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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Category: Food

Day 739: The Year of Using Your Brain

Last year, I wrote a checklist in lieu of a list of resolutions. I figured checking stuff off everyday would be easier than resolving, failing, resolving again, etc.

I’m happy to say I did a pretty good job getting through the list each day. (“Pretty good” may be a generous assessment, but I took some liberties with number 10.)

The act of writing the checklist in January helped me remember that it even existed partway through the year, which seemed useful in and of itself. So this year, I’m doing the same thing – but this time, my daily checklist only has one item on it:

  1. Learn something new.

Learning something new about just one topic seems claustrophobic and way too logical, but since I don’t want to make a totally bogus checklist, I picked some interest areas to focus on:

  • Food access and agriculture
  • Neuroplasticity and aging
  • Creativity and mental health

(Imagining the three areas was a fun exercise – if you decide to make your own one-item checklist, I’d recommend taking a minute to think about what you’re actually interested in knowing.)

Since there’s no time like the present (and I already read more Game of  Thrones than I can handle over the holidays), I dove right in with food access and agriculture by watching five episodes of Food Forward by PBS yesterday. There are some cheesy moments, but the series is generally interesting, smart, accessible and surprising. I didn’t know, for example, that seed libraries are actually a thing. You can borrow seeds at the beginning of a season, and then donate new seeds back once you harvest your garden or farm. It’s a great way to preserve local agricultural biodiversity.

Seed library information online seems a little paltry after a brief search, but there are still plenty of folks out there trying to show you where to participate, if you’re interested. (If you’re already familiar with this system and have some better resources, please leave them in the comments.)

seed library

Photo of a seed library by Mike Teegarden and borrowed from this article

In the name of New Year aspirations, I like the idea of feeding the planet (or at least myself) off my patio, so the show + my checklist also inspired me to sign up for a local gardening class that will teach me how to grow edible stuff in pots. The class doesn’t meet until March, so I have a couple of months to learn more new things first (and a check-point in case I start lagging). Here’s hoping the thirst for knowledge never dries up.

Happy New Year to you, and happy checklist-making!

Day 701: Time to Be Gentle

It’s fall – a gorgeous fall – and it’s a sad, sweet season. Things are slowing down, dying, preparing to fold into themselves and hunker down for winter. People (like me) are mirroring nature – we’re going to bed earlier and sleeping later. Waiting until the last possible moment to slip sideways out of bed, hoping the sun has gotten up, too.

In Ayurveda, a system of traditional Hindu medicine – often cited as the sister science to the philosophy of yoga – the dry, windy, cool and somewhat erratic nature of fall is easily reflected and amplified in the body. And if we’re not paying attention, we can get knocked off balance by this subtle season.

Taking a step sideways, the Ayurvedic view is that all systems of nature are bound and balanced by three primal energies, or doshas – vata, pitta and kapha.

Vata contains ether and air, pita is fire, and kapha is dominated by earth and water. Everyone has a mixture of these energies, or biological types. Vata types are typically thin and airy, with cold hands and feet. They can be creative and carefree, but also restless and emotional. Pita types are energetic and muscular, with an aversion to heat and a propensity for high intelligence, competition and aggression. Kapha types are typically heavier and stable. They tend to be serene and thoughtful, and may not seek excitement or activity.

(I’m summarizing fairly complex concepts, but if you’re interested in finding out what dosha may be most prominent in you, here is one of many online dosha quizes.)

Fall is the vata season. Dry leaves become dry skin, short days become short spans of energy, windy days become upset stomachs, etc. Instead of swinging too far into the vata energy of fall and becoming increasingly anxious and scattered (especially if your constitution is already primarily vata), you can cultivate the opposite energy to create stability and balance.

