Dear autumn friends,
Time away from ourselves can be largely upsetting and unnerving, especially if this time is felt physically. I’ve recently experienced major separation anxiety from myself and because of this anxiety I have come to realize I didn’t have a proper mechanism for dealing with it. This deficit of coping mechanisms has led me here to you all, today, to talk a little about taking the time to show appreciation to your body.
You may be asking yourself, ‘How do I show my body appreciation and why is that important?’ It’s not like I awake each morning and pinch myself, greet my skin, pet my hair and scratch myself behind the ear, but there are ways to show a little appreciation to your body. Recently, something involving my health has arisen that felt, initially, completely out of my control. Or so I thought. I was feeling unlike the me I’ve known all these years because my well oiled machine began to squeak and grind and nobody could tell me why. What I’ve noticed is that the ‘why’ has been of the utmost importance to me. It’s been stifling my healing. All I’ve been able to think about for weeks is why this is happening to me. What’s causing this, and why is it that nobody can give me a definitive answer? The truth–the ‘why’–isn’t always as important as the ‘what’ you’re going to do to heal and accept what you cannot change. This is something my Mama (maw-maw) emphasizes often. In a way, the ‘what’ is understanding time and the respect we must have for it.
Let’s get down to it. Here are some thoughts I have on how to show appreciation to your body:
When our mind and body aren’t in sync we can become miserable molds of carbon and then we’re useless. Treasure your gift–your body–and find ways to keep the balance even when the the scale is tipped. I’m trying a little harder lately to care for my body more and show it all the appreciation it deserves. You can too! I’m sending everyone out there a lot of love and hoping to feel much better and much more balanced soon.
Healthy and Happy Healing Regards,
Some of you may know that I recently had a pretty extensive oral surgery, the extent to which I won’t go into here, but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I have an incurable disease called periodontal disease. For me the risk factor is genetic, meaning despite my most tenacious and stringent efforts to keep a squeaky clean mouth, harmful and diligent bacteria strike back. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful support system and a fantastic periodontal and dental team.
The reason I mention this here is not to discuss oral hygiene–I’ve covered this before here and here–but because I feel it imperative to chat with you all about how much we take for granted simple actions like chewing, salivating, and digestion (it starts in your mouth). Anticipating this surgery for months, I knew what kind of diet was on the horizon for me, and by pure accident I planned this surgery at an ideal time of the year; summer or a warm weather month. Warm weather months are ideal for beginning extensive oral care because your body isn’t anticipating caloric storage and warmth due to declining temperatures in the environment and your body.
Too often, the ‘liquid diet’ is associated with cleansing, fad dieting, and a quick, temporary fix to what could be a larger underlying problem you may have. I thought I’d turn the direction of this liquid meal conversation in a different direction; maybe it’s just nice to mix it up a bit, give your digestion a rest, and in my case, eat the only thing I could. I’ve talked before about having comfort foods, eating habits while menstruating, and approaching your food choices with mindfulness, but today I want to talk about how a scary dietary change can actually shake your apple tree up just enough that you may find a few ripe, tasty bites you wouldn’t have found or looked for otherwise.
Here are a few recipes to help guide you through your own possible liquid diet:
Liquid Diet Tips:
I’ve healed since the surgery and I’m happy to say that despite the necessity to drink only liquid, I’m continuing to partake in lovely liquid noms. What are some of your favorite recipes for juices, smoothies, teas, and soups? Have any tips or thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments (below) or under the hashtag #kitchenletters and take a look at previous Kitchen Letters. And remember…bite responsibly!
Healthy and Sunny Regards,
Dear thoughtful readers,
I told you I would write to you about meal planning–I know it’s been a while–and I’m here today to do this very thing! Approaching meal planning has been a task I’ve had to wrangle myself in, to do. I have weeks where the weekend escapes me and a meal plan is never made. Then there are the weeks when I’m able to sit down and sift my mind through simple ideas for meals that would be easy to approach, are not time-consuming and won’t require excessive meal prep.
Meal Planning Tips:
I hope meal planning this summer makes for a happier you, and remember..bite responsibly!
