Strawberry Rhubarb Pie {Recipe Redux}

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My first year in college, after a long winter of heavy snow and hibernation in semi-remote Eastern Oregon, I trekked home for my first annual Easter weekend visit. I brought my roommate, Christine, and my mom made Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie. After months of food hall meals, it was the best pie I had tasted.

 

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Every pie since has been held to the standard of that memory of tart, sweet, vibrant spring-ness. Nothing compares to the picture in my mind of being home, surrounded by family and a friend, and slowly savoring each bite.

 

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When asked about her strawberry rhubarb pies, and any others for that matter, my mom answers exactly as I would expect and as I expect my grandma would also have answered: “I don’t ever follow the recipe, I just add ingredients until the pan is full and add sugar as needed.” While I concede her reasoning, I’m slightly more type A, and I foolishly think that if only I had that recipe, I could better relive the memory.

 

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Though I was left to my own devices as to the amounts and types of ingredients, my tiny apartment kitchen happens to have a couple pie-baking essentials thanks to my mom and grandma. Like a good luck charm, I always use this pie dish, which mom had the forsight to know I was going to need waaay back when I was in high school. Grandma Neah’s old copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook is also a regular kitchen fixture for pie making inspiration, though I’m a bit too much like these ladies to actually follow the recipes. Even so, I’m glad Neah made sure I received it before she passed. With these feel-good implements to boost my confidence in measuring up to that pie, I began.

 

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This year, a full eight years after that first annual Easter weekend trek, I made it home again. Though this pie was decidedly missing from our Sunday table, strawberries were bought and ate, and like firewood, mom loaded me up with a couple armfuls of rhubarb for the road.

 

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The important thing and what I keep holding on to in this sort of strawberry rhubarb tradition, is that family was gathered around, more family than before, and we lived a spring day to rival my memory.

 

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Streusal Topping
 
Pastry, adapted from Gluten-Free and Vegan Pie
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
1/3 cup arrowroot starch
2/3 cup potato starch
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup + 2 Tbs. refined coconut oil
2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla 
3/4 oats
2 Tbs. honey
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
 
Filling
4 cups rhubarb, chopped
2 cups strawberries, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice flour
2 Tbs. tapioca flour
1 Tbs. lemon juice
dash of ground ginger
 
To make the crust, measure flours, sugar, and salt into a food processor. Pulse a couple times until they are mixed. Measure in coconut oil and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Then add in water and vanilla until the mixture just comes together. Turn out onto a piece of parchment paper and split the dough into a larger piece (about 2/3 of dough), and a smaller piece.  
 
Roll out the larger piece and fit it into the bottom of a pie pan. If it falls apart in the process, gently piece it back together and flute the edges. Using the tines of a fork, make several stabs into the crust, and then put it into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, put the remaining 1/3 crust back into the food processor, along with the honey, oats, cinnamon and ginger. Pulse until they come together and set aside for the streusal topping.
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the filling, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, honey, flours, lemon juice and ginger. Once the bottom crust has chilled, turn the filling into the pan. Evenly spread the streusal topping over the filling and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling properly. During the bake time, you may need to cover the pie with foil, to prevent excessive browing.
 
If the filling seems a little liquidy at this point, don’t worry.  It will set up nicely once it cools!
 
 


Turkey Sandwich with Carrots, Kale and Dukkah

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Back when I ate gluten and cheese, sandwiches made their way into my life every day. Sometimes more than once. I don’t mean I ate a normal PB&J or ham and cheese. Instead, a cheesey-gooey Tex-Mex, PB & Apricot-Apple with Spinach, Curry Chicken & Apple, Roasted Beets, Hummus & Turkey, or Cranberry Pear Peanut Butter spanned the norm of my sandwich creations. I was obsessed with perfecting my homemade whole wheat bread recipe, and I frequently brought loaves home from my bakery job. My then-roommates regularly commented that, for sandwiches, mine were abnormallybeautiful. With a roomate that worked at a bakery gig, they ate their fair share as well.

Fast forward a few years and I rarely eat a sandwich. If I hadn’t had to forego the gluten, it is safe to say they never would have escaped from my daily ritual!

It just so happens that a dear friend gifted an awesome cookbook to me last year and periodically, when I need a homemade bread and sandwich fix, I bake up a loaf. One such baking episode and a haphazard collection of lonely ingredients in the fridge resulted in this amazing combination for lunch.

