Did you know blackberries run wild in Seattle? Like, really run wild. Rubus armeniacus, the “Himalayan” blackberry, is an invasive species that has a special talent for sprawling its thorny brambles into every green nook and cranny of the urban landscape. This has earned it a reputation as a “problem child” of the local ecosystem, but I have to confess a soft spot for these wildlings. Who can stay mad at something so delicious? And how can anyone stare down a loaded thicket like this without their latent hunter-gatherer instincts kicking into overdrive?
Over the past week, Seattle has found itself in the middle of both a record-setting heat wave and a thick haze of smoke. Naturally, these conditions make me nostalgic for my days in southern California. (zing!)
In all seriousness though, I really have been doing some California Dreaming. With summertime in full swing, I’m craving sunshine and avocados, and generally feeling inspired by left coast vibes (the Cowabunga Lifestyle, you know?)
Given this set and setting, I got into the kitchen and combined two beloved regional socal desserts:
I’ve been charmed by overnight oats before, but until recently I had never tried what you might call the “original recipe” – bircher muesli. This dish was popularized in the late 1800s by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner, who served it daily to the high-profile guests of his Alpine wellness retreat. The doctor’s intention behind this humble and wholesome “little mush” was to find a palatable way to get more raw fruit into his patients’ diets. Homeboy was driven by some puzzling proto-raw-foodism beliefs, but I’ll cut him some slack… You can’t blame the guy for living in what was essentially the dawn of nutrition science (people often forget that nutrition is such a young field; for perspective, realize that humans had no concept of vitamins until 1912). I have to give him credit for being ahead of his time in many ways, especially in making connections between health and harmony with nature. And, of course, for inventing my latest summertime breakfast obsession.
In my last post on Food Prep Strategy, I mentioned the latest positive influence that Instant Pot‘s glorious set-it-and-forget-it convenience has graced upon my cooking routines… something I like to call INSTA-GREENS. Really, it’s nothing more than batch-cooking my leafy greens, but in my eyes it’s become an anchor of my weekly self care routine. A simple task that makes me feel like I am treating myself right.
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.
“#1. Make a Lot of Soup”
This was the first directive scribbled to myself on a note titled “Foodprep Strategy,” a deliberate attempt at eating well and staying sane in this time of post-moving–new-life-upheaval. New year, new city, new kitchen, new climate, new grocery stores, new work-from-home transition, all around brand new routine.
In my disoriented state, emerging from a maze of cardboard boxes to hit the ground running as Dinner Captain once again, I turned to soup. Nourishing, crowd-pleasing, inexpensive, efficient to cook in large batches, quick to reheat, and warming for cold bellies… soup has been serving me well.
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.
As I scramble through my last month living in San Diego, I was lucky enough to take part in one last Healthy Dining Office Potluck. When you work with a team of Culinary Dietitians and other foodie health professionals, potluck celebrations are serious business. Looking back on the 2.5 years that I’ve worked with this team, I’m pleasantly surprised that I had a chance to document several of my contributions online here: there have been polenta-crusted quiches, gluten-free peach cobbler scones, worksgiving goat cheese mashed potatoes, and platters of avocado toast slathered with chimichurri sauce. But to date, my crowning achievement was at a banana-themed bash we held last October, so this week I had go out with a bang and recreate my biggest hit.
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!
Ropa vieja. Be still, my heart.
While I was studying to become a dietitian, I lived in Miami for three years. Moving to Miami can cause some serious culture shock, even for a Florida native, but I have to admit that crazy town has some perks.
Some of the best perks were getting to know Cuban friends and their Cuban FOOD. In Miami, I met some of the world’s nicest people who got me very well acquainted with Cuba’s rich culinary traditions. Cafecitos. Maduros. Picadillo. Pastelitos. And one of my personal favorites, ropa vieja, a classic comfort food that makes you feel at home whether you grew up eating it or not. It’s a flavorful stew made with peppers, tomatoes, and flank steak cooked low-and-slow until the meat is tender enough to effortlessly pull apart into long shreds that resemble the fibers of threadbare cloth, hence the name (ropa vieja = old clothes).