Wellness Can Begin Today

The road to good health can often feel like a run-away roller coaster–over the hills and through the woods kind of ride.  Many people leave their health and well being in the hands of others, and our society has become one of using pills to manage our symptoms rather than getting to the root causes of what is making us sick.  For years, I did the same thing…I took a pill for this, a pill for that and while the symptoms might have faded, the causes were basically unchecked.

The intent of this blog is to share with you some of my journey and hopefully give you information that can lead you into a life of feeling great, sleeping well, losing weight and basically taking back control of your health.

I have been a professional chef since 1989.  I’ve worked everywhere from hamburger joints to the finest country clubs.  I have cooked for heads of state from many different countries and cultures.  The drive that has pushed me along all these years is I am still completely passionate about food and my main desire in life is to know that somehow I’ve made a difference in people’s lives whether it is through food, through writing or through sharing my spiritual journey.  You see, the road to good health combines all those things.  It’s not my place to tell you “do this,” or “don’t do that.”  But, I will share with you things that have worked for me…and yes, some that haven’t worked.

I believe the road to good health means taking care of the whole person…body, mind and spirit.  My own path has included traditional medicine, holistic medicine, Reiki energy work, tone and color therapy, meditation and crystal energy.  I am a Reiki Master.  I recently made the decision to make some major lifestyle changes and have taken on a Paleo nutritional program.  I don’t like the term “Paleo Diet” because it isn’t a diet…it’s a lifestyle.  Many of the recipes I will share are ones I’ve tried in just the past couple of weeks.  I’m a big believer in if something is good, remember it and use it again, and if it isn’t good…don’t it again.  I experiment a lot.  I have as much fun with food today as I did when I began culinary school.

The first recipe for better health that I would share with you is simple…I didn’t say it was easy…but it is simple.  Do everything you can to become a person of gratitude.  I’ll be honest, that can often be a struggle for me because there are a lot of things in this life that are just not fair or pleasant.  But, if you can start out with 5 minutes naming off the things you are grateful for, your list will get longer and it will help your attitude.  So for now, let me say I am grateful to you and for you.  I hope you enjoy this journey.




The Rest of the Story

I loved Paul Harvey!!  Hope he doesn’t mind that I used one of his most famous lines to title this article.

A few days ago I published an article called “Bake a Cake, Light a Candle.”  I shared some things that I am very excited about and those are regarding my physical health.  To be fair to myself, there was a lot going on during that writing.  My neighbor’s kids lost one of their dogs…disappeared into thin air.  Understandably, they were distraught, so I began to help in the hunt.  A storm was coming in with lots of lightning and thunder, so the hunt was more intense.  At some point, the electricity blipped, my computer shut down and I lost the first version of the story.  You guys actually got the third draft.

Suffice it to say by the time I finished that one, my head was tired.  Today, I realized, I only told you one third of the story.  This blog is about nurturing Body, Mind and Spirit.  I only told you about part of nurturing the body through Paleo.  My apologies to Byron Aeon Mulligan, Dana Hooper and Arleene Gregg.  You played an IMMENSE role in getting me on the path (and keeping me on it) to nurturing my mind and spirit.

I’ve always tried my best to be an open book.  I made a LOT of mistakes along the way to becoming 61!!  I’ve accepted responsibility for my actions, and the consequences from those mistakes.  And I try to be an open book to people who may be going through some of the same things if for no other reason than to give people hope.  Hope is something in pretty short supply these days, so it’s even more important to share from the heart.

What I was referring to in 1989 when I was told I had a year to live, I was told I was HIV Positive.  Back then, that was pretty much a death sentence; except in my case it wasn’t.    I have no explanation why except to say God had a different plan in mind for me.  According to everything every doctor told me, I “should” have died.

The one regret I have now about that is I lost a lot of time sitting around waiting to die.  I didn’t plan for retirement–I wasn’t going to live that long.  I consumed massive amounts of things I shouldn’t have–why not??  ‘Gonna die anyway….BUT, five years passed, then 10.  I started getting an idea the doctors were wrong.

I finally got used to that conversation and lived with it until around 2004.  Then it flipped again.  The virus got aggressive and I had to go on meds.  My conversation no longer was about being HIV+, it had gone full blown…that was a tough conversation to get used to…but I did.

