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Some cooks prefer to prepare food as naturally as possible. Pie dough with a food processor? Bread dough with a standing mixer? Not a chance. Isn’t that what your hands are for? To pinch flour and water together, and feel the weight of the ingredients in your hands, just as your ancestors did for millenniums before you?

For better or worse, I am not one of these people. I’m an efficiency junkie and rely heavily on modern day kitchen innovations. I’m an owner of every tool for every need – cherry pitters, avocado slicers, vegetable noodle spiralizers, stovetop smokers, handheld smokers…would you like me to continue? For the record, Julia Child had the very same vices, so if you include yourself in the “technology-dependent” camp, you’re in good company.

With all of this technology talk, you’d probably assume that I was an early adopter of one of the high-tech blenders that flooded the market in recent years.

But I held off, and for good reason.

We had a blender, and a high-priced one at that, courtesy of our wedding registry. Soon after our engagement, I’d walked through Crate and Barrel with a handheld version of a supermarket checkout scanner, price shooting SKUs with eager abandon.

But this was back in 2004 when Vitamix (and its descendents) hadn’t yet captured the hearts and wallets of health fanatics everywhere. The first time that I heard about one of these high-speed blenders was years later through a friend of mine, who waxed poetic about its nutritional benefits. Despite her protestations, I stuck to my old machine, resigning myself to a blender that produced a fine margarita, but would cower if confronted by a raw beet in a dark alley.

The turning point in my newbie juicing career came when I became part of the Instagram community two years ago. And my – what juices and smoothies these vegan, paleo, gluten-free and other health fanatics were making: Vegetables, herbs, fruit, bee pollen, spirulina, and maca powder? XO Jane addressed the issue with the eloquently-titled “Let’s talk about the weird sh*t I put in my blender”.  Clearly, I was behind the times. All the cool kids were doing it; it was high time that I got myself out of the dark ages and invest in a blender that could pulverize a chain link fence along with my daily allotment of frozen berries.

I did my research – Vitamix was the market leader, with a price tag to match. But one that I kept hearing about – Blendtec – was delivering equivalent results with a significantly lower cost.

And it came in red, my favorite color.

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I jumped on the bandwagon, ordered my Blendtec, and opened it with a weepy glint in my eye. And as so often happens with any new purchase, it sat on my shelves, neglected and unloved, for 5 months.

This is a pattern, and – whether you call it technophobic or lack-of-time-aholic – it’s a problem. I’m always giddy to make the purchase on Amazon, and dread the unpacking/setup process.

The issue, by the way, is purchase-agnostic. It could be a cable for my computer, a new backup drive, even a highly-desirable a new flash for my camera. No matter how much I want or need the product in question – if there is any assembly required (defined as something that needs any effort beyond extraction from a box), I hide my little treasure and pretend that it doesn’t exist. I’m guessing that many share this illness; own up if you’re a member of this unfortunate crowd. Maybe we should form a support group.

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When I was in my mid-20s, my (then) fiancée, (now) husband & I applied to business school. We applied all around the country, knowing that acceptance rates were low, and hoping for the best: that we’d both get into the same program, and could move to our next city together.

We were lucky, as UC Berkeley just outside of San Francisco, accepted us both. It was off to Northern California, right across the bridge from his hometown of Marin.

Moving from the East Coast to the West Coast is an adjustment. Seasonal weather, leafy trees, and gothic architecture were quickly replaced by fresh crab, lemon trees, salty air and fog. Lots of it.

That’s what stays with me the most. More than the farmer’s markets, the vintage bookstores on Telegraph Avenue, or the classes themselves. Summer fog, winter fog, day-long fog and morning fog. They just don’t manufacture fog the same way on the East coast.

The Inuits have 50 words to describe their snow: “aqilokoq”:“softly falling snow”; “piegnartoq”:“the snow that is good for driving sleds”; I imagine that Northern Californians have a more intimate understanding of fog. Pea soup, black fog, dry fog, killer fog, sea mist, and valley fog; all names of fog, all unidentifiable to me, even after two years of living there.

“How”, I thought as I wandered out of the lake house one morning recently: “would the Northern Californians classify this?”

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butterbean_hummus_FeedMeDearly (4)

The yin and yang of food blogging: let’s talk about yin first. Meeting loads of new people who are hugely passionate about food; pushing myself creatively to make better, more interesting, dare I say – more sophisticated – food…and perhaps most exciting, expensing a portion of my grocery bills. The yins are too plentiful to count.