In a hurry to get out the door one morning, I pilfered through, came up with kale, carrots and the last bit of sliced turkey. I threw the kale and carrots in a dish and tossed in dukkah for good measure, spread the mustard on the turkey, and packed the bread separately.

Later, I put the whole-shebang together at work.  Holy-moly, I couldn’t believe my tastebuds! We are back in the sandwich-making business.

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First, start with good bread. Make it yourself. Or find a nice bakery. Barter with your neighbor. Please, don’t waste your time with store-bought sliced bread.

 

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Then, smear and sprinkle on a thin layer of dijon mustard and dukkah spice mixture to each slice.

 

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Lay down a thickish layer of the best turkey you can find.

 

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Pile on equal parts chopped kale and shredded carrots.

 

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Carefully sandwich the two pieces of bread together. Slice it in half and eat.

 

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When finished, I completely condone licking your plate clean. :)

 

Turkey Sandwich with Carrots, Kale and Dukkah, makes 1
 
Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mixture with coriander, cumin, and sesame seeds shining through. There are countless recipes for it across the interwebs. I used Deborah Madison’s recipe from Vegetable Literacy. You can also purchase the mixture at Trader Joe’s or other well-stocked grocery stores. 
 
2 slices bread of your choice
dijon mustard
1-2 tsp. Dukkah
2-3 oz. low-sodium deli or leftover roasted turkey
1/2 large carr0t, shredded
1/2-1 cup shredded kale
 

 

 

 


Kale Chopped Salad with Roots, Millet and Chickpeas

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7:35 am.  End-of-March morning. We were up, out, and running.

From the Inn, we ran a block over to Beacon Hill Park, along the bark trail up Cook Street, past the daffodils waving their morning hellos, to Dallas Road and the Sea Wall.

The sun was shining brilliantly over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the water smooth and clear. Nature’s morning show stopped and held us multiple times. We shared an experience of taking it in, the view, the moment, our connection to the place—before beginning again.

Will waved hello and called out good morning as is his usual, making an instant connection with strangers. I smiled my greeting and couldn’t help but let my thoughts and gaze glide out towards the sea. “Welcome to this new place,” the sun beamed. My feelings in those miles reflected the spectacular light around us.

“You are not separate from the whole. You are one with the sun, the earth, the air. You don’t have a life. You are life.” – Eckhart Tolle
 
 
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Often, despite nearly-contant connectivity, I feel disconnected. Not up on what the rest of the world is doing, feeling as if something out there is not getting experienced, feeling left behind. In this mindset, I prompt myself out the door to experience life outside, where I draw my energy from running.

 

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This last week was no exception. We semi-spontaneously took a few days to travel to Victoria, British Columbia, a place we have longed to visit. Pots of tea, delicious food, and reading by the fire were all in order, but first, those mornings spent out on the Sea Wall.

 

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There is a certain energy about the early morning hours, and to me, it is best experienced over a few miles by foot. The locals are slowly coming about their daily business and the world is unspoiled. Out on the trails, I share a connection to this place, these people, and all the daily concerns and uncertainties fade.

 

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Victoria, we found, is a city of runners. We spent the inbetweens of the days walking the better part of the downtown neighborhoods and no matter the time of day, there were runners about. Friendly. Hardcore. Peaceful. University girls talking sorority topics. Ladies clearly out for a run-chat. With their pooches. Visitors from our section of the world. Displaying their I-Conquered-That-Race shirts. They were all out and about, running the city.

 

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When I venture off to other places, I am reminded we are all visitors in this space we inhabit. We wander about all our lives,  knocking into each other, waving cheerfully, yelling obsenitites, and feeling alone.

We are not alone. Over the miles, I am reminded of our connection. We live different experiences and we wake each day viewing a unique piece of the world. There are scars that we accumulate and monumental joys that we have to live through to understand. In the moments when we feel the most separate, we can draw together, smile in greeting to a stranger, and have faith that we are all in this life together. Whether it is through running, cooking, eating, or wherever your passion lies, know that ours is a life meant for celebrating our kinship with the whole of each other.

 

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Kale Chopped Salad with Roots, Millet & Chickpeas, serves 3
 
Not only did we run in Victoria, but we ate. Amazing food. This salad was inspired by one I ate at Irish Times Pub in Bastion Square. Live music, a cozy nook, Bulmers Cider, and this salad were all I could ask of a good evening. Quinoa was in the pub salad, and can easily be subbed in for the millet. Among all the other ingredients, the flavor and texture comes out quite similar either way.
 
