Thanksgiving Test Kitchen Success: Roasted Brussels Sprout and Quinoa Salad

So as it turns out, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but being the only vegan in my family, I often have a hard time making recipes that my whole family will enjoy and not just me. Usually my parents are fans, but my Grandma is far and away the most difficult person to please. First she sniffs the dish and makes a face, then she pokes at the dish with her fork and makes a face, and then she finally takes a bite and exclaims “ohhhh no.” As someone who loves to cook, this is my worst nightmare; especially because I’ve been told I’m a rather good cook. Part of the problem is that I grew up in a meat and potatoes family. I’m always introducing these “exotic” new vegetables: butternut squash, any type of fall squash, brussels sprouts, or fancy mushrooms. These are all staples in my diet, but not my family’s. My challenge every year is to try to come up with a dish that my whole family will like. So far, I’ve struck out every year.  This year, I think I finally have a winner. Enter the Roasted Brussels Sprout and Quinoa Salad. This dish has one thing all the others lacked: staying power.

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Ohhh yes. This salad is just so delicious and I am reallllllyyyy hoping it’s as much of a hit with my family as it has been with my friends. Without further ado, here’s the recipe to make for you and yours!


– 1 cup of quinoa
– 1 cup vegetable broth (optional)
– 1 to 1.5 lbs of brussel sprouts
– 1 large sweet potato
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
– 1/2 cup dried cranberries
–  1 or 2 drizzles of balsamic vinegar
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 or 2 drizzles of pure maple syrup (a or b)
– 1 teaspoon cumin
-1 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the quinoa in a small pan according to the directions on the box using 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vegetable broth for added flavor.
2. Chop the brussels sprouts into quarters or halves if they are small. Chop the sweet potato into cubes. Put the chopped brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in a mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil and add the cumin, paprika and salt. Mix the ingredients around so the brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are coated evenly. Spread the vegetables on a baking sheet and put those suckers in the oven to roast.
3. After 10 minutes, flip the roasting vegetables over to cook the other side and cook for another 10 minutes.
4. Once the quinoa is cooked and vegetables are cooked combine them in a serving dish along with the cranberries, maple syrup, and balsamic vinagar.
5. Use the same baking sheet you used for the vegetables to quickly toast the walnuts. Switch the oven to high broil, spread the walnuts on the baking sheet, and cook for about 2 minutes. You will smell the walnuts before they burn.
6. Add the walnuts to the serving dish and stir thoroughly. This dish can be served cold, but I would serve it warm because anything with maples should be served warm. That’s just like a fact of science.
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This salad is so satisfying and warm and encapsulates my favorite things about fall. Roasting the vegetables adds another level of flavor that you simply cannot get from boiling them.
If you need substitutes, here are some ideas:
My mom has a nut allergy, so I will serve this with toasted pumpkin seeds instead of walnuts. I would imagine you can also use raisins instead of cranberries. If the maple is too much for you, I would add some fresh lemon juice to counteract the maple or just add less maple.
I hope you enjoy this dish as much as me and my friends did and I hope it makes it onto you Thanksgiving Day menu. If it does, be sure to let me know how it goes! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

ACL Round-Up

Man oh man. This time last week I was exhausted, in  love with Gary Clark Jr. and reminiscing about Austin City Limits Music Festival. This week I am tired, still in love with Gary Clark Jr. and blasting his new album Blak and Blu on repeat. More on that later. For now here’s my ACL round up!

1. THE BLACK KEYS: I was determined to have a good experience at this concert because I had a rough time when they played at Coachella 2010. It was definitely a success. I wasn’t all that close, but I just wanted to hear them live and enjoy the music and that I did. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say the experience wasn’t mind blowing because I wasn’t close and because I had seen them before. Howlin For You.

