Hiking Runyon Canyon

A view from the top

One of the undeniable perks of living in Los Angeles is that on any given day, you can frolic in the picture perfect Southern California weather. As a native of the tundra (commonly referred to as Chicago), the beauty of 292 days of sunshine a year is hardly lost on me and one of my favorite ways to spend time outdoors is with a hike at Runyon Canyon.

Located directly north of Hollywood Blvd and the infamous Hollywood Walk of Fame, this nature walk is simply the best way to get a quick bit of fresh air, a killer view of the city below (Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory too), and perhaps a celebrity sighting.

With several different routes to choose from (I opt for the stairs to work my derriere), Runyon is what you make it and is welcoming to all levels of fitness. On days where a hike seems too strenuous, join local yogis for free yoga (daily) on the grass and leave feeling refreshed, centered, and grateful.

Humbolt Fog, Red Wine, Fig, Truffle Honey, and Sea Salt Crostini

Humbolt Fog, Red Wine, Fig, Truffle Honey, and Sea Salt Crostini

Recently, I attended a gathering at a friend’s house in the Hollywood Hills where dinner was prepared by their close friend — Sous Chef and Personal Chef, Jayson Holzworth. The meal was artfully crafted — colorful, flavorful, nutritious and all-in-all one of the best feasts I’ve ever consumed. His passion for food was both evident and contagious and left me feeling inspired to recreate what I could of the fine fare. While some of the courses required tricks that are far outside of my skill set (think carrot foam), the hors d’oeuvre was simple, delicious, and not intimidating for an amateur chef like myself. I made the tasty treat for a girls’ dinner this week and it was every bit the hit with them, that it was with me! Try for yourself and let me know what you think!

Humbolt Fog, Red Wine, Fig, Truffle Honey, and Sea Salt Crostini

Ingredients:
3 ounces Humbolt fog
10 Figs
2 cups Red Wine
2 Tbsp Honey
Pinch of Salt
Crusty Baguette
Olive oil
Truffle Honey

Steps:
1. Place cheese in food processor and blend until it is smooth.

2. Place cheese in a piping bag and reserve in the refrigerator.

3. Combine figs, honey, salt and red wine in a sauce pan on medium heat and cook for 15-20 minutes. You want to break down the figs, the wine to reduce and the mixture to become very thick.

4. Transfer fig mixture to a food processor and blend until smooth. Let cool then place in piping bag and reserve in refrigerator.

5. Preheat oven to 350*F.

6. Thinly slice baguette and place the slices on a parchment paper lined sheet tray.

7. Brush olive oil on baguette slices and put them into the oven for 10 minutes. Once they are golden brown, they are done. Pull from oven and let cool.

8. Assemble: Pull the piping bags from the refrigerator and cut the corner tip of the bags. Pipe the fig onto the crostini followed by the cheese. Lightly drizzle truffle honey on top and a pinch of sea salt. You can leave them open faced or sandwich another crostini on top. Enjoy!

Breakfast in Mexico

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Clearly I love breakfast. Luckily my husband does too, and the other weekend I woke up to a fridge stocked with errant ingredients including cilantro, tomatoes, and lentils.  This trifecta called for a breakfast with a Mexican baseline – something that transported us back to the beaches of Riviera Maya where we ate some of our favorite fare that somehow beat the summer heat. Here’s how to recreate your own breakfast in Mexico:

Serves: 2

Total Time: 15 min

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, grated into a fine mush

400 gram (15 ounce) can of lentils

large handful of cilantro leaves (coriander in the UK), leaves and stems torn into small pieces, reserving two sprigs for garnish

Maldon sea salt

freshly ground pepper

4 eggs

1 tomato, diced into 1 centimeter cubes

4 tablespoons grated chihuahua cheese

1/2 teaspoon grapeseed oil

zest of 1 lime

Substitutes:

lentils / black beans

chihuahua cheese / a shredded Mexican cheese blend

grapeseed oil / your choice of high-heat safe cooking oil

Steps:

1.  In a small sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium until fragrant. Grate the garlic clove into the oil, and let the garlic bathe and infuse for a minute.  Pour the entire can of lentils into the sauce pan, add half of the cilantro and a pinch of salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile whisk the 4 eggs in a medium bowl. Add a pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Incorporate the diced tomato, cilantro and cheese.

3.  Heat a nonstick omelette pan to medium, coating the interior with a swipe of the grapeseed oil.  Pour the egg mixture into the heated pan and cover with a fitted lid.  Cook until the bottom starts to set and the top is opaque (3-5 minutes).  Uncover the pan and fold half of the omelette over itself using a spatula, forming a semi-circle. Use the spatula to cult the semi-circle in half, then transfer these two quarters to separate plates.

