We hold these truths to be self-evident…

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It’s been a rough few days. So much going on in this country that is scary to a liberal such as I…I am liberal. There. I’ve admitted it. While I have some conservative tendencies, my soul, my conscience, my leanings…all liberal. Very liberal. Don’t try to argue with me about it. You won’t change my mind…54 years and counting, your words, kind or hurtful, won’t change my mind.

I don’t know the answer to any of the big questions that are lurking out there. What I do know is, MY God made us in his image. So..that means that if you are white, or black, or pink, or purple, or rainbow colored, male, female, prefer not to orient, tall, short, thin, fat, blonde, brunette, redhead, green-haired…we are ALL made in His image. What does that mean? None of us are any better or worse than the other. We’re all sinners, we’re all loved by a God who judges us not on our exterior but by our heart.

God is omniscient. All knowing. We cannot presuppose to know what he knows. He created us all. And in creating us all, he knows us to the infinite cells in our body. So, if he knows us all and loves us unconditionally, who are we to judge each other by any standard of this earth?

It seems that it’s “cool” these days to point a finger and refer to someone derogatorily…fat, gay, stupid, Italian, etc…and I think that’s sad. It’s sad because it seems to come from the highest points in this wonderful country. And, FYI, that’s NOT what this country was founded on.

The Declaration of Independence includes (second paragraph) the statement, “We hold these truths to be self-evident – that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (There’s more after that…important stuff. Don’t know what the document says? Now you do.)

What happened this past week…it’s deplorable. Yes. It is. Can we look to the past and say the same or worse has happened? Absolutely. But are we not a better country than to continue to uphold and defend those who look to do harm to others ALSO CREATED IN GOD’S IMAGE?

It makes me sad that I worry someone is going to bash me for voicing my opinion in MY blog linked to MY Facebook page (and other social media pages)…for believing that we, as a nation, have sent too many men and women to DIE for our rights to pursue certain unalienable Rights…and it seems okay that groups of hate-mongers live and thrive in this same country that protects our rights to pursue happiness.

Let’s take a second and think on that.

My happiness centers around my family, my friends, my ability to travel freely from city to city without reproach, my ability to live without fear of imminent bodily harm because of my race, religion, orientation, or lineage. Is it too much to ask that we *all* feel uninhibited where something like that is concerned? I mean, using part of the Hippocratic oath…can’t we just agree to be able to “do no harm”?

Instead of pointing fingers at political parties or at each other and saying, “you’re wrong”…maybe we can extend a hand in friendship and agree to disagree, but also agree to DO NO HARM…to each other.

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, music was all about love. All you need is love. Love will keep us together. Love is all around. Groovy kind of love. How sweet it is to be loved by you. Cherish. I’m into something good. God only knows. Baby I love your way. Then came you. Your song. You are the sunshine of my life. Nobody does it better. Let’s stay together. Why can’t we keep these thoughts in our heads and hearts? Are you feeling frustrated? Baby I love your way. Did someone make you angry? All you need is love. Are you sad? You are the sunshine of my life.

C’mon people now. Everybody get together. Try to love one another right now.

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Southern Cobbler Life

It’s been a tiny bit of a depressing summer because my favorite farm market (Indigo Farms) is struggling. They never opened for strawberry or blueberry picking season and their garden store (extreme organic garden store extraordinaire) is closed for good. I’ve frequented the market as much as possible but they are definitely limited in what they’re selling. Used to be full of Indigo Farms jams and sauces, clearly made on site…After dropping off a foster dog to a *hopeful* forever home, I decided to brave the crazy weather and ran in. They had their own freestone peaches…wow, South Carolina peaches…to die for, and they are fantastic. After grabbing a few other things (eggplant, onions, and peppers), I saw they had INDIGO FARMS FIGS. I bought my first fig tree at Indigo. I had that tree for 3 years until Hurricane Matthew drown it last year.

