Sunday, 17 June 2012

Quicksilver Chocolate. Better living through alchemy.

Oh the unbearable excitement! My chocolate bars (Quicksilver Chocolate) will be on sale at Bristo Yoga!

Want to know more?

Tell me about your chocolate!

-I call it Quicksilver Chocolate because chocolate making is more alchemy than chemistry. Despite being formally trained in chemistry, there's an element of chocolate making that feels more like turning lead into gold than pushing electrons. Quicksilver is the element associated with transmutation and changeability and general awesomeness.
-Each and every bar is made by hand, and is full of good stuff. All of my chocolate is vegan, organic, and raw. A few of the add-ins (matcha, for example) are not raw, and no raw version exists. These ingredients are organic where possible, and always the highest quality that I can lay hands on.
-I only make chocolate I want to eat. This means I don't bother with making stuff that looks and tastes like something I could just go buy in a shop. It also means that I don't make bars that I don't like, or that bore me. My chocolate is an adventure for me, and I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride! If my chocolate isn't your thing, feel free to ask me about other options. I'd be happy to point you towards other ethical and high-quality bars made by other wonderful people.
-I spend my time and money on chocolate, not packaging.

Why Bristo Yoga?

-Because they rock and I love them. 

What sort of bars are going to be at Bristo? How often is the stash replenished?

-I'll bring what I make when I make it. Think of it as a chocolate lottery. While I would looooove to keep everyone supplied with their favorite of my chocolates at all times and sincerely believe that the world would be a better place if everyone were chocolate-replete every day, I have a (more than) full time job as a researcher, and chocolate is something I do on the side.  If there is a particular bar that you fall in love with and want me to make more of, let me know, and I'll increase the quantity of it next time I make it.

How do you set your prices?

-I don't make any profit on the chocolates sold at Bristo. I recoup my costs, and donate a bit to the The Good Samaritan Suite Trust.
-Slave-free, organically produced chocolate, made by hand in small batches and with high-quality ingredients, costs money. Ask me about the ethics of chocolate and chocolate slavery. When you get a "good deal" on chocolate, it can be because someone isn't being paid, or is being sold into slavery. It can also be because corners are being cut on ingredients, or (and there's nothing wrong with this last one) because bigger operations can make economies of scale that one-woman operations can't.

 I want more!  Do you do bespoke orders?

Sometimes. If you tell me what you want, I'll tell you if I can do it and the earliest date I can have it done by. Depending on your order and my schedule, this will probably be 1-8 weeks. Bespoke orders will be sold at a profit and priced accordingly. Some of the profit will be donated to The Good Samaritan Suite Trust. Fancy wrapping in handmade Japanese paper is an option for bespoke orders.

Dancing and chocolate-making to: Love for sale, tempered and made shiny by Jane Birkin this time. 


Monday, 4 June 2012

(un)cook my life

Another post on practice. Some days people ask how my yoga practice has gone. Usually I just say "It went". I figure that it's like asking "how are you?", where, let's be honest, only your closest friends actually want to hear anything other than "fine, thanks, and you?".  This is because even though some mornings are kind of like pulling a ton of limp lead-based spaghetti uphill through sludge (missed filling up at the prana petrol station, and my bandhas are m.i.a), and some mornings are like floating through a magical dance whilst serenaded by a choir of angels that somehow don't detract at all from my focus (jump through. good lady. full benefits). But the actual point is the practice. It's the showing up, day in, day out, that is transformative. I don't always want to practice before I start, but I never regret it once I haul my ass onto the mat.

Ditto for cooking. Sometimes it's not very exciting. Sometimes I have grant applications to write and the mere thought of anything more complicated than a "chop everything into a bowl" salad seems impossible, or I just feel uninspired. Sometimes I have people over for a fancy dinner party at the end of a blissful day spent at the farmer's market and then in the kitchen creating edible art that turned out just so.

Usually things are somewhere in between. And in between days are often soup. I never regret soup.
1/2 head fennel
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup sweet sweet baby tomatoes from heaven
2 tbs of shelled hemp seeds
splash of balsamic vinegar
pinch of aniseed
about a cup of water

blend all that up, will you?

now add
another cup of ridiculously sweet tomatoes
baby chard (lots)
rocket (lots)
a handful of fresh basil leaves
a little bit of tarragon 

Blend just enough to chop everything, but you should have tomato chunks and recognizable bits of leaf. A food processor would probably work better than a blender. I do not own a food processor, and a blender works just fine.

