Monday, November 28, 2016

5-LAYER WARMEST WINTER BOWL with roasted roots, garbanzo beans, and basmati rice


This is my go-to, anti-chill winter meal. The recipe may look daunting based on it's length but I assure you it only requires simple chopping and a few seasonal ingredients. I make this regularly throughout the winter months, switching from rice to quinoa to cooked buckwheat and using white beans in place of garbanzo, basically adapting the recipe to meet my taste of the day. It's a great meal to make in large batches. Freeze the three base layers together in individual serving containers for an easy-to-grab lunch option. It's an inexpensive, meatless and warms the body from the inside, providing a sustainable heat.
 
[THE RECIPE]

For the Roots:

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into small chunks*
3 beets, any variety, peeled and cut into small chunks*
3 - 4 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks*
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into small chunks*
1 medium onion, any variety, finely chopped
3 - 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 - 3 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil, melted
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh or dried rosemary, sage, and thyme

*If you purchase organic produce, you can skip peeling. Scrub with a veggie brush and chop. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spread out all of the prepared vegetables on a large rimmed baking sheet [optional use of parchment paper]. Sprinkle with 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of sea salt, a few grinds of pepper, and herbs [about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of each dried herb or 1 tablespoon of each fresh herb]. Drizzle with melted ghee or oil and toss using your hands so that all of the vegetables are covered with both herbs and ghee or oil. 

Place veggies in warmed oven and bake at 375 degrees for 35 - 45 minutes or so. Remove when veggies are just beginning to brown along the edges and are soft but not mushy. Turn off oven but leave veggies inside until remaining dishes are prepared.

For the Rice:

While veggies are baking, make basmati rice according to package instructions. Quinoa or buckwheat are great substitutes.

For the Garbanzo Beans:

1 large can of cooked Eden garbanzo beans or make 2 cups dried beans, drained and rinsed
2 - 3 tablespoons of ghee or coconut oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
optional additional spices: turmeric, cumin, coriander, sweet paprika, smoked paprika

In a medium size skillet, warm ghee or oil over medium-high heat. When ghee or oil is hot but not smoking, carefully add beans. [Oil may splatter!]

Shake skillet carefully to toss beans. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and shake skillet again. Let beans cook for 7 - 10 minutes, shaking frequently to prevent burning, or until beans turn a golden brown color and look a bit crispy on the outside. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Garnish:

avocado, pit removed and sliced
toasted pumpkin seeds
parsley, fresh thyme or herb of choice

To Create 5-Layer Bowl:

Place a scoop of rice in bottom of medium, single-serving bowl. Top with a layer of roasted vegetables followed by beans and finally any garnishes desired [the photo for this post shows avocado and pumpkin seeds]. Serve warm. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

PAD THAI




My oldest has been begging me to make this for more than a week now. After weeks of going, what's felt like non-stop, I was finally home with one thing on my mind: make my girl some pad thai. It's a household favorite. We hope you enjoy!


[THE RECIPE]
Serves 4 - 6

1 lb dried rice noodles, 1/8 inch wide
Warm water

1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
1 lb chicken, shrimp, well-made tofu, or garbanzo beans rinsed and cut into small chunks [no cutting necessary if using beans]
2 - 3 cups kale, rinsed and chopped into very small pieces
4 - 5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
1 1-inch piece of turmeric, minced

For Sauce: 

1/4 cup fish sauce or gluten free tamari sauce
1/2 cup honey, more to taste
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup brown rice vinegar
1/8 cup white vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon red curry paste
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
3/4 cup unrefined sesame oil [extra virgin olive oil works as well]

Garnish: 

Organic bean sprouts or sprouts of choice
Crushed roasted sunflower seeds or peanuts
Scrambled eggs
Lime wedges

Place dry noodles in a large glass bowl and cover with warm water so that the liquid is about 1-inch above the noodles. Set aside for about 30 minutes.

Precut all ingredients where necessary and mix sauce ingredients before you begin to cook.

While noodles soak, warm ghee or oil in a large wok or pot over medium heat. When ghee or oil has melted, add chicken.  Cook over medium-high heat until the outside layer of the chicken is cooked. Add garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Stir well and continue cooking until chicken starts to brown slightly. Reduce heat to medium-low and add kale. Stirring constantly, cook until kale has wilted. Turn heat to low.

Strain liquid out of noodles and rinse with cold water.

Add noodles and sauce to chicken mixture. Increase heat to medium-high and bring liquid to simmer, stirring frequently. Adjust heat to maintain simmer, cover, and cook until noodles are cooked al dente, stirring regularly and tasting as needed. Adjust flavor if necessary to fit your preferences [add more honey, more fish sauce, more seasoning, etc.].