I have lived in survival mode ever since then.  The medication I take is doing it’s job (it had better at $2,500 per month!!) I could get political, but I won’t.

I’ve previously posted I became a Reiki Master one year ago.  Byron was/is my teacher.  I won’t pretend to know all about it…I’ve barely scratched the surface.  I began using crystal therapy, tone therapy and essential oils.  One of my dogs, Bentley, nearly died twice from what I believe was a reaction to flea medicine.  No one gave me any hope he’d make it.  72 hours of prayer, Reiki, crystal therapy on his abdomen and white sage and lavender smudging sticks pulled him through.

I walk barefoot as often as possible letting all the negative energy that builds up dissipate into the ground.  I listen to the wind and water and I’m alert to see what animals, or birds or insects show up.  My spirit is full.  I always thought God and being with God was a destination–somewhere out there we have work to get to.  It never occurred to me He’s right here!!  I don’t have to go anywhere….He is right here!!

My mind is free to meditate, create and basically fly wherever I want to go.  The only thing that has us stuck here, is believing we are stuck here.  So yes, I am elated with the progress my physical body has made.  But I am comforted, quite often to tears as I learn to use every tool God has provided for me to discover who He is making me to be–who He has made me to be.    Our bodies were designed to heal itself.  But we get them so mucked up with junk from the first breath we take, we have to do something–everything to get back to a place where we can accept the place we are in.  Part of that begins with not judging things we may not understand.  And above all, understand God loves us where ever we are–the good, the bad and the ugly.  And, His desire is that we learn to nurture our body, mind and spirit.  And now you have, “The Rest of the Story.”

Thank You God…..and Namaste…………b

Bake a Cake, Light a Candle

I made my entrance into this world July 11, 1957.  This day has special meaning for not just being my birthday, but for being able to say “made it another year.” In 1989, at 32 years of age, I was told I had maybe a year to live.  I had just finished culinary school and my career was shooting up.  All of a sudden, the bottom dropped out.  I also enjoy this day because it gives me another chance to email the doctor that gave me that news just to let him know that me and God are still proving him wrong.

I began writing these stories last January.  I was recovering from what was supposed to be a routine surgery that was anything but.  What should have taken 45 minutes ended up taking 4 1/2 hours.  One thing that came out of it was, of course, they did all kinds of blood work and lab tests, so even though I hadn’t even discovered Paleo, it ended up giving me a starting place.  I found out about Paleo a week or so after that.

At that time, my blood pressure was high enough they wanted to put me on meds…”Nope.”  My blood sugar was high, my cholesterol was high and my triglycerides were really high.  I started to do Keto, but decided that was a bit too much for me.  I didn’t think I could stick with it, and I’m not the kind to not finish what I start.  Then I heard about Paleo.

In the beginning there were a couple of things I missed–good cheese, bread, pasta, sugar–OK, more than a couple.  But, I figured I would give it three months and then decide.  Two weeks in I decided I could live this way even though Day 10 was my withdrawal day–headache, cramps, nasty attitude.  There were things that were tough to give up, but a lot of things I loved.  It was a trade-off I could live with.  The first thing I noticed was that with no flour in my diet, I began to feel better.  I wasn’t as sluggish, my sugar didn’t spike then crash, and I slept better.

I started to lose weight, so that was encouraging, then after about a month, I noticed the inches were coming off my waist.  In all, I’ve lost about 25 pounds, and I’ve lost 8 inches!!  But what do the numbers say?

Last Friday I had another appointment with all the poking, sticking, bleeding as usual.  Before they even started, they took my blood pressure…120/80!!  Then the test results began to come in.  Every single one came back in the normal range.  Cholesterol was 165 and triglycerides 147–well within the normal range.

I can honestly say the only thing I’ve done differently was adopt the Paleo lifestyle…and I’m not doing hard core, and I’m not (gasp!!) exercising any more than I ever have.  So, even if I didn’t like it, I can’t argue with the numbers.

And I get another chance to tell the doctor “I told you I wasn’t going to be that statistic!!”

Namaste     b

Why I Do the Things I Do

new idea (2)

As another brutal East Texas summer passes into Fall, and as that glorious Fall gives way to our “winter,”  I keep myself busy cleaning up the garden and composting the left-overs.  I pull up the trellises and stakes, wind up the soaker hoses and water emitters, and I, more often than not, tell myself…”I’m not doing this next year.”

