and Flying

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I’ve finally accepted I don’t handle big, celebratory life events like most people. So I wasn’t jumping up and down excited the day we got the keys to our new house. Actually, I was wishing it would go away, the moving, the moving-on from the town that is home and the many special places there that I consider mine. My high school students asked my age the other day, and when we started talking about it, I shared how I won’t consider myself “grown up” until I reach 30. They laughed at me but were also surprised because as teenagers eager for freedom, they think becoming grown up happens at the exact turn of the clock to 18.  Moving on from Corvallis means much to me for so many reasons, but at the bottom of it, it is the place where I’ve done all my formative growing up, where I belong to and am invested in the community, where my work is, and many individuals have shaped my life perspective.

William’s grandma accused me of not being very happy about the new house over the Christmas holiday. I explained it away with, I’ve only been in it once so it’s a little difficult to love yet, but I was well aware my lack of enthusiasm went deeper. Since then, many people have asked me if I love it and I can tell by their tone of voice that my honest response will burst all their happy-for-us excitement. Ultimately, loving a place (or person) comes from deeply knowing it, and this little space and I are only just getting acquainted. So no, I do not love it yet. But knowing we were eventually moving, I prayed about it for a long time. Finally, just a few days before William brought up the idea of purchasing instead of renting, I felt the peace with relocating that I had been asking for. Later, a couple days before we got the keys, I felt very strongly that there is work for me to be done in this new place, that He is calling us to Eugene for a reason, that it is okay to have little clarity right now.

 

 

A week and a half in to being a Eugene resident, I told William, I’ve skipped straight to the angry stage of culture shock with this town. I prefer a community a little smaller, a little less busy at 5:57 am, a little friendlier to my idea of getting across town, a few less barking dogs in our neighborhood, and many more cats(!). I was complaining, irritated, and aware of it. In other words, I was adjusting.

I have still to figure out which will be “my” grocery store, where I will enjoy running on a regular basis, how to take all the quiet(er) little shortcuts to where I am going. And I’ll have to meet and make some new local friends.

Corvallis taught me these things take time. But even though I’ve felt a little upended this last month since moving, I’m diving in to learning this community in the ways I tend to, with running and with food:

 

 

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A couple weeks into the relocation, I was out running out at the edge of Alton Baker Park, near where the river gets a little wild and Eugene becomes Springfield. I remembered being on my pony, Angel, back at the ranch, about a mile from the house, on the road between the creek and the calving shed. I was around nine years old.

I remember leaning forward over Angel’s neck, letting the reins out, the hairs of her long mane tangling into mine, and feeling her fly, as fast as her legs could carry her. And I remembered that wild, heady freedom that a nine-year-old feels, completely absorbed in that moment, no fear, no coulds, shoulds, if-thens, but just there, all there in that rush, that moment, going as fast as we could go.

I relived that memory a moment and then I turned to run back towards home and my car, and my nine-year-old self and Angel faded behind me.

 

Back at that exact same spot a couple weeks later, the memory came back, just the same as before, unexpectedly, as if waiting for me. And then I connected the dots. So that’s why I’ve been running all these years, I thought. That’s why I love running fast especially. Perhaps I’ve been searching for that part of me I experienced with Angel all those years ago, that wild, carefree little girl who wasn’t afraid to go all out and live.

 

And then I smiled. This little city and I will get along just fine, I thought. There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, and I do miss the comforts of home in Corvallis, but I can tell there will be good things for me here.

 

So when friends ask, do I love the new house? my answer will likely continue to be hesitant. I don’t know that I will ever love the house, as I’ve never grown too attached to a building before. But I do get especially attached to places. And I’d like to tell them, in time, that I absolutely love this new place.

 

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Broccoli, Collards + Kalamata Salad, serves 4-6

inspired by Sara’s Emerald Salad

William is on a broccoli kick lately. He asks for broccoli in everything. I had no idea he is partial to this vegetable until now, but glad I am because our school-garden-broccoli was such a success last year and I’m now planning on upping my broccoli-growing game in our new home garden this spring. Planning has already begun!

2 lbs. broccoli

1 large red onion

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

zest of 1 orange

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

3-5 cups collard greens (or other winter greens), thinly sliced

red pepper flakes

3 Tbs. orange juice

1 small handful flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup kalamata olives, sliced

¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

 

– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

– Chop the broccoli into 2-inch pieces; include the stems but discard the large, tough ends. Roughly chop the onion into large pieces. On a large bar pan lined with parchment paper, mix the broccoli pieces, onions, 2 Tbs. olive oil, orange zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once all the vegetables are nicely coated, roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is starting to brown on top. Rotate the pan or stir halfway through.

– While the vegetables are roasting, remove the tough center stem and thinly slice the collards. Put them in a large mixing bowl. When the vegetables are roasted, pour them atop the collards to soften slightly and give the mix a good stir. Add the orange juice, pepper flakes, remaining tablespoon, if necessary, and toss with olives, parsley, and hazelnuts.