So, when I got home, I wanted to bake. I stared at the eggplant for quite a while until I unpacked the peaches. They were ripe, and I noticed I also have a mango that was ready to eat too. As if the peaches and mango weren’t enough…I decided the figs would roast nicely…so, i halved the peaches, tossed the figs on a baking sheet, and added the mango too. Roasted fruit is super sweet and yummy. I sprayed mine with coconut baking spray and sprinkled it with the tiniest bit of organic sugar. 20ish minutes in the oven at 425…yum to the max.

But…what to do with the roasted fruit? Cobbler. COBBLER!!! I happen to have a Southern Living cookbook and so I checked out their cobbler recipe. Not to be outdone…I can’t just take a recipe and be happy. Nope, not me. So…here’s my Roasted Fruit Coconut Cobbler

2-3 cups of roasted fruit (any kind is fine. I used peaches, figs, and mango)

1 cup of gluten-free 1:1 flour

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 stick butter

enough coconut oil to make it 2/3 stick of butter (honestly, my division turned out with 3/20 of a cup hahaha!)

1/4 c organic shredded coconut (not sweetened)

1 handful (about 1/4 cup) of organic sugar

1 tbsp milk

1/4 tsp coconut extract (optional)

Cut the roasted fruit into bite size pieces (you may need to shred the mango). Mix the flour, salt, and sugar. cut butter and coconut oil into the flour mixture until the consistency is that of small pebbles. Refrigerate for about 15-30 minutes. You can refrigerate it for up to 24 hours.

Fill 9″ square baking pan with the chopped fruit. Crumble the cobbler topping over the fruit. Bake at 425 (same as roasting the fruit) for 45 minutes.

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Still baking cobbler

 

 

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A Bit of Buffalo in North Carolina

I’ve been wanting to make buffalo cauliflower for quite some time. So, while I am sitting here watching The Pioneer Woman…she’s making me want to cook and blog. Saturdays are meant for Ree Drummond and cooking/blogging.

All I need now-a-days is a base recipe so I picked up my phone and said….OK Google.

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In an effort to make every recipe my own, I punched a few ingredients I like into this recipe.

1 medium cut cauliflower

1/2 cup gluten free flour (you can use AP if you want)

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 cup water

1/4 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp coconut oil, melted

2/3 cup Crystal hot sauce

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/8 tsp ginger paste

1/4 tsp ancho chili powder

Mix flour, water, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper in a bowl until smooth. Add the cauliflower and coat. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, turning once.

While the cauliflower is baking, mix the rest of the ingredients together until smooth. Transfer cooked cauliflower to the bowl of hot sauce and coat. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with ranch dressing or blue cheese…or just gobble them up with no extra stuff.

**Added after the fact: serve with the buffalo sauce left-overs mixed with Duke’s mayonnaise (I *am* down south, y’all….) Bet that will have some kick. One benefit of “buffaloing” cauliflower is no cross-contamination!

Buffalo down south…I’m a fan. I admit, I have never had a buffalo chicken wing (vegetarian, y’know) but I’m hoping this kinda stuff will come close to the buffalo type of wing sauce and on a little bit of cauliflower.

…random thought….have you tried cauliflower rice? Oh Emm Gee. Maybe this sauce could be poured over that for a saucy rice. Something to try…

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I Want To Eat It All…

So for the past five years, I’ve struggled significantly with my weight. I’ve probably mentioned that a few times on here…and many other places, I’m sure.

Two weeks ago, a friend told me about a lifestyle she’s begun, called Isagenix. She told me how it has changed her eating habits and has really helped her get her health under control. We talked about all of this when I was truly feeling at my very lowest – I had surpassed the 200 lb mark and just couldn’t seem to curb my appetite. I honestly wanted to eat all the time. I had grown out of just about every piece of clothing I owned except a couple of pairs of size 16 jeans and all of my yoga pants. Well, most of my yoga pants because I was wearing a couple of pairs that were actually tight on me. Yes. Yoga pants. Tight. What.The.Hell.

I decided that I needed a change. And, with that, I bought a 30 day package of Isagenix. I’m currently about 2 weeks into the thirty day cycle and I’m just now realizing that I really don’t need to eat all the junk I had been consuming up to now. Honestly, before I started this, I couldn’t go more than a couple of hours without eating snacks of some sort. And, with that, I wasn’t really making very good choices.