2. ALABAMA SHAKES: Okay. I was pumped. I was excited. But come the time of this concert, I was underwhelmed. Overall, this band is awesome. I actually love their music and listen to them a couple times a week. The problem is at a concert, slow song after slow song, after teary-eyed emotional song can get a little stand still. I like when bands slow things down, but that’s only after they get me playing the air guitar and make me bust a move, even if the move is a jazzy two-step. One of their more famous songs is: Boys and Girls. I HIGHLY recommend listening to them. I think they are the kind of band I want to see in a small intimate cafe setting where I can stand up and slow dance with my imaginary boyfriend or sit down and sway while I sip my fancy cocktail. Know what I mean? Okay moving on.

3. MICHAEL KIWANUKA: Ok, let me just be clear, my heart just melts for a soulful black man with a guitar. No talk of bangin’ some b*tches while yelling over some crazy beat in the club with lyrics that make your Grandma say bless us Lord Jesus. Just a man and a guitar and a sweet soothing voice that makes you want to snuggle on a couch. World, meet Michael Kiwanuka, Michael, meet the world. I actually discovered this guy on Spotify a while ago, so I was excited to hear that we was coming to ACL. This was a concert Maddy and I decided to enjoy as background noise while we enjoyed our dinner (did I mention Maddy came all the way from Newport to visit me because she’s the best friend ever?!). Anywho, his sound was solid, soulful and sweet as usual. This is another one that I would like to hear in a more intimate setting…like my bedroom. Not like that! What I mean is I would like him to tuck me in while singing me to sleep because I know if that happened, I would go to bed happy every.single.night. A lot of people love Home Again, but I really enjoy Tell Me A Tale.

4. TENNIS: Okay they are not as well known, but this band is plain old feel good music. Like sit under a tree with a picnic with friends while this band plays you happy music with fun tunes. I say that because that is exactly what me, Maddy and Ted did, minus the picnic, while Tennis played us fun music. This wasn’t a band I knew anything about and we went to this concert based solely on the recommendation of one of Maddy’s co-workers. They have great energy live and like I said, they are just plain fun. Oh and I think they’re foreign, which in my opinion makes them extra adorable! Warning, some of the tunes are actually quite dark, but the lead singer’s voice will counsel you through it! It All Feels the Same

5. KIMBRA: Yes. Just yes. Over and over again. First of all her voice is amazing. Second of all, her music perspective is simply fascinating. If you haven’t been listening, you’re missing out. Her concert was my 4th favorite and it would have been 3rd except The Avett Brothers randomly just killed it. Her music is that nice in between where you can study to it if you want, but you can also dance at a club to it. She also collaborates with Foster the People fairly often so ya, that means she’s legit. I think this song is the one most people know: Settle Down. But I also like when she slows it down in Two Way Street

6. THE AVETT BROTHERS: 3rd favorite show, 2nd biggest surprise of the concert. I love The Avett Brothers. Their songs are folky, sweet, calming. These brothers are family men and you can study to their music and feel at peace. BUT THEIR CONCERT IS ROCKIN’! They take the tempo up a notch for many of their songs and have some sweet jam sessions and did I mention their cellist is just plain hysterical and desperately hoping for a back up singer role in the next year or so. That guy knows every word to every song and he sings them while he effing kills it at the cello. There were times where I wanted to dance all night and times where I just wanted to be held. I love concerts where the artists can take you through the full gambit of emotions and this was exactly that. Okay, confession. Remember that time I said I wouldn’t accept a marriage proposal unless the song Question by Old 97s was involved? I lied. Future husband, if you incorporate January Wedding, I’ll forgive you (someone tell Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

7. CHILDISH GAMBINO: Sooooo I don’t usually like rappers’ concerts. Saw Kanye at Coachella in 2010 and thought it was lame. Saw Lupe Fiasco at Outside Lands whatever year that was and thought it was fine. Saw Childish Gambino this year at ACL and thought it was DOPE! Dirty words that make your Grandma cringe and all! Oh man his concert was fun. SO much dancing and jumping, yelling, screaming oh and casually free styling?! I think I loved it because this guy is hilarious on Community and then gets on stage, sheds his acting lifestyle and just raps the hell out of a beat or whatever the proper term for that is. Even better is he was in the airport with Maddy the next morning at like 5:30am waiting in the security line like every other normal person. All of it is good, but here’s some samples: Freaks and Geeks and Heartbeat. I reallllyyy like Heartbeat.

