Posts in Category: Comestible Notions

Three Years and Counting

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Good Day All,

Today marks three years of Connect a Bite!  This means three years that you’ve come to this spot to read a little, maybe laugh a little or maybe even find a little inspiration of your own in relationship to food; this connection brings me so much joy.  Thank you.  Connect a Bite, for me, has been a place where comestible notions come to synchronize with everything else.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly have favorite spots on the web that my fingers lovingly search for when a spare moment reveals itself, and I hope that Connect a Bite is that for you, or will someday become one of those spots.

Over the years, it’s only natural that I would begin to not only question, but deconstruct what this bit of online coding means to me.  With busy lives, the necessity people have created for fast fixes, and a plethora of food related blogs out there– run by beautiful-spirited bloggers from all over the world–what singular message can I put out there that’s unique?  On this third anniversary, I sit here before you to say that maybe my contemplations and visual notions of the nourishing world are not especially distinct, but they are a unified vision of how I see the world and our link to what we eat.  If my posts were only able to galvanize a handful of you out there to speak up about the world of food and how key it is in your lives, be it a recipe that has been passed down for generations or a life threatening food allergy or disease, than my heart would swell.

Connect a Bite brings you a series called Edible Inspiration, where I visually explore images that spur a feeling of transcendence and change in relationship to physical nourishment.  Another series that began just this year, Noshed in a Book, hopes to bring your literary world closer to all the nom that crosses your path in the meantime.  And Kitchen Letters began in 2014 as an awakening, for I cherish the art of letter writing and longed to find a way to speak to you through an epistolary form of posts.

Thank you for taking a second to breeze through my site while you sip on your morning tea or nibble on your afternoon snack while taking in the day.  I feel so fortunate to be a part of your life and I look forward to writing more as the years fade into sunsets.

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Have a lovely today and tomorrow and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

VegFest 2014 Vol. 2

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Good day all,

It was an extra early-rise day Saturday, but the chilly wind helped keep us all high energy and functioning.  It was very encouraging to see how many volunteers showed up for the 6 a.m. shift–20+ to be sure–and humbling to experience the functionality of people coming together for a cause that we all stand behind.  We completed all of the ‘set-up’ tasks far before expected and we were all able to help out in areas we did not initially expect to, which was both a positive learning experience and a true test of multitasking. One of the many highlights of my volunteer experience was the fact that I was able to spend my entire volunteer shift with my husband, which is incredibly rewarding, being able to experience the fun together. Another highlight was a young mother who decided to bring her young baby along with her the entire morning by carrying the baby in an Ergo type carrier, marsupial style.  She was one diligent marsupial momma and she became my inspiration for that particular day and days to come.  It was encouraging to see someone being active and volunteering as a woman and mother, deciding to not let her world stop because she is now a mom.  She chose to involve her young one and display an act of community giving that is priceless.  I know I’m about to sound terribly cliché, but it made my heart grow three sizes bigger.  I was so taken aback, I had to tell her!

After our volunteer shift was completed, we decided to disguise our VegFest tees’ and become official guests of the event.  Though we were a little rushed, I feel like the time we spent went swimmingly!  The flow of the crowd seemed to be better circulated than in years past due to–in my opinion–better organization of the booths. Also, there were many more vendors and food stops where you could get information, samples, and a full-blown meal!

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While walking around and getting to know the vendors–some old hats and some newbies–we came across a new company called Uber Foods that makes energy bars.  After just one small sample and hearing about their new company from an eager young man, I decided to buy a bar; ‘dos cacao’.  It’s made here in Austin, has only six ingredients and it’s gluten-free and vegan!  It was pricy, but I never mind paying a little more for quality and in support of a growing company.

There were farms represented at VegFest this year, and Tecolote Farm is a local farm!

There were farms represented at VegFest this year, and Tecolote Farm is a local farm!

My tummy was soon grumbling for a meal following our volunteer shift and I had my eye set on Aster’s Ethiopian booth.  It was good gloop!  What’s wonderful about Ethiopian food is the manner in which they go about eating.  They not only use their hands, but they consume the food with a spongy bread call injera made with teff flour, which is rich in amino acids and several vitamins and minerals.   Some Ethiopian restaurants add wheat to their injera, however, Aster’s is 100% gluten-free!  Happy tummies all around. 😀

We ended our Texas VegFest time, much like we did our second year, with a bowl of Sweet Ritual ice-cream–salted caramel.  No sprinkles were on hand this year, but the ice-cream left nothing to be desired for a sweet tooth.

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Attending Texas VegFest was a pleasant reminder that we should all take a moment to re-evaluate the way we approach our time and how we devote it, not only to the food we eat, but to other people around us. You get what you give in life, so let’s all try to give a little more. :)  And if you can, involve the little one’s in your life in your activities.  Experiences are the best gifts you can give and will last longer than all the toys in the world!  Oh, and remember…bite responsibly!

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Healthy Regards,

RAM

 

VegFest 2014 Vol. 1

Good day everyone,

I must admit, I am currently under the influence of one heaping scoop of cocoa powder in my morning smoothie, and ready to talk about Veg Fests!  This coming April 5th, here in Austin, TX, we will have our very own Texas Veg Fest (year 3), and I know it’s going to be even bigger and better than the last two years.  The first year I just attended, but last year I was a volunteer with the information booth and this year I’m volunteering with the AV team, and I’m excited!

