You’re settling into a long-ass flight to Australia. At best, your plan is to watch a few in-flight movies and catch some of those awkward, unfulfilling, neck-craning zzz’s. However, the one truth you hold is that you’ll be disconnected from the world for the next 14+ hours- no wifi, no mindless phone scrolling, no email catch-up sessions. BUT THEN…
Then, the the pilot announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are happy to announce we can now offer you wifi access during the flight.” The crowd goes WILD! The seatbelt light flashes, the flight attendants deliver another unappreciated performance, and then… the wifi fails. Suddenly, something no-one had mere minutes ago ushers in a widespread feeling of devastation.
I stole that anecdote from Tony Robbins because firstly, I have yet to make that flight to Australia (but oh how I long for that journey!), and secondly, because I can’t stop thinking about why he referenced that anecdote (watch his interview here). The name of the game here is “expectations.” They ruin us. We expect too much, and any shortcomings propel us into disappointment.
However, if we approached situations… or life in general with appreciation, the mere reframing can change everything. This does not mean expect nothing and give up. In the interview, Robinson also says we should hold ourselves to higher standards and demand more form ourselves. “Expect Less. Appreciate More. Hold Myself Accountable.” New mantras, left and right!
On the outside, this fried chicken looks like a normal batch of fried chicken, but beneath that crispy, whole-grain crust is the flavor of pickles! It’s an unexpected bonus to this recipe. Keep that pickle brine a secret, and the lack of expectations will lead to extra appreciation from your dinner guests (unless your guests don’t like pickles, in which case, haters gonna hate, and why are you friends in the first place?). The bonus bonusis you can use leftover liquid from store-bought [organic] pickles to make this recipe, so it’s a case of Waste Not, Want Not.
Pickle Brined Fried Chicken with Whole Grain Batter
Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit
About This Recipe:Inspired by a sandwich I ate here, this fried chicken has a crunchy, whole grain, batter and a pickle flavor in every bite. As a way to conserve more, I used leftover liquid from a jar of store-bought, organic pickles, but you can also experiment making your own brine. Serve with my Whole Grain Zucchini Cornbread. Plus, it’s fried in a healthier oil, so dig in!
“I knew you must be special,” she said, “because he told me he had a new ‘lady-friend.'” I beamed back at her, like an idiot, imagining the Urban Farmer telling his mama about me. Then I gushed on and on about our first encounters, the butterflies, the impatience, the will in my heart for the universe to make our paths cross because if there’s anyone who understands how special a man he is, it’s his mother.
Two years! Two years ago we held hands for the first time, as the sky erupted with fireworks (the 4th of July makes for a dramatic anniversary!), and I won his heart with a deep-dish cherry pie. Since then, he told me “I’ve seen you really come into your own,” and I have, but it’s because of him. He makes me a better me. He nudges me toward bolder, braver steps. The many loose threads of my life feel quilted together with him, and we’re forging forward, together, stitching our passions together in more ways than one.
But first, we celebrated, and it doesn’t take long waltzing around this corner of the web to realize I celebrate love and friendship through food, so we ate well. Cherry pie is becoming a tradition, but each year with a new twist.
They call it a “fat letter,” and I’ll never forget the day I received mine.
After a guidance counselor told me about Carnegie Mellon University, I fell hard- that weak in the knees, hearts in the eyes, wish-it-to-be-so sort of way. Being that my confidence was just as weak as my knees, I doubted the school would feel the same about me. As I gripped the overstuffed letter in my shaky hands, my first thought was “why would they make the rejection so thick?”
After fighting the nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach and finally daring to break the adhesive seal, my eyes skimmed frantically and landed on “congratulations.” So many emotions pulsed through my body, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Overcome with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment like never before, my body rocked back and forth like a person in the midst of a psychotic episode.
A few months later, I packed my parents car to the brim and began one of the most challenging chapters of my life! All my preconceived notions were broken and rebuilt, in a way that taught me to think for myself, to trust my instincts and to learn the importance of quitting frequently and redirecting quickly (still learning this!). On campus, I finally found peers who made sense- people who were work obsessed dorks with creative sides. After all, the school’s motto is “My heart is in the work.” Though there were still students whose brainpower could crush me, acceptance to this place empowered me.
