I just came across some photos from April, when I made my husband the carrot cake he had requested for his birthday. When I first posted this recipe, I claimed it was my No. 1 recipe and a few year’s later, I think it has held its ground. I haven’t met a carrot cake I like better. The unexpected and time consuming trick is cooking and pureeing the carrots before mixing them into the cake. The pureed carrots make the cake so moist and the added coconut, walnuts, and pineapple bring just the right amount of texture and sweetness.
The night before his birthday, I whipped the frosting, baked the cake layers and left them to cool. First thing in the morning, before the kids woke up, I snuck down, brewed a pot of coffee, leveled the layers and assembled the cake. Leveling cakes always leaves a nice mound of scraps that I never waste. I put them on a plate for nibbling.
When Baby Whipped woke up that morning, one of the first things she wanted to do was try out the swim cap and goggles we’d recently bought her. She has a fun spirit and it didn’t surprise me to see her running up and down the halls with her footy jammies, Nemo cap and goggles. It did surprise, some minutes later, to find her laughing with a mouthful of cake.
RECOMMENDED: 17 heavenly pies
When I asked her where she got the cake, her eyes twinkled as she waved me towards the kitchen. Though I hoped she had discovered the scraps, the frosting on the corner of her mouth suggested worse. When we reached the kitchen she was more than happy to reenact her crime. She dragged her stool to the counter and stretched her full arm’s length to reach the cake that I had pushed to the far corner. She was quite pleased with herself.
We often call Baby Whipped “the jolly rascal.” Her naughty behavior is usually funny and sometimes quite clever. Most of all, she is proud of it and exudes such joy that it’s hard to get too mad at her. When we give her “time outs” for being naughty, she does her time without complaining, says sorry, and jumps right back in the game. Rarely any whining.
When I came across these photos again, I laughed out loud. These are the memories that I know we will cherish for years. The old baking perfectionist in me didn’t mind the hunk out of the side of the cake one bit. Laughter trumps perfect cake.
Luscious, moist carrot cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups canola oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups shelled walnuts, chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
1-1/2 cups pureed, cooked carrots
1 small 8 oz. can of crushed pineapple, drained
Cream cheese frosting (recipe below)
1/2 cup walnuts for the top (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Peel and cook carrots until a fork easily can be poked into them. One small bag of full-sized carrots should yield about the right amount of pureed, cooked carrots. Drain the carrots and puree while still warm in a blender or food processor until they are smooth. Measure out 1-1/2 cups of the carrot puree and set aside.
2. Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Stir dry ingredients together with a whisk to combine well. Add oil, eggs, and vanilla. Beat well for about 2 minutes. Fold in walnuts, coconut, carrots, and pineapple. Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan. Set in the middle of the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until edges have pulled away from sides and toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.
3. Remove from oven and let cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and cool completely. When cool, level cakes to take humps off the center with a serrated knife. Spread cream cheese frosting between the layers and on top. I leave the sides out in the open because they are a beautiful brown and nice and crunchy. Sprinkle chopped nuts on the top if desired.
Cream cheese frosting
(Makes enough for middle and top of cake. Double if you want to frost sides)
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1. Cream together cheese and butter.
2. Slowly stir in sifted confectioners sugar and continue beating until incorporated and light and fluffy.
RECOMMENDED: 17 heavenly pies
Related post on Whipped, the Blog: Chocolate Layer Birthday Cake
Watermelon and mint are a classic summer pairing. I love it in a sorbet or a sweet tea drink. But basil is a great match with melon as well, so I worked up this sweet pesto, with the herby, grassiness of basil and a little undernote of mint. It really is a fresh taste of the summer garden.
Serve the watermelon however you like – in thin wedges, big chunks or pretty balls. Toss it as a salad or drizzle over pieces. The pesto is also good on other melons and fruits.
RECOMMENDED: 12 recipes to beat the heat wave
Watermelon with sweet pesto
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup neutral flavored oil, like grapeseed or canola
1 small watermelon
1. Put the basil, mint, confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor (I like to use a small one) and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil until well blended.
