Answers to the Big Questions and a Hearty Runner’s Brunch Hash

Lately, I’ve returned to reading two books. First the Purgatorio, the second in Dante’s Divine Comedy. My former English professor and deacon at my church in Corvallis has been leading a weekly class lately guiding us through the Purgatorio and the timing feels just about right since the class began the Wednesday of Holy Week and is leading us through this continued period of staying at home and distancing. Purgatory—the place between two more known-of places—seems the perfect description for where we all are now.

If there’s anything I can pick up from Dante’s 14th century poem, it’s that it gets easier as we keep going.

The other book I’ve begun again is Sajah Popham’s Evolutionary Herbalism: Science, Spirituality, and Medicine from the Heart of Nature—a reading I encourage everyone, yes everyone to read. For it guides you back to a perspective I think we all had as children and lost along the way.

I’ve been considering a lot these last few weeks. About this space, this encouraging journal and recipe guide of sorts, my role as a nutritionist and in the community, health and true wellness, and of course, nature.

On that note, I wrote in two questions for a couple of favorite podcasts a few months ago and surprising to me, both questions were answered by the respective individuals this past week. Unsurprisingly –if you know me—my questions were on the topics of sustainability and having a lower ‘footprint’ as a company, and on navigating faith and spirituality amongst busy seasons and family traditions that don’t partake in that faith. I know. I know. I like to ask the tough questions.

So why am I bringing all that up here? This past week my big questions semi-paralleled with those of Brett Farrell, the founder of Territory Run Co., for which I am a content ambassador and contribute seasonal articles. Brett spoke about his own big questions, the clothing industry’s own climate footprint, challenges with community, and more. Check out those here and here. As well as recent contributions on the Territory Run Journal – there are several excellent and thoughtful articles there lately.

What I was really reminded of however, was that in a conversation with Brett about a year ago, I spoke about the draw of trail running, the joy and peace and healing it has brought me personally, and about getting to the know the medicine around me—literally coming to know the plants I spend time with on the trails. Though I’ve only written or spoken about it in pieces, I came to an interest in herbs and herbalism like a lot of individuals. I was really sick, in a way that modern medicine wasn’t going to cure or even temporarily fix. And after a while of taking various herbs and formulas which my doctor gave me, and around the same period spending more of my running hours in the forest, the plants reached out to me and pulled me in, sometimes sharing themselves in profound ways –like being pulled to a stop suddenly alongside a trail, staring captivatedly at one, and (internally) asking, who are you? Crazily enough at times, I’d find I had my answer when the plant’s name simply came to the edge of my tongue, when if you’d asked on any other day, I wouldn’t have known it.  In fact, it happened again today.

And then Brett asked me another ‘big question’ about what it is I really want people to know in regards to nutrition and health. My answer is one I still will give and one I’ll likely give for the rest of time. What I really want you to know about nutrition and health is that if you get quiet enough – go deep enough into the forest’s eternal wisdom, and your own—you’ll find you already have the answers to the questions you seek.

To explain this more since the concept can be a little esoteric, I’ll refer to a couple lines from Sajah’s first two chapters:
To begin gathering natura sophia (the intelligence of nature), we must learn to see beyond the limitations our modern world has placed upon our perception and see the living intelligence of the Earth. And this can only be done through gnosis cardiaca—the knowledge of the heart.

and

To truly enter the kingdom of nature we must suspend our rational thought, let go of our knowledge of botany and chemistry, even dispense with our systems of herbalism—for any potential interference of the mind will get in the way of our capacities to directly perceive the intelligence within the plants. To move beyond herbal knowledge and into herbal wisdom, we must tread the pathway down the mind into the inner temple located just inside our chest.

Bringing this back down to earth even a little more, the answers to these big questions don’t come easily, they don’t necessarily just appear when we ask them or when we want them to. There can be many layers to the answers of how to be a better patron of the planet, or how to balance a spiritual life in faith with the goings on of the ‘real world,’ or how to heal – truly heal the body and mind.

