Sunday, March 30, 2014

Almond waffles (vegan, gluten-free)

It rains. It pours. The snow mountains are melting. Time for an extended Sunday breakfast with waffles, wonderful crisp almond waffles (which are also vegan and gluten-free). 

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Normally, I make the waffles with all-purpose flour; this time I used the King Arthur all-purpose gluten-free flour, and they came out just as crisp and tender. In the second half of the batter, I added raspberries and blueberries.

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My regret? the lack of whipped cream in my fridge.

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Vegan Chia Waffles (makes 6 waffles)

  • 1 cup all-purpose glutenfree flour (recommended: King Arthur Flour)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2TB almond meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 ts almond extract
  • 1/2 ts liquid stevia (or to taste)
  • optional: frozen raspberry pieces

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix the wet ingredients in another bowl. Combine both types of ingredients and mix with a whisk until the waffle dough is without lumps.
Preheat waffle iron (typically, a green light goes on). Spray with nonstick spray (or wipe down or brush with some almond oil). Cook waffles according to the waffle maker's instructions, which usually means putting about 1/4 cup batter on the iron, closing, and waiting for a light to go out. I baked mine longer than the light signal (about 4 min altogether so that they are on the crispy side).
Make 6 waffles using 1/4 cup of waffle dough. 1 waffle, 90kcal.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Unfrozen

It is raining today. But no one is complaining. It is rain. Not snow. For the first time in 4 months.

The ice caps are melting. The snow mountains in the parking lots are shrinking. The cars are cleaned off their winter crud and salt crust. It will rain for a few weeks, on and off, which will propel Maine into mud season, one of the lesser known seasons. The season when melted snow meets thawing grounds and rivers double in size. Other parts of the country see cherry blossoms and call it spring. We call it thawing out.

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This morning I had another try at ‘cake in a cup’, but this time baked, and with the addition of an egg white for the ‘rise’ factor. It was fluffy and crisp, a non-spongy texture, but the taste of the egg was too pronounced.It will take another try, with a flax egg.

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The weekend is ahead. What could be better than a little reprive from reality?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The storm that never was

I went to bed last night with a sense of relief that today would be a snow day; I would get some work done at home. When I woke up at 7am I looked outside: no snow on the ground and not a single snowflake in the air. The weather report predicted the snow would come at 12pm.

I dragged my feet, and baked several variations of ‘cake in a cup’.

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I concluded they need to be baked; 90 sec of microwave produces a sponge-like cake.Not the right fluffy textures.

We were visited by a hungry neighbor.

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By 12pm there was still not anymore snow, no blinding blizzard, just blindingly cold wind, and so I drove to work for an afternoon of meetings. These little fuzzies stayed home in the warm.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Two more letters to go

There is only one place more popular than church in Maine on a Sunday: the self-serve frozen yogurt shop. The line wraps around tables and eating customers back to the door and people of all ages patiently wait for a cup of the frozen, sweet Sunday treat. Sunday felt like a true spring day. Blindingly bright sunshine, blue sky, puddles of water running underneath the ice sheets that frame the walk ways. Kids, dogs, spouses were packed up, and taken on a Sunday walk. Even I bundled up and walked to town. The weather was too good to pass up on the extra portion of light and fresh air.

The sun still shines on this Monday morning. A bright, powerful light that wakes up nature. The temperatures are icy, 4F/-15C. It will be a short week; Wednesday will be wiped out by a snow storm and make everyone stay at home and life stop. Empty stores, empty streets, school canceled.

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It is just us with this new half meter of snow, and Nova Scotia. The meteorologists are on the the letter “X” for winter storms. Two more letters to go.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Maple Sunday

Yesterday, I realized that each year the first 2 months of the year are just a blur. Discounted, just to be gotten over with, struggled through, unabatedly pining for spring and summer. A gray, dark transition phase. This year it is the first 3 months. On the other hand, the first three months of 2014 already passed? A quarter of the year? These are three months of my life I never get back. They are too precious to just remember I wanted them to be over with so I could enjoy sunshine and summer.
This changed my attitude. “This is my life. I never get this time back. I better make something better out of it and enjoy it, appreciate it.” No more wanting the days to be gone for the better ones to come. This is my life! Now. Here. Today.

