Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Beauty Knows No Pain.”

Standard

When I was a child, I hated to have my hair brushed. I would scream and flail and my mother would simply say to me, “Beauty knows no pain.”

As a little girl, that phrase made little sense to me. Beauty seemed to be something that should be enjoyed, not something to cause pain. It baffled me, but I gave the phrase little thought because my mother was full of one-liners and catch phrases. Even as a child I knew that this was a quote she heard growing up and now used in an effort to calm me down and (let’s be real)  make me sit still so that she could move on to the next never-finished task on her list that I am pretty sure was titled, “The Never-Ending Duties of a Single Mother.”

Her intentions were innocent, and they still are. My mother is simply the best. I giggle now about the idea of my mother trying to wrestle me down and brush my hair. As a mother with daughters, I now know exactly how she feels.

“Beauty knows no pain” had little impact on me as a wee one. It was code for “You better sit your little ass down.” As I grew older, however, I began to distort my mother’s silly message, ultimately tainting the memory and in classic “me” fashion, over-thinking it to death. This is how it developed:

In 4th grade I realized I was chubbier than most other girls.

In 5th grade, I was slapped and punched by a boy who said I was “too fat.”

In 6th grade, I was introduced to racism and fat-shaming.

In 7th grade, I realized that I made more friends on the days I wore my bongo shorts or Guess jeans.

In 8th grade, I became a cheerleader, which came with even more approval and attention.

In 9th grade, at my thinnest, I discovered that I had to eat 700 calories and work out for at least 2 hours a day in order to maintain my figure. Even at this level of starvation and activity, I was still 5’5″, and 135 pounds. Thin, yes, but still pretty solid for a girl practically killing herself. I wore a 5/7 pant but had a 24 inch waist. My thighs still touched. It positively tortured me.

In 10th grade, I quit cheerleading and quit compulsively exercising. I was still restricting food most of the day, but always ate whatever mom made for dinner. It was my comfort…a real meal. Mama can cook, and I really needed the nourishment. This, however, resulted in some weight gain. At the time, I thought I was HUGE. I obsessed over my looks constantly. I was probably a size 9. No where near huge, but in my mind, I was the literal elephant in the room.

In 11th grade, I got a job. A waitress at a crap-hole restaurant. The job sucked, but the money was good for a girl my age. I usually made 50-80 bucks a night in tips, which almost always went to fashion magazines, “fat-free” foods for home, makeup and clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. Clothes for DAYS. It was not uncommon for me to get off work, hit the grocery store for slim-fast or cans of fat-free, meatless chili beans (which I ate out of the can, cold for lunch at school) and then head to whatever dept. store was open so that I could buy an outfit for school the next day. It was a compulsion. I would spend every dollar I had making sure I had something decent to wear the next day, only to panic as soon as I walked on campus. I cannot tell you how many times I turned around, got in my car and drove home. 11th grade was when I figured out the art of the ditch.

My grades began to fall, my closet was over-stuffed, and my head was spinning out of control.

In 12th grade, I was in a full-blown emotional spiral. My life consisted of balancing school, work, shopping, and trying to convince myself I wasn’t hungry. I was missing school quite a bit, and anxiety attacks were a daily issue. The only way I felt completely safe at school was if I was 100% happy with what I was wearing. Or how my makeup looked. Or how happy I was with my latest 60$ hairstyle that surely had to be better than the one I had four weeks ago. I almost didn’t graduate due to lack of attendance. I spent a good portion of my senior year at home, in bed, trying to get myself together. I would get trapped staring in the mirror for HOURS on end, afraid to walk away. I was certain that as soon as I stepped away from the mirror, it was all going to fall apart and my appearance would be a burden on the world.

I cannot even explain how my mind got to this point. I really, really can’t. All I know is that I lived in my own special type of prison.

Trapped. Imprisoned. Terrified. And for what? For some idealistic idea of beauty?

I remember the day it hit me.

“Beauty knows no pain.”

Except that in my mind, beauty was pain. It all seemed like such a deception. I mulled those words over in my head as I walked through the grocery store, looking for “Snackwells” and diet shakes.

