nourishing hug

It is just starting to get light, almost time to go rouse Ben for school, and I have just let Yankee out.   After yesterday’s episode of him taking off when I wasn’t at the door to let him in when he was ready, I feel the tension of needing to pay attention this morning.  The tension releases and clears as I ‘surrender’ and sit down at the kitchen table with my perfect cup of morning coffee.  I like my coffee black and very hot. Just brewed, I have made a pot of expresso with freshly ground organic fair trade beans, and when finished, combine a small amount of the rich fresh coffee with hot boiling water to create the perfect cup.   I realize now that sitting here, patiently waiting for Yankee, lets me truly savor each satisfying sip.  I also have time to honor and savor the feeling of Yankee’s freedom.   I am aware of his energy just outside, how he likes to roam the yard after doing his business, play with the bone he leaves right in the center of the yard, just BE outside while still in the circle of my attention.  I usually rush this process with him, coaxing him in with the promise of a treat instead of just letting him do what he needs to do, allowing for his energy to flow in the way he needs it to flow.  And of course, the trick is to be present when he is ready to come in, because if I am not ‘here’, if my attention is not right where he is, then he leaves….

Hmmmm….now on my up to see if Ben is awake, not a dissimilar process I realize!  He needs time too in his transition between sleep and waking for energy to flow the way he needs it to!  And once the process is in full motion, I wait for Ben to come down for breakfast.  As he comes through the kitchen door the first thing he does is open his arms for a hug.  This is pretty typical.  And I usually end the hug quickly, saying I need to get breakfast ready or such…but now I am in the feeling of my time with Yankee this morning, I am AWARE.  I realize I need to just stay in this hug with Ben until he is done, until HE is ready to let go.  And it takes a long time.  A very long time.  I shift my weight and settle into the next level of surrender.  It’s been awhile since I let myself be in a nourishing hug, one that allows me to be present for another and to receive at the same time.  My heart is smiling as I remember the first time this happened years ago in the starkly quiet hall of the seminary building where I was receiving my energy medicine training, a clear and distinct experience of surrender, conscious presence, and ability to receive all wrapped up in a moment, how familiar this feels now being in Ben’s hug.  After what seems like forever, Ben lets go and pulls away with an angelic smile on his face while looking straight into my eyes.  Pure love.  It doesn’t get any simpler than this….

P.S.  LOL, I now remember when I went into Ben’s room this morning and he let me know he wasn’t ready to get up yet.  He says to me, “Shhhh…. BELIEVE” and shows me that is holding in his hand the beautiful angel that he was gifted with the day before, a winged boy wearing an open collar shirt holding a sign that says ‘Believe’ right over his heart…

Still a bit sleepy and looking very somber I ask him in all seriousness what is it he ‘believes’ this morning and without missing a beat he says, “Selena Gomez”,  and when I burst out laughing he smiles broadly, now fully awake, and swings his feet to the floor….

wearing one hat

I am remembering the phrase offered by a colleague recently, that she ‘wears only one hat’, that who she is a work is who she is at home is who she is to her community.  And as I reflect on the rich and nourishing weekend of time just spent sharing life experiences and wisdom with dear friends, I find myself this morning also reflecting on the constellation of elements of work and activity that might be able to fit under a clearly defined ‘hat’ to wear for every occasion in my life….

The meal we prepared and ate together was, as one friend said, “A feast for Goddesses.”  Smile.  I now think of the beautiful spread we sit down to….

and even though each of the dishes offer up a different form of sustenance here, there is a palpable energy between each pan and plate and glass on the table.  No one dish dominates. There is no center and no end, just a harmonious flow and offering of earth’s bounty lovingly prepared and presented.  There is a fritatta of fresh organic eggs, onions, red skinned and sweet potatoes, with fresh basil and parsley…

…quinoa, sautéed with lacinato kale, fennel seed, sundried and fresh tomatoes, and almond coconut (mother’s) milk…

a gorgeous salad with every color and texture of ‘fresh’, perfectly dressed with a yummy homemade oil & vinegar dressing…

and a loaf of homemade fresh bread, served up with a collection of infused olive oils for dipping (the balsamic fig is to die for!)  I prepare a plate that is simply bursting with color and fragrance and of course thinking, I want to take a picture of this!!, and instead choose to honor the moment with a silent prayer of heartfelt gratitude for this meal, not wanting to break the flow of what is happening under this ‘one hat’ that we are all wearing simultaneously, each person indistinguishable from each plate of food, as we become ‘one’ in that moment.  And once we all settle into how good it feels to be wearing this hat, the laughter and banter and fun begins…

