clear for landing.

“Does anyone have anything to clear?”

I wish everyone knew the meaning behind those six words. I hear them at least once a day. I say them myself up to 5 times in one day sometimes. They are impactful. They are powerful.

I work for lululemon athletica, and clearings are a special part of our culture. Every person on the team starts their day hearing those words. A clearing is an emotion, thought, feeling, good, bad, whatever, that you need to get off your chest in order to get on with your day. For many of us, a clearing is accompanied by an undeniable physical sensation. I know I need to clear when I hear those words and every muscle in my body goes tense. Yea, it’s time to clear some shit.

The last few days have encompassed some profound lessons for me, and today my yoga teacher offered a thought that wrapped up all these precious teachings in one breath.  “When I wake up in the morning, I ask the Universe “Who am I supposed to meet today? What do I need to say? What do I need to hear?”

Words are profound. I myself find a deep connection to words and to saying them and I am never lost for recognizing their power. It’s the reason I revisit this space and essentially, clear these words that I feel I need to release. But even more profound at times are the things we hear. The last couple of days have taught me that there isn’t always a solution or a comfort to be offered in words, in saying. I’ve been so beautifully and humbly reminded that there are times when silence, partnered with a caring ear and an open heart, can be transformative.

I went into my meeting today knowing we would be asked if we had anything to clear. Something was weighing on me that I knew I needed to bring to my team and yet, I wasn’t sure if the time was right or how it would be received. But I heard those six words and that unmistakable feeling washed over me and my mouth was open and words were flowing before I could arrange them. And something beautiful and not at all surprising happened.

As I spoke and looked around the table at the faces I have come to know as my fellow leaders, my teachers, and my closest friends, the reason we clear became, well…clear. What they were going to say didn’t matter. They gave me the space to be heard. The simple fact that I had something I needed to articulate was important to them. The instant I started speaking I felt free. In simply knowing they were listening to me. And not just that, but really hearing me. They woke up this morning and asked what they needed to hear, and in asking that they allowed me to indeed, transform.

Let it be of no shock to you that in the end, the words they chose to offer me in support were exactly those that I needed. Even after I had already found serenity in being heard, I became so perfectly aware of the cycle of saying and hearing, hearing and saying. How one cannot exist without the other. I felt empowered in saying, I felt empowered in being heard, I felt empowered in hearing. And to be reminded that we create that sort of space for each other on not just a weekly basis, or even a daily basis, but on a moment to moment basis, left me more deeply connected to those six truly remarkable souls.

I will find sleep tonight knowing my purpose in the way of the Universe was served today. And while that doesn’t mean all of my questions were answered, my soul is peaceful knowing I gave and shared what I needed to of myself in a way that served me, and people I love.

I will rise tomorrow, welcome the day in all its potential for wonderment and splendor and ask, “Who am I supposed to meet today? What do I need to say? What do I need to hear?”

three’s company and tomatillo salsa

Times, they are a-chagnin’.

I cannot believe it is 2014. I welcomed it, transformed. Not better, not worse. Different. New.

I end my day with a different voice on the other end of the phone. I’ll find myself on a different couch, in a different home, different music in sound of my laughter. One door closed, as they say. And another one opened into the living room of Julie and Zach. I leave some nights with actual, physical pain in my chest from laughing so hard.  From a heart about to explode with joy and gratitude.

Image

Once again, I marvel at the miracles that surround me. 2013 had the potential to round out with a nose-dive off a cliff and into darkness, getting swallowed. I am amazed by the love that embraced me, that continues to embrace me. Parachutes opened up in many forms, with many names. But my soul sister and that big dude of hers, they’re special forces, man.

Image

I call them the Wludykaswell’s. They came to me from the far away, frigid land of Michigan. Two idiots who love each other in the most functionally dysfunctional way, and their cat, Ciniman. Jules and I are the same person. One of us could quite literally cease to exist, and you could very well not notice the difference if you still had the other. I cannot count how many times the words “I was JUST going to say that!” escape my lips on a daily basis. She knows what actions I’ll take before I take them. She knows the truth before I accept it myself. It is no exaggeration that a part of my soul I didn’t know I was missing arrived in Florida in March 2013.

Image

And Z, since I know she will make you read this, you’re my boy, blue. For inviting the third wheel, for pondering the possibilities of Reese’s, for the intense pain I did not know that laughter could induce.  For opening your home and your heart to Julie’s friend in need, and befriending her yourself. You kids make my heart so full.

