An Everyday Kinda Birthday

Happy Belated Birthday To Me!

What does it say that I’m late to my own party?

The law of diminishing returns would suggest that I’ve passed peak celebratory years, jaded to the passage of time. While there’s a good dose of truth in that statement, it’s far from the full picture. Let’s turn the concept on its head for a moment.

Cupcakes with "Happy" Candles

What if, instead of reserving the festivities for a single calendar date, we lived every day a little bit more like a celebration?

  • Instead of saving the best bite for last, we dug right in and savored it along with the rest?
  • Instead of keeping prized collectables pristine in their packages, we tore them open and played without restraint?
  • Instead of saving cake for special occasions, made the act of eating cake a special occasion in and of itself?

Becoming an adult requires you to do one of two things: Give in, or give it your all.

So here I am, another year older. It doesn’t feel significant because, quite frankly, it’s not. It’s one birthday of many, not the greatest but absolutely not the worst, with many more to follow. It’s special precisely for the reason that it’s not.

I’ll be out here living everyday a little bit more like it’s my birthday from this point forward. Who’s with me?

Unholy

Fresh herbs wait for no one, which is a pressing issue when you’re prone to over-purchasing. Some can be preserved beautifully through drying or freezing, but others perish through the process. There’s a reason why dried basil and dill taste nothing like their original glory, aromatic and herbaceous, reduced down to straw-like hay at best. That’s why a treasure like Thai basil must be cherished immediately, given the opportunity.

What is Thai holy basil?

Distinct from Italian basil, Thai holy basil is more pungent and peppery, sharp and bright, unlike anything else on the market. Despite the misleading name, it’s in fact an entirely different plant, with no relation to other types of common basil. While you could substitute one for the other, you might as well use cilantro instead, since the taste would end up being equally disparate.

What’s the best way to use Thai basil?

Pad Krapao, AKA basil stir fry, is an ideal way to clean the excess fresh herb out of your fridge. It takes almost no prep, comes together in 10 minutes or less, and has an invigorating if not downright addictive flavor. The most common variety you’ll find is Pad Krapao Gai, made with ground chicken, but the beauty of this concept is its versatility. American restaurants tend to favor whole cuts, but you could easily use any protein you prefer.

What are some ideal protein substitutions?

Naturally, my chicken is plant-based. If you’re craving something lighter, heartier, or simply different, you have plenty of choices:

Want to veg out?

I like to keep this prep fast and streamlined, focusing on just one featured vegetable for the sake of simplicity. Go ahead and add a full rainbow to bulk up the meal, especially if you have a frozen stir fry vegetable blend you can effortlessly toss right in. My favorite vegetable additions or substitutions include:

  • Bell pepper strips
  • Snow seas or snap peas
  • Shredded carrots
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Baby corn
  • Sliced zucchini

If you should be so lucky to have access to fresh Thai holy basil, don’t let a single leaf go to waste. There will be no such thing as “too much” when you have this easy, crowd-pleasing recipe in your repertoire.

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Radicalized Radicchio

I do not like radicchio.

Full stop.

Maybe that’s not the most enticing way to start a post about a radicchio recipe, but I’m nothing if not honest here.

Radicchio, miniature heads of tender red leaf lettuce, have a delicate, feathery appearance. They seem ethereal, soft as if they could float away, yet eye-catching for their molted mulberry hue.

Bitterness is not a bad thing in itself; it’s essential for contrast and balance in a dish, to fully appreciate sweetness when it rings true. The bitterness in radicchio, however, is something else. It’s bitter like a freezing rain whipping in a cold wind. It’s bitter like Ebenezer Scrooge before his encounter with three spirits.

Radicchio macro

How can you tame the bitterness of radicchio?

All is not lost when radicchio darkens your vegetable crisper. The secret is really quite simple:

  1. Cut it into thin strips or finely shave it.
  2. Soak it in ice water for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Drain and thoroughly dry.

That’s it! Like magic, the once biting acridity has been de-fanged. Now the question remains…

What’s the best way to cook radicchio?

Actually, that’s a trick question. While it is suitable for stir-frying, sauteing, braising, and roasting, I happen to find the milder version quite pleasant raw.

