Tuesday, November 17, 2015

PEACE-KEEPING AND PAN-FRIED PAPRIKA SALMON with quinoa and herbs




Beirut. Burundi. Paris. And untold, unacknowledged places across the globe.

Recent events have reminded me we live in a world full of humans and we humans have a powerful opportunity with every breath we take to poke holes in our world. These pinpricks can either offer us a glance into a parallel universe filled with beauty and hope and love and compassion and eternal grace or a devastating view into death and destruction and pain and heartache and loneliness and loss.

It's crushing when the latter is chosen.

I'm convinced the only way to respond to violence is to grieve deeply and then do the work of cultivating peace in our own souls. To find beauty and worth and truth in whatever takes our days from normal to holy. To invest ourselves in that which leads us to encounter the divine. To find whatever allows us to smile more honestly, to look deeply into the eyes of a stranger and find our own stories there, to pause within the course of a day and say "thank you" - to tap into whatever this is daily and give ourselves fully to this work of peace-making.

I paint for peace.

I practice yoga for peace.

I giggle and laugh and walk in the grass and breathe with intention for peace.

These are my tangible, flesh and earth and life prayers for peace.

These are the things that allow me to look into the eyes of the person behind the counter and smile with authenticity. These are the things that give me the grace to wave at daily unkindness and see a lonely, exhausted, and hurt person instead of cruelty. To acknowledge that I've been there too, I've felt that way too, I've acted out of those places too.

I don't know how I would handle what has happened across the ocean. I hope I never have to find out. My heart breaks for those who have lost so much. Here's what I do know: I can't solve all things, especially these big, global things. But I can do the work within that brings freedom and forgiveness and peace. And maybe, just maybe, that's enough.

May you find whatever fills you with joy and creativity and life, and with each moment know that when you take the time to entertain this thing you do, you are cultivating peace in this world. 







This dish is a mainstay in our house. Full of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial bacteria, my kids and I try to get this in at least once a week. We mix up the grain and flavors, Indian-spiced rice [in lieu of quinoa], Chinese 5-spice [instead of paprika], and parsley or cilantro [rather than dill] being another favorite.  

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2

2 wild caught Alaskan salmon fillets
1 - 2 T. ghee or pure, extra-virgin coconut oil
sea salt
sweet paprika
smoked paprika
1 c. uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 c. water
1 c. fresh herbs like dill, parsley, cilantro
1/4 c. raw sauerkraut
1 avocado

Place uncooked quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Put rinsed quinoa into a medium size sauce pan and add water and a pinch of sea salt. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, reduce heat to low and cook covered until all of the water has been absorbed [approximately 7 - 10 minutes]. Once the water has been absorbed, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, drain salmon fillets and pat dry. Sprinkle each filet with a generous amount of sea salt, sweet paprika, and smoked paprika. Set aside.

Heat ghee or coconut oil in a small cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan that has a cover. Once melted, the ghee or oil should thoroughly cover the bottom of the pan. Once the ghee or oil is just beginning to sizzle, carefully place fillets skin side up in the pan. Cover immediately and let cook on medium-high heat for 3 - 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for an additional minute or so. Gently remove skin if desired and discard [great for compost!].

Arrange cubed avocado, fresh herbs, sauerkraut and cooked quinoa on a plate. Place salmon on quinoa, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and sprinkle with sea salt.






Thursday, October 8, 2015

PEAR + BLUEBERRY CRISP with cardamom and ginger



The other day I made a visit to an acupuncturist I see fairly regularly. I may have just lost you there - that needle thing, ya know? Gave me the willies too.

But then I went and it worked and I'm hooked.

On this particular visit, I walked in and immediately started in on a "I love fall so much but my body hates it!" tirade [my kids get their drama from my husband, I swear!]. My skin is dry, my bones are dry, my organs are dry - everything is dry, dry, dry. Except my nose - that's running like an allergy-induced faucet. She patiently sat there and listened, shared a wealth of her knowledge and experience, pinned me, and wrapped up with instructions to "eat more pears. Oh, and dates and fats too". Chinese medicine is brilliant y'all.

In good student fashion I came home with a bag of pears, opened my cupboards, and got to work. I shivered with anticipation as I combed together ingredients. It was as if my body could feel the nourishment before it physically received the nourishment. And here's the kicker - in a moment of intuition bliss I actually wrote the recipe down as it came to me. People, this never happens!

It turned out good. Really good. Breakfast, lunch and dinner good.

So here it is - may food be thy medicine.

Many fall blessings friends.

[THE RECIPE]

For the filling:
5 - 6 pears
4 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
8 medjool dates, pitted and chopped into small pieces
1 c. water
1/2 c. pure pear juice

For the topping:
2 c. whole, gluten-free oats
2 c. whole, gluten-free oats, roughly ground
1/2 c. coconut sugar
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1 c. coconut oil
1/2 c. pure [local if possible] maple syrup

Peel, core, and thinly slice the pears. Place in a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish. Add blueberries, minced ginger, and chopped dates. Mix with your hands. Add water and juice. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large glass bowl mix together oats, sugar, sea salt, and cardamom. In a small saucepan melt coconut oil and maple syrup over low heat. Once the oil has completely melted pour it into the oat mix and stir to combine.

Spread evenly the oat topping of the fruit filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes uncovered. After 45 minutes, cover with tinfoil and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool for 15 - 20 minutes before serving.


Monday, October 5, 2015

MASOOR DAL with onions and garlic

Today I found myself thinking, “If only we didn’t have to eat. I could get so much more done.”

Uh oh.

We were just back from a 10-day trip and woke up late [vacation-lag], finding ourselves rushing somewhat frantically throughout the morning, just trying to make it out the door with hair combed and shoes on. Food was the last thing I needed to be bothered with.

I've learned, with a lot of practice, to watch these kind of thoughts with curiosity. It came from somewhere within me and is probably less about what I actually think and more of a red flag gently warning me something is off. 

I watched and waited.

Pretty quickly I stumbled upon this: I was feeling rushed and out of control, unprepared and unsettled. My body and soul were at work, signalling my mind for a time of slow. Interestingly body/soul chose food as the medium, something I deeply care about. The point was so blatant, so obvious I had to listen. Give up food? Yeah. Right.

I wonder if the act of eating – the process of growing, storing, and preparing food is actually meant to slow us down. The act of creating anything really - food, music, tangible art, literature, children - all of it begs us to slow our steps. It tries to connect us to a more sustainable, livable pace. 

In the same way the seasons can act as a guide if we allow them. Right now the high summer energy is transitioning to the more hibernation-like energy of winter, a time to re-coup from summer. I think our daily meals can show us a similar pattern. Chew or gulp anything really quickly, especially while traveling in a moving vehicle or in a state of anxiety, and you’ll soon find yourself suffering bloat, heart burn, indigestion, constipation, and abdominal pain. Chew slowly and intentionally a meal prepared with care and you’ll find yourself nourished and connected in a deep way. Not a new theory, however I need to be reminded of most things 70 times 7 to finally grasp the importance. 

Hmmmm. 

After a school pick-up, I settled my youngest in for a nap and took my oldest upstairs. We turned on music, shared kombucha, and painted together. We left everything urgent and delved into the truly important - finding meaning, purpose, beauty, and excitement in the now. We slowed down and created something. I listened to the soul within me and entered into an extremely holy moment. My world slowed down to one breath at a time, one brush stroke at at time, the sweet smiles and sacred glances from my child. 

My shoes were off. I was on holy ground.

The more I listen to the whisper within me, the more I find power and transcendence within the slow, the quiet, the creativity in the daily. 

After four hours had flown by and we set our paintbrushes down, I headed to the kitchen to cook dal. Simple ingredients, slowly cooked. Nourishing, warm, holy. 

May you begin to be curious about the thoughts that pop up throughout the day. May you enter into conversation with them as if old friends are stopping by, ones who know you quite well. May you create time to create simply for the sake of creating and, in the process, may you happen upon holy. 

