Sesame-Honey Granola Bowl (Inspired by Julie Doiron)

THE DISH
Sesame granola with Greek yogurt, apples and Morello cherries (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
At the end of the summer, I found myself in a long-distance relationship with my “one who got away” (because I’m the kind of totally-sappy hopeless romantic who would refer to a past could’ve-been-love as “the one who got away”). We were on opposite sides of the country and hadn’t even seen each other in going on three years, but it wasn’t long before I’d happily devoted much of my time and most of my energy into Making It Work through Skype, letters, phone calls, etc. — until this week when it ended and left me feeling like I’d been socked in the stomach a bunch of times. Canadian singer/songwriter Julie Doiron is great at writing songs that feel like that, especially on her 1999 album Julie Doiron and The Wooden Stars. In “In This Dark” she sings, “Every time things go so well/ I think of all the things that have gone this wrong/ Timing’s never been worse” and in “The Second Time,” “Reckless restless feeling I’m unsure/ Trusting anybody anymore/ And sometimes when I am so unsure/ What difference, anyway.” I love that she doesn’t hold back in putting her entire heart and life into her relationships, however tumultuous they might be, which comes through even in her songs that aren’t quite so dark. Her 2009 album I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day, has some of the same — in “Heavy Snow” she sings, “Oh, heavy heart, forgive me/ Make me feel like it’s all okay/ Living through the night and living through the day” — but it’s also home to plenty of happier moments in songs that are so simple, but they can put my best moods over the top. The playful opener “The Life of Dreams” starts, “I’m living the life of dreams/ I’m living the life of dreams/ With good people all around me/ I’m living the life of dreams” and the closing track goes, “Every day, every night I tell myself in this beautiful light/ That I’m glad to be alive.” So, here I am, somewhere on the low-ish side of Doiron’s spectrum, but looking up. As my boss so eloquently said to me over IM yesterday: “New years, new beginnings, etc. Fish, sea.” (Really, guys, I’ll be fine.)

As for the food, it’s a recreation of a breakfast I had a couple of times on my last visit (at this Chicago coffee shop). Overall, it’s a filling, comforting breakfast that doesn’t feel too heavy; the sour cherries, tart granny smith apples and tartness of Greek yogurt are pretty much how I feel right now, but the sweetness from the granola is a reminder that things certainly will get better, and hopefully soon.

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Beer Bread Breakfast Sandwich (Inspired by The Replacements)

THE DISH
Breakfast sandwich with beer bread (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
This one is kinda goofy, and I hope you’ll trust me when I say it actually tasted pretty good! My beer-nerd friend Tony (who also happens to be one of my favorite cooking buddies) was in town for the holiday weekend, so he was the perfect excuse to make beer bread in honor of the Replacements song “Beer for Breakfast.” I’ll be honest: Tony did most of the work on the bread, since he’s made real bread a bunch of times before (I have not, but that’s going to change), and it turned out great. As for the sandwich, I used a fried egg, brown mustard, and … barbeque potato chips, since the song has a line about wanting to eat them. The song also talks about being broke, and everything here is definitely easy on the wallet. I know, you’re probably still gagging at the idea of this sandwich, but I swear it actually tasted pretty good. (And even if you don’t believe me, the bread is at least worth a try!)

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Cheesy Spinach Bake, and a Dad Rock playlist from my dad

THE DISH
Cheesy spinach bake (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
My dad bought me my first guitar — a tiny, tiny acoustic — when I was about 8 years old. It’s a shame I didn’t learn to play one until a few years later, but he’s the one who made me want to start (he’s been playing since he was 17, and he might kill me if I tell you his age now, so let’s just say it’s been 40+ years). While my mom got me into piano lessons, I think my rock ‘n’ roll tendencies started with my dad. I can remember plenty of trips to various guitar stores in the Metro Detroit area, where I accompanied him as he gradually tweaked and added to his collection (I think he’s got about eight guitars now?).

