Monday, March 21, 2016

Cherry Chocolate Pie

Hello there.

Talk about a long time.

I'm not going to say this is me coming back to this space because, well, it's likely not. Things are still crazy and hard and boring all at once. But my sweet friend released a self-published anthology and also asked for this recipe, so, here we are.

I made this originally at Christmas, uncertain how it would work, and have tweaked it a bit since. If you don't want the cherry flavor, feel free to leave the juice out, but it adds a nice depth to the otherwise rich am-I-just-using-this-as-an-excuse-to-eat-melted-chocolate flavor. Most dairy free pies of this style I found used tofu, but I was intimidated to approach that without the knowledge base for it, so instead, we have this coconut milk based beauty, all made in one small pot.

Dairy-Free Cherry-Infused Chocolate Pie
  • graham cracker pie crust (I used Pamela's gluten free graham crackers to make mine)
  • 8 oz. tart cherry juice
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (I used Whole Foods brand, brands like Thai Kitchen are fine, too! just make sure it's not the "lite" version)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar (cane sugar works fine, too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
  • optional: maraschino cherries and whipped cream for topping
Make your graham cracker crust, if not using a preprepared one. For me, this meant using 6 T melted butter and 4 T coconut sugar, mixing with crushed crackers, and baking at 350 for 10 minutes.

In small pot, heat cherry juice over medium-low heat to a light simmer. Allow it to reduce down to about 1/3 of its original volume, stirring regularly. Watch carefully to make sure it does not past the reduction point towards a jelly-like consistency, because it's harder to come back from that. Remove from heat.

In mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and full can of coconut milk. The coconut milk may have separated into water and cream, but add both components. Whisk to combine.

Pour egg and coconut milk mixture through wire mesh strainer, adding it to the pot containing the cherry juice. Apply medium heat until the mixture comes to one full boil, then reduce heat. Stir regularly, allowing it to simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Add corn starch, coconut sugar, vanilla, and salt to mix, whisking to dissolve and combine. Remove from heat.

Gradually add chopped chocolate, stirring constantly to ensure even melting and prevent any potential scorching.

Once all of the chocolate has been added and the mixture is smooth and evenly silky, pour into the pie shell*, distributing evenly.

Chill pie until filling is set, or overnight. Top with whipped cream and cherries if desired, and enjoy!

*Note: if you have more filling than space, pour the extra into little ramekins or glasses and chill those for a rich, pudding-like experience.

Sending you lots of love and springtime sun.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Speaking on women

Happy International Women's Day, y'all.

It's hard for me to fathom how far women have come in the world, but I love to see people embracing how strong, substantial, and influential women of all races, nationality, social classes, sexualities, etc., have always been. In honor of today, I wanted to share some of my favorite poems about women, a portion of my love language. They've made me feel empowered and emotional and angry and proud of everything we can be.

Sarah Kay, "The Type"
Do not mistake yourself for a guardian.
Or a muse. Or a promise. Or a victim. Or a snack.
You are a woman. Skin and bones...

Dominique Christina, "The Period Poem"
My own cervix is mad influential;
everybody I love knows how to bleed with me.

Clementine von Radics, "Advice to Teenage Girls with Wild Ambitions"
You don't need to grow up to find greatness.
You are stronger than the world has ever even told you you could be.

I hope something resonates with you today and makes you feel stronger. Whether it's a poem, a show's theme song, someone's message to their younger self, a Nobel Prize speech, or someone who loves you. I hope you're surrounded by women who constantly baffle, challenge, and encourage you. Because we're pretty damn great.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An ode to my SNRI

It is 4:27am, and I haven't been to sleep. I could run an ultramarathon in anxiety. My body is not good at much else right now, but, oh, it is good at anxiety.

Before I started a SNRI, I was scared of them. I had never heard any stories of them going well, or that someone I could sympathize with was taking them. All knowledge was detached, shrouded in disquietude. There was no normalcy to it in a grand, fearful way. So this is why I'm here. To write a love note of sorts to my drugs. 

Not everyone with anxiety needs SNRIs, SSRIs, or a bottle of Xanax in their purse. (Personally, I send a little prayer of thanks up for Xanax's existence every time I have need to take it.) I recognize that. I recognize that some people start them before deciding they don't quite fit. But I also see that there are more of us who shy away from them than maybe should. I understand. It's often scary, and weird, and just overall unsettling to begin. 

Sometimes, though, you have to recognize that your broken leg needs more than just a brace, no matter what you've tried yourself or how hard you will it to heal. Sometimes you need a pair of crutches, or maybe surgery, or a set of titanium pins. Sometimes you need to mix them all together, or throw in some physical therapy. Sometimes it takes a little playing with to get the combination right. Mental health is the same, in all its various causes and multipronged approached. Almost always, I've found, it's okay to not be able to do everything on your own. 

