Category Archives: Our Table

Matu Munchies: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

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In Mozambique, people only acknowledge two seasons: summer and winter.

Because I love Fall more than any other season, I kind of refuse to accept that it is not recognized and, therefore, would like to declare that it is Fall in Mozambique. We are in that space between the hottest days and the coldest days. And that is Fall!

It does not look or feel the same here, although I did find a type of tree whose leaves are golden yellow on the underside so I can go beneath those trees and pretend it’s Fall any time of year. The leaves of the mango trees are turning yellow and falling, getting crispy and blowing in the breeze. It’s even pumpkin season in the north of Moz (but not here…). And sometimes the newly fresh morning breeze will blow just right as I am making coffee and it feels and smells just like a calm Fall morning.

With all of these southern hemisphere Fall feelings, I was quick to splurge on two butternut squashes a couple of weeks ago at the South African import supermarket in Vilanculos. We hadn’t seen any other kind of squash or pumpkin in our area…save for some unfamiliar thing that they call a squash but that tasted like dirty potatoes, so it was well worth it

So much happiness at the sight of a squash!

We first made wraps with butternut squash and couve (like kale). Then there were tostadas with black beans and butternut squash, which was then repurposed into black bean butternut squash pasta salad. Next were mashed butternut squash and green apple pancakes with honey on top. And the toss up for my two favorite creations was between butternut squash bread and coconut butternut squash soup.

The bread was delicious and satisfied any Fall flavor cravings, with a good cup of tea to go with it. If you want to give it a go, use your favorite pumpkin bread recipe and sub boiled and mashed butternut squash for pumpkin! I topped it with oats and raisins.

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Here’s what I used for a thick, creamy, Fall soup:

The milk of 1 coconut, about 2 cans

3 cups of boiled, cubed butternut squash. If pumpkin is more readily available to you, sub pumpkin here!

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 tsp. cinnamon

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

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Here’s how I did it:

 If you are using a fresh coconut, shave it and milk it. To get milk from freshly-shaved coconut, pour about 1/4 cup hot water over the top of the shavings, squeeze or press the coconut to get the milk out, pour it all into a strainer over another bowl and press the coconut again to release any more liquid. Set this first milk aside; it is the richest and is best added at the end of a recipe for flavor and thickness. Repeat this milking process two more times.

If you are not using fresh coconut, your first step is to chop and sauté your onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add your cubed butternut squash and sauté for about 3 minutes, adding the cinnamon and the first round of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I went light on the red pepper flakes, as I wanted a sweeter finished product, but it is up to you!

Next, add your 2nd and 3rd coconut milkings if fresh, or 2/3 of your coconut milk if canned. Bring to a boil and let it boil for about 3 minutes, just to get the butternut squash nice and soft.

Because I have that fancy immersion blender that I told you about in the Pineapple Salsa recipe, my next step was to immersion blenderize (yes) my soup until it was smooth. If you don’t have such a thing, you can blend it in a normal blender.

If you still don’t have such a thing, here’s what I would recommend: mash your boiled and cubed butternut squash, sauté your onions, add coconut milk and mashed squash to the saucepan, let liquid boil off until the soup reaches a thick consistency, stirring well all the while.

Finally, whether your soup was blended or mashed, add your 1st and richest coconut milking, or the rest of your coconut milk. Mix this well by hand, and add additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.

To complete the meal, we made a garlic flatbread for dipping.

Whether you’re pretending it’s Moz Fall or snuggling up in Denver’s Spring blizzard this weekend, this simple soup will satisfy!

Happy cooking, and happy eating.

Matu Munchies: Pineapple Salsa

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To kickoff the Matu Munchies ‘series,’ I chose one of my very favorite recipes that I made up and have made over and over again since arriving at site: pineapple salsa.

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Once or twice a week we make it down to our bigger market in Mapinhane. Sometimes we find gems here that we can’t find at the market closer to our house: carrots, couve (like kale), lettuce, and potatoes. There is a man that sometimes sits outside of this market area, under a tree, selling pineapples that are laid out on a tarp. They cost 40 metacais, a bit less than one dollar.

And somehow, over the past three months in Mapinhane, pineapples have come to signify salsa.

For this simple salsa, I use:

2 parts tomato to 1 part pineapple. I use about 3-4 Roma-type tomatoes to 5 large chunks of pineapple

1 small green pepper, if I can find one

1/4 of an onion

1 clove of garlic

Salt, Pepper, Red Pepper flakes or hot sauce or hot peppers to taste

Because the pineapple is so juicy, I recommend de-seeding the tomatoes before chopping them so that the salsa will be slightly less liquidy. Then, dice up the pineapple chunks, green pepper, onion and garlic. Sprinkle the spices on top.

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Our wonderful foody PCV predecessor left behind an immersion blender, this magnificently handy tool that I had never once used before coming to Mozambique, oddly enough. I use this to blend our salsa, leaving it slightly chunky. A blender, food processor, or manual food processor will work too, of course. And if you live without that ‘energia’ and without any of these handy gadgets, dice everything real small, mix and enjoy as is!

