Currently recovering from a debilitating stomach virus. Needless to say, the only foods I’ve consumed lately are white rice, bananas, toast and applesauce. So to start out this week, because April is Stress Awareness Month, I’m going to do a post on managing stress.

Stress management is a huge part of my life. I try to keep my type A personality “positive”–aka productive and detail-oriented–as opposed to type A “negative”–anxious, micromanaging, and radiating stress. I had a huge problem with stress during my first year of law school and during the bar exam. After passing the CA bar, I vowed never freaking AGAIN and started taking stress management seriously.

2015-04-11 12.49.39I’m not going to tell you to get more sleep, eat right, exercise and breathe easy. Obviously you know those things are helpful. The following are some some level 2 stress management techniques that work for me:

  • 1. Give yourself a lifeline. Aka, always have something big to look forward to when facing burnout. Sometimes all notions of the intrinsic good of working hard (or for a paycheck) go out the window when stress gets too crazy and burnout sets in. When I hit that point, I think about my goals that are bigger than my 9-5. World travel, for instance. Sometimes I can power away past burnout after googling plane ticket prices for my planned vacation this Fall, even just “Tokyo in November.” After, I can return to my task with a more level head and measured attitude.
  • 2. Get a robe. A really nice one that makes you feel like the Hef himself. The point isn’t just to, you know, NOT be wearing pants around the house (added bonus), but to feel taken care of while spending time in the comfort of your own home, no matter what stress is going on in the background. Maybe you’re stuck in the house on a Saturday night with a fast-approaching deadline, or maybe you’ve been at the office til 10pm every night this week. Don’t lay around in baggy pants and a tshirt. Light up a candle, and wrap yourself in something soft. At least one layer of stress will melt away.
  • 3. Get your nails did, preferably a gel mani. Guess what you can’t do while someone is carefully painting up your fingernails? Text, check company email, or otherwise use your phone. Boom, you’re off the grid for 30-45 minutes. Guess who is not going to ask you if you’re on top of your to-do list this week? Your nail tech. If they talk to you at all. Because this person demands NOTHING of you aside from payment and a fair tip. Relish it while you can.
  • 4. Strategize; and GET HELP if you feel like you don’t have the tools to do so yourself. Being happy and low-stress, like most worthwhile things in life, takes work and planning. It’s easy to give in to feelings of anxiety, and it’s easy to be negative. What’s hard is developing a system to include all your priorities. For me, it’s my Google Calendar. If you feel like you can’t do it on your own, get help. Many young women seem to feel like failures if they can’t overcome their own stress. I hate that. The ladies are under enough pressure these days. Sometimes we all need help. Let me put it this way: some of us know how to change a tire, some of us have to call a mechanic; either way, getting back on the road is the bottom line and entirely worth the hustle. NO SHAME!

Let me know what you think, and please pass on any tips that work for you in the comment box below!

BTW, that lunch set up there is the BROILED SALMON CHEEK from Goshi in San Luis Obispo. It’s my fav and a major steal. Cannot wait for this wretched stomach flu to leave my system completely so I can dive back in…

My dear friend Pam (@pam_bland), a D.C. resident, had been instagramming me pictures of all her swag from Honeycomb Grocer, a Union Market pop-up from the folks behind Toki Underground (shout out to that Taipei Chicken Bowl). While I didn’t revisit Toki on my Easter trip to D.C., I was not going to leave without Honeycomb goods. Honeycomb specializes in handmade, creatively-formulated sauces, pastes, fermented goods and condiments ranging from such awesomeness as barley shio koji to bao sauce. Needless to say, they did not disappoint. I picked up salt koji (shio koji), peanut sauce, sweet potato miso, and doenjang. Some of my new ingredients were incorporated into weekly bento and for dinner as follows:

MONDAY: Hardly-Lifted-a-Finger Bento with spinach and Honeycomb peanut sauce buried under shiritaki noodles; two eggs over easy (super soft yolks); shredded carrot; hella natto; seto fumi furikake. 

2015-04-12 16.05.18TUESDAY: Ate lunch out with my gran, like a proper grandaughter.

