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dusting off the chittam

I am lucky to have been raised by two beautiful, generous-hearted people who give and give without even thinking. It is simply their way. As a very young girl, small, everyday acts of generosity became fully engrained in me as the way we shared a life together. I learned that abundance comes and the heart feels full when you give. These quiet lessons weren’t spoken, only born through witnessing the act of sharing all we had with each other and anyone else in our lives. The generosity I learned from my family was expressed without showiness or self-importance. It was simply the way we experienced the world and I don’t know that my parents even realise there is something extraordinary in the life they created. For this gift, I thank my parents who always stretched their arms just a little wider to embrace us all, feed us all (and all the neighbor kids on the block, too).

Practicing generosity is the antidote to grasping. Aparigraha is the 5th vow or Yama as taught in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Elsewhere I have discussed ahimsa, satya, asteya, and brahmacharya. Parigraha can be translated as “grabbing all around” or “reaching out for something and claiming it for oneself”. By adding the “A” in front of a word it becomes the antonym. So, the teaching is to develop a sensitivity to how much you need. What do you need? How much do you need?

Yoga teacher and writer, Ruth Lauer-Manenti says that each thing we have influences us. She described each physical object we own as putting one tiny particle of dust on the chittam, or mind field. If we carry too much with us on this journey the mind field gets covered in a thick layer of dust. It becomes difficult to see clearly. That image struck me deeply and has stayed with me. After contemplating Ruth’s interpretation of this sutra for over a year, I figure it’s high time for a little Spring cleaning of the heart and mind. Here’s to dusting off the chittam!

Starting with objects is easiest. List of questions to pose as I consider each item in my home:

  • Do I love this?*
  • Is it worth carrying with me?
  • Is it useful?
  • Is there someone I could give it to?

* Tricky. My teacher, ShunyaJi,  says that we should practice giving away that which we love. She says especially anything that belonged to dead ancestors or holds a lot of nostalgia for us. She seemed to be encouraging us to give away whatever we hold on tightest to. I am simply not ready for that. Baby steps.

I have a  memory of digging through the pantry to grab a few cans of “non-perishable items” to donate to some charity or other. My scrawny ten-year-old arms were reaching into the back of the cupboard for those dusty cans of less desirable vegetables and soups. My mother came by and offered a suggestion, “Find your favorite ones. Give those.” What? “Yes, Mother Teresa says you should give so that it hurts a little.”

So, as I sort through my objects, doing my Spring cleaning and hoping to get a handle on these dust bunnies in my mind, I’ll start to let go of all that I’ve been carrying that is no longer of use to me. Any habitual thinking that no longer serves me. Any old regrets. Since giving away material objects is simply practice for softening our grip on what we are most attached to in this life, I’ll remember to give a few of my favorites away, too.

-sara

whole oat groats - steel cut oats - rolled oats

My love for oats is certainly nothing new. I have had to restrain myself several times from posting about how fantastic my morning porridge was. I haven’t always succeeded. Remember this? Most of the time, though, I tell myself that you people have your own fabulous bowls of oats in your own happy little mornings and you don’t need recipes for chucking apples and dates into a bowl of grains. However, my latest adventures in oating have been noteworthy.

It started with homemade oat milk, a culinary venture born of my desire to get plastic packaging out of our lives. Ever heard of the plastic gyres in our mama earth’s oceans? I curb my family’s plastic use because I know that we are connected to our land base, to our oceans. Using plastic contributes to the suffering of sea birds and marine animals and exposes my family directly and indirectly to toxic chemicals. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, please educate yourself. There is a wonderful blog dedicated to this subject called fake plastic fish if you need a place to start.

Making our milk at home is one way to avoid those awful tetra paks that most non-dairy milks are packaged in. Making your own is cheaper, better for you, better for the environment, and tastes WAY better, too. NO reason not to do this, kids. It is much easier than you think.

So far, we have made rice milk two ways, oat milk two ways, and cashew milk. The oat milk is my fav for sure! I found these recipes on the lovely blog sweet beet and green bean. So easy! So fantastic! Please try this.

recipe #1 easy oat milk

A raw oat milk recipe using the whole oat groat. I have not seen gluten free oat groats. If that’s how you roll, see recipe 2.

One nice thing about using the whole oat groat is that it is the least processed form of oat available to you. I tend to think the less processed the food, the more health benefits. Get yourself some whole oats. Here’s what they look like:

Soak 1 c. of whole oat groats in about 2 c. pure filtered water for at least 6 hours. I just let them soak overnight.

Why the soaking? Here is an excerpt from the book Nourishing Traditions:

All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron especially zinc in the intestinal track and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may led to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects. Soaking allows enzyme, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits.

