Friday, December 30, 2011

DATE-SWEETENED NO-BAKE COOKIES

Every time I come up with a recipe or see one I love, my first question these days is "Can my daughter eat it?". If not, the challenge [and fun] begins. One of my new found pet-peeves is eating something in front of her that she can't have. Of course, there will always be times this happens but I work really hard to ensure that 98% of the time we are enjoying the same foods [or at least a version of the same foods]. Sometimes this means separating a portion out prior to adding certain ingredients, sometimes it demands sacrificing certain foods, but most of the time all it requires is a bit of imagination and a small amount of ingredient know-how with the willingness to try foods a few times until they are just right.

Today I was itching for some no-bake cookies. Long ago I gave up the refined-sugar packed, instant oatmeal masquerade that lurks on the bakery shelves. Today I took a detour around all other sugars [sucanat, coconut palm, and raw cane sugars, honey, and maple syrup] and instead decided to work with dates, a naturally sweet fruit.

Dates are sweet and warming. They harmonize organs and have eliminating properties [a good aid in treating constipation]. If you have a small child with a sore throat, date syrup or paste can be used in place of honey. Of course, the dried dates most of us have access to have lost some of their nutrients but even so, dried dates still are an excellent source of B vitamins, copper, iron, potassium, and magnesium.

I also substituted carob for cocoa powder as I am more interested in going to sleep than chasing a caffeine-laced toddler around in the wee-hours of the morning. Carob is also naturally high in iron, a nutrient that many children are deficient in.

Please understand that if you are looking for the dry, crumbly, super sweet version - this is not the recipe for you. Instead, these have a deep richness and subtle sweet that will easily satisfy those sugar cravings without the sharp blood sugar spike and inevitable energy crash.

But the best part? My daughter gets to enjoy the spoon.


[THE RECIPE]

1 cup of dates, firmly packed
enough boiling water to fill to 1 1/2 cups

Place dates in a 2 cup glass measuring jar. Cover with boiling water, enough to fill to 1 1/2 c. line. Let stand for 10 minutes.

4 1/2 c. of old-fashion oats [not instant]
1/2 c. regular coconut milk
1/2 c. date soaking water

Once the dates have soaked for 10 minutes, combine oats, 1/2 c. of the date soaking water, and 1/2 c. of coconut milk in a glass mixing bowl. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor combine:

3/4 c. sunflower seed butter [or nut / seed butter of choice, although I would advise not using peanut butter]
1/4 c. coconut oil
the dates and remaining soaking water
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 c. carob powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract or 1/2 scraped vanilla bean

Blend until very smooth. Pour into a medium size stainless steel saucepan and warm over low heat. Once the mixture is just warm, add in oatmeal mixture. Stir until all of the oats are incorporated. Let the mixture sit in the pot for about 10 minutes to allow the oatmeal to soften a bit more and soak up the carob sauce.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Scoop out cookie batter and form into balls on the cookie sheet.

Place in the freezer for 20 - 30 minutes [more if necessary] until firm. Store in the freezer or refrigerator.

*To make these raw, soak the dates and oats over night and eliminate the cooking step.

This makes appx. 20 medium sized cookies. 






Friday, December 16, 2011

GOO-EY CINNAMON ROLLS



Whenever I receive bad [sometimes devastating] news I tend to head to the kitchen to bake and pray my sadness away. Today is no exception, and although I won't delve into details, I will say that this news deserves the best of both my prayers and pastry efforts.

As you head into this joyous and busy Christmas season, remember to let anyone and everyone around you know they are loved. Smile, spread cheer, and most of all be present in the lives of those you care for most. Don't get too caught up in the frenzy of gifts and food and planning and parties and deadlines and final exams and travel. Remember to take time to breathe in and feel deeply these moments that seem to pass by so quickly and sometimes unnoticed.

Grace, Peace, and Merry Christmas.


[DOUGH]

1 packet of instant or rapid-rise yeast
2/3 c. regular coconut milk [or other non-dairy milk]

1/2 c. arrowroot starch / powder
1 c. tapioca flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt

2 tbsp. organic unrefined coconut oil, solid
1/4 c. sucanat or coconut palm sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract

[FILLING] 

1 c. sucanat
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 - 1/3 c. lightly ground nuts of choice [walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts work really well]

[FROSTING]

1 [14-ounce] can of cold coconut milk
2 tbsp. organic unrefined coconut oil
1/8 c. creamed honey [find the creamed version is very important here! try this brand]
1 vanilla bean, scraped
pinch of Real Salt sea salt
3 - 4 oz. of dairy-free cream cheese [optional, I prefer without]
1/4 c. ghee or dairy-free butter spread [optional, I prefer without]

First grease a square or pie baking dish with Spectrum Organics Vegetable Shortening. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, gently warm milk to a bit more than room temperature [90 - 100 degrees] but not to boil. Milk should be warm to touch but not hot. Pour into a small glass bowl, stir in yeast and cover bowl with a piece of plastic wrap. Set aside.

In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients [starch, flour, baking soda and powder, gum, and salt]. Mix well and set aside.

In mixing or blending bowl, combine coconut oil and sucanat. Beat until smooth [you may have to scrape the side of the bowl a few times]. Add yeast / milk mixture [the yeast should have created a froth and risen a bit in the bowl], egg, and vanilla extract. Beat well.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat until well mixed. The batter should be sticky and thick.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Sprinkle with a small amount of sucanat. Place the batter on the plastic wrap and cover with another piece of plastic wrap. Begin to spread the batter out with your hands. Using a rolling pin, continue to roll out the batter making sure to keep the top plastic wrap in place [the batter is too sticky to roll without it - using plastic wrap in lieu of wax or parchment paper is very important as the batter will stick to both the papers]. Once the batter is flattened to 1/2-inch thick, remove the top piece of plastic wrap.

In a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients. Gently sprinkle on top of dough until entire surface is covered. Using the cut edge of the plastic wrap, slowly begin to roll the dough. By pulling up and over on the wrap, the dough should begin to roll onto itself. Continue until a large "log" is formed. Cut the "log" into 8 or 9 1-inch thick pieces. Place each piece into the prepared baking dish. Continue until all pieces have been cut and placed into dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 25 - 30 minutes or until tops have become nicely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In the meantime you can work on the frosting. Gently open can of coconut milk without shaking [if you shake it as lightly as possible and hear liquid choose another can until you don't hear liquid]. Scrape the solid white portion of the coconut milk out of the can leaving the semi-translucent liquid behind. Combine the separated coconut milk, creamed honey, vanilla bean, sea salt and coconut oil [and optional ingredients] in a mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment[s] to your mixer, begin to blend starting on a low speed and working up to the highest speed setting. Mix for 2 - 3 minutes or until mixture becomes light and fluffy. Pour into glass storage container and refrigerate until mixture has become thick.