My SNRI is not a miracle worker, nor is therapy. I still get panic attacks some days, though thankfully much less often. I still describe myself as anxious. But I also still describe myself as my own. I have had no horror stories with them, no negative reactions. My doctors have been lovely and worked together and with me to make sure the cocktail is working for my specific mix of physical and non-physical causes and symptoms. We have played with dosages and brands in attempts to get things closest to "right." It can be a slow, patient process, but one one that has helped me indisputably.

So no, my SNRI is not a magic healer. But it is a tool. A weapon. A bracing band for my shield. It makes it easier to get out of bed some days, or to see other people. It reminds me that I'm human, and to forgive myself. It helps me throw a stick in the spokes when the wheels of my head begin to turn furiously and out of hand. 

It allows me to ask for more help when I need it. 

I hope that one day this will all switch back, that things will balance and my body will flourish at its daily functions and anxiety's vine will be tamped down in the process. I truly hope so. I keep fingers crossed in the way you wait for hurricane season to end. 

Until then, I will take my pills, have the boards prepped for my windows, and do my best to keep moving forward. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Galentine's Day treats

Are you a fan of chocolate and great ladies? Then you're in the right place. Today we're gathered around our internet devices to honor Galentine's Day. (What's Galentine's Day? It's only the best day of the year.)

Galentine's Day card from Brim Papery, treat boxes from Michael's
 As I've gotten older, I've realized the absolute power and belovedness of great female friendships. I was lucky enough to grow up with great role models for this: my mother's best friends were two other neighborhood mothers with daughters my age who pooled their strengths, took different paths in life, and loved each other fully. I never heard them say a brash word about each other. And in a society that likes to try to pit women against each other, I've realized how amazing it is to subvert this as I've aged a bit.

So, I love my ladies. A lot. I've never been someone with a huge group of friends, but especially with some bumpiness the last few years, I've treasured those I do have even more. I appreciate that we all have different strengths, and that we've all struggled in such singular and understandable ways, and that I've been lucky enough to seek out and find other women that refuse to tear each other down. Support is a powerful thing, y'all.

This year I decided to send out small treats to a handful of these women (if I had the means, I'd do Galentine's Day with every lady I know). I found little gifts that I thought suited each person in the Target $1-$3 section (sorry to ruin the allusion, dears)--because if there's one thing I believe in the power of, besides chocolate, it's the Target Dollar Spot--and packaged them up with a little card and a box of chocolate truffles that I crossed my fingers would make the trek through the United States postal system. If you've found something legal that feels better than doing something kind for people you love, do let me know.

Otherwise, I suggest listening to some Beyoncé or Little Mix and calling up (or texting, let's be realistic) your favorite girls. Do your best to empower and love each other.

Dairy-free Chocolate Amaretto Truffles
(after Oh Ladycakes)
  • 10 oz good quality bittersweet or dark chocolate chips or finely chopped bar (I used Ghirardelli or ChocoLove)
  • 3 T full-fat coconut milk (alternatively: almond milk or heavy cream)
  • 3 T amaretto*
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • large pinch sea salt
  • cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and/or finely ground almonds, for topping
To a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add milk and amaretto and heat to a low boil.* Add vanilla extract, salt, and coconut oil, stirring until the oil melts. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate to your liquid and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl and being careful not to let the chocolate burn.** If the mixture is a little too bitter for you at this point, you can add a tiny bit of agave nectar.

Transfer this mixture to a bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator until firm (this may take an hour or two--alternatively, I would just leave overnight and set out for 20 minutes to an hour before working with it).

When firmed, scoop the chocolate out in large teaspoons-fuls, rolling into a ball between your hands. Then roll the chocolate in your topping choice--I used cocoa powdered, sweetened with a tiny bit of sugar and some almonds mixed in--and place on a parchment or wax paper lined tray or plate. Once all the chocolate mixture has been shaped into truffles, place back in the fridge to refirm for 20-30min. Truffles can then be stored in the fridge for a firmer result, or on the counter for something a bit softer. Yields approx. 2 dozen.

(If shipping them cross-country, I suggest packaging them in a cute box and leaving them in the fridge until shortly before mailing.)

Note: make sure all the dishes and utensils you're using are dry. The chocolate will "seize" otherwise in the presence of water and be a pretty useless mess (though still good enough to eat with a spoon...)

*most of the alcoholic content should burn off through the boiling process, but if you'd rather go booze-free, use 5 T milk and 1 tsp almond extract--allow to heat thoroughly. You can add more extract to taste if desired, or I added 1 T almond butter for a bit of depth
**if the chocolate is not fully melted, you can put the mixture in the microwave at 10 second intervals, stirring thoroughly after each time, until smooth

Friday, November 21, 2014

Autumn snapshots



Sometime around the beginning of October, in a way that anyone who's suffered from something like anxiety can understand, the pieces of myself sat down to have a talk. We decided to try out a new mantra for the month: Do the Scary Thing. I bought a solo ticket for a concert (that ended up being postponed), made plans to explore potential futures.

