Be Kind. Eat Kind. My Kind of “Kind” Bars

Last week was a huge challenge and stress for me.  I had some pretty crazy things happen and it has thrown me off balance.  My focus has been pulled in many directions.  This week I’m struggling with the after effects of said craziness.  I have truly appreciated the kindness of friends, family and complete strangers recently.  I am purposefully noticing kindness.  Have you ever taken the time to notice random acts of kindness?   I’m not talking the grandiose gestures that get media attention.  I’m talking about the genuine kindness of everyday people you cross paths with as you go about your day. The grocery clerk who wishes good thoughts to you and your family during a difficult time, the person who holds the door because your hands are full, or the couple on a walk who stop to ask if you’re okay and stay to help when it’s clear you need it.   There really are genuinely good and kind people in this world.  When we are constantly bombarded with other types of messages about our fellow human beings,  we tend to forget kindness truly does exist.  I would rather focus on that than be sucked into the negative culture of our world.   So, I focus on the positive things happening around me, take in kindness and give kindness.

As I have mentioned many times in past posts, when my life gets hectic and stress filled, interrupting my usual routine I often forget to eat.  Having ready made, quick foods on hand are essential.   I was motivated to re-create a version of my favorite grab and go bars I spend too much money on when I shop.  You know those bars in grocery stores, KIND bars?  They are an energy type bar made of nuts and dried fruits.  I’m addicted to them.  They have been a regular shopping item that goes into my basket for a long time.  I like the protein punch and energy it provides.  It’s a fantastic portable snack for me.  However, in my ongoing attempts to cut back on expenses so I can save money toward my goals, I am trying to lower my grocery bill.   I decided to get creative and try to make my own kind of bars.

I think they turned out pretty fantastic.  They even got a thumbs up from my colleague.  I cut them into nine bars similar in size to the actual store brand, wrapped them individually and stored them in the fridg. It is the perfect on-the-go snack for me.

Give these a try.  You’ll be happy you did!  Enjoy!

Kinda Kind Nut Bars

Prepare a square or small rectangular baking dish.  Mine was an 8×6 glass baking dish.  Line with plastic or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl mix:

1 cup toasted almonds

1/4 cup toasted cashews, chopped

1/4 cup dried cranberries

2 Tbsp hemp seeds

1/2 cup puffed rice cereal

1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut

Stir until combined

On the stove top, add to a pan:

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

pinch of salt

Melt on low heat and stir until combined.  Let cool a bit and pour over nut mixture in bowl.  Mix with hands to incorporate fully, making sure all ingredients are coated.  Dump mixture into prepared baking dish and spread it evenly across the pan with fingers, pressing it down just a bit to mold it together.  Store in fridg until firm.  Cut into bars.

These have a lot of sugar!  Enjoy in moderation!  Ha!  Look who’s talking…..try to anyway!

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I Say Chicken. You Say Yay!!

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll know I love chicken.  I have certainly had quite the love affair recently!  I couldn’t help myself!  When bargain prices meet happy, all ready prepared chicken, well I simply get weak in the knees!!

Whole roasted chickens, prepared in a way that is safe for my diet, (I ask!!) spiced nicely, and all I need to do is take it home and eat??  Now, that’s my kind of fast food!!  In fact, I was so thrilled with this deal I took home two!

Of course, once home with my sense of reason back on solid ground, I realized I had no room for two domed containers holding whole roasted chicken.  What was I thinking??   My fridg is tiny!  Well, good thing I think well under pressure and went to work using my brand new set of high quality kitchen knives.  Yes, I finally treated myself to some quality blades and oh wow!!  FoodRadical is one delighted chef!  I filleted and cut those chickens to the bones!!  I even took those bones and boiled all the goodness right out of them, creating a lovely, healthful broth for chicken and vegetable soup.

