falafel for the flight

baked falafel

As you well know, I try to avoid eating plane food. There are notable exceptions: I’m in a foreign country and I’m not able to find a local market where I’m able to stockpile food in Tupperware, or when I arrive at an airport and my only food options are a corndog stand that makes 7-Eleven look like a Michelin-starred restaurant. In those cases, I find myself invariably poking at the contents of the hot aluminum foil tray much like how one would prod a dead body with a stick.

Believe me when I say that my food bag is just as sizable as a carry-on. I bring snacks, nuts, fruit, and plastic bins filled with food that can withstand hours without refrigeration. Often, I’ll bring cooked chicken and rice or pasta or meatballs (complete with my own utensils)–anything that contains a cooked protein.

Tomorrow, I board a plane back to New York for a brief work trip. It’s the first time I’ve returned since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, and it already feels weird to think about landing in New York without a place to go home to. I’ll be staying with a friend in the city, whose apartment is in walking distant of my client’s office. I’ll spend most of my days in work sessions and strategy meetings, and evenings working or catching up on new business proposals and new client deliverables, with very little time to see anyone. Initially, I was excited to return because Ample Hills Salted Cracked Caramel Ice Cream! Real Bagels! However, my recent fatwa on gluten and dairy (and my carting along my steroids in the event of a random flare-up), has made that blissful dream nothing other than a fantasy.

But I digress.

I’ve already started packing and doing prep work for next week’s meetings, and naturally I’ve started on the food bag. This time, I’m bringing fresh cut berries, protein bars, pistachios (I’m OBSESSED with matzo, don’t ask), and a tub of this falafel in a hummus bath.

Please know that I’m shaking my fists in rage over how good this cookbook is thus far. I’m on my third dish and I’ve been satisfied with the ease in which I can make these dishes and the tasty results. But again, this is not for the busy mom. Maybe a mom like Gwenyth who has access to fancy organic ingredients (I’m aware of the privilege I have in being able to buy fresh and local food) or someone like me who cooks for one.

I’ll be honest–I was tempted to fry these fuckers but after months of crap eating, I’m feeling the need to return to that which is virtuous. Enter–the tasty falafel.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy (FYI–I altered the recipe a bit for clarity)
Olive oil or cooking spray for the baking sheet
2 (15oz) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp of chopped parsley
2 tbsp of chopped cilantro
4 scallions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Greek yoghurt (I used dairy-free plain yoghurt–coconut, almond or soy works)
2 tsp salt, to taste

DIRECTION
Dump all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse 15-18 times. You want all the ingredients to be combined, but not smooth.

Use your hands and roll the mixture into 30 walnut-sized balls. Personally, I think that size is insane (who eats walnut sized falafel? NO ONE), so I got 20 golf balls out of this recipe and I was a happy camper. Keep a small bowl of water nearby since the ingredients tend to stick all over your hands.

Arrange the falafel on the greased baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes (depending on the size). Flip midway through to avoid burning the bottoms. I’ll be honest, flipping the falafel balls was annoying AF so I used a spatula and a spoon and only 3 of them fell apart.

Eat immediately. Serve with hummus or a salad.

baked falafel

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you’ll never find me consuming airline food // the contents of my food bag revealed

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Unless TSA agents have confiscated my food bags in some underhanded attempt at mind control, or my bag mysteriously disappears into the abyss that is the seat pocket, I never, ever consume airline food. Packed with sodium and preservatives, airline meals are never a memorable event. Mostly you find yourself playing the role of an investigator, sleuthing through the contents of your tray–all the while wondering if that misshapen blob hidden beneath a layer of opaque sauce is indeed chicken.

Ignore the lies the flight attendants tell you. It’s never chicken.

Many of my friends make poking fun of my food bag a national pastime, however, invariably, they’ll crave a piece of my homemade cookie, beg for a carrot, or express heartbreak over not bringing aboard an almond-crusted chicken of their own. For international flights, I tend to pack a carry-on filled with snacks, a proper meal, fruits and cut vegetables. I also pack a couple of bars for when I’m walking around all day or I’m in a pinch between European meal times. And over the past year, I’ve booked AirBNB apartments so I have the option of either dining out or cooking up a dish with local ingredients from the market.

Today I’m leaving for Spain, and to say that I’m jubilant is an understatement. I AM OVER THE MOON. Two weeks without the company of people is glorious, and I intend to trek to Dali’s house and museum and eat all the gluten and dairy free tapas a woman can endure in one sitting. I’m all packed (one small rolling bag, a purse and one carry-on bag), with the small exception of gathering some fruits (apples, raspberries + blackberries) + cut veg (carrots, edamame) for the flight.

