New Year, Same Me? Reflections and Moving Forward

December and early January flew by as always. I did my usual December baking creative joy – a new thing I baked this year was Stollen, the Christmas bread originating in Germany. It’s an enriched bread meaning it usually contains more butter, eggs, and sugar, and also features candied citrus, almonds, raisins and spices, and the like. I spent a weekend candying my own citrus peels before the baking commenced and that in itself was a fun adventure.

I adapted my cinnamon roll dough – and dropped the sugar to not too much, per a few traditional recipe comparisons. It was absolutely delicious and turned out well, and I loved it so much that after two loaves, I took some of the same add-ins and incorporated them into a regular yeast whole-grain loaf without the extra enrichment.

We’re finally getting back to “regular season” bread around here as my somewhat dormant holiday-season sourdough culture has been back in action. I make about one loaf every couple weeks, usually.

Otherwise, we enjoyed an easier version of Biryani, the Persian/Indian rice dish, to celebrate New Years Eve, and promptly began dozing through an old episode of All Creatures Great and Small before 9pm. We’re not much for New Years Eve celebrators, or maybe we just don’t have enough of a reason to stay up into the wee hours in the last few years, but it was nice to wake up to a new day and year refreshed and having slept well, even with all the intense fireworks that went off at midnight. 

Now that we’re firmly in January, I’ve been reflecting a bit about the direction of this blog and my newsletter

I began the blog and recipe sharing very shortly after I graduated from my undergrad degree in 2009 – feeling inspired to continue my creative joy for writing and food (I did initially begin college as an English major, which eventually became an English minor – and either way, that basically means I enjoyed a fair bit of writing on the way to a degree.) 

My first blog was not a recipe, but a food story about picking cherries and making my dad a cherry pie. My mom had come to visit at the end of school – not being one for celebrations particularly, I skipped graduation and signed up for one of my teacher examinations instead – and after the visit to my house and to pick cherries in our rental front yard, we took  a trip together to the coast. I remember now that I was an absolute teenager on that trip (even though I was not), with all the petty and huffy responses to my mom that a teenage girl could give. We did a tour of one of the lighthouses which was really enjoyable, and I got all irritated at not finding / remembering the “right” restaurant along the Newport bayfront for a brunch. We ended up at a fine enough place instead (truthfully there never have been great restaurants for breakfast along the bayfront so I don’t know what I was looking for), and I was huffy and irritable all throughout the meal. In retrospect, it was really dumb and colors an enjoyable trip in a negative way. I did not feature that story in my first blog post – just the idealism that came before and after it.

With the transition to providing nutrition consultations through Hope Wellness, I’ve spent less time curating recipes and articles for this website and newsletter, and may eventually abandon the project entirely. (You’re welcome to sign up for the Hope Wellness newsletter which I write and publish half of the time). But this also remains a space that has morphed with me as I’ve shifted and grown. I’m not quite ready to walk away completely. It may be an educational space for you – or an inspirational one for food and lifestyle shifts – but it’s still and to this day a space for creative joy for me. 

Beyond that, let’s speak to New Year Resolutions for a moment. 

I don’t particularly aspire to them, but there’s also something about the collective momentum and freshness of a new year to wipe the slate clean and begin something new, or at least refresh an intention or habit shift we’ve been working on. 

I’ve spent the last couple years refining my morning routine so I set a better foundation for my day, and my priority for this season and year is to continue cementing the consistency I’ve accomplished with that. Not striving for perfection, but getting back to consistency as soon as possible when the routine goes astray for a day or a few. 

I show up internally and externally, as a more grounded, clear-minded, better person when I start the day with breathing, prayer/meditation, and a little yoga (more breathing and getting into my body, and out of my head). 

That space in my head is the entire intention for the practice. 

And in fits and starts this past year, I’ve begun playing the piano again. By the time I left home at 18 for college, I was fairly good at the piano and could play several advanced pieces. It took until the end of 2021 to have my childhood piano in my possession again, and after a couple months to rest before I got it tuned to play, I dipped my toe in. 

Like pulling a long ago language from the depths of my brain, I had to first re-learn even the basics. And because the piano bench is a time capsule to the early 2000’s, it was disheartening to see where I was in 2005, and to start nearly back at the beginning to relearn again (which C is middle C again?

My intention with the piano is to keep up the consistent playing: a few minutes, a handful of times per week. Nothing too out of the way – consistency being the most important thing. 

The goal for playing is not to get to the point of “being really good,” but to be able to sit down and play an enjoyable song without stretching my brain so hard that it’s more work than pleasure. 

It’s a continuation of the creative joy I spoke to above about food and writing.  