They also make my stomach full, which is how they wound up a subject on apollo and me. Zach shares my love for meals hand crafted and shared. This giant man makes magic in that tiny kitchen of theirs. And Jules knows her way around a Michigan shaped cutting board, rest assured. Someday, people will plan entire vacations around coming to our restaurant. And just wait till you hear Z’s ideas for happy hour…

A taco night that will certainly become tradition took its maiden voyage last night. Zach surely knows the way to my heart if he’s suggesting we just take a trip to Whole Foods to “see what looks good”. Seriously, I’m home.

A family trip into the produce section landed us with a Tomatillo Salsa that I can take no credit for whatsoever aside from the suggestion of the tomatillo’s themselves. Beyond that and finding a local kitchen recipe to serve as a rough idea, all Z.

Image

I’m not going to call this a recipe because I have no idea what quantities Zach used, but I know what went in and it can all pretty much be done to desired taste and texture anyway.

Tomatillo Salsa

4 Tomatillos

1/2 a large Red Onion

2 cloves garlic

2 Cubanelle Peppers

Splash of Red Wine Vinegar

1 medium, green Heirloom Tomato

Handful of Flat Leaf Parsley

Lime Juice

Honey

Salt & Pepper

How do you like “splash” and “handful” for measurements?  I’m pretty confident those are standard units of measurements for most home kitchens, it’s all about the experiment.

Again, I’m not certain of the exact quantities of everything. But that’s a rough idea that can be tweaked based on your preferences.

Dice your vegetables, toss in a bowl, add vinegar, honey, and seasoning. Mix it up and check your handy work with a tortilla chip. Whatever you end up with will undoubtedly be better the next day, so prepare a day in advance and keep in the fridge overnight if you’ve got the time.

Who needs recipes among friends, anyway? It’s all about the company. It’s about the stories shared, the memories made, the cheers toasted. The meals tried and failed, and tried again…trail mix, guys?

With love to my dear, dear friends. No, my family, Jules and Z.

…and Waf and Ciniman, obviously.

Image

on life, on apollo and me, not alone.

Image

I just renewed http://www.apolloandme.com for another year. Despite the infrequency of my posts here, I feel like I need to keep this empty text box and blinking cursor at the ready, waiting for me. I find myself drawn to written word and I find comfort in simply knowing this space is here, and its my own, if the cosmos are so aligned for me to share.

I started apolloandme at a lonely time. The end of one career, and the world as my oyster, as they say. Since graduating high school, friends and profound connections had been eluding my grasp, and I never quite came to grips with that, even after four years of practice. As something of a social butterfly my entire life, I found myself unfamiliar and out of sorts in this backwards caterpillar stage.

I found calm and quiet focus by stepping into my kitchen in my empty apartment, empty save for Apollo and me. I felt the lingering, steady spirit of my grandmother as I baked from her Challah recipe, and that of our departed friend on my birthday as a Ricotta curdled in a pot on my stove. As I grew to know and love so many other blogs, and as I recreated their recipes, I felt so, not-alone. For the first time in so many years, I felt something present with me that was there when I needed it to be. When I needed a friend, I simply opened my ever expanding recipe binder and picked one. I look back now and realize how these women saved me without my knowing it then.

I’m fighting back tears as I ponder my blessings tonight. 2013 has brought such a transformation that I can hardly recognize myself and my life. But as it turns out, this new person looking back at me in the mirror, as I rub my eyes to be certain I’m seeing clearly, is someone I knew for so long and just lost somehow, somewhere. I stand before you having emerged from a chrysalis and soaring on this high I just cannot articulate.

I can tell you as I sit here at this keyboard that there is something out there worth believing in. I don’t know what it’s called, if its a who or a what, if its something you can touch, or has a sound. But I know I’m connected to it in a powerful way and I feel it in every fiber of my being, down into the deepest depths of my soul, pouring out my fingertips as I write this. Its there, here, always. If I had to guess, I’d say its just love, man. It is ever present, you know. Physically manifested into you and me and everything we see and feel and touch and everything we don’t. What an incredibly grounding thing to believe in.

