Broccoli Stem Pecan Pesto (V)(GF)

IMG_9607Welcome back to the blog, a.k.a. Allie’s weekly opportunity to embarrass herself! I decided today that I’ve produced far too many sappy, meaningful posts recently and that the only solution is to break the streak with the lastest account of my lack of common sense. I hope you can take this as an opportunity to sit back, relax, and feel the prevalence of your own competence as you read about mine momentarily dwindling–don’t worry, I’m not looking to self-deprecate. It’s only that I realize the strangely therapeutic nature of entertainment that, in it’s ridiculousness, makes you feel better about yourself (I’ve binge watched more Toddlers and Tiaras in my day than I’d care to admit)–and I have plenty of experiences that will do just that. Prepare for the following ego boost.

Lately, I’ve incorporated a news podcast into my morning routine. As I’ve explained in the past, I sometimes struggle to stay as informed as I’d prefer, whether it be from busyness, anxiety, laziness, or occasional apathy. Listening as I get ready for the day has proven to be a manageable source of information and one that interests me, though. My choice podcast is The Daily, a New York Times created audio show that delves into one story of the news for an extended segment and then ends with a summary of other top happenings. I did listen to it for a brief period a while back, and because I subscribed to it then, every day’s episode was saved on my phone for years, leaving me with a bulk of episodes that needed to be deleted when I dove back into the podcast last month. Generally, I deleted a few each time, hoping to one day eliminate the clutter monster that greeted me each time I opened the app. IMG_9567

This morning, I realized I’d missed the show a few days earlier this week and immediately grew excited at the fact that I had a choice of which episode to play. Excited is a strong word–I’ve had a rather emotionally exhausting week, so the fact that I had options simply broke up the monotony of brushing my teeth and blindly pushing play. I quickly reviewed a few titles at the top of the list and chose the one that sounded most intriguing to me.

I’d like to preface this section with two points: 1) Remember that my level of political awareness has experienced much rise and fall, especially in years past. 2) I have a terrible reputation for being unobservant.

I absentmindedly washed my face as the familiar opening tune of the podcast bubbled from my phone’s speaker, followed by the date and introduction of the show. As the host began making his way into the featured story, though, my attention shifted more intently to his words. He described that an op ed had recently been published by the New York Times from an anonymous “senior official” in the Trump administration, and that it essentially spoke to the idea that there were individuals within the White House who were actively working to undermine the president’s unfavorable choices. The author claimed that multiple people in the administration were fully aware of and working to combat Trump’s lack of moral compass and resulting dangers to the nation. The Daily’s host was interviewing a New York Times editor to discuss (and to be blunt, pry for information about) the mysterious article.

As the episode continued, my interest and shock ballooned. My mind swirled with questions: Who published it? How did he or she have the guts to publish this at such a sensitive political time?? How is this affecting the current impeachment trial in the Senate??? Surely this was a publication bomb–how hadn’t I seen it blowing up on social media???? I reeled in my dimly-lit bathroom, confusion and bewilderment clouding my head. Man, I really can’t miss one of these again, I thought. This is crazy.IMG_9614

I rushed out the door to physical therapy, allowing the next episode I’d missed to play in the car as I drove but barely listening because I was still stuck on the previous story. As the kids say these days, I was shook.

At the end of my appointment, I had fifteen minutes of icing before I was finished. Seeing the perfect opportunity to research the dramatic news I’d heard that morning, I found the original op ed online and furiously began scrolling through it. The harsh tone of the writer was equally astonishing and inspiring, and the general sentiment regarding Trump was unfortunately accurate. Reaching the bottom of the article, I noticed a listing of articles written in response to the editorial. Oooo, this should be good, I thought. I clicked on the first one, noticing a detail on the page that I’d managed to, until then, overlook for the entire: the date. The article was written in september of 2018.

Yep. For those of you similarly uninformed people who haven’t been laughing at me for the preceding two paragraphs, I had not listened to a podcast from last week. I’d listened to a podcast from September 6, 2018, the next one in line for deletion. I’d hurled myself into an unnecessary and entirely misinformed agitation over news that happened a year and a half ago. This was just one of the many times I was thankful that I kept my realizations to myself–I can’t imagine the hilarity that would have ensued if I’d been on the phone with my mom and asked “Could you believe that article the New York Times published?”

