Post 94 – Beets & Sweets

The leaves are gone. The cranberry-walnut bread is gone. Winter’s cold has sunk its claws into the leaf-strewn earth. It is fall here in Boston, but the temperatures have dropped dramatically already and I fear we have a cold, cold winter ahead of us. I love the beautiful fall colors, the cozy smells, and the seasonal flavors, (Pumpkin everywhere! Quick – get it before it’s gone!) but I hate to think that winter is coming.

Nonetheless it will come and with the passing of time so will the spring and then the summer. Life beats on and the sun rises and sets again and again. For now we must embrace all that we have and enjoy the moment.

Speaking of enjoying the moment, I have been reading about meditation lately in an effort to take a more holistic view of health. As a kid I always thought of meditation in the stereotypical way – sitting with your legs crossed and your fingers forming O’s in the air while you hummed “ommm” and reached a higher state of being. However, from what I’ve recently read, it seems meditation is not about reaching enlightenment in the way I may have originally thought. Meditation is about being present in the moment. It’s a practice that takes, well, practice, but can be used to enrich your life and daily experience. Meditation goes along with mindful eating. If you are present with your food and in the moment when you eat a meal, you are less likely to overeat and more likely to feel satisfaction from your meal. The act of meditation may not help you to reach Nirvana, but the act of being present and mindful may eventually give you more satisfaction with your life.

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If changing what we eat does not fix our food woes, perhaps changing the way we think can. (Read this interesting article for a lesson on awareness.) Taking a moment to relax and reflect before a meal can help you to ease into digestion mode. Eating slowly and in good company will help as well. These are strategies to relax and prepare yourself for a meal eaten mindfully. If our lives do not satisfy, there are many things we may want from our food instead – comfort, companionship, acceptance – but we are unlikely to get them from the food itself. Practicing meditation helps us to live in the moment and be thankful and aware of what we are living and receiving right now. I am grateful for the cold weather that helps me to appreciate the warm weather.

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With the cold weather brings the root vegetables. I love sweet potatoes in particular and beets I enjoy in moderation. Mostly I love their beautiful fall colors and their naturally sweet flavors. Check out those swirls in the beets! Since I’m always suckered into buying those root vegetable chips at the grocery store (like Terra or Trader Joe’s) I decided I’d try making my own. I sliced my veggies as thin as I could without slicing my fingers off (no mandolin slicer here), tossed them in oil and salt, and roasted away. They were delicious, but they didn’t get as crispy as I wanted them to without burning so I’ll have to play with the recipe more. Nonetheless they satisfied that sweet and salty craving and kept me from eating a whole bag of chips (not usually my weakness).

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Being mindful and practicing meditation is sometimes easier said than done. On a daily basis there are so many things going on in our lives and going through our minds that it can be tough to remember all the promises we’ve made to ourselves every moment – eat less, lose weight, be kind, be patient. Sometimes being present in the moment is the best we can do.

Thanksgiving is coming. Be grateful.

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Post 93 – Eat your Greens! + Chelsea’s Cranberry Bread

Last Friday (Oct. 24) was Food Day! To celebrate we offered samples of kale chips to the students and teachers. To our shock and amazement, the kale chips were wildly popular with students coming up for seconds and thirds. We even heard one child exclaim: “These are better than potato chips!” I could not have paid that child to say anything better ­čÖé

It probably helped that we gave out stickers if they tried it and put up a big poster to voice their opinion of the kale.

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Overall, Food Day kale chips were a huge hit and I’m happy to say we may even make kale chips again. (Another great quote: “Can we have these every Friday?!” – HA!) We even had requests for the recipe so we posted it in the school’s weekly bulletin. Eat your greens!

Speaking of greens, well green vegetables, I wanted to share a successful and simple recipe with you that I came up with on Friday. Most of the time when I go to the grocery store I have a plan and a list that I follow. Sometimes I stray from the list based on what looks good and sometimes my indecisiveness causes me to buy multiple random ingredients for which I have no specific plans, or rather some vague plan that I may or may not follow. This week it was asparagus, bacon, fresh cranberries, and coconut milk. After sitting in the fridge for a few days, the idea came to me: bacon-wrapped asparagus!

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Simply wrap your asparagus spears in half strips of bacon (no oil needed thanks to the bacon fat), lay out on a tray,┬ásprinkle with fresh cracked black pepper if desired, and bake. I don’t have a good baking rack, but I’m sure they would turn out crispier if you put them on a rack on top of the sheet pan. That way more air circulates and they’re not sitting in the bacon grease. Bake at 450 until they reach the done-ness you desire (10-15 min) and broil at the end for a few minutes for extra crisping!┬á Easy and yummy!

I decided to use the cranberries for my sister Chelsea’s favorite Cranberry-Orange bread. This recipe is one I clipped from a magazine back in high school while collecting recipes for my favorite recipe binder. It quickly became a favorite. It is fresh, only slightly sweet thanks to the fresh cranberries, (I even got Sam to try a fresh cranberry! His face was priceless) and has a nice crunch from the walnuts. I opted to make them in mini loaves this time, though it makes a great big loaf too.

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One of the best parts about this recipe is I get to use my favorite kitchen tool: the pastry blender!

 

Chelsea’s Favorite Cranberry Bread

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1.5 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cold

2/3 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed is best!)

1 tsp. grated orange zest

1 large egg

1.5 cups fresh cranberries, halved (allow some time to cut these babies)

1 cup walnuts, chopped

 

Start by halving your cranberries, chopping your walnuts (if necessary), and juicing your oranges. Measure your flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a medium bowl and stir to mix well. Cut your cold butter into small cubes and using a pastry blender (or two knives) cut into the flour mixture until the butter is pea sized.

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a small bowl mix your orange juice, zest, and egg. Pour into flour and butter mixture and mix just until barely combined (see photo above). Carefully fold in your cranberries and walnuts. The dough will be relatively thick and lumpy, but don’t overmix it.

Pour into one large greased loaf pan, smaller loaf pans, or jumbo muffin pans. Bake for 25-30 for small loaves and 55-65 minutes for the large loaf. Loaves are done when golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy.

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The smell is irresistible!

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I still have some remaining cranberries and I haven’t decided what to do with the coconut milk. The coconut milk (canned) will keep, the cranberries will not. More to come! Happy fall!