Bouncing back

Hello, I'm back! Sort of. I didn't actually go anywhere, but I did have sinus surgery last week and I've been resting and recovering.

I had pretty bad seasonal allergies for the first 25 to 30 years of my life and I still have them now, but they have significantly improved. Between the effects of years of sniffing and sneezing and a car accident that broke my nose in 2008, I was having a really hard time breathing through my nose. I'll keep the gory details to myself, but suffice it to say that I was really in need of some rest and recovery after surgery last Tuesday. I'm still on the mend, but I'm beginning to get back into my normal activities.

Bouncing back from something like this always requires a lot of sleep. I have been doing my best to rest when I can and get to bed earlier than usual. Since my surgery, I have also been craving restorative foods. Things high in iron, vitamin C, and protein. With the way that whole foods (especially leafy greens) make my face glow, I know that these things will help me to heal now.

I have been hitting the green smoothies hard! I received some Cara Cara oranges in my CSA box this week- have you seen these oranges? Not only are they really cool to look at in all their pink juicy goodness, but they are low in acid and taste so, so good!

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My favorite smoothie tastes even better with these (or it would...if I could taste anything...baby steps).

I sometimes mix up my smoothie recipe, but I always seem to return to this one. When I can find vanilla beans at a decent price (i.e. at Costco), I throw in a small piece of a bean to really make this great. Even though it is green, it almost has a creamsicle flavor!

My "Go-To" Green Smoothie
Makes 1 serving

1/2 cup water
4-5 ice cubes
1 large handful of raw spinach
1 ripe banana, peeled
1 orange, peeled
2 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 heaping teaspoons of Vega Tropical Shake and Go Smoothie mix
1 inch piece of vanilla bean (optional)
  1. Place all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.
How do you bounce back after being sick or recovering from an injury?

Breakfast cookies

We have a local bakery that makes really good breakfast cookies. The whole idea of a cookie that is intended to be eaten for breakfast is, in my opinion, brilliant. I love cookies and I love breakfast- what could be better than a breakfast cookie?

This recipe makes about 10-12 cookies that are pretty low in sugar and fat but still taste great. My kids love them too!

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Breakfast Cookies
Makes 10-12 cookies

2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/4 cup water
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oat flour (process 1/2 cup rolled oats in a blender or food processor until they resemble the texture of a course flour)
1/4 cup of another flour (I used kamut. You can get creative or just use more whole wheat!)
1/2 cup cereal (try raisin bran, Kashi, bran flakes, cranberry nut flakes, etc.)
1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries (or a combo)
1/4 cup each finely chopped walnuts and pecans
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp hemp seeds (or other seeds)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder*
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 Tbsp nut or seed butter (I used almond but I bet sunflower seed would also be yummy)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce (or mashed bananas or pureed carrots)
1 tsp blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup oil (canola, coconut, or other mild-tasting oil)
2 Tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Combine the ground flax and water in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, cereal, raisins (and/or cranberries), nuts, cinnamon, hemp seeds, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. To the flax mixture add nut butter, vanilla, brown sugar, applesauce, molasses, oil, and milk and mix well.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Don't over-mix.
  5. Scoop the dough about 2-3 Tbsp at a time and, using your hands, roll it into balls. As you place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, flatten them out into cookie shapes.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
*These cookies are slightly fluffy, like muffins. They are nice and tender that way, but I may try reducing the baking powder next time to make them slightly more cookie-like.

Taco beans

For our "Traditional Non-Traditional" Christmas tacos, I started with dry pinto beans. I love the way that they taste when they have been slowly simmered with a few flavorful ingredients. Below is my recipe. You can use these beans in tacos, salads, quesadillas, burritos, and more. They are versatile and provide a healthy dose of protein, iron, folic acid, manganese, and fiber.