WEDS, THURS, FRIDAY: Salt Koji Ground Beef Bento. Guys, this was really tasty and clean. Not to mention a great recipe with which to batch cook. First I marinated 98% lean ground beef in the salt koji, soy soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and a little mirin for 30 mins. Then I stir-fried that ish with a little sesame oil and tucked it in my bento with shiritaki noodles, shredded carrot, greens, broccoli, scallions, a HB egg, and furikake. Added some extra soy sauce and apple cider vinegar as something of a dressing. 2015-04-13 19.30.12-1I was cooking in the evening when I made this bento and threw together a quick dinner bowl with some of the ground beef, adding mushroom and natto.2015-04-13 19.31.13Here’s my haul:

2015-04-05 14.12.22I also did a bit of salmon marinating last week. The top fillet is smothered in the sweet potato miso and garlic; the second is soaked in the salt koji. I broiled that ish on high so as not to compromise tenderness. Both were excellent, but as is probably apparent I’m very partial to the salt koji! I’ve fallen into the habit of eating salmon fillet dinners with a small side salad. Easy and substantial.

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As you can tell, I’m still getting acclimated to my new kitchen, not to mention the rhythms of batch cooking. Expect something more elaborate/creative soon!

AND, if you’re a D.C. resident, get thee to Honeycomb Grocer! Find them at Union Market, on Facebook or on insta. Having waited a long time to get my hands on their products and using them over a variety of contexts, I can attest to their quality and versatility. D.C. is damn lucky to have Honeycomb, and I will be anxiously awaiting the chance to order their stuff online.

Alright, back to the grind!

Because ain’t no one around here got time to make her own mochi. Note that this picture was taken in my brand new bamboo-laden backyard! And yes, this smoothie is still technically a GREEN MONSTER with a heaping amount of spinach that would make Popeye shed a freaking tearI’ve had a black sesame smoothie every day this week and can promise the completely clean-eating recipe I’m about to lay down is not only tasty, but will keep you focused and full until lunch…

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I’ve got a lot of awesome in my “smoothie swag basket”–macca, matcha, cacao, etc.,–but this ground black sesame powder is a relatively new addition. I was thinking about black sesame mochi sweets (see immediately below. I know, only THE BEST sweet treats out there) and how San Luis Obispo is completely bereft of them, and then decided to hit up Amazon and see if I couldn’t order the ingredients to make my own.

Of course Amazon–the duchess of drone delivery, the purveyor of all earthly delights–did not let me down.

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Recipe: Black Sesame Green Monster Smoothie. Serves one hungry human ready to bust out some serious billable hours. Or whatever.

2 bananas (should be as old and spotty as possible)

1-2 dates (for that natural sweetness)

1 big carrot

3 massive handfuls of spinach

2-3 tablespoons of black sesame powder

water. Amount depends on your preferred consistency.

Put it all in the blender and let the pulverizing begin. While I am not fancy enough for a Vitamix, my 1000 watt Ninja dispatches of all that ish with ease. I find putting the ingredients through two cycles, stopping the blending between sets, gets me the best consistency.

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AW YEAH.

2015-04-07 21.54.59I am pretty excited to figure out other unorthodox ways of using black sesame powder. Let me know if you have any suggestions or a particularly good recipe!

Umami Life is back. My kitchen is groaning back to sentience after a long, long sleep.

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I’m fresh off Easter weekend in D.C. where I neglected decorating and furnishing my new apartment in favor of quality time with some of my favorite people. We (1) killed it at Little Serow on seafood-only GOLDEN MERMAID night, where there was absolutely no messing around with quality; I’ve never had Thai food so good or carefully executed; (2) brunched at Union Market, where I abandoned my old fav Neopol Smokery for DC Dosa, where perfectly spiced dose and veggies come cheap and huge;  (3) took in the a show at the Kennedy Center, but not before grandaddy bonsai trees at the National Arboretum; and (4) spent Easter with Pam and yet another dosa, propped up on the couch with Broad City, Season 2.

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MORE SOON!

