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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rainy Days, Stress and My New "Unprocessed" Adventure

It's raining here in Ohio.  I mean serious, creeks flooding, roads closing, Canada Geese-swimming-in-the-driveway rain.  In my attempts to be a 'glass-half-full' kind of gal, I remind myself that just a couple of weeks ago I literally had to skate out to the barn to do my chores with so many layers of outerwear that I felt (and looked) like the Michellin man.  So I am trying to remain in a state of gratitude for the rain, realizing that it is serving its purpose too, to fill the water tables that will nourish the earth.'s damn dreary.
I've been giving thought of late to the concept of stress.  It's become such a buzz word, that I think we've become somewhat desensitized to just how powerful stress is.  We get stress from work, stress if we don't have work, stress from family drama, stress over if we are's endless.  I know it affects our bodies and certainly our ability to cope in life, but I had no idea just how much until a trip to the E.R. last weekend gave me an 'in-your-face' moment of clarity.  I had been working one of our horses and began having visual disturbances--really bizarre patterns of flashing lights---my husband and I opted to go to the E.R.  The nurse practitioner there and the E.R. doc weren't totally willing to rule out a torn retina, but suspected ocular migraine, and so put me on some physical restrictions with strict orders to go see the ophthalmologist first thing Monday.  (Which I did--turned out to be an ocular migraine). 

While in the E.R., they kept taking my blood pressure.  Normally I run around 110/75 yet I was putting out numbers like 155/105, 150/95, crazy high for me.  Now, I didn't FEEL like I was under that much stress....I mean I was sitting there in the E.R., but my husband was there, and my son and his girlfriend had even come to offer their support, which touched me deeply, and I felt like I was pretty relaxed all things considered, yet here was my body clearly showing the measurable signs of what was really going on. 

I guess you can't fool your body.

I am putting 'stress reduction practice' as a priority on my list of things to do for self-improvement.  Yoga has to go back in (and as a serious main course, not the garnish status that it currently has in my fitness program), and time spent doing the beautiful soothing moves of my Tai Chi, as well as the simple act of consciously taking some deep breaths throughout the day.  Stress deserves its due.

The Great "Unprocessed" Adventure

I just got Chef A.J.'s book "Unprocessed". .  I've been an admirer of Chef A.J. and her partner-in-kale, Julieanna Hever for quite some time and she is definitely one of my heros.  After reading the story of her life, I am now even more in awe; she has had much to overcome. 

While doing a quick scan of the recipes in her book, I decided I would do a "Julie/Julia" approach to the book.  (Julie-Julia refers to the book and movie ( wherein Julie Powell undertook the monumental task of cooking her way through Julia Child's first cookbook.  It's a really fun movie if you haven't seen it (however, recipes are definitely NOT vegan...yikes, so much butter!).  Anyway, I follow A.J. on her FaceBook page and mentioned this idea and she said we might be able to do giveaways of her book here on the blog at some point, so watch for news of that.

I am going to skip around in the book as I make my way through the recipes and started with her Kale or Spinach Dip and her Fennel Salad.

Kale or Spinach Dip

(A.J. notes this is also the filling that is used in her lasagna)

1 box of extra firm water packed tofu OR 2 cans (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 oz fresh basil leaves
1 C pine nuts, raw cashews or hemp seeds
2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
1/4 C low sodium miso
1/4 C of nutritional yeast
1/4 C fresh lemon juice
1/8 t red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
2 lbs. frozen, chopped spinach (defrosted, drained with all liquid squeezed out) OR 1 pound frozen kale (defrosted, drained, with liquid squeezed out)

Place all ingredients except spinach or kale in a food processor fitted with the S blade and process until smooth and creamy.  Add spinach or kale and process again until combined.  Place in hollowed out loaf of round sourdough bread for a spectacular presentation.

I tried a couple of different things with this recipe.  I was out of basil (who DOES have pine nuts in their kitchen but DOESN'T have basil???....that would be me.)  So, I subbed some parsley.  I am sure the basil would make a difference.  Also, I had a silken tofu slab that was nearing the expiration date, so I used that instead of the extra firm.  As, predicted, I knew this dip would come out more liquidy than with the firm tofu, so when I remake, will use the extra firm.  Also, I don't like miso at all; have tried a couple of different types and I just don't like it, so I subbed Bragg's aminos for that.  Again, I am sure it had an effect on the recipe.

This makes quite a bit of dip and I even halved the recipe.  I enjoyed it with some fresh veggies and was happily munching away and then decided to try adding the cannellini beans for kicks even though the recipe calls for either or, tofu or beans.  That gave it a different texture and flavor and was quite good on some 'flaxers' ( I had on hand.  (Note:  this would be a really fun dish to include for a St. Patrick's Day dinner; the green is gorgeous).

Since I have so much of this left-over and since I just happen to have some whole-wheat lasagna noodles on hand, I'm going to make a small pan of A.J.'s lasagna tonight, so will have a post on that soon.

Next up:

Fennel Salad
(Raw) - A.J. credits Ellen Greek with this recipe

2 bulbs of fennel
1 lemon
20 dates

Slice the fennel very thin into a bowl.  Keep the green top to decorate the salad.  Slice the dates and mix them with the fennel.  Pour the lemon juice over this and mix it well.  Serve cold or room temp.

I just used a portion of one fennel bulb and adjusted the other ingredient amounts accordingly.

I was amazed at this salad.  There are so many flavor variations in this between the anise flavor of the fennel, the tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the dates that it is like a taste kaleidoscope in the mouth. While this is not something I would want to eat a huge serving of, it was light, lovely and very unique.  I definitely will be preparing it again.

Sue, de-stressing in Ohio

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