Tuesday, January 31, 2012

homemade ricotta


Making ricotta at home is really cool. It is incredibly simple and the result is luxuriously, richly delicious. Recipes for making ricotta are readily available pretty much everywhere it seems.  I tried one recipe last summer - it was fine but not exciting enough to replace the ease of buying a tub at the store whenever ricotta was what I wanted. Then a bit ago I bookmarked a recipe on Food52 that I finally made on Sunday last. I will never buy ricotta again. It was amazing! and fun - because it was amazing.

The icing on this little cake is:
one tub (2 cups) of ricotta - 6.79 CAN 
 - or -
cream, buttermilk, and whole milk (enough to make 4 cups ricotta) - 7.23 CAN

In other words - I can make twice as much ricotta for almost half the price and it tastes 100% better. Plus, I had the fun and satisfaction of making it. Absolute win/win!

There are a surprising number of recipes and techniques on offer, all to the same end - ricotta from your own kitchen. I can't comment on any other than the two I tried. The first I won't identify but will repeat that it was not quite what I had hoped for. The second (this one) is so simple and yields the most perfect, moist, rich ricotta that I can't see any reason to try any more. I used the whole batch, less a couple of smears that I really had to taste, in some rustic lasagna. Wonderful. Next batch is just for toast and honey.... or maybe baguettes and tomatoes...or, hmmmmmmm.

rich homemade ricotta
(from Food 52

makes 2 cups

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Put all four ingredients into a 4 quart pot and bring to a very gentle boil over medium heat. (There was no mention of stirring, so I didn't and everything worked out well.) When little specks of white bob to the surface (that's the curds separating from the whey), stir gently once and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 2 more minutes, remove from heat and let sit unbothered on an unlit burner for at least 30 minutes and as much as 60 minutes. This helps the curds to further develop.

Meanwhile, line a sieve or fine mesh strainer with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and place it over a deep bowl or pot.

After the resting time is up, gently ladle the curds into the lined strainer. Ladling, as opposed to pouring, helps produce a fluffier, creamier curd. Let sit for roughly 10 minutes to drain to produce a very moist ricotta. If you want a drier consistency (I did - it was still lovely and moist), simply let it drain longer.

Can be stored in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If it lasts that long or makes it that far.

Note: if you have not yet discovered the Food52 blog you probably want to. Lots of fun there.

Monday, January 30, 2012

reading: Vit K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Blue 
If you take calcium supplements, or you have children, or if you are simply interested in nutrition and optimal health - you need to read this book. It seems there is misinformation out and around about Vit K2. The newest research is fascinating and fills in a lot of 'holes'. Looks like Vit K2 is a vital nutrient that 'activates' and directs other critical vitamins and minerals. Seriously interesting stuff. Easy read too.


I am in awe of the intricate and delicate balances in our bodies  - and the interaction between those balances and the world around us. Add to that the incredible resilience and innate toughness of our physical selves and I am blown away. What miracles we are.

Friday, January 27, 2012

coconut black rice deliciousness




This deliciousness is breakfast! I could happily call it dessert. I don't want to oversell it but man, this is goo-ood. I am a hot-cereal-for-breakfast girl and silly as it may seem to some I really, loyally love my favorite bowl of oats, fruits, and seeds. I love it so much that I am a bit sad every morning when I get to the last bite. So it was with a ridiculous amount of trepidation that I decided this week to (drum roll) try something or two new. The motivation for branching out is simply my conviction that there are so many wonderfully healthy foods out there and every one offers something unique. If I only eat the same-old same-old, day in and day out I will certainly miss out on much that is good for me, to say nothing of the eventual boredom. There is also the theory that constant exposure to the same things creates allergies or sensitivities. (And how sad would I be if I could never have my favorite bowl of oats?!) That is how I arrived here, today, with this bowl of totally healthy awesomeness.  

Black rice - aka Forbidden Rice (which really means you gotta have it) -  is a natural source of the antioxidants anthocyanins. The same purple pigments found in blueberries, acai, and purple corn, etc. But in black rice you get the goodness without the sugar. The taste is slightly nutty and totally yummy. Black rice is a beautiful, deep purple when cooked with a soft, chewy texture. Top it with kiwi, mango, pistachios, and chopped dried young coconut along with a good slug of coconut milk. Then bliss out.

