Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bust a Myth: Loss and IF Aren't As Bad for People With Children

Warning: graphic post about infertility and loss.  No food this time.  Read at the risk of being a little shocked; this is not for the faint of heart.  This post is in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, as part of its Bust a Myth campaign.

It seems to be an unwritten rule.  You don't talk about the bad things that can happen during pregnancy, and you especially don't talk about them to pregnant women.  Sure, you can share stories or morning sickness and cramps and aches and cravings, but the really awful things are taboo.  Pregnancy always ends in live, healthy birth in our happy little world.  And you particularly shouldn't be complaining if you already have a child; you've got no right to demand another.

I was 32 when I had our son.  It was a picture perfect pregnancy.  I didn't even experience morning sickness.  I was on top of the world with my pregnancy glow.  Though the birth wasn't easy, I got a healthy baby.  I knew that things could go wrong; one of my friends' children was stillborn.  But I thought somehow that I was safe ... after all, I'd given birth.  Other children would come, too, if I wanted them.

And then, loss.  The first was early, just six weeks.  My son was two.  I'd made an appointment for my first prenatal visit, and the day before I was supposed to go, I saw pink in the bathroom.  No, I said to myself.  Shit, no.  I tried to believe that it wasn't happening.  They took my blood, and confirmed that my hCG levels were dropping.  I bled, and I mourned the loss of that baby, its potential.  I knew when I'd passed the clot that had contained that small life, and I felt sick; I could no longer trust my body to carry a child to term.

A year later, again.  This time, much later; I was just about to begin my second trimester.  I had passed the six week mark, and thought, again, that perhaps this time I would be safe. I was developing a baby bump already.

And then, I saw the blood. A light pink stain as I cleaned up in the bathroom at work. Oh, shit, I said, under my breath. No, no. Not again. Oh, god, please. No. I talked myself into believing that it was nothing. That I would check again later. That I was imagining things. But I knew I wasn’t imagining things the next time. I called the doctor, and they said I should come in that day, even though I had a scheduled appointment on Monday, to see the baby, to see that everything was all right. They seemed so confident, that I believed them. I didn’t call my husband. It wasn’t necessary.

Until I saw the monitor, and the technician, searching. Measuring. Quietly. Looking for something that she wasn’t finding. I’m sorry, she said, I’m just not finding a heartbeat. Oh, god, I said. Oh, no. I covered my mouth, open, like an o. They took me to another room, said some things about what I should expect next, let me go. I cried a little. I hugged the midwife as she went to close the door and leave me to collect myself. I thanked her. I dried my tears and opened the door to the waiting room, walking through a sea of pregnant bellies. I saw a woman I knew in the parking lot, with her sick son. I sympathized, told her I would check on them this week. She didn’t ask why I was there. I drove home.

I became methodical: I emailed the people I knew who had known about it. I called the woman who had offered me her maternity clothes to tell her to give them to someone else. I went through the house, throwing away the prenatal paperwork that I was supposed to return on Monday. I threw away the container they’d given me for my first morning urine specimen. I threw away the pamphlets on prenatal nutrition. I threw away the paperwork to register for maternity stay. I told my husband. I cooked dinner, I bathed and put my son to bed, I checked work email, I went to bed.

On Friday, my car battery was dead. I was tired of death. My husband jumped my car. I went to work. I went for a run, not sure if I could, not sure if I should. My body protested. I could feel the blood coming. I walked back. I went to a lunch meeting of mothers, sympathizing with people’s day care stories, feeling like I was talking in a tunnel, listening to myself in some other body. I bled more, and now even more. I excused myself, staggered to the bathroom, hoping that I was not leaving a bloody trail on the historic carpet. In the bathroom, I began to feel as if my body was emptying in great waves of blood and islands of slippery tissue. Would the bleeding never stop? I returned to my office and finished the work day. I drove home. I fed my family, I bathed and put my son to bed. I went to the grocery store to do my Friday night shopping, walking slowly. I came home, put away the groceries. Checked email. Went to bed. Lay awake, listening to nothing.

