On Busyness. Maple Granola.

My first instinct was to spell busyness like this: business. Then I realized that’s an entirely different word. This post is about business, the business of my life for the past few months, but business sounds very coat and tie and heels, and, well, I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been business. I’ll never be business.

Being busy. That’s where I’ve been. Busy living my life and not telling you about it. Busy testing cupcake and salad recipes for bridal showers. Busy being an editor again while being busy being a marketing director by day. Yeah, that’s right, marketing director by day, editor by night. I am a super hero. Busy running my brains out, racking up the miles, looking to 26.2 miles in November. Busy making pasta with fresh peas from my garden and drinking bourbon ginger ales. Busy cooking brats over an open flame.

Busy exploring my city like I’ve never lived here before. Busy following the signs. Busy drinking good beer, listening to good music, and watching fireworks explode in the night sky.

Busy doing all this with this guy who keeps me busy every day with thinking how lucky I am to have bumped into him in this busy sea.

Busy. Have to remember to stop and take a breath sometimes.

Take a breath and look up at the stars and the moon, dip your feet into a lake, watch relationships being built.

Enjoy a cup of coffee, or three, with the person you love while the sun shines down. Take a breath and remind yourself why you’re doing all these things that keep you so busy. This relationship, even though it requires some driving, is inspiring and makes me believe in so much again. That second job surrounds me with people who are strong and courageous in a way I am certain I could never be. They are my heroes.

The busy is worth it. Every second.

So maybe you’re busy, too. Summer can be like that. It’s a funny season. The air is hot and thick, and the days are longer. Everything points to slowing down, yet summer always seems to be full of activities, of trying to cram as much into these warm, lazy days as possible.

This summer I’ve discovered the best food: homemade granola. It’s not crunchy and granola as in you’ll be a hippy making your own granola in your oven. It is crunchy and granola as in it bakes up into clumps of sweet, oaty goodness that wants to be covered in almond milk, yogurt, fresh summer berries, and really eaten right from a jar.

Did you know that granola is ridiculously easy to make? It is, and I feel someone really mean and selfish has been withholding this beautiful knowledge from me. Granola takes one bowl, one spoon, a measuring spoon, and one baking sheet to make. It doesn’t even take measuring cups if you have a kitchen scale (and I say, get a kitchen scale, because it’ll make you love cooking even more than you already do, and it’ll make all your measurements so much more accurate. Deb convinced me with her cookbook full of ingredients in weights finally.) This granola unassumingly sits in your oven, filling your house with a cinnamon maple smell.

The hardest part will probably be finding unsweetened coconut flakes. (I found mine at Whole Foods in the baking section.) The second hardest part will be believing that you made granola that sticks together in lovely clumps. The secret is the egg white (or 3 tablespoons of water + 1 tablespoon of flaxseed if you’re the vegan type).

In between all of the rushing around I’ve been doing, I manage to always make batches of this granola. My big glass jar is always full of it. Trust me on this one.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The food styling in these granola, yogurt, and blueberry photos was all done by my boyfriend, Karl. I got a ridiculous amount of pleasure watching him lean over the bowls and carefully sprinkle granola over yogurt and place berries on top without any guidance from me.

Crunchy Maple Granola
Straight from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
3 cups (240 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (50 grams) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup (100 grams) walnuts (or other nut of your choice), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (25 grams) toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups (215 grams) dried cherries, cranberries, or other dried fruit, diced into large pieces

Preheat your oven to 300°.

Combine all ingredients but egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.

Spread granola mixture in a single layer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (If you don’t have parchment paper, don’t line the baking sheet with anything. You’ll just have to do some scraping of granola bits when you wash the baking sheet.)

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola as carefully as you can. (I break the big chunks up accidentally often and sometimes lose track of what I’ve flipped. It’s OK. Flip the majority as best you can.) Rotate the pan.

When the granola is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

This granola will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It keeps even longer in the freezer.

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Spring Salads, Songs, and Spirit Squads

Spring, I think you’re here. Finally. Why did you make us wait so long? You’re going to stick around for awhile to make it up to us, right? We’ll now be blessed with endless 70 degree days with light breezes and lots of sunshine.

Sweet relief from the cold means I’ve been celebrating in lots of ways. Running in shorts (miracle!) and with the Indy Runners group. I like having running companions to keep my mind of off the actual run some days. Yesterday I showed up for the Tuesday run at Hinkle Field House on Butler’s campus ready to do four, maybe five, miles. Thanks to the girl I ran with, I ended up going six miles!

 

May is Race Month in this fair city and the Mini-Marathon is the kick-off for a month of festivities leading up to the Indy 500. Biggest half marathon in the country, what what? I opted for the role of cheerleader this year instead of runner, which I thought would be very difficult. I’m a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to races. But I remembered how much I appreciated the support of my friends along the race course last year, and I was excited to cheer extra loudly in the places where I remembered feeling the most tired. My friend Sam and I biked to around mile 9 and then maybe .25 mile before the finish line. Extra perk? En route we go to see the wheelchair racers and the insanely fast top finishers (can you imagine running 13.1 miles in just over an hour?!), a part of a race that I never get to see as a participant. The sheer athleticism of these men and women blew my mind.