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 6 - 8
Adapted from Rodale's Organic Gardening Masoor Dal

4-5 T. extra virgin, unprocessed coconut oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 - 5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 T. whole cumin seeds, dried
2 tsp. ground turmeric or 2 T. fresh turmeric, minced
2 - 3 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. sweet paprika [and/or 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cayenne for spice]
2 c. split red lentils [or masoor dal]
6-7 c. water
1 can regular, full-fat coconut milk [optional]
fresh cilantro, minced
cooked basmati rice

Begin by placing the lentils in a mine mesh strainer. Place under running water. Rinse the lentils until the water coming from the strainer runs clear [or really close to clear]. Set aside.

In a large stainless steel pot, melt coconut oil over medium-low heat. Add minced onions to the oil and stir to coat the onions with the oil. Cook until onions are translucent and beginning to soften [adjust heat as necessary to prevent browning]. Add cumin seeds and garlic. Saute 1 - 3 minutes or until cumin is slightly toasted and fragrant. Add turmeric, salt, coriander, and paprika. Stir to thoroughly combine. Stir in lentils and water.

Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat as necessary to retain small simmer. Cook uncovered until the lentils are very soft and consistency is a little thicker than a creamy soup, stirring occasionally [approximately 30 - 45 minutes]. If it becomes to thick, add water in 1/2 cup increments. Once the lentils are fully cooked, add coconut milk if you are using [milk is completely option - with or without is delicious].

Serve over a bed of basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

TURKEY SALAD [EGG, NUT, GLUTEN, AND DAIRY FREE]

One of my favorite restaurants has an amazing chicken salad I crave from time to time. This is my
homemade dairy, soy, and egg-free attempt to satisfy a craving and use up a turkey I had tucked away in the freezer around Thanksgiving.

[THE RECIPE]

1 c. water
1/2 c. hemp seeds
1/4 c. olive or caper juice [optional]
3 T. dijon mustard
2 T. raw honey
1 lemon, juiced [about 2 T. lemon juice]
1 - 2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 - 1 c. loosely packed fresh dill leaves, stems removed, to taste
1/4 c. loosely packed fresh chives, finely chopped
breasts of one turkey or two chickens [organic, pasture raised, local if possible], roasted* or cooked and shredded

In a high-speed blender, combine water, hemp seeds, olive or caper juice, dijon mustard, honey, lemon, garlic, salt, paprika, onion powder, turmeric powder, smoked paprika, pepper, and oil. Blend on high until very smooth and creamy. Taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Set aside.

1/2 - 1 c. thinly sliced radishes
1/2 - 1 c. thinly sliced celery

Fill a medium bowl 3/4 of the way full with water and ice. Set aside. Bring water to boil in a medium stainless steel pot. Add radishes and celery and blanch for 1 minute in boiling water. Remove vegetables and place in ice water. Let cool for a couple minutes and then strain.

In a large glass bowl, combine cooked and shredded turkey or chicken and blanched vegetables. Slowly add prepared dressing a 1/2 cup or so at a time until the meat and vegetables are thoroughly covered. Serve warm as sandwich, on a bed of greens, or on a bed of kale rubbed with a little olive oil to soften or refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with raw sauerkraut, olives or capers, toasted nuts or seeds, avocado, pickles, etc.

*[ROASTED TURKEY]

1 lemon, washed and cut into wedges
1 large handful each of fresh dill and chives
1 - 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 - 2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 - 1 tsp. freshly ground peppercorns

Thaw turkey in refrigerator. This may take a few days so plan ahead. Prior to baking, remove bag of giblets from inside of turkey. Place the bird in a large glass baking dish and rub whole turkey with a little olive oil, paprika [sweet and smoked], sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Stuff inside cavity of the bird with the lemon wedges and fresh herbs

Fill baking dish with 2 - 4 cups of water or enough to have about 1/2 inch of water in the bottom of the dish..

Cover entire dish with tinfoil and roast at 325 degrees F for 2 - 3 hours or until the inner temperature [thermometer in thigh] reaches 165 - 170 degrees. Uncover for last 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes to cool enough to slice.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

BAKED ROSEMARY AND GOAT CHEESE HUMMUS







When I saw this original recipe my taste buds demanded that I make it. What emerged from the oven absolutely lived up to the reaction elicited by my mouth. I hope you enjoy as much as we have!

[THE RECIPE]
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens "Baked Asiago Hummus" Recipe

2 T. coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped into small pieces
1/2 tsp. coconut sugar
1 c. cooked garbanzo beans
1 c. cooked butter beans
2 - 3 T. warm water
2 T. raw sesame oil, more if needed
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1 clove of garlic
1/2 - 1 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary
1 tsp. red Himalayan sea salt
6 T. grated local, organic goat cheese [optional, omit for dairy allergies]

In a medium cast iron or stainless steel skillet, warm oil over medium-low heat. Add chopped onion and coconut sugar and stir to combine. When the onions start to sizzle, reduce heat to low and cook until just browned and soft. This could take up to 30 minutes so start well before you need the hummus but I really encourage you to not rush this!

Meanwhile, beans, water, oils, garlic, rosemary and salt in a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend on high until very creamy. You may need to add more raw sesame seed oil to get it really creamy. Pour the hummus in a glass bread baking dish or small baking dish of choice.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Top the hummus with the caramelized onions and grated goat cheese.

Place the hummus in preheated oven and bake for 12 minutes or until cheese has melted and hummus is heated through. Remove and serve warm with vegetables, baked root veggie chips, or crackers of choice.





Thursday, July 2, 2015

TIGERNUT PANNA COTTA WITH MIXED BERRY COULIS



Over the next week or so my family will be celebrating two rather big days: the first being in honor of this country we call home and the second, a birthday for my first born baby, now entering into the BIG 5th year. Similar to loving the act of celebrating the birth of a person, I cherish that we pause as a country one day a year to reflect on the freedoms we enjoy, most without much thought on a regular basis. In light of many of the devastating events that have occurred within these borders over the last month or so, I think it is vital to remember we live in a land founded on the dream of a better future. It is more important, now more than ever, to continue to heal the brokenness hidden within the cracks of the land and souls of the people.

And I think it's essential that on this day, this fourth of July, we take a moment to say:

Hey, we live in a country where we are able to make choices, and mistakes, and differences and this is awesome. We live in a country where we vote and have discussions and debate and give our opinions and this is an incredible gift and responsibility. We live in a country of wealth and land and beauty and have the ability to give freely and help and pray and sit in wonder. We can choose our faith and schools and doctors. We can follow our dreams and have opportunity even when it all falls apart. We can travel and be welcomed home. We have big problems and small but we also have amazing minds and courageous voices who are working tirelessly to encourage us all to do better - to care more about others and the world around us. We experience pain and heartache and beauty and joy, sometimes all in a matter of minutes, and we have the people around us to walk with us through it all.

I'd say this is worth celebrating. For one day I encourage us to hang up the political chatter and lay down our nasty online grenades. To surround ourselves with the people we love and drink champagne and eat dessert and big green salads and enjoy the fruits of our land. To find a body of water to swim in for hours and remember to say thank you because clean water isn't something to take for granted. I urge us to stay up late and watch the sunset or admire the fireworks. I challenge us to be present and pause and, rather than thinking of all the ways we and this country fall short - all of the destruction and damage and heartache we've caused - to instead remember the ways we've given and changed and healed and shown the world we are kind and compassionate and work for all to experience the freedom we do today.

And then I hope we enter into July 5 with a new sense of unity and humbleness and the drive to leave exclusion and segregation in history, exactly where it belongs. Be brave and share a message of love. Take courage and look at the darkness within the confines of your own soul. Let's face our own demons in an effort to bring a little more peace to this world. And may we pause and give thanks - celebrating summer and freedom, grace and redemption.

Happy Independence Day, friends.