You could use regular dried coconut if you can't find or don't have the dried young coconut but I have to say the taste and texture the young coconut is well worth the effort to get. I used Philippine Brand Dried Young Coconut (Costco almost always carries it) but there are other brands out there, probably need to be sourced from a foreign foods store.

The rice cooks in about 30 minutes so if you are planning this for breakfast keep that in mind. The spices in it are wonderful to smell as you shower and dress. It reheats very well so one could always prepare the rice part in the evening and finish it with the toppings in the morning. Just fyi - I like it at room temperature. Actually, I like it at any temperature. And I was sad when it was all gone. Can't wait for next time.

coconut black rice
(tweaked, Alive magazine - Feb 2012)

makes enough for 2

1  1/4 cups water
1/2 cup black rice
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
generous 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 kiwi, skinned and diced
1/2 mango, diced
1/4 cup chopped dried young coconut
1/4 cup pistachios
coconut milk to taste

Combine the water, rice, salt, ginger, and cinnamon in a 1 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed - about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the honey and vanilla. Let cool for 5 minutes. 

Divide between two bowls, add the toppings and a good slug of coconut milk (once again - the kind you find in the dairy case. I like "So Delicious" brand, original flavour.)

Double this amount if you want to make it ahead and keep it in the fridge for a few days - or if you have more mouths to feed.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

biscuits



When Thomas and Hannah lived with us for a few months last fall one of the things that was most fun was sharing the kitchen with Hannah. I count myself very fortunate in my sweet daughter-in-law. I love that we have fun together and one of the things we enjoy together is cooking. One day we made biscuits to go with the soup we were having for dinner. I had forgotten how totally addictive good biscuits are! Now that I have been reminded I keep looking for reasons to whip up another batch. These are seriously so quick and easy - and of course, delicious - I think a biscuit resurgence must be on the horizon. 


Since gluten-free has become important for Eden (and I have read some info about how really it is not that great even for those of us who are seemingly symptom free) I decided to try my hand at a gluten-free version. The happy news? Gluten-free biscuits are even better than the regular old white wheat flour variety. And just as easy. 


Add a little honey butter - or a lot, which is the way I roll I must admit - and we will all be rolling happily along. I simply can't get enough. Dessert is not any better.


biscuits
(from Hannah's mom Melanie)


2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup milk


Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender cut the slightly soft butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour the cold milk over the flour/butter mixture and using a fork quickly blend until most of the flour is incorporated. Don't over-mix!


Lightly dust a board or counter with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Using your hands press the dough out until it is about 3/4" thick. I use a glass to cut the rounds for the biscuits but you can use anything that strikes your fancy. Place the cut out biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet. Gather the remaining dough together (without over working), press out again and cut out more rounds. Continue until you have used all the dough - when I cut mine out using a glass that is about 2" in diameter I usually get about a dozen biscuits. If you want to skip the re-rolling process you can just cut the dough into rough squares using a knife and transfer those to the baking sheet. Just another look and a tiny bit faster.


Bake at 425 F for 9 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Cool on a wire rack or better yet - eat while hot, slathered with honey-butter or butter and home-made jam. 


Tips for a gluten-free version:


This feels like a bit of a cheat (to call it a version) because really all it entails is replacing the white flour with a gluten-free flour mix. Again, I used the C4C from Williams-Sonoma which I like better than two other commercial mixes I have tried as it is not as grainy. I also used my favorite "So Delicious" Coconut Milk that available in the dairy case to replace the milk. Coconut oil would be a good replacement for butter if you don't eat butter but we do so I didn't sub there. The nice thing about using the gluten-free flour is that the caution to avoid over-mixing really doesn't apply. Since there is no gluten the biscuits stay nice and light instead of becoming tough, which is the problem with over-mixing as it develops the gluten. 
Watch the baking time - I found that 9 minutes was too long for the gluten-free version. 7 or 8 minutes was closer to right.


honey-butter
(in case you need to know...)


This is easy- peasy. Just blend equal parts butter and creamed honey* until smooth. For a batch of biscuits I usually use 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup honey. Truly divine.


*If you use liquid honey it works best to beat the two ingredients together with a hand mixer - just makes a lighter spread.


Note: the recipe halves easily and well if you (for some crazy reason) only want to make a few.

Monday, January 23, 2012

mark and isaac


There are some very beautiful pictures of this sweet father and son on Eden's blog today. 


Isaac is a solid blend of both his beautiful parents but the indisputable legacy from his dad? - his hands! I see his long, long fingers and remember so very clearly Mark's long, long fingers doing the same air ballet. What joy.....


