Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday), a weekly roundup of things that caught my eye this past week.

It’s officially the holiday season which means a lot of things: People driving like they just learned how to drive, obligatory work parties, Christmas decorations, and, if you’re in my family, latkes, or fried potato pancakes. It’s a time to reflect as much as it’s a time to enjoy.

This year, I feel really lucky because I got a holiday work bonus. I used it to buy a Canon Rebel camera that I’ve had my eye on for YEARS. I thought about investing the money in a couple different things but ultimately it came down to, what will I use the most and what do I want the most? One of my main goals this year is to take even better photos (especially of food), so this camera is the first step.

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I took my camera out for a test run yesterday. It was supposed to be a six mile loop through Augusta, one of my favorite small towns in Missouri, but it ended up becoming a 15 mile trek with a detour into a river ditch.

That’s okay though because I emerged unscathed. I also learned that no matter how dry a river delta looks, it probably isn’t that dry.

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I’m not going to lie to you: I’m still much more comfortable shooting photos on my iPhone. It might take me a while to get used to my new camera but I’m already seeing some promising results. It’s especially good for taking up-close photos. I snapped a few as I hiked around the country yesterday.

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Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

Can we talk about Jay-Z? Awesome. I’ve always loved Jay-Z’s music but I didn’t know much about the man behind the music. All that changed after I read this NYT Magazine interview. Jay-Z gets real about fame, politics, money, and marriage. My favorite line is when he says, “What you reveal, you heal.” It’s so true. Change comes from taking a honest look at something (or yourself) to make it better.

Do you ever see something you want and put off buying it but you’re not sure why? That’s what happened with me and these Adidas shoes. I came very close to buying them when I was in L.A. in September but I didn’t. Then a professor came into my office on Friday wearing them. “This is getting ridiculous,” I thought. As soon as she left my office, I ordered them online using a discount code.

I pride myself on watching almost every French movie on Netflix (unless it’s super bad). I just watched one last night called “Fanny’s Journey” and I’m obsessed. It’s about a young Jewish girl who helps a group of children escape the Nazis in France during World War II. It’s suspenseful, heartbreaking, and intense. I was sobbing at the end.

I can’t believe I’m just now getting around to telling you this, but you should subscribe to SoutherlyIt’s a weekly newsletter about climate issues in the South. It’s written by the always erudite Lyndsey Gilpin, who also happens to be one of my good friends. You don’t need to be a southerner to appreciate this newsletter. Check it out!

One of my goals is to try a new restaurant in St. Louis every week. I don’t always accomplish this but I do my best. Today I stopped by Seed Sprout Spoon for brunch and I was floored. I ordered the vegan pancakes with cranberry apple compote, local maple syrup, and pecans. They were some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had in my life.

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Last but certainly not least, it’s time for everyone to get wise about the tax bill that Republicans are trying to pass. This bill is TOXIC, people. Not only does it benefit the country’s wealthiest citizens at the expense of its poorest citizens, it also includes a provision that threatens abortion rights. Call your senator, call your representative. Protest and speak out. The time is now.

Enjoy your week! Here’s a song to get you started. I remember it every December and wonder how I ever forget about it.

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Thé Time: Big Heart Tea

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Welcome to this installment of Thé Time (Tea Time), where I feature some of the best teas I’ve tried lately.

I discovered Big Heart Tea earlier this year when I stopped by Lemon Gem, a cute little kitchen goods store in St. Louis’s Grove neighborhood. Big Heart is a local company but they’ve expanded their reach so now, they sell nationally.

I only know this because I’m obsessed with their Instagram and I saw that they made a trip to L.A. this year to roll out some of their products at Alfred Tea Room, a local tea joint that I want to try.

Big Heart is all over the place, though. They sell their tea everywhere from Champaign, IL, to Seattle. Sometimes I wonder if I would have discovered them in another place first because their stocklist is so long and I’m always on the move.

Still, I’m happy I found them at Lemon Gem. Big Heart has all different blends of single origin, loose leaf teas. One of my favorites is “Cup of Sunshine” with golden turmeric and ginger. It’s exactly what I need on a cold-ish winter morning when I underdressed for the weather and I show up to my office disgruntled and freezing.

Another one of my favorites is “Cup of Love.” It has real dried rose and tulsi. It’s very fragrant and calming. I was going to say that it’s like getting a hug from your grandmother but I don’t want to imply that the tea smells/tastes like mothballs.

ANYWAY. Wherever you are, it should be easy for you to get your hands on Big Heart Tea blends. If it’s not sold locally, check out their website for retail and wholesale options.