Let’s start with a little about Vegfest.  Vegfest is just that, a festival that focuses on vegetarian cuisine and more specifically, 100% plant-based, not animal product cuisine and oftentimes sustainability through lifestyle choices and animal rights.  It occurs annually in different cities and in different formats in each city.

Texas Vegfest of Austin, occurs by the beautiful Lady Bird Lake and is loaded with over a hundred vendors, cooking demos and lectures, music performers, speakers and tastings galore!  I don’t suggest attending this festival while doing a ‘cleanse’ as there will be far too many temptations.

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I am looking forward to Saturday where I’ll get to help out, meet people, try new things and mingle with veggie thoughts.  I hope you’ll join me and many others!  Be sure to stay tuned next week for ‘Veg Fest Vol.2’, where I will discuss post-fest topics and what went down.

Short and sweet to the sole today–love you Dandies.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

Rachel Manning

Kitchen Letters #4: Brunch Brings a Choco Nana Oatmeal “Shuffle” Bake

Dear World,

I am full of thoughts lately, always really, b u t e v e n m o r e l a t e l y ! !  In Austin, brunch is kind of a big deal, as if there weren’t enough social events occurring on a regular basis, brunch is thrown into the mix to add more fringe to already tethered t-shirt that is traffic in Austin.  My thought, STAY HOME!  Too often today we tie ourselves to the social obligations and financial obligations of going out and about on the town nary appreciating what we have in our home, whatever ‘home’ means to you.  In an effort to be both practical but not distress the abstract, I want to bring the conversation back to basics.  That’s why, I decided there’s nothing better than a little sassy  shuffle at home to go with your homemade noms–I’m still polishing my running man, it’s a mess…chachahca!  Although I’m normally more of a savory tooth when it comes to any food item before dinner, I couldn’t resist the idea of an oatmeal bake nuzzled in a gooey chocolate sauce.  May I introduce the Choco Nana Oatmeal “Shuffle” Bake…all rights reserved.  :p

So, let’s say a blissful brunch “bottoms-up” to this delicious treat, and be grateful for the leftovers.

Here’s my long awaited second video.  If you’ve forgotten the first video, you could turn your first at home brunch-bunch gathering into an all day culinary affair and make some homemade gluten-free pasta.  Delightful.

Videos are also streaming on the Connect a Bite YouTube channel, subscribe and never miss one!

 

 

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 Choco Nana Oatmeal “Shuffle” Bake

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, Bob’s Red Mill is what I use)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 very ripe banana (peeled)
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp ground flax
  • 1 3/4 vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup walnut & pecan mixture (I like to break them up a little)
  • 3 tbsp chocolate chips (I used these Enjoy Life)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup (heaping) peaches (cut into slices)

Ingredients (toppings)

  • 1 ripe banana (peeled)
  • 1/3 cup walnut & pecan mixture (broken into pieces)
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao
  • 1 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Alteration to video:  added 1 to 2 tbsp water to make the sauce more fluid
  • 2 tbsp coconut flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Have a 8 or 9” baking dish ready (or whatever deep dish you have handy)
  3. Plop and pour water, almond milk, coconut oil, banana, coconut sugar, maple syrup, ground flax seed, vanilla extract, and salt into blender container and blend until mixed, but some minor chunks remaind.
  4. Now, mix oats, chocolate chips, cinnamon and nut mixture (I use my hands)
  5. Now, in the baking dish, line the bottom with peach slices in rows (in a spiral if using a round dish).  Then sprinkle the blueberries on top.
  6. Over the fruit, distribute dry oats mixture evenly
  7. Pour the liquid mixture over oats evenly
  8. Place dish in the oven & bake for 40 minutes or until the dish is no longer runny and golden brown on the top
  9. While the oats bake, prepare coconut flake/nut mixture and chocolate drizzle
  10. In dry skillet, spread coconut flakes out with nuts over low to medium heat and toast until flakes are golden brown (careful not to burn)
  11. In a small sauce pan or skillet, combine coconut oil, maple syrup and raw cacao (from ‘toppings’ list) and stir with spoon until well mixed and chocolate has melted.  Additionally, I amended what I did in the video and added a couple tbsp of water
  12. After taking out the bake, scoop out a portion onto a plate or bowl
  13. Top with coconut flake, nut mixture, then chocolate drizzle, then cut chunks of banana on top
  14. Apprécier avec le thé ou le café ! 😀

 

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I hope this is just as delightful for all of you as it was for us.  Let me know what you think and if you made any alterations.  I end up tweaking this recipe each time I make it.  Also, I want to say a ‘web’ thanks to my love for putting so much thought and care into this video and my first–if you’re interested, Film Fringe, is his podcast with a close friend and also avid film lover!  We make a great production team, and I’m thankful he honored me with his talents. Love.

Alright all of you, be well and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy and tasty regards,

RAM

Check out more Kitchen letters here!

Observing Two Years!

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Happy Birthday Connect a Bite!  I can hardly believe it has been two years since I began writing and sharing all the many ways we can connect to our food through celebrating women, social commentaries, creating recipes based on what you have on hand and in season, questioning the norm and many more things!

Thank you, to anyone who has been positive and encouraging to me during this time.  I’m grateful to have this privilege and I appreciate your support and enthusiasm.  The nature of this blog has, in many ways, grown from a casual way to express thoughts and observations on the food world to a place where I’m able to highlight new recipes and share my thoughts on what’s going on in food news and begin my new series–inspired by the web–called ‘Kitchen Letters’.  Connect a Bite has given me the gift of believing that writing and linking ourselves to the food world is not only rewarding, but fun in many ways.

