lifestyle

The flaws of focusing on one thing

The flaws of focusing on one thing

Throughout my whole life, people have told me to choose one thing and focus on it. Whether that’s choosing one extracurricular activity, a major in college, and a career path, I’ve always abided by this rule but have internally struggled with the concept. Why do I have to pigeon hole myself into “one thing” when I’m interested in so many different things? It felt restrictive as if I was closing the doors to possible opportunities. As an adult looking back, this whole system feels somewhat wrong. The more I think about it, this rule seems like it was made up by people of power to mold other people into something they can utilize to grow their businesses.

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A day with the chefs at Emmer and Rye

 
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At the beginning of the month was my birthday, and birthdays mean presents. But for my past three birthdays, Anthony has been surprising me with experiences instead of physical gifts. Two years ago was a Santa Rosa and Tahoe trip. Last year was a day trip to a dairy farm. And this year was the most special of them all: a full day in the kitchen at Emmer and Rye. 

Oh, Emmer and Rye. My first balanced cocktail was consumed here, made with house made pecan orgeat. And so was the best pasta of my life. Experiencing both of these things was eye opening to say the least. I have a significantly higher expectation for pasta now, ever since that first cacio e pepe. There's a distinct mouthfeel that makes me crave it. Slightly chewy, a little gritty, very much perfect. And the flour they use, made in house from milling ancient grains (blue beard durum), has an amazing flavor that you can't get with store bought flour. The ones at the grocery stores are stripped of all nutrients and flavor to extend shelf life, but real flour has an earthiness that all parts of the grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) provide. 

 

 

There was so much excitement running through our veins and we both couldn't sleep the night before the big day. It was like we were kids all over again, waiting for Christmas. At 10 am as soon as we walked into the kitchen, Chef Keith got us started with fresh pasta making. We started out by cracking about 50 Yonder Way Farm eggs (aka my favorite farm that sells eggs with the orangest yolks) followed by what felt like half an hour of kneading and rolling out the dough. He was so elegant in the way he handled the sheets as they passed through the pasta machine, it looked effortless. But the truth is, it's quite difficult and Anthony and I clumsily tried to follow along. We filled our pasta with fresh ricotta that was prepared for us, and made cute little gondolinis.

 

 

Keith also led us to the garden where a variety of herbs grew, most of them foreign to me. A leaf that tasted of root beer, spinach with bright red stems, magenta shiso, a bright red edible flower, clover leaves that had notes of citrus, and many others I've already forgotten. We were handed things to try, one after another, and at one point my hands were full of different leaves and flowers. As an amateur gardener and cook, this was pure heaven.

But the most amazing part of Emmer and Rye is their pantry full of home made vinegars. Fennel vinegar, melon and orange vinegar, red wine vinegar, chili top vinegar. Giant tubs of prickly pear vinegar fermenting. The also had home made miso and a fuzzy white fungus called koji to make it. I can see why Keith was so excited to show us and let us try some of it. It was his trophy cabinet full of fermented ingredients you can't find anywhere else.

In addition to growing their own herbs, one of the guys there likes to forage for wild ingredients around the area. He brings back whatever he finds and the rest of the crew plays around with the bounty. When we were in the kitchen, it was clear that prickly pear was in season. Herb and prickly pear brined pork loin, prickly pear vinegar, prickly pear syrup for the bar. Seeing this first hand, I witnessed Emmer and Rye keeping what they preach close to heart: seasonality and sourcing local ingredients. It's a simple concept that people have been practicing for thousands of years, yet in this current world, it's something that we've lost a lot of. But it's evident from the dishes at Emmer and Rye that fresh ingredients at their peak season can make for amazing flavors.

 

 

Vader's one year birthday

 

This little munchkin had his one year birthday this month. I can't believe I've had him for so long! To celebrate, I baked him an apple and carrot cake with Greek yogurt frosting. I wanted to make something that was grain free and packed full of nutrients because the health of these puppies are very important to me. Of course Jack got some too, and they both inhaled it all within a minute or two!

 

Pup Cake

1.5 cups almond meal

3 eggs

half an apple

a handful of mini carrots

two tablespoons of coconut oil

greek yogurt for the frosting (Greek Gods plain yogurt)

In a blender or a food processor, blend all of the ingredients above except for the greek yogurt until smooth. Spray the cake tins with coconut oil and pour the batter in. Bake at 350 degrees F for as long as you need It depends on your cake tin size but I would bake for 20 minutes, check if a toothpick comes out clean, and keep baking and checking at 10 minute increments.

