vegetarian

building community + a spicy, creamy avocado dip

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A few days before our trip to Portugal, Beau and I were neck deep in prepping the house for our AirBnB guests, packing and wrapping up work projects. I had slept for approximately three hours the night before and a massive headache was boring its way through my skull. I was in no mood to have guests over.

But the week before, in a moment of “brilliance”, Beau and I had decided that we needed to host a community-building meetup of fellow entrepreneurs and creatives.

So after prepping assorted crudités and a charcuterie plate and a trio of colorful dips, I was slumped on the couch dreading the small talk I would soon be making with a house full of COMPLETE STRANGERS.

(I’ll pause here for a moment to tell you that I am a serious introvert and as such I would pretty much rather have acid thrown in my face than make small talk with strangers—which is what small talk feels like for most introverts anyway. If you want to talk about big ideas or deep emotions or your burning passion for early 17th century postage stamps, I’m game. If you ask me about the weather, I will smile awkwardly and make strange noises and sort of side-scramble away.)

Sooooo, at 5:00 I was sitting on the couch cursing myself for organizing this meet-up and secretly hoping the house would burn down before our guests arrived.

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At 6:15 the doorbell started ringing and one by one, our guests trickled in:

A woman who came all the way from Vancouver, Canada to get feedback and support on her growing food tourism business. A work-from-home mom and illustrator who wants to grow her business now that her daughter is in school. A woman looking to lead a more creative, less perfection-driven life after beating a cancer diagnosis.

And so many others.

We discussed how hard it is to be the CEO, creative director, staff photographer, marketing team and admin all rolled into one when you’re running your own company.

We talked about how isolating and overwhelming it can feel when you’re home alone in front of a blank computer screen trying to bring your vision to life. How tempting it is to answer the very important 3,479 emails in your inbox. Or redo your instagram feed so it forms a perfect patchwork and spells your name backwards if you squint your eyes just right. Instead of filling your creative cup.

We commiserated over the way fear and perfectionism can leave you paralyzed—afraid to create the podcast, take the class, make the prototype or raise your rates.

Everyone shared with incredible honesty and vulnerability. It was about a gazillion times better than I’d imagined. Having the meetup was like getting plugged into a 1000 watt battery. I was high on sisterhood and full of fresh ideas for days afterwards.

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Which got me thinking about how much solopreneurs, small business owners, artists and freelancers miss out on the energy and connection that comes from working in a team.

It’s true we don’t have unreasonable bosses looming over our desks telling us to get it done yesterday. We can hole up on the couch with a bag of chips at 2pm on a Tuesday to watch reruns of The Office if we feel like it. No one is giving us any shit about logging our vacation days.

But we lose the feedback and encouragement of co-workers. There’s no swapping stories around the water cooler. No high-fives and after-work beers to celebrate the completion of a big project. No office kickball league.

And that connection matters.

We all need community. But our perfectionist tendencies sometimes make it hard for us to have it. We need the “perfect” reason to host a meetup or have someone over, the “perfectly” instagrammable dinner party. But I’m here to say fuck that noise. And to encourage you to host an imperfect gathering, here’s a dip you can whip up in 10 minutes flat with ingredients you probably have rolling around in your fridge right now. So you can invite someone over—your neighbor, your new friend, that barista you have a crush on—and have a moment of connecting.

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In that spirit, Beau and I have decided to do a lot more events that bring people together: Meetups for entrepreneurs and creatives looking for their people. Community-building pop-up dinners. Photography workshops focusing not only on technique, but also on how to grow your creative voice. International retreats designed around slow travel, connection and personal growth.

Because as much as I was dreading this meetup in the hours before our guests arrived, it turned out to be brilliant after all. It’s the spark that has me energized to create new experiences and grow our community. The energy that filled my creative cup to overflowing.

Which is what I want for you.

If you are a member of the solitary work-from-home posse, if you spend your days glued to your laptop in a coffee shop or alone with your art in a studio, or if you are just looking for experiences designed to help you lead a more connected and creative life, we have lots of good things coming your way.

Starting with a pop-up dinner in Lisbon in May and a photography workshop in Seattle in July! Details and registration are coming soon. In the meantime, join our First to Know List and get early access to all our events.

I can’t wait to see you there!


Spicy, Creamy, Easy-Peasy Avocado Dip

  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1/4 jalapeño with seeds, sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish (optional)
  • Black sesame seeds or toasted pepitas, to garnish (optional)

*Notes: If you want a less spicy dip, you can deseed the jalapeño or leave it out altogether.

- This dip keeps well for 3-4 days, tightly covered and refrigerated. But I think the flavor is best on the first day.

- This makes a great salad dressing or sauce for tacos, chicken or fish. Just thin it with a bit more water or cream to your desired consistency.