– Serve warm or chilled.


Simple Weeknights with Sun Basket

 

I’m sure I learned quite an extent of where and how my food is produced growing up on the ranch, but it wasn’t until I graduated high school, began working on others’ farms, and explored the full extent of farm and food systems that I was able to cement my understanding that just about every farmer, no matter how ill we might think their production practices, believes wholeheartedly in what he or she is doing, and is putting their heart, soul, and of course body into the work. For a couple summers in college, I had a wild hare to go adventuring, so sought out farmers from Vermont, Iowa, California, northwest Washington, etc. in which to work. Somehow, I never quite made it to those places, as even then I guess I knew my calling was not in becoming a farmer.

 

 

During that search for adventure and learning, I remember one distinct phone conversation with Dru Rivers of Full Belly Farm, in Guinda, California. It was the summer before I began grad school, a pursuit I was admittedly on the fence about. During that phone conversation, Dru shared about the importance of agricultural educators, of which I was looking to become, and we sort of mutually came to the conclusion that since I was still planning to return to school in the fall, something in the program was drawing me over the farming venture. It’s kind of funny now to realize that one phone conversation with a nice farmer I’ve never met resolved a lot of internal uncertainty about a career path which advice from friends, family, and mentors was not able to clear up.

 

 

Even though I have since stepped away from agricultural education in the formal sense, I put a lot of store in farmers: Farmers that will have me eating turnips right out of the ground at the beginning of my first visit, farmers that will re-name the agronomist’s scheduled farm tour as Rebecca’s Farm Tour, and then spend a whole summer having me traipse along behind, explaining little details all the day(s) long, and farmers that will offer a random girl some career advice over a long-distance phone call.

 

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When Sun Basket, a new healthy meal kit service that delivers organic ingredients and delicious, easy-to-make recipes for cooking at home, contacted me about sharing some of their meals on my blog, my first desire was to look into which farms they source from. While they source from a number of farms, ranches, and sustainable fisheries, I was excited to find that Full Belly Farm happens to be one of them. Having already had a good phone chat with one of Sun Basket’s farmers was quite a nice treat.

What I like about Sun Basket, other than their super quality ingredients, is that their recipes are created by their chef who was formerly the head at a James Beard award-winning restaurant. The meals are special but not too fancy for weeknight cooking, diverse, nutritious, and always feature seasonal ingredients. There are also gluten-free, vegetarian, and paleo options each week to choose from.

 

 

Sun Basket has an in-house nutritionist, the meals take approximately 30 minutes from prep to eating, and all the ingredients are sustainably sourced from the West Coast. Keeping the need for a little more local sourcing in mind, Sun Basket meals are available to those living in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Idaho. A subscription includes delivery of three recipes per week for two, four or six people. William and I tried two dinners and their new, two-breakfasts option. Both dinners easily stretched beyond two servings to make three to four meals for us.

We tried Indian Red Lentil + Chard Stew with Naan, Honey-Ginger Tofu with Roasted Bok Choy + Forbidden Rice, Piña Colada Smoothies, and a Baby Kale Scramble with Chermoula. Our absolute favorite was the red lentil stew (William was a big fan of the naan), but I now have all the recipes and will gladly make each one again. With every recipe, the extra mile was taken in the seasonings/herbs/sauces to make it taste special. The fact that those seasonings, herbs, and sauces all came pre-measured and prepared helped to cut down the cooking time significantly. In essence, every recipe calls for a little prepping of veg, a little hands-on cooking, and a lot of flavor at the end for the effort.

 

I can now say I’m a big fan. I recommend Sun Basket to my friends and family trying to eat a little healthier throughout the week, and I’ll recommend it to you. If you live on the west coast, Sun Basket is offering $30 off for your first week of service. Subscriptions are weekly and you can cancel any time, so you can even try it once and then decide whether you wish to continue. I guarantee, it’s a nice treat to not have to plan, shop for, and prep meals.

 

$30 off Sun Basket
Get $30 off your Sun Basket order! Organic ingredients from the best West Coast farms and easy, healthy recipes delivered weekly.


Roasted Sweet Potato with Cashew Butter + Za’atar

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No matter how healthy I think my relationship with food is, there are a few foods that I am still cautious about. They’re ones I was once told to eat more of, with the implication that they would lead to some good, healthy weight gain. Those stigmatized foods are ones I mostly enjoy in my diet now but still I tend to eat them in small amounts, less often and/or cautiously. William has gotten hooked on Trail Butter in the past months, and he’ll slurp down two or three packets after dinner when we have it in the house. I’ve watched each time with a little twinge of envy, not for the desire to eat the Trail Butter itself, but to be able to down heavy doses of nut butter without a thought for anything other than the taste. Nuts and nut butters are on my caution list along with seeds, bananas, eggs, avocados, and the one I’ve shared about before, meat.

