Monday, November 5, 2007

The Road to Well is Paved With Good Intentions

I wanted to be that woman. You know, the one who looks great in her jeans, makes her own soap from a combination of pantry staples and backyard flora, and politely refuses all manner of carbs at social gatherings.

I am a magazine publisher's favorite customer, because I am schizophrenic. Well, that's my own diagnosis, but if you get me on a day when I'm feeling like a psychiatrist, it's totally believable.

My fondness for glossy print falls into two categories, food and wellness. That is not to say that I don't love a good gossip-fest but ultimately, any publication that offers inspiration and recipes is subscriber-worthy, in my opinion.
There are times when two magazines will inhabit my post box at the same time. Most often (because life is ironic) one will offer decadent recipes and stimulating images of multi-cultural indulgences, ultimately forcing the reader (me) to speed-dial the nearest bakery.
While the other, often made from recycled matter, will offer methods for finding balance in ones life through a series of rituals (including but not limited to Yoga, replacing ones white sugar intake with the likes of barley malt or agave nectar, the frequent consumption of powerhouse berries with names like Goji, Acai and Inca, and substituting ones refreshingly cold drinking water with the tepid variety, for the sole purpose of calming ones ojas, or life energy).
I find humor in the fact that often, one of these magazines will show signs of an internal struggle (as in--inside my mailbox). Although I hate to admit it, most often the gourmet-inspired magazine will be the one that bears rippled pages and a torn or creased cover, which leads me to believe that there must have been one hell of a fight in there.

Putting humor aside, however, isn't that how most of us live? Constantly struggling, fighting the daily battle between what foods to put into our bodies and what actually tastes good? Ultimately, each of us wants to live a good, healthy life--one that includes gastronomic pleasure and longevity. Can we have it both ways?
I beg to differ with the experts who say we can't.

I have tried to adopt exclusively, what I refer to as the mind-body-spirit lifestyle. But forty years of hard-wired appreciation for the cupcake does not make this an easy task. As I get older though, I fight the good fight a little bit harder each day. There is no greater life-coach than the fear of death itself.

On a not so long ago, late spring day, I headed to a local organic farm to become a member of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. The sizable membership fee would provide me with
a summers-worth of fresh, organic produce, organic nuts and the occasional bouquet of seasonal blooms. As I approached the farm office, I think I heard my ojas chanting with joy.
Imagine my shock and disappointment however, when I was informed by the owner (a city-boy-turned-head-farmer) that the memberships were sold out.
Sold out? Can a farm actually be sold out of produce before it's even harvested?
He put me on a waiting list and gave me his business card--which listed his work number and his cell phone number in case I "wanted to talk."
No broccoli. No rainbow kale. No dandelion greens--just free therapy from a farmer who clearly, had no idea who he was dealing with.
Needless to say, I was crushed (I think I could hear my ojas weeping tepid tears).
With a pocket full of well-intended cash, I faced two choices (not one of which was heading to the grocery store to purchase overpriced organics--but that's a story for another post).
I could drive a short two miles to an award winning bakery, made famous around these parts for their apple galettes, or I could head to the bookstore.
Responsibly, I chose the latter (but I am sure that my ojas wanted a cupcake).

It was there that I happened upon an inspiring organic cookbook called Food to Live By.
It is autobiographical in form, written by Myra Goodman, the founder and co-owner of one Earthbound Farm. Her farm, although recognized today as the powerhouse-purveyor of all manners of organic, clamshell-packaged greens, started decades ago as a family-owned, roadside stand selling organic raspberries.
As it turns out, Myra is much more than a well-educated, health-conscious farmer. She is a savvy business woman and a great cook. She lives a practice-what-your-preach lifestyle and offers well balanced recipes that offer the best of both worlds (and she probably looks great in her jeans and makes her own soap).
Her recipes make great use of organics and incorporate whole grains whenever possible. But more importantly, Myra hasn't kicked butter, sugar or white flour to the curb. This is a cookbook I can relate to.

With spring in my step and a hankering for her "Famous Maple Almond Granola," I headed to the bookstore checkout. I was next in line to pay when something, a glossy, colorful, indulgent something, caught my eye. I quickly chose an unbattered, crease-free copy from the bottom of the pile and tucked it under Myra's book.

On this day, there would be no battle. No good vs. evil struggle between cupcakes and ojas. I would return home to make the granola and save the magazine for a delicious, night-time read.
And although the future was unsure, I would make every attempt to balance the good with the bad and the ugly. I would rest well knowing that she, that woman in the great jeans, lies within. She would inspire me to work hard. To limit carbs, refined sugars and chemically compromised produce. And on the days when the battle seems lost (and there would be many), I would share a cupcake with my ojas and tell myself that tomorrow is another day full of possibilities.
A day when I might even try my hand at making soap.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


Maple Almond Granola
From Earthbound Farm
Recipe is from Food To Live By by Myra Goodman
4 1/2 Cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats (not instant)
3/4 Cup Shelled, Raw, Unsalted Sunflower Seeds
1 1/2 Cups Slivered or Coarsely Chopped Raw Almonds
2 TBS Ground Cinnamon
1 1/4 Cups Pure Maple Syrup (pref. Grade A Dark Amber)
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Raisins
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
Place the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the maple syrup and oil and stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened.
Spread the granola on a roughly 12" x 17" rimmed baking sheet. Bake the granola until it begins to brown, about 25 minutes, then stir it with a flat spatula. Let the granola continue to bake until it is light golden brown, dry and fragrant--about 20 minutes longer. Stir the granola at least once more as it bakes and watch it carefully during the final minutes because it can burn quickly. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack, add the raisins and toss to combine. Transfer the cool granola to an airtight container. It can be stored at room temperature for one month or frozen for up to six months. Serve straight from the freezer without thawing as granola will not harden.
**My Notes:
I do not recommend using a dark pan for granola.
I have found that my oven requires a lower baking temperature with a longer baking time. I usually bake any recipe for granola at 250 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Make sure to add the raisins at the end, do not allow raisins to bake with granola or they will burn.


Erika W. said...

Your comments seem to be working fine now!

You have a very fun voice to read Michelle, i hope you keep it up.


Midge said...