Lemon Pepper Asparagus Pasta with Sugar Snap Peas

Summer pasta dish with whole grilled lemon slices

Summer pasta dish with whole grilled lemon slices

When I think of eating pasta, I think of a snowy winter day, curled up in my oops-i-ate-too-many-cookies-pants shoveling (not so much spooning) bucketfuls of straight gluten into my pie-hole, warming up my insides and protecting my body against the cold with an extra layer of much needed survival chub.  

Pasta in the summer?  Betch, I'm on a diet.  There are bikinis involved in this season, hello!  And yes, I feel you, but lemon and asparagus (whether our frenemy pasta is involved or not) just screams summer-time flavor town to me.  So I decided to drum up this special citrus-y dish that is at the same time light and packed with flavor.  Can be served as a hearty entree or side dish to compliment your main event.  The dish is inspired by long drives through Long Island where local farms boast their fresh produce on roadside stands and farm adjacent markets.  The secret to well cooked asparagus is not to overcook it; blanching allows you to saturate this finicky veg without draining the life (crunch) from it.  

Also, shout out to my peeps at @homegoods.  This place has amazing deals on furniture, cookware, throw pillows and other home goods, but I go for the gourmet grocery items at RIDICULOUSLY DISCOUNTED PRICES.  Like the beautiful pasta shells you see here.  A giant bag was only $3.99.  I also got an 18 oz. bag of raw turmeric powder for $5.99 and a bag of banana flour for $3.99 (I mean wtf is banana flour?  I'm so pumped to try it, and when it's that cheap, one can afford to experiment.  Neat-o).  

Pasta from Home Goods

Pasta from Home Goods

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 bag of vegan friendly pasta (any will do!)
  • 1 head/bunch of fresh asparagus
  • 2 lemons (including about 1 TBSP of zest)
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas (de-podded, or English peas)
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • .5 teaspoon Himalayan pink sea salt
  • Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  • Before you start, get everything ready.  De-pod your peas if necessary, zest one whole lemon, and thinly slice the same lemon (or a fresh one) and place on a baking sheet.  Pre-heat oven to 400º
  • Bring pot of water to a boil.  
  • Slice the asparagus tips and then proceed slicing diagonally creating 1” pieces
  • Blanch in boiling water for 2.5-3 minutes (less time = more crunch)
  • Drain and rinse under cool water to stop it from cooking further
  • Boil another pot of water, add a dash of pink salt and add the pasta.  Cook according to the package directions (again, less time = al dente pasta, which is my personal preference)
  • Meanwhile, put your lemon slices in the oven and cook for 15ish minutes (or until as blackened as you want)
  • Once pasta is cooked to desired tenderness, drain and rinse with cool water
  • Add the olive oil 
  • Squeeze the juice from 1 whole lemon
  • Now toss
  • Next add the asparagus
  • Add the peas
  • Add about 1 TBSP of lemon zest
  • Add salt and pepper
  • Lastly, remove the lemons from oven and gently lay on top of pasta for presentation

For a step by step tutorial, see video below!  

Musis by Podington Bear, Kid is Frangin', soundofpicture.com

 

 

Homemade Bagels

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It’s winter and my poor friends from LA are all skinny and tan and I’m over here all “Neener, neener, I live in New York and can eat delicious bagels and get chubby whenever I want.”  And they’re all “oh shit, we're too skinny and tan and can you please send me some delicious New York bagels?”  

And I'm all "well since I’m no monster I'm just gonna share this homemade Bagel recipe in the spirit that everyone world wide can break bread together in the most delicious New York Bagel kind of way, so you're welcome skinny betches."

But first, let me reflect on the spiritual concept of breaking bread for a moment.  

The expression has evolved over time, but its origins are, in fact, biblical; Jesus, when eating with His Disciples, would break the bread (which was much harder than typical bread today and required breaking rather than tearing) and pass out pieces to be shared among them as a group.  One likely reason the phrase lived on is due to the universal source of nourishment that bread supplies, and therefore with it also carries the implications of friendship and life.  If you haven't seen the Netflix Documentary series CookedI highly recommend that you do.*  There is an entire episode dedicated to the evolution of bread making and how it has been and continues to be an integral part of most societies.