I taught my first Healthy Eating on a Budget workshop at one of the apartment buildings where I work.  I’m sure you could guess that the budget friendly, healthy recipe and sampling I provided was this very chicken and vegetable soup I speak of!!  It is one of the most affordable and healthy meals for people on tight budgets.  I love teaching people how to use a whole chicken to get the most from their precious food dollars.  That class was so successful and a ton of fun for me!  I am in my perfect element with this job!  I love it!

I am here to say that I might be sick of eating chicken.  Almost!  I have had chicken for lunch and dinner; even sometimes for breakfast, the past two weeks.  For real!  I have found a plethora of ways to create delicious meals using chicken.  My recent favorite this past week has been chicken and spinach stuffed acorn squash.  It’s simple–bite size chunks of chicken along with a handful of baby spinach stuffed into the cored center of a cooked acorn squash.  Yes, yum!!

Seriously though, whole chickens cooked or not are truly a fantastic way to stretch your bucks while still feeding yourself and whoever else for at least a week!  The fact that you can make another week of meals simply by using the bones to prepare a soup is phenomenal!  Give it a try.  Here is a very simple recipe I use in the slow cooker.  Toss your ingredients in, turn it on, forget about it!!  But, not for long because the fragrance, you’ll soon discover is drool worthy and you’ll be counting down till it’s ready!

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

In a slow cooker, dutch oven or large pot, add:

1/2 yellow onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 carrots, sliced in rounds

2 celery stalks, sliced

spices of your choice (I like basil, parsley, paprika and tumeric)

2 cups chicken pieces or chunks

8 cups of broth (made from bones of the whole chicken)

Set to desired temperature and anticipate a fantastic meal!

I throw in about 2 cups of spinach about 15 to 30 minutes before eating it and allow that to wilt.  Tastes so good!

Optional add ins:  radishes, turnips, kale, any veggie that happens to be in your fridg!

Enjoy with your choice of sides!
Here’s some of what I’ve been enjoying:

and more soup!
and more soup!

Mad Mango Green Smoothie

It seems it was just a few days ago that I blogged, but I realize that a bit more than a few days has passed.  I find it ironic that I am about to share about a smoothie I made this morning when my last post was complaining about the inconveniences I experience in making them!

Ha!  I was whining.  I get like that about my kitchen.  It just lacks the space I want.  However, I am quite content with my sweet little place overall.  I am getting so close to having a completely furnished studio apartment!  Yes, heading toward my tenth month of being here; it has taken quite some time to thoughtfully recreate my small home into functional, usable space without being over crowded.  I recently got the perfect bookcase that fits the space I wanted it like it was meant to be right there.  I finally unpacked a box just marked “home” not knowing what I would find inside.  I discovered all my wonderful books and spiritual totems that were in the former “Zen room” as “M” and I liked to call a room at the old house.  It was the only room in the house that felt peaceful and calm to me.  It was the only room “M” did not go into to except for plant watering, thus the tranquility!  It was my refuge and it was the room “M” had much scorn toward.  Too much feeling stuff could happen in that room!  That’s why I loved it.  That is why “M” didn’t.  I remember my beautiful symbols that grounded me and brought me back to center were called “clutter”.  Well, I am thrilled to have my totems, books and pictures that bring me so much happiness displayed where I can see it all again.  This is no clutter!  This is what guides my life! Visible in a lovely cabinet I scored at a bargain price!  A glimpse over to my fireplace mantle, rustic and charming; there is an arrangement of memorabilia dedicated to my childhood and my mom along side my most precious spiritual totems.  It makes my heart so happy.

I woke up way too early this morning.  I’m not sure why and I really wanted to sleep more, but my body said no so I was putzing around before the sun was up.  That used to be a regular waking time for me, however I now enjoy sleeping an average of seven hours nightly and generally sleep much later than in the past.  This is another interesting observation I have made in my time away from “M”.  Some of the worst sleepless nights I experienced were while I was living with “M”.  I now enjoy some of the most restful nights ever in these past nine months! Amazing, isn’t it?  I think it’s fantastic.  I suppose that is why most mornings I wake feeling energetic and motivated to begin my day.  Even though this day began around 4:30 a.m. I feel happy and excited for the day ahead.  I have enjoyed the company of one of my favorite out of town friends this past week and hope to catch one more glimpse of him before he heads back to the east coast later today.  I’ve spent my early morning finding peace in my tranquil environment, candles burning, fall decor surrounds me.  I love this time of year.  My little place is comfortable, homey and cozy.