If I had, though, or if I’d asked my physical therapist or inserted it into conversation with one of my friends, there would have been embarrassment. No doubt about that. Luckily, I refrained from those and chose the much more low-key option of exposing myself on my very public blog on the very permanent internet. You might laugh–you should, actually.IMG_9516

We all have dumb moments. We all have difficult days. We even all have heartbreaking, gut-hollowing, tear-filled experiences. That was quite an escalation, but it’s the truth. And regardless of which of them you’re handling right now, you’re going to come out okay. I recovered rather quickly from this morning’s political upheaval that occurred entirely within the confines of my bathroom and car. But I’ve been through some things recently that will take a lot longer than that. Sometimes it seems like a difficult incident just won’t go away, won’t stop reminding you of how much it hurts. I encourage you to breathe and take each day, each moment, at a time. The last time I had an actual meltdown, my friend lent me some makeup, and I walked out of the room ten minutes later standing a little taller and with a face that looked like it had never seen a tear in its life (or at least that’s what I imagined).

The reality I want you to remember is that you will make it through whatever it is. God will give you the grace to face whatever day and people and situations are threatening to steal your confidence. It will be hard, and you might have to sneak into a bathroom now and then to touch up your makeup, but you’ll do it. Next time you’re tempted to let shame take over your grasp on the day, don’t let it. As my mom once said–on a day where I wanted to keep my eyes down and disappear and the ONLY time she’s ever cursed–“Give ’em hell, Allie.” I like to think God was on her side for that one.

She is clothed with strength and dignity,
    and she laughs without fear of the future.

Proverbs 31:25

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Broccoli Stem Pecan Pesto (V)(GF)

Ingredients

  • 6 broccoli stems (the big stalks, mine were about 4 inches each)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 TBSP canola or olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup pecans
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor/Nutribullet. Pulse until no large chunks remain.
  2. Continue processing until desired smoothness is reached. (I like to stop it before it’s completely smooth to add a bit of texture from the pecans).
  3. Serve on pasta, sweet potato, sandwiches, veggies….anything your heart desires!
  4. Store extras in a sealed container in the fridge until ready to use.

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Sweet Potato Chili (V)

IMG_8431As you may have deduced from my previous posts, I have incredible roommates; the three of us have always been best friends, but our short time of living together has already drawn us closer than ever. That being said, we are all young, driven, busy people, so the fact that we literally occupy the same building has only provided a minimal increase in the amount of time we actually spend with each other. Getting all of us in the same room for something beyond a  “good morning” or “see you later, love y’all!” has been frustratingly rare, which is why I’m both thrilled and shocked to announce that we had not just one, but THREE whole instances of communal activity this week! Last Friday, we watched both the season finale to a show we’ve managed to view together (often weeks separating episodes) and a terrible Christmas rom-com (how can you not love them); on Monday we had another–this time spontaneous–movie event; and just yesterday, we planned to share a pancake breakfast. Any of you who spend more time away from home than in your house or who experience instant suspicion when a period of free time seems to appear in your schedule–you can understand how monumental this was!

One of the activities in which we ended up engaging post-movie was reading and answering would-you-rather questions. I can’t recall how or why we started, but within minutes of reading through them, our cozy adult living room was transformed into the scene of a sleepover party, laden with pillows and laced with an ambiance of giggles. Given the fact that all three of us are far too difficult to simply pick one of the two choices, many of the questions evolved into elaborate discussion, brimming with hypothetical terms and conditions before we dared choose our answers. Truthfully, we quite obliterated the purposefully minimalist nature of the game, finding pleasure in manipulating each option to fit our liking– but it certainly provided some entertaining banter.

I did notice one trend, though, in our conversation. Many of the questions involved being able to travel for free, dine anywhere we pleased, receive an unheard of opportunity or superpower–all of those imagination-sparking scenarios. Often when we were contemplating the choices, the most common followup question was “Well, would I be doing this by myself, or with other people?” Many times, we found that we simply couldn’t decide on a statement unless we invented the prerequisite that we would be with family, for example. IMG_8417

I realize, of course–and I’d tell anyone who inquired–that being able to see and spend time with my family is very important in my life. But the imaginative situations of would-you-rather, as nonsensical as they are, really emboldened my understanding of just how important it is. Listening to the impossible crossroads of the questions and realizing that they were impossible for me largely because I am not wholly me without my family and friends was telling. I sat on that couch last Friday with Allie and Annie, participating in an activity that, on my own, would have been comparatively boring. I’m writing this from the plane home to see my family–without whom, Thanksgiving would simply not be Thanksgiving. I went to a cafe with my friend Maddie, an outing that probably would have been uneventful, if not borderline depressing alone. And  even killed three hours at the airport (a place notorious for its blandness) having fun with my good friend Sam. 