Today is also Maine Maple Sunday. A day when the many sugar houses in Maine open their doors to show how they cooked down maple sap to maple syrup, entertain the kids, make cotton candy for the big kids and serve maple syrup over waffles and ice cream. There is a sweet sap to life, even in winter.

Or, as Kacey Musgraves says "Follow your arrow. .... you got only so many trips around the sun. Live your life."

Her emphasis is on 'your', mine is on 'life'.
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

#selfie

This morning my Dr Dre Beats arrived. I had bought them with Amazon warehouse deals, a manufacturer discontinued model, but a model I had tried out and loved. They arrived (as announced) with a broken cardboard box, but intact headphones and a carrying pouch, for $77.

After housewifely chores, I plunged down for coffee and brownie bites, plugged in the beats, turned my ipod touch to Apple Radio for the first time. What took me so long.

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How I could have missed #Selfie? A fabulous dance number, and seemingly right on the pulse of today's blogging, instagramming, facebooking and sms-ing culture.


Warming the soul

Saturday morning. The sun shines. There is a winter farmers market today. The outlook for the rest of today predicts snowfall of 3-6 inches from 2pm to 9pm.

Yesterday at the grocery store, I placed my produce and other items on the conveyor belt while behind me the following conversation unfolded.

Woman One: “The Kardashians are cancelled?!”

Woman Two: “WHAAAATT?!!!?!”

Women Two: “My life is over.”

Their random scan of the environment while rummaging through their grocery cart likely also captured the headline of the tabloids.  The other read that Khloe is taking back Lamar. And then there is Kim on the Vogue cover, in a wedding dress, with Kanye West tamed and wrapped around her, with a look in her eyes that gives everyone who ever doubted her the finger.

For the last few weeks I listened to Maya Angelou and her “I know why the caged bird sings”, read by herself. Her poignant story about her childhood in the south, before the civil rights movement, a seemingly segregate world between blacks and white drew me in. I could not wait to listen to the also autobiographical “Letter to my daughter'”. Maya Angelou never had a daughter, but a son, and she speaks to all the daughters out there. In one of the first chapters she says “Don’t whine. Whining is not only graceless, but it can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.”

Thank you, Sister. I will keep my whining in check, and if the Maine winter lasts until June.

Yesterday, I felt I deserved to get away from it all for a day, to recharge and reclaim the good life, and I headed to the place that always does the trick for me: Belfast. A lunch at Chase’s Daily will renew my soul with the belief that life is good. First I had a fresh pressed juice at the Juice Cellar, then I walked around town.

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After my little walk I was ready for lunch only to find the following: Chase’s was closed. Not only closed, but repainted.

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I was glad that I was not that hungry, as if my gut knew more than me ahead of time. Also I thought that the entire appeal of Belfast is really in Chase’s for me. I ventured to the next best thing: the ocean, in its winter dress.

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Then, I drove home and baked Ashley’s vegan, GF brownies. Needed something to warm the soul.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Officially spring

When you live in Maine, you find a lot of people who get very excited about the vernal equinox over the first cup of coffee at the local coffee store in the morning. Today is the beginning of spring, and we celebrate with another messy, soggy snow storm. I start to loose hope that this snow will ever go away. It was mild yesterday, for one day. There were sounds of dripping water, birds calling for mates, and a fresh scent in the air. I dressed up all white and hot pink, because someone had to look like spring.

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Today, dressing up won’t change anything. But it is Thursday and the first week back to school is almost over. My leaden sense of tiredness has finally lifted, and there are only 6 weeks now until summer break.

I am furiously collecting recipes but had no energy to cook or bake anything new. I spend parts of my day in front of the fireplace at starbucks, just with a notebook, a paper notebook, to think, to get my ideas in order.

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As for the lighter sides of life, yesterday I finally watched the start of the Housewives of New York new season. All I could think was “They upped Aviva’s meds or what was she smoking.” Plus, to shake it up, Carole got finally flustered at something of someone assuming she did not painstakingly write her own books. The true masterminds of these ‘reality shows’ are really the producers. There might be no ‘script’, just a ‘which buttons to push this season” plan. Like ‘which questions/suspicions/gossip to  bring up, how to spread it, and then let the chemical reactions of the women involved unfold like clockwork.” “if they don’t explode, add some alcohol and lock them in a room.” “If still nothing works, add the husbands and a lingerie party.”