It put me in the mood to take some time to continue this good feeling by fueling my body with healthful food to start my day.  I have had frozen mango chunks in my tiny freezer and want to move them out so I can make room for jars of chicken soup I’ll be making later today.  I went a little crazy with chicken on my recent shopping trip!  More on that in another blog!  I came up with this delicious breakfast treat that satisfied me and had the perfect flavor.  I also feel really good knowing I’ve begun my day with wholesome, fresh goodness!  Give this smoothie a try, drink (or eat) and feel great!

Mad Mango Green Smoothie

2/3 cup frozen mango chunks

1/2 medium banana

1/2 cup packed purple kale

1 cup cashew “milk” (or other milk of your choice)

sprinkle of nutmeg

drizzle of pure vanilla (about 1/4 tsp)

Blend all ingredients in magic bullet or other blender until smooth.

Mine was just thick enough that I decided to enjoy it with a spoon!!  YUM!

Thick enough to enjoy with a spoon!!
Thick enough to enjoy with a spoon!!


Clutter?? Phooey!!
Clutter?? Phooey!!

Chocolate Chunk Banana Walnut Bread

Once again I have let bananas sit too long on the counter.  I cannot resist those beautiful yellow bunches so lovingly displayed in my local market. They entice me into a purchase nearly every time I shop.  Bananas used to be the base of my daily smoothie. There was rarely a morning I would not make a smoothie to go on my way to work.  Since I’ve moved to where I currently live, I have not been able to re-establish that habit.  I went in phases when I first settled here.  I would make smoothies for several days then abandon the idea on days I felt too slow and groggy to go through the hassle of preparing everything, which quite honestly is not that much.  However, in the early days of coming to terms with what happened in my life, nearly everything was too much.  Ultimately, I feel that has come to be the main reason I no longer have my daily smoothie.  My kitchen is so small and counter space is limited.  None of my smoothie making equipment sits out as it used to when my kitchen had more space.  It seems so silly, but it truly is a hassle to pull out the equipment from the bottom drawer, put it all together on the few inches of counter space I have, then moving to another area of my tiny kitchen where I have a bit more counter space to prepare the food to go into my blender.  Once done, I have to wash, dry and put away the things I’ve used.  I have no dishwasher to toss them into anymore.  My counter does not have the space to slide the blender base into a corner as I used to do.  I have to wipe it down, wrap the cord and bend over to put it back in the bottom drawer.  That bending over part is another reason I don’t often make smoothies anymore.  On the mornings I wake in pain, it simply hurts too much to bend over.  When the craving for a smoothie grabs hold, I will not let even the pain of bending over keep me from making one, but it is not something I will do everyday regardless of the desire. The hassle outweighs craving more often than not.

This leaves me with over ripe bananas that plague me.  I cannot have food waste.  The thought pains me deeply.  Really.  I will find any way I can to use something unless it is deemed impossible for consumption.  I remember this same value in my mom.  She would cringe and complain if she discovered food was bad.  She did what I will do and stand over the garbage saying how awful it is that it will be wasted, hesitating to let it drop into the pail.

My mom used to made some delicious banana bread.  During the holidays she would make it in tiny tins for neighbors and friends.  She would take it out of the tin, neatly use plastic wrap over it like holiday paper, then tie a ribbon around the bread like a gift.  As a child, I would take them to my teachers.  People loved getting mini bread loaves from my mom.