Next: Strain oats and discard soaking water. Place oats in blender with 4 c. pure water, a pinch of salt, a drizzle of agave syrup (or preferred sweetener), and 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Whirl in the blender until oat groats are well blended. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. The liquid is delicious raw oat milk.

The dregs in the strainer are about to be a new take on this morning’s bowl of oats! Just plop the oat groats into a bowl and prepare as you would with all the usual oatmeal fixins and enjoy! The long legged man had his with banana, walnuts, and maple syrup.

Quite good, really, if you can get over the whole room temperature experience. I’ll admit, some mornings the oats must be hot.

Why raw? Initially, I thought raw would be better because 1. I am lazy. 2. I thought cooked oats would result in a gummier, thicker oat milk. 3. I had a vague idea that maybe there are some health benefits to eating soaked, raw oats.

recipe #2 super easy oat milk

An uncooked oat milk recipe made from rolled oats. If you are on a strict gluten free diet, use certified gluten free oats. Or, IF YOU ARE TOO LAZY TO MAKE EASY OAT MILK, then try it the super easy way. Use rolled oats instead. These only require ten minutes of soaking, if that. Then proceed as you would with easy oat milk. Blend with water, sweetener, salt and vanilla. The vanilla and sweetener are optional, but the salt is pretty key here. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Yay!

Still not convinced? More reasons to eat oats:

  • improve the body’s resistance to stress
  • help stabilize blood sugar
  • regulate the thyroid
  • soothe the nervous system and digestive tract
  • restore the reproductive system
  • reduce the craving for smokey treats (yes, that is what I call cigarettes. no, they are not much of a treat. yes, I quit years ago. hooray for me.)
  • reduce cholesterol from arteries
  • high in protein
  • strengthen cardiac muscles
  • help renew the bones and connective tissues
  • strengthen immunity and wards off contagions, especially in children
  • build and regulate qi (chi) energy, aka prana
  • think Highlander

Okay? It sounds like I’m making this stuff up! For more information, these are my go-to sources on healing foods: Rebecca Wood and Paul Pitchford. Here’s another fun source to remind you why you don’t subsist on luna bars and lattes. This web site lists the nutritional profile of the world’s healthiest foods.

I have a bowl of oat groats soaking right now, actually. However, this time it’s not for milk or groatmeal, but oat groat pancakes! Stay tuned for the recipe. Those beasties are delightful!

sara

three bean pumpkin chili

organic ingredients:

  • 4 c. cooked beans -I used adzuki, pinto, and kidney
  • 3 1/2 c. (about 1/2 smallish pumpkin) diced roasted pumpkin*
  • 4 c. roasted tomatoes**
  • 2 c. pure water
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 c. diced onion
  • 2 tsp. cumin seed
  • 1 tsp. mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp. coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 3-8 cloves garlic (depends on how you roll)
  • 1-3 dried chipotle pepper (how hot you likie?)
  • dash cinnamon

*Lazy girls way to deal with the hard shell of winter squash and the whole peeling/ seeding issue: I just stick these babies whole (that’s right, the whole pumpkin) in a preheated oven at 350F, bake ’em ’til their soft enough to easily stick a knife through (about 40 minutes). Sometimes, I just eat it hot right out of the oven. Amazing. In this case: cut in half, let cool until it’s easier to handle,  scoop the seeds out with a spoon, peel, dice into bite size chunks.

**Lazy girl’s guide to roasting tomatoes: I buy the cheap discount tomatoes from farmers who can’t sell the over-ripes, the bruised, the uglies and give those girls a second chance to shine! I give them a wash, throw them into a covered baking dish that can take the heat and roast them ’til they explode into a delicious mess. If I want them saucier than chunky, I bust out the immersion blender. If you don’t have one of these (you don’t know what you’re missing!) you can use a blender for that step. If you’re thinking, “Actually this lazy girl is going to open up a coupla 32 oz. cans of organic fire roasted tomatoes that are already diced!” I won’t blame you, but there is no excuse for not cooking your own beans. Busted!

The beans, squash, and tomatoes can all be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.

Soak the chipotle peppers in water to rehydrate. Meanwhile, dump beans, tomatoes, pumpkin and water in a slow cooker (who you callin’ a crock pot?). If you don’t have a garlic press, mince the garlic as small as possible. Set aside. Grind the seeds.

In a skillet on medium heat saute the onions in the olive oil for about a minute. Then add the seeds. When onions are translucent, press garlic into skillet. Your house is smelling amazing right about now. Stir for maybe 1 more minute, then remove from heat and dump the onion mixture into the crock pot as well.

Remove chipotles from water and thinly slice. Throw those in the mix, too. Give it a stir, place the lid on top, leave on high heat setting, and let it slow cook for a few solid hours so all the flavors meld.