 

It is interesting to me now, how stigma around a food is far less healthy than any food itself. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m taking a class right now about redefining nutrition and I really love the conversations we’ve been having about nutritionism, reductionism, culture, and the similarity between diets and religion. What I didn’t mention is that I’m actually at the beginning of a nutrition and integrative health graduate program, with a focus on clinical nutrition and herbal medicine. It’s exciting and scary to think about a future off in the distance which I’m sure will look far different than the one I now imagine. Perhaps the biggest theme I’ve learned in these past few years is that much joy can be found in learning to let go of control and live in the unknown. After spending the last several years exploring options and figuring out what is true to me, this step is another case of trusting what I feel to be true will lead in the right direction.

As I embark on the learning and forming of the next few years, I want to have my preliminary intentions dropped here in this space to guide and remind of the bigger picture, as I inevitably get bogged down in the details of shaping what’s to come:

 

– I set out on this journey because I want to serve others. Stepping away from teaching in my own classroom these last three years, I’ve particularly missed the ability to build deep relationships with students and see and guide their progress. I want to be able to see that I am helping make a difference again.

–  I’ve experienced many obstacles in my own pathway to health and had to navigate through the noise to find what is true for me. I’ve spent more time with specialists in the medical field in this last year than ever before because I still haven’t been able to kick whatever has been making my feet hurt. In the process, I’ve realized why it has taken me so long to trust this career direction is the right one for me:  In the past, I had many specialists tell me “eat this,” “gain this,” “add this,” “stop this,” “take this pill,” etc., without understanding my journey as a patient, as a really fucking scared human inside a body, feeling very much alone. In this last year, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I go into every new encounter with a doctor or specialist with my guard up, with a “you-aren’t-trustworthy-until-you-prove-yourself” attitude—because of how my physical recovery was handled in the past. And though I’ve had better experiences this last year, there are still some that were remarkably similar to those not-great ones in the past.

I get that behavior change is incredibly challenging and I want to always remember what it’s like to be “on the other side”, to be the patient, to understand that his or her experiences change the way the things I will say are taken. I want to remember that much of what has been said to me in helpfulness when I am a patient has been taken wrongly by my mind that is either “fixed in illness” or focused only on fixing the problem so I can maintain my current behavior symptom-free. I won’t be able to always understand another person’s point of view or get an interaction right all the time. But I’d like to stay mindful about a perspective and an experience different than my own and respond accordingly, in a way that is more personal and personable than “eat this,” “add this,” “do this,” etc.

– I chose a program with a focus on integrative health and a specialty in herbal medicine because I cannot believe that any aspect of health operates in a bubble. When I’m short-changing the healthy fats in my diet, beginning to restrict quantities, or having a day when I come home stressed and tired and eat mindlessly and then guiltily judge myself for having consumed “too much,” my actions and reactions are generally not about the foods themselves. I get that food, nutrition, diets, and health are more complex than the focus on only food itself, I want to learn more of how others experience that, and be able to bring that understanding into practice.

I’ve chosen to learn more of herbal medicine particularly, as I’ve been able to heal many major ailments and imbalances these past few years through herbs, food, and mindfulness alone. My own experience with plants has been life-changing; and I’ve long felt a connection to plants as if they hold life’s answers. I simply cannot wait to know (and share) more. Of interest to me now is the intersection between herbal medicine and sports nutrition. I don’t know if this will be an area I focus on in the future, but there are currently quite a few herbs of interest among the athletic community, considered “superfoods” by many, to help the body adapt and recover from stress. I’m excited to delve into both the ancient traditional use of these plants as medicine, and the modern evidence-based science of continuing to use them now.  

– I believe there is great power in the mind and the human experience and I think we as individuals have a lot of power as patients and as self-healers. We tend to see our health as something to fix, or to have another person tell us how to fix with an “easy” answer. Most of us don’t view our bodies as friends, as guides, as part of our health journeys that have just as much to say (and perhaps more wisely than our rational minds) in how we become the persons we envision ourselves to be. I want to help others find their friend in their body, and reconnect their rational self with the self that already knows what it needs. I’m working on this myself these days. In fact, I’m thinking it might be both the biggest ongoing challenge and achievement I’ve undertaken.

 

So now, back at the beginning, I recognize I’m much like everyone else, down in the trenches with my own set of challenges:  The Recipe Redux theme this month is to try something new in this new year. My new discovery comes in the way of a snack that I started craving one day during a run in the wet, (wet, wet) Oregon rain. It’s got one of those in-small-amounts foods I mentioned above that up until now I hadn’t tried—Cashew Butter—slathered in little spoonfuls atop a roasted sweet potato (or microwave-baked for those of us who come in hungry with sweet potato now cravings), and a hefty pinch of za’atar sprinkled atop. Admittedly, I slid back into old patterns one day and tried it without the cashew butter because I was afraid of too many of those nuts (point in case, I’m a work in progress), but the sweet potato and za’atar were definitely missing their key ingredient. So if you try it, I suggest adding all the ingredients.

