yerba maté latte….

I am so excited to share this hot and tasty drink with you! For so many reasons, I have always had a passion for cozy, warm, drinks. If milk can be added to make it creamy, the more foam the better!

Back in college, I was first introduced to yerba mate with friends. I really liked it for the entirely social aspect of consuming it. Regardless of the actual consumption of the drink, our experiences always involved laughing, music, and enjoyment (and etc…). Through the years, yerba mate has continued to pop up from time to time as a culinary delight worth returning to.

Seeking an alternative to coffee for a morning drink, I started scouting out drink recipes. I stumbled upon this, made sure I had the right ingredients, and not too much later….. I had a formula for a beautiful, steaming hot, milky tea drink that tastes great!

Yerba mate latte  (super fun to say!) ingredients:

1 tsp to 1 tbsp yerba mate (it depends on how big you want to go, I find adding a little extra is better so it’s not diluted)

1/2 c. milk or so

1 tsp to 1 tbsp honey or sweetener (this depends on you, stevia or others would totally work fine, I find that 1 tsp agave is plenty because agave is a bit sweeter than honey)

1 bag of peppermint tea, or 3-6 mint leaves diced up

Take your mate and add to a mesh strainer, rinse off quickly under cool water. This removes some of the grit and bite of the plant. Add your tea bag and mate to a personal tea/coffee french press (If you have one, it makes it all easy-peasy). Or you could put the mate in a tea ball or something similar*.  Pour the just-boiling water over it and let steep to desired strength 3-5 minutes or so. Check the color.

*I don’t like adding it to the mug to steep because pouring it through a strainer (if that’s all you have) is messier that way. Instead if you have a measuring cup or something similar with a spout, let it steep in there. 

As it steeps, you can go ahead and heat your milk. Add milk to a glass measuring cup and microwave for about a minute and 30 seconds. If you have a electric frother, this will really help you achieve your “latte” experience. I got one in a hot cocoa kit seriously marked down after Christmas , so if you can find one for cheap, do it!

Take your frother, whisk, or container with a lid (be so careful, if you decide to shake it- because the heat does try to escape) and add your sweetener, then foam the milk. With my frother, I make something like 4-5 inches of foam.

Then strain your tea, or if you used a press or similar device, follow through on whatever is necessary to strain it. You can leave the mint leaves in for further flavor if you decide to use them. Now, with your tea in a big mug, pour your milk over top and spoon out any foam.  Drink! Enjoy! Savor!

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psalm 1 thoughts

After reading Psalm 1, a lot of things jumped out at me from the text. I wanted to share these things with you. I hope you can take some of my ramblings and find any grain of wisdom in them. Be blessed. 

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

4 Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1 starts out by giving us three verbs to notice. Each word is active and shows action on the part of the wicked person. We see that as he “walks”, “stands” and “sits” something important is taking place. What I think this is hinting at is a progression. Sin starts out as something we find ourselves doing but eventually it becomes something we get stuck in. Therefore, we are standing and sitting without  changing, thus moving into the sin as a lifestyle and not just as something occasional.

I see the progression as this: first, we walk (lifestyle and actions) in a way that is guided by the wicked. Second, we stand in that, which shows a rooting in a sinful identity, this is “where we are” and we accept it. You could also see this as the last chance before it becomes permanent. Thirdly, leading to sitting, which means we are very comfortable and being critical, going along with popular culture is the normal. I think all of this shows that a sinful life (caused by wrong actions, etc) essentially handicaps any forward movement on the part of the person. You are stuck in a rut.

The key things we need to be aware of before this becomes our reality are: surroundings or company we keep, the direction of our life (or purpose that motivates our decisions) and the nature of the environment we find ourselves spending most of our time in.

All of this contrasts the righteous man of God. He is one that is finding happiness, purpose, and true joy in thoughtful contemplation of God and His word (laws, etc). He does this regardless of the time or day. In the same way that sinful living cements you in place, right living also encourages deep “rootedness” but in a majorly different way. Now, your roots are going down (showing great connection, deep relationship with God) and you are thriving, growing and rising up in the sweet place of His strength and protection. Just as a strong tree grows and is relied upon by many creatures so you will also become. You will produce fruit when the time comes, dependent on the cycles God has set on your life. You will be “healthy” in that your relationship with God will not be “starved” or “sick”. You will constantly be nourished by the Lord. You will stand, just as a tree does as a symbol of prosperity.