And there it is…the metaphor of truly sharing a meal in reverence as the ‘umbrella’ (hat) for holding the sacred energy of being ‘one’.  If only it could be as simple in the flow of daily life!  However, having the memory and feeling of that meal is the beginning, and a visceral and tangible place to start….

collaborative cooking

I have collaborative cooking on the brain.   In the process of packing up for a gathering and overnight with some dear friends and I have been filling my basket with all kinds of goodies, a jar of fennel seed, pears and figs, the last of my ‘mother’s milk”, the bunch of gorgeous dark green lacinato kale, some quinoa, and so on.  I have no idea what others are showing up with and though I have offered to facilitate the making of a ‘spontaneously’ inspired meal, I have no idea how it will really go.  That is part of the fun…not knowing!  There will be many of us, and the dynamics will be different than just two sharing a process together.  I am feeling anticipation, and realize that the making of something uniquely of the moment that serves us ALL will be the ‘dessert’ that follows a nourishing ‘meal’ of time spent together….

Isn’t that what collaboration is all about?

So, it is a short post today, and I don’t want to sign off without sharing the photo my daughter Molly sent last night with the message, “My dinner!  Pesto pasta with kale, sweet potatoes, broccoli!

She also tells me that this is a meal that she made with two others in her house and it is a happy thought, imagining how the collaborative cooking scene flowed in the preparation of this meal… gotta love that this was a Friday night dinner prepared by college students for themselves!  There is hope in the world after all and I am inspired… smile….thanks Molly for sharing!!

making oatmeal cookies

I have been home working, nursing the beginning of a cold with lots of liquids and naps.  After grazing most of the day on fruit, rice cakes and avocados, I finally make myself a substantial late afternoon meal, one cup of raw brown rice sautéed with olive oil, lots of chopped garlic, a whole package of finely chopped baby bella mushrooms, and about a tablespoon of Braggs liquid aminos, cook until juices are flowing, add 1 cup of almond/coconut milk (9/28/11 post ‘mother’s milk’) and one cup water, bring to boil, cover and simmer over low heat, adding more liquid as necessary, until rice is creamy soft, about 40 minutes.

And while this earthy grounding mushroom rice mixed with sautéed kale is really delicious and nourishing, I am left with a feeling of needing something more, I can’t define it, maybe something sweet, just don’t know, so I continue to stay open to the feeling and go about my evening.  At some point the image and smell of oatmeal cookies appears, and not just any old oatmeal cookie will do, it has to be Aunt Betty’s oatmeal cookies…

They are legend in our family, and yet I never have a copy of the recipe where I can find it and can’t remember when I actually last made them.  A while ago.  I know my cousin Carolyn has e-mailed the recipe to me sometime in the past five years, and amazingly, I actually find it on my computer.  It is a simple cookie using quick cooking oats which I no longer keep in the house.  It also uses melted shortening instead of butter, and luckily I do keep a container of Spectrum organic all vegetable shortening in the cupboard.  So I think, what if I make my own ‘quick cooking oats’ by lightly grinding (with my new trusty food mill) some regular oats down.  Smile.  I experiment until I get two cups of approximately the same texture as the quick cooking kind.  I know, some of you may be thinking, why not just use the oatmeal as is?  I just know the cookies won’t be the same if I do and I am after ‘the’; oatmeal cookies!  So, now the food mill is all set up and I think, how about making some fresh oat flour with some of the whole oat groats in the jar there, to use instead of the wheat flour?  So I do!  It’s crazy.  Now I really am departing from the recipe, but somehow I know I need to continue following this thread.  The two cups of flour called for ends up being 1-1/2 cups oat flour (because I had enough of a work out after grinding 1-1/2 cups, smile) and 1/2 cup regular (unbleached white) flour.  Next I spot the jar of unsweetened shredded coconut and add a half cup of that too.  Then the one cup of sugar.  Combine well.  Then add 1 cup of melted shortening, two beaten eggs, 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 4 tablespoons milk (I use the almond/coconut milk), 1 teaspoon vanilla and a dash of salt.  Mix it all up and let the batter sit for about 10 minutes while the oven is preheating to 350.   Put heaping tablespoons full on a greased baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes until puffy and slightly browned.  Transfer to cooling rack right away.

