Candy Cane Beets

Did you catch my recent faux pas?  Somehow I accidentally posted a paragraph of my draft writing the other day.  I am not a fan of the new post layout WordPress uses.  It’s not very user friendly for me!

You may have noticed I made some visual changes to my blog.  I have been playing around with it for some time.  I think I like how it looks for now and it is giving me what I want in layout design.  Some of my writing will be moving away from food and recipes.  I have found that writing thoughts and sharing life musings is healing for me.  I’m giving deeper consideration to a book writing endeavor.  I have been encouraged often so I’ve gotten a bit more active by studying more formalized writing.  It’s fun to try out my creativity in other ways.  Writing was always a favorite creative outlet for me as a child, teen and young adult.  I am finding the joy in writing again as I rest solidly in my “middle-age” years.

I have been giving serious thought to lots of new ideas recently.  I am a dreamer for sure!  I am a doer, too!  I’ve been rather bored with my current vegetable choices these days and long for the peak season of produce abundance.  I just planted my first set of indoor vegetable seeds!  Yay for veggies of the future!   I’m giving container gardening another try this year.  In the meantime, I have been on a quest to find a little more excitement in my veggies that will make my palate happy for them.

Check out what I found!  Have you ever seen one of these??  It’s called a candy-cane beet!  Isn’t it pretty?  Now, if that doesn’t make me want to eat my vegetables, I don’t know what will! IMG_3639

It tasted quite mild and is delicious raw.  I sauteed part of it which brought out a bit more flavor, but still very mild so that it picked up spice flavors quite nicely.  It does not have the robust, earthy beet taste like red beets.  I like this beet sliced raw in a salad best.  If you find one, pick it up and give it a try!  Break out of your veggie doldrums, too!

 

 

When Professional & Personal Worlds Merge

I attended the most fascinating workshop this week.  This FREE event, a workshop entitled “Too Much Stuff” was sponsored by our county task force on hoarding.  Throughout the day we were encouraged to tweet  #pdxstuff  to call awareness to hoarding disorder.

I wanted to attend this all day seminar after recently having direct experience in my work with a hoarding resident who was at risk of eviction.  My goal for attending was to leave with a better understanding of brain functioning in people living with hoarding behaviors.

I certainly walked away with what I intended and so much more.  I had some surprising personal insights that shed light on behaviors I witnessed with my ex, “M”.  I was reminded of our last conversation before she told me to leave.  It really wasn’t a conversation; more like “M’s” inner monologue leaking outward because I made a feeling statement about something that was bothering me.  In the usual off topic ranting, what I heard from the babble was “M” didn’t like seeing my things around the house.  I remember being hurt and confused.  Simply put,  I lived in the house.  That’s why my things were there.  Additionally,  as in countless times of the past I attempted a real conversation about something that was bothering me and in the usual way,  I was left bewildered by the behaviors of “M” with no real resolve to the original concern.  I understand now why I let so much fall to the wayside,  but what I didn’t understand until I sat in that workshop was how much the fear of hoarding played a role in “M”‘s behavior throughout our relationship and was ultimately the catalyst for the demand that I move out.

By “M”‘s own admission, her family of origin has hoarding behaviors.  So much so that it led to decisions “M” would make in her own life.  It was the subject of many conversations.  I heard story upon story of hoarding tendencies that thread through the family lines.  Me,  person of stuff–not even close to the true definition of hoarding,  had sufficient belongings that “M” was well aware of when I moved in.  We had a room we called “the office”.   Essentially, it was an unused space with furnishings and a bunch of, well…clutter; “M”‘s things.  That clutter was different from mine though because it was hers (the illusion of having control)!  Really,  it was “M”‘s ironing room and a place to dump paperwork.   I moved in with craft supplies, taking over said “office”.  Multiple times I listened to “M”‘s complaints of the “cluttered” office.   Multiple times I asked to help me create space for my things so it didn’t look that way.   That never happened.

From the general obsessive behavior and the need for perfection to the constant concerns that the house had too much stuff (it didn’t),  I learned in this workshop that “M” displayed nearly every characteristic of a person with hoarding tendencies.  However, what I determined was that the deep seeded fear of hoarding is what kept “M” from the actual act of it, almost!  Lest I mentioned the shed full of rocks in boxes that weren’t mine!  It was truly a mind blowing day for me.  I found myself saying “wow” under my breath on numerous occasions as I had “ah-ha” moments.  Do you ever have those?  Suddenly something makes sense, it “clicks” and things all come together in your mind like a wave of instant awareness.  I have had so many of those surrounding my past relationship.