Healthy & Happy Summer Regards,
It’s fair to assume that this winter has been a hellish one for many across the United States. Some of you who have experienced a comedic amount of snow probably don’t feel like this. Here in central Texas, mother nature’s ambivalence has been difficult to adjust to, but I feel fortunate to not have to plow through snow and scrape ice off of my car every morning. There’s a reason everything shuts down in Texas if there’s even a hint of ice headed our way; we don’t know how to handle it, for the most part. All that to say, the strange fluctuation in the weather has played a role in my exhaustion with certain ‘seasonal’ veggies. Our winter season has been a strange mix of winter and spring and I need a change. A girl can only eat so many turnips, ya know? Honestly, my first reaction to feeling this way is guilt. I should be able to flow with what nature provides me and see that every season eventually passes, and for the most part, I can. But perhaps this winter, with schedules growing busier and time feeling more scarce and precious, I have become a little impatient with our produce abundance and assortment. At times there has been too much of one particular veggie and not enough of another. I’ve decided to let this guilt wash over me and move on. There’s no harm in feeling a certain way about the food that you’re eating. What’s important is being responsible and mature enough to recognize your feelings, and to not block them out for fear of adhering to a label or self-imposed restriction.
On that note, meals prepared with love and positive happy energy are the best meals. Recently, a colleague and I discussed a previous job she had in a bakery; she had to arrive for each shift around 4 a.m., wherein she would stock the shelves and the display cases and make the bakery storefront presentable. She said one baker’s pastries and loaves looked distressed and lumpy, while the other baker’s pastries and loaves looked fluffy and well-formed. She correlated the contrast in quality with the personality of the bakers and I’ll let you guess which was the happier, more active person. Our energy and heart truly do affect not only the manner in which we’re able to appreciate our food, but also the way the food we prepare turns out. Although I think that being in the kitchen can be a great stress reliever for some on a taxing day, consider how your mood will impact what you’re preparing and try to change your attitude before immersing your hands. What’s you’re take?
If you’ve followed Connect a Bite long enough you may have come to know me as the type of person who has not–despite my necessity to plan and organize every other aspect of my life–made planning in the kitchen a priority. However, I’ve been experimenting lately with meal planning and it has been sort of fun. As it goes for most things in life, having a design to reflect on in the midst of spontaneity is comforting. It’s great to know that I have something to fall back on and so does my husband. Although I’m the type of chef who can check out our current weekly inventory of foodstuffs and dream something up, my husband does not favor that kind of ambiguity when it comes to preparing a meal; honestly, some days it’s nice to just know what you’re getting yourself into ahead of time. He likes a recipe or a stand-by dish, and that’s why having something to reference like a week-day meal plan is helpful. I won’t expand on the specifics of my meal planning tactics this week, but keep an eye out for a post to come where I break down my process.
Finally, I wanted to comment on the rejuvenation of thoughtful meals. I don’t just mean preparing a surprise meal for a loved one, I mean allowing yourself the room for culinary growth. It is very easy to become complacent in the kitchen by regularly preparing ‘stand-by’ meals because you’re on your best chef game with those dishes, and maybe they don’t take very long to throw together. But I’d like to pay attention to the key verb in the last sentence, “throw”. Why is it that our minds are set on ‘throwing’ our meal together and moving on to something else? I understand the inescapability of this circumstance some days, but soon, after a routine is formed, all of your meals with be ‘thrown’ together. As stated previously, are we doing ourselves and those we’re making food for a disservice by not being more present and thoughtful with our preparation? Are we not depriving ourselves of a potentially meditative experience because we just want to gormandize our food so we can move on to a task that bears more importance on our docket? Maybe take the time to flip through some of those cookbooks you were given over the winter holiday that you haven’t touched, or those pinterest boards you’ve spent hours organizing, and find a new recipe or recipes to inspire your own, special creations. Treat yourself! Treat the loves in your life to something that was mindfully prepared and happily sought out. Sharing a meal is a beautiful thing. Let’s give this thoughtful meal prep a chance, what do ya say?
Thank you for taking the time to read Kitchen Letters ! Have any seasonal veggie and meal prep stories to share? I’d love to hear them!
Have an enchanting Vernal Equinox this Friday and if you’re in Scotland, let me know if you’re able to see the total eclipse! And remember…bite responsibly!
