You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
- Mary Oliver
I teach a weekly mindfulness class at my practicum site to patients suffering from chronic pain. I'm also finally taking an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class myself right now so mindfulness has been on mind a lot recently.
I teach my class every week and wonder how I will attempt to articulate to my patients that instead of ignoring, fighting, or trying to fix their pain they should actually sit with and attune to their pain. Creating some space and acceptance for their pain and their experience of it. I tell patients this and I get a lot of looks from people who think I must be out of my mind because why on earth would they want to be with pain? This becomes even more uncomfortable coming from someone who doesn't truly get what it's like to live with chronic pain. How easy it is for me to teach when I don't truly understand.
Then, this week I was personally struggling with anxiety so consuming it felt debilitating. And for the first time came to understand Mary Oliver's famous Wild Geese poem that I must have heard a thousand times but never really understood. The poem says that despite our suffering, the world lends itself to us, moment by moment. All we have to do is open our senses and plug into it.
My work this week has been to stay will my anxiety, to watch it wash over me like a wave with a rip current so strong it threatens to pull me under. To sit with it, and notice how intense and consuming it feels in my body. To be with it's intricacies. Pema Chodron talks about how quick we are to pull away from our heavy experiences. She uses the metaphor of staying with the experience, taking off our shoes and coat and walking around in our experience for a while, getting to know it more intimately.
To watch as this anxiety rushes through me, and stay with the experience of it until it dissipates or evolves into something else. And it will. It will change and evolve, it will become manageable. And then it will probably come back again. And the closer I can stay to the experience of it all, the sooner it will pass. And although my anxiety is undoubtedly much different than living with chronic pain, I feel that it has helped me connect more deeply to the patients I work with. It has reminded me on my bike rides to work that the world offers itself to me through the changing leaves on the trees in lincoln park and the reflection of the cars on lakeshore drive on the glassy water. It reminds me through my dog's adorable way of nuzzling her head against my chest when she knows I really need it. It reminds me through the crisp air that makes contact with my skin as I feel the seasons change. It reminds me through my intimate connection to the saving grace that is my breath, that is there for me to use it at any second of any day. The world around us is there to support and carry us, should we be brave enough to look outside of ourselves and connect to it.
I feel so strongly about this work. I feel so strongly that by attuning to and being with our experience we can find healing within ourselves. And I'm not sure how all of this relates to these apple bars but I felt the need to share.
This recipe is my mom's. I ate it most Falls growing up. My mom is the type of person who always has at least 5 different types of breads, cookies, and desserts in the freezer or fridge defrosting at any given point. And even though I might have replaced the all purpose flour for oat flour, it still tastes like the original. It's sweet and moist and loaded with apples which is great if you're like me and came home with way too many after a day of apple picking.
3 large (flax or regular) eggs*
1 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
3/4 cups olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups oat flour (I blended 2 cups old fashioned oats in a blender)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 apples (~1.5 pounds), peeled cored and very thinly sliced
Notes: I've made this recipe with both flax and regular eggs. If using flax eggs, combine 3 tablespoons of flax seed meal with 1/2 cup minus 1.5 teaspoons water in a small prep bowl. Stir to combine and let sit while you prepare the other ingredients. Use this mixture in place of the 3 eggs.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13 inch (or something close) pan.
Combine oat flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, maple syrup, olive oil, and vanilla. Gentle pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir to combine. Gently fold in the apples. Pour the mixture into the pan and use a spatula to flatten out the top, ensuring that apples are evenly distributed.
Bake for 1 hour - 1 hour and 10 minutes until the top is lightly crisped and browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool, then cut into squares and serve.
These are particularly fantastic server warm with vanilla bean ice cream.
I started grad school year two of five last week. It felt like I was going into battle with not enough time to prepare.
In an effort to hold onto some semblance of control in my life I started running 2-3 days a week. I've had a love hate relationship with running since childhood. My family is runners, I'm a runner, and I've turned to running in an addictive way many times throughout my life. I've started again after a couple years of hiatus and it feels SO GOOD. Something about working at a hospital all day, sitting with people through their pain and suffering, holding it together to offer them some bit of understanding and support leaves me feeling cooped up and emotionally drained. And when I run I let it all out, I sweat, I race to Kelly Clarkson and all the other female-power artists in my spotify library and it feels so good. Yes, the idea of burning some calories and loosing some of the first-year-of-grad-school weight sounds appealing but even if I don't loose a pound I know that running makes me feel good on the inside. Mentally it feels so therapeutic.
