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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Pride

Once or twice a year I pull out the lame tights.

Lame, pronounced with an ‘a’ at the end. Not stupid tights. There is nothing stupid about these tights.

My old roommate has a plethora of lame, which is somewhat confusing unless you know Patty. She is a roller derby girl. She has Hollywood hair. She was a Mexican wrestler for Halloween. She loves comic books and nerding out with her boyfriend, yet looks like a model. Hipster glasses and all.

She has lame in all shapes, sizes and colors.

I have used the tights, booty shorts and the gold bikini top for a smattering of events ranging from Halloween to Rocky Horror and, most importantly, the Pride Parade.

There is something so wonderful about seeing hoards of people gather in the streets of Seattle to celebrate diversity, tolerance and love. This year, the city expected 150,000 people. When 500,000 people showed up, records were broken, and the people celebrated with dancing, nudity and so much love you felt it if you came within a mile of the city.

To march with my co-workers for a hospital that proudly supports ALL families was overwhelmingly awesome. I was filled with giddiness about marriage equality in my state and the potential for it to spread nationwide.

I spent the day marching, shaking my groove thing and collecting a stash of buttons, sunglasses and beads. I can’t say no to free things—I even took a rainbow striped rubber duck (just what I need after giving eight boxes of stuff to the goodwill… woops)

Needless to say my weekend was epic, which I made even more epic by whipping up an unusual tomatillo chile and jalapeno cornbread. All of this deliciousness came from Veganomicon—a cookbook I am growing to love more and more. The recipes can appear somewhat daunting with their two page lists of ingredients, but they have always turned out really tasty. They also have an awesome index in the back of the book with menu plans, and they give nice tutorials on the basics of vegan cooking. Sometimes it is nice to have a cookbook that tells you how to correctly cook bulgar, you know?

The two authors seem like really cool ladies. They seem like the kind of gals that intimidate you with their hipness and then woo you over with their warm heartedness and mad skills in the kitchen. You should probably check out all of their amazing recipes

Vegan Chili Verde with Jalapeno Cornbread

I recommend getting all of the chili going and then making the cornbread while the soup simmers and the flavors start to tango—the longer the simmering, the tastier the soup.

Adapted from Veganomicon

Chili Verde

1 tbsp olive/coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, minced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt (more to taste if you would like)

¼ cup dry white wine

1 lbs tomatillos, paper removed, washed and diced

3 cloves of garlic, diced

3 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and diced

2 Pablano peppers, de-seeded and diced

¼ cup green onion, diced

2 granny smith apples, cored, and cut into chunks

1/3 cup cilantro

2 cups veggie stock (add more depending on what kind of consistency you want for the soup)

½ lbs of small, white potatoes

1 can of small white beans (I used cannellini)

Jalapeno Cornbread

2 tsp olive oil

3 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and diced

1 small yellow onion (which I forgot, and used a small shallot—worked well), diced

2 cups corn meal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp baking powder

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup oil

2 cups soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup frozen corn (optional: I love having bits and pieces of corn mixed in. Surprise!)

  • Start the potatoes: add chopped potatoes to a pot, fill the pot with water to cover the potatoes, bring the water to a boil, reduce heat to med and cook for 20ish minutes until the potatoes are soft.
  • Heat one tbsp of oil in your soup pot on med/high heat. Saute onions, jalapenos and pablanos for 5 minutes until the onions get that mouth watering smell and start to soften. Add in the cumin and salt.
  • Add in garlic, green onions, cilantro and tomatillos and saute for another 3-5 minutes, than add the white wine. Let everything saute for a few more minutes.
  • Add in the veggie stock and the apples. Turn heat to medium/low and let simmer for 20 minutes, this is when you start on the corn bread.

CORN BREAD BREAK

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix the soy milk and apple cider vinegar together and set aside to let it curdle (yum).
  • Saute cut up shallot/onion and jalapenos in the oil. I did mine in my cast iron, and then you don’t have to wash it—as you bake the corn bread in there too! Winning!
  • While those are sauteing, sift together all the dry ingredients. Stir together and then make a well in the middle to pour the soy milk mixture into.
  • Mix together and add in the oil.
  • If you haven’t removed the sauteed onions/jalapenos, do so now and then add the batter into the warm and oiled cast iron. You can either top the corn bread with the onions/jalapenos or you can mix it into the batter before you pour it all back into the cast iron.
  • Pop the cornbread into the oven for 30 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.

BACK TO CHILI!

  • Now that everything is all delish, whip out the old immersion blender. For those that don’t have this tool (you should probably get one), transfer batches of the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until mixed. I left some chunks. I like things a bit chunky.
  • After you have reached your perfect consistency, add in the beans and the boiled potatoes and let everything warm up and mingle until the corn bread is done.
  • The ladies recommend adding in a tablespoon or so of sugar into the chili if the tomatillos are too bitter, I added just a dash and it was perfect.
  • Let the cornbread cool just a bit, smear some honey on that bad boy, top off your chili with some avocado and cilantro and then dig on. OH HOW DELICIOUS!!

