Over the past few chilly months, my good friend Briana Moore, of Briana Moore Photography, and I have been working on a project for t.e.l.l. New England magazine… and now it’s finally available online! Together we ventured out to old colonial tea houses, searched high and low for the best locally made blends, and talked to a bevy of tea experts in the area. And likely drank our weight in tea in the process. The result is a brief snapshot of New England’s rich tea history, a bit about local movers and makers, and three lovely tea-infused recipes – including London Fog porridge and Matcha Avocado Toast – to pair with your morning brew.
Briana captured some lovely moody scenes during our research and a few great shots of me and my little styling assistant, too. You can see a few shots below.
Last week, on repeat: “Their success is not your failure.” Despite the fact that I am a grown woman, a mother, holder of two degrees, and a generally confidant person, I couldn’t quite shake a spell of self-pity. I like to think that I’m old enough to avoid such low feelings, but also think I’m big enough to be honest about them when they do happen.
As the great Ron Swanson says with such gravitas, “Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.” I like to think of myself as a red-headed Leslie Knope of the food world, so his words helped. And then so does the more straightforward: “Stop feeling bad for yourself, it’s bad for your complexion.” Thank you John Hughes and Molly Ringwald. But the thing that helped most (aside from several brownies and some really loud dance music) was this: “No one is you. And that is your power.”
And that is so incredibly true.
There may be other food bloggers, other academics, other mamas, other red heads, other Texans (we are numerous), but there is no one that combines those things like I do. And if there’s anyone out there that is strikingly similar, I’d love to meet her, we’d probably be great friends.
And there are most definitely other recipes for veggie chili, three-bean chili, whathaveyou, but no one makes it quite like me. Even if you follow my recipe exactly, and the outcome is delicious, it still won’t be the same. You don’t have the same Staub dutch oven (the one my Dad just sent me and bought a matching one for his kitchen, too), you probably don’t have the same exact chile powder (ground by my own two hands), and you definitely don’t have a little red headed kitchen assistant wrapped up on your chest, cooing gently in her sleep while you nibble fritos as the chili simmers. And all that is okay. Because we can share with each other, swap recipes and ideas, create great things together or on our own, celebrate in each others’ successes, console the failures, and then rest easy knowing that, despite the setbacks or overfried fritos, there is power in ourselves.
So you can take all this as it is, a sappy confession of my recent adult temper-tantrum, or swallow it with a giant grain of salt (maybe just a heavily salted frito?) and just skip to the three-bean veggie chili recipe below. I won’t judge either way. But I will mock you if you skip the homemade fritos part by subbing in store-bought. Yes, it’s easier, but it’s kind of awesome to be able to tell other people that you made fritos from scratch. Just do it once, that’s all you need for the story.
Fellow Texans might harangue me for daring to call this chili, but I’ve added three adjectives indicating its contents to act as disclaimers. I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now – adjusting the spices, cook times, and vegetables – and I think it holds at least a couple candles to the meat-filled versions.
three bean veggie chili + homemade fritos serves 4 to 6
for the chili
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
4 small whole carrots, sliced into thin rounds
4 small stalks celery, (the dainty leafy ones), thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1-2 tablespoons good chile powder (I use either a homemade blend or some from back home)
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 heaping tablespoon flour
1 8oz can plain, unsalted tomato sauce
1 10.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5 oz can chili beans, NOT drained or rinsed (I like Ranch Style brand)
16 oz water (I just fill the chili beans can up to the top)
1 small zucchini, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
spring onions, thinly sliced
cotija cheese, crumbled
Set a dutch oven or large, heavy stockpot over medium high heat. Add a couple tablespoons of oil and heat through. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, sprinkle with salt, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more.
Sprinkle the spices over the sauteed vegetables and stir to thoroughly coat. Push the vegetables to the edges of the pan, making an empty hole in the middle. Add the tomato paste, gently nudge with a wooden spoon, and fry in the middle of the pan until fragrant, about one minute. Stir to combine the tomato paste with the vegetables. Sprinkle the flour over everything and stir to combine, cooking for another minute.
Add the tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Then add all the beans, water, and zucchini, giving it a final thorough stir. Turn the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced a bit and the vegetables are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot topped with spring onions, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, and homemade fritos.
NOTE: If you don’t like or can’t find chili beans, you can sub regular pintos (drained and rinsed) and increase the spices a bit.
for the fritos
1 cup masa harina (or very finely ground cornmeal in a pinch)
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
oil for frying
lots more salt
In a large bowl, add the masa harina, oil, salt, and hot water, stirring with a wooden spoon to combine. Towards the end, the mixture will be difficult to stir and you’ll need to finish combining it with your hands.
Turn the mixture out on a piece of parchment paper. Gather into a rough rectangle and top with another piece of parchment paper. Roll out until about 1/8-inch thick. Gently remove the top piece of parchment. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut the rolled dough into little strips (about a half inch wide) and then cut again in the other direction, creating little rectangles about 1-inch long.