I always remember learning in teacher training years ago that after animals experience a stressful events they run and shake and move their bodies as a way of releasing that tension. Humans just hold it. For me running seems to release it all in a way nothing else does. This morning I listened to an episode of NPR's "On Being" called Running as a Spiritual Practice and it resonated so strongly with me. I've been listening to this song that repeats the lyrics "slow down" as I run, and even though my body is going fast I find that my mind is able to let go, slow down, and connect to all of the sensations of the present moment in a way that feels so healing.
I made this quinoa salad a couple weeks ago. It's my nod to the end of summer. Hearty whole grain salads have always filled me up and made me feel nourished in a way lettuce never quite could. This quinoa salad is no exception. The juicy sweet pluots offer the perfect nod to summer while the warm toasted hazelnuts seem to welcome fall. The basil keeps it fresh and the balsamic vinaigrette adds a zingy bite. It's really so good.
Feel free to skip on the goat cheese for a dairy free option, or substitute regular plums if you can't find pluots. This salad is intended to be simple and fuss-free.
Serves 2 as a main, generously
Adapted from: The Year in Food
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 small shallot, diced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey (or agave/maply syrup if vegan)
pinch of salt & pepper
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (about half a can)
small handful basil
1-2 small pluots (or plums)
salt + pepper to taste
Place the water in a small saucepan over high heat, rinse the quinoa then add it to the water. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat but keep covered for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork then toss with a generous amount of salt. Set aside to cool.
Make the dressing. Combine shallot, olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar (I use a mason) and shake to combine.
In a small saucepan toast the hazelnuts over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, tossing & watching regularly to ensure they don't burn. Once slightly browned and fragrant remove from heat. Thinly slice the pluots and the basil.
In a medium bowl combine the quinoa, hazelnuts, goat cheese, chickpeas, basil and dressing and toss. Gently stir in the pluots and serve.
I may or may not have googled "how to survive a long dark winter" the other day. I normally love Fall, but after struggling through said long dark winter last year, coupled with a tough first year of grad school I am dreading busy schedules, early sunsets, and the closing of Chicago farmer's markets this Fall. Towards the beginning of August I totally panicked, thinking I had not taken advantage of summer the way I should have, and filled my calendar with summer music and film series in the parks, food festivals, and long family walks with pumpkin. We've been savoring this weather and biking all around the city for date nights in neighborhoods far from our own.
We've become religious about our Saturday morning farmer's market trips. I think I bought close to 10 pounds worth of peaches last week, blanched them, peeled them, sliced them, and then froze them. I've been adoring Chicago summer, humidity and all. I worship these warm summer nights and hours of day light. Seriously, the summer can't end, I haven't even made zucchini bread yet!
This pasta is light, summery, and creamy but dairy-free. Once you've soaked the cashews it comes together so easily and celebrates the simplicity and freshness of summer produce. We've been buying zucchini in bulk for what feels like pennies every week at the farmer's market and this veggie-heavy pasta is the perfect way to use them all. It also just so happens to be packed with plant-based protein (thank you nuts) and reheats great.
Adapted from: The Kitchn
1 cup raw cashews, soaked 4-8 hours
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds zucchini, diced
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
large handful of basil
1/4 cup shelled pistachios (optional)
salt + pepper to taste
Combine soaked cashews, water, nutritional yeast, and salt in a blender and blend until completely smooth and creamy. Set aside - note, this step can be done up to two days in advance.
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, followed by the garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic has softened then add in the zucchini and toss to coat. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the zucchini has softened and released some of its liquid. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once the water is boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente (keeping in mind angel hair cooks very quickly). Reserve about half a cup of pasta water, then drain, and add the pasta to the sauté pan and top with the cashew sauce (you probably won't use all of it), and toss over low heat. If it looks to thick, use pasta water to thin. Then top with zucchini and toss. Add in lemon zest and juice, basil and pistachios. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve and enjoy!