Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Life is Charming (roasted garlic)

Victoria Moran says to upgrade your life. She is the author of Living a Charmed Life and she has really awesome, simple ideas on how to do that. One of my favorites is how she views chocolate, Victoria says, "Chocolate is like sex. It can be a sensual, spiritual experience or it can be a criminal act." The criminal act chocolate is the kind that you get at the gas station, eat in the car, and hide the wrappers. She suggests when you eat chocolate, eat handmade, beautiful chocolate that you buy from behind a glass case- of course because it is so expensive you can only have 1 piece. Pick out the special piece, the shop owner will wrap it in tissue paper, bring it home, make yourself a cup of tea, take out a special plate you only use on special occasions, put on mozart or chet baker or whoever relaxes you, and ennnnnjoooooy your beautiful handmade, delicate piece of chocolate. Doesn't that sound so nice? It is with these simple moments or gestures, when we are able to pay more attention and slow down to enjoy, that enable us to experience a truly charmed life.

Today, I was trying to think of other ways we may try to make our lives a charmed one.
I know eating high quality foods is one way. The idea is to do the best you can with what you have in the moment. Chop and I don't have mucho money, and since being out of work to care for Wesley, I see the stretch that buying high quality food can be for people. But by allowing myself to do the best that I can, with what I have in the moment- I have found that we still eat well, spending less money, and find enjoyment in making it work. It isn't always what you eat either, but how you eat it. Do you "plate" your food? Do you drink out of plastic or glass? Do you watch TV or do you listen to music while you eat? How can you make the experience of eating a meal just that, an experience? I've found plating my meals, laying them out so that they are visually appealing is almost as important as how they taste. If your meal looks beautiful, it is more apt to taste equally as wonderful. You may not be able to do it every meal, but do the best you can with the time you have available. As Victoria says, "it's just as easy to pour your morning juice into a stemmed glass as it is to pour it into your kids plastic disney cup."

All this charmed life talk got me reflecting a bit. I have to admit that there have been many times that, though I didn't quite use that term, "charmed" is how I would describe my life. It also occurred to me that nobody really wants to hear anyone else describe their life as charmed. It would be more acceptable for me to say that I am blessed. Being blessed means that God decided that I would have a nice life and therefore it has nothing to do with me, it was God's decision. But I think that it does have to do with us, we can control how we view our lives and how we live them. So yeah, I've thought about how lucky I am (there I go again with it being luck- first god, now a leprechaun), but also how I work to keep it going. Buying fun colored vegetables (how can you feel down eating rainbow chard?) always helps. I also found taking pictures of your life, even if they aren't pictures you'd really want to keep or even hang on a wall, helps to give you a different perspective. Winter on BI is cold, quiet, lonely, windy, and one might even say boring. But when you're really bored, you force yourself out into the wind and cold to take a walk. This is when I bring a camera-my pictures aren't great, I don't have an "eye" for photography, but boy does it look beautiful behind the lens. You can't feel the 9 degree windchill or 35 mph winds, you just see sunshine, peacefulness and beauty.

I thought this could look like a car commercial. If the car was nicer or even newer. Charming.

Roasted garlic makes me love life. There is a restaurant on BI (Winfields) that serves roasted garlic and shaved parmesan with their bread. It is a nice restaurant, and the garlic comes in a whole bulb. It is such a treat, but why not make it at home?

1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2 Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic.

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3 Place the garlic heads in a baking pan; muffin pans work well for this purpose. Drizzle a couple teaspoons of olive oil over each head, using your fingers to make sure the garlic head is well coated. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake at 400°F for 30-35 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed.

4 Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a small small knife cut the skin slightly around each clove. Use a cocktail fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins.

Purple rice makes life feel special. This is a dish of many colors.

Roasted Kale (dashed with salt and garlic powder)
Roasted butternut squash (tossed in cinnamon and maple syrup)
Purple rice and kidney beans (finished with feta cheese)

Orange squash in a blue pan. Fun.

Taking a little boy for a cold walk. Special.

Look at the beets! Chata-something beets (I have to look up the name). It always makes cooking more fun when your food looks seuss-ish. Steam the beets and keep them in the fridge to throw on salads (everyone do this except Kristen ;) Toss in a salad with green beans, pecans, and blue cheese- awesome.

Who doesn't like a little cheese filled pasta every once in a while. 4 Cheese Ravioli tossed with roasted butternut squash, green beans, roasted sweet onions, feta cheese, and roasted garlic. So wonderfully delicious.

My boy is always so warm, he "runs hot" as they say. Unfortunately he is never able to wear the sweet cable neck sweater he received as a gift, it is just too much for him. But when you live a charmed life like he does, you dress up for fun, even if its only for a 10 minute photo shoot.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Life is Sweet

Welcome to step 2. We are midway through January and the gluttony of the holidays probably feels like a distant memory. Hopefully the green vegetables helped to make that happen, and hopefully you are all feeling better for them.

