Lemony Gold beets + Creamy Goat Cheese pasta w. crushed red peppers

LEMONY GOLD BEETS + CREAMY GOAT CHEESE PASTA W. CRUSHED RED PEPPERSIn an effort to liven up my palate from the creamy dishes that are popular this time of year, I wanted to leverage some of the delicious local, in-season lemons. This weekend, I stumbled upon Louisa Shafia’s Lemony Gold Beet Barley Risotto in 2009′s Lucid Food (a visually stunning cookbook full of seasonal recipes) and saw that I could easily incorporate parts of this dish with one of my standby pasta recipes. It made for an enlivening and comforting dinner with both new and familiar elements – an instant fan favorite at our house.

Make this little pot o’ gold whenever you need some vivid colors and jolts of citrus to brighten up February, the month in which we are made to believe winter will never give way to spring.

Lemony Gold beets + Creamy Goat Cheese pasta w. crushed red peppers

Serves 4 average adult humans (or 2 hungry hippos)

Ingredients:

2-4 Gold beets, washed and greens trimmed off

Zest of 1 lemon + 1 TSP fresh squeezed juice

6 TBSP olive oil

1 pound penne rigate

S + P, to taste

4 oz. soft goat cheese

Crushed red peppers (or cayenne pepper), to taste

Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved

Directions:

Rinse the beets and place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring to a high simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until the beets are easily penetrated with a fork (this can take anywhere from 20 – 60 minutes).

As the beets cook, zest and juice the lemon, setting aside the zest and 1 TSP of the juice for the meal. I used the rest of the juice for our water glasses, but that’s because I am actually just a walking lemon head pretending to be an adult human.

Once the beets are cooked through, place them in a bowl of cool water and slip off the skins using your hands or the edge of a spoon. Coarsely chop the beets, and set aside in a small to medium mixing bowl.

Bring another pot of water to boil for the pasta. Just cook to the directions on the box or until the noodles are al dente.

As the pasta cooks, mash the chopped beets until they are chunky and just rougher than the texture of apple sauce. Add in the zest, lemon juice, olive oil, S + P to taste. Stir thoroughly and set aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving about a half an inch of the water (or about a 1/2 cup) and return the pasta and water to the pot. Mix in the goat cheese, stirring as it melts into a cream sauce. Add in the beet mixture, tossing gently.

Serve the pasta warm with small shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano and sprinkle with red pepper to taste.

Note: Mix in sautéed garlic, onion and some greens to make this dish a little more toothsome

I’ll end with the small confession that I basically try to put lemons, goat cheese or crushed red pepper on everything. Everything. All of the things. And it is delicious.

A LABOR DAY MEAL OF EPIC PROPORKTION

This post was originally posted to my former blog September 2010
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It deeply saddens me to say goodbye to the summer, which I suppose is a testament to how great this summer was to me. In order to soften the blow a little, I planned a special end-of-summer meal to be carted over to our neighborhood park. We wanted to salute the summer over grilled eats and a meal around the picnic table. Everything’s just a little bit more enjoyable over a good meal.

This meal in particular was a stretch for me because I made [brief pause for dramatic effect] pork chops. I cooked it. I ate it. I even liked it. This is significant as I’ve had it out against pork since I was about 8 years old. I have a distinct memory, which I’ll spare you the details of, where it ended in me declaring to the world: “I’ll never eat pig again!” And I didn’t. I had a bevy of reasons I wouldn’t eat it, and for about 16 solid years I stuck to my guns. I saw no pork. I cooked no pork. I ate no pork.

Sadly, my mister totally digs on pork and has long requested I reconsider my whole hog avoidance. That I please give pork a chance. Happy Labor Day to him.

As I was planning out the meals for the week I came across this absolutely lovely farm stand on Valmont and 75th in Boulder, called Munson Farm. They were selling local peaches the size of softballs and the freshest ears of corn I’ve ever seen in real life. Once I loaded up entirely too much of each, all I needed was a good meat to round out a delicious summer meal. Well, lucky Mister, pork chops were on sale and I was feeling courageous.

