year.
Looking back, maybe I should have been more apprehensive about breaking into a bee colony to steal their hard-earned honey, but I knew mom had been through a successful harvest already, and I figured humans must have learned a thing or two about dealing with bees in the last ~9000 documented years of apiculture. So I was all in!
The first step was suiting up – at the time we had yet to invest in proper beekeepers’ garb, so we improvised with some rather goofy outfits. Mosquito netting protected my face, and I tucked sleeves-into-gloves and pants-into-socks to keep unwanted intruders out of my business – it got the job done! It was comforting to be covered, but I was surprised to learn that many beekeepers are able to manage their bees’ defensive behaviors so well that they’re able to forgo the bulky outfit!
We rolled up to the hive, armed with the first line of defense for encouraging gentle bees: smoke. Ever wonder what makes smoke the beekeepers’ secret weapon? Interestingly, smoke initiates the bees’ feeding response, triggering them to settle down and eat honey in anticipation of hive abandonment due to fire! It also masks their alarm pheromones, quelling the collective freakout and making it safer to reach into their box for some honey!
Check out those bees! My mom says there are probably about 10,000 in there!!! There are different types of hives with their own pros and cons, but this traditional movable-frame hive is what my mom was given to get started. Each wooden “frame” in the box can be lifted to reveal a solid slab of honeycomb. After prying out each frame and brushing off the clinging bees, mom passed them off to me to run back to the house.
We loaded four frames into another special tool, the extractor: it’s a large, stainless steel, manual centrifuge. We took turns cranking and spinning our hearts out, and ended up with 9 full pints of honey, plus a few other odd sizes once we ran out of canning jars. It was the coolest thing!!! The honey is mindblowing – raw, golden, and studded with a galaxy of pollen visibly suspended in its sticky sweetness.
I couldn’t help but get smitten with honeybees, and my someday-dream-house plans now include a hive in the backyard. Tending a colony just appeals to all of my sensibilities:
- The bees’ mysterious habits and complex behaviors pique my biological curiosity.
- I’m in awe of the ancient knowledge surrounding beekeeping; humans have been accumulating a profound base of understanding over thousands of years of bee domestication, just waiting to be tapped into.
- It’s a beautiful thing to look at the big picture and watch them do their thing, participating in nature and playing their part in our holistic world.
Speaking of which, supporting healthy bee populations is a good deed! Life on Earth depends on, well, life on Earth. Bees play a crucial role, and their populations have been in an alarming decline in recent years. Tending a big family of happy, healthy honeybees using sustainable methods can help turn things around in your community and beyond.
Not ready to invite a few thousand bees into your yard? Maybe instead, start by just checking out this article on 10 Things You Can Do to Help Bees. Happy Earth Day!
I don’t have a full-fledged post for today, but I still wanted to check in to say hello and share a real-time glimpse into my kitchen life. It’s Valentine’s Day, which means I’m getting ready for our annual holiday tradition: home-cooked steakhouse dinner for two. This year it’s grass-fed sirloin, roasted asparagus and whole onions, and freshly-baked seeded sourdough baguettes (swoon).
Grant is out taking advantage of the warm Sunday weather for a surf session, so I’ve been spending a relaxing morning at home sipping coffee, petting Chuy, and leafing through my bookshelf in an attempt to kindle my next spark of culinary inspiration. Harold McGee delivered, as usual – ever since I was gifted On Food and Cooking years ago, I’ve been in awe of the depth of culinary science and history expertly compiled in its 884 pages. I’ve valued it as a reference book, but after blowing my mind about 7 different times just during my morning of leisurely skimming, I decided I’ve been doing this work a disservice by not soaking every word of it into my food brain! I love being a culinary dietitian and building a career around foodie science, so I really need to take better advantage of this wisdom. I know it’s going to be a long haul, but I’m resolving to finally read this thing cover to cover. Welcome to my nightstand, McGee.
