Forty = fancy

March 31, 2011

Today, friends, I am forty years old. Hurrah! A birthday, and so: Why not dress up? I mainly blame the subscription to Lucky that Sutswana somehow got, and which she passes on to me. It makes me want to be just slightly more chic. You’d think it would also make me want to wear wedge sandals, but it doesn’t. Maybe this is because I am all mature and 40 and everything.

I apologize for making you all turn your heads. For some confounded reason, I can’t get this photo to rotate. I am not a computer idiot. It keeps saying it’s rotated, but it forgot that I have eyes and can see that it’s still sideways. Maybe I am so sleep deprived that even photos of me try to lie down.

So I pulled together this outfit, wearing one of my most favorite skirts, bought at the Gap on a post-birth wardrobe overhaul with Zeile about seven years ago. It goes well with this new Target cardi, non? I should dress up more often. It was fun. But I also need some nice flats. I put on jeans at noon because I couldn’t feel my toes anymore. Do women really wear heels every day? Maybe I’ll get some espadrilles like Liz.

And that’s way more about fashion than about turning 40. I kind of like the idea of being 40. A new start! Now I am officially a grown-up, and will be responsible, work hard, and clean my toilet without expecting praise for it.

Today’s birthday is also exciting because I finally made the salted chocolate tart that my cousin Christina recommended two years ago. I’m pretty excited about it. I haven’t added the salt yet because I know I’m going to be the only one who wants the salt, and I don’t feel like dealing with the grousing. Let’s have my birthday be the day where no one complains about the food I put in front of them.

CATEGORIES: Julie

Raw Energy

March 30, 2011

So, with all my random food issues these days (well, not my food issues, but the ones that are mine as a nursing mother), a book called Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles caught my eye at the library. It’s a book of raw food recipes (snacks, mainly), and since raw food by definition can’t include wheat, dairy, or eggs, I can eat everything in it. The book goes into all the reasons it’s great to eat a raw diet, and I believe it, but it’s not practical for a family of six. Also, I like cooking. However, I get the point and see no reason not to go raw for snacks and maybe some lunches or breakfasts.

So I got the book out, and made some Herbal Energy Balls, which are a little like the great peanut butter balls, but with almond butter and coconut. Yum! And then I decided that I can figure out raw snacks without a book (hello, apple!) and returned it to the library. And then I kept thinking about all the recipes I didn’t get to try, so I got it out again. And then I just gave up and bought it.

There are a lot of juices and things-to-drink that I haven’t explored yet. There are quite a few recipes that call for a dehydrator, which I don’t have (do you?). But I have been elbow-deep in all the various snack balls and bars. There are many, many other recipes I still want to try, but I am having so much fun in the snack ball chapter that I haven’t bothered exploring the other ones.

I did venture briefly into the dessert chapter to make the vegan chocolate pudding (a coconut oil/cocoa/raw honey concoction) which is so incredibly yummy I can’t even tell you. It’s the devil, if the devil can come in the form of something without refined sugar. It becomes this solid block of fudge in the fridge, just perfect for breaking off a big chunk and furtively stuffing it into your mouth while your children are upstairs getting socks. For instance.

I got permission from the publisher to share a recipe with you, and I deliberated quite a bit deciding which one to share. I finally decided on Smooth Maple-Carob Zippers. They have chocolate and maple syrup, and you keep them in the freezer, which makes for an interesting texture (and also makes me less likely to eat a whole mess of them). I find that the recipes in this book are extremely adaptable — so I’ll give you the recipe, and tell you my changes also.

Smooth Maple-Carob Zippers

Excerpted from Raw Energy by Stephanie Tourles, used with permission from Storey Publishing

1 cup raisins
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw carob powder (I use regular cocoa powder — you can also find raw cocoa powder if you want to keep it raw)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
coconut oil

1. Soak the raisins for 4 hours in enough purified water to cover by about 1 inch. Drain. The soaking water can be refrigerated and added to a smoothie recipe to serve as a sweetening ingredient later, if you wish. Note: I have made this using soaked raisins and also by skipping this step and using dry raisins. I think I actually prefer it with the dry raisins: it takes less time, and the snacks made with soaked raisins seemed more prone to freezer burn.

2. Put the pecans in a food processor and grind to a medium-fine meal. Add the raisins, carob (or cocoa powder), maple syrup, cayenne, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and pulse-chop until you achieve a slightly chunky, fudgy consistency. Don’t process to the point of a paste. The mixture will be very moist and thick, so you may have to use a spatula to free to blade a few times. Be careful.

3. Scrap the dough into a medium bowl, then oil your hands with coconut oil.

4. Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll into bite-size balls about 1 inch in diameter.

5. Store in a tightly sealed container in the freezer for up to 6 months. Wait 24 hours prior to consuming so that the flavors blend and the texture becomes firm and chewy.

Yield: about 40 bites

Let me know what you think! Like I said, there are still many recipes in here for me to explore, but I think it’s worth the price of admission for the snack ball chapter and the chocolate pudding fudge stuff.

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CATEGORIES: Food

Children’s Book of the Week: I Need My Monster

March 28, 2011

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

Zuzu hasn’t been this obsessed with a book since Sixteen Cows. I read I Need My Monster at least once a day right now. It’s a nice twist on the monster-under-the-bed classic: a boy discovers that his monster has gone fishing for a week, and calls in a series of replacement monsters. The idea is that the boy needs a scary monster under his bed to keep him from getting out of bed. He can’t fall asleep without one. The replacement monsters are ok, but they’re not his usual monster, and the boy is beside himself with worry, wondering how he’ll manage a week without Gabe (yes, his monster is named Gabe). Then — phew! — Gabe comes back, and all is well. The replacement monsters are all pretty hilarious, and there’s something sweet and compelling about a boy being comforted by his own personal scary monster, and about a monster being comforted by a boy who’s a challenge to scare.

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