Keenly Healthy

As with every new year's what-to-do-with-your-life list, I've resolved to make better plans on cooking, baking, and eating more healthy. Not that I don't do a mildly decent job at it, but like everything else, it could always be better.

So, I'm going to be better.

Try is a word I like to hang high on a pedestal, covering that "operative" stigma with a more influential "on my way there," or "taking it day by day," or my favorite, "beating those old bad habits instead of dead horses."

I'm trying to be better with a lot of things in my personal, professional, and creative life. Personally, I'm going to always try to be a better friend, daughter, sister, girlfriend, version of myself, etc. Professionally I think I'm going to plan on taking steps towards my dream job. Note all those auxiliary verbs. The more I insert in the sentence, the more I believe in it . . . maybe. Or I should take it all out and frankly state: "I'm taking steps towards my dream job." Simple. And achievable. Creatively, I want to write more, read more, bake more, create more. Form words, crafts, dreams from daygazing across stilled water and my wildly imaginative mind that's been tamely whimsical in the past year or so. That will not do. 

So, I'm trying.

With that neat package of enthusiastic attempts at life-making comes the ups and downs. Hit or miss. But you'll never know unless you try. Don't knock it til you try it. I'm full of idioms tonight. Especially with food. Try a new recipe, and it could be a dry crumble of cardboard or a burst of flavors tucked and rolled into a neat little brownie square. I'm an avid believer of trying things at least once.

I found this quinoa carrot loaf online and was intrigued at the addition of one of my favorite grains into one of my favorite go-to all-seasonal loafs. I can just add one ingredient to change the nutritional benefits of something that already tastes so good?! I'm about split halfway when it comes to alternate, healthier versions of things I love to bake. I mostly lean towards the addition of healthy in yummy. I don't think I can ever part with butter.

This recipe was very easy. Add cooked quinoa, ground flaxseed, substitute white flour for wheat, and you've got a loaf that's grainfully perfect for breakfast, but delightfully moist and sweet for dessert.

It makes trying a heck of a lot easier.

quinoa carrot loaf


CPB (chocolate peanut butter)

Happy 2013!

Some months after the beginning of last year, I made lofty goals to be more active in my blog. I was inspired by all my favorite bloggers' dedication to their craft, passions, and livelihood revolving around food. By the cookbooks I thumb through and bookmark. By tastespotting.com and all the pins from the most easy way to bookmark things I am undoubtedly sometimes too lazy to make. By the color of mangoes, the sweetness of blueberries, the crispness of greens when the season unearths their ripeness. By the thought of cooking, simmering, saucing, and of course, baking.

I'm one year wiser, and now know not to make such promises. Instead, I will make efforts to encapsulate the joy of cooking, because it's not that I didn't cook dozens of new recipes in the last year -- I mean, maple bacon cupcakes? How could I have missed snapping photos of that goodness - I was simply lazy. It's a cruel, stubborn thing that rests in my limbs, keeping fingers from putting my feelings for a certain dish onto the screen. But I'm slowly learning to take control of time management (as if it ever should have been out of my clutch), and refocusing my habits towards ones that make my life, well, better.

This past weekend I made chocolate peanut butter ice cream. With peanut butter cookie dough. The peanut butter level is dense, I'm not going to lie. But it's intensely rich, creamy, and a glass of milk is required, no matter how odd ice cream and milk paired together sounds. It's good. So good. The chilled custard was so thick it looked like chocolate pudding, and my cook's logic revealed to me that I could have very well eaten a heaping bowl of the custard as chocolate peanut butter pudding. Logic still insists that I can just let the ice cream melt a bit to be a cold pudding. And my aversion for too-cold foods might make me run with such an idea.

  chocolate peanut butter ice cream chocolate peanut butter ice cream

If chocolate is baked I can never be tired of it. I think I'll bake brownies and drop in the extra peanut butter cookie dough. If, you know, I don't eat it all first.

The recipe is found on Sweet Pea's Kitchen.

chocolate peanut butter ice cream

See you soon. 



Summer is at its final stretch, and I can feel the humidity sticking to me like a desperate wrap of tight silk across bare thighs. It doesn't want to leave as much as I want it to. The season calls forth its last effort force of torrential downpour and blazing heat bundled in the burst of a day. In some places it leaves as soon as it arrives, but lately it hugs the familiarity of rivers and gravel and leaks into lives of the ground.

italian prune plums plum wedges

It's been an exciting August, and September is starting off with a delicate sense of newness found in ripening of fruit and the quiet yet bewitching love for a newborn. My niece was born yesterday morning and seeing her tiny frame cradled in my arms filled me with a newer fondness for her and the future she'll inherit in her tiny hands. If I have anything to do about it, she'll inherit a lot of baked treats in her hands soon enough.

Through it all, my bones are quaking under my skin, ready to rattle my limbs into reaching for newer things while holding onto the things that have anchored me in summer sea. I always approach new seasons as an explorer would with a rusted compass and a fierce sense of adventure.

I approached this recipe similarly, but with whisks and a map of where I hoped I'd end up. The plums were perfectly ripe, and the dough had been sitting for more than a day. I plunged through the forest of doubt and sliced, chopped, and pressed as well as my instincts let me to make it to the end. I'm not a weathered baker like the captain of a mossy vessel whose strength stems from decades of learned skill and a lack of need for direction or order. I'm just a girl who wields her tools as a weapon against not any enemy, but as a way of measuring my own strength in the bigger world I live in.

unbaked tart


Berry Confused

In my younger years, the exchange of Spring and Summer always became concrete by way of longer days, louder trilling of birds as they hummed a collective song about the rise of a new season, and the twinkling of fireflies as they shyly swayed to the cool breeze at dusk. Honeysuckles waited for the hush of the night to sneak tendrils of sweet floral notes down the street to my house. 