So, final result?  Same same same same!  they look the same, they feel the same, they smell the same, and most importantly, they taste the same!  I am excited about continuing to work on this recipe to slowly replace each ingredient with perhaps a lesser processed version, see what happens….while keeping the spirit of these cookies alive!

Of course what I realize now is that what I have needed, that ‘something  more’ I have been craving after my meal, is some mothering.  I need the feel of something warm and familiar and comforting and special.  And the essence of my Aunt Betty, with whom I do continue to connect with in spirit, is all of that, wrapped up in a beautiful manifestation of Mother energy that I carry with me always since her passing, and can clearly be evoked by these cookies.  I am also smiling at the ‘coincidence’ of making and using ‘mother’s milk’ in everything I ate today, but of course, it is no coincidence….

I make a pot of tea and get ready to settle in with my movie.  And slowly and deliberately and with great relish, proceed to eat four perfectly wonderful cookies…

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rice and kos

I have just put a pot of (brown) rice on and am trying to come up with something to go with it that will dissolve Ben’s disappointment over the fact that there is no chicken in the house.  Hmmmm.  Making the pan of predominantly green things, sautéed peas, broccoli, & fresh parsley mixed with pesto is good, but I ‘know’ it won’t do the trick.  Not until I am assembling the plates with a mound of rice in the center, surrounded by the vegetables, does the thought come to serve it all with the fresh plain yogurt in the refrigerator.  I can feel something familiar tugging at me now and ‘know’ this will do it….

The ‘familiar tug’ is the memory of all the roast chicken dinners served while I was growing up; meals that always included rice and yogurt.  If we were visiting my Albanian grandmother, it would be rice and her fresh homemade yogurt.  It is fascinating to me how cell memory works.   Ben met his great-grandmother only once before she passed, and one of his favorite foods is plain yogurt.  Dessert for him is often just plain (organic) yogurt with a little maple syrup.    Anyway, I present him with his dinner plate that features his beloved yogurt and whew, success.  The need for something ‘primal’ has been satisfied…

And as I sit down this morning I am reminiscing about the making of the ‘kos’, the Albanian word for yogurt that I have only heard but never seen written.  My father to this day still refers to his yogurt as ‘kos’.  I actually have to look up the spelling online!  I find myself on a site called everyculture.com.  There is a clear and concise history of Albanian culture and I settle into the gap between what I have ‘heard’ growing up and what I am now reading.  More familiarity.  I loved listening to my grandmother tell stories of growing up in a small town on the east coast of Albania called Korce, her fiercely independent spirit putting her last in the lineup of sisters to be wed in an arranged marriage with my grandfather who had been living in this country since he was 11, and had come back to his family hometown of Korce to find a bride.  And as I am scrolling through the article filled with the essence of these thoughts I see this photograph and my heart skips a beat…

The title under the photo is “group of women near Korce”!  What synchronicity!  I am mesmerized by this picture.  I see my grandmother in every face and in every pair of hands prominently holding, resting, and making, as seen in contrast to their black clothing.  And then I see myself.  I see and connect with the energy and strength and spirit that lives in me, literally, through the tradition of who these women are in this photo.  I love the smiles, the camaraderie and the clear bond that exists between them.  I am able to connect to the place where true feminine lives in me.  What a gift to find this photo…

A note about the kos.  It is traditionally made with raw goats milk.  I’m pretty sure my grandmother used whole cow’s milk, but I am intrigued now and thinking perhaps I shall try to find some goat’s milk and give it a go, following one of the many recipes found online…and will keep you posted!

I don’t know

I’m on my way to pick up Ben and have not thought about food all day until now, and think through the range of options that could happen quickly once we get home, but nothing is resonating.  I feel like I am in a dense fog and am supposed to stop thinking, smile.  So when Ben inevitably asks (usually the first question as he loads himself into the car) ‘What’s for dinner?, I say ‘I don’t know’, and mention there is a bag of fresh potatoes, we’ll do something with potatoes, to which he replies, ‘what will we have with the potatoes?”  and then I finally give up and stop thinking….

