Life’s Real Sweetness

If this post seems caffeine-induced, that’s probably because it is.

With the early shift at the coffee shop, keeping up with schoolwork, and trying to train for a relay marathon at the end of the month, coffee has felt like a necessity. A delicious, energizing necessity.

In the midst of craziness, there has been time for sweetness.

Un-contrived, mostly unplanned moments that make life sparkle with meaning and joy. Here’s a little glimpse…

We’ve been soaking up the warm sun this past week by spending evenings at the park…

Workouts that leave me like this make me happy and energized all day

My little sister turned eighteen almost a month ago and I still can’t believe it.

And then, I turned twenty myself. 

There is something about reaching a milestone of maturity and yet feeling so far from it that makes you realize how very precious this life is.

All I wanted to do my birthday weekend was go on long adventurous hikes with my family.

Simple, everyday moments. So natural and yet so special. Life in its real sweetness.

If we don’t grab on to it now, it will slip our grasp.

It’s Day 22 of my fast of processed and packaged foods. To be perfectly honest, there have been a few cheat days. But on those days, the little treats that snuck in have been exactly that — treats and not habits. That is exactly how I want to feel toward sweets — special on the occasion but not necessary every day.

I’ve been experimenting with satisfying my sweet tooth naturally. Do you know what I’ve discovered? It’s just like the simple gifts of life — it’s the real, un-contrived foods that give sweetness at its best. Sweetness you can feel good about.

I made these cookies on the afternoon of my twentieth birthday. I wanted to celebrate without compromising my Real Food challenge. So I opened the fridge and pantry cupboards and began pulling out an army of ingredients.

These were totally unplanned and had great potential for failure. No sugar, no flour, no butter or oil, no egg, no recipe. My chances of producing something edible were mighty slim, but I think it was the excitement of embarking on a new decade that gave me courage.

Surprise of all surprises — they worked. And they were delicious. 

So delicious in fact, Jenny couldn’t keep her hands off of them.

“These are the best things you ever made. Seriously. I think turning twenty has made you a really good cook.”

I really had no idea how to interpret that so I just kept munching and smiled. She has no idea she basically consumed a day’s worth of vegetables and whole grains in the four cookies she ate.

It’s the natural, bite-sized moments in life that are the sweetest.

 Carrot Cake Apple Bites

~ makes 12 cookies

Ingredients

  •  1/3  c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/3 c. oat flour
  •  ¼ t. salt
  •  ½ t. cinnamon
  •  ½ t. baking powder
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. vanilla
  •  ¾ c. grated apple
  •  ½ c. grated carrots
  •  2 T. almond milk
  • ¼ c. shredded coconut
  • ½ c. chopped apple
  • 1/3 c. rolled oats
  • 2 T. chopped pecans (optional)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • To make buckwheat flour and oat flour: process raw buckwheat groats/raw oats in a food processor or blender until a fine, flour-like texture
  • In a large bowl, combine buckwheat flour, oat flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and rolled oats.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together honey and vanilla. Stir in the grated apple and carrots and almond milk.
  • Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until just combined.
  • Mix in coconut, chopped apple, and rolled oats.
  • Drop by teaspoonful on to prepared baking sheet. These cookies will not spread out much at all when baking so shape them as you want them to look after baking.
  • Sprinkle with chopped pecans, if desired.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Nutrition Facts for 1 cookie~ Calories: 83.5, Total Fat: 4.6g (Sat.fat: 2.8g), Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 53.6mg, Potassium 39.5mg, Total Carbohydrate: 11.6g (Dietary Fiber: 3.0g, Sugars 3.6g) Protein: 1.5g.

Cookies for breakfast, anyone?

Day 11 of Real Food: Mexican Fiesta Quinoa

I had a taste of the world today.

The missions fair at our church is always an exciting time to meet people from all over the globe and hear their stories of what God is doing.