He took me to get my first real guitar — a “midnight wine”-colored Fender stratocaster, which I bought in eighth grade with bat mitzvah money — and the bass guitar and acoustics that came in the years later, and found me a guitar teacher, a hippie-ish dude who was usually late and told me I would like the Violent Femmes. My dad has always been supportive of my musical endeavors (including the less cool ones, like taking my sister and me to see 98 Degrees at the Michigan State Fair), and much more importantly, he’s always supportive of everything I do. The night before I moved to New York, his toast to my roommate and me was, “To Laura and Mike, and New York: Balls to the wall!” He’s the most supportive, generous, hilarious and genuine person I know, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. So thank you, Dad, for being the best. Happy Father’s Day!

This dish is in no way related to guitars, etc., but it’s one of my favorites my dad makes — because, yes, I was blessed with two kitchen-savvy parents. I should also note that my dad is the king of kitchen gadgets (every time I go home there’s some new and weird toy for me to tease him about), and it’s probably a good thing that the spacial restrictions of New York living prevent me from keeping up with him. The best part of this dish is I actually got to make it with my pops, since I was back in Michigan last weekend for my brother’s high school graduation.

THE PLAYLIST
When I think of my dad in relation to music, I think of the Eagles (“Take It Easy” is probably the most-played song on his guitars), The Lovin’ Spoonful (their greatest-hits album got a lot of airtime in his car when I was growing up) and Fleetwood Mac (we went to see them together a couple years ago!). But I left this list up to him, so here you go! It is Dad Rock to the core, and I love him for it. (Obviously I couldn’t use the real version of the Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends.”)

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Egg and Smoked Salmon Sandwich (Inspired by Ida Maria)

“I eat boys like you for breakfast/ Where’s my salt and pepper now?/ Oregano, basil and thyme/ And my Tapatio” — “I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast,” from Ida Maria’s album Katla

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THE DISH
Frittata and smoked salmon sandwich with hot sauce (Recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Norwegian rock singer Ida Maria’s songs are typically about drinking booze, being heartbroken, kicking ass, and getting it on. Her first album, Fortress Round My Heart (home to the song “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked”), soundtracked my summer between college and moving to New York, so a couple months ago my mind was blown when I learned she had already released LP No. 2, Katla, in Norway late last year, and I didn’t already know about it. It’s finally out in the U.S. tomorrow (June 7) and it’s fantastic.

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I teamed up with Missy and Mariel, the lovely ladies of What We Wore To Work Today (who are just as sassy as Ms. Maria) to make a dish based on her song “I Eat Boys Like You For Breakfast,” in which Ida shuns a dude for pissing off her dog, insulting her mother, groping her sister and crapping on her father (!!). We made a frittata served on a sandwich with smoked salmon (a nod to her Norwegian roots) and a side of potatoes, and it uses all the foods she mentions in the song: tomatoes, potatoes, onions, oregano, basil, thyme and hot sauce. It’s also linked to Katla‘s super-fun and sorta-raunchy first single, “Cherry Red,” with the cherry tomatoes and Mariel’s lipstick in the photo.
Ida Maria on MySpace

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Berry-Banana Muffins (Inspired by tUnE-yArDs + my food issues)

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THE DISH
Banana muffins with strawberries, raspberries and lemon (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I have a problem with sweets. It’s something that’s tormented me my whole life, and even though I now have more control over my health than I ever have, and I feel comfortable in my body and confident in who I am as a whole (yep, it took 23 years to make that happen), I don’t think my sweet tooth is going away anytime soon. I struggle the most when my lack of self-control gets the best of me and I eat, say, four cookies, and then I instantly feel totally disgusting — not just physically, like there’s a huge bomb hanging out in my stomach, but I’m also emotionally disgusted with myself for not having the control to just tell myself no, and then I feel gross and embarrassed.

tUnE-yArDs’ mind-blowing new record, w h o k i l l, brought some of this up for me: In the song “Es-so,” the band’s mastermind Merrill Garbus mentions a piece of cake and says in a sort-of Valley girl tone, “I gotta do right if my body is tight, right?” In the next verse she talks about sticking “a fucking fork in” and then speaks in total disgust, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” It reminds me of my relationship with food and the types of excuses I make to myself for why it’s OK to eat more than I really need to: I’m hungry when I’m really not; I was “good” earlier in the day; I’m stressed; I’m sad because my boyfriend broke up with me, etc. etc. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who relates to that song, which is why I’m so glad it’s there.

