Monday, July 13, 2015

A Light Salad Perfect for Hot Summer Nights

Cucumber, Mango, Chickpea Salad
This past week the heat has finally arrived in south Texas. Thank goodness it took a while to get here, though we could have done without the sudden and destructive flooding in May. Now here we are half way through summer and it's hotter than a Texas grill on the 4th of July. Everything withers under this relentless sun by midday and no one wants to go outside, not even the dog, and little man tries to get away with running around in his underwear all day. In fact, he decided to come hang out with me during the big garage sale I had this past weekend sans pants. While I was making a sale.

I feel lazy in this weather. I want to take afternoon naps while dreaming about mountains, or lounge around with my nose in a book. The last thing I want to do is cook, but children still expect to be fed. Imagine that.

This cucumber, mango, and chickpea salad is perfect for dinner on hot summer nights. I served it with some leftover rosemary focaccia, making a complete meal. It is vegan, but will satisfy your omnivore friends as well. It is also full of kid friendly flavors to keep the little people happy, too. I am awaiting an invitation to a potluck just so I can make up a big bowl full to share.

The recipe is adapted from the book Clean Food, by Terry Walters. I picked up the book from a book sale some time ago and only recently have been experimenting with the recipes. In my quest toward minimalism I have given away most of my cookbooks. I seem to use recipes from food blogs that I find on Pinterest more often than an actual book, but Clean Food was one of a handful that made the cut. The recipes are seasonal and use healthy and sustainable ingredients. All of the recipes are vegan, but shouldn't be overlooked if you include animal products in your diet.

Cucumber, Mango, and Chickpea Salad

  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 1 diced mango or 1 bag frozen mango chunks
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup organic raisins
  • 1/4 cup minced dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine cucumbers, mango, chickpeas, raisins, apricots, and mint. Whisk together ingredients for dressing in a small bowl. Pour over salad and toss. Serve with a good bread.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Minimalism and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I purchased a copy of the life changing magic of tidying up solely on intuition, and I am glad I did. Marie Kondo's philosophy pairs nicely with minimalism. She states, "The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life". That is the essence of minimalism. How do you want to live your life? Choosing to live in a small house, own less things, say no to the things that don't bring you joy; all of these speak volumes about your life.

The first step in tidying up that Marie Kondo describes is to go through your clothing. I had already gone through my clothes and bagged up everything I didn't want prior to reading her book, but yesterday I decided to apply her method to see if I could further down size. Her number one criteria is the simple question, "does this bring me joy?"  She also describes a very specific way to fold your clothes and put them away. So I emptied my drawers and went to work.

There is a measure of reflection using her method. I found myself noticing the lack of color in my wardrobe and took time to notice the sad state of most of my socks. I wondered what this said about me, hiding in dark colors and refusing to let go of worn out socks. By the time I finished, I had gotten rid of an under the bed storage container, a closet organizer, and another heap of clothes, some destined for new homes while others had definitely finished their job.

I am not going to sugar coat it. This process of getting there, of minimizing our home and our life is hard. It is going to take months to shed everything we have accumulated that does not bring us joy and get us down to a size where we are ready for our tiny home. And there are obstacles. Like the unsolicited, rather large gifts to the little man from his dad that I am forced to store because his dad doesn't have the room. Like the bins of stuff my hoarder teenager hangs on to. Although, he just recently let go of a few things, perhaps picking up my cues.

The life changing magic of tidying up offers a workable path to follow if you are struggling with minimizing your home and your life. Especially if you become easily overwhelmed getting through the layers you need to shed. Like I said, it is not an overnight process and I certainly have a way to go, but I can already feel a shift in the way our house feels more like the peaceful, uncluttered environment I seek. While some of it may seem a little odd or silly, like thanking the possessions that you chose to let go of, I think it is more about maintaining gratitude and respecting our living environment.

This process has opened my eyes to all the meaningless, shiny baubles we surround ourselves with. And all the painful memories from our past. Why do we want to hold on to this stuff if it hurts us? Why do we blind our view with all this stuff? Why do we sacrifice so much time maintaining stuff that doesn't bring us joy?
What do we really want from this life of ours? How do we really want to live? 

Minimalism is about opening up space to see what is really important to us.

You see, we tend to clutter our lives with not only things, but also busyness and chatter. All this clutter takes up space in our homes and in our minds. And when we start to clear that clutter, suddenly the fog that has been blocking our view lifts and we can see our life more clearly.

I am not there yet. But I am learning a lot as I go. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Wheat Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

After my oldest son's dog died, we ended up with Leo, a typical sassy, aloof cat. He has been a great addition to the family, but little man wanted a dog. So, I finally relented with a promise that we'd look for an older rescue dog after school let out. Well, that's not quite how it happened. A few weeks before the end of school a friend of mine posted photos of the cutest little puppy to her Facebook timeline. He was in need of a home. My friend is a foster for dogs and had been at the local shelter after hours to pick up a couple dogs that were going to foster homes when a man drove up with the puppy. His intentions were to drop the puppy off at the shelter. Did I mention the shelter was closed? So, yeah, he was dumping the little guy on the shelter steps with the off chance he'd be found alive in the morning. Like a puppy was just going to sit there until they opened their doors. My friend rescued the little guy and took him home, but couldn't keep him due to a house already full of dogs. You can guess where this story is headed. Yes, weeks before school was out we adopted a slobbery, energetic, uncivilized mess of a puppy, and we couldn't be happier.

His name is Julius, evidently taken from Paul Frank's Julius Jr. ( little man named him). He has chewed up more than one shoe left unattended. He sneaks off with the kids stuffed animals and hides them in his crate. He irritates the cat, though I think Leo secretly likes him. But what cat can admit to liking a dog? Julius loves to play fetch and go on walks. We even took him with us to South Padre Island, where he seemed perplexed by the never ending waves and loved frolicing in the sand.

At the Beach

I picked up some treats for Julius at our local pet store out of their bulk bin. There were three different kinds because I wasn't sure what he'd like. He ate the fresh breath minty biscuits, but wasn't totally sold on them. His favorite were the pumpkin flavored ones. I decided I could probably make them at home cheaper, while also making use of that darned dog bone shaped cookie cutter that has been sitting in the cookie cutter drawer untouched for who knows how long. Eons, maybe. So today little man helped me bake up a batch for Julius. And apparently, he approves. He gave me his sappy-eyed "please can I have another" look after gobbling up the one little man had given him.

Brown rice flour is easy for dogs to digest. Evidently pumpkin is supposed to be calming to their tummies too, though as I type this there is an uncanny smell wafting up from the dog sleeping at my feet, so I am unsure if that is true. But, then again, he's a living vacuum eating what ever food the boys drop on the floor so that might not be a fair assessment.

Wheat Free Pumpkin Dog Biscuits

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups brown rice flour
Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together pumpkin and eggs until smooth. Add dry milk, sea salt, and brown rice flour, combining with hands to form a stiff dough. Roll dough out on floured surface, 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick, depending on the size of your dog. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutter or biscuit cutter. Bake 15 minutes, turn biscuits over, then bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Store in air tight container in the refrigerator.