I love them both. So much. Mark - his whole life and Isaac - already. Of course.



Congratulations Mark, Tiffany, and Kayden.  

Eden, thank you once again for sharing your wonderful talent so lovingly. The pictures you take are an incredible archive of the life of our family - such a rare and lovely blessing. You cannot begin to know how I treasure each image. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

vanilla roasted honey pears


It has been incredibly cold here this week. All of a sudden we were plunged into the winter that we have been fearful must be just around the very next corner. No chance to thicken the blood, just all of a sudden it is not a balmy (unseasonal) +12 Celsius but a very, very unpleasant (all-too-seasonal) -30 C. Literally overnight. Suddenly winter salads - healthy though they may be - are simply not cozy enough. This brand of cold demands warm and fragrant. Comforting foods. Roasted pears totally fit the bill. Not only delicious to eat but to anticipate as well. I can't tell you how amazing this smells in production but I bet you won't leave anything in the pan. No, not one delicious golden drop.


I used pears that were slightly under-ripe but still fragrant. This time I used Anjou pears but have used Bartlett or Bosc in the past - all  were equally wonderful. You can peel your pears if you wish but I simply don't. Ever. I don't believe in it. (Well .... unless I am canning them.)


vanilla roasted honey pears


1/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean
3 large pears
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp butter


Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine the honey and water in a small bowl with the seeds from the vanilla bean.* Cut the pears in half through the stem and using a small spoon scoop the core out. Arrange the pears cut side up in a 9x9" baking dish and drizzle with the lemon juice, then pour the honey, vanilla seed, water mixture over. Nestle the empty vanilla pods between the pears in the bottom of the dish. Dot each pear half with some butter.


Roast the pears for 30 minutes. Turn them over and continue roasting for about another 30 minutes, or until tender.** The juices will be lovely and carmelized - perfect for spooning over the ice cream or creme fraiche that gets along so well with this. 


Absolutely I would serve this warm. And this week? - with a blanket, next to the fire.


*With a sharp knife split the vanilla bean in half length-wise. Open the pod up and using the back of the knife scrape the seeds out. Simple.
**If the juices are carmelizing too fast - if they are quite thick and you think another 30 minutes in the oven is going to spell black disaster for your sweet syrup - add another 1/3 cup water to the pan when you turn the pears over. If you have really juicy pears you will be fine but if they are more than slightly under-ripe you will likely need a little more water.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

For some strange reason I keep thinking - off and on all day - about the study I posted about yesterday. I have my own 'research' and conclusion to add. My research is not scientifically undertaken but my conclusion - after years and years of research - is that this effect goes both ways. I am absolutely certain that when I hear the voice of any one of my children my cortisol levels drop immediately and my oxytocin levels jump. I wonder if anyone will study this?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This morning I read about a new study that suggests something wonderful - that a mother's voice has a unique ability to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and boost oxytocin (the 'love' hormone) when heard by her children. Tailored just for them - not anyone else. As a mother and as a daughter, I think that is so absolutely cool. That kind of connection - that it can even be.

Monday, January 16, 2012

kale, kabocha, and pomegranate salad


Do you know kabocha? Butternut squash gets all the love these days but for me, kabocha is the best squash on the block. I fell in love with it when we lived in Japan (where pretty much everyone knows it, everyone eats it, and everyone loves it) and am so pleased to see it in the market more and more often here. The taste and texture are so very pleasing - velvety and warm without the tendency to slide toward being a bit .... wet (or slimy - if you are young enough to be unconcerned about tactless declarations) that is an unfortunate feature of most squash. To be honest, my favorite way to eat kabocha is steamed, mashed, buttered, with salt and pepper. That could be dinner all by itself and I would be happy. Variety is the spice of life - they do say - and so for a little variety I added kabocha to kale and a few other things. Turned out pretty good. 

Kabocha made a perfect addition to this powerhouse kale salad. Pomegranate, almonds, kabocha, kale and parmesan.  Sweet, crunchy, salty, smooth, crisp. A simple, perfect combination. I could eat this every day. Really! It was so delicious the night I made it and even better the next day - which is one of the things I love about kale salads. And look how pretty!

