WHAT SHALL I COOK?

Just a short post today. My internet service has been down (supposedly being upgraded; we shall see…) Besides, I’m feeling a bit lazy…

Having a birthday recently meant being gifted with an Amazon gift card. What to buy? What to buy? (Yes, I meant both of those…I was thinking…) The answer was relatively easy this time. And look what arrived in my mail yesterday!

Vegan Pantry Cookbook

Yes, that really is Miyoko Schinner’s new book, The Homemade Vegan Pantry, and it is one beautiful book. I love the pictures and how she describes the foods and reiterates that anyone can do this. Obviously, I haven’t had time to make anything from the book yet, but there are recipes for condiments (classic eggless mayonnaise will be one of my first choices!), dairy- and egg-free milks and cheeses, soups, faux meats, pastas and sauces, grains (think breads, granola, crackers), and little somethings for the sweet tooth. Each recipe can be stored in some way so one builds a vegan pantry that is also free from preservatives.

I think this will be one of my favorite cookbooks! If you already have the book, please share what you’ve made!

If you don’t have the book, check it out here: The Homemade Vegan Pantry via Amazon  (Please note, I am not an Amazon affiliate.)

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RAW APRICOT COCONUT CHOCOLATE BARS

Every once in a while (Ha! More like every day!) I get a hankering for something sweet. I do try to stick with whole foods and avoid processed sugars. The following recipe came about to meet both needs.

I had some dried apricots that needed to be used so I soaked them a good 6 hours until they were soft, yet still dense. (Before you ask, YES, I did taste one or two during the day until they were to my liking). For a couple of years, I have wondered how apricots would work out in a raw bar. The answer is “GREAT!”

Raw Apricot Coconut Chocolate Bars Copyright 2015 by Shirley Utz

Raw Apricot Coconut Chocolate Bars
Copyright 2015 by Shirley Utz

This is simple and quick to prepare. I call them Raw Apricot Coconut Chocolate Bars. Yum.

Ingredients:

17 soaked, dried apricots (told you I consumed some; mine were unsulfered Turkish apricots from Trader Joe’s)

8 pitted Medjool dates

1/2 cup raw almond slivers (I found mine at Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup unsweetened, dried coconut flakes

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (you can also use cacao powder)

Directions:

Drain the apricots as best you can and add to the bowl of a food processor (use the S blade attachment).

Add the dates and pulse until the mixture starts to come together. Then add the remaining ingredients. Pulse until nuts and coconut are chopped up. This only takes 4 or 5 pulses.

Now…you can form this mixture into balls and roll in chopped almonds or coconut … or line an 8×8″ pan with wax paper or parchment paper. Put the mixture in and spread out until smooth with a spatula. (Be sure to taste it as you go…ha ha.) Use the spatula to cut the “batter” into squares (I eyeballed this so they were not exact squares). Either way you do it, refrigerate for a couple of hours to firm the bars up.

Try not to eat all of them at one sitting!

 

If you try this, please let me know what you think!

 

TIME TO STOCK UP!

Local schools begin classes on Monday, August 24, this year. Several of the local private schools began classes this week. Amazing how quickly the summer has gone for the kids…and how easy the past the couple of months have been, driving by the schools at opening and dismissal.

Although school is starting now, the school supply displays went up right around July 4. Walk in any drugstore, big box store, office supply store, or even grocery store, and there was the display. I would walk slowly by wondering what treasures lurked in those bins. You see, I have a problem. I am addicted to school supplies.

I really don’t need more pens, pencils, paper (except maybe printer paper), notebooks, file folders, etc., but something in me calls out for them. Or maybe, just maybe, they know my name and they are calling me?

It’s been ages since I finished high school and then college. A few years later I had a child and I had to buy her supplies for school. She’s now all grown up with children herself. But school supplies get into the blood and every time the displays (and did I mention, the sales?) appear, it takes quite a bit of will power to just keep walking. Some days I make it … some days I don’t.

On the days I don’t make it, I look at pens and mechanical pencils first. Oooo…there’s a new color or a new style! Then, it’s paper and folders and binders, and I begin wondering to what purpose I could put some of those. Of course, I can’t bypass the crayons and the colored pencils. (There are coloring books specifically for adults after all.) Yes, I buy a few things. It’s in the blood, right?

In fact, you’ll have to excuse me… I need to run to the drugstore for some new pens and pencils…

What about you? Does the appearance of school supplies affect you at all?

TO LOVE OR NOT TO LOVE

“The love that you withhold

is the pain that you carry.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

How many times do we make love conditional? We withhold love because we feel angry, guilty, superior, different, unworthy, unlovable, abandoned, rejected … the list is long. If we don’t get our way or the other person doesn’t change (the conditions), we hang on tightly to our “love.” It’s all about us, individually.  When we withhold love, it is out of our own pain and has little to do with the other person.