8. GARY CLARK JR.: Man oh man. Hats, bras and panties off to you Gary Clark. That’s from every straight woman and gay man aged 18 to 60. I don’t even know where to start. As far as talent goes, sky is the freaking limit for this guy. He’s so soft spoken (probably cause he was super high at the concert), but my god he has the voice of an angel and the guitar strum of the filthiest guitar player you can ever imagine. He gets totally lost in his music on that stage and he takes you on his crazy journey with you. His music will make you laugh, cry, and dance. His new album Blak and Blu is the only album that I’ve sat down and done nothing else but listen to it from start to finish. Yes that’s right. Today for 78 minutes, I sat in my desk chair and listened to Gary Clark, Jr.’s new album. His sound is so fresh but it’s so nostalgic. He sounds very bluesy but then he gets all rock n’roll on you and then he R&Bs the crap out of you. I just don’t even know what to say about his music. When I listen to it, I am just truly dumbfounded. He was just incredible live. I thought about his concert all week long. I love lots of his songs, but today I was humming If You Love Me Like You Say and When My Train Pulls In, but there’s also Bright Lights, Please Come Home, Numb, Things Are Changin’. Ahh the list goes on. Just listen, OKAY??!!!

Alright, I’m done. Debate time!

p.s. Go see Looper if you’re part of the 1% of the population that hasn’t seen it already!

Coming Full Circle

So I was just looking through my posts and besides noticing that I haven’t posted in forever (sorry!) I also noticed that I had yet to share a new development in my life. No, I am not having a baby, but I am pretty much right back to being vegan. Ya I know, I don’t know how it happened either. Let me try to explain myself and then explain why I think it is one of the best decision I have ever made for myself.

Lets start from the beginning. So as you probably know, I was vegan for lent  and it actually went pretty well. However, by the end of lent I was craving fish, eggs and cheese more than I ever knew I would and could not wait to return to my happy life of eating all of those things constantly. When I went back to eating pretty much everything, I binged in ways I didn’t know I was capable of. It was like I was 14 all over again with extremely high metabolism. I was eating cheeseburgers, all of the bacon, rotisserie chicken, fish, eggs, cheese, yogurt, just everything. It all tasted SO delicious. That is, it tasted for the first couple of bites and then it was just sort of blah. Not bad blah, but not exciting blah (if there is such a thing), sort of like just being whelmed (not over or under). This alone wouldn’t have been enough to stop me, but after eating said foods my stomach KILLED me! I didn’t quite reach this level, but I seriously considered carrying a bottle of Mylanta with me wherever I went. It was better than being double over in pain within minutes after eating. My body had spoken and it was simply not interested. So I did what any person in my situation would do, I forced it. I forced my body to eat bacon, fish, eggs, cheese and other things for a month until I just couldn’t force it anymore. I decided in May that I was at the end of a crossroad, I could give this whole vegetarian thing a try or I could continue to make myself miserable.

As it turns out, there was a third choice that was a happy compromise: be a pescatarian, but limit fish intake to twice a week! I was headed back to Cali after all and the fish was finally going to be fresh and the sushi was going to be everywhere! I went to California with one goal: don’t eat any meat. With the exception of one strip of bacon and a bite of chicken in a moment of weakness and starvation and a veggie option that consisted of a plate of steamed vegetables (I was at the horse tracks), I did it. And furthermore, during my last 2 weeks of the summer I said goodbye to meat entirely as in no fish. As I prepared to leave Cali and head back to Austin for law school round 2 I made the decision to cut out the dairy as well. Nothing serious and not nearly as strict as I had been during Lent, but just make an active effort to stop eating cheese, yogurt, regular butter etc.

