what is living?

The author, Joyce Maynard, says she feels most at home at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.  It is there she engages in those activities that define what living is to her.  And, more importantly, I am surmising she has also found a way of being.

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What is living?  Maynard has prompted me to, once again, think about this question.  I’ve rolled this question around in my mind frequently over the past five years or so.  It has rolled in and out of consciousness.  But, this time around the idea of living has collided with me differently.  Why?  For the first time, I believe I am developing the ability to define what living is to me.  Am I a late bloomer?  Very likely.

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The question deserves to be asked at different stages in life.  Maybe during those times when we feel like we are not doing what we want to do with our lives. Or, a need is perceived to make a significant change regardless of how we feel about the way we are currently choosing to live. Or, maybe you feel a small tug to make just a little change in your world.  Yet, you are not sure what that change should be.

I don’t know about you, but I am always looking for help when I make decisions throughout life.  So, in any form this question is used, if we ask it of ourselves, intentions begin to cultivate and grow.  Even if an audible answer does not arise (lucky you if one does!)  after we whisper to ourselves, “what does living mean to me?” the mind will take note of whatever the felt experience is.  Try not to need or expect an answer.  If you do get one, it does not have to be or need to be verbal.  In fact, I’ve found I do not get any audible answers or thoughts. I get a feeling. If the question brings up confusion, that is ok.  Let it bring up confusion.  It did for me for many years.  And, I am sure it will again in years to come.

(This is not to say I do not have confusion and anxiety with some areas of my life.  I do.  But, I am saying that some aspects of my life have been smoothed out and have lost their rough edges where confusion and indecisiveness used to reside.  I use myself as an example to, hopefully, create a rough guide for someone else who may want to gain a better understanding around their individual way of being.)

Asking the question, “what is living to me?” is similar to setting an intention at the beginning of a yoga class.  It prompts an energy and begins to sketch a blueprint that establishes a framework.  Yes, it is a blueprint that is in pencil because our lives are constantly in flux.  But, nevertheless, it is your blueprint.  This blueprint and framework will create a spaciousness allowing you to make changes, however large or small.  Some past fears may fall away.  It is your awareness that will take you there and shape your life’s path as time moves on just as Joyce Maynard did when she found Guatemala is where she feels most at home. It has become her way of being.

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A vegan treat, Nava Atlas’ sloppy joes.  Here I’ve posted her recipe verbatim.  But, when I made them I took the technique and subbed ingredients.  One addition I added that I’ll throw out there if you’d like to try, add 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and baking cocoa powder. It really brings a depth of flavor to the dish that I enjoyed.  Another thing I enjoyed was chili sauce rather than tomato sauce.   Either way, these are fun to make and are a really good, substantial dinner.  I dressed the bread with sharp dijon mustard, sweet pickle relish, and refreshing red leaf lettuce.

Nava Atlas’ Pinto Bean and Quinoa Sloppy Joes    

Serves: 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup raw quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 15- to 16-ounce can pinto or red beans,
    drained, rinsed, and coarsely mashed (or 1 1/2 cups cooked)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 medium tomato, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar or natural granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, plus more for topping, optional
  • Shredded lettuce, baby spinach leaves, or green sprouts
  • 6 whole grain rolls, English muffins, or mini-pitas

Combine the quinoa with 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the bell pepper and sauté until both are golden.

Add the remaining ingredients except the last two, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook over medium-low heat, loosely covered, for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let the skillet stand off the heat for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle further and for the quinoa to absorb the tomatoey flavors.

For each serving, spoon some of the filling onto the bottoms of whole-grain rolls and cover with the tops. Or, you can serve these open-faced.

where the butterfly flew

 
 

Black sooty mold covering much of our property on the north side of our house results in anger?  Well, yes.  Or, maybe. Wait a minute, I am not so sure.  But, I am sure that anger wraps itself around a victim and squeezes tightly.  (As it did to me for a few days.) It is the python of human emotions.

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While I was finishing cutting off numerous palm fronds and tree branches sticky with a white, sugary substance (called honeydew) and slick with black sooty mold the rugose spiraling whitefly leaves behind, again I contemplated this anger I had. Really?  Could I really be this angry at a whitefly (even if the South Florida press does call it an insect tsunami) that is feeding on much of our landscaping? At its root, the anger seemed misguided. But, surely there must be somewhere or something to whom, at whom, I can point the finger for this grave injustice.