Once noodles are just soft, remove from heat. Let sit for 3 - 5 minutes. Garnish as desired and serve.




Monday, November 21, 2016

KEEPING WARM + APPLE CRISP

Tis the week of Thanksgiving and I've found myself a bit flustered. Normally the weather kicks me into holiday mode but this season I find myself completely tricked. Not that I'm complaining. Some extra days of warm air and outdoor fun sans heavy snow gear is aways a treat. But the shocking twist in temperatures has my body freaking out a bit.

As the thermometer drops, our bodies tend to curl inward and tighten. Pay attention and you may notice a more pronounced hunkering over - you're body's desperate attempt to keep warm on the inside. Your may become less flexible, more stiff with increased soreness, and really dry. Don't get mad - your body is doing what it's supposed to. Protecting your precious insides.

But there are ways to settle the body and care for it well amidst what can be a pretty tough seasonal transition.

Twists and circular movements in yoga help soften the body and lubricate our joints. Opening in gentle backbends counteracts the tendency to curl forward. Meditation aids the settling of our mind, especially when tucked within busy schedules, parties, and school activities.

Herbs and spices like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, pepper, garlic, rosemary, sage, and nutmeg are all excellent at maintaining and providing a balanced warmth. Apples, pears, and dates help to increase moisture in the body. Cooked grains, ghee and root vegetables give substance and nourishment. It's the season for soups and stews, dal and kitcharirisotto and crisp.

Hydration is really important. Warm or room temperature water is ideal, especially with a small piece of ginger and some lemon juice.

Know that cold doesn't have to be miserable. It just asks us to shift our routines with the seasons. We so naturally change over our closets - trading sandals and shorts for boots, scarves, and fleece-lined leggings. Why not trust the same instinctual desire when it comes to how we care for our bodies?










[THE RECIPE]

8 - 10 apples, peeled and cut into thin chunks or slices
1 - 2 cups apple cider or juice
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups gluten free oat flour [ground fresh if possible]
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/2 teapsoon sea salt
3/4 cup ghee or coconut oil [for vegan]
3/4 cup maple syrup

Spread out prepared apples in a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. Toss with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Pour in apple cider or juice so that there is about an inch of liquid along the bottom. Add more if necessary. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine oats, oat flour, sugar, salt and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Warm ghee or oil and syrup in a small saucepan over low heat until completely melted. Pour warmed liquid over oat mixture and stir until oats are completely covered. The consistency should be moist but not wet and fairly crumbly. Add more oil-syrup mixture or oats as needed.

Spread the oat topping evenly over the prepared apples. Loosely cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until liquid is bubbling, approximately 45 minutes. At this point, remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the oat topping just begins to brown in spots.

Remove from oven and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Serve warm or cool.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

3-INGREDIENT HONEY BUTTER

There are few things more satisfying on a windy, cold day than homemade bread and butter. Something about bread feels nourishing, homey, nastalgic - a reminder of simple beauty, consistent provision, and humble treasure. When I eat bread, especially fresh baked, I automatically slow down. My body settles into faith that this is enough. I have enough. I am enough.

So it's bread. But it's so much more.

I'm completely smitten with this gluten-free bread and make no other in my kitchen. But it's one that almost demands a spread. As if to say, "I'm so good you know I deserve frosting."

And so the bread got frosting. A buttery, sweet, with tinge of salty, fancy dress that twirls and swirls and catches everyone's eye.

May you find the place within yourself that has always been enough. And when you eat bread, may you savor both it and the beautiful, unique, divinely-created being that is you.

[THE RECIPE]

1 cup Kerrygold butter or local butter of choice
1/2 cup pure, raw honey [more or less to your taste preference]
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt

Place all of the ingredients in a medium size glass bowl and hand whip with either a whisk or spoon until fully incorporated. Spread over bread, muffins, coffee cake, or whatever else needs a little sparkle.

Store on your counter for a day or two, or refrigerator for a few weeks.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

HOMEMADE BALSAMIC VINAGRETTE



This is my go-to, "good for any occasion and makes everything taste better" dressing. It's the one I've made so many times, I've given up measuring the ingredients and let my eyes and tastebuds take the lead. The one thing I'm a stickler about in this recipe is the balsamic vinegar. There really is no substitution for Napa Valley's Reserve Balsamic. The consistency is reminiscent of molasses and takes a bit to get out of the bottle but the texture it creates when combined with the other ingredients is that of a thick syrup. And no, I'm not getting paid to say this. I have no connection to the company. In fact, rarely do I advocate for a particular brand unless is absolutely affects the outcome of the recipe or presents a quality issue. This is one of those infrequent times. 


