Going home.

It’s nearly Christmas. Which means it’s nearly time where I will find myself in my grandma’s kitchen, eating black olives off of my fingers. It means I will curl up on my mom’s couch and watch It’s a Wonderful Life with the family. It means a snowshoe trip in the mountains, unwinding our tired muscles in my dad and stepmom’s backyard sauna.

Have I mentioned how much I love Christmas?

Here I am sitting in the airport, watching a Texas sunset. I have on my flannel and grey knit hat. I am ready to go home. The few people I am getting to know down here fear that I don’t make it back to Austin. That I will get swept up in all that I love in Seattle and forget about this little life I’m creating down here.

I’ll be tempted. Oh how tempted I will be.

But don’t worry Texas, I’m not done with you yet. I know you have more to offer me, and I grow more curious about you by the day. Sure, you make me tired and lonely. I am sometimes weary of your unending friendliness coupled with this realization that I have few friends down here.

But I’m still intrigued.  I want to get to know what’s so special about a Texas spring. I want to conquer a full Texas summer. I want to always have freckles sprinkling my nose. I want to soak you in.

So my short trip to Seattle will be amazing. It will be filled with friends and family. I will hold onto people too tightly. I will eat too much food. I will indulge and laugh and embrace the cold and rainy that I have missed.

But I will be back to Austin before the New Year. I will make 2013 (or at least a majority of it) the year of the Texas. The year of throwing myself fully into this big Southern state that still feels foreign in my mouth.

My last night in Austin (before the holiday) was spent at a local food pop-up dinner. I met people who care about food as much (if not more) than me. I let all inhibitions go, tried a piece of wild deer (yeah, you heard me) and toasted to local food. It was so delicious in fact that I’m not even going to post a recipe. With my recent life changes, I haven’t had access to a kitchen and have relied on the kindness of co-workers and sisters to feed me. Welcoming in my holiday season with a huge, local, decadent meal was outstanding. Just soak it up through the picture. That’s recipe enough.

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My life can be beautiful here. I can feel it, deep down.

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Change and Pho

Change is tricky. I have literally flipped my life upside down in the last four months. I packed my life into my car, said goodbye to everything familiar and headed to the great state of Texas. You know all of this, it’s been the central focal point of every single blog post that I have written. What can I say? It’s not everyday that this homebody shakes up her life so drastically, it’s only normal that it is taking months upon months to adjust.

Just when I felt solid ground under my feet, things began to shake. A little at first. Just small rumbles of potential unsettling in my already unsettled life. Rumbles turned into shakes, shakes into tremors, and just like that it collapsed. Any sense of normality has been turned into something else. Something a tad bit more unpredictable.

Like everything else in my life, I am going to roll with the punches. I am trying to get good at rolling with the punches. Taking things in stride, as they come.

Today this looks like a slow meandering walk with my hound dog in the warm Texas sun. It looks like organizing my life into categories, piecing out what to keep and what to get rid of. It looks like making plans for my trip home in a week. And it looks like nursing my impending cold with a big bowl of homemade pho.

It tastes as good as going to the restaurant, and when you buy the spices in bulk it’s a cheap as can be.

Who knows what my life will look like a week from now. All I know is today I have a big bowl of pho in front of me that’s calming my sore throat and for now, that’s enough.

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Homemade Pho

From My New Roots

Broth:

  • 2 lb onions (yellow, white, red)
  • 1.5 oz / 50 g fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 3 black cardamom pods (green cardamom also works)
  • 3 star anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • ½ tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • ½ Tbsp. sea salt
  • 6 cups / 1.5 liters water

To make the broth (which is the most important part) all you have to do is chop up your onions and your ginger (you can leave the skin on), pour in the water and the spices and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for one hour. It makes your house smell SO GOOD. After letting the broth simmer, strain the broth into a bowl. The toppings are up to you. I listed below what I used, but the great thing about pho is you can really put anything in this delicious broth.

Toppings:

  • Buckwheat soba noodles
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Bok choy
  • Mushrooms

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Distractions and (More) Cookies

Sometimes this life of mine is just plain baffling. I sure as hell didn’t think I would ever live in Texas. I sure as hell didn’t think that I would ever be this poor. I sure as hell didn’t think I would ever let something fail that I felt so sure of.