Isagenix is all about eating clean, non-GMO, healthy, protein and complex carbs with a high quantity of vegetables and fruits. The products are vegetarian, and you can choose a great mix of shakes, bars, and juice-based products. I started this lifestyle thinking (as my friend did), I can do anything for 30 days. And now, I’m really feeling like this is a lifestyle I can manage for more than that. Right now, I am sticking fairly close to the “shake in the morning, healthy snack mid-morning, shake for lunch, healthy snack mid-afternoon, and portion-controlled dinner” but I can see myself flexing to keep Isagenix in my life to “power” my body with good nutrients.

The lifestyle includes one “cleanse” day per week where you drink their juice all day and lots of water with some mini-snacks that curb your appetite. I don’t love those days, but I do love that I am drinking over a gallon of water every day. That, just to be clear, has been something I could never do before.

And, twice this week I have gotten to dinner time and really not felt like eating everything in sight. Even tonight, which is typically pizza night at the house…I was more interested in salad and some fruit than the pizza. The other night I went out to eat and ordered a beer. I love Blue Moon. I drank about half of it, and with dinner (grilled shrimp), I was too full to drink it.

Yesterday, I had a Greek salad at the Pancake House and probably used a tablespoon of dressing, shared part of the salad with Jim, and left about 1/3 of it in the bowl. Couldn’t finish it.

I am unsure if I have lost much weight – I know five or six pounds for certain – but I do know I feel better and I am not constantly upset with myself for having eaten too much. I look forward to getting up tomorrow and having my shake along with my “greens” (Ionic Supreme – it’s got an apple-ish flavor and it’s like the “super-greens” thing I see in the Vitamin Shoppe.

Will I ever be the size 4 I was back in 2008? Doubt it. But, I’d really like to feel in control of something…

isagenix

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A Quarter Cup of Cocoa…and….

Here I sit watching my favorite Saturday morning show (Pioneer Woman…just can’t get enough the “life on the ranch” and cooking for her family stuff…horses, baking, cooking…how can you go wrong with that?)

I have had a hankering to bake something with the Irish butter I bought last weekend. So, I decided bake a few cookies. As always, I can’t just leave a recipe alone. So, I hauled out Old Faithful (also known as the New Doubleday Cookbook) and opened to page 831 where a pretty good recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies sits. And…what did I do? What did *I* do? Adjust it, of course. I am pretty sure, even before I turn on the oven (I can’t preheat while I’m mixing until the hot-flashes stop…) that these are gonna be great cookies. So, here’s what I did:

1 cup plus 2 tbsp AP flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tsp espresso powder

Sift these together and set aside.

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Cream these together until light and fluffy (scrape down sides of bowl as necessary)

1 egg

Add and beat well.

Mix in the dry ingredients. Add in:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I actually used 60% cacao chips)

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

Refrigerate dough for about 20 minutes.

Drop by rounded 1/2 tbsp on lightly greased baking sheets spacing cookies 2″ apart (they’ll spread)

Bake 10-12 minutes. Transfer immediately to wire racks to cool.

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It’s hard to keep the quality control team away from cookies…even though I recommended to wait until they have cooled for a bit longer. Only complaint I got was that they were really soft and falling apart (ahem…let them cool a little longer?)

The original recipe was sans:

cocoa, espresso powder, white chocolate chips

Instead, it had pecans (1/2 cup coarsely chopped). I don’t mind pecans but I really don’t like them in cookies. Why? I dunno. And Jim doesn’t like them in cookies either. So…they were voted off the island.

By the way, I’ve decided that my half sheet pan is the best pan to make…well, almost anything on. I’ve got old “jelly roll pans” that I’ve used for years as cookie baking implements but they just don’t stand up to the awesomeness of this brand new (okay, it’s a few years old) shiny half-sheet pan.

My final pile of cookies:

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Thinking of dad

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I’ll not soon forget the last few months of my dad’s life, that is a fact. But as much as possible I try to remember how he and I interacted. Little things.

