mindful moments

It's hard to find someone who doesn't love a sunny day. When it's warm out, and the air is clean, we can get outside of our homes and bask in the warmth and happiness of the sun.

It's harder to love a rainy day. But rainy days are inevitable, and the key to enjoying them is to embrace the opportunity to turn inward, and nurture the lives we lead in our homes.

Like the weather, we go through emotions of sunshine and rain. We can hope to always have sunny days...when hustle and bustle and happiness take us outside of ourselves.

But there are bound to be rainy days. And we can spend them wishing for the sun, or we can turn inward and nurture what we carry around all the time, deep within us. These are the places of introspection and truth. And when we're brave enough to face our own inner darkness and learn from it, we are ready to bloom even brighter when the sun comes out again.


missing it before it's over

July is rolling into August, and I have no idea where the summer has gone. Part of me has desperately been trying to hold onto it, wondering how so much time has passed and how I will ever manage to make the most of the next four busy weeks. And how will I ever live without cherries?!

But then yesterday came along, and when J and I came home from the movies soaking wet, I changed into jeans and boots, and it just felt so right. (It's definitely been months since I've worn anything past the calf.) We ventured back out into the rain again for the Best Meal I've Had in I Don't Know How Long to celebrate J's recent success. We'll be going back so I can snap some pics for you...but in the meantime, it remains our hidden gem. ;-) When we got home, we cozied up with some tea and then had one of the most satisfying sleeps we've had in a long time. It was something about the cool rain, I think...

Take your time, Autumn, but when you arrive, I'll welcome you.

This weekend my parents and brother are coming to town, and I could not be more excited. They're just in time for cherries.

Do tell me if there's anything I must do before August comes to a close. But otherwise, I'll be sitting back with a glass of iced tea and eating as many cherries as I can...


maia greek yogurt review and giveaway

Update: This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to winner Molly!

Goodness gracious...have I really neglected my little blog space for a week now? Lady Summer must really have me in her grasp. It's been a little busy, I suppose. The biggest news around here is that J has successfully defended his dissertation proposal. Yippee! He's been allowing himself some time to just lounge around, but we'll be sure to celebrate properly soon.

To make up for my absence, I'll share something pretty special with you today.

Ever heard of Maia Greek yogurt? I hadn't either, but it's the new big thing to hit the shelves of the grocery store.

Actually, Greek yogurt is the one dairy item that I pretty much feel okay eating. (Otherwise, normal servings of dairy tend to not sit so well with me.) And Maia makes a wonderfully healthy version. Each 6 oz. cup has only 2 g of added sugar, and in my opinion, that makes for a more delicious, authentic flavor. And its full of probiotics and prebiotic fiber that are designed to be extra supportive of moms-to-be. (Don't look at me though...I was just in it for the berries.)

I really liked all of the flavors I tried (the three pictured above), though the texture wasn't as creamy as I expected from a Greek yogurt. But the tang was definitely there, and so was the taste.

I mixed the strawberry cup with a ripe banana for some really yummy and refreshing strawberry-banana popsicles.

And the vanilla went into a recipe I'll be sharing soon.

In the mean time, Maia has some free cup coupons and a t-shirt to share with one of my readers! This giveaway is only open to my readers in the US, and you might want to check the nearest store that carries Maia, because it's mostly available in the Northeast. Or you could enter anyway, send the coupons to a friend in the Northeast and keep the tee. =)

Entry is super simple too. Just leave a comment below about anything (Do you like yogurt? Do you cook with yogurt? Do you really want a popsicle now?). And be sure to share the love!

The giveaway will close next Friday evening, 8/3.


fantasy friday: cinnamon rolls from the burbanks' kitchen

Darsie obediently got up, took the sugar bowl and went out to the kitchen. After a long long time he came back to the breakfast table with a plate of cinnamon rolls.
"What are these for?" his father said. "And where is the sugar?"
"Sugar?" said Darsie. "What about sugar?"
"I told you to fill the sugar bowl," said Mrs. Burbank.
"Oh," said Darsie, "I thought you said, 'Get the cinnamon roll.'"

from Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic by Betty MacDonald

The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series is full to the brim with references to classic American foods like sugar cookies, root beer floats, and peanut butter sandwiches. I read all of the books (multiple times) as I was growing up, and true to my foodie tendencies, I was often distracted by the foods described at the characters' mealtimes, parties, or garden club meetings.

