Mi So Hongry

As a salute to the end of our long winter confinement, we seem to have contracted the latest public incubation system virus – and this time it’s a stomach thing. Oh mercy. Mr. Little Sis was the first to fall, then my little boy, then yesterday while checking out at Costco I succumbed. I imagine it is a matter of days (hours) before my daughter gets knocked out as well. Cooking for a family of four can be a challenge. Cooking for people who feel awful is an entirely different puzzle. While the one poor soul who’s suffering really doesn’t want anything – or just wants to test the waters, the others who aren’t yet affected are starving and ready for dinner.

IMG_0252My solution to this was to devise a soup that would allow each person to cater to their level of hunger/food readiness. But what to use for broth? And then I saw it. The miso paste container sitting there so innocently in the fridge. I’d bought it to make this delis cashew based cheddar and for whatever reason, didn’t even consider making soup with it even though miso soup is one of those rare birds that gets 100% positive response at my table.

A quick perusal of the internet and some cookbooks and I was off to the races. The beauty of this idea is that it’s totally variable, kind of like a soup version of our Varia-Bowl.

Miso BrothIMG_0255

  • 2-3 t miso paste per cup of water (I used 2 for a mild flavor)
  • However many cups of water you need to make enough soup.

That’s it. You boil the water and then add the miso paste. Yes, it’s that simple. No the paste won’t dissolve completely.  If you’ve eaten miso soup in a restaurant, you’ve seen the same thing – thicker broth on the bottom, thinner broth on the top.

While you’re waiting for your water to boil, assemble your add-ins. If you want noodles, you should obviously start them first as well.

Our Add-InsIMG_0260

  • cooked rice noodles
  • thinly sliced mushrooms
  • shaved carrots
  • chopped cilantro
  • spinach
  • tofu

Others That Would Be Great

  • seaweed, of just about any kind
  • basil
  • lemon juice
  • red pepper
  • rice
  • spring onion

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You really could put lots of things in there, and the fun of it for us was building that bowl of soup right at the table.  I dished up broth for everyone and then we each constructed our own miso bowl, perfectly suited and seasoned for our health level and taste preferences. Delish!

GF Blender Banana Bread

My husband is a banana bread fiend.  I used to roll out 2 loaves every 10 days or so.

Eat one, freeze one.  Thaw one, eat one.  Empty bag, eat none.

It went kinda like that.  In addition, having a loaf of banana bread in the freezer is a marvelous thing for unexpected gatherings, gifts or condolences.  At any rate – I had about the easiest recipe in the world straight from the Vita Mix recipe book.  Mix up the wet and banana in the blender – mix the dry in a bowl and about an hour later your house is filled with wonderful smells and folks hanging around in the kitchen.  Alas – those were our gluten-full days!  The banana bread went the way of so many things we used to eat.

I have been hesitant to just substitute GF baking mix for everything because it is very expensive and because it is mostly chickpea flour (which I don’t want to OD on), and has things like potato starch and tapioca starch in it which is basically sugar, so I’ve resisted.  However, the pile of browning bananas on my counter were begging me to turn them into something other than a smoothie, so I revisited the banana bread with the same method I used in my GF chocolate chip cookies: Mix about half the called for flour as GF baking mix, the other half as GF flours and still use the baking powder or soda in the original amount.  I’m liking this new approach, and my husband is LOVING his GF banana bread.

I promise I’ll get off the GF baking track soon, but it is so lovely to indulge in an old favorite that’s so much healthier than what I can buy at the store!  So I made this recipe gluten free and vegan.  Enjoy!

GF Blender Banana Bread
1 flax egg
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup milk – I used homemade almond milk
2 ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon (or sub 1/2 tsp lemon extract)
1 cup GF baking mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour (you could probably sub other GF flours for these 2)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Mix your flax egg if using (1 Tbsp freshly ground flax meal to 3 Tbsp cold water, stir and let sit)
While egg is setting…
Pre-heat oven to 350
Lightly grease a loaf pan (I used coconut oil)
Mix the last 6 ingredients in a bowl
Put the first 6 ingredients in the blender.
Blend the wet on low until chunks are gone

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Pour into the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated
Pour into loaf pan
Bake at 350 for 45 – 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool for a bit before slicing or it will crumble and smush.