I have every intention of doing (or not) just that.  I have battled sun, heat, drought, floods, bugs and every other obstacle the growing seasons can throw at me, and I’m tired, and now it’s “cold” and…I tell myself I really don’t want to do a garden next year.

Fall gives way to “winter.”  Winters in East Texas are rather confusing.  One day the temperature may be in the 60s and the next day in single digits.  It may be dry, it may be wet, but the worst of all is ice.  Because of our topography, we don’t get a lot of snow–maybe once or twice a year…sometimes none at all.  But, worse than snow, worse than rain is ice.  It usually starts out with a cold front that dips the temps below freezing.  Then it begins to rain.  The roads are still warm, so it doesn’t stick–for a while–then it begins to freeze and the whole world begins to turn into a rink of black ice.  One quarter of an inch of ice in the East Texas hills can shut the world down.  This past year it lasted for several days.

I tell people we don’t really have that much winter here, but once it sets in, it doesn’t want to leave.  About the time you think it should start to warm up, it heads the other way again.  Until, FINALLY!!! the temperature begins to creep up.  That is usually when I have to go back outside and start digging around in the soil.  I have a severe case of cabin fever, and I smell that fresh earth smell, and I think about planting cabbages, broccoli, kale…anything that can handle that surprise attack around Easter and another round of snow.

Part of why I get so excited is I truly do love to garden.  I love to put things into the soil and baby them and watch them grow, then take hold, then shoot up and do whatever it is they do.  It’s fun.  It’s rewarding and relaxing.  But that really isn’t all of why I do what I do.

There’s some folks I call my adopted family that I’ve known since 2001.  Their daughter had gone to Africa to be a missionary, and I’d moved to East Texas to do the same thing…except for health reasons, I couldn’t be on one of the ships.  I had planned a trip to Africa–got 2 weeks away from my leaving and I got a call that I couldn’t go because I couldn’t take some of the immunizations required to go to Africa.

In the meantime, I had become friends with the Watson’s through Julie, their daughter, and when they found out I couldn’t go, they invited me to stay with them for a couple of weeks.  It seemed a little awkward staying with people I didn’t know, but I figured “what the heck!”  I went, and we adopted each other.  I’ve spent almost every Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, and every other holiday and birthday with them ever since.

Every time I’m with them is a celebration.  They love chips and salsa, and in particular, they love mine.  So, every year (and I’m not going to plant another garden) I think of them.  So it begins.  I start with a Salsa garden, then come up with a theme–one year was Guatemala, one year was Native American Three Sisters, and so on.

I do what I do because I love other people.  I really don’t eat that much from the gardens I grow…how many tomatoes can 1 person eat?!?  When harvest time comes, I begin canning salsa, green chile enchilada sauce, sauerkraut, jams and jellies…all so I can assemble Christmas gift baskets for my adopted family, neighbors and friends.  This year, I came up with what I think is my best gift idea yet! My adopted Mom is 84 this year.  She had Polio when she was a child and one hand is curled.  She manages to do most things, but it gets more difficult each year.

They eat soup at lunch every day of the year.  So this year, the garden I wasn’t going to plant has become my soup garden.  My goal is do can 52 quarts of a soup base for them–one for each week.  The soup base has tomatoes and onions from my garden, celery and carrots.  I slow-cook them and add seasonings then puree and can them.  All she has to do is open a jar, add some beef or chicken stock, whatever frozen veggies and meats they want…and soup…their favorite lunchtime meal.

So, that’s why I do what I do…I want to show the people I love how much they mean to me.  If that isn’t healing for the Body, Mind and Spirit, I don’t know what is.  Namaste, with love, b.

While I’ve Been Away

IMG_20180604_201822237It’s been several weeks since I’ve written anything.  In fact, a friend sent me a note asking me if I still had the blog going. So, yes…and no…The whole point of my writings here are to share my experiences trying new and different things–whether that’s a new recipe, alternative medicine, writing, painting or my newest fascination, jewelry design.  I want people to find whatever those things are that put them in a place of mental, emotional, physical and spiritual rest.  Then, spend time doing those things–love on yourself.  You can’t pass on what ya a’int got.

