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Vegan Cuts

11

Dec

Why I’m quitting “food blogging”

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Things got a little quiet around here last week.

With holiday gift lists, party recipes and general internet buzz in full swing, I’m sure a missed post or two didn’t ring any alarms out in the rest of the world. But after nearly a full year (!) of sharing twice-weekly articles on this domain, it felt pretty bizarre not queuing something up this past Thursday—and missing my usual Tuesday post time yesterday morning.

It’s all been for good reason, though.

As a list-making addict and total sucker for a good goal-setting session, much of my recent spare time has been spent a) planning for 2014 and b) reflecting on 2013.

A lot has happened this year, y’all. Some things I did included:

  • Leaving a job at which I loved the people but daily tore myself apart
  • Nursing my mom (with the aid of my sister and grandmother) through serious cancer-removing surgery
  • Moving, alone, across the planet, where I now love + hate + learn something from that decision every day
  • Writing a book
  • Starting this site, meeting a bunch of a-fucking-mazing people through it, and generally using it as a sanity-saving anchor + constant butt-kicker to keep cooking, writing and connecting

Whew. A lot of other things happened, too, but that’s enough for now.

Recently, though, I’ve begun to realize something. The direction in which Eat Well. Party Hard. is currently headed? It’s trapping me into a place I don’t really want to be.

A quick scan of Google Analytics shows that most of the traffic on this blog is generated by the recipes I share. And it’s awesome to know that people out there might actually be taking inspiration from what I cook up in this tiny kitchen. But here’s the thing, guys: I don’t want to be a food blogger.

I love cooking. Cooking is therapeutic and nourishing and magical. Seeing what fellow food-obsessed souls create (like here and here and here) is an activity I enjoy daily. But the process of sharing my own culinary experiments online is not what makes me jump out of bed in the morning.

What does do that is relationships. The one-on-one kind. Specifically, relationships with people. Not with my camera or with Photoshop.

At my previous job, it wasn’t the convince-this-music-director-to-play-XYZ-record routine (ugh), or the ever-packed show schedule, or even all the free music that kept me coming in to work. It was the relationships I had with my MDs, and the bond I shared with my radio team. Without those, I’d’ve been fired for lack of punctuality months earlier.

Running this blog works the same way, as it turns out. It’s not the giveaway perks I really love, or the Instagram likes, or the Pinterest re-pins, or whatever. It’s the conversations shared with fellow bloggers and with readers.

Call me annoying, or call me a hippie (maybe it’s that patchouli-scented shampoo I’ve been using), but I’m here to love. I’m here to serve. Not to hold your hand and sing Kumbaya with you, but to help you pinpoint what’s stopping you from eating the way you really want to, and to help you accomplish the goals you’ve been sitting on for too damn long because the rest of your life is so overwhelming. Especially if you work in music or other creative industries, because I have been there and that shit is fucking demanding as hell.

Truthfully, I’ve been worried about how to transition from “food blogger”-y posts to more “helpful” + “industry-oriented” posts without losing everyone. What happens when my numbers plummet? I’ve cried. What if no one wants to read what I’m writing anymore? And instead of confronting those fears, I’ve spent more time messing with this book and creating another tumblr. Fake productivity at its finest.

But while digging through this amazing woman’s archives recently, I came across some terribly-needed lines of affirmation:

So much time in my business and life I feel like I’m wandering around in the wild blue yonder. The more alone I feel, the more I…wait for approval, look for certainty, wear pantyhose, join groups of people I don’t even like and try to get them to like me.

You have to risk being the weirdo cast-off in order to truly belong. You have to stand up and speak your truth. You have to risk isolation in order to find community.

I shortened her full post for brevity’s sake, but you really should go read the whole thing. She is ON fucking POINT, guys.

So, I guess it’s time to stop freaking out and move forward. Eat Well. Party Hard. will evolve in 2014. There will be fewer posts (once a week, rather than twice) to make room for more worthwhile endeavors—like actually working one-on-one with people to help them achieve their health goals, and running a monthly column for these guys (as well as maintaining this one, so the recipes won’t completely disappear).

Will some of you drift away as the material here changes? Maybe so—and that’s okay. I still love you, and if you were looking for recipes, I completely understand that this space might no longer be your jam. But if you need someone who gets it—if you happen to be the assistant to some workaholic exec, or are managing royalties from a drafty warehouse in Bushwick, or you’re scrambling to put together your gallery opening in time for next weekend and subsist on more than just coffee and M&M’s—I am your woman. Know that I am here, and that you are heard.

16

Nov

Virtual Vegan Potluck: spiced (purple!) sweet potato butter

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Ready to take back control of how you eat + feel + live? Now’s the time.
Eat Well. Party Hard. will help you make it happen.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled post!

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I’ve never experienced November without Thanksgiving.

And I’ve never, ever experienced an entire fall season—are you ready for this blasphemy?—without pumpkin.

