Summer Comfort Food Recipes + Whirlwind Travel.

How fitting that I post a few summer-perfect, comfort food recipes like my Sweet Potato Rice and Balsamic Peach Avo-Arugula Salad amidst a work+play whirlwind trip - I'm coated in jetlag and busy day fatigue, as I type.

..Right now, all I really want to do is close my computer - and exit the trenches of manuscript editing - pull on some PJs, grab a bowl of comfort food and sink into a book on my iPad or even an evening of mindless TV - husband and kitty cat by my side. Then slowly let a cool window breeze waft over my face as I surrender to the woozy intoxication of dreamland. Sigh. But I'm glad to procrastinate a little and write this post. Get my recipes and my red eye travel reflection ahead..

Travel reflections + dinner date + summer comfort food .. my kind of post..

(pardon the poor lighting + cell pic) .. Travel highlight .. meeting up with my blogger BFF Gena - choosing raw - Gena and I seem to always end up at Le Pain Quotidien. This time with twin watermelon coolers + lentil salads..

(my red eye travel reflection below the recipes..)

Sweet Potato Rice. Perfect for summer because I love it chilled! Warm is yum too.

Cozy up. first two recipes...

Sweet Potato Rice. I am addicted to these little containers of "Pumpin Rice" I find at Whole Foods (I've only seen them in the LA area.) The ingredients look pretty simple - pumpkin, brown rice, maple syrup, salt, garlic, grilled tofu. So I decided to try a homemade spin on this dish using sweet potatoes and steamed tofu..

Sweet Potato Rice with Tofu

1 medium sweet potato, oven-baked and cubed
3 cups cooked brown rice, short grain
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-3 Tbsp maple syrup
1 cup firm tofu, cubed (baked, sauteed, steamed or grilled)
salt/pepper to taste

top with chopped nuts or hemp seeds if desired (optional)

Directions: Once preparing all the components the assembly is pretty simple. Fold the garlic powder and maple syrup into the rice. Fold in half the sweet potato cubes so that they mash into the rice - turning it a sticky gold color. Then gently fold in the tofu and remaining cubes - salt and pepper to taste. Easy.

And easy to modify.. add in flavors and accents like Cajun spice, chopped onions, garlic hummus (for extra creamy rice), nutritional yeast, tahini, chopped kale and more. Really awesome for a easy make-ahead meal. Serve warm or cold.

This farmer's market inspired salad kind of invented itself. Summer peaches, aged balsamic...

Balsamic Peach Avo-Arugula Salad

6 cups arugula (big bowl)
1 large peach, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
2-3 Tbsp balsamic, drizzled
Walnut oil - drizzled to taste (or another oil - optional)
scattered rings of sweet onion
handful raw pistachios
spicy seasoned salt+pepper

Assemble, toss and serve! I have made this salad several times this summer. It tastes AMAZING paired with BBQ (sauce) -slathered tofu or tempeh .. FYI.

Travel Reflection.

I think everyone needs a whirlwind trip once in a while. To allow us to reflect on our place in this world (both geographically and soulfully speaking). They give us a little shake up, in the way we perceive our surroundings. Coming "home" after a journey can make the light change. Everyday things appear new and strange for the first few moments of your arrival. And analysis of your emotions likely follows. Sometimes you appreciate your everyday surroundings - and people - and pets - a little more. And sometimes you can be awakened to realize that you need a change.

DULLES. I had optimistically booked my red eye flight. Bound east to DC. But after five gray hours of clumsy sleep and aching limbs, I had seen enough of sleepover flight travel. As the local DC time pressed towards 6am, a sleepy flight attendant spoke through a piercing in-cabin speakerphone to announce our impending arrival. With a hazy mood and frazzled ponytail, I squinted in annoyance. My eyelids weakly opened as I peered outside at the bashful periwinkle horizon. My senses felt like they were drifting somewhere between moderately awake and dreamland.

The only saving grace to my red eye hangover was watching the sunrise. The sky melted from purple to pink and my eyes searched for the sun. Suddenly a glowing tangerine globe peeked over a milky horizon. I stared at it for a long moment, taking in its swelling colors of citrus. Then my eyes turned sleepy from the neon glow and I pulled down my window screen - just enough to block the glare, but so that I could still see the playful echo of colors. Cotton candy pink and summer orange rays bounced off the foggy, plastic window as the plane descended towards fuzzy patches of green and dirt brown - a few silver lakes and ponds in between.

Exiting the plane I felt like I was stumbling out of a night club at 3am. Only it wasn't three. It was 6am local time and the DC locals were becoming more "bright eyed" at every clock tick. I felt very behind on 'rising and shining' - because I never had my 'good night' sleep. Hm, I sighed at my scattered thoughts, trying to avoid inner chatter with my sleepy brain - and waltzed forward to find the taxi spot.

I picked up my pace as I glided through the shiny-floored Dulles airport terminal, glowering at the white brassy lights overhead. I had to do a double take when I saw a line of customers at Chipotle. I couldn't fathom why anyone would want a burrito at 6am. New breakfast bowls maybe? I followed the green and yellow signs to ground transportation, double checking my route with each pass of a new sign - like a cautious tourist.

I hustled down the silver escalator to catch the already crowded terminal-to-terminal shuttle train. I stared at the floor, avoiding eye contact with the other somewhat dazed travelers - waiting for the subway-like doors to close. Flashbacks of NYC subways flooded my brain. Then I recalled the last time I was at this airport - taking this shuttle - forced to mingle closely with other travelers for a short minute, face to face across the wide car. Last time, I was toting a wide black cat carrier with my kitty Nelly inside. We were bound for LA. And everyone at the airport seemed to stop with wide eyes and peer into my cat bag to see the fuzzy creature. Nelly, an unambitious (she likes things cozy) house-cat, hesitantly peered back, curious and shocked at the flurry of new faces.

Whoosh. The sliding train doors opened just as I smiled to myself at my Nelly memory. Another escalator. More long, quiet, echoing walkways lit by garish lighting. I shuffled down the last slate-colored walkway, and out the sliding glass doors to greet the fresh morning air - and the very nearest vacant taxi cab.

My taxi hailing prowess that I picked up living in NYC kicked in, and I spotted, hailed and poured myself into a cab in one quick swoop. The cabbie was friendly. Chattering about the break in the weather and my luck of that. The day would be beautiful, he said, a cool 80 degrees at most. I replied with a smile in my voice, faking enthusiasm for a few minutes of his words. It exhausted me. So I slumped down and pulled my cell from my bag and focused on fuzzy headlines and unimportant subjects in my bold-font cluttered email inbox. I didn't read any of it. I just let my eyes glaze over as I mentally prepared myself for the first day of my whirlwind.

Get more vegan summertime recipes (lots more!) here.

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