A friend of my sister’s recently began growing her own garden, and I am 100% convinced that there is wheaties in the soil because all of the produce is sprouting up HUGE. The zucchini she gave us was literally the size of my arm, elbow to fingertips. So the zucchini recipes started flowing… ground turkey zucchini boats, spiralized zucchini pad thai, baked zucchini fries…. you name it, we were exploring them all. I swear to you, this was like the Mary Poppin’s Bag of zucchini… it was bottomless! Trying to figure out how to finish this ‘cchini once and for all, we decided making a loaf (or three) of zucchini bread would do the trick.
This glorious, delicious, stubborn fruit. As fantastic as they are, mangoes are a massive pain in the rear-end due to their flatish oval pit in the middle. Unlike other stone fruits like avocados and apricots, mango pits are harder to identify because they are light in color and do not have a defined circular shape. And once you find yourself in the lunch room at work, mango juice dripping down your chin, trying to eat around the unidentified pit, coworkers judging you from all directions, you will definitely wish you had read this post all the way through. Trust me, you only make that mistake once. Let me save you the trouble.
Visiting Peru a few weeks ago gave me a serious travel bug. I’ve always had it on a minor scale – which explains draining my paychecks for small weekend getaways to Mammoth, Big Sur, Vegas, and the list goes on. But ever since I got back from Peru, it’s like a lightbulb went off in my head that the rest of the world is waiting out there, and all we have to do is go! So as I was scanning flights on expedia, planning my next trip (I’m crushing so hard on Thailand right now), I realized quickly that my financial situation did not warrant a trip to Southeast Asia anytime soon. In fact, it strongly encouraged I don’t even take a trip to the local Thai restaurant this weekend. That said, I figured it was time to bring some culture and flavor to a dish right within my own kitchen.
Trends and fads in the nutrition world are constantly changing. This is where my absolute nutrition nerd comes out — I am totally fascinated with hearing the latest and greatest health and wellness trends (chlorophyll and spirulina, anyone?!). 10 years ago, low-carb and Atkins diets were the biggest thing since sliced bread (pun intended). Now, the world is asking for more transparency and sustainability in their food ventures, requesting ‘farm-to-fork’, ‘all-natural’, and ‘non-GMO’ foods in restaurants and grocery stores. Traditional farming practices are under the lime light, advocacy groups are petitioning for legislation change, and brands are adjusting their development strategy based on consumer demands. And to be honest, I couldn’t love it more! Go You, World, for demanding that the food industry shape up or ship out. Don’t ever question yourself when asking for confirmation that your guacamole did, in fact, come from an avocado rather than a green food dye and mayo. But besides the food that is on your plate, it’s so important to know the whole story and arm yourself with information about what’s going on behind the scenes, like all the food that didn’t make it to your plate, and never will, because they were never given the chance to try. (Cue violins.)
You haven’t truly lived in San Francisco until you have had the pleasure of leaving Brenda’s French Soul Food uncomfortably full. I’m talking ‘leggings only — no way I’m returning to work today — food coma’ type of full. And so it goes, when my coworker, who graciously took it upon himself to sponsor “SF Eat Week” during my last fleeting moments as a resident of San Francisco, got wind of the fact that I had not yet had this classic Bay Area experience, we promptly left work at 10 am to do just that. (They couldn’t fire me anyway, right? I already gave my notice!)
Okay okay, by popular demand (two people asked me), here is my own personal guac recipe! As you might have guessed by now, I love guacamole. It is such a staple in my diet that the avocado scare in California (a result of the drought) literally causes me to lose sleep. And yes, I will justify this addiction all day long by touting the monounsaturated fatty acid content of avocados, which provide those heart-healthy fats to keep me going, but let’s be honest – the real benefit is that guacamole just tastes delicious on anything and everything.
So here’s how it all went down. Sitting at a happy hour in San Francisco in January, one of my colleagues asked me “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?” (Fun fact: this is one of my favorite questions to ask people.) Without hesitation, I answered “Machu Picchu, Peru”. Probed with questions, I then went on to explain that five of my friends were planning a trip to Peru in six months, but I couldn’t afford to go. What happened next is actually quite comical. She took out her purse, slid a twenty across the table, and told me it was the start of my Machu Picchu fund. Another coworker then followed suit. Incredibly embarrassed, I insisted they take it back, but to no avail. For the next month, I was referred to as “Machu Picchu” in hospital management meetings. Pretty soon, most of the management team knew the story and began calling me Machu Picchu. The story circulated like wildfire, to the point that people I didn’t even know were referring to me as Machu Picchu in the halls of the hospital. So one night, after a little encouragement from my friend Cabernet Sauvignon, I clicked ‘purchase’ on an expedia flight and didn’t look back. Because life is meant for small paychecks and big adventures.
I eat a lot of salads. A LOT of salads. I’m talking almost every day at work. I typically brown-bag it to work, because let’s be honest, I’m balling on a budget here. Every morning, I fly through my kitchen, throwing together my typical spinach-chicken-carrot-onion-dressing mix without even blinking an eye. This week, as I sat down on my lunch break for my ‘usual’, it dawned on me that I was in a serious salad rut (it’s a thing, I swear). So I thought ‘No more! You’re better than this!’, and I got right to it.
Big news: I moved from San Francisco back to Chicago! I absolutely love San Francisco, and I left part of my heart in that glorious city, but ultimately, I decided that the Bay Area is just too stupid expensive for me right now. Maybe at another time in my life I will end up back in the Bay, and I will welcome it with open arms (and hopefully a higher salary). But for now, I will have to love that city from afar.
That being said, when I gave my notice and decided to make the move, my fellow foodie co-worker was 100% committed to making sure I ate through ALL of San Francisco before I left. In his words, “you need another layer to keep you warm when you return to the midwest”. Touché, touché.