Beyond that, I have a couple long-term and ongoing intentions with my nutrition and running: chewing my food better, single-tasking while eating, preparing meals in a way that is most supportive of my digestive system, as well as race goals and more community in running. None of these are particularly dramatic, new, or different than before.

I’m all for subtle and slow, yet significant shifts over time.

If you’ve read all that I’ve rambled on about by now, I’d love to know about your end of year / beginning of year. What’s going well with you? What are you working to maintain or shift?

If it’s food and nutrition related, can I help? And if it’s getting to finding some space in your head or more creative joy, I’d love to hear about your own process. 

Breakfast Tacos with Black Beans + Egg Scramble

A couple weeks ago, I made puff pastry, a cooking project I’ve long considered, but never before attempted. Puff pastry is so rich in butter, containing nearly more butter than anything else, that’s its the ultimate antithesis of a food you might think a nutritionist would make and eat.

It was a project well worth my time and effort. Gluten free, dairy-free (using Miyoko’s cultured ‘butter’), and more rich in refined starches than would be my norm. And it was an eight-hour kitchen project just to turn and fold and chill the dough.

The process and end result was so satisfying. I used the pastry the following day to make a spring asparagus, radish, and egg-topped tart which was super easy to finish and bake, but tasted like, well, I’d spent more than eight hours meticulously turning and folding it.

That puff pastry crunch as our teeth sank into each bite.

In the days that followed, the topic of puff pastry has come up again and again on repeat. In The Great British Baking Show, a past season I’ve been watching for the first time ever. And, multiple nights in a row, I woke up somewhere around 3am from a dream about getting my pastry baked in time, having enough room in the oven, measuring and folding my puff pastry correctly. A direct result of watching the show with apt attention for too many nights in a row.

Puff pastry again in a book I’m listening to on becoming a French chef.

And then another in a new recipe sent to my email from a baking blog I follow, but have never actually baked from.

I consider that when topics or ideas keep repeating themselves in rapid succession in my life, there’s meaning there. But what’s the meaning of puff pastry on repeat?

And what does that have to do with these breakfast tacos?

One thing I realized was just how much joy I found in the process. How little nutrition brain was involved in the making. Is the puff pastry good for me? Yes, unequivocally yes. For any creative process that brings that much joy, present moment awareness, and time just being lost in the process is certainly good for me / us.

Is it nutritionally sound? Certainly not everyday.

It’s taken me nearly 15 years and a whole lot of practice, therapeutic reprogramming, health crises, and grad school to realize that health is about a lot more than just the nutritional components of what we put into our mouth.

Does what we eat matter? Absolutely.

But what our body does with the food, what mindset or stress-state we eat it in, are we enjoying it with full attention or just half-heartedly chewing while doing something else? I’m coming to believe those matter even more. It took me something like these past 15 years to achieve puff pastry freedom from the food police in my brain, and just have joy in the process.

And that’s something to be proud of.

In an earlier article I wrote this year on Intuitive Eating and Cravings, which has quickly become a popular one, I spoke to the idea that we often need to balance our body first before we can decipher between what our body actually wants (intuition) and what our mind desires (cravings).

Was puff pastry an intuition or a craving?

For me, it was neither. It was a cooking project that I’ve long considered quite challenging, especially with gluten-free flour. That I just happened to eat. I love that there’s room for that in my current life.

One thing I’ve realized after I spent more time learning about the purpose of balancing flavors and optimizing a food’s digestibility is that when those two are done, the flavor and yum-factor is usually there by default. And in contrast, some of the recipes I see published that I might have reached for previously stand out to me as overly spiced, one-sided, leaning too heavily on one taste aspect or effect, and containing too many components that stimulate me/us on various levels. Or are just plain too difficult to digest. The more I notice it, the more I notice the effect it has on my mind and body.

As I focus on the balancing flavors in the everyday meal-after-meal routine, the intuitive of what my body needs / wants becomes infinitely more clear. And what it doesn’t want when I temporarily stray from that does too.

So that’s what these breakfast tacos are.

A colorful, flavorful, texture-rich, balanced taste, and for all that, actually-easy taco plate. They may have breakfast in their title, but I enjoy them much more as a weekend after-run brunch or weeknight meal.

Hope you enjoy! If you try them out, leave a comment and let me know how you enjoy them.

Breakfast Tacos with Black Beans and Egg Scramble

Switch up radishes for another seasonal vegetable as desired, add more of your tortillas as needed, or switch them out for rice to make more of a plate-style meal instead of tacos.
The black beans should make enough for a double batch (about 4 servings) to be used for another meal. 

