One Year Later…

I give myself Saturdays to do nothing, or more precisely, I don’t do anything that I don’t want to do. Mostly, this means I wake up without the screaming of an alarm at 5am, walk the dog, and do the weekly menu planning until Whole Foods opens at 8am, and then do the grocery shopping before it gets crowded. On this very Saturday one year ago, Miracle joined our family. Our hearts were still aching after losing Turbo, but sadist that I am, I had to dive right back in so that I would not come home to an empty house. Unlocking the door to a dog who is always happy to see you is a magical thing that says more than anything – “welcome home.”

Those first few months with Miracle were not pretty. She loved us immediately, but was desperately sad while we were away and restless at night. Mark and I struggled in a fog of exhaustion for months. We had a taste of what life is like for parents of newborns, who catch sleep when they can, or not at all, because Miracle needed a lot of soothing. But a year is a good stretch of time – enough for a hound to gain confidence that we’ll always come home to her, and for us to get to know this clownish beast we share our home with.

Also, on the second hound, we’ve turned into complete softies. Miracle helped herself to snoozing on the furniture not long after she came home. The moment you make a few moves in preparation to leave the house and – BOOM – Miracle is on the sofa, in your seat and glaring at you…daring you to kick her off, as if to say, “If you think you’re leaving me – fine, but I’ll be right here in your spot on the couch, all day long.” I can’t argue with that. We’re gone 12+ hours per day during the week, and if she wants to chill on the furniture, I am not going to stop her. Softies.

The hound can also be persuaded to join us for a run. In the early days, running was one way we could manage her separation anxiety. Now, we use her more as an excuse to stop for a few seconds and dither around before continuing on our way. It works for all of us.

One year later, we’re so glad that Miracle joined our family. She’s a lovey little hound, always scheming for a belly rub or snuggle on the couch. Her bursts of play, endless squeaking of toys and high speed laps around the house keep us laughing. Welcome to the family, dear hound.

I’ll have a new recipe or two for you in the next couple of weeks…I hope!  In the meantime, here are a few old favorites that have been gracing our table in the last couple of months:

  • Fennel, Apple and Orange Salad – Fennel, granny smith apples and oranges are a few fresh ingredients that can be relied upon to brighten up any meal in the dead of winter. I could eat this salad daily and not get tired of it.
  • Tomato Sauce with Butter – A simple, classic sauce that makes enough for several meals, freezes well, and is a savior for getting a quick mid-week meal on the table.
  • DIY Kind Bars (grain-free granola bars) – These little tasty treats have been a near constant companion, since discovering that I am sensitive even to gluten-free oats. A little bit sweet and a good source of protein, these bars are getting me through weeks when I need to travel for work.
  • Indian Spiced Red Lentil Soup – This pot of soup is dead simple, and takes few ingredients, but it makes for a hearty bowl of soup that warms the belly on the coldest of winter days.

Thank you to everyone who has commented, written, posted and tweeted me, asking when I’d get the next blog post up. I’ve missed our conversation here – and I hope to be back more often in 2012!

Grain Free Granola Bars (DIY Kind bars)

It’s no shock to any of my friends that I ve been pretty low energy and run down the last several months. Stress has been slowly eating at me, and the lack of a real vacation since last Christmas has me feeling a little dry and crispy at the edges. I am yearning for this week s Thanksgiving holiday, and can t wait for 4 days of laziness, cooking and relaxing at home.

I adore the foods, traditions and feeding the people I love on Turkey Day, but this year abdicating all responsibility to my aunt, uncle & cousins in the  burbs sounds like bliss. I’ll whip up a little gluten-free something to bring along, but this year, I’m kicking back and relaxing. Ahhhh.

Last month, Shauna wrote a post where she shared how she d been feeling tired, and slightly  off. She learned that she needed to give up eggs and almonds, and true to her generous spirit, she welcomed the challenge and headed to the kitchen to create. I love when the words of my blogging friends tickle the brain, spin around, and settle in…Shauna’s experience resonated with me…I know I’ve had problems with eggs in the past, and looking to get more of my energy back, I made an appointment with my amazing chiropractor/healer to do some nutritional testing to get to the bottom of things.

A snip of hair for analysis, and simple muscle testing to determine the foods, chemicals and metals that give me trouble, and we had the answers…eggs, corn, oats and soy were added to my  off-limits list for now…maybe not forever, because my reaction isn’t super severe, but for now, they’re outta here. Another run through muscle testing determined the supplements and dosage I would need to help heal my body, and I was on my way with a bag of herbs and a new regime. Such is life.

Of course I’m bummed about losing eggs and corn…two mainstays of many a grab ’n go meal of spicy egg & veggie tacos, chilaquiles, and omlettes, but after nearly 10 years in this food allergy rodeo, it’s no big deal. I’ve been stuck in a rut in the kitchen lately, and this new challenge gets my fingers tingling with anticipation to get cooking, and to learn a few new techniques. With the long holiday weekend ahead, this is the perfect time to take a deep breath, stock the pantry and reboot my kitchen, and my life.

Be KIND to your Guts Bars

I traveling frequently for work, which can leave those of us with food allergies high and dry, depending on where your flight lands. Larabars used to be my go-to road food, but I ate too many of them this summer, so I switched to the higher-end goodness of the Kind bars. At upwards of $2 a pop, they re not something I can afford to eat for breakfast every day. I was thrilled to see that Camilla, from Enlightened Cooking, had already paved the way for me in recreating the bars at home. A few twists of my own, and these bars came together in a snap, and now I m set with tasty bars to last me for a couple weeks, for the cost of about 3 Kind bars. This is my kind of cooking.

Grain Free Granola Bars
Adapted from Camilla’s Enlightened Cooking
Serves: 15, 3×4 bars

2 cups raw nuts, roughly chopped (I used 1 c hazelnuts, 1 c cashews)
1 cup raw seeds (I used pepitas and sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup unsweetened large coconut flakes
1/3 cup minced dried apricots
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Scoop the chopped raw nuts and seeds onto a 1/4 sheet pan (9×13), and toast for 15 minutes, stirring at the 7 minute mark, to ensure the nuts don t burn. Add the coconut flakes when you stir.
  3. When the nuts are toasted, scoop them into a medium mixing bowl. Add the minced dried fruit and stir together.
  4. Pour the brown rice syrup, honey, salt, pinch of cinnamon and black pepper in a small bowl. Warm in the microwave on the lowest setting for 15-30 seconds to gently heat the syrup to make it easier to stir into the nuts and fruit.
  5. Pour the warmed syrup mixture over the nuts, using a spatula to ensure that you get every last drop. Stir the nuts and syrup together. Put a little elbow grease into it to ensure that all the fruit and nuts get an even glossy coating of syrup.
  6. Line the sheet pan with parchment paper, and spray with oil.
  7. Scoop the nut & fruit mixture onto the lined cookie sheet, and spread with a spatula. Next, spray a second sheet of parchment to cover the bars as you press the mixture firmly into the pan. Peel the top layer of parchment off when done pressing the bars together.
  8. Place the bars back in the oven for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the bars from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes, then proceed to cut them while they re still slightly warm. If they fully cool before cutting, they will not slice into neat squares – they will break unevenly into shards.
  10. Gently lift the bars out of the pan by the parchment liner, and use a chef knife to slice the bars into squares while still on the parchment – otherwise they will stick.
  11. Once cut, use a butter knife to separate the bars from the paper, and store in a container with sheets of parchment between layers to prevent sticking. Store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.