Cherry Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream (+ homemade chocolate)

coconut milk and cherries

It’s been two years—two solid years since I came over here to this little space, logged into my WordPress dashboard and made the Big Announcement, alongside a recipe for cherry chocolate ice cream; two years since I’ve clocked into an office; two years since I’ve had coworkers nearby; two years without steady paychecks; two years with a much lower income (and two years with a much simpler life); two solid years since I did the thing I most wanted to do, which was also the thing about which I was most afraid; two years since I took one of the biggest leaps of my life: become a full-time freelancer.

cherries cherries

What I remember most about that hot and hopeful June of two summers ago, along with feeling free and like the future was wide-open before me, was feeling curious. From the moment I approached my old boss about becoming a contractor to the day I got into my car and drove away, for good, I remember wondering what would happen, where I would find work, if freelancing could possibly sustain me and for how long. I wondered if I’d end up moving or if I’d switch careers. I wondered if I would like it, this new lifestyle of casual workdays and variable pay. I didn’t know what to expect, and, in the same way that now Tim and I look at our future together, wondering about our lease ending in August and if we’ll have children and when, in the same way we hope for things, like a house and a garden and fruit trees, there’s something about knowing you don’t know that is both humbling and exciting and terrifying and good.

making homemade chocolate

I mean, don’t get me wrong: this isn’t the same thing as saying I like uncertainty. Most days, I just want a blueprint, a ready-made map that directs me from point A to point B and says why. I like direction. It’d be great if life were like that: Take three steps forward into a new job opportunity. Be at that coffee shop at 10 AM and you’ll meet a lifelong friend. Jump into the unknown, just you and your laptop and a lot of hopes and dreams, and you’ll make it, don’t worry, and two years from now you’ll be writing another blog post, thankful and happy and surprised.

cherry chocolate coconut ice cream

But the thing I realize most when I look back, knowing that it’s so much easier to see the truth when you’re two years removed from it, is that even when I felt unsure, even when everything seemed unknown, I was never abandoned or alone and so I never really needed to fear. These whole two years, with their ups and downs and maybes, I’ve always been OK, always provided for, and so I have every reason to trust.

Maybe that’s the whole point of the not knowing—because if you could see everything that’s coming in front of you, even all the good things, you’d never get the gift of learning faith.

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Roasted Cabbage Wedges + Blogger Ideas for Using up Your CSA Vegetables

plate of roasted red cabbage

I keep wanting to write that joining a CSA is like having a child but, I’m 99% sure the only thing that would do is prove I’m not a parent.

And probably make all of you who are parents hate me.

So joining a CSA is not like having a child. It’s just a responsibility—the kind where you have to be faithful to go get your pickups, at which point a bushel of freshly picked produce is placed in your hands, and then you’re sent home to care for it and do something with it; and then, you hear about the creative and nurturing things everyone else who is part of a CSA is doing with their zucchini and kale and sweet potatoes, and you can’t help but think about the bunches of basil sitting at the back of your fridge; and suddenly you’re beginning new cookbooks not by reading the opening introductions but by turning passionately to the indexes and hunting for squash and Swiss chard and cabbage; and you don’t even want to admit these things to anyone because then they will say, well, why did you want to have a CSA anyway? and you know they won’t understand that these guilty feelings are just one side of the issue, just one part.

They won’t understand when they hear you say, I need a new idea for garlic!, that you aren’t saying you hate having so much garlic but that really, even as you speak and in a way that’s hard to explain, you’re in love.

red cabbage

Because at the very same time that you haul your weekly boxes to your car, holding the weight of them in your hands, both figuratively and literally, wondering how in the world you’re going to do what you need to do with the bounty before you, you’re also thinking, I can’t believe this is mine! What a treasure for our family! What a miracle that these things all grow, so big and beautiful, just miles from my home!

cabbage halved

Or how now you feel freer to share, freer to open your home for impromptu dinners and desserts and to know that there will be plenty to eat, plenty to go around, plenty to feed everyone.

cabbage wheels

And that, even though you know in your mind that you paid for them in advance and that’s why you don’t pull out your pocketbook at each pickup, every new box still somehow feels like a gift has been given to you, like Tuesdays have become holidays wherein you and your husband are the ones being celebrated, honored with rich hauls of foods to fill your plates for weeks to come.

roasted red cabbage

A CSA is a responsibility, sure, but, like work and like marriage and like, I imagine, a lot of other things, from having children to being famous to growing older, it’s also something that can bring a lot of joy—when you eat giant salads for dinner, when you taste your first pattypan squash, when you chop up red cabbage and roast it until it caramelizes in the heat of your oven and makes another night of dinner, pretty and purple and wilted on your plate.

blogger tips for using up your CSA vegetables
As anyone who’s taken part in a vegetable CSA would tell you, there’s a real magic and value in not knowing what each week’s box will hold—just as there’s likewise a fear that you won’t be able to completely use it all up. So to help combat that problem, here are tips from a variety of writers and bloggers currently in the midst of CSAs:

(Or, click here to go directly to the cabbage recipe below!)