My heart hurts these days. There is no point in hiding it.

So what did I do?

I drank whiskey with my sister. I played shuffleboard and did a little shimmying and shaking. Sometimes it helps to distract yourself with general silliness.

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Today I woke up heavy. I walked my hound puppy in the thick Texas air. I could have walked for hours.

Instead, I made cookies.

When in doubt, listen to Christmas music and bake a shit ton of cookies.

So it goes.

Vegan Triple Ginger Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger powder
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt your vegan buttery spread and set aside. Mix your dry ingredients together. Mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then slowly add to the dry mixture. Use your hands to mix everything up. The dough will be dry-ish, but just keep stirring and kneading. You can add a tbsp of extra water at a time, but I didn’t need it. Just be patient with it. Form tbsp size balls and roll in sugar. Flatten lightly and cook for 8-10 minutes.

These are the perfect holiday cookie. They’ve got a bite to them and the outside remains crunchy while the inside is soft and chewy.

Damn good. Almost good enough to turn my heart happy.

Almost.

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Christmas and Peanut Butter Cookies

For those of you who don’t know me, Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I can be obnoxious about it. Last year, my roomie came home to find me twirling about the house with my six (you heard me, SIX) boxes of Christmas decorations out, the Charlie Brown Christmas album on and a manic grin on my face.

Her only response, bless her heart, was “it looks like santa threw up in here.”

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Luckily for me, I’ve always tried to surround myself with other Christmas lovers. It isn’t so much the holiday (I’m not religious in the least bit), it’s just the season. The cookies! The tree! The holiday drinks! I love the warmth of Christmas. Granted, I have an amazing family, who always gets along during the holidays, and our traditions run deep. We are a family of baking cookies with grandma every year, of going to the tree farm to cut down our own tree and having approximately 5 celebrations in the span of two days.

We’re a Christmas family.

And as you can guess, this year is different. This year I didn’t make cookies with  my mom and grandma. This year I didn’t go with my dad to the cute Christmas cottage out in the country on a wet drizzly day. This year I will make a trip home for 9 days and try to squeeze in all things seasonal with the people I love.

Just because I live in a place where winter looks like shorts, tank tops and sweaty bike rides doesn’t mean I won’t sport a santa hat and drive out to the country for a tree. Dammit.

Yesterday my sister, brother-in-law, boy and I went out to Elgin, TX to find ourselves a tree. I was wearing shorts. My sister, a sun dress. The fields were dry and hot, and the mud warning was replaced with, “there are a lot of burrs out there!”

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Weird.

But I got to hold hands with this boy I like. We got to pick out the perfect tiny tree together, and take funny pictures. I got to be ridiculous with my sister, and squeal over our home-made gift ideas and planning our cookie party with our dear friend Cristin.

We celebrated our christmas tree’s with a chalice of beer (no joke, it was the size of my head), which promptly led me to nap. I woke up and this darling boy of mine had decorated the house. Not going to lie, I got a little teary eyed. Nothing like realizing you’re with a kindred soul when you wake up to find nutcrackers on your window sill and lights adorning the eaves.

So I broke my healthy no sugar/wheat/fat plan (see: chalice of beer), made some vegan peanut butter cookies and washed them down with coconut milk nog.

Nothing says christmas like cookies and milk.

I suppose I can make this hot, Texas Christmas thing work. I think I can.

Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies

From: Chocolate Covered Kate

Delicious peanut butter cookies!

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (Mine has salt), or another nut butter
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp whole-wheat pastry flour (or white or a gf mix)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (for sugar-free cookies, see below link)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • optional: chocolate chips

Mix dry ingredients very well. Then add wet and form cookie balls. If you want soft cookies, fridge the dough for at least an hour. Then bake in a preheated oven (350F) for 8 minutes. They’ll look underdone when you take them out, but that’s ok. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from tray.

To keep them soft, store leftover cookies in a plastic container. This recipe will make about 15-22 cookies, depending on how big you roll them. (For 22 cookies, they’ll have 50 calories per cookie.)

I wanted to add some extra sweetness to mine, so I popped in some chocolate chips (go big or go home, am I right?) Nothing says cookie like peanut butter and chocolate. Holy moly.

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