[THE RECIPE]

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar [Don't sub another brand, it has to be this one. Trust me.]
1/2 cup pure, raw honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon finely ground sea salt [start with less and add more as needed]
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Place all of the ingredients into a glass quart jar. Secure the lid tightly and shake vigorously for a couple minutes until the mixture is like a thick syrup and ingredients are thoroughly combined. Taste the dressing and add more honey, vinegar, or salt as needed. Store on the counter for up to a week or in the refrigerator for a month or so.

I like this dressing on just about everything: meat, salad, rice - get creative!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

3-INGREDIENT VEGAN HOT COCOA



It  may seem ridiculous with the temperatures being what they've been, but cold weather's a'comin. I'm still a little stunned that Thanksgiving is next week with December right around the corner. Each year I look forward to my first cup of hot cocoa. It taps into both childhood nostalgia and a deep desire for something sweet and warm.

Sweet, warm, and salty are perfect flavors to seek throughout the winter months according to Ayurvedic principles and may be the reason behind our cravings for decadent food. But we can satisfy this natural and good desire within us without overdoing the sugar and fat - especially the processed versions of each. Root vegetables, well-cooked grains, natural sweeteners, and meats [if that's your thing] can all provide the warmth and grounding our bodies need throughout these unpredictable months.

And cocoa.

For years I've sought out a product that doesn't contain sugar and dairy yet still tastes good. Only recently did a friend of mine introduce me to Nib Mor Drinking Chocolate. Friends, let me tell you, it's good.

Apparently a lot of people agree. Particularly in my town. Last week I frantically searched the shelves of my local grocery stores to find it gone. Like gone, gone. Under normal circumstances I'd shrug my shoulders and give myself the "better luck next time" pep talk. But these circumstances were anything but normal. I was waist deep in shopping for a weekend retreat and stubbornly wanted to serve this particular hot chocolate.

Grrrrrr.

Yet, sometimes not getting what we want opens the door to creativity if we choose to embrace it.

It's also helpful to have a brilliant friend who steps in with "we can make this" resolve.

And so my friend Stephanie [find her here] and I ransacked my pantry and came up with this: a recipe that turned out to be more than enough.

That's the lesson right? When we use what we have, much of the time it's more than enough. 

Happy sipping!

[THE RECIPE]

1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 3/4 - 2 cups raw coconut sugar [more if desired]
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a high powered dry-mix blender [like Vitamix], food processor or spice grinder. Blend on high until the mixture becomes a fine powder.

Store in a glass jar [large-mouth pint size is good] with a tight fitting lid.

To make hot cocoa: place one heaping tablespoon of cocoa blend in a mug. Add one cup of water and stir to mix. Taste and adjust as necessary with more mix or water depending. Garnish with cinnamon, homemade marshmallows, a drop of peppermint oil [food grade], molasses [try this recipe!], or shot of espresso.



Friday, August 19, 2016

THAI RED CURRY with galangal and kefir lime leaf


[THE RECIPE]
Adapted from: Gluten & Dairy Free Everyday Asian by Bindu Menon


1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 T. garlic, minced
2 T. coconut oil
1 – 1 ½ lb chicken breast or lamb, thin sliced; shrimp or tofu
2 heaping tablespoons of red curry paste
1” piece of galangal or 2 tsp. powder
1 T. Thai fish sauce or tamari / soy sauce
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 15-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 T. raw honey
1/3 c. Thai basil leaves
2 kefir lime leaves [optional]
1 1/2 c. carrots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. red / orange / yellow sweet peppers, thinly sliced
1 1/2 c. kale or spinach, thinly sliced
3 c. green beans, French cut or chopped



Warm oil in a large stainless steel or cast iron skillet. Add onion and garlic and cook on medium-low, stirring frequently until onion softens and garlic becomes slightly golden on edges. Add meat of choice and cook thoroughly. Add curry paste, galangal, fish sauce, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Carefully pour in coconut milk and honey. Stir to combine. Add basil and life leaf and cook over medium – low heat until liquid begins to simmer. Reduce heat to maintain very gentle bubbling but not boiling, add carrots, and cook for 5 - 10 minutes or until carrots are just beginning to soften. Add peppers, beans, and kale. Cook until beans are bright green and peppers just soft. Remove from heat and serve over a bed of basmati or jasmine rice. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

SHOWER SUGAR SCRUB with lavender


One of my absolute favorite smells is lavender. It seems to me to be the perfect blend of floral and spicy and invoke a feeling of balance and peace.

