Who doesn’t love muffins, right?  And chocolate? Count me in for a dozen.

I use 100% whole wheat in all my baking, but if your family hasn’t quite made the 100% switch, start out with ½ whole-wheat and ½ white flour. I personally use ground white wheat or whole wheat pastry flour, but you can use whatever you have.

Sponge:

½ C live active sourdough starter (can use plain Greek yogurt)

3 tbsp. ground flax (optional)

2 C whole-wheat flour

1 ¾ C warm water

½ C cocoa

2 tbsp. olive oil

Stir all six ingredients together, cover, and let sit out on counter over night or for six hours. (This step is optional, but the digestive enzymes in sourdough starter or yogurt help break down the nutrients in flour to make it more digestible.)

The next morning:

3 overripe bananas, mashed (or I blend them in my Ninja because overripe bananas make me nauseous)

2 eggs lightly beaten

3 tbsp. sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 C Chocolate chips

Preheat Oven to 375°. Uncover sponge. Mix bananas, eggs, and sugar. Stir into the sponge. Sponge mixture can be very resistant, so keep mixing with whisk until just combined.  Stir in baking powder, soda, and chocolate chips. Fill muffin cups ¾ full. Bake in oven for 20-22 minutes, or unit toothpick comes out clean, apart from the gooeyness of the chocolate chips. Makes 18-22 muffins.

Enjoy warm with a glass of milk.

 

I have had an overwhelming and unexpected response to my recent post Dear New Girl at the Gym. My next several blog posts I will be responding to many of the questions and statements people have posted in the comments section below that post.

A few of the commenters said they had had such a negative experience with people making rude comments to them at the gym that they had a hard time going back. This infuriates me. I am shocked and appalled that any person would treat another human being in such a fashion, especially when someone is making an effort to find their healthiest self. It makes me so angry and so sad. I could make all sort so disparaging comments about these men/women who feel they can treat others so poorly, but I won’t. I don’t want to focus on them. I can’t help them.

I want to focus on us. You and me.

We can’t let others decide our future or our happiness. When we take their inhuman comments and believe them we are not only giving someone else power over us, but we are letting their negativity decide what we will become. We are letting them win.

One of my favorite quotes is from Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. Lady Catherine DeBourgh asks the incredibly witty and intelligent Elizabeth Bennet to promise she will never marry Lady Catherine’s nephew Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy is above Elizabeth in rank and fortune, and Lady Catherine has wealth and prestige above many in the country. But Elizabeth responds—

“I am only resolved to act in the manner, which will, in my opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.” (Austen, 346)

Those people that would tear us down have nothing to do with you and me. Absolutely nothing. NOTHING! I didn’t go up to that girl and ask her what I should study at college or whether I should marry my husband or whether I should have my babies. I didn’t ask that guy his opinion on my hair cut or what car I should drive or what house I should live in. Why? Because it is none of their business. I wouldn’t have listened to them in these matters, so I can’t let their opinions and comments change my efforts to treat my body well.

This goes way beyond working out at the gym. This applies to every part of our lives. Often when we decide we want something more, that we deserve something better, there is someone there to tell us that we don’t deserve it or that it is too hard. But we can’t listen to them.

We have to choose our own happiness and our own future. We deserve to be our happy and healthy.

Works Cited—Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003. Print

 

 

Dear New Girl at the Gym,

You stand across from me in boot camp or on the treadmill next to me or a few bikes over in spin. I have never seen you before, but here you are. I can tell by the look on your face you are embarrassed. Embarrassed that you can’t do a pushup or don’t know how to adjust your bike or that you walk on the treadmill when the girl on the other side of you runs for a full hour at the speed of a cheetah. You look around and wonder what on earth you are doing here. You glance at me and I smile, but you look away pretending you didn’t see, because that would mean I noticed you. Maybe you are discouraged. Maybe you tell yourself this was a huge mistake and you’re going to ask for your money back. Maybe you wonder if I’m judging you.

I am not.