 

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Roasted Sweet Potato with Cashew Butter + Za’atar, serves 1

1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed and stabbed with a knife a few times to vent

1-2 spoonsfuls cashew butter

Za’atar, to taste 

  • Roast the sweet potato on a square of foil in an oven, preheated to 400 degrees F, for about 40-50 minutes, or until soft all the way through. Alternatively, if in a hurry, it can be microwave-baked.
  • Slice open the sweet potato, mash gently, and then spoon the desired amount of cashew butter atop, allowing it to sink in, soften, and melt slightly.
  • Then add a pinch or two of za’atar, and serve!


Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto

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I’m taking a class right now called Redefining Nutrition. One of its texts is Marc David’s Nourishing Wisdom, and I recommend it to just about everyone. Essentially, it backs up a lot of what I already know about food and diets, that there is no one diet for everyone, that we are all especially unique when it comes to food and food preferences, and that our bodies are always changing, and our diets should naturally change with them to reflect the seasons and our changing needs.

 

I recently read too, Gena Hamshaw’s wonderful article, about tuning out the noise around new year’s diets, cleanses, and body-resolutions. It was written specifically for those in recovery from eating disorders and it resonated strongly with me as Gena brought to attention the extemely competitive nature of food and fitness-regimes. Essentially, Gena suggests the often difficult task of tuning out all the hype and just, “you do you.”

 

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Taking into consideration both readings, I sit ill with encouraging you to “go eat this recipe” that I share, because that’s not me. And perhaps it is not the recipe you need right now if you are doing you. I only share recipes here that are essentially what I am eating in this season, for me. William, who generally raves about my cooking, doesn’t always agree with me that he needs to eat another grain and bean bowl, and sometimes, he tells me, he just needs pizza instead of greens.

 

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Specifically, a little more about me: I am cold all winter. I cart my heating pad wherever I go and blast the car-heater for a whole hour on my drive home. I have to warm up my fingers and toes after only short snippets outside and I tell friends I no longer snowboard because it cost too much and is too long of a drive and I hurt my knee on ice that last time and never got over the fear of doing so again, but actually I don’t snowboard anymore because I spent half the day on the lift freezing and I’m actually more afraid of spending hours being cold. So when the new year rolls around, I don’t do smoothies or cold salads. I rarely drink a cold beverage between the months of October and April. I’m not into cleanse diets or “clean-eating”. Mostly, I want to eat comforting, nourishing, warming things that just happen to be good for me, in the way that good food or good company fills you up and doesn’t seem to have any caloric value or nutritional plan attached to it or necessary for its consumption.  This is me tuning out the noise and eating for me. I encourage you to get quiet enough to find out what you need and if you want to make a diet, exercise, or other wellness resolution this year, go for it. But make it one that is true to you.

 

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So as is my usual, I’m eating warm and wintery vegetables this January and this creamy, dreamy pumpkin risotto is one I know I’ll be making for years to come during the winter season. I first began making it way back in November and shared it at Thanksgiving with the fam. While I love all risotto, this one uses short grain brown rice, which gives it that creamy risotto texture which usually only comes with arborio or other traditional risotto rice varieties. It features caramelized onions, sage and rosemary, pumpkin puree, a hint of sweetness with a spoonful of maple syrup, and is rounded out with Progresso’s rich and savory vegetable stock. Now available in grocery stores nationwide in the soup aisle, Progresso has officially launched a new line of premium Cooking Stocks, made by simmering real bones, vegetables and herbs to create a flavor that’s close to homemade. I’ve made my own vegetable stock and I can honestly say Progresso’s tastes quite similar to my own version. Since this risotto itself is already more of a weekend endeavor, I like the shortcut of purchasing a nice cooking stock rather than making my own or using water only.

 

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Pumpkin, Sage + Rosemary Baked Risotto, serves 4

1/2 Tbs. coconut or olive oil

1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup short grain brown rice

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 Tbs. cashew cream (see note)

1 Tbs. maple syrup

3/4 tsp. salt

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed and leaves finely diced

1/2 Tbs. finely diced fresh sage

pinch of ground black pepper

3 cups Progresso Vegetable Stock

2 Tbs. toasted and chopped hazelnuts

  1. To caramelize the onion: warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring to coat. Decrease the heat to low and let the onion cook until dark golden brown, about 25 minutes. Stir as little as possible, but enough to keep the onion from sticking to the pan or burning.
  2. While the onion is caramelizing, parboil the rice by bringing a pot of water to a boil. Stir in the rice, decrease the heat to medium, and cook until the rice is half tender and slightly enlarged, about 12-15 minutes. Drain it and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and lightly oil a 9×9 inch baking dish or 2-quart dutch oven.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin puree, cashew cream, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and herbs. Fold in the onions once they are caramelized and the rice. Scoop the mixture into the baking dish and spread it out so the top is nicely level.
  5. In a saucepan, over medium-high, bring the vegetable stock to just below boiling. Put the baking dish in the oven, and then slowly and carefully pour the hot vegetable broth over the top.
  6. Bake, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes. The risotto will still be a little loose and have a layer of liquid still on top. It will continue to soak up liquid as it cools.
  7. Remove from the oven and top with chopped hazelnuts. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

 

Note: To make cashew cream, soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in water for at least an hour. Drain and add to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add 2-4 Tbs. water and puree until completely smooth. You now have your cream for this recipe and a little extra for another time. The extra freezes well.