I remember thinking, “Beauty is pain because I don’t possess it. If I was beautiful, it wouldn’t hurt.”

The room began to spin as I began to deconstruct and taint a sweet childhood memory. I made it something ugly, and it didn’t take me long.

Time passed.

Marriage.

Babies.

Real Beauty.

Having my first born child was the turning point. It was the first time I realized that my body was capable of something *so* intensely beautiful that it could not be put into words. There is a reason pregnancy isn’t in fashion magazines…the inexplicable gorgeousness of it  would overshadow the latest trends. Lagerfeld’s got NOTHING on creating life.

Long story short? I realized my body was capable of doing something so much more beautiful than donning apparel. It had a purpose. A really, really grand purpose that was far great than what I had used it for.

Also, in this case, beauty did know pain, and it was worth all 45 hours of it.

The next 13 years brought many changes.

3 babies, who did a good job of reminding me of all this cake on occasion. It may have been by saying they “love my squishy hugs” or “Mom, I love to walk behind you because your butt jiggles and it’s funny.”

Or perhaps with drawings such as these, which kept me laughing:

bigjuicymom

lots of stretch marks

a total of 4 years of breastfeeding (and the subsequent physical changes)

weight fluctuations and evidence of aging:

darkhair

skullpic

larger feet:

feet

wrinkles (which I have actually grown to love.)

wrinkles

a few grey hairs…and at least six pairs of yoga pants, which I will spare you a picture of.

For a few years there, fashion went out the window, showers were my beauty routine, and handbags were replaced with diaper bags. Baby slings in various colors became my accessories of choice and I took pleasure in finding a halfway decent nursing shirt.

You know what I learned?

I am beautiful.

Really, really beautiful.

True beauty knows plenty of pain. The pain of vulnerability. The pain of uncertainty. The pain of concern for your babies in a world that is so broken. The pain that only the most genuine beauty in life can bring to a person.

Physical beauty only knows pain if you let it. If you embrace and love yourself, and know that you are beautiful, the pain disappears. You no longer have to compare yourself to a standard set by society. You can, without a doubt, examine your reflection and see that the face looking back at you has a purpose. It has a mission. It has *beauty*.

The only pain I really feel in that department at this point is the hurt that comes when I think of how hard I was on myself, and much happier I could have been. I mourn the days that I lost. The time I wasted hating every inch of myself. Hindsight can be very frustrating.

hindsight

The more I began to see myself in a positive light, the more my mother’s words resonated with me. “Beauty knows no pain” finally made sense. She meant, of course, that brushing my hair, and feeling the resulting pain was worth not looking homeless.(I’m still not convinced. I hate having my hair brushed.)

I’m sure she never expected me to make it into what I did, but the result was that without trying, my mother gave me the grounds for two of the biggest revelations of my life:

1.) Beauty knows no pain when you realize that you are a wondrous creation, artfully made.

2.) Real, genuine beauty in life often comes with a certain pain…but it’s worth it.

 

California Cooking

Standard

I’m a California girl, in every way. When it comes to fashion, give me flip flops and a maxi skirt over just about any other outfit. I prefer thrift stores or flea markets over any mall, and my idea of paradise is listening to Incubus while on a road trip to the beach, stopping for In-N-Out on the way.

Tonight’s dinner was a definite nod to California. Crisp, light flavors, a slight hint of cultural fusion and, perhaps most the most “California” aspect:  Locally sourced, organic ingredients.

On the menu tonight? Grain-free coconut chicken strips, forbidden rice drizzled with salted honey butter and spicy peach/mint salsa. Not only was it delicious but it came together in less than 45 minutes. Also, I used 5 ingredients from my csa box!

Here is how it came together:

Start with the rice. It takes the longest to cook, but requires little effort. Forbidden rice gets it name from the fact that it used to be reserved for the Emperor of China. No one else was allowed to eat it. Can you imagine? I so love food with a history lesson. I also love food that makes me feel fancy and important…food like forbidden rice. It’s not just a cool story, though…its crazy healthy too. Loaded with antioxidants, forbidden rice is a great choice if you are eating grains. I don’t eat many, but have really enjoyed this fun ingredient.