 

Our posters (yes that’s Ryan Gosling and Bob Dylan) got plenty of head nods and smiles from random runners, but we cheered extra hard for our friend Marnie and her fiance Jannson and my two other friends that we happened to see run by. We even ran along the sidewalk for the last .25 miles with Marnie, screaming her name the whole way. I am beyond proud of these two!

Can we talk about driving with the windows open and music blaring? It’s one of my favorite warm weather pastimes. Right now I could listen to Patty Griffin’s new album American Kid all day. The first song feels like the perfect summertime folky anthem to me.

Back to running. It’s cool, it’ll lead to epic spring food. In starting to think about training for the marathon I’ve signed up for this fall, I’m considering my diet. I know that the more miles I log, the hungrier I’ll be, but I do not want to just stuff myself with tons of pasta, as amazingly appealing as that sounds. So I’m focusing on fueling with lots of fruits and veggies and healthful proteins like beans and lentils. To kick start this fresh new diet I did a really great three-day juice cleanse from Natural Born Juicers. If you live in Indianapolis I highly recommend checking them out. I’m now a few weeks out from having finished the cleanse and am back to my marathon fueling diet. I’m actually really missing my morning juices and how awake and strangely full they made me feel, so I’m thinking of going in on a juicer.

On top of that spring has brought the most magical produce to the farmers markets. Slowly at first, but surely. A few weeks ago radishes and pea sprouts started to show up, and so I rejoiced. This time of year is perfect for buying lettuce and any other awesome vegetables that catch your eye and making a huge salad.

I’d love to give you a recipe for this, but I feel like that would just be limiting, so here’s a basic guide.

Pile your plate with lettuce (mine, year round thanks to hydroponics in greenhouses, is almost always from Eden Farms). I like a mix of lettuces to give my salad a little more flavor and depth.

Chop up a variety of vegetables, whatever is pretty and bright and catches your eye at the store or market. I went with pretty pink and white radishes and sweet pea shoots from Harvestland Farms. Never had pea shoots? Me either until this salad! They taste like peas, not surprisingly, but before peas come around. Like a pea preview. Maybe add a squeeze of lemon over things now. Add some fresh herbs if you have them on hand.

Any good salad, or meal in my opinion, is topped with a soft yolk fried egg (my eggs always come from Schacht Farm, I love them, eggs and people, so much). Fry one up with a bit of salt and pepper, or poach it in olive oil like Oh Joy, which is what I tried out for this salad. I liked this cooking option, because it a nice amount of olive oil to drizzle over the salad as dressing.

Break open that egg and let the yolk get all cozy with the lettuce. Heck yes, spring!

Change. Orange Bran Muffins.

Change tends to come quickly. Maybe it takes you by surprise. Lately change has been sneaking up on me.

Two weeks ago I was running in full winter gear as snow flurries fell onto my tongue. This week I’m wearing shorts and tank tops. Not together. Let’s not get too crazy. Two and a half months ago I had my heart broken. Talk about chaos. A week and a half ago I remembered why I loved the mountains and a barn filled with horses—peace. And five days ago I crossed the finish line of the Shamrock Shuffle with a new personal record and the Chicago skyline rising in front of me. I felt this overwhelming sense of luck and joy, and that feeling just hasn’t gone away yet. Change is sticking.

I once thought bran muffins were ridiculous. I worked at a coffee shop in Raleigh and we sold muffins. The bran were always left at the end of the day, and honestly I didn’t blame our customers. Why would you opt for healthy, tasteless bran when you could go the blueberry or carrot?

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Comfort. Crusty Bread.

What do you gather around you when you need comfort?

A mug of tea or a cocktail? A favorite sweatshirt or song? Your friends, your family? Pasta or cookies? Maybe even a memory?

Sometimes the memories, those are the worst when you’re searching for comfort.

Smells comfort me. My running shoes and my yoga mat bring me comfort. So do family and friends and my dear, sweet Mira and Lola.

And food, though different food for different situations. Sometimes I need a fresh loaf of bread. It’s homey, warm, simple, and good. And no matter how many loaves of bread I make, I still feel an incredible amount of satisfaction when I take the bread pan out of the oven and slice myself a piece. It’s a miracle to me every time that I can get the yeast to work.

I was out of bread last weekend and craving something different from my usual whole wheat sandwich bread. Something white and crusty. I found a recipe for a no-knead bread via Pinterest and decided to give it a shot. Not many ingredients, no mixer or kneading required, and I could let it rise its required 12-18 hours overnight and put the loaf in the oven in the morning.

Nothing beats a house filled with morning sunshine and the smell of baking bread. Wait, warm-from-the-oven bread with avocado and a runny fried egg—that almost beats it. Talk about comfort, plain and simple.