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Looking pretty good.  I was delighted with the texture – despite the cracks on top it was quite moist.

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Delicious and banana-y, banany?
Have you successfully adapted an old favorite to a new way of eating?
Has anyone come up with healthy french fries yet?
Just kidding – we consider roasted potatoes fit that bill, but I’m open to other ideas ;-).

Gardening in the Snow

And then it snowed. Again. And again. And again. The children now look forward to school as a pleasant interruption to their days in pajamas playing with Legos and building snow forts. The snowblower to which I reluctantly agreed now seems like an old, and well loved friend. Our chats about someday screening our porch or building a fire pit have given way to discussions about wood stoves and window replacements, blown in insulation and how to move the common entry to the garage before the salt, sand and chemical crud eat the flooring in the house.

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my sick of being cold face

I make no pretense that it never snows in the Mid-Atlantic, that we’re being subjected to some major injustice, or that these snows have been spectacular individually, but as with most folks in North America, I have now had enough.

We’ve eaten soup.

We’ve baked cookies and banana bread.

We’ve created worlds and watched curling (okay, not for long, but I had to know).

Whether the weather is ready or not, we are quite ready for Spring. The best antidote for my winter hostility is to focus my thoughts on the months to come. What better way to anticipate the end to the seemingly endless Tundra than by planning the garden and planting some seeds.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you know that when it comes to following directions, I prefer an abstract approach, and this has presented me with some challenges in my gardening efforts in the past. Get up and go get it done only helps you if you’re doing the right things… or at least things that aren’t clearly wrong. In an effort to increase my garden success I’ve decided that, in addition to implementing the Big Dog Protection System, I will try to do some helpful reading in the cold months to improve my garden outcomes. I’ve also become interested in some new (or very old) gardening practices and am considering ways to implement them in the garden.

To that end I’ve been taking a spin with some of my old favorites to read about “crop” rotation. I use quotes because I feel silly using the word crop for my backyard garden, but the principles still apply.  I find Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch to be unbeatably reasonable on this topic (and all others that I’ve referred to them for) and my original garden guru, Mel Bartholomew, indicates that crop rotation is important just by building it into his square foot gardening approach.  I’ve had some trouble with various diseases and decreased production over the last few years, so this year I’m going to move some things around in very specific ways – get those plants helping each other and rebuilding the soil a bit.  We shall see.

I’m also super interested in implementing some permaculture strategies in the garden, although I confess that the extent to which these methods depart physically from what I’m only barely managing to do now is a bit intimidating.  But when a local landscaper,Michael Judd, writes a beautiful book on the subject that includes his pictures taken in the county you live in… well you don’t get much better advice than that. It’s like learning from a neighbor who takes great pictures. Reading… reading… reading.

In time honored tradition, I’ve already made my first gardening mistake by failing to realize that the extreme and persistent cold that we’ve experienced this winter has an impact even on my little indoor seed starting efforts. While I would usually remove covers from mini greenhouses once seedlings have sprouted, the constant blowing of warm air from the heat being on ALL THE TIME has proven far too drying for going topless. Overexposure led to terrible embarassment, and a trayful of VERY dead seedlings.

Even with one failure under my belt, looking at my stack of books, my graph paper, and the feathery alien seedlings growing in my living room fills me with hope that perhaps this will be the last snow for the season, that maybe, just maybe, the heat will turn off someday soon. I’m going to go make some soup and read about raised beds on contour to capture the rain. How about you? I hear we may get more snow on Thursday. For now I shall continue with the investigations and planning that are the unsung heroes of any human endeavor. Faith, hope, and a little optimism in a little seed in a little dirt.

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My Best Chocolate Chip Cookie (and it’s GF!!)

