Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the First Day of Delivery, My CSA Gave To Me ...

Four heads of lettuce, two pounds of spinach, two pounds of arugula, one bunch of radishes, and a sprig of mint and oregano.

Can you say ... SALAD?

I like salad as much as the next gal, but really, four heads of lettuce?

So I've been trying to make a dent in the bounty.

The first thing I made was an all-local salad: strawberries that we'd picked at the farm this weekend, arugula from the box, local goat cheese, and walnuts dried from our own tree.  (The walnut salvage was a total experiment by the way, which I don't expect will ever be repeated with any success.)

(Note the buttercup bouquet, fresh from the back yard weed bed.)

The amazing thing about this salad was that it didn't even need dressing.  The strawberries made a hint of sweet juice, and the goat cheese practically melted into the arugula leaves.

When I got home from yoga (where--I hope you're sitting down--I picked up an application for teacher training ... have not filled it out yet, but it's in my possession, which counts for something, right?), I made myself another salad for dinner, this time with the lettuce, a chopped Granny Smith apple, some toasted almonds, and some grated jack cheese.  This one did require a little balsalmic vinegar, but I didn't douse it because I wanted to actually taste the flavors.  I wound up making two, because I was ravenous.  Thankfully, we are down about a half a head of lettuce now.  Go, me.

So ... what do YOU do when you have simply too much lettuce?
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever (And Espresso Chip Cookies)

Today was one of those days that I wish I could bottle up and savor for a long, long time.  We spent the morning at our new organic farm CSA, picking our own strawberries, walking through the fields of herbs and lettuce that will arrive in our boxed share tomorrow (can't wait!), playing on the small playground, walking on the trails of the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Reserve (where the CSA is located and leases land), visiting the nature center and butterfly house, eating a picnic under the trees, listening to a chorus of a thousand birds.

Then I went for a 5.5 mile run--still sucking wind a little with my new med, but made it nonetheless, came back and tore up the waist-high weeds from the raised bed garden so we can finally plant my winter squash, caking myself with dirt, biked to Borders with Ian to get his free book (for reading ten), came back and played with puzzles, and baked espresso chocolate chip cookies for a barbecue with friends tomorrow.

These are the sort of cookies you could eat with a cup of tea (or coffee) for breakfast, or now, enjoying the cool evening breeze of late spring.

Espresso Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup nondairy milk [I used soymilk]
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablepoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix together non-dairy milk, oil, flax seeds, brown sugar, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Sift in flour, cinnamon, espresso powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Add quick-cooking oats and chocolate chips and stir until all ingredients are moistened.  This batter is very runny  ... I added about 1/2 c. more flour at this point, and the cookies came out a bit cakey, but they will turn out OK (chewy) if you just leave the batter as is.

Drop generous tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets.  Bake for 14 minutes, until cookies are slightly puffed and the edges appear dry.

Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes , then transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a loosely covered container.
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Living Joyfully: Gluten Free Banana Coconut Muffins

True confessions: I have been buying extra bananas lately, on purpose, so they'll turn into overripe mush in my freezer.  When I'm feeling well-behaved (that is, when I don't have my spoon in the pint of ice cream or chopstick in the jar of peanut butter), I've been whipping up frozen bananas into "banana kreem" for a late night snack, adding instant espresso powder, or coconut, or cocoa, or cinnamon.  But I've also been meaning to send a more successful installment of gluten-free treats to my friend and mentor in California, and I still have most of a bag of coconut flour.  It's a new medium for me, but I'm determined to figure it out.  I happened across these, and they seemed like they'd be healthy but still tasty.

This friend is actually my former boss, though you'd never know it to talk to her.  She and her partner are now retired, and enjoying the ocean breezes of Carmel.  When I was working for her, she taught me lots about managing faculty members and maintaining integrity in a place where currying favor is part of the daily grind; now, she reminds me to live joyfully and with intention.  She is busier in her retirement than she ever was when I worked for her, but she fills her time with things she loves: volunteering at the Monterey Bay aquarium, working in a wild bird store, making necklaces.  Last week she sent me a beautiful piece she'd made with rainbow cane glass and swarovski crystals.  When we last talked, it had been a year since we spoke, but catching up with her was easy.  As I was updating her on what had changed since she'd left, she asked me what my plans were for the next chapter in my life.  I was surprised, since I hadn't said anything during the conversation that would lead her to believe I might be leaving my job.