So what pushed me over the edge? I read the book The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone of all people. Yes, that is the girl in Clueless. Now this is an extreme book and I actually don’t really recommend it except for the recipes in the back, but what happened to me while I was reading it was that she was describing everything I had just went through in the past few months. The truth of the matter is that dairy, more so than fish, was making me feel gross. All the time. For days at a time. I had dairy hangovers. So while I still had a taste for cheese, my body just could not and still can’t handle digesting more than a bite or two of it. As for actual meat, I just lost my taste for it. Simple as that. You know that one moment of weakness I had? I ordered a chicken club at the horse tracks. I took one bite, didn’t really like it, so I removed the chicken and half of the bacon strip (gimme a break it’s freakin’ bacon!!!!) and essentially ate a tomato and lettuce sandwich. Trust me, I was as weirded out by myself then as you are right now. But whatever, it happened and I am rolling with it.

After that I decided that it was officially time to make the switch. No need to be strict about it, but I officially was not eating any more meat and decided to just stop buying cheese and eggs. The nice thing about not being super strict is that when I’m out at dinner with friends, I can order a couple of vegetable sides and not be super anal about whether they were cooked in Earth Balance or regular butter. As far as cooking goes, I’ve started a new cooking adventure. Every time I go grocery shopping now the only repeat vegetables allowed are some sort of salad mix and kale. Otherwise, I make myself get different vegetables every time and it has been quite an adventure learning how to cook all of them. Perhaps the most rewarding thing is learning that lots of these vegetables are easy to prepare. Roasted beets, mustard greens, kale, chard, red kuri squash, bok choy, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, edamame, and the list goes on. I’m going to do the same things with grains now that I’ve got my mason jar system going! Right now I have bulgur and brown rice, but next I’ll probably get quinoa and couscous and just keep the cycle going until I exhaust the bulk bin resources.

I think what really matters to me at the end of the day is this: I feel great, I’m helping the environment in my own small way, and for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid of the food going into my body. I am by no means telling you all to be vegan, but I do think it is important to figure out what food makes you feel good. For me, it happens to be fruits vegetables and grains, for one of my friends it happens to be meat and mostly vegetables. Screw the latest fad diet, save your money instead of doing a juice cleanse, and just listen to your body.

In Reality, You Can Have it All

Okay, so I’m not sure if y’all could tell, but my last blog post was just really a warm up so I could talk about this article: Why Women Can’t Have It All. This article is a big ugly monster hanging out there over the heads of 20 and 30 something year old women telling us we can’t accomplish everything we hope to career wise and still have a family. As I read this article, I thought about all the stories my professors shared with me through the years about their time in the White House as the Secretary of Defense or as a Special Assistant to the President. Both were males and guess what? They couldn’t have it all either. When you work a high pressure job that requires you to value a good night of sleep at 4 hours, you are obviously not going to have any work life balance. If, in addition to choosing to work such a job, you then also choose to leave your family in New Jersey while you commute back and forth to DC, you are definitely not going to have it all because you won’t be getting your love at home. My problem is not that she wrote the article, but rather that she was somehow surprised that she couldn’t have it all.

Read those sentences again. When you work in the White House, getting 4 hours of sleep is awesome. When you work in the White House and choose to commute back and forth between different states, it’s hard to see your family. In my mind, Anne Marie Slaughter chose not to have it all. She chose that path and then she was surprised by the reality that she couldn’t have it all as if she somehow didn’t know it was coming. The lesson I take away from her article is that you have to be realistic. The fact that women are more attached to their children or are still expected to be the main caregiver does keep women out of high powered jobs. However, at the end of the day, your ability to “have it all” depends on your definition of “having it all” and whether or not you are realistic about how to get it.

