Gluten Free in France & Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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I had a Facebook message the other day from my friend Jane, whom I met during our time living in Southern France. She needed a cookie recipe that is both gluten free and vegan to serve at an upcoming function. Her message stated: “Don’t forget that I live in France so easy ingredients to get hold of please!” While I hadn’t gone completely vegan while living in France, I did eat gluten free as I had been diagnosed with Celiac disease a year or so before moving across the pond. At first, it proved very challenging to avoid gluten while in France. I mean, on every corner stood a beautiful bakery or patisserie, with mouth-watering wares just begging to be gobbled up! Macaroons, croissants, baguettes, beautifully crafted round loaves – arranged provocatively in window displays – beckoning me to forget my glutinous “allergy.”

While I never found a boulangerie that baked a gluten free baguette, I did manage to find stores that carried many wonderful gluten free flours and I became quite adept at baking my own gluten free products. In fact, my brownies and focaccia became requested items for me to bring to shared dinners. However, during the first few months of living in France, I thought I might never again eat another piece of bread, cookie or pastry! When I went into boulangeries or stores to inquire, in my terribly broken French, if they might have some gluten free items, I was usually met with a frown, a shake of a head and a tsk tsk. I wasn’t sure if the frown and shaking head indicated their pity for my condition or disapproval of my terrible French. Whatever it meant, they would send me on my way without any gluten free products in my bag.

Nonetheless, after finding my bearings, I discovered several health food stores that carried the necessary items to make fantastic gluten free goodies. One French health-food storeowner began referring to me as the l’américain de beurre de cacahuète qui mange sans gluten (the peanut butter American who eats no gluten), as I always purchased all their peanut butter (they didn’t always have it in stock) and bought lots of gluten free flour! He would say it with a smirk and a slight shake of his head, as if not understanding why I would eat gluten free and how I could use so much peanut butter! But, his magasin bio always had the items I needed and I was grateful to have found his store – teasing and all!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be blogging more about our time in France. Life there presented wonderful opportunities, but it was also fraught with many challenges (beyond finding something to eat). However, I learned so much about my fortitude and myself. It was definitely an adventure of a lifetime. It moved me beyond my comfort zone in so many ways. It left me with a new perspective on life, friends from around the world and a greater ability to not sweat the small stuff. I am so grateful to have had that opportunity! Challenge Yourself. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

When Jane said “easy ingredients to get hold of,” I really knew what she meant. So I have come up with this gluten free, vegan cookie recipe with ingredients that Jane should easily find in France. I miss you guys in France!

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Friends Living in France

Ingredients:

8 tbsp dairy free butter spread (I used a sunflower one from Carrefour)

¾ cup Rapidura sugar – it’s kind of like brown sugar. You can use a different sugar if you can’t find Rapidura. I would use ½ cup brown and ¼ cup white if you can’t find the Rapidura (found at health food store in Les Milles)

1 flax egg: (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP water)

2 TBSP additional ground flax

2 TBSP vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp sea salt

1-cup gluten-free oat flour (just grind up gluten free oats, also found at health food store)

1-cup Almond Flour (you can find this at Carrefour or health food store)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1-1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 180 C. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the flax egg and set aside.

2. With an electric mixer or in a stand mixer, beat the sunflower spread until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Beat in the flax egg and vanilla extract.

3. Beat in the remaining ingredients and fold in the chocolate chips.

4. Drop in small spoonfuls onto baking sheet. The dough will be very sticky but don’t worry! Bake for about 10-13 minutes until slightly golden along edges. Allow to cool for 5-10 mins. on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack for another 10 minutes.

You Deserve a Gift and Fruits & Veg!

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Short post today. My son and I are on spring break and I slept in a bit, followed by some amazing Kundalini yoga & cardio. When my son woke up, we made pancakes and smothered them with blackberries, blueberries, pecans and real maple syrup. Then we played a rip roaring game of Settlers of Catan (I lost most heinously)! The only recipe today is to grab a ton fresh fruit and veggies and start chowing down! I’m making a batch of Pho noodle soup this afternoon – and if it turns out well, I’ll post the recipe in a day or two. I won’t be blogging tomorrow, as a friend and I are road tripping to Salt Lake City!