Healthy and Happy (almost) Spring Regards,
Dear patient students of life,
Routine can often be very comforting to me. The methodical piecing together of the day’s events, both necessary and nonessential is something I take pleasure in. However, a regimented life can easily lose any semblance of comfort and reliability if we allow ourselves to become too comfortable in our habits. Recently, I had the pleasure and joy of teaching a friend how to prepare a meal I make often during the autumn and winter months. It was an incredible experience that challenged the way I approach preparing a meal and it was infused with the irreplaceable gift of teaching myself a lesson too.
What did I learn? I learned to pace myself in life. If you know me at all, you understand me to be a fast-paced person, but when you’re teaching someone else the steps to making a meal, pacing is key. I learned that teaching others is fulfilling because it presents you with the gift of spreading knowledge, and in this instance, breaking down the daunting barrier of food that is unknown, was very exciting. I learned that it takes more than writing about something regularly to truly understand what you’re writing about. I learned that putting your hands and heart into a meal make it taste all the better. I learned that making a meal with love makes it taste better too. I learned that sharing a meal is one of the most special gifts you can give. More than anything, I broke down the idea of being fully content with what consumption habits that I had carried with me and re-purposed the content nature with one more aligned with what I write about here on Connect a Bite, being evaluative and connected.
Labels in life are stifling, but nonetheless we’re asked to label ourselves. It is imperative to not restrict myself to a point of personal confusion that leads to arbitrary decision-making. I choose to not label my diet or my consumptions habits, and I vow to be true to only some self-imposed standards when it comes to food.
I’m happy to be able to share with you a few thoughts, and here’s to less unhealthy labeling of ourselves, more friendly meals and spreading our knowledge onto others.
Dear free thinkers,
How are you all feeling this week? I am writing to you now–after a week of a “cool-down”–because I wanted to tell you about a recent confrontation that, in its aftermath, left me dumbfounded as to what had just occurred. So much so in fact, that I reached out to a former colleague to not only commiserate, but to share my tale, as I knew that she too has been put in the same, uncomfortable and unnecessary position as I. After realizing the umbrage I took at this unpleasant encounter, I knew I needed to write about it in a more public manner. I understand that what I’m about to describe is not an isolated occurrence, and its meaning weighs much more heavily in my mind with respect to human rights than I think was ever intended.
A little background. I attend catered events, and being someone who does not eat within the boundaries of the typical diet, oftentimes it behooves me to speak up about what my dietary “restrictions”–as they are often referred to by many–are. Otherwise, I’ll be politely drinking 6 cups of water and making percussive noises with my utensil set all throughout the dining event, just to distract myself from the hunger pangs. Knowing my grub circumstance, once a formal invitation is sent out, I typically send a notification to the necessary party, informing them of my food needs. However, this time a chance was not given.
I was approached directly. This dialogue, if it can even be called that, quickly took a turn for the worst. Upon approach, a feeling of guilt was implied by the turn of grammatical phrase from this person and soon I was compared to another individual who, by her own demure nature, did not stand up for herself when approached, but merely avoided confrontation by yielding to the antagonist. Soon I felt myself being verbally sabotaged with nowhere to turn but my own–what I hope was graceful– verbal sortie.
Yes, I follow a plant-based diet. I am a person who eats, and its’ selective, yes, but it’s my choice, and I make this choice with love and care.
person planning event: “Is this a medical choice or just a personal choice?”
me: “It’s a personal choice (inside my head, “as if it even matters!!!”), I’ve been vegan for years and it’s important to me.”
I won’t say more about the actual remarks of the circumstance as that defiles the meaning of this post.
When being asked about why I have chosen to eat a certain way, which is, in essence, asking me why I have chosen to live my life a certain way, I endeavor to have an open heart and mind. In all honestly, it’s often strange to me that dietary choice, if you’re fortunate enough for it to be a choice, is not considered with more brevity in defining your lifestyle. Of course in today’s world, the idea of foodies and following food-trends is socially acceptable, which has engendered a more accepting community to the many dietary limitations out there, but I don’t think this foodie world has given much reverence to those on the fringe. In an ideal world, people wouldn’t reproach at the very thought of my decisions in regards to comestibles, but would converse with humility and acceptance. Instead, acerbic rhetoric that was aligned to make me feel nothing but disrespected and discouraged about my choices was hurled in my direction. I would like to note, that I don’t think this was entirely the intention of this individual, just the unfortunate outcome. It is often the case that as humans, we react in defense of our own insecurities or ignorance, for this, I cannot fault anyone, as I’m sure I too have been guilty of such an affront at some point in my life.
