Silence – An Absence that is Part of Wholeness

Silence.  Silence!  SilenceBabySteps.pptx

Absence of noise.  A place.  A state of being.  A chance to listen.  Silence.

Not sure what to say next because I’m not supposed to be talking.  Apparently I’m supposed to be quiet right now.

Not an easy task for me.  Just ask Little Sis…. or Carni-Mom.  Plus I am supposed to be contributing to our Well-Being series.  So I get to proceed – as usual  :-) talking about silence.

Beyond my own ability to keep my mouth shut, and my enthusiasm bridled, there is the relative difficulty we all face of establishing quiet around ourselves even with our mouths shut.  We are surrounded by devices and machines and tasks and people and news and entertainment and alarms and warnings and intentions and plans and much human noise.  Yet, amidst all of this noise, most of us would agree that silence is powerful.  Isn’t that a bit telling?  Silence is something powerful that we often decrease or even eliminate from our lives.  Perhaps a year of wellness warrants taking a closer look at silence and what we can get from silence.

Sometimes silence is scary.  We associate it with apocalypse.  Perhaps it is more truly associated with a chink in our civilized armor.  Perhaps we don’t want time to think about more than our devices, schedules, tasks, entertainment and distraction, because if we do we might be faced with some questions about our own priorities, or our own power, or our own disappointments.  Perhaps our ‘conquest’ of the natural world is only complete if we are removed from the natural world.  How is it that we acknowledge this power and can acknowledge that it is a good thing, (think ‘peace and quiet’) but are for some reason losing, or even avoiding silence.

Silence is one of those things, like a dark night sky, or fear of predators, or for many people the ability to provide one’s own basic needs, that for good or ill we lose with modern civilization.  It is power that can weigh like an anvil, or beckon like a boat at the end of a dock on a peaceful lake.  Silence allows expansion.  It is a starting place.  A void.  There are places that silence can take us.  Perhaps journeys that feed our imaginations, our spiritual musings or longings or feed insights that can help us grow, prioritize and appreciate all of the blessings in our lives require a clear canvas on which to unfold?

True silence is the rest of the mind; it is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment.  ~William Penn

Where to start such a journey?  In order to appreciate or benefit from silence, we must find it, make it, accept it, allow it and work with it.  As is our wont over here at the Pantry, baby steps come to mind in any endeavor of change or exploration that seems difficult or even impossible.

Start by thinking about the sources of noise that block out natural noises in your life.
Is there a TV, radio or other device that makes noise always on at your house or in your car?  Does it ever get turned off?  Can you set a time each day when the devices will be silenced?  It doesn’t have to be a big deal of everyone being very quiet.  It could just be a time without music, TV, news or other outside noise.

An inability to stay quiet is one of the most conspicuous failings of mankind.  ~Walter Bagehot

Being quiet is indeed not easy which is why I suggest just establishing a few times with less noise as a starter.  You might be surprised by what you notice or even think about with less noisy stimulation going on.

You might also like to try some true quiet time when there is an intention of not making noise.
We will sometimes sit as a family and meditate.  Other times we will simply be quiet for a number of minutes, close eyes and mouths and pay attention to what we are hearing, smelling, and feeling.  We often discuss what we noticed when done, and also do this outside to notice smells, sounds and feelings outside.  This was especially hard for our son at first, but he has become quite good at it and can now also be still and meditate.  If you’d like some ideas for family meditation, we have enjoyed these 2 books:

Product Details

This one being particularly good for young children.  The next one works for all ages, especially if you are willing to just replace the words ‘child’ or ‘children’ with people / family members, etc.

Product Details

Silence is the true friend that never betrays.  ~Confucius

Once there is some silence in your life, I believe it then becomes easier to choose noise more wisely.  One can decide to actually listen to music OR to have it be a soundtrack in the background OR not have it at all.  Well-being, or being well is not an accident but a result of our choices and our reactions to the things we can not control.  Silence and meditation are wonderful ways of increasing self awareness, mindfulness, stress-reduction and peace.

Silence is a source of great strength.  ~Lao Tzu

Be well.