Sadness is so fleeting. Johnny’s brother once said to me that “..happiness and sadness do not exist, only happy and sad moments do…” and while that meant something heavy when he said it to me five years ago, reflecting on it now brings me overwhelming peace. Can a life be defined in sadness? Or even happiness? Or any of those one word emotional phrases that you could try to squeeze your entire being into?

No, it can’t. Because love is so deeply rooted in us all. These emotions are so temporary, so wonderfully impermanent. We feel them and relate to them as long as we want or need and then we have the remarkably liberating choice to set them free. It is so, so good to be free.

I wish I could reach out and hug every person who has shared a bit of themselves with me, here. Those who read what I had to say, those who let me into their kitchens, who let me bring them into mine without knowing how desperately I needed their companionship, even when I was just making scones. It is no small thing to open yourself up to the world, to be vulnerable, to let people become part of you and you of them. Simply printing out a recipe and loving its pages, watching as they become dog-eared and covered in batter, wrapped in my apron and side-by-side with the author of that list of ingredients. Not alone.

apolloandme is here, almost a year old without many recipes to show for itself, but I realize now that it wasn’t about that. As much as I care deeply about my relationship with food and where it comes from and how it serves my body and my life (nutritional healing will likely shape my career in some form), I started apolloandme on a day where I just needed someone to talk to, and thus my grandmother emerged on an old piece of paper, in a warm loaf of bread.

See that? There’s that love thing, again.

om shanti shanti shanti.

“Then Sunrise kissed my Chrysalis —
And I stood up — and lived —”

- Emily Dickinson

Image

summer solstice juice detox

So, it’s been a while. Again…

vsco_0-2

I suppose I just haven’t been inspired to write, you know? Maybe because I haven’t made anything that seems all that inspiring. Most days consist of salads I throw together with whatever is available as quickly as possible before I head out the door for the day. Not much to write home about, I guess. Although my best friend Jules always ends up absconding with some of what I’ve brought to work so I must be doing something right…Hey Verne!

Anyway, summer is here and lately my body has been sending me signals that it’s time for a reset. And the beginning of a new season is the perfect time to embark on such a journey! (DISCLAIMER: this is going to be a long one, y’all. I wanted to share my full experience so our regularly scheduled program will go into OT today).

vsco_1-1

vsco_3

vsco_1

This was my first juice cleanse, so I am by NO means an expert. Just a chick who loves all things health, wellness, and clean, whole food and who needed a rebooting. Lately I’ve been inexplicably holding onto extra weight despite no change in my diet, bloating after meals, and fatigue after exercise when I should be feeling more energized. These were all signs that something inside this great internal mechanism was misaligned. So I deployed the army.

The general response to telling someone you’re fasting for any period of time is “A juice cleanse, isn’t that extreme? To go without any food for “x amount of” days?” Sure, I can understand how fasting seems radical. But the truth of the matter is that folks have been fasting as a way to restore their health for CENTURIES. It’s probably the oldest method of healing there is! In this case however, my body is being supplied with all the nutrients I need, rapidly and ready for immediate use.

vsco_0-1

Juicing allows the massive amounts of nutrients in vegetables, fruits and herbs to be utilized by our cells immediately. That is the difference between juicing and blending. With a blender, all of the fiber from the produce is still in tact, and therefore, our digestive systems are still engaged. Now, that’s not to say that a period of several days where you consumed nothing but green smoothies wouldn’t be good for you, it certainly would! However, I was going for a deeper cleanse, so I wanted my digestive system to be given a chance to rest and for that energy to be used elsewhere in my body. This allows for a massive cellular detox. Hitting the metaphorical reset button, ya dig?

vsco_2

I started this cleanse with no plan as to how long I would last. I figured my body would let me know what it needed and what felt right. It turned out that today, day 3, will be a good stopping point. As this is my first cleanse I think that embarking on a 5-10 day fast would be more than I could handle. I also found out yesterday that I am having knee surgery on Monday so I’d like to be finished with the post-cleanse phase by then and back to my normal, whole foods diet.