Additionally, and as eloquently pointed out by my former colleague, would I have been approached in the same accusatory and dissatisfied manner were I a man? I think not. A male counterpart, I’m certain, would have been confronted with a much calmer and appeasing tone, or not at all. Not to dwell in gender, but I find this to be incredibly disconcerting. HeForShe!
Food choices don’t have to be approached with a confrontational tone and our reactions shouldn’t be that of a defensive nature, either. And this is why I write to you today. It’s not to rant about something you may find trivial; something like food choice. I write to implore you to take a look at how you’re approaching others in your day-to-day. I entreaty you to take a moment to STOP and ask yourself why you’re approaching a circumstance a certain way. Be mindful.
Here are some ways you can feel more prepared when you’re sitting around the table with family and friends this coming holiday season.
I’m sure there are some of you out there who think, “GET OVER IT”, and you don’t want to tread lightly for others. When you’re feeling this way, think of any situation in life where you, as a functioning member of society, have been taught to have manners, integrity, and respect for other people’s choices. Food choices are no different, and they are a human right that’s being denigrated, not uplifted, even with the foodie movement. Help be a part of the acceptance and change!
Joining together in conversation about food and our choices is crucial, but remember to be tactful and considerate. The idea of reaching harmony can come to us cloaked, and that cloak may be in the form of a meal with someone you know or love or both. Be tender if you can. And remember…bite responsibly!
p.s. My catch phrase lately, “I choose my choice!” #ichoosemychoice
Kitchen Letters from the past.
Dear morning muffins,
What’s new with you this week? As I’m sure you have already noticed, this week I write to you about mint tea and a special state of mind. It stands to reason that there is always space in our hearts and minds to discuss a refreshing cup of tea and to transcend whatever is ailing us currently, but somehow this space can become crammed with doubt and judgement. In all honesty, I cannot say that the stronger, more meditative moments always overwhelm the weaker.
I begin this way to emphasize that sometimes, I find, it’s helpful to look outside of ourselves to gain temporary peace, even if for a moment. I’m learning to stratify my best moments and allow them to germinate, and maybe, just maybe, a cup of mint tea is the catalyst in this experiment called life. Too heavy? Another thought then.
For over two years I’ve written about our connection to food and why this connection is significant for each person. Our connection to food should not, at any time, be jettisoned. Apathy is not the answer. During a recent visit to a thoughtful and well-informed massage therapist, I was reminded of this. Throughout my healing session, she and I began discussing Connect a Bite, but more importantly, what it means to connect to your food and be conscious and aware of what you’re eating and how it will affect not only you, but the environment, and other creatures therein. She told me of the small farming town she grew up in, and how disconnected from what they ate most of the people in the town were. She said, though many of the farmers within the community sold fresh produce, they ate very little of it, and that there was generally a “tough shit” mentality when it came to food. What does this gruff and pithy idiom mean in relation to food? I don’t think I can say what it meant to the members of her hometown, but I can tell you how I perceive this statement in relationship to the public at large. The idea, eat what you’re given–no matter what it is–and be grateful. Another blatant aphorism that aligns with this thought, “beggars can’t be choosers”, essentially. Perhaps this is a Southern mentality, but encouraging the stunting of one’s ability to be inquisitive is something I cannot abide. Soon, our conversation became more about the present and our personal regard for what we’re eating.
The truth. It’s easy to allow the consciousness regarding your comestible choices to become a burden. I’m sure there are times when many of you want to eject yourself from your aware minds and just be. This I can sympathize with and very much relate. However, I wouldn’t trade what many would classify as food neurosis for anything. Maybe this is a burden I’m supposed to carry and maybe writing about and finding a way to connect you all to food is a part of my life path. Maybe, I shouldn’t say “maybe”. With mindfulness, it is within my best intentions to just be.