(Quotes were all found at http://www.quotegarden.com/silence.html)

Healthier Oats Made Even Easier

This morning it was 16 degrees here in Middle TN.  Some of you may not think that’s cold, but my daffodils are already peeking out, so for us, that is a bit of a seasonal abnormality.  The already cooked steel cut oats that awaited me were a delicious and hearty meal with which to start the day.  Steel cut oats are fairly similar to rolled oats nutritionally speaking but they have a lower glycemic index (meaning they don’t spike blood sugar as much) and most people find they have a nuttier taste and more hearty texture.  In addition, even if it doesn’t affect the nutrition label, it seems to me that the more processing, the more chance that something nasty or unnecessary is being introduced and I’d just as soon skip that possibility!  They do however take longer to cook than rolled oats.

Little Sis and I have both posted a recipe for cooking steel cut oats (the whole oat grain) overnight in the crockpot….. But what if you don’t have a crockpot?  Our versions are full of flavors that do indeed require a little extra work…. What if you don’t have time for a little extra work?  (I’m heading for a solution – just building a little suspense first).  Little Sis posted Chocolate Oats, ooh lala, this IS Valentine’s Day weekend you sweet thing you.  And I posted Pumpkin/Apple Steel Cut Oats.  Take THAT Starbuck’s.  If you have a crockpot and haven’t tried these yet.  You must.  Really.

If however, you are lacking a crock pot, or a little extra time or the tastes and tolerances in your family for oatmeal flavors are too diverse to make a big single flavored pot, and/or all you have time to do is measure water and oats into a pot, let it boil while you do something else and then turn it off, then I have a solution for you.  Yep.  That’s it.  Put the oats and water and a pinch of salt in a pot, boil for 1 minute, cover and let sit all night.  Quick as you please, even if it’s cold and nobody wants to get up and get going!

This recipe comes from Snack Girl who has lots of good advice about eating healthfully.  She is also a professor of biology and that makes her even more special in my biology loving book ;-)

Quick Steel Cut Oats

Makes 4 – 1 cup servings

1 cup steel-cut oats
3 cups water
pinch of salt

The night before you want to eat oatmeal put oats, water, and salt in a large saucepan (allow room for oatmeal expansion). Boil for one minute.

Cover the pot, remove from heat and leave on stove until morning.

Now there’s no saying you couldn’t add a little canned pumpkin…. or some chopped apple…. or some cocoa and a little sweetener, or your favorite dried fruits, nuts, apple sauce, frozen berries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon – lots of cinnamon really sweetens things up without sugar, or whatever else you like on your oatmeal.  But these oats are heartier and less processed.  Hurrah!  and Hurrah!

I heartily endorse doubling this recipe.  Truly, this meal is leftovers from the get-go.  Why not make extra and have some more get up and go leftovers?  You can make some servings in appropriately sized containers with some toppings, stick in the fridge and voila you have breakfast to go for anyone with access to a microwave.  Take that again Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, AND the hospital cafeteria!

Here are pix of our nummy oatmeals for the crockpot.  Turn your overnight-without-the-crock oats into something just as yummy….. in no time.

20140928_075629IMG_9142This recipe also allows for Baby Steps to healthier oatmeal.  Slowly decrease the amount of sugar that is used as a topping.  Or try some fresh fruit or Date Cream or Apple Drizzle (also made the night before).  How nice to be able to provide and enjoy a hot, healthy breakfast with ingredients you know and can pronounce in about a minute.  That’s sweet.

Loving Raw Chocolate Macaroons

Food makes a lovely gift.  Everyone loves sweets.  Most of us give sweets to those we love in some way, at some time, in some place…. and especially in February when Hallmark moves us….. I mean our hearts move us, to make our amorous leanings known through buying stuff.

Making a gift has always been a way to imbue a gift with an extra bit of love and caring because not only your resources but your time was given (albeit shopping for the right gift can take time as well!).  But how loving is it to hand someone a box of candy that consists of a whopping load of sugar and unrecognizable chemicals?  It feels like love when given, when received, when consumed, but the health consequences are surely not was intended by the giver in love.  See our Sugar Busting series if you need a reminder about just how rough sugar is on our bodies….. (How Sugar Strict Should You Be?, Salt, Sugar Fat, How the Food Giants Hooked Us, The Sweet Stuff (facts about sugar consumption), Eat Food, Real Food., Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot,)

But back to the problem at hand.  Our Sweetie-Dad is having a few health troubles that the doctors think would be helped by cutting back on sweets.  He is Sweetie-Dad because he is indeed wonderfully sweet and charming…. and also because he’s consumed enough sugar over the years to turn himself into plum jelly.  Of course the poor man has to listen to The Sis Daughters lecture here and again and is probably often frightened when we come by what we might try to pass off as dessert, however, as with all things, experimentation and perseverance can yield workable results.  I know of quite a few lower sugar treats that he enjoys and with Valentine’s Day in mind decided to try a recipe that had been stored on my Kindle for some time waiting for a test run.