 

Meanwhile, this anger found me outside cutting back foliage surrounded by the tiny white creature flying about madly as I removed their food source.  Spontaneously, I found myself asking the flies (while swatting them away from my head) if we could find a peaceful way to coexist.  Say, possibly, a bit of a more balanced approach than black soot covering the north side of our property.  Then, just as quickly and without conscious thought, I asked myself if I could find a bit of a more balanced approach when dealing with myself.  Without making this too confusing, in other words, I discovered I was angry at myself.

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As soon as I had made that realization, everything softened.  It all kinda drooped into a deflated acceptance.  As the anger with myself melted, I was no longer angry with mother nature.  Annoyed, perhaps, at still having to deal with this new insect wanting to feed on many of our plants, but the anger that squeezes tightly was gone.

I continued working, yet the work was different.  Yes, I still needed to remove the heavily infested fronds from one plant in particular.  But, I now did so at a slower pace.  I, once again, tuned into what was going on in nature around me.  (While in my angry state, I was just whacking away at fronds not available emotionally to listen to the wind or the birds.) As I was finishing up, a large black and yellow butterfly came to rest on our viburnum hedge an arm’s length from me.  It rested for a beat or two – longer than I’ve witnessed before.  It seemed to be acknowledging my acceptance of anger at myself.  At the same time, I acknowledged the presence of peace.

Here is a summery creamy dressing to use on salads, stir into grains, or as a sandwich spread.
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Creamy Avocado Dressing
Megan Gordon’s recipe


1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Greek yogurt

Combine all ingredients except for the yogurt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Process until smooth.  Add yogurt.  Give it one more whirl or two to combine. Taste and adjust for salt.

 
 

Kale and Leek Pie with Quinoa Millet Crust

If you are looking for a last minute dinner idea for Father’s Day, here it is.  This main entreé is portable, good warm or cold, and loaded with vegetables.  While savory pies and tarts are favorites of mine to make, I do not find making crusts easy.  They are an added element that can make a cook (or, at least me) shy away from them.  But, one made with cooked whole grains?  Easy.

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Kale and Leek Pie with Quinoa Millet Crust 

*Cook’s Notes:  To make the crust begin by adding 1 1/2 c. cooked grains to the crust mixture.  Add up to 1/2 c. more if you want it thicker.  I chose to make a thicker crust with 2 c. cooked grains.

Gluten Free Crust 

  • *1 1/2 – 2 c. cooked quinoa and millet (equal parts)
  • 1 egg white, yolk reserved for the filling
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9″ pie plate.  Set aside.  Combine 1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa and millet, egg white, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Add more cooked grains if desired.  Press mixture (the back of a measuring cup works well) firmly into the pie plate.
  2. Bake the crust for 10 minutes or just until it begins to firm up.  Remove and set aside.

Filling

  • 1 lg. bunch lacianto kale (also known as dinosaur kale) (about 4 packed cups) rinsed, ribs removed, sauté with salt and pepper, drain, squeeze out excess moisture, chop finely
  • 2 c. arugula, rinsed, sauté with salt and pepper, drain, squeeze out excess moisture, chop finely
  • 1/2 large leek (about 1 1/2 c. sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c. unsweetened soymilk (or your milk of choice)
  • 3 eggs + reserved yolk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz.  herbed or peppered goat cheese
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  1. Warm a T or two of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, add sliced leeks and a pinch of salt.  Lightly sauté leek, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic.  Cook 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Let cool.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together milk and eggs including reserved yolk.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Once greens and leeks have cooled, add to egg mixture. Combine. (Alternatively, the egg mixture can be tempered if leeks and greens have not cooled.) Once the greens, leeks, and egg mixture have been combined, pour into prepared pie crust.  Dot the top with 2 oz. goat cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 – 45 minutes until center is loosely set and the crust is light golden brown.
  3. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Serves 4.

Rainbow Radish and Greens Pasta

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Inspired by P. Allen Smith’s use of radishes, these radishes make a lovely pasta dish.  They are sautéed and braised with onion until sweet and mellow.  Tossed with the radish greens, parmigiano reggiano, and reserved pasta water, the resulting dish is flavorful and light, perfect for summer.