1 large bunch kale, destemmed and chopped
6 small beets, cooked, peeled and diced
3 large carrots, shredded
1 1/2 cups cooked millet or quinoa, warm
3/4 cup chickpeas, cooked and warm
3/4 cup edamame, gently steamed and warm
1 Tbs. dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbs. honey
6 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
  • In a large bowl, toss chopped kale, diced beets and shredded carrots.
  • If not already, warm the grains and beans. Then toss them on top of the vegetables.
  • In a small bowl, stir in mustard, honey, oil and vinegar.  Whisk together, and then add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour dressing on top of the mixture, and stir together. Enjoy!

 


Spring Green Fennel Millet Cakes

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I look down at my black work pants. They’re starting to fade in the fold lines, and I have to use a lint roller to make them black again. My favorite blue sweater is comfy, but people are starting to associate me with it. There are likely a few researchers at work who cannot remember my name and instead refer to me as “Blue Sweater Girl.” My shabby black pumps have seen me through many long days of teaching over more than a couple school years, and my scarf was a gift given in my senior year of high school.

Back when I was 13, I spent many hours agonizing over my sense of poverty, and how my shoes weren’t the stylish ones all my friends had. I’m beyond being quite so sensitive these days, but still often feel that people must look at me and immediately think my clothes are more worn than a professional situation dictates. And boring. How frequently can you wear the same blue sweater before people start to notice?

My job is active, and I’m rarely in the same space all day; for this reason I take a little more liberty in regularly dressing in my most comfortable professional clothes. As I dressed this morning in the same blue sweater-scarf outfit, I briefly practiced awesome negative self-talk and went on with my day. “So what if I’m wearing the same outfit again?” I thought.

In the afternoon, I gained a good dose of perspective when the dental hygienist gushed about the blue sweater, the lovely scarf, and how my outfit just “went.” Then she practiced her own form of negative self talk by muttering, “Now I really feel like I need to go shopping.”

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Not-enoughness. We are all surrounded by it. Encouraged to go after more without enjoying what we have. I think about my blog, my writing, my running times, my friendships, my job, and yes, my wardrobe, and I compare myself to the world around me.

I don’t need to. We don’t need to. We only need to be our best self, and to be kinder to her or him. We can all use a good dose of perspective. We are all good enough. In this new season let’s step outside our heads, refocus our energy  and send out our light.

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Spring Green Fennel Millet Cakes
The Recipe Redux challenged us to celebrate patties and Paddy’s Day all month long. These patty cakes are versatile, crunchy, filling, slightly sweet, and have that clean-spring-green look and feeling about them that we crave as the sun comes out and the flowers and trees blossom again. Make up a big batch or two and snack on them throughout the week. 
 
1 cup cooked millet
1 cup cooked small white beans
3/4 cup shredded carrots (about 1 large) 
A handful of baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup raw almonds, chopped and toasted
1 cup diced fennel bulb
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
  • Prepare millet and white beans. Shred carrots and chop and toast almonds.
  • In a food processor, measure in millet, beans, carrots, and spinach. Process until the beans are no longer whole, but make sure the mixture is not entirely smooth.
  • Pour out the millet-bean mixture into a medium bowl, and then incorporate the remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste prior to adding the eggs. The mix should be fairly wet.
  • Put the mixture into the refridgerator and chill for about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay parchment paper onto a baking stone or pan. Using a round cooking cutter (about 3 inches in diameter) for structure, scoop the mixture into 8 cakes directly onto the baking stone.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes and then using a spatula, turn the cakes. Bake for 5 minutes more.
  • Remove from the oven and cool before eating.


Irish Vegetable Soup

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There are experiences that move you. There are moments when you know. There are times when you take a leap and jump into the wide unknown beyond, certain you will be forever changed. On a particularly sodden and blustery day in the late winter of 2008, I knew. I was flying through the streets towards home from school on my bike, soaking wet, and mad at the never-ending Oregon rain. I slammed into our house, made straight for the fireplace where my roommate was curled up reading, threw down my bag, and proclaimed, “I am going to Ireland.”

And I did. Twice. Confidently. Decisively. Never-faltering in my belief that I just needed to be there. Experiencing.

Often, in the tiny spaces in between all the moments that make up each day, I catch myself. I look back at a fragment of time when the whole world was laid out and I knew my course. I knew how to make what I wanted happen, and the making it so came effortlessly.