Tessa the Domestic Diva created these morsels that are perfect for a pre-kiss Valentine’s exchange.  I only added one ingredient – an almond on top of each, so she really gets all the credit for this one ;-)  And Sweetie-Dad and I thank her.

Raw Chocolate Macaroons

2 c shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 c coconut oil (don’t over do it)
4 – 5 Tbsp cocoa powder (I used this)
1/4 cup maple syrup (she also lists honey or coconut nectar as possibilities)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
about 2 dozen raw almonds

Place all ingredients in food processor and mix well (scraping down sides as needed).  I am gathering from her description that she placed hardened coconut oil.  I melted mine first and mixed in the cocoa powder and vanilla before pouring into the food processor.  Mine probably mixed faster, her mixture was probably easier to shape.

20150206_120102-001Roll, scoop, plop, shape – just get it in reasonable portions onto wax or parchment paper or a silpat lined cookie sheet and chill in the fridge or freezer until firm.

20150206_134903-001You can store them in the refrigerator or the freezer and share them with the sweeties in your life knowing that your time and your love has translated into a treat that lacks processed ingredients without a high dose of sugar.  Love :-)

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If you’d like to give some other kind of loving sweets check out these other options from us and friends:

Chocolate Apricot Truffle Cups from an unrefined vegan

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Drop Cookies

Sweet Potato Crusted Apple Pie

Cocoa-nutty Good Bars / or Cake!

Nut Butter Bliss Balls

Crispy Chocolate Granola Stacks from Emmy Cooks!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Vedged Out

For more ideas for reducing the amount of sugar and processed food in your life, check out our book!  Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals.  Eat well, Be well friends!

(OMG) GF Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake

Once in awhile we post someone else’s recipe as is – unchanged.  I confess that part of my just taking the easy road and making this by actually following directions was that I was in a hurry.  You see I had to come up with some GF dessert that would make non-GF son feel like his birthday had been adequately celebrated.  Following Little Sis’ lead (see another birthday cake for Bigg Sis), I turned to Angela Liddon.

It is always an honor to point anyone in the direction of Angela Liddon who has a blog and a lovely cookbook that features vegan recipes.  I do believe that her specialty is sweets.  In fact she had a shop where she sold amazing vegan bars and baked goods before becoming a successful blogger and cookbook author.  Give this to-die-for fudgy mocha pudding cake a try and then buy her cookbook because the non-sweets in it are excellent as well!

Back to the cake….. Last night we celebrated our boy, well, young man’s 14th birthday with a bunch of his friends playing football, video games, eating pizza and I’m ashamed to say, a store bought cake.  Mr. Bigg Sis and I ate some and made yucky faces at the overly sweet, oddly gummy concoction with way too much icing.  I vowed to do better the next night when the 3 of us would celebrate family style.  The headache that came soon after (yes, I am a sensitive and delicate creature for sure) was also good motivation to get my tail up and cooking the next day.

So here is the recipe – totally ripped off but heartily acknowledged.

Fudgy Mocha Pudding Cake by Angela Liddon

1 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 1/2 c  oat flour (make sure its GF if you need totally GF)
3/4 c plus 1/3 c sugar (she recommends coconut – I used plain organic cane sugar)
1/3 c plus 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (she uses non-dairy choc. chips)
3/4 tsp salt (she used fine grained sea salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c almond milk
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup hot coffee or boiled water (I used decaf – not very strong)
confectioners sugar and toasted walnuts are optional toppings

Mix the ground flax seed with 3 Tbsp water in a 2 cup measuring cup, mix and set aside

Pre-heat oven to 375 and lightly grease an 8×8 pan (I used coconut oil)

In a large bowl, mix flour, 3/4 c sugar, 1/3 c cocoa powder, choc chips, salt & baking powder

Add the coconut oil, milk and vanilla to the flaxseed mixture and whisk / stir together

Mix the wet and dry together and pour into prepared pan and make even and flat with a spoon or spatula

Mix 1/3 c sugar and 2 Tbsp cocoa and sprinkle over the cake

Pour the hot coffee slowly and gently over the top of the cake

Bake for 27 – 33 minutes or until semi-firm on top and bubbly on the sides – mine was a tad overdone at 27 minutes, so check at 25.