Mama’s off to dance class! Slow cooked pumpkin chili will be ready for the dudes whenever they’re hungry and a big bowl (or two) for mama when she comes home wobbly-legged, sweaty, and so so grateful-hearted to be moving this body.

xo

sara

{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual inspired by Soule Mama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a lovely weekend!


 

The long-legged man is always trying to make some distinction or other between the yam and the sweet potato. He’s not the only one. People have many ideas about his, but all the theories I hear contradict each other. I tend to use the names interchangeably. The long-legged man does not like this, but I really don’t get it. So what’s the deal?

I consult Rebecca Wood, my dream grandmother and Paul Pitchford, the weird uncle I never had. Both say that most of the what we think of as yams and call yams and tell our wives are different than sweet potato in such and such a way are, in fact, sweet potato. The sweet potato is a South American native and a member of the morning glory family. It’s not even related to potato or yam, but we call the darkest and sweetest of varieties yams. “Wait,” you say, “yams are real! MY YAMS ARE YAMS!” you cry.

Are they? Yams are one of the most widely consumed foods in the world.This tuber can be either round or oblong with thick, coarse skin and white, ivory, cream, pink, or even purple flesh.  There are more than 6000 species! They also have some pretty snazzy medicinal uses, so if your yams really are yams, then good for you.

Is it a sweet potato? Is it a yam? Who cares, let’s bake it, mash it, and make a bunch of muffins!

Sweet n Spice Potato Muffins xGFx (means vegan and gluten free — a symbol I’ve lovingly lifted from kitty of the blog cake maker to the stars. those ‘x’s somehow manage to make gluten free simultaneously cute and more punk. love!)

organic ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. cornmeal
  • 1/2 c. brown rice flour (white is fine, too)
  • 1/4 c. sorghum flour
  • 1/4 c. tapioca flour
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. ground clove
  • 1 (3/4c.) sweet potato or yam or whatever, baked then smashed*
  • 3/4 c. apple juice
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil, softened
  • 1 Tbsp Blackstrap molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

*I like a little orange chunk now and again in my muffin, so I don’t whip these too much. I just mash with a fork in the measuring cup. If you suffer from puny sweet potato syndrome ( yours doesn’t make 3/4 c. add liquid -either more apple juice or milk or even applesauce until you get 3/4 c. total.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Sift the dry ingredients together. {Side note: sifters are slow and unnecessary, says me. I balance a fine mesh strainer over the bowl and dump all the ingredients right into it. Then shake, shake, shake -bumping the side of the strainer against the heel of my hand.}

Bigger bits (mostly of corn meal in this recipe) will be left in the strainer. You can either toss them out or dump those rascals into the bowl, too. Then whisk until flours are well blended. Use an electric mixer or a dinner fork to mix the wet ingredients together really well. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until all the flour is completely absorbed. With gluten free baked goods over-mixing is not a huge problem.

Scoop muffin batter into paper-lined tins.

Pretty full.

Then bake for 26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let the kid lick the bowl. He will be happy.

Mine fell in the middle, but I think that may have something to do with the old crazy (electric) oven I’m working with in my 1920’s apartment  building. Temperatures soar way past settings, sometimes at a steady 100 degrees higher, but sometimes she has a mind of her own.

Or maybe they fell from Blue screaming while we were playing in the kitchen waiting for the fabulous smell of fresh-baked-autumn-love to become a real, tangible muff in our hot little hands. Is that even true about loud noises making cakes fall? In any case, we aren’t picky around here about muffins with their own sweet style as long as they taste good.

And these beasties were delightful. Almost gingerbread-like and quite sweet for a muffin, but spicy, too. A good one to give to those people in your life who are used to refined sweeteners and sugary treats. If your not one of those or if you’ll be feeding these to children, consider cutting the sweetener down to 1/3 c.

Let the muffins cool on racks (want!) or if you’ve no racks, then try my little trick. As pictured above, I use our toaster oven’s removable grill-type tray. The idea is just to allow air to circulate around the muff while it cools. Don’t be too worried if they seem extra wet when you bust one open before they’ve cooled. These babies are MOIST. They’re good like that.

Need some motivation to bring more glorious sweet potato into your diet? Here are some compiled notes from the above mentioned Rebecca Wood’s The New Foods Encyclopedia and Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods:

  • excellent source of carotenoid antioxidants
  • very rich in vitamin A and C
  • removes toxins from the body
  • contain calcium
  • increase quality of milk in lactating mamas
  • lubricate dry conditions
  • nourish the spleen-pancreas, stomach and large intestine
  • benefit the kidneys
  • kids usually like it (although my alien child won’t eat mashed up food)

I pop one of these straight onto the oven rack when I’m baking something else, then pop it out when I can stick a fork through it, and eat it hot. So simple, but so good.