I am reminded that in this big big world, I am very small. But this is actually a hopeful thought — God is at work in ways I can’t see. And the knowledge that He chooses to use my little prayers as tools for eternal purposes.

It is already Day 11 of my challenge to eat only unprocessed, natural foods for 40 days. Read the story here! So far, it is going well. The daily devotionals from A Place at the Table have been great inspiration to keep up the challenge.

There are times when the sweets and chips come a-calling and I really want to give in. That’s when I realize how spoiled I am to even have food I can turn down. By saying no to processed and packaged foods — foods that large parts of the world have no access to — I’m hoping to grow my understanding of what my body really needs vs. what just sounds good at the moment.

One helpful tactic I’ve been utilizing the past few days is to focus my thoughts and prayers on the country whose cuisine I’m eating. I research a little about the country — their daily staples, their economic status, their everyday personal, social and political needs — so while I am cooking, while I am eating, while I am not eating other foods, I am consciously able to identify with people across the world in my prayers. It has made the whole process of eating so purposeful. I’d love for this to become a habit even when the 40 days are over.

Today was Mexico. It is going to be difficult to not just do Latin cuisine because lately I’ve been craving tortillas and guacamole like no one’s business.

Staples of nearly ever Mexican meal are corn (tortillas!) and beans. Other common ingredients are squash, peppers, rice, honey, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, garlic, cinnamon, and cocoa.

I found an excellent information and prayer resource at Operation World. Here are just a few of the listed “challenges for prayer”:

a) The poor, both the impoverished rural poor and the exploited slum-dwellers — Poverty affects 60% of the Mexican population

b) The marginalized native Amerindians — This group of people have no official social status and live in greater poverty and political upheaval

c) Corruption in politics and the police. 

d) The massive drug trade and gang violence that accompanies it — including over 5000,000 addicts, the power-hungry cartels who control the “industry”, the government and law enforcement fighting against the corruption and violence of gangs.

These heavy concerns need contemplated over a light meal. This bowl has it all — grain, protein, healthy fat, vegetables, spicy and colorful — Mexico in a dish, all natural and delicious. Enough to keep my taste-buds and tummy happy and preoccupied from the snack cupboard and to keep my mind focused on more important things.

Mexican Fiesta Quinoa 

Inspired by Daily Garnish and Oh She Glows ~ serves 10 as a side, 6 as a main

  • 2 c. dry quinoa
  • 1 large can black beans, drained and rinsed
  •  1 c. diced tomatoes
  • 2 small avocados, chopped
  • 1 c. corn kernels
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 t. chili powder
  • 1/2 t. paprika
  • 1/2 t. garlic salt
  • 3 T. fresh cilantro, minced
  • 3 T. lime juice

Directions

  • Prepare quinoa by package directions (4 c. water for 2 c. dry quinoa). Cook till water is absorbed and quinoa is soft and fluffy.
  • Transfer quinoa to a large bowl and stir in spices: chili powder, paprika, and garlic salt
  • Meanwhile, chop pepper, tomatoes, and avocados
  • Add beans, corn, pepper, tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro to quinoa and stir to combine.
  • Pour lime juice over mixture and toss to combine.
  • For best flavor results, refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

I could definitely eat like this for a while. If someone would send me a link for foolproof tortillas, I’d be set for life.

“Breakfast” Anytime: Herb and Cheese Souffle

I like thinking about breakfast.

I do it a lot. I think I’m making up for lost time.

When I used to think about breakfast, I used to think….well, not much. I rarely ate breakfast back in the day.

I don’t know who that girl was. Except that she wasn’t very healthy. And she was missing out big time. Breakfast is now my favorite meal of the day.