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Check back soon for The Sarahs’ Homemade Tortilla Chips recipe!

Introducing ‘Matu Munchies’

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One of my biggest fears about Peace Corps Mozambique was that I would lose the means to cook and eat well. I had really begun to enjoy cooking in the States, and felt like we were on a really good track with cooking and eating for our health. When we decided to come here, I knew I would no longer have access to grocery stores full of plentiful produce and aisle after aisle of spices, grains, proteins, sauces, and strangely wonderful things like prepackaged bread crumbs. I also knew we could be cooking over a charcoal stove for two years – the fact that we aren’t makes life much easier!

But, despite the days of only being able to find tomatoes, onions, coconuts, and peanuts for produce in the market, I have been pleasantly surprised at how many new and delicious recipes we have been able to make here in Mozambique.

We have experimented with baked goods, making Sunday breakfast something to look forward to.

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Mango Crumble

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Sesame Seed Bagels

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Christmas morning breakfast featuring mango crumble, chocolate peanut butter cake, eggs, tropical mimosas and coffee

We have learned to make Mozambican dishes, or make things the Mozambican way.

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Fresh coconut milk is a Moz thing.

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Pina coladas made with fresh pineapple and fresh coconut milk are a variation of the abovementioned Moz thing.

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And there’s always a friend to munch the milked coconut.

We have given and received food: give a peanut butter cookie and receive cashews, give matapa and receive folha de feijão. Give fajitas, give cinnamon rolls, give chips and guac. Receive strange squashes, receive roasted goat meat, receive basellas: free avocados, tomatoes, carrots, and a coconut from the market ladies…and gent.

I even made my own bread crumbs. Old bread. Cheese grater. Successful crispy pan-fried cucumber.

We aren’t so busy here, and we have a lot of time to think. We sometimes spend hours making ‘labor of love’ meals: coconut rice and bean burritos with pineapple salsa (it’s a labor when you’re making the coconut milk from a coconut, and when the beans are dried and must be soaked and boiled for hours), chicken coconut curry (it’s a labor when you’re dealing with a whole chicken…), cinnamon rolls (it’s a labor when they don’t come out of a tube), and pesto pasta (each basil leave picked fresh off the plant out back).

So, those of who have been following for a while may recall how I like to branch out and expand the blog a bit every now and then. A while back I introduced Tuesday Talk posts, then Our Table, where I began sharing recipes. For the sake of Peace Corps, I started 3 Smiles and A Struggle. Now, combining what’s already here I give you Matu Munchies.

Matu because we live in the “matu,” which is the word used by Mozambicans to describe rural, bush areas. Because of our location on the major north-south highway in Moz, and our close proximity to the larger town of Vilanculos, I didn’t consider Mapinhane to be very rural. However, Peace Corps and townies alike say Mapinhane is matu. Our site is rated a 2-3 on Peace Corp’s 1-5 rural scale (1 being the most rural) because of what we lack access to here, like an ATM, a major market or store. And as far as townies go, we’ve heard it said that Mapinhane is matu because it’s ‘tranquilo’ and there’s nothing going on. Townies know.

Munchies because the posts will be about things you can eat.

When you read a Matu Munchies post, you will find recipes that you can probably reproduce wherever you are, whether you are a fellow PCV elated over finding a carrot in the market today, or a reader in the States that can find a carrot any old day in any old size grown any old way! You will find stories of our trials and tribulations in the kitchen, and our growing connection with food that comes to us seasonally. During those times when my market stalls are nearly empty, you may find out just how many things you really can do with a tomato.

Whatever it may be, as always, I hope you enjoy getting happily lost with me on this new leg of our journey!

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Namaacha Mango Cake.

Small-Batch, Home-Smooshed: How to Make Your Own Delicious Peanut Butter

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Vocabulary from my Colorado roots:

small-batch.

home-brewed.

At least the last time I checked. The more intimate an alcohol, the better.

Vocabulary from my Mozambican kitchen:

small-batch.

home-smooshed.

The more intimate the peanut butter, the better.

Peanuts here in Mozambique are an abundant resource, a nutritional powerhouse that is common in mashambas, or home gardens. You may remember this story, that I posted last Spring, about writing, but in reference to the power of peanut butter for HIV/AIDs patients in Mozambique.

We can always find peanuts in our market;  women here use peanuts mainly to make peanut flour that they add to various sauces. We use peanuts to roast, and make the most hearty, fresh, delicious, nutritious peanut butter that we have ever put into our mouths. In my experience in Mapinhane, the women do not seem to use peanuts to make peanut butter and they aren’t familiar with the process. But when we tell them that’s why we are buying a plethora of peanuts, they ask to try our finished product.

Although the process for making peanut butter here is done with a pilão (giant wooden mortar and pestle) and a whole lot of força (good ole strength), if you are reading this from America, I must tell you that you should stop buying peanut butter and start making it. In your beautiful, electric food processor.