Set a deep cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and fill with about an inch or more of oil. When the oil is around 350 degrees, gently drop a few masa rectangles into the pan. They should immediately rise to the top and sizzle wildly. Fry for about 30 to 40 seconds, turning once or twice, then remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined wire rack. Repeat with remaining masa rectangles, frying about a dozen pieces at a time, until all the dough is used. While the fritos are still hot, sprinkle generously with salt. And try not to eat all of them before your chili is done.
Avocados, sweet potato, bananas, oatmeal. All foods okay’d by our pediatrician for Avery. I didn’t tell her these are all my daily staples, too. So far, it sounds like Avery and I can share most of our foods – sans salt and spices for her – so our trips to the farmstand don’t even have to change. But then there’s the list of no’s: juice, cow’s milk, some meats, sweets, and honey. This last one is a big deal since honey can carry pathogens (read: botulism) even after being pasteurized and is for some reason just not great for babes under one year old. Which is a very sad situation, because in this house honey goes on everything. And I mean everything (pepperoni pizza for example). So here I am craving honey like never before just because it’s off limits for her. I’ve learned that I essentially have no will power and would be a horribly mean person for anyone with a serious dietary allergy to dine with, so I apologize in advance to any of my friends with gluten issues, I will be ordering a very flaky croissant.
It’s also Easter this weekend and, unlike the other holidays Avery has been alive for, this one is all about the sweets. I’m suddenly wondering if I can get away with putting baked sweet potatoes in Avery’s Easter basket. Maybe ripe bananas? Why can’t there be any egg-shaped baby-approved fruits? Since she won’t remember this Easter anyways, she’s getting books…about food, while her Dad and I get to tuck into British Maltesers bunnies (filled with boiled honeycomb) I picked up at the specialty grocer and these handmade seeded honey chocolates I made earlier this week. I guess we’ll take advantage of the short period of time when she isn’t eating off our plates and asking for tastes of everything we eat.
*drizzles honey over everything*
This tactic has its own issues though. As I whipped up these oh-so-easy chocolates, Avery sat in her swing across the kitchen. Over time, her little coos slowly turned into frustrated chirps, so every few minutes I’d pause to pop her pacifier back in or tickle her cheek. And in between each pause I’d rush to the sink and thoroughly wash my sticky hands, not daring to chance even the smallest speck of honey finding its way into her system. Elaborate, I know, but the kitchen dance is doable because she’s worth it and this seeded honey chocolate is worth it, too.
A combination of my favorite foods Avery can’t have yet: chocolate, honey, and lots of tiny things.
seeded honey chocolate makes one quarter sheet pan – about 9 bars
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup creamed honey
seeds and such:
popped quinoa (see instructions over at Bon Appetit)
black sesame seeds
white chia seeds
Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Using a double boiler, gently melt chocolate until smooth and runny. Pour onto the lined sheet pan and smooth into a thin layer – about 1/4 inch thick – with an offset spatula. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Drop the creamed honey in large intact dollops on the chocolate (about 7 to 9 dollops) and marble with a toothpick or the point of a knife. Working quickly while the chocolate is still melted, sprinkle on a bit of each type of seeds and such to your liking. Let the chocolate cool completely before breaking, cutting, or eating.
The very first cassette tape I ever bought myself was an Irish bagpipes mix that I played on repeat until the tape unwound. It was our go-to music every year when winter turned into open-window weather; something about spring air just screams bagpipes for some reason. Come mid-March the cassette was in high demand around and on St. Patrick’s Day as my family fancied ourselves thoroughly invested in the holiday and the culture. Dad bought Guinness, we voluntarily ate green cabbage, and my red hair finally held some cultural and social purpose. In later years, my brother would fold in his own musical tastes – of the Dropkick Murphy’s and Flogging Molly varieties – and we’d headbang in between stoic stares and bagpipe squeals out over the backyard, our little slice of Irish countryside. We’d even have a go at an accent every word or so, adding a lilt to our y’alls and fixins. Ahhh, cultural appropriation.
Since living in New England – where Irish Pride is truly alive and I have an honest-to-goodness Irish neighbor – I know that our family St. Patrick’s Day festivities were cute, silly, slightly facetious, and if anything, mild in comparison to the lovingly inclusive nature of the day celebrated up here. In Boston, everyone actually is a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not even sure how the city swings it, but somehow it works: the streets are greenwashed, previous heritages momentarily ignored, and local boy band, the Dropkick Murphy’s, can be heard far and wide. It’s just delightful.
Given the liberties already taken, I feel like this pizza – topped with boiled potatoes, sharp cheddar cheese, and fried bacon – can stand upright and proud alongside those never ending pints of green-tinted beer.
