Feelin' Chalky

Friday, May 4, 2012

Fill 'Er Up!

I don't know exactly when it started, but I have entered a new phase of my journey.  As you know the last two years have been super-focused on the physical affects of "healthy living" - the things you can touch, taste, feel, see.  My journey up to this point has been tangible. It has been easy to see progress.  For a while my mood revolved around seeing the number on the scale decrease each week.  In fact, I almost got to the point of (dare I say) idolizing weight loss itself.  

Don't get me wrong.  I don't think weight loss is bad...at all.  It is a VERY good thing!  BUT when you get to the point where you can't be happy if you aren't losing? That's a problem.  I'm finding it so much harder now to figure out who I am and where I fit into the world now that I am no longer a losing machine.  It's hard, but God is continuing to work on me everyday...just in ways that I am not always so happy about.  It's so much more fun to get praised by your friends, family, and peers about how "good" you look or how "thin" you are getting.

I have been brought to a place in my journey now where things are so focused on inward battles, hurts, and scars.  Sometimes I am not sure I can unpack everything while being all the things I need to be for others in my life.  I find myself bubbling over with anger because I can no longer "hold it together."  I learned to be an expert at "holding it together" at a young age.  I learned how to set my needs and desires aside and be available...which is a good thing.  In fact, I think it is what has allowed me to be the mom I need to be for my four kids.  However, now I am seeing how too much of a good thing causes disfunction.

The disfunction for me is that while I am so absorbed in caring for others' needs, my tank gets more and more empty.  I also feel extreme guilt whenever I am not fulfilling my responsibilities - when I am away.  It is hard to enjoy social outings.  It is hard to really feel nourished by anything...but food.  And I think that has always been the case.  I have always used food to "fill" me.  The times in my life where I was the heaviest were the times when I was least connected to the things I love to do.  Now don't get me wrong...I LOVE my kids, my husband, my parents, siblings, inlaws, and friends.  I am talking about things that fill my life with joy BEYOND people.  You know, the things that bring the twinkle to my eye when I talk about them.

One of those "fillers" for me is art - creating.  I have always loved art - all kinds of art.  My nickname growing up was, "Doodle," because I would just sit and draw for hours.  I also love to paint.  I painted a replica of VanGogh's, "Starry, Starry Night," in High School.  It is one of my most treasured possessions.  I was so proud of it when it was finished.  I love to write.  I used to write a lot of poetry and songs and short stories.  There is just something cleansing about writing.  I suppose my love for cooking and creating recipes also falls in this category.  For some reason I left most of my artsy side behind when I became an "adult."  I am trying to find ways to bring it back.

Another filler for me is music which is probably most obvious to people who know me, but what you don't know about singing for me is that it only fills me when I allow the Holy Spirit to take the guilt and fear away and replace it with joy.  Otherwise it is just another "job" to do, a task to check off of my to-do list.  If you watch me when I sing, there are some times that I smile from ear to ear and then there are other times that I don't.  The times I smile are genuine.  The smile is a result of freedom - reckless abandonment - joy.  When I don't smile it isn't because I am mad and it isn't because I hate the song I am singing, it is merely because something is in the way of God.  It could be stress, anger, fear, sin, or a number of other things.  When I am in that place I feel so empty.

I have always been moved by nature.  Engaging in nature fills me.  I find God in nature.  I love animals and plants and the smells of fresh air and rain.  I love the feel of grass on bare feet and the warmth of sun on my face.  I feel so connected and peaceful when I am  outside.  Being a stay-at-home mom of 4 little ones a lot of times keeps me tied to the house, and that is hard for me.  But it is getting better and easier to take them out the older they get, and thankfully Kokomo has some of the best parks around!

There are other things that fill me too, but those are the main ones.  I am seeing just how deeply connected my overeating is with being under-filled.  When I am not feeling nourished on a spiritual or emotional level I tend to eat to fill that void.  Unfortunately the void only gets filled temporarily when you fill it with food.  Even though I eat very healthy (as far as WHAT I eat) I still find myself eating too much at times.  Now that I recognize why I do what I do I am learning how to change it.  Sometimes I just have to stop and figure out what I am lacking.  Maybe I just need a hug.  Maybe I need someone to tell my I am important - that I am valued and special.  And maybe sometimes I just need permission to do something for myself, by myself.  The permission part is important for me.  It sounds silly, but when my husband or friend says, "I want you to: go get your hair done/take a walk/take a bath/have fun at practice," it releases me from the feelings of guilt and allows me to enjoy what I am doing fully.  Baby steps.

