Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Self-Care For The Nearsighted

Are purple flowers and fair trade chocolate bars enough? 
Lately, my favorite people have been asking the question: how is your self-care in times of COVID-19 and racism? Well, quite honestly, life has been hard. Some days, I stay in bed longer than necessary. I stay wrapped in the sheets, my eyes squeezed close. I do not want to wake up from the dreams where glasses and contacts are not needed, when there is no violence, no women, especially Black women harmed, threatened by racism, misogyny, and misogynoir. In them, I’m definitely not having the painful headaches or those strange blocks from staring at unfocused objects too long. 

Social distancing from mom. Her facility will resume allowing visitation next week! Outside that is. 
Last year, I broke my eyeglasses and foolishly did not get them repaired. I stopped wearing eye contacts in November. Thus, I have been operating blindly since. Whenever I read, write, paint, and draw, squinting heavily on the detail work, it is not a big deal. I run errands like grocery shopping with a blurry sensibility. I see no one’s faces unless they are super close to me. Thankfully, I had an appointment two weeks ago, rescheduled from early April. My vision has worsened. Worsened. It was terrible news to receive. Granted, not surprising. The eye doctor even asked, “how are you surviving like this?” 

Still, in times of this crisis, I have mostly stayed put indoors. My self-care is in creativity and reading about the creativity of others— that passion almost stronger than my own. I also have been spending alternate weekends with my five-year-old nephew, a bright boy (must be that Libra spirit) who now has an appreciation for painting and baking. Weeks ago, I walked him down to the pond carrying a wicker basket of lunch. We saw many ducks including a beautiful black one! He wanted to feed them the crusts off his peanut butter and cherry preserves sandwich. Of course the answer was “no!” 

True blue friends are a gem too. I can go days without talking to someone and receive a phone call or text, inquiring on my health, my family (facing many obstacles at once). I was out with my friend (and former co-worker) whose been such a gracious lifesaver. We recently visited Cox Arboretum with her two daughters and four adorable kittens. On top of faltering eyesight, horrendous circumstances can be a lot and the stress is draining (perhaps explains the lack of wanting to get out of bed). When my self-care is not reading books or writing prose beside fragrant candles eating fair trade chocolate, making all kinds of beautiful vegan food, painting various projects, washing my hair to a great playlist, and trying to make a decent braid, it is seeing my small, intimate circle (not simultaneously). I do appreciate the other messages, the reaching out. One friend dropped off a huge box of toys and books for my nephew (then days later delivered a gorgeous futon). Just yesterday, I was feeling very depleted and a friend shared a special post, a drawing he sketched of me, of me at the pond. I felt a surge of gratitude and happiness coming through. It is not the gift that matters, it is the knowing that people care about you, about your entire self. That “I was thinking about you today” really means so much right now. I thought saying “thank you” was not enough, but it is. It is. Saying “thank you” to your family, your friends for being there is enough. 

Sketch of me started by brilliant Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based artist Kenneth Nicholson

So in a few days, I try out new glasses and then see the world clearly. Until then, I remain finding delight in the precious things that make me and the ones I love happy in the midst of life’s challenges, big or small. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Maple Roasted Beetroot And Caramelized Onion Tart

Be the talk of the town when serving this unbelievably scrumptious beet tart. Packed with savory meets a hint of sweet flavor, no one would believe vegan could taste so delicious. 
I am guilty. Guilty of buying vegetables and having to discard them for not using them on time. Beets were a primary crime. Always sitting in the bottom compartment of the refrigerator waiting to be prepared. I had Nadia Lim’s beautiful Maple Roasted Beetroot and Caramelized Onion Tart bookmarked for months and finally accomplished it over the weekend. In my rendition are minor adjustments— omitting nutritional yeast (the cashew cream still tasted impressive), using a practical substitute to make balsamic vinegar, and making beet purée as opposed to resting thin beet slices onto the tart. Plus, humorously enough, I used melted coconut oil instead of olive oil and was in for the biggest snafu. After taking the rested dough out of the fridge and finding a hard rock instead, I softened the dough in the microwave before baking it.
All in all, this tart was exceptional. The maple flavor of the beets complemented the sweet caramelized onions and that “buttery” crust with the chef’s kiss generous dollop of cashew cream— perfect for lunch and brunch. I definitely plan to make this again, having decided that beets are my new best friend despite how “bloody” the kitchen cleanup messes are. It’s well worth it!

Maple Roasted Beetroot And Caramelized Onion Tart With Cashew Cream Ingredients and Preparation

2 cup cashew
1 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup cold water

3 beetroots, sliced
2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (substitute is four parts vinegar + one part sugar)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Make the cashew cream ahead of time and place into the refrigerator.
In a small bowl, mix flour and salt together. Add olive oil and cold water. Form dough into hands and wrap in plastic. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a baking dish, add sliced beets. Stir together balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Drizzle glaze over the beets and roast for 25-30 minutes or until beets are soft, tender.
In a skillet, add olive oil and red onion, stirring for ten minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and water cooking for an additional 15 minutes until thick and sticky jam like consistency.
Once the beets are done, leave the oven on for the tart. Purée the beets with either one cup of almond milk or water until solid and creamy (like mashed potatoes).

Bake tart shell for twenty minutes. 
Pour in beet filling to the top of the shell, spreading evenly. Top with caramelized onions. 
Bake for twenty minutes. 
Top with cashew cream and enjoy.