Oh my oh my how I love cookies.  I have been drooling over the chocolate chip cookies that Little Sis kindly gave to her neighbor (who kindly plowed her drive)…. but they have wheat flour and I can’t see torturing one member of the family by making chocolate chip cookies that he can’t eat.  So I decided to give a GF choc chip another try.  I also decided to indulge by in part using Bob’s Red Mill GF flour / baking mix.  It makes up for the use of potato starch with garbanzo bean flour, so it has fiber and protein in it, but, as the name suggests – no gluten.

These cookies were chewy and since they are a little sweeter than my usual home baked goods, I could use these to thank neighbors and friends as well.  I was dubious enough of the outcome that I did not take any pictures of the process… but I quickly just snapped a picture of the last 2 cookies.  A few have been frozen away for lunches, but don’t tell, because they might not all make it into my son’s lunchbox!  I try to freeze some of whatever treat gets made so that A) it can easily be stuffed into a lunch box over the next several weeks, and B) there isn’t a big pile of it sitting around asking to be eaten!!

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Okay, so one is a little broken – but I don’t cry over broken cookies…. they are just a hint from the universe to remember to share!

My Best GF chocolate chip cookies  - vegan as well!!
- adapted from I.S. at Yahoo Voices

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF baking mix
½ c almond meal (or dried and pulverized leftover almond milk mash – that’s what I use)
½ c brown rice flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp guar gum
½ c unrefined sugar
½ tsp salt
½ c pure maple syrup
½ Tbsp blackstrap molasses
3 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup organic neutral flavored oil
½ – 2/3 c non-dairy chocolate chips
½ c roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Mix the dry except chips and nuts
In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, molasses and vanilla, then stir in the oil until well combined.
Add the wet mixture to the dry, along with the chips & pecans, and stir until combined
Place ½ Tbsp scoops on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten a little.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, rotating halfway through until browning just a tad on the bottom.
Cool on a wire rack before removing from tray.
As Little Sis always says….. and she comes from a very bright family I hear – Eat that chocolate cookie while it is still warm!!

Looking for some other Gluten Free treats?
Chickpea/Chocolate Cookies
Almond Joy Brownies
2 Ingredient Yum (Fudge)
Cranberry Apple Pecan Crunch
Nut Butter Bliss Balls
Sweet Potato Crust Apple Pie / Cobbler

12 Healthful Freezer Faves

I confess that I love staying connected to my friends and family with Facebook.  It’s true. Social media is also useful when we get to see how much better other people function in situations in which we are… perhaps… slightly less super functional. A moment to explain. When I was pregnant, my interest in food and … Continue reading

Potatoes and Peasant Food

Potatoes get a bad rap, but truly they are victims in this turn of event.  They can’t help it that we tend to slather them with fat and/or dunk them in hot grease and eat the least healthy versions of them (big and white) in large quantities.  While potatoes are high in carbohydrates, there is fiber in the skin, so if you eat small potatoes, you get more skin (fiber and nutrients) and less starchy insides.  And if you eat colored potatoes you are also getting carotenoids and flavonoids which are nutritious and act as anti-oxidants.

Unfortunately, the little colored potatoes are more costly than the big white ones… but they are worth investigating.  You might be very surprised at how much more flavorful a small colored potato is than a big white one.  Makes it easier to skip the sour cream, butter, cheddar cheese, bacon….. oh my.  I used to like that kind of thing on a baked potato – but your family just might like these with a touch of healthy oil and spices.

The pretty little buggers can be boiled, or roasted, or baked just like any other potato.  One of my favorite ways to prepare them is a double cook: baked, boiled or even microwaved, and then sliced and sauteed with some onion, possibly some greens and if you want, you can even throw in some scrambled eggs or meat if you eat it.

We always ate this one night on camping or backpacking trips when I was a kid and it was dubbed ‘peasant food.’

Peasant food is another of the quick throw what you have in a skillet for dinner ‘recipes’ that Little Sis and I have come to rely on when planning is lacking or life doesn’t go along with our carefully laid plans.  Okay, so that’s almost everyday, and that is why we have more than one sneaky quick dinner on hand.