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Sweet Tomato Jam + Grilled Cheese

tomato jam

I am sitting here at my computer screen, imagining you, at the office or on your iPhone or skimming through your Reader, asking myself what I can possibly say to accurately communicate to you the importance of today’s recipe, and I’m thinking about the reality that you are probably doing ten other things right now, that while you are deciding whether or not to keep reading or click away, you’ve also got a Word doc up; your email inbox, open; if your kids aren’t crying, they’re about to. You and I both know that just because it’s Friday, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a to-do list, physical or not, on your mind for today, and you’re trying to remember things and wanting to go get jobs done, so when you click here for a second and I ask for your attention, even with a photo like this top one, I know it’s not an easy sell. I know what I’m up against. But listen, please hear me on this one if you’ve never heard me before and will never hear me again:

You want to hear about this tomato jam.

Once more, in all caps, the way my mom types me emails:

YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THIS TOMATO JAM!

tomatoes and Herbivoracious

Now that we’ve got that settled, let me explain. Because in response to the 30 new Twitter updates you’ve missed just in reading the beginning of this post, in defense of the time you’re spending here that could be spent in any number of other places, I am offering you something totally worth the trade off. This is not like when the cable company said your bill would go down or when the dentist said the filling would be no big deal—this stuff is the genuine article, the real thing, the kind of pearls that will actually feel gritty when you rub them along the edge of your front teeth.

tomatoes in a bag

This tomato jam is July. It’s outdoor picnics while the sun sets. You could think of it like the bottled version of long summer nights and roads lined by cornfields, as spoonfuls of Saturday morning farmer’s markets and months of no school, when the weeks stretch out before you, late morning after late morning, and you go to the pool and the lake and your friends’ houses and everything smells like cut grass and hot asphalt and your neighbor’s rows of flowers.

tomatoes tomatoes

And look, you don’t have to believe me, but to say that this tomato jam will change your life is no exaggeration, not after you watch what happens to a pound and a half of freshly boiled, peeled, sweet tomatoes (tomatoes you picked up from a roadside stand if possible, for $2 a pound) when they’re combined with onions and basil and honey and spices and left to simmer the long, slow simmer that releases their juices and breaks up their shapes and turns them into what is roughly the equivalent of tomato gold.

Pure gold.

tomato jam

This is the tomato jam I’ve dreamed of making ever since I opened Michael Natkin’s new “Herbivoracious” cookbook, which arrived at our doorstep a few months ago. It’s the tomato jam worth spending your fresh garden tomatoes on, the tomato jam to watch transform on your stovetop and find yourself remembering what it is to be amazed.

tomato jam + grilled cheese

You can slather it on roasted portabello mushrooms, fresh off the grill; put it on your morning toast, alongside your eggs; sandwich it with raw mozzarella and fresh basil on buttered sourdough, sauteing them into a grilled cheese that tastes like July evenings outside Spacca Napoli in Chicago.

In other words, like avocados and like summer and like love, this tomato jam is something to celebrate—for its ability to surprise you, for its pure magic, for its rare and uncanny ability to not only make good on its promises but, to be better than you dreamed. Make it; try it ; it will be worth your time.

Some housekeeping: Food Loves Writing underwent a little makeover this week, so if you haven’t clicked through in a while, now would be a great time. We’re still working on some changes, but for now, there’s a revised header, a new sidebar, some new organization —and feedback is welcome, so let us know what you think or if you have any questions!

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Avocado Fries + Yogurt Sauce

sliced avocados

Two days into our honeymoon, Tim and I are eating lunch at a taco hut near our condo, a whitewashed building where the windows are always open and the ceiling fans are always moving, and the hot Hawaiian breezes blow in and out leisurely, matching the pace of the island where we’re staying, palm tree branches rustling in the wind.