It just so happens that this pizza was my brother’s go-to slice at our local pizza joint back home in Texas. I never really connected its ingredient similarity to the Irish flavor profile until this year, but I’m going to run with it and proclaim it The Official St. Patrick’s Day Pizza. Because if any body can be a little bit Irish, any carb can be, too.
potato, bacon, and cheddar pizza makes about four 8-inch individual pies or one large one
1 pound pizza dough (I like the dough from the pizza place near our house, but you can try this one from King Arthur Flour)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 – 10 small red potatoes, boiled until just fork-tender and thinly sliced
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 large sprig rosemary, larger stems removed
crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste
Set oven to 475 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, cut dough into four even pieces. Roll out one piece of dough until quite thin, leaving a thicker ring around the edge to form a crust. Repeat with remaining dough.
Parbake the dough. Place the crusts onto a pizza stone or a well-seasoned cast iron skillet or baking sheet, lightly brush with olive oil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the crust is just set and has very faint brown spots. Remove from oven.
Leaving about a 1-inch border as a crust, cover the crusts with more olive oil and sprinkle on the cheese. Arrange potato slices, bacon, and rosemary. Return to oven and bake until brown and crisp and the cheese has completely melted, about another 7 to 10 minutes. Top with crushed red pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste. Slice and serve hot.
– The pizza is just as good served the next day straight out of the refrigerator.
– St. Patrick’s Day usually calls for Guinness, but cold Dr Pepper (my brother’s preference) works fine, too.
What I miss most about Texas: breakfast tacos. First thing I eat when I land in Texas: breakfast tacos. Desert island food: breakfast tacos. If I could have anything for lunch or dinner: breakfast tacos. Avery’s first words: hopefully, something that sounds like “breakfast tacos.”
Problem is, where I live up here in New England, good tortillas are hard to come by, and they really are one of the three measures of breakfast taco quality (the others being salsa and proper cheese distribution/application). When I have the time, I make big batches of homemade tortillas and freeze them to use as needed, but since Avery arrived and I started a daily crusade to teach her how to say “taco,” my spare time is a little thin. Enter, the breakfast taco grain bowl. It’s like any other breakfast taco – in ease, flavor, and function – but just in a bowl over some grains. While I do not ever want to label breakfast tacos as a bad breakfast choice (it’s all in how you build it and how many you eat and whether you pair it with a breakfast beer or not), I dare say that this version of a breakfast taco is even healthy (grain proteins FTW!).
breakfast taco grain bowl
1/2 cup cooked grains (such as quinoa, wild rice, or farro)
1/4 pureed black beans
1 teaspoon butter
half of an avocado, sliced
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, make a layer of grains and top with beans.
Set a skillet over medium heat and heat butter until melted. Crack egg into a small cup or container and gently pour into the hot fat. Fry egg until the whites are set and the yolk is cooked to desired consistency (I like mine a bit runny), about 1 to 2 minutes. Place egg on top of beans.
Finish the bowl with shredded cheese, avocado slices, salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve with a big green smoothie.
Note: I make big batches of grains (and sometimes beans) at the beginning of the week and portion out as needed.
Now that I have all this free time after making my breakfast taco grain bowl, I thought I would share some other life and food hacks I’ve learned since becoming a mom:
1. Brush your teeth in the shower.
I used to think it was gross, but now I’m a big fan of the extra 60 seconds it saves before bed.
2. Hide almonds everywhere.
A quick and healthy snack and good practice for when your baby moves on to hiding their Cheerios everywhere.
3. Go for a coffee walk.
Everyone gets fresh air, baby falls asleep, you get some exercise (especially if baby is a monster baby like mine and is wrapped up on your chest), and then you get a coffee.
4. Bake with baby.
Avery is clearly much too young to do any serious baking, but I’m doing as the French do and exposing her to kitchens and cooking as early as possible in the hope that such things teach her patience, order, independence, and eventually, how to make her mama some pie.
5. Let others do the work for you.
If someone offers to help, take them up on it. If someone says they’ll pick up some things at the grocery, then let them. If you can continue to cook and eat healthy with a bit of extra assistance, by all means, do it. Be that pre-sliced butternut squash, frozen pizza paired with homemade salad, or letting someone else do all the hard parts to make your green smoothies possible. And that’s why greenblender is my new secret superpower.
So I guess I will admit, breakfast tacos can’t deliver all the nutrition you need in a day. That would be lovely though, wouldn’t it? To round things out, I like to pair my breakfast taco grain bowls with a tall glass of something green and fruity, cover all my bases, and maybe sneak some added protein, fiber, whathaveyou in there, too. My new favorite combination is greenblender’s apple chia refresh with cucumbers, apple, collards, and chia seeds – all packaged nicely in perfect little portions and sent to my door. All extra effort saved and set aside for more exciting things like getting Avery to say “taco” before we venture back to Texas this summer.
Try greenblender for yourself and use the code “YOUNGAUSTINIAN” for 20% off your order.