Maybe she heard an itch in my voice, or maybe it was just idle conversation.  Either way, it was yet another one of those nagging moments, asking me what I will do with my "wild and precious life."  We joked about turning baking and yoga into full time jobs, and she didn't ask about more children, which was nice, given my BFN this week.  She's always been more intuitive than people give her credit for.

Coconut flour, by the way, is actually good right out of the bag.

Banana Coconut Muffins

1 cup organic coconut flour
6 eggs
2 ripe bananas (mashed)
2 Tbsp. melted butter
2 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
2 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. Himalayan salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix coconut flour and baking powder in a small bowl.  In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs gradually, and then add milk, honey, coconut oil, butter, vanilla and salt. Continue mixing. Then add the coconut flour with baking powder and mashed bananas. Blend well. Line or grease 12 muffin cups with coconut oil. Fill muffin cups with the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes.

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Comfort Food: Vegetable Korma

There's something about cool rainy days that makes me crave Indian food.  Though this happens more often in the winter, even in late spring, a warm curry seems to have magical chill-chasing powers.  Curries reminds me of a rainy March evening somewhere in the wilds of England where I'd stopped for the night on a two week drive around the country, and brought back "takeaway" to a dingy little room with a dim lamp and a hard bed: when I opened up the container, the smell of curry melted away the rain, instantly warmed the thin sheets, and made me feel content.

Today is a good day for vegetable korma.  I still ache a little (the good kind of ache) from last night's yoga class, and it's damp and cool out, and I'm trying--as the reading in last night's class suggested--to be patient and embrace the uncertainty and the discomfort of not-knowing.

I love this vegetable korma; it's silky-smooth, not too oily, and full of salt and sweet and crunch.

Vegetable Korma

1 small onion
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch piece ginger, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon your favorite curry powder
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon minced jalepeno
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
1 ripe tomato
1 cup canned tomato sauce
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1/2 head cauliflower, sliced
handful of chopped cilantro
handful of golden raisins
handful frozen peas
1/4 cup dry unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, mince together the onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute in olive oil over medium-low heat in a large saute pan. Cook for 7 minutes, or until onions are tender. Stir in spices, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Stir in jalepeno, bell pepper, and tomato and cook a minute or two more.

Add in tomato sauce and coconut milk, then stir in cauliflower. Cook over medium heat until cauliflower is fork tender. A minute before taking off the stove, incorporate chopped cilantro, golden raisins, frozen peas and (optional) coconut flakes. Garnish with more coconut, cilantro, and slivered almonds. Serve on a bed of brown basmati rice with Naan.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Vrksasana, or The Challenge of Standing on One Leg

(credits to getty for the photo ...)

Yesterday I went to the yoga teacher training information session.  Mostly, it confirmed what I already know.  Five to six hour lectures, twice a month on a Saturday or Sunday.  Once a month Friday evening classes.  Required attendance at 6 asana classes per month.  Three books, two papers. Nine months.  The time it would take to bring a child to term.

I have been thinking about this for a long time.  Five years, at least.  Likely longer.  While my home practice is far from where I'd like it to be, I know that I am happiest when I can see the world, breathing with intention, my heart in yoga mudra.

But is this the right time?

This is my typical weekday:
5:50 get up, make lunches, Ian comes to drink his morning glass of milk
6:15 get Ian dressed
6:30 shower, dress while Ian is eating breakfast with Steve
6:45 help hurry Ian along7:00 kiss the boys good bye
8:00 arrive at the office
5:00 leave the office
5:50 arrive home
6:00 dinner
6:30 bathe Ian
7:00 playtime
7:30 bedtime for Ian
8:15 go back to work email, do laundry, do dishes, cook tomorrow's dinner, get on an Acorn conference call, go grocery shopping, etc., depending on the day
midnight: bed

This basically leaves weekends for things like birthday parties, Sunday morning UU gatherings, open house volunteer commitments, youth group volunteer commitments, and everything else that doesn't fit into the week.  Not to mention spending time with Ian, which is really the heart of the decision here.