On Saturday, I baked banana bread while I made breakfast for my son. I walked with him to the library, promising him a trip to the store for a treat. I went to the bathroom in the library. I knew something was coming, and I had to push, but it came — whatever it was, a mass of blood and cells and tissue — it looked like a human heart. It was my heart. I looked into the toilet, trying to see the baby I knew must have been in there, as my son sat reading Dora’s Valentine on the bathroom floor. I knew I couldn’t look much longer before my son would come over, and I didn’t want him to see what I saw. It was surreal. I flushed it away, feeling sick, knowing what I had just done, washed my hands, ushered out my son, closed the door. The pain was unbearable. I walked home, every step a torture. I made my son lunch, put him in the car. I drove the hour to my mother’s house to get her settled after her return from the knee surgery rehab. I ordered her dinner. I entertained my son while feeding him dinner. I drove home, made lemon poppy cake, checked work email, prepped my Sunday RE class. I went to bed, listening to the roaring of my heart and blood in my ears. I lay awake for hours, shifting to make the pain subside. It would not.

On Sunday, I made breakfast, collected our things, drove to church, set out the cakes and fruit for coffee hour. I washed dishes and made polite conversation about the minister’s pregnant wife, due a week before I would have given birth. I drove home, made lunch, returned to church. I taught a sex ed class, beginning with a memorial service for the co-teacher who had died this week of a sudden heart attack in traffic. I drove home, went to the park, watched my son play in the puddles in his rain boots. I came back home, I made dinner, I put my son to bed. I baked a red velvet cake. I took hours to frost it. I roamed aimlessly; I lay awake for hours.

I felt hollow. Empty. A shell full of nothing. I was just tired; not sad, not angry. I was just nothing.

I thought about the minister’s wife, how she would have a baby in August. I thought about my friend, who would have her baby even earlier, in May. Another friend, in May. Another, in June. I wondered how that would feel to me. I would have no baby. I would have no reason to post “pregnant” as my Facebook status. I would have no maternity leave in the fall. I would do the same things I do every day. Nothing would change. My changed plans had changed back to unchanged plans. I felt cheated, maybe even jealous.

I began to wonder if I didn’t want this one, or the last one, for that matter, badly enough. If they knew this, and left my inhospitable body. I began to think about all of the things I might have done: not enough thyroid hormone. A mistake at Starbucks, when a barista might have given me caffeinated coffee. A piece of chocolate cake. Too much exercise. Overheating. A hot shower. Stress. Negativity. I knew, intellectually, that it was not my fault. That didn’t seem to matter to my superego.

And it didn't matter that I already had a child.

No one tells you that you are going to experience something like labor and lose the baby that could have been in the toilet of the public library.  They just give you a slip of paper to get your blood drawn when you stop bleeding, to make sure your levels are at zero. You are done bleeding, and they take blood. The irony of this was not lost on me.

Another year, another loss, and then it seemed I couldn't even get pregnant.  I went to my ob/gyn, and they told me that I was now officially high risk, that my losses and my age and the length of time it was taking us to conceive meant that I was infertile.  I couldn't understand; how was this possible, when I'd given birth to a healthy child?  They handed me a slip of paper with "INFERTILITY" written in big block letters across the top, with the names of several clinics, and suggested that I call to make an appointment.  There was no explanation for my loss, for my empty body.   I felt marked.  I felt like a failed woman.  I was unable to do the one thing my body was supposedly built to do.  I could not create or support life.  And the fact that I had a beautiful son whom I loved didn't change how that label, and those losses, made me feel.

Though I did, just this past February, successfully carry a second child to term--thanks, I believe, to an endocrinologist who was willing to listen and who believed that there was something he could do--that pregnancy was full of anxiety.  I hold tightly to the children I have been gifted, knowing just how precious life really is, but their presence does not erase the losses that came before.  I also know that it would have been good to know more people like me, to know that I was not alone, to know that others had stories, too.  To know that one successful pregnancy doesn't equal fertility, and that to have difficulty carrying a child to term after a successful first pregnancy was also normal.  And I wish that the stories of loss and infertility were less taboo, so that we could perhaps help other women to be less alone.  We should not assume that the woman in our playgroup is fertile.  We should not assume that the childless woman doesn't want children.