2014 has many more exciting things to come, like more videos, podcast episodes–‘Cinema Cuisine’–, more original recipes and possibly an interview series.  I hope you’ll join me in this journey. ^___^

If you’d like to be in the know about what’s to come in each post, feel free to subscribe by entering in your email on the homepage in the right column.  If you would ever like to contact me directly with thoughts, questions, comments or feed-back, feel free to email me at rachelannemanning@connectabite.com  You can find me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest,YouTube and facebook too!

There’s no doubt this last year brought about enlightenment and challenges, but I know those occurrences have helped in the shaping of what I hope becomes a growing source of enlightenment for all of you!  I look forward to many more years of bringing meaning to what you’re eating!  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy, happy and grateful regards,

RAM

p.s. Happy International Women’s Day!  Check out this piece on Food Tank about women who are changing food.  I’m delighted to be a woman trying to make a difference. <3

Why Changing Food Labels is Not the Answer to Choosing “Healthy” Food

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Good afternoon everyone,

As I’m sure some of you–if not most of you–have heard, first lady Michelle Obama–well-known for her “Let’s Move” initiative, intended to help educate and battle against the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and her assistance and push for the White House transformation of a back yard to become a vegetable garden–has just announced that the US Food and Drug Administration will be remodeling the nutrition labels that are tattooed on every edible, processed and packaged good you can find.  This change comes after twenty-something years of the SAME labeling system for all food products.  Some of the major changes to note:  calories will be shown in a larger and bold typeface font, added sugars will be notated–like evaporated cane juice–in quantities, and there will be more realistic descriptions of serving sizes–the major example is ice cream which typically lists 1/2 cup servings and will be increased to 1 cup servings.  These are just some of the changes currently planned. There will be a ninety-day comment period with absolute changes taking up to two years to be fully implemented.

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Forgive me for being the wet sock in this freshly clean and dried laundry bag that is “new food labeling”, but I can’t help but think that another restrictive label–or “bold typeface”–is the answer to eating more consciously and with awareness.  I understand that over forty percent of Americans pay attention to labels, and clarity in terms, is of course a benefit to the public, but the idea that changing a label is enough to prompt healthier eating “habits” is a little far-fetched in my mind.  After reading article after article, my instinctual response is that another label is not the answer to the destructive and oftentimes apathetic manner in which food is approached in the US.  Don’t misunderstand my tone; I feel there is a lot of good underlying this initiative, but I think we’re focusing on the wrong topic.  Although it is useful to be knowledgeable and aware of food labels and what they mean–with more clarity and less fuss–it is also important to not count every calorie, or gram of sugar and fat.  There comes a time when the obsessive notation of nutritional information is detrimental to our mental health and overall perception of food and eating.  Could keeping track of all this information make eating food become a mechanical, utilitarian act?  People already drive while eating, walk and talk on the phone while slamming down a wrap, and eat at desks to save time.  Food is in many ways already a means to an end for many of us. Why worsen our perception of it by emphasizing an area that already deems excessive attention as it is?  In some cases, and for some, eating for purely pragmatic reasons may be a good situation, welcomed with open arms. But for what I hope is the majority of us, eating is an absolute joyful experience that maintains communities, families and friendships.  Where do we draw the line between food labeling and food nagging?

Furthermore, I’m drawn to the obvious; food labels are only needed on food “products”, not whole foods.  I understand that technology, and the impression of furthering scientific knowledge on the masses, is important, but have we veered so far from nature that we as humans cannot understand the difference between munching on a bag of chips and munching on some cucumber slices?  It is my opinion that though some of us may be naturally inclined to like foodstuffs on the manufactured side, if you’re not a child–who has yet to be educated about food–you are aware enough of what you’re buying to understand that it may have extra amounts of sodium and hydrogenated oils that could impact health problems you’re dealing with at the time or could cause issues in the future.  As my grandmother says, “When in doubt, do nothing”. This bit of advice can be transposed on dietary choices.

Having a diet rich in whole foods–unprocessed, unrefined, original form–and only modestly supplemented by some processed or packaged goods, lends to the design that, barring any genetic dispositions or uncertain accidents, your body will–in simple terms–be happier.  There are no added salts, sugars, fats, and additives–all the “scary” things that are listed on a nutrition label–in whole foods.  The nutritional density contained in each fruit or veggie is all that nature allowed for in the organic matter.  Granted, not all whole foods are alike and some pack more of a nutritional kick than others, but eating something that has not been or has been minimally tampered with, is the first step in eating with awareness and attaining a better mentality on diet.

What is wonderful about labels on food?  If you have a food allergies or food intolerance, package labeling may be to your benefit in many instances where the allergy is severe and any run-in with a particular substance could be a matter of your immediate health.  Food labels assist some with other sudden health concerns, like type 1 diabetics, wherein a person must literally count carbohydrates to survive, as their body will not process insulin for them.  Also, food labels do allow consumers to be educated to some degree about what it is they are eating and the labels allow you to make the choice based on those facts.  Additionally, food labels provide information on quantities of substances in what you’re buying and then eating later, allowing for few secrets.