As part of The Recipe Redux Progresso Comfort Food Flavor Boost Challenge, I received free samples of Progresso Cooking Stock mentioned in this post at no cost. By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Progresso Cooking Stock and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

 


Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts

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Be willing to move forward and find out what happens next.                 – Frank Shorter

 

December. There have been dinner parties, holiday parties, office-gifting, coffee catch-ups, super big deal good news, all-day baking sessions, making food with 100+ teenagers with differing food tastes, several nights and days of not enough sleep and feeling too tired, and then news that is challenging, both personally and in the world. Last week was my last big work-related push of the year and each morning I woke feeling like I could sleep for another five hours. Then in my morning runs, I could tell my body was a little “down” in a way that is not depression or hard workout related. When the going gets tough and I’ve too many things on my plate, I tend to put my head down and stubbornly power through. Alone with myself in the dark and the cold and the rain, I could tell when I stopped powering through and listened that I really needed a break that involves not socializing or busy-bodying but genuine self-care, reading a good book, journaling, wearing slippers and workout tights all day, sleeping in, listening to good music, eating and drinking warm foods, and practicing “being gentle“.

 

Fortunately, I took the weekend and did some of the above. I’m banking those slow days now particularly, as there are giant changes looming ahead. Somehow, I’ve come to one of those transitory periods when all the big life things are shifting at the same time. I’ve only shared pieces of these changes with a few of my closest and I haven’t processed yet. Instead, I’m keeping my head by focusing on this step I’m in. The rest will figure itself out.

 

In the meantime, it’s Recipe Redux day, and like last year, we’re cooking from books. If you read regularly, it’ll be fairly obvious that I’m a mega-fan of David and Luise at Green Kitchen Stories. I love both their cookbooks and I’ve been cooking from their latest, Green Kitchen Travels, all year long. One of the recipes I’ve made several times is their super vegetable-heavy chili with dark chocolate and walnuts. I’m quite experimental with food and will gladly make something new every single day but I’ll periodically circle back to recipes if I find them particularly good. This chili is my absolute favorite and it is also infinitely variable. I’ve changed up the types of veggies used each batch depending on the season and what I’ve got. I tend to stuff it with more of the root vegetables this time of year like parsnips, celeriac, turnips, and rutabagas.

 

This is a chili to warm hearts and revive during this busy season of dark nights. William and I gobble it up when the need for chili strikes — and it is a great one to serve to a crowd.

 

Cheers. I hope your December is merry.

 

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Chili with Chocolate and Walnuts, adapted from Green Kitchen Travels

serves 6-8

2 Tbs. olive or coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp. cumin 
1  fresh chili, minced (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 celeriac (winter), peeled and chopped or 2 bell peppers, (summer) red & yellow, finely chopped 
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
2 large stalks of celery with top greens, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, very finely chopped
1 1/2 cups dried mixed beans (adzuki, kidney, black eye, borlotti), soaked and cooked or 3 14-oz. cans
2 14-oz. cans whole plum tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup water
2 tsp. salt
1-2 ounces 80% dark chocolate, broken in pieces

  • Start by preparing all the vegetables.
  • Heat oil in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add onion, garlic, cumin, chili, paprika and oregano, and let fry for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until the spices smell fragrant. Be careful so they don’t burn.
  • Add celeriac, carrot, parsnip and celery, and let cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the chopped walnuts, beans, tomatoes, water and salt and let cook for 30 minutes or more.
  • Now add the chocolate, starting with a lesser amount and tasting as you go until it is “enough.” I usually use about 1 1/2 ounces. Stir the chocolate around carefully and let cook for 5 more minutes. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro, if desired, and homemade cornbread.


for the joy

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I went for a run the other day, an easy four miles, and I found myself having to hold back at the end. Again.

 

Several years ago when William and I were first dating, we’d run together frequently, getting to truly know each other over our running-with-another-styles. Will was content to always keep it casual, slow and easy. My competitive streak had me unconsciouslessly always staying one step ahead with random surges thrown in whenever I felt good. I’d often laugh recklessly and pick it up a little more when he wanted to slow down. I tend to get faster as the miles add up while he likes to rush out at the beginning and then slow down. I’m stronger-willed. I usually set the pace. Despite our differences, we got into a habit of finishing each run with a little sprint to the end. It was never a set time or distance, just somewhere close to our finishing point, we’d glance at each other, mutter something like “race you to…” and take off. William usually won. It was so so fun.