In the words of Julia Child, cooking pioneer:

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like kleenex?

Excellent point, Ms. Child.  Furthermore, quoth the great Milton Berle:

Any time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.

Additionally, in modern times people use the phrase when talking about sharing an emotional experience along with their food.  The phrase to break bread with someone is to share a meaningful connection over a meal, often bringing together two people or groups who may have previously had reason to be disconnected.

When I first became an actor 12 years ago, I did it because I wanted to give voice to stories that may not otherwise get told.  I was an artist, and to me, storytelling and therefore acting seemed to me the most honorable way one could use their art to propel change in the world.  Chris Fisher, a talented writer/director/producer and now dear friend of mine, was the first person to give me a SAG TV job.  He likes to remind me that I got the part because of my distinct laugh.  He is one of the most passionate and dedicated storytellers I know.  And even though it’s twelve years later and I’m no longer acting professionally, we still both share a passion for beautiful things and telling stories by bringing people together to talk about what we’re feeling and experiencing (for him, cinematically and for me, culinarily).  Filmmaking has been the most obvious metaphor for my vegan baking, so it's no real surprise that the last two years of vegan baking and now blogging has proven to be a not-so-unlikely new storytelling device for me.  How can I share a story with you in order to propel greater change?  I can cook you some kind of vegan meal and together we can break bread.  For those of you just getting acquainted with my blog, please note:  I don't want to change your mind, I just want to cook you dinner.  

Like I mentioned, I met Chris at an audition over a decade ago, but our story doesn’t end there.  At a point he moved to NYC to work on a very successful TV show called Person of Interest.  In the season’s last year I found myself in NYC after a temporary job here made me realize I didn't want to go back to LA for the time being.  The job was ending and I remembered Fish (as Chris' friends affectionately call him) had moved here a few years prior.  I decided to reach out to him to see if he knew of any employment opportunities, cuz New York was all “Hi, I’m expensive as fuck, so don’t stay unemployed too long or I'll ruin you.  K thanks, bye.”  

Guess what?  His wife Blair was about to give birth to their first child.  She needed help and he did too, as he was averaging 16 hour days on set during episodes he both produced and directed simultaneously.  Serendipity or just good timing; either way, I was very happy to see where this would lead me.  Blair and I became fast friends, and Poppy was a dream babe.  She taught me so much while I got to love and care for her.  

Blair had similar eating habits as me, even though she wasn’t a strict vegan.  We got to cook and nourish this baby together and watch her as she grew to develop her own flavor palette.  It was a very special way to love two people, by cooking and meal prepping for them.  One thing we enjoyed doing as a “family” was spending time in their East Hampton home which rests beautifully in the middle of the woods. Speaking of storytelling, you should see the nine page welcome letter Fish wrote for guests, which is nothing short of poetic. And as such, these bagels are dedicated to them.  They live all the way in Ojai, CA now and I’d bet they haven’t had a decent bagel since they left NYC almost two years ago.

Here’s to you, Fish and Blair and Popsicle and Luv-duv…until we can break bread again soon!

Home Made Bagels* ~ 

Total Time: Like, forever.  At least until you get the hang of bread-making.  It's a skill.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of date sugar
  • 1.5 cups warm water (I needed some more...it's all about the consistency of dough)
  • 3.5 cups (500g) bread flour or high gluten flour (+ more for flouring your kneading surface)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 Flax Egg

Toppings, because plain bagels are just a missed opportunity:
Onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, etc...

DIRECTIONS:

In .5 cup /120ml of the warm water, add the date sugar and yeast. LET SIT for 5 or so minutes and then stir it all up until it's mostly dissolved and there are no obvious chunks.