Anne-Marie hit us with some big statistics, some angry rants, and most importantly a personalized story of what was essentially self defeat. The important thing to remember here is that Anne-Marie’s job was one of the most high pressured, time demanding jobs in the world. She essentially took her 0.001% experience and projected it onto the rest of women. Now don’t get me wrong, there is a large gap between men and women in terms of who is running Fortune 500 companies and the likes, but I have a problem with her assuming that those men have it all.  Sure, their marriage might be okay, but what if they maybe have children with behavioral problems because of their father’s absence? What if he and his partner don’t’ connect emotionally or physically anymore? What if he’s divorced and a bachelor with no one to really call home? There’s so many aspects that we don’t know about because the home life is something that happens mostly behind closed doors. For Slaughter to assume that because there’s more men in high powered jobs, then they really have it all, is crazy to me.  It goes against her highly credentialed academic background in social science to make such an assumption and it unnecessarily deflates the hopes and dreams of women following in her footsteps.

I don’t think her article is worthless, I just don’t think it focused on the right point. The point to me is not that we can’t have it all, but rather it is imperative for women today to define what it means to have it all and accept that that definition might change over time. While I don’t think I have it all at age 25, I’m pretty close to being almost exactly on the right track career wise for having what I think is all for the moment. But I also don’t think my current vision of having it all will be the same in 5 years. It might not even be the same in 2 years. Life itself is an adventure and you have to be flexible and you have to live in the present. What is having it all for you at this very moment and how can you get there? There is a fluidity to this concept. Its dynamic, its ever changing, just like your life. Your hopes and dreams change with various life experiences and you have to be tolerant of that phenomenon. You also have to acknowledge that your work life balance is not always going to be perfect. In fact, it might never be perfect. Sometimes, you will have to sacrifice one or the other if it means being happy. Perhaps my biggest problem with Anne-Marie’s article is her definition of having it all is a few decades old. I guess she missed the memo, but happiness is the new black. Happiness is the new having it all and its time for all of us to get with the program.

Get Your Love at Home

To be a 23 year old and worry about how to be in a relationship and be successful at work is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, but that was me almost exactly 3 years ago. I had been working as a paralegal for a few months and I officially knew that my desire to go to law school and be a successful lawyer was actually real life. I knew what I was interested in and I knew I wanted to start working in a law firm and potentially consider working in house at a production company or a record label. Sadly in the back of my head forefront of my thoughts was the idea that I could not be a good girlfriend, wife or mother and pursue the career I wanted to have. My boyfriend at the time was an investment banker and consoling him through the ups and downs of that type of work was exhausting. I knew I was doing a terrible job of putting myself first and therefore making myself more and more unhappy, but I didn’t know how to quit the cycle. My mother trained me to be an amazing housewife and probably an incredible mom as well. My biggest flaw is that I am loyal to a fault and that I put the success and goals of others that I care about before my own success and my own goals. When I finally came to terms with this fatal flaw, I broke up with my boyfriend, put all my energy into applying to law schools and I never looked back.

Fast forward three years: I’ve had an incredible first year and I landed my dream summer internship. I am very lucky and everyday I thank myself for putting me first and having the courage to chase my dreams. I have made a conscious choice to put my personal life mostly on hold at the ripe age of 25 soon to be 26 because I know I’m not at a maturity level to do both.

This summer, I attended several conferences for women in the legal field and I heard the same thing over and over again: “Get your love at home.” Wait, what about kids? When should you have them? “If you wanna have kids, have them. If you do good work, no one remembers you were gone and everyone will be waiting for you to get back.”

