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I’ve been sitting here for the last 30 minutes, staring at my computer screen, wondering what to write. For the record, you’re more likely to spot Sasquatch than see me struggling for words. I usually have what amounts to some kind of brain purge syndrome where my posts fly from brain to fingertip in a matter of minutes, leaving me depleted, hungry, and questioning what country I’m in. 

Speaking of countries, the topic today is Greece. And the reason that I’m so confounded is that Greece should bring back memories galore. After all, I’ve been there not once, not twice, but thrice. I’m not liking that word, but I’m sticking with it. It’s like a combination of “throw” and “rice”. Which is what I did once in Greece. At a wedding. So maybe I’m getting somewhere with this Greek business after all.

Our visit to Greece was the first major trip that Rodney and I took as a couple back in 2001. We returned several years later to  re-visit Mykonos and Santoroni and tack on a few more islands (Rhodes, Corfu, Crete). We even did the completely optional/somewhat frightening several-day visit to Athens. Generally speaking, I should have Greek memories, and lots of them.

The problem with Greece – and perhaps it’s less of a “problem” than a “challenge”, is that much of your waking time is spent drinking Mythos (daytime) and Ouzo (nighttime). So what I do remember from our visits is patchy.

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There I am, bawling my way through the last few pages of War and Peace on Ornos beach. (My copy, for the record, is still buried there, unless the department of sanitation scooped my treasure out of the sand and hauled it off to the dump.)

There again you’ll spot us buying strappy leather sandals in a street market in Rhodes. I should say ME not WE; Don’t ask Rodney how he feels about man sandals. Or Tevas. Or short haircuts on women, which he thinks that women tell each other are “really cute” but men strongly do not prefer. (By the way, we argue about this point constantly; maybe I’ll cut my hair short one day just for spite.)

Oh look! Now we’re easing our way along busy roads on a moped in Santorini. On a mission to find the one winery on the island. Not an adventure for the faint of heart or anyone over the age of 25. Mum, I survived, please don’t worry about this anymore.

I do, however, have strong memories of the food. Whether we were sitting down to a fancy dinner in the heart of the Old Town in Mykonos, or beachside at a little taverna, I recall a freshness and simplicity that still influences my cooking today.

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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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We’re talking squash again this week. Two weeks in a row, I hope this isn’t a fireable offense. What can I say, I’m passionate about squash. As if last week’s post didn’t convince you…

We stayed in New York this weekend since we had a few activities planned. One of which was the highly-anticipated feedfeed Market Day at the Union Square Greenmarket.

I first linked up with feedfeed on Instagram where they’re building a strong community of like-minded people who love to cook. Their website is growing, and is quickly becoming a go-to source for inspiration on a broad range of topics, from pies and soups to pancakes and smoothies. As the website evolves and becomes more searchable, its curated content will surely rival some of the biggest food websites today. I’m just happy to be a part of it all – as both observer and occasional contributor.

I was finally able to meet the founders of feedfeed – Julie and Dan Resnick – in person this weekend. Their Market Day event at the farmer’s market brought together a number of chefs, nutritionists, stylists and food bloggers and it was fun to chat with everyone about the changing food landscape.

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Social media and social platforms such as feedfeed are no doubt improving the way that food is cooked at home. Restaurant-quality food is making its way into home kitchens as home cooks become more innovative and experimental.

My food has changed immensely since I’ve become part of a community who cooks and then shares the output online. I’ve become more confident, and have started to take risks with my cooking. I’ve become intrigued by unique flavors and textures, influenced in large part by the global accounts that I follow – from home cooks in the Middle East to UK-based naturopaths, and minimalist-minded Scandinavian food stylists. Like a sponge, I’ve soaked it all in, eyes wide open.

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Last year I had what amounted to a pre-mid life crisis. It was late March and I was struggling with indecision – my career felt like it had stagnated and I lacked a creative outlet. My insomnia was incurable as I pondered the existential question: what do I want to be when I grow up?

I told my husband that I needed a break. A real escape.  I’d travel somewhere far, far away. Maybe even Europe. Just a weekend escape, but preferably a place where I didn’t know the language and could focus on the basics: eat, sleep, wander, think.

Fortunately I’m married to the kind of person who can sense an impending meltdown. “Do what you have to do” is all he said.

I opened my laptop and started to search for last-minute travel deals.

No dice.

It’s been a few years since I’ve traveled overseas, but has airfare really doubled? Yes, sports cars are expensive, but a $2,000 decompression trip to Europe was well out of my mid-life crisis price range.

With my European fantasy on hold, I settled for a juice cleanse and a solo trip to the lake. My dog, of course, would join.

I loaded the trunk of our car with my meals for the weekend – beet, carrot & ginger; swiss chard, pear, and lemon; almond milk; coconut milk; turmeric tonic….The world was starting to brighten.

The value of rest can’t be overstated. Parents have a tough job, and scheduling time away isn’t always easy. But it needs to be done. 

My weekend away did more for me than I though possible. I unwound, I read, I slept. I planned to start the blog, and quit my job by summer if things didn’t improve.

With a few coats of paint and some freshly-cut flowers, I’d restored my temple to its former self, and was ready to resume life with a renewed sense of purpose.

Now a year later, I look back to that weekend and realize how much I’ve grown. I’m happier now that I’ve made the tough but important decision to fulfill myself creatively, and not settle for career mediocrity.

The concept of Spring cleaning longer feels cliché. It has meaning beyond vacuuming under the beds, and rotating the mattresses. It’s a time of year to mentally, physically, and spiritually take stock.

And food can play an important role in that process.

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Spinach salad with raspberries, persimmon, and almonds

Next week Rodney and I are starting our 3-day juice cleanse. We’ll follow it up with a healthy dose of cleansing foods to keep us moving towards the summer months. Raw vegetables, healthy fats, good proteins (sustainably farmed or caught). It’s less about losing weight, more about being mindful of the foods that we eat, and how we feel.

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Sliced watermelon radishes with lemon, sour cream and herbs

And I’m making good on my promise to keep my personal spark alive. A few weeks ago I started an evening watercolor class. And I’m thrilled to have received a yearlong membership to Skillshare for my birthday.  It’s not always easy to carve out the time, but it’s important to find some escape in the everyday, to continue to learn, and grow.

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Spring panzanella with asparagus and green beans

So best of luck with your spring cleaning efforts, whether it’s mental, physical, spiritual, or all of the above. Make every day count.

 

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summer peppers textIf you Google “clean eating”, it returns over 100 million responses. A popular term, no doubt. And why not? Don’t we all want to eat clean? Because if we’re not eating clean, are we eating dirty?

Clean eating is a not just a trend. It’s a way of life for people who want to be conscious and deliberate about the way they eat.

It goes by many names, making it hard to keep track of what eating “clean” actually means. I’ve seen a laundry list of diets that are categorized under the term “clean eating”, everything from Vegetarian and Vegan to Dairy-free, Gluten-free and Paleo.

And it’s for that reason that the term “clean eating” has become so popular. It’s broad, inclusive, and somewhat ambiguous, making it easy for people to adapt the term to suit their needs.

My favorite definition comes from HuffPost Healthy Living. They describe clean eating as the consumption of “whole foods — that is, foods as close to their natural state as you can get them. This means eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins instead of pre-packaged, processed foods or fast food.”

Clean eating has become a way of life for me. And through trial and error with my own diet, I’ve found 3 simple rules that I can stick to that allow me to eat a clean diet:

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