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Harissa – My One True Love

Ground up TRUE LOVE in a ramekin

Ground up TRUE LOVE in a ramekin

All my life I thought I knew what love was. Until I went to Atlanta one weekend to see #bae and happened to buy some Harissa seasoning. I wasn’t even supposed to be over there by the spice wall. I was only supposed to buy some Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee beans (aka SINFUL COFFEE HEAVEN) for my cousin Rae, because cousins have your back. However, while there, something deep down in my soul told me to wander over to the spice wall.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I hate Atlanta and am so glad I no longer live there. However, I LOVE the spice wall at the Dekalb International Farmers Market. It touches my soul in a way that I didn’t even know could be touched. All those spices, on shelves, in alphabetical order, stacked up in clear containers, with white labels and black type face, filling up a whole wall. It’s magical.

In true Chooch the Creep fashion, I stared longingly at the spice wall. I then took two steps forward and stared again. And then, I released the Super Creep. On a Sunday, the most crowded day of the week to be in a farmers market, I glided my acrylic claws against EVERY. SINGLE. SPICE. I pressed my face against the containers and got a whiff of the various scents. I whispered “I love you and I’m sorry I abandoned you. Do you still love me?” They didn’t answer. But it’s cool cause I have enough love for the both of us. I wanted to lay down on a bed and just have someone pour EVERY.SINGLE.SPICE all over my body. Apparently that’s too much to ask (whet?!) because right in the middle of my love affair with the spice wall people decided to yell at me in different languages like I was in their way or something. I’m assuming they didn’t realize that this was live footage of two lost lovers reunited. So, I gave them a pass for their obvious rudeness.

I picked up about 8 spices that day. One of them being Harissa. Now, I’d first had Harissa cerca 2010 at my dear friend Tasha’s when she made some Harissa spiced chicken – chicken that awakened my senses and gave me a purpose in life. I always said I was gonna buy it, but of course, me being the professional procrastinator that I sometimes am, I never did. Until that day at the farmer’s market. When the Harissa jumped off the shelf and into my hand and said “Use me!!!” Who am I to argue with divine intervention?

If you don’t know what Harissa is, it’s a spice blend of hot chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, cumin, coriander, caraway, mint and sometimes tomatoes and rose petals and other secret ingredients that I’m sure Google won’t disclose because hater-ade. It’s used in Northern Africa, the Middle East and some places in Europe. To me it’s not spicy at all but I eat hot peppers for breakfast so…

Let me tell you. I put that shit Harissa on everything like Granny and Franks Red Hot Sauce!!!!! Fried eggs, shrimp, cauliflower, grits, mixed with raw honey on some biscuits, in homemade Caesar salad dressing, on roasted asparagus, in pasta sauce. It’s the magic ingredient for everything prepared with love. With every bite of Harissa spiced food, my heart grows ten sizes ala the Grinch on Christmas, and I am so filled with love and gratitude and just feel overall blessed to be in this committed, supportive, loving and trusting relationship with Harissa. Below is a picture of some fusili in a lemon butter caper sauce with harissa sautéed shrimp, mushroom and spinach.  I cried while eating it. I’m sure my tears added extra protein and flavor. Get you some Harissa – you’re welcome.

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Hint of Love, Pinch of Sôl,                                                                                                        Chooch

I'm baaaacccccccckkkkk

Hey Loves. I’m baaaaaacccccccck. It’s been a million years since I’ve last blogged and I do apologize. 

Here’s a secret that’s not really a secret. I kind of (read absolutely, definitely do) suck at keeping up routines. I’ll go hard at the gym 4-5 days a week for two months and the something will happen where I have to miss a week or only go once. And then I will never go again for three months. Or, I’ll take all these great vitamins and supplements. I’ll forget one day and then will conveniently “forget” again for two more months, after which point I’ll become obsessed with taking them every day at the same time until I stop taking them again. It’s a very unfortunate fact.  

Anyways. Blog posts are no different for me. I over-complicated the idea of blogs (it’s also no secret that I over-complicate and overthink most things) and pushed myself to write these long grandiose posts with 86 pictures and 86 paragraphs that never got posted because (of course) I developed commitment issues with this idea of writing excessive blogs. So here I am, back at the drawing board, with the hopes of maintaining yet another routine. This time I’m going to try my best to remain consistent. I’m also not calling it a blog routine, since routines are where things go to die a long painful death in my life.

