Friday, June 17, 2016

FOOD, NOSTALGIA, AND ONE STEP


Last night I had dinner with some of my favorite women and as always our conversation turned to
food. We talked about recipes, blogging, and then dropped into pizza. For a while.

Pause.

Confession, I don't like pizza. I never really have.

WHAT THE?!

I am consistently amazed by the response when people learn this fun fact about me. It happens every time. Shock. Disbelief. Near rejection.

But for whatever reason, my taste buds have never been tempted by cheezy pie dripping with tomato-y sauce.

In a desperate attempt to reel myself back into the "we can be friends" box I'd just catapulted out of, I racked my brain for some other mouth-watering, pre-food allergy, "still don't care, I'd eat it anyway" food.

I couldn't come up with anything.

Not one thing came to mind.

For the remainder of the evening I sat troubled with why there wasn't a food in my past I still longed for - a nostalgic reminder of what was.

Here's what I came to realize: my history with food, my memories and longings, have been papered over with diets, information, the shoulds and shouldn'ts, loathing, denial, anxiety and restraint. I'd never really loved food. In fact, food was something to be controlled, ordered, categorized, binged, ignored, too important or not important at all.

Prior to a few years ago, I'd never known what it was to savor, to enjoy, to revel in the tastes exploding in my mouth. To say a sincere thank you to the nutrients that would nourish my body and the hands that had tended them.

I was completely disconnected from this vital source of life.

And then I was forced to acknowledge it. My body and mind and soul found itself in crisis and I had to take a good look at this friendship with food I'd so disastrously neglected.

I began to pay attention. To ask my body how it felt. To watch and observe and slow down. I started to connect emotion with physical sensations, quality with health, and stillness with wholeness. Rather than falling haphazardly into my next meal [or skipping it completely], I slowly and intentionally began to build space into my day and week to plan and to cook. I planted a garden and learned what it meant to eat seasonally. I practiced yoga, restoring the connection between my mind and my body. I started sitting down to eat. I learned what I liked, I mean really truly liked, and I made it.

I entered into the dance, re-writing my perception of healthy and whole. 

It took time, effort, an increased portion of our budget, and the willingness to experiment and fail.

Last night I realized something else: I'm so grateful for the journey I've been on. So deeply thankful that I've come from there to here, on my way to somewhere, that I can't help but dig into what I have now. The plate in front of me, heavy with good food and immense growth.

I look back now only to say thank you.

Maybe you've been where I was. Maybe you're there now. My invitation to you is to take one step, one step towards opening yourself to a redemptive conversation with food. Maybe you stroll the farmer's market and ask some questions. Maybe you put the diet books away. Maybe you call someone and ask for help. Perhaps you sit at the table, one local strawberry on your plate, and bite in. You chew slowly, close your eyes, and observe what it really tastes like.

There are a host of beginnings, it just takes one.

This morning the question still plagued me. Was there not one food, just one!, from my childhood that still caught my attention?

Potato skins. Twice baked potato skins packed with colby jack cheese, drowned in sour cream.

Our friendship lives on.

Photo Credit: My husband's homemade pizza.





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE vegan, gluten free, nut free



I dug through the archives of this blog and realized I've never posted this recipe! This is one we look forward to every June and make without fail. The biscuits are soft and just the right about of crumbly, the strawberries fresh-picked at peak, and the cream the perfect way to top it all off. Enjoy!

[THE RECIPE]

For the shortcake:

1/2 c. non-dairy milk [coconut, hemp, tiger nut, rice, etc.]
1 T. apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 - 2 c. oat flour
1 c. millet, buckwheat, or rice flour
1/4 c. tapioca flour
1/4 c. coconut sugar, finely ground to powder using Vita-mix, Ninja, or coffee grinder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 T. semi-solid coconut oil

Combine milk and vinegar in small glass jar and set aside.

In large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients: flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Add coconut oil and stir using spoon or hands until mixture becomes slightly wet and crumbly. Pour in milk, a little at a time, and beat with mixer or stir by hand until batter becomes dough like - able to form into ball and holding together. Add more flour or milk as necessary to find proper consistency.