When I make banana bread, I feel like I take a step back in time remembering my mom and her process for preparing her bread so lovingly.  Nothing about my bread is like my mom’s except the bananas. I make a very different kind of loaf and as I go through my own process, memories of her in the kitchen permeate my mind.

I am thinking about my mom a lot these days.  The sadness from grief has found a wearisome place in my heart.  I know it is there yet it no longer consumes me.  There is still not one day that goes by without thoughts of mom in my mind.  As the fall season sets into Portland and October rolls around, I am feeling a little raw again as my attention feels more focused on reminders of her.  October is my mom’s birthday month.  It is also the month she began her swift spiral into illness and ultimate death as her cancer devoured her body.  This is a difficult time. I miss my mom more than I can describe, but I think anyone who has lost a parent understands there really are no adequate words to define such a profound loss.

I made this banana bread to use my over-ripe bananas, hearing my mom’s voice saying food waste is a sin.  As I mixed my ingredients I recall memories as a child watching my mom whip her batter with a vengeance.  How did she stir so fast??  Mom loved baking.  You could see the love in her process and taste it in her fantastic treats.  I remember that she loved banana bread, especially with walnuts.  So, this bread is made in her memory.  Since I was the kid who always wanted to do things a little different than the rest and that sentiment remains as an adult, I tossed in dark chocolate chunks.  I don’t know that mom would have approved that variation.  However, we all enjoyed giving mom reason to think outside the box a bit.  I think she would be smiling at this.  Give this banana bread a try.  I’m sure it will make you smile, too.

I adapted my recipe from the original version found on one of my favorite sites:

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Chocolate chunk Banana Walnut Bread

4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour blend
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks (I chopped part of a bar for this recipe)


Preheat your oven to 350ºF
Combine the wet ingredients a mixing bowl.

Add the dry ingredients into the banana mixture and stir until smooth. If the batter looks too thin and wet, add more gluten-free flour, a tablespoon at a time, to thicken the batter.  Add in the chocolate chips and stir by hand to combine.

Pour the batter into the lightly greased standard size loaf pan and bake in the center of a preheated oven for an hour, until the loaf is firm, a bit crusty, and when a toothpick is stuck in the middle, comes out clean. (45 mins – 1 hr)

Cool the loaf on a wire rack. Slice when cool.

Zucchini Fritters

I got the craving for zucchini fritters!!


Not long ago, as my work day was nearing it’s end, a resident at one of my buildings visited me and shared she had just discovered a recipe online for zucchini fritters that sounded so amazing.  In her hands was the bi-monthly newsletter I distibute at each of the buildings where I work.  I design and adapt them to the populations in each building.  This one contained health and nutrition information along with an attached recipe for residents to try.  I had focused the recipes in this newletter around zucchini since it was in such abundance at the farmer’s market for a very affordable price.  This resident looks forward to my newsletters and gets particularly excited about the nutrition and recipe section.  It creates a curiosity in her that motivates her to get on the internet and seek out other recipes using the same main ingredients presented in the newsletter.

I am genuinly delighted when I know residents are interested and engaged in the information I offer in newsletters.  For this resident, I see her recipe searching as positive movement to overcome a barrier to success.  She often asserts her fear and intimidation of the internet which makes it quite difficult for her to fill out online applications and look up general information for herself when she is on her own.  Most of my time spent with her is supporting her through filling out paperwork online or searching for resources, addresses and directions.  I now know that because I sit next to her while she uses my laptop and offer words of encouragement as she navigates the internet, that she has developed the courage to do the same on her own.  The proof was with the recipe she found and shared.  It feels really good to know that a small interaction, a few words of encouragement and some focused attention can make such a difference in a persons world.  These moments are why I love my job and it’s what motivates me to continue my service.

So, about those fritters!!  I came home to my own zucchini abundance and got to work creating a fantastic side dish for my dinner.  There are plenty of recipes for these on the internet but I like to do my own thing when I make them so feel free to follow my recipe or find another that fits for you!  Either way, these are a delicious way to get some good green veggies in your body!  Enjoy!