IMG_20180610_184815085Take your shoes off.  Walk in the sand, in the mud, in the grass…just let yourself become grounded and let all that negative energy that builds up in all our lives out.  And, let all that good energy from the loving earth travel back through your “roots,” and envelope your body, mind and spirit in plain relaxation.

In one way I totally get why the jewelry design thing has me so hooked: it’s creativity to the max; my OCD has a field day making sure all the tiniest of details are as perfect as I can get them; and it’s instant gratification.  Well–instant as in a particular piece may take an hour, or two days.

IMG_20180608_200049764I can hardly sit down to have a meal much less sit in one spot for an hour.  A year or so ago I participated in some Landmark Education courses which usually begin around 7 or 8 a.m. and end anywhere from 10 p.m. to midnight–for three days.  Somehow, I make it through those as well, but the idea of doing that is torture.

So how is it I can sit for three or four hours working on a design, think nothing of that length of time passing by, and I’m actually relaxed when I finish??  Usually, I am relaxed but there are times when I’m nearly finished with a piece and it just won’t quite fit together or hold the stone as tightly as I want it to.

IMG_20180616_201154483In those times,  I can get a little frustrated and find myself saying “you WILL fit, and you WILL work this way, and you WILL be beautiful damn it…and you’re going to like it…” and everyone will see the love that’s gone into you…Most of the time, however, I am relaxed when I finish because I have to focus so intently on what I’m doing that I block everything else out.  No thoughts about work enter in and everything except the 80’s techno-dance music I play while I’m working goes completely away.

IMG_20180610_134832495_HDRI’ve created about 30 pieces in the past 6 weeks.  It’s kind of like light zipping out through the solar system–they just keep growing and evolving with each piece. Find whatever it is that takes you to that place.  Spend time there.  Give yourself a healing gift of peace in your body, mind and spirit.  If there is one lesson I will probably be working on the rest of my life it is to let myself rest.  Take a shot of that Aahsum Sauce and let go.  Namaste. b



Staying Busy is My Therapy

IMG_20180505_221722959The list of things I do to keep myself busy is fairly long.  I am a Pastry Chef, Executive Chef, writer, builder, wood worker, stone mason, gardener, painter.  I am a Reiki Master and I study holistic medicine so I can learn to help people heal themselves without pills and chemicals–and now you can add jewelry designer to the list.  It isn’t that I don’t ever sit down and do nothing…on occasion, I do…just not very often.  Truth be told, when I’m alone, I often eat standing up–almost like I don’t finish one thought before moving on to the next.  Some people say I’m crazy, I say I multi-task…a lot.

IMG_20180508_165328283I have an instant gratification fixation.  I love mowing my lawn because I can see where I’ve been and how much better it looks.  I don’t care that I still have an acre to mow–I look at the lane I’ve just mowed.  And it looks good!  I also like mowing because I can talk to myself and no one can hear me.  They don’t know whether I’m singing or what–and all the while, I’m solving the earth’s problems.

My new venture–wire weaving to create jewelry from gemstones combines a lot of those things.  I like sparkly things–I love crystals–they make me feel good, and they’re awesome–and humbling.  You want to argue if there’s a God–take a look at a snowflake amethyst with purple, blue, orange and pink crystals and think that a zillion years ago that was a handful of sand.  The perfect recipe of creation–time, heat and pressure transformed that dust into a dazzling thing of beauty.  Miracle?  I say it is.  My designs may not be miracles, but it’s so cool to take five strands of wire and an incredibly thin wire and begin to loop, loop, loop and watch this “thing” grow and come alive in your hands.  Pretty awesome–and gratifying.

I used to use a lot of those busy things as distractions–so I didn’t have to think about things that hurt.  When I would stop and do nothing, the thoughts of “there’s nothing good about me…I’ll never be good enough,” would creep in.  So I did use activity kind of like a drug–escape.  I did those too, and they created their own trap and I had to escape the things I used to escape things.

Things changed when I joined Mercy Ships and for the first time my life was about helping people who weren’t in a position to help themselves.  I had dabbled in it fairly often, but this became my life’s mission.  During that time I learned that as I reached out to someone else in the midst of my own pain, my pain was healed.  Layer by layer the onion was peeled away and I began to be able to look at myself as being whole–not splintered, not broken, not not good enough.  I was a train wreck, but I could still help someone else out.