I’m on my second loaf of this crusty gloriousness, and I’m going to tell you, it cannot be easier to make. You may say yeast scares you (please, no yeast jokes, I know at least one of you is making one in your head.), that making bread is a difficult process. Trust me, it’s not.

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On Turning 29 and Peanut Butter Pie

So far 29 has taught me…

that cinnamon sticks do not light on fire and therefore cannot double as birthday candles, and also smell not like cinnamon when burning.

sometimes taking care of a sick person can be a blessing in disguise. It’ll lead to lots of cuddle and couch time.

a good birthday present to yourself upon turning 29 is disinfecting the entire house.

birthday parties at this age include some little people who may not even be able to join in on the conversation. This does not make parties any less enjoyable. We may be growing up, but everyone is still game to adjust their grown up schedules so we can all still hang out and be friends like normal.

time goes by so. fast. In the blink of an eye I’m a year away from 30. I remember when 30 sounded so old. Now it feel like NBD, just the next thing that’ll happen in this life.

Perfection is not something that comes on the first time. Well, rarely anyway. Who among us can say their first time having sex was awesome? Bad first date that turned into many more amazing dates? Who doesn’t feel there was some room for improvement in the first real job they took, the way they handled themselves in their first job? Perfection, let’s be honest, 29 years have taught me that it doesn’t exist, thank God. But ecstatically amazing, drool-worthy, break out the happy dance? That does exist. Twenty-nine says it exists if you admit to your mistakes, learn from them, don’t kick yourself, and give it another go.

Perfection did not exist in the first peanut butter pie I made for Michael, and at the tender age of 27 I did not know how to admit that. For the last two years I have heard endlessly about the perfect peanut butter pie from Smokey Bones.

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Birthdays. Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream.

Let’s be honest for a second. Is that OK? I’ve sat in front of my computer about fifteen times in the last week and a half staring at the big, blank “Edit Post” screen. I’ve typed a bit. I’ve brainstormed a bit. Mostly I’ve just felt anxious as more time passes and my planned birthday cake post goes unpublished. Unwritten, really. Nothing is coming.

I want all this inspiration in the start of the new year. I’m really thankful that my friend Sam got me this really cool journal, 642 Things to Write About, because I want to be inspired, but in small and not overwhelming doses. I want to plan big for 2013, but big plans give rise to anxiety. I did make one successful plan: I signed up for a marathon in November. A mother fucking marathon. Oh shit.

This is the year I turn 29. One more til 30. Instead of resolutions I’m making a 30 before 30 list. Thirty things I’ll do this year. Number 26: Run 26(.2) miles by completing a marathon. Number four: Send flowers to four friends. Number 12: Go to shabbat services 12 times. Number 20: Take pictures of 20 of my favorite things. Do you have any things to add? I need helping filling in the numbers. I’ll post my whole list next week, after the birthday happens.

Birthdays come with cake. Always cake. My favorite part of birthdays. I love making cake for other people.

Happy birthday Marnie

I hate asking other people to make me cake. I always lust after these complicated layered things, covered in frostings, drenched in flavored syrups. And it’s not that I don’t trust my friends to come through, I just feel bad asking for something complicated.

After all, a birthday cake should be filled with a good, joyful energy that you bake into it. Not a stressed out, this will never live up to expectations energy. In reality, I’m a fan of a simple cake, a cake with good flavors, one that I can even make on a weekday, because sometimes that’s when birthday celebrations happen, but that looks and tastes dang fabulous.

One that I am proud to put on my pretty silver cake stand, but that didn’t take hours for me to make, because, after all, we are busy. It’s a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to shower cake on our loved ones on their birthdays. So, simple and lovely cakes for busy people who are looking in every corner for simple inspirations and have birthdays to celebrate!

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Delicious Accidents. Potato Chickpea Breakfast Hash

What inspires you in the kitchen? Is it a certain recipe? An ingredient you find yourself drawn to at the grocery or market? A type of cooking or cuisine? Maybe even a person?

I’ve been inspired by all of these things at one time or another. A few weekends ago it was the ingredients, two of my purchases at the Indy Winter Farmers Market—the eggs from my favorite Schact Farms (where I also purchased some leaf lard that for pie crusts same weekend!) and some delicious greens from a farm that I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember the name of.

I came home starving and ready to just throw some food together. I’d reached the point of hangry, AKA the point of no return, AKA I need food simply to fuel my body and am no longer concerned with how it tastes. This is the point at which I sometimes stand at the counter and eat dry granola from the box.

Thank God I accidentally made the best breakfast/brunch meal ever.

This is just a pile of simple and good ingredients. We’re talking greens with flavor (if you’ve only eaten iceberg lettuce or a bagged salad mix, brach out to some fresh and not bagged other greens like arugula, butterhead lettuce, or mustard greens. Mind-blowing.), earthy potatoes, spiced chickpeas, mushrooms, and peppers (leftovers in my kitchen from chickpea and roasted vegetable fajitas), all topped with bright yellow runny yolk eggs. This is delicious, easy, healthy fuel. This is what you should be stuffing into your face on a weekly basis.

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