Why mint tea?
Drinking tea is a state of mind. It is with this thought I would like to share a cup of mint tea with you. A truly clarifying experience that will brighten your mind, calm your heart, and enliven your spirit. If you can’t get on board with any of that, at the very least it will help you slow down, even for just a moment.
Fresh Mint Tea
- 4 or 5 sprigs of mint (decrease or increase the amount based on the weakness or strength you prefer)
- 2 to 3 cups hot, nearly boiling spring or filtered water (depending on your teapot size and how many sprigs you choose)
- With a sieve handy, pull mint leaves from each sprig and place them into the sieve. Rinse with cool water to remove any dirt
- Muddle leaves just enough to allow essential oils to release and then place the leaves into teapot strainer (take care not to demolish the leaves, as this could release the chlorophyll and introduce a bitter taste to your tea, not very pleasant)
- Bring water to a boil and pour over leaves making sure to quickly cover the teapot (this traps the essential oils in the tea rather than escaping into the air)
- Allow leaves to steep for approximately 8 to 10 minutes
- If teapot strainer is housed within teapot, your choice of allowing leaves to remain (what I did) or removing them.
- Pour and serve. Enjoy with a friend, partner or in solitude.
I hope you enjoy this cup of tea and remember…bite responsibly!
Healthy and Mindful Regards,
What’s happening where you are? My story this time begins with turnips. Yes, this wildly underrated root veggie has easily taken the spotlight in our kitchen the past couple of months and my creativity was put to the test. CSA boxes are sort of the ‘Chopped‘ of the everyday kitchen world, but the catch is it’s all produce and the only time limit on creating a delicious recipe is the shelf life of what’s inside the box. Now, after trying a few different things with this hunky root, what sounded most delicious one afternoon was fries. After perusing a few Pinterest boards to figure out what other people have done with their turnips, I found some that suggested making fries. As none of the recipes I came across suited me, and I’m not much for deep-frying anything, I decided to tweak a recipe I use for crispy baked yams and apply it to turnips!
A bit of turnip history for you all; did you know that turnips have been around for about 4000 years? Their original purpose was less for mastication and more for well, throwing at those you didn’t like. Glad that’s no longer a popular practice!
Turnips are part of the Cruciferae family of vegetables, and this does mean they could lend to a more gaseous evening, so I would recommend a digestive enzyme before consumption and lighting a sweet-smelling lit candle. I don’t mean to be gross or crude, but I think it’s only fair that you know what you’re getting yourself into. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a given you’ll have a tummy-taming evening, but knowledge is power my friends.
When my husband and I committed to buying shares in a farm, it was our hesitation initially that we would end up with more produce than we could use. There are only two of us and, though we have voracious appetites, often times our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. However, once we began to understand what it meant to buy directly from a farmer who was producing organic, delicious, and fresh produce, all of our doubts peeled away. There were excessive patches, like our summer boxes which were overflowing with small, sweet peppers and some spicy peppers. It became hard to keep up, but the great part was I started to get more inventive, and that’s where the turnips come in. At any farm, some fruits and vegetables are in abundance and because turnips are often the food of farm raised animals, we lucked into an abundance as well. The trick… not wasting anything. We’ve certainly had our guilty weeks, where no matter how much I shared or prepared, we just weren’t able to go through it all, but I’m trying harder everyday to get better about not wasting precious produce. We’re very fortunate to have such delicious noms at our fingertips, and anything I can do to utilize these goodies I will do. Quick fact about food waste; America wastes 3,000 lbs of food every second. If you’d like to learn more about food waste, here’s a link to the website of an eye-opening documentary that focuses on just this topic. Dive! The Film
Are some of you still a little turned off by the idea of even messing with turnips? After taking many nutrition courses and my memory of learning about foods growing up, the benefit of assorted veggies and fruits was often a topic, but turnips never landed in that list of ‘go to’ veggies for a dense nutritional fix. Though not the most obvious choice for a nutritionally full snack, they have more to offer than you would imagine. Turnips, though a starch vegetable, are lower in calories than potatoes and are packed with vitamin C, which helps with our immunity and, just as important, tissue repair–this helps in the healing and aging process. Often overlooked as a source of vitamin C, just a cup of turnips can help fulfill daily requirements. Additionally, turnips contain a range of B vitamins which aid in protein and carbohydrate metabolism that’s key for having quality digestion and absorption. B vitamins also help in creating quality skin, hair and liver health. And who doesn’t want healthy skin? These are just a couple of the nutrients that help to make the turnip the amazing veggie it is.