In order to make peasant food quickly you have to have already cooked potatoes.  If you are brilliantly organized you might cook some potatoes at the beginning of every week, just to have for emergencies…. or you might be like me and just wash them, slice them and throw them in the microwave to soften them up before sauteing.  It is much easier to slice a cold potato than a hot one, so if microwaving, it is important to slice first.  If baking or boiling for future use, it is not necessary to pre-slice.

After you’ve got some soft potatoes, you are only about 15 minutes away from a meal.

Saute some onion, scallions or leeks if you like them in a Tbsp or 2 of oil.  I used some leftover leeks from a previous dinner

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I’m not giving amounts because as I said, this is a fly-by-the-seat of your stovetop recipe… use what you got, or what you think is reasonable.

When the onion-y type stuff is getting translucent, add your potatoes along with some salt and pepper.  You can also add other spices if you like, I just relied on the flavor of the leeks, salt and pepper to improve the potatoes.

Cook over Medium heat until heated through and you have a little bit of browning action going on.

Throw in a couple of handfuls of any hardy greens you have around…. I used spinach…. you could try kale or swiss chard as well.

Cook until greens are wilted.

Now if you want to add scrambled eggs or chopped meat – I would add beaten eggs after the greens wilt, or meat when you add the potatoes.  We did not add anything but used the potatoes as a side dish.

P1010540-001Check out those gorgeous purple potatoes!!!  Hard to believe they are potatoes.  I may just have to take a stab at growing some of these bad boys this summer because they are really great.

Don’t get rid of potatoes…. just get rid of (or cut down on) french fries, chips and the fatty toppings.  What’s underneath is Food.  Real Food.

P1010541-001 Now excuse me while I go eat these beautiful purple potatoes.  Mmmm.

Sweet Potato Be-Crusted Quiche & Apple Pie – GF, DF

Why didn’t I think of this?  Do you ever say that?  I say it a lot, but I guess it means that at least I recognize genius when I see it.  In this case, Claire at Just Blither Blather thoughtfully shared her brilliance with the rest of us, and from her Collard Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust, I thought that what is good for the quiche is good for the pie, right?

Well, I hope so.  I’m typing this while sweet potato be-crusted quiche and apple pie are filling the house with wonderful aromas.  I did not follow Claire’s quiche recipe to the letter simply because I didn’t have all of the same ingredients, but hers looked and sounded so fabulous I didn’t want to wait.  I did however follow the crust instructions, and that is the beauty part of this whole experiment because I can think of lots of things to put in this crust!

So check out her recipe for the quiche as well as mine….

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato
1 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp. maple syrup

Pre-heat oven to 375
Mix together ingredients and press into 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
4 apples, chopped into chunks
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Pour filling into crust
Cover loosely with aluminum foil
Bake at 375 for about 35 – 45 minutes.  Peek, smell and listen ;-)

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So I started with dessert – it’s a plan that some people swear by….. but don’t worry – there is a main dish as well.

Sweet Potato Crusted Quiche
Crust:
3 cups shredded sweet potato (I used the food processor)
A drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix sweet potato and a little olive oil and press into a 9 – 10″ pie plate
Bake for 15 minutes

Filling:
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
oil for saute
2 cups of vegetable of choice (I used shredded broccoli stem – yes I am that cheap- and some leeks)
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
Splash of water
Saute the onions and garlic until translucent
Add the other veggies you are using and cook til a little tender
Add salt and pepper to taste
Claire used collards which sounds lovely, but I didn’t have any greens available, so I just went with the other veggies.  Use what you like or what yo know your family will eat!
Place veggies in crust after it comes out of the oven
Beat the eggs and splash of water together and pour over veggies
Bake at 375 for 35 – 45 minutes or until set.

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Now we have eaten both of these ‘pies’ and they were both delicious! The pie is (as seems to be the case with my gluten free pie attempts), more of an inverted cobbler, but it is a very tasty inverted cobbler!  The sweet potato gets a bit chewy and crispy along the edges but it can’t hold a wedge together.  We didn’t mind.  The quiche holds together nicely.  It was a delicious meal with extra veggies at the bottom!