The parmesan could be exchanged for another cheese if you prefer - although I think that would be a shame since the parmesan was pretty perfect here but I have heard that some people don't like it. Strange. But a nice sharp cheddar would probably be almost as good.

kale, kabocha, and pomegranate salad


2 cups cubed, peeled kabocha (or other winter squash if you can't find - or don't like - kabocha)
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and finely chopped (about 5 cups)
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
arils from one pomegranate (about 3/4 cup)
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Heat oven to 425 F. Toss the squash cubes with about 1 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven until tender (stirring once or twice) - about 45 minutes. Let cool.


In a large mixing bowl toss the kale with the pomegranate arils, almonds, cheese, and kabocha. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Pour the dressing over the kale mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

bamboo charcoal




When David goes to Japan he always brings me something cool. Or somethings cool. I am so lucky and I love it! One of the best cool things from a recent trip is bamboo charcoal. Although we have lived in Japan I hadn't seen this amazing product before. It can be used in many different applications -  from face towels that are touted to emit far infrared rays to improve blood circulation, to humidity and odor control, to water purification, and beyond. The product claims are more than interesting for sure. The white charcoal slices that he brought home are being put to use in our house as water purifiers and I am very happy with them (please note that no lab tests have been carried out on the water produced -consequently my happiness is based purely on taste - aesthetic and actual). According to all the research that I can find this white charcoal bamboo is practically magical in the abilities it possesses. Check this out:
- absorbs impurities and chlorine from the water
- studies done at Kyoto University  show that far infrared rays emitted from the charcoal break the water molecule clusters into smaller, more organized groups creating an 'energy water' that improves health. (really? I guess...)
- alkalizes the water (from pH 7 to pH 7.3)
- apparently bamboo charcoal water contains more oxygen due to the presence of more negative ions.
- releases minerals (potassium, calcium, iron) to the water.
- bamboo has a microstructure that makes it a unique and efficient natural filter.

I can't substantiate these claims but I can say that the water tastes a lot better than tap water - and Calgary is supposed to have pretty good water! We drink a lot of water. It is the beverage of choice in our house. Although I may simply be picky I consider myself a bit of a connoisseur - laugh at me! And although I can't verify the 'science' I am willing to take a gamble that it is all true. Who wouldn't want it to be, after all?

As well as tasting better, a cool pitcher at the side of the sink looks a lot better than our old Brita did (as awesome as Brita is).

The care and feeding of your bamboo charcoal is quite simple. 
1. Brush off the brand new charcoal slice with a soft brush.
2. Boil in tap water for 5 minutes. Let cool. Then dry.
3. Put one or two slices in the pitcher of your choice, let sit for 8 hours and enjoy.
4. Boil again once every week.
5. Replace after 3 months of use.

The used slices can be crushed and added to garden soil; it will aerate and revitalize the soil - holding and releasing moisture as needed along with minerals.

As if all this isn't enough, adding a slice to a pot of uncooked rice during the cooking process results in fluffier, better tasting rice that has all the advantages of 'devoid of chlorine, bad odor and toxic substances'. Seriously! we all need some.

It took a while for me to glean all of this from the Japanese usage pamphlet that came with the product - being as the way I 'read' Japanese is by looking at the accompanying cartoon-pictures. (David reads it well but is busy so it can take a while for me to tease it out of him.) At any rate, I love this stuff and love having a pretty pitcher of water by my sink. Sometimes I use the white pitcher, sometimes glass, and sometimes a special hammered aluminum one that Merin bought when we went to New York and carried all over Manhattan one afternoon and then home as carry-on. 



(If you want some bamboo charcoal slices and are not planning a trip to Japan, just google it. There are several sources that supply by mail. I would advise the Japanese-made product over what comes out of China. Just my preference.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

every day

Ha! Just stumbled on another way to waste precious time. Polyvore. As much fun as a barrel of monkeys, and at least as productive as a game of Solitaire. Although this 'set' is not an exact reproduction of my personal wardrobe it is a good reflection of my 'uniform'.

every day































Crew neck shirt
$450 - lagarconne.com

Forever 21 shoes
$23 - forever21.com

Mulberry black shoulder bag
$1,250 - mulberry.com

Alexander wang sunglasses
$369 - alexanderwang.com

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

laugh


This is my first born - Jonathon. The list of his amazing qualities is very long. I am not prioritizing but one of the things that really stands out is ... Jonathon really knows how to laugh. He has (quite possibly) the best laugh in the world. No really - he does. It is impossible to feel anything less than happy when you hear him laugh. He laughs readily. Honestly. Openly. Joyfully and often. Never at - sometimes with. It is so perfectly perfect. Everyone joins, tears roll, abs hurt. When you catch your breath, life just feels better. It is one of the (many) things that I love about him.