Will I be able to live with myself if I spend this time away?  How, if at all, can I ask to have time away from work so that I can compensate somehow for the time I will be spending away?   And if I did get that time (even, say, an afternoon a week where I didn't have to see students), what about the contract we've already signed for Ian's school next year, that gives us full time 12 month care, because that's what we need?  And then how do I fit in the additional asana classes?  There are currently two that start at 6:30 and at 7 ... but that means I barely get home and have to leave again.

On the other hand, if I do this, what next?  What if this opens up a new world for me?  What if this is exactly what I need right now?

I feel so torn.  The balance is so delicate.  In Vrksasana, I calm the wobbling by choosing a point in front of me, and focusing my attention on it: not staring, just resting my gaze there.  Where is that point in this situation?  If only I knew.
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Sunday, May 9, 2010

With Love from Mother Earth: Mother's Day Weekend 2010

 A windy walk along the canal in Stockton ...

 Admiring the trees along the road to the river ...

The first harvest from our own garden (an arugula and chive salad) ...

... roses entwined in the raspberry bushes behind our barn.

Whether we are mothers of human children ourselves or not, despite complicated relationships with our own mothers, past and present, I'm reminded this weekend of the power we all have to nurture each other.  In celebration of the women who have mothered us all along the way: thanks.
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Unfolding: Roasted Artichokes with Chickpeas and Tomatoes

Last night, I dreamed about my yoga teacher.

If you are lucky, you have had a wonderful teacher in your life.  Maybe you have had several.  I had an 8th grade Algebra teacher who made math speak English to me, an 11th grade English teacher who fed my ravenous appetite for books, a 12 grade English teacher who helped me to craft my writing, a professor who read my senior thesis all the way through even though I wasn't his advisee, a graduate school professor who believed in me and helped me to get a doctorate by helping me to put the dissertation in perspective.  And now, I have Bonnie (or AmarJyothi).  Though I'm by no means an expert, I have taken my share of yoga classes.  I have never had a teacher like her.  She manages to make the class extremely challenging and extremely approachable.  She speaks in English, not yoga speak, but she also speaks to the spirit.  If I had a guru, it would be Bonnie.

I can only manage to get myself to yoga class once a week, if that.  But I have long dreamed idly of doing teacher training.  The 200 hour commitment, while daunting, seems like such an amazing opportunity to go deep.  And yet, part of me has wondered if this interest in teacher training is just because I have a good teacher; after all, part of the reason I majored in English as an undergrad was because of those high school teachers ... when we're searching, we want to be like the people we most admire, don't we?

There is an information session in a week and a half.  I finally got up the courage last night to send Bonnie a note, ask her how good one has to be in order to embark on that journey.  She didn't tell me to do it or to not do it, but her answer was straightforward and simple, just like her instructions in class: "The immersion is to take you from where you are to where you want to be."  Then, with a winking emoticon, she told me I should ask current participants about how mean she is.

I don't know if I have time for a 200 hour commitment, and if I want to give up time on the weekends, the only time I have to spend with Ian.  I need more information (though Bonnie gave me the names of some current trainees whom I could ask about the time commitment and experience).  But it's been fun to play with the idea more seriously than I ever have before.  Imagine.  Unfolding.  What could happen?  Am I crazy?

In India, the lotus flower is considered sacred as it represents the uplifted spirit in the middle of the materialistic environment. It represents the yogi who is living in a worldly environment, yet radiating beauty and spirituality all around. The lotus flower comes from the mud, rising with its long root to the surface of dirty ponds.  It's artichoke season here in Jersey, and though it's in the thistle family, not the lotus family, artichokes, too, rise up out of muddy soil to offer up a beautiful surprise, all folded up inside layers.  Maybe I won't be a lotus.  But I could aspire to be an artichoke.