Here’s a song that I’m jamming out to this morning. It reminds me of my childhood even though I didn’t grow up in the 60s. I went through a stage where I was convinced that I was born in the wrong era so I guess this comes from that.

Enjoy your weekend! Join me back here on Sunday for “Dimanche (That Means Sunday)”. If you’re new to the series, check out the last edition here.

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Blueberry Crème Fraîche Oatmeal

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Blueberries and crème fraîche are one of the ultimate power couples. They go down in history next to other great power couples like Michelle and Barack, Batman and Robin, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

I found some crème fraîche on sale at the grocery store the other day so I decided to mix it into oatmeal with homemade blueberry syrup and some lemon zest. The citrusy lemon pairs well with the tartness of the berries and cream, and it balances the sweetness from the syrup.

I also sprinkled some almonds on top of the oatmeal because I like a little crunch in my breakfast. When you’re working with fruit-based dishes, I’ve found that texture is everything. It helps to have something crunchy with berries.

ANYWAY. I would highly recommend making this as soon as possible. I used the same blueberry syrup recipe that I used a few weeks ago when I made honey cornmeal pancakes. If you have extra, you can put it in a Mason Jar and store it in the fridge. Mine usually keeps for a couple weeks.

Here’s a song to get you started on your oatmeal-making journey. It’s good for days when you feel like you have a billion things to do so you put off everything to write about oatmeal.

And here’s another song from my new Christmas playlist. I usually don’t celebrate Christmas because my family celebrates Hanukkah, but this year I decorated for the holiday at work and I’m going to a bunch of Christmas parties. Can we all agree that “Last Christmas” is the best Christmas song of all time? The only acceptable answer is, yes.

Blueberry Crème Fraîche Oatmeal

Ingredients

for the syrup:
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup warm water
1 tsp lemon juice
lemon zest

for the oatmeal:
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almond milk
2 Tbsp crème fraîche, plus more for topping
zest from half a lemon
1/4-1/2 cup blueberry syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
blueberries and sliced almonds for topping

Directions

First, make the syrup. Combine the blueberries, maple syrup, warm water, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring the mixture occasionally. Remove from heat and pour into a Mason Jar for storage.

To make the oatmeal, bring the oats and almond milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce the heat for a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens to your taste. Add blueberry syrup, crème fraîche, and lemon zest. Top with more lemon zest, blueberries, sliced almonds, and a dollop of crème fraîche. Enjoy!

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Green Smoothie Bowl with Avocado Heart

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I used to wake up every morning and make a smoothie bowl for breakfast. Then I realized how good it felt to press snooze three times on my alarm and curl up into the fetal position in bed.

Still, sometimes I have an impulse to make a bowl so I drag myself out of bed early. Even though I’m tired and grumpy, making the bowl usually puts me in a good mood.

Cut to: This morning. It was cold and all I wanted to do was hide under my comforter but I had a vision of an avocado heart. I also had a bunch of spinach in the fridge that was on its way out. I decided to make a green smoothie bowl.

Originally I was going to use a cookie cutter to make the avocado heart but I couldn’t find the cutter. I was already running late for work so I took a paring knife and decided to try to cut one myself.

It was a success. I’m glad I learned that I can do that. Now I want to try carving avocados into all different shapes including stars.

I like making green bowls because they’re a more enjoyable way to drink a green smoothie. Usually when I’m in a rush, I throw everything in a blender, pulse it a few times, and pour it into a tall glass and drink it as I’m running around packing my bags for work.

With a green smoothie bowl, I take my time. I sit at the table with a straw and a spoon, fishing out chia seed=covered bananas and blueberries. I take leisurely sips, even though I look up at the clock and see that it’s 7:40. I have to be at work at 8 and my commute is 30 minutes with no traffic.

Still, I’d advocate for taking time to enjoy the simple things rather than being on time for work. Showing up 15-20 minutes late once in a while doesn’t hurt anyone. This sounds like a horrible philosophy but I think it’s one worth following.

I just saw a quote yesterday that really spoke to me: “Rien n’est plus sérieux que le plaisir.” Or, “Nothing is more serious than pleasure.” We should make time for the things we love. It’s very serious business.

Here’s a song that reminds me of this smoothie bowl. It’s light and chill but it still has attitude.