A few years ago I was introduced to a coconut milk version of panna cotta and fell for it immediately. I love the creamy texture, the light dessert taste, the summer of it all. So in thinking of a special treat for this upcoming country-wide holiday, I immediately went to this. It's simple, light, and a lovely way to end a meal.



[THE RECIPE]

If your curious about tigernuts [and why their not actually nuts!], head over here

For the Panacotta:

1 c. tigernuts [I've used Gemini as well as Tiger Nuts] or substitute any milk of choice
2 1/2 c. room temperature water
1/4 - 1/2 c. pure [local if possible] maple syrup, adjust to fit your taste
1 vanilla bean, scraped [check out this video for instructions]
1 - 2 pinches of sea salt
a large pinch of cardamom powder
1/8 c. pure gelatin

Place silicone muffin cups on a small cookies sheet or serving platter. If you don't have silicone muffin cups simply grease small bowls with a little coconut oil and set aside.

Note: If the idea of making your own nut milk sends you into a mild panic, check out this video first. It will hopefully dispel all your fears and insecurities!

Place whole tigernuts in a blender and cover with water until the liquid reaches the three cup mark [this is approximately 2 1/2 cups of water]. Blend on high for a minute or until the liquid is white in color and very smooth. Place a nut milk bag in a glass bowl or four cup measuring cup in the sink. Carefully pour the nut milk into the bag. Gently lift up the bag and twist at the top to make sure none of the liquid squirts out. Once the top is secure, squeeze the bag slowly [all the while hold the top of the bag tightly closed] until all of the liquid has been pressed from the pulp. Set pulp aside and rinse out the blender.

In a small saucepan very slowly warm the milk to just higher than room temperature [warm to touch]. It is really important to watch as heating it too much will cause it to gel.

Return the warmed milk to the blender container and add syrup, vanilla bean seeds, salt, and cardamom to the milk. Blend on medium. Turn blender speed to low and slowly pour in the gelatin powder. Blend on low for an additional thirty seconds or so.

Pour this liquid immediately into the silicone muffin cups or greased glass bowls. Place in the refrigerator for about two hours - overnight. To speed up the process you can put the panna cotta in the freezer for about thirty minutes or until it is firm but be sure to remove before it freezes.



For the Coulis:

I'm taking a bit of a liberty [in honor of the holiday of course!] calling this coulis, as most traditional coulis' are strained. I prefer it a bit chunky so I skip that particular step but you could run the cooked berries through a blender and then strain the pulp if you choose.

4 c. of berries of choice, fresh or frozen [I used equal parts strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and sour cherries]
juice of 1/2 a lemon or about 1 T. of fresh juice
pinch of sea salt
1/4 - 1/2 c. pure maple syrup or raw honey, local if possible [adjust to taste]

In a medium size stainless steel pot, warm berries over medium-low heat. Cover and allow to soften into a jelly like consistency, stirring frequently. Once the berries have become very soft, gently smash any whole berries with a fork or immersion blender. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BEING A MOM ISN'T A JOB


The other day I was driving with my girls, rocking out to "I'm a Little Tea Pot" and was blindsided by a thought.

For the last few years I've been known to refer to being a mother as "my job". In so many ways this role I play seems to look the part. I wear many different hats, cater to all sorts of needs, plan ahead and predict mayhem before all hell breaks loose. As a mom, I work tirelessly to give my children a life of joy and safety, learning and adventure.

But that day in the car, as I sang along far from on key, I realized what I do everyday is not a job and believing it is has cheapened the part I play in the lives of my daughters. What I've come to find is labeling motherhood as a job fills an insecurity I've been unwilling to face. If I can dress this insecurity up in a suit and tie at least what I do every day will feel a little more legit, a little less like a waste of time and a college degree. If I give myself a title, a legit answer to "what do you do?", for a few minutes I can play a part in the "real" world, thinking they won't recognize me amidst their hustle of emails and phone calls and meetings and deals.

Instead on the days I stay in pajamas until evening or "dress up" in athletic wear, I find a touch of shame attached. If this is my job, I should dress for success, right? On the days I sit beside the water watching my girls splash away an afternoon, these lovely moments come with a touch of guilt. If this is my job, then I need to be achieving something, right? When my husband asks each evening "what did you do today" and all I have in response is color, or go to the library, or aimlessly walk the streets of downtown, I find myself scrambling for more task-like accomplishments to tag on because, of course I'm working and need to have done something "important". You know, like laundry. When leftovers are what's for dinner because I'm exhausted from the beach and Farmer's Market and picking berries, a little of the contentment of summer is replaced with disappointment. I run a restaurant, remember? If motherhood is my job I need to succeed, accomplish, work, push, aim, and have each and every minute accounted for. 

But it's not a job and I'm not getting paid and believing I am is stealing the joy of this amazing blip in time. Because these years with my young children are that, a beautiful blink, and I'm tired of working and guilting and shaming them away.

What I do every day is this dynamic mix of every emotion and skill and being that I have. Sometimes it brings me to my knees in exhaustion and frustration and devastation and the desire to scream "I WANT OUT!". However, most days I look into the eyes of my sleeply little girls as they crawl into bed for a few morning snuggles and tickles and giggles and I think "I can't believe I get to do this. I can't believe I get to be their mom." And then the demands for breakfast come and I'm snapped back into "FOR THE LOVE! LET ME WAKE UP!". In these moments this place of motherhood I've found myself in becomes so much bigger than a job.

Being a mom provides a space to be myself without holding back, in fact it requires it. It allows me to go outside and swing for hours. It gives me quiet space in the middle of the day to recharge and breath deeply before meals. I get to go on adventures and watch my babies grow into beautiful, caring, hilarious little girls. I am humbled by the width of my emotions and get the opportunity to practice saying sorry. I get to show my kids a world full of wonder and magic and miracles and at the same time show them how to be kind and compassionate. I get to kiss them goodnight at sunset and hug them [morning breath and all] as the sun rises. I get to watch them explore and fall down and get up and see the look of pride and courage on their faces. Being a mom refines me and remakes me and shows me all of the areas within myself still governed by my very stubborn ego. It challenges me to be a closer reflection of the true me and pushes me to examine the pain and hurt in my own life in an effort to not parent out of those dark places. Being a mom gives to me as much, if not more, than I give to it.

So fellow moms, let's stop the charade that being a mom is mimicking heading out in the morning for a day of work. For those of you who work a day job and then come home to a family, thinking mom-ing is a job can only lead to resentment and frustration. If you stay home, believing you'll work a 24/7 job 365 days a year for the rest of your life can only lead to resentment and frustration.

Instead, let's try sitting in this beautiful moment filled with uncertainty, tension, challenge, difficulty, joy, laughter and tears. Let's fully embrace the role we play, not being ashamed if we don't have the bank account to show for it. Let's stop the insanity of pushing ourselves to be perfect thinking somehow we'll be fired if we take a wrong turn or receive a promotion is we have all our ducks in a row. Let's remove the shame and guilt and "what-ifs" and replace them with presence and gratitude and creativity. Let's get out of bed with the thought that a miracle has occurred - it's a new day and we get to do it again. Let's rise in the confidence that we are enough without labels and titles and paychecks and accolades. And let's embrace being a mom.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

CROCK POT APPLE CRISP: GOOD ENOUGH FOR BREAKFAST OR DESSERT!



Today I spent the larger portion of my day under a big blue sky and ended lunch with this crisp - warm and fresh, just like the sun. There is nothing like meditating on a paddleboard, walking in freshly greened grass, digging in dark, rich dirt, or swinging as high as you can for no other reason than the simple joy it brings. Throw these ingredients in the Crockpot [prep takes all of 10 minutes] and get yourself outdoors!