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  • Mix flour and salt in a big bowl.  Making a well in the center, pour in the liquid yeast mixture.
  • Pour 1/3 cup of the rest of the water into the flour well.  Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. I had to add about 1/4 cup more water.  Don't let this concern you, Jill in Wisconsin may need more or less than Jack in Arizona.  You want a moist and firm dough after you mix it.
  • On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 or 15 minutes until it's got some elasticity.  Again, we're looking for stiff and firm, if it's crumbly you need to add more water.  If it's a bit chunky you need to continue to knead that shit. 
  • Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and roll the dough around so it's fully coated. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 20 minutes.  Classic dough making practice.  Don't be afraid to leave it to rise even longer if you're doing laundry or out living your best life somewhere.
  • Break pieces of dough off (larger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball).  You can make classic bagel shapes if you're basic (no judgement) OR you can go wild and let your freak flag fly and make all kinds of shapes.  I'm somewhere in between, so I made twisted little knots.  
  • Place each inspired little bagel bread nugget onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet or cast iron skillet if you have one.  And then cover with that damp kitchen towel and let rest for another 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF (some might argue 400.  I guess we'll see how well you know your oven?)
  • Scared yet?  D O N ' T  B E.  Be aggressive.  Be-be aggressive.  
  • NOW: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Use a slotted spoon or if you don't have one try a handheld grater or metal spatula and lower each bagel into the water.  Newsflash, this step is so important.  While I don't want you to be intimidated, this is NOT the time to go change the laundry, because timing is everything here.  Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling at a time.  The bagels will quickly float to the top once dropped in.   Let them sit there for like 20-30 seconds and NO MORE.  Any longer and your bagels will be so chewy they'll give you TMJ.  I know, because I've had lock-jaw for a week.
  • Flip and repeat on the other side (remember 20-30 seconds TOPS, yo).  All you need to understand is the longer you leave them in boiled water, the chewier they become.  And it is possible for them to become too chewy to chew kind of chewy, ya feel me?
  • If you want to top your bagels with stuff, now's the time before they get popped in the oven.  Place the lightly boiled bagels back on your cookie sheet.  Using a pastry brush, coat the tops of each bagel with your flax egg wash and sprinkle with desired toppings.  The flax egg is what allows them to stick. 
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the bottoms.  (Start checking at 15 minutes if you have a hot oven).
  •  Cool on a wire rack or burn the roof of your mouth like I did when you face dive the whole batch straight out the oven.  
  • Top with Vegan Cashew Butter Cream Cheese. 

*This documentary depicts cooking meat and other non-vegan foods for those who are opposed to viewing, please take note.  

**Inspired by the Sophisticated Gourmet, and veganized by moi.  

Spiced Dark Chocolate Hearts

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Oops!   Valentine's Day is around the corner and I forgot to give you guys something special to make whether it's for your kids, their teachers, your partner or your sworn enemy because I know, I know V-day is a big fat joke to most people - just another capitalist holiday to boost the economy, right?  But a morale boost?  I'm really not so sure about that.  For me, Valentine's day is all about my parents, in particular my dad.   Every year they showered my sister and me with gifts in the form of cupid pajamas, candy hearts and parental love notes.  Driving home that ever hopeful point that love is all you need.  Well, that and a 401k, if you can manage one.  Too bad neither of their children did manage one, but love?  We got that in spades.

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There's my given family with Mom, Dad, Ari, Alex, Leo, Max, Pepper, Dani, Stephanie, PJ, Tyler, Choo, Debbie, David, Zoe, Shawn, Sydney.  And there's my chosen family consisting of Hanne, Chloe, Sarah, Sarah, Sara, Zach, Chris, Kate, Anthony, David, Ashley, Buzzy, Cat, Amy, Grace, Travis, Graham, Aimie, Lowin, Gamba, Ally, Tim, Blair, Poppy, Fish, Jason's whole family, Craig, Dana, Tucci, Mona, Marissa, Jesmille, Jenny, Thomas, Daniella, Audrey, Devin, Sherry, Bob, Ella, Katie, Kimberly, Tarina, Michelle, and so on, and of course there's Jason, THE love.

But a girl's dad... well, that's its own sort of loving kindness.