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Rainbow Radish and Greens Pasta 

1 bunch organic rainbow colored radishes (about 10 radishes) with their tops, radishes and greens washed, radishes thinly sliced (you want them to be translucent thin), green tops torn into bite size pieces
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1/4 – 1/2 c. high quality vegetable broth
2/3 c. + parmigiano reggiano, grated
8 oz. whole wheat or gluten free pasta (I used a gluten free quinoa corn blend pasta)
reserve 1/2 c. pasta cooking water
salt
freshly cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
for a silkier sauce add 1 or 2 T unsalted butter after adding the vegetable broth, cook to reduce to desired consistency (optional)

In a large saucepan with deep sides, heat 1 T extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Once warmed, add the diced onion with a pinch of salt, cook 3 – 5 minutes just until they begin to give up some moisture.  Add sliced radishes.  Add another pinch of salt and cook, turning often, until they lose most of their moisture, about 10 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the vegetables, turning down heat if necessary.

Begin making pasta.  Once the radishes and onions have lost most of their moisture, add broth, braise on medium low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until the vegetables have absorbed most of the liquid.  Stir in butter if using.

To the vegetable mixture, add torn cleaned radish greens, al dente cooked pasta, grated cheese, 2 T. reserved pasta water, toss to combine.  Add pasta water 1 T at a time if a looser consistency is desired. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Serve with another sprinkling of parm reggiano if desired. Serve immediately.  Makes 3 generous servings.

Inspired by P. Allen Smith

just washing the ceiling

Three rags in hand, standing on a tall step stool in our screened-in porch with a bucket of dirty, soapy water by my side, I was (ready for this?) washing the ceiling.  Yes, the ceiling.  As I wiped down the beadboard, board by board, I eventually gained a rhythm to the project.

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First, I tried a mop.  The end result was a wet head coupled with dirt, grime, and mold smeared on the ceiling.  After replacing the carpeting I had moved out of the way to use the mop, I tried using a rag rubbing back and forth to remove the black grime.  Although it wasn’t quite as messy, the rag quickly became dark with dirt and had to be rinsed too frequently.

I then moved on to using three rags.  Three because I could hold three in one hand and I had enough material to wipe down each board without having to rinse out the rags quite as much. Less steps to climb as I went up and down the stool to refresh each rag.

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If I got ahead of myself, I found I had to redo something. If I skipped a board or did not wipe it down well, I was met with the idea of having a dingy gray ceiling instead of having the shiny, white beadboard ceiling back.  If I tried to reach further than where I comfortably could from the step stool, I became off-balance and my attention was drawn more to not losing my footing than the work I was doing above me.

As I painstakingly cleaned, I thought about how this experience was analogous to many of my life’s experiences. How often have I gotten ahead of myself?  Or, how often had I so badly wanted to get ahead of where I needed to be (or where I was) that I never started what I wanted to start?

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Baby steps.  That ceiling took baby steps.  Aside from the fact it may seem crazy to clean a ceiling…I am quite thankful to have been reminded of that lesson.  The lesson that sometimes the only way to reach a goal or go through a process (so many things in life are a process) is one small step followed by another small step.

There is a saying in the yoga world, “meet yourself where you are.”    In other words, become mindful of who you are in the present and your surroundings without wanting something to be different than it is.  Take stock and go from there.  This provides a great jumping off platform…solid footing from which to work.

In that four hours, life was framed.  Life was taught.  Life was as is.

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Quinoa and Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Garbanzo Beans