Curiosity is a good thing, and we food lovers have a lot to be curious about. I’ll close with a line from McGee’s introduction, a timely reminder (given today’s holiday spirit) to give our attention to the thing we love:
“Food is an infinitely rich subject, and there’s always something about it to understand better, something new to discover, a fresh source of interest, ideas and delight.”
Any other food nerds out there on the same page? Reach out to discuss! You can order the book on Amazon here.
I had the pleasure of spending last weekend in Seattle, WA. My brother and his wife live up there, and they hosted Grant and I for a trip so jam-packed with local fun and amazing food that we are ready to move into their guest room permanently! In the same vein as my last food-focused San Francisco travel report, read on for my top highlights from the weekend.
We started our festivities early on Friday with breakfast at Morsel in Ballard. If you want the best, freshly-baked, big-as-your-face biscuit sandwich you’ve ever had, this is your place. I chose one of the daily special arugula-garlic biscuits as the foundation for my rendition of “The Goat,” which pairs goat cheese with thinly sliced cucumber and tomato jam. I opted to add a fried egg (good decision). The guys made a good decision too, both ordering “The Spanish Fly” with egg, manchego, prosciutto, arugula and pepper aioli. We also had the first of many flawless cappuccinos and lattes (Seattle, you are really on point with that business).
We walked off that deliciousness by trekking all over the city. We started downtown with a stroll through Pike’s Place, took in the views from the Columbia Center, made our way to the international district (where else can you find mocha and pina colada flavored fortune cookies, straight off the factory lines?), the U district, Green Lake Park… each place with its own unique local flavor, totally fascinating.
After all that, we picked up a late lunch at Un Bien – they sell INCREDIBLY GOOD Latin/Caribbean style sandwiches. They’re made on a fresh crusty baguette with cilantro, pickled jalapenos, caramelized onions, lettuce, aioli, and whatever protein you choose (sirloin for me) with a magical citrus-y marinade. I was too busy digging in to take a photo myself, but if you look at their Yelp page I think you’ll get the idea.
That night, we headed out to Ballard Beer where they have a wide selection of local brews, and beautiful community tables that are welcoming to both dogs and board games. We took advantage of both.
Next door, Lil Woody’s makes a mean grass-fed burger too!
The next morning, my sister-in-law secured her position as Hostess with the Most-ess by surprising us with pastries from Cafe Besalu (buttery, flaky, and graced with peak-season summer fruits – this place definitely lives up to its reputation) and firing up their espresso machine for homemade lattes!! Seattle hospitality at its finest!
After that, we escaped from the city with a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island. On top of the natural beauty and small-town charm, the trip is worth it just for the lunch at The Harbor Public House. Do yourself a favor and relax on their scenic patio with some epic local seafood. I ordered the smoked salmon tartine: mixed greens, a slice of whole-grain sourdough, goat cheese, and their incredible house-smoked salmon topped with tomato, red onion and capers. I’m still dreaming about it.
After making our way back to the mainland and seeing a few more sights, we decided to refuel with a quick healthy dinner. As a health-food-nerd, I was excited to check out a co-op market that I’ve heard a lot about since my brother started working at their offices: PCC. I was not disappointed – it was like Sprouts on steroids, with a prepared food section that puts Whole Foods to shame. The spread below includes their curried tempeh/veggies, pesto tortellini, Emerald City Salad, quinoa tabouli, Moroccan eggplant, and a sesame-glazed chicken wing. All freshly-made, healthy and delicious!
We had an early flight Sunday, so before heading to the airport we had time for one more epic vacation brunch at Chinook’s. We had a beautiful waterfront view, and every breakfast is served with a basket of freshly baked scones with orange butter! Charmed again by the local produce, I ordered a stack of huckleberry pancakes. A sweet finish to a delicious trip!
After having such a great time, I know I’ll be back again soon. If you have suggestions to share, let me know with a comment!
