Thursday, May 2, 2013

9 years ago today... Loneliness

Today I came across a piece of writing I did 9 years ago while living in Lübben (Spreewald) - a small town 1 hour southeast of Berlin, Germany. Tears came to my eyes as I read what I wrote during a very lonely time of my life. How much things have changed! Sometimes it takes looking back to appreciate just how far you've come. Needless to say, I'm not lonely anymore.

02 May 04 - Lübben (Spreewald), Germany

I wake up, find myself alone—as usual—in the stale room, my neck aching on the two squished pillows beneath my head that only in their first fluffed moments manage to give any sort of resting support. The verdant view from my window glows in its spring freshness, a brightness without the sun. At 7 AM my day begins, in spring you don’t have to drag yourself out of bed—it drags you. And in the solitude my days drag on—a bowl of oatmeal; boil water, as I wash dishes, make the oat mixture of oats, flax seeds, a dash of salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, pour water, a drop of real maple syrup and a splash of vanilla soy milk. Then I make my vitamin drink, a cup of tea, a cup of yogurt—all while listening to the radio, time passing by in 30 minute increments of news updates, sandwiched together by moderation, music, and ads. Then comes the point of decision-making—what do I do after breakfast? Choices depend on the day. Sometimes it’s a clear choice to get showered and ready for school, if I have to be there early, on weekends and days off it can vary—go translate for a couple hours, check e-mail again—which you just did after waking up, bathroom and taking out retainers, or like today, go for a walk. Since time is about the only thing I can afford to spend, seeing as money is even more scarce, I burnt off two hours walking around the area, discovering new parts of town I’d never been to before—simply by crossing the railroad tracks—all while listening to various music to keep me paced. I learn to appreciate nature as it can hardly disappoint me; usually it simply amazes me. Like the closed positions of the dandelions, their centers curled up so a bee won’t come, the slime trail of a snail along the dirt path, the aromatic petals along the way. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m alone, that I can go through the whole day without saying a word, unless someone calls me or I have mild interaction in a store, but Sundays are the worst. On Sundays you begin to believe that the silence and loneliness are unbearable, and you begin to want to change your mind about a lot of things, look for new answers to the questions swimming in silence, begin to wonder how you can sit in bed for hours with no obligations, no friends to call to stop over, no one to talk to, how you can manage this life that you’ve chosen for the time being, and if maybe you’re not even right. This is the pain of my pathetic existence right now. And even worse, I can’t change it at the moment, and while I’m generally “content” and can manage to make do with things as they are—it’s Sunday’s like this that really make me think about just how lonely I am.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter

Today was such an exciting day! Not only do we have fantastic weather again, but it was also the first delivery of the season for The Produce Box. This week provided a nice preview of what can be expected to be a very bountiful year. I chose the Harvest Box this week which included one English cucumber, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, one big tomato, carrots, strawberries (add-on) and 2 quarts of raw, unshelled peanuts.

What in the world was I supposed to do with that many peanuts? Everything else can be gobbled up in a matter of no time, but the peanuts - I was going to have to think for a minute. I suddenly remembered that last year I purchased a Produce Box add-on of Mackey's Ferry Creamy Peanut Butter, which is quite possibly the most delicious peanut butter I've ever had (I tasted it at the NC State Fair last year for the first time). Since it contains very few ingredients, I wanted to see if I could make something similar. I did a little googling to figure out what to do.

Turns out that raw, unshelled peanuts are useless unless you boil or roast them. Since peanut butter is best made with roasted peanuts, I oven roasted them on a cookie sheet at 350° F for about 20 minutes, turning them with a big spoon every 5 minutes. The house smelled like peanut butter cookies afterwards!

Step 1: Oven roast at 350° F for about 20 min on a
cookie sheet, turning at regular intervals.

Next I had to wait because they were too hot to touch. The second step was definitely the most tedious and took well over an hour: shelling and skinning the peanuts.

Step 2: Shell and peel

Then came the fun part! Actually making the peanut butter. To do this, I put all the shiny, skinless, roasted peanuts in my food processor.

Step 3: Skinless, roasted peanuts in the food processor

Next I laid out the ingredients I needed. I never really measure so had to go by taste and appearance to get it just right.

The ingredients: the peanuts, peanut oil, molasses,
coconut oil, ground sea salt, brown sugar

The ingredients are really simple (my measurements are approximate because I didn't measure):

1) Skinless, roasted peanuts (It takes more time to oven-roasting, shell and skin the peanuts yourself, but it is definitely worth it)
2) 1-2 tablespoons of peanut oil
3) Roughly a heaping tablespoon of organic, virgin coconut oil (I got mine at Trader Joe's). The coconut aroma from the coconut oil adds the perfect undertone
4) Molasses - approx. 1-2 tablespoons
5) 1-2 teaspoons of freshly ground sea salt
6) Just around 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Put everything in the food processor and blend at the highest speed until very creamy. Add any of the above ingredients to adjust consistency or flavor.

The result:

Super yummy, creamy homemade peanut butter. Store in the refrigerator to preserve freshness - it will also firm up a bit more because the coconut oil solidifies at colder temperatures, making it easier to spread.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Satisfy your cravings!