Preheat oven to 375. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper [optional]. Form 2 - 3 inch balls with hands, place on cookie sheet, and gently flatten into patties. Continue until all dough has been used.

Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 - 25 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to cooling rack.

Meanwhile, prepare strawberries. Rinse, remove stems, and cut into small slices.

Place biscuit in bowl and top with strawberries and whipped topping.

For whipped topping: 

2, 15-ounce cans of regular coconut milk, chilled or 4, 5.4 oz cans of coconut cream
1/4 c. maple syrup
couple pinches of sea salt

Chill coconut milk overnight to encourage separation of cream and liquid or use cans of coconut cream. Remove cans from refrigerator and open carefully. Using a spoon, gently dig out cream working to separate it from the remaining liquid. Reserve liquid to use in place of milk in shortcake recipe or for smoothies.

Place cream in mixing bowl. Add syrup and a couple pinches of sea salt. Whip on high using wire beater for about 60 seconds or until gentle peaks begin to form. Stop, taste, adjust as necessary, and whip for 20 more seconds. Pour into bowl, cover, and chill until ready to use.

Monday, June 13, 2016

PEACE IS A COURAGEOUS ACT


There's a place in our house that I return to over and over again when life seems overwhelming. When the events of the world or the space within the walls in which we live are just too much for me to bear. This particular room is small, dark unless intentionally illuminated, and quiet. I generally find myself curled up on the floor, forehead pressed firmly into the carpet beneath. This is the place where I cry out to the benevolent God I so often can't understand. My prayers come out as cascading sobs, angry release, and desperate pleas which all seem to culminate in a stillness so still it seems irreverent to breathe.

More and more of the world is being lit with holy places for me. The more I seek, the more I'm able to find thin spaces. Places where heaven and earth settle into this divine dance so subtle it's easy to miss yet so immeasurably powerful it's life changing. In these holy expanses or momentary pauses in time, the beauty is almost too forceful for my body to hold. I begin to understand what it means to collapse in the presence of God.

So there's these moments.

And then there's moments that send me to my closet, stunned with fear and grief and pain.

The recent news has been riddled with a story of hate and violence and prejudice and death. It's too much to hold. Too much to carry. Too much.

And so I collapse at the feet of The Magnificent and I plead for courage and love and forgiveness. I beg for hope and for peace - for me, for you, for all. I allow the pain in - the fear, the grief. I let it do its work in me. I cry for us all but I also cry for all of those places tucked within my body and soul that harbor prejudice and hate, fear and grief unexpressed.

I let it out.

Because if I don't let out these malevolent thoughts and feelings, they grow. Subtly over time they expand and push and begin to take over. They begin to color the way in which I see the world and people. And then one day a small, seemingly insignificant thing flips the switch and unleashes a furious storm.

But I let it out. I say all the vicious, cruel things I hold inside. I admit my fears and angers and observed injustice. I yell and scream and rant and cry. I release it all. Every last thing within me and then I collapse into the arms of Grace. Into the protective lap of The One who created me and calls me tov, good.

I let peace wash over me, compassion fill me. And then I get up, wipe my nose and eyes, drink some water and open the door.

I let the light in and then I go out.

This is my act of peace. This is my response to that which I can't control and understand.

Grace. Hope. Peace. Love. Compassion. Courage. Forgiveness. Surrender.

These are the weapons I choose.

Rather than responding to fear and violence with fear and violence, I work to accept them as teachers. As instruments that can tear me open, refine and remold me, and stitch me back up again - stronger, deeper, more whole. And then I turn all this energy towards healing and peace-making, using the unique gifts I've been given.

I paint. I meditate and practice yoga. I teach. I write. I raise my kids to bring sunshine and beauty to the world with determination and endurance. I cook. I look into the eyes of the people I meet and I smile. I get my hands dirty with the goodness of earth. I paddle board and swim and play games. I laugh and cry and celebrate this breath right now. I show up in the lives of those I care for most in the ways I'm able. I walk in the grass and water and sand. I snuggle and read to my girls. I enjoy time with my husband. I eat outside and dance in the rain. I swing and watch the clouds.