Am I hungry? Yes and no. I have experienced an incessant nagging from my brain, longing for a cheeseburger. I have not felt actual hunger more than a few times, but just the thought of food sounds so good I think I may weep over my first meal. My boss was eating an apple yesterday that I swear to god must be from an orchard that is literally harvested by angels. Its smell alone was that divine, kids. But the truth is, it is probably just a cruel trick played by the ol’ grey matter up there. The likelihood of the apple having actually descended from the heavens is probably slim…
Anyway, to answer your question, of course I’ve felt hungry, but only a small handful of times, not nearly as much as you’d expect.

vsco_0

 

vsco_2-1

The first day was tough (ladies please read yet another disclaimer at the bottom of the post for additional info as to why it was particularly difficult, the fellas may want to avoid the *ahem* chick talk. you’re welcome). I felt fine until about 2 o’clock and then I started to feel pretty slow, mentally. That was followed shortly after by a dull headache that lasted until I went to sleep at night. It did not interrupt my day however, or evolve into the migraine that even the slightest headache would have become without an Advil intervention, in my case. So I took that as a positive thing.

Day two was much smoother. I woke up at 6:30 (without an alarm) feeling very alert. I didn’t have to work until late in the afternoon so I took the opportunity to rest up. I felt good the entire day until about 6:30 when that slow feeling came back. I described it to Jules like this: “you know that point where you’ve been drinking and you feel like you could do ANYTHING?”
I feel like I could go to yoga or workout or run a marathon or a lift a car, but I would probably not succeed in those endeavors…probably. Taking it easy for the day was a good way to go.

This morning I feel good. I could sleep a little longer if I were able to but other than that all is well. I don’t feel hungry. Actually I don’t have much appetite for even juice. I feel pretty content all around. I am however looking forward to solid, whole, vegan foods tomorrow. Can I get a hallelujah?!?!

You’re probably also wondering if I’ve lost weight. Again, of course I have. But that was not the goal here. Although I did mention that I’ve been holding on to excess weight lately, which is unusual for me, I feel that is a side effect of an imbalance inside that needed attention. I was looking to get to the root of the problem, not just the symptom. Please don’t embark on a juice cleanse with weight loss as your light at the end of the tunnel, it will be a difficult trip if that’s your aim. Also keep in mind that your results may not mirror mine, as everyone’s bodies are different and will react to a cleanse in different ways.

So today is the last day and I am excited to be nearing the finish line. I’ll probably continue doing this seasonally to keep everything running smoothly. If anyone gives this a try, let me know how it went for you!

vsco_0-3

 

Thanks for sticking with me kids! If you miss me too much, follow me on Instagram for less exciting yet totally healthful daily updates.

vsco_3-1

namaste

stef & polly

**following up to DISCLAIMER #2: I began my menstrual cycle the day before I started the cleanse. This was not ideal especially since it had been a few months since I’ve had it (came off the pill so everything is wacky) so it was heavy. I could have waited but I decided that I still wanted to start my cleanse the following day to see if the rapid intake of nutrients would ease the menstrual symptoms. I definitely had less cramps than usual so I’ll take it! But I do think this added to the first day being a bit difficult.

a fresh start back home

And I thought not writing since Thanksgiving was bad two months ago…yikes!

These last couple of months have been a whirlwind. If I told myself everything that was going to happen between January and today, I wouldn’t have believed myself.

Let’s begin with the fact that the place JF and I were supposed to move into fell through. When I say fell through, I mean it nearly fell apart. The place was in complete shambles, a nightmare. But that was all just as well because I had been unsure about it from the beginning, so this was really just the universe giving me a big flashing neon sign. Message received.

But we had already moved out of our old place, and going back wasn’t an option. So we did what you’d expect, and moved our little family and all of our material possessions into my parents living room, obviously.

Exhibit A, B & C. 
photo 2-1

photo 3-1

photo 4-1

 

 

Apollo is clearly fine with this arrangement.

The other critter you see on the bed there is my four-legged sister, LuLu. She has a deep love for JF, so she is also fine with this.

 

I’ve told you all that my parents are the two most divine beings on the planet, and this situation was no exception. They welcomed us back into their space without batting an eyelash. There was simply no other way, in their opinion. Of course we were coming to stay with them until we found something better. Until…

JF and I made the difficult, but necessary decision not to live together anymore. We are still going strong after having just celebrated five years together as of last week. But we deserved the financial break. We also deserved the ability to “date” each other for the first time. It’s been romantic and sweet and I cry every time he leaves, but it’s for the best at this point in our lives. Another thing I know for sure to add to the list.

And yes, Apollo is with me.