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Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed until the dip is completely smooth.. You might need to add a little more water to get the mixture going, depending on the strength of your blender. 

Taste. Add more salt, lime, or jalapeño if you want. Blend until uniform.

To serve, transfer the dip to a bowl. Use the back of a spoon to make decorative swoops in the dip. Pour a bit of extra virgin olive oil over the dip and top with seeds and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt if you like.

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups dip.

passion fruit parfaits + the beauty of improvisation

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I had a big post planned for you this week on the importance of improvisation. But then the week turned into an insomnia-induced shitshow that saw me stumbling through my days like a member of the walking dead. So it turns out I’m improvising this post on improvisation. Ta-da!

Is that meta? Karma? The Universe calling my bluff?

I’m not entirely sure. And I’m too sleep deprived to untangle the metaphysical ramifications just now.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

But here’s what I do know: Last fall we were staying with our friends Cecilia and Michel in Brussels (who, on a side note, are two of the coolest people I know. I mean he’s an actual physicist. And she’s an art historian. And they live in this gorgeous old house full of flea market finds and photographs and friendly cats. We’re talking major #goals here people.) Anyhoo, when we were staying with our way-cooler-than-us friends Cecilia and Michel, Beau and I ended up at the local market trying to figure out what to cook for dinner that would allow us to appear half as cool as they are.

As we wandered around the store cramming our cart full of exotic European ingredients like sheep’s milk yogurt and rye crispbreads and chestnut paste, I spied a bin full of pruney, sad looking passion fruit. Real talk: I had never actually laid hands on a passion fruit before. But I had a vague notion that they were supposed to be wrinkly. The wrinklier, the better even. Also, they were cheap. I tossed the whole binful in my cart and rolled on, triumphant.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

When it came time to actually do something with my prize produce (as opposed to just feeling like a superstar for snagging a bushel of cheap but potentially rotten passion fruit), I was at a loss. I crossed my fingers and cut into one.

The papery shell revealed a center full of black seeds suspended in a neon orange jelly. Sort of like radioactive tadpoles. But it smelled amazing. Not rotten or overripe at all. I gingerly slipped one of the tadpoles into my mouth.

It was like I’d stepped into a tropical jungle. All musky and floral and fruity. More sour and intense than the passion fruit macarons and eclairs and jellies I’d tasted. I bit down on the seed and it shattered between my teeth. It was a crisp, brittle crunchiness that immediately gave way to a flavor explosion. Like the sexiest Pop Rocks you’ve ever tasted. I was hooked.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I rummaged around the kitchen and was able to unearth some stray containers of coconut yogurt, a jar of honey and a half bag of pistachios. After five minutes of chopping and layering and artful swirling, these passion fruit parfaits were born. They were the hit of the evening.

I’ve since made these for guests of our retreats. For dinner parties. For Beau and I to take down on the couch while binge watching The Office. These parfaits are easy, delicious and come together in less time than it will take you to read this blog post. Making them ideal for almost any occasion.

And they started with a willingness to take a risk on a pile of shriveled discount passion fruit. (Ok, if we’re being honest, a deep love of bargain-basement prices and the desire to impress our friends might have played a part as well.).

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

But the point is, this is where my big, philosophical post on the beauty of improvisation was headed anyway: You can’t control everything and when you try, you lose out on some of life’s sweeter moments.

Which is a lesson I, personally, need to be reminded of daily. So if you need me, I’ll be over here eating passion fruit parfaits and trying to remember that a spur-of-the-moment improvisation is sometimes the surest move.


Passion Fruit Parfaits

  • 8-12 ripe passion fruit (this should be enough for 3-4 parfaits)
  • Coconut yogurt
  • Honey
  • Pistachios, roughly chopped
  • Pinch flaky salt

*Notes: Since this is a post on improvising and since this parfait is super flexible, I’m not going to give you specific quantities. Just taste and sweeten to your liking depending on how sour your passion fruit and yogurt are. Use as much yogurt and pistachios as makes you happy.

- Counterintuitively, the sweetest passion fruit look like they’ve gone bad. They are wrinkled and shriveled but they will smell sweet and fragrant. If you can’t find ripe passion fruit, buy them when their skins are smooth and leave them out on the counter for a week or so to ripen. Here’s a guide to choosing and using passion fruit in case you need a little help.

- If you’re in Seattle, you can buy passion fruit at Uwajimaya. Be forewarned, they are expensive.

- I make homemade coconut yogurt using this recipe, but any coconut yogurt will work. If I’m using store bought, I like Coyo (available at most Whole Foods). You can also use dairy yogurt or a mix of the two. I sometimes use half greek yogurt + half coconut yogurt.

- A few coconut flakes would not be amiss here. And a layer of not-too-sweet granola turns this into a healthy breakfast in my book.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop the seeds into a small bowl. You can add the honey to the seeds a little bit at a time and stir to combine until you get the sweetness you like. But I’m usually too lazy for that. I just layer my ingredients together and then stir it all together as I eat.