I do whatever I can to cultivate peace in me, hoping it flows out to those around. And then I surrender to The One, the ultimate provider of peace.

May you find a space to call holy. A space where you find yourself face down, confronting the depths of your being. And may you have the courage to go in. To go in, get messy, do the uncomfortable and painful work necessary to release and to grow.

And may you emerge alight with the power of peace.

Namaste*, friends.

*Namaste means the Light in me sees and honors the Light in you.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

TINA'S PURE VITA BLEND AND BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE with ginger, turmeric, and tiger nut milk


There's this myth in summer that cold will cool you down. The thermometer climbs to 80 and we all rush to the nearest ice cream or frozen treat stand, willing this sweet concoction to work magic and stop the internal heat wave happening within our cells. The frustrating thing is, momentarily we may feel blessed relief and satisfaction but within minutes the sweat returns. Blast.

Not often understood is this idea that thrusting cold or frozen drinks and food through our digestive system actually halts digestion in it's tracks. We have something called "internal fire" which has a host of different meanings, one being this delicate balance of a metaphorical fire that resides within our center, among our digestive organs. Too much fire and our bodies react with redness, swelling, pain or inflammation, and agitation [among many other symptoms].  However, too little fire and our bodies can't take in the nutrients that come packaged within the food we eat. They simply can't break the food down.

This is of course an oversimplification of an extremely intricate process: sensing our food, taking it into our body by way of a host of organs and systems, and  moving through the eliminatory process. This simple explanation also doesn't take into account the fact that your liver, for instance, can have excess fire while your stomach is as cold as ice. There are nuances and details far to numerous to describe here and in need of a trained Chinese Medicine or Ayurvedic practitioner for a thorough explanation. However this basic principle is centuries old, withstanding the test of time and science.

So here we are, looking into the face of summer, hot, sweaty and swollen, possibly irritable, maybe uncomfortable.

Luckily our land pushes up natural cool therapy in the form of sun-warmed greens bursting with chlorophyll, rhubarb, asparagus, berries, peas, peppermint, lemon balm, and parsley, among others. Chives come up in early spring, a touch of warmth to stimulate digestion without creating excess heat. Mama earth knows best. Soon cucumbers and melons will abound, both high in water content which is vital in combating the heat. Hydrate, hydrate!

It also happens to be a popular time for smoothies and rightly so. It's a good way to give your body a high-nutrient boost without demanding a ton of digestive effort. Well, smoothies without the ice that is.

The principle holds true: pack your smoothies with frozen fruit and ice often enough and you may force your digestive juices into hibernation.

A more balanced way to enjoy a smoothie is to use fresh fruit and vegetables and/or steam or roast your fruit and veggies prior.

Huh?

For example, the recipe listed here uses blueberries that have been gently cooked down with ginger and turmeric. Berries rank neutral, meaning they have a balancing effect on the body's internal heat meter. Ginger helps stimulate digestion while turmeric combats inflammation. Cooking a large batch and refrigerating provides a cool rather than cold berry drink.

Skeptic?

Give it a try. One morning make a smoothie with frozen fruit and ice. Drink, chew*, and see how you feel. Really pay attention.

Then on day two, try the recipe suggested here. Drink, chew*, and see how you feel. Really pay attention.

Watch both scenarios over the course of a day. Does it make a difference? What do you observe in your body?

Then trust it.

*Chew a smoothie? Chewing helps stimulate the stomach's digestive enzymes signaling that food is coming. Essentially it's a rally call to prepare the troops. So yes, chew your smoothies!

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2

1 1/2 c. of cooked blueberry blend*
Heaping tablespoon of Pure Vita Blend [see recipe below]
2 c. milk of choice [I recommend homemade tiger nut or rice milk]

*Place 4 cups of blueberries, berry of choice, or mix of berries [frozen or fresh] in a medium size pot. Add 2 T. grated ginger and 2 T. grated turmeric. Cook on low until berries burst and become soft. Cool to room temperature and then use or store in refrigerator for up to a week. 

