Tea and Treats

I have had such a sweet tooth recently!  Sugar is not something I generally have an affinity toward, but there are some hormonal shifts happening in my body and the sugar cravings have been kicking in with a vengeance.

While sifting through my bulging folder of recipes not long ago, I found a couple of recipes that are grain free, sweetened with agave and along the lines of “dessert”, both relatively healthy options for satisfying my sugar craving.  When it comes to gluten free baked goods I proceed with caution.  I cross my fingers hoping that the recipe is well tested, that my process is correct and that my hard work will not be in vain.  Food waste is disgraceful, with greater disgrace when the waste is so expensive.

I had an upcoming tea date with my best friend so this I must say, this was the perfect opportunity (excuse!) to try out these lovely recipes.  Both would be perfect partners with tea.  The first recipe is a walnut date bar using almond flour.  The second recipe is a lemon almond biscotti recipe also using almond flour in addition to being vegan.  I have looked at this biscotti recipe so many times and most recently it has been laying on my kitchen counter for me to scan each time I happen by that area of the kitchen.  It has been such an enticement, but not enough for me to be inspired enough to make them.  I have never made gluten free biscotti and for some reason felt intimidated by its very specific technique.

I am feeling excited for time with my best friend, who has not been to our house in I don’t know how long!  We rarely stray from our sushi dinner dates which either begin or end with tea at her house.  This is a rare treat for sure!  My bestie loves rituals.   She also loves our Zen Room, which provides a peaceful environment where we can escape into the present moment and just slow down.  Slow is good and rituals slow us down allowing us to connect with the here and now.

With an emerging vision of a tea ritual, I found the inspiration to take on this seemingly daunting conquest of biscotti making.  Well, I find it rather silly now that I was so worried about how this recipe would turn out and that somehow the preparation might be hard.  These were so easy to make and they turned out beautifully with such a fantastic flavor.  The lemon flavor grandstands these soft crisp treats.  They certainly got rave reviews from my bestie and my sweetie.  Ok, I really do have to rave, too.  These are fabulous and delicious!  I highly recommend giving these a go!

The walnut date bars were a breeze to prepare as well and smelled magnificent while baking.  Seriously.  Intoxicating.  These bars are lightly sweet, chewy from the dates and cake like in texture.  The date and walnut combination is outstanding.  My mom would have loved these bars.  Dates and walnuts together were one of her favorites in cookies and desserts.  It was such a delightful addition to tea.

My bestie and I spent the afternoon chatting about life and our individual journeys as we march (and flail!) through each day.  We offered each other support and acknowledged that life sometimes isn’t very fun so it is important to stop and connect with others, but more importantly, connect with ourselves and find our place in the present moment.

In the midst of savoring our snacks and sipping our tea, we also found plenty to laugh about as we rejuvenated and refreshed our spirits surrounded by the peaceful environment of the Zen Room.

The afternoon not only satisfied my sweet tooth, it satisfied my desire to spend time with my bestie; a friendship I deeply appreciate.

I encourage you to find your quiet moment and savor the present.  It could be made even more delicious with the inclusion of these treats.  Here are the recipes:

http://www.elanaspantry.com/lemon-almond-biscotti/

Date Walnut Bars

Zen Room

Zen Room

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Walnut Bars and Lemon Almond Biscotti

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Tea!

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Tea & Treats!!

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Food Security Is Just One Roasted Chicken Away

Personally, I absolutely love roasted chicken.  One chicken can make gluten free, dairy free meal preparations a breeze for days and that is all right by me!  I think chicken pairs well with pretty much everything!  I also find a great deal of pleasure coming up with new and unique chicken dishes.

I do choose to eat meat, mostly chicken and fish.  I lived many years as a vegetarian for ethical and moral reasons.  For health reasons,  I chose a vegan way of eating for nearly a year.   Ultimately, what I have learned is I feel my best when there is a moderate amount of animal protein in my diet.  So, with this choice, I am mindful of where my meat comes from and that it is the “happiest” meat I can afford.  By “happiest” I mean local, raised humanely, antibiotic and hormone free, organic, free range and best of best when I have the extra money; grass fed.

Blessed be that I can have that choice.  It was not always that way.   Because remembering that eating chicken was a luxury rarely afforded and to honor the life of the chicken that provided me food to eat, I believe in using as much of a whole chicken as I can.  My own personal roasted chicken challenge stems from this belief.  I challenge myself to make the most meals out of each roasted chicken, always attempting to ‘up’ my last chicken challenge in the amount of dishes I can make.