Add 1/2 orange worth of juice, and a splash of ume plum vinegar (or salt, if you've not got any ume products handy)

If your tomatoes are only sweet instead of ridiculously sweet, you might need to add a bit of agave. go for it, you rebel. 


A practice is only sustainable if it is very simple, and if you enjoy it. And let's face it: a girl's gotta eat, and so my kitchendancing practice continues, and is usually very simple.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Why I quit the Book of Faces

I finally did it. I put up a notice as my Facebook update telling people I'll be deleting my account in a few weeks, and to message me for "real" contact information if they wish to keep in touch with me. A surprising number of them asked why I was leaving, and said they'd miss following my shenanigans. I didn't just wake up one day and say "screw Facebook", and some part of me likes knowing what my far flung acquaintances are up to. I mean, Facebook has even helped me out a few times when I was stranded in airports and such. But when I thought about it, I concluded that on balance, Facebook makes my life worse, not better. So, in order, here are my reasons for deleting my Facebook account.

1. I am happier when I don't use Facebook. This is enough of a reason all on it's own. I don't need Facebook for my personal life, for work, or to keep in touch with my close friends. It is something I don't need that improves my life when it is absent.
2. I want to spend more time with the people that are actually in my life, including myself. One day I will die, and until then, I'd like to live, rather than post about living, take photos of living, and nose around at how other people that I haven't spoken to in 4 years are living.
 3. I want to have conversations, not participate in a flurry of monologues with comments. I enjoy conversations. I do not particularly enjoy monologues with comments, nor do I gain much insight from them.
4. I crave either solitude or human interaction. Facebook is a time-suck that doesn't offer either of them. There are enough distracting beautiful images, insights from friends and strangers, and bizarrely hilarious moments in my real life. Lolcats and reposted jokes simply don't measure up to the real deal.
 5. I don't feel the need to share my random useless thoughts or mundane daily activities with the world at large, and even if I love you, I don't want to hear most of yours unless you're a good friend. I do have close friends that I don't see very often, those friendships have made it through decades of mostly-living-in-different-countries because we've made the time to connect and really listen to each other when we do communicate.

In short, real life takes time. Facebook takes time. Real life brings me joy. Facebook brings me... not much, if I'm brutally honest with myself about it. Why would I invest time in something that gives me nearly nothing in return when investing time in real life gives me so much?

Monday, 14 May 2012

hot pink

...I'm going to be having a hot date with my baby sister on Valentine's day, so I made my sweetums a cake this weekend instead. We might have had cake for breakfast two days in a row.

I call it "hot pink", both because of the colour and the taste. I'll re-post this with exact amounts later, but it's a pretty robust recipe, so if you've ever made a raw cake before, you can probably just take the VERY rough amounts I'm giving here and go for it.

bottom layer of dense chocolatey goodness:

4 dates
4 dried figs
1 cup cocoa nibs
1/2 cup wet almond pulp (from making almond milk)
1/2 cup dried flaked coconut
a truly ungodly amount of vanilla powder (this is what balances the black pepper)
pinch salt
lots and lots of ground black pepper (remember the "hot"?)
cocoa powder

Blend the dates and figs. Add the cocoa nibs and almond pulp. Blend more. Put in a bowl. Add the coconut, vanilla powder and salt and pepper and mix around with your hands. Now, assess the level of gloopyness. Add cocoa powder until you have a dry-ish dough that still holds together well enough to press into your cake pan, but keep in mind you won't be dehydrating this, so you really don't want it to be any gloopyer than strictly necessary to maintain structural integrity. Press all this into a cake pan lined with wax paper.

The above probably works better in a food processor, but I don't have one, but I do have a Vitamix, which will blend this sort of thing with a little encouragement.

top layer of raspberry-ginger delight:

1 cup irish moss, soaked and ready to go
1/2 cup coconut butter (not coconut oil!)
3 cups raspberries
1/4 cup powdered raspberries (best. thing. ever.)
insane amounts of fresh ginger
pinch salt
splash rosewater
coconut sugar to taste
1/2 cup cocoa butter, melted.

blend everything except the cocoa butter until smooth and mousse-y. Add cocoa butter to blender and keep blending.