Finding myself in possession of ginseng, milk vetch root and sweet rice straight from Seoul, I invited over the unofficial dinner club posse and tried my hand at samgyetang, a Korean chicken ginseng soup traditionally prepared in the dead of summer. (And let’s be real, with highs in the 80’s it might as well be summer in CA right now) Samgyetang involves stuffing a whole young chicken/cornish hen with soaked sweet rice, ginseng, jujubes and garlic, then boiling/simmering the whole bird for an hour or so. It’s healthy, delicious, and easy to prepare if you can track down the right ingredients. I decided to add some star of anise, fennel, and dried orange peel to the stuffing mix. It had been a long week and I was more than ready to kick back with wine and friends in the comfort of my home/a place not calling for heels.

I used the leftovers for next-day meal prep and a big tasty lunch bowl.

ON THE LEFT: Samgyetang mashed up against some kabocha simmered in soy sauce, maple syrup and water. Green onion garnish.

ON THE RIGHT: special batch of scorching hot kimchi from Stormy T, and some rice from the samgyetang stuffing, which is laced with all kinds of tasty spices and garlic.

Had to make a lunch out of all this action. I threw in an egg and some simmered daikon. Here’s the meal prep shot. I made three lunches total to eat at work. Admittedly looking most forward to the single-tier drumstick samgyetang bento.

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And here are some snaps from the dinner party! I entertained myself during prep by listening to BIGBANG and taking some selfies while the rice soaked.20150130_184203 I didn’t have the time/energy to pull off a multi-course affair, so I asked the guests to pick up a few dishes from Jackie’s Korean Fusion in Paso Robles. It is a complete miracle that the likes of Paso Robles has a delicious, authentic Korean place. The owners are a couple that met in Seoul and later moved to the States; Jackie is from Korea and does all the cooking, which is most definitely family style aka top-notch ingredients, sauces from spice mixes ground by hand, and based off a short simple menu. We had her squid bokkeum and chap chae. 20150130_185251 We also burned through a few bottles of wine and engaged in some very competitive Jenga. This is Marianne, and she is basically Jenga royalty. Although we did eventually beat the game by stacking until we literally couldn’t stack no more, this lady executed the final winning stack and can literally snatch blocks from the most quavery of Jenga towers with disturbing speed and ease. 20150130_200509 Mikel tried to pretend he had jittery “coffee hands” but then proceeded to beast the entire game. 20150130_200550 And here’s the feast! The samgyetang was not perfect. I didn’t add enough water throughout the cooking process, which resulting in dryer meat than I had tasted in Seoul, and I forgot to tell everyone to add salt and pepper to their liking. Still, we had a great time scarfing up all the eats and I learned a lot for next time! 20150130_202137 Nolan stopping for a breather halfway through the carnage. 20150130_202413 And this is how you beat Jenga. 20150130_213133

In other news, things have been pretty crazy! I made a trip to LA to see some folks I’d been missing, have been pretty consistent with fitting in workouts at least four days a week, and things are really ramping up at work. It has hit me that going hard at work for a few months is just the beginning of going hard for another thirty years. If I’m lucky enough to have that kind of career. It is officially on in terms of actually, substantially practicing law and I’m very excited about everything to come.

LAST THING! I NEED SOME ADVICE: Where’s the best (or worst) place to travel abroad during November or December? I would be very grateful if anyone out there would share their experience for better or worse with winter travel. I’m definitely willing to entertain traveling somewhere very cold as long as the weather wouldn’t materially dampen the experience. When I’m on a trip my priorities are wandering on foot, eating, museums, and trying to participate in any seasonal stuff the locals love. There are a ton of well-travelled folks on the blogosphere and I’d appreciate any guidance! Please don’t be shy and hit up that comment box!

I had two requests for vegetarian smørrebrød. As I have been quite the holiday chocolate machine lately, I decided to go totally veggie and clean. Was pretty happy with the result. Both are on a slice of sesame Ezekiel bread, buttered and then topped with a little spinach. Both experienced a salt and pepper shower prior to eating.

TOP SLICE: sliced pears, sliced tomato, sliced purple onion, carrots roasted in evoo/balsamic/cumin/paprika/garlic salt, slice of lemon, dill.

BOTTOM SLICE: dill pickle slices (from the Avila Valley Barn), roasted beet salad made with Veganaise/pickle brine/maple syrup/salt/pepper, sliced persimmon, and dill. 