All of that chili in my belly, all that support and rallying around love, so many smiles… it was a good weekend.

Make love legal, people. Make love legal.

To My Future Quirkytogether

Staying on the kick of quirkyalone, I wrote a letter to the person who happens to steal my heart.

To my future Quirkyalone:

Sometimes I get grumpy. And when I say grumpy, I mean silent and kind of mean. And when I say kind of mean, I kind of turn into the sassiest mother fucker you’ve ever laid eyes on.

Sorry.

I also love my dog more then you.

Don’t take this personally. It is just that he has always been there. You haven’t. My dog and my family will probably trump you every time. I think that says something about my character. Some may call it selfishness. I call it loyalty.

I probably like musical theater too much. Don’t worry; you don’t have to like it. If you do, you get one million bonus points.

The holiday season means I want to hold your mittened hand while we get a Christmas tree. I want to drink soy nog (you can drink real eggnog I guess) and listen to Vince Guaraldi while decorating said tree. I will probably ask you to hang up the lights; I am not good at that.

I really like books. You can find me at a half price book store blowing a good portion of my paycheck. I am a firm believer in keeping books, which means I’m running out of shelf space. I imagine we will sit and read together a lot. I hope you like to read.

I am somewhat of a homebody. I have roots spread pretty wide and pretty deep into the Pacific Northwest soil. I thrive off of rainy days and endless green.

Yes, I sometimes wear flannel. Yes, I drink too much coffee. And yes, I consider hiking a favorite pastime.

I hope your home is where I am, and where I am is here.

Although I always know my home, I love to adventure.

My world is a bit brighter because I have seen places. As far north as Iceland, as far south as New Zealand—I leave behind tiny fragments of my self in each place. I hope to spread myself across the globe.

Maybe your pieces and my pieces can dance the tango in Spain.

I hope that when we end up tying the knot, we will say I Do at the top of a mountain. With hiking boots on–slightly sweaty and a bit too muddy. Our dog(s) will be there. And perhaps a banjo or two. We will keep things simple. A cooler full of beers and a few good friends.

Oh yes. Most importantly, I love my freckles—as should you.

Sincerely,

Me

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Quirkyalone

A lot of how to reach my absolute all-encompassing potential is to embrace the idea of being a quirkyalone.

What’s a quirky alone you might ask? Only the best (and only awesome) self-help book out there. This isn’t a self-help book that you read in darkened corners, covering it up with something more acceptable.

This is the kind of book you shout about from roof tops. This is the kind of book you buy extra copies of to give friends. This is the kind of book that tells you ALL the things you need to hear.

Quirkyalone: n. adj. a person who enjoys being single (or spending time alone) and so prefers to wait for the right person to come along rather than dating indiscriminately. Quirkyalone is a book, a holiday, and a movement.

Take that Rom Coms, Valentines Day and being a girl in America—this lady is embracing her singledom.

In the past, I claimed to be a quirkyalone—I got my first copy when I was 17, and pretended like I was strong enough and proud enough to be okay with being single. Lets be real, I was like every other 17-year-old girl. All I wanted was a boy to hold hands with while listening to The Get Up Kids together (I went through a pretty intense pop-punk/emo phase).

Now—well now I am seasoned veteran of love. Wait, wait. That is complete bullshit. BUT I do know at least a little bit more about love, and A LOT more about myself. So, after my recent break up (after the adequate amount of tears, freak outs, etc.) I have come to revel and rejoice in my singlehood.

My bestie for life (who also happens to be my roomie) is also single. This works out swimmingly, as we both have come to love and embrace all that comes with being alone. We love the freedom. We love the ability to do what we want to do, whenever we want to do it. We love cooking for one (or two, when we cook for each other). We love not settling.

We love ourselves enough to be alone.

Ah. It only took me 24+ years to embrace this idea.

However, I am not opposed to having a partner; I am just not actively looking anymore. Instead, if it does happen, it will be a moment where my quirkyalone becomes a quirkytogether.

So I leave you with one (of many) tidbits about being a quirky alone. It is the perfect description of how I am currently living my life. I suggest all you single ladies do the same, it’s a liberating feeling.

We are the puzzle pieces who seldom fit with other puzzle pieces. We inhabit singledom as our natural resting state…Secretly, we are romantics, romantics of the highest order. We want a miracle. Out of millions we have to find the one who will understand. For the quirkyalone, there is no patience for dating just for the sake of not being alone. On a fine but by no means transcendent date, we dream of going home to watch television. We would prefer to be alone with our own thoughts than with a less than perfect fit…but when the quirkyalone collides with another, ooh la la. The earth quakes.

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OH! And for all of you that are feeling lonely for whatever reason (breakup, singledom that makes you sad instead of liberated, whatever) watch this AMAZING video. I’m telling you. This video and a copy of Quirkyalone? You aren’t ever going to feel lonely again.