20150125_180529-001Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes and then top if you like with sugar, walnuts or ice cream of your choice.

Now this may not look that good, but appreciate the consistency of the pudding like stuff that comes out with the cakey-like stuff.  Really quite something.  Everyone had seconds.  In fact I’m still full….. no room for the snack I usually eat at bedtime to prevent waking up at 2 am so hungry I have to go get a snack.  Okay, so I’m a rather ravenous but sensitive and delicate creature…. but I know a good real food GF cake when I eat one!

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Triple Dose of Well-Being

Do you remember Venn diagrams?  Those pesky overlapping circles in which you had to place sets of things that had some but not all things in common depending on wherein lay their similarity?  I have been using a Venn diagram to discuss well-being with patients who are in recovery from substance abuse and I have found the concept to be helpful to myself as well as I consider my own wellness and well-being.  I would like to share it with you as part of our new series that explores aspects of well-being and nourishment beyond the very important attitude towards well-being represented by what we eat.

It is not everyday that you get to use the term ‘triumverate,’ but now you know how many circles are in my Venn Dance.  In fact it is 3 circles that you will recognize.  Body, mind and spirit as a group have been used so lightly and frequently that I hesitated to use the terms with patients as a way to organize well-being efforts, but after making some attempt to define the 3 umvirates (???) in terms of function, I found the whole approach less banal and more helpful.

Why do so many things come up with 3 parts or portions? Past-present-future; red-blue-yellow; rock-paper-scissors; Harry – Ron – Hermione; and there is this wonderful meditation on 3 from the fine people from Schoolhouse Rock:

3 is a Magic Number

On a more serious note, the number 3 has significance in all of the world’s major religions.  It seems to come down to balance.  Systems divided into even numbers of participants, parts or factors have the potential for the creation of sides and 2 teams.  Either/Or, This or That, Black or White are notoriously narrow views of the world!  Three is the smallest odd whole number that is greater than one, and therefore represents  a simple array of pieces that can not gang up but have to work together in order to work.  If one leg of the stool is shorter than the others (or longer) it will provide a short sit.  And life is not really a short sit.  This is lucky for me as I seem to require repeat lessons on some basics of living despite having received a myriad of blessings.  Bring on the second chances…… please and I’ll try to keep my stool balanced so I make it through all of the lessons.

So back to body, mind and spirit.  Basically the approach was to think of oneself as the center of the Venn Diagram of 3 circles representing body, mind and spirit.  All body, All mind or All spirit tend to lead to problems.  Thinking about the 3 realms in terms of functionality helped me think about why it was important to sustain them.  You may not agree with the functions, and of course there is overlap (being a Venn Dance after all)…..

I am so thankful for my Body which provides
transportation & sensation

I am so thankful for my Mind which provides
instruction & construction

I am so thankful for my Spirit which provides
identification and perpetuation

So I challenge my patients, myself, and you, to draw yourself a diagram and think of a few Baby Steps for each realm of your life.

Venn

Body, mind and spirit – all that function and all that you working together to create world view – perspective – character – approach – life.  A unique human tale.

Here’s to taking Baby Steps to Wholeness and Well-Being and celebrating life in 2015.

If you need help with the Baby Steps to Better Health concept, please check out our book.

 

Tabil Spiced Chili over Roasted Potatoes

I am still on a quest to share uses for Tabil spice mix with the world – particularly the subset to whom I gave home roasted Tabil as a Christmas gift.  The presence of cumin and red pepper flakes speak to chili, and the rest of the tabil ingredients (coriander, caraway and garlic) seemed different enough to twist the chili up a bit.  I also thought that a different base than rice would be nice.  We do fall back on rice a lot around here, and although I’m glad to have it (and my son could probably eat it 3 times a day), nutritionally speaking, variety is indeed a spicy and healthy thing.  Enter the much maligned potato.  Potatoes have been bred into giant, dry, starchy behemoths that are meant to be smothered in fattening dairy products.  However, the little colored potato with all of it’s positive nutritional status is turning up in all kinds of places.  I recently got 5 lbs. of organic little red taters for 4.99.  That’s cheaper than the rice I use.  Woo hoo!