The wicked cannot even stand next to the righteous. They can expect the direct opposites of these promises. The wicked are the ones sifted out, as many times as necessary and blown away by the wind (or any trial or force as God sees fit). Because they lack worth to God and others, their presence among the righteous degrades the company (therefore they get separated and disposed of). The wicked will not “last” nor will they be given a place of honor or a “chance” (because they were given one and chose their ways). God knows their actions, this way of life (or mode of operation) is fruitless and ends in destruction.  Instead, the righteous doers are known by God and thus saved by Him. They are His.

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toasted coconut for free

photo (3)Living in the tropical paradise of the Florida Keys means that there is a glorious abundance of coconuts. For this reason, I feel foolish buying dried coconut but I will be honest, I sometimes do it. However, when time allows me and I am running low, I enjoy the pleasure of making my own toasted coconut. Here I will outline some steps that I follow to create my own. I will update this post with more detailed photos as soon as I can.

1. First find a coconut. You can buy them at most grocery stores without a husk, but like I said, I get mine from trees near my house. The coconut husk should be somewhere between brown and green with liquid in the middle (you can hear it when you shake it).
You can look at this site for more tips: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/how-to-select-buy-tender-fresh-coconuts-for-drinking.html

After selecting your coconut (or coconuts), you must get to the center shell covered by layers of soft husk- similar to peeling corn. I have finally discovered (thanks to a friend of the family who weaves palm fronds) the best way to open a coconut. First, you must get two shovels- large ones like you would dig a ditch with. Then you must be really careful, seriously! Wear shoes or be really mindful of your feet! With the coconut on the ground you stab the end of the shovel into the husk. You want the shovel to hit in the middle somewhere, going with the natural longitudinal lines of the coconut. Then, getting someone else to help, stab the other shovel point into the coconut so that both shovels are back to back and deep in as best you can manage. Then each person must push the shovels (or one person using both arms and strong muscles) towards each other. This process is so much easier and surprisingly safer than any other method I have tried. I do not mess with machetes, and I have learned my lesson with hammers. I have earned the bruises and the cuts. This method removes a majority of the husk from one side and it can be repeated on the other sides until the inner coconut is revealed. You can just grab it out and peel the remaining husk strings from the coconut.photo (1)

2. The next step I like to do is to find the eyes of the coconut on one of the ends (there should be three). Using a small paring knife or pointed utensil poke at the eyes, one or more will have a thin layer that should peel away easily as you poke it. You should then see the white of the coconut meat. I then use a corkscrew bottle opener to burrow into the meat and thus revealing a clear passageway into the coconut. Having a cup nearby, I drain the coconut water and drink it or use it for smoothies!

3. This step could use improving, but right now it works for us. I put the drained coconut into a plastic grocery bag, tie it once and throw the bag down onto a hard surface. Be careful where you do this- I do it outside on my concrete porch. The coconut will probably bounce and it may not break right away. Finding the right amount of force and speed all affects how it breaks and how many times you need to do it. Once the majority of it has broken, I take it inside and rinse the pieces and drain them with a colander.

4. Using a blunt knife (or thin spoon or other utensil) I start the process of separating the coconut meat from the shell. I peel it away as it does so naturally- with a thin layer of dark brown skin on the meat. This is edible and in my opinion does not take away from the flavor or experience of the coconut (although it is interesting that hardly any coconut products out there have any evidence of this). This is a tedious process at times as the meat does not always separate easily from the shell. I wedge the tool in between the two layers until the meat comes away (usually in one piece) from the shell. Take your time to avoid hurting yourself.

Separated coconut chunks

5. Once you have the meat, you can grate it with a cheese grater- you pick the level of fineness, or you can throw the pieces into a food processor. My food processor is small and cannot handle the bulky pieces, so I just take the time and grate it fine (which is generally the end product I like better anyway).

6. With your grated coconut, you can then use this raw coconut in any recipe that calls for it, or you can toast it***. I toast mine, because it tends to last longer and be more versatile for me. For this, I heat the oven to 350 degrees. I get a baking sheet and spread the shreds out on it. I then bake it for 10-15 minutes stirring it here and there so it evenly toasts. Then I cool it, and store it in a bag or reusable container. The end product is cheap (for me- free) and wonderful! It is best to use your coconut promptly or store in a freezer to prolong the shelf life.

***The toasted coconut is the better option if you are looking to have coconut flakes around. Unless you have a food dehydrator (or you are planning on using the coconut immediately), lightly toasting the coconut is the only way I have found to preserve all that coconut you worked so hard to get! Also, keep the flakes away from any moisture in a cool, dark place.

photo (2)

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sardines on a pita pizza

What happens when a can of sardines, an avocado, some kale and a pita get together? They have a yummy flavor party and you get a delicious quick meal or snack!