I recently dealt with a really bad depressive episode. It was a result of me trying to be superwoman. A sort of self-imposed martyr if you will.  I took on too much between work, motherhood, catering, extra-curricular and family. Everything about my life felt heavy – like my back was literally breaking down. It was a really dark and scary period for me.  Thankfully, I have really supportive family and friends and I got through it. This period in my life taught me to not overwhelm myself, to put small and realistic expectations on myself, to start small, to prioritize rest and self-care, to say no when I need to, to slow down (literally), to be kind to myself, to not compare my life and accomplishments (or lack thereof) to others, and to take my life one day at a time.

This blog post without 86 paragraphs and 86 pictures is me taking life one day at a time.  I’m going to try my best to continue with the posts and to take it one day at a time. Thanks for reading. 

Hint of Love, Pinch of Sôl,                                                                                                 

Chooch

My New #Bae, Mushrooms

So, I have decided to become “vegetarianish.” What does that even mean? I really don’t know because I love meat. I love the way it sounds when it hits the sizzling pan like foreplay, the way it can meld and marry any flavors, the aromas that fill the house when it’s simmering, sautéing, blackening, browning, frying or stewing. It’s heaven sent. It’s beautiful. It’s love.  Do people know about meat and its wonders?!

I guess “vegetarianish” for me means I eat mostly vegetarian meals with the occasional seafood thrown in every few weeks and when I want duck confit or Harold’s Chicken, dammit I eat it! Which only ends up being once or twice a month, thankfully. This is not a political or animal rights move. It started as a 30 day no meat challenge in April and I felt and looked good after the challenge so I said “Why go back?”

Since then, I’ve been trying really hard to find meatless meals that touch me in my soul right where my taste buds and heart mingle, the way a good burger or a piece of fried chicken does. Because, let’s be real. I live to eat. I do not eat to live.

Unfortunately.

Which brings me unveil my new obsession: MUSHROOMS.

I have grown to love mushrooms because they can make me think I’m eating some sort of meat, kind of. I’ve used them in lots of meals as a meat substitute and they work beautifully.  I still am gonna eat a medium rare steak & a lamb burger soon-ish. But until them, mushrooms are Bae.

Below are two easy and quick meals I’ve cooked in under an hour on a weeknight that include my new boo-thang, mushrooms.  

 

Veggie “Cheesesteaks”

                                      Look at that almost steak Umami deliciousness...

                                      Look at that almost steak Umami deliciousness...

 

I recently tried a real cheesteak while in Philly for a friend’s wedding about a month ago (hence “vegetarianish”) and it was HEAVENLY. I have been craving steak since then (and dreaming about chasing cows, but I digress), so I made this veggie “cheesesteak” and it curbed the craving. This recipe is really simple, very cheap and cooks up in 30-45 minutes. Let me know what you think!

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                    For the “Steak”:                                                                                                                          Olive oil and butter for sautéing                                                                                                       2 onions, sliced thin1 bell pepper, sliced thin                                                                                 7-8 garlic cloves, pressed or sliced thin                                                                                           2 8 oz containers of your favorite sliced mushrooms (I white, baby bellas & cremini)                 Worchester Sauce, Soy Sauce, Pink Salt, Cumin, Garlic Powder, Smoked Paprika, Cayenne           Pepper & Black Pepper to taste

For the Cheese Sauce/Whiz:                                                                                                             1 T butter                                                                                                                                           1 T flour                                                                                                                                               2/3 ish C milk, room temperature                                                                                                     4-6 oz good quality cheese (I used a mix of Gruyere, Sharp Cheddar, White Cheddar and              Fontina)                                                                                                                                           4 hoagie rolls                                                                                                                                 Hot peppers, to taste                                                                                                                         Mayo, to taste

  Directions:

  1. Caramelize bell peppers, garlic and onions in EVOO & butter until browned, remove from          pan.                                                                                                                                                   2. Add mushrooms to pan, cook until they sweat and create some liquid.                                   3. Add onion mixture, seasonings & sauces. Season to taste.                                                         4. Toast hoagie rolls in a pan w/ a smidge of butter or oil.                                                           5. In a sauce pan, make roux w/ melted butter and flour, whisking until smooth & combined.     6. Once smooth, add milk, whisking continuously to prevent lumps.                                           7. Once roux is desired consistency, add cheese and stir frequently until melted & smooth       8. Spread mayo on hoagie buns & fill with mushrooms & onions. Top with lots of whiz & hot           peppers.