Green Smoothie with Avocado Heart

Ingredients

2 cups baby spinach
1 avocado, halved
1 cup almond milk
1 banana, halved
1/2 cup frozen pineapple chunks
chia seeds, almond slices, vanilla granola, and blueberries for topping

Directions

Blend the baby spinach, half an avocado, almond milk, banana, and pineapple chunks in a blender until smooth. Carve the other half of the avocado into a heart using a paring knife. You can do this by removing the green part of the avocado from the skin with a spoon. Then, slice it horizontally through the middle so you have the thickest part remaining. Use this part to carve the heart.

Pour the smoothie into a bowl and top with the avocado heart, banana slices, chia seeds, almond slices, vanilla granola, and blueberries. Enjoy!

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Confluence Kombucha

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A year ago when I moved back to St. Louis, my friend LeAnn told me that I needed to try Confluence Kombucha, a new restaurant in the Grove neighborhood. I met her there on a cold winter afternoon with semi-high expectations. I love kombucha and I really love people who make it locally. I wanted the restaurant to be good.

Luckily, it was. Not only is the kombucha delicious but the food is on point. Executive Chef and Master Brewer William Thomas Pauley runs the kitchen, or as it’s known at Confluence, the “gastroLAB.”

When you walk inside, you see Pauley standing in an open kitchen, cooking and putting together plates in painstaking detail. It almost looks like he’s doing a science experiment or restoring an artifact. He’s very precise.

Still, he does it all with a laid-back attitude and a sunny disposition. He seems to genuinely enjoy what he does and sharing it with people, which in my opinion is the hallmark of a good chef.

Confluence offers a bunch of deals on kombucha including a Mason Jar quart that you can take home with you, but I’d recommend starting with a kombucha tasting flight. Flavors are always rotating and based on what is seasonal. Over the summer, I had flavors infused with blackberry and rhubarb. When I showed up yesterday, I got one with kuchika, or green tea, and persimmon.

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Whatever you do, DO NOT skip the food. Even though the kombucha is the main attraction the food is just as good, if not better. Pauley likes to experiment with flavors and textures, which is important when you’re cooking vegetarian and vegan food.

Almost everything on the menu is vegetarian and vegan but some dishes have fish. Everything is sourced locally and tastes fresh. I would venture to say that Confluence has some of the best, if not the best, vegan and vegetarian food in the city.

The second to last time I went to Confluence, I got a crispy mushroom dish with acorn squash. It was the beginning of fall so squash and root vegetables were in season. I finished the meal with a holdout from summer, preserved peaches with roasted corn coconut ice cream and pea shoots. I cried when I tasted the first bite.

The corn was slightly smoky and sweet, the coconut added a depth of flavor, and the pea shoots were soft and flavorful. The preserved peaches were sweet and tender. Every time I took a bite, they flooded my mouth with honey.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 8.26.41 AMScreen Shot 2017-11-28 at 8.26.58 AMWhen I had lunch at Confluence yesterday, I got a dish I’ve wanted to try for a while: The tempeh with beets and black tahini. I’d seen someone next to me order it after I’d already placed my order.

Not only is this one of the best vegan dishes I’ve ever tried at Confluence, it’s one of the best vegan dishes I’ve tried in my life. The tempeh is warm, perfectly cooked, and lightly dusted with flakes of sea salt. The black tahini is rich and sweet, and the beets are soft and almost collapse under a fork. I tried to put together the perfect bite, or a piece of beet with tahini and tempeh.

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 8.19.45 AMThe other thing I love about Confluence is the warmth of the staff. I usually go to lunch there during the work week because it’s a few blocks from my office. I use it as an escape.

Whenever I stop by, Pauley is very kind and talkative. Sometimes Julienne Villarini, one of the co-owners, is around and we always have a nice chat. She’s very welcoming.

So yeah. If you’re in The Grove and you’re looking for a healthy, delicious option with freshly-brewed kombucha, I would highly recommend stopping into Confluence. They’re open for lunch and dinner and they just expanded their hours, so they’re open seven days a week.

Here’s a song that reminds me of Confluence. It takes me to my zen place just like the restaurant does.

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“I’m Going To Use Up Everything” Dinner

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Everyone should have at least one “I’m Going To Use Up Everything In My Pantry” dinner in their repertoire. The best part is, you don’t even need a recipe.

I’m usually pretty good about using up ingredients but there are definitely weeks when I look around and see a head of kale going bad in the fridge or sweet potatoes hanging out in the cupboard. I have grand plans to do something ambitious with them, like make a frittata, tacos, or another time-consuming dish, but it doesn’t happen.

