Sunday, May 30, 2010

The only child

We are coming home today. Is it ever easy to come home after being in paradise? No.

Yesterday my sweet little daughter made a matter of fact statement that has left me staggered. While getting ready for the pool, sitting in front of the mirror looking at herself, she announced "Mama, my children will never have an aunt or uncle will they?" I thought about it for a moment, and realized that was totally correct. The sting of being an only child. I think about this constantly. I am quite the lone wolf in the mother world having made the decision to only have one child. M never really questioned being an only child, but I have noticed in the last six months she has starting making innocent comments about it. Each time it is a sting to my heart. It is a feeling of incompleteness that I never expected. There are many reasons we have choosen to only have one child. One of the biggest reasons is I had pelvic floor damage (nerve damage actually) from my pregnancy and birth with M. Three and a half hours of pushing during labor took its toll. My physical therapist told me there was no way to know if having a second child would make things worse or keep them the same. Then there is the living in the middle of nowhere with a baby and it makes you feel like you are going crazy feeling. After M was born I suffered from post-partum depression. No one I know suffered from depression after their child was born, and I felt very alone. Everyone I know just basked in the glow of their new baby. I did not. I wanted to flee and get my freedom back. I feel tremendous guilt for having those feelings. I live in the ultimate hippy community that has an unspoken code of motherhood I felt I could not live up to. I was not happy spending every single day with my baby with no breaks. I was not happy living 20 minutes away from my nearest friend (40 min. drive to my other friends) and feeling like that was my only life line to sanity. I could not fathom that my dear mother-in-law could only visit me every three months and give me the breath of life and freedom I so badly needed.
These are all the factors that led me to the decision that I was not strong enough or supported enough to have a second child. Physically or emotionally. I was not cut of the same strong fabric other mothers and friends I knew were. I embraced my single child life with gusto, looking at all the positive aspects. She is really easy to travel with. She gets the attention of both her daddy and mother daily. She has a mother who schedules play dates with precision-like efficiency. She has her own domain at home; a universe not required to be shared with anyone but her visiting friends.  And yet, I question it every day. I wonder what it will be like to be old and have the burden of that rest on one child's shoulders. I wonder if she knows that she only has herself while others have siblings.
And now I have arrived to the time in our lives that she too, is questioning.        

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Terranea Resort

No cooking this week! My sister invited M and I to spend Memorial Day weekend in Southern California at a new resort called Terranea. It has been open just shy of a year, and it is quite amazing. It is right on the ocean. We have seen dolphins and seals, scuba divers and kayakers. The resort compound is huge! I really like that is does not seem overly crowded and the resort is very open like resorts in Hawaii. There are some special perks that I don't normally see in hotels like complimentary bottled water and lemon water at the pool served in compostable corn based cups! There are hiking trails right on the ocean surrounding the whole resort, and a great pool set-up for children complete with a water slide. The pool is a salt water pool that is heated (very necessary as it is on the cool side right now) and umbrellas for all the lounge chairs. The food so far has been ok, but I am tough sell when it comes to food. There are four restaurants here, so it is nice to be able to stay here and enjoy dinner on the ocean. The spa is fantastic. It has its own pool that is right on the ocean. My sister found this resort on Trip Advisor, and it has very much exceeded my expectations. I have not seen a large, sprawling 4-star type resort in California which makes it very convenient if you don't want to fly to Hawaii or Mexico. The very best part is it is not uptight like the Ritz or Four Seasons and most likely half the price and three times the size and just a nice. Well, here are some photos....

This is the spa pool.....

View from the elevators of the "family" pool

The adult pool and bar......beyond is the ocean cove

Looking back at the resort from the cove

Me and M. Is every photo of me on my blog have this hat and sunglasses in it??

Auntie D and M...

Fun at the restaurant!

View of the cove from one of the hiking trails....

View of the ocean and spa from our balcony.....

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mad Hatter Tea Party

This weekend my friend and neighbor Erin had a bridal shower. It was a Mad Hatter themed tea party complete with blessings, music and prose. Held on a meadow across the road from her house (that she build by hand no less!) a group of women showered her with love and well wishes. She is a woman of many, many talents, so there is a lot to love about her. She is a mainstay in our community, an organizer, peacemaker, lawyer, artist, home builder, daughter and sister. She was the very first friend I made here in our neighborhood. Erin also thinks quick on her feet and is cool under pressure. She would be the first person I would call if calamity hit my house. This dynamic woman has found her soul mate and pretty much everyone I know is just over the moon about it. Her fiance Lars is also my good friend, and he has just as many wonderful things about him as Erin does!
Erin's photo is the one at the top.....see how she is just beaming with happiness?! Thank you Erin for letting us all love you and wish you well on your marriage journey. The world is a better place now that you and Lars have found each other.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Artichokes with Red Pepper Cashew Sauce