So if you’re like me, and are feeling a little too swept up the season, here are some tips:

  • Drink warm beverages with lemon and fresh ginger.
  • Use warming herbs when cooking, like ginger, cardamom, basil, cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, vanilla and oregano.
  • Wear soft and warm clothing, and cover your ears when the wind is cool.
  • Exercise consistently, at a slow and steady pace, as opposed to in quick bursts.
  • Spend time in silence, and breathe deeply while you’re there.
  • Eat oily, nourishing foods – like cooked vegetables, grains, soups and stews.
  • Avoid cold foods and iced drinks.
  • Wear reds, yellows, oranges and whites.
  • Regulate your cycles – go to bed and wake up at consistent times.
  • Focus on grounding down and rooting, particularly with yoga.
  • Be gentle to yourself and with others.
  • Quietly pay attention. Notice things. It’s hard to come down when you’re already too far up in the air.


Fall leaves, from my walk to work yesterday.

Day 214: A San Diego Food Journey

This is a repost from a blog I posted yesterday for ShopPerk.

One of the best parts about moving from state to state is that with every new move, you (hopefully) gain some great new friends that you can go visit later. As a former San Diegan, I relish my trips back to break bread and burritos with my high school friends.

Last weekend, I visited a good friend who recently had twin babies (the cutest twin babies ever, in case you’re wondering). While they ate slightly more frequently than we did, we definitely got the better end of the food deal.

Here’s a breakdown of our weekend journey, including places you should be sure to check out when you’re in the San Diego area.


I got in around 8 p.m., and my hosts kicked off the weekend in the best way possible—by greeting me with a giant bowl of Velveeta Shells and Cheese.


Since I left my computer charger plugged in at work, my first order of business on Friday was to go buy a new one. I grabbed some granola at the house, went to a yoga class that very much kicked my butt and hit up the Fashion Valley mall.

California has a variety of excellent fast food places, including one of my all-time favorites: Rubio’s Baja Grill. They’re known for their fish tacos, but I’m always delighted with their super-simple bean and cheese burrito. One bite in to my coveted burrito, the bottom broke out and refried beans went slowly oozing into my lap, but I didn’t even care. It was a delicious lunch.


That’s the burrito. Right before it broke.

For dinner, my friend and I went to Sushi on the Rock in La Jolla. The Baby Conehead sushi rolls were light, crispy and perfectly bite-sized, as opposed to enormously awkward. It was a delightful dinner that was augmented by a gorgeous ocean view and a shared bottle of wine.


We hit up one of our favorite high school hangouts for breakfast—The Living Room. As far as I could tell, not much has changed there in the last decade (aside from their expansion into hookah). She got a giant blueberry muffin while I ate a breakfast sandwich that I’m excited about recreating at home—scrambled eggs, steamed spinach, goat cheese and tomato chutney on an toasted everything bagel.

In honor of living in the past, we went to another of our high school favorites for lunch—Board & Brew. In the old days, Board & Brew was our delicious mid-day beach break. Judging from the number of swimsuit-clad 15-year-olds in line, Torrey Pines High School is still funding the operation. And thank goodness, because it’s amazing. Board & Brew’s avocados taste better than any other avocados, anywhere.


Look at that sandwich.

Dinner was spent at a fun and funky Russian Georgian restaurant I’d never tried before, called Pomegranate. San Diego might be known for Mexican food, but I’d go back just for the Vareniki (potato-cheese dumplings) and garlic-infused salad sampler.


No vacation is complete without brunch, so we mimosa-d and polenta-d at The Cottage, a cute, delicious and extremely busy restaurant in La Jolla. After a pleasant 50-minute wait, a wildly cheerful waiter told us how much he loves Sundays (in fact, he loves ALL days), and how excited he was to provide us with our mid-morning provisions.


The Polenta was delicious, as was the pomegranate-tangerine mimosa.

Since brunch sustained us for most of the day, we waited until dinner to try anything else. Tired, happy and enjoying the warmth of sleepy babies in our arms, we opted for quick and easy Mexican food that we could eat while laughing through The Ricky Gervais Show.