And the lucky truth is there are more.  Like so many more, and I don't need no Feb 14th to remind me how much love there is in my life and in the world.  My dad, the calm and loving force in the Wolfe house, is an especially remarkable example of love and perseverance.  He was the middle child with one older and one much younger sister.  They grew up in a tiny tenement apartment in what is now called Alphabet City, and eventually they moved to a bigger shoebox in Jackson Heights, Queens.  Without being too crass, that family didn't deserve him.  If he didn't look so much like his dad I would have sworn he was adopted.  Maybe my dads tendency towards loving kindness and affection was a rejection of what he learned as a child.  He later had two daughters of his own, and like my mom, his only priority was to raise us up, up, up.  My dad, Phil, my hero, is the man who taught me how I wanted to be treated and respected and loved, especially by a man.  It's no big surprise that I found Jason, who shares the same affectionate, loving, gentleness as my pops.  I'm so honored to have both of them in my life.  I'm so honored to have all of the love that I have. 

So a day to celebrate all that?  I'm down.  But let's just remember if you don't have one particular someone, it might be a good day to celebrate all the others: the ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends who broke your heart, only readying you for the next great love of your life. Or God, if that's what you believe in.  Or your pet.  Or your teacher.  Or yourself?  Any day to practice loving ourselves is probably good.  Is definitely good.

Homemade chocolate is generally pretty tricky, not unlike relationships.  But if you don't fuss too much, and just kinda go for it, knowing that chocolate is generally good and hard to mess up then you'll have something tasty, even if imperfect.  I'm no chocolatier, but my research suggests that chocolate is temperamental, like literally.  Chocolate acts differently under different circumstances, so you gotta know what you're working with.  We will be using dark chocolate chips (69% cocoa) .  In this recipe, I add coconut butter which is high in fat and helps the chocolate keep shape after refrigeration.  With this recipe, you don't have to worry too much if it'll turn out in the end.  It just will.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2/3 Cup of Enjoy Life chocolate chips/morsels (or whatever brand you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon Coconut Butter
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of hazelnut extract (or vanilla if you don't have on hand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a big ol generous pinch of chipotle powder
  • a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  • In a double boiler, put the coconut butter in the pan and stir with a whisk until melty or soft and mixable.  If you don't have an official double boiler, take a small pot and fill with water.  Bring to a bowl, then add smaller pot so that it just rests in the bigger pots now boiling water and reduce heat.  This is important so the chocolate doesn't burn.  This is an official double boiler, this is what I have, and this is what you do if you have neither.  
  • Next, add the choco chips and stir consistenly over medium heat with a whisk, until melted.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the hazelnut, cinnamon and chipotle spice until mixed well.  
  • Now you need to quickly, evenly, and as smoothly as possible pour the chocolate into your mold.  I have this cute heart shaped one for Vagina Day.  I mean, Valentine's Day.  Whatever, same thing.  You can get one here, or any mold you have on hand will do.  I prefer the silicone, as it's a bit more forgiving to remove the chocolates once they're done.  
  • After, you need to take a scraper and smooth the top of the chocolates so there's an even line and they shape perfectly in the refrigerator.  
  • Place chocolate mold on cookie sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes minimum.  
  • Once the chocolates are ready, gentle pop them out of their mold and place on a flat surface.  Be careful not to handle them with your fingers so they don't leave a fingerprint.  
  • Mix the powdered sugar and however much cinnamon and chipotle powder you want with a fork in a small bowl.  Then take your duster and gentle sift over the chocolates.  
  • Best enjoyed dunked in your coffee or with a large dollop of peanut butter.  

I'll enjoy some of these while I think about how lucky I am that my dad sent me that card (above) for my birthday this year.  You're the flap in my jack too, Dad.  Peace and love e'ryone.  

Le Madeleine

©Alex Wolfe Photography

©Alex Wolfe Photography

This is not a political post.

Happy New Year, thank GOD it's 2018.  Amiright?  I think a lot of us could agree that the world has been holding her collective breath since that orange narcissistic turd muffin was elected into the highest official position of the not so United States of America.  (Sorry muffins, you really don't deserve to be compared to he who shall remain nameless). 

  • I mean, there was the tax bill (Oy).
  • Budget cuts to the E.P.A because, ya know, why is everyone so obsessed with science?  Quoth the ass-hat "In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!" (OY TO THE VEY.  Palm to forehead).
  • The repeal of net-neutrality.  (OYYYYY FUCKKKK ING VEYYYY).
  • Harvey Weinstein and the rest of 'em. (Jeeeesus).