 

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Running hasn’t been so easy or joyful this year. I have been battling my body and mind this entire year. I finally figured out my mind has identified its body as perpetually injured. Despite the belief that I will eventually be injury-free, my daily thought pattern does nothing to support this mindset. Any time something new feels off, my mind goes into a two to six day anxiety party, in which I can focus on almost nothing else except the thing that is off, worrying about “what-if it…”, and then after those first few days have past, I accept the off-feeling as the new norm, and it becomes the problem. All of this happens before any doctor can actually identify anything is truly wrong. It is a bad pattern that I’ve finally acknowledged and am attempting to stop vicariously jumping into. I’ve also come to terms with the idea that my mind thrives on (and is perpetually sickened by) a stressful environment. And it doesn’t matter what is actually happening in life, whether my current circumstances are actually worthy of stress, my mind always finds something to be stressed about. For me, the link between mental stress and physical symptoms, in any myriad of ways, is real. I have accurately identified a whole host of physical ills I’ve suffered over the years that are linked to stress. I have a great doctor that supports my theories. It is crazy this mind-body connection. The good thing here is that I’ve finally acknowledged this internal battle and I know it is not the way I want to live.

 

Running is where I seek a lot of mental solace. And since my physical body has been somewhat out of commission all these months, my mind has freely been running havoc instead. After a substantial amount of crying and worrying and praying this year, asking Him repeatedly why he gave me this particular challenge to overcome, I was practically smacked in the face one day in adoration at church with the realization that this has been such a good year. I have had to stop running, at first physically and then mentally, and actually work through the baggage that I had been holding on to. I’ve had to stop, just sit, literally, and simply feel every thing I’ve spent my entire life avoiding feeling.

 

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Deacon Anderson had a Carl Jung quote/paraphrase one Sunday in church that has been my truth this year. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll play with our cell phones, we’ll have sex, we’ll throw ourselves into our work, we’ll exercise until we drop, we’ll buy stuff, we’ll do anything, anything, to avoid this journey and this struggle, to keep from embracing our shadow, he shared.

 

This year, I’ve sat with, cried with, yelled at, wanted to rip out and throw away, run with, forgiven, soothed, gotten to know, and finally, faced my soul. It has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

 

It has been the best thing I have ever done.

 

And it is an ongoing, never-ending, daily practice. It is a complete lifestyle change to know and face my soul, to continue acknowledging it rather than running away. So far, it does not get easier with time.

 

And so, running. Running and work and blogging and food and family and making a home and being a sister, aunt, daughter, wife, cousin, friend, teacher, and mentor. And living. Above all, I want to live and experience peace in each moment, let all my worries and what-ifs and over-whelming, self-imposed schedule go, acknowledge but not engage with those thoughts that will always try to take over, and let them go. And again. Every goddamn day starting over.

 

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When I let all my worries go, I realize I am happy. Despite whatever chaos I’ve brought on myself or the world has imposed, I am happy. There is joy when I write and joy when I pray. There is joy in my interactions, joy in throwing my schedule out and going with someone else’s plans. There is joy in running that has nothing to do with managing my body, that is no longer based on being able to withstand the pain for a little while, but actual joy in realizing that despite whatever might feel slightly off, my body does not have to be a battleground, and the last mile of a four or five or easy six miler feels good and I feel like sprinting it in to the end again–simply for the joy of it.

 

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Big Tasty Winter Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Squash + Candied Hazelnuts

When it comes to holiday gatherings, I’m the salad person in my family. Every year I have somehow shown up to Thanksgiving or Christmas with Brussels sprouts–and then the relatives tell me they’ve spent their entire lives not liking them but they look forward to mine. I guess that is the highest compliment a vegetable-loving, on-a-mission-to-get-people-to-eat-their-veggies lady can receive. Spinning off the sweet dressing and candied nuts in my Pittsburgh Salad, I decided to throw all my favorite wintry salad things in a big ol’ Thanksgiving-sized bowl and feed people greens again this year. And it worked. I’ve made this salad a couple times since and it is tasty enough that I might take it to every social gathering between now and the end of winter squash season (that’s around mid-March for me). It is just that good.

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

1 small or 1/2 a medium winter squash, roasted and then cut into medium-large chunks

a small to medium handful of dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries, or a handful of each

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, bottoms and outer leaves removed and halved, if they are large

1 Tbs. olive oil

 

For the candied hazelnuts:

3/4 cup raw hazelnuts

3/4 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. honey

1/8 tsp. salt

Cayenne pepper

 

For the vinaigrette:

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. whole-grain mustard

1 Tbs. honey

salt and pepper to taste

 

  • On a large baking pan, toss Brussels sprouts with a good drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F.
  • While the Brussels are roasting, prep kale and put it in a large mixing bowl, along with the roasted squash and dried fruits. Once the Brussels begin to soften but still have a little crunch, remove them from the oven, and pour them atop the kale and give it a quick stir. This will begin to soften up the kale.
  • Spread the hazelnuts in a small baking pan or on the same dish the Brussels came off of, and toast until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Then, toss them with 1/8 tsp. salt and a good pinch of cayenne pepper. Drizzle with the 3/4 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. honey. Toss them all into the bowl with the Brussels and kale.
  • Make the vinaigrette by whisking the remaining oil, honey, mustard, and vinegar in a small dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour it in small batches over the salad ingredients until you’ve dressed it with your desired amount.