One thing I remember is a day he wasn’t feeling well. Might have been shortly after a hospital stay or a day or two after chemo which mostly made him tired. I have the amazing good fortune that my company (Blackbaud…still work for them, pray I will someday retire after thirty five or so years of employment) lets me work remotely and so that day I brought my work laptop into his bedroom and sat on the bed beside him working on a class. He watched TV most of the day and slept some.

At some point, I think during the Ellen show, I put my laptop down for a bit, held his hand and put my head on his shoulder. I told him he was the best dad in the world and he squeezed my hand and probably said thank you or whatever. I don’t remember his words, but I remember his hand in my hand. It reminded me of being a kid and holding his hand. How safe do you feel when your daddy is holding your hand when you’re young? He always treated me like a princess…I was, for sure, Daddy’s little girl. But at that moment, I really felt like there were only two people in the world. Dad and me.

Those are the moments I miss. Those are the feelings I wish I could have again. He is here in my heart, but…well, for those of you who haven’t lost a loved parent (I know, some of you are not close with your parents)….you may agree with me that there are just some times that “holding him in my heart” is not enough.

Maybe some people don’t know that in his last month(s), he regretted moving to the Carolinas. He said to me on more than one occasion that he should never have moved down here. Now, admittedly, he probably wasn’t really feeling that way but he often wished he had stayed in the Boston area. I would try to instill reason in him: if he stayed in Boston, I would never have moved to South Carolina, and I would never have gotten the job at Blackbaud, started the greyhound group, bought my first house, moved in with them to help care for him and mom….none of that would have happened. It turned out that if I placed all that information in front of him, well…he didn’t have any choice but to understand and agree he had done the right thing.

Just some random thoughts and memories. There will be more.

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As blue-berry as I can be

I wanted to use up some blueberries that were in the fridge prior to them becoming small green bullets (it’s a novel idea….really, I’m much better at growing science experiments in the fridge. There’s a greek yogurt one working right this minute.

Anyway, I chose to make an oatmeal/blueberry THING I can have for lunch or breakfast this coming week in an effort to keep my one-day streak of eating better and working out (on a three day streak of working out, just a one day streak of eating better). As always, I can’t just copy a recipe verbatim. I have to tweak. So, I took this recipe for Blueberry Oatmeal Bars and changed out the banana to be 1/2 a cup of pureed pumpkin, and subbed egg whites for a whole egg. I’m not sure I added enough honey, so I’m thinking of making a blue agave/lemon syrup to pour over the top before I put them away for the week…

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Here’s another thing. I went with organic everything. Honey. Oats. Coconut Oil. Eggs. Everything…except the damn blueberries. Hard to find organic blueberries. But my blue agave is also organic.

…..Update after trying a piece….no extra sweetener needed!

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Basil and Wha?

It’s Memorial Day weekend. And, with three days off, I have to embark upon some sort of culinary or gastric excitement, right?

I did get up in time to watch my favorite Saturday morning show…Pioneer Woman. And I found nothing to actually copy this weekend. But, I did become motivated to blog which is the other part of why I love Ree Drummond. Between her and my Human Vacuum friend, I am reminded about food and blogging….at the same time.

So although my favorite farm market is unfortunately not at full function anymore (super sad…the associated garden store is now closed….the only organic farm in driving distance…so sad…) I did manage to get over to Indigo and grab some awesome fresh veggies – those have been cooked. I arrived too late to get fresh strawberries, but they did happen to have organic basil which I decided to grab.

I felt motivated to make my coconut pound cake for the weekend. And from that I cut up some grocery store-bought strawberries, sprinkled them with a little bit of lime juice and sprinkled them with organic sugar because store strawberries are not always the sweetest when bought from the grocery store.

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And then I took some lemons, squeezed and zested them into my Vitamix. I added in organic honey and a HUGE pile of basil and liquified it. To add a bit to the “sauce” I included the pulp of the lemon. I liquified the sh*t outta that stuff. Just when you thought that was enough “stuff”…I added about a cup of coconut milk. It’s sweet, earthy, tangy….really nice flavor. I intend it to go on top of the pound cake or the strawberries…maybe both.