I was reading about laughter and health. Jonathon should live to be a very healthy old man. I am guessing anyone who has the blessing of living around him will live to a happy old age as well. Did you know that when you laugh your heart rate increases, blood vessels expand, and of course you gulp in tons more oxygen. Then blood flow increases, muscles relax, and blood pressure is better. One study found that people with heart disease are 40% less likely to laugh at things than others!!!  Laughter can help relieve pain and reduce tension. It enhances relationships - putting others at ease, increasing tolerance and reducing irritability. Life is just easier to deal with in ever so many ways. I am left marvelling that all too often there are any of us unwilling to let go and laugh.

I love to hear the people I love laugh and to laugh with them. I wish I could laugh 
with Jonathon more often. But even thinking about that wish I feel my kinks unwind and my spirits lift. What a wonderful quality -  to cultivate, to appreciate.


Let's laugh more. 


photo by Dennis Gocer  - The Collective You

Saturday, January 7, 2012

black bean brownies




During the holiday I made a batch of totally yummy but honestly homely black bean gluten-free cookies. They were the kind of thing that one feels compelled to apologize for to (even) close friends and I unfortunately took them to an extended family gathering - no time to reboot. oh well. They were so good that I will attempt to fix what went wrong another day and so good that I have been eyeing several recipes for black bean brownies for a few days. Happy day!! these are definitely not homely and absolutely amazingly yummy. Not yummy-for-a-healthier-option yummy but just plain want-to-eat-the-entire-pan yummy.  The texture was perfect - dense and moist, fudge-y. The black beans are entirely invisible - but agreeably add all the nutrition they happily bring to the table. I chose to make my brownies gluten-free* but that option is entirely up to you.

The recipe I decided to use is from Spilling the Beans: cooking and baking with beans and grains every day by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan. I have tried a few recipes, loved each one, and am anxious to try virtually every one in the book - and that is rare!

update:
If you don't have any unsweetened chocolate in the pantry (or if you just prefer this substitution - which you may after trying it) you can use 6 Tbsp of cocoa powder and 2 Tbsp of extra virgin coconut oil for the 2 oz of unsweetened chocolate. The little bit of coconut oil is really just perfect. So much so that I always use this tweak now.

Another good tweak is 2/3 cup honey instead of the coconut palm sugar. You can taste the honey just a bit - lovely.

black bean brownies
(from Spilling the Beans with a very minor tweak)

1 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans
1 1/4 cups broken pecan pieces
1/2 cup butter
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup gluten-free flour mix*
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar**
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup good quality dark chocolate chips or a 100gm bar of good dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spread the rinsed and drained beans out on a double layer of paper towel and blot gently with more paper towel to remove as much moisture as possible. (I think this may be the critical step not suggested in the ugly-cookie-fiasco, so don't neglect to do it.) 

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan over very low heat, or as I did, in the micro-wave being careful to stir frequently so as not to burn the chocolate. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. In a separate bowl whisk together the salt and flour.

Place the dried-off beans and the butter/chocolate mixture in a food processor and and process until very smooth, scarping the walls of the bowl a couple of times. Add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla - process again. Scrape the mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold together. Add the pecans and chocolate bits and combine.

Scrape the batter into a buttered 8x8" pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the batter doesn't jiggle when the pan moves - a toothpick inserted would come out very chocolatey. Cool completely on a wire rack or (as Julie and Sue say) you will be eating them with a spoon. I've got say that doesn't sound half bad! Store in the fridge if you like a firm, slightly chewy texture or at room temperature if you like them softer. (Ours are at room temperature...for as long as they last!)


*For this recipe I used C4C - a gluten-free flour mix sold at Williams-Sonoma. In this, as in other recipes I have used it in, it was a complete success. I have tried another gluten-free flour mix that I found to be somewhat grainy and not appealing to me. A custom mix of gluten-free flours would also work well I think, but that's an entire post for another day. 
If you don't care about gluten and want to use regular all-purpose flour simply use the same amount (1/3 cup) which is not much flour for a pan of brownies! - but too much if one is gluten intolerant, I know.