Maybe it’s the whole tone of Thanksgiving, or even the nearing Christmas season that’s bringing out a sentimental spirit in me. But wow, doing life is just SO much better with people you love. I think we can all look forward, as always, to the food this Thursday, but pay some special attention to the faces at the table too. 

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in their toil–this is the gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

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Sweet Potato Chili (V)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups coarsely chopped sweet potatoes
  • 2 cans black beans
  • 2 cans garbanzo beans
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder

 

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a slow cooker. 
  2. Cook on low for 6 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Turn slow cooker down to warm. 
  3. Remove 2-3 cups of chili, and allow to cool completely.
  4. Pulse cooled chili in Nutribullet or blender until completely smooth.
  5. Stir the pureed chili back into the original pot of chili to thicken it. 
  6. *Repeat steps 3-5 with another batch of chili if you desire it thicker.
  7. Add toppings of choice, and enjoy! (vegan/non-vegan cheese, plain Greek yogurt, avocado, etc)
  8. Refrigerate leftovers in sealed containers; reheat in microwave.

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“Everything but the Kitchen Sink” Pizza (V)

IMG_7031I just submitted my PA voter registration application: I figured after having lived in Pittsburgh for 3 years and now officially working a full-time job here, it was about time for me to put away the South Carolina voting ID. I’m not proud to say that my slow pace in getting it done has unfortunately been typical for me in the realm of this civic duty: I didn’t even vote the first time I was able–I say that through a grimace, but I’m being honest. Despite the incredible privilege that being able to vote is, the task often feels overwhelming. Politics in general, I should say, can feel overwhelming.

I rarely feel confident expressing my stance on political issues. In fact, I have a terrible habit of avoiding the formation of strong opinions in the first place–but particularly with politically-driven topics. It simply takes a LOT of time and familiarity for me to feel educated enough, aware enough, and bold enough, to take concrete stances. I admire those people, especially as young as me, who confidently advocate and argue for their positions on important issues that circulate the media, with growing tenacity when elections approach. But for many topics, I am just not there quite yet. How in the world am I, a 21 year-old ballet dancer, supposed to know the best strategy to progress with relations with Iran, or the long-term effects of a new tax cut? Questions like these often wedge themselves uncomfortably between me and potential opinions, or decided support for a political candidate. When I do get sudden motivation to combat my chronic equivocation, I’ll go through phases of being determinedly informed: watching full debates, reading daily news articles, conversing with my parents about current events. Often, though, my initially fiery curiosity dwindles with the simply overbearing quantity of “stuff” I still don’t know, the impossibility of learning everything I’d like to before building my political identity…thus, my engagement fades and my repertoire of opinions remains rather sad. As someone who feels more strongly about my moral ideology than anything else, I’m always left wishing those beliefs were enough to carry my voting responsibilities.

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I started thinking about this the other day. I was reading a passage in Deuteronomy–some may be acquainted with its riveting paragraphs about rules of animal sacrifice and the many ways in which you can become unclean (and then clean again); it’s a book that’s certainly no lesser than the other elements of the Bible but that anyone would agree is not an easy beach read. In fact, I’ve been struggling for weeks with Deuteronomy and other Old Testament books, finding that really engaging and studying them, especially at 6am, is something I fail to master most mornings. 

As I re-read a some chapters, though, a few verses struck me enough to interrupt my robotic skimming through the lines.

“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 14:28-29

“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” Deuteronomy 15:11

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impromptu pizza selfie

At first glance, these are statements certainly charged by the simple “do-good” mentality, the agreeable call to “love your neighbor.” But what struck me is how God really starts to sound political here! Without advocating for any particular ideology (you know I don’t do the sharing opinions thing 😛 ), I won’t hesitate to point out that these verses indirectly address topics of immigration, role of government, and poverty/ the rich-poor gap. I was not only taken aback by the clarity of instruction for God’s people, but for the relevancy of the words in today’s climate. This, while not quite a cheat-sheet, was the reminder I needed that my Christian beliefs not only help guide my political engagement, but they stress the importance of it in the first place! I started that day feeling perhaps I wasn’t quite as ill-equipped for this journey towards participation as I thought.