The other day, one of the bloggers I follow posted a link to a video from a Japanese classroom, as a way of illustrating the Buddhist principle of transforming suffering into happiness.  I was struck by the students' display of empathy, and it got me thinking about blogging, about how being able to share a story with an empathetic community can both tap the silent suffering of others and make us stronger people, offering us a new perspective on our own stories.  Healing would happen so much more often if we just stopped making assumptions about each other and started listening deeply, instead.  I thought that I would share the video here, as a way of ending this post, and as a way of encouraging others to write their own "letters," too.  It's about time your voice was heard.

See RESOLVE for a basic understanding of infertility: and for more information about National Infertility Awareness Week® (NIAW):
Pin It

Monday, April 25, 2011

Best Shared: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Fudgie Bars

The memory is incredibly vivid.  I am at Friendly's, after my first seventh grade dance.  I am going to a sleepover party at a girl's house afterwards, which is the only reason I am here; I would never have been invited to a mixed-gender gathering with the boys who are with us.  Part of me isn't sure why I was invited to the sleepover party, either, because the girl who is hosting isn't very friendly towards me.  Maybe her mother made her invite me?  Everyone around me is chatting and laughing and making jokes, but my nose is buried in the menu.  I'm trying to figure out what I should order with the five dollars my mom had given me (this is a small fortune in my world), and I'm trying to blend in to the booth so that no one will notice that I am here.  I want to be here, among these incredibly cool people, and pretend, for once, that I'm like them, too, but I am also desperately afraid that someone will suddenly realize that I'm in the wrong place

I order a Reeses Pieces sundae.  It comes, and it's enormous, but it's a good way to hide and keep my mouth shut, ignoring the laughter and joking around me.  I turn inward, and slowly, methodically, I eat the whole thing.  I don't remember the car ride back, but I do remember feeling incredibly sick, all night long, in that girl's house, where the air was thick with her mother's cigarette smoke.  It was all just too much.

For some people, Reeses Pieces are forever associated with E.T.; for me, even now, I can't eat Reeses Pieces without thinking about that sundae, and that dance, and the seventh grade year, and the childhood loneliness that I hated so much.

But I love chocolate and peanut butter.  I can eat it from a spoon or a chopstick.  And luckily, I am no longer trying to fit into that crowd.  What I know now is that things like enormous Reeses Pieces sundaes are best shared, and that we're all, in some small way, the person hiding behind the menu and the sundae.

Make these for someone you love, or for someone you've just met and want to get to know better.

(And tell us: what are the taste-triggered memories that still return to you today?)

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Fudgie Bars

1/2 c. + 2 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
12 oz. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chips
2/3 c. creamy peanut butter
1 t. vanilla extract
Reese's pieces, for the topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, leaving an overhang on 2 sides.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 1/2 cup of the butter with the sugar until well-combined. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix well. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredient (flour through oats), and mix at low speed until just combined.

Press two-thirds of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of the pan, and set aside the rest for the topping.

In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, condensed milk, chocolate chips, and peanut butter. Cook over medium heat until the chocolate and butter are melted, stirring often. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Spread most of the chocolate fudge mixture over the oatmeal layer, using a spatula to spread evenly. Save the remainder for hot fudge sauce, or use it all for a thicker layer.

Crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the fudge, then sprinkle with the candy.

Bake 15-20 minutes, until the topping is starting to brown. They won't seem cooked all the way through yet at this point. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set completely. Cut into squares and serve, or store at room temperature.
Pin It

Friday, April 22, 2011

Red Tents and Red Curry

Thanks to Keiko for the Stylish Blogger award (my second)!  I've learned so much about blogging and advocacy from her; if you haven't seen her blog, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  She is one classy lady.

Keiko wrote, a while back, about her Red Tent Temple,  a place where, as in Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, women gather for shared sisterhood, even if that shared sisterhood doesn't (as it does in the Bible) entail the experience of a monthly menstrual cycle.  I was struck by that post at the time, wishing that there was a Red Tent somewhere around here.  As ICLW (IComLeaveWe, a monthly commenting and new-blog-exploring love-fest organized by one of my other blogging mentors, Mel Ford, over at Stirrup Queens) begins, I've been thinking about that post again, since ICLW has become an occasion, for me, to enter into dialogue with other women, and to celebrate the feminine ... a sort of "virtual Red Tent," if you will.  I've noticed, as I look over the list of participants, how few men there seem to be participating in ICLW.  Just today, I was with two friends at a park where our children were playing, and we found ourselves discussing uteruses and labia like you might talk about the weather.  I can't imagine my husband talking about, say, prostates, with other men, nor do I think I'd be as comfortable talking about my body with men.