Although the demand for me to move out was on the heals of an issue “M” saw as borderline hoarding on my part, that demand truly had nothing to do with my belongings and had everything to do with the boundaries I set for myself in how I allowed her family members, specifically her adult daughter to treat me.  That is where the truth lies.

I moved, getting rid of nearly all those belongings “M” complained about.  I let them go with relative ease by the way, because I do not have a hoarding issue.  I now have a lot more knowledge of this widespread issue and I had some amazing insights that helped remind me I was not the problem in that relationship, as “M” would have wanted me and likely everyone else to believe. That workshop was another reminder that “M” really did (likely still does) have some serious mental health concerns that were not being addressed.

Since I blog mostly about food, let me not forget: we were on our own for lunch and because it is safest for me to eat my own food, I brought an amazing salad that was simple yet hearty and filling.  salad

The workshop was walking distance from the house I shared with “M”, who no longer lives there either.  I was compelled to go by because I was in the neighborhood and hadn’t been by that place since I left.  I was curious.  It looks the same.  I had no twinge of missing it or the neighborhood as I wandered by.  In fact, I found myself being grateful for right where I am and so glad that part of my life is in the past.  All this from one workshop!  My love of learning, professionally and personally will never end.

 

 

 

Dairy free “ranch” dressing

I got some fantastically beautiful heads of lettuce at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend. The heat has given farmers an abundance of lettuce and there were plenty of vendors offering great buys on what some were calling  “heat wave lettuce”!

I often have dinner with a friend who usually offers salad as part of the meal.  She makes a dairy free dressing for me that is similar to ranch and her base is mayonnaise.  I wanted to mimic this dressing to use for my lunch salads, but my goal was to find a more whole foods way to do it.  I found this creamy alternative and while it did not turn out quite like I had hoped, it was a delicious flavor.  The texture was more like a blue cheese than the smooth “buttermilk” ranch I thought it would be.  I blame that on my blending option.  I used a large blender for a small amount.  When I try this recipe again, I will use my magic bullet instead.  This makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.

On Sunday I made a last minute plan to have a couple of friends over for “happy hour” so I used this dressing with a salad made of butter lettuce, red onions, thinly sliced Bartlett pears, dried currents and candied pecans.  It turned out beautifully and received a thumbs up from my guests.  I used the remainder of the dressing for my lunch salad yesterday, but I chose a more hearty salad that can withstand a little travel bouncing.  I used butter lettuce, red onions, shredded carrots and zucchini, toasted almonds and some chili cilantro spiced chicken thigh pieces, cut bite sized.  It was a delicious salad!  I will definitely try this recipe again, adjusting my blending tool for the amount this makes.  Give it a try! It’s a great alternative that provides a great whole foods protein punch!

This is where I got the original version:

http://www.rickiheller.com/2014/05/kale-salad-with-fennel-and-radicchio-in-a-creamy-buttermilk-dressing/

Here’s my version:

1/4 cup hemp seeds

1/4 cup cashews

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I’m trying pickle juice next time!)

1 clove garlic

1 tsp agave

2 Tbsp water

BLEND WELL

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KJ meets Cancer

Just recently I learned that KJ, a friend and former colleague received a breast cancer diagnosis.  Days later I got an email invitation to join her blog so I could follow her progress, stay connected  and offer support.  Then the meal train invitation came.  Such a great idea!  It’s basically an online organizing tool used to simplify giving and receiving meals.  KJ has some pretty amazing people in her circle and someone kindly set up a “meal train” for her as she begins her journey with chemotherapy.  I happily signed myself up to bring a prepared dinner meal.

I must say hearing of KJ’s diagnosis was shocking for me.  Learning of this as I approach the one year anniversary of my mom’s death from breast cancer made the harshness of this news more biting.  I admit KJ has been on my mind often and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in not only her journey, but her healing by providing healthful meals (along with a lot of positive intentions sent out to the Universe!).  Additionally, I feel like I can witness another way to approach such a dire diagnosis: acceptance.  It is something I feel my mom never did.  With each new blog entry from KJ I am in awe at the enormous amount of love displayed by everyone who comments.  More so, the positive attitude I’ve observed in KJ is amazing and powerful.  While I know there are plenty of fearful and tearful moments, what I see is an incredibly strong woman owning her new life journey and fully immersing herself in learning the “walk” on this new path.  KJ is surrounded by love.  I am honored to be on the “love train” and the “meal train”.  Strangely, somehow it helps me in my own healing.  It feels really good to participate.

I chose this medicine meal combination with healing and dietary preferences in mind.  I used all quality, organic ingredients with as many non-GMO products I could find.  I poured a lot of love into it all and after taste tests here at home, I am pleased with the outcome.