Though in principle they’re near opposites, the struggle for me to swallow both the dry pages of biblical books and the massive exchange of current political information in the world. Maybe the beginnings of overcoming my fear of each is to realize that they’re not quite as disconnected as I think. While a healthy society in this world can’t function without separation of church and state, I’m encouraged by the notion that an individual’s personal beliefs should be the first priority when it comes to making their voice heard in society. Getting to vote is such a blessing. Choosing how to vote is intimidating. But those things you do feel strongly about, those moral principles that drive your day-to-day life, the values that you wish everyone could share– start there.

A man’s heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

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“Everything but the Kitchen Sink” Pizza (V)

Ingredients

CRUST

  • 1 packet of instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water (not hot, not room temp)
  • about 2 1/4 cups + 2 TBSP bread flour (may vary slightly)

PESTO (This is a loose recipe–adjust to taste or use your own favorite pesto!)

  • two handfuls basil
  • one handful parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 6 TBSP water
  • salt/pepper to taste

TOPPINGS

  • heaping 1/2 cup oyster mushrooms
  • heaping 1/2 cup lobster mushrooms
  • Vidalia onions, sliced
  • olive oil for cooking mushrooms and onions
  • green onion, chopped
  • fresh figs, sliced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • vegan cheese (I used Violife’s feta block–it was great!)
  • balsamic vinegar

Instructions

CRUST

  1. Combine sugar, warm water, salt, and instant yeast in a bowl. Stir. Mix in olive oil.
  2. Begin adding flour gradually, mixing with a wooden spoon until it’s completely combined. Dough should be sticky but hold together nicely.
  3. Work dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover with dish towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Prepare toppings while it rises).
  4. Preheat the oven as high as it will go (according to my oven thermometer, mine reached about 515°F). Place a pizza stone or overturned baking sheet in to heat up.
  5. Split dough in half; work first half into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, slightly press the dough ball flat, and press your fingers in a ring about an inch from the edge to begin forming a crust.
  6. Continue to stretch the dough with your hands–sometimes laying it across your fists and letting it droop as you move your hands around it helps. Continue until the crust is very flat with a slightly thicker crust. (It will be approximately 10″ in diameter.
  7. Place prepared crust on piece of parchment paper. Top with desired toppings, and brush crust with olive oil.
  8. Using a cutting board, slide pizza onto stone/tray with the parchment still underneath, and bake in preheated oven for about 9-10 minutes, or until the crust and underside is deep golden brown.

TOPPINGS

  1. Caramelize onions: cook onions over medium-low heat in a skillet until brown and translucent with about a TBSP of olive oil, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Cook mushrooms: soak mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes if dehydrated. Cook in a skillet over medium heat with olive oil, garlic, salt, and green onion until tender.
  3. Combine all pesto ingredients in a food processor/Nutribullet.

 

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“Cheesy” Pasta with Roasted Broccoli (V)

IMG_5737My friend came over for dinner yesterday (you can take a wild guess at what we ate 😀 ), and at some point during the evening I mentioned an event that I was thinking about attending this Fall. When I continued to ramble on about it and explained that I’d already put the date in my calendar just in case, she chuckled and said “You really like to have a plan, don’t you?”

Rewind back to four days ago, as I sat with my sister, Katie, on the porch of my apartment with all the doors nicely locked–and my keys still inside. It was already almost 11 a.m., and I nervously tapped my foot to the beat of the seconds that I could feel speeding by, all of them wasted: we should have been at the shore of the Allegheny, zipping up our life jackets and boarding a kayak, and instead we were stuck waiting for my property manager to let us back into the building, thanks to my brilliant attention to detail. I watched clouds build across the sky, casting a symbolic shadow over my perfectly manicured itinerary for the day. IMG_5553

The point is, YES. I love plans. Plans are wonderful. My relationships with written to-do lists, mental preparation, and neatly organized schedules are undoubtedly stronger than any romantic experience I’ve had in my life. That’s why I waited until I decided exactly how I wanted to decorate my new room before hanging even one thing on the walls; it’s why I never start a new bake without first writing down a rough draft version of the recipe. And it’s also why–despite the fact that we could kayak on literally any of the six days that Katie was here–I was ready to let that morning’s incident deem the day a failure.IMG_5560

Thankfully, my sister does not share my excessive interest in carefully plotting the hours of each day. Rather, she was probably ready to give me a solid slap if I asked her again “So, what time do you want to get dinner later?” or “What time should I set the alarm for tomorrow?” or “Okay, so you still want to do the park on Thursday? In the morning? Before or after breakfast?.” To me, it was necessary to keep tight watch on each hour of our time together, as if they could sneak away unused if we weren’t careful. For her, spending the week with a figure-it-out-as-we-go mentality was the best strategy. I don’t think I need to identify the more realistic–and often more rewarding–approach.