2. The watermelon is up to you – wedges, balls, rough chunks. Drizzle with the pesto before serving.
3. Store the pesto in a jar in the fridge for up to a day. Shake well before serving.
RECOMMENDED: 12 recipes to beat the heat wave
Related post on The Runaway Spoon: Watermelon pie
It’s almost impossible not to eat well in the summer. The bounty of fruits and vegetables is endless – all at the height of their flavor. We have been enjoying plums immensely, but today’s breakfast idea will pair great with just about any fruit or berry.
Lemon ricotta pancakes! The ultimate weekend breakfast if you ask me. Fresh seasonal fruit just calls out for ricotta in my opinion.
My first experience with lemon ricotta pancakes was while working for Brad Lazarenko at Culina Restaurant. It was our Saturday brunch special. That was more than 10 years ago now, but the memory of it is still rich in my mind. It’s funny the things we remember.
RECOMMENDED: Five breakfast meals to go
The thing about ricotta pancakes is I thought it was a complicated process. At the time, at least. I mean, how could anything that good be easy? In fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Ricotta is also easily available at most grocery stores and not that expensive. Really, anyone can enjoy this breakfast for a fraction of what it would cost in a restaurant. You can also pair the leftover ricotta with fresh fruit and berries and some maple syrup or honey and turn it into an amazing dessert.
This recipe is for a smaller portion, since these are really best made fresh. If there are several of you to feed, it’s easy enough to double the recipe!
Lemon ricotta pancakes
Serves 2 or 3
3 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoon coconut/palm sugar (or other dry sweetener of choice like rapadura or turbinado)
3/4 cup of ricotta
1/4 cup flour (I used sprouted spelt, but whole wheat or some other flour would work, too)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
1. Place the egg yolks, ricotta, flour, and lemon zest in a bowl. Mix to incorporate. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Use electric beaters or beat with a whisk by hand. Doing it by hand burns extra calories and builds nice arms muscles! Gently fold in the egg whites into the ricotta mixture.
2. In a large frying pan heat butter or oil over medium high heat. Add small amounts of batter to the frying pan creating small 3-inch pancakes. Once bubbles start to form on the surface of the batter and the bottoms are golden brown, flip and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until cooked through. The fluffiness of the eggs whites lends to the airiness of these pancakes, but also makes them more delicate to flip than a regular pancake. Be gentle.
3. Serve with honey or maple syrup, Greek yogurt and/or fresh fruit.
RECOMMENDED: Five breakfast meals to go
Related post on Beyond the Peel: A Salute to Pancakes and Pumpkins
With August’s arrival comes the abundance of fresh tomatoes. A slow-simmered dish like ratatouille is a delicious use of right-off-the-vine tomatoes and should be part of your summer’s repertoire.
Ratatouille, which comes from the French word "touiller,” meaning “to toss,” is literally a tossing in a pot of summer vegetables and simmering them in olive oil: tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, onion, and seasoned with fresh garlic, basil, and perhaps a bay leaf. There are many varieties of ratatouille. There is the Disney version, made popular by the Pixar film “Ratatouille”; Julia Child sautées the vegetables separately; Alice Waters creates a “basil bouquet” bound with kitchen twine to enhance the flavors of the vegetables as they cook.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
Whatever approach is your preference, I find great comfort in the fact that ratatouille, which originated in the French region surrounding Nice, was originally a peasant or farmer’s dish. I can imagine a farmer arriving home after toiling all day in the fields wanting a quick and hearty meal. I feel like this after a hard days’ work, too – the last thing I want to do is sweat it out in the kitchen. Just give me something hot, good, and fast. With ratatouille I can rely on the natural good flavors of fresh in-season vegetables and be content with its simplicity.
When I was down on the Cape recently visiting my mom, I was rooting around in her refrigerator and found that she had all the makings of ratatouille. She loves a good dish of ratatouille, too, so she got right to work assembling all the vegetables in one big pot. Lunch that day was a steaming bowl of summer's bounty swimming in delicious tomato sauce, which we sopped up with warm, crusty French bread. A welcome treat after a morning of household chores.