I am not quite sure when it began that I would count the number of meals a roasted chicken would provide, but I believe it began with my first roasted chicken I prepared after a long absence from meat.  I enjoyed that chicken at nearly every meal for over a week.  I ate so many chicken meals that a friend actually commented on how long I had been eating from this same roasted chicken.

Each time I begin a chicken challenge it takes me to a place of remembrance.  Remembering when I could barely afford a can of chicken soup, let alone a whole chicken.  It also reminds me that I now have food security.  I can take care of myself and I can do so in the way I feel is best for me because I can afford to make this choice.  I always have to give a moment of grateful thanks when I have this realization, which is often.  I know access to good, whole food and quality ingredients is a “luxury” not accessible to so many.  Quality, organic, non-GMO foods should not be a “luxury”.   I’ll share more on my beliefs around food security, hunger and lack of access in another post.  For now, in my preparations of just one roasted chicken, I am reminded that I can be resourceful and I can be cost efficient.  I can provide meals for not just myself, but my household for days.  I can do all of these things and adhere to my personal belief system and food philosophy.  This gives me such deeply felt satisfaction.

I ask you to consider having your own roasted chicken challenge by trying out some of these great chicken dish recipes I came up with.  In addition to the meat from the chicken itself, I made a broth with the remaining chicken parts and vegetables I used to roast the chicken.  I put some into mason jars for the freezer and I used some to make a wonderful chicken noodle soup.  The meat from the chicken was enjoyed sliced with veggie sides, it was used to make burritos, stir-fry and breakfast sandwiches.  In total we enjoyed about 15 individual meals with this one chicken.  That’s a conservative guess because I lost count there were so many delicious meals!

How many meals can you provide with your own whole chicken?

For this chicken, I used celery, parsley, a lemon, carrots, yellow onion, minced garlic (from a jar because I had no fresh!)  I sat the chicken on a bed of the sliced veggies as well as stuffing the cavity with all the veggies you see here except the carrots.  I slid a few veggies under the skin and topped it with a spice combination of garlic salt, pepper, paprika, basil and turmeric. I spread the carrots around the chicken, added 1 1/2 cups of water and put into a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning it down to 250 degrees and roasting until done, about 2 1/4 hours for a 3 (ish) pound chicken.

Here's what went into the pot with the chicken for roasting.

Here’s what went into the pot with the chicken for roasting.

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All stuffed, spiced and ready for the oven!

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This is the meat that made meals for so many days!!

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This is what is left after I cut the meat from the chicken. I added about 4 cups of water and simmered the chicken parts and the veggies from roasting to make a delicious and flavorful broth.

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3 pints of broth went into the freezer!

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This broth was the base for one of the best chicken soups I have made!

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Here is the finished product! Fantastic chicken noodle soup!
Into this broth I added: the remaining chicken meat that was simmered off the bones, 1/2 a yellow onion and minced garlic to equal 1 clove, sauteed, 3 medium carrots cut into rounds, 1 stalk of celery sliced into moons, 1 cup of fresh radicchio, shredded,   a handful of fresh parsley, a handful of rice vermicelli noodles &  a little salt and pepper. Heat on the stove top until veggies are cooked through and enjoy a piping hot bowl of soup!!

 

Urban Adventures in the “Jade District”

Our neighborhood, nicknamed  “Jade District” caters to a diverse ethnic population.  We regularly delight in weekend urban adventures and were motivated to check out one of the newer local Asian markets, not just because it was new to the neighborhood, but there was also a celebration of the new cafe’ opening inside this market; owned by one of my sweeties colleagues.

We enjoyed festivities and entertainment then wandered the store with our coffee in hand.  We gazed across displays of unfamiliar produce before ultimately eyeing one of my favorite Chinese leaf vegetables.

Rambutan

Rambutan

green & purple mini eggplant

green & purple mini eggplant

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Jackfruit

Jackfruit

When I saw the baby bok choy all plump and pretty green I had to take a second look. Those beautiful bundles hugged between an array of exotic vegetables had my creative juices flowing instantly.  I had to walk back and grab a bunch.  With a developing dinner menu we continued around the store and I gathered a few more ingredients to complete my plan.

The remainder of our day we bounded around outside soaking up the tiny bit of sunshine our lovely city gave us for a too short time.

We returned home at just the perfect time to get dinner going.   I got to work in the kitchen, taking joy in the colorful assortment of veggies on the counter.

Isn't this pretty?

Isn’t this pretty?