So were with Mom & Dad for now. Which has been…an adjustment. But Karin & Roy are the two best parental room-mates you could hope for, so I’m counting my blessings. Plus there’s their huge beautiful kitchen. Which leads me to…

This breakfast bowl I threw together a few days ago. It was fast and nutritious, and exactly what I needed after all this madness. Something I cooked for myself that was warm and comforting. Something both good for me and good to me.

photo 1

I pretty much threw together a mash up of whatever was in the fridge and pantry, and I wound up with this delicious concoction that I’ll definitely make again. On purpose this time!

 

You Will Need:

1 cup cooked Quinoa

2 eggs, poached soft (which is what I was going for…)

A small handful of Capers

1 cup Cannelini Beans

1 medium Onion, chopped into rings and halved.

1 fistful of Kale

Olive Oil and Butter, and Maple Syrup for cooking

In a large skillet, begin by melting your butter or olive oil over medium heat. If using butter, once it’s melted, throw in your capers and let them start to brown.

Add in your cooked Cannelini Beans and let them start to brown in the butter as well. They might start to pop open from the heat, that is okay, they’ll taste the same!

Toss in the kale and let that saute’ with the capers and beans. Once all the kale has “wilted” down, pour everything into a bowl over the quinoa.

In the same pan, pour in about 1/4c of Maple Syrup and add the onions to the pan to caramelize. Once those are done to your liking, add that to the bowl with the other ingredients.

My aim was to have soft poached eggs with this, and to have runny yolks making everything more awesome. But alas, my parent’s fancy egg poacher was too advanced for me, and they came out pretty much hard-boiled. I’ll stick to a pot of water and vinegar for my future poaching endeavors…

Throw those bad boys on top and call that breakfast, son!

photo 2

photo 4

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll be back soon…

…for real this time.

love,

apollo&me

 

Time

pollychristmas

Noche Buena/Christmas Eve

pollyketchup

Apollo and his Ketchup self

pollytoys

                                                                                             

It’s been a while since I’ve visited this space and allowed my own words to go out into the blogosphere. But has it really been since Thanksgiving? Oh dear, it has. I hang my head in shame.

These last few months have brought about a whole new respect for those who make the time in their busy lives to tell us about them, and the things they seem to magically make time to cook. After this crazy holiday season, I have scarcely found time to sleep, let alone tie my apron around my waist and do something for the sheer joy and bliss of doing so.

I have relied more on prepared foods than I care to admit. Still as mindful of health and nutrition as I can be, but perfection has not been a part of that equation. Is it ever?

I find myself wishing for longer days. I wish the sun stayed up longer and the moon rose later. Darkness coming at 5:30 has a way of playing tricks on the mind and body that I am not so clever at out-smarting.

2013 is a year full of change for me, Apollo, and our JF. New jobs, school, moving in 22 days, its a breath of fresh air that I needed desperately. For the first time in a long time, I am happy and sound in mind, body and spirit. 2013 could not have come soon enough for me, I’m sure glad we all survived the apocalypse.

I have the day off today, and I am going to try to revisit my old friend, the kitchen. There are dog-eared pages in cookbooks that deserve some attention, that’s for sure. Does anyone have advice on how to turn one single day off into chores done, errands checked off the list, bills paid and some fun thrown in for good measure?

If such a divine occurance does in fact take place today, I promise to share it with you.

ps. JF and I are thinking about a brother or sister for Apollo. Is there anyone out there who loves their pup so completely that the thought of sharing their heart with another doesn’t seem possible?

happy new year, kids.

Apollo and Me

stef’s annual cranberry jam

Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I look forward to it with more anticipation and longing than I do my birthday or Christmas. It is the one day a year that we [officially] celebrate all that we do have, instead of wishing for things we don’t. And I am certain there is no better way to express gratitude than in the sharing of a meal that was lovingly crafted from your own two hands.

I don’t know about you, but I have so, so much to be thankful for. Not just everyone gets to be the child of the two most incredible people on the planet, for starters. And not just everyone gets to share their life with an individual as unconditionally loving and unrelentingly hilarious as my JF, although everyone should be so lucky. And surely not just everyone gets to sit lazily on the couch, celebrating the sweet joy of doing absolutely nothing next to their kid brother. And I just know that not every soul on this earth gets to experience the gift of being undeniably complete, like loving Apollo has done for me. I am healthy and I am happy, and I know not everyone can say that.