Once the cinnamon rolls have cooled a bit, spread the thickened frosting over the rolls, top with lightly roasted nuts [optional, and enjoy!

Makes 8 - 9 rolls.

The frosting was inspired by My New Roots.

CHRISTMAS NUT AND SEED MIX






A friend of mine gave me a simplified version of this recipe as a gift and I couldn't get enough! If you plan on traveling in the upcoming couple of weeks this is a must-pack car or airplane snack to keep you from succumbing to those vending monsters and cheap food [not so] thrills. The protein and subtle sweet will combat the sugar cravings that somehow mercilessly start the minute you buckle in and a handful will fill any and all rumbling tummies.

May your holiday travels be filled with ease and peace. May families and friends be waiting to welcome you with warm hugs and crackling fires. May you let the joy of this season permeate your soul and radiate out into the world. And may you take a moment [or a lot of moments] to remember the reason we are so blessed by our Christmas celebrations.


[THE RECIPE]

2 c. pumpkin [pepita] seeds
1 c. hazelnuts or almonds, very slightly chopped
3/4 c. sunflower seeds
1/3 c. sesame seeds
1/4 c. flaxseeds
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt
1/2 c. maple syrup

1 c. dried cherries or cranberries

In a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl combine all of the dry ingredients [except for the dried fruit]. Stir well. Add the maple syrup and mix until well coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the mixture out on the baking sheet so that it is evenly covered with no holes or gaps.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until just lightly golden brown [watch carefully if you go over 20 minutes]. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Gently break pieces off or crumble, add the dried fruit, and store in a tightly sealed glass jar. If you plan to store the mix for more than 2 to 3 days, keep it in the refrigerator to prevent rancidity prior to traveling.





Monday, December 12, 2011

WARM BLUEBERRY PIE BREAKFAST PUDDING

As the largest birthday celebration of all time inches a bit closer [who else gets a celebration that takes a month, or longer, to prepare?], my husband and I have begun to think about what traditions we would like to begin as a family. As a kid I couldn't wait until it was "okay" [ie. after 6am] to come bounding out of my room in my red footy pajamas [you know the ones] and dive into the stocking that hung packed on the stairwell railing. Some parents [I mean, Santa of course!] wait until the night prior to Christmas morning to fill their children's stockings but for some reason unbeknownst to my brother and I, my parents decided to fill ours all throughout December. The anticipation nearly killed us. I have to admit plotting with my brother on how to open the wrapping just enough to peak inside and then return it to its proper space, perfectly as it was.

Either way, Christmas morning brought an immense amount of excitement for us. We would sit beneath our stocking with uncontainable glee waiting until all were present. Once the tired was wiped from my parents eyes [a cup of coffee and crackling fire later] we would each open a present, in order of age, until all were unwrapped. My mom would then cook an amazing breakfast - one fit for the day. My dad would follow by reading the story of Christmas [one we couldn't hear enough]. After our bellies were stuffed to the brim, we headed [or maybe rolled] to the tree allowing it to reveal what it held beneath it's branches. The perfect morning. Years later that feeling of bliss still burns deep in my heart and I yearn for my daughter to feel the same way I did [and still do] on Christmas morning.

Food has always been a central part of most, if not all, celebrations. Many of life's most intimate moments and it's precious memories happen in the kitchen. Magic happens there. Miracles happen there. Life happens there. As you prepare and plan for your holiday feasts, take a moment and just be in the kitchen. Stop and take in all of it's smells and sounds. Travel through time and count all of the blessings that have happened, and have yet to happen, in that small space. Then go about the frenzy of feasting with a new found sense of gratefulness for all of this hustle and bustle. Acknowledge that you are in the process of making a memory.

My prayer is that, no matter what traditions my husband and I decide to begin, my daughter will look back and know that heaven still meets earth in wondrous and mysterious ways. That she feels the enchantment of Christmas morning in her soul, a feeling that goes far beyond gifts and meals and stories. This enchantment is eternal and that alone is enough to celebrate with gifts and feasting, traditions and tales.

This recipe has been a wonderful addition to my pre-Christmas mornings as I plan and prepare and bake and enjoy the moments my daughter and I share sitting on the floor eating together [we love many of our meals picnic style]. It's nourishing, warming and grounding. When it's winter-white outside I no longer crave the coolness of a smoothie yet I still crave it's nutrients. This breakfast pudding is so easy to assemble and is a more than adequate stand-in for it's icy cousin. Play with it, transform it, make it your own. Use what you have in the house and in your freezer and enjoy.


[THE RECIPE]

1/2 c. regular coconut milk [you can use a different non-dairy milk but this, in my opinion, tastes the best]
1 c. pure water
1 c. blueberries, frozen*
1/2c. raspberries, frozen*
1 - 2 tbsp. maple syrup [or to taste]
2 tbsp. coconut oil

2 tbsp. psyllium husk / seed
1 tbsp. chia seed
1/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. walnuts
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ginseng [optional]
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped [optional]

In a medium saucepan and over low heat, gently warm milk, water, berries, maple syrup, and oil until heated through but not hot.

Place all of the remaining ingredients in a blender. Pour in coconut milk mixture and blend on medium-high until very smooth. Pour into serving dishes and allow to stand 3 - 5 minutes [mixture should thicken to pudding-like consistency]. Top with berries [optional] and serve warm.

*I recommend frozen here because blueberries are no longer in season where I live. Frozen berries retain much more of their nutritional value whereas fresh berries that have traveled a great distance loose a lot in the process. This is the same for raspberries.

Monday, December 5, 2011

HOMEMADE CREAMY RAMEN SOUP

The other day my husband asked me if I could make him something. Hold everything. The man I married five years ago very rarely asks me to make him something and never requests that I mess with one of the holy-grail foods of his childhood. He is the go-with-the-flow, try anything type [even if under duress] that has been subjected to quite a few culinary experiments and has taken everything in stride. He is the subject group behind many of these posts and it is he that makes or breaks what shows up here. But this time he asked! A request?! Call out the pots, sharpen the knives, shine the silver. I immediately put all meal plans on hold and locked myself in the kitchen [figuratively of course] and cooked and tasted and adjusted and cooked some more.