The contents of my food bag are abundant. I tend to overpack because you just never know if your flight might be diverted and you end up having an Odyssean layover in some airport where the main culinary attraction is the rotating hot dog (Exhibit A: Fiji’s airport). I focus on GMO + gluten-free snacks that pack a protein punch, teas, nuts, fruit, vegetables, treats (my lemon poppyseed cookie + some dark chocolate-covered almonds), as well as packing a full meal. Today, I’ve got these DELICIOUS sundried tomato meatballs, which are just as good at room temperature versus heated, and I plan to pick up a plain green salad at JFK. I always check the food options at the terminals in advance of my flight. Most places will sell a simple green salad.

Want to make these meatballs? Super simple. 1 lb ground sirloin | 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes | 2 tbsp parsley | sprigs of rosemary | 1 egg | salt/pepper. Blitz the sundried tomatoes, parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper in a food processor/blender. Add the mixture + egg to the meat, mixing with your hands, gently. Shape into meatballs. Add them to a large oven-proof baking dish. Cover with your favorite tomato sauce and cook at 400F for 25 minutes.

This post was inspired by my friend Hitha, and her enormous propensity to make travel simply luxurious.
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love.life.eat: packing for india edition

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Tomorrow I board a plane for India, and I’ve only packed one small rolling bag and two carry-ons for a two-week holiday. You might balk at this; you might talk about all the things I need to bring, but I’ve learned from countless holidays where I’ve had to lug around bags the size of boulders, there is very little I need. Luckily, the fact that the average temperature in Delhi at this time of year is 110F, my choices have pretty much been made for me.

For the next 10 days, I’ll be traveling to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Ranthambore. I’ll wake most mornings before dawn and I’ll trek to heritage sites and bengal tiger reserves, so there is little need for me to be fashionable. Yet there is a great need to travel simply and comfortably. To this end, I’ll give you a peek at what I’m packing for my trip.

Clothing + Footwear: I’ve packed seven very thin, breathable shirts, tees and draped open cardis {most of which are from Old Navy + Gap Fit}, 2 pairs of cotton and linen pants {they may look ridiculous, but they sure as hell will be comfortable} and two thin dresses {one linen, one cotton}.

Since most of my days will be spent walking, I’ve packed my sneakers + Supergas {this season I’m rocking a grey pair}.

You might ask what other accessories I’ll be bringing and the answer is: I’m not. I don’t really care how I look when I’m on holiday, rather, I care about what I’m experiencing. And it’ll also be 110F in India.

Entertainment + Brain-Food: Since I spend most of my days on the road and my evenings relaxing, editing photos, blogging and reading, I’ve carted along two books as well as a pile of magazines. Probably the most exciting news {at least for me} before I board that plane is the fact that I’ve broken the 200 page mark on my novel, Follow Me into the Dark. This book feels real and I can’t wait to work on the final section, Part III, when I’m in India.

Tech Gear: Everyone who has ever been to India grabs my arm and talk to me about color, the potency of it, the beauty of it, so I’ve rented the Canon 50mm 1.2F lens for my trip, using it with my 5D Mark II body.

Naturally, I’ve my iPhone {which I’ll only be using when I have access to free Wifi} and my MacBook Air laptop. To make life easier and ensure I don’t blow out my hotel’s power supply, I’ve purchased an adapter. Expect All. The. Pictures.

Skin Survival + Other Toiletries: Since it takes under a minute for me to burn, I’ve packed two bottles of sunscreen, which I will re-applying with every other exhale. I’ve packed my beloved Nyl Serum, which is perfect for when my skin gets slick yet is in need of moisture. All my other beauty products are sample sizes that I’ve procured from my travels. I’ve also packed wet wipes and packets of tissues.

Drugs: After four vaccine shots {tetanus, Hep A were among the four} and a regime of typhoid pills, my doctor prescribe malaria pills, as well as a battery of drugs should I get food poisoning or any other unsightly stomach situation. I’ve also packed TUMS, bandaids, Cortizone, and rubbing alcohol. And you better believe that for a seventeen hour flight, I’ve got Xanax in my carryon. No one wants to hear me scream: WE’RE GOING DOWN!

Food: A lot of my friends poke fun at me for bringing a food bag on the plane, but I don’t care. Using Ziploc bags + tupperware, I’m packing lemon roasted almonds, chocolate covered almonds, dried fruit, edamame, fresh cut veggies, oranges, and one meal, which I’ll be making in the morning. I also have loads of Kind bars and other yummy snacks, which keep me sustained in the event that the airline food is abysmal (which it usually is).

So there you have it! I’m leaving tomorrow, and I’ll be in transit the next two days so expect a batch of posts later on in the week! Wish me safe travels.

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