Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stuffed Poblano Peppers



We did this on a whim. It was Mango's idea. We called Vespera while she was doing her homework at the library to confirm some details. The results were DELICIOUS!

Ok, so take as many poblanos as you wish and burn them over an open burner on the stove. Let them sit in a covered container for a bit, and then the outside skin will peel off...a little like tomato skins when you boil tomatoes.

Brown & season ground beef however you wish.

Slit the peppers & remove seeds but not the stem.

Stuff the peppers with seasoned ground beef and cheese of your choice. We used Juusto baked cheese because it's got a hearty, meaty flavor.

Wisk 2 or 3 eggs in a bowl. In a separate bowl pour some Pamela's gluten free Baking and Pancake Mix. Roll the peppers in the eggs & then in the flour.

Fry them in hot oil on the stove until golden brown, using a tongs to turn them by the stem.

Not too difficult and very yummy!

More Green Smoothies!!

I made 3 more green smoothies today - 1 for Mane, 1 for Vespera, and 1 for me. My kids are getting totally hooked. What could be better?!



Smoothie #1 (for Mane)
1 cup Brown Cow maple yogurt
1 cup Almond Breeze Original almond milk
1/2 c. frozen cherries
1/2 c. frozen mangoes
1 c. fresh spinach
3 T rich chocolate Ovaltine

Smoothie #2 (for Vespera)
1 c. almond milk
1 scoop Spiru-Tein chai high protein powder
2 c. fresh spinach
1/2 c. frozen mangoes

Smoothie #3 (for Me)
same as Vespera's smooothie, without the mangoes

I tried making a smoothie with kale. Yuck. Some people claim this is among the easiest greens to put in a smoothie. I beg to differ.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Green Smoothies

So, the mamas on the message board (http://www.gentlechristianmothers.com/community/index.php) are all talking about DRINKING their veggies. So, I decided to try it. I must say that after just two days, I'm hooked!

Yesterday I made a smoothie with 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 2 bananas, 2 cups romaine lettuce, and water. It was good but not great, and Mane hated it. I later read that romaine is one of the hardest greens to "hide" in a smoothie.

Today I made this smoothie:

2 cups of spinach
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup frozen peaches
1/2 cup frozen cherries
2 pitted dates
1 small banana

YUM!! I don't think it needed the dates. I'm trying to move away from bananas because Mane doesn't like them much, and I'm hoping to get her drinking some green smoothies, too. She wasn't impressed with this one today, either. However, she is sitting here eating a bowl of peas. So, perhaps, I'm being a good influence anyway. She told me I was crazy to post about green smoothies here because nobody could possibly like them. *shrug* Let me know if you try it. ;)

(I'll tag on to this healthy post that the weather has been great this week, and we biked to the clinic & Savers yesterday. Today we biked to the co-op. Last week we spent a lot of time on the bus it was so rainy.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Announcement

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. We here at The Midnight Cafe are in love with love...with the God who is love, with love stories and love songs, and the love between us, our family, and between the couples who make up our family...most newly, Vespera & Novio, as they are now officially engaged!!

We are so delighted. I don't think even Mango and I could imagine two people more perfectly suited to each other, except ourselves, of course. ;) They have worked together, planned events, cooked, danced, biked, hiked, and played guitar. They have gotten angry, cried, made up, and laughed...loud and long. They have held each other, literally and figuratively through some major life changes, pain, and stress. They have generously and openly shared their thoughts and even some struggles with us, and we have been honored and privileged to witness their journey of falling in love. Now it is our honor and privilege to walk beside them as a couple. Of all the beautiful gifts that God has bestowed on us, one of the sweetest is knowing that our precious daughter will marry someone who loves her deeply and completely, who respects her and honors her, and who expresses this love without reserve in word and action.

This is a gift to us, knowing that we would not choose anyone else for her, even if we could. It is a tremendous gift to us because we know what a gift marriage can be. Marriage means we have someone to face the world with us, to share our dreams, goals, stories, work, inside jokes, and warm winter quilts. Marriage can sharpen and refine us, as we rub against each other's sharp edges day in and day out. A marriage rooted and grounded in the love of God has the power to be balm and healing for the places where we are hurt and wounded. Out of our own healing, we can reach out and bring healing to others.