Obviously, in looking at the title of the post, you have figured out what he asked for. The 10-year old in him came up for a visit and demanded nostalgia in the form of this typically kill-you-it's-so-high-in-sodium, gluten packed, nutrient deficient soup. But, knowing his wife, he presented it in the form of a challenge. The goal? To make him a soup reminiscent of Top Ramen's Creamy Chicken Flavor Soup without the heart-stopping, blood-pressure exasperating nutrient content. You mean you want me to make a healthy version of your favorite childhood soup? Either I'm dead and in heaven or the lifestyle changes that we have made over the years are finally immersing themselves in the one person I respect, love, and admire above all others.

And then? We did yoga together.

I must be dead.

Thankfully I'm not and am able to share this with you. It has been husband approved with two thumbs up from the 10-year old inside.


[THE RECIPE]

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions
4 - 6 carrots
4 - 6 cloves of garlic

1/4 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour [1/8 c. brown rice or millet flour + 1/8 c. tapioca flour]
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt
dash of celery seed

4 c. organic, gluten-free chicken or vegetable broth
4 c. water
1/2 piece of kombu [optional, used to enhance the flavor and nutrients of this soup]

1/2 c. non-dairy milk [I like almond, hemp, walnut, or rice milk here]
1/2 package [about 4 ounces] of very thin Asian rice noodles [you can try this or this brand]

In a food processor combine onions, carrots, and garlic and mince well. The pieces should be very small. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add minced vegetables and saute, mixing occasionally, until just soft [7 - 10 minutes]. Add flour, poultry seasoning, turmeric, sea salt, and celery seed and stir constantly for about 30 seconds, coating the vegetables well.

Pour in the broth and water. Add kombu if you are using it. Bring to boil and then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, pour in non-dairy milk and noodles. Let simmer an additional 10 minutes or until noodles are soft.

Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Makes 4 - 6 servings, appx. $1.80 per bowl.





[A QUICK, BUT IMPORTANT, SIDE NOTE]








I am sure you are deep in Christmas decorations, lights, ornaments, shopping and wrapping right now [and if you aren't, will be soon]. As you set up your tree, decorate your house and make gift lists, take a moment to think about how you can make this Christmas a more sustainable, earth-friendly one. For example, purchase ornaments from antique or thrift stores [I found the one pictured above for my daughter for $0.25!]. The hunt is so much fun and, in my opinion, more meaningful.

When your Christmas lights need replacing, purchase warm LED lights. They are similar in look and price but last a lot longer and cost a lot less in energy. Try choosing local, organic foods that are in season for your holiday meals, forego the cheap dollar store stocking stuffers and select more useful things to fill those socks. Give services and experiences or shop at stores that support the environment [like The Tree Hugger Store in Holland and Grand Rapids] and Fair Trade [like The Bridge in Holland or Global Infusion in Grand Rapids]. Give homemade and / or edible gifts.

There are so many ways to cut down on our holiday footprints. Just a few steps can make a huge difference!



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BOTCHED DIET, BOTCHED YOU?

I want to break for a minute from my standard recipe-driven posts and talk about a side of life that is far too often misconstrued. It's the part of life that is dictated by a certain four letter word that makes the hairs on the back of my, and probably your, neck quiver. D-I-E-T.

My guess is at some point in your life you have tried a diet or been aware that it's a new year so "you should go on a diet". Within days or weeks of attempting what was touted as a "miracle fat buster", you stopped wondering what happened to that miracle?  You may have wanted to loose weight and did for a short time but found your body quickly plateaued and then began to gain the weight back. Maybe you wanted to gain weight and took on a high protein, supplement-packed diet. A few weeks in you found yourself tired, irritable, depressed, and struggling with insomnia - issues that may not have been there before. Lack of results, boredom, or "absence of discipline" led you right back to your normal, comfortable lifestyle, waiting for the next new diet to peek your interest. Thus began a series of diet "failures" and theft of your trust in the entire health system.

No matter where you fit in this picture, I would bet you gave yourself a good beating for not having the discipline to complete the diet or the willpower to say no to certain foods when your body craved them. My guess is you walked away from that diet feeling like, well, a loser and found yourself either searching for the next miracle diet or headed to the freezer to commiserate with Ben & Jerry. At least they could offer you some sweet relief and a temporary endorphin high.

The problem with many of the diets that line the bookstore shelves and news headlines is that they fail to look at you as a unique individual with a unique lifestyle and personality. They pigeon hole you into a category: obese, nearly obese, moderate, perfect, underweight, or dead. You may be overweight, underweight, or struggle with chronic health issues, true, but you also have goals, dreams, skills, desires, likes, dislikes, a family and / or significant other, a job, emotions, personality, morals, values, spiritual beliefs, a set of genes, and a past. All of these things add up to make the one and only you and many diets, in failing to realize this, belittle your existence.

Release yourself from carrying that burden - the one that says somehow you failed, you're a loser, you never finish anything, you can't do anything right.


You didn't fail the diet, the diet failed you. You didn't complete the diet because the diet was incomplete. You couldn't finish because the diet was unfinished.  

I want to say this again: You didn't fail the diet, the diet failed you. Repeat this as many times as it takes for you to begin to believe it. I didn't fail the diet, the diet failed me.

The essence of holistic healing is to help you succeed rather than set you up to inevitably fail. This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about this way of living.

I encourage you to look at your life and ask yourself what kind of physical activity do I like? What whole, nourishing foods do I enjoy? What hobby or activity do I do that, when I do it, I loose track of time? What makes me feel alive? Where in my life would I like to grow? Find someone [like a health coach or counselor] who can help you harness these qualities that are so deeply ingrained in your being and use them to work towards your personal goals. Find someone who will see you as something greater than a number in the recent headlines or a place on a graph, but as the unique and beautiful person you are.

As snow begins to fall and our world heads for hibernation, may you find wholeness and health, rest and well-being. In the same way that each snowflake is impossibly unique, may you begin to see yourself as an intricate masterpiece, designed by a master artist. May a spark be lit deep within you and may you begin to trust in truly living again.

Grace and peace.