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender and blend on high until mixture is smooth and creamy. Divide between two glasses and serve immediately.

[PURE VITA BLEND POWDER RECIPE]
Makes 5 cups

Note: it's important to use raw, organically and ethically grown powders. As always when using herbs, research for yourself and know the herb you're consuming. Check all contraindications against any pre-existing ailments you may have. Each herb listed here is linked to a viable source for both information and purchasing. 

1 c. lucuma powder
1 c. mesquite powder
1 c. hemp protein powder
1/2 c. maca powder
1/2 c. rhodiola root powder
1/2 c. ashwangandha powder
1/4 c. sweet cinnamon or Cassia cinnamon powder
1/4 c. ginger root powder

Place all in large glass jar. Tightly seal with lid and shake until well blended. Store in a cool, dark place.

Don't feel like making it yourself? You can purchase a variation of this blend from Essential Living Foods either through their website or via Vitacost or Thrive Market. Please note that the ingredients are different so read label carefully.

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BOTTLES AND BUSHES

Today I walked out the door and headed down the driveway. Down the hill, around the corner, past the barn, up the hill, down the hill, to the fence. Pause. Take out the plug, open the gate, secure the gate, walk along the fence out to the pasture.

This, or something very similar, has been my routine for a little while now. Bottle in hand, I head into the tall grasses, a hungry orphan lamb waiting for its sunrise meal.

Something caught my eye this morning. As I pulled on my boots and meandered out the garage, I found the fields aflame with glory, weighted down with splendor. Yesterday had been a particularly fall-like spring day. You know the type - cool, windy with a certain kind of cloud. The type that could release a down pour on a whim but generally chooses not to. With that as my backdrop, this morning was a bit shocking in contrast - clear blue sky, gentle breeze, bright sun, heavy dew.

Dew.

There is something magical about dew. Poems and essays and books are devoted to revelations and meditations found within these tiny droplets of water.

As I stood out there frozen in wonder, no revelations came. It was if my mind could think only this: "Stop! Watch! Feel! Enjoy!" The more I leaned in close, observed water resting so tenderly on grass, the more my being swelled with joy, connection, purpose, peace - a rootedness that anchored me here, in this moment, to myself and to all.

This morning I went to church.  

I walked away carefully, not wanting to disturb this communion of saints. Every few steps I paused, desperate not to leave the grace of it all.

As I slowly made my way back up the hill, down the hill, past the barn, around the corner, and back up the hill I couldn't help but look over my shoulder. Here's the thing - there had been heavy dew and bright sunny mornings a number of times over the last few weeks. These same fields had been aflame with glory and I walked right by. Holy had been right there all along, yet I did not see it.

And then today I did.

That's the mystery of this life - we go about our days in a normal sort of way and then one day we see that the bush we'd passed countless of times had been burning. On fire with majesty all along, begging "Stop! Watch! Feel! Enjoy!"

And so we do and we are changed.

Grace. Beauty. Peace.




Sunday, May 22, 2016

WHAT'S YOUR NAME?

This morning I went paddle boarding. Carrying my board along the path from our house to the water, carefully setting it down to float, stepping onto it's wide body, and pushing off away from the land has become a very spiritual practice for me. When I'm on my board life slows way, way down. The sound of the paddle dipping into the water is a lullaby for my soul. May awareness shifts from anxious thoughts and plans and lists to a place of right here, right now - being in this space of explosive life and meditative stillness.

Today, for whatever reason, I was shaken with the many creatures that call this small body of water home. As I watched the fish swim about, dashing from surprisingly shallow waters and into the deep, I was overcome by this sense of wanting to know their names. All of a sudden it was really, really important to acknowledge who they are.

The other day my daughters were dancing around in princess dresses singing about how beautiful they look. I watched on with expectation. I knew within moments my husband would come around the corner, lift them onto his lap, and ask them what their names mean.