I want you to know how proud I am of you. You see, even though it might not seem like it, none of us are judging you. Why? Because so many of us were just like you. We know what it is like. We know how hard it is, especially in the beginning. Really we do. Maybe you woke up one day weighing forty pounds more than you did five years ago. I have been there. Maybe you stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office, had the nurse cluck her tongue, and then had the doctor say something like, “Now let’s talk about your weight.” I have been there. Maybe you recently had a baby, and you wonder if there will ever be a time when you don’t have to tuck your stomach into your pants. I have been there. Maybe you get half way through the warm up in a group fitness class and wonder if you are this out of breath now, is a full hour going to kill you? I have been there. Maybe money and time are tight and the idea of spending $30-$70 a month and an hour a day on yourself feels awfully selfish. I have been there. So many of us have.

You see us running or biking or lifting weights, and may feel discouraged or that we are judging you. Please, please, PLEASE know that we are not, because so many of us have been in your same shoes. You see us for what we are now, but many of us started out just like you, on a journey to find our best selves.

Please come back. I know it is hard, but it will get better, I promise.

And then you will wake up one day and wonder when you became that person. You know that person who can jog a few miles or do a whole spin class or even do boot camp without being sore the next day. And you will be the one, standing across the room, smiling at the new girl hoping she knows how lovely and wonderful and brave she is. Hoping she knows she is worth all the work. Because you are. You are so worth it. You deserve to be your healthiest self.

Now there might come a time and a place where someone will judge you, even someone at the gym. Maybe they make rude comments or give you that look. Maybe they have never known what it feels like to struggle with their weight. Maybe they have low self-esteem. Maybe they have never eaten an entire pan of brownies by themselves (I have) or an entire bag of Halloween candy before a single trick or treater came to their door (I have). Maybe they forgot what it was like to be the new girl. Please, don’t waste your time on them. You are on a journey to be your best self, and they don’t belong on your journey. Find people and a place where you can begin where you are.

Come back. You are so worth it.

 

Dear New Girl at the Gym has been a popular post, and I don’t mind having it shared as long as my website is linked back on online articles and my name and website is referenced when printed.

You might also like- Our Future is Our Choice -My response to those who would tear us down.

 

 

I love Halloween. I love the dressing up and taking my kids to see all the neighbors.  It’s just plain fun. There is only one drawback. All that blasted candy.

A few years ago, we bought our first house. It was the first time neighborhood kids would come to our house trick or treating. I went all out, buying two huge bags of candy. This was the good stuff: Snickers, Reese’s, Almond Joys, everything. It was a week or two before Halloween and I stashed the candy in my pantry. A few days later, ahem, or that same day, I opened the bag, you know, to have one or two. Yeah, before I knew it both bags (BOTH BAGS!) were gone. How on earth did that happen? I had to go buy more candy to give out. The problem? My child went trick or treating and back into my house came another big bag’s worth of candy.  I wish I could say that we savored that candy, and ate it over a few months’ time, but no.

That was the last time I ever gave out candy at Halloween.

Since then I have read how sugar negatively affects our body. No one should be eating the amount of sugar that we all do.

So now I give out stuff that isn’t candy. Guess what! The kids love it. I did an experiment this year at a trunk or treat. I gave the kids a choice between sticky hands or candy (the good stuff). By the end of the night, I went through 140 sticky hands and only 8 pieces of candy.

Another positive about giving out non-food items is they don’t go bad. No one has to eat the leftovers, and I keep mine to give out the next year.

The hit this year was the finger lights. The kids LOVED them. I would turn the lights on and put them on their fingers. It made them easy to see in the dark.

People are also concerned that not giving out candy might be lame, but really the kids love it. I got this text the day after Halloween. That same day, I had two separate groups of kids come to my door cause they had heard I gave out cool stuff.

Getting non-candy items takes a few days planning because I order mine online, but I am sure a party store would have the same stuff. People ask me if it is expensive. It is about the same price as the fun size candy bars and it is way longer lasting. Kids only expect to get one item this way. I am never tempted to give out handfuls, and you can save the extra until year.  Some items are more expensive than others, so you just have to decide what you want to do.