 

I am respectful and grateful for the encouragement and attention that is being given to nutrition.  This attempt to address the general malaise that many have when it comes to what they are consuming can be disheartening, but I feel much of the message will be lost in this new food labeling initiative.  There are other ways to focus on helping individuals maintain the right type of attention and grasp on eating well on a regular basis and making able dietary choices.  Some possibilities are:  focusing more on educating the public about supporting local farmers who provide nutritionally dense vegetables and fruits, general food education initiatives, and an emphasis on eating whole foods rather than focusing more on processed and packaged foods with foxy new labels.  There are many things that someone as important as first lady Michelle Obama could be speaking-out about in regards to our food education, but perpetuating an already keen focus on labels is not the right way to reach many with a long term positive affect.  Let’s change the conversation in food from obsessive numbers to whole ideas and whole foods!

Where do you stand on new food labeling?  I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts!  I’m encouraged by the attention the food world is going to get because of this movement, I just fear it’s the wrong kind of attention.  Let’s chat!  And remember…bite responsibly.

Healthy Regards,

RAM

 

 

Kitchen Letters #3: A Big Bowl of Winter Veggies & a Grapefruit Fizzy

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Dear world,

There are many reasons to look forward to certain days of the week, but Thursday’s are special around our house because we pick up our packed CSA box–and I mean packed–with an array of veggies and fruits to kick-start new ideas for recipes.  This winter we have been fortunate to receive some of my favorite veggies and fruits all in one box, and I thought I could share our abundance of yummies with you–in recipe form–in this fleeting winter season.

My favorite meals usually involve a bowl.  There is something incredibly comforting about food in a bowl to me.  Perhaps I channel back to the feeling of being a child and picking the biggest concave basin to eat my cereal from, with loads of milk and never the worry of a spill or splash.  In my opinion, bowls are where it’s at!  With this dish, I decided to work with layers, which I feel gives more depth to the flavors and textures touching your palette.  Like I previously mentioned, I was working with veggies directly from our CSA box, thus it did most of the menu planning for me.

I get in a bit of a rut with root veggies, and though I know there are a myriad of things to do with them, I typically end up preparing one or two variations because I’m in a time bind, but this week I wanted to mix it up a hint.  I decided to make a sauce with the beets to create a colorful backdrop to the remainder of the dish.  I allowed myself the joy of slowing down.

What’s wonderful about this recipe is that it’s an ‘everyday’ kind of meal.  It’s not as sexy as some of the gourmet delicacies you’ll find out there, but what it is, is realistic and relative to the time and availability of what you might have hanging out in your fridge or produce baskets this time of year (at least in the states).

You could eat the dish in layers or mix it all together, but this is not a dish for the faint of heart as it’s bursting with lively flavor and swimming in immaculate texture.

I suggest eating this meal with friends or a loved one, that way you can share in the bounty and casual nature of the dish.  Kick back with little prep and effort for table arrangement and enjoy it with your favorite record or even this Songza playlist –> An Ipanema of the Mind.  Yes, I’m hooked on Songza.

From a before dinner drink to the entrée, I hope you enjoy!

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Grapefruit Ginger Fizzy

Ingredients

  • 1 25.4 fl. oz Topo Chico or any mineral water
  • 1 inch grated ginger
  • 1 to 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • juice of 4 grapefruits
  • 3 or 4 drops liquid stevia (if you want it sweeter, I prefer mine more tart so I leave this out)

Instructions

  1. After juicing your grapefruits, pour the liquid through a sieve and catch the liquid in a wide-mouth container–this will catch any extra pulp or seeds that may have slipped through into the juice (or leave it behind if you like pulpy juice)
  2. Now, pour the juice into a large pitcher
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir
  4. Now, add the mineral water
  5. Stir or shake if you have a lid
  6. Chill and sip in your favorite glass before and after your big bowl of veggies!

I have always enjoyed grapefruit, it is one of my favorite citrus fruits and I am always very happy when it comes in season because it adds a nice addition to my daily eats!  Fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice would be ideal to start your days or begin your meals in the winter as it helps to detoxify your liver, alkalize your body and give your metabolism a boost.  Additionally, it is loaded with vitamins and minerals and will help with reducing and preventing fevers.

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Bountiful Winter Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed & soaked)
  • 2 cups water
  • generous pinch of salt
  • small bundle of beets – about 4 (cleaned, peeled and boiled until tender; reserve beet greens for another time)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp annatto powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (optional)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic (more if you’re a garlic hound like me)
  • handful of parsley (flat leaf or curly; minced)
  • 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 bundle of your favorite greens in season (I’m using curly kale; pull leaves off stem, massage and rip into small pieces, soak and rinse, then salad spin to remove excess water)
  • 1/2 yellow onion (thinly sliced into strips)
  • 2 or 3 glugs of grapeseed oil (2 or 3 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or to taste, in ‘pours’)
  • splash or 2 of red wine (whatever kind you have on hand, the higher quality the better the taste)
  • 2 hefty pinches of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (cleaned and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons; cut off the dimples or where dirt has sunken in)
  • 5 or 6 small to medium carrots (cleaned and cut into half-moons)
  • 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Toppings (optional)

