Dairy Free Spinach Artichoke Dip

I like that this dip is so versatile. It can be dressed up as an appetizer for a friend gathering and it can be a quick on-the-go snack food to have at the office. This happens to be one of my favorite recipes to make. It’s super quick and so easy.

I was trying to replicate a non-dairy version of spinach artichoke dip and wound up with this. It’s made simply by using a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, fresh baby spinach (3-4 cups), a couple cloves of garlic, a few shakes of some nutritional yeast; about 1/4 cup, a little salt and a dash of fresh ground black pepper. Give these ingredients a whir in a food processor and you’ve got yourself a delicious dip.

Think party appetizers, quick snack or movie night dip!  I sometimes get a little crazy and use this as the base spread on flatbread pizzas!  However you enjoy it, I’m sure you’ll find it tasty. 

I like to use Trader Joe’s brand of rice tortillas and cut them into triangles to make chips. I place them on a baking sheet, brush a bit of olive oil over the pieces, sprinkle salt on them and bake in a 325 degree oven for just a few minutes. They bake quickly so watch them close.

The next time you’re looking for the perfect snack dish give this a try. You be glad you did! Enjoy!

 

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Traveling Gluten Free & Dairy Free

Traveling outside of my familiar city always brings into question the types of foods that might be available for me to eat.  It can be difficult eating safely in areas that do not have the abundance of choices available to me that Portland offers.

Whenever I fly,  one of the most important planning tasks I must accomplish is food preparation.  I want food for my flight and a bit to have on hand in case choices are slim in Charlotte.  Honestly,  I just prefer my own food.  I focus on making snacks and breakfast foods.  I find that lunch and dinner are easier meals to enjoy at restaurants because I can almost always find something on the menu to eat.  It is rare that I find nothing, though it has happened.  Remember that failed cross country road trip I took?   I wrote about it here:  Hello From Wyoming!  My goodness,  what an experience that was!  Currently,  plans are being created to try again,  this time for a successful cross country road trip later this year!   That awful trip is also my reminder to always have plentiful supplies of my kind of food on hand when traveling!

For my latest travel adventure,  I’ll be flying to Charlotte, NC.  In less 24 hours I’ll be hanging out with my boy!   I am so excited!!!   I have not seen my son in over two years and it has been about three and a half years since I have visited him.   This is a long over due trip and visit!!   Even better;  my daughter will be traveling from Boston to join us in Charlotte.  I get to be with both my kids!!!  Did I say I am excited?!!   I am elated we’ll all be together again!!   This time it will be in happiness;  the last time being my mom’s death when we were all together.  We have all kinds of fun things planned and I am looking forward to playing for days with my kids.  Gosh,  do I need this vacation!!   I have taken several small trips over the past year,  but it has been nearly a full year since my last big adventure to Boston.   Remember that trip?  Boston Bonanza  was a blast!   Check out all the food I enjoyed!!   I’ll see how Charlotte has progressed in that area in the years since I have visited.

I make and bring food I know can travel well and remain relatively intact after getting knocked around in my bag.   I have breakfast for the plane,  lunch to eat at my layover,  or more likely run like a champ to my next gate and eat on the plane!   We will see how this lay over goes!   I have a few of my kind of  “essentials”  I like to have on hand tucked away in my carry on.   I am ready for my east coast adventure!

Check out some of the yummy food I am bringing along for my trip!  I didn’t get a chance to grab a picture of the egg and turkey bacon mini casserole I’ll be eating for breakfast in the morning once I settle on the plane.  You know I’ll be eating good!

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savory breakfast pancakes

 

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layover lunch pizza!! YUM!!

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two kinds of hearty, nutritious breakfast cookies!

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can’t forget the treats! gf/df snicker-doodles! Oh, yeah!!

 

 

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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Blaze Your Own Trail Energy Snack

I cannot believe it is almost the end of August!!  We are rolling into the fall season even though the weather still feels like summer.  The months have been flying by and upon reflection last night, I realized that today marks eight months since my life was tossed around by “M”.  I think I’ve picked myself up damn well!!  It still does not seem like all that nonsense happened eight months ago!!  Of course, I lived in the basement guest room of “M’s” house for a month while I scrambled to find other housing.  I say “M’s” basement, even though it was “our” house.  I never felt like it was mine or any part of “ours” and that feeling was regularly reinforced by “M” in words, but mostly in actions.