There are only a handful of moments that I have experienced the kind of certainty I felt then. All the other days, I will myself to know which direction, which passion, which experience. Which one is the one?

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I often feel that our lives are meant to be permanately hazy in the living. Some days are fogged in. Other days the sun comes out, there is a clear way forward, and it becomes spring again in our souls.

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I am beginning to accept this nature of things; I am beginning too, to accept myself in the unknowing. After all, in both certainty and indecision, there is much beauty, and that, I think, should be lingered upon and celebrated.

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Irish Vegetable Soup, adapted from Cooks Illustrated.
 
This simple pureed vegetable soup is a comfort I seek in the harried moments when I crave simplicity. It is one of the meals I ate repeatedly in Ireland. It is ever on the menu at both small, quick cafes  or pubs, and nicer restaurants, always served with a slice or two of brown bread. It fills and warms you up, and can contain whatever sorts of vegetables you have on hand. This recipe makes a BIG OLE’ BATCH, enough to serve a crowd or eat for several meals.
 
small handful of dried porcini mushrooms
small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup gluten-free oats
splash of olive oil
3 medium leeks, white and light parts, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, diced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. tamari
salt and pepper, to taste
9 cups of water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 3/4 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 5 medium potatoes)
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 cups green cabbage, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar, optional
 
1. Grind the porcini mushrooms in a spice grinder. Measure out 2 teaspoons of the resulting powder. Save the rest for another batch of soup.  
 
2. Toast the oats in a small pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and they become golden. Transfer them to a bowl to cool. Once they are somewhat cool, grind them up into a meal using a spice grinder or food processor. 
 
3. In a very large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add leeks, onion, carrots, celery, wine, tamari, and 2 tsp. salt. Cook this mixture, stirring it occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the onion and celery have softened a bit. You may need to add a little water in this process.
 
4. Stir in the ground mushrooms and oats. Add the water, herbs, and garlic. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes.
 
5. Add the potatoes, turnips, and cabbage. Return the mixture to a simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and turnips are soft. 
 
6. Stir in the peas, vinegar and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, and let cool slightly.
 
7. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a blender until it is mostly smooth. Pour back into the pot and heat, if necessary, before serving.
 
8. This is best with a good hearty bread. 
 
Other Irish Recipes that might be included in your St. Patrick’s Day Festivities include Brown Soda Bread, Shepherd’s Pie, or Hearty Winter Curry Pie. Sláinte!
 
 

Blood Orange & Rhubarb Smoothie {Recipe Redux}

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Last Valentine’s weekend William and I competed in a couple’s 5k race. This was the first time we’ve run such a race, where our scores and ages were combined and pitted up against a crazy-fast group of local runners. We’re often asked about running together, and though we do so only every now and again these days, our relationship did begin in part because of our mutual interest in running.

We were in the same college at OSU and happened to take a class together the last term of my senior year. Will strolled around like a laid-back California dude with his casual persona and curly blonde hair. He also routinely wore his Hood to Coast shirts. He was definitely the only guy in the class to do so. I was intrigued. 

When we started hanging out, running was our first common ground and we began running together before we were officially dating, in the final weeks before Will’s annual Hood to Coast race. A year later, we both ran Hood to Coast. Through that experience, I learned that I could still find some speed after two hours of sleep, which was periodically interrupted by manic, nearby, cowbell ringing. Having a warm-up buddy at 4:30 am after those two unrestfull hours was a definite motivational plus.

Even though we haven’t been running together quite as often these days, Will has remained my biggest supporter. He routinely wakes up early and comes to races with me, and even when he doesn’t race, he dons his run outfit and champions me through the warm up and cool down. He stands right off the starting line and takes all my extra layers at the last moment and then strategically places himself near the finish and yells at me to sprint as if my life depends on it. I jokingly refer to him as my coach because he’s been at this racing business longer than I have and he is a true encourager.

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Valentine’s Day may be past for this year, and we don’t truly celebrate it anyway, but we do celebrate the early mornings and post-workout meal of our favorite shared hobby as frequently as we can. We also share a love for healthy smoothies, and turn to them more often when amping up mileage.

As far as ingredients go, I tend to mix together stronger or more seasonal flavors, while Will consistently opts for a heavy dose of berries. I am a huge fan of rhubarb and have been hoarding last summer’s crop in the freezer for months now. Rhubarb happens to pair beautifully with oranges. Cue blood orange season, and our blender has been in a near constant state of pink-smoothie-use for several weeks straight! 