Let cook for a few hours, and frost the cake with greek yogurt.

 

Our garden

 

Gardening was difficult for us 2 years ago when we attempted it last. Things were growing perfectly during the wet months but as soon as the Texas heat hit, everything shriveled up and died. This year, we're taking extra precaution by installing a drip irrigation system and later on covering the top of the garden beds with mulch to keep the moisture in. A drip irrigation system is actually very simple. It's a bunch of pipes attached to the hose that run along the roots of the plants. There are small holes every foot or so that let the water trickle out slowly. This prevents run off and allows the water to seep into the soil fairly deep without evaporating much. 

We've also been fertilizing the soil with organic fertilizer (Garden-tone) and our own compost. It's important to choose organic fertilizer and not Miracle Gro because of many reasons. Miracle Gro is owned by Monsanto, an evil corporation trying to monopolize on everything farming related. They create a variety of genetically modified seeds, and accuse small scale farmers of stealing them. They collect money by suing innocent farmers and making their lives miserable. In addition, Miracle Gro is made of petroleum, and why would anyone want to feed that to their vegetables which we end up consuming? 

We also avoid the use of pesticides, and weed every day. I'm sure most people would hate weeding but it's actually very relaxing for us. Plus, if some bugs want to nibble on a portion of our plants, we let them. That's nature, and I'd rather consume some bug spit than chemicals that are meant to kill weeds and insects. 

I know I sound like a nerd, but going through and checking up on each plant has been both a rewarding and relaxing part of my day. My dream is to have a full on garden that can provide for both Anthony and I throughout the spring and summer months. Plus, there's nothing better than serving a savory galette made with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden and freshly milled flour. Our dinner parties feel like a small scale farm-to-table restaurant. I call it garden-to-table.

I have some updates!! It is now May 5th, and our garden has blown up since the last time I wrote this post. The one garden bed that looked pretty bare is jam packed with three different types of squash. I was worried about them at first, but after a few weeks of no growth, they have started growing overnight. For about a week, there were multiple yellow crookneck squash babies growing, which stirred a little excitement in me but they all quickly shriveled up. After some digging around on the internet, I realized that the squash and cucumber variety have a difficult time fertilizing because of the separated female and male flowers. I've also never seen honey bees (the natural pollinators) in my neighborhood which is the other problem.  Since then, I've been going out in the mornings when the flowers are open and hand pollinating each of them with a small paintbrush. Today when I went to go check on the squash, I knew my efforts had paid off because look at how big this squash is getting!

Another exciting news. This morning I ate my first cherry tomato from my garden! There was one that had just matured, and Anthony and I took a bite of it each. This variety (sweet 100) is known to be really sweet, and sure enough it was. I can't wait until we start getting hundreds of these sweet tomatoes so that I can cook with them! It's like a jungle in the sweet 100 area now because I had no idea this variety was going to get so tall. I'm going to guess it's at around 6 ft now. I probably should have placed them in a row instead of in a square, because the two of them in the back don't get as much sun as the other two. Tomatoes need full sun for 8 hours a day, and I have already started to notice that the ones in the shade of the other tomatoes aren't producing as much fruit. Ah well, things to consider next year. And if you are living in Texas and want to plant tomatoes, make sure to do it as early as possible. I planted mine in the beginning of March because as soon as the night time temperature hits 90 degrees, they stop producing fruit. At least, that's what the person at the nursery told me anyway.

As for the corn, I'm not sure if it's doing so well. I'm seeing tufts of hair from the miniature corns which got me doing a little dance but there's not much pollen yet. Also, I thought corn stalks were supposed to become 6 ft tall, and mine are around 3 ft. The internet says that the most probable cause of that is planting too early. March may have been a little to cold for them even in Texas. Another thing to keep in mind next year. As for pollination, big farms that plant lots of corn will not need to intervene because the wind will organically make that happen. Home growers will most likely have to hand pollinate especially if you plant in a row like I did. We'll see if we start seeing pollen in a couple of weeks!

Lastly, I wanted to show you guys my basil section. From the left, sweet basil, mystery basil (???), and purple basil. We've noticed that the mystery basil and the purple basil have the most concentrated flavor and they are great in caprese salads!. It's amazing how the flavor varies so much with the different types. I've also noticed that if you pick them and don't eat them immediately, they lose their flavor fast. If you can only get your hands on store bought basil, make sure you put their ends in water and at room temperature to prevent discoloration and to keep it's freshness!