[THE RECIPE]

Fruit Filling

6 c. blueberries [frozen or fresh] or fruit of choice
1 tsp. ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 T. arrowroot or tapioca starch
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 T. coconut sugar

Crisp Topping

2 1/2 c. old fashion rolled gluten free oats
1 1/2 c. oat flour
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. sea salt
1 c. coconut oil
1 c. maple syrup or raw honey
optional additions: chopped nuts, dried fruit, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cardamom

Mix fruit filling ingredients together in 6 quart or larger Crock Pot.

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine oats, oat flour, cardamom, ginger, and any optional additions you choose. In a small saucepan melt coconut oil, sea salt and sweetener of choice over low heat. Once the oil is completely melted, pour into oat mixture and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Spread this crisp topping over the blueberry mixture in the Crock Pot.

Cover and cook on high for two hours or low for 4 hours or until blueberries are very tender and bubbling. Turn off the heat and remove the cover. Let the crisp cool in the Crock Pot for 30 minutes or until the topping has hardened just a touch.

Serve alone or with whipped topping / ice cream of choice and enjoy!



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

[MEAT]ING OUR BODIES WHERE THEY'RE AT + SPRING QUINOA SALAD WITH LAMB MEATBALLS

About this time two years ago, my body started poking at me, giving gentle nudges and indications that something wasn't quite right. I was aware of the issues but at the time in survival mode - processing through the aftermath of a house fire, a baby who wouldn't sleep more than 3 hours each night, and a number of other things my family found ourselves in the middle of. Looking back on it now I easily see the progression, but in the moment my life was lived minute by minute. Over that year things very quickly spiraled downward and my body simply stopped accepting the foods I was eating regularly. I knew there was a problem, yet the healing tools in my arsenal and the very minimal energy I had in the storehouse just wasn't enough. At some point I realized this was more than I could manage on my own. Both conventional and functional medical systems were stumped. Tests were run, procedures done, nothing found. Frustration and desperation overload.

Eventually I was existing on quinoa and a small handful of vegetables my body could digest. I needed more. Clearly.

I had eaten meat-free for a number of years beginning in college. I felt good and didn't crave meat so I figured, hey!, this must be my groove. What I neglected to consider is that my body didn't have one mode - a setting I could figure out, click into, and cruise on throughout life. I understand now my body changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, season to season. I consistently hear [and say] as a parent everything is a phase - nothing lasts forever. It's true for parenthood, for our bodies, and for life.

While I was pregnant with my first child my body screamed for burgers and bacon and cheese. Rather than finding the best version of these I could, I quieted the voice with what I assumed to be "healthier" choices. When my second came around that same voice upped the volume yet my stubbornness and head knowledge took over, convincing me once again this inner voice was somehow incorrect. It couldn't really be asking me to eat meat, right?

Although both babies were healthy [so much gratitude for this!], I came away exhausted, depleted, and malnourished. My body stopped receiving the nutrients from the food I was feeding it and I was feeling every bit of the effect.

And so I started eating meat. There are oodles of books on animal cruelty and the detriment of eating meat with extremely convincing scientific studies. I don't doubt the validity in this way of thought and I do believe as a nation we eat far too much tragically raised animal products on a regular basis. What I do doubt is that a meat-free way of eating is feasible for all. The Ayurvedic tradition uses meat as medicine and I love this. I love that meat holds a respected place in this system which also values animal rights, care, and protection. 

So I ate - minimally at first but then with a vengeance. Let me make this very clear, meat wasn't the only thing that healed my body. Healing took a lot of work on many levels and continues to do so. I have been so blessed by the skillfulness, kindness and knowledge of a naturopath, body/energy worker, and acupuncturist and most of my healing is a direct result of the work I've done with each. But meat did act as a catalyst. Eating meat taught me grace, humility, and a different form of ahimsa [non-harming] than I had been practicing. 

And it gave me hope. Something I desperately needed at that time.

These days, meat is still a part of my diet but it plays a far less prominent role. I rely more on gelatin and bone broth and have been able to slowly bring back some of my favorite meat-free staples. My forage into consuming animals has shown me balance and perspective are two things worth making friends with and practicing as much as possible. It's not easy, especially that perspective thing, but it provides the ability to understand situations in a way tunnel-vision simply doesn't allow.

Most importantly I've learned it takes a community. It takes a group of people to help each of us live well, heal well, and offer us the love and grace to learn the tough, uncomfortable lessons of life.

My hope is that this part of my story encourages you in yours and extends permission to explore releasing the areas of life you grasp so tightly. Many blessings.



[THE RECIPE]
Recipe adapted from this Killer Quinoa Salad Recipe

2 c. quinoa
4 c. cold water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
zest and juice of one lemon
2 T. raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
sea salt + freshly ground pepper
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, cut into very thin slices
5 - 6 small garlic gloves or 3 large cloves, cut into very thin slices
1 bunch of kale cut into very thin ribbon-like strips
2 c. or one 15-ounce can of cooked garbanzo beans
2 fresh green onions, cut into thin slices
1/3 c. dried cranberries
1/3 c. sliced almonds, lightly browned or toasted

Begin by warming 2 tablespoons of olive oil and onions in a medium size skillet over medium-low heat. Once the onions begin to sizzle, reduce the heat to low. Carmelizing the onions will take about 45 minutes so it's important to begin with this. Occasionally stir the onions to prevent them from getting too brown. At about the 30 minute mark, add the slivered garlic to the onions. Continue to stir occasionally until the onions are a deep golden color and very soft. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

While the onions cooks, place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Put the rinsed quinoa into a medium size pot and add water and 1/2 tsp. sea salt. Bring the water to boil, reduce the heat low, and cover. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed [about 15 minutes]. Once the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat and remove the lid. gently fluff the quinoa in the pot with a fork every 10 minutes or so until the quinoa has cooled to room temperature. If you're short on time simply spread the cooked quinoa out onto a couple rimmed baking pans to cool.

While the onions and quinoa are cooking, mix the lemon juice, lemon zest, apple cider vinegar, cumin, coriander, and a pinch or two of salt and pepper in a small glass jar with a tight fitting lid . Secure the lid tightly and shake for 30 seconds. Place dressing in refrigerator.

Place 2 T. olive oil and the cut kale into a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until the kale becomes soft and turns a bright green color. Add the garbanzo beans, saute for 1 minute or just enough to warm, remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Once the onions, kale and quinoa have cooled to room temperature, place the quinoa, onions, kale and garbanzo beans in a large glass bowl. Add green onions, cranberries, and slivered almonds [if using] and gently stir to combine. Drizzle the entire salad with dressing and carefully stir well to combine.

Serve immediately or refrigerate. Salad will keep for 1 week or you can freeze to enjoy later.



[LAMB MEATBALLS]
Makes approximately 15 meatballs

A special note: In eating meat, I think it's extremely important to mention my family and I try hard to support our local farmers who raise animals in a respectful, loving way. We bless the animals blessing us and we've chosen not to consume the meat of any animal who has suffered through a heartbreaking life. We believe eating meat is both a privilege and a responsibility - something to be taken seriously and done with great care. This can be done by choosing local, organic, pasture-raised meats, eggs, and dairy without added chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics. Better yet, make a visit to the farm you purchase your meat from. See how they raise the animals and get a sense of the heart of the farmer. You may just land yourself a friend in the process. 

1 lb. organic, pasture-raised ground lamb
1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, finely chopped [if using dry cumin and coriander] OR fresh parsley, finely             chopped [if using dry parsley and oregano]
1 tsp. each cumin and coriander OR parsley and oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-size glass bowl and mix well using a spoon or your hands. Form into small meatballs and place in a glass baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place meat balls on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the inside of the meatballs are no longer pink.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

[HERB YOGURT SAUCE]

1 c. plain Greek yogurt or unsweetened dairy-free yogurt of choice
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro or dill, chopped finely
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients in a glass bowl and mix well. Taste and adjust as you need. Cover with a secure fitting lid and refrigerate for 30 - 60 minutes or make the night before.