One of the most special things about Thanksgiving to me is the tradition that lies in the meal itself. Knowing that for the most part, everyone is crowded around their family table taking comfort in a meal that varies only slightly from one table to the next. Everyone has their own spin that makes those dishes unique to their family alone. For the last five Thanksgiving’s, the day has been divided spending the first part of the day with my family, and rounding out the evening in a celebration that could only belong to a group of JF’s kind. I am certain that the condition I am suffering from today is known as a Food Hangover, oof.

I can’t recall how long I have been the cook in charge of cranberries, but it is a sweet comfort that no Thanksgiving could be complete without. I’ve taken to calling it Cranberry Jam in my own mind, because let’s face it, Cranberry Sauce only brings to mind the image of that gelatinous, cylindrical shaped mass that anyone with taste buds knows is virtually unpalatable. Thanksgiving tends to be a day where any attempt to put together something healthful is thrown out the window, so it does my heart good to know that I am responsible for the dish that will do our bodies some good (although I did make the perfect Brussels Sprouts this year, AND very sneakily made the tart crust with Whole Wheat Flour…unfortunately they are wise to my Spelt Flour act…next year).

Cranberries have long been turned to for their urinary health benefits. Although contrary to popular belief, it is not the acidity of the cranberries, but the unusual nature of their proanthocyanidins (PACs) that is related to prevention of UTIs. The particular structure of these PAC’s acts as a barrier to bacteria that might otherwise latch on to the urinary tract lining . The fact that cranberries are water harvested also boosts their health benefits. Since these berries get ample exposure to sunlight floating happily atop the surface of the water, they show increased amounts of the phytonutrients known as anthocyanins which contain unique anti-oxidant and anti-inflammitory properties. Recent studies have also indicated that consuming whole cranberries (rather than in their dried or supplement forms) is great for the liver and cardiovascular system (1).

So let’s get on with it!

Stef’s Cranberry Jam

You will need:

2 bags Whole Cranberries

2 cups Purified Water

1 cup Raw, Unrefined, Unheated Honey

4 Tbsp Maple Syrup (either grade)

1/2 cup Pure Evaporated Cane Juice (cane sugar)

1/2 a Meyer Lemon

1 Orange

Cinnamon & Nutmeg to taste

Pinch of Sea Salt

Arrowroot or Cornstarch for thickening

In a large pot, mix water and Cane Juice and bring to a boil. Add all of your cranberries once your water is boiling.

You can reduce the heat to medium-high at this point. The cranberries will spend the next 15 minutes bursting open and reducing into a sweet, syrupy liquid. I spend this time gently stirring the berries occasionally but mostly they just sit and do their thing in there after you’ve added all of your other ingredients.

Zest and juice the lemon and orange into the pot. Then add all of your other ingredients and stir to combine. Do a taste check and adjust flavors to your liking.

At the end, after the cranberries have fully reduced and everything tastes the way you dreamed it would, mix your arrowroot or cornstarch with a bit of water, then mix into the cranberries to thicken everything up a bit so that it’s more of a “jam” consistency. You can omit this step if you’d like.

Remove from the heat and spoon into mason jars. Will keep well in the fridge without processing the jars, although I assure you it won’t last that long!

This year I cut down on the sugar substantially, opting instead for sweeteners I can feed to my family and still sleep at night. You all know the way I feel about honey and their blessed creators, so utilizing that instead is downright good for you! I also usually include brown sugar but I thought adding Maple Syrup instead would be nice, and it was. If I do say so myself, this year’s cranberries were the best yet.

I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as I do. If you have half as much to celebrate, you are quite lucky indeed.

ps. excuse the lousy pictures, for now. I’ll be sure to get some proper ones as I spend the next several days slathering this stuff on everything I eat. For now, please enjoy this snapshot of JF snoozing peacefully while snuggled up with my K9 brother and sister, Otis and LuLu.

xx

(1) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=145

I’m Stefanie, and I approve this message

I don’t intend for this to be a space where I discuss my political views. In truth, I don’t really have any.

I know what I believe, what I think is right and wrong. If that means one person over another, fine. If that falls into one political party or another, fine. If not, then that’s okay too.