Strange side note from weird Uncle Paul (really, he’s the greatest):

If your kid swallows a coin, feed her a bunch of sweet potato because it will stick to the object so she can poop it out. Cool.

sara

day 3: vegan mofo 2010

We’ve been in the kitchen all day! Seriously. We didn’t even leave the house. It was a mad dance with pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beans, beans, beans, and the noble oat. So, stay tuned for more fabulous vegan recipes.

Including:

  • pumpkin chili stew
  • raw oat milk and raw oat groatmeal
  • xgfx sweet potato muffs

Yes!

massaging grandmother kale

When I first heard about massaging kale I thought it was some kind of hippy-dippy-woo-woo energetic thing. Which, in general, I tend to simultaneously believe in and make fun of. Why not?

I thought massaging kale was like blessing the food (which I also believe in) or not preparing food while angry (firm believer) or singing to chocolate chip cookies to make them taste better (yep, believe that too). There are actual effects from these practices, but they are subtle and most people don’t know why those vegan cupcakes or simple roasted potatoes you just lovingly coaxed into fabulousness with your posi vibes make them want to break out in dance. But massaging kale is not like that.

Those people you feed will know the difference, and not just deep inside of them somewhere they cannot name. When you massage the kale, it looks like you cooked it. It shrinks, it darkens, the flavors develop. It raises raw kale from it’s humble, squeaky knees to the shining green star of the show. As it should be.

The healing benefits of this dark leafy are awesome. Check it:

  • packed with chlorophyll, obviously
  • overall strengthening to your system
  • sweet and slightly bitter taste (benefits pitta types)
  • eases lung congestion
  • heals liver, stomach, and immune system
  • protects eyes from macular degeneration
  • exceptional source of calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C*
  • may protect against colon cancer

*p.s. Cynthia Lair says that Vitamin A and calcium are better absorbed when there’s fat present, so don’t be shy with the olive oil!

p.s.s. A lot of this info about healing properties of food I learned from Rebecca Wood ( a wise grandmother herself!)

“Alright, I’m convinced,” you say, “I’ll eat the kale, but how do I go about this massage business?” I’ll tell you.

With clean hands rip the kale leaves from the stalks. Like so:

Then rip it into bite size pieces and throw these bits into salad spinner or a big bowl. How big is bite size? Well, how big is your bite? We leave ours in pretty big chunks, then I mince some for Blue at the very end.

At this point, Blue gets super into this project and kale gets everywhere. If you have toddler help, you must be a patient but swift kale ninja, swooping up flying precious green gems from midair. Back in the bowl! If you train for many years, you can do this with chop sticks. I digress.

Submerge the greens in water to clean them. Drain. Spin in salad spinner – a wicked useful kitchen appliance I once scoffed at in my blazing ignorance. The salad spinner is rad. If you don’t have one, then dry the kale by rolling it in a towel or whatever genius method you no doubt already know because you don’t have a spinner.

Go ahead, get into it!

Which is apparently easier to do if you take your pants off.

Once the kale is dry, transfer it to a large salad bowl.

Sprinkle salt (1 tsp. per bunch of kale) over the kale. Now massage.

Kale is the grandmother of the cabbage family. As you would expect of a hardy grandma who loves you, this wizened old granny knows what’s best for ya and is gonna give your taste buds a loving slap upside the head!

Here’s how we ate ours. By this time, I was losing light, so the pictures just were not happening, but I wanted you to see how much the kale shrank from the sweet massage we gave it. See it in the corner there?

A vegan and sloppier (in a good way, I say) version of the kale salad in Cynthia Lair’s Feeding the Whole Family:

Ingredients (all organic or better):

  • 3 bunches of kale* (our whole family is apparently much hungrier than hers. they ate 1 bunch)
  • 3 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 enormous fuji apple diced small or 2 if your apples are not crazy big
  • 1 medium sized red onion diced small
  • 1 big handful raw sunflower seeds, toasted in a skillet on medium heat
  • 1 big handful currants
  • 6 Tbsps. unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • generous pour of extra virgin olive oil. I said generous.

Toss all the ingredients together and adjust the salt and vinegar if need be. Eat a belly full now and put some in the fridge for later, too. It’s a really good one to have on hand in case you are short on time, but you still need to get your daily greens in. Yes, you need to be eating green stuff daily. This is a super quick and easy way to get a bowl full of green granny love. You can usually get kale on the cheap, too. Try it!

*my favorite variety of kale, pictured above, is Dino Kale. It is sometimes called lacinato, italian, or tuscan kale.

xo

sara