  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces (there will be some leftover)
  • 1 avocado (one half for each person you’re serving; thin slices)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF
  2. Place the cut sweet potatoes and carrots into a medium mixing bowl and cover with a couple of glugs of olive oil, salt and black pepper; mix well with clean hands
  3. Spread mixture over two baking sheets so the veggies are not touching; bake for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping half-way through
  4. Once veggies are in the oven, after rinsing and soaking, pour the quinoa into a medium saucepan and add water and a pinch of salt
  5. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 or 20 minutes
  6. Fluff quinoa with fork
  7. While quinoa is cooking, in another saucepan, place beets in water to boil until they are tender to a fork (15-20 minutes)
  8. Place beets, paprika, onion powder, annatto powder, lemon juice, 2 or 3 garlic cloves, olive oil and salt into blender and blend until smooth
  9.  Cover quinoa with beet sauce and distribute throughout; add minced parsley and feel free to add unsweetened almond milk for a creamier sauce or add water or more olive oil if mixture becomes dry; re-heat on low and cover to keep warm until remainder of dish is prepared
  10. In deep skillet over medium heat, add 2 or 3 glugs of olive oil until it flows like water over the bottom of the pan
  11. Add onion strips and cook until browned but not fully caramelized (7 or 8 minutes)
  12. Begin to place handfuls of kale into skillet and stir with tongs until greens are bright but not soggy (1 or 2 minutes)
  13. Now, add your splashes of apple cider vinegar and red wine until you hear a crashing and cracking sound–it should be a loud roar; continue to mix greens making sure to not burn, and then sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes and remove from heat
  14. In a dry skillet, over medium heat, place walnuts and toast until a light golden brown; take care not to burn
  15. NOW, to assemble the delicious bowl, in this order bottom to top:  wilted kale and caramelized onion mixture, quinoa with beet sauce, roasted veggies, toasted walnuts (by eye), avocado slices
  16. Enjoy every bite!

*This should serve approximately 2 to 4 people depending on portion sizes

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Quinoa, no longer the ‘It’ grain, is still ‘It’ at our abode.  It’s a full-source protein with a delightful nutty flavor and a fluffy light texture that absorbs flavor well.  The perfect grain to use for heavier sauces like this one, the semi-bitter undertones of quinoa are offset by the sweet and mildly tangy flavor of the beets and the umami of the garlic.  There are many exceptional qualities about this meal nutritionally, but take care in knowing you’ll be very satisfied and sated afterward.

Let me know what you think of the recipes and what type of creations you’re coming up with at the close of this season.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Yummy and grateful regards,

RAM

Check out more kitchen letters here!

Out of Sight: Proof that Obstacles are Meant to be Overcome

Miranday July via tumblr - fuckyeahmirandajuly

Miranda July via tumblr – fuckyeahmirandajuly

Good morning everyone,

Over the weekend, I found some time for nestling into a corner of our sofa to leaf through the pages of a magazine.  I never expected to find what I did, but as is certainly the nature of life, something pops up when you least expect it to.  The best part was, and call me superstitious, but it felt like the universes’ forces and energies meant for me to see this particular article.  What a wild world!  (Thank you Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, for the 1970 hit “Wild World“.)  What was I reading? The bimonthly magazine, Alcalde that is distributed by Texas Exes.  The article I read was “Uncommon Sense“, written by Rose Cahalan, which can also be found on the Texas Exes website or in the hyperlink above.  Below you will find an excerpt from the piece.

One day in fall 2007, Christine Ha tried to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich—and she couldn’t do it. A year earlier, Ha had prepared an elaborate Thanksgiving feast for her family, but now she found herself throwing the sandwich away in frustration as she wiped jelly off her hands. “It was so depressing to go from making fancy dinners to being unable to make a sandwich,” she says. “I thought I would never cook again.”

Ha was losing her eyesight. It started after her sophomore year at UT, when the computer screen at her finance internship had unexpectedly gone blurry. The next four years were a haze of doctor’s appointments and inconclusive tests. Eventually Ha even had to quit her first post-grad job in software consulting.

After she was finally diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called neuromyelitis optica and told she would lose nearly all her vision, Ha says she felt a measure of relief. “I’m the kind of person who needs a game plan,” she says, “so finally getting a correct diagnosis after four years was a starting point.”

She decided to try cooking again, with the help of a vocational counselor who coached her as she relearned basic skills. Before long she wasn’t just making peanut-butter sandwiches, she was cooking multi-course dinners—only this time with the aid of a talking thermometer, Braille labels on her stovetop, and extra-long oven mitts. The diagnosis also spurred her to change careers.

Read the rest of the article HERE!

In this article, Rose Cahalan–the author–begins by explaining Christine Ha’s experience with making a peanut butter sandwich with just enough detail that we are able to immediately empathize with the story.  We continue reading to find that not only is Christine a lover of the culinary arts but she is also a lover of the written word.  Because of this, I knew I would be thinking about this story for days and I had to find a way to share. My blog seemed like the perfect place!

One of the first aspects about this story that struck me was the most obvious subject-matter, cooking, but more to the point, cooking without sight.  Though my knife skills are improving daily with more precision and ease, I certainly make mistakes and I’m able to SEE those mistakes.   Christine’s ability astounds and encourages me to challenge my other senses more.  Yes, I’ve seen videos of big name chefs who speed dice without looking, but the ability to artfully use their knives takes confidence that is built up with years of practice coupled with the ease of knowing they could look down for accuracy at any time.  All of this to say, when you love something enough–however illogical it may seem to others–find a way to make it work!

