Thankfulness Brings Increase + Parsnip Carrot Cake Oats

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I cozied up with the first of the year baking dense loaves of rustic pumpkin + rosemary bread and drinking a good, strong pot of tea. I had a plan to identify main themes from the old year and move forward with a new vision and sense of putting 2014’s dis-ease to rest.

 

Though I know it’s not so simple as wiping the slate clean on New Year’s Eve and waking up in the new year free from the baggage that has accumulated, the introspective process of looking back at the bigger picture of the year helps me move foward into the new. From this practice, one particular message from Ryan Hall, an elite runner I follow, came to the surface and has since been floating around my consciousness. Nearly a year ago, Ryan shared about thankfulness, being thankful for what you have in the moment.

 

I can measure 2014 by the swinging polarity between connected and dis-connectedness, of being ready for life’s battles and feeling broken down and unworthy. I’ve often felt a sense of discontent, not-enough-ness, of missing out on living, especially when I look to social media. These feelings of inadequacy have been a catalyst for many negative behaviors in the past, and they were certainly a theme that stands out this past year.

 

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On Thursday past, I was looking to shed light on what I can achieve in this new year to be more satisfied, to measure up. Instead, Ryan’s words came back and reminded me of what I can be. This winter season is one for filtering out the clutter, the noise, the comparing and measuring, to simply be thankful. What I have to offer–what I bring with me into 2015 that is less than I thought it should be by now–is exactly what I can be thankful for in the present.

 

When I get quiet, I know my truth is that everything I need will be provided at exactly the right time. There will be room for big achievements and worthy mountains to climb in the coming months. But for now, I am focusing my energy on looking for the good in each situation. This year, I plan to live more fully by Ryan’s words. Thankfulness brings Increase.

 

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Parsnip Carrot Cake Oats, serves 2

We began the new year with a baked-version of these oats, but this is the one I’ve been making lately. It smells like the holidays are still with us, with the addition of spices and orange peel, but tastes oh-so-January with the hearty duo of carrots and parsnips. Use any type of oats. Sometimes I mix in a combination of old-fashioned and Scottish-style. Old-fashioned oats can be ground semi-fine with a coffee grinder or food processor to achieve the Scottish style consistency. 

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 medium carrot, finely shredded

1 small parsnip, finely shredded

1/4 cup raisins

orange zest

dash salt

sweetener of choice, to taste

In a small saucepan over high heat, boil 2 cups water. Once boiling, stir in oats, roots, spices, and raisins. Turn down to medium heat, and cook until the consistency is to your liking, 5-1o minutes. Remove from heat, stir in grated orange zest, salt, and sweeteners, to taste.

Carrot + Zucchini Oat Bran Muffins

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I am a struggling carrot farmer. Packets of seeds. Different locations within the space. Different weather patterns, sowing dates, and groups of planting hands. Gorilla planting at random when watering. Watering frequently. Pre-sprouting. Row covers. Gleaning scraps of information from the successful carrot farmers I know. They’ve all been attempted.

Let me explain. I coordinate a school garden. I plan the crops, the rotations, the amendment schedule and IPM techniques and timing. I coordinate the students, the teachers, the garden club, and the irrigation. Somehow, I can’t quite coordinate the soil to grow a substantial crop of carrots.

The carrots we’ve managed to grow were fat and tasty, and there is a meager amount of later-planted carrotlings still pushing their way through their sparsely sprouted rows. There’s progress. But carrot farmer, I currently am not.

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I see this carrot-failure as a small metaphor for the general way of things lately. I’ve been in a real mental funk, feeling like no matter the new tools I gather and employ, the result is still the same. Lackluster. Not the success I had envisioned.

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In light of the set-backs and failures, both personal and carrot-related, I’ve been taking stock of the situation(s). I have a few more tools up my sleeve, a little more determination and knowledge with each new attempt. I tend to not give up easily. In fact, I’m more likely to summon the kind of rage orange-haired people are known for and use it to my full advantage.

Those carrots will grow in that garden. They’ve got great soil and an ideal microclimate. If they’re willing to grow in my home garden with its frequently neglected and weed-infested clay beds, those carrots must grow in the school’s garden. I’m insistent.