When I say attending Carnegie Mellon was the hardest challenge I’ve faced, it’s no understatement. Days and nights bled together in periods of sleepless, intense work leading to that moment when I had to stand in front of accomplished critics and defend my thought process. The well traveled route from home to studio was often a blur of stressful to-do lists running through my head, but every now and then, something would jar me from my crazed mental state. One of those distractions was Pi Day!
Pi = 3.141592… March 14 = 3-14, therefore, Pi Day = March 14
Welcome to the nerd holiday known as Pi Day! On this day, math enthusiasts (is this the originator?!?) would chalk the never-ending number all over campus. The combination of the nerd enthusiasm and the element of tradition made this day comforting to me, a day on which I could rely despite all the uncontrollable, non-constants in my life. It was a celebration of CMU in all its quirkiness, and I looked forward to it every year!
After graduating, I still looked forward to the holiday, and in the meantime, I found myself drawn to baking. Pi Day became Pi(e) Day, which eventually became a new obsession in its own way.
In 2010, my friend Erin Pischke (also a CMU grad!) and I created The QT Pi(e) Project. On “Pi(e) Day,” March 14, 2010 (3/14/10), The QT Pi(e) Project used bicycles to deliver 31 pies (314 would have killed us), made from all local ingredients, to Pittsburgh homes with 314 addresses. Each pie arrived in a custom-made recipe box, with recipe cards explaining the project and the benefits to buying and eating local foods.
The QT Pi(e) Project was a grant funded endeavor, which gave me a confidence boost to put more of my ideas into motion and into the world, and the foundation of that idea was Pi Day at Carnegie Mellon. Life had come full circle! (see what I did there?)
When the good folks behind Carnegie Mellon’s website contacted me this year and asked if I’d like to share a recipe on the school’s website for Pi(e) Day, I was OVER THE MOON! In dorky pun terms, this recognition felt like being nominated for an Academy Award! Be the face of Pi(e) for 2016? OF COURSE OF COURSE OF COURSE I wanted to make that pie!
This Scottish Inspired Savory Meat Pie with Black Lava Salty Scotty Dogs is the edible ode to my alma mater, the place that made me appreciate Pi and in more ways than not, shaped me into who I am today. I still can’t fathom how the world expects 18-year-olds to make informed decisions about the rest of their lives, but at least I chose a rewarding place to figure out how little I knew about myself and the world.
Happy Pi(e) Day ya nerds!
p.s: If you’re wondering why Scottish, you’re clearly not a Tartan. If you take a stroll on campus in the spring, you’re likely to encounter a Scotty dog or two, a bagpipe band in kilts and a fair bit of Tartan plaid. The Scottish roots run deep via Andrew Carnegie.
A Scottish Inspired Savory Pie for Pi(e) Day 2016
About This Recipe:This pie is a labor of love, which is why it is fitting for Pi(e) Day celebrations! It consists of a savory, whole grain pie crust, filled with a slow-cooked Scottish stew and a variation on traditional Scottish mushy peas. Make the Scottish Beef Stew first, and while the stew is slow cooking, prepare the crust, then Mushy Peas & Potatoes while the crusts chill. The stew and mushy peas recipes yield more than necessary for one pie, but I like to make the larger quantities and freeze the excess to make future weeknight meals a lot easier. Alternately, you could halve the stew recipe, or better yet, double the crust recipe and make two savory pies!
When it comes to menu planning, I like to weave an ingredient through each course. In this way, I explore its nuances as well as challenge myself to use that food in unsuspecting ways lest my guests feel like they are eating gruel. For this wintry meal, I dove into chestnuts, and I even incorporated them into the loose, wintry pine garland on the dinner table.
With the phrases “winter weather watch” and “storm advisory” hanging heavy in the air, the grocery stores teeter on the brink of milk, egg and bread depletion. Though I’d advocate for a fair fight for the last crusty loaf, I have this creamy, vegetarian, snowstorm survival idea to offer you: Chestnut Mushroom Soup!
In a world of titles and categories, I lump myself with the “conscientious omnivores,” but chestnuts could nearly sway me to the vegetarian crowd. Spoonful after warm spoonful, the roasted chestnuts could easily fool you into believing meat lurked in this creamy soup.
So hit the grocery store, fight for the last crusty loaf of bread, and while the milk and eggs create a diversion, scrounge that lingering holiday offering of chestnuts. Then, cozy into the weekend with a big batch of hearty, vegetarian soup.