I’m thinking that all of you are as ready for simple as I at this time of year, and the Tabil helps keep this simple.  If you don’t have any Tabil, it is pretty easy to make* and once you have it…. next time will be really easy!  (Or you can buy it here).  If roasting potatoes does not seem simple, then by all means make some rice – but the rest of this recipe is really quick and easy.

Tabil Spiced Chili

About 2 lbs. red potatoes cut into small chunks for roasting or rice
Oil for sauteeing onion
1 Red onion, diced
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Tabil spice mix
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen because the cans do not have BPA in the liner)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste (Muir Glen again – same reason)
1 bunch swiss chard (or other hearty green) washed and cut or torn into pieces
1 – 2 colored peppers cut in chunks
1 small can (15 oz. ) black beans, rinsed and drained

Potatoes:
If roasting potatoes – allow 30 – 45 minutes at 400, depending on how small you cut the potatoes.  I made these bite sized because they are the base of the chili, therefore they roast faster and get crispier.  We snuck some before adding chili and I think I will roast potatoes this way always :-)
Either toss it all in a bowl with oil to coat (I prefer avocado because it withstands high heat), or just stir oil in right on the roasting pan.  Add some salt to taste and stick in the oven.  Stir after 15 or 20 minutes.

20150113_174450-001Chili:
Saute onion until becoming translucent
Add spices and stir until fragrant
Add tomatoes & paste, stirring occasionally over medium low for 10 minutes to heat
Add swiss chard and cook until wilted
Add peppers and beans and let simmer for another 5 or so minutes

Steamy!!

Steamy!!

Serve over the potatoes

The peppers were crunchy, everything else soft and spicy.  We all enjoyed this very much.  My son, who is a charter member of the no-food-touching club chose to eat his potatoes on the side.

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My husband and I mixed it all together and then argued – gently discussed – who would get the leftovers for lunch.  I won!

20150113_175352-001Stay warm friends – soon it will be time for seed catalogs and dreaming of warmer days.  For now, I’ll try to heat up my insides a bit with food and laughter.

* If you do decide to make your own Tabil, I have since made it in my Vita Mix which was faster and an easier clean up than my coffee grinder.  In addition, I recommend not adding garlic powder until after grinding to avoid sending a cloud of garlic dust into the air ;-)

In addition – we are starting a new series on Well-Being which Little Sis opened a week or so ago.  I’ll be posting the second soon.  If you or someone you know is wanting to eat better and feel better check out our e-book, Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals.

Roasted Squash Bowl w/ ‘Parm’ (GF/DF)

I love for my son to have a bunch of friends over to eat pizza and play games.  But I don’t like eating a bunch of pizza – and my husband cannot eat a bunch of pizza, so while the kids were racing Kartts around the track (4 people / 4 corners of the screen – how DO they do that!?), the kitchen was filling with the enticing aroma of roasting butternut squash, onions and garlic.

This is not a new combo around here.  In fact I posted a recipe for such a concoction that includes walnuts and red potatoes from an original made with pasta a parmesan, but I decided to try using my parmesan substitute made from sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast flakes and salt and we were both very pleased with the results.

DSC07947 See how pleased we were?  This is actually a picture from the post that includes the walnuts – back in my young and frivolous days when I had time to draw with a sharpie on the outer layer of a perfectly good onion.  Ah youth!  But seriously – this is an easy fix and ’tis the season to pick up some squash for a little less.  The recipe is on the small side – enough for a good meal for 2 plus a large leftover lunch.  I’ll pick up a couple of squashes next time!