Fast forward 20 years and I’m still just as busy.  I still work 12 hour days and when I get home, the “other” work begins.  The difference is this work–all this busy-ness is therapy.  It makes me feel good to see a broken stick of a plant take root and grow.  It makes me happy to see the plants in my garden so laden with produce that I have enough to last me and entire winter and have enough to give to my neighbors, my employees and friends.

I’ve often joked that I am a life long student.  I get excited when I find something new to learn.  I can’t just half way do something.  I’m all or nothing.  If something isn’t worth giving 100 percent, it’s not worth taking the time to do it at all.  And, I’m the same way about things I do for fun–because actually, most of what I do I do for fun.  It keeps me sane.  It’s my therapy.  Staying busy is my therapy.  I get up before the sun, and I don’t stop until it’s dark.  Man it feels good to be alive.

A Sensual Pleasure You Don’t Have to Hide

IMG_20180503_162340853From time to time, everyone craves one of those experiences that leave you breathless, that makes your eyes roll back in your head and no real sensible words come out of your mouth.  They are great for a moment and then you feel kind of cheap and you hang your head in shame because you broke your promise again…no more after dinner thrills.

Well, leave the lights on and parade it in front of everybody, because I’ve come up with one of those pleasurable delights I just can’t stay quiet about.  You don’t have to feel dirty anymore.  In fact, you could take this one to church.

I figured out very early in my career that people could easily get irate if their steak was under, or over-cooked.  They’d get red faced over mushy vegetables, but everybody cheered the guy with the chocolate.  Made me want to be a chocolate Easter bunny.

I give to you, a guilt-free dessert that’s actually GOOD FOR YOU.  Yes, Elanor, I said good for you.  It’s a no-bake Dark Chocolate (not quite) Cheesecake.  No dairy, no processed sugar and no gluten.  Lactose intolerant–no problem.  Gluten-free–come on in.  No processed sugar, and it will still smack you in your sweet tooth.

The one thing that brings out the mad culinary chemist in me is dessert.  I don’t eat that many sweets, although I certainly can appreciate and enjoy them from time to time.  But my goal, my own guilty pleasure, is to create something and send it out to someone and hide so I can watch the expression on their face when they take that first bite…that says it all.  No matter what the words are, that facial expression will tell you if you’ve laid an egg, or found the goose that lays the golden ones.  This is the latter one…a whole boat load of them.

How can something so good, so decadent, so rich and indulgent be good for you?  For starters, the crust is made from ground toasted almonds and cashews that are glued together with a paste made from dry figs and dates.  I use fermented organic cacao two ways in this recipe–and a little goes into the crust.  The toasted nuts and the cacao give the crust a deep, rich, almost dark flavor.  Then comes the good part:

The (not) cream cheese filling is made from the hardened cream in coconut milk that you get by refrigerating overnight 3 cans of full fat coconut milk.  When you break through the layer, the water which has separated can be drained off.  I also used two beautiful ripe avocados (to give it that buttery, creamy texture).  It gives you the feeling on your tongue like you’re eating an amazing Neuchatel. The filling also has dates.  I recommend soaking them for an hour or so in warm water to make blending them a lot easier.  You want the whole thing to be buttery smooth like ice cream.

**You really need a good food processor, or one of those tall grey blenders that can pulverize a cow bone to process the nuts into meal, and also to blend the filling ingredients.

Next comes 1/4 cup of organic coconut oil (I buy mine at Walmart and love the flavor).  1 2/3 cups of the fermented cocoa powder goes in along with 1 cup of Coconut Palm  Sugar.  Palm sugar is not processed like white sugar.  It’s the juice from a palm tree that is evaporated and screened.  It tastes a lot like the burnt sugar on top of a creme brulee…In fact, the whole dessert tastes a lot like a super dark chocolate creme brulee. A splash of vanilla and about 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt finishes it.  (I always add a sprinkle of salt in all my desserts, but chocolate especially comes alive with just a touch.)   If it isn’t quite as sweet as you’d like, you can always add a small amount of amber agave nectar.

The fermented cacao powder keeps all the great anti-oxidants and is not bitter like dutch cocoa is.  What fat there is, is a good fat.  Avocados contain good fats as does the coconut oil.  Who knew eating a dessert that feels like silk on your tongue and tastes like a really expensive dark chocolate could actually be good for you!!  OK, so don’t eat the whole thing–that could be counter-productive–but if you’re like me and you really enjoy a little something sweet from time to time, this is the holy grail of after dinner (or before bed), breakfast treats.