"Sunshine." my eldest replied with a smile. "FLOWER!" yelled out my youngest. My husband nodded in agreement and then told each of them that they were created to bring warmth and kindness and beauty and compassion and color and light to this world. That there is far more to beauty than a dress or sparkles or shoes, although those are fun to explore. That what makes them beautiful is how they respond to injustice and hurt and fear. That their beauty goes far deeper than their skin. It begins in their hearts.

Naming things is an ancient art, one that has grown up with civilization. From our earliest roots, there's been something within us aching to know our name. Needing to understand our place and figure out where we fit in this great expanse of life.

As I paddled around the pond, guiding my board gently along side the reeds, I was aware that everything around me had a name, and with it's name came a place in this world.

I'm learning the more I observe, the deeper I walk into a place where it all matters. Everything has meaning. Watching fish has led me to acknowledge they have a name and existence as important as my own. Watching people has led me to believe we are not all that different. That we each have a name and a light within us and, at the very core, we all want to be seen, to matter, to find our place in the world.

As the wind picked up and rippled away my view, I looked off to the side and found a nest hovering precariously over the water. In it were 4 tiny eggs, white with brown spots. The mama bird hovered nearby, anxiously waiting my decision. Would I watch on quietly or choose to imprint on her life in an unkind way? Would I see first our commonality or respond with carelessness and apathy? Would I live into the meaning of my own name? River. Flowing water, bringing life.

I took one last glance, lifted my paddle, and thought to myself "You are important and good and kind and have a name.You have a place in this life and mine and it's my honor to see you."


Saturday, May 7, 2016

MEDITATING AMONG BUGS

A few weeks ago I found myself at a 4-day anatomy training, away from my kids and traveling solo for the first time in just under nine years. I was all at once anxious and excited, terrified and electrified, wanting to jump all in and drive home as fast I could. It was a very visceral tension of opposites.

I cried when I got there, setting these emotions free and then promised myself to be as present as I could in every moment. There had been days prior to my trip when I fantasied about this time to myself. Time without dishes and laundry and whining and cleaning and the demands that come with having a family. I knew that if I longed for what I'd left at home I would miss my opportunity at what this space could offer and abuse such a beautiful gift.

So I sunk in, allowing my entire being to expand and grow and learn and be challenged.

A couple days in I wandered outside during lunch, found a grassy patch, and planted myself for an hour or so to enjoy the sun and food and quiet. I opened the book I'd been reading and a few paragraphs in realized something was walking across the page. The closer I looked, I noticed many somethings. Somehow I'd been reading the words but completely missed what was actually happening on the page.

I looked on as a tiny round bug made its way across the top of the binding while a yellow one walked up the side and a small ant zigzagged over the words. The more I watched, the more I got this sense that everywhere I looked there was life and wonder. These tiny little micro-balls of atoms were making a life for themselves in the same way that every other living, breathing, pulsing thing does. How did these things, no bigger than a grain of sand, survive? And yet here they were. They do. We do.

At once I was overcome with a sense that I could no longer separate these tiny creatures from myself. That somehow we were related and our survival depended on each other.

Awareness does this. Seeing changes things.

Sometimes I wonder if holy and worship, for me, are found less within a set of walls and more in my choices and responses and actions and the quiet spaces within the world. In the past my tendency would have been to smash these little bugs and move on.

But I really saw them.

For a few brief moments in the space of my life I watch them create their own. They worked and tended and searched and took in air.

For a few brief moments much of our lives looked the same.

These tiny insects were created, like me. To fulfill a purpose and have a place, like me. Were their lives any less precious or unique than my own? To irrevocably take this from something because it was on my book and in my way now seemed like a direct insult to the One who created us both.

Smashing was no longer an option.

That's the thing about life and relationship. This humble ecosystem of plants and bugs and bacteria and dirt that I had sprawled out upon existed in faith. Faith in my ability to see us all as one through eyes of kindness and respect and honor.

I think that's how we all survive - faith in the goodness of our neighbor. Faith that love might actually be a better way. Faith that small acts of kindness matter. That respect actually makes a difference. That the tiniest things of this world may actually be important.

I was annoyed by and even feared the bugs. And then I sat and watched them. Somehow I found myself lonely when they left.