1.       Finger Lights- By far the biggest hit of the night! 17¢ a piece

2.       Sticky Hands 9¢ a piece

3.       Bouncy balls 7¢ a piece

4.       Play Dough - A more expensive option 46¢ a piece

5.       Flying Frogs 33¢ a piece

6.       Pencils 10¢ a piece- Bought at Walmart

7.       Spider Rings Left over from last year. Bought at Walmart. I think they were about 3¢ a piece

8.       Bracelets- Also bought at Walmart last year. I think 5¢ a piece

9.       Foam Gliders 17¢ a piece

10.   Slap Bracelets 26¢ a piece

11.    Book Marks  27¢ a piece

As a comparison, chocolate fun size candy can average between 14 to 25¢ a piece.

Let me know if you have any other ideas on what it give out for Halloween. Enjoy!

 

In my photos of of half a loaf. I used the other half to make rolls for soup. Gauge accordingly.

Blueberry Lemon Swirl Rolls

Single loaf bread recipe of your choice

My sourdough recipe is posted at the end of this post.

Filling:

4 C Blueberries (I use frozen)

Zest of 1 Lemon

2 tbs Sugar

2 tbs flour

 Glaze:

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 C Powdered Sugar

1 tbs softened butter (optional)

Heat blueberries, zest, and sugar in saucepan. Boil five minutes while mashing berries.  Wisk in flour and bring to boil.  Cool in refrigerator.

Divide dough in half. Roll each piece into roughly a 12 x 16 rectangle. Divide filling and spread evenly over dough.  Spread close to every edge, except one long edge. On that edge leave a 1 ½  inch margin. Roll opposite long edge to margin and pinch seam closed.  Use thread or unflavored dental floss to slice into 1 ½ inch rolls. Place in 9 x 16 cake. Let rise until double. Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 15-20 minutes.  Cool slightly.

Wisk together lemon, zest, sugar, and butter. Drizzle over warm rolls.

Whole Wheat Sourdough  Bread

½ C Natural Leaven or sourdough

1 C warm water

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. active dry yeast

2 tbs. coconut oil (can substitute olive oil or butter)

3-4 C Flour (I use whole wheat)

Use natural yeast/sourdough that has been fed recently, has doubled in volume, and is bubbly. Mix natural yeast/sourdough, water, salt, honey, active dry yeast, and coconut oil in mixer. Add 3 cups flour a cup at a time. Add flour a little bit at a time until dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Dough should be sticky. Continue kneading for 10 minutes. Place in oiled bowl, cover, and put in warm place. Let raise 6-24 hours. Form into loaves, pita, rolls,  doughnuts, or cinnamon rolls. Let raise until double. Bake

Fall must be on its way, cause all I want to eat is soup. Not that it is really quite cold enough for soup, yet.  This recipe is my Grandmother’s and one I remember loving as a child. I have changed only a few things from her recipe. Ultimate comfort food.

 

Potato Pea Soup

1 tbs. olive oil

½ Onion (finely chopped)

3-4 Potatoes (mine were very large so I used 3) cut into ½ – 1 inch squares

½ tsp. salt

½ c Flour

1 C Half and half (can use Fat Free)

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 cups frozen green peas(or as much as you want)

In large sauce pan, brown onions in olive oil. Add potatoes. Fill the pan with water so that it covers potatoes by one inch. Boil potatoes until almost tender. Do not drain potatoes. Whisk flour and one cup water from pot until smooth. Add mixture and half and half to pot. Heat to boiling, making sure not to scorch the bottom.  Add peas, and heat all the way through.

Let me know what you think!

In my Bountiful Basket (a vegetable/fruit co-op that is akin to Russian Roulette) on Saturday I received Fennel. As in Fennel. Uhh, Fennel? I didn’t even know what it was. I had to spend fifteen minutes online to just figure out what the vegetable was.  Apparently it is a licorice flavored bulb. Yes, you read that right, licorice flavored. Cut that baby open and the smell will hit you in the face. I fully admit I have received this same vegetable from Bountiful Baskets before, and it rotted in the bottom of my refrigerator. I wasn’t even sorry to see it go when I threw it out. Here is what it look like.

I was determined this would not happen again, so I did a little research before I came up with a recipe. Soup. It is hard to mess of soup, but licorice flavored soup? I didn’t know how it would work, but it tasted delicious. When I told my husband what was in the soup he was eating he said, “Wow! It is like you took everything that nobody wants to eat, and blended into a soup.” Thanks, babe. He said it tasted good but, “smelled funny.” At least he is honest.