Processed with VSCOcamand here’s how I packed the same ingredients for grain-free bento:
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BTW, I loved hearing your requests for veggie smorrebrod! Please, please let me know if you’d like me to make something from a certain part of the world or featuring a certain ingredient/eating style for either a regular dish or bento. The weirder the challenge the better, even if it’s abstract like, say, a Quentin Tarantino bento. Which I’m guessing would heavily feature ketchup splatters. See, I love that kind of thing! Please get crazy in the comments!

This has been a pretty swaggy Christmas season so far. I participated in Food 52’s holiday exchange this year and had to post a pic or two of my box, since my Food52 exchange buddy Steph really pulled out the proverbial bells and whistles to send me the best of Utah!
2014-12-16 16.21.232014-12-16 16.45.52On Friday, I came home from my swearing in party and found this beauty on the counter. One of my closest friends and college roomie Pam sent me this box of delish homemade goodies. I know, this bragging is shameless but I’m just so thrilled and grateful that I have people in my life willing to send something like this, and all the way from DC. 2014-12-19 20.41.10 2014-12-19 20.42.12

That’s right, bourbon balls. In other news, my sister Erika has returned to Tahoe. It was actually horrible to see her go. I am not a lonely person by habit or nature, but few things make me feel more unfortunately solitary than that vacant, suspended feeling in my chest after she drives away and I realize I don’t know when I’ll see her again. We celebrated Christmas early to coincide with her visit, which was a ton of fun. Does anyone reading play Just Dance on Wii?! It’s awesome. We did a ton of fam bonding with that game, and I can think of no other acceptable venue for me to do the music video dance from “Bang Bang.”

Before I go, a holiday reminder: it’s about the time you spend, not the gifts you give or receive. Christmas gifts are great, but they do not define your relationships. Getting a wonderful gift does not mean your relationship with the giver is any better, nor is the converse true. December is as close as America gets to a corporate sponsored season of days off work, culinary decadence, friends, and family; take advantage. The other 364 days, when the real relationship making and breaking goes down, are full of enough pressure as it is. Cheers, and happy holidays!

I saw this Serious Eats article on smørrebrød and had to make my own. Smørrebrød is an everyday Danish dish, an open-faced sandwich on dense rye bread with a layer of butter, piled high with various toppings. Scandinavian food–with all that smoked, dill-dusted fish–has always held a place in my heart, and with little time to cook I was in the market for a tasty, healthy, easy dish I could merely assemble. I gathered the necessary items, and made a lunch along with several bento for the upcoming week.

Smørrebrød, two ways

Both are on buttered Sesame Ezekiel bread with a layer of spinach.

TOP SLICE/SMOKED SALMON: sliced hard boiled egg, sliced persimmon, and sliced red onion. Dill-ed to the hilt. 

BOTTOM SLICE/PICKLED HERRING: sliced hard-boiled egg, sliced persimmon, sliced red onion, and a secret batch of Stormy T’s turnip pickles (which I am testing for flavor). Then, dill x a million. 

2014-12-14 12.10.58Yes, that’s a crip new Settlers of Catan. Cannot wait to get on board and learn to play!2014-12-14 12.10.48 Here’s the “photo finish” version, before I threw on the egg that didn’t fit and upended the dill. This is a total dirty blogger secret. The food that gets photographed and the food that gets eaten are often not precisely the same…2014-12-14 12.03.41And here’s the bento! Layers of spinach, red onions, smoked salmon, tomatoes, shredded carrots, Stormy T’s turnip pickles, and an egg over medium. 

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Highlights from this week include: work party at the Madonna Inn (was served fillet mignon on a stick. So yummy, so laid-back Central Coast), midnight eggnog gelato and sunflower seed cookie sammies, seeing the Nutcracker and getting my picture taken with the Sugar Plum Fairy, and watching a date struggle through “level ten hot” Korean food while trying to remain nonchalant/keep up our conversation. 

In other news, my sister will be in town all week! I have put all other plans on hold for maximum sister and fam hangout time. This means there will be a ton of sushi-eating, hopefully some Moulin Rogue watching, and lots of quality convos that can only be had with your best flesh and blood relations.

ALSO: let me know if there’s a certain kind of cuisine you’d like to see stuffed in a bento. I am all about accepting challenges, Top Chef style. Just comment away if you have any ideas! Take care, hope you’re having a delightful holiday season!

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