Friday, April 3, 2015

CARDAMOM-SPICED WARM BLUEBERRY SMOOTHIE

Today I had a serious hankering for a smoothie, a treat I haven't enjoyed in quite some time. Something in me was begging for smooth and creamy yet light. Sweet with a little tang. Yet in the same moment I wanted that thing to be nourishingly warm. Spring has only recently arrived at my doorstep and on this cool, overcast April day my body was beginning to transition into the new season yet the winter chill hadn't completely passed.

I spent the few precious minutes I have while my kids rest fully absorbed in a new cookbook that happened upon my doorstep this morning. Truly inspired, I headed into the kitchen for a scavenger hunt and a little play time all in an effort to fulfill my body's gentle demand. My pantry didn't disappoint and from there I give you this recipe: creamy, warm, sweet and tangy, with a hint of the pulsing energy so clearly felt outside my door.

[A BIT ABOUT POLLEN, SANG, AND MACA]

If you're unfamiliar with bee pollen, I hope you give it a chance. It's rich in antioxidants, contains almost every nutrient the body needs to survive, has an impressive protein content, and a subtle floral taste.

Ginseng or "sang" is commonly used as a preventative herb and balancing tonic that really aids the entire body. Asian ginseng builds heat in the body [great for fall - early spring] while American ginseng has a cooling effect [good for summer]. Ginseng can be very restorative if used over a long period of time. That being said, wild American ginseng is considered an at risk species so it's really important to find organically cultivated or woods-grown ginseng.  

Maca is a wonderful source of minerals, essential fatty acids, sterols, fats, fiber, carbs, protein, and amino acids. I think it's sort of malty in flavor making it a no-brainer addition to smoothies.

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2

1 c. frozen blueberries
1 c. milk of choice
1 c. apple, pear, or pineapple juice
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 T. maple syrup
pinch cardamom
1/2 avocado
1 T. extra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp. maca powder
1 tsp. bee pollen
1/2 tsp. ginseng powder

Combine blueberries, milk, juice, lemon juice, syrup, and cardamom in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until blueberries are soft and liquid is warm.

While the blueberries are heating, place avocado, oil, powders, and pollen in a blender.

Pour warm blueberries with liquid into the blender and blend on high until very smooth.

Serve immediately.

Friday, March 27, 2015

RASPBERRY-ORANGE CHOCOLATE PUDDING

Today I thought I would balance my last post with something delicious in a much less virtuous, "my brain hasn't disintegrated into kale and weird green stuff" way.

I've been writing a lot about balance and finding the happy medium between many extremes: in health, time, family, parenting, mind talk, body talk, soul talk and the multitude of other areas in each of our lives where it can seem we walk a tight rope. There is so much noise about diets, parenting styles, yoga and meditation styles, exercise, supplements, vaccines, religious beliefs, political stances and a number of controversial issues we are faced with today. In fact, it's almost impossible to scroll through Facebook or click on a news website without seeing something that ignites anxiety, fear, a sense of shame or failure, and anger.

Years ago I decided to stop watching the news on a regular basis. Sure, I was being educated on the happenings of the world but at the same time I was being influenced by a station's take on a certain situation and it was almost always pumped up with verbiage and adrenaline in an effort to increase my attention span and emotional reaction. Unfortunately, it's an effective technique. I was confused by conflicting stories and increasingly frustrated with the amount of fear I was being traumatized by. So I turned it off. And I really never looked back.

About a year ago, I realized the health world was quickly having the same effect on my mental and physical health. I had turned down the noise of one voice only to allow another to take over. Instead of worrying about national safety, global warming, and the local crime, I had taken to wringing my hands over supplementation, vaccines, and signs of disease.

Now, a little older and a teensy bit wiser, I'm learning to turn this off too. But this time I'm filling the quiet with things that my soul and open my heart. I listen to music that speaks of joy and beauty and healing. I read books that do the same. I meditate. I play outside. I giggle with my girls. I worry much less about being a good parent and have faith that I am. I trust the people in my life to hold me accountable to the things they know I value and am trying to do less of that myself. I'm working at walking away from judgement of myself and others and walking towards compassion.

And I eat this pudding. Not all the time but as a delicious and special reminder that life, a good and beautiful and balanced life, holds a little of everything: discipline and spontaneity, a bit of fear and a lot of joy, blessing in many forms, laughter and grief, health and indulgence, questions and faith, confusion and understanding, humanness and holy. Without one we truly can't enjoy or learn from the other.

The amazing thing is, and the blessing in it all, all of these can be teachers, guiding us towards wisdom and grace.

[BREATHING BEFORE EATING]

A quick note about breathing before I get to the recipe.

One of the practices I've come to fully embrace is breathing before a meal. I used to rush through a prayer, usually as a quick "check it off the list, let's eat!" routine. Then I sat around our friends' table, friends whom I respect and trust, and had an honest conversation about praying before meals and why we do it. They were in the process of working through a faith established for them as children, questioning what they had been spoon-fed for years. So far they've landed on holding faith and questions in an open palm and tapping forks or spoons in gratitude for the meal. I loved it. And I began to ask questions too.

Then recently, a friend I've been seeing for energy and bodywork mentioned they breathe as a family before their meals in an effort to center their minds and prepare their bodies for the food they're about to eat. I loved this as well.

Here's the thing about being vulnerable about the questions we ask - it gives others the freedom to do so as well and put a name to the doubts we hold.

And so we've moved our mealtime routine in a direction that finds us where we are. We're working at remembering to take three deep, intentional breaths before our meals as a way of acknowledging our food and breath and everything around us as a holy gift. We're teaching our girls to honor our bodies with the food we eat by eating as if we mean to eat. As if it's worth paying attention to. As if each meal is special. And sometimes with words, mostly with our breath, we say thank you - thank you to the one who created us, thank you for each person around the table, thank you for our food, thank you for this breath.

[THE RECIPE]

5 oz. dark chocolate chips
5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. frozen raspberries [or berry / fruit of choice]
1 13.5-ounce can regular coconut milk
1/2 c. coconut butter
1/2 - 3/4 c. honey
1/2 - 1 tsp. orange flavor [or flavor of choice]
1/2 tsp. sea salt
appx. 7 - 8 small, 4-ounce glass jars with tight fitting lids

Optional additions: chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, toasted coconut, splash of Amaretto or almond extract.

Place raspberries in a medium size saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until very soft [appx. 10 minutes], stirring occasionally. Pour the soft rasberries through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl. Using a wooden or metal spoon, gently press the raspberries into the strainer to extract as much as the juice as possible from the seeds. Compost or discard the seeds.

If seeds remain in the pan, rinse out the pan used to heat the raspberries. Return the strained raspberries to the pot and add remaining ingredients.

Warm over medium-low heat until all of the ingredients are melted and the consistency is very smooth. Remove from heat and pour into small glass jars. Secure lids tightly onto the jars and place in the refrigerator for 2 - 4 hours or freezer for 1 - 2 hours or until the consistency is just firm.

Store in the refrigerator for up to one week.











Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GREEN MILK WITH MORINGA

A really close friend of mine has recently entered into my [not so normal] health world. The other day I was sitting with her and another close friend of ours talking about increasing potassium - you know, like you do. We practically pummeled her with ideas ranging from molasses to coconut sugar to chlorophyll. Now the weak of heart would bail upon hearing chlorophyll but my friend gave it a go after we assured her it really wasn't so bad.

The next time I saw her she looked me straight in the eye and asked what the hell I had just told her to drink.

Ummmmm.

Lucky for me she's both forgiving and has a fantastic sense of humor. Our friendship remains in tact.

However, it did cause me to pause for a second and consider the words that so easily fly out of my mouth.

Chlorophyll - it tastes great!

Molasses in hot water - sure, you'll begin to crave it!

Beet sauerkraut - I eat it all the time!

Apple cider vinegar in water - first thing in the morning, baby!