Written in the 1940's and 1950's, it's no surprise that these classics pop up through all the books. This was a time of economic abundance and the growing popularity of pre-packaged foods. The most vogue recipes were the ones that included brand names. So it was a time when a lot of American classics were born.

And it doesn't get much more classic (or delicious) than cinnamon rolls.

My rolls are stuffed with plenty of cinnamon and pecans, so they are reminiscent of pecan spinwheels. Made completely with whole wheat flour, I was afraid these would be a bit too heavy or chewy. But while they're not as cake-y as their white flour counterparts, the texture is actually really lovely, like a soft bread.

Um, also? Vegan.

I couldn't bring myself to make them without real icing and a candied center though, so you'll find that these call for brown and powdered sugar. But compared to a typical recipe, they require only about half of what's usually used. And if you'd like to make it even healthier, you could substitute palm sugar for the brown sugar, and try this date syrup as icing.

I'm pretty sold on this version though. Even J, who is notorious for his rejection of sweet snacks, couldn't keep his paws off of these.

Cinnamon Pecan Rolls


For the dough...
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 packet active yeast
2 tbsp, + 1 tsp brown sugar
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp unsweetened applesauce, at room temperature

For the filling...
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp, + 2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp oil
1/2 cup pecans

For the icing...
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
small amount of almond milk

1. Heat the milk in the microwave until 100-110 degrees (about 1 min). Sprinkle 1 tsp of the brown sugar and the yeast over the milk. Stir, then set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, combine the 2 tbsp brown sugar, 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Form a well in the mixture, then pour in the yeast and applesauce. Stir until holding together, then add the rest of the flour a couple of tablespoons at a time. When stirring is no longer possible, begin kneading the dough, adding more flour until you have a ball without stickiness. I needed the full 3 cups of flour...you might even need a bit more.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about a 12" by 18" rectangle, about 1/4" thick. Combine the four filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Spread evenly over the dough, leaving about 1" empty on a long edge. From the opposite edge, roll the dough up, then pinch to seal. You will have a long tube of dough.
4. Cut the ends off, then cut the dough into 12 pieces. Grease a baking dish and carefully place the pieces in it, with the cinnamon spirals facing up. Cover with a warm dishtowel and place in a warm place to rise, about 45-60 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes. Allow rolls to cool for at least 10 minutes before icing.
6. To the powdered sugar, add a very small amount of almond milk (less than 1 tsp). Stir until well combined, and add more milk as needed, until desired consistency. Stir in the vanilla, then drizzle over the cinnamon rolls.


mindful moments

First a pop, then a gush.
Immaculate sweetness or invigorating tang...

Let there be nothing else but that moment.


summertime pizza

When summer bucket lists started popping up on my favorite blogs in May and June, I resisted the temptation. I love lists. But I don't always do well with them. Instead of getting me to enjoy the summer, I'm pretty sure a bucket list would send me on a mad, stressful spree to complete All The Things! on my list.

So I didn't make one.

But in the back of my head, I thought...this summer, I'd like to...
...go to the beach
...read children's books
...go to the flea market
...get on a boat
...paint some furniture
...make pizza

So I chose the hottest weekend our apartment has seen, cranked the oven to 450 degrees, and made healthy, whole wheat, vegan pizza.

And despite the oppressive heat in our little kitchen, it was so fun.

I made the crust and J made the pesto. We rolled out our dough together and put on our toppings. And when it was done, we tried to watch a movie over the sound of all our crunching.