It was so good, I wanted to make some for myself when I got home. I didn’t follow a recipe, but this came out just as tasty and satisfying. You can serve it as a side, or with rice or crusty bread for your main meal.
Serves 4 to 6
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, sliced
2 gloves garlic, diced
3-4 tomatoes, chopped in quarters
1 bell pepper (red, yellow, or green) cored and sliced
1 eggplant, sliced into 1-inch discs and quartered
1 zucchini, sliced into coins
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a large pot like a Dutch oven heat 1-2 tablespoons of the olive oil and add the onion and garlic. Sautée until the onion becomes translucent. Add the tomatoes and bell pepper and simmer while you cook the eggplant and zucchini.
3. In a separate sauce pan, add the remaining olive oil and heat. Add the eggplant and zucchini and sautée until the vegetables become tender.
4. Add the eggplant and zucchini to the onion, tomato, pepper mixture and stir to combine. Add the fresh basil, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
5. Cover and set in the oven for about 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
Serve with crusty bread and maybe a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
RECOMMENDED: Take our fruit and veggie quiz!
Want something a little different from hamburgers and hot dogs? Or, more importantly, something that leaves room for dessert afterwards? Then try these pesto shrimp skewers. I love both shrimp and pesto so I can't imagine why I haven't made something like this before. I used to eat a lot more pesto when I grew my own basil a couple of summers ago but ever since, I haven't had it as often. But I was thawing some shrimp and wanted to do something different with them so I jumped at this recipe I found on Pinterest from Skinny Taste.
First I had to hunt down some basil. I knew Trader Joe's sold the basil plants but I was looking for just the leaves. I finally found them in a plastic box in the organic section for $2.69. The basil plants, which carried a lot more leaves and were lushly thriving, were $2.99 each. The finance nerd in me couldn't not buy the live plant knowing basil is a creature that keeps on giving over and over again, even after you cut off the first harvest and it goes from lush to shorn. Past experience has taught me that it'll go from shorn back to lush very shortly and, for 30 extra cents, I was looking at being well supplied with multiple pesto dishes from 1 basil plant. Despite not having a green thumb, basil is the one plant I haven't killed and even managed to make grow which tells you it's likely to grow regardless of what you do to it.
This is a classic pesto recipe except it doesn't have pine nuts but I loved these skewers. I don't use my indoor grill very often because it's a pain to clean. But I'd put up with that for these skewers. This is a very simple, straightforward recipe. Putting the pesto together literally only took a few minutes so you can mix this up the morning you need it, let it marinate until lunchtime, thread the shrimp onto the skewers and grill them just in time for your barbecue. If you don't anticipate eating all of the skewers in your initial serving of them, try cooking them only to the point of being barely done. When you heat them up later in the microwave, they'll keep cooking and can eventually dry out if heated too hot or too often. Serve on a bed of salad greens or eat straight off the skewers – either way, they're delicious.
Grilled pesto shrimp skewers
From Skinny Taste
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
3 tablespoons olive oil (I used only 2 tablespoons)
1-1/2 lbs. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (weight after peeled)
Kosher salt and fresh pepper, to taste
7 wooden skewers
1. In a food processor pulse basil, garlic, Parmesan Reggiano cheese, salt and pepper until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while pulsing.
2. Combine raw shrimp with pesto and marinate a few hours in a bowl. Soak wooden skewers in water at least 20 minutes (or use metal ones to avoid this step).
3. Thread shrimp onto 7 skewers.
4. Heat an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium-low heat until hot. Be sure the grates are clean and spray lightly with oil. Place the shrimp on the hot grill and cook until shrimp turns pink on the bottom, about 3-4 minutes; turn and continue cooking until shrimp is opaque and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking:
Although I grew up eating sweet corn every summer, somehow, I had never eaten it grilled until last summer. Unbelievable! I started humming "something tells me I'm into something good" at the first bite. It was sweet, salty, and a little bit smokey with nice little zings of mild heat from the black pepper.
I asked our friend, Kali, what magic she'd worked to make it so tasty and she looked at me like I was just a little bit crazy, "You mean the corn? It's really simple – just olive oil, salt, and black pepper."