I now see sentences like these are just not normal. It's taken me years to detox my body of the many artificial flavors and ingredients so beautifully disguised as food and rewrite what I consider delicious. And let me tell you, I didn't start with chorophyll or molasses or a good number of things now kept as staples in my pantry and fridge.

My point? It's a journey. A long one and it's so easy to forget how long when these things finally click from crazy and weird and flat out disgusting to normal, even tasty.

The most important thing is to just stick with it. Maybe it's adding more local, organic veggies to your diet. Maybe it's a piece of fruit in place of candy. Maybe it's taking a shot of chlorophyll and cursing my name for the next couple days. Whatever it is, stick with it and keep going because it will get better. Maybe not tomorrow or next week or even next year but at some point something will click deep within you and crazy might just seem, well, normal.

[A MOMENT FOR MORINGA]

I thought, while we're on the topic of not-so-normal, I'd give a shout out to the Moringa Tree. I was introduced to moringa a while ago by some friends of mine who support ECHO, a truly amazing non-profit farm based in Florida. More recently, I came across moringa while researching another non-profit and just a bit ago stumbled across the powder in my local health foods store. So, here we are.

Moringa has long been dubbed "the miracle tree". My tendency is to take claims like this as slick advertising and immediately revert to skeptic mode, sure I'm being duped.

But.

But then I read that this particular tree, and all it's parts, is being used to resolve a host of issues in undeveloped countries crippled by disease, malnutrition, economic instability, and environmental degradation. And it's also packed with a loaded punch of nutrition [potassium, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, zinc] while boasting all the essential amino acids necessary to call it a complete protein. And it's safe for general use. Seriously?! 

I've run out of reasons not to add it to my repertoire of weird, amazingly good for me, will take some getting used to, foods.

You can read more about moringa here and here, and I really, really hope you do.

So, a drink. Moringa has a sort of earthy, grassy taste. I've chosen to make this a simple, no-fuss green milk I can easily whip up at any point in the day. However, if this health-stuff is new to you [and your taste buds], add a bit of cacao or cocoa, an avocado or frozen banana for thickness, some fruit, or a little ice to make this "medicine" go down a little smoother.

[THE RECIPE]

2 c. nut or seed or milk of choice
2 tsp. morning leaf powder [you can find here or here or check out your local health foods store]
2 - 3 tsp. pure maple syrup
pinch of sea salt
small pinch of raw stevia leaf powder [optional]

Place all ingredients in blender and blend on high for thirty seconds or until combined. Serve immediately as is or over ice. A note about ice: I tend to not use ice as it can reduce digestion and cool the body too much however, sometimes it can make drinks more palatable.
 


Friday, March 20, 2015

SPRING FIRST LAYERED JELL-O GUMMIES

Happy Spring First!

What, might you ask, is Spring First?

Well, it's the first day of spring of course! And the perfect day to celebrate.

In our home, my girls look for any and every reason to have a party, maybe receive some presents, and celebrate all day long. We make a big deal of absolutely every holiday and throw in a couple made up ones as well.

Today is such day. After giving a nod to Franklin the Turtle [from whom we were inspired], we got right down to the business of par-ttt-yyyy-ing!

Waffles? Check. Potatoes? Check. Bubbles? Check. Chalk? Check. Layered spring-inspired Jell-O? Check. Grandparents? Check and check. And this only takes us to 11am. The day sort of unfolds as it will as we follow our present desires and dreams for what this holiday should hold. No planning. No fuss.

Our only rules?

Simple, smiles, and sunshine [the sunshine being negotiable].

Here's the thing about made up holidays: they give the present a special magic and adventure. A normal day becomes anything but normal, yet it's the normalcy that makes it so wonderful.

So take a day, make it a holiday, and celebrate like you really, really mean it. Do whatever comes to mind and don't think about anything else. Go outside and play like a child or drive to the beach or find some swings.

Whatever you do, smile because you're making normal so very beautiful.

Happy Spring First everyone!

[THE RECIPE]

Note: We like our jell-o a little on the tart side but if you prefer sweet [for picky eaters this may be helpful], feel free to add maple syrup or honey as desired.

To begin, prepare an 8 x 8 inch glass baking dish by rubbing a thin coat of coconut oil along the entire inside of the pan to grease. Set aside.

I warm all of the layers in separate pans at the same time prior to pouring into the baking dish but it also works to get the first two layers prepared, pour one into the pan to chill, and start working on the third and fourth layers.

If you don't have the fruit I've listed on hand, simply sub in any other fruits. Mango, and blackberries, strawberries all work well. The only fruit to avoid is pineapple as it reacts with the gelatin resulting in mush.

First Layer:

2 c. frozen blueberries
1/2 c. cranberry juice
1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch sea salt
maple syrup [optional], to taste
7 T. gelatin powder

In a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, combine berries, juice, lemon juice, salt, and syrup if using. Cook until warm and berries are have soften just a bit. Turn off heat and pour berry mixture into a blender. Blend on low. While the blender is running, slowly add gelatin powder. Replace the blender top and blend on high until mixture becomes creamy and smooth. Pour mixture into the prepared 8 x 8 inch baking dish and place in the freezer for about 10 - 15 minutes or until just firm but not hard.

Second Layer:

1 c. Tigernut or coconut milk
1 T. vanilla extract
3 - 4 T. maple syrup
1/2 - 1 T. lucuma powder [optional, this adds a malt-like flavor]
pinch sea salt

In a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, combine milk, vanilla, lucuma powder, salt, and syrup. Cook to warm. Turn off heat and pour mixture into a blender. Blend on low. While the blender is running, slowly add gelatin powder. Replace the blender top and blend on high until mixture becomes creamy and smooth. Pour mixture evenly over the first layer and return to the freezer for about 10 - 15 minutes or until just firm but not hard.

Third Layer:

2 c. frozen raspberries
1/2 c. pear juice
maple syrup [optional], to taste
7 T. gelatin powder

In a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, combine berries, juice, and syrup if using. Cook until warm and berries are have soften just a bit. Turn off heat and pour berry mixture into a blender. Blend on low. If you'd like to remove the seeds, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer using a spoon to gently push it through. Rinse out the blender and return the raspberry puree to the blender. While the blender is running, slowly add gelatin powder. Replace the blender top and blend on high until mixture becomes creamy and smooth. Pour mixture over the first two layers and return to the freezer for about 10 - 15 minutes or until just firm but not hard.

Fourth Layer:

2 c. frozen apricots
1/2 c. apricot juice
maple syrup [optional], to taste
7 T. gelatin powder

In a medium size saucepan over medium-low heat, combine apricots, juice, and syrup if using. Cook until warm and apricots are have soften just a bit. Turn off heat and pour apricot mixture into a blender. Blend on low. While the blender is running, slowly add gelatin powder. Replace the blender top and blend on high until mixture becomes creamy and smooth. Pour mixture over the first three layers and either return to the freezer to firm completely [about 20 minutes] or place in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 hours.

When the jell-o is completely firm, cut it into small squares using a sharp knife. Gently pull from the pan and tear apart where needed. Store in a tightly sealed glass container in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 weeks.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

RELEASING ROUTINE


Prior to let's say January 1, my days were defined by routine. I had my morning routines, my afternoon routines, and my evening routines. I had my food routines and bedtime routines and exercise routines. It seemed to be working really well until I began to see [and feel] the cracks. I started noticing if one of those little pieces [like not making the bed first thing in the morning] was off, I struggled with balance the rest of the day. I was living under the illusion I could somehow create perfect and then maintain it day in and day out. My life was organized and predictable and comfortable and safe and, to be honest, for the most part I really liked it that way. But those cracks in my plans began to widen and show. My body started screaming at me in ways I couldn't understand or fix on my own. My anxiety level was at an all time high and emotions on the proverbial roller coaster. I'm certain the people closest to me shouldered a good chunk of this burden, feeling the pressure to live up to my imaginary standards. What I thought was complete control was anything but and it was bleeding into every bit of my world. I started asking if maybe there was a more whole way to live - a way not racked with as many self-inflicted demands and rules.