I've posted a number of health and beauty recipes on this blog but none can compare with the simplicity of this. One jar. Three ingredients. Five minutes.

If you're looking for a place to start, a way into dabbling in homemade, I'd begin here. Lavender is a heal-all oil, can be used with children, and is one of the safest, most effective herbs we have.

Note: Of course, you could use a host of essential oil variations here. If you have experience with essential oils and understand the safety of use then experiment as you wish. 

[THE RECIPE]

2 - 3 cup glass jar with tight fitting lid
fine ground organic sugar
unrefined organic sesame oil [not toasted!]
10 - 15 drops lavender essential oil, optional
1/2 c. dried lavender flowers, lightly ground*

*You can use and pestle and mortar, blender, food processor, or coffee/herb grinder to lightly crush the flowers.

Fill glass jar halfway with sugar. Add lavender essential oil and top with lightly crushed lavender flowers. Add sugar to fill jar to 3/4 full and mix contents of jar. Pour oil over sugar to cover then mix. Continue adding sugar then oil until jar is almost full. Sugar should be oily but not drenched. Over time oil will start to pool on top. Add sugar as needed. If scrub dries out, add oil as needed. Store in refrigerator for up to six months or in shower for about one month.

At the end of your shower, massage scrub into clean, wet skin over entire body. Rinse residual sugar and pat skin dry with towel.

Note: To avoid oil getting on towel, pat skin with a dry washcloth before wrapping in towel. 

This makes a great gift! Package in a decorative jar with an artistic tag.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

TUNA BURGERS gluten, egg, and diary free

So, canned tuna. Honestly I'm not really a fan. I grew up in the day of forced tuna sandwiches, soggy from sitting in school lunch packs. Really, just ick.

But a little awhile ago I was meandering the aisles at Costco and came across canned tuna I could actually get on board with. BPA-free cans, proudly wild and sustainably caught. Tuna has raised some serious concerns about the health of our oceans. Fish are being recklessly over-caught, usually by mass fishing tactics that reek havoc on the ocean floor and life found within the waters. As the larger countries demand more fish, indigenous cultures dependent on this food source for survival are forced into more dangerous waters and the use of life-threatening techniques. Scarcity has become a familiar opponent.

Eating local meats and supporting companies working to heal the gaping wounds of our waters are the best ways to do our part. And eating foods like canned tuna in moderation rather than as a staple food if you find yourself landlocked rather than ocean-side can help replenish the rapidly dropping fish numbers.

If you do find yourself with a can of our sea friends and have yet to decide what to do with it, I'd like to offer this recipe. You may never eat tuna salad again.

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 4
Adapted from Paula Dean's Tuna Burger

2 [6-ounce] cans of wild, sustainably pole & line caught tuna, drained [can find this at Costco]
1/2 c. oats, ground [grind rolled oats using food processor, appropriate blender, or coffee grinder]
2 flax "eggs"*
1/2 c. celery, finely chopped
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. prepared horseradish [look for the jars in the refrigerator section if possible]
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. unrefined coconut oil

*To make one flax "egg", combine one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water. Mix and let sit for ten minutes or until the mixture thickens a bit.

For the dressing:

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. raw honey
2 - 3 T. Dijon mustard
1 T. dried dill
pinch sea salt

Combine all burger ingredients, except oil, in a medium-size glass bowl using your clean hands. Take a portion of mixture, roughly 1/3 cup, and form into a well-packed ball. Carefully flatten into a burger shape, cinching and patting the edges where necessary and set on a plate. Repeat until all burger batter is formed into patties.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, heat oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Carefully place burgers in pan and cover. Cook for 6 - 7 minutes or until bottom is a deep golden brown color. Flip, re-cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

If you're using a cast iron skillet, place entire skillet into preheated oven. If using stainless steel, remove burgers from pan, spread out on baking sheet, and place in oven. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients into a small jar and tightly secure lid. Shake vigorously for a couple minutes until well combined. Set aside.

Remove from oven and serve immediately. Burgers can be used like traditional beef burgers or laid on a bed of herbs [like parsley, cilantro, and/or dill] or fresh greens and topped with dressing.

These are great to freeze and dressing can be stored in refrigerator for up to a month.


Monday, August 1, 2016

SWEET AND DILL REFRIGERATOR PICKLES



Pickles are in by the bushel! Here's an easy way to transform these garden favorites into a delicious snack. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

OAT MUFFINS with vanilla, basil, anise, and fennel

In standard Saturday fashion, I made my way to the Farmer's Market this morning happily thinking I'd come home with the standard fare. Armed with a good friend and some cash, we meandered down the corridor of vendors taking in the sights and smells while filling our baskets with fresh goodies.