On the porch in front, there’s a cardboard box set up on a bar stool with a sign that reads, “$0.25 each” and which holds a dozen or so avocados, each of them half the size of Tim’s head, and there’s no one around to collect payments, just a large glass jar, so after looking at each other in disbelief, still amazed that we’re in Kauai, let alone that we’re paying 1/8 of what we’d pay for avocados in the states, we grab a handful of dark green, alligator-skinned fruits, leave our money and go.

bowls of flour, egg, bread crumbs

As far as foods go, avocados are the closest thing I know to magic, and not just when you’re eating them on your honeymoon. They’re cool and creamy, filling, versatile enough to be guacamole and smoothies and salads and rich chocolate frosting atop raw chocolate brownies. They’re filled with vitamins: A, B complex, C, E, H and K. They’re high in essential amino acids and rich in minerals: folate, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium and potassium. But most importantly, avocados are fatty—not just any kind of fatty, but good fatty.

And while I know in this world of low-fat diets and counting calories that putting words like good and fatty together can seem like an oxymoron, kind of like saying gorgeous ugly or smart stupid or transparent Southerner, they’re the fatty that promotes good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad (LDL). The fatty that’s good for heart health. The fatty that makes it easier for your body to absorb and use the good vitamins and antioxidants in the rest of the salad you’re eating them in. The fatty proven to work against inflammation, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In other words, like I said, magic.

making avocado fries with tim

I love avocados because they taste good and because we eat them in Hawaii and because of their health benefits, and I spent a good chunk of time trying to convince my dad (and all men I know) to eat them more often because they’re also shown to reduce risk of prostate cancer, but mostly I love them because they literally amaze me—avocados are one of those rare things in life that regularly make me think, wow, now this is exactly as it should be, and we all need more of those moments.

avocado fries

Because, you know, in this life, it’s not hard to be disappointed. In a broken world of child abuse and poverty and fundamentalism and egos, it’s not hard to put your heart out there and have it crushed, not hard to be hurt, to feel the sting of someone’s words, to be forgotten or ignored or misunderstood. And there are days, I’ll just be honest, when I feel overwhelmed with all the bad things that surround us, enough that writing a little post on avocados seems pretty silly, pretty paltry, pretty small.

chopped cabbage

But here’s the thing I tell myself when those thoughts come: it’s good to see the truth of what is hard and face it, yes, but it’s better to see the whole truth, that hard things are not the only things and that there are good gifts too surrounding us—surrounding me—every day.

avocado fry with yogurt sauce

That’s why it’s blessed to look at the avocados we buy in Nashville and bring back to our gift of a home to cook in our gift of a kitchen, covering in flour and eggs and bread crumbs and sauteing into fries, so we can share them together at the table, dipped in yogurt sauce and eaten while the daylight pours in. And it’s blessed to be in Hawaii marveling at the abundance of avocados and starfruit and bananas, blessed to recognize how produce and vacation and the very marriage that they’re celebrating are gifts to make our hearts grateful and more filled with joy.

So we do, when we slather avocado on toast, when we eat guacamole late at night, when we add an avocado to our salad, when we make avocado fries. We thank God for making a food so rich and nutritious and enjoyable, even as we thank Him for everything else.

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Carrot Risotto (or, choosing whom you cook with)

top photo of carrot risotto

My brother hasn’t been in the car with us twenty minutes before I hear him say something in passing about a spring pea risotto he’s tried the week before, and before I can stop myself I’m exclaiming, “Risotto! I want to make risotto! How do you do it? Was it hard?”

Then, to Tim, “Remember our carrot risotto in California?”

photo of carrots

That risotto we’d had at La Bicyclette, the highlight of our meal and maybe our entire trip, was the kind of entrée you never forget, so even though I ask him, I know Tim knows it, too: a carrot risotto so creamy and buttery, so cheesy and comforting, so beautifully bright orange the way things hardly ever naturally are, that I heard at least three other bloggers say they would tackle this recipe when they got home.

Of course, I wasn’t one of those bloggers saying I’d make it later, just so we’re clear. I responded by saying how much I liked it, how warm and savory and amazing it was, but I didn’t dream of going home and trying it myself because, between us, risotto scares me. In my mind, risotto is great chefs and top restaurants and five-star reviews. It’s talent and skill and precision. There was a time, once, when I approached it, but the results were hard and bland and crunched when you took a spoonful, so Saturday, when we’re driving down the highway and I say, “I want to make risotto!” to my husband and my brother in the car, I don’t actually mean I want to make risotto. I mean that I want to eat risotto! and if it’s the La Bicyclette kind, preferably by the mixing bowl!

