Dissatisfied Health

Guess what, folks. I’m about to blow your mind with what you already may know or at the very least suspect somewhere down deep, but what I think is important to talk about. Especiallllyyy in the blog world, especiallllyyy in college, especiallllyyy in today’s culture.

We, as people, are masters of self deception. MASTERS, I say. At least up to a point. (At which point you say, get to the point Michaela. Patience, dear grasshopper.)

I want to talk to you about dieting. About exercise. About “lifestyle changes,” because we all know that dieting and exercise are out of vogue. Diets don’t work, the experts say, and rather than force ourselves to exercise we are encouraged to find fun physical activity and delicious healthy food so we don’t have to diet. And around this new trend, dozens and hundreds of blogs (and a whole web and non-web based health culture) have popped up, including my own. It’s called Pilgrimage of Health, for goodness sake. Health. With Healthy recipes and Healthy lifestyle tips and Healthy thought processes and Healthy healthy healthy. 

And I’m not out to bash any of that. We do need lifestyle changes. We do need to forego dieting, and find activities that we enjoy doing that make us feel good, because we’re facing a crisis situation. In my country of the United States and increasingly around the world, we’re facing an epidemic of unhealth in mind, body, and soul. We’re spending more and more time and money and energy on health, and yet collectively we’re still pretty sick. In response, we’re inundated with lifestyles and ideas and tips intended to transform us into healthy, happy, carefree health goddesses (and gods).

But I think, underneath a lot of the healthy language and healthy blog culture, we sometimes use health as a cover-up. As an excuse, to try and change ourselves into what we think we should be rather than accepting ourselves for who we are. Now, rather than esteeming thinness for thinness sake and dieting and weight loss, we’re instead consumed by this image of health that can lead us into unhealthy behaviors.

You following me here?

An obsession with health can be unhealthy. Part of the problem lies within the motivation behind strict workout plans and eating regimes, but part of the problem can come after. After we’re following the cleanest diet, practicing yoga six times a week, training for a marathon. We become dependent on these as something to define us. We become human doers instead of human beings, fixated on the high of pushing ourselves further and defined by what we don’t do, that is, consume ‘bad’ foods (which in our society can mean a million different foods). And if we’re embracing a “healthier lifestyle” out of a deep dissatisfaction with who we are, I think that’s problematic.

Because our bodies know, right? Our self knows. It knows when we act out of insecurity instead of satisfaction. We know, deep down, what actions come from abundance and deprivation. And that doesn’t come without consequences. Lying to ourselves and saying that we’re “just following this eating plan because I feel tired (or want to be healthier or save the planet or I think I’m allergic to . . .)” when we really are trying to follow a diet without calling it so because we are deeply dissatisfied with ourselves and desperately want change, our bodies and souls know. Don’t try to trick them.

I know this to be true, because I do it. Have done it. Mastered it, for the past five years. I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free. I’ve followed strict running plans and done juice cleansing. I’ve committed to abstaining from this or that because of that and this. And every time I eat a certain way or exercise out of a dissatisfaction, it backfires. Badly.

This is not to say that running or vegetarianism or veganism (or yoga or paleo or grain free or . . . you get the idea) are inherently bad within themselves. Nope, because those things can come from a place of true health. They can come from a place of wholeness, a clarity in communication with our deeper selves that says that running makes our bodies feel good or a certain type of food makes our bodies feel bad.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you’re eagerly about to jump into another trend in the name of health, step back.  Why are you about to embark upon this plan? Is it from abundance, or deprivation? Joy, or insecurity?

 

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Vegan Stuffed Swiss Chard

I used to really almost loathe swiss chard, which is surprising because I’ll eat just about anything that grows from the ground. I found it too earthy and gritty, but since I’ve been working at Greenbrier and bringing home copious amounts of the colorful, beautiful leaf, I had to find a way to make it that was completely delicious.

Sauteing it with some olive oil, garlic, cumin, sriracha (who doesn’t love the red rooster sauce!), salt, and a hint of maple syrup sold me. But I wanted more–more variety, more flavor, and something that wouldn’t leave me hungry a half an hour later!

Cheezy, slightly spicy, with the flavor of sweet corn and sweet potatoes.