**Because Eden is committed to eliminating processed sugar as well as gluten from her diet (and I knew I would be sharing these with her) I chose to use this natural sweetener as an alternative to white sugar but an equal amount of white sugar would certainly work.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

quinoa, kale, & cranberry salad


I made this salad for our dinner last night. We had the rest for lunch today. Just two of us. Supposedly it serves 6. I am not sure what that says about how much we ate but I have chosen to think that it simply says very plainly that this is one very good salad. It is super-healthy  as well as yummy  - so you enjoy the food not simply the virtuous feeling of making a healthy food choice.

The original recipe calls for wheat berries but since I am migrating ever closer to the gluten-free line (for simple health reasons - no motivating health 'issues') I chose to substitute super-healthy quinoa. The wheat berries would be very good although chewier. Another good substitution for the wheat would be brown rice or even barley - but both of those might want a little more dressing since the grains tend to soak it up quite well, leaving things sometimes a little on the dry side. If you have some cooked (possibly frozen leftovers from your holiday bird) turkey or chicken, it would be a yummy addition. I liked it perfectly well as a meat-free meal. The quinoa is a complete protein so the turkey or chicken would simply be ... more.

This is fast, super easy, inexpensive, delicious, and healthy. As a post-holiday meal I think it hits every single virtue. 

quinoa, kale, & cranberry salad
(adapted from Chatelaine)

3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
1/2 cup dried cranberries
5 cups finely chopped* kale (one small bunch)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 yellow pepper, diced
1/3 cup  extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt

Cook quinoa in 2 1/4 cups water. Combine quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cover pot. Cook for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, add the dried cranberries and recover pot quickly. Leave the pot on the burner - covered - for a further 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Let cool.

In a large bowl combine the chopped kale, yellow pepper, onion, and cranberry quinoa mixture. In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, sea salt and balsamic vinegar. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to combine. Season with freshly ground pepper to taste. 

*I find I prefer kale quite finely chopped when used raw in a salad. Fine chopping will yield about 5 cups of the green from a smallish bunch - if you simply roughly chop it the same bunch will yield a greater volume. (duh) Smaller pieces = more greens = better

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

reading: my stroke of insight

I know I am a little late to the party with this book but better late than never. I have been reading Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight over the last few days. So many intriguing ideas and bits of information! I love the way she relates to her brain and her body - the reverence for how amazing we human beings are, the respect she has for the way in which brains and bodies respond to the demands placed upon them every day. It is more than interesting to read about the progression of her recovery, to see that her re-learning so closely follows the same path as a child's first learning. To wonder if an infant has a similar experience. 


I am busy in my own mind trying to fit some of her pieces together, to see if they work for me. The idea that we run some 'programs' over and over - even when they make us unhappy or unsuccessful - just because they are familiar, intrigues me. And the better idea that we have control over which programs we run. I am trying to figure out how to control (really control) not running those unproductive loops in my own head. It's good work.


I am soooooo grateful that I can read, that the world is there for me to see -when I open a book. I love reading! and I am so relieved that after close to a year and a half of total disinterest in something that had previously been a joy, I have found my reading self again. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

forward .... and back

Christmas is back in the boxes and put away for another year. Every new December 1 I pull it all out and fuss with stuff for a few days until I am happy with the way everything looks. And I am always pleased at the end of the fussing and primping - the house looks so cozy, welcoming. Then by Dec 31 when I pack it away I feel such relief to see the fresh face of my home once again. I like the embellishment of Christmas decorations  (like dressing up for an event) but I love the simplicity of my everyday. I just like clean and simple - jeans and a white t-shirt if you will.


So today I can peacefully contemplate the beautiful blankness of the new year ahead. Blank but not empty. There are so many options and directions. So many ideas to examine. Things to recommit myself to - some I want to do ever-so-much better and a few that I simply want to continue. 


On magazine covers and newspaper headlines I am urged to lose weight and get fit - so frequently that those seem to be the only resolutions of merit. Health and fitness are certainly concerns and goals but as I prioritize my options for this beautifully open new year my top goal is to become more compassionate. To develop true charity - the "love of Christ". It is all too easy to hope for understanding, tolerance, compassion for my own foibles and quirks but to judge others somewhat harshly when their struggles are ones that I don't experience or relate to. I don't like that tendency and since I can see it I can change it. A 'good goal' is quantifiable - I am working on the best way to articulate my intent - perhaps this is a goal that is never achieved but is a lifelong work. Whether I reach the destination or simply continue the journey it seems a worthwhile, conscious, pursuit.