Things have been a little quieter on this website than I like lately. Honestly, I’ve been making an effort to spend more time in the moment; quality time with Grant and with friends, enjoying the outdoors, taking more time to take care of myself. When prioritizing these (irrefutably good) pursuits, I just haven’t had as much screen time to sit down and write/photograph all the posts that I want to share with you. But don’t worry – things have been in the works, and you have lots of good stuff to look forward to!
Before July passes by in silence, I want to take a moment to catch up and chat about the things that have been feeding my spirit. I hope you can derive some inspiration, and I’d love to hear about what has been nourishing you lately too.
- summer gardening: I really like having plants around… it just feels right. My apartment doesn’t have any outdoor space at all, but we still make room for our botanical friends with a little container garden outside our front door. This summer we’ve been maintaining our current resident herbs (parsley, mint, basil and chives), harvesting a bumper crop of jalapenos, and freshening up our window box with a blooming bunch of portulaca (gorgeous and very prolific!)
- summer reading: I’m currently deep into Ram Dass’ Journey of Awakening and on the foodie front, I’ve also been working my way through An Everlasting Meal. Tamar Adler takes us through a leisurely discourse on ‘cooking with economy and grace,’ weaving together conventional wisdom and recipes with a sense of calm and appreciation that draws the reader to see the true beauty of simple cooking. It’s a real delight, highly recommended.
- summer cooking: While I might have slowed down on posting, I never stop cooking! I’ve been living on fresh peaches, making lots of quick dinners with Instant Pot, experimenting with culturing my first sourdough starter, and scheming over lots of exciting healthy foods to share with all of you very soon.
- art is another thing that nourishes my spirit on the regular, mostly because I’m lucky enough to live with a really talented artist. The image above is a painting by Grant Fraker; you can find it along with other original paintings and prints at GrantFrakersArt on Etsy (and follow along on Twitter and Instagram).
Ice packs. Netflix. Eating soup on the couch. Sounds like a super-fun recovery weekend, right? This year I learned from my dentist that I needed oral surgery to correct a gum recession problem (PSA: apparently this is why you shouldn’t brush your teeth too hard!) and two weeks ago, I finally went under the knife to get it fixed with what they call the “pinhole” surgery. As the operation day approached, I put some diligent thought into how to best support myself nutritionally for a speedy recovery. It was obvious that I would need to stock up on soft/easy-to-eat foods, but from a dietitian’s perspective, I couldn’t help but draw up some plans to emphasize my favorite nutrients to facilitate the healing process. And it should go without saying, that I also wanted to continue to ENJOY food while I heal… gotta keep flavor in mind to nourish the body + spirit.
Sure, you could say I’m ‘overthinking’ it for a relatively minor surgery – the doctor’s only dietary orders were to avoid crunchy and sticky foods – but on my follow-up visits, the surgeon praised my quick healing, so I’m thinking the effort was worthwhile!
So how does a registered dietitian approach a post-op recovery diet? Here are the things that went under my consideration:
Gum Surgery Recovery Plan:
First off, for wound healing, it’s important to get enough calories and protein for your body to generate new tissue and heal. This means making an effort to eat well, to make sure that a sore mouth or poor appetite won’t lead to meal-skipping or under-eating. It also means paying special attention to build meals around healthy protein sources like eggs, lean meats/poultry, yogurt, beans, soy, etc.
But beyond those basics, there are a few other key nutrients/foods that I wanted to emphasize in my post-op recovery plan:
Vitamin C: An essential co-factor in the generation of collagen, this nutrient is key for healing tissue. As a bonus, it’s an antioxidant so it decreases systemic oxidative stress and consequently inflammation.
- Food Sources: tomatoes, peppers, fruits like strawberries, oranges, or pineapple
Zinc: This mineral has a structural role in many enzymes, including several that are involved in pathways for collagen formation and in supporting the immune system. It’s clinically proven that adequate zinc status is important in aiding wound healing; in hospital settings, dietitians even prescribe zinc sulfate supplements to help patients with difficult wounds. I didn’t bother with that extra expense, but I did focus on eating plenty of my favorite zinc-rich foods.