To feed my family of five, I made two cups of rice. Use 2 cups of water for every one cup of forbidden rice.

In a large pot or sauce pan, combine 2 cups rice and four cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover and drop heat to low. Cook in low for 35-40 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

While rice is cooking, prepare your salsa. Gather the following:

1/2 one white onion
3-4 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 of one green bell pepper (So glad I put up those peppers!)
2 serrano chilies
Juice of one lime
Pinch of salt
2 TBSP fresh mint
2 Tsp raw honey

image

Pulse onion, pepper, lime, salt, honey and peaches in a food processor or blender. If you plan to serve salsa cold, add the mint now. If you want your salsa served warm, heat over medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add mint for the last 30 seconds of heating.  Set aside.

Now, let’s get the chicken going!

For our family, we used four large boneless, skinless breasts, sliced into one inch strips. Put chicken strips into a mixing bowl containing four beaten eggs. Set aside.

Prepare your coating:

1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Whisk together, set aside.

In a stainless or cast iron skillet, heat extra virgin coconut oil over medium to medium high heat. You want the oil about 1/2  inch deep in the pan. We are pan frying, not deep frying, so you only need the oil to come halfway up the chicken.

Heat oil to about 350* or until a bit of your coating sprinkled over the pan results in a hearty sizzle.

Pull the chicken out of the egg bath, dredge well in your coating.

image

Once coated, drop in the oil. Fry about 3-5 minutes in each side, until golden and crispy (and cooked thoroughly on the inside.)

image

Drain on a cooling rack placed over a plate, paper bag or newspaper.

Once your rice is done, stir in about 3 tbsp of was honey, 3 tbsp of butter and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir to coat.

Now, all that’s left to do is plate up!

image

Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh mint. I served this with mint tea, which was perfect.

The flavors are fresh, the contrasting elements work well together, and the Incubus playing in the background almost convinced me that I was headin’ down Hwy 101.

Almost.

Pasta-Free Lasagna

Standard

So, the other day I told you about how determined I was to conquer eggplant. Today, I’m going to tell you how the conquest continues.

In my CSA box from The Farmer’s Daughter CSA (or TFD) this week, I received not only eggplant, but italian zucchini in abundance. I use them in so many ways in the kitchen. Typically, I use them shredded to stretch a pound of grassfed beef or to thicken soups and stews. Tonight, I used them in a new and interesting way. I used them as pasta.

I know this is not a new practice, but it is the first time *I* have done it, so I am kind of excited. What made it more exciting is that I used the eggplant too. 🙂 I love this recipe because of  its versatility. Not interested in using veggies? Use pasta. Vegetarian? Skip the meat. Vegan? Skip the meat, use cashew cream cheese and your fave cheese alternative. It’s a good base to start with and modify to your tastes. Love a meal like that.

Also, I used some other amazing produce from my box to doctor up and stretch a jar of organic pasta sauce. 🙂 Let’s start there, shall we?

I began with a jarred sauce for several reasons. The top two being:

1.) It is a good “jumping off point”. All the right flavors are there, and we are just adding a few fresh ingredients to “freshen” up the jar and make it taste more homemade.

2.) I’m tired. It’s faster. The end.

When tomatoes are out of season, I will simply use two jars of sauce. Hopefully they will be sauce I canned myself at the end of summer, but we will see. 😉

I began w/a jar of Trader Joe’s brand Tomato and Basil Marinara sauce:

Good place to start.

Good place to start.

I also collected the remaining ingredients. :

1 lb. Organic Grassfed Beef

4 organic heirloom tomatoes (TFD)

1 cup organic basil (TFD)

1 small yellow onion (TFD)

5 cloves of garlic (TFD)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1/2 tsp italian seasoning (That I mixed together using various dried herbs from my CSA.)