At one stand a large green bush caught our eye. Reminiscent of a full grown chia pet, we asked about this mystery plant. Both having spent some time on farms and in gardens, it's not so often we're stumped but this one had us.

Globe basil friends.

The tiny leaves are packed with such a powerful flavor punch an obligatory pause in admiration is simply a must. It's basil flavor is highlighted by anise, a beautiful combination and the delicate leaves lend itself to an obvious center piece option. Of course, we each took one home.


With basil on our mind, we headed back to the kitchen anxious to test out this delicious combination of complex flavors on a muffin recipe I'd been massaging, testing, changing, and trying over and over since Christmas.

If you can't find globe basil, there so many varieties that any will do. Tarragon or rosemary would be lovely as well.

The combination really is divine. Light and summery while rich with flavor depth. I've also included the pumpkin version I've been making quite regularly as well.

This has become my go-to muffin recipe. Enjoy!

[THE RECIPE]
Makes 18 regular muffins
Adapted from Gluten Free Hope Mini Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/4 c. ground oat flour
2/3 c. buckwheat flour
1/2 c. rice bran or tigernut flour*
1/2 c. coconut sugar, finely ground**
1/2 c. tapioca or arrowroot flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. globe basil [or variety of choice], finely chopped
1 vanilla bean
4 - 5 anise stars
2 tsp. whole dried fennel seeds
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. hemp seeds
1 T. raw apple cider vinegar
2 c. applesauce
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1 c. coconut oil, melted
3/4 c. dried/dehydrated blueberries [or 1 - 2c. raw]
1/2 c. chopped walnuts or pistachios, optional
maple sugar, optional

*If you make tigernut milk, save the pulp and either dehydrate on low [105 degrees] or bake on low [170 degrees] until dry. Cool and grind in food processor, coffee grinder or appropriate blender until fine powder is achieved.

**I like to grind my coconut flour into a fine powder when baking but this is optional.

In a large blender bowl or glass mixing bowl, combine oat and buckwheat flours, bran or tigernut flour, sugar, tapioca / arrowroot flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Pour water, hemp seeds, and vinegar into a blender container and blend on highest setting until very smooth. Gently cut the vanilla beans down the spine [length-wise] without pushing the knife through the back. Separate and scrape a spoon down it's length to remove seeds. Place vanilla seeds, vanilla extract, fennel, and anise in blender with milk. Blend on high until smooth. Add applesauce to milk mixture and blend to combine.

Melt coconut oil over low heat in a small sauce pan.

Pour coconut oil and blender contents into mixing bowl with dry ingredients and mix on low to combine. Slowly increase speed until muffin batter is well blended and smooth. Scrape batter from sides with spatula and re-blend if necessary. Consistency should be that of cake batter or a thick smoothie. Add more water if too thick and more flour if too runny. Once correct consistency is achieved, add basil, dried blueberries, and nuts if using, gently folding into batter with spoon.

Place compostable muffin cups in muffin tin and fill until the batter almost reaches the top. Sprinkle with maple sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 22 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick or knife, when inserted into a muffin, comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin and place on cooling rack until cool. Store at room temperature in a tightly sealed container for 3 - 4 days or freeze for later use.

[PUMPKIN VARIATION with ginger and cardamom]
Makes 18 regular muffins
Adapted from Gluten Free Hope Mini Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/4 c. ground oat flour
2/3 c. buckwheat flour
1/2 c. rice bran or tigernut flour*
1/2 c. coconut sugar, finely ground**
1/2 c. tapioca or arrowroot flour
2 - 3 tsp. ground ginger
1 heaping tsp. ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 c. water
1/4 c. hemp seeds
2 T. raw apple cider vinegar
2 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. molasses
1 T. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, pistachios and/or dried cranberries, optional

Follow directions from above recipe.




Friday, July 29, 2016

WEEDS IN OUR INNER GARDEN


Yesterday I spent some time out in the garden. Over the years the garden has taught me lessons about myself, about humanity, about the world. Lessons that, honestly, I'd rather not learn. These lessons can be difficult to take and generally require action, movement, and growth; diligence and discipline.

There's a certain plant in said garden that reminds me a bit of a porcupine. At first glance it seems harmless, docile even, but go to touch and bam! hand full of quills, or in this case small punctures, wounds from a spine of thorns. It's flowers are deceptively beautiful, each birthing pods of hundreds of rebel seeds ready to reek havoc on any bit of dirt they touch.

This is horse nettle friends. And it's a real...well you know.