It would be all fun and games, if faculty meetings wouldnt  be exactly like this sometimes. Ok, minus the alcohol, and lingerie party.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back to work

It is Monday, and 7 weeks of teaching are looming. A pessimist would think “I have to do all 7 weeks, all at once, there is no relief, until in like 7 weeks, poor me”.  This feels like an insurmountable pile of work. But the optimist says “Hey, you just have only today to figure out, you can do that. One day at a time. Don’t worry about tomorrow. BTW, the weekend is close, too.”

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I ventured on with my morning routine. Facebook anticipated my plight and I found a link in my feed from TED with “8 inspiring talks on happiness at work”. I felt I could use some of it. After the first 3 talks I already felt much better, inspired, uplifted.

Check it out in case you are need a Monday/post-spring-break attitude tune-up.

Painted in Waterlogue

It is still –8F (-18C) outside, and this is March, a few days from the official start of spring. I feels like we are held prisoner by winter this year. But, what else is new? Los Angeles had an earthquake, a entire airliner is still missing, and everyone counts on the luck of the Irish today. 

One of the TED talks, the one by Martin Seligman, explored ‘what brings us happiness’. The science of positive psychology. It distinguishes between three paths to happiness: a) having a pleasant life, b) living a life of engagement, being engaged in your activities, your job, parenting, finding flow in your activities, being productive, and c) finding a meaningful life by being engaged and connected.

According to this science, the first path of having ‘pleasant experiences’ is very concrete, you can feel it right then and there, licking the ice cream cone, having a good class of wine or flirting with George Clooney. However, this path has its drawbacks, because it is often just the beginning of the experience that leads to the most pleasant emotions (like the first weeks of a romance or the first spoon of ice cream), and then you need something new again. It gets habitual fast.

The second area is about flow. About being engaged in activity that makes time stop for you. You are highly focused, engaged, you melt into music, a dance, taking photos. It typical comes with your highest strengths and interests. So, if you have a job that overlaps with many of your strength you are in a good place. Or you have to redefine your job so that it includes more of your strength.

The third path to find happiness is about a meaningful life. Using your strengths in the service of something larger than yourself. Like being philantrophic, volunteering at animal shelter, contributing your strength to something larger than yourself.

So, which paths or which formula of participation of all three paths lead to the most life satisfaction? Interestingly enough, the first path alone, the one of the hedonist, leads to the least amount of lasting life satisfaction, it immediately evaporates and needs a new ‘feed’. You can never stop. This is why George Clooney needs a new girlfriend every 2 years. It is why the act of buying new shoes or clothes or new pots is the best, but boring a year later.

However the other two paths, finding your strengths, being in a flow, and/or putting this into a larger context, lead to the highest amount of life satisfaction. It also keeps on giving, your memory of  having participated and contributed.

which brings me back to the beginning of this post: a pile of work. Yes, a pile of work seems crushing, just like getting ready for a run, packing up to go the gym, starting a paper, or cleaning the floor, but it is well-worth getting through it and getting started, because the rewards of satisfaction will roll in soon.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

On the other side of spring break

One day of winter wonderland. March winter wonderland. March winter wonderland requires a down vest over a running jacket for skiing because it gets really warm. Only a limited set of cross country skiing trails were broken, and I ventured beyond those to make my usual round. Which was not such a great idea. Instead of effortlessly gliding through new powder, sunlight powered, I stomped with long skis and sank in 10 inches deep with each step. The task of a trail breaker can be exhausting.

It was marvelously warm, the landscape chockfull of new snow, and yet rivers of melting snow were running and dripping. March snow storm.

Today, it is raining, and the winterwonderland no longer is. Just piles of wet, soggy snow and skiing is over. It will freeze for the next few days, and then slowly, slowly melt away.

I am on my last package of Starbucks Christmas blend. I love their special blends. Christmas, Holiday, tribute. The new tribute blend is out. Just in time.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

Greek yogurt, honey and apple sauce

As I am preparing to go skiing in winter wonderland, this must be one of my all time favorite combinations: Greek yogurt, sweetened with honey, and apple sauce. I’ve been eating this since childhood.

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After the snowstorm

On Wednesday afternoon, after a nice late lunch with a wedge salad I battled the forces of nature venturing home.