I don’t need a room full of people applauding when I walk into the room after serving this one–their tongues slapping their cheeks is accolade enough. (Think Jed Clampett after he ate something he really liked).  Enjoy.


Life Lessons from a Rescue

IMG_20180428_121108879Without question, many of the most intense blessings in my life have come in the form of a rescue.  With each one, I have had to ask, “Who really is the rescued?  Them, or me?”  Rescues come in all shapes and sizes, and in all life forms.  The bond that is formed, the love shown, the intense happiness and gratitude that can overwhelm you, and yes, the intense sadness when they’re gone–all show you have been rescued (too.)

IMG_20180428_121123190My first dog, Little Dancer, was a Papillon rescue.  A friend of mine got her for me not knowing that in doing so, kept me from taking my own life that day.  People never really understood why I called her my little four-legged angel–God sent her to me to give me something to live for.  And, I did live for her, and she lived for me.  Inseparable.

When my friend brought her over to me she was no bigger than my two hands cupped together.  She was so tiny and afraid–she was trembling when I took her.  I held her close and told her it was going to be ok.  She closed her eyes and melted into my chest then turned and licked my nose.  I carried her for most of the rest of the day so she would hear and know my heartbeat and she never really left my side after that.

She slept on my pillow curled up under my arm.  She was the first and only dog I’ve ever known that cried.  When I got emotional, tears running down my face, she would get up on my lap and lick my face, and many times, she had tears running down her face as well.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done was to let her go.  She had a stroke and went deaf and blind.  She was so scared and confused…I couldn’t let her be afraid like that.  I tried so hard to take care of her, but I could not take away the fear.  Only when I held her would she quiet down.

We had a little game we played–she could count.  I’d say “Dancer I love you,” and she’d lick my nose once.  “Dancer, I love you, love you, love you…” she licked my nose three times.  After her stroke, she couldn’t hear me anymore, but I would tell her every time I picked her up, “I love you.”

The vet came to my house and I walked around the house holding her, thanking her for all the laughter, the tears, the love we shared.  She was almost asleep and I told her one last time, “Dancer, I love you.”  After a second, she opened her eyes, turned around and licked me on the nose and went to sleep.  God let her hear me one last time, and He let me know she heard me.

I have many other rescues in my life as well.  The two roses pictured here are rescues of a sort.  They were being tossed out and I took them home and planted them in my rose garden.  I watered them, I talked to them, I fertilized them…I did everything I knew and they sat there for a summer–nothing–not so much as a leaf.  I left them there over the winter and even into the next spring.  All my other roses were blooming like crazy and they sat there without a bud or a leaf.

I finally decided to replace them and went and bought two new ones.  I got my shovel and was just about to put it into the soil.  Before I did, I looked really closely and I saw a tiny green shoot with a couple of baby leaves just coming up out of the ground.  I thought, “OK…I’ve waited this long…I’ll wait a little longer.  They were tiny and frail and they hardly grew at all.  Through the next spring and the next, they grew a little more but never bloomed.  By this time, it is year four.

This year, they were two of the first ones showing new leaves.  They aren’t covered in blooms, but they are blooming and they are two of the sweetest smelling roses I have.  So, if you want to know unconditional love…find a rescue.  Nurture it, love it, take care of it and you will be rewarded beyond measure.  Never give up.  You may find that you were the one rescued…just like I have been.   Namaste.  b


Coconut-Avocado Love Affair

IMG_20180422_135604249This weekend, I used two of my favorite food items on the planet–coconut and avocado.  My love for coconut goes way back into the memory banks.  As a kid, it certainly wasn’t something we would have on a regular basis.  My grandfather, Pa Bill, LOOOVED my Momma’s Fresh Coconut Cake. (That’s probably where my love affair started…if Pa Bill loved it, I did too!)  I vaguely remember my dad putting a coconut on the table and using a screwdriver to poke out the “eyes” to get the water out.  Then he’d use a hammer to work all the way around the shell until it broke into two pieces.  That beautiful white meat smelled amazing.  Then Daddy would break it into smaller chunks so my Momma could get the meat out of the shell and grate it for that cake.