Breakfast Ice Cream OR Creamy Smoothies For All

IMG_0214If you’ve been playing a long for a while, you know that here at the pantry we simply LOVE smoothies, especially those that allow us to hide some super nutritious deep greens from our children…. Yeah, it’s probably dirty pool, but you only have to really hide them a couple of times before they no longer care what’s in there and will eat it up regardless.

We’ve had many, many a smoothie over the last few years, but I have to IMG_0205confess that my recent favorites include a decadent ingredient: avocado. In our recent smoothies, I’ve been adding the flesh from 1/2 and avocado, and it gives the smoothie (or breakfast ice cream if you use a little less liquid and don’t blend QUITE so vigorously) a distinctly ice cream-y quality.  Who wouldn’t want ice cream for breakfast?

Our recent formula goes a bit like this…

IMG_0212Breakfast Ice Cream

  • 3-4 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 3 cups deep greens (or more if you can get away with it)
  • frozen berries to top of blender container
  • 1 soup spoon honey (opt – we use if the berries are tart, i.e. raspberries)
  • non-dairy milk (we used coconut) until blend ability (usually 1.5 cups for us) or some other liquid of your choosing

IMG_0219We have a power blender, which makes all of this very easy.  If you have a standard blender, I would recommend starting with the liquid and the non-frozen ingredients, and then add the frozen ingredients slowly.  This makes a lot of breakfast ice cream, which is awesome, because if you have leftovers you can freeze and pack in a lunch or serve with a grapefruit spoon to someone with a sore throat.  Breakfast ice cream.  THAT’s living.

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Baby Step # 14: Add Some Nourishment

BabyStep14Bad weather brings out the survivor in us, doesn’t it?  Threats to our electricity, our ability to drive (with all the inherent loss of access to food and other stuff), ability to do our job, and our plans in general, are indeed very upsetting threats.   Some of us bring in the outdoor furniture or delicate plants, some of us check the batteries in the flashlights, some of us buy lots of bread and milk, some of us check the firewood, blankets and maybe even fuel supply for the generator.

It is a giant step in our culture to go from: “You deserve a break today….. Treat yourself….. A moment for you…… You deserve the best…… Because you’re worth it” and all the other attempts by advertisers to get us to reward ourselves by purchasing their products to: “Batten down the hatches!”  We don’t have to batten down very often, do we?  Left to our own devices and the influence of Madison Avenue we’ve become quite accustomed to having our favorite food or at least something we genuinely like when we eat.  Every time we eat.  Why not?  Who wouldn’t choose what they like over what they dislike? Restaurants, convenience stores, vending machines and the center aisles of the grocery store are all too happy to provide our favorites, with plenty of questionable additives to keep them from spoiling and to make them easy to prepare.

My fellow nurses and I marvel over the number of patients who will say, “I can’t eat that”, or “I don’t eat that” when offered hospital food, not because of allergies or being vegetarian, or gluten-free, but simply because they don’t like it, or it’s not what they are used to or not the way they usually fix it.  Why should the nurses be surprised?  Nurses are surprised because nursing is a fast-paced ‘batten down the hatches’ kind of job.  With far too many tasks to complete in far too little time, we are in survival – and patient survival! – mode.  As a result, we just don’t always understand that patients who are recovering or depressed or feeling lousy but not in danger, continue to behave within the rules of this culture.  “You deserve something that you like, why not your favorite?”  And so when the patient complains about the food, we ask them what they want, call the fine people in nutritional services, get the patient’s request filled if at all possible, (no matter if it’s not terribly healthy), and then make jokes in the nurses station about how we work in a spa rather than a hospital.   (Some of the high cost of American health care, this spa mentality, but we won’t go there today).

I am not trying to say these patients’ behavior is bad or wrong, it is our culture and it is what it is, but it does offer some insight into the difficulty of improving eating habits and trying to maintain a healthy weight in this American culture.  How is a person supposed to feel satisfied by a meal or a snack if that meal or snack represents less than what one likes, or is less than is ‘deserved,’ or somehow less than what society says is good, best or one’s right?