Roasted Squash Bowl with ‘Parm’

1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
1 onion, cubed
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp high heat oil (I used avocado)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
Cooked brown rice
Vegan parmesan (recipe here along with other dairy free pasta toppers and below)

Pre-heat oven to 375
Toss squash and onion with garlic, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper flakes
Spread on pan and roast for 30 – 45 minutes or until tender
While roasting, cook rice according to package directions

Prepare vegan parmesan:
Moo-less, Flavor-full Parmesan sprinkles
-adapted from Angela Liddon’s vegan parmesan cheez

1/2 c sunflower seeds
3/4 c sesame seeds (I used raw rather than toasted)
1/4 c nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in blender
Blend until powdery – don’t go too long or the sunflower seeds will start to turn into sunflower butter!

Place rice in a bowl, top with squash mixture and ‘parm’ to taste.  My parm has black specks because I used black sesame seeds.  I also didn’t grind the parm long enough because there are intact sunflower seeds.  Yikes – how did I have time to draw on vegetables in the past, now I don’t even have time to grind the sunflower seeds?  Ah well – it still tasted terrific.

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We have a new series starting this year on wellness.  Check out Little Sis’ first post in this series….
2015: A Year of Well Being  We’ll be adding to this as the year moves along – and it will, probably blindingly fast at times.  May we all pay enough attention to see the beauty and love that we encounter in the kitchen, at the table, in fellowship and in the world around us.

Dipping Into a Healthier New Year

If you’re looking for salt, sugar or fat then our culture is rife with choices and temptations.  You can easily acquire all the salt, sugar and fat you would like most anywhere you go.  But January often brings thoughts of trying to cut back on these tried and true sensations.  I find that it is helpful to me to replace, not simply extinguish behaviors or foods that are problematic.  Exploring fabulous new flavors is a good way to open the palate to alternatives to salt, sugar and fat.  If you can also throw more vegetables into your life in the mix, well, that my friends is a win-win taste and nutrition sensation!

You may recall that I recently shared a GF carrot cake with the notion of shoving more vegetables into a sweet treat.  By the same token (and the same vegetable) I’d like to share a way to shove more vegetables into your dip :-)  In addition this recipe utilizes an even more simple version of harissa which we introduced in a post several summers ago.  Harissa is a North African spicy condiment that makes mere carrots (and other things) something exotic and exciting.

The carrot dip comes from Vegetarian Times, June 2013.  You will need tabil spice mix to make your own harissa, or if you live in a cosmopolitan place, perhaps you can find harissa in a store.  I make tabil spice mix to use in this dish and others and in fact it made a nice gift for some friends and family this Holiday season.  The tabil recipe is available on our old post here.  Harissa is really easy to make from tabil and chili garlic sauce.

Short cut harissa:
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce (I use vietnamese)
1 Tbsp tabil

Mix ingredients together

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And here is my very slight variation on the recipe for Carrot Dip with Crushed Walnuts (and Black Olives)

1.5 lbs of carrots washed and chopped (I did not peel)
3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped in half
1 tsp ground coriander (the original recipe has instructions for roasting and grinding fresh seeds)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp harissa
1/2 cup chopped / toasted walnuts
the original used black olives as a garnish.  I did not.

Cover the carrots and garlic by 2 inches with salted water, bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 or 20 minutes or until the carrots are very tender.
Place everything but the walnuts in a food processor and pulse to a smooth consistency.Serve with walnuts on top with crackers / pita bread, other veggies or on a sandwich.

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20150103_175604-001And if you or someone you know is interested in changing the way you eat ….. and improving health or well-being via diet, Little Sis and I have published an e-book that can help!

“Better nutrition is a goal for many people. This book provides sensible, achievable steps that guide families or individuals in the transition to a healthier diet. The authors are 2 sisters who, using their experience as a nurse and a teacher, guided their own families to accept a real food diet. The results they saw in improved health, weight management and behavior, along with the delicious recipes they created (and include in the book) have helped make the changes both welcome and permanent. Humor, encouragement, economy and common sense carry the reader through reflections and actions for sustainable change, one baby step at a time.”

Baby Steps to Better Health: Winning the Battle with Junk Food for Families and Individuals

by the Sis Sisters – and if you’ve been longing to know our real names, they are listed at the link ;-)

GF Carrot Cake – Shovin the Produce Anywhere it Will Fit

Ha!  Don’t you love just the idea of carrot cake?  Why not replace some of the other moisture for a cake (like oil or eggs or milk) with some nice wet produce?  Why not indeed.  Anytime you can make something yummy that has produce in it, that’s a plus.  And carrot cake is even socially acceptable.  You don’t have to lie about what those little orange bits are in the cake.  This recipe is a favorite of our Step-Mother and she made it for Little Sis on one of their first evenings getting to know each other – what Little Sis fondly refers to as their ‘first date.’  Here’s to first dates, healthier cakes and parents who are wise enough to bring fabulous new people into their children’s lives.