 

Balsamic Mushroom Reduction in Parmesan Cream Sauce Over Linguini

 

                                   It almost tastes like chicken, if you close your eyes! 

                                   It almost tastes like chicken, if you close your eyes! 

This recipe was inspired by about ten Pinterest posts. I was craving Shrimp Alfredo but had no shrimp and not enough heavy cream. So, I remixed it. This is another really quick, simple meal that is ready in 30 minutes. I paired it with whole grain linguini because that’s what I had, but you can use fettucine, linguini, spaghetti, box tie pasta, really whatever makes you happy.

Ingredients:                                                                                                                                       8 oz pasta                                                                                                                                 Butter & Olive oil for sautéing                                                                                                         1 onion, diced very small                                                                                                               5-6 garlic cloves                                                                                                                               8 oz your favorite mushrooms, sliced                                                                                       Good quality Balsamic Vinegar, maybe ¼ C                                                                             Heavy cream, maybe ½ - 1 C                                                                                                               Juice & zest of 1-2 lemons or limes                                                                                         Parmesan Cheese maybe ½ C                                                                                                   Herbs de Provence, Pink Salt, Cumin, Black Pepper, Cayenne, Basil & Oregano to taste   Cilantro for garnish

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.                                                 2. Sautee garlic and onions in EVOO & butter until soft.                                                                 3. Add mushrooms to pan, cook until they sweat and create some liquid, add butter if                   needed.                                                                                                                                             4. Add balsamic vinegar and let mushroom mixture cook down for about 10 minutes, stirring       frequently.                                                                                                                                       5. Turn off heat & add heavy cream, parmesan cheese & seasonings to taste. Add more heavy     cream if the balsamic vinegar taste is overpowering.                                                                     6. Add pasta to mushroom sauce. Add some pasta water if the sauce is too thick.                     7. Fold in lime/lemon juice & zest & cilantro.                                                                                 8. Plate and garnish with extra cilantro, parmesan & zest.

Until Next Time-                                                                                                                           Hint of Love, Pinch of Sôl,                                                                                                         Chooch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sage, Peace & Love

This past Friday, Sôl Appétit took part in the healing at Urban Escape Healing’s event, Healing Collective: A Night of Sacred Space.

I have never felt so much love in one space before. The space is laced in teals and blues that nurture your soul and upon entrance, that sage hits your nostrils and immediately forces you to lay your burdens down. There were different healing sessions you could sign up for: acupuncture, massage, Tarot Card reading, meditation, psychotherapy to name just a few. It was beautiful, amazing, wonderful. In a time where there is so much pain and hate in the world, I truly felt like I had stepped into another world that was cloaked in love and peace. J

My beautiful sister, Jasmyne , also my business partner for the night, was with me in the trenches in the kitchen serving up Sôl Appétit’s habichuelas guisadas, pollo guisado, arroz amarrillo and a mixed greens and arugula salad with mango, cilantro, avocado, red onions, cherry tomatoes and citrus vinaigrette, just like your abuela makes it. 

I met a bunch of amazing souls, fed lots of people, received lots of love and got to appreciate the beauty that happens when people come together with the sole purpose of making the world a better place.

Thank you to Neale Baldyga at Urban Escape Healing for giving me the opportunity to share my gifts with the crowd. Also, many thanks to those that supported me during and before the event: Khadijah Kysia, my dear friend who is also an acupuncturist, my sister Jasmyne, my Nana and my friend Alana Martin. I couldn’t have done this without any you all’s love and support.

 

***Urban Escape Healing is located at 1049 N Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60622 (address changing soon but the goodness will continue) 

 http://urbanescapehealing.com/   https://www.facebook.com/uehealing/

Urban Escape Healing Studio is a Chicago-based business & community that works in natural and vibrational healing techniques through sessions & workshops.

Until Next Time-                                                                                  Hint of Love, Pinch of Sôl,                                                             Chooch

 

 

 

 

 

Arroz Amarrillo

Arroz Amarrillo

Mixed greens and arugula salad with citrus vinaigrette

Mixed greens and arugula salad with citrus vinaigrette

Habichuelas Guisadas

Habichuelas Guisadas

Pollo Guisado 

Pollo Guisado 

My friend Alana, helping me prep the night before 

My friend Alana, helping me prep the night before 

My beautiful Nana helping out in the kitchen

My beautiful Nana helping out in the kitchen

My gorgeous sister, Jasmyne, and I at the event :) 

My gorgeous sister, Jasmyne, and I at the event :)