Chestnut Mushroom Soup (Vegetarian)
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart makes 12 servings
About This Recipe: The process of roasting and shelling chestnuts can be a bit tedious, but the end result is worth the experience! Hearty and meaty, this vegetarian soup pairs well with buttery brie on dense, whole grain bread. For a vegan option, use coconut oil for the sautéing, and garnish with a whipped coconut cream.
Soon, (all too soon!), the ball will be dropping, champagne will be popping, and couples will be smooching. It’s almost time to usher in 2016! How will you celebrate? With pork?
In some countries, including Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and Austria, pigs symbolize progress. One explanation is these animals never move backward. Another explanation stems from pigs’ feeding habits (they push their snouts forward along the ground when rooting for food). Either way, it’s good luck to start the year with pork. (Apologies to my vegetarian and vegan readers- noodles are also good luck!)
If you’re going to start a brand new year with pork, it’s a good excuse to try something fancy, and this is where I defer to the expertise of a butcher (this is also how I still maintain all ten fingers). Fortunately for me, this steel town has seen a resurgence of butchers, including the Butcher on Butler. After making my request, I watched in awe as he finessed this roast with an assortment of intimidating knives, all while telling me the story of how he came to be thebutcher on Butler Street.
The butcher shop had been a butcher shop as long for as he could remember. The previous owner had faithfully served his neighborhood into his old age. After he passed away, his widow didn’t know what to do with the shop. A neighboring bank had offered to buy the building to turn it into a parking lot. Gone would be the antique cooler with its hefty hardware. Gone would be this little plot of history. Gone would be the counter where neighbor after neighbor ordered the roasts and cuts for special occasions. This is when the current butcher, then a chef, had the idea to buy it and continue the legacy. The widow was overjoyed!
The building wanted to be a butcher shop. It was a community staple, and her husband’s life’s work would continue to blossom instead of being buried under layers of concrete. These stories of tradition and legacy melt my heart.
The modern butcher faces a slew of new obstacles- GMOs, confinement pens, hormones, cheap diets, inhumane practices, etc. What’s especially inspiring about this story is how the new butcher carried on the community traditions of a small, local shop, with the new set of quality standards- locally raised animals, trusted sources and quality products. Like the progressive, forward moving pig, the local butcher shop moved into the modern era!
So here’s to traditions and amendments, progress and fresh starts! Here’s to the coming New Year and fancy feasts!
Herb Crusted French Style Pork Roast
Adapted from Food & Wine
About This Recipe:Have your butcher “french” (remove the meat from) the rib bones for you. The uncooked herb-rubbed pork roast can be covered and refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before roasting. Food & Wine suggests pairing this succulent loin roast with a full-bodied red with enough flavor to stand up to its crisp, spicy crust, such as an Australian Grenache.
How many phone numbers, excluding your own, do you know by heart?
That’s the last phone number I committed to memory. It’s also the first phone number I committed to memory. It was my parents’ home line. Was, being the keyword. One year ago, they moved to a new state, and the phone number, along with many household items, lingered in Pennsylvania. With that move, I lost the last phone number in my memory. I lost 10 digits whose comfort I hadn’t fully appreciated until they were gone.
It’s the number I nerdily imagined giving to a boy via my TI-83 geek calculator in high school calculus class (it never happened-shocker!). When people called that number, I responded with all the polite, proper grammar my dad had instructed me to use, “Hello, Kogels’.” “Yes, this is she.” “No, she is not. May I take a message?” It’s the number I dialed every Sunday in college to give my updates, bemoan my stresses and say “I miss you, and I love you.” Those 10 digits may not lead to my mom or dad’s voices anymore, but they remain the numbers I know by heart.
That expression- to know by heart– may sound bizarre to someone learning English. How does the heart store information? Yet, it’s exactly how I store that random string of 10 digits. More than a space in my mind and memory, they’re numbers that mean something. They linger with me through comfort and nostalgia, like the steam that condenses on kitchen windows while soup simmers, or the way holiday cookies sprawl over a long, dining-room table.
This Creamy Potato Cabbage Soup may not be the passed-down sort of recipe, but a bowl of this warm, flavorful soup has the power to comfort and conjure nostalgia nonetheless. Whether the digits change, or the recipes change, these are still the numbers and experiences we know by heart.