Roasted Artichokes with Chickpeas and Tomatoes

6 baby artichokes (or one 15-ounce can artichoke hearts in water, drained)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium Roma tomatoes, diced and drained
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil and drained)
1/2 tablespoon agave nectar or other sweetener (I used hardly any)
1 15-ounce can cici (garbanzo) beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons lightly chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1. Wash artichokes and remove tough outer leaves. With a knife, trim stem and cut off the top ½ inch of each artichoke. As you go, place artichokes in a large bowl of water with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Let trimmed chokes soak in lemon water for 20 minutes (this helps preserve their color when cooking).
2. Preheat oven to 350˚. Remove chokes from lemon water (turn upside down to drain thoroughly) and place in a lightly oiled, shallow ceramic or glass baking dish (not metal); sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until tender, 30 minutes for small chokes and 45–60 minutes for medium and larger ones. Remove from oven and cool.
3. Heat oil in a large, nonstick or heavy skillet on medium heat. Add onion and sauté until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes,, sun-dried tomatoes, and agave. Stir. After 1 minute, reduce heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes. Add beans, basil, and olive oil, combining well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Cut cooled artichokes in half and place in a large bowl; add bean-tomato mixture and toss lightly. Serve.
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Gift to be Simple: Black Bean Burgers and Ojai Chocolates

Mother Nature isn't sure whether it's spring or summer, but we spent practically the entire day outside today anyway.  I love days like this: no frills, just being in the world, and being together.  Despite a high of nearly 90 degrees, we went geocaching in the morning along the South Branch of the Raritan River and discovered just how huge Echo Hill Reservation really is; and in the afternoon, we went to a wonderfully sane at-home birthday party for one of Ian's two "best" friends at school, where activities included collecting ladybugs, making tissue paper butterflies, playing with Chinese yo-yos and turning balloons into rocketships, playing "pass the present," and whacking a hand made pinata.  No outrageous entertainment, no ridiculously over-the-top venue.  Home made cupcakes and fresh fruit salad.  The kids had a fabulous time.

I love people who have a healthy appreciation for simplicity.  Life is complicated enough.

And even better, my doctor called me today with test results.  Turns out my T3 is a little low, which could account for some of the symptoms.  And my iron %saturation was low, too.  So I'm adding iron (being careful to take with raw sources of Vitamin C ... thanks, JeCaThRe) and a T3 supplement to see if it makes a difference.

To celebrate, I made veggie burgers (see below).  Well, OK.  I was going to make veggie burgers anyway.  But I also had some amazing raw chocolate.  Ojai Choclat is a small operation in Calfornia run by a woman named Mimi who does magical things with raw cacao, raw cocoa butter, nuts, maca, and a host of fresh local (to her) ingredients.  She's not a "raw foodist," but has lots of "raw foodist" friends, was presidposed to diabetes, and started making raw chocolates after her years of experience growing up on a farm where her mother grew organic foods, and coming to farmer's markets.  I ordered some on a whim a few weeks ago, and was amazed.  No, they don't taste like Hershey's or Lindt.  But they do taste like berry truffle, or nut butter, or chili.  They're sweet without being cloying.  And best of all ... no dairy, no sugar.  I'm not sure how much I believe about the health benefits of things like maca and the claims people make about raw, but I do know that it's nice to actually taste the chocolate.  Pure and simple.

(OK, commercial done.  No, she didn't pay me or send me any free samples.  Yes, I know that you're still eating chocolate.  Yes, I just think they're that good.)

Black Bean Bell Pepper Veggie Burgers

15 oz. can low sodium black beans
2/3 c. Italian bread crumbs
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 c. mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 c. shredded cheddar or Jack cheese
2 t. vegetable oil
2 eggs

Heat oven to broil.  Heat vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium heat; add pepper and mushrooms and saute until lightly browned.  Set aside and cool.  In a small bowl, beat the egg lightly with a fork.  Drain and rinse black beans.  Place beans in a large bowl and mash well with a fork.  Add bread crumbs, egg, pepper, mushrooms, and cheese.  Stir until evenly combined.  Form into 8 small patties and place on a baking sheet.  Place sheet 4-6 inches from the flame, and broil 5 minutes.  Flip and broil another 5 minutes.  Watch closely to prevent burning.  Serve in pita pockets.
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