By quick and easy, I don’t mean to imply that we made it. We ordered it from Palomino’s and asked her husband to go pick it up. My only complaint with Palomino’s is that they downright refused to put veggies on a quesadilla. Instead, they gave us veggie-filled burritos and “mild” salsa that was a surprising shock to my Midwestern taste buds. Minnesota mild salsa is a little, um, milder.


By Monday, I could barely move, so I got myself a soy chai and headed back to the land of hummus, beets and organic cereal. But after experiencing a taste of what San Diego has to offer, I’m feeling inspired to try more of the tasty food in my own city.

Day 204: He’ll Make it if it Starts with “P”

As part of my job, I occasionally blog for ShopPerk, an app created to help people shop smarter and live better. While the app is in development, the food blog is in full swing.

Earlier this week, I wrote an ode to my Dad and “P” foods. In honor of Father’s Day, it’s reposted below.

(And Dad, thank you for being such a good sport about seeing your private email conversation posted on a public blog. I learned my good-sportedness from you).

He’ll Make it if it Starts With “P”

My dad is really good at making pancakes. Pancakes with bananas, pancakes with blueberries, pancakes with chocolate chips—you get the picture.


Actual picture from Betty Crocker.

On the occasions when my mom was out of town, he would expand his repertoire and make my sisters and me other foods starting with “P.” We’d have pizza (pepperoni with green peppers for good measure) peas (of the frozen variety), popcorn (unbuttered but lightly salted) and pancakes for dinner instead of breakfast. Apart from the peas, we loved dad’s cooking.

In preparation for this blog, I emailed him and asked him to remind me what other “P” foods he made us.

Here’s how the exchange went:

Me (10:43 a.m.): Hey Dad, I’m writing a blog for ShopPerk about the different “P” foods you’d make for us when we were kids. Pancakes, pizza, popcorn… what am I missing?

Dad (11:09 a.m.): Hi Ash. Pasta – as in macaroni and cheese (made in hot dog water). Later, I added Panera to my list. I will probably think of some others and will let you know. Have a great day!

Dad (11:20 a.m.): Be sure to add peanut butter (and jelly). Occasionally a pop-tart made the menu as well.

Me (12:19 p.m.): Thank you! Keep it coming.

Dad (2:04 p.m.): Pastry.

Dad (2:06 p.m.): Polish sausage.

Me (2:37 p.m.): I don’t recall you ever making a pastry.

Dad (5:27 p.m.): Didn’t I buy you a doughnut?

Me (8:05 p.m.): Good point. Thanks!

And that, my friends, is a good dad.

To all you other dads out there, may you get really good at making foods that all start with the same letter. And may your kids love you even more for it.

Happy nearly Father’s Day!

– Ashleigh

Day 111: A Recipe

Cooking is not my favorite pastime (I get really hung up on the instructions and spend more time reading them over and over than actually preparing the food), but I love this recipe. It’s extremely fast and extremely delicious. And as I try to convince myself that one day spring will indeed arrive (it’s snowing outside as I write this), the thought of fresh basil and avocado makes me oh-so-happy.

Try it and enjoy!

15-Minute Creamy Avocado Pasta
Recipe borrowed from ohsheglows.com, where you can also print it.

It’s creamy, fresh and flavorful. My advice is to go a little easy on the garlic the first time around. I dove right in with three cloves and it was pretty potent. 

Serves two.


  • 1 medium sized ripe avocado, pitted
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced + lemon zest to garnish
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste (I use sea salt)
  • ~1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 servings/6 ounces of your choice of pasta
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add pasta, reduce heat to medium and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing the garlic cloves, lemon juice and olive oil into a food processor. Process until smooth. Then add the pitted avocado, basil and salt. Process until smooth and creamy.

3. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer and place pasta into a large bowl. Pour on sauce and toss until fully combined. Garnish with lemon zest and black pepper. Serve immediately. Makes two servings.

Creamy Avocado Pasta