My six year old son absolutely loved it. If I would have showed him the whole vegetables and told him to eat them, he would have run from the room screaming. But for some reason when they are bended up, he loves it. I can’t blame him. I don’t love the texture of most veggies.  I do have a secret weapon when it comes to getting my kids to eat blended vegetable soups. This baby right here.

 

Really, what kid doesn’t want to eat all the letters? I just cook these up and mix them in his bowl and wha-la! Instantly kid friendly.

Don’t be daunted by the massive list of ingredients. This is the kind of soup you can just use what you have. If you are missing some of the vegetables, don’t stew… oh no…

Fall Soup

1 C  red lentils

1 butternut squash

1 onion

2-3 cloves garlic

1 fennel bulb

2 C cabbage

1 apple, cored

2 celery stocks

1 C cauliflower

2 cans Vegtable or chicken stock

2 C Water

Fresh Basil to taste

Fresh Sage to taste

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Chop vegetables. Place roast for 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Place in crockpot. Add water, vegetable stock, and lentils. Cover and cook on low for 6- 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. In blender or with immersion blend vegetables and broth with basil, sage, salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.

Other possible vegetables are potatoes, carrots, white green beans, red/yellow/orange bell peppers. I avoid green vegetables because my kids more readily eat red or orange blended soups opposed to green.

A few tips-

I cooked the butternut squash in the crock pot the day before. Not that it necessary, but it is easy to get the meat out when it is cooked, and the crockpot is an easy way. You can just peel and dice the butternut squash instead.

If you work, roast the veggies the night before, throw everything in the crockpot in the morning, and enjoy for dinner.

This morning I made these Blueberry Scones. The problem with making yummy food, is I then want to eat it all… by myself. I sent one of these in my son’s school lunch. When I went to pick him up he said, “Mom! That blueberry thing I had for lunch was amazing. I loved it more than anything. Well… I love you the most and then that blueberry thing.” He asked me if I could make more, today!

Unfortunately, I am out of blueberries so it will have to wait.

Sourdough Blueberry Scones

(Altered from the recipe over at Feasting at Home- linky)

Ingredients

Sponge:

1 1/3 cup room temperature sourdough starter (mine is 3 parts water to two parts flour)

 

1/3 C luke-warm water

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Scones:

2 C frozen blue berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold butter, cut eight pieces and one down the middle to make 16
lemon zest of one lemon

Glaze:

Juice from one lemon

1 Cup powdered Sugar

Dissolve sourdough in water. Mix in flour, cover, and let sit on counter for six-eight hours. Mixture will be very stiff. Line 8 inch pie plate, round cake pan, or square cake pan, and with plastic wrap. Layer blueberries on bottom of the pan, on plastic wrap. Mix salt, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and sugar in separate, small bowl. Place sponge and sugar mixture in mixer or food processor for twenty seconds. Add divided butter and mix into dough. Mix until just combined. You may still have little chunks of butter, and that is ok. With wet hands, press over blueberries, filling in all the cracks. Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for four hours, or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400f. Remove from freezer. Pull plastic wrap to remove from pan, (I used a little warm water on the bottom to loosen.) Let sit on counter for 15-20 minutes to thaw slightly, until able to cut. Cut into pie shaped wedges (with round pans) or squares (for square pan). Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

While baking, prepare glaze. Juice lemon. In small saucepan heat lemon in sugar until sugar is just dissolved. Drizzle over warm scones. Enjoy!

Baking and cooking is something I have always loved. As a child I went through a phase where I wanted to be a chef. I had to serve all the plates at our family meals, and I always arranged the food as beautifully as possible. Waiting tables for years to pay my way through college dispelled romantic notions about being a chef, but I never lost my love of making good food.

The only problem is I am kind of a nutter when it comes to what I make. I use only 100% whole wheat (or other whole grains) flour from grains I fresh grind– with a machine not with a mortal and pestle or something. I also use natural yeast (AKA sour dough) to break down the nutrients in wheat to make it easier for our body to digest. I make sprouted lentil spaghetti and today I threw blended walnuts in the taco meat. So if you find some of the recipes a bit on the strange side, you’ll know why.