I'm curious: do you know the gender of the bloggers you follow?  What is the gender balance of your blogroll?  What is the Red Tent equivalent for men?  Or should our intimate spaces be more inclusive?  Is there a real Red Tent in your community?  (And can I come visit?)

I made red curry this week, as a way to continue working on our bounty of produce, and perhaps it's a fitting tribute to the virtual Red Tent in the blogosphere this week.  Thai curries are easy (provided you're not making your own curry paste from scratch, which I don't), they can be healthy, and they're incredibly versatile.  You can substitute in other vegetables that you like; just make sure that you cook any root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.) longer, and leave things like beans or peas or zucchini until the end.

Red Curry

4 t. canola oil, divided
14 oz extra-firm tofu, rinsed, patted dry and cut into 1-inch cubes (I used baby corn in place of the tofu because my husband is not a tofu fan)
1 lb. sweet potato, cubed
1 14 oz. can lite coconut milk
1/2 c. vegetable broth
1-2 t. red Thai curry paste
1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed/cut
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. lime juice
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, quartered

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook, stirring every 2 or 3 minutes, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, broth and curry paste to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is just tender, about 4 minutes. Add the tofu, green beans and brown sugar; return to a simmer and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are tender-crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in lime juice and salt. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

The Stylish Blogger award requires that you list seven things about yourself and nominate 15 other bloggers.  Since it's ICLW, I figured it would be a good excuse to (re)introduce myself in Q and A format.  This time, with a food theme.  Just because.
  1. What's your favorite thing to eat?  Some days my body craves greens, and I love a big salad with walnuts, dried cranberries, and goat cheese.  I enjoy Indian and Thai food.  Then there's sweets: lately I've been craving chocolate, tiramisu, and cheesecake.  I rarely dream about slabs of meat, though.  That's my husband's job.
  2. Do you actually post about everything you cook?  Mostly.  There are some boring things I don't post.  And I don't make something new every single day.  But we are pretty adventurous eaters, and I like breaking bread (or cake, or soup) with other people.
  3. What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?  I guess it depends on your perspective.  I ate brains once as a child.  And turtle.  Neither of which were by my own choosing (my father thought it was a good sport to make me eat things I would never touch if I knew what they were).
  4. What is your guilty pleasure?  Peanut butter, eaten with a single chopstick.  Sometimes dipped in raisins, sometimes dipped in high quality chocolate chips.  You'd be surprised at the number of things you can eat with a chopstick.  Maybe someday I'll write a book about it.
  5. Why "Half Baked"?  Is this a food blog?  Well, roughly half of what I post here is baked.  And my ideas are sometimes half baked.  And my daughter, until recently, was also partially baked.  Now she's fully baked, though.  Or at least baking on her own.  So no, this isn't really a food blog ... it's more of a food-and-life blog.  See my tags at right for the IF backstory.
  6. What do you want to do with your one wild and precious life?  This blog was supposed to help me figure that out.  Someone (who reads this blog, bless her!) actually paid me for my baked goods last week; that was pretty cool.  Writing wouldn't be so bad, either.
  7. Where do you get your beautiful pottery?  I confess, I am sort of a sucker for pottery.  Bill Campbell is one of my favorite artists, but I tend to collect things in that style.
  8. Bonus: Will you send me food?  Maybe, if you're really, really nice to me.  Baked goods can travel well.  ;)

Now, for the bloggers!  It's so hard to choose ... I always like to make sure that I give awards like these to new people, so that lots of people get exposure.  And this is the perfect week to visit new blogs.  So what I'll recommend is that you go here and pick someone to give this award to!  Some of my most loyal commenters are also people you should go visit, and give some love ... I'll give this award to them, too (I already gave 9 others the award recently, so look them up!).  :)
And I'd love to hear what you have to say about Red Tents, real or virtual, about the gender balance of your blogrolls, or about curry.  ;)  Happy ICLW!
Pin It

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What I Stand For, and Quinoa Risotto

In recent posts after the PETA brouhaha, jjiraffe asks, "Is the advocacy angle necessary to blogging"?  and "How are you able to balance activism with your own life activities and not lose yourself?  Or is losing yourself necessary to being committed to a cause?"