The recipe on the package -
I added blueberries and used
coconut oil.
My first blog post ever included a picture of gluten-free blueberry pancakes, but I haven't mentioned them again. Well, I've been having a craving for them and this morning I simply had to satisfy it. Last summer I froze so many of the blueberries I picked at Creekside Farm that I still have a ton in my freezer to use in smoothies, baking and pancakes! I used my favorite gluten-free baking mix from Bella Gluten-Free, followed the pancake recipe on the package (using coconut oil  as the oil) and cooked my pancakes in a pan greased with coconut oil. They were so delicious; the coconut oil added extra yummy, natural flavor.

The batter
Sizzling in the skillet.
Ready to eat and leftovers!   

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bulletproof coffee

My brother told my mom about bulletproof coffee and she shared it with me. There's plenty of information on the web out there about it, especially on the website: For now I'm just using organic, fair-trade Bolivian coffee from Trader Joe's, but essentially I'm following the same basic principle. Blend fresh brewed coffee with about a tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon grass-fed butter. I've even been adding some organic, unsweetened coconut milk and a dash of pumpkin pie spice. The result is a drink that will help you focus and perform at your peak.

I was a bit concerned about consuming this much fat at first, especially because I had my gallbladder removed a couple of years ago. It turns out that our bodies can process the medium-chain triglycerides found in coconut oil and the short-chain triglycerides found in grass-fed butter without bile, meaning that they aren't potentially harmful to people with gallbladder disease or those without a gallbladder. This is great news! Here's more information about why:

Here's this morning's cup:

Bulletproof coffee with a dash of pumpkin pie spice.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Back on the road to wellness

I haven't posted much of anything in while and it's been far too long. My hiatus also reflects my temporary abandonment of my gluten-free, vegetarian (almost vegan) diet in favor of being more of a "flexitarian" as my neighbor has called me. Well apparently "flexitarianism" hasn't been good for my health. Last week I had a little flare up of endometriosis resulting in a ruptured ovarian cyst. While I've had them before, before going on an anti-inflammatory, endometriosis diet four years ago, this was the first one I'd noticeably had in about 4 years. I feel fairly confident that this has to do with venturing off the healthy path in favor of being more pragmatic. Well now it's caught up and it was enough of a wake up call to go back to eating the way I know I should. So today I got started and back on my road to wellness and stocked up on all kinds of good things at Trader Joe's: kale, coconut oil, gluten-free pasta, coconut milk, dairy-free cheese, avocados, tomatoes, decaf green tea, organic fair trade Bolivian coffee (for the bulletproof coffee I've heard so much about with grass-fed butter and coconut oil), dry roasted, unsalted pistachios, and several other things.

I've just finished making my mid-day meal, which is a vegetarian pasta sauce over gluten-free pasta. For the sauce: heat up some coconut oil and sauté chopped garlic and onion. Add baby orange bell peppers, spinach, chopped fresh mushrooms, 1 large can of organic diced tomatoes, one peeled and chopped blood orange, a handful of walnuts, a handful of sun dried tomatoes (not the ones in oil, just dried in a bag) and sea salt. Simmer until ready to serve over GF pasta.

The finished dish - the cheese is a soy-free, dairy free
mozzarella alternative. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A little wiener can love a lot

Came home from the gym to find Jewel cuddled up with her stuffed animal puppy. Too sweet!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Culture shock in my own country

Even though I was born and raised in the US, my 5+ years spent in Germany were enough to "European-ize" me. Sometimes I still have moments of "culture shock" in my own country. Yesterday I had two such moments.

The first moment was when I learned that in the US you apparently actually have to pay to recycle batteries and eco-friendly light bulbs. For years I couldn't find anywhere to take used batteries and I simply refuse to throw them in the trash. I don't care what anyone says about it being OK to throw away alkaline batteries - I won't do it. I'm thankful that battery recycling is even possible now, because for years I have been saving up my batteries hoping that I could one day find somewhere to recycle them. Thanks Batteries Plus for taking back old batteries - but it's not really cool to charge 99 cents per pound / $1 per light bulb for recycling. In Germany basically every grocery and drug store has a box at the front for recycling batteries - because it's the right thing to do - and it's free!

My second moment of culture shock came during the process of couch shopping. It was absolutely unbelievable to see how the (US) furniture industry has adapted to certain traits often scrutinized as "typical American". Individual seats on some couches could fit 3-4 of me. I felt like Alice in Wonderland - I often felt as though I had been shrunk down into a miniature me. Not only are many couches made for very large people, they also accommodate laziness with HUGE cup holders built into the couch. Seriously - a cup holder in a couch, it's not a car!! I personally think it's rather tacky. I might think it's OK if the couch were for a special movie theater room in the house, but I don't want that in my living room. I was going to say something about the electric recliners - but I actually kind of liked that (except I don't want wires running through the living room and I don't have floor sockets).

On a funny note, at one of the furniture stores I was helped by none other than Will Ferrell. Well not that Will Ferrell, but it was all I could do not to say something. I'm sure he appreciated that. As we were leaving there was a car with the license plate "MAKULAF" - I wonder if it was his...