Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Cabbage chips

Last week when I wrote about hummus, I realized that it could make for a great Super Bowl dip that is far healthier than the usual fare, as well as cheap and easy to make. This week, I have another suggestion for you, which is to ditch (or supplement) the usual fat- and sodium-laden potato chips for a surprisingly delicious homemade treat that is quick, easy and still works for dipping. What I have in mind are cabbage chips, but many other tougher greens (kale, collard greens) or very thinly sliced sweet potatoes, squash or root vegetables would do as well.
Cabbage is versatile, cheap and delicious, and makes an especially sweet and savory chip. Compared to the ones made of potato, cabbage chips are a dramatic improvement healthwise. High in vitamin C and potassium, low in calories and carbs, cabbage chips on their own are practically pure nutrition. Be careful what you dip them into, though, if you want to preserve their nutritional advantage—or just skip the dip entirely, as they are packed with quite a lot of flavor on their own.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Records, wine and walks: Finding the sacred in the everyday

I can’t remember the last time I listened to music just for the sake of listening to music. Pandora is on in the background, playing the same blend of songs over and over. At work, there was always music piped in or that I played over my headphones, and it was never good music. There’s nothing like the driving beat of sterile pop and top 40 hits to keep you vaguely motivated and provide the right amount of surface-level distraction. At parties, I always put on a mix of reliable indie rock, mellow and familiar and just ignorable enough to not overwhelm the conversation. Music is all about setting a tone, creating a mood, focusing the mind, filling the silence. 
I know many of my friends and peers feel similarly—we are the generation who grew up obsessively watching "Almost Famous" and really, really feeling that line about "loving some silly piece of music so much that it hurts." I love a lot of music so much that it hurts, and there are many, many songs I feel are deeply tied up in my being, even some that feel sacred to me. Still, I can’t remember that last time I treated music as something sacred or even as something interesting. I read new books all the time, but it was only recently that I was introduced to a band I hadn’t heard before and moved through their catalog the way you devour a novel cover to cover. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Hummus magic

My daughter sent me a recipe this week for chestnut and chickpea soup, and of course I immediately made some (because chestnuts!). I used nuts I had cooked and frozen during the height of the season, and it was wonderful soup. But while I was making it, those fragrant, simmering chickpeas got me thinking about hummus.
Hummus is magic food. It’s in season year-round (all you need are dried chickpeas); it’s quite healthy (fueling you with both protein and iron); and it can be so creamy, savory and delicious that it’s hard to believe it’s such a simple dish. Plus, it is a great bargain! Forget those tubs at the grocery store; buy some dried chickpeas and your hummus will be so much cheaper and richer (or in a pinch, you’ll still save money by making your own with canned beans). In fact, now that I think about it, hummus is so awesome that it really should be everyone’s go-to Super Bowl food.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Savoring the blue hour: Escaping an anesthetized life

The cats woke me up early recently, well before dawn. I rolled over and felt around under the pillows for my phone. It was 6:30 in the morning.
On any other morning, I’d have responded like a different pet—one of Pavlov’s dogs, immediately tapping in the password to my iPhone and scouring Twitter or Facebook for updates from friends in different time zones. When I first started freelancing last fall, my roommates would find me propped up in bed on my computer most mornings. The alarm goes off, the NPR goes on, and I dive into my email. But then, I realized how much I missed time spent getting ready in the morning, my bus commute, picking up a latte at Cadence. It gave me space in my morning to simply enjoy waking up. I got to keep the lucid, sleepy, dreamy part of my day to myself, or at least part of it. I knew I needed to reclaim my mornings.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Easy burrito buffet

One evening years ago, I needed to fix a dinner for some visitors who were coming to town. I was going to have people arriving in waves throughout the evening, and since I didn’t know how hungry anyone was going to be, I needed food that I could just put out so that everyone could help themselves if they were hungry. Some sort of low-maintenance buffet was in order. I took some inspiration from Chattanooga’s great Mojo Burrito (this was long before Chipotle took the world by storm) and created my own burrito/taco bar at home. It was a huge hit and has returned many times since, because it works so well in so many situations.
This is an awesome meal for a lot of reasons. It can please anyone and everyone, including adventurous, spice-loving, carnivorous, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, young or picky eaters. Much of the prep can be done ahead of time, there are some shortcuts that might serve in a pinch (like using canned beans instead of dried), and it is fully scalable (feed two or 20 people). Not only is it a great way to use up leftovers (shred that leftover chicken and put it in a taco!), but it also makes great leftovers (cook it for dinner and have several days of lunches covered). Keep a few things ready in the pantry and freezer, and this could be a great thing to pull together on a snow day. Kids love to get to build their own creations.

Monday, January 5, 2015

I Had to Drop Out of High School and Live on a Hippie Commune to Learn the Meaning of Community

It was the summer of 2004. Disturbing pictures from Abu Ghraib surfaced. Ronald Reagan died. George W. Bush was still in office, and hurtling towards reelection. I was still seventeen, and I had just dropped out of a prestigious all-girls preparatory school. My mother and I began mending the fences we’d knocked down in the two years before, mainly by getting involved in local politics. We spent a lot of time together going to activist meetings, especially those held by the local chapter of a controversial environmental organization.

Things had never been better between us, but the rest of my life was rapidly shifting and changing. My longest, deepest friendship was starting to tear apart. I’d lost a lot of other friends by leaving school, and the ones I had left didn’t always feel like the best fit. I loved them dearly, but I often felt that they were too conservative, or didn’t think enough about the important issues. They were tired of my rants about George Bush, about vegetarianism, about which gas station was the lesser evil when you needed to fill up your tank. I was a bit of an insufferable nag, it’s true, but I was egged on in part by how resistant my friends were to considering any of the viewpoints I held dear.

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Myth, Magic, and Millennials: Why Our Generation Is Moon Crazed and Witch Obsessed

Have you noticed how millennials are really into witches right now? Or why everyone is a lunatic for all things moon related, from moon-phase motifs on fashion and decor to all those Pinterest boards with the line “love you to the moon and back?” Curious why crystals are the new “put a bird on it?’ I think I’ve got this one figured out. My generation came of age in the 90s and early aughts, which in addition to sunflower prints, butterfly hair clips, and Rory Gilmore sweaters were a time when crystals, candles, and pentagrams were surprisingly well-integrated into even supposedly basic lives. From Felicity’s pleather-clad Wiccan roommate to Rayanne Graff’s mom loaning Angela those tarot cards, the 90s closed and the new Millennium began in a flurry of astrological charts and Ryder Waite decks.

But we’re not alone in sipping from the love potion that has millennials swooning over spells and stars and pointy black boots. The witchy spell that has us all newly aflutter over Stevie Nicks comes around every so often, much like Mercury going into Retrograde or a blood moon or a solar eclipse. It’s rooted not only in the pop culture we grew up on, or at least were immersed in even if we weren’t consciously drinking it all in, but also has a lot to do with what our parents were interested in at our age. You see, New Age coming of ages seem to be a tale as old as time. Every twenty years a new Age of Aquarius dawns, and a new generation gets down with its rising signs and quartz clusters.