Vegan Stuffed Swiss Chard
10-15 Swiss Chard leaves
1 Medium size sweet potato
1/2 chopped white onion
1 15 oz can black beans (well rinsed)
1 cup sweet corn
2 cups cooked quinoa (I used red quinoa)
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Sweet Potato Cheeze Sauce  

Sweet Potato Cheeze Sauce
1 cup cooked sweet potato (about half of the sweet potato listed above)
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp turmeric (for color)

1. Cut the sweet potato in half and chop coarsely. Cook on stove top over medium-high heat with olive oil. While this cooks, start the rest of your sauce.

2. In a food processor, blend the cashews, sunflower seeds, garlic, non-dairy milk, and water until smooth. Add in the rest of the ingredients. When the sweet potato pieces are soft, add to the sauce and puree until creamy.

3. Make sure your swiss chard is thoroughly washed, and remove the stems by slicing them off of the leaf. Don’t discard them–chop them, the other half of the sweet potato, and your onion and saute in a pan with olive oil.

4. Cook until the sweet potatoes have begun to soften and add black beans, corn, and cooked quinoa. Sprinkle with salt, curry powder, and garlic powder.

5. Now it’s time to stuff the chard! Lay one row of leaves in a 9X13 glass pan. Spoon a generous amount of the sautéed mixture onto the leaves.

6. Add some cheeze sauce and roll the leaves. You will have to break the stalk as you roll it. Continue until you’ve stuffed all your chard (sounds like an insult, doesn’t it?)

7. Top all of the rolled chard leaves with the remaining sauce.

8. Bake in a 350 oven for 15 minutes.

 I enjoyed mine with some sriracha 🙂 You’ll need a fork and knife to dig into this baby . . .

How do you prepare swiss chard? 

This is shared on: Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday.

Frugal Nut&Seed Crackers

So, after making Everything in the Pantry Milk, I had a bunch of this stuff left over:

The leftover meal from soaking, blending, and straining my nuts and seeds to get my milk. Because I didn’t want to waste it, I started googling “what to do with almond meal.” Turns out, there is an entire website devoted to the stuff! I found this recipe there, and wanted to modify it because it calls for a dehydrator and doesn’t use many spices. I knew that Angela over at Oh She Glows had some recipes for crackers, so I looked at this one and this one before coming up with the recipe below!

Frugal Nut & Seed Crackers
2 packed cups of leftover nut/seed pulp
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flax seed
1 tsp sesame seeds
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
2/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp dill
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 325.

1. Combine everything except the olive oil and the water, mix well.

2. Add olive oil and water, stir to combine. It should stick together fairly well–if the dough is crumbly, add more water.

 3. Spoon the dough onto parchment paper, spread evenly by patting it with your hands. You will have to use two sheets.

5. Place parchment paper on top of the dough and roll it very thinly with a rolling pin.

6. Take off the upper level of parchment paper and, using a sharp knife, cut out your crackers.
 7. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 325 for forty minutes. After forty minutes, I took the outer ones off that were browned already and let them cook for five more minutes.

What is your favorite use for dill? 

This post is shared on: Monday Mania, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, and Fight Back Friday.

Everything in the Pantry Milk

Since I’ve been interning on the farm and going to the farmer’s market every weekend, I think I’ve been to a grocery store . . . once? Maybe twice? I love cooking up all the goodies I bring home from work, and I desperately want to avoid the supermarket as long as I can. I ran out of almond milk last week, and my recent reticence to run to Publix (and the ingredients in my pantry) prompted this lovely, non-dairy milk.

I’ve made almond milk in the past, but don’t do it often because it’s cheaper (and easier) for me to simply buy it. I wondered though if I could get the same results with some of the other nuts and seeds in my pantry!

Everything In The Pantry Milk
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
4 3/4 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp local honey
1/4 tsp iodized sea salt

1. Place the nuts and the seeds in a bowl and cover completely with water (not the water listed on the ingredients list )


2. Place a towel over the bowl and soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain off the water and rinse thoroughly. The cashews looked a bit discolored, so make sure to rinse well.

4. Blend the nuts and water together.

5. Add the honey and sea salt, continue blending. Don’t be alarmed if it starts to froth out a bit!

6. Strain with a fine wire mesh strainer. If you want to ensure there is no pulp, strain with a cheese cloth.

Quick taste test:

And then I added some to my chai tea!

It definitely has an interesting taste I wasn’t expected–you can pick out notes of cashew and pumpkin which I really like! Next time, I may have to do a chocolate milk and add cocoa powder, some stevia, and some cinnamon.

Check back tomorrow to see what I made with the nut/seed pulp . . . I think I may like that even better than the milk!

Do you make your own “milk” or other items most people purchase in the store (bread, yogurt, cheese) ? 