I strongly believe in the concept of synergy - the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. A marriage has the potential to be and to create so much more than those two people working separately. Vespera and Novio have already been through much in their separate lives, and it's clear to me that God has brought them through for a purpose. They were born in two little towns in Mexico, not far apart. And, yet, they found each other here, in Minnesota, several thousand miles from their birthplaces. They found each other here, where they are surrounded by people who love and support them and people who have taught them much. A divine appointment, perhaps? Separately they are talented, courageous, and accomplished individuals. Together they are dynamite waiting to explode! I am convinced that God has plans for them, big plans.

I am curious and excited to see it all unfold. For now, though, I am simply content to walk beside them...to cook dinners and watch movies, to snowboard and camp and sit up late talking. They are our children...and our companions. How fortunate we are.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Riveted

I spent the evening with my eyes riveted to the girl who unexpectedly changed my life forever.
We were at a soccer game.
I watched her watch the ball...
watched her kick hard, fall down, laugh, sweat, SCORE, run...
Since the day I met her I've admired her courage,
her willingness to push through pain.
And her ability to come out the other side.
I don't think I've ever met anyone who wants to learn more
about everything
and who CAN.
Soccer is where she pushes her body,
college is where she pushes her mind,
and relationships are where she pushes her emotions.
She's had the courage to be the one to make change in relationships,
to be different,
to stand up for herself,
to admit mistakes,
and to forgive.
I kept my eyes on her.
Riveted.
Because who she is
has changed who I am,
and I'm trying to understand who I am.
While all the while she keeps changing, too.
My daughter,
mija,
Evening Prayer,
Vespera.

She turned 19 a few weeks ago, and the words that I couldn't find then started recklessly pouring all over the pages of my mind as I watched her play soccer last night. There's still so much more to say, but this is my Happy Birthday post for her...just a little late.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Would you, if you could?

If you could eliminate the emotional pain of a difficult or traumatic event in your past (without actually getting rid of the memory), would you do it? Think of the worst, most difficult, tragic, painful experience you've evre had and the ways in which it still affects you today. What if you could still remember but you could neutralize the emotions attached to the memory? You could get rid of the depression/anxiety/tears/pain/fear/embarrassment or whatever it is that comes with the memory. It seems so often that the emotions attached to traumatic or difficult experiences affect our ability to live a whole and healthy life. We make poor choices out of the woundedness and scars.

I'm reading a book called The Promise of Energy Psychology, which claims that through the stimulation of a sequence of accupressure points, the scenario I just described in the previous paragraph can happen - remember the trauma without the emotions. A person can eliminate phobias, anxiety and post traumatic stress by calling up the memory while interrupting the emotional response of the limbic system by massaging or tapping pressure points. Those with experience in this type of therapy say that the whole procedure takes only a few minutes and the effects are long lasting. People who have been through this type of therapy report that they are still free of their emotional distress even 2 years later.

At first, this seems entirely too good to be true. My first response was to say OF COURSE I want to get rid of the anxiety and depression I experience. OF COURSE, I want to stop feeling the upset whenever I recall particular instances of childhood trauma. I want to stop living with the drive to be perfect and the fear that I'm going to totally mess things up. I know that much of the fear is driven by painful life experiences. What if I could interrupt the emotional response and, thereby, the unhealthy behaviors?

The book gives examples of energy therapy working to relieve phobias. This seems pretty wise to me. And, yet, the book also mentions that people who have been treated for phobias often end up with even less of an emotional response to the object of the phobia than the general population. For example, a person with a fear of heights might eliminate their phobia and then some. Generally, people have some physiological response to heights, keeping them alert and cautious. The book says that the treated person with have less response then most of us but still have a healthy caution. This leads me to 2 questions. First, HOW does the treatment stop at a "healthy caution?" Who defines that? How do we know what degree of caution is healthy? And, second, what if the response of the average person is actually healthy and a certain degree of fear is necessary to keep us safe? Do we really want to deprogram our hard-earned responses that have taught us how to be safe? Of course, phobias are generally unhealthy, and we want a more balanced response, but can we garuntee that this type of therapy automatically stops at a good balance, a healthy place?