On the menu for KJ and her family:

Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup – Carrots and ginger combined have powerful effects on the immune system thanks to the high amounts of vitamins C and A.

Warmed Butternut Squash Salad w/Balsamic dressing – Butternut squash is rich with beta-carotene.  I’ve read phytochemicals in spinach may play a role in fighting cancer.

Crispy Quinoa Cakes w/Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream Dip – Quinoa is simply a superfood filled with cancer fighting properties, but most importantly, quinoa contains a substance called saponins that actually produces anti-tumor activity and suppress the proliferation of cancer cells.  {keep quinoa in your diet, KJ!} 

To find the recipe I used for the soup, check here–[http://www.eattobeat.org/onemeal/528/creamy-gingered-carrot-soup.html] My change was using a combination of shallots and red onion.

This will take you to the original recipe for the salad.   Find the recipe I used here–[http://minimalistbaker.com/warm-roasted-butternut-squash-salad/]  The only change I made was using raw agave syrup in place of brown sugar for the pecans & I made my own balsamic/olive oil drizzle.

To check out the original recipe for the quinoa cakes, check here–[http://ohmyveggies.com/crispy-quinoa-cakes-with-roasted-red-pepper-cashew-cream/]

I had such a fun afternoon making these dishes and was so happy KJ felt up for a short visit when we delivered the meal.  She looked great and seemed in pretty good spirits considering she’d just finished another round of chemo treatment.  I am keeping an eye out for the next opportunity to provide more meals to KJ and her family. I would like to be a part of her continued healing if only on the peripherals, making healthful meals and being a smiling face to bring them to her.

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Quinoa Cakes

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Containers marked with food descriptions and a few affirmations!

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Roasted Butternut Squash

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A mix of spinach and arugula will make this salad tasty!

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream Dip

Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Cream Dip

Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup

Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup

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The meal ready to be delivered!

Evening Grills & Portland Thrills

Being in my anti-social bubble and having house guests don’t really work well together. Especially since two of the three guests have never been to this city and are considering it for their future home.  The third guest was my daughter and those who know my spirited oldest can probably imagine that being a mopey mom during her visit from Boston was just going to have to be put on hold.  “I’m only here for five days! You have to do things with us!”

Of course I was thrilled at the opportunity to spend time with my daughter and I enjoyed being a co-tour guide for our guests.  I love our city with all it’s cool neighborhoods, gloriously green parks, funky shops and markets.  I got reminded why I love Portland so much.  And, I’m pretty sure by the end of their visit we made converts out of the questioning Bostonians.

We spent time at home enjoying some grilled burgers and a simple salad on their first evening here.  On their last evening here we were back home again enjoying a smorgasbord of left overs from all of our outings.  We tossed a few uncured all beef hot dogs on the grill for my dad and whoever else wanted some.  Dad didn’t notice they weren’t Oscar Meyer and even asked for seconds!

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Everything in between those days involved a whirlwind of activity that included many happy hours with delicious food.  Boston does not have “happy hour” which means cheaper food and drink for a specified period of time.  Portland has some amazing happy hour foods and drinks all over the city.  The guests were thrilled with the inexpensive tabs.

Lest we not forget to mention that one of the guests was celebrating her birthday during this visit and quite by coincidence my “pseudo daughter” was giving a performance at their new venue.  ‘ZigZurah’ dances with Offbeat Belly Dance, “a genre-defying belly dance show at it’s finest”, says their WordPress blog.  I am here to say that you haven’t seen talent until you’ve seen these amazing women shake their stuff.  They are fantastic entertainment and the best part is the dancer choose their own music so there could be traditional middle eastern music, zydeco, hip hop, jazz and everything in between.  I give a double thumbs up for their new venue that I hope will be readily available for them in the future.  The space was more open and light.  And, wow!  I had one of the best beet salads I’ve had in a long time.  I held the feta, but it wasn’t even needed since this multi-green salad was bursting with flavors and a sherry vinaigrette that tied it all together for an amazing flavor combination.  Something new on my salad was carrot foam!  Yes, foam!  Check out that picture!  Is that not the most beautiful salad?  That foam was like a fluffy orange cloud and I want to figure out how to recreate that!  It was delicious.

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IMG_2060 The amazing and talented ZigZurah

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I had a great time with my daughter and her guests.  My anxiety remained low which made it easier to enjoy our outings.  For most of the days they were here the weather was perfect Portland visitor weather with only one torrential downpour to remind them this really is one of the rainiest cities on the west coast.  I’m pretty sure that didn’t dissuade them, though.

It’s back to quiet here in our house.  I do love my quiet time.  However, I now sit in silence feeling more cheerful having seen my kid.  I will hold on to this feeling for as long as I can.