I've been thinking this issue myself for a while now, and I've decided that you do need an advocacy angle in order to be a successful blogger ... depending on how we're defining advocacy.  I don't think you need a "cause" in the way that Faceb.ook defines them, but I think that our stories--regardless of what those stories are about, whether it's food, or running, or pets, or children, or infertility, or meditation, or Capitol Hill--are advocacy, for a way of life, for an approach to the world.  And if we're any good at it, hopefully those stories are an invitation to conversation.

I answered jjiraffe's post by saying that I think the way to be an activist without “losing yourself” in advocacy is for it to be part of your life, rather than something you do on top of it.  As I thought about it, I realized that the things I am most active about are the things that I am living anyway, and in the communities where I live, and they are things in which I involve my children, so that I’m teaching them my values as I’m acting on them.  Like local eating, for example, and environmental stewardship: we belong to a CSA where I took my son to pick vegetables and talk about farming; we frequent the farmer's market up the street and make friends with the beekeepers who make our honey; my son has helped me flyer in our neighborhood for a new charter school focused on sustainability.  And so my blog is also a part of those "causes": I write about being a locavore, for example, just as I've written about loss and IF.   They're both part of who I am. 

And speaking of local ... friends of ours were going out of town this week, and needed someone to pick up their share of organic produce with a local co-op.  They called us, and S. told them we'd be happy to oblige.  I mentioned that we've joined a CSA again this year (one that has fruit, and only for half a share--see my post about learning that it is indeed possible to have too much chard!); it was fun to get back into the mindset of cooking from what was on hand again.  I knew farther in advance what we'd be getting from the co-op, but what I didn't anticipate was the volume.  Two heads of lettuce, two pounds of carrots, two enormous bags of beans, two heads of collard greens, two and a half pounds of sweet potatoes ... and I haven't even gotten to the fruit yet.

So I've been busy cooking in an attempt to use it all before it spoils.

This is a recipe I found while scouring the internet for ways to use the most produce in interesting combinations in three meals.  I played with it a little bit, and I'm sure there's a lot more you could do with it; it seems like the sort of recipe that would be versatile enough to accommodate all sorts of vegetable combinations.  Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain, as some people think, and unlike wheat or rice, it's an unusually complete protein source among plant foods. It's also a good source of fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron.  Enjoy this recipe with whatever is coming up out of the ground where you are.

(And I'd love to hear your thoughts on the advocacy/blogging/etc. issue.)

Quinoa Risotto

4 t. butter
2/3 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 t. canola oil
1/2 t. salt
1 T. fresh thyme or 1 t.dried
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/3 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 c. unsalted vegetable stock
1 c. water
4 medium carrots, chopped
1 1/2 c. sugar snap peas
1/2 c. grated parmesan

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove nuts and set aside.
Add onion, oil, and salt to same pan and cook 5 minutes. Add thyme and garlic and cook until onion is golden, about 3 minutes longer.
Stir in quinoa and stock. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water, cover again, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in carrots and the final 1/2 cup of water if needed to keep quinoa very moist. Cover and cook until carrots are tender, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Add sugar snap peas for last 5 minutes of cooking. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve topped with cheese and walnuts.
Pin It

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Inspired By: Hausfrau's Thursday Blog Hop

I really wanted to take Audrey up on her Thursday Blog Hop idea.  The theme was so promising: "Inspired By."  It got me thinking about the things that inspire me, about role models.  There are lots: the people at my fellowship, who are generous to a fault in the name of social justice; the people I have met in the blogging community, who write so poignantly and take such amazing photographs; my yoga teacher; great poets and poetry.  What to choose?

For some reason, I felt stuck.  The things I had on the menu for the week (because really, mostly what I'm making these days is just food) weren't really inspired by any of those amazing people.  But as I thought about it some more, I decided I am inspired by spring this week.  It's been teasing us here on the East Coast of the U.S.: after an almost eighty degree day, we're back in the 50s with rain.  But I can tell it's coming because of the vegetables that are now in season.  I love the vegetables of spring; their arrival in the farmer's markets remind me of the promise of renewal, of life defiantly nudging itself up out of the ground, after a long, dreary winter.  Though we haven't started our garden yet, there are tomato plants under a grow light in the basement, and whenever I peek down there, the eerie glow makes me smile.