Now I savor my mornings. I pad downstairs and pour myself a big glass of water to drink while reading my Bible and journaling. Then I sip a mug of green tea while I ready my school books and contemplate what I want for breakfast. There’s nothing more sad than rushing into eating something I’m not really in the mood for. I generally choose between one of these breakfasts (in no particular order):

  • Oats/oat bran. Cooked stove-top style with almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla and some kind of fruit mixed in (banana, berries, apple, pear)
  • Yogurt parfait. Plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced fruit, topped with cereal and drizzled with maple syrup.
  • Big bowl of Cereal. I am without shame a cereal mixer (maybe that’s why I love granola?) — sometimes it gets crazy 😉 I always need to pair my bowl with a whole piece of fruit because cereal alone never fills me up!
  • Smoothie — my favorite post-workout breakfast. See here, here, and here.
  • Whole grain toast with mashed banana, cinnamon, and maple syrup. Kind of like the lazy version of my Pumpkin Banana French Toast
Things I never crave for breakfast?
  • Pastries. Keep the donuts, danishes, and cinnamon rolls away from me and hand over the fruit.
  • Savory Veggies. Meaning tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc. Ick. That being said, I do it some veggies for breakfast (Hello pumpkin! Green (spinach) smoothies!)
  • Eggs.
I used to think I didn’t like eggs at all because of the way my stomach turned on the Saturday mornings Dad cooked omelets. The savory smells and the gooey yolks were too much to take at eight am on a weekend. A big reason I never ate breakfast was that I didn’t realize there were breakfast foods I liked. I needed to find my modus operandi for breaking the fast.

Lightly sweetened whole grains with fruit? Sold.

Eggs in the morning? No thanks. But any other time — cook them till the yolk is set,  season them with fresh herbs, and I’m more than willing.

Put them in cute little ramekins and bake till light and puffy, and I’m in love forever.

Cheesy Herb Souffle 

Slightly adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half of a small onion, peeled
  • 1/2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour flour
  • 2 eggs, separated + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Romano (or mozzarella or parmesan) cheese
  • ½ t. fresh oregano
  • ½ t. fresh dill
  • ½ t. fresh sage
  • Pinches of salt and peppers
  1. Put the milk with the bay leaf, onion, in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside to “steep” Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Spray 2 mini (150ml) ramekins or 1 2c. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with the grated Parmesan.
  2. Melt the butter in a seprate saucepan. Whisk in the flour and let thicken for about two minutes.
  3. Remove onion and bay leaf from the milk and gradually whisk flour-butter mixture into the milk. Continue to heat and stir until thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and beat in egg yolks. Stir through the cheese and herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  5. In a small bowl, beat the whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Stir a spoonful of whites into the yolk mixture, then pour the yolk mixture onto the remaining whites and gently fold together.
  6. Pour into the soufflé dish and bake until risen and set, but not completely firm in the middle, about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of the soufflé dishes.
  7. Serve immediately before it slumps!

Dad took the older sister out for breakfast this morning. He’s probably eating a fancy omelet and she’s probably cutting into a mountain of Belgian waffles. Topped with whipped cream. And maybe a chocolate drizzle.

I’m not jealous, though. I happy to b here, sipping the last of my green tea, and licking the last bit of yogurt from my spoon. Breakfast just the way I like it best.

Food Habits: Self-Evaluation

I am a creature of (strange) habit.

Every night, before I go to bed I set the alarm on my phone. Every morning I wake up before the alarm goes off because there is nothing I hate more than being jolted awake by an obnoxious ring.

Today, when I wake up to a snow-covered world, my instinct is to run downstairs, pull on my bright blue snow pants and dash out to build snow forts and freeze my fingers until I can’t feel them any more and need to come inside and de-thaw with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. Just like when I was eight years old.

This week, in my Food and Culture class, I had the opportunity to reflect on my personal food habits by filling out a self-evaluation form. As a Dietetics student and a self-admitted “foodie”, I imagine I think about my food habits more than the average person. But it was still interesting to think about why I eat as I do and what cultural influences affect how I eat.

In order to make healthy changes to your diet, it’s important to evaluate the way you are currently eating. As a Dietitian one day, that is what I hope to do so it was good for me to start with evaluating my own diet. I’m sharing a bit of what I learned here. I’d love to read some of your own food habits in the comments!