Because here’s the thing: risotto is hard. Risotto is fussy. Risotto isn’t something I can do.

But then my brother comes to town.

chopped onions and shredded carrots

You know, when it comes to the kitchen, the idea of cooking with other people, any people, may seem charming at first, but the truth is that not all cooks make good companions. You don’t have to share your kitchen many times before you see this is true.

There are cooks who will come into your home and take over, for example, leaving you stressed out and insecure even as they rearrange your spice cabinet. There are cooks who will second-guess you, who will comment on the weird way you hold the frosting bag while they take it out of your hands.

But then on the other hand, there are cooks like my brother, the kind who already know you so well that they are easy partners whatever the project. They come to visit and tell you about a risotto they made and make it seem so approachable and possible that before you know it, it’s Monday afternoon and you’re standing with them over arborio rice cooking on your kitchen stove, learning as you watch them, gaining confidence as you work together. These cooks aren’t common, but when you’re blessed to find them, give thanks—these are the people you want to cook with.

adam holding carrot risotto

And so it is that Adam and I are making risotto together, frozen stock thawing on the stove, my hands pressing buttons on the food processor to shred carrots, his hands chopping parsley on the cutting board. It’s not night yet, but the sky is darkening as storm clouds gather overhead, and the kitchen seems smaller and smaller as it grows more dim, so he flips on the overhead light above the stove; I close the blinds in the living room. He stirs the risotto, moving a long wooden spoon steadily through the rice and wine and carrots; I add stock, half cup by half cup, letting it soak in and be absorbed and change the rice to soft and plump and fragrant.

The two of us, who have been cooking together for as long as we’ve been cooking, work side by side in the entire process, like four hands in the same singular machine, a product of lifetimes of shared experience and kitchens and food. Even as it seems strange to be doing it now in Nashville, in my home, the one I share with Tim that’s eight hours away from where Adam and I spent most of our lives, it also seems familiar, just like Sunday afternoons making pizza in his Chicago apartment or weeknights baking cookies at Mom and Dad’s.

carrot risotto

Today, while we scoop ladles of risotto into bowls and sprinkle them with parsley and chopped carrots and Pecorino, I think how this person standing next to me has known me all his life and most of mine and how he’s been the first friend I talk to about decisions and passions and, two years ago, Tim.

I think how nice it is to cook with him because he knows me, so I can say to him, keep your eye on this and know he will; I can trust him to anticipate the next step, to catch something I miss; I can go to turn the pepper grinder just before we finish the risotto and, when it releases half a jar of whole peppercorns instead of a light sprinkling of ground pepper, I can count on him to laugh with me even while we have to laboriously pick peppercorn after peppercorn out of the simmering food.

After the last bit of stock has been worked into the pot, we take our bowls of risotto to the brown leather sofa and plop down, side by side, putting our feet up and flipping through movie trailers on Apple TV, and I feel so thankful for this brother who cooks with me, even as I feel thankful for the thing we’ve cooked, the thing I feared, the thing we eat spoonful after spoonful on the couch: risotto.

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Grapefruit Honey Sorbet + the Ripe Cookbook

Grapefruit sorbet from Ripe

It’s a quiet weeknight at home, and Tim and I are sitting Indian-style on the leather sofa, facing each other, our knees barely touching. I flip to a new page of the glossy hardcover on my lap, reading its words aloud.

three grapefruits

“People avoid chard,” I say to him, lifting the text from a dark green page opposite two criss-crossed leafy stems. “They see it at the market, with its big, imposing leaves, and think: If I bring that home, it’ll overrun the crisper and suffocate the carrots in their sleep.” The image makes us laugh, mostly because we know our own fridge is currently packed to the full with kale and lettuce and, indeed, enormous chard from our first week’s CSA. “Actually, you want these larger leaves for making stuffed chard,” it continues, “which is my favorite way to eat this pretty green vegetable.”

We sit like this for a while, the two of us, reading page after page as if it were a novel and not a cookbook perched across my lap. That’s because this book, written by Cheryl Sternman Rule, a sharp and clever lady I met in Oregon last fall, and photographed by Paulette Phlipot, a talented artist who knows how to showcase produce like it’s up for an Emmy, is no ordinary cookbook.