The idea for this soup came from the Monastery Soups cookbook I've been telling you about (so I guess it's inspired by that, too), but I adapted it a bit.  First, you can't have too much asparagus.  Second, I think vegetables are almost always better in soup if they've been roasted first.  And third, though cream is lovely, milk will do just as well.

Tell us, what has inspired you lately?  Here's the rest of the hop:

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 lb. asparagus
1 sliced onion
2 T. olive oil
2 peeled and diced potatoes
1 sliced carrot
8 c. water
1 c. milk (or cream if you must; you could also thicken with arrowroot or a white sauce)
creme fraiche (for fun)

Preheat oven to 400.  Drizzle oil over asparagus on onion on a prepared baking sheet, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 45 minutes, until browned and tender.  Boil the water in a large pot and add the asparagus, onions, carrots, and potatoes.  Cook until the potatoes and carrots are tender, and blend well in a blender or with an immersion blender.  Add the milk, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cover the pot to allow the soup to simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve drizzled with a little creme fraiche, if you like.  Enjoy on one of those spring days that is a little cool and rainy, and imagine the taste of the season to come.
Pin It

Monday, April 11, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake (Pops)

I was lucky enough to get to yoga  last week, given a lot of orchestration to feed N. near my studio so she wouldn't need me for a while.  We began class again this time with a chant to Ganesha, remover of obstacles.  The chant itself is a wonderful balance of rooted sounds that come from your throat and sounds that are lifted through the top of your head, creating a better balance of energy.

The focus of the class was on lifting prana--energy--up ... not getting caught up in what drags us down, but lifting up our breath so as to maintain better balance, appreciating what we have, rather than worrying about what we think we need ... and in doing so, perhaps realizing that we have what we need after all.  And honestly, maybe this is the kick in the ass that I need.  It's easy to play the victim, but I do have some power to exercise, even if it's the power to make the change I've been thinking about anyway. Maybe I do have what I need.

I had some leftover matcha powder from the biscotti and wanted to make something fun.  Cake pops are all the rage these days, so I thought I'd give them a whirl.  Next time I will probably add more binder to make smoother balls (most people use frosting; I've used a simple syrup here because the cake is already quite moist) and I'll know to let the extra candy melt drip off before sticking the stick end into a styrofoam block to let the pops dry.

As I munched on them I channeled the serenity and balance of green tea, and told myself if I there was no bread, I'd let myself eat cake.  :)

Green Tea Cake Pops

1/2 c. plain or vanilla soy yogurt
2/3 c. almond milk
1/4 t. vanilla
1/3 c. canola oil
1/2 t. almond extract
3/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
3-4 t. Matcha powder
1/4 t. salt
vanilla flavored syrup (the kind you'd put in coffee; I used Sta.rbucks sugar free)
vanilla candy melts (available in craft stores that have a candymaking section, or use white chocolate, but the shell will be more prone to melting)
lollipop sticks (available in craft stores that have a candymaking section)

Preheat oven to 350. Whisk yogurt, almond milk, vanilla, oil, and almond extract to blend. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, matcha powder, salt and sugar and fold into batter. Pour into a 9' pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool thoroughly.

Crumble the cake into a bowl, and add about 12 squirts of the syrup. Work the crumbs with your fingers until you have a pliable "dough" that you can shape into balls (you may need another squirt or two of syrup). You may want to refrigerate the dough for about 20 minutes here to make it more workable.  Roll out the balls about 1" in diameter and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so.

Melt the candy melts according to the package directions. Dip one end of a lollipop stick into the candy melts and stick it into the cake ball. Put the balls in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up, and then twirl them in the remaining melted candy. Put them in a styrofoam block to dry (I didn't do this, so mine came out flat on the bottom).

You can freeze these if you need to ... but they may not last that long!
Pin It

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PETA, Infertility, and You (A Food-Free Post)

I've been thinking a lot about how, if at all, I want to respond to the PETA “win a vasectomy campaign” in honor of National Infertility Awareness week. I didn't want to simply ignore it, but I was also not sure what I wanted to say.  (update: because of the outcry, PETA removed references to National Infertility Week from their campaign!  See Keiko's post.)