The sweet sun-dried tomatoes play off the salty olives well.  Substance comes from quinoa, brown rice, and garbanzo beans. Nice finishing touches are a big squeeze of lemon, as much parsley as you like, and a slub of yogurt. If you don’t have quinoa, using all brown rice or farro in this dish would be fine rather than a combination of grains. The yogurt can be made into a sauce to serve on the side.  Add salt, a touch of raw garlic and a squeeze of lemon.  Stir to combine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. brown rice, cooked
  • 1/2 c. quinoa, cooked
  • 1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed, drained or cooked dried beans
  • 1 large leek, well cleaned, sliced thinly (about 2/3 c.)
  • 1/2 c. julienned oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 T. oil from tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. (heaping) pitted black olives, thinly sliced
  • vegetable broth, optional
  • chopped parsley
  • lemon wedges
  • T. or two of plain yogurt or prepared sauce, omit for vegans
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Set aside prepared grains and beans.  In a large skillet heat 2 T of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Once heated, add the leeks and pinch of salt.  Increase heat slightly and begin to sauté the leeks.  Once the leeks have softened, about 5 –  7 minutes, stir in the prepared grains, beans, tomatoes, oil from tomatoes, and olives.  Warm through.  Salt to taste.  Add a splash or two of broth if dish needs moistening.
  2. Plate each serving.  Garnish with parsley, lemon wedge, and yogurt.   Serve immediately.  Serves 3 generously.

informing our behavior

Like a blinking yellow light pulsing hypnotically on a stop light, our storylines hum through our minds continuously informing our behavior and our way of being in the world.  Living without gently tapping into that tape, or storyline, is akin to walking around with heavy chains wrapped around our waists.  The chains drag us down and keep us in familiarity.  Yet, we are human.  The familiar tapes playing in our minds are a part of each of us.

By nature, we are drawn to familiarity and routine.  Much of what we do routinely is life giving.  A habit of waking at 6:30 a.m., going for a jog, and eating a healthy breakfast; or, rising early to sit quietly either meditating, praying, or simply centering before the day begins, are all life giving activities.  However, when we have a sense that our habits or routines are not conducive to our overall well-being, or when they are no longer serving us, possibly it is time to simply observe and become aware of what our storylines are saying.

For example, heeding my aversion to writing is not in my best interest;  nor, I would argue, in the best interest of those around me.  (The process of writing does something for me that makes me a happier person if I engage in the act.  So, I can be a more pleasant person to be around if I have written on a given day.)  Though I am drawn to writing, I am disinclined to do it.  So, I can easily hypnotically avoid it.  Drawing awareness to this aversion has helped. As with many areas of my life, I’ve allowed the hum of my tape to direct my behavior.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is when I sit down to write that many of my storylines come home to roost.
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Barging in the front door and taking their places at the table without even a thoughtful knock, each of them tries to outdo the other to be heard.  With an offbeat party favor in hand, some of them wave the red flags that I must be handing out as they enter yelling “pick me! pick me! I’ll tell you how you feel about writing,” as they sit at the dining room table each wanting a chance to speak.  My usual is to let them all speak at once. One of them quips “you can’t do this, you can’t write.”  Or, “this is too hard.  It is not worth the time.”  Followed up by the guest with the biggest flag sitting in the center seat, “whoa… good thing you don’t need to earn a living being a writer because no one would have food to eat!”

While I am fully aware of my complicity, I feel powerless at times.  Powerless when I buy into what they are saying.  Again and again they tell me who I am.  They define me.  They guide my decisions.  And, I listen.  But, we are not powerless.  I think each of us knows this.

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While it is normal that I’ve not (yet) created another pathway for those well-grooved thoughts slipping seamlessly through my neural pathways, if I decide to stop writing that day because of those thoughts, I have listened to what they have to say and taken their advice.  My error is not in listening to them, (although there are varying opinions on this), my error comes when I act based on what the storylines are saying.

 

I heed Rumi’s advice.  I believe all emotions, thoughts, and feelings deserve time on the playing field of our minds.  In other words, they should not be dismissively pushed away or repressed because this can result in making them stronger.  Those that are recurring purely based on emotion (not steeped in reality), or those that are simply ruminating thoughts should be acknowledged, then set aside or transcended so that our actions or reactions are not based on thoughts that do not serve us.

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I share my powerless feelings and negative thoughts for two reasons:  1) There is liberation after awareness.  And, 2) negative low-humming tapes can be difficult to detect.  Usually we have to get really quiet and listen.  My desire is that possibly, by reading this, you have a sense that you are not crazy or abnormal if you have a bunch of negative thoughts running through your head.  It has been my experience that is quite normal and widespread.  It is simply part and parcel of being human.  And, my hope is we (I) keep in mind there is liberation after awareness of the negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  The chains do loosen and can be removed.  We can stop watching the yellow light blinking at the stop light.