Monday, November 21, 2011

GINGER CHAI

One of my favorite places to go is nestled in this little eclectic community about 40 minutes away from where I live [check out Global Infusion here]. It really is unfortunate that I don't live next door [or in the storage room]. But because I'm just not that lucky, I am constantly trying to create their chai recipe. Let me just say they are masters when it comes to chai, this probably being an understatement. Recently they came up with a Ginger-Tulsi chai that I am praying will carry on into life after death. It really is that good.

Well here is my attempt at their recipe. The original will of course always be better. One, because when they make it is means I didn't have to. This natural phenomenon is what draws us back to grandma's homemade apple pie or dutch bread and mom's seven layer sandwich. Two, all creators should have dibs on being "the best" at their creation.

So my hats off to you ladies!


[WHAT IS TULSI?]

If you're curious what Tulsi is and it's benefits, look here for details. It's worth the read or at least a glance!



[THE RECIPE]

3 c. water
3, 1-inch chunk of fresh, peeled or 2 tsp. dried
10 cloves
16 peppercorns
2 star of anise
10 cardamom pods
1 tsp. fennel
4 whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
pinch or two of cayenne pepper

3 tbsp. Ginger-Tulsi Tea

1 1/2 tsp. organic blackstrap molasses [to taste]
2 -3 tbsp. of honey or sucanat, to taste [optional]

2/3 c. non-dairy milk of choice [I love coconut milk in this, light or regular works]

In saucepan, bring water to boil. Add spices and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Place loose leaf tea in cotton tea bag or mesh tea ball. Remove pot from heat and add tea bag / ball. Cover and let stand for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove tea bag / ball, strain spices, and return liquid to pot. Warm. Stir in molasses and honey. Turn heat to low and cover the pot.

In separate saucepan warm non-dairy milk until almost boiling and light froth forms.

Combine 1/3 c. non-dairy milk and 2/3 c. of chai tea in mug. Gently stir and serve immediately. You could also allow to cool and server over ice.

Makes 3 - 1 cup servings, appx. $0.50 per serving







Saturday, November 19, 2011

MASHED POTATOES AND FRIENDS

This past Saturday I headed up to my local, "organic-vendors only" Farmer's Market. I, as usual, walked away with more than I had come for. On Saturday my new find took the form of celeriac. I've always wanted to try it but have been intimidated [rightfully so in my opinion] by it's misshapen, root-ball form. Even so, I dutifully listened to the farmer explain why this plain looking vegetable should be my next purchase. One dollar and a few cooking tips later, I walked out with one in hand.

It's no secret in my family that I love, and I mean love, potatoes. It has always been one of my favorite foods. Thanksgiving is of course about meditating on and celebrating all of the areas in your life that you have to be thankful. This is something that should never be understated or ignored. Intentionally seeking out the blessings in your life is quite possibly the most healing and nurturing thing you can do for your body. A quick side on this, if it has been a tough year and you are finding it difficult to come up with just one blessing, start with being thankful for each breath you take while reading this post. You will be amazed at some of the other things that come to mind as you do this. The simple art of being aware that each breath you take is a gift can be quite revolutionary.

In addition to being thankful, Thanksgiving is about the potatoes. Oh, the potatoes. I like them any and all ways - mashed, steamed, twice-baked, sauteed, shredded, and used in baking [yes you can do this!]. I like them red, white, yellow, blue, purple, and pink [yes there are that many - I dare you to try them all!]. I'm sensing there could be Dr. Seuss book written about potatoes!

I hope this recipe inspires you to head out to your local Farmer's Market for the last few weeks of this harvest season if your market is quickly coming to a close [and even if it's not].

May you take the time to get to know the people who grow your food. May you see them as master's of what they do and come to deeply respect the work they put in to provide you and me with the best, most nutritional foods on the planet. May you listen intently when they describe each treasure on display and may you have the honor of walking out of the market with something unexpected in hand and a sense of deep joy and contentment permeating your soul.

Here's to all of the farmer's who are wrapping up this year's work and to those who carry on through the winter. We salute and thank you.





Special Note: If you are going to give this to your infant or toddler I would recommend eliminating the ghee and salt in his / her portion. 

[RECIPE ONE]

1 celeriac, peeled and cubed [cut into smaller pieces for a shorter cooking time]
1 lb. of potatoes of choice, peeled if desired and cubed
1/2 a cauliflower head, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp. of ghee [go here to easily make your own] or non-dairy butter [try Earth Balance Soy Free]
1 tsp. Real Salt sea salt, or to taste
1/4 - 1/2 c. non-dairy milk [rice milk has a neutral flavor and works well here]
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, minced very fine

Wash, peel [if necessary] and dice celeriac, potatoes, and cauliflower. Place all in a medium size saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and let boil gently until all the of the vegetables are very soft. Remove from heat and add ghee, salt, non-dairy milk [start with the smaller amount], and garlic. Using a hand mixer, beat well until potatoes are creamy and fluffy. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Serves 6 - 8, $0.75 - $1.00 per serving


[RECIPE TWO]

1 lb. potatoes of choice, peeled if desired and cubed
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 - 2 medium carrots, peeled and cubed
1 tsp. celery seed
2 tbsp. of ghee [go here to easily make your own] or non-dairy butter [try Earth Balance Soy Free]
1 tsp. Real Salt sea salt, or to taste
1/4 - 1/2 c. vegetable broth
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, minced very fine

Wash, peel [if necessary] and dice potatoes, carrots, parsnip, rutabaga, and cauliflower. Place all in a medium size saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and let boil gently until all the of the vegetables are very soft. Remove from heat and add ghee, salt, vegetable broth [start with the smaller amount], and garlic. Using a hand mixer, beat well until potatoes are creamy and fluffy. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Serves 6 - 8, $0.90 - $1.00 per serving

I love to have sauteed kale or cooked red cabbage on the side of both of these recipes.












Thursday, November 17, 2011

TODDLER-FRIENDLY HOLIDAY CRACKERS

It snowed today. My favorite kind of snow. It's the snow that brings anticipation and complete stop-what-you are doing, child-like wonder. It demands a crackling fire and warm cup of peppermint chai. It drives me, helplessly, down to the basement to find just one strand of white Christmas lights. Yes! They're still here. As I carefully cradle them in my hands, just the feel is enough to course warmth and cheer through the core of my being. I plug them in and feel as if I might burst with joy as each little globe dances alive with glitter and glitz. Desperately I turn on the radio pleading that there be just one crazy station playing Christmas music.