Next, I was struck by the manner in which the piece addresses, subtly, that we are all forced to relinquish power at some point in our lives. There are times when the circumstances that surface this ‘release of power’ are more unpleasant for some than others, and oftentimes, not our choice.  In the world of food, there are many certainties–produce tastes better when it is in season– and uncertainties–will the frost this winter ruin the crops?  However, it occurred to me while reading this piece that very few of us recognize what an amazing gift it is to be able to transform a semi-ordinary bundle of veggies into a gourmet meal for yourself or a group of people.  And aren’t we all convalescing due to the abrasions of day-to-day life?  It would be easy to let such a traumatic event turn oneself into a surly person, but Christine’s story implies just the opposite.

Christine Ha - Master Chef

Christine Ha – Master Chef | photo from texasexes.org

On a more personal level; I can say I have not yet experienced anything as traumatic as what Christine Ha went through, however I have certainly had, and still have, obstacles on my food journey. Reading her story has made me all the happier I haven’t thrown in the flag.  We only have one life, and it is our choice to make the most of it, whatever that means to you.  Close your eyes and envision the role food plays in your life, whether it’s on an activism level or right in your backyard. Allow yourself the gift of self-appreciation, as we all do this too seldom.

I hope when you read this culinary adventure tale, you will be just as captivated and moved as I was.  Inspiration shows itself when you least expect it and in the strangest places. Thanks world for not letting me down!

Tell me about a hardship or road block that interrupted your food journey and how you were able to move beyond it or what you are still doing to overcome the set-back.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

Harvest

A lovely walk to begin Autumn.

A lovely walk to begin Autumn.

Hello Everyone,

There I was, sipping on some hot peppermint tea to offset the cold, drippy day in Texas we all were experiencing, that is quite beautiful in many ways.  What follows are some of my thoughts.

In my mind, there is a still, calm that comes with the darkening of days that makes me feel nestled in nature more than any other time of the year.  I heard someone state on a classical radio station I listen to, that this weather is beautiful to her because we can really see the sheen and color of the newly turned leaves due to the grey sky.  As soon as I heard this, I grinned.  There is something special about being able to see creation or the potential for something wonderful amongst what could easily be considered drab, useless and ugly.

sunrise

My next thought was of a new friendship, but more importantly a comment made by my new friend.  She said–and I paraphrase–‘This is just another season of your life, Rachel, and you have to allow the season to come full circle, naturally.  Like any season, it too will pass.”  I have not been able to forget this simple thought ever since she made it.  What a brilliant way to think of the transgressions in our life, be it big life choices, hardships or good fortune.  She has helped to change my perspective on the idea of infinity and how it can become debilitating and growth stunting, but a better way to look at things is in passes.  Falling leaves that must make their way down on their own at the right time, during the right season.

deadleavesonthedirtygroundfall

What is more, the word harvest sprung to my mind.  Harvest has many meanings, however a couple stand out in my mind.  There is the idea of collecting of crops ripe enough to eat, this act being called harvest, and then the result of some action we take in our life.  As in, after writing on this site all year, I have an ample harvest of posts.  Why do I mention this?  When I think of the harvest of my life in 2013 I am able to come to realizations about what outcome or take-away I have for this year.  As it is Autumn, a time of rest and hibernation beginnings, my mind tends to drift into a still state, which allows me the fortunate ability to focus.

Houndstooth, Hi-tops and chords

Houndstooth, Hi-tops and chords

Our biggest life accomplishment–bigger than winning prizes, opening up businesses of our dreams, writing the next great novel or non-fiction piece, formal education of all kinds–is our body.  Our life has seasons, as does nature, and we have the gift of being conscious of these seasons and their beauty, but also the curse of being able to ignore such beauty.  Most of us spend our life hoping our life doesn’t result in a doggerel, and we forget that our body is the pith of our life.

I often forget that within these seasons, whether good or bad, I have the gift of my body and how I choose to use it, how I choose to nourish it, and I am in charge of this harvest more than all others.

What we eat, how we choose to go about getting the food we eat, the reasons and thought behind every bite we take, the community we share when enjoying our meals or the solitude we embrace in packaged food, all tattoos itself into our harvest.

SO, how can we all produce a better harvest from our body, our life?  I have a few thoughts, check it out!

  • Each month, take the time to figure out where at least one of the foods you eat regularly, comes from.  Do a little research.  Figure out where the specific item came from, be it local or farther away.  Figure out the process of how it was made, packaged, shipped, grown.  Discover its origin story and think about how it became a staple in your diet.  Then, ask yourself why you like eating it, what good–if any–it is doing for your body?  Then, at the end of this exercise, if you’re still content with the comestible, take the time to send a note to the manufacturer, farmer, company, individual who grew/made/shipped/packaged/created it.  Rest knowing you took the time and that is what counts.
  • Grow something and write about it.  Choose one fruit, vegetable, herb or spice to grow this coming year.  Get a head start now and talk with your local nursery or if you are a solo project kind of person, seek out your favorite online videos, articles, blogs and books.  Grow just one edible item from seed to full form and keep a simple diary about the process.  This doesn’t need to be anything too detailed or verbose, just simply the date and a sentence or two on the progress of the plant and your thoughts on being a part of the growing process.  If the plant is perennial, something like tarragon, you could document for just a short while or write about your experience with the growth for the years you are able to keep the plant alive, but if the plant is annual, try to understand the necessity of the plants peak moment and appreciate it while it is there.  This exercise could help with truly following through with growth and understanding the process of growth before consumption.  If you go wild and grow a lot of plants, pass one on to a friend or loved-one.  Spread your bounty!
  • Visit a farm.  At least once within the next year–you could get a head start this December–take a trip to a farm in your city or in a surrounding city.  If you’re feeling up to it, get out in the fields and help them harvest some of their crops, or take some photographs.  Chat with them about the different produce items that pop up each season and try to familiarize yourself with those.
  • Cut out or minimize at least one toxic thing from your diet this coming year and replace it with something yummy and nourishing.  Pay attention to how you feel.
  • Lessen your animal consumption.
  • Create at least one original recipe a month that includes a rainbow of colors and doesn’t include dairy or animal flesh.
  • Drink water and plenty of it.