This morning I rose early and got in line to vote for the very first time. I didn’t anticipate finding any real excitement in the experience, but as I cast my votes and slid my ballots into the scanner, I was overcome with an unexpected sense of pride and accomplishment. I send a text to Mom & Dad marked with a “smiley face” letting them know I’d voted, and called JF and said “I should do this more often, maybe I’ll run for something!” Watching every episode of Parks and Recreation on Netflix last week might have influenced that statement a bit…Leslie Knope for President 2016!!

All kidding aside, here’s something to add to my list of “things I know for sure,”  I’m proud to live in a country and in a time where my opinion counts. I’m proud to count myself among the many who will get to wear that sticker today. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican, sometimes both or neither, we are blessed to have the ability to choose and to have a say in electing the individual who will guide these United States.

JF’s family is from Cuba and his Great-Grand Parents, Abuelo’s and Abuela’s, Mother and Father, Uncle’s and Aunt’s, have all abandoned their home land to seek the liberties we take for granted. They traveled many miles towards uncertain futures so that they could set one foot on this land and call themselves Americans, and leave Communism behind forever.

As a woman, it is perhaps a bit more important to me, still. It wasn’t all that long ago where just that  fact alone meant I could not wait in line amongst the men of this country to take a stand. I feel it is the small way that I can repay the brave ladies that came before me who fought to make certain that my voice, a woman’s voice, was heard.

I know the lines add hours to an already long day ahead, but tonight it is your irrevocable right as an American to speak your mind. Let the thoughts and beliefs within your hearts and souls count. Because they truly matter. Whether you are young or old, man or woman, gay, straight, lesbian, black, white, hispanic, asian, green, purple, WHATEVER. Even if you don’t care for either candidate, there is one you prefer over the other, and it is your job to make sure that means something for your future. For our futures.

Election day 2012 is nearly half over. I voted, did you?

purple potato soup + kitchen staples series part 2

This soup was purple. In my head.

Last week, I received my final co-op box for a while, since during the season I prefer to shop the farmer’s market for as much as I can get there. Contained within this last precious box was a beautiful bounty of autumnal goodies. Amongst the treasures sat the purple gems I’ve been so longing to cook with, purple potatoes.

I racked my brain for days for a special way to use these violet-hued beauties. I didn’t want to simply mash them, or turn them into french fries fit for the elementary school version of myself. No, these deserved something better than that. And as usual, I turned to the blogs I so admire to get the creative juices flowing.

Deb over at Smitten Kitchen never lets me down. I came across a recipe for fork-crushed purple potatoes that sounds like the perfect thing to freshen up your traditional summer barbecue fare. But for this breezy fall evening, it was her baked potato soup that had me making a list and driving to Whole Foods for those last few ingredients.

You will need:

4 Tbsp of Ghee (or unsalted butter)

1 medium Onion, chopped

1 head of Garlic

2 large Carrots, chopped

10 strips of Bacon, chopped

2 & 1/2 lbs potatoes, I used a mix of Yukon Gold and Purple Potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into cubes

32 oz low-sodium Vegetable Broth

2 Bay Leaves

1/4 cup Sour Cream

Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, melt your ghee or butter and toss in your chopped onions, carrots and bacon. Cook until onions are softened and bacon has started to brown.

Peel the outer layers of papery-skin off of the head of garlic and chop the top 1/4 off the top, as if you were roasting. Put the entire head of garlic into the pot and add bay leaves, vegetable broth. I seasoned with a bit of Salt and Pepper at this point and then left the pot to simmer for about 40 minutes until the garlic was tender.

Once the garlic is soft, remove it and squeeze the cloves from their skin into the pot. Then put in your potatoes and cover the pot and allow to cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Then you can either use an immersion blender in the pot until you have reached the desired texture, or take out a portion of the soup and put it in a regular blender or food processor and then add that liquified soup back to the pot. Add sour cream and season again with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust flavors to your liking.

Serve with grated Raw Cheddar Cheese grated on top, a dollop of sour cream and a slight drizzle of olive oil and fresh cracked pepper.

Sadly, this soup did not come up purple, as I’d so hoped it would. But I assure you, it was still delicious, even if it was just a regular shade of soup.

Pairing this soup with a warm crusty bread just seemed right, as hot steamy bread always does (plus, I knew the only way JF would eat this is if he could dip big chunks of home-made bread into it to disguise the taste of vegetables).  Which brings me to another recipe for tonight and the second installment of my Kitchen Staples series, Whole Wheat Focaccia .