Over time, I’m beginning to realize my role here is to educate about true wellness, about true healing, to be more of the guide—the Virgil and/or the Beatrice (though I claim no Godlike abilities)—and no longer the lost and hurting Dante who I was for a long time. To provide encouraging words yes, and recipes to nourish the body yes, and with those working with me clinically, proven scientific strategies to heal root cause imbalances yes. But it’s also to remind you, to remind us, that we also have the answers. That we’re not victims.

In every relationship whether it’s with me your nutritionist, your coach, your chiropractor or PT, your family and friends, your life partner, or with the plants in your window box, yard, locally farmed vegetable box, or forest, there’s an opportunity for a two-way conversation, a partnership to come to the answers that are already within you waiting to be revealed.

Maybe that’s the point of this slow down period we’ve been given, for I know it’s not for many millions to suffer. Maybe it’s the time to return to our childlike ways, picking the dandelions and blowing our wishes into the big questions, letting the answers present themselves in their own time and way.

Now for this hearty brunch hash.

You’ll need a hearty, though not heavy, meal to refuel the system after your time in the forest– or wherever you go to dwell in your own big questions and their answers. I’ve shared the recipe over on the Run Journal at Territory Run Co. Get the full article and recipe here.

Spring Roasted Carrots and choosing resiliency

I fell down on my trail run today. It happened as it does, a little trip over a big rock and then skidding in slow motion as I attempted to catch myself before I hit the ground. Hard. I’ve relegated my trail runs lately to the hill and trail behind my house, which happens to be a little sketchy in sections with giant, difficult to navigate old-access-road gravel. Just the section I fell on as I headed down the hill near the end of the whole pursuit. I got up quickly, didn’t even brush myself off, and began on my way again before a neighbor in the distance stopped to make sure I was okay. I’m fine. Haven’t fallen in a while so I guess I was due. Well, just your pride’s bruised then anyway, he said. Haha, well no. I fall down every once in a while. It happens. I’m fine, I assured him.

A few minutes later and closer to my house, I looked down and realized I’d shredded the entire palm of one of my gloves on the rocks. And my other palm, the one that had taken more of the brunt of the fall, was throbbing. Scrapes and bruises already appearing along the length of my hip and shin as I got back home.

I guess I really have threaded deep roots into the just get back in the saddle lessons and it’s a long way from your hearts that my dad had on repeat throughout my youth.

Chin up. Shake it off. Get back in the [actual] saddle. Keep going.

Before I go any further I’ll clarify that I’m certainly very human. I fall down and fail a lot. I run in mental circles of doubt or fear or avoid big things I don’t want to think about. And I tend to be quite susceptible or tuned into other’s energy states — so the past few weeks have affected me quite a bit. But the big moments in life where I learned the most about myself and what is important to focus on was when I tuned out the noise and energy around me and tapped into what I felt, what I knew to be true, and found peace and trust amidst the chaos and unknowing. That peace and trust has been more or less my status quo emotion / mindset the last several days.

It’s in times like these, with everything around us up in the air, that I recall moments of actually getting back in the saddle from my youth. When my horse bucked me off during our moment in the spotlight during the championship class at spring junior show all those years ago. When she did the same (which kind of was her habit — we made a good pair of two strong / determined personalities) at a routine lesson with my dressage coach. Both times landing me on my back with a sudden whiplash after that slow motion almost staying upright fall. And getting up just as soon as I hit the ground, launching more determinedly back to the task at hand. Fairly exactly like in trail running.

Anyways, I share all this because I think it’s in times when we’re knocked out of the norm of our comfort level, when we’re literally shockwaved into a new reality, that our ability to deal with more than we considered we could and our determination to do so, becomes clear.

One example of this that’s crystal clear to me is in my local food producers and restaurant industry. From two weeks ago being mostly shut down to already having several local partnerships that have pivoted into creating local food hubs for online ordering and distribution. Farmers and food producers rallying to support their community and their livelihoods in record time. From the extreme cautions that our local grocery stores are going to, inserting protecting barriers for their clerks on the front lines, to wiping down every cart and every surface after each customer, and on. And on.