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.  -Henry David Thoreau

WaitsFall

This list is not exhaustive, but certainly a start.  I know that it is easy to lose perspective on life–our body–with the myriad of things we have going on, but the goal is to help alter our mind so that we can start considering our body more, first.  These seasons, they are all influenced by how we perceive, how we feel and how our feelings either hinder or facilitate both good and bad for us.  If we’re to give thanks for anything, make it for the harvest of our life and all that nourishes the environment and our bodies.  I hope this list is helpful, and as you snuggle into your fall and winter weather, I would love to hear from you about actions we could all take to bring more  meaning to what we’re eating and create a better harvest of our life.  Let me know your thoughts below or send me an email.  I can’t wait to hear from you, and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM

A colleague helped in the discovery of this gem!  A random share. :D

A colleague helped in the discovery of this gem! A random share. :D

New York Food Retrospective

Hello Everyone,

It has been FAR, FAR too long since I have written a piece or posted photos.  Whirlwind life!  I suppose as John Lennon once said–please excuse the over-quote–“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.  Thanks for your patience and still coming to my blog, despite my absence.  I hope for a revitalization, and I would like to kick it off with some photos from our–my love and I–trip to New York in  October.  I didn’t get as many pics of food as I would have liked mostly because I was so entranced in the experience–many scrumptious things will be left out in the photo bomb below–so hopefully you all will understand.  Also, the photo quality is not quite where I would prefer it to be, but when you are ready to chow down on something delicious, spending too much time taking photos takes away from the experience.

We had an incredible time to say the very least and woah did we ever gormandize the hell out of some food.  New York definitely lends itself as a food conscious city, as does Brooklyn.  We experienced many delicious meals, enticing desserts, enchanting teas, and some that didn’t really shoot us over the moon.

Welcome to a little taste of our New York dining experience.

SERENGETI TEAS & SPICES

We stayed in a sweet neighborhood in Harlem–in a brownstone that was over 100 years old–and a just around the corner was the most amazing tea and spice shop.  This was, besides dropping off our bags, the first place we visited and one of the last.  As soon as you pass under the threshold of the shop, you’re transported to another world.  The baristas were serving mainly tea–you can see the selection of just SOME of the teas behind the young woman below–but my love ordered coffee all THREE times we went, and said it was the best coffee he had ever tasted.  Not only do the workers in this shop put great care into every drink they prepare, they have the most open, and caring dispositions.  We sat at their bar and chatted with them about New York, and a myriad of other things, their product knowledge was impressively extensive.  They offered numerous samples and challenged our pallets with things we had never tried before.  Oh, Serengeti, I miss you so!  If you’re ever in New York, hop on the sub-way over to this shop, you won’t regret it!

SerengetyTeaAndSpiceShop

Italian press of a rooibos blend tea. My lovely Barista, our very first day in New York.

STSS

Me, enjoying some of the crisp and open rooibos. I tried it iced the first day, as when we arrived it was pretty sticky outside.

STSS_tea.

rawslaw

I knew while on our vacation, I would let loose a bit with food (I ate some gluten, sugar, and some un-fermented soy…woah! :p), so I decided to supplement my gut with some New York local raw slaw. It was fantastic and definitely helped out!

Champs Family Bakery

On our wedding anniversary, I was happily surprised with an entire day planned out of wonderful excursions and yummy eats.  This was where we had lunch, and it was delectable!  All vegan menu, and  I added biscuits to my order both times we went–yes, we went twice– because I adore biscuits.  The meals we ordered were ‘breakfast’ in theme and I love that they placed water on the table–in large glass bottles with clamping lids–so you could serve yourself when you got thirsty.  Below is my love, chowin’ down!  I would recommend this place to anyone visiting New York, and in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn.  Many of the menu items can be altered to food intolerances, sensitivities, allergies or personal choices.  This neighborhood has such eccentric character and beautiful architecture, a dreamy scene for sure.

Champs

 Candle 79

On the evening of our anniversary, we dined in a plant-based, elegant dining restaurant in upper-east Manhattan.  Candle 79’s menu displayed a range of items that are locally sourced and sustainably made with attention to organic fare, and doesn’t bock at ingredient opt outs, like soy and wheat.  There is also a Candle 79 cookbook , that is highly rated and I’m looking forward to scouring through it.  Back to our experience.  We were able to get to know the manager of Candle 79, and chat with her about the restaurant and spots in New York to check out, and our server was very pleasant and helpful.  After an appetizer and delicious entree–which we ended up trading–we moved onto an astronomical dessert, that left little want for MORE chocolate.  We are very fortunate and happy to have experienced such a divine dining experience.

Candle79

Our appetizer: cornmeal poppers on ancho chili aioli. These were crisp!

Candle79_crustedfriedseitan

entrée: Crusted seitan with brussels sprouts, shallots, mashed potatoes and more all delightfully hidden.

Candle79_rawravioli

entrée: Live zucchini enchiladas with toasted pumpkin seeds, jicima salad and more!