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Taco Beans
Makes enough for ~6-8 tacos

1 cup dry pinto beans
1/2 a large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried Mexican (or regular) oregano
1/2 tsp dried epazote (optional)
1 tsp (or more) chili powder of choice*
Small strip of kombu (helps flavor and reduces gas-causing sugars)
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt to taste

1. Soak the dry beans in water overnight (or as long as possible).

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2. Drain and rinse the beans and place them in a sauce pan. Add all ingredients except for the sea salt (it may slow the cooking process) and add enough water to cover the beans by a few inches. Bring to a boil.

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3. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are quite tender. This will take about 90 minutes but will vary depending on how long you pre-soaked the beans. When tender, add the sea salt to taste and simmer for a minute or two more. Drain the beans and remove the kombu and bay leaves.

*Chili powder: I really like the red New Mexico chili powder from Two Spicy Ladies (local to me). I can't wait to try some more of their chili powders too!

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Our "Traditional Non-Traditional" Christmas dinner

I realize that I'm a little late and out of order with this, but I wanted to share a few highlights from our "Traditional Non-Traditional" Christmas dinner. After Thanksgiving has passed, we're usually pretty burned out on standard holiday fare. For that reason, we have created a tradition in our family of serving a Christmas dinner made up of foods that are not of the mashed potatoes and gravy variety.

Being a California native, I am a big fan of fresh foods that are grown close to home. I love combinations where I can taste each ingredient, so I tend to keep it simple. This year, while it was rainy and cold outside, we had a hot and spicy (and super fresh) Mexican meal complete with margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice!

Here are some highlights, in photos:

We started the day with homemade cinnamon rolls. These are a vegan version (I used Earth Balance instead of butter and flaxmeal and water instead of egg) of a recipe by 101 Cookbooks and they were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

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Our main meal was homemade tacos served with fresh-squeezed lime juice margaritas (I'm not a fan of the commercial mixes). Here are the stars of the show:

Pinto beans simmered all day with onion, garlic, New Mexico chile powder, bay leaf, epazote, and Mexican oregano:

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A simple guacamole made with avocado (of course!), cilantro, fresh lime juice, and sea salt:

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Homemade pico de gallo (organic tomatoes, red onion, garlic, lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro, and sea salt):

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We used these lovely fresh things to make some seriously delicious tacos:

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With warm cilantro lime brown rice on the side:

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After our tacos settled, we had homemade Mexican chocolate and orange cake with Grand Marnier mousse:

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Feliz Navidad!

Welcome 2011!

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Happy New Year and welcome 2011!

I have been stewing for a couple of months over my goals for the year and I now realize that I'm on a bit of a different path for 2011. I ordinarily go through quite a process to arrive at my intentions, but this year that isn't working for me. I have a tendency to make choices based heavily on the complexity or difficulty of completing the tasks. Something that is hard to do is worth the glory of the accomplishment, right? Hmm.

By choosing to pursue only really difficult things, I tend to create unnecessary stress for myself. I hold those goals over my own head and try to force things that just aren't ready to happen. It is easy to feel suffocated by this unneeded stress. Some degree of challenge is essential for growth but too much struggling, in areas that I am not truly connected with, is truly pointless.

Rather than choosing to walk the path that is the most difficult to traverse, this year I have chosen this phrase as my mantra: sink in. Instead of creating my regularly difficult To Do list for the year, I want to sink in to honoring what I need in the moment. To assemble a life of "I-would-love-to..."s and "too-good-to-be-true"s. I don't want to spend my time unnecessarily. I want to play and be creative. To explore and make messes. I love this:

"Do your thing and I shall know you." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I did create a list of ideas such as getting to the beach more often, soaking in hot mineral springs, climbing things with great views from the top, simmering pots of heirloom beans, making homemade yogurt and breads, doing more yoga, and writing creatively. My list does fill a page. The difference, though, is that I will navigate the pace and direction of things with my intuition instead of a timeline or spreadsheet. I won't crunch numbers. I'll just sink in.

What are you going to do in 2011?