The book also gives an example of a woman who was raped by her stepfather at a young age. In one meeting with her energy therapist she went from shaking, flushed, crying, rapid breathing, and over-all very upset to calmly stating that the rape was a long time ago, it didn't have power over her any more, she is old enough to protect herself now, and she is able to protect her own children. Basically she went from very upset to telling herself and her therapist that there was really nothing to be upset about and she's over it now. Two years later the therapist followed up with her, and she still had no emotional response to recalling the rape. She had been able to "move on" with no depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

This last story seems ideal on the one hand and scares me to pieces on the other. It doesn't seem right somehow. It seems to take some of the humanity out of the person. We were made to feel. God created us with a limbic system, an emotional response system, with the capacity for love and joy...and pain and sadness. And feelings serve a purpose - to protect us, to teach us, to connect us to others. What happens to a person's compassion if they disconnect or neutralize their emotions related to pain or trauma? I'm entirely in favor a balance and learning to come to a balanced place with emotional responses. I do see how getting lost in the haze of our emotional over-response leads to unhealthy and even destructive choices sometimes. I get that there are sometimes reasons to take medication to balance emotional responses. I understand that brain chemistry is a powerful thing. I'm scared stiff by a therapy that ELIMINATES the negative emotions. How can it do that?

Even considering the possibility that this might be possible brought me to some conclusions that I feel somewhat ambivalent about. I've learned a lot. I guess it upsets me that I had to endure some kind of trauma to come to some profound realizations, but it seems to be the case. I've learned things about God and faith, life, community, families, and even my own capacity for love, joy and sacrifice through the really painful things in my life. And much of the learning has happened through actually feeling the pain. If I had done some energy work to change my emotional response, I'd feel fine, but I wouldn't be the same person I am today. I wouldn't think as hard about things. I wouldn't know the depth that's out there, that's available to me.

And there's something else, too. If I hadn't been wading my way through so many tough emotions, I wouldn't have experienced the love and compassion of my Mango in the same way. I wouldn't know the depth of his love for me. I wouldn't know about love so deep and fierce, so patient and gentle, so persistent and unwavering. I wouldn't know who he really is on the inside. Maybe he learned something, too, about his own capacity for love and sacrifice.

Yes, I think people were made to feel. And nothing about feeling is clean and neat or simple.

I still have a lot of questions. I mean, if God made us with pressure points that change the flow of energy in our bodies and neutralize emotional reactions, maybe there's something valuable to be had there. Maybe it's not so all or nothing as the vibe I'm getting from the book I'm reading. It probably isn't. It's been a journey for me to process this, though...to think about the role that broken and desperately painful emotions have played in my life. I know I haven't experienced the worst pain out there, either, and I wouldn't ever fault anyone for seeking salve for their wounds, balm for their bleeding emotions. Who could find fault with that? I can only say what I say here from the other side, for the most part. More days than not, I'm free from the emotional fallout of painful memories. What if I hadn't found the other side yet? What if no other side was in sight? Ultimately, I am left with more questions that answers.

What would you do?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eggplant Lasagna

This is a new recipe for me. I'll report back & let you know how it tastes once we've all tried it! It's sitting in my fridge waiting to be baked later today.



Eggplant Lasagna

This recipe is adapted from Real Simple magazine's September 2009 issue (which I checked out from the library!).

Slice 2 medium eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Brush slices with olive oil & lightly salt them. Broil for 3-4 minutes on each side until beginning to brown.

Put half a cup of spaghetti sauce (we use Enrico's because it's gluten free & really yummy) in the bottom of an 8x8 pan. Put one layer of eggplant slices in the pan.

Mix 1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese, 1 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt & 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl.

Put half of the cottage/ricotta cheese mixture over the layer of eggplant. Place another layer of eggplant, then the rest of the cheese mixture, then another layer of eggplant.

Top with another 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 400 degrees F until bubbly - about 20 minutes.

Carrot Cashew Nut Soup

We are loving the fall vegetables at our house! This was last Friday's dinner.





Carrot Cashew Nut Soup
This recipe is adapted from a Seward Co-op newspaper.

Boil 1lb of carrots in 6 cups of water, vegetable broth or chicken broth until carrots are soft. (I usually do a combo of homemade chicken broth & water.)

Saute one onion and add it to the pot.

Additional options: 4 cloves of garlic & 1 Tablespoon of grated ginger.

Once carrots are soft, scoop them into the blender.

Add to blender:
1/2-1 cup of cashew nuts,
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice, and
2-3 teaspoons Braggs liquid aminos or other gluten free shoyu/soy sauce
Pour in enough broth to blend easily without over-filling the blender. You may have to blend in batches.