A lot of my fellow bloggers -- Keiko and Trinity and Elphaba and Jjiraffe and Inconceivable and Esperanza and Keiko again -- have been posting some pretty amazing letters in protest.  Some, like Mel, have chosen not to respond because they feel that this kind of attention is exactly what PETA wants.

I think I want to suggest (and I hope I don't lose readers for saying this) that we do respond, but instead of doing so directly, to the PETA media stunt (or even perhaps in addition to doing so, if we feel that we need to address it), that more importantly we respond indirectly, by working even harder to make our experiences heard, to give infertility "a face and a name"--or, as Esperanza puts it, "7.3 million faces and names in the U.S. alone."  I think what we do by blogging has the potential to dispel the myths that organizations like PETA perpetuate (whether you take PETA seriously or not here is besides the point).  What troubles me is that the IF blogging community can be somewhat insular; if we want to write about something besides IF, for example, many of us have a separate blog to do so, even a separate identity.  And while it's difficult--even painful--to tell our stories to people outside of our community who misunderstand infertility and say hurtful, devastating things to us (I read posts and comments all the time about not being able talk to our colleagues, our friends, or even our families about IF and loss), I think that's the very reason it's so necessary.

I would encourage IF bloggers to take the Resolve Blogging Challenge (Bust an Infertility Myth) as Keiko suggests, but also to go one step further, and make sure that maybe just this once, people beyond your regular readership see your post.  Tweet it, Facebook it, do whatever you can do, perhaps just outside of your normal comfort zone.  PETA might or might not need to hear from us.  But there are so many other people who certainly do need to hear from us, one heart and voice and name at a time.
Pin It

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tea For You: Green Tea Biscotti

(Pink Martini's version of Two for Tea playing in the background...)

For a long time, a friend of mine and I exchanged email with a wide variety of tea in the subject headers.   There's something about an invitation to tea--different from coffee, I think--that implies a sitting down and lingering, a commiserating, a communion of comfort.  It's luxurious to have tea, in a way that coffee, perhaps, isn't: I remember one year, as a teenager, giving my mother the Christmas gift of high tea with me at the Plaza in New York, and savoring the tea and scones and tiny savory sandwiches, thinking that I'd achieved the pinnacle of decadence.  It was, of course, a gift for both of us.

But I think you can savor tea alone, too: I've been pouring myself quite a bit of tea during these last few rainy days, and I find myself lingering over it in a way that I don't linger over my coffee in the morning (truth be told, I gulp it down, despite the fact that it's only decaf; I've often said that coffee makes milk drinkable).  Tea meditation is becoming a more popular practice in various sanghas, for reasons that are probably obvious. Thich Nhat Hanh says this about tea meditation:
You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea.
Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup.
Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy.
If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea.
You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.
Life is like that.
If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone.
You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life.
It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished.
Learn from it and let it go.
The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it.
Worrying is worthless.
When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment.
Then you will begin to experience joy in life.
The Japanese have been practicing tea meditation for a long time, it seems to me.  As I was preparing this post, I read a bit about the Japanese tea ceremony, to which harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility are central.

I made these biscotti, thinking of Japan (our online bake sale for Japan raised $8,269 so far ... and if you still want to donate, you can add your contribution here), and thinking of the meditative qualities of tea.

Don't adjust your computer screen.  These really are GREEN. 
The matcha and toasted nuts pair well, and made with a little whole-grain pastry flour and chock full of Omega-3 rich walnuts and canola oil these biscotti can be a healthful treat served up with ... more green tea.  :)  Make sure you stop to really taste it.

Tell us: what is your favorite everyday meditation, alone or with others?

Green Tea Biscotti (adapted from VCIYCJ)

1/4 c. non dairy milk (I prefer almond for this recipe)
3 to 4 t. matcha powder (I found that three was enough)
2 T. ground flax seed
1/2 c. canola oil
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
1 c. flour
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 oz walnut halves (about 1 1/4 c.) or pistachios

Preheat oven to 350. Light grease or line with parchment paper a medium sized baking sheet.