Who doesn’t like gifts? I love getting an unexpected present! It always makes my day a little brighter and better. When you add more fruits and veggies to your diet, it’s like giving your body an amazing gift everyday. You don’t have to go totally vegetarian, just up the amount of produce alongside whatever meal you’re eating. Consuming more fruits and vegetables characterizes on of THE BEST ways to get your shine on! The following list represents ten gifts you give yourself when you add more fruits and veggies to your everyday diet! Eat More Fruits & Veg. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

  1.      Your skin will begin to look smoother and have better color.
  2.      You will have more energy.
  3.      You will feel less bloated and less constipated.
  4.      You will most likely lose some weight.
  5.      You mood will improve.
  6.      All your bodily organs will function better.
  7.      You will smell better.
  8.      You will begin to really taste food as your taste buds detox from fat, salt and sugar.
  9.      You will probably save money. A coke and large fries runs around $3.00. If instead you have an apple, a scoop of peanut butter and herbal tea that you brought from home, which costs around $1.00 – $1.50, you’re saving at least a dollar – maybe more! Over a whole year, that’s a lot of savings!
  10.   With all the previous benefits, you will feel better overall – with a skip in your step and a smile on your face! 

 

 

Fleeting Moments, Children & Epic Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Muffins

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As my kids have grown beyond my reach, no longer needing me to pour their juice or pick out their clothes (did I really ever do that?), one of the things I miss most is the evening ritual. The clean sheets, soft pajamas, freshly washed hair and the excitement as they chose their books for the nighttime read aloud. They always picked out more than their dad or I wanted to read, but usually they won, we relented and read the whole pile. Now with one off to college and the other one leaving in the fall, I go into their rooms and look at the long forgotten, childish books standing lonely on the shelf, passed over in favor of more grown up novels that suit young men who are fast leaving (or have left) their teenage years behind them.

It’s not that I pine to have children that I can read to again—though I do miss it. I know that the adventure of badgers and dueling pirates will be dusted off, brought out of retirement and read to my boys’ children. I guess my hope in writing this is to encourage those who find themselves in the throes of childhood, with all its trying times, to soak up every moment they have with their kids—that they will sink into the sometimes-tiresome nighttime ritual of freshly bathed babies who are piling up book after book in the read aloud pile. My wish is that you read every book, even though I know you are bone weary and long to have a moment to yourself.

Moments to yourself are coming—faster than you can imagine. It’s as if the wind blows and with it carries away childhood, blowing your children beyond your care into lives of their own. And you will find yourself at the back of the wind, watching them be carried further away, feeling pride and joy and heartbreaking sadness. As they whirlwind into their own life, and alone, you go into their rooms and mark each stage of their life by the books you read to them each night, I promise you will never regret reading to the bottom of the pile every night.

The wind is coming, whether you only hear faint rumblings far off in the distance, or you already feel the first draught wafting every so lightly across your face; it is the way of life. As that gust gathers speed, know that you will never regret the time spent, the games played, the books read. To the contrary, time spent together represents an anchoring force as the gales blow your babies away. Those times together will be the tie that binds and enables your children to find their way back to you in the tumultuous storm of life.

Spend lots of time with your kids. Read to the bottom of the pile. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Epic Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yield: 12 medium size muffins. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1/3 cup ground flaxseed + 2 tablespoons (buy the whole flax and grind it in a coffee grinder – it’s much cheaper and fresher that way). Put the 2 TBSP of ground flax in a small bowl and combine with 6 TBSP warm water. Mix with fork and set aside. (This is the substitution for the egg)

2 Cups Pamela’s Baking & Pancake Mix (found at health food stores or on Amazon)

1/3 – 1/2 coconut sugar.