Pork Chops w. Blue Cheese, Grilled Peaches + Corn on the Cob

Serves 2

This recipe was not only delicious but also easy to tote over to the park for a picnic. Add 5 bonus points.

You’ll need:

2 pork chops; we opted for smaller sized chops for the budget… and my deep-seated fear of hating this dinner

Roughly 3 TBSP Stoneground or dijon mustard (eyeball it)

2 C water

Salt and pepper to taste

Blue cheese to taste; I used Salemville Amish cows milk

2 ears of corn

1 giant peach (a la James)

Directions:

Rinse the pork chops under cool water and set aside. In a large bag, combine the mustard, water, salt and pepper. Once you have your desired consistency and flavor for your brine*, place the pork chops in the bag and seal.

Place in fridge for 2-4 hours to chill and allow the flavors to fully marry. Place the bag in a baking pan in case the zipper lock gives way- unless, of course, you like to live dangerously.

Heat up a greased grill to a medium heat. Place the pork chops on the grill and cook thoroughly, flipping as needed – use a cooking thermometer

While pork chops are cooking, place ears of corn still in husks directly on the grill. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until corn is fully cooked but still crisp in texture. To eat, pull back husks and use them as a handle (add 5 kitsch points)

If you have additional room on the grill, slice peaches in half and place flesh-down the the grill. Cook these to your desired consistency. I found a good indicator for me was the temperature of the skin. Once the skin began to feel warm to the touch and there were visible grill marks on the flesh of the peach I pulled them off the heat. You can experiment with this one, but probably want to stray away from over cooking since it makes the texture really stringy and saps much of the flavor.

About 5-10 minutes before pulling the pork chops off of the grill crumble the blue cheese over the meat so that it begins to soften and melt but before it turns runny or liquid in texture.

Arrange these items on your plate and pair with your favorite summer beer. Follow it up with a great conversation with your friends or a Lady GaGa sunset dance party. Your choice.

*Many people add an apple cider to their brine, but I wanted to keep it savory since we were going to be pairing the meat with peaches

Blessed are the peacemakers: a brief tribute to Xe

MemorialA little over a week ago, a friend of Tyler’s was senselessly killed. My heart is still heavy and sore over the thought of it. I didn’t know him all that well, only through  conversations at the grocery store and at the company Christmas party. This much I know, he was one of the gentler souls I’ve ever met. I always enjoyed seeing him and getting the chance to say hello. It took me little time to realize he was someone who wanted to live a simple, peaceful, vibrant life and at only 24, he was doing that very well.

The details of his death are unclear, but after attending a beautiful memorial for him, they only pale in comparison to the details of his life. Those closest to him described him as sunlight, as the person who would have helped them heal in light of such a tragedy, as a deep and spiritual friend, and a sweet younger brother.

This certainly has laid a mile marker on our life in the city. A reminder that we don’t have time to waste, and an inspiration to live in a way that can change the world you’re living in. At the very least, impact the lives of those you live among.

My thoughts on guns are fully explained elsewhere, and really belong there more than they belong here. But I just want to say, this issue now has two faces for me. The one of kind, gentle, young, Xe, who’s life was taken far too soon. Far, far too soon. And the one of the confused, scared, misled other who likely lost themselves that night, before knowing a minute of the life they were stealing. I am confident that had the scenario been slowed, a conversation had, the outcome would have been entirely different.  If it weren’t so easy, so fast, so disconnected to end a life.

Xe’s father said as he lead the memorial for his son, just down the street from where he was killed,”Please don’t hate anyone, as much as you may want to. Send love and light to the person who opened the door for my son that night.” Then, he lead a processional to the corner where it happened and asked for peace for the neighborhood, for a better future.

I hope I can hold that depth of grace for others in my life.

Rest peacefully, Xe. After all, blessed are the peacemakers. I only wish I could have known you better.

Our cognitive dissonance on weapons

I’ve never been one short on words. But in the days following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, I have been at a complete loss. In part out of utter shock at the horror of this most recent shooting, and in part by the truly shocking comments and flippant soundbites people have spewed off to downplay the news while also expressing condolences for the lost lives. I simply cannot follow the logic that connects the two.