I wrote a couple weeks ago about focusing on the good things instead of what isn’t going well. So I’ll share one of the good lately. Our farmers market is considered a grocery store – so still open with a few precautionary changes, thus allowing our local farmers to keep going. I encourage you to support yours however you can because good food and resilient local food systems are essential in these times. And thanks to marrying into a partnership that had strong visions of growing our own as much as possible, these spring carrots I’ll encourage you to seek out and roast up are a product of our back yard, a deserted and ugly dog run when we began with it. Planted and tended by one last fall (that’s William), and pulled from their dirty soil home, scrubbed clean, sliced, seasoned and roasted by the other (that’s me.) It never ceases to amaze me what can grow from essentially nothing.

So if you find yourself needing some assurance through this (whatever this is to you in your current situation), let me remind you:

Chin up. Shake it off. Get back in the saddle. Put your hands in the dirt or nutritious food around you. Keep going. You have everything you need to know in this moment. You’ve been given no more than you can handle.

Spring Roasted Carrots, makes about 3-4 side-dish servings
Spring carrots, if you have access to them, are more tender and generally a lot more tasty than the giant fibrous ones shipped from California and the like. For access to all their carroty nutritious goodness, I strongly recommend finding the locally grown ones, since many nutrients break down and are lost after months or weeks in cold storage. Because they’re more tender, I also think they’re best when you roast them so they still have a little bite to them, like al dente pasta, which is less-cooked than I enjoy carrots in the fall or winter.

1 large bunch or 1 pound tender young carrots, sliced in half and perhaps quarters.
1-3 tsp. coconut oil
thyme, minced rosemary or sage (you choose one or all)
salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F while washing and slicing the carrots. Toss them together on a baking tray with the seasonings and and a little oil.
  • Roast until just al dente, about 20-25 minutes, depending on their size.


If you enjoyed this, I’ve been sharing a few practical resources and video posts over on my E+O Facebook page about how to navigate these times with resiliency and less anxiety / fear, and am currently taking new nutrition clients. Be well.

Berry Bran Muffins and what to cook right now

A somewhat humorous discussion amongst some of the current and past students of my nutrition program last week was “What is Eleonora cooking right now?” Eleonora is my former cooking lab instructor, since we were required to take a few cooking courses during the program to really cement our ‘food as medicine’ approach to clinical nutrition practice.

While I consider myself an experienced cook, I never expected to learn a ton from these courses, but a day before that conversation emerged about Eleonora, a conversation with my childhood best friend brought realization that those simple courses cemented several cooking foundations that were otherwise learned haphazardly over time, or not at all.  

In that conversation with my friend, which not surprisingly went on as she was cooking dinner and subsequently asking for advice on the right temperature and amount of oil for roasting vegetables, she asked if I’d heard of a popular cookbook, Salt Fat Acid Heat. I explained that I was indeed familiar, but haven’t actually picked up the book. We learned those concepts in cooking lab, I explained.

What I got most from that conversation, however, wasn’t that I’ve picked up some culinary school concepts over time, or that I should give myself a pat on the shoulder, but that the conversation was so normal. Having not had a real conversation in months and going long stretches with much less since my friend’s life work is in ministry and she’s been abroad for most of the last decade, the ebbs and flows and even pauses to wait for another discussion on the other end of the line to begin and end were exactly as they would be between us—at any point in the last twenty and more years we’ve been close friends.

That maybe is a benefit to slowing down a little. We both all of a sudden were available for a conversation that as the years go, grows greater distance between each one.

The other thing, one of the students actually knew the answer to What is Eleonora Cooking?, since they were doing raw food lab last week. Eleonora is making and eating lots of sprouts. You know, just about the healthiest, most nutritious food on the planet.