For years, basically all I knew to do with an Avocado was make Guacamole–or eat it fresh out of the shell with a little salt.  I have used it in a few ways, like a cold soup, but usually it was relegated to guac, or cut into chunks to put on top of a salad…very basic stuff like that.  My transition into eating nearly 100 percent Paleo has had me searching for ways to use both coconut and avocado in more and different ways.

I found a recipe for Paleo pancakes, but I never could get the batter right.  It was always too gummy and wouldn’t spread like a regular batter does.  The flavor was good, but the texture was wrong.  I finally figured out what I was doing wrong…I was using coconut flour, and it was soaking up so much liquid, it was more spreadable than pourable.  So, this time I used Arrowroot Flour, a Paleo Blend, and Almond Flour.  Voila!!  The right texture.  I was glad it worked, but I was a little bummed it wouldn’t have the coconut flavor I love.  But, it was a good swap, and I did use an organic Coconut Oil to oil the pan with.  I got my coconut flavor!!  The flavor was right, the texture was right…I was a happy camper.

One of my favorite coconut memories comes from the time I spent in Guatemala.  We were working on revitalizing a playground for an orphanage, making it safer for the kids to play without cutting their feet on the sharp rocks that were everywhere.  I took a break in the afternoon and as I usually did, took a walk around the neighborhood.  A group of young boys were playing in the street and I went and talked to them.  They asked if I was thirsty, which I was, so one of them climed a tree and brought down some coconuts.  They asked if I wanted one and I said, “sure!”  They cut the top off, stuck in a straw and handed it to me…it was amazing.  The next day a little old man came rolling up to our house on a bicycle that had no tires…only the rims…and he was carrying an entire stalk of coconuts.  A few days later, I surprised him when I went back with two new tires for his bike…

Now for the Avocado.  I stumbled across a Paleo magazine and although it was a little pricey for a magazine ($10),  I got one.  Inside was a recipe for an Avocado-Lime (not quite) Cheesecake.  Since going Paleo, my sweet tooth is usually held at bay by eating fruit, etc.  Occasionally, though, it won’t be denied.  I am a Pastry Chef, so I usually have no problems in coming up with outrageous dessert recipes, but I’m really trying to stay away from processed sugar, flour, dairy, etc.  So I gave the recipe a try.  All I can say is Wow!!

In India, Avocados are called Butterfruit.  Makes sense to me.  The flavor is neutral enough you wouldn’t have to “cover” it up, and Lime and Avocado are a natural combination.  It is sweetened with raw honey.  I found a local source for raw, unfiltered honey, and my, my, my, I’ll never go back to any other kind.

The crust for the (not) cheesecake is made from cashews and pecans soaked in coconut milk.  Dates are used for sweetness and as “glue” I drained the coconut milk and saved it for smoothies because now it has a great coconut AND cashew flavor.  Pulse it in the food processor, press it in the pan, refrigerate it and there you are…a perfect crust.

The filling was avocado (you can use frozen,) lime zest, lime juice, honey and a little vanilla.  Blend it til smooth and fill up the pan.  I was anxious to try it so I let it stay in the fridge for 2 or 3 hours and I thought it was incredibly sweet–too much so.  I thought, “it’s good…I certainly wouldn’t want to eat the whole thing, but it works…”  Let it sit overnight so the flavors can meld and it’s an entirely different taste–much more balanced.  I did add a couple of teaspoons of unflavored gelatin because the filling looked a little soft, and I wanted it to be able to slice cleanly.  Oh yeah…it worked!!

In Paleo, coconut and avocado are used extensively.  I hardly ever cook with anything other than coconut oil…well, that and good old bacon grease…I was raised in the South after all!!  All in all, this was a good and productive weekend–I finally nailed a recipe I’ve worked on several times, and found a new way to calm my sweet tooth without breaking the Paleo mantra.  My love affair with coconut and avocado just keeps getting deeper and deeper….namaste



Look for the Flowers

sunriseOne of my very favorite Easter memories happened nearly 30 years ago, but I can see it as clearly as I could that day.  I was part of a small church in Austin, Texas called “Hearts Set Free.”  Coming from an ultra-conservative church upbringing, the name was a little strange for me, but it was also a beautiful promise and declaration.  How I had longed to come out of the darkness my world had become to enter a world of light and color and peace.