C’est la vie! Or as we American’s say, “that’s life”.  Never could I have imagined while I was in that basement that my life would become what it is today.  I certainly remember many conversations in my mind as I reassured myself I would be in such a different and much better place in six months than what I was experiencing, even though I had no idea what that would look like or how it would happen; I just needed to comfort my panic.

I still have brief periods where I feel like that trauma happened more recently.  When I think that through I realize it took me until late May to feel completely settled.  I lived in a space with no furniture for months, I sat on pins and needles about a wonderful job opportunity, my current position, for two months and it took me time to get back to some sense of financial stability.  I was in complete survival mode for too long and it was often difficult to relax into contentment with my new life.  I am still working on the emotional aspects of being treated so horribly in such a surprising way, but at least I’m actively working it through.  Clearly, working through the emotional facets of a relationship is not something “M” could do, which is why I am where I am.  Isn’t it a strange thing that I can say I am grateful for this experience?  I know, it’s odd to say out loud.  I absolutely would not wish this upon myself ever, ever again and I wish “M” had chosen a better way to end a relationship that did not leave me in such an awful state, but I feel like it catapulted me directly to my dreams.  For this I am truly grateful.  Additionally, I feel “saved” from a life I thought would be wonderful but realize now it would have been totally miserable.

I have a job that is perfectly suited for me.  It is the job I wished for and desired, it just looks different than I imagined.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself about this amazing job to make sure I’m not dreaming!!  I completely love it in all ways.  It has opened so many new doors for me that will let me continue to build on my dreams.  I am taking classes again!  Now, that is amazing!  They are not college classes, but it is education and I am really enjoying it.  I live in the sweetest little place located in one of the wealthiest areas of Portland for a fraction of the cost of what others would rent it for and I have the most awesome landlady ever!  She truly cares and has given me the sense of comfort and security I needed.  I have learned to live in a small space which is giving me practice for my future tiny house living.  I have let go of so much, giving me a feeling of lightness and freedom.  I have met some incredible people, I reconnected with people I haven’t seen for years.  I am developing new relationships, traveling often and generally enjoying life immensely.  I love working on my tiny house process.  It’s so exciting to think about and plan!!

Isn’t it grand?!  When I see all the incredible things that have fallen into place; when I read my own story, even I get blown away by the goodness of it all. With all this amazing and powerful stuff, it requires some high energy food to help me keep up the pace of my new life.  I am a busy woman and I realized that keeping a supply of high energy snacks is essential in my work day since I’m bouncing around town all day and sometimes into the evening!

I wanted to use more of those powerful cocoa nibs I’d written about in a previous post so I came up with this delicious trail mix that is simple and much less expensive than buying it in pre-made packages.  I buy all my nuts, seeds and dried fruits in bulk so the savings is even greater.  I’m all about the money saving right now because there is a piece of land calling for me and I need to build up my savings for that and the house that’ll I’ll plunk down on it.  Give this trail mix a try and keep a stash in your own workplace, or for a quick on the go snack from home.

Who knows what the next eight months has in store for me, but I am imagining nothing but amazing goodness because I will make it happen.  There is certainly power in positive thinking!  I am moving comfortably forward to the next best part of my life with hope and joy.

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raw walnuts, cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, candied ginger and raw cocoa nibs.

Spiced Apple Carrot Muffin

As I was cleaning up my bookmarks on my laptop recently I came across this recipe that sounded like it would taste good, be healthful and provide the convenience I enjoy with muffins.  I was trying to use the items I currently had in my little refrigerator so I could make room for my next shopping trip.  I am learning to be a much more efficient shopper!!

Instead of dealing with the hassle it would be to make these in my tiny kitchen and be irritated by the lack of proper tools to prepare this them, I decided to pack up all the ingredients and take them with me on a recent visit to see my dad. His house has a spacious kitchen with lovely counterspace.  It is still filled with all my moms baking gadgets and supplies.  My mom kept a well stocked bakers kitchen so I had everything I needed to make my muffins.

I followed a recipe from ‘Eat to Beat’ cancer website.  They promote dietary behavior changes to destroy the cancer epidemic.  It is really a fabulous website that is filled with valuable information.  I highly recommend you check it out.  I discovered this site when my mom was sick and I have made several of the recipes they provide.  I am always happy with the results.