On most days this expediency we have towards Christmas would annoy me. Just seeing Christmas decorations in October brings out my inner Grinch. I mean, I'd like to enjoy Thanksgiving if you don't mind!

But not today. Today I have become one of them. One of those insidious people who try to will the twelve days of Christmas closer through incessant glee and holiday cheer. I hum hall decking tunes. I dance a little jingle bell jig. And inevitably, I bake. And bake. And bake. The kitchen beacons me, luring me in with the oven's warmth and it's oh so magical scent of cinnamon and cloves. I wait an entire year to experience this kind of snow. It's the kind of snow that enchants the air and breathes mystery into the normalcy of life.

So, you can hate winter if you want. You can sulk at Frosty and "bah humbug" all you'd like. But not at this snow. May this snow remind you of the blessing of new beginnings. May it surround you with joy and peace and contentment to be just who you are, where you are.

And may it bring you alive with the mystery of life.






[FUN BUCKWHEAT FACTS]


Buckwheat is a blood-building food making it a good gluten-free grain for people with diabetes [it helps to stabilize blood sugar]. It boasts the longest transit time [in comparison to other grains] and therefore keeps you feeling full and satisfied for a longer period of time. Its real claim to fame, however, is that it contains a high proportion of all eight amino acids. In addition, it's a good source of protein and high in calcium. A minor caution: if you have signs of extreme heat [fever, thirst, and / or high blood pressure] you may want to minimize your consumption of buckwheat.

[AMARANTH?]


To the creators of "Got Milk?", you may not like this. Amaranth is significantly higher in protein and calcium than milk when compared cup for cup. It is an important food for pregnant or nursing women, infants, children, laborers, people who are very thin, and anyone that expends a significant amount of energy, such as athletes. It's a wonderful source of magnesium and silicon [two nutrients needed for calcium absorption], phosphorus, iron, and zinc. Considered a chi tonic, amaranth improves the quantity and quality of energy available to the body. It also aides in the healing of congestion, excessive menstruation, and yeast overgrowth.

[THE RECIPE]

1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. amaranth
1 1/4 c. coconut milk [or other non-dairy milk]
2 tbsp. black strap molasses
4 tbsp. coconut oil
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. star of anise or anise seed, finely ground
1 tsp. fennel seed, finely ground
1/4 tsp. dried ginger, finely ground
1/2 tsp. Real Salt sea salt
1 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
1 1/2 c. gluten-free flour [1/2 c. millet flour + 1/2 c. tapioca flour]
1/4 - 1/2 c. water
extra buckwheat flour for dusting

In a small saucepan bring coconut milk to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and add amaranth. Simmer until amaranth is cooked [see manufacturer's instructions for cooking time]. Remove from heat and stir in oats. Set aside until cool [or let stand 10 minutes and then place in the refrigerator or freezer to speed up the cooling process].

When the oat mixture has cooled completely, place in a mixing bowl and add the molasses, coconut oil, baking powder, sea salt, ground anise, fennel, and ginger. Blend well [I like using the paddle attachment here if you have a KitchenAid mixer]. Add in buckwheat flour and blend. Add tapioca flour and blend. Finally add millet flour and blend well [you may have to remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand]. Knead until a smooth, firm dough has formed.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle a bit of flour on your counter top. Cut or break the dough in half and place one half aside. Roll the other half into a ball and place on floured surface. Flatten the ball with your hands, sprinkle with flour, and roll, using a rolling pin, until 1/4 - 1/8" thick [you may have to dust with flour from time to time to prevent tearing and sticking]. Once the thickness is achieved [the thinner the better], cut dough with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, remove the cut dough pieces from the counter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat this process until all of the dough [including the half set aside] has been used. You can sprinkle them with a little salt if you don't plan on giving them to your child.


Place pans in oven and bake for 9 minutes. Flip crackers and bake another 6 - 8 minutes [depending on the thickness of the crackers]. Watch carefully to make sure they don't burn.

Remove from oven and let stand 5 - 10 minutes to cool. Repeat with remaining dough [you should have at least two "rounds" depending on the size of your crackers]. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 60 - 70 crackers, less than $3.00 per recipe or less than $0.04 per cracker.


[This recipe is inspired by 101cookbooks.com]

Monday, November 14, 2011

QUINOA CABBAGE ROLLS


I love recipes that remind me of my childhood. I was blessed to grow up in a wonderful family with a mother who loves to cook and a father who seeks activity and adventure. We had a modest garden and compost pile in the backyard, lived on a small lake, indulged in some intense neighborhood pick-up soccer games, stayed up way too late telling stories around the campfire, cooked burgers picnic-style in our wood-burning fireplace, and at one time had a 17-foot tall Christmas tree. These are just a few memories in the mosaic of stories I have collected over the years.

One of the greatest things that stands out in my mind, however, is that even though both my father and mother worked full-time and raised two kids, we always had a fresh, home cooked meal on the table. We were required to be at family dinner, something that wasn't much of a hardship. Our family always opened with a prayer of blessing and closed with a fun biblical story usually picked in true democratic style. Through dinner my parents nourished both our bodies and our souls. We laughed, we cried, we got into and out of trouble, we joked, we admitted, we loved - life happened, all around our dining room table

Family dinner times have taken quite a hit in these modern, fast-paced times. Or maybe these times simply feel faster because family dinners are quickly become a thing of the past. A lot of families are so busy, one person here and another there, that quick and convenient seem like blessings. Food is fuel but not nourishment. Moms are caretakers but not mothers. Fathers are breadwinners but not life givers. Families are becoming more like roommates sharing common utilities and living separate lives.

I encourage you to look at your families. Do you truly know one another? Is your life filled with "hi's and goodbye's" but void of actual conversation? Do your kids and your spouse know you love them? How are you showing this? Are you giving your childhood a chest full of beautiful memories? What will they carry away from their childhood and into their own families? 

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, now is perfect time to reflect. Use the month of November to intentionally name the blessings in your life and make changes where changes need to be made. 

So, to my parents, thank you for the gift of life in every possible sense of the word.

May your children and the children of others thank you some day.


This recipe is one I adapted from my mother's recipe [and probably her mother's, and her mother's prior to that]. The traditional recipe calls for rice and beef or venison. I traditionally eat in a more vegetarian fashion, as does my daughter [still working on the hubby], and have adapted it so it works for us. A couple of rolls easily make a meal for me but they can also be a delicious side [think Thanksgiving!].