I’ve also made my standard summer squash and onion stir fry made with summer squash and zuccini from our farm market and baby potato salad with spring onions. It’s been a cooking kinda day.

Why did I tell you all this? I don’t know. Maybe to remind you to step outside the box and use some basil today with something aside from tomato sauce or pizza…

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Apple of my eye

I quote the bible of all cookbooks to me…The New Doubleday Cookbook…frequently. Last night, after a wonderful lunch with friends, I went grocery shopping and had it in my head that I wanted to make another pie, but not strawberry again. I opted for the “old standby” pie of apple. $140 later, I left the grocery store (holy wow, did we need all this stuff?) in the rain…thank you South Carolina for raining on me when I had a pile of grocery bags….and started the process.

I channel Ree Drummond for my pantry – I’ve always got a pantry of baking products because in my world, baking is an impulse item. I don’t always know when I’m going to feel like making cake or baking cookies. So, we must have everything from vegetable shortening to gluten-free flour….you never know when you’ll be baking for someone with celiac. After last week’s strawberry-rhubarb pie, I had the right amount (like…exactly) of shortening for a 2 crust pie. Not my FAVORITE THING TO MAKE but I thought I’d go for it.

I had purchased two goliath honeycrisp apples that I thought would be enough. And…they would have been enough for a 8″ pie. Of course, my pie plate here in mom’s house is 9″ and you’d be surprised how different 1″  in diameter makes when filling a pie. So, I had to supplement with 2 gala apples. Two mom-sized gala apples.

As you probably know if you follow me, recipes are just suggestions in my house. I already kind of knew the ratios for the crust. If you took my advice and got the above bible of cooking and baking called The New Doubleday Cookbook, you can flip to the Flaky Pastry II recipe in the Pies and Pastries chapter. Luckily apple pie is less than 10 pages later. I really only used the apple pie recipe for a guideline but please note…I need to skim less and read more. Here’s why:

I peeled and cored the apples, added the lemon juice (fresh squeezed cuz that’s the way I roll) and then added the sugar. Then I went to my stand-by Penzey’s Apple Pie Spice. I actually looked at the recipe and saw it called for a whopping 3/4 of a teaspoon of spice…and well, that just doesn’t do it for me. With apples, the cinnamon needs to be bold. I believe that Penzey’s Apple Pie spice is cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. I really love that combo so even if I didn’t have the “pre-mixed” seasoning, I probably would have opted for this combo.

Here’s where I think I erred. I did know that I needed to dot the apples inside the pie with butter, but in the heat of the moment (ha), I forgot until after I put the top crust on. I’m not sure how I missed sealing the bottom crust to the top crust. I totally thought to myself, “Don’t they suggest sealing the crusts?” as I crimped. They had. But I didn’t. So, I’m not 100% sure the top will be stuck to the bottom.

And, I do have to say…although I know how to use the food processor to make pie crust dough…and it’s super easy….these last two times, I haven’t. I used the normal ole pastry blender (in fact, I have a favorite Pampered Chef pastry blender that I think is SUPER) to cut the cold vegetable shortening into the flour. It did take about 6 1/2 tablespoons of ice water…I suppose I could have used 7 but I didn’t want super-sticky dough and with pie crust you can go from perfect to sticky-soupy in 1/2 a tablespoon very quickly. I did choose not to brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar but I’m pretty sure we’ll use whipped topping for the final presentation. That’s sweet stuff.

So….yeah here’s where I have to pause. I baked it for the perfect amount of time. It is a gorgeous slightly browned, gorgeously toasty looking pie.

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An Interesting End

So, I did wind up making the pie after a long wild day at work. I did something unusual. My plan was to make a struesel topping. I even broke out the trusty Doubleday cookbook to be sure I had a good recipe for struesel. But then I noticed I still had puff pastry in the freezer. Yes, and what a great plan….flaky pie crust pastry on the bottom, crispy puff pastry on top! 

We haven’t taste-tested yet, but here it is – egg wash and a bit of sugar to make it a little sweeter.

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