This post is shared on Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and the Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead!

Flavorful Flourless Fiberful Chocolate Brownies!

Can you say yum? Because I can, and it sounds a lot like eating a gooey, warm, chocolatey brownie . . .

These special brownies have a secret ingredient (not that) that adds protein and fiber! When I served them to friends and asked them to guess, they speculated love and happiness. How sweet. Well, they have plenty of love, but the special secret is black beans! I’ve made these once before with my sister, but re-stumbled upon the recipe at Practical Stewardship. Though most of my recipes are vegan, this does use eggs. I used eggs from my internship at the farm, so they are from truly free-range, happy, heirloom chickens. Farm fresh eggs have less fat, less dietary cholesterol,  more vitamin A, more vitamin E, and more protein (source).

Per serving, these brownies have about 5 grams of dietary fiber,13 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein. Compare that to a Betty Crocker Brownie Mix Supreme with 1 gram of dietary fiber, 32 grams of sugar, and 1.5 grams of protein. Actually, they really don’t compare 😉 In other news, I’m still struggling with my alliteration problem . . .

Flavorful Flourless Fiberful Brownies
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
3 farm fresh eggs
2 Tbls Earth Balance
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbls vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Blend all ingredients (except chocolate chips) in a blender or food processor.

2. Pour into a greased 9×9 pan.

3. Sprinkle with dark chocolate chips, or other desired toppings (I think walnuts or pecans would be simply divine).

4. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Mine were cooked thirty minutes and were still veryyy gooey, so if you’d like them a bit firmer I suggest cooking 32-35 minutes.

5. Let cool as long as you can before eating one (or two)!

Do you ever sneak “healthy” ingredients into indulgent foods? 

Fresh Fare From the Farm

I think I may have a problem with alliteration. . . using it in excess, that is 😉

These past two weeks, I have been bringing home a stunning amount of beautiful, nutritious, fresh-from-the-field food from my internship at Greenbrier Farms. They make sure that everyone working gets to partake in the bounty of the harvest, and it’s contributed to nearly all of my meals being at least 50% local (some of them 100%)! I love eating food that I know I had a hand in harvesting, washing, and packaging earlier that week or even that morning!

These were some of my goodies last week:

That loaf of bread? GARLIC ROSEMARY! DIVINE.

This week, Roddy, one of the owners, told me to just go out in the garden before you leave and pick some of what you want . . . you know what’s out there and ready, you’re in it everyday. Isn’t food the whole point?

Why thank you sir, I believe I will! And, I believe it is!

Farm fresh eggs and crunchy yet smooth and buttery lettuce? Yes please!

This lettuce reminds me of a buttercrunch, but better! It is called kwik, I think. I used it in southwestern style lettuce wraps, and the eggs in mini, personalized frittatas. YUM!

What are some of your favorite recipes with foods in season now? 

This post is shared on: Living Green Linkup at Like  A Mustard Seed.

My First Taste

Travelers, yesterday I sampled some of the local cuisine. For the first time in over four years, I had a taste of meat.

Crazy, huh? It was chicken, and just a bite at Greenbrier. Since I’m working there, I get to see how the chickens live, and sometime this month I may get to see how they die. They live like chickens–skittish and slightly stupid, but seemingly happy out on the pasture.

I’ll have to post a series soon on my reasons for eating vegetarian, vegan, and now being open to some good farm raised animal flesh. Even eating it, I don’t think I’ll ever prepare meat for myself. Maybe when it is offered to me on the farm, or when I’m with my sister preparing her chickens, or if my other sister cooks some quality meat from the farmer’s market to share with the family . . .  But it isn’t something I particularly want.

I actually only ate about a third of the chicken showing here, if that.

It tasted fine, nothing spectacular or anything I felt like I needed. And even though I only had a bite, I felt slightly sick to my stomach about an hour after. I guess my body wasn’t acclimated to it yet.

When I got to the farm, we headed out to harvest some more spinach for the CSA that was going out yesterday. Much of my day yesterday was bagging and prepping for the CSA. I got to leave early, which was nice! I’ve been working hard, and haven’t been working out. By the time I get back to the house, I’m usually super tired. Yesterday, though, since I was done early I got to walk around the farm a bit. It was great to get a whole picture of it, and appreciate it for what it is–beautiful. I’ve been so enmeshed in washing greens, I feel like I haven’t been outside beyond the morning harvesting.

Be excited for tomorrow! I have a super tasty dish to share with you that I’m preparing for some friends tonight.