Radicchio Purple Potato Salad

Allow me to introduce: The Purple Potato Salad.

Unlike conventional takes on the concept, the potatoes are roasted with autumnal herbs and spices for a warm finish and crispy edges. It’s still all about contrasts here, with fresh radicchio providing a tender-crisp bite against the creamy flesh of purple sweet potatoes. More floral and fragrant than their orange brethren, they’re worth seeking out for a truly showstopping magenta masterpiece. Nutty, buttery roasted chestnuts round out any remaining sharp edges to the radicchio, coupled with the crunch of toasted pine nuts. Like any thoughtful salad, it’s not just a random pile of leftover ingredients, but a carefully assembled composition.

How can you make this recipe your own?

Think seasonally and you can’t go too far wrong. Other complimentary additions could include:

Radicchio Purple Potato Salad

Still think radicchio is beyond redemption?

Take it from a reformed hater: It’s all about proper prep. Anything can be made delicious with the right care and attention. If this Radicchio and Roasted Purple Potato Salad doesn’t change your mind, I don’t know what will.

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You Had Me At Aloe

New Year’s Day is the perfect opportunity to clean up your act and get a fresh start.

Diet culture be damned, there’s more to this concept than just what goes into our bodies. Fresh aloe is my secret weapon for happier, healthier skin and a glow that outshines the gloomiest winter days.

While lasting change starts from within, I strongly believe that aloe should be a topical ingredient only. There are proven benefits to drinking small amounts of pure aloe juice, but quite frankly, it tastes like straight poison to me. There is no amount of compelling research out there that would convince me I should drink the culinary equivalent of drain cleaner. Thus, when I found myself with a large leaf of fresh aloe on hand, I knew right away it was better suited for the bathroom than the kitchen.

Fresh Aloe Vera

What is aloe?

First things first, in case you’ve only seen the little bottles of goop in the cosmetics section, aloe is a succulent that is prized worldwide for its medicinal properties. There are well over 400 species of aloe with aloe vera being the most common. Dubbed the “Plant of Immortality” by ancient Egyptians, the first record of the plant comes from 6,000-year old carvings within the tombs of deceased pharaohs. Its modern name comes from the Arabic word “Alloeh”, which translates to “shining bitter substance”, and the Latin word “Vera”, which translates to “true”.

What are the benefits of aloe?

Aloe is the Swiss army knife of skin care. Whatever ails you, there’s a good chance that a gentle application of aloe vera gel will help.

  • Moisturizer – Particularly when you need an extra line of defense again dry winter winds, aloe gel helps lock in moisture without clogging pores.
  • Toner – Far more gentle than most natural astringents, aloe is a great option for those with sensitive skin that want to balance their skin’s PH level and prevent breakouts.
  • Burn salve – Proven effective in treating first- and second-degree burns, aloe gel has an immediate cooling and soothing affect.
  • Wound healing – Small cuts, rashes, and abrasions will disappear in record time with aloe on the case. It can help expedite the healing process by reducing inflammation, promoting circulation, and inhibiting the growth of bacteria.

Fresh Aloe Vera Gel

How can you use fresh aloe?

Bottled aloe gel has added preservatives to extend shelf life. Cut the crap and go straight to the source! Fresh aloe leaves are available in most grocery stores these days, particularly Whole Foods Markets and similar health food shops. It’s more cost-effective and easy to use.

To prepare your own aloe gel…

  1. Lay the paddle out flat on your cutting board and slice down the sides, removing the pointed spikes along the edges.
  2. Fillet the leaf, separating the top and bottom skin from the clear gel inside.
  3. Cut the gel into pieces and place them in your blender or food processor.
  4. Puree on high speed until completely smooth and very frothy.
  5. Transfer to to airtight containers and use as desired. The gel will last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or you can freeze it pretty much indefinitely, until needed.

To use, apply on clean skin as desired. It’s safe for use on the body, hands, and face alike.

Clean up your act along with your medicine cabinet.

Fresh aloe is a game-changer for healthier, happier skin.

Continue reading “You Had Me At Aloe”