So Step-Mo, also being very generous and wanting to look out for everyone, wanted Mr. Bigg Sis to be able to eat carrot cake as well, so we went GF and the results were truly delicious.

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Step-Mo’s GF Carrot Cake
(based on Fran’s Carrot Cake)

1 1/2 cup vegetable oil.  (I recommend avocado)
3 eggs (or flax eggs if you prefer)
1.5 – 2 cups sugar depending on how sweet your tribe is accustomed to
1 tsp salt
1 cup GF flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Baking Mix)
1 cup oat flour (you can pulverize oats in the blender to make the flour)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated carrots
2 cups flaked coconut (We used sweetened)
1 15 oz. can chopped pineapple – drained
1 cup chopped nuts (we used pecans)

Pre-heat oven to 350
Cream the wet ingredients together
Blend the flour, spices, salt and baking soda
Combine the two mixtures.
Then add carrots, coconut, pineapple and nuts
Grease and flour a bundt panBake 1 hour at 350 – until toothpick comes out clean

We dusted with just a touch of powdered sugar for looks.  The original recipe (from a personal friend) suggested cream cheese icing but this is a sweet cake – I don’t think it needs icing.  And it is very moist.

We enjoyed this and most of all because it was prepared for and shared with people we love.  It’s been a terrific year and we thank you for visiting us here at the pantry.  If you are looking for some encouragement and guidance in improving your nutrition and health in the New Year, check out our e-book, Baby Steps to Better Health.  Also great to share with a friend or loved one.

We wish you all a very happy and safe celebration of all that you’ve experienced, learned and loved this year with high hopes for a healthier New Year marked by peace and love.

Even Better Butternut Squash Soup

It can be dangerous to try and make something wonderful even better…. I guess.  Some might warn, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke?”  Well, in this case, pushing the limits of good leaves us with 2 yummy alternatives…. and 1 caveat.  (I’ll get to that later)

Little Sis and I offered you some easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup a couple of years ago.   I wanted to take it to a women’s group for which I offered to bring soup and decided that I wanted something with some protein as we were pairing it with bread and salad.  I also thought that some roasted garlic would enhance the experience as well, so…. cashews and garlic are part of the adapted version.  It got rave reviews.

Now for the caveat…. Apparently roasted onion, squash and cashews can be a potent digestive combo for some who are inclined towards affecting greenhouse gas levels in a rather socially unacceptable way.  Will I eat this soup again?  Indeed.  I will do a little math, figure out where I have to be in about 20 hours after eating it and adjust accordingly.  Will I ever let my husband eat it again?  Indeed NOT! :-)  Luckily he has many fine qualities, so if he eats some of the leftover soup I will forgive him.  So let your digestion guide you, but I promise you won’t regret trying this soup!

The recipe is for 2 butternut squash and of course size will vary so add stock a cup at a time and see what you think of flavor / consistency.

1 cup raw cashews soaked in about 2 cups water for at least 6 hours
2 butternut squash – cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out.
2 med – large onions, peeled and cut in half
4 – 6 cloves of garlic (I used 4 enormous cloves) left in their papery shell
2 – 4 cups of vegetable stock
2 cored but unpeeled apples (I used Gala)
1/2 – 1 tsp sage
1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Roast the squash, onion and garlic at 400 degrees for 40 – 60 minutes or until tender.

after roastingRemove the garlic at about 20 minutes and peel when cool.
Once everything is tender, remove from oven and let cool so you can handle a bit to scoop the squash out of the skin.
I heated the apples in the microwave to soften them, but you could probably roast them for the last 10 minutes or so as well!
Drain the cashews.
Place batches of all the ingredients in a power blender or into a pot with a stick blender.  Make sure you put some liquid in each batch of the blender to help it go.Pour back into a pot and stir.  Warm if necessary and serve.

Your taste buds will love you for this one! – caveat and all.  Caveat is a nice polite word for it, don’t you think?

in the bowl