And you know what? It was okay.
Just okay. Not much more, not much less. But I tried. Things didn't suddenly, miraculously get easier or better by sheer force of will. People forget that illnesses--mental or physical--don't work like that. Things didn't suddenly clarify in front of me. My body still gave out on me more easily than it should. The chocolate still ran out and the flowers still died. I didn't have something other than hastily edited iPhone photos to offer you, weary intrepid blog traveler. But I was okay. I survived. I think it reinforced the philosophy I've held for a while: that trying is all anyone can truly, legitimately expect from us. Trying (and often falling short) makes us human. Unutterably so.

And boy, am I human this season.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A ramble on being human in the fall

There was one night, not terribly long ago, where I stirred very early in the morning--sometime around 5am--feeling undeniably miserable. The kind that sits in some sort of sandbag weight around your lungs and heart and stubbornly refuses to be shaken. Somewhere in the midst of that, trying adamantly to logic with the subconscious of my brain, something floated through my mind--a thought, or perhaps a cry or a prayer: "Please just let someone be thinking of me."

In retrospect, I think that was pretty human. Sometimes desperate, sometimes humored. Sometimes whining in the tub after 2 Benadryl fail to kick the itch out of the latest batch of mosquito bites (seriously, guys. it's October. I know our temperatures have just consistently dropped below 90, but surely we can end this buffet?). 
Sometimes forcing your best friend to watch Gilmore Girls for the first time because she seriously hasn't seen is and how can any capable woman between 18 and 45 NOT be marathoning it on Netflix and falling in love all over again??? (For the record: I'm pro-Jess and pro-Luke. Also newly appreciating just how flipping fantastic all the female friendships in this show are. And all the women are SO UNAPOLOGETICALLY GREAT at their jobs. And I could go on in all caps about just how much THESE THINGS ARE IMPORTANT, but I guess I'll spare you. Sort of.) 

That's all to say that being a human is very strange, and maybe just a constant strain of rediscovering what it is that makes us so. Especially at this stage in life. 

Since there's no additional point to this post, I'll just say: I hope your autumn is proving weird, but that you embrace it in the best ways you can. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So, I stopped washing my hair.

(How's that for an introduction back to the blogosphere?)

Yes, I am now officially "that girl."

I promise it's not as crazy as it sounds. Or maybe it is. You can place me on your 'spectrum of internet insanity' of your own accord.

I suppose the more accurate statement would be that I stopped shampooing my hair (but that's a much less radical way to start off a post, right?). It does still get clean. In fact, maybe cleaner than I can remember it feeling? As going shampoo-free has been such a trend in the past year and it can seem so freaking crazy (to myself, too--I still kind of avoid telling people I stopped using shampoo, hah), I figured I'd give you the insight on my experience.

You know, another shout into the great wide internet void.

I stopped using shampoo back in October, primarily out of curiosity.
That's right: if you've seen me in the last ~9 months, I've secretly been almost shamefully unlathered.

But y'all. My hair looks good. I've always had pretty good hair (everything it does is pretty forgivable when you have a unique color, I've found), but this experience has been really different. I think I have liked my hair more in the time since I switched over than I have maybe ever.

About 5 years ago, I couldn't go more than a day without washing my hair before it looked like an oiled mess. After changing my diet, going 2 or 3 days without shampooing could be done, but the tail end of that was often a stretch.
Now? I can go up to about 9 days. 9 DAYS! And still feel like I'm presentable in public!

Ready for a row of awkward iPhone selfies to chronicle one wash cycle? 3...2...1...

[Two notes: 1) these were taken in 3 different places at different times of, sorry for the horribly inconsistent lighting. I promise my hair doesn't change color that much from day to day. 2) days 6-8 were spent with my hair tied up because I was moving and got really, really annoyed with it, you know?]

I started out fully expecting to give this a month or two and then switch back. But for now, I'm quite satisfied with it. Because you're washing your hair with baking soda, it's really really cheap. I can buy a box of baking soda for about $0.80-$1 every month and be set. Making my own dry shampoo (which I surprisingly love more than ones I've bought) makes it cheap, too.  And though I was painfully awkward in explaining this to my hairdresser, she remarked that my scalp looked quite clean and healthy.

There is also the benefit of going "greener." Though this was initially a lesser motivating factor for me, I definitely find it to be a bonus. As I've changed my diet, I've tried to be slightly more cognizant of what I'm consuming not only in terms of food but in terms of overall usage. I'm not great at it by any means, but, when combined with my skin growing more sensitive in the past few years, I've tried to primarily switch to relatively natural personal care and beauty products. I never really saw the personal benefit to this (as opposed to food where it's so easy to comprehend that what you're consuming is directly interacting with and impacting your body's operation) until I read someone note that if things applied to your skin didn't affect your body's workings, then birth control and nicotine patches wouldn't work. That kind of clicked for me.

So, if you haven't decided I'm more or less inane yet, I'll go into a bit more detail of my routine and what I'm using below the jump, including some links I found helpful when starting. (Also, even if you think I am insane, you may want to stick around for the dry shampoo ingredients. Seriously. 2 to 4 ingredients, all of which you probably have on hand. SO CHEAP. SO EASY. You can tell what's important to me. Okay, let's do this.)