I believe that part of the battle for creating a healthy lifestyle is identifying what nourishes you.  Taste buds are not the only players in the satisfaction game.  A nourishing meal or experience is satisfying because you have been nourished, i.e., your body, mind or spirit has been strengthened, guided, fed, nurtured, sustained, encouraged, cultivated, supported, fostered, developed and/or promoted.   I’d like to see a McDonald’s french fry do that all by itself.  Mind you, a McDonald’s french fry eaten with friends….. or after basketball practice….. or on a date…… or any other physically, emotionally or spiritually fulfilling activity is another story.  So, it’s not always the french fry that satisfied you, but the company or the circumstances in which you ate that fry.

Baby Step #14: Add Some Nourishment

What Nourishes You?

To add some nourishment, you have to figure out what nourishes you. Consider the following:
- What makes you feel good for a prolonged period of time?  What do you talk or think about a day, a week, or a year later?  I bet it’s not the french fry.
- Why do you find unhealthy food (pick your fave) satisfying?  Is it the convenience?  Is it buying something?  Is it the restaurant atmosphere or sneaking something once the kids have gone to bed?  Is it the taste, the texture?  Is it having someone make something for you?  Does it represent a break from an activity that you find difficult or draining?
- Do you plan nourishing activities to feed yourself and possibly your family in body, mind and spirit?

If you can recognize some truths about what nourishes you, it might be easier to get more nourishment and less ‘processed food Ka-Pow sugar/fat and salt taste’ into your life.

Check your self-worth.

In order to add some nourishment, you must believe that you are worth nourishing.  It is easier to believe that you are worth nourishing when you are well nourished.  “Them that’s got, shall get,” right?  Kind of twisted, but I believe it’s true.  It’s like smiling at yourself in the mirror when you don’t feel very up.  It makes you feel better.  Steve Martin says you can’t play a sad song on the banjo.  It’s also hard to be sad when you are smiling.  It’s also hard to choose unhealthy food once you have experienced nourishment.  But you have to pay attention.  You can’t attribute feelings, behavior and choices to feelings, behavior and choices unless you are paying attention.

So again, ask yourself:

“Why do I choose what I choose?”
“Am I trying to nourish myself?” – remember all of those wonderful meanings of nourished: strengthened, guided, fed, nurtured, sustained, encouraged, cultivated, supported, fostered, developed and/or promoted.”
“What nourishes me?”
“How do I get more of what nourishes me in my life?”

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Sometimes after work when I’ve been out of the house for 14 hours and running around for about 11 of those I get home and feel ravenously hungry.  If I don’t pay attention I will overeat and sometimes choose the least healthy option in the house before realizing that I’m full and not running and my feet hurt less and I can slow down and take care of myself.  I just caught myself doing it again last night, so I’m going to pack one last healthy item in my lunch bag to eat on the way home.  That will take the edge off of feeling ravenous and allow me to come into the house and nourish myself by sitting down, relaxing and catching up with my husband and son.  They nourish me (when I spend time with them!!).  Allowing myself to be still after a very busy day nourishes me.  Reading nourishes me.  Making things nourishes me.  Meditating/Praying nourishes me.  So many things other than a quick fix of a Ka-Pow dose of sugar, fat or salt nourish me.  And it is lovely when I pay attention and care for myself enough to seek out nourishment over satisfaction.

Practice and Experiment with Conscious Choices

I am not suggesting that you should not choose to eat what you like to eat, but I am suggesting that consciousness about your choices may make you aware of more choices, both food and non-food, available to you.  If they are nourishing choices, you may ultimately find them to be more satisfying than what you currently choose.  I often use Lent as a time to remind myself of what a certain indulgence means in my life.  When I give it up, I either miss it terribly or find that it was not so important to me after all.  That is how I was able to reduce my sugar intake.  I found that after 40 days of nothing sweet I found most sweets unappetizingly sweet and by the end I didn’t miss them as much as I thought I would.  Giving up fiction did not have the same result.  I missed it very much and appreciated it more when I returned to it.  In fact, I think I chose my books more carefully because I wanted to read really good books.  Since those days of Lenten deprivation I have found it very helpful to ADD something for Lent – some devotional practice or amount of quiet time or time spent to help others and I find that to be very nourishing. What could you give up or add to challenge your conscious decision-making?