Creamy Potato Cabbage Soup
About This Recipe: Choose a purple cabbage to give a faint violet hue to this soup. The recipe includes a few resourceful suggestions to waste less. Use the stalk of broccoli, not just the florets. If you have whole milk that has soured, use it in this soup. Alternately, you can use fresh whole milk or buttermilk for tang. For the creamy consistence, you’ll need an immersion blender, a food processor or a regular blender.
“It’s ok, they might have guns but we have flowers,” the father explained to his son, as the young boy tried to wrap his mind around the violence that had consumed his city.
Flowers and candles. Flowers to fight fears and candles to remember the fallen. The father and son’s poetic exchange, captured on camera, went viral because the world needed flowers and light during such a dark tunnel.
Paris struck a chord with so many because so many of us have experienced the capitol’s charms. However, instead of token post cards or cinematic moments, we francophiles found ourselves retracing our past adventures through unimaginable, horrific news footage. Vicariously, we felt the threats so many feel daily, and as best we could, we conveyed our fears, our sympathies, and our allegiance to the beloved city.
It was easy to feel for Paris. In my own case, I spent six months wandering the city’s streets, immersing myself in the language and daily life. I debated the best baguette while reading Émile Zola. I documented my routes on a worn map while trying to emulate slang expressions. I sipped coffees while admiring the perfection of the street fashion. As cliche as it was, I felt like I belonged there, like I had found my city. Though I departed, bidding farewell as an accordion player serenaded the canal, I guarded that connection.
I have not read Arabic literature in Beirut. I have not dined with locals in Bamako. I have not sat in a cafe and admired the rich textiles and traditions of Nigerian cities. I may not have a personal history with these places, but that doesn’t mean I should close my heart to them. I have not given the victims in these cities the sympathies they deserve. I admittedly have furthered the desperation felt in those nations by not cherishing their living, but it’s a wrong I want to right.
I recently sat in the audience for a screening of the film (T)error (which I can’t recommend enough!). At the end of the film, a Muslim woman, in the traditional hijab, addressed the director. “Thank you for making this film. Thank you for sparking a dialogue. I love Allah. I am a Muslim, but those attackers are not Muslim. They do not represent me.” She expressed the fear she feels when her eight children leave home after, hearing a man on the news say he wanted to shoot the next Muslim he saw. “I am human, and I bleed just like you.”
Several audience members made their way to the woman as the crowd dispersed. “Thank you for your comments,” they said one by one, touching her gently on the shoulder or leaning in close to her. Like the flowers and candles in France, this woman’s bravery was beauty in the face of fear. Her vulnerability turned fear into power.
Thankfully, I haven’t experienced a terrorist attack firsthand, and I hope I never do. I wish no one ever would, but certain evils are prevailing. It may be easier for me to believe in flowers and candles from my safe distance, but how else can we advance positively? I choose to believe in beauty and empathy wholeheartedly, and I will pay more attention to the attacks the media slights.
If my time in France taught me one thing, it was to appreciate quality– quality of time, quality of friends, quality of wine and the quality of a good meal shared. France taught me to slow down, to savor, to debate, to exchange and to defend time honored traditions. These luxuries are not universal, and especially in America, we ought to acknowledge and share our great fortunes.
As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches for those of us in the United States, it’s an apt time to remember how America formed, how generosity and gratitude gathered around a table and celebrated differences. As Thanksgiving draws near, I hope flowers and candles, beauty and empathy will prevail! I hope that our common fears will unite us and not tear us apart.
This is a recipe for sharing. It serves many, so extend the warmth of your oven to those close to you. I shared this lasagna with close friends who inspire me. Each fights, in his or her own way, for a better world. Each of these friends chooses beauty and empathy, and I’m grateful for it.
Pumpkin & Kale Lasagna (Gluten Free)
About this Recipe: Perfect for serving a group, this lasagna tastes like the best of fall! In the spirit of simpler preparations around the holidays, I used an organic canned pumpkin puree instead of roasting my own. The hearty green layer is a quick kale pesto. Use the leftovers wherever you would use a traditional basil pesto. Brown rice noodles make for more flavor, and they make this a gluten-free, crowd-pleasing option. Serve it with Wigle Whiskey’s Walkabout(whiskey + pressed apple cider).