2 TBSP good quality olive oil. 

2 TBSP of your fave red wine. Mine is Nelle. Wine is optional…if you don’t want it in your sauce, it will still be delicious. 🙂

Brown the ground beef over medium heat until cooked thoroughly in a large soup/sauce pot. Remove meat and set aside. Quarter the onion, and the tomatoes, seeding them. Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, basil, salt, red pepper and italian seasoning to a food processor or blender. Pulse or puree until everything is combined the way you like it. I don’t like chunky sauce. You might. Do what makes ya happy.

Heat the olive oil in the same pot you cooked the meat in. Once oil is heated up (but not burning..olive oil will burn rather quickly!) Add the sauce. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, and simmer with the lid on for about 30-45 minutes.

sauce

Once it has simmered for 30-45 minutes, add the wine, stir to combine, then add back the meat. Allow to simmer another 20 minutes or so. While the sauce is simmering, prepare your cheese filling. You can use whatever cheeses you enjoy, but my go-to is a ricotta-based filling with fresh herbs, mozzarella, parmesan, & an egg. Of course, I realized this morning that I forgot ricotta cheese when I shopped last week, so I had to make some. It is really easy, believe it or not. The directions I followed are here. It turned out beautifully. See?

ricottafinished

Anyway, I gathered my cheeses. I love this parm from Trader Joe’s. It is made w/Raw Milk. 🙂

lasagnacheese

In my food processor, I combined:

one ball of mozz cheese (I believe its an 8 oz package)

all of the ricotta I made (which is about the same as one small container from the store)

1/2 cup of grated parm cheese

1/2 cup fresh basil (TFD)

1/4 cup fresh parsley (TFD)

1 farm fresh egg.

Pulse (or blend) to combine. You want it to be creamy.

Once cheese in combined, put it in the fridge until you are ready to assemble.

You sauce should almost be done now, so give it a stir, and then let’s get to preparing your “pasta”.

You will need:

 3-4 small-medium organic eggplant (TFD)

4 organic italian zucchini (TFD)

Peel them, then slice lengthwise into 1/8-1/4 inch strips. They need not be uniform in length, but if you can keep the thickness uniform, it will help the outcome. Set those aside.

zucchinieggplantpasta

Now you can turn off the heat on your pasta sauce and start to assemble the lasagna.

Put a layer of sauce on the bottom of your 13×9 glass dish to keep any sticking from happening. Then put down one layer of the eggplant. With a spoon (or cookie scoop in my case) put dollops of the cheese filling over the top of it, about every couple of inches:

lasagnaassemble

Now, add a couple of large serving spoon-fulls of your amazing sauce over the top, and use the back of the spoon to spread the cheese out. If you try to spread the cheese before the sauce is poured over it, you will just drag the cheese and “pasta” all over the pan. It does not have to be perfectly even. When it bakes, the cheeses will melt into the dish, and the whole  thing will be amazingly cheesy.

lasagnaspreadcheese

Repeat the process, using the zucchini strips now. Zucchini, cheese dollops, the rest of your sauce and spread once more.

I had a few pieces of eggplant and zucchini left, and I’m not one to waste, so I added another layer of “pasta” to the very top, and dabbed the little bits of remaining cheese filling over the top. I topped the whole thing with about 1/2 cup of organic cheddar. Mozz would have been better, but I used all of mine in the filling. 😛  If you have already used all of your veggies, you can just top it off with the cheese of your choice after you finishing spreading your 2nd layer of cheese and sauce. Personally, I had to hide the top layer of veggies from my kids. 😉

you end up with something that looks like this:

lasagnaassembleddone

If you are me, you then cover it in foil, put it in the fridge until dinner time, sit down, write the majority of this post out, and bake later.

If you’re not me, cover it with foil,  pop it in a 375* oven and bake for about an hour. I would take the foil off the last ten minutes or so to brown it all up nicely. 🙂

Also, don’t hurry to serve it. It needs some time to set up. We were overwhelmed by how good it smelled and sliced it  bit early. It didn’t hold together, but we didn’t really care.

lasagna done

The verdict? The sauce does not taste like jarred sauce was ever involved. The herbs are flavorful and add a certain lightness to the dish. It was tasty. The hubs said it was “bomb.” This is saying something…he can be hard to win over, especially with these “replacement” type meals.

I hope you’ll give it a shot, it was worth the effort!