Sunday, February 24, 2013

Did I Learn To Be Loving & Butternut Squash Stuffed Radicchio with Cumin Oil

Ever have a moment when you wonder "If I died tomorrow"...kind of thought? What comes after that thought and summation of our lives? I think about this constantly. And my spiritual yardstick for this is, Did I Learn To Be Loving.  I go through my interactions and more importantly my thoughts as an assessment for this daily.

My human-ness mucks it up a lot. When I go back and ask myself "did I learn to be loving?"  I realize that has to include asking that question about myself. Self-forgiveness has proven to be more of a challenge than forgiving others. On Valentines Day I felt this deeply. I chose to be with someone who did not show up in a way I felt was loving. I do not blame them now though.  They were just being who they are all those years. And more true now, they were showing up in a way that was a mere reflection of how I truly saw myself. Now, I take responsibility for knowing this and my decision to stay year after year after year. And still, it is hard to forgive myself for taking that path. It comes up in the oddest ways. Now that I know I am most likely too old to have more children, I judge myself for putting myself in the position of feeling so depleted in my 30's that more children sounded frightening. Or, having bad credit in my 40's because of a short sale. So now I am a single mother, a renter, have bad credit and am climbing out of a self devised hole. Or could it be that I see the light after getting pushed off a cliff in my late 30's.  And now I am like a precious new child entering into the world and all of its experiences and ready now for experiencing love and acceptance that I was not ready for before. And there in that place is a profound amount of gratitude I have for things falling apart so I could learn lessons about learning to be loving. That just happened to be what mine looked like. Now I sense that the set up of our lives and each of our paths are to do just this; learn to love. And the constructed story lines are different for all of us; war, poverty, injustice, abuse, abandonment, oppression, addictions. All lead us to the same place; learning to be more loving.

Last night I watched for the first time, the movie Out of Africa. First, I fell even more in love with Meryl Streep. But, I thought about the adventure, heartache and lessons one might learn picking up their life and just following a dream like in that movie. So in one way I could be mad at myself for choosing not to do that in my prime "30's" out of fear,  or feel grateful that now I am in my 40's and can get down to business. Honestly it fluctuates depending on the day. And once someone chooses the path of "Did I Learn To Be Loving" all moments matter, all interactions matter, all choices matter, including the ones based on how I feel about myself. I hold myself accountable for how my life is playing out, not others. And I will say, it is easier to hold others accountable. That abusive husband, that mean boss, that abandoning mother, that oppressive dictator, that surgeon who messed up, the drunk driver, the bacteria that caused illness, the fire that destroyed everything, the storm that made the tornado.

But, I am not to go back to that old way. And I am deeply grateful to have the world as a perfectly put together teacher, down to the molecule atom and quark. Nothing is random in the world of Did I Learn To Be Loving.

So I am only 41 and I have a world that is conspiring for my wholeness. And if it took 38 years to come to that, I am grateful. 

This recipe is a perfect light winter dish. Radicchio and Butternut squash are both readily available. I like how the bitter of the the radicchio compliments the sweet, warm taste of the butternut squash and the expansive flavor of the cumin oil.

I added chopped preserved lemon to the butternut squash to kick it up a few notches. It came out brilliant. A fancy, flavorful vegan dish that it spectacular enough to be a main dish or dainty enough to be a side dish.

 I regularly roast a butternut squash to have on hand. I eat it plain or with salads or make into a soup. You could use any winter squash in this recipe however. I happen to have had cooked butternut squash in my fridge waiting to be discovered in a new dish!

Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemon Stuffed Radicchio with Cumin Oil   
makes 4 servings

2 cups cooked butternut squash
3 heaping teaspoons finely chopped preserved lemons 
pinch salt
6-8 radicchio leaves
1 heaping teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbls olive oil

In a coffee or spice grinder, grind the cumin and red pepper. In a small bowl, put the spices and 2 Tbls of olive oil. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Mash butternut squash with a fork in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and finely chopped preserved lemons. Using about 1 heaping tablespoon for each radicchio leaf, roll up the spoonful of butternut squash mixture in a radicchio leaf and set seam side down in a oven proof pan that has a small drizzle of olive oil in it.