The thing about this particular plant is the act of pulling it out of the ground actually aids its spreading. Horse nettle seems to come up easily, compliantly letting me draw it from the ground and walk away naively thinking I was victorious. Then boom! a few days later it's back, stronger in number. Farmer's in the area have found pesticides are no match and tilling is like giving frisky teenagers a car and directions to the nearest park.  

It seems that forcing it out actually makes it grow. 

The only way to rid our land of this annoying, painful plant is to cut it down in infancy, just below the dirt. And then repeat over and over and over and over throughout the summer. 

It demands I surrender to it's strength, respect it's place in the garden, and then do the careful, gentle, monotonous work of watching and culling, watching and culling, watching and culling. 

You do this enough and a pattern emerges. In fact, garden long enough and you reap both physical fruit and find lessons of life abound. 

Here's what I learned: taking care of horse nettle is no different than taking care of the places in me that are in opposition to my True, authentic self. No amount of ripping, grinding, or muscle will remove the hostile places I keep hidden deep within. The places I cover over with shame and anger and guilt. It seems this is like compost, providing nutritious food for these toxic habits.

In the same way I deal with horse nettle, watch and cut in infancy, I now care for these addictive tendencies in myself. With mindful awareness, self-compassion, and surrender, we can gently work to improve the land of our soul, the garden that lies within. When I enter the flow of what is rather than aggressively try to beat it down, I find the freedom I've been seeking, the peace I so desire. Oh, and the garden teaches on thing without fail, over and over again - it's never too late.

It's never to late to begin. That's called grace.

Namaste* friends.

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

FOOD, NOSTALGIA, AND ONE STEP


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

Pause.

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

WHAT THE?!

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

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

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

I couldn't come up with anything.

Not one thing came to mind.

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

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

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

I was completely disconnected from this vital source of life.

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

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

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

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

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

I look back now only to say thank you.

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

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

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

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

Our friendship lives on.

Photo Credit: My husband's homemade pizza.





Tuesday, June 14, 2016

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE vegan, gluten free, nut free



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

[THE RECIPE]

For the shortcake:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For whipped topping: 

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

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

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

PEACE IS A COURAGEOUS ACT


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

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

So there's these moments.

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

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

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

I let it out.

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

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

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

I let the light in and then I go out.

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

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

These are the weapons I choose.

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

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

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

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

And may you emerge alight with the power of peace.

Namaste*, friends.

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


Saturday, June 11, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huh?

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

Skeptic?

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

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

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

Then trust it.

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

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 2

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

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

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

[PURE VITA BLEND POWDER RECIPE]
Makes 5 cups

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

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

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

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

 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BOTTLES AND BUSHES

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

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

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

Dew.

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

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

This morning I went to church.  

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

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

And then today I did.

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

And so we do and we are changed.

Grace. Beauty. Peace.




Sunday, May 22, 2016

WHAT'S YOUR NAME?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, May 7, 2016

MEDITATING AMONG BUGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Awareness does this. Seeing changes things.

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

But I really saw them.

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

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

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

Smashing was no longer an option.

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

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

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





Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TUMERIC + GINGER LATTE with cardamom, vanilla, and reishi

This is a variation of the cardamom latte I've been really loving these days, this time using fresh ginger and turmeric as the base.

A little time-saving tip: 

Purchase a good amount of ginger and turmeric. If you buy organic you can simply rinse without removing peels. Cut into 1-inch pieces and mince, either by hand or using a food processor or Vitamix, according to manufacturer's instructions. Place a heaping tablespoon of either the minced turmeric and ginger combined or separate, into an ice cube tray or silicone mold and freeze until solid. Remove from mold and store in a glass Ball jar or other storage item of choice. I use these cubes for stir-fry, dahl, soups, tea, etc. It's really convenient to have at the ready!

[THE RECIPE]
Serves 3

1 T. ginger, minced
1 T. turmeric, minced
OR 2 cubes worth of ginger + turmeric combined and prepared as recommened above as "tip"
1 heaping tablespoon whole cardamom pods
1 piece of sliced, dried reishi mushroom
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half
3 cups milk of choice [I love homemade tigernut milk, scroll down after clicking link for recipe]
1 - 3 T. honey, to taste

Combine ginger, turmeric, cardamom, reishi, and half of a vanilla bean in medium size saucepan. Add 6 cups of water. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

Simmer for 45 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half of its original quantity leaving approximately three cups.

Strain liquid, reserving pulp for another batch. Pour tea back into pot. Add milk and honey and slowly warm over low heat to just hot but not boiling. Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

VELVET LIP BALM, SIMPLY

I love to play around with different beauty recipes and rarely purchase many in the store. I've found making my own lotion, lip balm, sugar scrub, masks, salves, boo-boo drops, and bath salts to be unbelievably easy, many completed in thirty minutes or less, some taking only minutes to create. It's a fun activity for my kids to join in on, getting to immediately experience the sweetness of their labors.

