Where Have I Been? Follow Me Up the Mountain to Silly Ridge
"But the point is not how many things we have done or will do in a given amount of time; the point is how we do what we do. If we're rushed and frantic, we're too busy. If we move through our tasks with equanimity, patient and composed, we're not.
Busy-ness is a state of mind, not a fact. No matter how much or how little we're doing, we're always just doing what we're doing, simply living this one moment of our lives.
It goes without saying that if you've bitten off more than you can chew in a day, or in a lifetime, you'd better step back and change your circumstances, if at all possible.
--Norman Fischer, author of "Simple Yet Astounding Ways to Calm Down," O Magazine, September 2008--
On the Way Up
At the Top
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Plant-based recipe alert. It's been so long since I've posted any recipes--and boy do I have a lot of them to share--I try out new recipes every week. And besides, my sister-in-law said, "Post more recipes!" You'll find 2 recipes at the end of this post. One is hers. One is mine.
Unplugged, Un-Busy, Single-Tasking, & Smack in the Middle of the Deep Woods
Yep, I was away again. So, where did I go this time?
Deep into the North Carolina/Georgia Mountains--visiting my sister-in-law & brother-in-law, and my Atlantan nephew & niece--stretching the 4th of July weekend into 5 days that turned out to be of "a homemade spa wellness weekend".
But, I have to be honest. Being away from home so often--especially after a travel-crazy May & June-- can knock me off balance, making me feel overwhelmed & edgy, even before I leave town. And that "I've-got-too-much-to-do-&-not enough-time" feeling doubles when I return home.
You all know what I mean--when you're out-of-town you fall way behind on everything that needs to get done at home & at work.
But none of that happened this time!
Here's My Theory. Do you all remember that post about Rock & Siegel's Healthy Mind Platter? Sure you do--it was just 2 1/2 weeks ago. Well, on this extended 4th of July weekend, I unknowingly nailed everything on that brain platter, every single day! It chilled me out--and the light bulb went on! The platter works.
I "unplugged", I got a giant dose of nature, and traded in the "multi-tasking" for Norman Fischer's "single-tasking" un-busyness. I highly recommend it! (here's what I'm talking about)
Here's how my vacation re-entry played out this time around.
We returned home at midnight on Tuesday night--and I hit the ground running before the alarm went off at 6:00 am. Had to work on Wednesday. Had to forage for food in my pantry & freezer. My refrigerator was bare.
Then it was up early and home late--most every day last week. But, I was still feeling energized and relaxed? What's up with that?
- Certainly no time to blog last week--so I just let it slide. Why stress about it?
- My suitcase didn't get unpacked until Saturday morning. Oh well.
- The boxes & piles of grandkid toys that filled all the free floor space in my family room didn't get put away until Saturday. And why were awesome boxes of toys filling my family room? A friend had generously dropped off a car load of stuff the night before we left town--so the piles stayed where they had landed until I had time to move them upstairs--on Saturday.
- The kitchen floor was starting to get super sticky--the laundry was piling up. But, I knew I'd get to them in due time. They'd have to wait.
- Here's what filled up my free time last week. I was co-hosting a wine and beer tasting bridal shower four days after I got home--so I was busy organizing, shopping, schlepping, & food prepping. (BTW--we all had a blast!) Plus a bit of prepping for a work picnic the following day. And of course I had to bring something plant-based & oil-free for the picnic--my reworked "Bon Appetit" recipe for Rice Salad, with Grilled Italian "sausage," Peppers & Onions. The recipe is here--but I ditched all the oil, & upped the fresh lemon juice!
- My week was not all work--and no play. I fit in time to touch base with my sis, sister-in-law, kids, & friends, exercise, eat healthy & delicious food, get to sleep on-time--and take Friday night off to catch Super 8 at the local theater. Loved it! It's a mix of ET, Night-of-the-Living-Dead & Goonies that's scary, suspenseful, & sentimental. I screamed about a dozen times. My husband hadn't a clue what we were going to see, and he hands-down loved this movie!
Believe it or not, nothing this weekend has felt like a hassle. Really! I'm trying hard to be a single-tasker, taking my time, & it feels so fine. I was even writing this blog two hours before "Shower Time!"
