Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm looking for miracles in all areas of my life!

"What is a Miracle?"

Miracles occur when you breakthrough old beliefs and habits and do something you previously didn't think you could do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My New Magic Carpet!

So many people I know are feeling scared and uncertain because of all the bed news about the economy we keep hearing about. Sales are down for many businesses in every sector; of course this means it is a great time to buy items where prices are lower than usual. So, I have done my part to stimulate the economy this week by purchasing this handmade wool rug, for a decent price. I can amuse myself for decades by contemplating the colours and patterns of a Persian Carpet; it's like a relaxing meditation for me. My husband and I walked into the showroom at different times since he had some errands to do, so he dropped me off first. I got to see him walk in and immediately gravitate towards the same carpet I had picked... or rather been picked by. So we figured it was meant to be that one of us will have it. It's in my office right now and we are bantering back and forth about the "oversized used moth-eaten prayer rug" and who should have custodial rights over it. Clearly we'll have to go again to buy another for his office because this one just matches the colour scheme of my office too perfectly to leave! : ) M

Sprouted Quinoa Bread

I was very pleased with my first attempt at making a sprouted bread. I used only 1.5 cups of wheat flour, with 4 cups of other flours. Next time I am going to try a completely gluten-free bread... I have just sprouted 2 cups of red quinoa, and will be drying and grinding later today. Here's a photo of last week's loaf:

Monday, February 23, 2009

White Bean "Borscht" with Red Cabbage and Roasted Beets

Beans and Legumes: Fart Free!

There is a foolproof way to cook any bean perfectly, every time. First of all, you will save cook time by soaking most beans overnight. Even a one-hour soak will speed up the cook time. Throw away soak water and start again with fresh water to cook; almost any bean will be fully cooked in one hour this way. The trick is to cook it by itself. No salt, no seasoning, just beans and water. Yes it is another pot to wash, but to me there is nothing more tragic than a flavorful chili with inedible little rocks that could have been easily digestible, fully cooked beans if the cook used 2 pots. One for the beans and one for everything else that is being added to the beans, i.e., spices and herbs, other veggies, etc. When your beans are fully cooked, then add them to everything else. With most bean dishes, I drain the beans (my plants like the bean water). With red lentils and other small legumes like Moong beans, where bean disintegrates into a thick slurry, of course there is no liquid to drain.

Today I am making a thick hearty white bean “borscht” with red cabbage and beets. You’ll notice that the basic technique is very similar to my minestra recipe posted a few days ago.

• the beans are cooked in a separate pot with only water – no salt or seasonings. When they are fully cooked, they are added to the other vegetables, which have been cooked with seasonings.

• Often, I roast some of the veg (today it is beet slices) in the oven and then add to the pot when they are done. This brings out a much yummier flavor for things like beets, which hold a nicer shape, texture, and colour, and a sweeter taste if roasted vs. boiled.

• Onion is so much nicer well-cooked – my pot starts with cooking the onion a good long time, either with a bit of olive oil or with a few strips of bacon cut into small pieces. I use my signature “froil” technique: fry it, add a bit of water when it starts to stick, stir constantly as water burns off, repeat till done: so it browns evenly and caramelizes – a natural sweet flavour emerges.

• That little bit of bacon fried with onion at the start makes my Dear Husband happy to eat what is essentially a huge plate of cooked beans and vegetables, along with some of my new baking passion – sprouted quinoa bread – and call it a meal. It’s loads of extra flavour but optional.

• if you purchase parmesan cheese in solid block form, (the only way if you love cheese!) start to save your rinds for making soup! Add it to pot when cooking veg so it gets soft enough to cut into tiny chewy pieces and add back to pot. Great mouth feel!

In medium pot:
One cup white beans (best contrast with red beets and cabbage but any bean will do)

In larger pot:
1 large onion, cut in semi-circles
4 strips of bacon cut to small pieces
4 stalks celery, cut bite size
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
half a red cabbage cut in strips
a few small florets of cauliflower for a different white shape
Parmesan cheese rind
One can diced tomatoes
seasonings: salt, cayenne or black pepper, oregano,

On baking sheet, lightly oiled
3 large beets sliced in uniform rounds (I use mandolin; cut rounds into smaller pieces if your beets are large)

All three items above will be fully cooked in under an hour; add your roasted beets and fully cooked drained beans to your vegetable pot, mix together, and it’s done. I made mine thick, more like a stew you eat with a fork, and served with my multi-grain sprouted quinoa bread.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Minestra: hearty vegetable soup/stew

This soup tastes great for days; I tend to make a lot so I can heat up a bowl any time. You can freeze in small containers for an instant meal to thaw out some other day.

The basic concept is a foundation of a bean or a legume, and a roasted winter squash, combined with other hearty vegetables. It can be vegan (no meat or dairy) or you can make it even tastier by starting it with bacon and adding a Parmesan cheese rind.

Winter Squash: Do it the Easy Way

Have you ever peeled and cut up a butternut squash? Talk about an exercise in masochism! Plus it does not taste nearly as nice as this alternative: you simply cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and roast on a cookie sheet in the 350ยบ oven. When it is done ~50 minutes, scoop out the yummy cooked squash (compost the hard peel) and add to the other cooked veg.

Always Cook Dry Beans Separately!

I chose red lentils for this soup, because they are small and very easily digestible by most people, thus a better choice when taking it to a potluck party! Even so, I follow my bean rule: cook the beans separately then add fully cooked lentil to the rest of ingredients, i.e., vegetables, herbs and spices, salt.

Caramelized onion

I like my onion really well cooked. I use a technique I call ‘froil’ = fry then boil. First, brown the onion some, then add water a little at a time so it sort of boils and gets very soft and sweet. If you are cooking for vegetarians, fry onion in olive oil, otherwise, slice bacon into small pieces and fry with the onion slices (I like semi-circles of onion for a nice mouth feel). When both onion and bacon and fully browned and cooked, add other veg. and enough water so veg won’t stick and burn on bottom of your pot. At this point I put my parmesan cheese rind in the pot to soften up, so it will then be easy to remove from pot when it is soft, cut it up into very small pieces, and add back to the pot.

Your squash bakes in the oven, your seasonings and all other veg are cooking away, and your lentils cooking in a separate pot… everything finishes at around the same time, under one hour. Mix it all together: the scooped-out cooked squash, the lentils, which are a creamy slurry by now, and your seasoned fully cooked onions and other veg. The squash and lentils make a creamy base to support chunks of hearty veg. This soup is a very satisfying lunch. You can serve it on its own, or cook up some pasta, e.g., penne, rotini or shells and spoon this minestra soup/stew onto cooked drained pasta. You can grate parmesan cheese on top if you like.

Veggie suggestions:

Carrots, summer squash, e.g., zucchini, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, yam, potato. I have also made an Ital vegan version in a Rastafarian-inspired style with no cheese or bacon, and adding coconut cream and plantain. I usually prefer green cabbage in this soup but I used purple this time, as that’s what was good at the store. I LOVE garlic so I use several cloves of that too, sliced thin and added when bacon/onion is almost cooked through, before other veg added, so it browns a bit but does not burn.

Cut the Cheese!

This business of the parmesan cheese rind: I started out doing this for my dogs when I cooked bones in a crock pot for them. We use lots of parmesan cheese here so I get big Costco-sized pieces and save the rinds. When I make a soup where a cheese flavor enhances it, add the rind to water till it softens enough to cut easily. Unlike the rest of the cheese, which will disintegrate and melt into the soup, the rind keeps its satisfying chewiness for a lovely additional texture.

Seasoning: Herbs and Spices

There is enough flavor just from the rich combination of vegetables, that you don't need much to spice it up. Salt to taste. If you like a bit of kick add cayenne pepper or mustard powder or both. I have lots of organic dried oregano from my garden so I use some.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Words that Describe…

22 words for snow

It is another Beautiful sunny winter day where I live, in the country just north of Toronto. Here at Mysthaven the snow stays clean and white all winter long. Every day at some point I go for a ski or I snow shoe, and each day, I think to myself, “I wish I had 22 words for snow!” Why? Because the slightest change in temperature and humidity levels produces such a change in conditions. From one day to the next the experience is so different, and even from one moment to the next the consistency of the snow can change a lot. I’ll be gliding merrily along, when all of a sudden I hit a slushy area, and my skis start to pick up heavy clumps of sticky snow and there’s no slip-sliding away happening!

Self Knowledge and awareness
Why do I find this worth noting? Because I think that as you gain more experience with anything, you develop the ability to make better distinctions. But the converse is also true: if I knew more words that described specific conditions, I could better learn to differentiate one from another. So not only does more precise language become more needful as you gain more experience and knowledge of something. But also having more words gives you the ability to think better, to learn faster from your experiences. With a greater repertoire of words, we can describe more clearly to others our experience. More importantly, we can better describe our experience to our Self, and thus gain greater self-knowledge and awareness.

Making better distinctions with more experience
The Inuit people have more words for snow because they have more experience with it and can make better distinctions. The past few winters we have been blessed with large volumes of snow, which last for months. This means I go outside every day to do a vigorous activity in snow, so my own desire for a greater repertoire of words to describe the experience has grown.

Self Awareness: your emotions and underlying beliefs which create them

Another arena where I am developing greater awareness and experience is the area of my emotions. Working as a therapist for 29 years, and studying several modalities of body-mind psychotherapy, I have always been fascinated with how our beliefs create our reality. How does our physical affect our emotional; how does addressing personal development in any arena – body, emotions, mental or spiritual – impact all the others?

From power struggle to spiritual growth
In relationships with other people one has the greatest opportunity to learn about oneself. I think marriage, for me, is by far the most challenging and rewarding “personal growth workshop” I have ever participated in! Once you get past the excitement of the infatuation ‘high’ at the beginning, marriage enters the ‘power struggle’ phase. The vast majority of marriages stay in that phase till the end, according to Dr. Harville Hendrix. But the opportunity exists, if you are willing to face your childhood wounds, to have your power struggles with your partner be the mirror that helps you to grow past your issues. We have recently renewed our commitment to spending time, money and effort in this personal growth process, by doing relationship coaching and taking intensive personal growth workshops together. We are learning new words… words to describe our internal experience, words that help us See each other more deeply than ever before. We are being more authentic with our selves and each other. It is so exciting!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Truth and Love: The Daily Bread of Life

Multigrain Artisan Seed Bread

I read a bunch of recipes for inspiration, then created my own. I make dough in bread machine, then shape, rise and bake in the oven.
Add liquids to machine first:

2 eggs
1 bottle (12oz) dark beer, warm
2T blackstrap molasses
2T olive oil

2 cups white bread machine wheat flour
2 cups of other flours (I did 2/3 cup each of barley, brown rice and spelt flours)
1 cup rolled oats
3T ground flax seed
1.5 t sea salt
2T brown sugar

When dough cycle is complete, remove from pan, punch down and add other seeds:

3T pumpkin
3T sunflower
3T sesame

Form into rolls or 2 small loaves. Cover with tea towel and let rise to double size. This takes a longer time with multi-grain. I sat the baking pan on top of the pot of steaming water that sits on our wood stove. Just for fun I slashed my loaves with words: Truth and Love. We were pleased with the rich taste of this hearty bread. I did these free-form but next time will try in loaf tins to compare.

Truth and Love

The process of creating awesome results in any area of life is to keep holding the vision of the optimum final result. Then take action and review the results of that action. Make adjustments and observe the effects of those changes.

I am determined to create an outstanding artisan bread. Each time I take action, I can try new possibilities and watch what happens. The process of creating is all about Love and Truth, as far as I can see. First, you need to love something enough to put your life force behind it. Then, as you take action towards your intended result, you need to tell yourself the truth, all along the way, about the results you are generating with your actions, and the truth of your passion, your caring, your love, for the outcome or vision you are working towards.

What do you love enough to give your attention and energy towards? What results do you care enough about creating? Are you willing to be in truth with yourself about it, so you are empowered by the Law of Attraction to bring it into your life?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Artisan Bread and Having it All

I pulled my bread-maker out of storage this week and so far have made three interesting breads. I only use the machine to make the dough; I figure I can be kneading a person and getting paid for it (I am a Registered Massage Therapist) while the device kneads my ingredients into dough. Then I can still have the fun of shaping the dough, adding more things, and watching it rise before baking. We have the wood stove going all the time now, and in front of it is the perfect place to rise dough. So far I have made:

1. Cinnamon Buns:
Even though I substituted some interesting grain flours (barley, spelt, brown rice and oat flours) for 1/3 of the white flour called for, it still rose so much that it spilled out of the holder, and was way too wet though I used recipe exactly in terms of amount of liquid. I had to mix in quite a bit of flour on the board to get it under control. I added chopped pecans and raisins to the butter/sugar cinnamon mixture… next time I will make 4X as much of that goo and see what the maximum amount I can use is! For our tastes, though it came out delicious, we vote for more cinnamon goo! I left the icing sugar on the side as my hubby thought they were perfect without the extra sweetness.

2. Molasses Multi-grain Oat Bread:
This time I used half white and the rest other non-wheat flours, as above. Of all the various recipes I read on-line, I used the one with the most blackstrap molasses (a rich source of iron and many minerals). This is because my goal in making bread is to try and create a recipe that will have the maximum amount of healthy ingredients for optimal nutrition. I put dried cranberries and walnuts in the dough, and sesame seeds on the outside. DH did not like the intense molasses flavour with no sugar to counteract. It’s definitely an acquired taste, but then so is beer. Next time I’ll put in demerara brown sugar as well.

3. Multi-grain ‘pizza’ rolls.
I like the idea of something shaped like a cinnamon roll, except savory filling vs. sweet. I wanted a super-healthy all-in-one lunch bread. My goal with this was to see how little white flour I could get away with, plus how many ‘extras’ I could add, and still have it rise. I used one cup of white and 3 cups of other flours: spelt, barley and brown rice plus rolled oats. I also added ground flax seeds, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I used a dark beer for the liquid, and half molasses, half brown sugar for the sweet. I threw all this plus fresh-grated parmesan and oregano and rosemary from my garden, into bread-maker. And 22 cloves of finely chopped garlic gently fried in olive oil. I really love garlic! For the filling I used: asiago and mozzarella cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olive, artichoke hearts, and small pieces of salami. The final product was a bit too wet straight out of the oven. However, by the next day the rolls dried a bit and were a perfect lunch; we just finished them off and they were still yummy on the third day.

It came out pretty good, though I can see ways to improve this recipe too. I think next time, I would not add all the seeds or garlic till after the first rise. Even with such a small amount of wheat flour, it still rose, and I think the dough would have risen a lot more with less sharp things breaking up the dough from the start.

I will photograph and give complete directions once I am happy enough with my result to want to encourage you to try it too.

It must be clear to anyone with experience making yeast products that I am new at this! It’s my nature to invent and create vs. simply follow a recipe, so my new interest in bread will surely result in some new ideas that are worth reproducing!

Of course in the process of creating new ideas, some of the experiments may not turn out all that great. However, I have a dog that will be happy to eat my ‘failures’ if we can’t bring ourselves to! So it is all good!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

The is the book I mentioned above. I copied an older book version image because this is what my old copy in hard cover looks like.

Yeah, looks like adding images is easy. :)
Boldness has Genius, Power and Magic in it.

When it comes to doing something new, here is what I have noticed about myself:

If I wait until I feel ready, I never get started.

I seem to be hard-wired to feel fear and trepidation about anything unfamiliar.

Thus, a better strategy, for me at least, is to “feel the fear and do it anyway”. Susan Jeffer’s book by that title addresses this.

One of my clients (an MD psychotherapist) tells me about how he used to be crippled by perfectionism. He gave me a quote that has been a real inspiration for me:

If it is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

Often we are so afraid of not performing well, of doing something poorly, that we are reluctant to get started; to practice a new skill. I am afraid of ‘not looking good’, even to myself!

What happens when you want to do something but you wait ‘till you feel more ready, better prepared’?

In many cases, you simply procrastinate past the point where taking action will bring you the positive results you were after. When I do that, often the time in between deciding I want to do something, and taking action, is fraught with anxiety. Once I act, the anxiety almost always disappears, even after the very first time. It is replaced with feelings of accomplishment (regardless of the outcome) and relief, and usually, I think to myself, after the fact of the act,

Why did I wait so long?

Usually what I was afraid of was not so scary or hard after all. And, even if I didn’t do it so well the first time, I feel confident, once I have managed to get started, that I will improve.

I have been wanting to get started on maintaining a web log for ages. I have spent all my adult life learning all I can about happiness, success, personal and professional fulfillment. In these pages, I want to explore the myriad of choices we can make, to create the life we want.

Can you improve by rehearsing in your mind? Well, yes, to some extent, but in fact you need some real-life data, some actual feedback from the universe, to improve.

Once you have some experience with your new skill, you can indeed use the incredible power of your mind to rehearse and improve that skill by visualization. World-class athletes do this all the time. But, with no experience, you have nothing to rehearse.

For example if you are single and want to meet new people, can you improve your social skills merely by staying at home rehearsing great pick-up lines? I don’t think so. You will need to get some experience in the field. With commitment to your goal, and taking action towards it, you’ll continue to find out what works and what does not, so you can improve your game.

Attention creates energy. I will pay attention to what I am doing day by day, that takes me in a direction of greater personal happiness and professional success, and I will write about it.

Anything from artisan bread recipes (I am learning to bake bread and am experimenting with creating new recipes) to inspiring books I am reading, to effective thinking techniques that help me to stay on track with my life purpose.

My hope is not only to hopefully inspire you who have found this blog, such that you’ll enthusiastically return often to see what I have to say!

My goal is to inspire myself. Sometimes I find it is easier for me to do things when I do them also for you, so because I want to be a positive example to you, I will do the things myself that help me that I know work for my life.

Exercise is a good example of this for me. If you and I have a swim/ski/pump iron date, no matter how busy I am at work, I would not let you down, but if the work was piled up and I intended to work out alone, I might miss the work-out to ‘catch up’ on work. I’d be mad at myself for that though, because I know how much more productive I am, how much better my body feels, if I exercise strenuously every day.

I need to be accountable to someone outside of myself to be at my best. Thus by having a public diary, so to speak, with the web log, I am making myself accountable to the world, in hope of inspiring myself to greater performance in all areas of my life.