These muffins tasted fantastic, but the texture didn’t turn out as I had wanted.  They seemed too spongy and they didn’t really rise. However, I will say this was very likely chef’s error as I forgot to add salt and I did get a little carried away with my moms hand held beaters.  I may have whisked the egg mixture a bit too long!!  I got lost in memories of when I was small and watching my mom use this same tool as she baked.  I had a good time using the tools of my childhood, spreading out in a spacious kitchen and just doing my thing.

Even though my dad scoffed at my muffins for their gluten free nature, he certainly asked several times when the muffins would be done!  Once done and samples enjoyed, he also made sure I was going to leave a few on a plate for him.  Dad approved; they turned out pretty well, albeit a little flat.  Give them a try, but I suggest being a bit more gentle with the whisking!  Enjoy!

Here is the link to the recipe— http://www.eattobeat.org/onemeal/636/spiced-apple-carrot-muffin.html

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I added two each of apples and carrots because mine were small!!

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Dip. Dip. Depression.

I really enjoy a good dip.  I define that as one containing protein, veggies and is substantial enough (for me) to sustain me like a meal with the addition of raw veggies and/or rice crackers.  I tend to forget to eat, under eat or eat the wrong foods for my body when things get hectic.  As I’ve shared in some recent posts, my life has become crazy hectic.  I have been coping with plenty of chaos these days as I adjust to my surprising life changes.

I do admit some of that chaos happens in my head.  However, I do not want to minimize the difficulties and stress I’m experiencing and I want to acknowledge that sometimes, well….I just need to breath because it will be okay.  I am up against some huge challenges and frenzied thoughts zoom through my mind when I think about the senseless cruelty of it all.  I am working to calm the crazies in my mind by staying connected to people and keeping focused in the present.

I have debated how much I want to share about what is going on to cause me so much stress these days.  I realize that I have already shared such a deep part of my life in telling the story of my mom’s illness and death.  I decided this is no different.  What I am currently experiencing is much like a sudden death.  It came as such a shock and complete surprise.  I am grieving plenty right now.  Just a few days after Christmas my sweetie, who I will now refer to as M, told me to move out then refused to have any conversation about what caused such an extreme action for no apparent reason.  There had been nothing negative between us of any significance that would result in this bizarre behavior.  I have been completely ignored since that day with the exception of one robotic, unemotional email that honestly just felt like an additional “slap”.  There have been just a few texts about practical things and that is it.  It is truly surreal.  My sweetie has abruptly become a complete stranger.

I left what could have been a career job just a few months ago to stay home and explore some creative endeavors while seeking work in my degree field.  This was a difficult and serious decision for me that involved many weeks of discussion with M.  Never did it include anything about unhappiness in our relationship or suggestions of any trouble; only complete support and encouragement for my decision.  This, adding to the bizarre behavior that was yet to come.  I am currently employed very part time at a local kitchen store at just above minimum wage.  I have little savings since I had just contributed most of it toward our household.  I don’t use credit cards.  You can imagine why I have chaos in my mind, I’m sure.  It’s enough to cause anyone some depression.

As I chopped the veggies and whipped up this dip in my food processor, depression was the very topic I was processing in my mind.  I had such an incredible realization the other morning so significant it has created a lot of churning thoughts.  The feeling is so profound I cannot ignore it.  I have spent months thinking that the death of my mom had triggered a depression in me so deep I was considering seeing a doctor to discuss prescription anti-depressants; something I never have considered at any point in my life regardless of the circumstances I faced.  I take a holistic and natural approach to everything I do.  I know there are plenty of options that are just as effective and much healthier for me than anti-depressant drugs.  Yet, I was feeling stuck in a depression I had never experienced before and all my usual “go-to’s” for feeling better rarely worked their usual magic.  I just felt so heavy and engulfed in angst.  What I have to say about that now is, I am so glad I was having issues with my new health coverage, keeping me from finding a new doctor to make an appointment with.  Because that profound feeling I woke up to just recently was the feeling of enlightenment that I am not depressed.  It was such an incredible feeling so penetrating I laid in bed, relishing it for a while. I felt so light.  I felt like me again. I am sad and I am struggling with the loss of my relationship and my home.  I am devastated that the person who said they loved me and wanted to share in life with me could treat me so horribly.  I am still sad about the loss of my mom, but I am not depressed.