That sounded like my kind of recipe – quick, easy and delicious – so I gave it a try soon afterwards. The results were equally good! I especially love how the mild heat of the fresh pepper is heightened by the grilling – it gives it a nice little kick.
Now that I've had it this way, I don't think I will ever go back to cooking corn in boiling water unless there is a hurricane or tornado preventing me from reaching the grill.
My recommendations for maximum eating pleasure are as follows:
1. Buy your corn from a local farmer and try to get it at the farmers market to ensure that it was picked very recently (this will also benefit your local farms and farmers!) The fresher your corn is, the sweeter it will be as the sugar starts turning into starch as soon as it's picked.
2. Don't skimp on the salt and pepper.
3. Give it a nice light char – I know burning food is bad for you but the flavor it imparts is incredible and since this is a vegetable, I doubt the charring is carcinogenic.
And please do not be afraid to play with this recipe! I sometimes add a mixture of chopped fresh herbs from the garden – oregano, basil, and cilantro – and it's delicious. My cousin, Nina, (an honest to goodness chef who is sometimes on TV!) does a riff on the ever-popular Mexican street corn by slathering her grilled corn with chipotle mayo and splashing a bit of lime juice over it. And those are just two ideas out of many, many more possibilities.
I love to have grilled corn on hand to add to salads, salsas, soups and more so I usually make a few extra ears and then cut the kernels off the cob and store them in a glass Tupperware in the fridge (or freeze them, depending on when I think I'll need them).
Fresh sweet corn (get as many ears as you think you will need for the crowd you're serving)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Shuck the corn, removing the husks and any silk left clinging to the cobs.
2. Preheat and clean your grill. You'll want even, medium heat.
3. Rub the ears of corn with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – don't skimp on any of these things!
4. Place the ears on the grill and cook, turning with tongs every 2 minutes or so, to ensure even cooking on all sides, until lightly browned. Remove and serve or sprinkle with some of the yummy additions mentioned above and then serve!
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Savory Corn Fritters
In the spirit of the Stir It Up! muffin mix-off, I was inspired to mix together a batch of these wonderful orange, date, and cinnamon muffins from “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee: Date desserts from everywhere” by Sarah al-Hamad, just out this month from Interlink Books (July 2013).
I had found some dates in my cupboard that needed to be used up. Their sugars were crystalizing on their skin so including them in a baked good was really the best option. I first tried a recipe for date muffins I found on my box of bulger wheat, and while they were certainly tasty and served as a perfect pre-swim treat before swimming across Walden Pond last Saturday morning, they were somehow laking in their small, pale shapes. That’s when I remembered I had a copy of “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee” sitting on my desk at work.
Ms. al-Hamad let curiosity be her guide as she followed the “date trail” spanning thousands of years in culinary history across Persia, the Middle East, northern Africa, North and South American, and even Australia. Spreads, baked goods, and delicious desserts fill the pages of her cookbook and make me think that I should pay more attention to this dried fruit that I think of as a forgotten cousin of the raisin. (BTW, there really is no relation between grapes and the tall palms that produce dates except for the sun that dried them.)
In the introduction to the orange, date, and cinnamon muffins, al-Hamad ties the use of dates to the rich merchants of 1500 Elizabethan England who used them as sweeteners and to thicken custards and pies. The combination of oranges with spices at Christmas grew out of this tradition that spread across Europe as the early trade routes introduced fruits and exotic spices into the heavy dishes of the north.
I was intrigued that the recipe calls for a whole orange – peel and all. But the finished product has a delightful bitter tang that is smoothed by the sweetness of the dates, honey, and brown sugar. Just make sure your food processor is in good working order, it will get a quite a workout transforming the orange into a pulp. The warmth from the spices fills the air as they bake, and just a hint of Christmas escapes the oven when you pull the muffins out to cool.
Orange, date, and cinnamon muffins
From “Sun Bread & Sticky Toffee: Date desserts from everywhere” by Sarah al-Hamad
Makes 12 muffins
1 large egg
5 tablespoons butter
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) dates
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Salt, a pinch
1/3 cup brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper baking cups.