Of course, you can make this pizza however you want. The dough makes two pizzas with thin crusts, the size of average baking sheets. If you make your crust thicker, adjust your cooking time longer. I am a big fan of a thin, crispy crust, reminiscent of the pizzas I ate in the Italian sidewalk cafés of Berlin. And there's nothing quite as satisfying as being able to eat a whole pizza in one sitting.

We topped ours with a purple basil pesto for sauce, mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, and arugula. Arugula is my favorite pizza topping. Just try it. But be sure to pile it on after baking. (I added about twice as much after I took these photos.) Having fresh summer produce on this pizza made it worth the hot kitchen.

We opted to skip the cheese, even the vegan kind. After all, authentic pizza runs the gamut from fluffy to flat, topped with just olive oil and herbs, to every vegetable known to man. Make it your own! I was also really inspired to try it after hearing Ellen talk about veganism.

100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

1 cup warm water
1 packet active yeast
1 tsp palm sugar OR white sugar
2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour, + some extra
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil, + some extra

1. The water should be around 100 to 110 degrees. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the water, stir, then set aside to proof.
2. In the meantime, combine 2 cups of the flour and salt in a bowl, then make a little well in the mixture. When the yeast has sat for 5-10 minutes, pour the yeast mixture and olive oil into the well, and stir the dough gently to mix.
3. As dough begins to hold together, start kneading it by hand, and add the additional flour a tablespoon at a time to prevent stickiness. I only needed another 3 tablespoons. The dough should form a nice ball that holds together well without stickiness.
4. Lightly coat the mixing bowl and dough in oil. Put the dough in the bowl, cover with a damp dish towel, and place somewhere warm to rise for one hour. Towards the end of this time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
5. When dough has doubled in size, split into two pieces and roll each piece out on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to lightly floured baking sheets, top with toppings of your choice, and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your crust.


Purple Basil Pesto

1/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup olive oil
5 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
one large bunch of purple basil

Pluck the leaves and the more tender stems from the basil. Combine with the other ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.


from the market

Hope you are enjoying the bounties of the season!

I wish I could share all the lovely market faces with you...the man who calls out which produce is the tastiest, the woman who will sit on a bench with you and chat until her husband arrives, the babies who somehow keep smiling through the heat and the hubbub.

But I'm a little shy about asking to snap photos. Has anyone mastered this delicate task?

I'll keep practicing, and in the meantime...happy weekend, friends.


the body as a compass

I recently read that your body is the channel for your spirit's expression in the world. The idea is that there is something profoundly reverent about physical existence. In the Western world, spirituality is traditionally associated with the mind...quiet intellect, introspection, penitence, and grace. But my body is my temple is more than just a cliché. The body is one of the first places where we can begin to express love and compassion. How we fuel, use, and nurture our bodies can be deeply spiritual in nature, regardless of individual beliefs, and is indeed, very related to what goes on in the mind. We must love ourselves before we can truly love others, and our physical choices directly affect the world, from violence to sustainable consumption.

On a more grounded level, the body is often an expression of our internal wellness. While not all physical afflictions are necessarily indicators of internal unrest, many are inextricably linked to internal distress, as when stomach pain manifests from anxiety. And a healthy mental state is often a key aspect of physical healing. This is precisely why weight loss cannot be achieved and maintained through miracle pills or a scientific exercise routine alone. Such journeys begin with self-love and presence of mind.

The health and vibrancy of our bodies are, at the least, linked to our mental processes. And for many of us, the link is far deeper...our bodies can be a powerful means for self-transformation, and transformation of the world.


greens...inside and out

Here is the number one rule of the summer: either have a garden, or get to a farmer's market.

Then get your hands on some fresh kale.

And use it to make the healthiest junk food I know: kale chips.

How to Make Kale Chips

{Preheat your oven to 275-300 degrees. Wash and dry your kale. (I like the dinosaur kale, because it lies flat, and the water beads off of it when washed.) Slice the center stalk from each piece of kale. (I freeze these to use in smoothies...I'm not sure how much nutrition they have, but I can't bring myself to throw away all that produce!) Cut into chip-sized pieces. Use your hands to mix the kale gently in a bowl with olive oil and salt. You can add whatever seasonings you like...I just added nutritional yeast. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes. This will probably take a few cycles, depending on the size of your baking sheets and amount of kale. Store in a sealed plastic container.}

J and I ate almost all the kale chips I made in one sitting...one beautiful, sunshine-y sitting.