Are you particular about where your meat comes from? 

 

Chocolate Coconut Power Orbs

Have I got a yummy treat for you this morning! Remember how I said that I‘d be doing a lot more creating in the kitchen since I’m living in the Vista House? Well, having access to a fully equipped kitchen + a lot of people to eat whatever yummy creation I make is definitely already prompting me to cook a lot more!

This recipe is adapted from the lovely Angela at Oh She Glows. I constantly drew upon Angela’s story and wisdom for hope within my own healing process. Her’s was the first blog that I ever ‘followed,’ and I still have it bookmarked and check it daily! Her food is inspired, delicious, and super feel-good healthy.

I enjoyed some of these tasty little guys this morning with breakfast this morning!

Chocolate Coconut Power Orbs

1/2 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup prunes
2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (plus more for rolling)
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp chunky natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Process the cashews in a food processor until crumbly. Don’t leave them in too long–we don’t want cashew butter!

Add the pitted dates and prunes. Process until combined and sticky. Add in the rest of the ingredients, minus the almonds, and process until all the ingredients come together.

Pulse in the almonds to your level of desired nut-texture.

Form into balls and roll in coconut. Store in freezer or fridge.

Do you like coconut? What is your favorite recipe that uses it? 


This recipe is shared on Fat Tuesday over at Real Food Forager. 

First Day at the Farm!

Well, I started my day bright and early this morning! I was expected at the farm at 7:30, so I had to leave the house by 7:00 and be up at 6:30.

Because I was going to be working all day, I had to have a big breakfast to fuel me up. I made myself a delicious breakfast burrito with a quinoa, corn, black bean mixture I made yesterday, leftover sweet potatoes from a house dinner last night, cilantro, and daiya cheese. Check out this beauty: 

When I got to Greenbrier I was thrown right into the thick of things! They have their first farmer’s market tomorrow, so today was going to be a busy day. Megan, another intern working and living on the farm, took me out to water the plants in the greenhouse and harvest spinach.

Beautiful, huh? That’s the garden!


This dill is going to make some delicious pickles one day . . . 

Picking the spinach. I’m pretty sure the people I was working with were really amused that I kept pulling out my camera!

Then we went to visit the hogs. Pigs were my favorite animal as a child, so I was pretty excited!

Look at these little guys! So curious. I’ve read that pigs have the intelligence level of three year old children–pretty crazy! They rank fourth on the list: humans, primates, dolphins, then our porcine friends.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow I’ll share the rest of my first day at the farm.

Looking Forward

I finish exams in TWO days. TWO DAYS, people! And the I’ll be finished with my freshman year of college. I feel like I got here two weeks ago, but have been here forever.

Last night, before I went to sleep, I was reading through my journal entries from the beginning of the year. They were vibrant and full of expectation, hope, change. They spoke about my friends now when we had first met, dreams for the future, aspirations for the year. And now, I’m about to be one fourth of the way done with my college career. Well . . . unless I decide to delay it, and go to grad school. But that is a decision for several years from now!

With that said, I wanted to let you all know what I’ll be doing this summer and what you can look forward to on the blog! I’m not going to be lazing around, relaxing in the warm sunshine all day long, mind you. I am super super excited about my summer: I know it will be a period of very spectacular growth in my life.

The month of May (starting at the end of this week!!) I will be interning with Greenbrier Farms. Greenbrier is a smaller, poly-culture farm that I actually did a research project on last semester for my Sustainability Science introductory course. Sustainable agriculture is one of my passions, and the chance to (quite literally) get my hands dirty and learn about fills me with exhilaration. It will be hard work, I hope, but definitely rewarding. I’ll probably be working in the produce gardens, helping out with events, putting together CSA bags, and working at the farmer’s market. I might not be able to take too many photos, but I’ll snap them when I can 😉

This entire summer, I’m living at a house run by our Mere Christianity Forum on Campus. It’s called the Vista House, and it is intended to a place for intentional Christian community.

In June, our Servant Scholars Program starts. I’ll be interning with United Ministries, an organization that has several programs dealing with homelessness, poverty, and adult education. I’m expecting to be thoroughly challenged and stretched by my work there.

The Vista House has an absolutely amazing kitchen, and I won’t be on any type of meal plan this entire summer! That means . . . lots of cooking. It’s where some of these beautiful communal meals took place:

This summer is going to be a great experience. I’m excited to share this part of my journey with you!

What are your summer plans?