Partly inspired by gorgeous bok choy and partly by fellow bloggers and facebook posts, our dinner is a chicken and veggie stir fry using the following ingredients:

chicken breast

cashews

pineapple chunks

garlic

yellow onion

jicama

ginger

carrots

baby bok choy

low sodium tamari

fish sauce

oyster sauce

vermicelli rice noodles

I sauteed the one whole chicken breast (about 2/3 of a pound)  in 1 Tblsp. of sesame oil, removed it when just browned on the outside, diced into cubes and set aside on a dish. I then added minced garlic, diced onions and sauteed with a little pineapple juice until translucent. I added in cut carrot rounds, cooked those about 3 more minutes then added back in the chicken, diced into small chunks. I tossed about 1 cup of cashews into the mix.  All this jumble got some stir fry action until the chicken was cooked through. I tossed in 2 bunches of chopped baby bok choy, 1/2 cup of pineapple chunks, 1  1/2 tsp of fish sauce, 1/8 cup of tamari, 2 Tblsp. of oyster sauce and let it all sit together so flavors could meld.

beautiful!

beautiful!

This went over the cooked noodles and dinner was served!  It was fantastic! Enjoy this with any variety of vegetables that sound good to you.  Experiment with amounts and flavors.  Mostly, have fun and eat well!

Bread, Soup and Adventures in Oregon

Oregons open roads

Oregons open roads

My sweetie and I are adventurers at heart.  One of the many things we cherish together is our passion for new discoveries in the ordinary. Ordinary Oregon is a wide open palette of cleverly hidden gems intertwined through rural towns you’d never think to venture toward without a purpose.

Some days we just want to get out of the city.  Holidays, such as our recent President’s Day provided the opportunity to do just that. With a rough idea of our desired journey, our goal was to find a body of water and a forested area to meander and picnic.  Oh, and to find the most commonplace small-time, local quick stop store where we could buy our Powerball ticket.  It’s one of the fun things we do when we take day trip adventures.  We like to believe one of those small nameless mini markets hold the winning piece of paper!  It is silly fun.

Our local weather is back to the usual rain.  We saw plenty of it on our drive, including hail!  We did get the pleasure of a few sun breaks that added to the charm of our day.  We even saw the most perfect rainbow.  By the time I grabbed my camera to get a picture, dark clouds covered it and it was gone.  That was a beautiful rainbow.   Moments later we rounded a bend to discover these beauties grazing in the shrubs.

A mama & her baby

A mama & her baby

Filled with the wonder of nature, we continued on our day, cruising through small town Oregon, enjoying lush landscapes and sweeping farm land.  We found our body of water and our forested paths. We saw covered bridges and broken down barns blanketed in moss and ivy.  We discovered that there is still a lumber industry that appears to be thriving in Oregon. It gave us thoughts to ponder and created lively conversation.  Did you know there is a Liberal, OR?   We wondered if we were the only liberals around!  We laughed.  We enjoyed each other. We got lost in the succulent array of green that our state boasts and revived ourselves in our day of exploration. IMG_1437 IMG_1446 IMG_1447

As we sat in our camper van with the clattering rain on our roof top, we also satisfied our hungry bellies and warmed our insides by enjoying a thermos of piping hot Carrot Soup with homemade gluten free bread.

Dairy free Carrot Soup

Dairy Free Carrot Soup & homemade Gluten Free Bread

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Our picnic view

The food was outstanding and so was our day.   Home and refreshed, I am ready for this week feeling relaxed and more connected with the world around me.  I love our all around Oregon adventures.  I am grateful too, for the time to feel connected with my sweetie in the midst of this frazzled, mixed up thing called life.  

Check out this recipe if you want to make your own thermos of soup for your next outdoor adventure–

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2007/09/carrot-soup.html

My variation was using cumin powder instead of curry powder, I added a cup of chicken broth and a 1/2 cup of almond milk for a little creaminess.

The bread was a surprising success!!  I found this recipe in my folder recently.  It was emailed to me by my son who was attending Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute in Charlotte, NC.  He was taking a bread making class and had a few lessons on using alternative flours.  I rarely have a loaf of bread turn out this amazing.  It tastes as good as it looks.  The texture is fantastic and holds up well to toppings as well as dipping into soup!

Enjoy this creation by following this recipe exactly.  I found this to be the most successful way to have a beautiful loaf of bread.  I cannot give proper credit to the author of this recipe other than to say it came from one of my sons classes!  It is a delicious recipe.