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Freedom from storylines can come in many forms. Years ago my desire to cook and bake was stymied by the thoughts and emotions I experienced while in the kitchen.  (They directed my behavior.) Among other things, the low hum moving through my mind said I should expect perfection with anything I made.  Coupled with my thoughts, my emotions while in the kitchen seemed almost insurmountable.  I would instantly (seemingly instantly, there are small gaps between thought, feeling, and behavior) become frustrated, anxious, and irritable when making much more than toast or oatmeal.

 

But, as I mention in my “About” page, I had the feeling that somewhere between the frustration and irritability was a lesson I needed to learn.  A lesson I wanted to learn.  Now, I no longer carry those negative thoughts into the kitchen with me. I did it by getting quiet and listening, really listening to the storyline that played when I entered the kitchen.  I developed an awareness of what my mind was telling me.  I then challenged those thoughts based on reality.

What would it be like to live with a more direct experience of reality?  What would it be like to quiet, even if only for a breath or two, the continual tape that runs through our minds? What happens when we bring awareness into our daily lives?  When we bring awareness into our daily lives, the storylines quiet, the blinking yellow light has less control over our behavior, and we experience reality more directly.

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I frequently make what I think of as everyday cakes.  My definition of an everyday cake is that it uses very little or no sugar, no butter, and it has a substantial fruit or vegetable component. This banana cake adapted from Green Kitchen Stories meets those criteria.   It is loaded with flavor and it is healthy.

 

Baker’s Notes:  Although this is a gluten free cake, for those of you who would rather bake with wheat flour, a combination of whole wheat, whole wheat pastry flour, and/or white whole wheat flours would do very well.

 

Vegan and Gluten Free Banana Cake 

  • 1 cup brown rice flour (or superfine brown rice flour)
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • big pinch of salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed, set aside
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup soymilk (unsweetened)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup seeds or nuts, chopped, if necessary (I used raw pumpkin seeds)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease and flour a 10″x4″ loaf pan or a 9″ round cake pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour through salt.
  3. In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or potato masher, then add apple sauce, milk, vanilla, and nuts. Stir to combine.  Combine the wet ingredients with the dry.
  4. Pour into prepared baking dish. Baking times will vary according to the size pan chosen.  About 50 minutes to 1  hour for the loaf pan and 35 – 40 minutes for the 9″ round cake pan.   Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center.  The cake will develop a slight golden brown color around the edges.  Once baked, cool on a wire rack before turning out.  Ready to serve once cooled.  Store the remainder in fridge.
 
 
 

since when is dependency…good?

Dependency is good, when it is interdependence.  When we are connected by a need that two parties fulfill, such as in the relationship between farmer and consumer, interdependence can shine.  Whether is it the government buying surplus crop from a farmer or a woman purchasing corn from a produce stand to feed her family, consumer and farmer are dependent upon each other.  This links us together.  In this example, we are connected by a need for nourishment and sustenance. Interdependence is a link of unending dependence.

In the past several months, I’ve circled the idea of mutual dependency like a wolf circling its prey.  It was both intriguing and confusing to me.  It was intriguing because I didn’t actively embrace mutual reliances.  (Yes, this is foolish.)  It is not necessarily that I shun being dependent upon others, but my off-handed reaction was driven more by an uneducated indifference and a lack of awareness.  My confusion was driven by its application in some meditation traditions.

When I think of dependency, my mind immediately bounces as quickly as a tennis ball bounces off of a racquet to codependency.  Without skipping a beat, emotionally I begin to back away.  So, I had to put in the time to retrain my mind that dependency can be something that is to be welcomed.

Now, I understand the vibe of mutual reliance can be virtuous.  Going forward, I hope that I think more often of the farmer’s hands who planted all of the root vegetables in the soup my husband and I enjoy.  Hands stained black with dirt and hard work as I saw at a dinner I recently attended honoring food and cooking.  Or, I hope I remember that my favorite plant in the front yard was started by Rick in his nursery.  Had he not started the plant from seed, I would not be able to enjoy looking at it everyday.

So, when is dependency good?  It is good when a link of unending dependence answers mutual needs.  If you are interested in reading more about this topic, as a starting point I suggest visiting The Interdependence Project at theidproject.org.

