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catching up over chocolate-ginger granola with buckwheat

Hello again.  Given my record of inconsistent posting, it no longer even makes sense to apologize for/explain being away so long; I’m going to assume the privilege of an old friend and pick up where we left off.

We are in Tampa!  We have been living here for two and a half months now, and the change has been really good. In fact, aside from discovering new depths of incompetence in a certain government contracting company that shall remain nameless, and missing a few very dear friends, it has been a great experience.  We are roosting in a sun-filled apartment within walking distance of the bay.  A quick glimpse from our windows would easily fool you into thinking we live in a tropical jungle. windowview Every chance we get we stroll down to the water to watch sting rays, manta rays, sea turtles, dolphins, sharks, and dozens of fish whose names we don’t know.  Yep, in case you have been wondering, runners of Tampa, we are that annoying couple walking really slowly, hanging over the balustrade, soaking it all in, while you are pounding the pavement.  Give us time.  We may eventually become jaded to 70 plus degree November days, and seeing the sun glint diamonds off of the waters of the bay. . .but I hope not! doublestingray We spent a disappointing month shopping the local grocery stores to find them filled with really expensive produce that is often already going bad on the shelves, or, alternately, completely under-ripe and flavorless.  I’m not just talking one store, I’m talking every store (yes, I’m talking about you Whole Foods, Publix, Winn-Dixie, and Fresh Market).  We were throwing away a shameful amount of food because it was spoiling before we could use it. In the last two weeks I finally made it a priority to seek out some alternatives; the results were surprising!  There is a farm hidden away on a cul-de-sac in south Tampa where you can get fresh eggs, raw milk, fresh from the hive honey, and so much more, on the honor system.  I want to do a full post on this place soon, but if you are in the Tampa area and want to see for yourself, it is South Tampa Farm at 6101 s. 2nd st. Tampa, Florida 33611. there is a produce wholesale shop that welcomes retail customers (Sanwa Farmer’s Market) and a pretty cute veggie stand just down the road on Swann.

My mom came for a visit and took us to the 5th annual veg-fest, after which we went to a nearby power plant to see the manatees that collect in the heated waters at its base. famvegfest I had a whirlwind day at Disney with one of my very best friends and her kids, and I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it more than any of the littles!  I have no shame in being an adult disney lover. . .the magic is real.  Thank you J.S. for sharing the nugs with me; it was wonderful being Aunt Brandy again for a day!

And, finally, I made a recipe I would love to share with you today.  Based on the fantastic Sarah Britton’s Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola, this version is lighter on oil, and has a kick of heat courtesy of my spicy friend, ginger . parfait2

Chocolate-ginger granola with buckwheat

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup buckwheat (I found this in the bulk bins at whole foods)
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut flakes
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 5 dates, pitted and soaked in 1/4 cup milk of choice or water
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • In a blender combine dates and their soaking milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, ginger, and cocoa powder.  Combine until mostly smooth; thin with extra milk of choice if needed (warm before adding).
  • Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, mixing to evenly distribute.
  • Pour chocolate mixture over dry ingredients and fold until evenly coated.
  • Press evenly onto parchment paper lined baking sheet and place in oven
  • Cook for 30 minutes, check and turn/stir as needed if outer edges begin to burn.  As sarah b. says, tasting the hazelnuts is the best way to tell when this granola is ready.
  • Cool completely before storing in air tight container.

 

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Ch-ch-change!

You know how it is when you have something that is consuming all your thoughts, and you aren’t yet ready share it, but you can’t think of anything else, so you end up saying (or writing) nothing at all?  That is where I’ve been for the last several weeks.  But now I can finally say it: we are moving to Tampa!  As in, my husband starts his new job on September 3 and we are packing NOW!

I’m so excited to share this new experience with you as it unfolds.  If you are from the Tampa area, or have visited often enough/long enough to have favorite places and things, please leave a comment!  Jason and I will be utterly and entirely new to the area, and have everything yet to discover.

Health and Happiness

I expect this could be a divisive topic: the balance between striving for health and having a life that you still enjoy.  For some people, people who have been immensely unhealthy, physically, nothing may seem too difficult to give up if only they can feel better.  For those who have always been moderately healthy but still want to make good choices, it can become a spiraling rabbit hole of “how much is okay, and how much is too much” or “should I even bother when it is all so hard to understand”.  Examples:  I’ve mentioned before that my mom (hi, momma!) has made some major changes in the last year.  For as long as I can remember she has been trying different systems or diet plans to get healthy.  She finally chose a lifestyle (whole foods, plant based diet) that seems extreme to many who eat more “standard” diets: no animal products, no fats, no sugar, no salt.  It has worked beautifully for her and she is really, really happy with it.  For her, every single sacrifice has been abundantly repaid in life quality and happiness.  In fact, she has been so successful that it has become really difficult for her to watch other people not feeling as great as she does, and she is admittedly right down evangelical about the benefits of this lifestyle (as we all sometimes are with anything that makes our lives immensely better).