Here's the thing! Those five days away have taught me one big important lesson.
Now, the real trick will be to keep that lesson in mind when the going gets tough!
- Don't hurry. Ever. Take the time for each task as you do it. Start with the must-do stuff--and focus on it. Be here now! Brooding & worrying about that too-long to-do list is counterproductive. Here are the Cliff Notes: The Healthy Librarian Unplugged. Advice from the Experts: Heart, Brain, & Soul Fixes. And How to Go From "Crazy Busy" to a Zen-Like "One Who is Not Busy"
- Focus completely on what you're doing at the moment--whether it's work, reading, listening to a friend, or making dinner. Do one thing at a time--and stop thinking about the next thing on your list. Enjoy it.
- Good sleep matters! It will save you so much time in the end.
- Get a daily dose of that Healthy Mind Platter & make life easier on yourself.
Our North Carolina Healthy Mind Platter Days
Focus Time. When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain. My Fourth of July weekend had plenty of time for serious kitchen experiments, reading the hard copy of the New York Times without any distractions, & Brendan Brazier's Thrive.
Blueberry, Banana, & Oat Company Breakfast Bake--Recipe Below
Microwave Magic--Puffy Lentil Puppodums--Like Indian Tortilla Chips
Play Time. When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain. This was five days of easy-going play-time, laughter, & adventure. Any Band of Brother's fans out there? We tracked down the Currahee Museum--which commemorates the WW II training camp where The Band of Brothers got their start.
A Grown-up Game of Doctor & Patient--My sister-in-law & niece had 30 minutes of fun trying to remove a deck splinter from my toe
Connecting Time. When we connect with other people, ideally in person, richly activating the brain's social circuitry. Plenty of time to just hang out, walk, & talk with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece & nephew.
L-R: My Sister-in-law, My Husband, My Brother-in-law, My Nephew & Niece
If You're Walking--You're Talking
Physical Time. When we move our bodies, aerobically if possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways. Serious daily hiking, & Hot Yoga on the deck--everyday!
My Niece--Our Bikram Yoga Instructor
Time In. When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain. Plenty of deck-sitting, just taking it all in! Few distractions, no TV watching, with barely any internet or phone services available on this mountain top.
View from the Deck
Down Time. When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge. We had no plans. Nothing we had to do. Nowhere we had to be. We just hung out. Relaxed & recharged.
Sleep Time. When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day. I've never slept better--except for a couple of dog-barking morning wake-up calls! No need for air-conditioning. Just cool mountain breezes coming in through wide-open windows.
Let the Recipes Begin!
Blueberry, Banana, & Oat Company Breakfast Bake
Blueberry Breakfast Perfection. This is the perfect recipe to make the next time you have houseguests.
My sister-in-law made it for us & I kept going back for more. It was like eating a dessert.
Blueberry, Banana, and Oat Company Breakfast Bake
For recipe on one page, click here
Serves 4, generously
2 cups of large flake rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup (or less) of walnut pieces lightly toasted (optional)
1/3 cup brown sugar (use less, or substitute a sweetener of your choice)
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), lightly toasted
2 teaspoons whole flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups non-dairy milk--soy, almond, rice, or oat
An egg substitute equivalent to 1 egg. Mix 1 tablespoon of flax meal with 3 tablespoons of hot water.
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon maple syrup (option: increase this, & decrease the brown sugar)
2 medium bananas, diced
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (not thawed) Note: we used fresh
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 C).
2. Use an 8 inch round baking dish--equivalent to a 2 quart capacity. Lightly spray your pan if it's not silicone, or non-stick. Note: an 8 inch square pan can also be used--see notes at the end.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the oats, walnuts, brown sugar, pepitas, flax seeds, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, the egg subsititute (flax meal & water), vanilla, and maple syrup. Set aside.
5. In the prepared baking dish, spread the diced bananas in an even layer, then scatter the blueberries over top. Pile the oat mixture to cover the fruit, but do not pack too tightly. Carefully pour the wet milk mixture over the oats; it will look as if there is too much liquid, but don't worry, it will be absorbed during baking.