2 TBSP Vanilla

1 medium to large size banana mashed

1/2 – 3/4 Water, depending on size of banana. You want the dough moist, but not runny.

1 cup of chocolate chips

1/3 – 1/2 cup peanut butter.

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips & peanut butter together in bowl until well combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and peanut butter (you can soften peanut butter in microwave to make it stir in more easily).

Fill well greased muffin tin about 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I often turn the oven to broil and broil for about 1 – 2 minutes, watching closely so they don’t burn. This gives them a nice brown crispy top! Let cool a bit in muffin pan and then remove and cool on wire rack. Enjoy!

 

Friends & Forthcoming Pho!

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So today’s post, will once again be a short one. I’m working on a Pho Soup recipe that I will post once I’ve perfected it. For those of you who don’t know, Pho is a Vietnamese soup and it’s currently one of my favorite things! It is chock full of veggies and good carbs. I can’t wait to have the recipe finalized to post it for you guys here! 

It’s spring break for me and my son — so I’m looking forward to a week of yoga, running, sunshine, laughter, cooking, writing etc. I hope you all have a grand week ahead of you!

I love the above saying by Wilferd Peterson. It’s so important, when selecting those with whom you will spend your time, to choose wisely. You want to hang out with the encouragers, the dreamers, the grounded and the hopeful. Spending time with people who complain, moan, gripe, discourage and gossip will not help you get where you want to go. Negative people will never encourage you to follow your dream. They will keep you bogged down in destructive minutia, which prevents you from pursuing abundance.  

It’s okay to take inventory of the people in your life and decide to winnow the crowd down to the ones who exude positivity and shine! Your spirit should feel ignited and inspired after hanging out with those you call friends. Spend time with people who hearten you to pursue your own personal excellence. By thinning your inner circle to those who truly incite greatness, you will be able to inspire and likewise be inspired to live a more abundant life. Choose Your Friends Wisely. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Enjoy the Journey & Jacked Banana Milkshake

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What a gorgeous sunny day in Idaho! Woke up and did 1-1/2 hours of yoga this morning and now feel absolutely awesome. I felt so fantastic that I almost started singing but tried to refrain, as my 17 year old always runs away with his ears covered when I break into song! If it’s too early in the morning and I start crooning, he rolls his eyes and says, “Mom, whatever’s wrong with you is no small thing.”

On the road of life, remember to slow down and enjoy the little things along the way and to not sweat the small (or big) stuff! Our lives are more about the journey than the destination. Let’s face it, in this life, the destination means the end, and I’m in no hurry to get the end! I want the path to keep winding and turning and twisting. I want to journey through the valleys and peaks in order to get perspective from all angles. There will ALWAYS be ups and downs and side roads and detours while on this walk-about of life. How you choose to handle all the diversions and deviations will define who you are now and who you will become.

If you have eaten well, exercised and had quiet time (meditation, prayer, yoga etc.), when life throws you curve balls you will be better equipped to handle troubles in a tranquil manner. When your brain has been nourished with healthy carbohydrates, it can absorb difficulties much better. You can positively evaluate the situation and get on a path that moves you to a better place! The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a book I love that encompasses this message of the journey versus the destination. I highly recommend reading it! Enjoy the journey. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

This whole week has been so BUSY!!! No recipe today, other than one of my favorite smoothie recipes. I usually have at least one smoothie a day, as it’s a way to get in several fruit and vegetable servings in one go! This one is full of good carbs from bananas and will give you energy and stamina to keep a smile on your face along the journey.

Jacked Banana Milkshake

2 frozen bananas

2 TBSP flax seed

1TBSP vanilla

2 cups unsweetened almond milk

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. If you aren’t using a Vitamix, I recommend grinding the flax seed in a coffee grinder prior to putting in blender. Enjoy!

Lavender and L’asperges (Asparagus)

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Another brief post today, along with more pictures from our time living abroad. I have lots of grading and lecture preparation to get done before my class today.