Alternately, I’ve also mentioned that my husband and I were seriously examining our sugar consumption.  Jason has a strong family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes.  We spent several months doing research, having the “how much is too much” discussion and asking ourselves if it was even a good idea, given the evidence of how bad sugar can be for the human body, to walk that tight rope and consume any at all.  Jason’s final decision for himself was to give up all sugars that are not fruit on a daily basis, and then have a treat a few times a month.  His thought is that he might be marginally healthier if he never, ever had sugar again, but he would almost certainly enjoy his life less without those occasional treats (and the social settings in which they usually occur).  He lost seven pounds in the first month after making that decision, and his recent blood work was fantastic!

I can remember many times in life saying, “I could never give up milk!” or hearing others say “If x made me sick, I’d just have to stay that way, because I cannot live without x.”  Well, I definitely came to the point where my quality of life was improved by giving up the milk I so immensely enjoyed, but I have know others who did in fact refuse to give up something that made them ill because they felt life would be less worthwhile without it.  Not just food here, either. . .I put off finding a new loving home for the cat I was desperately allergic to until I was made aware that it wasn’t fair to my husband for me to hold on to something that made our lives more difficult at a time when he was nearly drowning in the stress of caring for us all.

What about you all.  Where do y’all draw the line between health and happiness.  What are some things you either have given up to be healthier, or held onto despite your (or your doctor’s) best judgement, or because you felt the joys outweighed the detriments?  Also, what are some health changes you’ve considered and maybe given up on because there was just too much conflicting information and it was confusing? (I realize that this discussion could easily veer into the deeper and darker waters of addictions in general, but lets try to keep it on the nutrition side of things for now.)

I’ve been thinking

Greetings, again.  You may have noticed that I took some time off. . .I mean REALLY took some time!  I found in March that I was just utterly tired of food.  To be honest, I was utterly tired, period.  I began having some heart problems in late winter.  I let it go, too discouraged to try to deal with it, until my physical therapist and doc.’s office finally sent me to the E.R. one morning.  Answers were not quickly or easily forthcoming, but in the end it turned out that the allergy medications that made life here in northern VA. bearable were greatly increasing my heart rate.

Through all of this my husband and I ate in survival mode: nothing fancy, nothing that required navigating new recipes.  Luckily, we were in Williamsburg, Virginia for three of those weeks, and didn’t have to worry about cooking.

Since that problem began to resolve, I’ve still been feeling lackluster about cooking.  I’ve been thinking about lots of things and wanting to share them, but I’ve hesitated because they weren’t necessarily about recipes, and recipes and travel are what have defined this space until now.  Well, that may have to change.  I plan (notice that is plan not promise) to be writing more in the days to come.  A lot of it will be nutrition or health related, some of it won’t be; I may even get in a recipe or two before the year completely disappears!  I hope that those of you who have stuck around through the silence, and those of you who are just dropping in for the first time, will come and join the conversation.  Let me know if there are topics you have questions about, books you’ve been reading, changes you’ve been making, foods you are enjoying.  I would love to hear a bit about all of you, and could use the inspiration!  Thank you for stopping by or sticking with me, whichever the case may be :).

menu#1

Something New: Menu #1

So I thought we could try something new.  Every week Jason and I plan out a menu and shopping list.  Since I’ve got it on hand, why not share it.  If you like the idea, let me know and I will throw them up on a more regular basis.  I warn you, they may look very boring and repetitive, but who knows, if you are feeling brain dead and utterly unimaginative yourself, this might help!

This first menu reflects some of the things Jason and I have been thinking about lately, specifically cutting down the sugars in our diet.  I don’t mean cutting out fruit; I mean watching the number of calories we get from processed sugars, honey, syrup, etc.  We have been doing some research, and the new recommended limit for men is 150 calories per day, and 100 for women.  We are doing our best to stick to that on a day to day basis without being fanatical.  I’m also severely limiting my caffeine intake in light of some recent problems.  Have you been mulling over any diet changes lately?  I’d love to hear what you all are thinking about.  Again, if you like the idea of the menus, let me know.  Hope you are all having a great week.

Click on the image below to access the PDF and the links.  Later, alligators. menu#1