I do think it looks nice to have a layer of yogurt on topped with a few pistachios, a drizzle of honey and a pinch of salt. But that’s just me. There really is no way to go wrong here.

If you want to get fancy, you can do 2 (or more) layers of each ingredient.

tahini shortbreads with apricots, pistachios and dark chocolate

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

People. I’m going to level with you—I don’t have much to say today. I’ve been traveling like a crazy person this month to see friends and family (and for mental-health-preserving sun breaks to the desert of course). Beau left his corporate job to work with me full time. We just launched our first retreat of 2019. Plus, you know, THE HOLIDAYS.

It’s been a big month and we’re not even halfway through.

Though my brain is a bit on the fried side, I didn’t want to leave you without a holiday cookie this year! I’ve cut back on a lot of holiday hoopla and obligations, but baking holiday cookies is a tradition I cherish. It means time to be alone in the kitchen with a podcast or a favorite album spinning on the record player. It’s a few hours of chopping and measuring and mixing and standing in front of a warm oven that always restores a little of my sanity during this overfull time of year.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

I got the idea for these shortbreads after making this Red Rice with Coriander, Apricots and Herbs. I had half a bag of my favorite dried apricots sitting in the pantry next to my favorite bar of dark chocolate. Which meant that every time I opened the pantry door, I broke off a piece of chocolate, fished a couple pieces of apricot out of the bag and made myself a tiny “sandwich”. As one does.

The sweet-tart apricots were absolutely perfect against the dark chocolate and the flavor combination got stuck in my head (like a Justin Bieber song, but better). When I sat down to brainstorm what sort of cookies I wanted to bake this year, I already knew it was going to involve apricots and chocolate. I remembered I had a bag of Iranian pistachios in my freezer from my last trip to Paris. Then I asked myself what flavor goes with chocolate, apricots and pistachios? And voilà—these tahini shortbreads were born.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land
Image + styling: Olaiya Land

We leave town again in two days. I have a mountain of laundry to do. Suitcases to pack. A grumpy old cat to transport to the neighbors’ house. But somehow I don’t mind at all. I’ve given in to the chaos of the month and I’m feeling like everything will turn out how it’s supposed to. We’ll see family and friends and listen to cheesy Christmas music and spend way too much time in line at the post office and probably drink too much holiday punch before it’s all said and done.

So I guess I do have something to say after all: This month, try not to worry if things feel a little hectic and out of hand. If you’ve got presents to wrap and dinners to attend and you maybe hit the eggnog a little harder than you’d intended at your office Christmas party. It’s all par for the course. The perfectly imperfect chaos that makes the season bright. Just remember to breathe. (And maybe bake yourself some cookies.)

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

P.S. If you're looking to for an extra-special gift for that extra-special someone in your life (or even your own extra-special self), registration just opened for our May 2019 retreat in Alentejo, Portugal!


Tahini Shortbreads with Apricots, Pistachios and Dark Chocolate

  • 1 1/4 sticks (140g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (95g) powdered sugar
  • 1 cup (240 mL) well-stirred tahini
  • 1 3/4 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or flaky sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (90g) roughly chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup (50g) roughly chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup (75g) roughly chopped dried apricots

*Notes: Blenheim apricots from Trader Joe’s are my absolute favorites and the only one’s I use for baking. They have beautiful color and the perfect balance of sweet and tartness. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, it looks like you can buy them on Amazon.

- This is my favorite baking chocolate. But any dark chocolate will work. I recommend chopping your own chocolate over using chips since chips are formulated to hold their shape when baked and are harder to slice.

Image + styling: Olaiya Land

Combine the butter, powdered sugar and tahini in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the flour and salt and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Add the chocolate, pistachios and apricots and mix by hand until just incorporated.

Divide the dough in half. Using a piece of parchment paper, roll each piece of dough into a log approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Once the dough is firm, you can also tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap, seal it in a freezer bag and freeze until ready to use. Thaw the dough slightly before slicing.

When you're ready to bake off your cookies, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the logs into coins just under 1/2-inch thick and place them on a sheet pan or large plate. (These can be a bit tricky to slice due to the chocolate. If you hit a chunk of chocolate, just saw back and forth until you get through it. If that slice falls apart a bit, just press it back into shape before freezing. This dough is very forgiving.) Place the sliced cookies in the freezer for 15 minutes while the oven preheats (this ensures they don't slump or spread in the oven).

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and place the frozen cookies on it, leaving at least an inch between cookies. Bake until firm around the edges and light golden brown on the bottom, 16-20 minutes. Cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Adapted from Soframiz by Ana Sortun and Maura Kilpatrick

Image + styling: Olaiya Land