So, of course, I hopped on my pendulum and swung in the opposite direction.

Around the coming of the new year I decided maybe it was time to try on a new look for the season. I allowed myself to sink into winter with reckless abandon [or what felt reckless to me]. What I mean is I threw out many of my routines, slept in and stayed up late, spent a lot of time cuddling in the morning with my kids, and sometimes stayed in jammies until late into the afternoon. I half-heartedly meal planned, mostly relying on last minute forages through the refrigerator, and served my kids chips with hummus and guacamole sided by some raw veggies for a good number of lunches. Sometimes we ate popcorn with dinner or watched a movie. I went to bed with the house a mess, left dishes on the counter until morning, permitted much to much screen time, and allowed the laundry to pile up to enormous proportions.

Here's what this stint in the carefree life taught me:

It's as amazing and as horrifying as it sounds. 

What I found is I wasn't truly me in either scenario. Being driven by routine robbed me of the opportunity to feel spontaneous and placed a burden on me to live up to my own contrived expectations. And that way of life was making by body, mind and soul sick.

On the other hand, a life without routine seemed horribly imbalanced to me. Without any sort of expectation it was much to easy to fall into mediocrity, sort of fumbling through the day. I felt scattered, untethered, and unprepared which zapped me of energy in a way I hadn't expected. I relished the guilt-free space to do nothing, to take naps when I was tired, to plan less and live in spontaneity a bit more. But I also found that to be the best me I needed both and I had to find a way to walk the line between rigidity and carelessness.

The problem [blessing?] is, there isn't a map on how to walk this path of balance. It's fraught with mistakes and pain and over-extending. Anxiety and fear and exhaustion and complete confusion. At the same time this road is lined with so much grace and humility, forgiveness and freedom and I've found it to be truly the only way to compassion and wisdom.

But that's the work of life isn't it? To enter into the core of who we are, set dynamite to what needs to go, dig through the rubble, rebuild where necessary, and let that self shine.

And so these days I'm re-establishing my morning routine of a little yoga and energy work to shake me from my sleep and encourage me into my day. Sometimes I make the bed and other days I don't. My kids dress themselves as part of their own creative expression and I celebrate that creativity. If we're up late I sleep in and look forward to being woken by two little bodies crawling into my bed for some morning snuggles. Other days I set my alarm and embrace the quiet hours of the early morning. I meal plan but hold it loosely, understanding that at any moment the day may interrupt these plans. We still have popcorn with dinner from time to time and I can't seem to take back the hummus + guacamole + chips for lunch, although it's enjoyed far less often. I make some lists but not as many. I try to meditate daily as my soul is so full when I do. I'm slowly learning to release perfect in an effort to be fully present [as my friend Jen will say]. My body is healing and my soul finding peace. The laundry still piles up and sits for days and I continue to struggle with when to trump work with play. But I'm fumbling through, learning as I go.

And now, on most days, life feels balanced and it's an amazing thing to sit in the freedom and strength of facing and letting go of the things I held onto most desperately.

May you be empowered to create routines where you need them and release rigidity where is necessary. May you find joy in the simple, power in the struggle, and have the courage to walk a road that may be foreign but trust the journey anyway. May you travel deeply inward in order to shine outward. 

And may you leave the bed unmade from time to time.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

FINDING A HOLY PLACE AND THE ONLY TWO GLUTEN-FREE BREADS I EVER MAKE

The other day it was warmer than it has been in months. It was 40 degrees and sunny and beautiful. If you live in the Northern hemisphere you may know of a specific phenomenon that happens on the first warm day of the year - on the day that follows months of cold and winter and quiet and burrowing in.

Everyone around you comes out of hibernation and the sense of communal happiness and relief and energy is palpable. We wear t-shirts and shorts, roll down our windows, and can't help but smile at everyone we see.

It was on this day I drove out to the lake, to my Holy Place, to celebrate the coming of spring and the gratitude that comes with it.

Here's what I mean by Holy Place:

It's the first spot that comes to mind when I'm overjoyed or devastated with grief or consumed with anger and confusion. It's where I go to work through emotions, think through my deeper thoughts, meditate, or simply sit and watch. I take my kids sometimes but most often go alone or while my youngest naps in the car. Sometimes I bring things to do and on other occasions I play the music really loud. Sometimes I just sit and soak up the silence.

This spot beckons in a more powerful way when the days are short and temperatures keep me cocooned indoors. I drive out to my Holy Place when it's almost blindingly sunny yet the air has an icy chill and the wind is biting. There, in my spot, the world seems so large and luminous while at the same time filled with peace and balance.

It's my Holy Place because it's the space where I most strongly sense the presence of God and the Spirit within myself. It connects me to something larger than me yet grounds me to the present moment happening immediately around me. 

It's the space that embraces me as me - no projections, no demands, no expectations.

No matter what baggage or praise I bring to this place, it accepts me. And it reminds me that life is larger than most of the chatter in my head yet is as small and intricate as the tiniest grain of sand.

Here's the thing - I didn't always have a Holy Place. In a way it sort of found me. One day, a normal kind of day, I had this intense feeling I needed to drive out to the lake. I didn't know why but followed it's call. Ever since, this place keeps pulling me back to remind me that we live in a holy, beautiful, unbelievably large, and unbelievably small, world. And to help me remember to live in the present moment as if it is the most precious gift. I have been changed by this space - this very regular spot I call holy and claim as my own.

And that's the gift isn't it?

Any place can be holy if you have eyes to see and a heart ready to experience it's wonder.

May you find and notice and answer the call of your Holy Place and may it connect you to this deep well of love and acceptance and grace that is yours for the taking.  


[THE RECIPES]

Here's why I love these recipes. First, both are unbelievably simple with a short ingredients list. Clean up is a cinch which is important to me. I'm not particularly in love with baking. To take on the task and have major clean up after is mostly more than I can handle and will quickly talk me out of the recipe before I begin. These recipes take a bowl or mixer bowl, blender [opt.],  one teaspoon, one tablespoon, a measuring cup, and maybe a spoon. Baking bliss.

CHEWY OAT BAGUETTE BREAD

This bread is great for sandwhiches, French toast, croutons, breadcrumbs, and really is a great multi-purpose bread.


Notes: 

I find that putting the water, milk, and vinegar in a blender or mixer, and then slowly adding the psyllium husk powder while it's running on low - medium makes a better [less chunky] gel. 

For a molasses or dark style bread, I replace the honey with molasses. 

Once I've mixed the dough, I let it sit for a few minutes while I clean up the very minimal dishes [seriously, less than 5 minute clean up]. I find this firms even dough that is a little on the wetter side and gives me a better gauge for adding additional flour. 

I almost always double the recipe. After the loaves have cooled, I thinly slice and freeze one of them.

 LIFE-CHANGING SEED BREAD

This bread makes awesome whole-grain style toast, especially with seed butter and raw honey or a favorite jam.

Notes:

I use pumpkin seeds in place of hazelnuts [for a nut-free option] and like to really grind / finely chop the pumpkin and sunflower seeds to a chunky flour. 

I like to use quinoa flakes in place of oats. I find this makes a bread that sticks together better than with the oats but really both work great.

I almost always double the recipe. After the loaves have cooled, I thinly slice and freeze one of them.

I've found that making a double batch can be useful in another way. This recipes asks you to really press the dough down into the bread pans. I use the extra loaf pan to press on top of the dough [place a piece of parchment on top of loaf being pressed]. It seems to give me more leverage and force. 

When the recipe calls to remove the bread from the pan and continue to bake, I place them loaves on a cookie rack rather than directly on the oven rack. It makes for an easier removal of the loaves from the oven.



Friday, February 13, 2015

GINGER MOLASSES HOT CACAO + HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS

It's the eve of Valentine's Day and I've found that there are two camps of thought about this holiday: love it and hate it. The first dives head first into all things Hallmark and pink and floral and sweet. The second live in complete denial this holiday even exists and intentionally wear all black, silently screaming "if you even glance at me in a lovey, syrupy way, so help me....!"