RIPE cookbook

Ripe is part coffee table accessory (so stunning you’ll see it for sale at Anthropologie), part encyclopedia (but organized by color, not alphabet), part story (short, tight stories that fit into one to three paragraphs at most). It’s about the glory of grown food—not the health of it or the sustainability of it, but the glory, the heart-and-soul glory of loving fruits and vegetables because they taste so good you can’t help yourself.

Grapefruit Sorbet

It’s one of the first cookbooks I’ve looked at, ever, and thought, I wouldn’t change a thing about this. At once attractive and informative and filled with ways to prepare whole foods that celebrate their flavor for what it is, Ripe is a book to have out on display and a book to have near your kitchen. It provides exactly one recipe (and three quick ideas for using) for each food featured, and not one of them feels pretentious or overcomplicated.

grapefruit sorbet with blackberries and a spoon

This is a book that makes you want to cook, that makes you want to eat, and, in my personal opinion, that feels a lot like Cheryl: insightful and savvy and, definitely going places.

Actually, make that already gone.

For more info on the book: RipeCookbook.com
To view Cheryl’s blog: 5 Second Rule

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Kale and Eggs (Or, Why You Should Start a Food Blog)

Kale and Eggs

If you want to know the truth, I have had this recipe in my WordPress drafts for weeks now. Weeks. Every time I would go to post it, just as something quick and easy, I would think, this is too simple, this is nothing special or, I don’t know, here we go with kale again, and I would talk myself out of it.

I do this kind of thing a lot. Maybe you do, too?

Kale Leaves

The last day of our Dole trip, during the one-hour drive between our hotel and the airport Friday morning, Gina from Skinny Taste said something to me and Tim that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. She said, you know, when it comes to her blog, she’s noticed that it’s always been the quick and simple posts, not the elaborate and thorough ones, that have resonated most with readers. She could spend a ton of time crafting something just so, but then it’s that fast and easy breakfast she throws together in a rush that people get excited about.

And what her anecdote about blogging tells me is this: there is real value in creating, even in creating something simple, especially if it’s true. With blogs, it’s not only the award-winning sites that have something to offer; it’s the blogs written by people in their pajama’s, at late hours of the night, created because those writers are dying to make something, to publish something, to give a voice to all the thoughts in their head; it’s the blogs written by people who don’t want to forget their recipes, who want them recorded somewhere for their friends and their grandchildren; it’s the blogs pursued for no other reason than because they’re fun.

I think this applies to more than blogging.

Every now and then, one of you tells me you want to start a food blog—or, to write more or, to experiment with flours or, to learn more about whole foods—yet then you wrestle with questions like “What do I have to say?” or “But it won’t be as good as X,” and I get it because they’re the same questions I wrestle with.

So here is what I want to say to you, to say to us: first of all, you should know that there are bloggers (just like there are writers and musicians and chefs and painters) who will tell you not to even try unless you do what they did—commit to posting thrice a week or, really understand recipes or, shoot pictures that are as crisp and glossy as a magazine’s. There are bloggers, fellow creators, who will discourage you by giving you their blog stats and telling you about their blog trips and saying how long it’s taken them to get to where they are. Try not to listen to them.

When you hear these voices, remind yourself that there is something about the creative process that often makes us hesitate, that makes us question and compare, that makes us think, no one will want to read this kale and eggs post or, I need to tell people how great my work is so that it can feel true. When you sit down with another blogger and hear these things, realize they’re wrestling with the same struggle you are—and keep creating.

Eggs in Pan

In “Cold Tangerines” by Shauna Niequist, she says this about the value of making art, be it books or music or a food blog:

I know that life is busy and hard and that there’s crushing pressure to just settle down and get a real job and khaki pants and a haircut. But don’t. Please don’t. Please keep believing that life can be better, brighter, broader because of the art that you make. Please keep demonstrating the courage that it takes to swim upstream in a world that prefers putting away for retirement to putting pen to paper, that chooses practicality over poetry, that values you more for going to the gym than going to the deepest places in your soul. Please keep making your art for people like me, people who need the magic and imagination and honesty of great art to make the day-to-day world a little more bearable.

eggs for one

There’s nothing wrong with taking a real job, anymore than there’s something wrong with khaki pants, except that sometimes doing the culturally acceptable things are exactly what keeps us from pursuing creativity. The way I see it, just as the world needs more art, the world needs more people who are passionate about making it, and so therefore it needs more food blogs. Not because the writers will become famous authors. Not because they’ll get free things or gain acclaim. But because, at the most basic level, there is value in creating, value in putting something together the way our Creator does. And these days, every time I see a new blog, that’s what I’m thinking.

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