Now we’re in the kitchen unpacking from the day and I begin to root around.  I discover that I actually have three bags of frozen artichokes in the freezer!! and pull out the one I bought on Sunday that is sitting right on top.  Hmmm.  Something with artichokes and potatoes then.  Still, nothing is flowing, the fog has thickened and I am literally stopped in my tracks.  A moment of panic.  I’m not used to this.  I can usually keep moving towards what the outcome will be but not tonight, no tonight there is a big ‘I don’t know’ surrounding me.  And then, like a thunderbolt (lol, like a scene from a comic book story), it is there, a fully formed thought and image of ‘fritatta’!  And the ‘I don’t know’ clears to reveal almost a full dozen eggs, several large onions, and a beautiful bunch of fresh basil to add to the ‘potatoes and artichokes’.  Turn the oven on to 375.  Slice the onions and add to the large skillet with olive oil (5 min.).  When the onions have softened (5 min.) add the entire bag of frozen artichokes, a splash of water and cover to simmer on low while slicing 4 small-medium organic red skinned potatoes into thin discs (5  min.)and add these to the pan with another dash of olive oil and some sea salt and continue to simmer covered on low.  Then beat 7 extra large eggs in a bowl and add about 1/4 cup of the fresh basil sliced into very thin ribbons.  When the potato artichoke onion mixture is soft and fragrant (10 min.), turn fire up to high and quickly burn off any liquid, then add the eggs and twirl the pan to make sure they completely cover and fill all the spaces between the vegetables, let cook for a minute, and then put in the oven.  The frittata cooks fast, not more than 10-15 minutes required, and the result is a pan full of streaming fragrant dinner in less than 40 minutes.

Let sit for another 5 minutes before dividing into eight portions, just enough to have two slices each for supper and plenty left over for lunch tomorrow.  And what is fritatta without a slice of fresh bread?

 Just happen to have some of that…..!

back in the saddle again

I am a little nervous.  I am deviating from the recipe that calls for 20% whole wheat flour and am going to make a 50% mix instead.  That’s why weighing everything is so important as per the recipe.  I get it that different flours absorb liquid differently and there is no recipe that is foolproof and it is the memory of the feel of the dough in my hands that I must rely on.  It feels like riding a bike.  Once you have done it you never forget how.  I need the prompts from my trusty guidebook to help me get things set up and make the 50% wheat flour by mixing my freshly ground grain with some unbleached white flour, and once the yeast hits the water in the bottom of the bowl, it all starts to come back…adding the flour and stirring until the gluten begins to make little strands on the wooden spoon, letting the soupy mixture called ‘poolish’ sit for many hours (2-11)  to ferment at room temperature (at least 75 degrees), then adding more water and yeast and flour to make a dough, pouring the wet dough onto the flour covered counter and vigorously kneading for precisely 15-17 minutes until the dough is smooth and pliable and slightly tacky, forming into a ball and putting it in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm draft free place (80 degrees or so) for more time (2-3 hours) until doubled in volume, punch down, reform the ball, cover again and let rest for about another hour, punch down again,  divide the dough, form loaves and place in well floured bowls or baskets, the subtle smell of yeasty perfume permeating the kitchen, cover each with a damp towel and set in same warm draft free place for another hour and a half or so until 1-1/2 times the volume, meanwhile preheat the oven to 450 with the baking stone on the middle rack, cover the wooden ‘peel’ (for sliding the bread in and out of the oven) with some cornmeal, invert the bread on the peel, score with deep cuts in a pattern, slide onto the stone, spray the oven with cold water to create some steam and close the door quickly, let bake for 20 minutes, the intoxicating aroma of baking bread now permeating the entire house, turn down the oven to 400 and bake another 15 minutes or so until crusts are nutty brown, remove from oven, and cool on rack.

I have been so engaged in the process all day that only now, presented with the magic of the finished loaves, do I sigh a deep sigh of relief and awe.  It never fails to amaze me how this happens, how turning flour and water and yeast into a thing of beauty can happen every time.  It never fails to engage me in its organic flow that is alive with texture and smell and taste and anticipation of joy.  When the loaves are cooled, I cut into one to test the ‘crumb’ and experience complete satisfaction!  It is perfect to me.  Firm crust, dense and moist and yet light inside, a truly authentic freshness….

I am hearing the famous celebratory refrain of Aerosmith blaring in the background… After 15 years, I am back in the saddle again….!!