 

 


Smoky Pear Tea Cakes

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As it turns out, I am a giant nerd. I’ll gladly take an evening in with a good book just about any day. I take books to all family gatherings and long road trips. I have no problem sitting in a room full of people, disengaged from the small talk, reading. Like a true nerd, I love libraries and bookstores, and of course, good old-fashioned books.

 

Nerdism started early but back when I learned to read, I was a slow learner and had to go to Mrs. Ashcraft’s for special reading class. After Mrs. Ashcraft worked her magic, I was reading giant chapter books far beyond my grade level in a matter of weeks. To this day, reading is among my favorite pastimes. I still have little girl Jane Austen fantasies about long afternoons in the parlor with all my best gal pals reading and eating tea cakes. The one time this came even close to happening was last year in Victoria with William. We stayed at a B&B with a serious library, complete with fireplace, cozy chairs, a pot of English tea, and a good book. Those quiet mornings in the library were magical.

 

Back in reality, I’m often asked if I like to read. Though I’m open about my interest in books, I often share only the lighter things I’m reading when people ask–and it is a rare day when I snag more than 10 minutes or so at a time with a book. Since The Recipe Redux theme for this month is quick bread and I can think of no better time to enjoy a slice or two than on a slow weekend with tea and reading materials, I’m sharing all the good books I particularly enjoyed in the past year. If you are in need of a new one to read or cook from, or need gifting ideas for the holidays, read on. Or skip to making these smoky pear tea cakes and enjoy a slice over something from your own selection.

 

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Non-Fiction

When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice, Terry Tempest Williams

This is the book I’ll gift to my former English-major friends. It is a memoir on Williams’ experience with her mother’s death and the resulting discovery of finding her voice. Of all the books in this list, it is the most beautiful and capturing to read.

 

Me and My Mate Jeffrey, Niall Breslin

Written by former professional rugby player and singer, Niall tells of his struggle with extreme anxiety disorder, how he kept the panic attacks and chronic insomnia a secret for 15 years, how it led him to give up on several careers, and ultimately to become a spokesperson leading the way for the discussion of mental health to be less stigmatized in our society. I can identify with much of Breslin’s mental struggles (though not how they present themselves) and his finding of endurance athletics and mindfulness to manage them. I can’t wait to see what happens when we as a society let go of the shame surrounding this topic and address it as we do other areas of health. I highly recommend this book to just about everyone.

 

The Five Elements of Self-Healing: Using Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity, Wellness, and Health, Jason Elias

I picked this one up at the library randomly and I’m glad I did. This book focuses heavily on addressing health from the standpoint of whichever Chinese Medicine element an individual identifies with most strongly. It also gives tools to balance oneself and delves deep into many common illnesses, starting with the most exterior (cold and flu) and moving to the most interior (diabetes and cancer). I’m super fascinated with Traditional Chinese Medicine and this was an easy to understand book that I will refer to again.

 

Between Heaven and Earth, Harriet Beinfield and The Web That Has No Weaver, Ted Kaptchuk

Both Between Heaven and Earth and The Web That Has No Weaver are great introductory texts that explain Traditional Chinese Medicine and bridge the gap between eastern and western medicine. I really enjoyed Between Heaven and Earth and am still making my way through The Web, but am adding it to the list anyway because I often find myself taking copious notes from it. I would definitely consider purchasing either of them to use as a reference when life gets chaotic.

 

Eating on the Wild Side, Jo Robinson

The premise of Eating on the Wild Side is that our modern foods have lost the rich nutrient content of their wild ancestors–and few of us are going to go gather wild herbs to eat every day to make up the difference. Instead, Robinson provides an exceptional resource on the most nutritious varieties of common fruits and vegetables, including how best to store and prepare them to ensure as many nutrients as possible actually arrive to our bodies. I took this book to work and made a handout for parents in our programs. My co-worker, who teachs a preschool parent-child health and nutrition class, says this is the number one handout that parents ask for and repeatedly refer to.

 

Lentil Underground, Liz Carlisle

This book is about a group of renegade farmers in Montana who eschewed the norms and started an organic lentil and bean farming revolution in an area that was typically conventional dryland wheat. I was able to listen to Liz Carlisle in person, as she and the farmer, David Oien, presented at my university a few months ago. The number one thing that stood out to me from this story was the sheer amount of work–double decade long lifework–that comes with eschewing the norm and following your dream. If you are at all interested in the food movement and sustainable farming systems, this is definitely one worth reading.

 

Running With Joy, Ryan Hall

I own this book and refer to it often for spiritual guidance. Essentially, it is Ryan Hall’s daily training journal as he prepared for the 2010 Boston Marathon. For me, it reads as a runner’s daily devotional. It’s a good one for gaining perspective on finding joy both in running and in life. 