6. Sprinkle the top with a bit of cinnamon & a few chopped walntus, and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the oatmeal is puffed and set, with a golden brown top.
7. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy.
Notes: Re the measurements--the fruit just needs to completely cover the base of the baking dish. Adjust quantities to suit your baking dish.
An 8 X 8 inch square baking dish can be used in place of the round--the oatmeal will be crisper.
Thai-Style Coconut Soup
Thai-Style Coconut Soup
I randomly picked this recipe out of Robin Robertson's fabulous Vegan Planet--and boy was it ever a winner. It comes together quickly & makes an easy quick-cooking dinner. I highly recommend this cookbook--which is easy to modify to no-added-oil.
We shared 2 bowls of this yummy soup with our friends when they dropped off the toys--and I made another batch a week later in North Carolina. Big thumbs up from everyone who tasted this easy-to-do recipe.
No need for lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, or galangal. Robertson thankfully uses easy-to-find substitutes. I just upped the tofu--to make it heartier--and used my favorite "faux coconut milk".
How to make no-fat coconut milk:
1 tsp of coconut extract (or start with 1/2 tsp. & taste first) to 1 cup of regular (not light) unsweetened soy milk, or hemp milk, or whatever non-dairy milk you like.
Use this same ratio (1 tsp. to 1 cup--1/4 tsp to 1/4 cup) of extract to milk whether you're making more or less coconut milk. I prefer soy milk when making faux coconut milk--4 grams of fat per cup give it a creamier texture.
Note: 1 can of real coconut milk is 14 ounces. Mix 14 ounces of "milk" with 1 3/4 tsp of coconut extract (more or less to taste)
I ditched my Durkee's artificial coconut extract when I spotted this natural blend, Silver Cloud, at Whole Foods a few months ago. It's pricey--but it's also a large bottle. Click on Silver Cloud if you can't find this locally. Get the Silver Cloud coconut extract!
Thai-Style Coconut Soup
For recipe on one page, click here
3 shallots, minced
2 cups of thinly sliced white mushrooms (I used more--16 ounces)
3 cups of vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons of peeled & grated ginger
2 tablespoons of tamari or other soy sauce
1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar or natural sweetener of your choice
1 teaspoon Asian chili paste, or to taste (a must ingredient!)
14 ounces of Faux Coconut milk (mix 14 ounces of regular non-dairy milk--I prefer soy milk--with 1 3/4 teaspoons of coconut extract.) The Silver Cloud natural extract works best!
14 ounces of extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, & cut into 1/4 inch dice
Juice & grated zest of one good-sized lime (no teeny-tiny ones)
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro for a garnish
1. Heat up a non-stick pan, & add the shallots. Add a little water or vegetable broth if they start to stick--to deglaze the pan. Cook the shallots until tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring for 3 minutes.
3. Stir in the vegetable broth, ginger, tamari, brown sugar, and chili paste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
4. Stir in the "faux coconut milk", tofu, lime juice & zest, and lemon juice, and simmer until the flavors have blended and the soup is hot, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
5. Serve hot, garnished with the cilantro.
Find these in plain or spicy flavors in the Asian/Indian section of the grocery store. They're widely available. Amy Cramer introduced me to these super-easy snack/appetizer treats more than a year ago.
Just pop them one-at-a-time into the microwave & cook for 40-60 seconds, depending on your microwave & voila, you have a beautifully crisped giant lentil chip.
We served them with jarred chutney & hummus. Also try them with Trader Joe's pre-cooked French lentils, mixed with mango or tamarind chutney.
4 giant puppodums are just 80 calories--0 fat (translation, less than .5 gram of fat)--but, the ingredients list as: black gram bean flour, salt, raising agent, lime, spices, rice flour, & sunflower oil--which may be a deal-breaker for some!
4 puppodums contain: 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 70% of daily calcium, & 8% of daily iron, and a whopping 720 mg of salt--maybe another deal-breaker for some.
Anyone else ever feel overwhelmed by travel & vacations?
What kind do you prefer? An R & R vacation or a see-and-do everything one?