Prep:  overnight   | Cook: 3-4 hours (for beans); 15-20  minutes  to finish  | Serves: about 2

1 small avocado
1 lime, zest and juice
olive oil for cooking eggs
pinch of mineral salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. olive oil
⅛ tsp. salt
½ tsp. smoked paprika
1 bunch of radishes, quartered
cooked black beans, see below
6 small  tortillas (6”)
small handful of cilantro, minced

Black Beans
1 cup dry black beans, soaked overnight
¾ tsp. mineral salt
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
water to cover by 3-4 inches

  1. A few hours before or in the morning, cook black beans in a medium pot in the spices and water until very soft and flavorful. This is best done for at least 3-4 hours, adding water as needed. 
  2. To prepare breakfast tacos, peel and pit the avocado and mash in a small bowl. Zest the lime and stir in lime zest, salt, and then juice from at least half of the lime. Add more juice as needed. Set aside. 
  3. Scramble the uncooked eggs in a small bowl, add a dash of salt and pepper, and set aside. 
  4. Add the olive oil, ⅛ tsp. salt, and paprika to a sauté pan. Heat until the aroma comes up and then add in the radishes and a splash of water to cover the radishes by about a ¼. Simmer, covered, until the radishes are just soft. Transfer to a bowl, and then use the sauté pan to scramble the eggs in a little oil. 
  5. Heat the tortillas in a clean pan. 
  6. Enjoy the various elements including the seasoned black beans, eggs, sautéed radishes, mashed avocado, tortillas and cilantro, either as traditional taco toppings, or as a plate with tortillas on the side. 

Better than the Bakery GF/DF Blackberry Muffins

During my senior year of high school, my agricultural science class focused on business and economics principles, and in one unit on our future in the workforce, I did some business planning on starting a cake bakery. I don’t know if we were focusing on entrepreneurship specifically, or if I’ve always had a streak of planning to run my own business, but to my way of thinking, I was owning, managing, baking, selling, etc. The whole dang thing. Never mind that I was in agricultural class, not growing or milling wheat or other grains, or just using an example from the then business I had at the time of raising and selling club lambs. Nope. Instead I did an abrupt turn and planned for baking artistic cakes in my future.

To this day, I often joke that if the pay were better and other things didn’t work out, I’d be baking and handing over the goods to other happy people instead. Oh and starting a porridge and brunch restaurant. Which is where my love for baking muffins comes in. If you go ahead and browse the recipe section, you’ll see I’ve published more than a handful of muffin recipes over the years. Along with cake, muffins are one of my favorite baked foods to experiment with.

When it’s up to me, I often tend to go for the heavily spiced, oat-rich, morning glory-type muffins that are stuffed with ingredients like raisins, shredded zucchini or carrots, mashed pumpkin, or other fruit. But not everyone favors that kind of porridge reincarnation. William, for instance, is a plain vanilla cake / vanilla frosting person, and likewise prefers simple berry muffins without the frills and extra ingredients. Since he’s been stopping by a local bakery before work many mornings for exactly that type of muffin, we settled on me making him some that are a little more wholesome and he can grab and take instead.

That’s where these come in. These are blackberry muffins made from milling oats, buckwheat, and almonds in my spice / coffee grinder. But they can easily become blueberry or raspberry-flavored instead, and if you have more of the flours than I do, start with oat, buckwheat, and almond flours for one less step. Either way, they’re an early morning treat that stands up to the bakery muffins with more whole foods, and especially whole-grains and reduced sugar. A big win and less of the side effects of refined sugars and flours, etc.

Blackberry Muffins, makes 6

65 grams / ¾ cup gf-certified oatmeal
65 grams / a little less than 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats
60 grams / ½ cup raw almonds
8 grams / 1 Tbs. arrowroot flour
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. sea salt
70 grams / 6 Tbs. organic cane sugar
25 grams / 2 Tbs. coconut oil
1 large egg or a vegan alternative (1 Tbs. ground flax mixed with 3 Tbs. water)
½ tsp. grated lemon zest, optional
1 tsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. vanilla extract
170 grams / ¾ cup plain non-dairy yogurt (unsweetened coconut yogurt is best)
150 grams / 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries

  1. Begin by weighing or measuring out the oats, buckwheat and almonds, and then finely grind them to a flour mixture in a spice / coffee grinder. Alternatively, if you already have light buckwheat flour, oat flour and almond meal, you can skip this step.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a muffin pan by adding the paper liners, or lightly wipe the insides with oil and dust with flour. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the flours, baking powder and soda, and salt. Then set it aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix the coconut oil and sugar with a spoon until light and fluffy. Then beat in the egg, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla.
  5. Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the sugar and oil and stir. Then add in ¼ cup of yogurt. Stir in another third of flour and another ¼ cup of yogurt, and then add the rest of the flour and the final ¼ cup of yogurt. The batter should be slightly fluffy. Don’t overmix.
  6. Gently stir in the blackberries, and then evenly divide the batter into the six muffins cups.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool them slightly in the pan, before tipping out and eating