Even though some of the things I make might seem a little strange, they always taste good. I am going to put up some of the recent things I have made so if you find one you like, let me know!

 

I met “Jack” at my very first Parisian Anonymous meeting. Of course it is so much easier to write about someone else’s problems, so I will tell you about his story instead of my own, although the two seem remarkable similar. So don’t worry, Jack gave me permission to tell his story, and I have changed the names to protect the innocent.

A few years back Jack, who was born and raised in Montana, discovered something, something his mother tried to hide from him. He was a quarter French poodle. I know what you are thinking, “There is nothing wrong with being a quarter French poodle.” And in this day and age, there isn’t. But his grandmother was raised near a fire station, and back then poodles were thought to be much too delicate for any kind of real work, and were meant only to be fawned over by the rich. She wanted to work and be active, you see, so she made up some other background, and happily rode around on the back of the fire truck until the end of her days.

Well, it wasn’t until Jack was out walking his human Barb and a neighbor came to ask what poodle mix he was that Jack ever had any inkling of his true identity. Barb agreed he did have French poodle blood, and the two went on their way.

“You seem pretty distracted today, boy,” Barb said they played fetch that night. “Are you tired?” But he wasn’t tired. He just couldn’t believe what he had heard. Jack went on with his normal life for a long time, but always his identity ate at the back of him mind.

His human started dating some guy, and Jack didn’t really care for him.  He did everything he could to impress Barb. Barb is really into fine wines, and this guy didn’t have the nerve to tell her he didn’t like them, so instead of telling the truth, he would dump his wine into Jack’s dog drink bowl. Jack owned to me that he never liked the wine either, but it wasn’t long before he could name all the wines his human had.

Soon he was having wine tasting parties with his friends. But since they kept waking his human, they decided to hold the parties outside after dark, when all the humans had gone to sleep.  So they met at several houses around the neighborhood, ate baguettes, tasted wine, and even on occasion tried to paint. It was about this time, Jack discovered Amazon, the shopping website, not the rainforest. He bought a beret with the one click shopping, and since it arrived while his human was a work, she was not the wiser. She must not check her credit card, because soon he was ordering anything French he could get his hands on, from soap to pastries. And Jack, for a dog, had exceptionally refined tastes. He blamed it on his poodle blood.

Barb noticed something was amiss when Jack wouldn’t leave the house without a scarf, but she thought it might just be a phase.

Barb was scheduled to go out of town on business when Jack tried his biggest online purchase yet. He actually booked a flight to Paris. Of course a purchase like that couldn’t be ignored. Barb confronted Jack. The guilt had been eating him for months and he came clean, even showing Barb where he had buried his I Love Paris shirt and bottles of perfume in the back yard.

He attended Parisian Anonymous group the next week where we met.

We became fast friends, but I could tell he was not happy. His just felt like his real place was somewhere else, and in his heart he knew that his place was in Paris.

One night, Jack called frantically saying we needed to talk. We met up for a heart to heart chat at a local coffee shop. Of course he got a tiny espresso, while I contented myself with a delectable pastry with tiny curls of chocolate on top.

“I think it is time for me to leave,” Jack said, stirring his steaming cup with a spoon.  “I have to go there.” I didn’t even have to ask where “there” was.

“Jack, you know you can never be one of them,” I said. “You can never truly be Parisian. They will despise you for trying.”

“I know,” Jack said, “But I have to try.”

“What about Barb?”

“Oh Barb, ” Jack sighed peering out the misty windows,  “I will always love her, but she will soon forget all about me.” I shook my head in disbelief. How could anyone forget Jack? But he seemed determined.

We said our goodbyes and I let him walk out the door, his scarf blowing gently in the fall breeze.

Sometimes, even now, I miss him so much my stomach hurts. It’s just not the same to throw a ball when there is no one to bring it back to you.  I know Barb misses him to, but she did move on. She got herself a cute Schnauzer puppy. Maybe she learned her lesson about poodles.

But I know he is happy. About once a month he sends me a picture of him standing in front of the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower or some other ancient or wonderful part of the past and he looks happy. He found where he was meant to be. And he is always wearing a scarf.