Drizzle cumin oil over the stuffed radicchio leaves and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Carefully set stuffed radicchio leaves on a serving platter and spoon the cumin olive oil on top.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Almond Flour Chocolate Cookies & Doing Comes Out Of The Overflow Of Being

This recipe is such a good segue for a theme I am currently working on; "Doing comes out of the overflow of Being." I think to even say that I am "working on it" is a misnomer because really, I don't see that humans work on things. I am think humans are more apt to to accept and allow things. It feels like working on a koan (in zen buddhism koan is "the place truth is declared") with each moment I allow instead of struggle against. Cookies can have days they turn out well, and days the edges get burned. I settle into my cookie "being" which allows the "doing" of the cookie making to come forward. So there you go. Zen in the Kitchen.

Struggling with an illness seems to be the work of doing. In so many ways. One might say; "I don't want to be sick, so I will do all I can do to not be sick." Supplements, diet, direction, tests, interpretation, advocates. We do do do do to get out of the illness. The perfect metaphor we hear about this is "I am going to beat this disease." Rarely do I hear "I am going to love this disease." I wonder why. Is loving a disease that could kill us putting us too close to the idea that disease may have more power than us? Draw too much attention to being "in" a disease state? Or I am not going to love a disease because my disease is "ruining" my life why would I love something that can ruin my life or kill me? Or could it be that a disease could be the one way ticket, the fastest route possible, to the magic treasure box of the deepest love and acceptance we have ever known inside ourselves. Instead of putting on boxing gloves, we look inward and and love from the place of acceptance.

So what if we stopped doing. What if this place right here was just the right place to be. What if the current state of illness was just the right place to be. The sadness was just the right place to be. We look nowhere else except at this moment, right here and now with illness or suffering and say "ok this is hard. I am struggling. I am accepting that I am struggling. I am accepting this path right at this moment and love it." Could that change the cellular response. Could that acceptance and love towards the moment we are in have profound effects on our biology? I know that our society tells us we have to fight, be strong, overcome. We are a nation of fighters. What if we became a nation of people who love? And anything, no matter what it was, (hurricanes, disease, poverty, injustice, classism) became nothing more than a reflection to ourselves to love more. This is my work. As I talk to the school office lady on the phone at my daughters school, I struggle with this. As I look at the polar ice caps melting, I struggle with this. It is a minute to minute decision to stay in the loving.

I say yes though. I say that we could spend a day or even a few minutes immersed in complete acceptance about where we are at. And if we did, our adrenal glands might stop working so hard and our cortisol levels could shift for the better. Our neurotransmitters may come into a more balanced state. Our biology could shift in a single moment by a single thought. It could. Love can do that. Love can move us out of a situation quicker than any other action. Try it. Tell me what happens.

So these cookies...

I made them for three kids at my house (one of them mine, two of them I love like they are mine) for an after school project. Nothing crazy; just another Paleo-ish cookie to whip up. I like that it is only 10 minutes of preparation. Chocolate Dream chocolate chips by Sunspire are gluten and dairy free. I cannot find chips that don't have grain sweetener. I am waiting for someone to invent coconut sugar sweetened chocolate chips! You could leave out the chips to make them super duper grain free. I like the texture and extra burst of chocolate they gave the cookies though. These cookies are tender and have a good amount of chocolate, which I am prefer over mild chocolate cookies. And the best part was the kids did not know it was almond flour until I told them!

It was quite easy and quick!!

2 cups almond meal
1 stick butter room temperature (I use pasture butter)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla powder
1/3 cup coco powder
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 Tbls honey
8 oz. chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. baking powder

Mix almond meal, baking powder, salt, coco powder in bowl.

In separate bowl, cream butter then add maple syrup, honey and eggs one at a time.

Mix in dry ingredients into bowl. Add chips and fold in. Use a parchment lined cookie sheet and spoon about a tablespoon of dough for each cookie at least 2 inches apart.

Bake for 20 min at 350 degrees.


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