The past few weeks, right after January 2nd (Chop's 32nd birthday and Wes' 3rd month birthday), I started to get back to work. Fortunately I am able to work for myself, and so when I go back, I say who- I say when- I say who(!) (just a quick line from Pretty Woman-the only movie we owned when I was growing up-just pops up from time to time.) So who and when? This week a group of brave (some really brave-this is their second time round) are starting a new cleanse group. I am really excited for this one. It is a smaller group which is always a little more fun for me, I am able to get a bit more personal with each individual. So the cleanse group should be fun and I will be making some great new recipes throughout the 10 days which I hope to share here.

Last Thursday I attended another great event for RI Health Counseling. I wanted to post about it here, before it actually took place- a little shameless promotion, but I never found the time. The event was called Beauty From the Inside Out (yes! an absolute favorite truth). I was the resident HC. There was a stylist, Lulu Locks, of Providence Pinup-they have an awesome website and service-haven't we all wanted to be a pinup at some point in our lives, someday I will post my pinup pictures here (when I actually do it). And the author of the book You'd Be So Pretty If... (teaching our daughters to love their bodies), Dara Chadwick. The event took place at Into The Wardrobe, a fabulous upscale resale clothing shop in Providence. Women had fun, shopping, eating, mingling, getting tips from the stylist and talking health and body image. I had alot of fun being back in the health counselor role and balancing it with my mommy role. My mother had Wes in the less congested area of the shop, so I was able to feed and hold him when he needed, and when I needed.

I had made a good amount of food for the BFTIO event, which ended up being a great way to talk about what I do. It also gave me the opportunity to share some recipes, I especially love sharing recipes when they are really simple-they showcase just how easy eating whole foods can be. I made the Raw Chocolate Truffles which I've shared here before as well as the Red Pepper Spread (also known as mock "salmon"), and an avocado dip-which was not guacamole!

Avocado Dip

1 avocado
2 Tbl raw tahini
1/3 cup raw cashews
3 Tbl Lemon juice
1 Tbl maple syrup (grade b if you can)
salt and pepper to taste

In the food processor-grind cashews till fine. Add avocado and tahini-process. Add remaining ingredients.
Its creamy, its nutty, its dreamy.

Ok so about this feeling good after the holidays plan. The next step is to make your life sweet in some non-refined sweetener kind of ways. Taking walks, getting fresh air even if it means stepping away and just taking a few breaths outside, stretching while Wes is on his playmat, letting the dishes sit for just another hour till Chop comes home, and eating sweet vegetables. Yes yes yes...this was a trick I never would believe, until I saw it work for me time and time again. Fortunately too, we are in the middle of sweet vegetable season. By increasing the amount of sweet vegetables in your diet, you are getting the sweet flavor, without the sugar. Fruit has sugar, dried fruit has more sugar, a sweet potato has less. And usually when you cook a root vegetable there is always enough for more than one meal. Cook once- eat twice, gotta love it.

So with that I made, mashed sweet potatoes (cook a bunch at once, you'll find uses for the rest throughout the week). I put half of the plain mashed potatoes aside and to the other half I added a little bit of soy milk, a small amount of butter (the dark yellow, real butter kind) and salt and pepper. With some Mushroom miso gravy, wow.

Later in the week I had some wild shrimp I was looking to cook up, but for some reason sweet potatoes and shrimp just didn't flow for me. I needed to come up with a way for the sweet potatoes to kick it with the shrimp. When I was in SE Asia, I met a girl in Laos who made pumpkin burgers. I don't think she used pumpkin like we know them, but another type of root vegetable that was very similar. This was a food I did not expect to see in Laos and it opened my eyes to what grows there and how they may use the different foods-not neccasarily the standard snap pea, bamboo shoot, soy sauce asian dishes we are more familiar with here. Anyway, I thought asian and experimented a little, with sweet potato/cabbage pancakes. Delicious.

Sweet Potato/Cabbage Pancakes

3-4 mashed sweet potatoes (or grated would be good-if you hadn't cooked them yet)
1/4 head of green cabbage (another sweet vegetable), chopped
2 handfuls arugula (adds green and spice)
1 egg
1 onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
1 inch piece ginger (grated)
1 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl rice vinegar
1 Tbl maple syrup
1 Tbl toasted sesame oil

Saute onions and garlic in sesame oil till translucent.
Add ginger-cook another minute or 2 (allowing the ginger's flavor to release)
Add cabbage, cook till softened (if using grated uncooked sweet potato-add now as well).
Add soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup and arugula. Mix till arugula starts to wilt.
Mix all ingredients into sweet potato. Add egg and mix.

Use either coconut oil or sesame oil to pan fry the pancakes.

Love the sweet taste of green cabbage raw or sauteed.

The pancakes with the splash of green from the arugula- i bet scallions would be great in this recipe as well.

Sweet potato pancakes and shrimp kickin it together. Delicious!

So I'm hoping the sweet vegetable, green vegetable formula will be working for you all as well. I am hoping to share some more sweet vegetable/ seasonal recipes soon!