But embarking on one of those crazy hey-I’m-in-my-twenties-why-don’t-I-move-abroad-and-try-to-“find”-myself adventures is bound to throw a few curve balls, right?

Thankfully, what China lacks in traditional Western staples (read: pumpkin, vanilla extract, black coffee being a normal order and not something worthy of furrowed eyebrows), it definitely makes up for in crazily-colored and strangely-sized produce.

Like these itty bitty purple yams, which I’ve begun buying in bulk for use in, uh, pretty much everything.

Guys. They taste like sweet potatoes. But they’re so tiny! So cute! And they are fiercely, unapologetically PURPLE—not some mellow, muted lavender, but the color of my hair circa a rebellious sophomore year of college (though I’d imagine Manic Panic doesn’t taste this good).

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And in addition to being the perfect mid-afternoon snack, jazzing up a recent batch of lentil stew and generally making me smile every day with their quirkiness, they make a bangin' batch of sweet potato butter.

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29

Oct

Creamy 7-vegetable soup a la Oh She Glows

Unshockingly, many ingredients common to Western grocery and health food stores are simply unheard of in a mid-sized Chinese city. While some fancy items run dirt-cheap here (gojiberries and raw cashews FTW), many basic plant-based staples require a serious scouring of TaoBao (China’s Amazon). I’ve only just now caved to dropping dough on coconut oil, vanilla extract and whole wheat flour.

So I knew that attempting to recreate Angela’s luxurious 7-vegetable and “cheese” soup without any nutritional yeast would result in an entirely different dish, but come on—just look at those photos! I couldn’t resist giving it a highly adapted, but still hopeful, take. As predicted, the result was totally different, but immensely creamy and comforting all the same.

The flavor combination from the rainbow of vegetables is brightened just lightly with a touch of rice wine vinegar, and a generous helping of cinnamon + paprika impart quintessential “fall” notes. Enjoy with hot tea and warm, crusty bread. Then mail me some nutritional yeast.

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22

Oct

Guesting on Yes & Yes: Kitchen Globetrotter series

Of the many, many blogs that have shaped how I eat, think and manage my life over the years, few have made as profound an impact as Sarah Von Bargen’s. I’ll never forget a college soul sister asking me one day, “Have you ever heard of Yes & Yes? It’s written by this girl who divides her time between working jobs here and there in the US, then basically traveling the world. She, uh, sounds like the person you want to be.”

Suffice it to say that the universe opened up to me as I dug through the archive of Sarah’s posts—or, rather, her writing and experiences simply revealed how open the universe already was, how much power I already had to create my own awesome reality.

You can understand, then, why I’m positively giddy with excitement at becoming the new ongoing contributor to Sarah’s Kitchen Globetrotter series, starting…today! We’ve kicked off the collaboration with Bolivian pukacapas (spicy cheese empanadas), which you can check out right here.

And to any new readers who’ve just arrived from the Y&Y post, welcome! I’m so psyched you’re here. Eat Well. Party Hard. explores the ways in which food can be used to fuel your most awesome life. You’ll find more info here, a slew of recipes here and the low-down on an upcoming ebook here. Oh, and soon? You’ll be able to snag a pay-what-you-want copy of that last one. Woo hoo!

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01

Oct

Coconut curry-smashed sweet potatoes

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Note: Though today’s post was published on the first of October, it was *written* in September, and is therefore the final installment of Eat Well. Party Hard.'s participation in Vegan MoFo 2013! The theme over here is All No-Bake, All the Time (because, uh, I have no oven in China). Check out this massive participant list to meet other cool people + nab some amazing recipes. Now, to the taters:

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Did y’all know I like sweet mixed into my savory?

You didn’t?
Really?

Welp, surprise—it’s kind of a thing around here.

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This was supposed to be closer to a butternut squash soup, with identifiable cubes of orange-y goodness swimming in a fragrant coconut bowl. But hey, shit happens—you buy sweet potatoes instead of squash, you let everything simmer a little longer than planned, you find out you kinda maybe really like it this new, unexpected way…and you accept a happy accident for what it is.

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17

Sep

The minimalist’s ultimate trail mix

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Note: today’s post is part of Eat Well. Party Hard.'s participation in Vegan MoFo 2013! The theme over here is All No-Bake, All the Time (because, uh, I have no oven in China). Check out this massive participant list to meet other cool people + nab some amazing recipes. Now, to the trail mix:

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Growing up, we were not a “camping” family. At least, not in the canoeing, hiking, living-out-of-a-backpack-for-days sense.

As a child of the Midwest, bonfires on the family farm (about 20 miles out of city limits) were frequent, and one-night stays at the lake did happen a few times each summer; even on those trips, however, a flock of parked cars or a couple of cabins were always nearby. Those nights weren’t as much about escaping into nature as they were a chance to get rowdy—after all, it’d be tough to carry that much beer in a backpack.