The Environmental Working Group [EWG] has put together a fantastic database of cosmetics and other beauty and body products. It's worth searching the items you use most frequently - the safety implications of many can be shocking [even some of the "natural" ones]. If nothing else, it provides us the opportunity to be educated consumers. Check out EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Purchasing the ingredients for this recipe is a small investment at first but will make many batches. The ingredients found here are repeated in many lotion and salve recipes as well. Store oils in a cool place to extend life and maintain quality. Below I have linked each ingredient to its description at Mountain Rose Herbs. You can purchase high quality ingredients there or find them on Vitacost and Thrive Market. Check out Return to the Garden's library under "Dive Deep / Herbal Medicine" for more resources on making your own beauty products.

This is the lip balm recipe I've landed on. Thick but light. Smooth. Rich. Velvet.

[THE RECIPE]
Makes approximately 11 tubes of chapstick

11 - 12 empty plastic lip balm tubes [you can purchase or reuse]
1/2 oz. beeswax, pastilles or chopped
1/2 oz. shea butter
1/2 oz. jojoba oil [appx. 2 tsp]
1/2 oz. coconut oil
1/4 oz. castor oil
1 tsp. vegetable glycerin
1/4 tsp. vitamin E oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil or essential oil of choice

Set up double boiler or create your own by filling a small pot one third of the way with water. Place a heat proof bowl on top.


Combine all ingredients, except peppermint essential oil, in bowl and bring water to boil over medium heat. Stir frequently.

Once completely melted, remove from heat and add essential oil stirring until completely integrated.

Use a spoon to carefully pour oil mixture into lip balm tubes or container of choice, filling to the top. Cool completely. Cap and wipe any excess lip balm off tube.

Store at room temperature for up to six months. Use as needed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

STARING AT A PLANT.


On my counter I have a cactus. It sits right in front of where I sit each morning for breakfast, six inches lower than plate level. This particular plant hasn't always held such a regal place in my kitchen. A couple days ago I uprooted it from a spot a bit tucked away, one I don't often have cause to pause at. Frequently I would forget to water it even the meager amount it requires. So here it sits, relocated and eager to be noticed.

There are actually two varieties of cactus in this pot. One that flowers at Christmas and one around Easter. The latter plant is covered in a ripple of buds that slowly open over the course of the day, revealing itself in fullness around noon. After a few hours of shameless display, it draws inward returning to bud and self.

This opening and closing is rhythmic. Cyclical.

A pattern I can expect to repeat each day until the flowers fall to the ground.

A couple days ago I posted this:

In the same way flowers are created to bloom only then revealing the full breadth of their beauty, we too are created to reveal our beauty to the world. The more I lean into the things that bring me life and joy and peace; the more I sink into being created fully enough; the more I open all of me to the world, trusting in it's goodness, the more I'm finding the world to be filled with a tangible pulse, a beat, a Spirit. There is fear. There is pain. Much of which I can't explain. But as I come back to beauty and peace, this is what the world consistently offers back to me.

As I continued to meditate, I began to see the pattern of the plant. What I find intriguing as I watch this plant each day, is how it so closely mirrors the natural patterns within my own being - this idea of outward and inward. In order for its flowers to continue to open, for it to continue to give its beauty to the world, this plant must draw in, close, seek rest and stillness. Carving out space for this rest, this inward movement towards the soul, has been the only way for me to seek with clarity the things that fill me up, bring me life and joy and peace. There is rest, there is stillness, there is silence and from this well we draw movement and creativity and life.

Sometimes it takes moving things around, clearing the dust, bringing things out of corners and into light for us to see.

I almost missed it.

I almost missed the insights this plant had to offer, offers still. I nearly rushed passed it's rhythmic movements and holy pulses.

But I didn't. The discipline of cleaning, of clearing the literal dust, caused me to notice and change. And that's what this inward journey takes. It takes discipline, courage, and faith. It requires saying no to many things and yes to a few. It demands I put away the to-do list, silence the phone, turn off the computer and be present.

It asks me to stare at a plant. To do nothing but watch.

May you shuffle and move and poke around the things that need it. May you draw inward in the same way you give outward. May you seek the pulse that binds everything together as one and immerse yourself in this work of creativity and peace - for you. For all.




Thursday, March 17, 2016

CARDAMOM LATTE with ginger, vanilla bean, and reishi

There are times when I'm called to the kitchen less for the creativity of it but more out of a primal desire for something my body desperately needs in that moment. Not in a surface "I'm craving sugar but that's probably covering up a deeper need" sort of way.