What I find so disheartening in this renewed talk about guns and our increasingly commonplace experience of mass murders, because that is what they are, is the cognitive dissonance of our worldviews.

The utility of social networks makes dialogue a nonessential and so, we monologue. We monologue all day long. Sometimes at each other, and sometimes to no one in particular. But what social media doesn’t do is forget. So those things you said emphatically months ago are still living and breathing as you say what you say today. We’ve laid plain the chasms in our logic for the world to see, but  still ramble on about opposing philosophies, staking reputation, friendships and respect on the validity of one current opinion.

Cognitive dissonance is the term used for anyone holding conflicting thoughts and experiencing pain as a result.  Through social media and traditional media, I see serious cognitive dissonance on assault weapons. This is causing anguish, political inaction and allowing more tragic massacres to go unaddressed.

Of all the opposing viewpoints, these are the conflicting philosophies I find utterly confounding:

  1. Pro-life, pro-gun paradigms
  2. Christian brothers and sisters defending assault weapons in the name of protection
  3. The un-amendable amended amendment

Sanctity of life

One of the hardest things about this recent loss of life is the sweet, innocent age of a majority of the victims. Many of these kids likely fell asleep on car rides, thought “guts” was a bad word, and were expectantly waiting to see if Santa would give them what they had asked for this Christmas. They were babies.

During the election we learned that the overwhelming majority of conservative republicans believe life to begin at conception. Some states when so far as to enact laws stating all women were pregnant each month until proven not pregnant. The push was firmly rooted in concept that all life is precious, and babies, even those not yet born, deserved a protected environment where no one could willfully harm or kill them. Because, they were babies.

This is where the disconnect occurs for me. Many of the people so deeply offended by abortion also believe everyone has a right to own gun, and not just a gun, any gun. I understand this is a traditional conservative perspective. It was even one I held for much of my life, though I don’t anymore.

What I don’t understand is how someone who is pro-life can concurrently advocate for the right to a weapon created for war, created solely to end lives?

Christians advocating for assault weapons

One of the great NRA soundbites refers to an inalienable God-given right, when referring to our guns and other “arms.” But as a Christian, I find this rhetoric far more reverent to the identity of a nationalist than to the identity of someone following Christ. In fact, I find them strictly in opposition of the way Jesus lived and commanded his followers live. the familiar directive is that Christians are called to “turn the other cheek,” to give not only their cloak to a thief on the road, but all of their clothing.

Further, looking to how Jesus lived and died leaves little to no room for weapons in the name of our personal rights. Jesus was an innocent man who willingly allowed Roman soldiers to give him a criminal’s death. When Peter tried to fight off guards, he yelled at him to stop saying, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who take up a sword will die by a sword.” In a moment of total vulnerability, being led to his death, he commanded peace.

I wonder where my fellow Christians have received the doctrine that these directives from our God were somehow amended to allow for our right to guns. Our right to protection through violence. Our right to willingly take the life of another person. In the argument of self-protection against robbers, I look at the lives of the early Christian monks. You couldn’t ever still from a monk, because there was no way you could take something from them they weren’t willing to give you. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “there was nothing the world could hold them by, for the world only snares us by the fringes of our garments, the frivolous exteriors of our lives.”

I don’t see any room for assault weapons or violence in a Christian paradigm without seriously amending the bible. Which brings me to my next thought.

Why can’t we amend the second amendment?

The favorite statement is that the government is trying to take away all guns. They’re not. Sure, the most extreme liberals might. But overall, people for gun control just want to keep access to war machines limited to those in the military and law enforcement.

This idea that we have an entitlement to any weapon we so choose is seriously incorrect. We do not. We may not drive a tank, we may not target shoot with grenades, we may not shoot rocket launchers for sport, and we are not constitutionally permitted to shoot torpedoes, even during hunting season. The second amendment is not an open door for access to these weapons of major force and destruction. Why? Because they’ve been developed for war.

When we look at the weapons used in any of the recent shooting massacres, we can clearly see that they too are created for war. At the very least, created to take a large number of human lives in a matter of seconds. And that’s exactly what they do.