Friday, 23 March 2012

i *heart* kimchi

Really. I could eat the stuff every day. I've even made it at home a few times, but have decided that fermenting cabbage is ill-advised in a small flat with no balcony option, so now I buy it (often) from a Chinese supermarket and travel agency. This pleases me. Kimchi and avocado are pretty much a match made in heaven. I could just take an avocado, stuff it with kimchi, and call it lunch. Sometimes I do. But kelp noodles make everything more exciting, so ...

If you set this up in the morning, it takes only a few minutes to put together when you get home in the evening. And it's ridiculously yummy. The kind of yummy where you get a little sad when you approach the bottom of the bowl because you never want the yum to end. But the good news is that you can make it again! I do this with kelp noodles because I am hopelessly in love with them. It would also work with bean thread noodles, in which case you can skip the whole marination brouhaha.

Kimchi kelp festival in a bowl.

1 orange worth of juice
2 tbs tamari or coconut aminos
1 large clove of garlic, chopped
1 tsp of fresh grated ginger (I use a lemon zester for this and the garlic)
1/2 -1 tsp reishi powder (optional, but fun)
2-3 tbs black sesame seeds, bashed around a bit in a mortar and pestle
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp of agave

Noodles and such:
1 package kelp noodles
big bunch enoki mushrooms (optional)

In the morning (or at noon - this is best if it marinates for a few hours), mix all the ingredients for the marinade together, rinse a package of kelp noodles, give them a few quick snips with some scissors, and then dump the kelp noodles in the marinade. Add the enoki. Mix until everything is coated with marinade. Forget about them for the day (leave them on the counter if your flat is cool, put 'em in the fridge if you live somewhere where temperatures occasionally rise high enough to allow you to walk about in short sleeves). You can sub peanuts or peanut butter for the sesame if you want. I won't tell anyone.

When you get hungry that evening, chop up:

1 red pepper in fiiiiiine slices. If you have a mandoline, this would be a good time to whip it out
2 heads of baby bok choy or other leafy green, chopped into lovely ribbons. If you feel fancy, call it "chiffonade".

Also, consider how much kimchi you want to eat. Considerations include: How much kimchi do I have? This usually answers the question for me. But sometimes I go further and ask: Am I going to be sweating and twisting in close proximity to people who are likely to be unimpressed with the metabolic byproducts of kimchi overconsumption wafting under their noses (ie - is tomorrow morning a yoga day?). I have a WHOLE PACKAGE of kimchi, and it's a Friday night. Ashtangis will understand what this means. The rest of you can Google.

Add the veg to your noodly mess. Stir. Get the noodly mess to your desired temperature (I eat this at room temp, but you could refrigerate it for a refreshing summer salad, or warm it in the dead of winter). Add

kimchi and some of the kimchi juice
1 avocado, chopped

Mix. Taste. Adjust seasonings. If your kimchi is extra hot or pungent, adding a little more agave is a good idea, or if you find yourself a little short on kimchi, you can add some chili flakes.

Devour while making little happy yum noises.

This serves two generously, and trust me, if you have a partner, it is best if you both eat this.

Rocking out with: the Muppets!

Friday, 3 February 2012

I am a wild party animal.

So... I seem to have turned into that person who shows up on a Friday night at the yoga studio. We're going to watch a movie about Ashtanga and eat veg/raw food (I'll be sticking to the raw vegan food). I also seem to have gone mostly raw over the past little while. Not intentionally, but by consistently eating what makes me feel good. My body isn't cutting me a lot of slack lately- between recovering from the fire in November, keeping things running at work, and having a blast with friends/myself/my books/the amazing Edinburgh winter - I'm just not willing to eat stuff that makes me feel unnecessarily sluggish or crappy when I can instead eat stuff that makes me feel pretty damn good, all things considered.

So, here's what I'm bringing to the Gathering of Yogis:

Raw Mole dip

soak in just enough warm water to cover for at least an hour (if you have a superblender) or a few hours (if you are using an immersion blender or a non-super blender):
3/4 cup raisins
2 dried figs
1 dried ancho chili, deseeded and de-membraned
1 dried guajillo chili, deseeded and de-membraned
3 sundried tomato halves
1/2 star of star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
(if you don't have a superblender, use powdered versions of the spices)

Dump into the blender (including the soak water) and BLEND!