This is a great meal [or side] for vegetarians / vegans in particular. If you have chosen a vegetarian lifestyle it is vitally important that you pay attention to the type and quantity of your protein intake as well as vitamins like B12 and minerals. Proper food combining is essential. These cabbage rolls combine walnuts with quinoa giving you a complete protein. Vegetarians should try have a complete protein with at least two meals a day to ensure that their bodies are receiving what they need to sustain good health. This can be done by combine a nut or legume with a grain or seed food like rice, quinoa, and millet. Adding herbs like garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and cardamom aid in the digestion and assimilation of the foods and their nutrients. I highly recommend making these and other appropriate herbs a part of your daily diet. 

Many vegetarians think they are eating healthfully but ignore what and how they eat and assemble their foods. This leads to deficiencies and diseases that, in some cases, are much more difficult to resolve than issues found with a standard American diet. If you eat vegetarian [and especially vegan] and / or follow a raw foods diet, I urge you to do your homework and look closely at your meals and snacks. I believe there is a time and season for everything and no one diet should be a long-term solution. Our bodies change, the seasons change, and life changes. Our diets need to do the same in order to adequately maintain health and balance.

[THE RECIPE]

1 medium head of savoy cabbage [savoy cabbage is milder in flavor and more tender making it easier to roll]
2 c. cooked quinoa
1 1/2 c. walnuts, ground
1 - 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 small turnip, finely chopped
2 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt [with a little extra for sprinkling]
1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. arrowroot starch [or tapioca flour, potato starch, or cornstarch]
1 pint [2 cups] of tomato or pasta sauce

Cut [or core] the end of the cabbage, keeping the leaves together. Steam in a large pot until just soft and pliable [7 - 10 minutes, you can bring to boil steam a few minutes and then turn the heat off. Let it sit in the pot, covered until soft. This can save you a bit of energy / gas].

While the cabbage is steaming, saute the onion, carrot, and turnip in olive oil until just soft. Add salt, pepper, arrowroot starch and herbs / seasoning. Saute 30 seconds and remove from heat. Mince the garlic and set aside. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast on low [or broil] until just browned [3 - 5 minutes]. In a mixing bowl combine cooked quinoa, sauted vegetables, minced garlic, toasted walnuts and 1/2 - 3/4 cup of tomato or pasta sauce. Mix well.

Carefully remove the cabbage from the pot and cool to touch. Very gently pull each leaf away from the head. Place a spoonful of filling on the leaf, fold the sided over the filling and roll. You should end up with an egg-roll looking pocket. Place each roll into a large glass baking dish.


Once the dish is full, slowly pour the remaining tomato or pasta sauce over the rolls. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 30 minutes.

[You will probably have leftover cabbage. I am working on a recipe for that! In the meantime, cut up and add to a soup or broth.]

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Serve immediately.

This is a great meal to double or triple. You can cook, cool completely, and then freeze in containers or ziploc bags.


Serving size is appx. 15 rolls and $0.75 per roll.





Monday, November 7, 2011

BUTTERCUP CUSTARD

This past Saturday I drove up to an organic-only Farmer's Market near to where I live. I love this market for many reasons but I think primarily because I can walk up to any farmer and I know I will be getting the best possible food at a reasonable price and a lot of passion coming from the hand that grew it. I was reminded of this as I was salivating over one local producer's many varieties of potatoes, radishes and other root vegetables. I then over heard [confession, I was intentionally eaves-dropping] him telling a woman about this squash, this buttercup squash, that was quite a few leaps ahead of any other. In fact, he had the kahuna's to say that she would never want butternut squash again! Judging from it's modest exterior I have to admit I was really skeptical. Upon a brief observance of this mallow-like orb, any regular Joe would think this farmer to be a bit off on his regal description. But, a few minutes later I walked away, plain-Jane squash in hand, wondering what I was in for.


Actually, I couldn't wait to get my hands [and knife] into this thing. For the entire drive home I dreamed about what I could possibly turn this little buttercup into, making it worthy of the praise it's former owner had adorned it with. Throughout the day, as each hour passed by, I got exceeding anxious. No one idea seemed to stick. And then, sometime around 7pm it came to me - custard!

So here it is, a Thanksgiving Table worthy delectable that really does live up to my new farmer friend's acclaim. You can make this as simple or as extravagant as you'd like. The only requirement is that you find and use a buttercup squash!


[FOR THE CUSTARD]

1 Buttercup Squash*
1/4 - 1/2 c. apple cider or juice
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. each ground nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice [optional]
2 - 3 drops [1/8 tsp.] of orange flavoring [optional]
2 tsp. psyllium seed husk powder
1/4 c. maple syrup [optional] or to taste**

[FOR THE WHIPPED TOPPING]

1 15-ounce can of regular coconut milk, well chilled 
1/3 c. maple syrup
1 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped

[INSTRUCTIONS]

Cut the buttercup squash in half and scoop out its seeds and strings. Reserve the seeds for this recipe or allow them to dry and plant next year. Place the two halves face down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes or until flesh is very soft [make the whipped topping while this is baking]. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.

While the squash is baking prepare the whipped topping. Remove can of coconut milk from refrigerator but do not shake the can! Gently scoop out the thick cream and reserve the water-like portion for a smoothie or soup. Place the cream in a mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients. Using a whisk attachment, beat the cream until light and fluffy [2 - 3 minutes]. Place the mixing bowl in the refrigerator and allow it to set.

Once the squash is slightly cooler, scoop out the flesh and place it in a mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining custard ingredients and beat, using the paddle attachment or beaters, until all are well combined and the mixture is very creamy. Scoop into individual serving bowls and refrigerate until chilled [1 - 2 hours].

Once the custard is cool, top with the whipped cream and lightly ground, toasted hazelnuts. Serve immediately or keep in the refrigerate until serving.

Serves 6 - 8 depending on the serving size, appx. $1.60 per serving.

* I really urge you to seek out your nearest Farmer's Market and hunt this particular squash down. It is well worth any effort that may be involved!

**I prefer my custard without the maple syrup as the whipped topping provides plenty of sweetness for me. You can decide what your preference is and adjust accordingly. Please note that chilling the custard will enhance the flavors, giving you a richer dessert.