It may not feel like it lately, but spring is just around the corner and rhubarb is one of the earliest spring crops in these parts of Western Oregon. If you’re lucky enough to have your own plant, throw a dark pot over it, and you can begin to force it out of its winter dormancy. I did this at the school garden in early January, and we are well on our way to having rhubarb ready to harvest a couple months earlier! If you are not in possession of a rhubarb plant or a freezer full of last year’s cache, you can bet there is a farmer that knows this trick and will have the first rhubarb of the season in the market soon, just in time for the last of the blood oranges! Happy smoothie sipping and early season running!

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Smoothie, serves 2
2 blood oranges, peeled and diced
1 Tbs. chia seeds
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 cups rhubarb sauce*
stevia drops or sweetener, to taste

Pour all the ingredients into a blender and mix until it is thick and creamy. Season to taste with sweetener.

*For rhubarb sauce, chop rhubarb into small pieces, pour into a medium stock pot, add about an inch of water, and heat to boiling. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the fibers have broken down and the mixture begins to get thick. I don’t add any sweetener at this point, but you certainly can sweeten it to taste, if you like.


Morning Rituals

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There is a certain peace in morning rituals, in knowing every day is going to begin relatively the same. The same comforting breaking of a night’s fast, the same checking in on what is happening in the world. In the space of a week, there is the cyclic rush of getting out the door on those first five days and then settling in on weekends.

Shower, breakfast, listen to news, check email, out the door.
Run, breakfast, shower, listen to radio, out the door.
Strength train, breakfast, shower, listen to news, out the door.
Breakfast, browse internet, plan recipes, write or journal, settle in.

Merely variations of the same until the day has truly begun.

Listen to my breath. In. Out. Slow down. Each moment for a time. 
Morning rituals.

At work, when I’m not in a hurry, I drop my bags, stow my lunch, prepare the computer, put on the kettle for tea, and sit in relaxing silence with the steaming cup while catching up on early morning emails. I double check my day’s plan and lock my to-do list into a strategic hierarchy. This too, is a ritual. I’ve managed to keep it through more than a couple job changes.

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The smell of porridge oats wafting up is a thing of great comfort. I’ve been eating them since I can remember eating, and they are essential in this routine. There are, habitually, minute shifts in the details of the porridge which are largely driven by the weather, the season, or waking up in a daringly adventurous mood. There are only odd days that the meal veers off to become muffins, muesli, waffles, egg tacos, or toast. Rarely, though, is the deviation dramatic or for any length of time.

“There are surprisingly few of these patterns of events in any one 
person’s way of life, perhaps no more than a dozen. Look at your own
life and you will find the same. It is shocking at first, to see that 
there are so few patterns of events open to me. Not that I want more 
of them. But when I see how very few of them there are, I begin to 
understand what huge effect these few patterns have on my life, on my 
capacity to live...”
 -Christopher Alexander

Every once in a while, I have an exact list of ingredients that I will pour in, as in this rich and creamy bowl of comfort. I’ve become obsessed with adding tahini since the weather turned last September. Originally, pears were the accompanying fruit that opted in on a daily basis. Like clockwork, I turn more heavily to citrus this time of year, perhaps as a way of desperately clammering for more light. Oranges and tahini pair beautifully anyway, and the addition of a small bit of dried apricots somehow ties the two together. Eating this, I can imagine being in a warm and sunny place where oranges are ripening on a tree. I am reminded, too, of summers past when those apricots were whole and sweet, and how the apricot trees are even now clamoring out of their winter slumber to begin the cycle anew.

Listen to my breath. In. Out. Slow down. Each moment for a time.

These visualizations, the slow bites and drawing in of breath before the day begins, are also part of my morning ritual. What is yours?

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Apricot Orange Tahini Porridge, serves 1
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup water
1 Tbs. tahini
3 dried unsulphured apricots, diced
1 orange, thinly sliced and then diced
orange zest
1/2 tsp. orange blossom water, optional
stevia drops or choice of sweetener, to taste
  • On the stovepot, put a small saucepan to boil with water.
  • Once it comes to a rolling boil, turn down to medium and stir in the oats and apricots. Let cook until it is soft and nearly all the water has been absorbed, about four minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the tahini, mashing it with your spoon until it is spread evenly throughout.
  • Take off the heat, and zest about 1/3  of an orange peel over the mixture. Stir in the orange blossom water and diced orange, including the juice from the cutting board.
  • Turn the whole mixture into a bowl and sweeten to taste. Enjoy!

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