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Snow storm? People stay home. You are one out of 5 customers at Target.

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The snow came down for 29h. On top of the previous snow, it is now difficult to see the cars.

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The snow cover is up to the houses’ windows.

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Supposedly, March? Today, the sun shines, and it looks like winter wonderland once again. Spring break ending with a bang, and with this view and awesome skiing, who can be mad?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Turning back the clock

It started snowing last afternoon. This is the view that was expecting me this noon when I opened the garage door.

Thigh-high snow. Not powdery snow, but a wet, frozen mix of snow and ice clumps. Living in Maine. The other news? The snow storm is still ongoing until midnight, so there will be another round like this tomorrow.

If I turned back my inner clock to “it is January 2014, don’t even hope for spring” the weather is appropriate: endless snow, no end in sight, cold, snow days. So, this is what I do. Tell myself “January. Time to go skiing”.

Yesterday I did another spring break project: melting old candles and pouring them into empty jars to make new candles. Slightly messy, but looks good.

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After the snow blowing/ice shoveling maneuver I brewed myself a cup of coffee and had one of these (glutenfree) vanilla almond donuts. So good.

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Vanilla Almond Donuts (vegan, glutenfree)

Donuts:
  • 1 cup all-purpose GF flour/baking mix (Bob Mill)
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 TB almond meal
  • 2 TB ground flax meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extra
  • 3 TB coconut oil (melted)
  • sliced almonds
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 2 x 6 regular sized donut pans (I used a pan with 12 small donuts and 1 pan with heart shaped donuts)
  • For the donuts: Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and stir until combined. Make sure to remove all clumps with a sieve. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Let batter sit for 5 minutes for the flax seed to plump up and bind the dough.
  • Spoon the batter into the donut pan, filling each mold about half. Smooth out the top of the batter with a spoon.
  • Bake for 18-24 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a fork to remove the donuts and place on a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy!

(1 heart-shaped donut: 100 kcal, 1 mini donut: 50kcal)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stir-fried asparagus and gnocchi

My fridge is overflowing with produce. Tonight I grabbed the most expensive and fragile one: fresh asparagus. Cut up into pieces, stri-fried, with olive oil, kale, butternut squash and corn, topped with gnocchi and teriyaki sauce.

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Sweet tooth, sweet spring break life

It was quite the weekend. My internet was down. Majorly down, like in replace all outside cables down. It had 2 effects: panic and unaccustomed peace and quiet, like being on vacation. Now, it is Monday, second week of spring break, the weather is sunny and mild, the snow is melting underneath the big ice covers, and another snowstorm for Wed/Thursday is predicted. Nothing new. There is always an errand spring snow storm.

yesterday I skipped lunch again for this.

Ever since I figure out that one of those mysterious new stores that had pop up in yet another strip mall was not a tire or mattress or craft store, but a frozen yogurt store, I’ve skipped dinner more often than I care to admit. But, sooo good. Raspberry cheese cake is my favorite.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Art of Imitation

Thursday, I packed up and took the spring break opportunity to head to civilization (anywhere where there is a Trader Joes and Wholefoods, I call civilization). At the beginning, my camera seems to have been in a ‘picturesque’ mode painting all those shots of walking through downtown (shoptown) Freeport and LLBean.  But I must have set it back to normal at some point.

LLBean, Freeport, ME.

Tourist-free downtown Freeport in the winter.

Piles of icy snow this March.

Portland!

Found a new type of creme fraiche, with real vanilla beans (and specks of seeds!) This must be perfect for baking.

After the food was taken care off, on to the fashions.

Forever 21 had a wonderful copy of JCrew’s flower necklace, for $10 and in a great color.

I almost, almost bought this beautiful gray-white hand bag at H&M. I knew I would regret it later because it is it basically plastic. But the design? Mindblowing.---  Great effort, now please on in a bit more high end material.

I was rewarded for not buying it when I entered the Aldo store. They currently have the most perfect copy of the famed (and beautiful) Celine bag. For $60. I had to buy one. I coveted this bag for years.

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Then on to the originals at J.Crew. They are still the best. When you can afford them. Or wait for a sale.

Today, the weather is finally warming up. There are puddles of water on the street, the sun is out, and the temperatures are in the high 30s. At least for the rest of spring break, it will feel like spring.

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