It's that same bush where I experienced my first picking of small, but ripened berries. It was late spring, and my mother was walking me to school as she always did each morning for six years. At the end of our street I noticed the stain of violet on the concrete, then looked up at the source and saw thin branches embellished with leaves stretched towards me, offering their berries as a gift of nature, a welcoming gift of the new season. The early morning sunlight strained through the intertwined branches as I picked my first berry. The soft clusters rolled beneath my fingers, malleable to my press and curiosity. My interest followed until I finally placed the berry in my mouth and felt the burst of sweetness across my tastebuds. The fruity flavor coated my tongue like a well-worn blanket perfect for summertime. It was not tart at all. It tasted wonderfully warm, as if the berries captured the early sunlight to rouse my young palate. 

The next day we came back with a little ziplog baggie and collected the ripest berries for me to eat either to or at school, not only from the tree at the end of the street, but from trees at the corner of the busy street intersection. I had a little less than half left once I entered school. My fingers were stained a deep reddish purple, as if I colored with an inky Jazzberry Jam crayon. For years after I would stop to occasionally pick some berries if they hung low enough, relishing in the fruit that none of my peers seemed to want.

When I was a teenager and adamant about growing my own fruit tree (my mother and grandmother cultivated their own vibrant vegetable garden, so I had to prove my own green thumb), I had my parents buy me a blackberry bush barely grown out of its roots. We planted it in the back, next to my grandmother's butternut squash and my mother's eggplant, and for the rest of spring I watered the tree and awaited summer's harvest.

blackberry tart
Farmers' Market Find

When the first berry emerged, I eagerly picked it and popped it into my mouth, ready to taste the same sweetness as I had previous summers. It was then that I realized that I had mistakenly purchased blackberries when I thought they were the same berries I had been picking as a child. The tartness settled beneath the sweetness, and though the blackberries plumped to be ripe and sweeter, they were not the same berries I remember being so sweet. Similar in shape and size, I had thought the berries I excitedly grew were what I tasted when I was younger, as I had never eaten a blackberry prior to my planting it. 

Google helped me learn that it was mulberries I picked, not blackberries. Mulberries that grew from trees, not bushes, were red, not blue, had way less seeds than blackberries, and were sweeter. The differences now are easily distinguishable, but as a child I had thought both were one in the same. Eventually the blackberry bush grew too bushy and thorny, and whenever I went outside to pick berries it had seemed that birds and bugs got to them first. It died and I never grew another bush, perhaps out of a failed attempt at growing my favorite berry tree.

I've never loved blackberries. They, like raspberries, are always too seedy for my taste to eat as a freshly picked fruit. But pureed or cooked through, they're perfect jams or fruit fillings. Or blackberry sorbet, which is something I will try later this summer. I don't like too much texture getting in the way of the fruit flavor, but the flavor itself is sweet and flavorful, a wonderful accompaniment to summer. 

Though I'm not a big fan of blackberries, I did make tartlets that feature their subtle sweetness. The berries are locally grown, big and plump with juice and flavor. Embedded on a smooth canvas of creamy honey mascarpone and encased in a crisp tart shell, the tarts are good for capturing what it means for it to finally be summer. 

The mulberries have gone with the final edge of spring. On my morning walks to work I made sure to stop and pluck the ripest berries from the branches, testing the weight of sweetness and childhood memories on my tongue, letting it all stick to my throat and stain my fingers with the hope that this summer will merit new memories, but most importantly, more berries.

blackberry tart



I'm sitting here eating an acorn squash stuffed with wild rice, chicken, and quinoa when I wish I was eating a square (or 4) of peanut butter truffle brownies. I also wish I was eating the risotto stuffed acorn squash I had also made, but that is gone.

After a series of unfortunate events at work that led to an early dismissal for everyone, I immediately changed into more comfortable summer-ready clothes and warmed up my would-be lunch. I would rather be eating a corn and black bean salsa, or even lavender lemonade, which are more worthy of this summer heat, but I'm quite the lazy gal and will willingly warm up leftovers to eat with a side of Cheez-its. 

It's that kind of day.

peanut butter truffle brownies
Notice the fingerprint.

But it's also the kind of day where I dream about eating brownies I really should not be dreaming about. Especially since I just baked a batch of ganache-dipped lavender shortbread cookies yesterday. There are other things to focus on, but I like to dwell on the past, which involved a hearty amount of chocolate and peanut butter all sandwiched into the best brownie ever.

I like chocolate cake bases to be dense. And the best way to accomplish that is to layer them with fillings and frostings and then letting it all sit in the fridge to chill for a couple hours to overnight. The crumb condenses and it adds a richer flavor. Or, it could be that all cakes I've liked dense were chocolate cakes. I proudly admit my love affair with chocolate.

Peanut butter truffle brownies are simply brownies topped with a layer of fluffy and rich peanut butter ganache which is then covered with a layer of peanut butter chocolate ganache. Going with the peanut butter theme, yeah? Let it sit for hours and you have a dense brownie with layers that melt in your mouth.

You definitely want to cut these up into small squares. They might stick to your teeth after they've already stuck their flavor onto your taste buds, testing your willpower.

Maybe you shouldn't make these if you're trying to build up endurance for resisting sugar, chocolate, peanut butter, or just things that taste too good for their good. My resistance includes pushing it all on my boyfriend, coworkers, family, and friends, making sure to leave some for me. Soooooooooooome, I should say (as many as there are o's).