Gluten Free Bread

2 cups rice flour ( I used brown rice flour)

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups water

1 package dry yeast

2 eggs

1/4 cup canola (or other) oil

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Using an electric mixer, combine all ingredients. The dough will resemble a thick batter. Scoop into an oiled 9×5

loaf pan & smooth the top. Brush with a light coating of oil. Loosely cover with plastic wrap & side aside to rise until dough is even with the top of the pan; about 1 1/2 hours. (mine didn’t rise all the way but was still great!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 30 minutes before slicing.  Freezes well.

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http://about.me/foodradical63/#

Love In Lentils

I will never forget that amazing smell permeating my senses as I walked into the kitchen of my parents’ house years ago. They were still living in their Portland house then and the backdoor, always unlocked for welcome visitors, opened directly into the kitchen.  Instantly, I went toward the pot on the stove top to see what deliciousness was simmering underneath the lid. It was a rare occasion to see the stock pot out and in use so I knew this was something really good!

Lifting the lid, I inhaled the fantastic smell of fragrant spices. I had never known my mom to prepare this dish. Asking her what it was, she replied “Lentil Soup”.  I remember being so surprised that Mom was moving outside “the box” and creating new dishes using ingredients once foreign to her.  At the time, she had recently been diagnosed with high blood pressure.  I remember that she  made a conscious effort to change the way she cooked and ate food. It was really branching out for her and to see that soup on the stove top! I was impressed.

Had I known then how far she would actually come in the variety and style of her cuisines, this lentil soup seems mundane in comparison.  Thanks most exclusively to my daughter, my mom stepped way outside her comfort zone in trying new recipes and new foods to appease her beloved granddaughter.

All grown up and a beautiful young woman living her dreams in Boston right now, Sarah is my oldest child and the first grandchild to both sets of grandparents. She is grandma’s girl. My child, bless her heart, dedicated time weekly to have overnight visits with Gma, as she called her. She would often spend weekends with my mom when my parents moved to Vancouver, trekking out on public transit so that the two of them could have cooking time together.  Creatively inspired cooking was just one of the many things Sarah could coax my mom into doing.  She transformed my mom in so many ways, creating diverse cuisines being just a small piece of their shared experiences.

Sarah’s dynamo personality and passion for life was enticing for my mom and completely opposing to her passive, quiet demeanor.  One of the most profound things Sarah imparted on my mom is her passionate belief about food choices being quality local and organic products, with ethnic and regional diversity.  She stressed the importance of trying new dishes. This definitely changed the “meat and potatoes” mentality instilled in my mom.  To the end of her life, I saw the reflection of my daughter in my mom with her openness for medicinal foods and willingness to try alternative remedies for her disease.

I am missing my mom so much these days. I have “felt” her in ways I have not previously. It is with her essence I created this lentil dish. Not quite a soup, and a bit over cooked, this dish still tastes delicious and pairs well with a fragrant brown rice.

The end result in quality and appearance is less than desired for me, but my heart feels grateful. This is what I love about cooking; somewhere in this process I find calm and I feel centered once again. In addition, I am always quite satisfied with the ease of meal preparations for days to come.

This lentil dish fed us for a couple dinners and provided enough to fill a few containers for lunches!

Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a try:

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Dice 1 small onion

mince 2 garlic cloves

Cut 3 carrots into rounds

Add to pot and saute’ in 1 Tblsp of Olive Oil for 2-3 mins until carrots are just tender.

Add:

1 Tblsp Curry

1 1/2 tsp Tumeric

1 tsp Paprika

1/2 tsp Ginger

1/8 tsp Cardamom

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Saute spices with vegetables to release fragrances

Saute spices with vegetables to release fragrances

Add:

1 Cup Red Lentils, rinsed

Saute’ with spices and vegetables for 3 minutes then,

Add:

4 cups of broth or water ( I used 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water)

Cover and simmer until lentils are cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed.

5 minutes before serving add:

2 cups baby spinach

stir slightly, then cover until spinach is wilted, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve over a fragrant brown rice or enjoy as is!

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There’s Snow here in Stumptown

This is the day I’ve been longing to enjoy. For weeks I’ve been begging and pleading with Mother Nature to blow some white stuff this way. I don’t mean some pretty flakes floating down only to have no evidence of snow hours later. I want a good Portland kind of snow dump. I want the kind of snow that snarls up the city and shuts it down. We are not well equipped here in Stumptown for the amount of snow we are seeing today. It is the type of day that allows for the city to call a snow day and I am fortunate enough to have the flexibility in my job to let me have my snow day.

I found myself feeling a little giddy as I prepared my afternoon of leisurely activities. I love this kind of snow because it is one of the only times that I allow myself to really just do nothing. Snow is my permission and my excuse. It’s the perfect “storm”.