Friday, November 4, 2011

TASTY LENTIL SOUP AND A BONUS!

To all of my pocket-book challenged, study-laden, no-sleep stricken, two job, no time to think let alone cook, college friends [you know who you are!]. This recipe is for you!


Let's be serious, we've all been there in some way or another. I remember taking 18 credits, working a full-time job, and having an internship my senior year. I slept, well, never. And I paid the price. My existence was based on power bars, gas station or office coffee [please cringe here!] and no sanity. I survived, which serves as definitive evidence that the human body can withstand a significant amount of torture [for a short time at least] and still somehow keep air flowing and blood moving. Now that I have graduated, held some great jobs, and am a mother, I have gotten quite a bit smarter when it comes to stress and diet [this may be an understatement now that I've admitted to my dietary doomed past and aired out that closet].

Anyway, my goal here is to provide you with a highly nutritious, allergy-friendly, cook-it-while-away meal, that is easy and husband approved [aka: picky eater approved] and to hopefully rescue you [or maybe offer a brief escape] from the insanity I dealt myself years ago.

[LENTILS? REALLY?]

I am sure the word "lentil" conjures up a variety of emotions. My husband generally says "Uhhh, lentils? Really?" with a scrunched up face. I've taken it upon myself to try to change his mind and, with this recipe, I think I have.

Lentils are a vital protein source, especially for vegetarians [they are 17 - 25 percent protein which is higher than most grains, eggs, and meats]. Because they cook much quicker than other beans [one hour on the stove at the most, 20 - 30 minutes if soaked first], they are more convenient than their other bean counterparts and have a more mild flavor. Lentils are easier on your digestive system than other beans and don't cause many of the unpleasant side affects that beans are famous for. Beans are especially helpful for people with diabetes as they digest slowly causing a gradual rise in blood sugar as opposed to the quick spike that commonly happens with other foods [specifically processed foods or high sugar foods]. They have a good amount of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and several B vitamins.


[AND A BONUS!]

In this post I am unveiling a new "perk" I am adding to this blog. For each recipe I create from here on out [and maybe some old posts as well], I will be designating each as an "inexpensive meal [$]", a "once-in-awhile experience [$$]", or a meal "reserved for special occasions [$$$]". In the recipe index you will find a link each of the to the appropriate recipes [look for the $ sign]. Generally you will find the $ per serving at the end of each post. My hope in doing this is to show you that healthy eating doesn't need to cost a lot or take a lot of time ["time" will be upcoming]. I would love feedback on this once I get it up and running!

And here's a secret: this meal costs $1.20 per bowl or serving [assuming you are using a standard size soup bowl]. This means pair the soup with some toasted bread and you have a meal for four at under $10 and for six at under $15. Your family's or roommates' tummies will be full, you will still have cash for gas, and you won't be drained heading into your late-night homework gig.


[RECIPE]

7 cups of dried green lentils* 
2 quarts [8 cups] of vegetable broth 
1 quart [28 ounces] of stewed tomatoes, with juices 
1 heaping cup of chopped carrots [about 2 large] 
1 heaping cup of chopped celery [about 3 - 4 large stalks] 
2 large leeks or medium onions, finely chopped 
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. of ground fennel 
1 tsp. of ground cumin
1 tsp. of ground coriander
2 tsp. of Real Salt sea salt [or to taste]

*If you choose to soak the lentils [go here to find out why and for instructions], do so the night before for Options 1 and 2 or first thing in the morning if you plan to use Option 3.

Option 1 [if time is an issue - meaning you have none]:

Rinse lentils well and set aside. Wash carrots, celery, and leeks. Peel garlic. Chop into manageable chunks and throw the vegetables into a food processor [you could even use a blender, just add some of the broth to make blending easier] and chop until finely minced. Place into a Crockpot with all of the other ingredients, including the lentils. Cook 8 hours or until lentils are soft. Working in small amounts, blend half to three quarters [or as desired] of the soup in a blender for about 30 seconds [consistency should be lightly chunky but smooth] or use an immersion blender. Mix back in with the remaining soup. Serve with a slice or two of toasted bread.

Option 2 [if you have 5 - 10 minutes extra to spare]:

Follow all of the instructions for Option 1. However, saute the chopped vegetables in the olive oil for 5 - 8 minutes [or until just soft] prior to adding them to the Crockpot. Sauteing will deepen the flavor.

Option 3 [if you don't have a Crockpot]:

Follow all of the instructions for either Option 1 or Option 2 but place in a large soup pot. Bring to boil and then simmer 30 - 40 minutes or until lentils are just soft and still have their shape.

Serves approximately 12


This recipe is based on Alton Brown's Lentil Soup.



Monday, October 24, 2011

FALL KOMBUCHA FLAVORS




First, if you're curious what this Kombucha drink is go here for an excellent overview.

I admit, I'm a kombucha nut and have quite a few bottles saved up from my purchasing days. This has come in really handy because now I simply reuse those bottles when making my own [if you have never tried kombucha, look for this brand in any health food store]. For great instructions on how to make kombucha I recommend Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions. Small Notebook also has really good instructions along with how to flavor your kombucha. Thus far I have tried cherry, pomegranate, and mango juice, pomegranate being my favorite. I have also tested adding a piece of peeled ginger [about 1-inch thick] which, as it turns out, is really tasty. I have found ginger kombucha to aid indigestion and stomach aches [it has a similar affect as ginger-ale with quadruple the health benefits].

Now that I've gotten the hang of this flavoring kombucha thing, I decided to get a bit creative and try a few fall recipes out. Simply add the below ingredients to your prepared kombucha and allow to sit at room temperature for five days and then refrigerate.


*Caution: If you are pregnant or nursing you may want to avoid kombucha as it is fermented and thus has a trace amount of alcohol. I am still nursing and have chosen to enjoy kombucha after I nurse my daughter right before she goes to bed for the night but did not drink it when I was pregnant. This is a personal decision and should be made after educating oneself. Rarely, an allergic reaction may occur so be sure to start with a small amount [1 oz. or so] and then work up from there. 

[SPICED CIDER KOMBUCHA]

1/4 c. apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. dried orange peel
2 whole cloves
2 whole allspice
2 whole cardamom pods

You can also just add cider for a "hard cider" like flavor.