The big fat whopping yang? My dependence on cookbooks took a backseat to this newfound creativity. Over time, my colossal cookbook collection has become an historic relic, more useful now as a work of art than a primary source of comfort and inspiration.

I still love cookbooks. I still collect them and tear into them eagerly as soon as they arrive from Amazon.

But after the initial reading, which from outer space might look more like a minute-long shark attack on an unsuspecting minnow, I put them aside on my worn oak nightstand. And there, they rest, collecting dust, waiting for a better time; a distraction-free moment when I can dedicate my full attention to reading the introduction, earmarking favorite recipes, and jotting down shopping lists.

My “to read” pile now reaches higher than my lampshade.

This time that I can never seem to find? I should probably admit to myself, right here and now, that it ain’t coming any time soon. At least not until my youngest is in middle school and can move herself independently from point A to point B. At which point my oldest will be in high school, and I’ll be up late worrying about boyfriends and missed curfews. Free time is looking bleak for at least another decade.

For now, I sneak 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there, to sit back and relax with a cookbook. It’s not the leisurely page-at-a-time perusal that I lust for, but it’s enough to spark the teensiest bit of inspiration.

Which is how we’ve landed on hummus today.

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More nesting. I apologize. But these are particularly good nesting moments that needed to be shared. They happened post-Christmas, which was technically part of the same vacation as the last post. But I couldn’t bore you with 60 images in one sitting. Or you’d never visit this site again, and that would make me so very sad.

You may recall from the last post that I’m working on obtaining my PhD in nesting. Some of you also may know, from experience, that getting a PhD – whether it be in biophysics, mechanical engineering, or the art of relaxation – is hard work.

I spent the first day of 2015 ingesting healthy foods. Which is challenging when someone with a horse tattoo is trying to steal your spiced pumpkin seed garnish.

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And I’ve been working on strengthening the mind/body connection with my spiritual guru. He’s an industry leader, having developed a patented set of progressive methods to induce relaxation. Furthermore, he’s published numerous papers in several relaxation journals, and is frequently cited by Psychology Today as one of the great minds of the 21st century.

Let me introduce you:

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Central to his theory of relaxation are 1) find a comfortable spot, preferably an off-limits bed and 2) follow a rigorous set of stretching, snoring, and other breathing exercises.

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I’m going to cop to a few facts here. These brownies:

  • with the exception of a few minor tweaks, are an exact replica of the recipe created Gaby Dalkin for her blog What’s Gaby Cooking. Don’t mess with perfection. Unless you’re adding espresso powder and swapping in bittersweet chocolate. 
  • were not meant to be eaten solely after winter sledding activities. Although this would make an optimal time for consumption.
  • are the tastiest baked good you’ve ever laid eyes on. Although if you’re one of those hedonists foolish/brilliant enough to wait 2 hours for a Dominque Ansel original cronut, you may have encountered a baking miracle a ½ notch above this.

Here’s another admission: these aren’t really called Sledding Brownies. Meander over to Gaby’s website looking for “Sledding Brownies” and you’ll get an ominous looking “NO RESULTS FOUND”. SO JUST BE AWARE OF THAT AND READ ON. I WILL ANSWER YOUR QUESTIONS IN DUE TIME. But do visit Gaby’s website for all manner of delicious food. Really, she has everything: gluttonous treats and healthy eats. Check out her roundup of 10 healthy dishes to start 2015 before you get into trouble with the molasses cookies and brown sugar blondies.

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I saw Gaby post these brownies a few months ago, and they’ve been a bee in my bonnet ever since. I hesitate to use that expression since my Dad’s ex girlfriend used it ad nauseum when she referred to a vexing list of nonessential needs. His bathroom needed fluffier towels!  The bedroom walls required a crisper shade of white! The masonry over the fireplace!!! Well, couldn’t you see that it wasn’t wide enough? So, with that…brownies, chocolate cookie layer, Oreo-stuffed. [bzzzz]

My parents were at the lake over Christmas, and every time my Mum comes to visit, she brings two bags of Oreo cookies. These aren’t just ordinary Oreo cookies. They’re Canadian Oreos. Made with different ingredients altogether. The center is creamier, the cookie layers, richer. If you don’t believe me, I urge you to write to Kraft or Mondelēz or whatever they’re calling themselves these days and ask them why the Canadian version is superior.

Or, if putting pen to paper seems like an arduous task, enlist your favorite Canadian friend/relative/Parliament Member to send you a box and conduct a taste test in the privacy of your own home.

That’s what we did. Double blind. Rodney + the kids acted as the official judging panel to ensure accuracy and more important, eat the leftovers. The Canadian Oreos won by a landslide.

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