Cue, “I’m Going To Use Up Everything In My Pantry” dinners. They often involve steaming or roasting, but they don’t have to. They usually involve using up everything, but they don’t have to do that, either.

My favorite kind of meal is one with lots of textures and flavors. For my using-up dinner, I usually start with a grain or seed base and then go from there. I like quinoa a lot but you could use bulgur, couscous, or another grain.

Then I start thinking about sautéing and roasting. I preheat the oven to 400 degrees. I line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spread sweet potatoes on one and chickpeas on another. I toss them with olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pop the baking sheets in the oven.

While that’s roasting, I focus on my extras, like kale or poached eggs. I have my quinoa simmering in one pot so I get out another and poach an egg.

Once the grains are about cooked, I take off the lid and throw in some torn kale or spinach leaves. I replace the lid and let the mixture cook like a pilaf. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tricks.

The worst part about this dinner is waiting for the sweet potatoes and chickpeas to be done, so I would suggest popping them in the oven as early as possible. Get that step out of the way first so by the time the other ingredients are done cooking, you can take them out of the oven and pop them in the bowl. Squeeze some lemon juice or lime on top and you have a delicious, one-bowl meal.

I’m getting really hungry writing about this, which probably means I need to make one of these bowls again soon. I’m not going to give you a recipe because I don’t use one, and because I basically just told you everything that I do, anyway.

I would *highly* recommend this dish for hectic weeks, cold winter nights, or whenever you need something quick and filling. It makes you feel like you accomplished a lot even if all you did was use up everything in your pantry. I guess when you think about it, that is an accomplishment.

Here’s a song I’ve been jamming out to lately. I’d forgotten about it until the other day when someone mentioned it to me. I love Josh Rouse.

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Dimanche (That Means Sunday)

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Welcome to this edition of Dimanche (That Means Sunday).

Thanksgiving weekend is winding down and I have mixed emotions. In one way, I’m happy because I spent the last few days surrounded by family and eating constantly. In another way, I’m sad because the long weekend is almost over and I have to go back to work tomorrow.

Still, it’s good knowing that I made the most of my time off. I’m going to go back to the real world tomorrow rejuvenated.

I used the past few days to take a welcome break from the news. I read articles here and there but I didn’t obsessively check news sites the way I usually do. I think that if you can, it pays to take a day away from the news cycle once in a while.

That being said, a few stories still caught my eye this week. I’ve included one in my roundup below.

I’ve also included a link to a shopping website because it’s that time of year. I HATE shopping on Black Friday and so I usually don’t, but this year I got a few things online. I like that option because I hate going to stores and having to contend with crowds. It’s just not worth the aggravation.

ANYWAY. I hope you have a good post-Thanksgiving week, filled with slices of leftover pie (if there are any) and good memories. Without further ado, here is Dimanche:

It’s hard to believe that it hasn’t been a year since Trump took office. As my mom said at Thanksgiving, it feels like it’s been 10 years. It’s not shocking to me that Trump hasn’t managed to get any major legislation through, given the fact that he’s an incompetent spray-tanned ignoramus. But December could hand him his first legislative victory, even though it seems unlikely. The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza lays out the situation in this article.

This feels shallow to write about but I’m obsessed with Madewell’s holiday sale. Oh well–maybe you’ll enjoy it as much as I do. I’m trying to watch my spending so I just indulged in a new top. I wasn’t sure I was into the velvet trend but I tried this shirt on the other day and I loved it. Sold.

The same old movies are usually on TV during the holiday weekend but last night, my sister and brother and I found “Austin Powers.” I hadn’t watched it since I was a little kid. I remember laughing more when I was younger but this scene cracked me up. My sister does a great impression of Dr. Evil delivering this monologue. Also, can we talk about the fact that Carrie Fisher was the therapist? TOTALLY missed that as a child.

Have you seen “SMILF” yet? If not, you should watch. It’s a new show about a single mother in Boston and her struggles as a mom and an aspiring actress. It’s written and directed by the very talented Frankie Shaw and features Rosie O’Donnell and Connie Britton.

One of my favorite things to do is walk into a grocery store and create a dish based on what looks good and what’s on sale. Cue, this creamy wild mushroom pasta. I’m going to tweak the recipe a little and make it one night this week for dinner.

Shameless plug: I had my first article published for St. Louis Magazine last week and I’m super excited about it. A local steakhouse provided 6,000 meals to needy community members on Thanksgiving day. It’s nice to see people giving back. Check out the story here.

Enjoy your week! See you back here next Sunday…same place, probably not the same time;)

Here’s a song to get you started this week.

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