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Parsnips and Beans

I keep coming back to this soup.  I’ve made it at least twice in the past week.  I’ve eaten it for dinner and lunch.  While it is not pretty or fancy, it is just the sort of thing I crave in a soup.  Tender, chunky vegetables that have retained a bit of bite.  A good dose of onion, lots of beans, a grain, and a little bit of seasoning to pull it all together.

Cook’s Notes:  *Vidalia green onions are typically found in markets the months of February, March, and early April.  They have a large white bulb and are the length of leeks. I love them and use them for the months they are available in place of sweet onions.  (If you cannot find them, simply substitute a sweet onion. I would not substitute the smaller, thinner green onion.)

Chunky Parsnip and Bean Soup

  • 2 lg. or 3 small carrots, rinsed, diced, (peel on)
  • 2 lg. or 3 small parsnips, rinsed, diced, (peel on)
  • 2 lg. *Vidalia spring onions with green tops, rinsed, slice thinly including the green tops
  • or 1 medium sweet onion
  • 1 to 2 t. ground thyme
  • 2 t. oregano
  • 2 – 3 T. tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz. can cannelini beans, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed, and drained
  • 4 + c. vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium and water as desired
  • 2 + c. cooked brown rice
  • salt to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook 1 c. brown rice according to package directions.  Set aside.
  2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat 1 – 2 T. extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add the diced carrots and parsnips with a pinch of salt.  Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently as they begin to soften, about 8 or so minutes.  Add the onion and continue to cook over medium heat about another 8 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary.
  3. When the vegetables are fork tender and the onion has become translucent, push the veg to the side and add 2 or 3 T. of tomato paste.  Stir continuously as the paste loses its raw flavor, about 1 – 2 minutes.
  4. Add the spices.  Stir continuously about 1 – 2 minutes to bloom the spices.  Add 3 c. of broth, half of each dish of drained and rinsed beans, and half of the rice.  Stir to combine.  Now add the remaining broth, rice, and beans to your liking.  Substitute 1 c. water for broth, if desired.  (I ended up using about 2/3 of each can of beans, 2 1/2 c. of broth, 1c. of water, and 2 1/2 c. of the cooked rice.)  Simmer for 5 or so minutes until the flavors begin to come together.  Serve hot.  Dress each bowl of soup with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, if desired.

the sweetness of allowing

Do you have a situation(s) in your life you’d like to change? The past several months have found me wrestling and wrangling with circumstances in my life I wanted to learn how to approach differently.  I simply couldn’t find a way to do it, until recently.  About a week ago, I came up with an idea I thought may help.  I would try to be with these situations differently; and, I would try to allow them.

My first attempts in handling these aspects of my life were to work on changing my reactions to them.  While not altogether a bad idea, I wasn’t making any headway.  It became a battle.  Perhaps I developed an expectation that I had to alter my responses. I don’t know.  But, I subscribe to Aristotle’s theory “we are what we repeatedly do.”  So, my thinking was if I could modify my responses to these circumstances, I’d step off of the circular mental train track I was on.  Even though I would find myself back on the same track at times, once I had the opportunity to get off the track, I was pretty confident I could do it more and more often.  Yet, something about it wasn’t a fit for me with these situations.

One morning while doing household tasks, I had a feeling. Not a thought, but a feeling that I could be with these aspects of my life differently.  I could allow them.  I could allow them to be as they are.  In doing so, my presence around each circumstance changed.  (If that makes sense.) With this change, I was afforded the opportunity of approaching the situations with less emotion. In turn, equipping myself to more readily allow them.

I can’t emphasize enough the significance around my changed presence in each situation.  For me, that seemed to be a key.  Not for solving a problem or fixing it, but for being with it.

Possibly this led to a change in reaction as well?  I don’t think it did.  My reactions, although softened, are about the same.  But in modifying my presence around each circumstance, I’ve been granted space.  Breathing room.

Approaching and allowing the situations rather than changing my reactions reminds me of the difference between a Meyer lemon and a regular lemon. While both are lemons, the Meyer lemon is sweeter and less acidic than a standard lemon.  It has less bite.  Less zing. In like manner, I noticed less bite and zing when approaching each situation and allowing it.