I have to stop, because I'm starting to grind my teeth. 2017 was rough.  The kind of rough that makes you want to gorge a bunch of cake and eat a million cookies and never EVER stop.  And you can do that with this simple madeleine recipe:

It's sweet and nutty

Cakey with a crisp outer shell

Small like a cookie, so you can have a hundred

Delicious with a hot beverage, they melt on your tongue.

But first, let's talk about all the things that happened in 2017 that were SUPER, because now I'm depressed:

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and here we are a year and a bit later, living and loving together.

Fun fact: Jason was the final and gentle push I needed toward the math and science behind turning my granola into something sell-able.  I am grateful.

  • I met that guy up there ON ELECTION NIGHT (Talk about having all the feelings).
  • Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in a stunning Alabama senate race.
  • A veteran Virginia state legislator who proclaimed himself the state's "chief homophobe" lost his bid for re-election in November — to a transgender woman. He'd sponsored a bathroom bill restricting access by transgender people to public restrooms.  More importantly, HER name is Danica Roem and she is FABULOUS.
  • Jessica and Derek Simmons saved nine people, including a couple of children, caught in a rip tide.  They  acted quickly and got 80 other people on the beach to form a human chain that could reach swimmers who were nearly drowning and brought them safely to shore.
  • Scientists made progress to treat Leukemia through immunotherapies and gene-altering methods, when at one time this type of cancer was an almost definite death sentence.  Today the survival rate for children with acute lymphocytic leukemia is more than 85%.
  • And one of my favorite memories of 2017 was the first (of many) peaceful protests across the U.S:  "The Women's March was a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women's rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers rights.  Most of the rallies were aimed at Donald Trump, immediately following his inauguration as President of the United States, largely due to statements that he had made and positions that he had taken which were regarded by many as anti-women or otherwise offensive. It was the largest single-day protest in U.S. History."

.

.

.

And I was THERE.  It was absolutely amazing.  

Below are pictures that show the highlights of my day that day.  The picture of my dad, my sister and her best friend from high school is particularly meaningful to me, because in a lot of ways these peopled raised me, were my mentors.  Missing from the picture and from that day was my mom, Linda.  She couldn't be there because she was on day 28 at the hospital supporting my uncle while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong.  He had a lot of problems, the details of which are unimportant.  But I got to talk to them both that night and tell them how incredible it was and how much we missed having them (her, my mama, she my heroine and I her 'cookie') there with us.  He died not too long after.  Cause of death was an antibiotic resistant infection and, in his families opinion, loneliness.  I was so proud to know my mom stayed by her brothers side so he could go from this place feeling loved and like someone had his back.  I think that's something people really want to feel:

t h a t  s o m e o n e  r e a l l y  h a s  t h e i r  b a c k, no matter what. 

And so I got to march for her, and with her behind me.  Several months later I moved in with Jason, which meant I finally had the pleasure of dealing with my  ^%*#$@! storage unit.  In it, I found this old silver thingamabobber.  I almost tossed it, but it looked vintage and I'm a whore for used treasures.  I asked my mom about it and she reminded me it was Blanche's, my grandma. 

My sweet

sing-songy

always smiling

tough as nails

red-haired (did she really have red-hair?  In my memories...she has fiery red hair)

delicious grandma.

"Well what the shit is it?" I asked.  "For dusting powdered sugar on cookies," said mama.  AWWEEESSSOOOMMMMEEEE GRAMMA GEM!  Most of my memories of her are from when she was older and sick with Alzheimers.  But when I shake that duster I can smell and feel her vivacious younger self.  Blanche, and Linda, and Debbie and Ari, and Kate, and Hanne and Chloe and Jenny and Frances, and Eryn and the four Sara/h's (you know who you are), and Alissa, and Kali and Aimie and I know there are more:  you helped shape me into the woman I am today and I am so damn lucky to have known you and been loved by you. The reason for writing this post now,  is because we're on the heels of the next big march coming up Saturday, January 20th, 2018.  Grab your sister or your friend or your mom and GO.  You will not be sorry.  It's quite the empowering scene.

 

Now you can take your grandma's old sugar duster and lightly powder them to make 'em all purdy.  

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*Ok, it was definitely a political post.