My Love Letter to Austin and Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

I leave Austin in five days.

This flat, hot and beautiful place has been my home for the past year +, and now it’s time to go back to Seattle. I’m returning to green trees, tall mountains, salty seas and family.  I’ve come to the conclusion that a piece of myself will stay in Texas. This town will always be a second home. It wouldn’t be an honest departure without a love letter, so Austin… this one’s for you.

My Southern Love,

I will miss your warmth. I will miss your wet heat that felt like the biggest, sweatiest hug. I will miss riding my red bicycle through your streets in my cut-offs. I will miss eating tacos for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then for breakfast again. I will miss your friendliness and open arms. I will miss whiskey on tap, two stepping with strangers and late nights with my favorite people. I will miss swimming in any body of water I could find, just as long as it got me out of the heat. I will miss being in the land of fireflies and topo chico.

Austin, I will miss your people. The ones that welcomed me without question. Those people who I would carry around in my back pocket if I could, little reminders of what it feels like to be surrounded with goodness. This town is full of folks who live. Take all of it and shape it into something worthwhile. Austin, you are a neverland. Sitting outside of barton springs in my bathing suit, watching the stars in the 85 degree heat on a summer evening, I looked at my friend and said, “this place is magic…”

Austin, you are magic. You are sunshine, pants, bike rides, food, friends and dancing. So much of my heart will be left in Austin, forever.

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I am moving on to the next adventure. I ate the Texas sun, I had year round freckles, I scuffed my boots and turned all my jeans into shorts. Now it’s time to go home. I’m bringing a bit of the south home with me. I’m determined to bring some of the warmth, some of the genuine friendliness, all of the dancing and you BETTER believe I will bring “y’all” with me…

Onward and upward y’all, onward and upward.

Black Bean & Avocado Salad with Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries & Cabbage Slaw

This is what my perfect plate looks like. Sweet potatoes are my jam, and when you add in the complete protein of rice and beans, I’m in heaven. And it wouldn’t be a well-rounded meal unless there were some greens, and the cabbage slaw fit the bill. It only seems fitting that I give y’all THREE recipes this time around, because everything is bigger in Texas. All of these dishes are great to mix together and stick into a tortilla, because EVERYTHING is better in a tortilla.

Tacos forever.

Black Bean & Avocado Salad

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2.5 cups water
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 small shallots, diced
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼-½ tsp salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 large avocado, chopped into ½ inch pieces

Cook the brown rice, I use a rice cooker, but you can cook it on the stove top, do whatever tickles your fancy. Drain the beans and rinse. In a large bowl add the beans and toss with limes, cilantro leaves, diced shallots and ground cumin. Season to taste with salt & black pepper. After your rice is finished, set it aside to cool slightly before you mix it in with everything else. Peel and slice an avocado, and serve the beans at room temperature, with chopped avocado on top or mixed in throughout the salad. This salad lasts for several days in the fridge, so it makes for the perfect lunch to bring to work.

Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into ¼ inch fries
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Ground chipotle chile
  • Garlic powder

In a medium bowl, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and chipotle chile powder. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet. Avoid crowding so the potatoes get crisp. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Ovens may vary so keep an eye on them and be sure to cut all the potatoes the same size. It’ll ensure even cooking. Cool and try not to shove them all in your mouth at one time. These are delicious.

Cabbage Slaw

  • 1 head cabbage, cut into small pieces
  • 2 carrots, shredded (optional, I didn’t have any, so I went without… delicious either way)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp honey (or agave)
  • Pinch of cumin

Generous pinch of salt and pepper

Chop up your veggies and mix with jalapeno and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice and honey. Add to the veggies and season with cumin, salt and pepper. Toss until finally coated. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for 3-5 days.

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Singledom and Kale Salad

The other day a friend asked me, “How come you’re single?” I think their heart was in the right place, but it definitely was a rage-inducing moment. The way it was asked was drenched in pity & wonder at how I could be 26 almost 27 and be as single as can be. I laughed it off, shrugged my shoulders and used my age-old adage, “I hate everyone?”, which of course isn’t true. I love people. I really do. But I also have so many deal breakers I find myself tripping over them on the daily.

It’s not for lack of trying or wanting. It’s just for lack of interest. I have had two great loves in my short life, and they’ve set the bar pretty high. While the heaviest of issues gnawed at us until we split at the seams, I loved them with every cranny of my being. You know what I mean, the kind of love that sinks down into your soul and settles there. And without meaning to, I size up every potential partner to what I had… Yes, it’s horrible, but it also means I won’t ever settle. I know what it feels like to be loved so completely that even my bones felt embraced. I know what it feels like to trust and admire and adore. There’s no point in pretending with someone unless I feel the sparks. I know what true, gut wrenching, heart swelling love feels like, and I’m going to wait this one out until it comes around again.

Of course loneliness scratches at me again and again. I pride myself in being fiercely independent, and while my job, friends, dog and yoga keep me busy 80% of the time, that 20% can be achingly lonely. I remind myself that my life is filled with so many beautiful things, but I still have to brush off those self-deprecating thoughts that come up when I reflect on why I am alone.

I suppose my honest answer to my friend should have been, “I’m single because there hasn’t been a person to sweep me off my feet in a long time. I’d rather be alone and occasionally lonely than settle for someone who makes my heart simply pitter. Give me pitter-patter or it’s a no go.”

And that’s what I need. The pitter with the patter. The whole hog or nothing at all. Who knows if or when that will happen, but I’m going to hold out until I feel that again. I remember what it’s like to be filled up to the brim, and I won’t settle for anything less.

Wild Rice & Kale Salad

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebrating with good friends. We ate, drank and loved for 7.5 hours. Just how Thanksgiving should be. As a vegan(ish), Thanksgiving has always been hard. Yes, I indulged in some cheese this Thanksgiving, but I also gorged on so many vegetable side dishes I felt ill for two days (over eating for the WIN…?) Either way, this dish is great for Thanksgiving, potlucks or just as a side for your dinner. I had so much left over it was my lunch for a week, and I wasn’t complaining.

ingredients

  • 1 cup wild rice, uncooked
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped/torn
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start with your rice. Bring 2 cups water and your rice to a boil. Bring heat to low and simmer for 50-55 minutes. While the rice is cooking, wash and chop all your veggies and walnuts and prepare your dressing. Combine the lemon juice with the olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. After rice cooks, cool before adding in the vegetables, walnuts and dried fruit. Then add in the dressing and enjoy! This is one of those salads that gets better after sitting for a while. Eat and eat and eat.

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