These are not the answers I expected to hear. These women were actually talking like they see their kids and their husbands. Some were partners, some were associates and some were junior general counsel, but they all managed, they all had figured it out. And most importantly, they told me this: “You can love your job, but your job will never love you the same way back so you better find somewhere to get your love. You better figure out how to get your love at home.” No one has ever told me that before. In a society where your job is a be all end all and particularly in the legal field which traditionally expects individuals to sacrifice everything to get ahead, I had never considered the fact that my job was not going to love me the way I loved it. Nor had I considered the fact that the relationship is essentially one sided. Now my plan to have my nose in the books for 3 years seems stupid, short sighted, and painfully naive. What I’ve learned this summer is that you cannot survive the challenges that work throws at you alone. You need a support system. You need family, you need friends, and as it turns out, you need a partner.

While this new information doesn’t have me ready to jump on and settle down as soon as possible, this summer has changed my perspective on the work life balance and has definitely given me some more things to consider. I like where I am right now, but now I know I don’t need to have a plan and that some way or another, when I decide its time to start dating seriously again, I know that my job and I can handle it.

Who Runs the World? Five Year Olds

Okay, so maybe five year olds don’t run the world, but they definitely run the school around the corner from my apartment in Austin. I meant to blog about this a while ago, but per usual life got the better of me. Anyway, I was walking home from the shuttle one day and passed a daycare in the neighborhood. As I was passing, they were having a group meeting about playground rules. This obviously seems totally normal, except for the fact that the care taker was asking five year olds what the playground rules should be and what the code words should be if you wanted someone to stop doing something. She literally had these kids draw the line between good and bad behavior in at least 4 different playground circumstances. If you aren’t into education, or simply don’t remember what you were like as a five year old, this may seem pretty insignificant, but I personally could not believe what I was hearing and seeing. I immediately had two thoughts: I wonder how much this daycare costs, all of these people are white, this is a great compromise/responsibility exercise and I hope, but know, that most daycares and schools do not and likely cannot feasibly do this. Ok so it was three thoughts, sue me (wait, but not really).

Why did I think it was so great?

So not to be extremely cheesy, but this was democracy at its finest. The care taker or whatever she’s called facilitated what was honestly a more sophisticated discussion than I’ve seen adults who disagree have. The kids raised their hands, took turns expressing their feelings and concerns, and made suggestions on how they thought the rule could be better and why. I loved this for a lot of reasons but I’ll just tell you a few. First, a five year old engages in critical thinking. The kids not only had to say what rule they wanted to keep or change, but they also needed to say why. In addition, they learned how to properly confront someone. The two kids who instigated the entire conversation were forced to explain to the kids who had hurt their feelings why they were upset and what exactly the “bullying” kid had done that was perceived as disrespectful. The confrontation exercise was particularly incredible because it helped the kids learn how to assert themselves in a productive, healthy way, which is especially important for children who tend to be more introverted. Lastly, the kids had to consider other opinions and decide what they, as a collective group, thought was a good limit between good and bad behavior.  It seems so simple, but it was such a magical exercise for a child and it made me wonder and hope that kids get those kind of opportunities on a regular basis. Learning from an early age that people have different opinions and that often you have to compromise to achieve an outcome everyone wants is invaluable.

Okay so obviously you’ve figured out I wasn’t just “passing by.” I clearly saw the situation, crossed the street and parked myself on the bench and listened and watched. Ya, its fine. I’m not creepy at all.

Big week of work and events coming up that ends in a little trip back to San Diego! Hope you had a great weekend!


I Feel Home

My first two weeks back in California have been absolutely amazing. My wonderful father drove me out to LA from Austin and from there I flew straight to San Francisco for Bay to Breakers!

Bay to Breakers Noah’s Ark Theme

I didn’t really have a costume because I had just driven from Austin and Fenner failed to get me a turtle costume, but it was fun nonetheless!


After a rambunctious few days in San Francisco, I headed down to San Diego for a weekend of relaxation with some girlfriends. We went out to dinner for Danielle’s birthday and then the next morning we went out for a nice little hike:

Mt. Woodson

Lake Poway

Another birthday dinner:

Yummy Dinner

I couldn’t have imagined a better return to California than the last two weeks. I get the feeling it’s going to be a really good summer!