Most likely, we could all use a little less bite and zing in our lives.  Maybe by changing our presence around a difficult situation, a little more sweetness can emerge out of the most challenging areas of our lives.  I hope so.  And, for the record, I think it can.  Scratch that.  I know it can.
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How about a dinner idea for a substantial vegan meal? Chunks of roasted butternut squash combined with coconut milk soaked quinoa and garbanzo beans brightened with wilted baby spinach leaves.  This is a good meal to use the proportions of vegetable, grain (although quinoa is technically a seed, any whole grain could be substituted), and bean you enjoy.  The following is a blueprint to follow.
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Here’s how I did it:
 
  • I medium butternut squash, cubed and *roasted at 350 degrees until softened and lightly browned, about 35 – 40 minutes
  • 1 c. or so white or red quinoa, or combo, cooked, set aside
  • 1 14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained, rinsed, set aside
  • 1/2 med. yellow or sweet onion, diced, sautéed in large skillet with coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil and large pinch salt
  • 2 t. curry powder
  • 1 t. each, turmeric and coriander
  • 1/2 c. or so full fat or lite coconut milk
  • 2 – 3 c. baby spinach, rinsed and drained
  • salt to taste
  1. Once squash and quinoa are prepared and the onion has softened, add beans and spices to the skillet.  Bloom the spices by allowing them to heat while stirring constantly, about 1- 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk and the spinach, stir to combine, put the lid on and steam the spinach over medium heat to medium low heat until it wilts, about 3 – 5 minutes.
  3. After the spinach is wilted, stir in the amounts of quinoa and squash you’d prefer.  Adjust with more coconut milk if necessary.  Salt to taste.  Warm through and serve.

Cook’s Notes:  Many cooks prefer full-fat coconut milk for the flavor and texture.  Although I do use it, sometimes it tends to be a bit too heavy for me.  I found in this recipe the light coconut milk lends enough of a subtle coconut flavor so the full-fat is not needed.  It is purely preference.

Roasted Squash:  Remove the tough outer skin of the squash by halving the squash.  Then, with two shorter pieces to work with, slice off the bulb of each piece where it narrows resulting in a stable cutting surface.  Next, cut straight down the side of the squash with your hand on the top of the vegetable stabilizing it.  Scrape out the seeds as necessary.  Cut the vegetable into bite-size cubes.  On a large baking sheet, toss the squash with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil.  Spread into an even layer.  Roast at 350 degrees for 35- 40 minutes until the squash is soft and barely beginning to brown.

 

pie

With a hue the color of a lemon just finishing its metamorphosis from green to yellow, the pies my maternal grandmother used to make took center stage on our dining room table. The lightly browned peaks on the lemon meringue pies crested over the soft yellow interior tumbling from one side to another.

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“Grandma! Grandma! Can I have some pie?” I would inevitably ask as soon as I returned home from elementary school. But, the carefully prepared dessert was reserved for after dinner.  I knew as much, yet I could not keep myself from asking.

If it had been a hot day, the meringue might be slightly speckled and glistening, the air bubbles whipped into the egg whites having a bit of a hard time withstanding the heat.

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Yesterday I returned home from visiting her.  She lived independently until age ninety-four; and, although she has suffered a chain of events in the last six weeks that would not allow her to stand in a kitchen and make a pie, I know she would remember those grand desserts.

It wouldn’t surprise me if she kicks this pneumonia stuff and transitions into assisted living soon.  Maybe I should bake a pie in her honor and have it sitting prominently in the room when she moves in.

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Visiting a care facility, we see the fragile part of life.  In a park about a half mile from the nursing home, I saw vibrant life.  I saw green things growing with bugs, birds, and beetles moving about.  I went to that park after each visit to help me further accept the cycle of birth, life, and death. While I cannot say I am further along accepting those bigger life issues, I can say I envision a grand dessert sitting atop a picnic table with a little boy or girl just waiting for dinner to be done, and a grandmother smiling.

 

 

 

to tend or to dog paddle

I am dog paddling.  A softer way to put it may be to say I am running in place. Either way, I can attribute it to two things when I start to feel like this:

1) Charged emotion is present.

2) Most likely, fear is involved.