Harvesting at least one substantial row of carrots is my personal gardening mission for the season. We will have a good and healthy carrot crop come autumn. I’ve the rage on my side. :)

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Carrot + Zucchini Oat Bran Muffins, makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular muffins
These muffins are adapted from a recipe in The Sprouted Kitchen that I’ve been slowing adapting and refining for months now. We keep coming back to it and each time the muffins turn out better. They are a perfect way to begin a laidback summer breakfast AND they use up summer squash or zucchini and carrots–because let’s be real, I have five summer squash in my fridge from the last two days harvests, at least six more growing rapidly on the plant, and tons of squash blossoms and bees making more magic happen. I’ve EVEN managed to grow a successful crop of carrots in my home garden. If you’re a gardener, know one who shares, or have a CSA box, you too are probably trying to sneak veggies into anything and everything at this stage of summer! 
 
1 cup almond milk
1 tsp. raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg or 1 flax egg (1 Tbs. ground flax seed + 3 Tbs. hot water)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
3/4 cup grated carrots (about 1 large carrot)
3/4 cup grated zucchini or yellow summer squash (about one small squash)
1 1/2 cups gluten free flour with teff (see below) or 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix
3/4 cup oat bran
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, pour in almond milk and vinegar. Whisk and let sit for a couple minutes. Then measure in the oil, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the carrots, zucchini, and chopped dates.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, bran, sugar, baking powder, soda, xanthan gum, salt and spices. Then pour into the wet mixture. Stir it up until all the ingredients just come together and then let sit for about five minutes.

Scoop out evenly into a prepared muffin pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F.

Gluten-Free Flour with Teff
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can take the flours and measure them out in 1/10’s. I’ve done this before and it works out to be roughly the same (not quite as exact though, due to the different weights of the flours). The mixture measures out to be 1000 grams or 1 kilo, so if you want to make enough for 1 1/2 cups for the recipe above, use slightly less than 1/3 cup each brown rice, sorghum and millet flours, and a little less than 1/6 cup each teff and tapioca flour, potato and arrowroot starches. 
 
200 grams brown rice flour
200 grams sorghum flour
200 grams millet flour
100 grams teff flour
100 grams potato starch
100 grams arrowroot starch
100 grams tapioca flour 

Apricot-Carrot Muffins

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During the summer of 2009, I ventured off to northeastern Washington, to spend a week at an educational cooking school at Quillisascut farm. It was a Slow Food Youth experience, and the week is ingrained in my memory. Myself and a dozen or so other 20-somethings came together from all over the country to spend a few days harvesting fresh produce, making delicious meals from scratch, baking bread in a wood-fired oven, milking goats, making cheese, and learning about the domestic arts in general. For me, it was paradise and the kind of experience that in an ideal world I’d like to recreate for other people on my own farm someday.

During this time of the summer when local apricots are in season and soon-to-be-gone for another year, I remember those few days at Quillisascut. That week, in addition to all of the above, I ate a lot of apricots.

The farm is located in a remote region of Washington state, hours from any major metropolis, and the experience was all about living off what the local region produces. Aside from the foraged huckleberries for breakfast, the only fruit to be had that week was apricots–and there were A LOT of them! I am a snacker by nature and in addition to apricots in our meals, I probably downed between 15 and 20 a day just in passing, because they were uber ripe and in need of being used–and I like to eat!

 

Prior to that experience, I had never had much of a thing for apricots. Sure, I like all fruit and I grew up with grandparents who would bring us boxes of whatever was in season from their nearby orchards. We definitely had gluts of apricots growing up, and my mom would make apricot upside down cake and jam. Yesterday, I called her and she was doing just that!

These days, since Quillisascut, I’m all into the apricot season. In the last couple weeks, I’ve had them in savory grain salads, in breakfast porridge, in these muffins, in a coming-soon vinegar concoction, and I’ve been downing them just as is–which is often the best way!

 

Apricot-Carrot Muffins, makes 6 large or 12 standard muffins
This recipe is an update of one I posted a few years back. It is now gluten and dairy-free. Use the ripest apricots and the sweetest carrots that you can find–you will taste the difference. Feel free to use the original recipe if you have no dietary restrictions. 
 
1 cup gluten-free flour 
3/4 cup oats
1/4 cup oat flour
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup diced fresh apricots
1 cup grated carrots
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. canola oil
3/4 cup almond milk
 
1. Make oat flour by grinding 1/4 cup oats in a food processor until fine.
2. Bring together the flours, oats, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, and milk. Pour into flour mixture.  Give the bowl a couple of turns with a spoon and then stir in the carrots and apricots. Only stir until mixture is just incorporated.
4. Spoon evenly into muffin tins.
5. Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until the tops are golden and the insides are set.