Meal Composition/Cycle

How many meals do you eat each day? I eat three meals a day, with breakfast being my largest and most important meal. I tend to decrease meal sizes as the day goes on and my dinners are often smaller than my lunches, simply because I feel less hungry and in need of energy at the end of the day. I also am a big snacker, but try to limit myself to two-three medium sized snacks a day.

What elements (bread, rice, meat, vegetables, or other) are needed to make a meal for you?  It is very rare that a meal does not include vegetables in some form – often as salad loaded with other veggies. Even at breakfast, I often incorporate spinach, pumpkin, or shredded carrots. Another necessary element of my meals is a protein source. I am a vegetarian so this is usually in the form of beans, hummus, tofu/tempeh, yogurt, or cottage cheese. I also usually have some kind of whole grain at a meal: whole wheat toast, oats, millet, or brown rice

What is a typical serving size of meat, starch, and vegetable for you? I don’t eat meat, but my protein servings are typically:  ½c. beans or tofu, 2 eggs, ¾c. Greek yogurt, ½c. cottage cheese. A starch serving is typically ½c. and a typical vegetable serving is 1c.

How often do you snack each day?  What types of foods do you consider a snack? I eat about two to three snacks per day. My favorite snacks are fresh fruit, carrot sticks and hummus, or toast with peanut butter

Food Attitudes

How do your food habits differ from your family norms?  Those of friends?  Those of people you work with?  In what significant ways do they differ? Most of my friends know me as a “health nut” because I often opt out of fast food or ice cream and choose the salad bars at restaurants. Culturally, here in Lancaster County most of my friends eat a Pennsylvania Dutch diet – a lot of pork and potatoes. My family eats a more Italian diet – based in pasta, olive oil, lots of spices and garlic.

Sometimes, I have to fight against the personal bias against people who eat meat or lots of processed foods. I know everyone has different standards and habits when it comes to food and I don’t want what to make what I believe is best for me to be a standard I hold everyone else to.

Application: I am very willing to try new foods! I love ethnic cuisine, especially Mexican and Asian – both trying them at restaurants or friends’ houses and trying new recipes. Growing up on Long Island , New York, a very multicultural place, I was exposed to a lot of different cultures and ethnic food traditions. I think being willing to experience and celebrate the traditions of other people is the best way to avoid ethnocentric judgments.

Tiny Recipes (so there’s time to blow your nose)

This has pretty much been my week:

Me: Where has this day gone?

Mom: Up in a pouf of snot.. :/

The “big night” was sitting on the couch with Mom and Jenny, watching politics, guzzling water and passing the tissue box. Aren’t you sorry you missed it?

There has been waaay to much NightQuil flowing around here!

This sickness, unfortunately, came right at the same time as my first week back in classes and my first week of work. So much for entering the new year with energy and enthusiasm! Here’s to 2013!

One thing I have been valuing lately, beside cough drops and lotioned tissues, is tiny recipes. Following @tinyrecipes is my latest Twitter obsession: entire recipes all in the short space of one tweet. It’s clever, fun, and uncomplicated for my swollen sinuses.

Not many of us have time to lug the cookbook off the shelf at every mealtime. Most days I’m lucky if lunch even makes it on to a plate. I need fast, simple, and healthy. Oh and immune-boosting, cold-fighting ingredients are always a plus.

Ready? Six quick and favorite recipes in 140 characters or less:

Humolsa:
1 mashed avocado + 1/3 c. hummus + 1/3 c. salsa
#scoopit

Egg-topped salad:
Pour 2-3 egg whites in a greased skillet, top with veggies of choice. Cook till egg is settled, flip and cook 2 min. Serve over hearty salad.

HLT:
Layer hummus, lettuce and tomato on a whole wheat roll. “Grill” both sides of sandwich on a greased frying pan until hummus is “melty”.