1 Corinthians 13 is referred to as the love chapter of the Bible. In it, Paul writes:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails… (NIV)

Try this experiment. Replace the word “love” with your name. Can you?

Most of us cannot say that we have reached that point, but can we take a step or two toward it? Can we look at our own pain and walk through it so that we can love another person? Love is never easy. People aren’t easy, either. Oh…but love is worth it. And the more we are able to give it, the more of it we will receive.

Today…think about one person from whom you have withheld love…a spouse, a child, another relative, the homeless man on the street…and ask yourself what  it is within you that has caused that withholding. Take your time. Work through it until you CAN love that person.

Your life will be all the better for it.

Today, I wish you LOVE and plenty of it.

DARE TO REMEMBER

Can you remember

who you were

before the world

told you who

you should be?

I saw that quote, source unknown, on Facebook. It looked like the words had been cut out from a magazine and then glued on to a beautiful background of many colors. Perhaps it was the colors that attracted me first but then the words burned into my soul.

The world has told us so many things. When we’re young, we have a certain freedom of movement to express our joy or sorrow in life. We dance and twirl when we’re happy; we pout and have meltdowns when life hurts us. When we’re young, we say exactly what we’re thinking. We stop and collect leaves even though we’re running late for school. We play in puddles and make angels in the snow.

And then the world tells us … “Sit still.” “Be quiet.” “Hurry!” “No! Stop! You’ll get dirty!” And the world also tells us … “You aren’t good enough.” “You can’t do that.” “You aren’t brave enough…smart enough…good looking enough.” “You need to look or act or be like this other person.”

What has the world been telling you? What are the tapes running through your head? Who would you be if the world hadn’t told you differently?

Dare to remember, if just for a moment. Dance! Twirl! Sing! Jump in the puddle! Gather the leaves! Cry! Laugh! Learn about the subject someone told you were incapable of learning about.

Dare to remember the person you would be if the world hadn’t told you who you should be and start becoming the person you are supposed to be!

After all, the world is often wrong…

From Selma to Montgomery to ?

Hubby and I watched (he re-watched) the movie, “Selma,” over the weekend. There was some great acting there, but even more than that, there was a great story there. It was the story of people resolving to overcome the circumstances that were holding them down. (If you haven’t seen the movie, check it out here: Selma.)

I grew up during that era. Even then I wished I could have been part of the march from Selma to Montgomery. I wished I could have locked arms with the black young people and fought their fight with them. I was still too young to leave home and all of my wishes didn’t make me brave enough to risk the beatings and the jails and the killings.

The movie resonated, though, because of memories I have of the time just before Martin Luther King, Jr., and the time of the marches and their aftermaths. Some examples:

  • First grade, somewhere in Indiana…there is one lone black girl in my class. She is snubbed by everyone, except me. I was poor working class so something about her plight touched me even then. We became friends. Schools still sold ice cream for afternoon snacks then and one of us would often buy a single Popsicle to share. We moved…I don’t remember her name or know what happened to her but I would love to tell her how much she touched my life.
  • Around 11 or 12 years old, a bus station in northwest Florida…my mom and I sit in the bus station waiting to head to my grandmother’s house a gazillion (it seemed that way to me) miles away. I went to get a drink of water and my mother yelled to me to use the other fountain. I asked, “why?” She said, “That one’s for the coloreds.” Again I asked, “Why?” “Why must someone use a different fountain or a different bathroom just because of a different colored skin.” She didn’t know…”it’s just the way it is.” I remember thinking, “then the way it is really needs to change.”
  • Junior College, at a baseball game…two little boys, maybe 2 years old, were playing together in the sand at the bottom of the front bleacher. One was white, one was black. They were having a delightful time, just playing and talking. My heart smiled…until the white boy’s mother came up, grabbed him, and said, “I told you, you don’t play with N*****s.” My heart sank.
  • College dorm…there were several black women in the dorm. The whites stayed away from them, except for me. I played cards with them and their boyfriends; we hung out in each other’s rooms. We talked about school work and life and the future. They called me their “blue-eyed soul sister.”

I currently live in Texas and travel back to northwest Florida at least once a year. There are no longer segregated bathrooms at the bus station. Black and white children and teens hang out together now. The racial climate has changed but the old biases haven’t totally died yet in that part of the country (or any part of the country, I bet). Racial tensions still run high. Ferguson, MO… Charleston, SC… Waller County, TX… And yesterday, Ferguson, MO again. Just some of the places…so many lives ruined or cut short.