- Food Sources: beef, beans, mushrooms, dairy, wheat germ
Anti-Inflammatory foods: Certain foods work with your body to decrease its systemic inflammatory response, while others just add more fuel to the fire. Since I knew I was going to be dealing with a lot of swelling, I did everything I could to tilt the scales in the right direction:
- Dietary Approach:
- more veggies, fruits, healthy fats, fish, soy, turmeric, ginger, green tea
- less refined flours and sugars
I also chose to support my regimen with a couple of supplements: fish oil capsules for an extra anti-inflammatory boost from omega 3’s, and a bottle of probiotic supplements to innoculate my gut with a beneficial microbiome after finishing the course of antibiotics required following the surgery. (I buy these fish oil capsules from NOW Foods, and although I picked up Ultimate Flora probiotics, I think next time I would try these ones for a better value). [affiliate links FYI]
So, after I had my game plan ready, how did I work these foods into my diet? Here’s a glimpse into my week following the procedure:
Behold, the Green Smoothie Pop. I received these fun squeeze-pop molds as a get-well gift from my mom (how sweet is that? she obviously gets me.). The day before my appointment, I whizzed up a mason jar magic bullet filled with frozen banana, frozen pineapple, fresh spinach, orange juice and almond milk, and poured the blend into the tubes to freeze. It was the right thing to do. Delicious tropical flavor, soothing cold for gum pain, and the pineapple and orange juice pack a punch of vitamin C for healing!
Leading up to my surgery, I naturally ended up discussing the finer points of the mechanical soft diet with my dietitian coworkers. When the idea of crispy grilled cheese saturated with creamy tomato soup came up, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. During my pre-op grocery run, the first things to get tossed into my basket were a loaf of whole-grain sourdough bread, some lovely grass-fed sharp cheddar, and an ultra-convenient box of Imagine light-sodium Garden Tomato Soup. With the bread lightly brushed with olive oil for a source of healthy fat, this meal is easy to throw together when you don’t feel like cooking, and total comfort food. Win win!
Scrambled eggs made appearances at both breakfast and lunch. They’re a quick/easy protein, soft, and topping with salsa doesn’t just up the flavor factor, but also adds a little extra veggies and vitamins. Every bit helps!
PBJ yogurt! I had the surgery on a Friday, and after my first weekend of healing was over, this was my staple pack-for-work breakfast the following week. Plain Greek yogurt topped with a small spoonful of strawberry jam, a larger spoonful of chunky peanut butter, a tablespoon of wheat germ (zinc!!) and a generous sprinkle of chia seeds on top. So delicious, I’m still continuing to eat this now that I have my chewing abilities back.
Just to be clear that I wasn’t powering through the recovery phase cooking everything from scratch: there was definitely a life-saving order of takeout pho. It’s the only ‘fast food’ I can think of built on a foundation of nourishing bone broth! I ordered extra and lived off this for the first couple of rough recovery days, when it was awesome to be able to just nuke a quick meal whenever hunger struck.
Annnnd just to be clear about one other thing, there was also definitely ice cream. Duh.
Some other healthy foods that I subsisted on but wasn’t cogent enough to snap photos of: whole-wheat fusilli pasta topped with a grass-fed beef and mushroom bolognese, fork-tender broiled salmon, this black bean soup, this broccoli cheddar soup, and a simple chicken ‘noodle’ soup with tiny star-shaped pastina that made me feel like a little kid again. Lots of good eating, and although I’m still waiting for clearance to start flossing again (as a flossing fanatic I’M GOING CRAZY OVER HERE!) I’m pretty much back to normal now!
I hope this post will help other people trying to figure out what to eat after oral surgery. If you have any other words of wisdom, please share in the comments!