Pumpkin Green Monster:
Banana, pumpkin, milk, maple syrup, instant coffee, spinach, and cinnamon #pumpkinpieinaglass

Fruit “Roll-Ups”:
Spread almond butter on Whole wheat tortilla, sprinkle with cinnamon, and wrap around a whole banana. Cut into bite-sized slices.
#snackable #tastebudsofachild

Yogurt Parfait:
Top a Greek yogurt with a sliced banana, crumbed baked oatmeal or muffin or raw oats and sprinkle with cinnamon.
#instantbreakfast #tastesfancy

What are your favorite tiny recipes?

Oh, and got any cold-busting tips to share? I’ll pay in honey-lemon cough drops.

Savoring Break: Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal

I am a huge fan of this thing called “break”.

Waking up without an alarm clock after eight hours of restful sleep. Thinking “What do I want to do today” instead of “How many items can I knock off of my gazillion lists before the day’s out?”

Having time to spend with friends and family so my sister tells me every single day: “You are so much nicer and happier now”. I had no idea what a monster school made out of me.

I may be over sugar and cookies, but I am not ready to say goodbye to the holiday spirit. No siree. I am going to savor every moment for as long as I can.

Days like yesterday. I puttered around half the morning before bundling up and heading out in the sub-freezing temperatures for a run. I kept my mind off my frostbitten nose by planning a warm, nutritious breakfast. Then I ran harder to get back home and into the kitchen.

My vision of Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal was whipped up and baking away quicker than the drive-through at Dunkin Donuts to cash in my brand spanking new gift card. Thank you, Aunt Robin. That large coffee was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious smells of winter spices and orange zest wafting from the oven.

Breakfast was everything I hoped for and much more. I “mmmed” at every bite and felt so good making two healthy decisions that morning. It was the perfect balance for spending the rest of the day with friends, sprawled on the couch and eating chocolate covered strawberries.

My free days are fleeing by and there won’t be many more days to drink in the joys of life, of family and friends. So right now, I’m just going to be thankful. And savor every delicious bite.

Chocolate-covered strawberries and oatmeal alike.

Cranberry Chai Baked Oatmeal~ serves one ~

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1/3 c. vanilla almond milk
  • 1 Chai tea bag
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T. ground flax
  • 1/2 banana, mashed*
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 c. chopped cranberries
  • orange zest
  • stevia to taste

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 and spray a ramekin with cooking spray.
  • In a small saucepan, heat water and milk with tea bag until it simmers lightly. Remove from heat and allow tea bag to steep for a few minutes. Remove bag, squeezing to release flavor. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  • Pour batter into prepared ramekin and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Serve with honey, maple syrup, or jam.

* The banana is to bind the batter together. If you’re not a banana fan, you can substitute either one whole egg or 1/4c. unsweetened applesauce.

I’m going to make this tomorrow morning so I can feel okay about my last hurrah, snacking all night and ringing in the New Year. It’s all about balance, folks.

How to Cope: Peanut Butter Crunch Popcorn

There are certain words I never want to hear again: school, exams, due-dates, study.

There are other words I can’t get enough of: snow, lights, cinnamon, carols, and peppermint.

Every week, school has become more more unbearable. And now, here is the end. In a few days, the books will be laid aside for three glorious weeks. Christmas is so close I can smell it. Or is that my steaming Chai tea? No matter. Chai and Christmas are pretty much the same thing, anyway.

A few small things helped me make it through without totally losing my sanity.

High on the list were my study buddies. All throughout a long and tortuous semester of Biochemistry, the girls around my table kept me smiling. Four days a week we met together, shared anxiety over quizzes, gave each other pep talks, and  laughed over dumb lab mistakes, which were always mine, and shared pencils with those who packed mascara but forgot any writing instruments. Which, again, was always me. Always.