I had recently graduated from culinary school and I loved to share my passion in the kitchen with those around me.  I lived in a small cabin on a hill overlooking Lake Travis way out in the middle of nowhere.  I loved the peace and quiet.

One Sunday at church we were talking about Easter and I had a great idea:  I invited everyone to my cabin to have a sunrise service and then an Easter breakfast.  Everyone was so excited.  I stayed up the entire night before preparing food, lighting candles and picking out the music.  My goal with anything I do is not just cook the food, but to create an environment for people to enjoy and feel comfortable and loved.

People began arriving around 5 a.m., and soon my little cabin was overflowing with friends and excitement.  We laughed and sang and shared the love we felt from one another, and especially the love we felt from God.  As the time drew closer for the sun to come up, I got more excited.  I was exhausted, but elated.  Finally the darkness of the pre-dawn sky began to change from jet black to light grey.  You could just begin to make out the silhouette of the trees outside.  Birds began to sing.

As we began to gather outside, my elation turned to disappointment as a heavy, thick fog rolled in over the lake.  It was so foggy, you couldn’t see the lake.  The beautiful sunrise I had anticipated was not going to happen.  But, I theorized the sun was still coming up, we just couldn’t see it.  We began to sing and pray, but my sadness sort of stole the moment.

And then, I heard it…that voice in my head (God, if you will) told me to look down at the ground.  It didn’t make sense, but I looked down and to my amazement, the hillside we were standing on was covered with a blanket of tiny wildflowers.  I yelled out, “Look at the ground!!”  The colors of the sunrise may have been covered by fog, but they were at our feet, all around us.  The miracle was that there had been no wildflowers growing on that hill before that morning.  If you have seen photos of the blue bonnets and Indian Paintbrushes blooming in Central Texas, you know how breathtaking it is.

The lesson I learned was God understands our disappointments and always provides an answer to them.  They may not always happen immediately like the wildflowers that sprang up out of nowhere, but they will happen.  The other lesson is to not let ourselves be disappointed by the fog that can often blot out our vision…just look for the flowers.  Happy Easter.  Namaste.  b

Do I Stay, or Do I Go?

pyramid copyYour heart, spirit, intuition–whatever you want to call it will always know something isn’t right long before our minds will accept that concept.  Some people call it “that small still voice.”  I call it that higher part of me that like an eagle flies far above the circumstances and can see with clarity what is, and what lies ahead.  My mind, however, will often become the trap that keeps me mired down in situations my spirit wants to get out of or be free from…yet I stay.

Why??  Fear?  Yes.  Self doubt?  Yes.  Feeling like a failure if I walk away?  Yes.  Are those feelings real?  Yes.  But where do they come from?  They come from that part of me that wants to make sense out of everything–that part that says there has to be a logical order so that the outcome that is produced is also logical.  And how do I feel while in the midst of that process?  Miserable, defeated, trapped and hopeless. Miserable to stay, afraid to leave.  Not a particularly meaningful way to exist…certainly not fulfilled, excited or content.

I know I’m headed into that vacuum when I see less and less color in my life…everything begins to lose the sparkle of life and turns into a monochromatic monotony.  It’s easy to make a glowing list of all the reasons it would be beneficial to extricate myself from the situation, and it’s just as easy to make an ongoing list of all the things that would make removing myself complicated, or at least uncomfortable.

When things have been set into motion to get you to remove yourself, there is no arguing with the outcome.  Remaining stationary in those situations, really comes down to one basic emotion for me….fear.  Fear of the unknown is a completely controlling emotion until I make the decision to not be controlled any longer.  As soon as I begin to move in the direction to do something about it; as soon as I put something into motion; as soon as I make a declaration that this, too, will change….BOOM!!!  the universe hears me and doors will begin to open.  And I wonder why it took so long to make the change.

It reminds me of a story I’ve heard many times (and every time been able to see it applies to me).  A man stands on the edge of a cliff–the voice in his head telling him to take that leap of faith.  And he asks, “But, what if I fall?”  The voice answers, “But my dear…what if you fly?”

At some point in the life of every sparrow, every hawk, every eagle, there came a time where they were faced with taking that leap out of the nest.  Without it, they would never fly, but by taking it, they learn how to soar.  I guess I just answered my own question.