I am very sensitive to peoples’ energies and I know that statement raises a questioning eyebrow for some, but to those who know what I mean, you understand what this feels like.  There is a general apathy about my sweetie, who is prone to inertia.  By M’s own admission, it is more comfortable to sit in misery than to work on moving out of it to a better feeling place.  I have lived under the roof of a home filled with darkness and I did not realize it until I was forced out.  For me, it is like a dark cloud that has been hanging over me suddenly dissipated and I see the light.  I find it interesting that the house had so many avenues for light with great windows, including skylights yet the house always felt so dark to me.  My physical and emotional energy was being consumed by M’s general despondency toward life.  I realize now that most of my time spent living under the same roof has been while my mom was sick and dying.  In my own grief I did not grasp the severity of what M was experiencing.

I had no idea how much this was bringing me down.  To date, this is my most significant realization.  I am deeply grateful for this and if it took this tragedy to come to my realization I will (eventually) accept it.  Even in the midst of all this mess, one would think I am depressed.  I am struggling with circumstances beyond my control and that creates a lot of feelings, but I am not depressed. It feels really great to say that.  I move through each day now with a feeling of hope that I thought was lost in me.

I am grateful that I am able to find the strength and resilience I need to take care of my physical and emotional health.  I actively work on my thoughts and emotions every day.  I use the tools I have to create joy daily.  I am gaining a deeper understanding of enjoying each moment.  I definitely get stuck and I sometimes make unhealthy choices.  I can somehow find the courage I need to pull myself from my own dark places.  Part of doing that is taking the time to make food that nourishes me and helps me feel my best.  When my body feels good, my mind feels good. This bean dip will help keep me on my path to the healthiest me I can be, in all ways.  I hope you will find it delicious and satisfying, too.  Enjoy with your favorite vegetables or crackers.

Cumin Lime Black Bean Dip

1 15 oz can black beans

1/2 diced yellow onion

1 Tblsp cumin

1 tsp garlic/salt

juice of one lime

1/4 c cilantro

1 large carrot

process all in food processor.  serve with veggies or crackers

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Life is like Cookies and Tea

My last couple of days have been filled with some rough stuff.  I am doing really hard work not just physically, but emotionally.  I have faced this new life challenge head on and I am leaning right into what is now in front of me.  It is uncomfortable and I am doing it.  I am both grateful for and disgusted by the many new lessons I am learning and will continue to learn.  Life.  It can get messy sometimes.  At the end of my day, when I know I have conquered what is needed to get through it and do so with strength in my spirit and truth in heart; when I lay my head down in the quiet of night knowing I lived this day fully in all it’s messy glory, I can hear one screaming loud message running through my mind.

 I AM IMPORTANT.

I have tangled with the emotions of acceptance, attachment, vulnerability and loss.  I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions that sometimes scares the hell out of me.  I’m pretty sure I have a discount bracelet for that ride over the next few months.  Strangely, I am ready.  I am always ready for life.  All of it.  Ugly.  Beautiful.  Fun.  Scary.  I am ready because life is worth it.  Love is worth it.

 I am worth it.

When the days get extra tough and I want to comfort the inner child in me, I make cookies. In all of this craziness, I definitely need some nurturing.  So, a job well done deserves cookies and tea.

I found this recipe in my folder of print out recipes and sadly it does not have the original author’s information.  I did some research on my usual favorite websites thinking I may find it, but didn’t so know that this is not my original recipe, however it is a great one and I will update my readers when I discover its author so I can acknowledge their lovely creation!

I adapted these cookies for me so they are grain free, gluten free, dairy free and delicious for an evening treat!  Breath.  Eat.  Relax.  Push replay.  This is what life looks like.

Chocolate chunk cookies

1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt (I used 1/4 tsp)

1/4 Honey (I used Agave Syrup)

1 egg (I used 1/4 cup applesauce)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 dark chocolate bar, roughly cut to equal 3/4 cup (I used dark chocolate chips and only 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Break up chocolate ball or cut with sharp knife.  Put pieces into bowl and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda and salt.

In a separate small bowl, use an electric handheld mixer to beat honey, egg and vanilla (or do as I did and use a whisk on the ingredients substituted!)

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix well.

Melt coconut oil and pour into batter.  Mix well.

Stir in dark chocolate chunks.

Drop balls of cookie dough onto a greased baking sheet.  Bake 12 minutes.  Let cool 6 minutes to avoid crumbling.  Eat and be happy.

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