FoodRadical’s Zucchini Fritters

1 medium zucchini, shredded

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 egg, beaten

2 Tablespoons coconut flour

1 Tablespoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly crushed peppercorns

Shred the zucchini and squeeze out the excess liquid.  I just pick up handfuls and squeeze!  This is essential to avoid soggy, drippy fritters! Place the squeezed zucchini in a seperate bowl, add chopped onions, coconut flour and spices, then stir to coat.  Add beaten egg and combine well

Heat a skillet over medium heat, add coconut oil (be generous to avoid sticking) and allow to melt.  When skillet is ready, drop a large spoonful of the fritter mix into the pan and use the back of the spoon to spread it around.  I made mine about 3-4 inches round.  Cook on each side for 3-5 minutes or until nicely browned.  Cool on a cooling rack to help them stay firm.

Radical Raspberry Compote

This past week seemed to be calmer than the last, or maybe it was because this week felt more balanced between work and play so that made work seem more tolerable.  I have encountered a lot of firsts in my job recently.  I got to experience the not so pleasant side of my job when I had to break the news to a resident that he was being evicted. On the heals of that, I attended a local rally about the rental crisis that is happening in my city. (#RENTERSOS) Portland is a mess right now. People who are income challenged are being displaced at an alarming rate.  Immediate change needs to happen and it was impressive that our city commissioner proposed new protections for renters the day after the rally.  It’s a short-term solution to a deeper problem, but it is a step in the right direction.

I went to the rally to network with other housing advocates and to get a better pulse on the severity of this crisis.  I was there as a professional, yet this is a deeply personal issue for me.  I am incredibly fortunate that I am not one of the many uprooted Portlanders struggling to find adequate housing.  I very easily could have been.  I honestly do not think one day has gone by that I haven’t sent out a ‘thank you’ for the beautiful place I call home when I enjoy my amazing views from my deck.

I reconnected with my old next door neighbor, who I lived next to when I was with “M”.  We had lunch and caught up on life.  It was nice to share my story with someone else who knows “M” and it felt good to get validation for the inhumanity I experienced by “M”.  She also works with the same populations as I do and, I discovered her office is in the building directly across from my main building where I have my office! We will be working on creating a professional partnership between our organizations. This is super cool!  Her and her partner moved as well and I got an invite to their new house when they are more settled.  I am thrilled to be back in contact with the people I thought were pretty cool neighbors.  She also lives a gluten free lifestyle so it’s exciting to know I’ll have a gluten free lunch buddy when I want to break up my work day.

I hung out with co-workers one night after work.  It was nice to go out and get to know them a little more personally.  We are all so busy during the day and many of us are “out in the field”.  I was happy to have the opportunity to sit around them all and casually mingle.  I spent time with a couple people I haven’t seen in a while, I attended community events and overall had a really busy week, yet it ended with me feeling much less stress than the previous week.  I do believe the nice balance between hard stuff and fun stuff made my week pretty decent.

I’ll be out and about the city doing my usual weekend errands then later having fun with some extra special people.  I am most excited that I will finally be getting some more of my belongings from one of the places it’s been stored.  I am desperately missing a few things and I really hope they are boxed away.  I got rid of so much in my panic of needing to move because I had no idea where I would go.  Thinking I might be in my car, I gave up nearly three quarters of my things.  Now, months later, I have been learning I gave up some precious items I really wish I would not have.  I suppose I will find out if what I want and need got saved a little later on today.  Either way, it is what it is and I have another opportunity to let the past go a little more.

Another one of the firsts I am experiencing in my job is working with veteran’s. Thus far, I can only describe it as an intense experience. This raspberry compote developed after of one of these said veteran’s threatened to steal my food from the community room freezer.  I often keep excess freezer food at work because my home freezer is very tiny.  I am still trying to learn this man’s personality and I could not decide if he was making a threat or a joke, so I just removed the temptation and brought my food home.  I simply had no room for my gallon sized bag of raspberries that I had picked earlier in the summer so I made a compote, poured it into jelly jars and froze those!  They fit snuggly in my little freezer space and will make lovely gifts when the holidays arrive.