Blend until smooth (hang onto the lid as hot liquids want to pop the top off your blender) & add back to the pot. Add salt to taste.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I'm giving you grace...

This is some really rough writing. I've gotten out of the habit of writing deep thoughts here. Bear with me. ;)

**************

Once when Mane was very small I was having a miserable day. I threw myself on my bed and wished as hard as I could for it to be bedtime...soon. Mane came in and patted my arm and said, "Mama, I'm giving you grace."

I know she really had no idea what grace meant, yet, somehow, she knew I needed something...and grace sounded like a good word. Or, perhaps, God whispered that word in her little ears, and she was the voice of Jesus to me that day.

On Wednesday at Bible study we were talking about the worries we have as mothers that we'll mess our children up somehow, that they'll grow up to tell people about all the ways we've screwed up. I'm not sure, but I think the answer to that fear is grace....for ourselves and for our children...so that when they grow up they have some grace for us.

I really think our children start out that way...gifting us with grace all the time. They forgive us easily and love us with a fierceness that defies our many shortcomings. But somewhere along the way they learn to be defensive, to be less accepting of their own faults...and, thereby, ours, too.

Vespera likes a particular saying that goes like this, "Everybody has their stuff." I don't know if you can hear it or not, but that simple statement is just crammed with grace. Mane was the first child of mine to offer me grace. Vespera's grace came later and was more unexpected. She has a talent for seeing what's inside people...my own anxiety and needs for control, for example...but seeing the imperfections doesn't result in criticism. Instead, you'll hear her simple refrain, "It's ok. Everybody has their stuff." It's an acceptance that none of us are perfect, that most of us are trying, that we can still be loved and appreciated for who we are. We have stuff. It's who we are. But it doesn't make us less, and it doesn't make us unloveable.

I find that if I take that approach in life, I get along with a lot more people. I love a lot more people. If I expect people to have "stuff" I don't get so offended/hurt/insulted/frustrated when I come face to face with it.

I want to give this gift back to my children. I want to gift them with grace. I want them to know that they are loved in the middle of all their stuff. It isn't that I want them stuck there. I just think it's really hard to learn and grown and get unstuck outside the gift of grace. You see, I can relax and be a different person when Vespera notices my needs for control getting out of control and says, "It's ok, everybody has their stuff." Suddenly, the acknowledgment that it's there, but it isn't all of me and I am loved anyway, allows me to breathe again and to be...well, less controlling.

If we practicing giving grace back and forth to each other like that, maybe we'll all grow up to be more whole and loving people, people who forgive instead of blaming, who go out and live and make mistakes, rather than hiding in fear and trying to be perfect.

Chicken Drumsticks, Butternut Squash & Applesauce

Oven Baked Chicken Drumsticks & Butternut Squash with homemade applesauce for dessert!



Chicken Drumsticks

Roll drumsticks in olive oil. Then roll in a flour mixture of:

1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Place on baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour, turning once. This would work better with gluten free breadcrumbs rather than rice flour, but I didn't have any breadcrumbs.




Butternut SquashThis is not technically a recipe because there's nothing to it: Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Salt lightly. Spread a little butter over the top. Place face up in baking pan with about half an inch of water in the bottom. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 1 1/2 hours or until soft all the way through.


To make applesauce, follow instructions here: How to make applesauce.
We did not add sugar.

Lovely autumn dinner!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

It's getting COLD

Monday we biked to Savers. We had gloves, headbands (for ear cover), winter coats... Um, if tired and crabby were earlier excuses for not wanting to bike, COLD is the new one. We did not, however, freeze, and it wasn't nearly as bad once we got outside as the anticipation of how bad it was going to be. Isn't that so often true in life? Anticipating the awful (aka worrying or being anxious) can be so much worse than the actual awful. It doesn't always work out that it wasn't so bad after all, but, at least, if we cut the anticipation/worry/anxiety out we don't "die a thousand deaths" before anything even happens.

...Today we took the bus to our homeschool group & Mango picked us up after school. We stopped at the library on the way home, which felt like cheating because we didn't bike there. But nothing crazy happened, like the last time we took a car to the library. So, I figure it's just the downtown library parking ramp that knows we're supposed to be biking and has its revenge.