That said, I’m not sure exactly when I became a “camping” person. Was it after last summer’s Bonnaroo excursion? Maybe (that obviously wasn’t hardcore camping, but come on, it was good fun). Was it that time Stephen’s and my plans to stake out a spot in a Pennsylvania mountain reserve were foiled, and we found ourselves pitching a tent—in the dark—somewhere in the woods of what was probably someone’s private property? Which, of course, did not stop us from lighting a small fire, drinking whiskey and Spodee and singing Tom Waits songs about campfires and cans of beans? Maybe.

Though I don’t know for sure how long my Nature Girl side has existed, here’s something I do know: hiking through the Chinese countryside is one of the most rejuvenating, soul-healing things I’ve done in a long time.

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03

Sep

Roasted sweet corn juice

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Note: today’s post kicks off Eat Well. Party Hard.'s participation in Vegan MoFo 2013! The theme over here is All No-Bake, All the Time (because, uh, I have no oven in China). Check out this massive participant list to meet other cool people + nab some amazing recipes. Now, to the juice:

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To begin, I finally bought a blender. And holy crap, guys, I feel like myself again.

After sweating my way home from the grocery store this afternoon, I immediately opened that baby up, hoped that the all-Mandarin directions weren’t too important and threw in some leftover produce from the fridge. Crossed my fingers, squinted my eyes, aaaaaaand…SUCCESS.

There were real actual fist pumps, a real actual whoop of joy and a real actual solo dance session through this tiny apartment. Needless to say, I’ll be on a smoothie kick for about, oh, the next bazillion weeks.

The addition of this new little blender to my (very) humble kitchen totally threw today’s original roasted corn salad plans out the window. Salad? Too easy, and close enough to watermelon & corn salsa, anyway (though Beth, if you’re reading this, your recipes still rock my world!) Today, something obviously had to be blended.

But I’d already bought all this corn, so…why not just blend that, right?

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Now, if you think I’m crazy (well, you’re probably right, BUT) don’t stop reading yet. Just remember all the other crazies that have come before me, okay?

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27

Aug

Red amaranth sunflower curry

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Every food-shopping trip here is a real-life game of roulette.

Wait a minute, why are the limes I bought, uh, orange inside?

I can’t find fresh tofu anywhere and don’t know how to ask for it, but this stuff in a jar looks kiiiiinda like what I want, so…is it really tofu? Or is it congealed duck blood?

What the hell is this alien-like vegetable, and how does one even begin to prepare it?

And so it went when I purchased this mysterious bundle of leafy purple-and-greens, the name—edible amaranth—of which I learned after an extensive internet search of “leafy greens + purple + China.”

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22

Aug

Totally bored of the same ol’ brown bag lunch? 4 fresh fall alternatives

The times they are a-changin, folks. As much as I hate to say it, summer’s signs of goodbye are beginning to show; fall’s closing in by way of cutesy back-to-school displays at Target and an endless merry-go-round of ads for the new season’s shoes, the new season’s sweaters, the new season’s purses and so on.

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I’m not exactly sure why my first images of fall are related to advertisements—blame it on stores and brands totally jumping the gun, not allowing summer’s last moments to laze along like the rest of the season. Few situations are as first-world-depressing as being bombarded with cheery posters of cardigans and thick wool socks while grocery shopping in shorts and a tank top. The eternal kid in me will never get excited about all that back-to-school crap.

What can be exciting, though, is a new rotation of recipes! And as the abundance of produce winds down, throwing together a few fresh-chopped veggies and calling it a day gets more difficult. So let’s get a little creative on the lunch front, shall we?

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20

Aug

Watermelon & grilled corn salsa

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It’s relatively easy to find vegetarian food in Chinese restaurants. I’ve been fortunate enough to sample bowls of garlic-sauteed bok choy, lotus root and soft bamboo shoots, black rice porridge, spicy eggplant stew, giant buttery-textured beans that I still haven’t found a name for and seemingly countless other dishes. Meat does reign supreme here, but veggie-based meals aren’t impossible to order.

What is impossible to order, however, is anything not swimming in oil. And I’m not even talking olive or coconut oil, y’all. I mean vats of smelly, extremely questionable, there’s-no-way-all-those-soybeans-weren’t-genetically-modified-or-wait-are-they-really-even-soybeans oil.

Needless to say, the vegetable market around the corner is an absolute godsend. Being the only non-local in the joint might make me feel like a zoo animal, but $6 USD (or less!) for a week’s worth of produce? I’ll deal.

This salsa is THE antidote for an oil-heavy belly. Its flavors smack of summer, and piled atop a bowl of rice and beans? Simple, sweet n’ spicy happiness.

PS: not as over-oiled as I am? Enjoy with crunchy tortilla chips and the coldest of beers. Summer doesn’t last forever!

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