As I mentioned in December’s post, identifying charged events can be helpful in releasing some of the power within them.  Similarly, identifying the charged emotion(s) beneath those events is also helpful in loosening up the stronghold emotion sometimes seems to have in our lives.

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Of course, emotions are a part of being human.  Though some may be more difficult than others to handle, both positive and negative emotions can lead us to areas of our life that may need a little tending, if you will.  They need a little care and thought.

I’ve come to think of those aspects of my life simply as being a bit neglected.  Neglected because unprocessed emotions will typically stick around.  And, they are, in effect, neglected because had they been tended to they most likely wouldn’t be sticking around weighing on us, causing us to repeat behavior patterns that we just can’t seem to shake.

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I very well may be making this too simplistic, but I think of a main character in a children’s book, a girl about eight years old.  Perhaps this little girl is a sullen friendless child moping around from day to day.  She sees other children playing outside and gets very angry that she does not have a friend.  She experiences jealousy while peering out her bedroom window at the trio of girls playing hopscotch in front of her home.  This goes on for months.

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But, soon she begins to venture out of her home.  She introduces herself to the group of hopscotcher’s and befriends them.

This little girl was running in place as she moped around from day to day in her home.  She was feeling charged emotion and, possibly, fear was present.  Acknowledging the desire for change, she stepped outside to introduce herself to the group of girls playing outside her home.  Now, she no longer feels anger or jealousy when she sees a group of kids playing together.  She (inadvertently) tended to her emotions.   Seeing the same situation now draws a different response from her.

We too can dissolve tightly held emotions around certain situations in our lives and begin to experience the same situations differently.  Where charged emotion is present if we bring time and attention to it, rather then busy ourselves with whatever method we use for distraction, it may loosen up and begin to dissolve.  The edges of those emotions may begin to soften.

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A friend of mine often reminds me to look under and around emotion.  To soften, loosen up, and eventually dissolve strong emotional reactions, we may ask ourselves what underlies a particular event or situation?  If we are angry, why are we angry?  Might fear be hiding under that anger?  If it is fear, what are we afraid of and is it a realistic fear?

These are just some simple ways to address charged emotion in our lives.  I know I have areas in my life I’d like to tend to a bit more.  If I can, I’ll gently bring time and attention to them.  Maybe, then, the future will find me dog paddling just a little bit less.

Some of my favorite dishes lately have involved curry, coconut milk, and coconut oil.  I found combining many of these traditional curry elements with sweet potatoes, quinoa, and black beans makes for an enjoyable, substantial meal.  The potatoes lend sweetness, the curry is pleasantly pungent, and the quinoa soaks up all of the flavors of the sauce.

Black Bean, Quinoa, and Sweet Potato Curry

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, rinsed, cut into bite-sized pieces, and roasted
  • 1 c. quinoa (white or “regular”), rinsed, cooked according to package directions, set aside
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed, drained, set aside
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed, drained, set aside
  • 2 T. coconut oil
  • 1 thick slice (about 1/2″ thick) yellow or sweet onion, diced
  • 2 scallions, rinsed, diced, reserving a handful of green tops for garnish, if desired
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1″ knob fresh ginger, skin removed, minced or 1 T. jarred minced ginger
  • 1/2 c. full-fat coconut milk, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine or good quality *vegetable broth
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 1/2 t. turmeric
  • 1/2 t. coriander
  • salt

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Clean and cut the sweet potatoes (leaving the skin on) into bite-size pieces.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the sweet potatoes with salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  Bake until they are fork tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa according to the package directions.  Cook until the translucent ring around the seed becomes visible, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, add 2 T. coconut oil, warm gently over medium heat, add onion and scallions with a pinch of salt, cook until soft, 3 – 5 min.

Add the spices, stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.  Add the garlic and ginger stirring constantly until fragrant, about one minute.

Add the wine or broth.  Deglaze the pan and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Add the coconut milk, black beans, 1/2 of the cooked quinoa, and a pinch of salt.  Stir and warm through for a few minutes.

Add the roasted sweet potatoes and the pinto beans to desired bean to grain ratio (I used almost all of the pintos.) If desired, add more quinoa.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more coconut milk for a looser consistency.

Once warmed through, about 3 – 5 minutes, serve.  To reheat, add a splash or two of coconut milk before warming.

Serves 2 – 3 generously.