[PUMPKIN KOMBUCHA]

1 large chunk of cooked pumpkin
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 piece ginger, peeled
2 whole allspice
pinch of ground nutmeg

[GINGER PEACH KOMBUCHA]

2 - 3 chunks of peach
1 piece of ginger, peeled
2 whole cardamom pods



Friday, October 21, 2011

HAZELNUT HOT CAROB "COCOA"


Well today the weather outside truly is frightful. It is one of those damp-cold, chill you to your bones, rainy fall days here in the great state of Michigan. This means I have a great excuse to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot carob while my baby girl sleeps. For me, the only thing that can warm up my body on a day like this is a crackling fire and cup of warm something that presently happens to be "cocoa". Pair it with some homemade hazelnut milk [go here for a great instructional] and a little dairy-free hazelnut creamer and peace prevails.


[WHAT IS CAROB?]

Carob is the bean-like pod of a locust tree [rumor has it John the Baptist lived on locust, referencing the locust tree rather than bugs - I would feel better if this was true] and is an excellent replacement for cocoa. Carob is warming to the body so it's no surprise that I crave it on chilly days. It's alkalizing and is a wonderful source of calcium, potassium, and fair amounts of vitamins A and B. It also contains some protein and much less fat than chocolate [and is caffeine free]. One note, carob should be used sparingly with children as it contains tannin [like cocoa and tea]. Because tannin reduces the absorption of protein, it may slow down the growth of younger kids if taken in larger quantities.


[THE RECIPE]

2 c. homemade hazelnut milk [you can also purchase hazelnut milk however you loose a lot of the nutrients through the processing], reserve some of the nut "meat" and keep the other for another use
1 1/2 - 2 tbsp. carob powder [you can also use cocoa or cacao powder]
dash of cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

honey [raw, unprocessed] or maple syrup, to taste*
1/4 c. SoDelicious coconut milk creamer [optional]


In a blender combine all of the ingredients except for the honey and creamer. Blend on med-high until everything is will well mixed [30 - 60 seconds]. Pour into a medium saucepan and warm until a light boil begins, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in honey if using. Pour into two mugs.

Rinse out blender. Pour in creamer or milk of choice and blend on med-high for about 15 - 20 seconds to get a little froth. Pour half of the creamer into one mug and half into the other, keeping the froth in the blender [there may not be a ton of froth, but work with what you have]. Gently pour or scoop froth into each mug. Grab your "cocoa", a blanket, a book or movie and curl up by the fire!

*If you are using SoDelicious Hazelnut Creamer or sweetened hazelnut milk you won't need to add honey or syrup. If you are using regular unsweetened hazelnut milk you will probably want to add a touch of honey or syrup to sweeten.

**A Little Note: Some separation will occur. As it cools the carob "sediment" will fall to the bottom. You can either stir it in or drink as is. Taste is not affected.

Serves two.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

LUNCH FOR BABY N' ME!

One of my favorite things in the entire world is having lunch with my daughter. Call me old fashion, but I love it when we are able to both sit at the table and have a meal together. She's at the age now where her and I can eat similar foods [hooray!] and today is no exception.

Actually, today's lunch was birthed out of my intense desire to like beets. To be perfectly honest, I really don't like them. Pickled, steamed, raw, or roasted, I just can't seem to wrap my taste buds around them and get on board. But I also love a challenge and have consistently bought them at my local farmer's market with the desperate belief that one day I'll fall in love [with beets I mean, I am already in love with the most wonderful man and beautiful daughter].

Well, today it happened. Maybe it's not love but the like is finally there. In my opinion love only comes when you can completely embrace all aspects of that being. Sorry beets, but I'm not into your raw version yet. Or steamed. But sauteed and baked? Now that I can enjoy. Pair it with some crunchy kale and a sweet potato and ooh la la - a relationship is born.

And my daughter? I think she loves anything I do and will eat anything I eat [remember this if your child is being picky about a particular food]. Just like her mama beets haven't been an immediate fixation but today the plate was cleaned and a tummy full. Perfection. Each time she puts something in her mouth I am reminded of my intense responsibility of caring for her whole person - mind, body, soul. I breathe life into her every time I kneel down and play or notice the seemingly insignificant thing that she must show me right now. To her, it is the most important thing in the world and that makes it the most important thing in my world. I provide her security each time I kiss, hug, and snuggle her. I give her a little piece of eternity each time she takes our hands and watches us pray. And I nourish her little body with every beet, potato, and piece of kale, teaching her the value of family when we sit down and eat together.



So, today may you chase fervently after something you know is good. And may you be rewarded. May you look at your children, or the children of others, and see in those trusting eyes the deep responsibility we have to care for them well. May you rise to the occasion. And may you leave a legacy that is far greater and more lasting than anything that could ever be written on paper. May it be written in the beings of those you love.


[RECIPE]

2 medium sweet potatoes
1 medium - large beet, greens removed
1 bunch of kale [I love lacinato kale] and beet greens
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
pinch of Real Salt sea salt
fresh ground pepper
pinch of granulated garlic
ghee, non-dairy butter [like Earth Balance Soy-Free spread], or extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Wash and scrub potatoes. Using a fork, poke with a few holes on each side. Place in oven and bake until soft, approximately 40 minutes [depending on size of potato].

Wash and scrub beet. Remove peels and greens. Set greens aside for later use. Shred beets using cheese shredder or processor. In cast iron skillet, heat 1 tsp. of oil. Once oil is hot, add beet and cook for 5 minutes or until cooler had deepened. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet [separate a little if cooking for a young one as well]. Set aside.

Wash kale and beet greens. As thinly as you can cut, slice the greens. In the same cast iron skillet, add the remaining teaspoon of oil and heat. Add greens and saute until a deep green is achieved, approximately 5 minutes. Place on same parchment lined baking sheet [again, separate a little if cooking for a younger child].

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sprinkle the "adult" portion of beet and greens with sea salt and granulated garlic. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until kale is very crispy [Little tip: you can also make great kale chips this way. Simply cut the piece a little larger, saute, and bake!].

Once the potatoes are soft completely through, remove from oven and cut in half, length-wise. For baby, scoop out potato and discard [compost] peel. Mash well. For adult, mash in peel and add ghee, non-dairy butter or drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper.

Once kale is crispy, remove kale and beets from oven. Place kale on plate. Add prepared sweet potatoes and top with beets. Sprinkle with a little larger grain kosher salt.


For baby, add kale and beets to mashed sweet potato and serve plain.