We washed them down with iced rooibos tea and dark chocolate. And then we enjoyed a quiet Sunday afternoon in the park.

And a little birdy told me it was a special day.

Happy birthday, Mom!


banana coconut curry

There was a glorious week last summer when my life looked like this:

Go ahead...close your eyes and imagine the sound of the waves, the feel of the sun, and the taste of every meal prepared by someone else.

It tastes good.

We have no tropical getaways planned for this summer, and I'll be making all my own meals. But at least they can taste like the tropics.

Bananas and coconuts are definitely two of the best things to come out of warmer places than Boston.

Eating locally is good. Eating bananas and coconuts is better.

This rice dish is one of those beautifully complex-tasting dishes. It's vegan, but without the banana it tastes like a yogurt curry thanks to the subtle tang of lime juice. Add the banana in, and the flavor becomes so fragrant and fascinating. To me, it almost tastes like the smell of ylang-ylang. I know that sounds weird...but it's weird in the best possible way.

Banana Coconut Curry

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups uncooked brown rice
2 bananas
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 a can of full fat coconut milk
1 tbsp + 1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they are just softening. Add the garlic and continue to saute until onions are translucent.
2. Pour 4 1/2 cups of water into the pan and add the rice. Increase the heat to high and cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the rice to simmer until water is absorbed (40-50 minutes).
3. Remove the rice from the heat and set aside, still covered. Slice the bananas and gently combine with the lime juice. Add the coconut milk, curry, salt, and banana mixture to the rice and mix well. Serve topped with shredded coconut.


peanut butter gingerbread muffins with WILD HARVEST organics

It's almost July, but I'm pretty sure it's actually Christmastime.

There are a few things that make me think so:

1. Our bedroom is frigid. "It's the air conditioning," I hear you say. No...it's Christmastime.
2. After I registered for the Healthy Living Summit, I received a box full of free food with a note in it that basically said, "Here are some ingredients to try in new recipes. Go nuts." Merry Christmas to me.
3. Our whole apartment smells like gingerbread.

And I feel like a kid on Christmas morning, because these muffins are that good.

They are a big treat for me, because they have more sugar than I'm used to, but it's so worth it. They are just sweet enough to get a lightly candied top, but not so sweet that they taste like cupcakes. Anyone else notice the disturbing trend that muffin recipes look more and more like cupcake recipes?!

And generally, these are very healthy. They are vegan and completely whole wheat. The palm sugar keeps the glycemic index low (and adds an essential depth of flavor). And they are full of spices with good-for-you effects (cinnamon regulates blood sugar, ginger and cloves are anti-inflammatory).

Applesauce provides most of the moisture...so these babies are moist. Perfectly soft and chewy, best served fresh.

I'm hoping everyone agrees with me on this, because I'm entering them into the summit's recipe challenge. The free ingredients I spoke of were sent by Supervalu, Inc., the producer of WILD HARVEST organic foods. They're sponsoring the recipe challenge, which requires the use of three of the ingredients they sent in that goody box. I used their creamy peanut butter, ground ginger, and unsweetened applesauce in these muffins.

Peanut Butter Gingerbread Muffins

1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup palm sugar
1 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil or light olive oil
1 tbsp palm sugar, for topping

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a muffin pan with liners, or grease the muffin cups. If the pan is non-stick, neither is necessary.
2. Combine the flour, baking soda, and spices in a mixing bowl. Use a fork to cut in the peanut butter until small clumps are evenly distributed through the mix.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine sugar, applesauce, and oil. Add the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, stirring until just mixed. Do not overmix.
4. Scoop into muffin cups and sprinkle the tbsp of palm sugar over the tops. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Best served fresh, still slightly warm.