2. Slice the orange into quarters [or maybe even eighths] and remove any seeds, but leave the peel on. In a food processor, whiz the orange, egg, butter, dates, milk, and honey together until finely chopped and well combined.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt into a large bowl, then add the sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the date and orange mixture, stirring until just combined. The mixture will be runny.
4. Spoon the batter into the baking cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and golden brown.
5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Recently, my sister had the good fortune of taking a trip to Hawaii. As you might imagine, we’re all insanely jealous. During our conversations about the Hawaii trip, someone mentioned a food truck on the north shore of Oahu, which sells the most delectable garlic shrimp. It didn’t take too much cajoling to convince me to investigate further.
Now, in my dream world, I’d hop on the next available Hawaii-bound airplane, with my sights set on shrimp. I’d comb that island until I discovered the mysterious shrimp truck and then I’d force myself to eat as many orders of that shrimp as necessary until I’d discerned the magical recipe. And well, if I had to drink a few fruit-garnished, tropical beverages during my travels, I guess I’d do that, too. All in the name of commitment to a cause. But, considering I live in the real world, bound by time and financial constraints, I limited my research to the Internet.
Identifying the shrimp truck was easy. Giovanni’s Aloha Shrimp is served out of a white, graffiti-covered truck on the north shore of Oahu. They offer three options; Hot and Spicy, Lemon and Butter, or Shrimp Scampi. It’s the shrimp scampi recipe we’re after. So, I did a bit more searching around and actually found a video, which walks through a garlic shrimp recipe, based on the famous Hawaiian shrimp trucks.
After watching the video, I rescheduled my whole day around making these shrimp. I even dragged the kids out in the pouring rain to get down to the grocery store for fresh shrimp, which they enjoyed for the exciting opportunity to wear rain boots. The result was well worth it; tender shrimp oozing with garlicky flavor and dripping in butter sauce. In Hawaii, they serve a pile of 12 jumbo shrimp with a mound of sticky rice. I added a side of steamed broccoli to complete the meal.
For authentic Hawaiian style, use the biggest shrimp you can get your hands on. To serve it up shrimp-truck style, devein the shrimp, but leave the shells on. This makes for a messy meal, so be prepared with extra napkins. In the future, I’d probably remove the shells before cooking, so more of the garlic sauce ends up in my mouth rather than on my fingers.
Hawaiian-style shrimp scampi
1 pound large shrimp, shell on, deveined
3/4 cup clarified butter*
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup dry white wine [editor's note: substitute cooking wine or a fruit juice like white grape]
1-2 teaspoon sea salt
1 lemon, cut into slices or wedges
*Clarified Butter is recommended, since it has a higher smoke point than regular butter. This will help to prevent the butter and garlic from burning as it cooks. For my easy photo guide to clarifying butter, click here. Two sticks of butter will produce just the right amount of clarified butter for this recipe.
1. Check that the shrimp have been deveined.
2. Combine the flour, paprika, and cayenne pepper in a dish.
3. Toss the shrimp in the flour mixture to coat. (There will be flour leftover.)
4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the clarified butter and garlic. Cook for a minute or two, then add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes on one side, then turn the shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes on the other side.
5. Add the white wine or wine substitute and salt. Cook for a minute or two. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over the shrimp. Serve with a side of white rice and a lemon wedge.
Related post on The Gourmand Mom: How to clarify butter
This is normally the type of muffin I wouldn't make. I don't mind the coconut and I love pineapple but I just don't like fruit in baked goods. I love fruit but mostly in its natural state. Fresh pineapple is terrific and if it wasn't such a pain to peel and cut, I'd have it more often. As it is, I cheat and get the pre-cut pack from Costco when I want pineapple. I also don't like crushed pineapple. To me, that seems like pineapple mush and not worth the effort of (barely) chewing since they're just tidbits. I prefer the nice, juicy pineapple chunks to really sink my teeth into.
But I am trying to broaden my baking horizons, so to speak, and thought I'd venture out with this pineapple muffin. I'm glad I did. Not only was this recipe super easy to make but it turned out pretty well, too. The coconut gives it a nice chewiness and I was wrong about the pineapple tidbits – they were just the right size and texture for the muffin. Any larger and they would've been too big and would have overwhelmed the rest of the muffin.