I won’t even go into the idea of overthrowing the government with our stockpile of weapons. Do a quick Google search of “drone strikes” to understand why. You would have better luck defending yourself from the destruction of a tsunami with my drugstore umbrella.

So what?

I didn’t write this to put myself or those who agree with me on a pedestal or because I know every important fact on this issue. In fact, I have no doubt there are friends and family who know more about one, or all, of these things and may not agree with me. I’m ok with that, and I’m open to hear their views.

I wrote this because I remember watching the news of with my friend (now step-sister) and her remarking that her dad (my now step-dad) was one of the SWAT members rushing in to pull kids from the bloodied Columbine library. Because I grew up staying home from school every April 20th from that year through graduation, because I was afraid of a repeat.

I wrote this because went to college at a time when every lecture hall could be likened to one at Virginia Tech. In the weeks following that shooting, I never entered a classroom without considering how I could possibly escape if someone else had the same horrific idea.

I wrote this because began school in a time where school shootings were unheard of, flukes, uncommon flashes of evil. As I grew up, I watched that rapidly transform. I’ve heard every argument of arming teachers, students, undercover cops. And, I have attended two schools where they have foiled copycat plots, complete with ammunition, pipe bombs and hit lists of students.

Finally, I wrote this because I want you to know that for me, the thing causing the greatest cognitive dissonance in my life is the idea that guns create freedom. In my life, I’ve only known them to create fear, the opposite of freedom.

I hope anyone who reads this can take a moment to shift this prism of politics and see where the light hits from the place I’m looking in on the issue. I assure you, there is light on this side as well. Not all of it, but certainly some.

Carmel by-the-Sea | Seeking beauty and applauding the sunset

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 We found ourselves in Carmel by way of a winding coastal drive, called further and further south by the road signs promising beauty and breathtaking vistas. The morning began in someone else’s home, states away from our own and within the first two weeks of our move to San Francisco. Knowing we would likely part with our car once we moved into the city, we decided to venture our and seek the scenes boasted of along the central coast. A promise made to Tyler, “You will absolutely love Monterrey Bay,” was quickly fulfilled, inspiring him to drive further for glimpses of turquoise waters on rocky cliffs.

As we wound through the 17-mile Drive, we constantly urged one another “Look!” Momentary stops along the road and futile attempts to capture the views on camera assured us this was a place and time we wanted to behold. In our memories. In our hearts. In any tangible form. The winding drive spilled us out to the beaches of Carmel by-the-Sea. the cove was bordered by mossy cliffs and succulent groves and cushioned by powdery sand. It was the most beautiful stop of our scenic day, so we decided to linger.

We stood captivated by the view a few moments before giving in to our inner urges to run, jump and giggle along the seemingly sacred shoreline. We we led along the water by our golden retriever, Buster, as he bounded off-leash in and out of the surf for the very first time.

Eventually, we dusted off our feet and slipped back into our shoes to wander into a town promising magic. After ducking into sailing themed shops and peeking over the fences of arts and crafts style B&Bs, we were drawn back down the hill to the beach. As we walked we noticed others pouring from doorways and joining us in the direction of the water. The asphalt transitioned into sand and I suddenly noticed throngs of people lounging on the sand, dressed for dinner but with nowhere else to go.

We stood quietly in the company of strangers watching the orange sun sink into the pacific. I noticed I was not willing it to hurry as I do with so many processes in life. I preferred to watch it, observe it, with not pressure or expectations beyond its natural course.

the sky held the deep pinks and purples even after the sun disappeared and the reverent crowd actually began to applaud. The sun sets daily, marking a day’s journey for everyone, and often it does so without ceremony. Frequently it sets without so much as a pause or a moment of celebration for all we’ve accomplished while it was lighting the day. It sets and allows us to start over. To pick up where we left off. To embrace adventure. To love those entrusted to us. To watch the sun set again.

We stood there missing our friends and family in Colorado not knowing where we would call home in the coming weeks. In the moment we reveled in knowing we’d come to California for many known reasons, but more so for the unknown promises that accompany following the path of light. We applauded the journey of the sun that day and rejoiced in our own day’s journey. We are fortunate to take each day at a time.

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