The day before exams, we met together one last time in the library for a real intense study session. So intense the four of us camped out at a table all afternoon and came prepared with nourishment, in the form of Christmas cookies, fruit snacks, and coffee. So intense I remembered to bring a pen. Unfortunately, I forgot paper but it all worked out because we ended up talking a whole lot more than writing.

I wanted to give my special friends a little token of appreciation. We’ve been through a whole lot together and I wanted them to know that no matter how horrendous the semester was, I was glad for the friendships that came out of them. I also wanted them to know that even though our paths were diverging, I was still going to think about them and pray for them.

So, naturally I made Peanut Butter Crunch Popcorn. It’s only fitting for the occasion, right? The perfect snack to accompany late night bonding times with the textbooks. The perfect sweetness and crunch to remember better times and get a taste of Christmas waiting on the other side.

And who am I kidding. It was finals week and I needed to extract myself from my studying “hole.” The kitchen is my choice coping mechanism. Nothing like getting peanut butter in your hair to relieve stress.

It's snowing popcorn!

Peanut Butter Crunch Popcorn
~
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c. popcorn kernels
  • 2/3 c. honey
  • 1 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. natural, creamy peanut butter (no sugar added)
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. puffed kamut (optional)
  • 1 c. peanuts
  • 2/3 c. almonds
  • 1/2 t. salt (optional)

Directions

  • Microwave pop kernels using the paper bag method: In a small, lunch-bag style paper bag, pour about 3 T. kernels. Tightly roll over the top of the bag to “seal” and microwave about 3 minutes, or until popping slows (about 5 seconds between pops). Repeat until all the kernels have been popped.

(I used a trimmed TJ’s bag. Really, Joe, how do you not save my life?)

  • Spread popcorn out on sprayed cookie sheets to cool. Remove any unpopped kernels.
  • In a large saucepan or Dutch Oven, heat honey, brown sugar, and oil. Bring to a slow simmer.
  • Remove pan from heat and immediately stir in peanut butter and vanilla.
  • Working quickly, stir popcorn, kamut, and nuts into pan and with a wooden spoon or spatula, mix to thoroughly coat popcorn.
  • Spread popcorn on to cooking sheets, breaking apart clumps. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Popcorn can be stored in a airtight container

It’s all over today. I walked out of the classroom like I was walking on air. Then I came home and immediately pulled out the popcorn kernels. Lunch today was a pan of peanut butter popcorn and a bowl of broccoli. Yum, fiber.

Sometimes, you just got to do what you got to do.

Places I Love

Lately, I’ve been playing the game “Where I Wish I Was Right Now”.

I play it when I am sitting in my Biochemistry lab, trying to look intelligent while my partner does all the work. News flash: today was the last lab of the semester — and perhaps off my entire college career. I would be more than happy to retire my lab glasses forever.

I play WWIWRN (can I get that patented?) when I see things like this:

Yes that says, Exam, Presentation, Exam all in the last week of class.That’s when I wish for a magic carpet. Or a snow storm or anything.

Where are the places I love most to be?

  • By the fireplace in my PJs with the family
  • In the kitchen, baking cookies and listening to Christmas music
  • The Christmas tree farm where horse-drawn carriage take you to your tree and candy canes and hot chocolate await your return
  • Boston. It’s my favorite city. One day I want to live there.
  • On country roads in the early morning, my neon orange sneakers rhythmically pounding the pavement with cows and horses for company.
  • Anthropologie. I’ve actually only been in one store, but I’m on the website often enough for it to definitely make my list of wishful getaways.
And then there is this place:
Rebecca Florio@beccarosiefloRebecca Florio
I may be putting my reputation on the line, but yes, I count a grocery store as one of my favorite places to be.
Because it’s forty-five minutes away, it’s an all day event that only happens about four times away.
Because it’s TRADER JOE’S. The whole atmosphere is just happy.
Because it inspires snacks like this one:

That would be mini pretzels lathered in pumpkin butter and sunflower butter, topped with Ghiradelli chocolate chips. DO IT.