If you need a hint, consider the fact that the very day when I’d unintentionally thwarted our intentions for going downtown and then out to lunch, we ended up having the most fun of any day that week. We explored Highland Park, a park just down the road that’s laden with hidden forest trails, streams, flowers, and foliage. The number of pictures we took, laughs we shared, and new things we encountered that afternoon far surpassed that of the rest of her visit. And I was ready to declare it a ruined day after 20 minutes of waiting on the porch. IMG_4760 (2)

In other news of things for which we can’t plan, Katie has developed an intolerance to dairy. After suffering from stomach problems for months, she reluctantly cut dairy from her diet to see whether it would have an affect. Given the fact that Alfredo and mac and cheese are her two favorite things in this life, it was safe to say she was praying that the switch would make no difference, that it was something else causing the issues. Sadly, that was not the case. Her relief after going dairy-free was quick and obvious, and  occasional flare ups paralleled exactly the occasional cheese or milk she tried with hope.IMG_5574

Just as she had that morning on the porch, though, Katie didn’t freak out. She saw the situation in front of her and matter-of-factly accepted it as her new reality. I admire so much her ability to remain unphased by things that would thoroughly shake a chronic strategist like myself. So, beyond the periodic sigh when she remembers she can’t have her usual ice cream or grilled cheese again, she doesn’t bat an eye at the restrictions. Meanwhile, I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about what this means for her now, and I’ve met her new diet with, you guessed it: a plan. I want to make it as hard as possible for her to miss dairy, and this pasta is my first go at the challenge. Based on the way her eyes popped out of her head when she tasted it last Sunday, I’d say it was a success. I’m so grateful for ALL of the time we shared this week, even those moments I was sure I’d messed up for her. Luckily for me, it takes a lot more than getting locked out to rattle Katie. Luckily for Katie, I may not always be the best at staying calm when my schedule goes awry, but I sure can make a mean bowl of pasta.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Matthew 8:23-26

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“Cheesy” Pasta with Roasted Broccoli (V)

This creamy, savory pasta is not only the ultimate comfort food, but the ultimate crowd-pleaser. With no meat, dairy, or eggs (and no chance you’ll miss them either), everyone can have a bowl of these cheesy noodles. 

Ingredients

  • 1 package (about 6 cups dry) cooked whole wheat fusilli pasta
  • 1 cup onions chopped into large chunks (I used two small Vidalias)
  • 6 cups chopped broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed but not peeled
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • cooking spray
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 2/3 cups cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 20 minutes
  • 2 TBSP plus 2 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup plus 5 TBSP almond milk, separated
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (decrease this amount if using table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • about 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Spread onions, garlic, and broccoli on baking sheet. Drizzle Dijon mustard over all of them, and stir each vegetable to coat it.
  3. Spray the entire tray lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring twice as they cook to ensure an even roast.
  5. Remove tray from oven, set broccoli aside, and place onions/garlic in freezer to cool quickly. (You could also roast the vegetables the day before if desired).
  6. In the cup of a Nutribullet or food processor, combine soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, salt, nutmeg, pepper, turmeric, and 5 TBSP almond milk.
  7. Add the cooled onions (should be about 1/2 cup once cooked) and garlic (peel garlic first). Pulse until very smooth, and set aside.
  8. Make a roux: place butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Once melted, stir in flour.
  9. When mixture is bubbling throughout, gradually stir in remaining 1 cup of almond milk.
  10. Reduce heat to low, and begin stirring in the cashew mixture until completely incorporated. For a creamier pasta, add slightly more almond milk as desired.
  11. Stir sauce into the cooked pasta. Mix in roasted broccoli, and serve immediately.
  12. Keep leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge, and add a little almond milk as needed when reheating.

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