I am letting another week go to enjoy my weekend filled with all things good and nurturing!  Here is how I’m starting my morning and my weekend:  IMG_3472Using gluten free oats, I made oatmeal on the stovetop.  While the oats were cooking I added 1 teaspoon of nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, a tiny drizzle of pure vanilla and a dash of sea salt.  I topped it with chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, flax meal, chopped candied ginger and the raspberry compote.

Raspberry Compote

4 cups of frozen raspberries

2 Tablespoons of cinnamon

1/4 cup of raw cane sugar

dash of sea salt

Put all ingredients into a 2 quart pot and simmer on the stovetop until bubbly.  Allow to simmer on a low heat until the raspberries break down and develop a syrup like texture.  Remove from heat.  Let cool completely then store in air tight glass jars.  Can be frozen for later use or use right away over oatmeal or maybe even over a delicious dairy free “ice cream”!!  Enjoy!

Good Morning, Portland! A glorious view. Thank you.
Good Morning, Portland!
A glorious view.
Thank you.

Coconut Red Curry Chicken and Vegetables over Quinoa

I had intentions to make this dish last night for dinner, but yesterday was simply insane. Work has been incredibly difficult this week.  I am not sure why.  There is always a lot going on, but there are some things that are reaching a tipping point.  Additionally, there is a lot of extra stuff on my plate this week!  When I got home last night I was in such a horrible mood and so irritable. Thankfully, I had someone to vent with and decompress.  She took care of my phyical ailment as well and offered lots of loving compassion.  I felt so much better, but by the time we were done talking it was too late to make this dish and I honestly had no desire.

The ailment I was dealing with yesterday was a swollen eye.  I woke up with it and I didn’t know what was happening, but it got worse as the day wore on.  The pain from it woke me up at 3am this morning and my eye was nearly swollen shut with redness and swelling down to my cheek bone.  Even though I had a class and a workshop to give, I knew I needed to get myself to the doctor and give myself a sick day.  I discovered I have allergic conjuctivitis.  It is apparently caused by environmental allergies.  Of course!  I’m allergic to everything!  Okay, that is quite an exageration but some times it sure seems that way.

It is very hard for me to stay home when I know I should be working.  I have so much to get done with deadlines to meet.  I spent a lot of the morning feeling antsy until I decided to be more productive and make this dish.  It was super easy to put together and smelled so divine while it was simmering on the stove top.

I’ve done all the things recommended to help heal my eye including my own over the top care in an attempt to speed healing so I can go to work tomorrow.  Also, we are heading out of town for our coastal road trip Saturday morning so I definitely want to be well for that!  I eventually calmed myself and enjoyed making this and a couple other things this afternoon.  Dinner tonight will be fabulous!  I added the vegetables that were in my fridge but you can add whatever you have in your fridg.  It will be delicious, I’m sure.  Enjoy this simple dish!

Coconut Red Curry Chicken and Vegetables

Heat a medium skillet on the stove top and add the thick coconut cream from a can of coconut milk.  Add enough water to thin it to a sauce-like consistency.  Allow to simmer until the cream breaks down then add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of red curry paste to the skillet. Continue to simmer until the paste and cream are completely smooth.  Add basil (fresh would be best, but I discovered mine was bad, so I used dried) Add to this:

1 cup cubed chicken breast, cooked

1 medium zucchini, sliced in half moon shapes

2 large carrots, sliced in rounds

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

stir to coat all the meat and veggies then allow to simmer until the meat is heated through and the vegetables are tender crisp.  I then added a bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss in some baby spinach (I only had about 2/3 cup left, but more is better!) Let simmer until spinach is slightly whilted.  Pour over some quinoa (or rice, or noodles!)

Eat and enjoy!

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