Kimchi Dreams

In Salads and Sides on June 29, 2014 at 6:24 pm

Last weekend was pretty epic. I got to celebrate my 41st birthday with lots of friends, which of course I loved because I have amazing friends, and on top of that we had a blindfolded seven course tasting contest as a part of that celebration. We hired a fabulous vegan chef named Sophia Treyger to prepare the mystery dishes for us (you can read all about the dishes she prepared for the event on her blog), and 18 of us put on blindfolds while the rest helped serve the dishes. It was a total blast, even though I didn’t do as well as I’d expected as far as guessing what I was eating. One thing that I did guess correctly, though, and which I haven’t been able to get enough of since: Kimchi! Yes! Last Saturday I discovered just how much I love it, and now I can’t get enough of it. It’s pretty much the only thing I want to eat right now.

Sophia was nice enough to leave the leftover kimchi with us at the end of the tasting contest, but we went through that within a couple of days and I wanted MORE. So I went to the source, and asked Sophia if she would mind sharing the recipe. Happy me, she didn’t mind, and because it is so damn good I’m going to share it with you as well.

After a trip to Fubonn (the nearest Asian market) with a good friend who was also at the tasting contest and also craving kimchi, I was ready to start. Using the recipe Sophia gave me as a base, I made just a couple of alterations:

1) I shredded 3 medium carrots instead of 1 large one

2) I added half a cup of organic red miso paste for a little extra umami boost

The alterations I made were pretty minor and I doubt they affected the bulk much. If you’re wondering how much Sophia’s recipe yields, I filled four 16 oz pint jars to the brim with delicious kimchi goodness.

I am going to wait a day or two and then hopefully my friend and I can trade bites of kimchi so I can tell whether I like his kimchi (which he made without red miso paste) or mine better. As I continue to delve into the world of kimchi I want to experiment with other veggies, other sources of umami, and different fermentation methods. From what I can tell, Sophia’s recipe speeds up the fermentation process by brining the cabbage prior to adding it into the rest of the ingredients. I gathered this after reading a blog post and recipe by a different vegan cook, who goes the more traditional fermentation route and seems to know a lot about umami and monosodium glutamate. If you’re really considering making your own kimchi I highly recommend reading both recipes I’ve linked you to, as well as doing your own research. It’s a super interesting subject.

Now, just cross your fingers for me that I can hold myself back from eating all this deliciousness before it has the chance to ferment!


Oh, Hello Kitchen. It’s Been a Long Time.

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2014 at 9:52 am

So I’m doing this online workshop right now, and I haven’t really told anyone about it because it’s kind of embarrassing to me for some reason. It’s an “Oprah Lifeclass” hosted by Brene Brown, based on her book The Gifts of Imperfection. I signed up for the course because it had a heavy emphasis on creative journaling, which I thought would be a nice, low-pressure way for me to get back into a regular art practice after years of relative dormancy. And it has been great for that – really awesome! But it’s turned out to be so much more than just a way to dust off the creative cobwebs, and I realize now that it was exactly what I needed in order to get acquainted with where I am right now in my life.

Last week’s lesson: “Cultivating Play and Rest” was about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol, learning to identify how we play, and pinpointing what brings joy and meaning to our lives. What really hit me as I worked in my journal was twofold:

  1. I’ve definitely used exhaustion as a status symbol, countless times. And when I think about it, I know a lot of other people who do it as well. It’s commonplace among my friend group, which is comprised of people getting advanced degrees, running their own businesses, performing at a high level of skill and talent, and working in social services. A lot of the time it seems to be the unspoken judgement that if you’re not running yourself ragged, double or triple booked for events, and getting 6 hours of sleep or less a night, your value is somehow less.
  2. It’s very easy to pinpoint when I am exhausted and burned out by the absence of play in my life. Furthermore, there are certain cues that I can now identify that point towards the start of a downhill spiral. One of those cues is when I stop cooking creatively and posting to this blog.

When I am working too much, or feeling overwhelmed with responsibilities, kitchen time is one of the first things to go. Fresh produce goes bad in the fridge, and I start buying canned soups and vegan baked goods. During the good times there is not much in our kitchen that is ready-to-eat; instead, there are tons of fresh veggies, beans and grains, spices and such that are waiting to be pulled together into something delicious. But then I find myself standing guiltily at the fridge with the door open, pulling out all sorts of gunky veggies that have gone way past their prime.  Before this Brene Brown course I’d never really thought about that as a clue that signified that I needed to get myself back into a better frame of mind, I just thought of it as me having a busy life (and wasn’t it better to be busy, even at the expense of having the time to do the things I love?), and chastised myself for being wasteful. It was a real eye-opener for me when I realized the significance of those rotting vegetables!

This is all coming out on my food blog rather than my personal blog because I’ve started cooking again. Just a little, and not really experimentally, but at least I’m cooking with my own recipes. Last night we had some friends over for dinner and as I was flipping through my recipes, I realized that I can look back through Cooking with Calliope Kittenpants and see clear evidence of large swaths of time when I was burned out, exhausted, or overwhelmed. There are big gaps between postings. Wow, who knew that I would not only be sharing recipes, but also charting my depression and anxiety with this blog? And as fascinating as that is, you know what? That really sucks.

I’m not coming down on myself about this, but I am saddened to think of what a poor job I was doing of caring for myself and the Mr. during those times.  Because honestly, cooking is one of my greatest loves, and it uplifts me when I have the time and energy to experiment in the kitchen and cook something delicious that nourishes my little family. And, paradoxically, when I stop nourishing myself is when I need it most!  Now I know that when I feel too busy or overloaded to access that part of myself and use that joyful outlet – when I find myself tossing out piles of slimy cucumbers and moldy lemons – it’s time to rearrange things and make myself the top priority again.

I’m making some big changes right now, creating space so I can play and bring joy and meaning back into my life. These are changes that have been a long time in coming, and because things were so dark for so long, I’m giving myself time to remember how I can be when every day is not a struggle. As I come back to myself, I think that these changes will bode well for Cooking with Calliope Kittenpants. I miss it. It’s time to nourish myself again.

Coconut Delights (vegan, gluten-free cookies!)

In Sweet Things on December 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm

It’s a Christmas Miracle…in your mouth! These are toasted coconut crispy on the outside, and delectably chewy on the inside. In all honesty, they are some of the best cookies I’ve ever made, and when I started out all I wanted to do was get rid of some of the ridiculous amounts of shredded coconut I had lying around.


Makes about 32 cookies

1 1/4 cups Bob’s GF all-purpose flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup beet sugar

Egg replacer equivalent to 1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups shredded coconut, plus a little less than ¼ cup extra in reserve

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the flours, baking soda, and salt in a smallish mixing bowl.

In a different, medium sized mixing bowl, cream the Earth Balance, coconut sugar, and beet sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg replacer and vanilla until everything is creamy and fully mixed. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, and then add in all but that little bit of extra coconut. You may want to use your hands for this if you don’t have a mixer.

Roll the dough into balls that are about 2/3 the size of a golf ball (this is a 3 bite cookie for ladies, to give you an idea) and squish them down a bit onto an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about two inches between each cookie. Top with some of that reserved coconut, lightly pressing it into the dough.

Bake for 11 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Cool a bit. Eat while still slightly warm and chewy for the optimal experience. Just don’t get excited and eat too many at once like I did because then your belly will hurt.


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