Dunwell Doughnuts

A doughnut shop that teleports you to another time.  All I can say is I am not a doughnut person, but these were pretty yummy.  Beautifully presented, creative venue with a decent tea selection–earned points for presentation of tea display and in the cup–and had mini cake doughnuts we could take to-go.  Williamsburg, Brooklyn has another gem in their midst.

DunWellDoughnuts_upclose

DunWellDoughnuts_above

Foodswings

We wrestled up a very hedonistic meal one afternoon, very bumpin’ place.

FoodSwings

Alice’s Tea Cup

As with any trip or outing, I must partake in tea time and this trip was filled with tea stops galore.  While at Alice’s Tea Cup–a cute and eclectic stop in the upper east side–we had yummy scones and I enjoyed a cleansing herbal tea.

 

AlicesTeaShop_self

AlicesTeaShope_teacup

gobo

Enlightening plant-based menu, happy lunch stop on a museum day.

Gobo

Babycakes NYC

Tiny shop in Brooklyn, how you stole my heart.  I anticipated this bakery for quite sometime before our departure to New York, and my expectations were exonerated with happy smiles and pleased taste buds.  This was easily, one of the tastiest doughnuts I’ve ever had, and my love felt the same way, and he’s a doughnut guru.  We ordered the nomnoms you see below, with a couple of things to-go because we couldn’t resist.  Babycakes represents another food-sensitivity conscious bakery that are becoming ever so popular, and to my happy surprise, they were flourishing with business.  If you’re in the lower-east side near China town, don’t miss this place!

BabyCakesBakery_shop

Interior of Babycakes from the window bench seat.

BabyCakesBakery_doughnuts

Some of our tantilizing, edible loot.

Caffe Reggio

Known for serving the first cappuccino in all the US, this dark and broody caffè was a wonderful place to write a postcard or letter–which I did!  While sipping on some hot apple cider, and a pumpkin latte for the mr., we enjoyed the sounds and chatter of Greenwich village in a place that felt timeless.  Our energetic and Italian barista was a joy to be around and took some very lovely photos of us–with what seemed to be a family member–before we departed.  Ciao!

CafeRegio_self

Cafe Viva Natural Pizza

Located in East Village, this was our kind of New York Pizza, covered in mushrooms, onions, garlic and so much more, my eyes were bigger than my stomach.  Wonderful variety of pizza, mostly plant-based, some with diary, and a couple of gluten-free.  Fantastic!

pizzapizza

Couldn’t leave New York without having some pizza, one of our favorite things to chow down on.

pizzapizza_upclose

Bhatti Indian Grill

This exquisite Indian restaurant was an accidental find on our way to a planned-out dinner excursion.  I’m glad we stumbled upon this place amongst the other fine Indian cuisine restaurants in this neighborhood.  We enjoyed a range of items from the menu and left not surprisingly stuffed, which I normally would never recommend, but in this place, you can’t resist!

IndianRestaurant

Bhatti’s ceiling decor.

No. Sleep. Till Brooklyn

BrooklynFoodGrafitti

Lively and captivating graffiti fruit near Fine and Raw chocolatiere in Brooklyn.

Beyond Sushi

Before Beyond Sushi , I can’t remember the last time I had a beautiful, fresh and yummy sushi roll.  These were completely plant-based and out of this world, delicious.  Very aesthetically pleasing and packed with veggie sauces and pastes that help boost their nutrient content.  Although this place is like many eateries in New York, small and intimate, the service was wonderful and we lucked out with a table.  A must try place!

BeyondSushi

Pure Food and Wine

My husband and I shared our last meal at Pure Food and Wine and I’m so pleased we did.  Masterfully put together raw dishes, fresh, on-tap kombucha, and a tower of chocolate–literally.  This is another extension restaurant–which seems to be very popular in New York–and Pure Food and Wine is represented by two books.

PureFoodandWine

A kind hostess took this photo for us after our dessert.

There are a number of other amazing plant-based places to get your gormandize on while in New York, but I won’t list them all.  Send me an email or comment below if you’d like more insight on the places I’ve talked about in this post or want more ideas for other places to check-out.  Our list is pretty extensive. ^____^

Overall, our New York consumption was incredible.  When I was in doubt, I turned to my kombuchas, raw slaw, and power snacks by Navitas.  This trip taught me so much about the inner-connections of the food community and the awareness of some and necessity of others to challenge their daily thoughts about what they’re eating and how we really can make a difference if we have the resources.  How did this trip teach me this?  While in New York, I was able to come in close contact with many individuals in the food realm that showed genuine and true passion for what they were doing.  They were well versed on their trade or a topic of their trade and most swelled with a deep since of pride.  It was contagious and electrifying!  Upon departure from New York, I am more inspired than ever to continue down my path of becoming more connected to the food world in whatever way I’m able to.  I gained a confidence in my abilities to communicate with others either in writing, service to the community or in the preparation of meals.  And best of all, my husband and best friend has been by my side to charge my mind and heart with positivity. <3

Looking back through all of our many photos and videos, I realized how this trip not only taught me to open up my mind even more, but it implored an even deeper feeling of humility and graciousness in my heart.

On that note, I would like to come to a close by thanking all of those working hard in the food world or trying to get their feet wet in the food world.  None of us would be here without you, and we certainly wouldn’t be as well-informed or well nourished.  You all are phenomenal.

And remember…bite responsibly!

With love, gratitude and in health,

RAM