This recipe came to me from the lovely, Fig & Fauna blog. I find comfort in Megan’s sweet words about life on her family farm, cooking from her garden with love for her husband and daughter. I have adapted her recipe over and over and it is simple and delicious every single time.

You will need:

2 & 2/3 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1 & 1/4 cup hand-hot Water

1 packet Active Dry Yeast (2 & 1/4 tsp)

1 tsp Sea Salt

3 tbsp Olive Oil

1 tbsp Honey

1 tbsp Chia Seeds

Preheat oven to 450/F

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt and make a well in the center.

Pour water, 2 tbsp Olive Oil & honey into the well and mix with your hands until dough starts to come together. Pour out onto a floured surface and knead until you’ve formed a ball of soft dough.

Oil your bowl and place the dough back inside. Cover with a warm, damp towel or saran wrap and allow to rise for at least 45 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place back onto a floured surface and knead one more time into a rough ball shape.

Place your dough onto a sheet of parchment on a baking sheet, then use the last tbsp of Olive Oil to oil the top of the bread. Then using your finger, poke holes into the surface of the bread. Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Chia Seeds and bake for 18 minutes, until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Will keep for about 2 days without freezing.

This bread never lasts long in our kitchen, giving me the pleasure of making it often. This evening was no exception, as I happily passed along half the loaf and some soup to my mom and dad,  and only one slice remains. I’m thinking I’ll treat myself to some dessert with local jam and fresh whipped cream on top of my last toasty morsel. If JF hasn’t already absconded with it…

here’s to a tasty Monday.

falling back together & kitchen staples part 1

It is safe to say that Fall is showing its face here in South Florida.

At least I think that’s safe to say. I mean sure, everything appears the same as it did a couple of weeks ago. The leaves are definitely not shedding their green coats any time soon…or ever. JF reported that a friend in NY says it’s in the fifties already there! As for the weather in South Florida, let’s just say that I don’t think I’ll be retiring my cut-offs and Rainbows any time soon.

But in spite of it all, it just feels like autumn. “Doesn’t it just look like fall outside?” I say to JF on a now daily basis. Our scorching days are turning into sweet breezy nights, the AC get’s shut off in favor of open windows, and thankfully, Green Market season has finally arrived.

And for me, the season is truly living up to its name. Lately everything has just fallen together so organically. It’s like Mother Earth is sending me subliminal messages, saying “Everything is going to be OK, Stef.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling utterly overwhelmed by life. A complete mental and emotional rock bottom. I was unsure about everything, and I searched for answers I probably didn’t need to look for, for issues that were either much smaller than they felt or simply didn’t exist. It was as if a parasite had latched onto me and wouldn’t let go.

Today, I have so much to be excited for. A new job occupies my days. I have taken my test for college placement and feel confident that I am ready to play the role of student. An old friend is visiting today, after far too many years apart. JF keeps me laughing, as usual. And Apollo, well, he’s just been busy making my life complete, as always.

I have fallen a bit out of sorts in the kitchen, lately.  But the other day, I prepped a few home-made staples that I keep around for various uses. It feels good to be getting back into my routine.

I had started to type up every recipe here, but I figured this could actually turn into a good series. So let’s begin with just one.

Pesto. It sure doesn’t take a rocket scientist to throw together a good one. This stuff comes together quickly by taking advantage of any combination of greens and nuts you have in the fridge and pantry. But here’s this weeks version for all you curious kids out there:

Kale – Walnut – Pecan Pesto

You will need:

2 cups Kale

3 cloves of garlic (more or less to your liking)

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

1/4 cup soaked Walnuts

1/4 cup soaked Pecans

Olive Oil as needed

I might be insulting your intelligence by telling you guys how to do this, but this is literally a matter of tossing everything in the food processor and letting it run until the chunkier bits are broken up. I keep drizzling olive oil into the mix to until I have achieved a smooth pesto. The end!

Any pesto lover will tell you that you can put it on anything and it will be good, and I am one of those people. Being the sandwich connoisseur that I am, that was my first choice. But if anyone has a gluten-free gnocchi recipe, or any great gnocchi recipe for that matter, let me know because gnocchi with pesto and tomatoes should happen.

Judging by the beautiful fall day I was greeted with this morning, I think Mother Earth is right. Everything is going to be okay.