The muffin itself was a nice, cakey texture, not too heavy and not too light. I enjoyed the flavor from the brown sugar in the batter, complemented by both the coconut and the pineapple. Not to mention the topping is the bomb! It goes perfectly with the muffin with a sweet crunch to contrast with the cakey texture of the muffin itself and the chewiness from the coconut and pineapple.
These pineapple upside muffins are best eaten lukewarm when the topping is cool enough to firm up and give some crunch. I did omit the nuts but you don't really need them. This recipe's a keeper. Next time, I may even try the base recipe but do different add-ins in place of the pineapple and coconut.
Pineapple upside muffins
From "Mad About Muffins" by Dot Vartan
Makes one dozen muffins
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup corn oil
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup crushed pineapple, undrained
For the topping:
2 tablespoons butter
7 tablespoons light brown sugar
7 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the brown sugar and coconut.
3. In another bowl, mix the egg, corn oil, butter, milk, vanilla extract and pineapple. Stir the pineapple mixture into the dry ingredients just until moistened.
4. Fill greased muffin tins. Make the topping by cutting the butter into the brown sugar and stirring in the walnuts. Sprinkle the topping over the batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are a golden brown.
Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Lemon yogurt poppy seed muffins
I could have called this "Today's Green Smoothie" since it wasn't premeditated at all. Whatever is knocking around the freezer and produce drawer. (And mothers, no. My kids won't touch this. They get a fruit smoothie. We're working up to it.)
I'm trying to eat more vegetables earlier in the day. I find it reduces my cravings for junk food later on, I have more energy, and my skin is softer, clearer. Could that be the case? It's not researched, just experienced.
I just started what I know will be a life-changing book. "No Ordinary Time: The Rise of Spiritual Intelligence and Evolutionary Creativity" by Jan Phillips. Thanks to Janet Ott for sharing so many resources with me, including this one. Jan tells this story:
I was in graduate school ... on the verge of quitting, when I called [my good friend] for a consult. I told her how out of place I felt, how I was old enough to be everyone's mother, how the students cared more about spring breaks and Cancun than anything we were there to learn. I felt like an outcast.
She asked me three questions, and those three questions changed the course of my life. "Are you eating and drinking moderately?" No, I confessed, admitting to drinking lots of Chardonnay and having a stash of Almond Joy miniatures in all my pockets.
"What are you doing for your body – are you working out?"
"What about a spiritual practice? Do you have a spiritual practice?"
"Jan, don't make any decisions about quitting school right now. Your life cannot work right if you don't have those three things taken care of. Take two weeks to get it together, then call me back."
When two weeks was up and I called Paula back, I was like a new person.
"Paula, you're not going to believe it, everyone on campus has changed dramatically!"
And I'd add a fourth question: "How much sleep are you getting?"
I'm better or worse at it depending on the day, but these questions are so important! The trick is to let them guide my life without feeling guilty, and this is where discipline comes in. I'm trying to make morning meditation non-negotiable, but it's amazing how many ridiculous excuses I come up with. Twenty minutes isn't a long time. I can easily pass 20 minutes checking Facebook, which doesn't do one thing for my soul. When I am cultivating awareness of my body and spirit – eating vegetables, walking, meditating, sleeping instead of screen time – I don't crave the junk as much. I feel settled. I feel me. And I can't do my work in the world – let alone have a prophetic voice! – unless I'm me. This is the only sacred ground I have – the ground of my own being.
Smoothies won't accomplish all this. Ha! I wish. But I find they get me in good groove for the day, and that's pretty darn great.
Kale and Pineapple Smoothie
Into your blender, throw a giant handful of washed kale, some spinach if you have it, a couple stalks of celery with leaves, a big handful of frozen pineapple (or fresh pineapple plus a couple ice cubes), a wedge of lemon with the peel off, a knob of peeled ginger, and however much water you or your blender requires. My Vitamix just needs about 1/2 cup.
Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Almond cocoa smoothie