When I was in her classes, I both loved and feared Eleonora. She has a brusque way about her, a heavy accent, and though you wouldn’t guess it, she was also a former Olympian. I suspect in some sort of track and field or gymnastics discipline, though I never did get that answer.

So in the midst of a global pandemic, my former Olympian-now nutritionist and cooking instructor is teaching the newest round of students about the benefits and how-tos of growing and eating sprouts. And my long-time friend and minister is not doing her work in visiting and being with people, but sewing masks and cooking roasted vegetables. And though many of us are attempting to keep some semblance of normalcy, we’re definitely not in normal times.

Instead of following in Eleonora’s food-steps and providing a guide on sprouts, or the best pot of beans, or the finer details on making gluten-free sourdough, today I offer you Berry Bran Muffins (but yes, I’m otherwise making and eating all three of those nutritious, gut-health and therefore immune boosting foods.)

Muffins are basically my go-to semi-nutritious baked good to make and experiment with, and though I know it’s common practice to eat them at breakfast, I much prefer them as dessert.

Because we all need as much cheer as possible right now, whether it’s in making something warm and delicious in the kitchen, finding funny videos, books, or movies to be entertained by, or in another creative project. I am lucky and grateful enough to still have a semi-normal routine –as much as one can in self-imposed isolation or quarantine or whatever you may call it when the wisest thing to do is to avoid everywhere except the open road or trail or neighborhood walkabout.

And I understand if where you’re located doesn’t quite have all the ingredients for these stocked on the shelf—or you’re not going back to the store for a while. That’s the thing about cooking, baking, and muffins in particular. The adventurous, creative part is in improvising when the way forward is not exactly as the recipe goes.

And yes, that’s a metaphor for life. I encourage you to have faith in yourself and the process.

Other things that held me up and gave me faith this week:
– A reminder of the Proverb of the Chinese Farmer
– The ever wise insight from Julie Piatt on taking care in the time of Coronavirus
The two words that will guide you (mine are faith and nature – which maybe explains a lot of what I share here and how I work)
This book I’m reading during the season of Lent along with daily reflections by Matthew Kelly
– Rebecca Altman’s Surrender + Magic mini-course (of meditations and finding peace)
– running, my normal routine and as if my scheduled April race is still happening as planned

Berry Bran Muffins, makes 6 standard size muffins
If using a store bought gluten-free flour mix, the one I’ve found most similar to mine is the Krusteaz Gluten-Free Flour. If using that or others, it is best to measure by weight, and omit xanthan gum from the recipe if your flour mix contains it. As much as possible, I avoid adding xanthan gum unless I believe a recipe really needs it–and after much testing, this one does because the batter is heavy on flavorful, but juicy berries.

1/2 cup / 50 g oat bran
1/2 cup / 120 mL non-dairy milk
2 Tbs. molasses
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup / 120 g gluten-free flour mix
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbs. / 28 g coconut oil
1/4 cup / 50 g sugar
3 Tbs. aquafaba (liquid from cooked or canned garbanzo beans) or 1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup fresh or frozen berries (choose your berry of choice or use a mix)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C., and prepare a standard six-cup muffin pan by wiping with oil and dusting with flour or using paper muffin liners.
  2. Stir the oat bran, milk, molasses, and vanilla together in a small bowl until combined. Then allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a smaller bowl, combine the dry ingredients including the flour, soda and baking powder, and spices. Set this bowl aside also.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, stir and mix together the coconut oil and sugar until it is light and fluffy. This may take 3 to 5 minutes. Then add in the aquafaba or as an alternative, the egg. Mix well.
  5. Now add the flours, bran and milk mixture, and vinegar to the creamed sugar. Mix this just until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Gently fold in the berries. If using frozen, you don’t need to pre-thaw them. Using a large scoop or spoon, divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake until they become golden and a toothpick in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 25-30 minutes.
  7. Cool the muffins in the pan for about 5 minutes, then flip onto a wire rack and cool for at least 10 minutes before eating.