My daughter has embraced artichokes this season. I wonder if it the artichokes she likes best, or the little bowl of melted butter to dip the artichokes in that is her favorite. Tonight she ate three of them. I roughly trim the artichokes, then quickly steam them for 8 minutes in my pressure cooker. Yesterday, I made a sauce from raw cashews and red pepper that seemed a good pairing for artichokes. After cooking the artichokes, I removed the heart, and sauteed it with a bit of white wine, butter and fresh thyme. Topped with the cashew sauce, it was a wonderful appetizer.
This red pepper cashew sauce is very versatile. It would be great on roasted cauliflower, dipping sauce for bread, or sauce to top a meatloaf. It was even better the second day. Very easy to make, and highly recommended.

Red Pepper Cashew Sauce
(makes about 2 cups)

1 1/2 cups raw cashews
1 medium red pepper chopped into 2 inch pieces (seeds and stem removed)
1/8 cup great quality extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbls tamari
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp chopped shallot

In a blender add ingredients and blend. I had to jiggle my blender to get things going. Blend for 5 or so minutes until very smooth. Serve or store overnight to merry flavors.

(4 large artichokes)

1 heaping tbls butter
2 tsp fresh thyme plus a fresh spring
4 large artichokes
1/4 cup dry white wine

Trim artichokes by cutting top 2 inches off top as well as the stem. Pick the outer most leaves off and discard. Steam in a big pot with 2 inches of water covered for 25-35 minutes (or until tender) or in a pressure cooker for 8 minutes. If leaves pull out easily, then you know the artichoke is cooked.
Save the leaves if you would like to eat them, and cut out the artichoke heart. In a sautee pan over medium high heat, add one heaping tablespoon of butter, 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves and 1/4 cup dry white wine. Add artichoke hearts when sauce starts to bubble. Stir to cover the artichokes with the sauce and cook down until the wine evaporates and thickens (about 5 minutes on med. high heat). Plate artichokes, and use a spoon to equally divide the sauce over the artichoke hearts. Spoon about a tablespoon of the red pepper sauce and top with a small sprig of thyme!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cardamom & Blue Corn Madeleines

This week I discovered sprouted rice flour at my coop. The same day I also bought some cardamom infused pasture ghee. I have been putting it everything and asking politely if my friends and family would make dishes that include it this week too. Thank you friends for obliging! I have also noticed that ghee is pretty expensive. So, I decided to make my own infused butter that is a step shorter than making ghee, with pasture butter that has just come into season. Organic Valley sells a wonderful version available May-October.  I walked around for a day thinking about the perfect companion to cardamom infused butter. Blue corn meal came to mind. I know that madeleines are a high art, and there is a quite specific method to their madness. I adhered somewhat to the method. I used butter, flour, baking powder and eggs. I wanted to try a buttery, flavor laden fat that would sing along with the blue corn meal flavor and vanilla that would cool down the cardamom bite. I also wanted to make a gluten free cake that included sprouted rice flour in place of gluten flour. I was curious how I might use sprouted rice flour and thought it might bode well in a recipe that is light, fluffy and assisted by baking powder for a rise.
Well, these little honey sweetened gems are gluten free and pack a punch. I imagine that David Lebovitz might have some words of wisdom about how far I strayed from the madeleine code of ethics, but maybe he might take mercy upon me and my use of a gluten-free flours. Either way, it was fun to experiment. Next I am going to be baking something with the organic sprouted spelt flour that just arrived in the mail...

Cardamom & Blue Corn Madelines with Vanilla

9 tlbs butter (I used pasture butter)
1/2 cup honey
1 tbls grand marnier
2 tsp. crushed vanilla beans (or a whole bean with seeds removed and added)
12 cardamom pods crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs separated
2/3 cup sprouted rice flour
1/2 cup organic blue corn meal
3/4 tsp baking powder

Combine butter, honey, crushed cardamom pods (I used a mortal and pestle) vanilla and salt
Warm to almost bubbling, then add grand marnier and stir.  Set aside for 15 minutes to steep. Strain the vanilla and cardamom pieces out with a sieve, then discard pieces and let strained butter mixture to cool to room temperature. Whisk egg yolks into butter mixture when butter mixture is room temperature.

Combine flours and baking soda in a bowl, and add butter/honey and mix just until combined. Set aside.  

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into the flour mixture just until combined.