Crispy Turnip Sticks
- 1 large turnip (regular variety), peeled in rough areas
- 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 – 1 tsp onion granules
- 1/2 – 1 tsp garlic granules
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- two shakes freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp Himalayan sea salt
- 1/4 cup cornmeal (non-gmo)
- Preheat oven to 425ºF
- After rinsing and pealing rough areas of turnip, slice it in half and then make 1/8” sticks (julienne)
- Grab a medium sized mixing bowl, place turnip sticks inside and sprinkle all ingredients on top, then drizzle the oil
- Toss together turnip sticks and spices until everything is nicely coated
- Arrange each stick on baking sheets in fine rows keeping each fry about a 1/4 inch or more from the next (we’re not trying to steak or roast this buddies, we want them crispy)
- Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy
- Enjoy crunchin’!
- Try with dried thyme or cayenne for a kick; note, a bit of thyme goes a long way
A quick note on a couple of ingredients. Turnips have a mild bitter flavor to them, and because of this I chose smoked paprika, which has a savory and sweet flavor to balance out the bitterness of the turnip. Thyme is one of my favorite herbs and it has a pungency that matches well with turnips. I recommend trying this when you make your first batch.
Overall, these crispies have been one our fave snacks lately and have easily become a comfort food this winter. We like to enjoy them with veggie burgers and black-eyed pea salad sandwiches. I hope you enjoy experiencing this recipe, I would love to hear your thoughts. And remember…bite responsibly!
Check out more kitchen letters here!
How are you feeling? Do you feel like 2013 was productive and revealing in some way? Did you come closer to any big goals you set?
The first day of the year is a very special one, but also a day like any other. Yesterday I awoke early–as I often do–my love still snoozing, our kitty was calm and as time passed throughout the morning small beams of light creeped into our living room where I sat at our dining/craft table. I was in a quiet and harmonious state when an incredible urge to be creative came over me.
On the final day of 2013, I did what I like to call a cleanse, wherein I exercised my ability to purge our home of unnecessary items; clutter. This was just one final day, out of many days like this in 2013, where I felt the need to extract unused items from our house. My closest friend mentioned she had gone through these motions too and she said it helped to clear her mind, and that was a great way to put it. I must say, on the 31st I may have outdone myself because by the time I was done sorting, tossing, recycling, cleaning, and organizing I was exhausted.
Now we’re back to yesterday. With a cleansed home and mind I decided it was time to put to use some of my art supplies and move forward on two things I set as a goal for my winter vacation. One, use art supplies, two, begin my recipe book. I cleared off our table and took out all the necessary supplies. In my organizing frenzy on the 31st I came across many underutilized notebooks and I decided I would start there. Stacks of magazines, my recipes, glue, scissors and most importantly my mind were all sitting at the table, ready to go. Snip, snip, snip. After hours of cutting, gluing, precise placement and breaks to read and browse articles I had missed in the past, my very first recipe book was created. I couldn’t be more pleased.
Up to this point, every time I have a recipe idea, I scramble to find a piece of scrap paper, a notecard, anything so the culinary creation isn’t lost forever. Now, I have my book!
Yesterday I spent some time in my kitchen cleaning, preparing meals and resting while drinking a yummy tea creation I’ve made lately. I reveled in my accomplishment of moving forward in my life as a chef and lover of food and all that it does for us. It occurred to me while putting together my book that I spent much of the past year doubting. I’m not proud to say that. What I am proud to say is that I’m here, now, allowing myself the gift of trust.
My kitchen and my abilities in it and outside of it are something I should never doubt. I should feel stronger every day for the creations I introduce to the world and I hope only to improve with grace as time carries on in 2014 and beyond.
Yesterday, I didn’t just create a book I created a chance.
I hope this letter finds you well, world.
Much love and gratitude,