Why does it have to be this way? Why does the bigotry and belief that some colors are superior to others survive? To quote my mom, “It’s just the way it is.” I don’t have answers, either, but my heart still breaks at the divide…and my soul still cries out,

“Then the way it is really needs to change.”

Will you help me?

What can we do to be the change?

UNWRAPPED

I love opening packages! In fact, I can’t stand to see anything sit around unopened. My husband, on the other hand, can let something sit for days before he finally opens it.  (I probably become a bit of a nag about it, too…”aren’t you going to open ____?” “Later,” is usually the answer. Repeat this conversation several times.)

What is it about an unopened package that makes me this way? Most of the time, I know what’s in the box or envelope; after all, it’s something I’ve ordered. Recently I ordered some fabric and when I opened the box, I was finally able to actually touch the fabric and see close up how beautiful it was. Since I knew what was in the box, I’m sure it could just as easily have sat in my sewing room until I was ready to sew it up.

I think the issue is anticipation. I order the fabric or the book or the cd or some other item. I anticipate receiving it, holding it in my hands, experiencing it with another of my senses. When the package arrives, I want to be gratified by opening it and enjoying the contents immediately. (I won’t begin to explain my dilemma when it’s a surprise package or gift that I am unable to open until a designated time (my husband hides Christmas presents from me for that reason)…I drive myself to distraction.)

You knew an analogy was coming, right? Well, today, THIS DAY is a package, too. It’s delivered to my doorstep (my life) as soon as I wake up in the morning just as it’s delivered to yours each morning, too. Do we anticipate the day with as much enthusiasm as a box of fabric or a new book we’ve ordered? Do we hastily remove the wrapping so we can enjoy what’s inside the package? OR… do we wake up whining and complaining and then let the package of the new day just sit while we “stew” for a while?

A new gift of a new day every morning is a pretty astounding thing. I rather like the promise, the anticipation, of ripping off the wrapping and charging right in. Give me my cup of tea and I’m ready to go.

How are you with packages? What about the package of a new day that arrived on your doorstep this morning?

Gif courtesy of http://www.webweaver.nu

A GARDEN IS FOR GROWING…

My church started a community garden project this past spring. For the Houston area it was a wee bit late to be planting, but after getting my little plot put together, I planted anyway…from seed in most cases. A couple bargain tomato and pepper plants were found so I planted those, too.

Gardens take a lot of faith, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of tender loving care. After putting seeds in the ground, one must believe that those seeds are actually going to sprout…and sometimes the waiting for those little sprouts seems like an eternity. When the sprouts poke through the soil, it’s one of those every day miracles we sometimes miss.

Perseverance and tender loving care go hand in hand when caring for a garden. We had an inordinate amount of rain in the Houston area this past spring and now we have one dry hot day following another, usually triple digits on the thermometer. As the soil began drying out a bit after the rains, it was necessary to add some compost and pull weeds (and strange fungi!), plus try to fend off the fire ants and other pests with diatomaceous earth. And then, I needed to begin making an almost daily trek to the garden to provide water. I fussed over my tomatoes and beans and okra and talked to the honey dew, watermelon, and cucumber plants. I pruned the basil. I picked what needed to be picked and waited patiently for another day to pick other vegetables and fruits. Even with all my care, the beans and the peas didn’t make it. The tomatoes and peppers have not produced significantly. I see plenty of blooms on the honey dew, cucumber, and watermelon plants but there seems to be no fruit…yet. The okra has bugs of some sort…okra doesn’t get bugs…what gives? In spite of failures, unexpected weather, and pests, I keep tending to my garden.

This may seem like a very common platitude, but it rings true: Every relationship is a garden. You have to believe that if you plant the seeds and tend them that everything will grow and bear fruit. But there are storms in relationships…and there are droughts…and sometimes the pests come and try to ruin the relationship. The relationships that survive, though, are the ones that persist in spite of all of the elements that try to destroy. Relationships require faith…faith that what doesn’t look like it’s producing is really just germinating, that today’s downpours will give way to calmer weather, that if tended with care, something good will come. Relationships require persistence (perseverance) in tending to something that doesn’t look like it will survive. Relationships require tender loving care…the soft touch. We have to keep tending to the garden…

Sometimes in today’s cultural environment, we see relationships as expendable. If the relationship doesn’t bear fruit (i.e., meet our expectations) within our predetermined time frame, it’s relegated to the compost bin. As a result, marriages are failing, families are falling apart, and the promise that could have been does not survive.

And yet…even in compost bins, seeds begin to sprout…

Treat your relationships with care. Look at them as a long term investment in the garden of life. Have faith! Persist! Tend with Love! And watch for the fruit that will come…it will…and you will be glad for it!

What’s your garden like today?