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Other tracks on w h o k i l l have really been hitting home for me lately, too. The whole record is pure power: The music is confrontational, fearless, adventurous and loud, but it’s also melodic, influenced by African music (the percussion is especially great), and built up with layers of looping. Garbus’s lyrics are strong and she delivers them with intensity (watch the video below). On the album’s last track, “Killa,” she sing-raps, “I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a ‘don’t take shit from you’ kind of woman” and then melodically sings, “So buckle up, ’cause we’re gonna move fast/ Drivin’ through things that you gotta get past.” (Seriously, ladies, if you need a post-breakup pick-me-up, however amicable the split, you should probably listen to this record.)

Yourstru.ly Presents: tUnE-yArDs “You Yes You” from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

But back to the food… Even though my self-control now is the best it’s ever been, I’m still in a constant battle with it. But the truth is that I ultimately can still be healthy (and even lose weight, which I’ve done thanks to changing my eating and exercise habits — not dieting) without completely cutting out sugar. Part of how I do that is that I very rarely buy sweets to keep in my apartment, because they definitely will not stay there for long. I’m much more likely to make them instead because that way I know exactly what’s in whatever I’m eating, which cuts down on the fake and processed foods, even if it doesn’t always cut down on the calories. But I often do try to make sweets that are at least a little bit on the healthy side, so even if I am indulging, it’s not always as bad as it could be. (As you can see from plenty of recipes on here, that is not always the case — and that’s OK too.)

As for this recipe: The texture of these muffins didn’t come out quite the way I hoped they would — they’re super, super moist and don’t puff up a whole lot. I think I got a little too creative when modifying the recipe — but they are still tasty. The fruit is because Tune-Yards’ music is colorful, and it has a tropical feel to it (she also mentions the jungle in “Es-so”).
tUnE-yArDs on MySpace
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High-Energy Apple Muffins (Inspired by The Apples In Stereo)

“And the world is made of energy
and the world is possibility
and the world is made of energy
and there’s a light inside of you
and there’s a light inside of me.”
— “Energy” by the Apples in Stereo, from their 2007 LP New Magnetic Wonder

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THE DISH
Apple-nut-quinoa muffins

THE INSPIRATION
The Apples in Stereo’s perfect spring anthem “Energy” is guaranteed to make you feel great, and these muffins might make you feel even better. They are delicious (I wanted to eat spoonfuls of the batter), but you don’t have to feel bad about eating them because they’re packed with high-energy, high-protein ingredients like quinoa and walnuts, and the sweetness comes mostly from shredded apples, plus raisins, coconut, cinnamon and just a little bit of raw sugar. (Yep, they are vegan.)
The Apples in Stereo on MySpace

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Sunny-Side-Up Egg Breakfast (Inspired by a classic folk song)

“Keep on the sunny side,
Always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day,
It will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life”

— “Keep On The Sunny Side,” originally by Ada Blenkhorn and J. Howard Entwisle in1899, made famous by the Carter Family in 1928, and performed here by The Low Anthem on their 2007 album What The Crow Brings

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THE DISH
Spinach, onions and quinoa topped with a sunny-side-up egg (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I never skip breakfast. Ever. My everyday morning meal isn’t usually super elaborate, but I always need something to wake me up and get my day going. More often than not, I eat homemade granola with Greek yogurt and berries, but in a recent effort to use up what’s on my shelf and in my fridge (more on that later this week), I’ve been changing it up this week. This classic song (performed above by The Low Anthem, though it dates back to 1899) is about keeping on “the sunny side of life” — which made my sunny-side-up egg an obvious pick, but living every day on the sunny side, to me, also means having energy and feeling great. Quinoa is known as a superfood because it’s a complete protein, a good source of fiber, gluten free, and easy to digest — not to mention it’s tasty, it cooks quickly (in about 15 minutes), and can be used in a bajillion different dishes. You really can’t go wrong with spinach (tons of vitamins, iron, and calcium), and topped off with a runny egg, sunny side up? Yeah, that’ll keep me on the sunny side for the rest of the day.

ABOUT THE ARTIST
The Low Anthem are an indie-folk group from Providence, Rhode Island, made up of musicians who switch instruments with nearly every song — guitar, string bass, organ, bells, clarinet, strings … One of my favorite live folk bands.
The Low Anthem on MySpace

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