Now, add:

1 c raw almonds (preferably soaked) or 1/2 c raw almond butter
2 heaping tbs raw pumpkinseed butter
2 heaping tbs raw black sesame tahini (I'm sure that white would work too, I just don't have any on hand)
2 small (or 1 large) cloves garlic
1 tomato, chopped
pinch sea salt
1/2-3/4 cup raw unsweetened chocolate (chopped) OR equivalent in cocoa powder + cocoa butter
2 tbs cacao powder

optional add-ins:
1-2 tbs chaga mushroom powder
1 tsp mexican oregano
1/3-1/2 tsp smoked paprika

blend! blend! blend! You may need to add more water, as this is quite thick. I use this as a dip for fresh veg (carrots, courgette, red peppers, cukes), and sometimes as a spread on raw bread (great for when you want something really heavy and filling). Or I just eat it with a spoon. If you usually make cooked mole, be warned that the chili is going to be a lot sharper in the raw version, so you may want to only put in half your normal amount of chili at the beginning, taste, and then add the rest if you want (I want!). It's best to make this the day before, and let it sit in the fridge overnight so that the flavors can romance each other a bit.

Dancing along to: Los Fabulosos Cadillacs' Matador, because I was introduced to the wonders that are Argintinian ska and mole sauce at the same time, and they are forever linked in my little soul.

Monday, 16 January 2012

dancing with myself

The yoga continues. 6.30 every day at Bristo Yoga School, where there is such a lovely community. (Okay... most days. Mysore is supposed to be a six-day-a-week practice, but yoga and science have to strike a balance in my life, and sometimes science trumps shala, and I practice at home before heading to the lab.)

The kitchen also continues.

As does the rest of life.

Since the fire, I've been nesting. I've been cooking for myself, experimenting with my new chocolate moulds and nicer chocolate than I've used before, dancing in my new kitchen in the replacement (non-smoky) slippy slippers that my mum knit and sent me all the way from the wilds of Canada.

Things the fire and the yoga and the kitchen (and the science) have taught me:

1 - Cheat less. Sure, I *can* wrench my legs behind my head if I just let my hips go a little out of alignment, but really, who the hell am I trying to impress before 8 am, anyways? Better to suck it up and get there when I get there for real. Likewise, I can get away with adding extra cocoa butter to chocolate and then the tempering is apparently *perfect*, and no one complains, but that's not getting me where I want. I need to practice more to temper the chocolate dark and bitter and unadulterated - the way I like it.
2 - Sometimes, things are uncomfortable and don't get more comfortable and that's not a bad thing. Or a good thing. It's just a thing. Having to ask for help after the fire was uncomfortable. Living in other people's houses, borrowing clothes, and asking for favours sucked. Also uncomfortable: navasana (boat pose). But if I'm so focused on avoiding the discomfort, then I don't get the benefits of my wonderful generous friends. I also don't get the benefits of navasana (which I secretly hope will include a cuter tummy, but which I suspect mostly includes a lot of willpower). Also uncomfortable: being vegan in a non-vegan world, especially when you have to answer the same questions and have that one stupid conversation about cheese over and over again. Yup. It will sometimes be pretty uncomfortable ("ummm... thanks for thinking of me with that beautiful handmade scarf, but I'm vegan, and it's wool"....)
3 - Most things worth doing require effort. Effort can be a good thing, it can be fun, it can be joyful, but it's still work. Becoming a chocolate god is effort. Drop backs are effort. Science (oh gods, especially science) is an effort. And the effort for all of these things isn't one big heroic herculean push after which you get a prize, a day off, and 15 minutes of fame. It's like, get up every day at 4.30 and do little things. But do them every day. Show up. Practice in good faith. Don't cheat even if nobody can tell except you.
4 - Often , you have the choice between pointing out how awesome you are, and actually learning something. This is because learning often requires listening rather than speaking, looking rather than showing, and then possibly changing your tune. But you know what, all the people I've met who awe me are those who are willing to change their tune.
5 - Dance. If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of this whole undertaking. Life is what is happening now, so make joy where you are. It's not just going to show up uninvited at some undefined time in the mythical future.

These are all things I basically knew before now. It's just that the past few months have been a reminder to lean into that stuff that makes me uncomfortable, to be honest, to learn. And to dance.

Next time, back to recipes, probably with chocolate. I promise. I just have to finish this dance...

For now: