Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lately

Lately, there has been sunshine. A lot of sunshine. The breed of sunshine that I think only those of us along the Gulf Coast really get.

At a certain point, the grass isn't greener, only a few hardy flowers still bloom, and the summer's fruits start to shrivel up on their vines. 
But it brings big, late sunsets, and lots and lots of light.

 
We bring our exploits inside. 

I've been picking up a new book lately (in place of studying for the GRE), and piecing together the bits of a blanket my first niece or nephew will be wrapped up in come winter. 


I've taken to eating my breakfast cool, but hearty. With as little prep time spent in the kitchen as possible. Without a strict recipe, and without a penchant for oatmeal. With all the ease that a summer morning needs.


Overnight Raw Oatmeal: Muesli

Let me start by saying this is the least strict recipe you will ever encounter. Want to make it vegan? Skip the honey for agave nectar. Or maybe you'd prefer vanilla extract to cinnamon? Dried fruit to fresh? Sounds great to me. Like it thicker or thinner in consistency? Change your milk content. I'm personally looking forward to trying pumpkin seeds in place of nuts this fall. The base is incredibly versatile. Maybe that's why, though I've never liked oatmeal even the slightest bit, I still thoroughly enjoy this. It takes almost no time to prepare, is easy to transport when prepared in a cup or mason jar, and will have you out the door quickly in the morning (but still satisfied come lunchtime). Here's how I like it best (note that all measurements are approximate):
  •  1/2 c gluten-free rolled oats, heaping (I use Bob's Red Mill Old Fashioned)
  • slightly less than 1/2 c vanilla almond milk, or your favorite milk/milk alternative
  • approx. 1/4 tsp chia seeds (optional, but good)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • approx. 1/4 c pecan pieces, or one large handful
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • mixed fresh berries
Combine oats and milk alternative in a bowl, glass, or jar with honey and sprinkle with chia seeds. Refrigerate overnight. Note: I like mine pretty thick. If you'd like a more traditional oatmeal texture, keep your oat:milk ratio closer to 1:1. Play with it a bit to figure out what you like!

In the morning, add pecan pieces, cinnamon, and a handful of fresh berries. Mix together, and you are set!
Do you have a favorite combination I should try?

(all photos, except that of the muesli, were taken and edited with my iPhone)

Monday, June 17, 2013

As much for me as you.

I want to tell you something that may not have been said:

Thank you. And congrats.

For all those small moments that you surmounted to do those things, maybe out of character or of a bigger battle, but without any flash or bang.

Thank you for taking care of yourself. And congratulations on that, too.
        (I know first-hand how difficult this can be. It's not selfish to sometimes just put yourself first. Or maybe it is, and that's more than okay.)

Congratulations on choosing to come home, when your bones have always pushed you away.
Congratulations on moving out of the state where you spent your whole life, on little more than some crossed fingers and tied shoelaces.
Congratulations for booking that plane ticket even while your heart raced and your knees shook and your mind told you that it didn't make any sense.
Congratulations on fighting for it. Whatever your "it" is.

        You are amazing.

If anyone hasn't told you lately that these little-big things are amazing: know that they are.


        Please, be proud.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Summer Sweet

With the beginning of summer comes cherries.

Fresh cherries are such a treat in both taste and substance. Besides being rich in lots of vitamins and minerals, cherries are also high in antioxidants and are one of the few food sources of melatonin, which helps to regulate your sleep cycle. If you've never had a handful of fresh, pitted, sweet-fleshed Bing cherries in the summertime heat, your taste buds (and your body) are simply are missing out. They are easily one of my favorite fresh treats alone.



...but a little indulgence never hurts, right? With a bag of fresh cherries sitting in my fridge, at risk of going bad before they could all be consumed, I decided to shake them up just a little. Chocolate and cherries are such a classic combination, but the chocolate-covered maraschino cherries with the syrup or creme are just too unnatural and overly sweet for me. So I decided to throw together a more natural, but delicious, rendition of those. Inspired by a chocolate bar I enjoy, I added almond for a little bit of an earthy touch that pairs nicely with the slight tartness of the cherries, but avoids the slight aftertaste that almond extracts can offer.



Chocolate Covered Cherries
(note: these proportions will gives you a large amount of chocolate--enough for an entire bag of cherries. if you're don't need that much, I suggest making about a third of these measurements. I overestimated and ended up having about half my chocolate left over!)
  •  1.5 c semi-sweet chocolate chips* (if you'd like the recipe to be 100% dairy free, just substitute your favorite dairy-free chocolate option)
  • large spoonful of coconut oil
  • 3 T almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • whole fresh Bing cherries, or your other favorite red variety, washed and dried

Prepare a flat, moveable surface (i.e.: cookie sheet, large tupperware, baking pan) for the cherries by lining it with wax paper. Begin melting chocolate chips in a small pot over very low heat. Mix in coconut oil, then almond butter as the chocolate melts further, making sure to stir and scrape down the sides continuously to avoid burning the chocolate. Add vanilla and stir.  

Remove chocolate from heat. Dip cherries individually into chocolate mixture (stemmed cherries work best here), swinging them or using a spoon to coat all sides. Stir chocolate occasionally between cherries to maintain texture. Placed finished sheet of cherries in the fridge. Once the chocolate has hardened, they can be transferred to a smaller container for storage. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.*

HEAD'S UP: fresh cherries contain pits which, while easy to eat around, you should be cautious of when biting.


*if you'd like your chocolate coating to remain completely solid at room temperature, you could use chocolate candy coating instead of chocolate chips. you could also probably skip or reduce the coconut oil if you go this route. but I personally like popping them straight out of the fridge and into my mouth (and prefer the taste of melted chocolate)!