This desire is deep and earthy - flowing from a bodily wisdom I have yet to fully understand.

Over time I've learned to pay close attention to this call and surrender to the part of me governed by ancient wisdom. It's been interesting within the context of recipe creation. There's an undeniable inner intuition that drives what I take from the cupboard and add to the pot. In these moments, brain follows visceral.

I call it meditation.

It's less about the recipe and more about the sacred within the daily. It's not unlike waking on a cool summer morning to the sparkle of sunrise wrapped in a dance with mist on the calm of the water outside my window. The world is alive with enchantment and possibility within the dew and earth and air.

It's tangible, physical, earthy magic.

Sometimes I have the wherewithal to write down what my hands are doing. This is one such time and I'm so excited to share it with you. Move slow, feel what your body is doing while you create. Lean over the pot and take in the changing aroma. Feel the steam on your face. Notice what this does in your body. If you have the sudden urge to add something, do it! Follow this beautiful intelligence we each have within the muscle and bone and blood and organs of our body.

Sip mindfully, with loving intention, and smile. Invite a little magic.

Medicinal Note: If you're familiar with Ayurvedic medicine, this tea is excellent for balancing vata and kapha dosha types. It's grounding and gently warming; acts on the spleen, lung, stomach, and large intestine; improves the circulation of chi [life force]; and works to dispel mucus, cold, dampness, and phelgm. The recipe came to me on a very windy, cool spring [vata aggravating] day. Cardamom is such a wonderful whole-body tonic. In addition, reishi mushroom is fantastic for boosting the immune system.


[THE RECIPE]
Serves 3

Note: all herbs dried and cut or whole.

6 c. water
4 T. whole cardamom pods
2 T. fennel seed [optional]
2 tsp. cut ginger
1 whole vanilla bean, cut in half [reserve other half for use at another time]
1 slice reishi mushroom
3 c. tigernut milk or milk of choice
2 - 3 T. pure, raw honey [to taste, orange blossom honey is wonderful]

In a medium size saucepan combine water, cardamom, fennel, ginger, half the vanilla bean, and reishi mushroom. Bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to to simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until liquid is reduced to half [approximately 3 cups].

Meanwhile, place milk and honey in a small saucepan. Heat on low until milk is very warm but not boiling, stirring occasionally.

Pour reduced tea through fine mesh strainer into three large mugs [approximately 1 cup of tea in each mug]. Divide the warmed milk between the mugs [approximately 1 cup of milk in each mug].

Serve immediately or store in refrigerator for 24 - 48 hours to serve at a later time.

These herbs aren't necessarily inexpensive so you can reserve the cooked herbs to use a second time. Tea will be less intense so either reduce water or add a few more herbs.

Friday, February 26, 2016

CHLOROPHYLL: the green giant



Chloro-what??! If you rewind back to the days of desk sitting and page turning, you might be able to dig up this vaguely familiar word in the recess of your mind. Think elementary science class. Maybe something? If you're seeing green, you're on the right track.

Simplified, chlorophyll is the pigment that makes plants green and is vital in said plants ability to absorb energy from light, also know as photosynthesis.

I'll spare you the science lesson and get to why this is important, why you might care.

There has been much hype surrounding green veggies in the recent years. What's not new is why much of the hype is actually legit. Vegetables are nature's gift to us - a tasty package of many of the nutrients we need to survive. In addition, fresh, green veggies and herbs are full of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is said to aid the body in cleansing and detoxifying its cells [of which our bodies are made up of]. A clean, healthy cell has a better chance of optimally utilizing nutrients.

Of course, the best way to get chlorophyll is through fresh vegetables, but in the winter green is scarce. I've found taking chlorophyll in liquid form to be a nice stand-in rather than paying the high price for fresh greens flown in from various continents. In combination with the frozen veggies tucked in my freezer, chlorophyll helps nourish my body throughout the long winter months.

I want to be very clear that I'm not suggesting chlorophyll as the magic cure to prevent illness and I'm certainly not saying replace fresh green vegetables with chlorophyll. Illness happens even to the healthiest eaters, especially when said eaters have children in school. Green vegetables and herbs contain so many more nutrients in addition to chlorophyll and it would be a foolish substitution for the green stuff direct from the ground. I am suggesting that green, in liquid form, can aid a body in ridding the stuff that needs to go and strengthening the systems that could use it in months that come up empty in green.

As always, please research for yourself before giving chlorophyll a try and if you have specific health concerns or illness, consult a well-trained physician of natural medicine or your doctor prior to use.