I came home with lots of goodies, the kinds of signature foods you can only find at TJ’s: the best hummus ever, cinnamon roll bread, sunflower butter, fruit bars, cereals, tofu. It’s like a bottomless treasure chest and I had to remind myself that we were driving a minivan, not a bus.

Mom and I were just heading out the door when she spotted the large bin of pineapples at an incredible price. It didn’t take much convincing for me to turn around and get back in the checkout line.

And it only took a day until the pineapple was put to good use.

I’m a big believer in eating food in season. It’s freshest, most natural, and supports local farming. It also inspires creativity. I could always use more of that.

Which means that if your toes are freezing off in the middle of December and you wish you were tanning on a Florida beach, you can still have your fruit salad. This is the kind that will make you want to pull up your toe socks, pour a warm cup of tea, and cuddle up by the fireplace.

Winter Fruit Salad with Citrus Honey Dressing

  • 1 small pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4 clementines, peeled and sectioned
  • 3 medium pears, diced
  • 3 medium apples, diced
  • 1 pomegranate, peeled and seeded (I use this method)
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 t. cinnamon
Directions
  • Cut fruit in bite-sized pieces and combine in a large bowl
  • In a small jar or bowl, combine honey, juice, vanilla, and cinnamon. Place the lid on the jar and shake, or use a whisk to thoroughly combine ingredients.
  • Pour dressing over fruit and stir to coat.
  • Refrigerate salad for at least 1 hour to let flavors develop.

Of course, now the fruit salad is gone and I’m wishing I had bough three more pineapples at Trader Joe’s.

As if I needed an excuse to take the forty-five minute commute twice in one week. Anyone up for a road trip?

Make it Better: Triple Chipper Oatmeal Cookies

At the ripe old age of nineteen, I’ve come to the realization that life is full of inconveniences. They’re unwanted, unplanned, and unavoidable. I have spent a lot of energy and time trying to remove them, but to no avail. So I’ve also come to the realization that they must be meant to be. Part of the greater good God’s working in my life (Romans 8:28). These everyday inconveniences can be opportunities to learn lessons and challenges to find and cultivate the good in “bad” days.

When you have a three hour lab that includes a two hour wait, when you and your lab partners are yawning at each other under foggy lab classes, turn it into a conversation opportunity. You may just make some nerdy new friends

When you are “feeling a bit out of sorts,” your throat is scratchy, and your nose is sniffly, turn your downtime on the couch to read that book you haven’t gotten around to.

When the weather keeps you inside from the run you were planning, turn on cheerful Christmas music and try a new workout.

When you’ve had a long rough day at school, use your car ride home to call your sister and plan a movie-popcorn night.

When you’ve stayed up late talking to a friend and your alarm goes off at 5:15am, be sure to cash your Dunkin Donut coupon in for a tall coffee

When you go after honey with a balloon, the great thing is not to let the bees know you’re coming. (That one’s from Winnie the Pooh. Go read him)

When you want to turn unhealthy sweets into healthy treats, be sure to make them 1)edible and 2)yummy. Just so you know, almond flour + oat flour is a magic combination.

And please, when you have three kinds of baking chips, be sure to use them all.

Triple Chipper Oatmeal Cookies
~ makes 6 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. coconut
  • 2/3 c. Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 egg (or 1 T. flax seed + 2 T. water)
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350F
  • To make oat flour, process oats (1/2 c. at a time) in a blender or food processor until ground into a fine powder. It should look something like this: 
  • Process coconut in a blender or food processor until very finely chopped. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat Earth Balance with sugar and baking soda until fully combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add almond flour, coconut and oat flour and mix well.
  • Stir in chocolate and butterscotch chips.
  • Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake about 12 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown

When you make six dozen cookies that combine oats, almond flour, and coconut, and when you are going to go all crazy in the baking chips department, be sure to eat them surrounded by friends.

I promise they will taste a thousand times better. And your day will be a thousand times sweeter.