Does this resonate with you?

If so, I'd love to hear from you!  I'd love to walk through this with you!  Until next time!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Oh, Oh, O-r-e-o!

So I have officially crossed the line.  Oh no I didn't!  Oh yes, I did.  I spent 5 hours the other night creating (to the best of my ability) a "healthy" Oreo cookie.  No I didn't make them for a special client or my best friend.  I made them for 50, 4 and 5 year old Pre-K kids.  I made them 1. because I can - darn it, and 2. because I want my kids to see that special treats don't have to come out of a package.  Yes, it would have been a million times easier and cheaper to just pick up the Oreos, but I couldn't.  Sure those kids could have cared less what I did or didn't put into the cookies, but I don't care.  I am THAT weird now, folks (and proud of it)!  The inspiration?  Icing that could send you into your happy place!

A few weeks ago I made a cake for my birthday - gingerbread cake - and found an icing recipe in a new cookbook I got, Chloe's Kitchen, which has everything from breakfast to dog treats.  The author won Cupcake Wars on Food Network, so I knew the cupcake and icing recipes would not disappoint.  The upside?  The icing was mind-blowing.  The downside?  The recipe calls for powdered sugar and I don't like to use powdered sugar - or any sugar for the matter, but I figured if it topped a healthy cake or cookie it would be OK.  And it's amazing...did I mention that yet?

Here's the icing recipe:

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (I bought mine at Sunspot)

3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste)
2 to 5 T almond, soy, hemp, rice or coconut milk to thin

Using a hand mixer, beat the shortening until smooth.  With the mixer running on low, add powdered sugar, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds or paste, and 1 tablespoon of the non-dairy milk at a time as needed to reach desired consistency. I used about 3 tablespoons both times I made mine.  Beat for two more minutes until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

For the cookie part of the "Oreo" I turned to one of my favorite baking books, Babycakes!  It not only has some super fun treats in it, but mostly all of them are gluten-free which is an added bonus because both my sister and brother (and some friends' kids) are gluten-intolerant or have mild Celiac.  You can make it with regular flour or whole wheat pastry flour if you desire, but I tried the cookies both ways and my verdict?  The gluten-free version was actually better!  Of course I also swapped the evaporated cane juice (just a fancy word for sugar) for agave (in my first two batches) and then raw local honey in my final batch.  The honey won!  Better flavor, better texture.  So I will post my favorite version of the recipe.  If you have any questions about swapping flours or natural sweeteners, please ask!  I have become quite the expert!

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup coconut oil (look for unrefined, virgin oil) - melt before you measure
1 cup local, raw honey
1/3 cup homemade applesauce (see below) or store-bought, unsweetened applesauce
2 T vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum (look in the organic section of most stores)
1/4 cup flax meal/powder (I love this one.)
1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
1 cup dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone sheet.  In a medium bowl, mix together the melted oil, honey, applesauce, and vanilla.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, flax, and xanthan gum.  Carefully add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients until a dough is formed.  It may look runny at first, but give it a few minutes and the xanthan gum will do it's work and thicken it up.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake the cookies in the center rack for 14 minutes.  After 9 minutes, rotate the pans 180°and then continue to bake for the remaining 5 minutes.  Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cooled completely add a small (or large) amount of icing to the bottom side of one cookie, then top with a second cookie.  Eat. Ahhh...

If you are interested in making a super-stellar roasted applesauce that is super quick and easy and can be used in this recipe, here ya go (you can thank me later).  This recipe will fill a 24 oz Mason jar.

Roasted Applesauce

1 pound (about 3 medium) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound (about 3 medium) Pink Lady apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 T ground cinnamon
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 cup hot water
agave as needed

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.  Toss apples with agave, cinnamon, and lemon juice until completely coated.  Bake the apples on the center rack for 35 minutes rotating the pan 180° after 20 minutes.  Place the baked, cooled apples into a high-powered blender or food processor.  Add 1 cup of hot water and process until smooth.  Add agave as needed to desired sweetness (mine didn't need any more to make it sweet).  MMMMMM!

When all is said and done...here is the finished product:

They are decadent and with the flax, applesauce, honey, and coconut oil, so much better for you than their Nabisco counterpart.  Enjoy!