I get it. The love. The hate. V-day either allows us a day to exploit the love we have or is a brutal reminder of what we seem to be missing.

Unless.

What if this specific day isn't about romantic relationships, or the lack there of, at all? What if we've all been hoodwinked in believing this day is about external love and have been blinded from seeing the day for what it is?

What if this day was about loving you - this messed up, crazy, never-has-it-all-together, beautiful, wonderful you?

Could you do it?

Could you believe you are worth a whole day to celebrate simply loving you?

It's so hard. So, so hard to believe all the unique things that make us who we are are worth celebrating. Most days we screw up. Most days we hurt those we love. We fail and cry and gossip and hate and fall into the trap of understanding life as meaningless. We believe the worst things we think about ourselves are actually true and everyone else is thinking them too.

And then February 14 comes around and our failures or successes in a certain relationship area are broadcasted. Or we're given 24 hours to reassess what we believe. We're given an entire day to repeat over and over again "I love me. I'm beautiful. I'm worth it. I'm perfect."

One day to shelve all the negative voices in our head that try so hard to trap us in living a life far less grand than what we were created to live. Voices that keep us small.

So maybe this Valentine's day you write a love letter to you. Don't hold back. Jot down everything you love about yourself or think you could love or dream you could be. Even if you don't believe it, write it down. Even if it scares you, write it down.

And then read it over and over again until may you begin to believe in the beauty that is found in every single ounce of you.

Because here's a secret: if you start to believe you're worth this kind of love and live from this place of acceptance and grace, others will too.

And you'll begin to find beauty and connection in everything.

So go on a date or spend time with friends. Rent a movie, go outside, watch the stars, or indulge in as many chocolate somethings you possibly can. Scream into a pillow or cry if you need to and then smile because you let yourself feel. Celebrate in a way that makes you feel most alive and loved by no one other than you.

But please. Please don't bash or banish this day. Please don't allow any bit of loathing to taint what could be. And please don't gloat. Please don't shamelessly flaunt whatever love you think you have and flash it around like a stack of 100s or diamonds or fancy clothes. Because all of this is simply that, glitter and glam that dies away. And because every time you do, every time you hide or deny or hate or gloat or flaunt, each time you miss the opportunity to give this special day a new name, a new purpose. And you miss the chance to completely revel in you. This unique, no-one-quite-like it, absolutely wonderful you.

No matter what, where you stand or think you stand, please celebrate. Because if nothing else, this world could use a little more celebration.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Now, a little about this recipe. In my head I think all I need to say is "you have to try it" and you will but somehow that's, rightfully so, not quite enough so I'll say a little more.

I was curious about combining molasses and cacao and found that the flavor combination is deep and rich and almost smoky. Sort of bitter but also sweet. A little like Valentine's Day if you think about it.

Here's the nutrition deal.

Blackstrap molasses is one of the few sweeteners with an abundance of minerals packed in. Calcium? Check. Iron? Check. Potassium? Check.

Translation, if you are pregnant or post-partum [even years after having your last baby] this is an awesome food to add to your diet as it gives you the minerals you and the baby need to maintain health and acts as a blood tonic after you've given birth, replenishing what has been lost.

Molasses works to reduce dampness and cold in the body which means if you're experiencing winter cold right now this might just help you warm from the inside out. A great treat after outdoor winter fun!

In addition to all this goodness, if you take a bit [1 - 2 tablespoons] of molasses in warm water an hour or so prior to bed it will aid the bowels and soften things up first thing in the morning. Super helpful for issues surrounding constipation. I'd nix the cacao though as it can be stimulating - not exactly what you want prior to catching some Zzz's.

Good for almost every digestive organ in your body, adding molasses really providess more than simply flavor to this hot drink.


[RECIPE]
Serves One

2 c. boiling water
1  T. molasses
2 tsp. cacao or cocoa powder [or carob if you can't do chocolate]
2 pinches of each: sea salt, Ceylon cinnamon, ground ginger

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan or tea kettle. While the water is warming, place the remaining ingredients in a large mug. Pour the boiling water into the mug and whisk until everything has dissolved into water. Top with marshmallows and enjoy!

Important Note: This is a slightly bitter drink until you add the marshmallows. If you forgo the marshmallows you may want to add a touch of raw honey or maple syrup until you reach the sweetness you desire.

[HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOWS]

I was visiting a friend of mine and found these on her counter. I haven't had a marshmallow in years for a host of reasons, mainly because on a basic level they are puffed chemicals. Admittedly delicious but still, disgusting.

And then there's these little babies. Simple, whole food ingredients without an ounce of chemical or processing. So, so good.

Because I love adding medicinal herbs to just about everything, try adding 1 tablespoon of marshmallow root powder to the gelatin and water. Marshmallow root is great for gut inflammation and adds an authentic mallow-y taste.

Head over here for the recipe!

Monday, February 9, 2015

PF CHANG'S STYLE TURKEY LETTUCE WRAPS WITH MARINATED CUCUMBERS



So a little disclaimer. This is absolutely the opposite of a local winter meal. Fresh lettuce in winter? No. Cucumbers in the snow? No. Water chestnuts in the mitten state? Not that I can find.

And so it is what it is and the beauty of discipline in any area of life is that there is room for exceptions and straying from the rules actually keep us balanced and in a healthier place than stubbornness and rigidity.

I love this recipe because it reminds me of PF Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps and beyond that it reminds me of being in Chicago with my husband, newly married and newly gluten-free. Many people have memories surrounding food and this particular dish is one of the first I ate out after learning I had an allergy to gluten. 

If you've had such a staple food like gluten removed from your diet you know the helpless feeling of looking into a menu and realizing a salad, hold pretty much everything, is the only answer. But then. Then you enter a restaurant that takes gluten free seriously and everything about the meal is suddenly transformed from desperate to beautiful and permanently impressed on your being. 

Now I don't know how the higher ups at PF Chang's feel about GMO's or organic food or supporting local farms or animal confinement. 

I hope they care. 

What I do know is that in this one particular area they made a difference for me in a very hopeless situation and for that I am grateful. 

This recipe was an absolute hit in our family. Most nights I come to the table with food prepared having no idea what the response will be. Translation, I have no idea how hard I'm going to have to fight to have said food consumed by a particular two and four year old. And by fight, I mean how creative I'll need to get. Obviously.

Coming into this meal was no different and truth be told, I expected the worst. Instead, both kids ate the equivalent of four wraps each [albeit running to and from the table]. Either way, a clear and delicious success!

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 4
Adapted from this recipe

1 lb organic, pasture raised ground turkey or chicken
1 - 2 T. extra virgin coconut or olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping tablespoon of peeled and minced ginger
1 8-ounce can of water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 T. raw honey
1 cucumber very thinly sliced [using knife or mandolin]
raw apple cider vinegar
sea salt
1 large head of bib or butter lettuce, rinsed and laid on towel to dry
cooked [and sprouted if possible] quinoa or rice, optional
green onions / scallions, chopped, optional


Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey and cook until well done, breaking into very small pieces while cooking. Once the turkey is thoroughly cooked, add onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute over medium heat until onion is soft and transparent [5 - 10 minutes]. Stir in the garlic powder, tamari sauce or coconut aminos, honey, and brown rice vinegar. Let mixture cook for about 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to one third of the original. Add water chestnuts at the end and cook for 3 - 4 minutes. While the turkey filling is cooking, slice cucumbers and place in a glass bowl. Toss with enough cider vinegar to coat and sprinkle with a few pinches of salt. Mix well and place in refrigerator until food is prepared. 

Once the meat is ready, either place meat, lettuce cups, marinated cucumbers, and quinoa or rice on the table or scoop filling into lettuce cups and top with cucumbers, quinoa or rice [if desired], and serve immediately.