This meal was a first for me. Sardines as a whole are a totally new experience. I always pride myself on being willing to try unconventional things, but for whatever reason, these little fish stayed out of my circle of consumption. After getting some inspiration from different food blogs and doing a tiny bit of research that they were a generally healthy food item, I went for it! (Sardines are much lower in mercury than their cousins in cans, tuna. find out your mercury consumption  and WOW, check out this too: 6 health benefits)

First, get yourself a can of sardines  (about a $1.25 or so). I bought these sardines, with the fish in olive oil. Right now I am avoiding all vegetable oils with the exception of coconut and olive oil. (But did you know how hard/easy that can be at times!? Plus, there are so many oils in so many types of foods, some that you would never expect to have them, too!) Something seemed reassuring to me to have the fish resting in oil and so far they have been a fine choice. Crack open the lid and check out your fish. The heads, tails, and most fins, etc have been removed. However, there will probably be some remnants of these things and the bones. (Don’t be scared! It’s okay!)

Fish drained and then dumped on cutting board.

Fish drained and then dumped on cutting board.

Here is my easy method for getting your fish “pretty”.  After draining the can, (my dog loves the juice on top of her dry food and I know a cat would too) dump the contents onto a cutting board. Look at your first fish, with your fingers, locate the middle of the fish and lightly squeeze,  so it separates. The fish should come apart so to speak, and hopefully you get yours apart in one long piece.  (This might take some practice). With the fish separated, you should now see the spinal bones. Pinch one end and pull the bones up and out. If any remain, lightly use your fingernail to scrape (in one motion) the rest of the bones away. Repeat this process with all the fish. Now, cut them up into little chunks, as fine or as chunky as you like. The fish now looks similar to any can of tuna, at which point, this becomes a lot less scary and much more familiar (and easier to eat).

Fish separated to reveal bones.

Fish separated to reveal bones.

Bones removed (they come out easy-peasy!

Bones removed (they come out easy-peasy!

Stay with me! This might seem like a lot of work but it’s really not that bad. You will become a sardine eating pro in no time, I am sure!

food 006

Now for the pizza! Get a whole wheat pocket pita on a small cookie sheet and spray it lightly with olive oil. Then dazzle it with salt and pepper. Add one slice of mozzarella cheese (or a small amount of shredded cheese, maybe 1/4 cup) to the pita, this is kinda like your sauce. Now add about half of the sardines from the pile you just created. Add some lime or lemon juice, maybe some red pepper flakes and then lovingly spread about 1/2 of a Hass avocado on top (mash it first). The avocado is pretty crucial to successful sardine consumption. In my experience thus far, it really MAKES the whole experience. However, if avocados are really hard to get, I think some hummus or some spicy mustard might make it wonderful as well.

avocado

Avocado (pretty ripe, mashed)

Now, if you wanted to just go ahead and eat it like this, you would be welcome to do that. But if you were willing to do just a few more things, you would really have yourself a fabulous little meal. Take some kale (I had a bag of already cut pieces) and fit as much as you can on top. Spray some more olive oil on the top, give another dash of salt and pepper and there you go! Under a low broiler, place your pizza and wait about five minutes. Near the end of that five minutes, shake some Parmesan cheese for a true “pizza” experience. The kale should crisp up nicely and give you a diverse mouth feel and the combination of everything is going to “WOW” your taste buds.

Pita with cheese, sardines

Pita with cheese, sardines, spices

Go ahead and make two from the start if you are pretty hungry, it should fill you up nicely. Or, save the second for another meal or, share it with someone you like.

Sardine pita pizza

Serves 1 or maybe 2 if you double the ingredients

1 whole wheat pocket pita

Olive oil spray

1/3 cup kale, chopped

1/2 can sardines, chopped

1/2 Hass avocado, mashed

Slice of mozzarella cheese or about 1/4 cup, shredded

Use these ingredients as desired- Salt and pepper, red pepper flakes to taste, lemon or lime juice

Ready for the oven! Are you?

Ready for the oven! Are you? Go make one!

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almost barefoot running

A few weeks (months now?) I purchased a pair of Merrell Barefoot Pace Gloves on sale. I had been reading up on the barefoot running trend and since I needed a new pair of running shoes I figured I would give them a try. The whole process has not been without its share of uncertainties. First, there was the matter of trying on a pair before buying them. I was able to go to a local store that sold Merrell shoes, but not this specific style. I figured out that my foot felt best in a similar model in an 8.5 but many reviews online said go a 1/2 size up.