Spoon batter into oiled madeleine forms (I used a baking non-stick spray) and bake at 350 on top rack of oven for 10 minutes.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Meyer Lemon Tofu

Meyer Lemons are deeply satisfying to me. Less tart than regular lemons, they have a rich flavor, soft skin and lots of juice. I randomly pick up meyer lemons in my kitchen just to smell their familar, soft aroma. It makes me happy.
When I thought of this dish, I was thinking about sushi. I used to eat salmon at our local sushi restaurant. It was served with super-thin slices of lemon on top that made it pop with flavor in my mouth. Since then, I have craved sliced lemon in my food. Rind and all. I think the rind is an important texture component, and if sliced thinly enough, it works. Using the whole rind and pith of the lemon fruit also increases the amount of vitamin C you are eating. Although cooking the lemon I would guess wipes a lot of vitamin C out...oh well!
I have stopped eating most fish these days due to heavy metals and over fishing in the oceans, but will still eat an occasional sushi roll here and there. I have also switched over my DHA supplement from fish sourced to algae sourced. DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) has many wonderful roles in the body and cardiovascular health, and I prefer it to all the others essential fatty acid supplements. Studies have shown that the metabolic pathways that metabolize fatty acids are not always intact.  So DHA is not always converted from EPA or flax seed oil or other nuts and seeds. It is the conversion of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) in flax oil for example to EPA then to DHA that needed for use in the body, and some scientists are theorizing (and now testing in individuals) that people with family histories that include asthma, allergies, depression and alcoholism lack the enzymes in the pathways to make the conversions of ALA to EPA to DHA. So why not just take DHA and not worry if you are lacking the ability to metabolize essential fatty acids properly? Genova Diagnostics has an essential fatty acid test that can measure a person's ability to metabolize fatty acids. Most MD's are not familar with this kind of science, so don't expect a kind ear if you are planning on discussing this at your next check-up. Sometimes, it is not just a matter that we are eating Omega 3 fatty acids, it is a matter of how well our genetics and environmental factors allow us to metabolize these omega 3 fatty acids into usable metabolically active fats.
Well, now that the science lesson is out of the way, I will get back to the tofu recipe!

I made this dish in my wok, and made sure it was very, very hot. I used a couple of teaspoons of canola oil (good for high heat) for searing the tofu. I only use canola oil sparingly due to the high omega-6 fatty acid content.  I waited until the end to add the chard. I wanted it wilted and served it after its juices had caramelized. The slices of meyer lemon were just lovely. The toasted sesame seed oil balanced out the tart nicely. We ate ours with steamed brown rice, but quinoa would be great with this dish.

3 tbls mirin
2 tbls rice vinegar
1 tbls soy sauce
2 tbls cooking sherry
2 tbls toasted sesame seed oil
Add to a bowl, mix with a spoon and set aside

1 block of tofu (I use sprouted organic tofu)
2 small meyer lemons
1 1/2 cups onions sliced thin (I used spring onions)
1 bunch of chard roughly chopped

Cut tofu into 2 inch or slightly smaller pieces. Pat dry with a towel and set aside. Patting the tofu dry will help it sear and brown.
Cut onions into thin slices and set aside
Wash and trim chard and use salad spinner to remove any excess water
Slice meyer lemons into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices (I had some super thin and others thicker for texture)

In a very hot wok, add 2 tsp of canola oil. When wok is very hot and oil starts to dance around, add tofu and cover wok. Stir tofu every minute or so, allowing each side of the tofu to brown and sear. After about 8 minutes, add the onions, lemons and sauce. Cover again for a minute and then stir the tofu, vegetables and sauce until onions start to brown, are wilted and the sauce has evaporated (about 7 minutes). Add chard and stir in. This will help it start to wilt. After the chard juices have evaportated (less than 2 minutes), serve.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Sixth Year Is Here!

                         Here I am in labor, in the horse trough......

Today, six years ago I was in labor. It was about this time I had already been in labor for 12 hours and my midwife came to my house and gave me the unsettling news that I was only 5 centimeters dilated. Me, being the capricorn that I am, had prepared for this moment. Lots of preparation. 8 months of hypnobirthing training. 9 months of bikram pregnancy poses. Perineal stretching. All that was missing was an indoor toilet. We even had the horse trough our midwives brought to our house days before,  filled with lovely warm water for me to bliss out in while I was having "pressure surges". Painful contractions were not going to be an experience I was going to have. I had my native american flute music all queued up on my mp3 player. Soup was made for all my "birth helpers". I was ready!

Ok, now I am laughing about it.

Perhaps all my preparation prevented me from having a birth with complications. I did indeed have a home birth. My midwife tells me it was a very "normal" birth. 3 1/2 hours of pushing and 29 hours total, start to finish. It was not pain-free, and it was not easy. None of my labor preparations worked out how I thought. But, my little honey child came bursting out, snorting and crying in one massive push (because I was convinced I was dying at that point, and could not fathom ONE more contraction!) and all that hard work has been worth every single nanosecond to have the force of nature that is my most precious gift, my daughter. In the end, everything about her has been better than I ever expected or imagined. Happy Birthday to my sweet daughter, and happy birth day to me!


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