4.  Ladle out a portion of the lentil mixture onto the plate next to the omelette. Add one sprig of cilantro to garnish.

5.  Zest a bit of the lime over each omelette, and serve with your hot sauce of choice.

The Sounds of July

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Avocado Toast

Avocado_Toast_Ingredients

I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July holiday weekend!

Brooke and I are currently vacationing in Mallorca, Spain until next weekend and we couldn’t be more excited! We rented a Spanish villa near Arta (full post to come soon) and have been enjoying laying by the pool, reading books, exploring the local beaches and restaurants and getting some much needed R&R.

Every morning we have been making our own healthy breakfast (mostly so we can pig out on paella at night!), and this Avocado Toast has been my go-to contribution for a protein-packed and delicious morning meal.

When I am looking to make a heartier breakfast, or even make this dish for dinner, I often add prosciutto or a poached egg and it really takes the dish to the next level. Or you can just add a simple squeeze of lime to the avocado – it is the perfect snack!

Avocado Toast (Three Ways)
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
4 pieces of your favorite bread, sliced thick
1 perfectly ripe avocado
2-4 teaspoons Vegenaise Spread *an essential ingredient in my opinion
1 pinch of Maldon sea salt *also an essential in this recipe
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (or cracked black pepper)

Optional Ingredients:
1 Lime
2 Poached Eggs (preferably with runny yolks)
2-4 thin slices of Prosciutto

Steps:
1) Remove the avocado from the skin into a bowl and mash with a fork until spreadable (I like to keep it slightly chunky).
2) Toast the bread and spread it generously with Veganaise.
3) Spread the avocado on top of each slice. Sprinkle with a pinch of Maldon and the red pepper flakes.
4) Top with either a squeeze of lime, a poached egg, or some thin slices of prosciutto.

Et Voila! It’s so easy and delicious you will want to make it every morning!

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Avocado Toast with a Squeeze of Lime

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Avocado Toast with Prociutto

Cultivating a Sense of Gratitude

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I’ve felt a bit down this week, possibly due to the sinus infection I’m fighting. But rather than taking the path of least resistance and wallowing in a sea of saline, I am practicing cultivating a sense of gratitude.  This is the single most useful exercise I took away from my yoga training.

How to Cultivate Gratitude

In a moment when you are feeling especially stressed, frustrated, sad, angry, depressed, or blasé, try to remember something that you are grateful for.  What you are grateful for could be one or many, people or experiences, simple or complex – it doesn’t matter except for that it’s authentic. 

For example, I awoke with a piercing headache, saw the sun outside and felt instant sadness and fear of missing out, being sick indoors on a summer day.  Then I tried to remember what I am thankful for.  “I am grateful for having even woke up this morning.  I am grateful I can take a deep breath and not cough.   I am grateful for my functioning mind.  I am grateful for this apartment.  I am grateful for my loving doggies who are licking my nose…”

The exercise is immediate and completely transformative.  Suddenly your mind is occupied with the effort of remembering these things you are thankful for, and there is no more room for self-pity!  That sadness or disappointment you felt a second ago is instantly put into new perspective.

The Concept

Cultivating gratitude is a practice of self-reflection. It takes only a few seconds to stop, get out of your head, and become a witness to the beauty and value that exists inside and around you.  You harness your emotions and limit that feeling of  stress or despair.  All you have to do is remember to cultivate a sense of gratitude; the act of remembering is the real work.

The brain is a muscle. The more often you practice cultivating a sense of gratitude, your natural tendency toward this state grows stronger.  This can lead to feeling emotionally resilient, less stressed, being mentally strong, positive and having a greater sense of satisfaction with your life.   Although we are born and conditioned to react to stimulus in a certain way, we can train ourselves to control or change that reaction.  It takes the practice of being mindful and self-aware.

My yoga training included reading the sutras of Patanjali, which are a collection of short lessons that lay the foundation for Ashtanga yoga philosophy. Sutra 2.42 says that mental comfort and joy can be obtained by practicing an attitude of contentment (santosha) and feeling appreciation for what we have.  Contentment comes from within. This makes sense to me.

The effects of gratitude on our heath have been studied by modern-day scientists including Robert Emmons (professor of psychology at University of California Davis), whose findings you can read more about here.  According to these studies, people who consistently practice gratitude experience benefits such as:

  • Stronger immune systems
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Greater alertness, more interested and curious
  • Feeling less lonely / isolated, more social

Other Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Write + send a thank-you note (email or letter) to someone
  • Keep a notepad on your nightstand and before bedtime write down three things that went well that day & why
  • Perform an act of gratitude

Read More

Huffington Post Healthy Living: Why Giving Thanks is Good for the Psyche

Harvard Medical School: In Praise of Gratitude

Yoga Journal: Grounded in Gratitude