These fancy shoes: http://www.amazon.com/Merrell-Women-Barefoot-Pace-Glove/dp/B00358TPNW

So, without being able to try them on, I waited, debated and thought some more. Should I wear a “true” foot-sized shoe or go up a bit and be sure I had some leeway? These were my concerns. Also, there is the very matter that I still debate to this day: is this type of shoe appropriate for my go-to running surface (the pavement)? I continued to read up on this and I have yet to reach any solid conclusion. Plus, I am realizing more and more that every single runner is different.

We all come to the pastime of running with different abilities, goals, habits, and methods that will undoubtedly affect the way we run.

My first thoughts on trying them when I finally decided to buy the 8.5- “Ahhhhhh! Are these right? Are these wrong? Do I have room? Do I need room? Will it matter? Will these mess me up completely?” Possibly because of the curve of my spine my left toe seems to jut out just a bit more than my right toe. So my right foot felt great in the shoe, but my left toe seemed to almost push at the material trying to make trouble. Walking around in them felt weird as well. Was this a normal experience? Yet, I felt good in them, lighter, I noticed the smaller, slimmer look and feel right away and enjoyed it.

Here is a helpful video you can watch to familiarize yourself with the shoe: http://youtu.be/eDG8pULn_gE 

My first run in them was short, just to get a feel for them. I took my dog up to the next street and back. I noticed the change in the feel immediately. Basically, once I got into my running form and rhythm, my feet moved in the shoe “where they were supposed to be” is the only way I can describe it. It was not easier to run or harder necessarily, but it just felt different. Many people talk about ground feel when they describe barefoot running. I would say that being more connected to the terrain is definitely a new element of running thanks to these shoes. Of course, there are surfaces (i.e. unstable rock fields)that I would choose not to run over, but that would be true with any shoe.

Wearing these shoes more regularly (right now I’m still adjusting to them, so I wear my traditional New Balance shoes on and off) has made running a little more interesting for me. It has me seeking out different running routes: the beach, the dirt trails, the treadmill (that I normally would not use) as go-to routes. I am training for the 7-mile Bridge Run in April. After my 1/2 Marathon experience, I kind of lost momentum in training. I still enjoyed running here and there, but I did not get that bug, that need to keep seeking out new races. Now that a year has gone by, I have been motivated to more seriously train and I am enjoying it greatly. I never wanted to run to collect medals, or to beat other people, or to be famous. (Ha ha ha. That one is easy to avoid.)

But the thing that I have gained from running and that keeps me running is the discipline it has taught me, the health it has given me and the mental endurance it has made me realize I have (and need to continue to develop).

These are things I am always gaining and forgetting and re-learning but so far the journey has been great.

So to come back to my experiences in the Pace Gloves- they are a solid shoe that takes research to buy, to adjust to the way they feel and respond to your feet.  However, they can be worn in a variety of situations and on a multitude of terrains. This shoes allows me to experience running in a whole new way.

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(secret ingredient) sweet and spicy brownies

I will try to get the recipe up for this soon. But until then, I really wanted to share the pictures from this baking experiment.

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Ready for the secret ingredient?

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Yellow squash!
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These amazingly dense, cake-like brownies were made with crystallized ginger, jalapeno peppers, Stevia, cocoa, and whole wheat flour. (And of course a good amount of yellow squash shredded and some honey for good measure).
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bread machine

I house-sit for a wonderful couple. They have a bread machine and they kindly introduced me to it.

After my last stint at their place, they came across a gently used machine and gave it to me. I was also given a bread machine recipe book- so many varieties of recipes inside of its worn pages.

This is the one they gave me!

I have been making bread since I got it- constantly a process of learning what ingredients work best to produce a delicious result. I have invested in a bulk bag of yeast, stocked up on all sorts of flours, wheat germ, and gluten. I have made breads with whole wheat flour, pumpkin puree, yellow mustard, ground corn flour, green onions, and oat bran (but not all in one loaf).IMG_6802[1]

I have seen breads rise a little, not rise, fall after rising, and rise so much it seemed like the loaf was trying to break through the top of the machine.

I greatly treasure my new appliance and the bread that it creates makes life sweet.

In the next few weeks, I will share some of the better results of these bread-making ventures. If you don’t own a machine, perhaps you too can find one second-hand. It is definitely worth it.

 

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