Considering my recent yearning to remain in my pajamas and under the covers all day, today is the perfect opportunity to indulge in this desire.

I miss my kids the most as young ones when there is a lot of snow here. I have such fond memories of homemade hot cocoa simmering on the stove top waiting for us to delight in while we chilled our cheeks and fingers making snowmen and snow angels. We played, drank hot cocoa and watched movies. It was a time of relaxed togetherness that I completely enjoyed.

I got a spontaneous desire to recreate some of those memories by making hot cocoa, picking out a good flick and getting cozy in my pajamas. I am going to enjoy this snow day!  Having been living vicariously through my daughter who now lives in Boston, I’ve been a tad envious of her stormy snow stories. Stumptown is trying to compete with her new home state today. However, Boston doesn’t shut down like Portland does. She must keep the pace and I get to just sit back, look out the window in wonder and sip on some hot cocoa.

Here is my recipe for what turned out to be more of a sipping chocolate than hot cocoa. It is smooth, chocolaty rich and only lightly sweet.

I’ve got my snow day pajamas on; lovingly made by my mom. I’ve got my chosen movie. I am cozy on my couch cuddled up with my sweet Boy kitty and I will enjoy every moment of this snow day. Here in Stumptown we don’t see many of these days and it is sure not to last.

I suggest giving yourself permission as well; permission to indulge in some rich chocolate goodness and relish time in your pajamas. Enjoy the peace of our lovely snowy day. It really is so beautiful.

Sipping chocolate:

6 ounces of light coconut milk

6 ounces of almond milk

2 ounces of organic 72% cocoa bar, broken into small pieces

1 1/2 teaspoons of agave syrup

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and warm on medium low heat until chocolate is melted completely and all ingredients are completely combined. When heated to a good sipping temperature (around 145 degrees), remove from stove, pour some into your favorite mug and enjoy.

Topping:

3 Tablespoons of coconut milk

1/8 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Blend in a bullet or some other similar device, drizzle over hot cocoa and finish off with a sprinkling of toasted coconut flakes.

sipping cocoa in honor of my daughter

sipping cocoa

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the back deck

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Boy & my snow day pj’s

Hello, How are you?

People say to me all the time, “How are you”? It’s a common courtesy shown among strangers, which I rather like about Portland in particular. We are a friendly city in this way.  When asked, I manage to muster a pat answer and move on about my business. The conversation that happens in my mind is more like this; “You know my mom just died.” How am I? I’m pretty devastated and I feel rather miserable.”

I am uncharacteristically low spirited these days. When those close to me ask me that same question, my response can be more honest. Really, most days I feel like I’m in a glass filled with murky water attempting to make sense of what I see around me. The world is moving so fast it makes my head spin and some days I want to simply stand in place as life rushes past in a feeble attempt to get my bearings.  I search for simplicity so I can calm my mind and soothe my anxieties.

One of my favorite things about making food is the single mindedness of the task. From preparation to the final result, there is one goal; to create something delicious. Through this process the storm of my thoughts become more tranquil and I begin to feel at peace.

While I find thorough pleasure in my comfort food indulgences, I appreciate when I recognize my body’s signal that commands me to lighten up. I can enjoy tossing a few ingredients together in minutes just as much as poring over a complex recipe that takes time and precision.

This lovely green smoothie serves multiple purposes. First off, it just tastes good. It is light in taste, made with a few simple ingredients and in just minutes I have a mason jar of healthy goodness to enjoy at the beginning of my day.

Of course, the New Year always reminds us to refresh ourselves and create new goals. I get a secret happy feeling as I put ingredients together I know are good quality to help reset my body and make me feel restored.

Imaginably, lightening my food intake and giving my body a refreshing cleanse will no doubt bring clarity to my mind and perhaps slow its spin cycle making way for anxiety to pass and allowing that lift in spirit I desire.

So cheers to “clean” food. I know that more joyful days lie ahead. I’ll keep this smoothie recipe handy to boost my spirit, clear my mind and facilitate healthy healing.

If you want to try this yourself, here’s what I added to make a fantastically delicious green smoothie:

2 cups of fresh baby spinach

2 cups of water

2 cups of frozen mango chunks, partially thawed

1 cup of frozen pineapple

1 banana, partially thawed

Add the spinach to the water in a blender, give it a few pulses until its smooth then add the remaining ingredients. Whirl away until its smooth. Pour into a container and refrigerate. Or, drink it right away!! Keeps in the fridg for about 3 days.

Enjoy!!!

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