Baby Step #14 is really a life-long journey, but even long journeys can be taken in baby steps.  I certainly have made steps forward and backwards in learning what, and then pursuing, what nourishes me.  ‘Batten down the hatches’ can take us to survival mode when we know what is important to basic survival.  Finding and pursuing what nourishes us in body, mind and spirit can help us survive and grow with grace and with respect for ourselves and for others.  It’s not easy.  I have to remind myself that like all of the baby steps, a baby step forward is still a step forward.  In fact it nourishes me to attempt, to succeed, to fail, and to try again.  I remember and treasure this process long after the memory of tasty treats has faded.

I encourage you to figure out what nourishes you and to add some more nourishment to your life.

For Your Good Neighbor… Cookies to Share

I know Valentine’s Day is coming up, and I should have something heart shaped for you, but right now I have to confess I’m thinking more about my neighbor than I am about my sweetie. Let me explain…

When we moved here 6 years ago, there were a variety of features of our property that didn’t register as they probably should have.  For example, I might have expected that a house on “Slate Hill Pl.” might not offer the most friable garden soil in the region. I might have investigated how difficult it would be to remove a urinal. I also really could have taken a moment to notice how VERY VERY long my driveway is.

Out of cheapness and a determination to prove my ruggedness, I forbade Mr. Little Sis to purchase some kind of machine to help us with the snow that might arrive on this driveway.  For years my stubbornness bore few consequences, with the exception of one very long weekend of 4 feet of snow assisted by very kind and forgiving friends.

Enter the winter of 2013-2014. I’m reasonably certain we’ve had more individual snowfalls this year than we had over the last 3 years combined. The good news is that last year my resolve diminished during a holiday sale and we obtained machinery to help deal with precipitation on our VERY VERY long driveway. Ironically, my neighbor (who has an EVEN LONGER driveway) obtained an even larger, and faster snow moving machine.

So where are we going with all this (and WHEN DO WE GET THE COOKIES)? My wonderful neighbor, if he begins his task first, comes and does our driveway with his super fast machine, “to get us started.” His boost amounts to a good 75% of the work, and so Mr. Little Sis is freed up to go help another neighbor, who is a tough old bird, but will for some reason, let Mr. Little Sis (and no other neighbor) clear her drive. What happened when Mr. Little Sis was away during a storm? My neighbor plowed my drive, and another neighbor snuck out pre-dawn and shoveled out Ms. Mary. And the kids and I made cookies for everyone. Sometimes a little snow brings out the best in all of us.

So make ‘em for your favorite neighbor, make ‘em for your sweetie, make ‘em for yourself. These are lower in sugar than the average cookie, although they are admittedly higher in chocolate than most chocolate chip cookies.  These are a true treat – one will do and will be a real thank you to whoever deserves it the most.

Good Neighbor Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) - makes enough to share

  • 3/4 c coconut oilIMG_0146
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 2 c turbinado or coconut sugar
  • 4 flax eggs (4 Tbs flax meal + 12 Tbs water)
  • 4 t vanilla
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 c semi-sweet or dark chocolate chip cookies
  • 1/5 c hopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375. In a medium bowl, combine baking soda, salt, and pastry flour. Set aside.  In stand mixer bowl or large bowl, mix together coconut oil, applesauce, and sugar.  Beat until thoroughly combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add dry ingredients and continue to mix until it looks like cookie batter.  Add mix ins and combine.

IMG_0132 IMG_0134 IMG_0136

Drop in cookie sized gobs (I use a cookie batter scoop) onto a greased cookie sheet or one lined with parchment.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 2 minutes ON the cookie sheet and then remove to wire racks.

IMG_0141 IMG_0143 IMG_0146

WOW. Okay, that’s not the healthiest thing I’ve ever made, but daggone they are good.  Happy Valentine’s Day. Happy Snow Day. Happy Neighborhood.