In a large bowl pour non-dairy milk, add green tea powder and with a wire whisk beat till smooth and no lumps remain. Beat in ground flax seeds till smooth. Add canola oil, sugar and vanilla and beat till smooth.

Sift in flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Stir to form a smooth dough, then knead in walnut halves, pushing any nuts that pop out back into the dough.

Form a log about 10 inches long by 4 inches, using a rubber spatula to even edges and flatten end sides of log. Bake for 30 minutes until log is puffed and firm. Some cracking is okay. Place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack, turn off oven and allow log to cool for at least 45 minutes. If any edges of the log are too browned gently trim off with a sharp heavy knife.

Preheat oven to 325. Very carefully slide log off of baking sheet onto a cutting board. With a sharp, heavy knife slice log into 1/2 inch thick slices, using one quick and firm motion, pressing down into log. Very gently move slices to baking sheet, standing slices on bottom edge if possible. Bake slices for 30 minutes. Slices should appear dry and nuts should be lightly toasted. Allow to cool 10 minutes on baking sheet then carefully move to wire cooling racks to complete cooling (warm cookies may be fragile). Store in loosely covered container.
Pin It

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Call to Mindfulness: Harrira

During the past week, in an effort to combat the silence that creeps in around the edges of our house here during the weekdays, I've been reading Mary Oliver's poetry to N. while I'm feeding her.  (I had initially tried reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, because I've wanted to finish it for quite some time now, but decided it simply didn't lend itself well to being spoken, not to mention I was too impatient to read it aloud; my speaking voice was not moving anywhere near as fast as my reading eyes wanted to.)  Somehow, I found myself looking for one of Oliver's poems online, and came across this site.  He's a kindergarten teacher by day, but also a meditation practitioner, and talks about how both teaching and meditation are part of the same mindfulness work.

And then a friend sent me this site, which is an attempt to get a billion people breathing synchronously by November 11, 2012. 

Both things got me thinking about my intentions to be more mindful--not simply to be in the present, but to be present in that present.  (Boy, do I miss my yoga class.)  I've been meaning to pick up one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books (any recommendations for a good one to start?), but just never seem to get around to doing so.  This might be a good time, though; though I consider myself UU, between the observance of Lent and the coming of the Passover holidays, there are a lot of people around the world right now trying to be more mindful.  (I love the Passover Seder, for reasons that will be obvious if you read this blog enough--mindfulness through a meal is my kind of meditation.)  I suspect that a practice of mindfulness would help me to face the future better, as much as it helps to focus on the present.  Because when you don't want to simply "hav[e] visited the world," you both appreciate what is amazing about the everyday, and make sure that you will do so tomorrow, too. 

from Mary Oliver's poem "When Death Comes":

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

Esperanza commented recently about how my posts make her think about what she's eating ... maybe my blog does have a focus that I hadn't realized until now.  I made a Moroccan Bean Soup before here, but I'm posting another today which I adapted from the Monastery Soups cookbook.  This one is the original from ancient Morocco, where it is traditionally served during the 30-day Ramadan fast (another tradition of mindfulness) just before sunset, when the daily fast is broken once to strengthen the faster for the next day's fast. Eat slowly, savor the spices, and be present, even if it presence means looking outside at the snow on the first day of April.

Harrira (Moroccan Bean Soup)

1/2 c. chickpeas, soaked overnight
1/2 c. black beans, soaked overnight1/2 c. red kidney beans, soaked overnight
1/2 c. white navy beans, soaked overnight
1/2 c. lima beans
1/2 c. lentils
1/2 c. split peas, yellow if possible
12 c. water (you'll definitely need more as it's cooking, though)
2 large onions, chopped
1 16-oz can fire diced roasted tomatoes
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. black pepper
1 T. lemon juice
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
8 leaves mint, chopped
salt to taste
1  pinch cayenne
1 pinch paprika

Place all beans in a large pot, add the water, and bring it to a boil. simmer for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the onions, tomatoes with their juice, ginger, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, and lemon juice. Stir well, cover the pot, and bring the soup to a second boil. Reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer the soup for another hour.

Add the salt and more water if necessary.  Add the cilantro and mint, cayenne pepper and paprika. Stir well and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.
Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...