 

Fiction

Skippy Dies, Paul Murray

When it comes to fiction, I often look to the award winners and the books that are short-listed. This one is a weighty novel (600+ pages) about a boy at a Catholic boarding school. The title gives away what happens and Skippy dies right away within the first chapter. This is a captivating journey into the world of teenagers, drawing the reader into their often nonsensical thinking patterns and how the opposite sex can become an all-consuming obsession. Rife with humor, drama, backstabbing, teenage confusion, mental health problems, and of course death, this book reminded me of both what it was like to be a teenager, and how the teens I work with often view the world from a very different lens than my own. And finally–this book is exceptionally well written. Murray has a special kind of voice as only the most gifted writers do.

 

The Master, Colm Tóibín

Tóibín is an exceptionally talented writer and this novel is about the famous novelist, Henry James. I loved the imagery that took me into James’ life, and Tóibín was able to make the seemingly drab doings of a writer come alive. I also learned an amazing tactic both to navigate uncomfortable social settings and to view life as a writer does. If you haven’t read this or any of Tóibín’s other novels, I highly recommend him. His books are gold.

 

Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine

One of my favorite pre-teen stories, I reread this one recently (again) and as always, loved it just as much as my 11-year-old self. This fun and easy remake of the Cinderella Story is actually a good one and is FAR better than the horrible movie that was made out of it.

 

Cookbooks

Green Kitchen Travels, David Frenkiel

Written by Swedish and Danish couple David and Luise of the lovely blog, Green Kitchen Stories, this is the cookbook that most aligns with my style of cooking. Sometimes simple and easy, sometimes off-the-wall combinations of textures, ingredients and flavors, and often vividly colored. I have been cooking through this all year long. I like it even better than their first cookbook and refer to it often for both inspiration and to make recipes as-written. A word about their diet: David is vegetarian, Luise is health-minded. Together, they share recipes that are always both but can contain dairy, eggs, and gluten, but often do not. I find it super easy to sub these ingredients and have loved nearly every recipe I’ve tried.

 

Ard Bia Cookbook, Aoibheann MacNamara

This book, titled after its namesake restaurant, is lovely to simply leave on the coffee table because it is so beautifully put together. Whenever I read it, I want to cozy up in a lovely restaurant near the ocean on a dreary day and drink tea and watch the other customers leaf through newspapers and chat about scholarly things. The pantry section is my favorite part and leaves me super happy that a restaurant cookbook provides more than just recipes for meals. There are exotic seed and spice mixtures, infused oils and vinegars, chutneys, and the like.

 

The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon, Sara Forte

I love just about every one of Sara’s bowl recipes, and I’ve tried TONS of them. There is no way I could choose a favorite, but the lentil-stuffed poblano chilies over a butternut mash which I had recently was particularly good. Sara cooks with a vegetable-heavy hand and when she includes cheese, it is often as topping and is never missed by us.

 

Whole Grain Mornings, Megan Gordon

This is a lovely brunch book that I’ve checked out from my local library for several months (more than once). I love the sheer variety of breakfasty options all arranged by season, and the fact that 90% of the recipes can instead be eaten either as dessert or dinner. If for no other reason, Megan’s recipes for granola are the BEST, which should hardly be surprising as she founded a granola business.

 

What good book are you reading? I always need more inspiration.

 

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Smoky Pear Tea Cakes

We are enjoying Thanksgiving in eastern Oregon this year with my family. I can’t wait for a long weekend of cozy reading, hugging babies and toddlers, and catching up with the folks and relatives. Plus, I have a whole freezer of not quite good enough versions of this cake to hand over to my sugar-loving, thinks-he’s-sweets-deprived father, who will gobble it all up in no time. The trick with this cake is to find some good quality Lipsang Souchong tea which has a smoky flavor due to the leaves being dried over a fire. The pairing of the smoky tea and soft, ripe pears is subtle but prominent, especially when slightly warm. The smoke and sweet combo captures this time in the season perfectly. 

1 cup +  ~2 Tbs. boiling water
4 tsp. Lipsang Souchong tea leaves
2 Tbs. ground flax seed
6 Tbs. hot water
3/4 cup oat bran, certified gluten-free
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix or flour of choice
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder 
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cored and shredded soft pears (~ 2 medium)
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup canola oil
1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour four mini-loaf pans or one 9×5-inch loaf pan.
  • Bring about 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Pour slightly more than 1 cup of it over the tea leaves and allow them to steep for a while.
  • In a small dish, whisk together the remaining 6 Tbs. hot water and ground flax seeds. Set aside to form a thick slurry.
  • In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix well and set aside.
  • Grate the pears using the large holes of a box grater. Don’t include the core and seeds.
  • Strain the tea and pour 1 cup of it into a liquid measuring cup. Add the honey, oil, vanilla, pears, and flax mixture. Mix it all together thoroughly.
  • Pour the liquids into the dry mixture and stir the batter until just combined.
  • Fill the loaf pans equally and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes for mini loaves or 50-60 minutes for a large loaf.

 


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