When pangs of hunger interrupt a busy schedule and combine with apathy, a barren refrigerator and a dash or two of laziness, an Amy’s pizza is usually my salvation. (Thank God for that family and their organic pizzas!) However, a better solution is to nip that trifecta in the bud, and one of my best preventative measures is to stock my refrigerator with all the components necessary to make a Grain Bowl.
My Tips & Tricks for Grain Bowls
The beauty of the grain bowl is how easily a healthy meal comes together. By prepping big batches of the main components, you can make several wholesome, delicious meals with minimal effort (especially if you need to pack a lunch for work/school). Changing the combinations based on what’s available helps avoid boredom and prevent that long apathetic stare into the refrigerator. It’s also easy to make vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. Below are my general starting points for each component.
I used brown rice for this bowl, but I shuffle through a variety of grains like quinoa, farro and wild rice. If you use barley, you can save the liquid and make Lemon & Honey Barley Water. While the grain is in the final stages of steaming, I’ll add a hearty scoop of flax seeds for extra flavor and nutrients.
I like to include steamed broccoli and cauliflower. I keep these fairly simple.
This bowl features a mix of roasted sweet potatoes, parsnips and Brussels sprouts. Rainbow carrots and beets also work well. For the roasted veggies, I start with coconut oil, then splash them with Apple Cider Vinegar, a LOT of minced fresh ginger, a dusting of turmeric, and a black pepper. The result is a really healthy, flavorful roasted mix.
There are so many conflicting nutrition guides, so between raw, roasted and steamed in one bowl, I figure I’m bound to reap some benefits! For raw, I top the bowl with bright green avocados and pomegranate seeds. I also like fresh green peas or edamame. Pickled veggies are also a great option for flavor and crispness, especially in the winter.
My staples are wild-caught smoked salmon and hard-boiled eggs, or sometimes a sunny-side-up egg. I also add goat cheese crumbles from time to time.
The bowl packs so many flavors, a topping is hardly necessary, but I like to add just a drizzle of Raw Coconut Aminos or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. You can experiment with ginger dressings or honey mustard dressings too.
“Hi, I’d like to place an order for pick up, please.”
“Ok, what would you like?”
“Greens and Beans, please.”
Laughter and confusion ensued, as if I had just ordered a dirty joke with all the delivery prowess of Amy Schumer.
“Ohhhhh, you mean ‘Beans & Greens.'”
Isn’t that what I said?
I failed to see the hilarity in my word order reversal, but then again, I’m an outsider, a foreigner, a newbie when it comes to BEANS & Greens. This dish was not a tradition in my family. It was not a weekly staple. We didn’t debate which grandmother’s secret recipe was better, or whether an aunt used enough garlic. No, this is a staple I am adopting from my current city, from Pittsburgh.
This rusty, steel town probably adopted this staple from its Italian immigrants, but I can’t say for certain. The only research I have conducted is the occasional sampling at the small Italian bakery/cafe. It’s the one next to the espresso bar, where the old Italian men while away the day with caffeinated banter in broken English and broken Italian, depending on their generation. Like their changing language, recipes arrive on new shores and change, or in my case, they arrive in my kitchen, and I stubbornly cling to my word order- Greens and Beans!
As the Urban Farmer began preparing the farm for fall and frost, it was time to admit defeat on certain groundhog-nibbled vegetables and dig up their rows. The cauliflower and broccoli failed to grow beyond small, geometric clusters, but the plants’ leaves were dark, green, broad and impressive. As I uprooted the plants, the frugal, midwesterner in me brainstormed how to salvage the greens. So it was, dear Pittsburghers and Italians, I came to make Farm Greens & Beans, and we ate bacony, garlicky, parmesan accented greens for a week like happy peasants!
Here’s to hearty greens!
Farm Greens & Beans
About This Recipe: If you want a more precise Greens & Beans recipe, try this. My version is loose and easily adaptable. The main intention of this recipe is to take advantage of farm greens such as cauliflower leaves. If you’re not a farmer or gardener, you can still adapt this recipe and use the beet greens or turnip greens available in grocery stores with a combination of kale or collards. Either way, it’s a method to use the whole vegetable and not just a root. The quantity of greens is imprecise but easy to navigate. I wanted to make a large pot, so we used 3-4 hearty bunches, and filled a dutch oven with greens.