I hope your Wednesday is off to a fantastic start and that you have amazing things come in to your life today. If you’re in the midst of a “life storm,” remember that often out of life’s challenges comes the opportunity for amazing change to take place. Breathe very deeply and visualize yourself on the other side of the storm, stronger, more resolute and living a more abundant life. No matter what you face, there is a path through the tempest. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” Put your shoulders back, your head up and face the challenges in your life with gratitude. Be appreciative that you have the opportunity to realize the enormous power that lies deep inside your being. Your strength is boundless. Find that strength. Relish the day. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

Here are a few pictures from when we lived in France. These amazing lavender fields flourished not far from our house. Also, asparagus grew wild on the roadside during the spring! I love asparagus and during it’s peak season I will sometimes make a meal out of roasted asparagus over a bit of rice with a dash of Sriracha on top. The following recipe is about as simple as they come. Make a big batch and watch it disappear!

Roasted Asparagus

Two or three big bunches of asparagus

1 TBSP Olive oil or coconut oil

Sea Salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Wash the asparagus and break off the end of the stalk (about one – two inches) and discard. Break the remaining stalk into two or three pieces. Put into bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Spread onto oiled cookie sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for around 20 – 30 minutes depending on your oven. Monitor closely at the end of the baking time to make sure it doesn’t burn. Serve plain or over rice. I like to top with Sriracha and a sprinkle of pine nuts. Enjoy!ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Babies and Butternut Squash Soup!

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It’s been a while since we had babies in our house. My boys are now in their late teens and early twenties – and while I don’t pine for little ones, it’s always brilliant to get to hang out with one for a while. A little darling came over today and spent some time scooting around my living room. She’s not crawling yet, but is right on the verge of being fully mobile. She is the picture of innocence and grace – watchful and curious, a bit demure in the presence of strangers, yet not afraid to voice her displeasure when things aren’t to her liking. Glorious!

Spending time with babies brings to my mind all that is right with the world, as well as enlivening my enthusiasm to make the Earth a better place for all. When I look into the eyes of such goodness and trust, I want to take even greater strides towards eradicating hate and anger and sorrow. How marvelous if all the babies of today could grow up in a world with less pain, less strife, less rage. And the thing is, they can.

If everyone reading this did their part to bring more joy and richness into the world and then the people they touched, in turn, did their part—well, a movement could be started that might literally change the planet. It really doesn’t take much to shine more light into the world. As cliché as it might sound, it only requires a little more smiling, a little less complaining, a little more encouraging and a little less critiquing. A kind word here, a tender gesture there and a happiness revolution could take place all around the globe! I sometimes think that changing the world has been made to appear much more difficult than it actually is.

Albert Einstein said: “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Don’t be one of those do “nothingers.” Stand up and do something today that will render the world a better place tomorrow, not only for yourself, but also for all those tender-eyed babies who will inherit the world we create for them. Let’s design a softer, more jubilant creation for them to inhabit. Do Something Positive. Keep Shining. Peace Out!

The following soup is a family favorite. Even Jackson likes it (he HATED butternut squash when he was a baby)! We often serve it on Christmas Eve – but it’s a great anytime soup. Add a salad and whole grain bread on the side and you have a delicious meal. It’s completely plant based and gluten free!

8-Cups cubed & peeled butternut squash (around 2-1/2 pounds)

1-teaspoon olive or melted coconut oil

½-teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½-teaspoon sea salt

¼-teaspon-cayenne pepper

4 cups almond milk (unsweetened) – use less if you like a thicker soup

2 cups vegetable broth

1-cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the squash, oil, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper in bowl and mix well. Place squash mixture on foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in oven for 45 minutes. Place half the squash, half the milk and half the broth in blender and mix until smooth. Pour pureed mixture into a large soup pan. Repeat with the remaining squash, milk and broth. Or put all ingredients into soup pan and puree with an immersion blender (The immersion blender is much easier than using a blender, which can be tricky when blending hot liquid. I recommend investing in an immersion blender). Cook over medium heat for around 10 minutes, until heated through. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a good amount of toasted walnuts. Enjoy!