Once you go small-batch, home-smooshed you’ll never go back.

 

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Raw peanuts to roasted.

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We dry-roast our peanuts on the stove, keeping them moving at all times. You do not need to put anything in this pan except for your raw peanuts. When the skins come off easily between your fingers, the peanuts are sufficiently roasted. Roasting the peanuts allows them to release their oils when smooshed; this is what turns them into peanut butter. Unroasted, smooshed peanuts will turn into peanut flour.

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After the peanuts are roasted, let them cool until you can touch them comfortably. Then the most laborious part of the process begins: taking the skins off of the peanuts. We have heard that you can make peanut butter without taking the skins off, but we have yet to try it.

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The roasted, de-skinned peanuts are then put into our little pilão for smooshing!

 

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Let the força begin! Smoosh, smoosh, smoosh the peanuts until they turn into peanut butter. Or put them in your food processor…if you don’t want to have any fun. Just kidding…I would use one if I had one…

 

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Our finished product.

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As much fun as it was to make daily rations of peanut butter in our baby pilão, thanks to this very Mozambican birthday gift from Alex, we can now make a whole week’s worth of peanut butter in our mama pilão

 

Happy Smooshing!

When life gives you mangoes

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It’s not snowing and none of our family is around. Still, it’s the holiday season. Something in my internal wiring must know so. It’s baking season. I had the urge to make a cake.

Here in Mozambique, it’s also mango season. I think I have been looking forward to mango season since long before we even arrived here. I had an offer of free mangoes for the taking. And I had a recipe from the Peace Corps Tanzania cookbook given to us by our bff.

So I made a cake. A mango cake.

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I mixed the following:

3 and 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

Approx 5 tablespoons baking powder. Use 3 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda if you have both…we only have baking powder here and mae advised me on how much a cake usually needs 🙂

2 eggs

1/3 cup (ish) oil

2 cups water. You can use milk, coconut milk, or juice too

3 cups cubed mangoes, or however much you please

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*optional add-ins include cashews, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, toasted coconut topper, or icing. I might just try all varieties throughout this mango season!

Now, I poured this fluffy batter into a bundt pan and cooked in maes electric oven for…until mae said it was done. Perhaps an hour. But if you have a regular oven, you can cook this beauty at 350 for 50 minutes.

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We are hosting Christmas in Mapinhane for other volunteers in our area, and I can’t wait to make this for Christmas morning. The only thing making our lack of snow okay is our abundance of mangoes 🙂

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A green mango is still a ripe mango.

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Winnie hangin’ around outside the house.

 

Photo creds to Alex Romanyshyn

 

Mixed Berry ‘Health’ Scones

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As Alex left for an early-morning walk on Sunday, I climbed out of bed to mix up some scones and surprise him with breakfast when he returned! Something about the rainy, foggy morning put me in the baking mood, and a French cafe mood…whatever that means 🙂

I don’t think I’ve ever made scones before, and I’ve always thought of them as being difficult, but they really weren’t. I put on some French cafe Pandora, and had finished mixing and forming the scones within 15 minutes.

I based my recipe off of this one, from my favorite food blog, Begin Within Nutrition.

I  made a couple of changes: I used real butter (we didn’t have coconut oil or vegan ‘butter’ on hand), I used berries, omitted lemon, and used almond milk in my glaze instead of lemon juice.

When Alex returned, I opened the door and welcomed him to ‘France.’ Clearly, being cooped up during mud season causes me to loose my mind just a little bit!

He peered into the oven to see what was bakin’.

“Those look like health scones,” he said, warily.

“They’re gonna be good!,” I assured him. “I used real butter.”

Having just rearranged some furniture, I took advantage of some new space in front of our tall front windows and set up a little table and chairs for our cafe.

Alex made delish lattes, and we enjoyed these hot fresh scones while we watched the rain fall. It was a pretty idyllic Spring morning if you ask me 🙂

Mixed berry scones are perfect quick and easy weekend treat!

Mixed berry scones are perfect quick and easy weekend treat!

Ingredients:

For the dough:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oat flour (made by grinding old-fashioned oats to a flour in the blender or coffee grinder)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

1 TBsp chia seeds

3 TBsp butter, cold

1/3 cup vanilla almond milk

1 cup mixed berries, fresh or frozen

For the Glaze:

3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 and 1/2 TBsp vanilla almond milk

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together.

Step 2: Cut in the butter until the dough is flaky.

Step 3: Add the almond milk and mix thoroughly. Knead until smooth.

Step 4: On a floured surface, press dough into a circle, about 1 inch thick. Cut into 8-10 triangles.

Step 5: Bake for 18-20 minutes. While the scones bake, mix the ingredients for the glaze. Glaze and serve hot!

Enjoy 🙂

So glad I live with a homemade latte master!

So glad I live with a homemade latte master!

Welcome to cafe Romanyshyn :)

Welcome to cafe Romanyshyn 🙂

Mud Season Mudslides

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The ski resort is closed, things are melting, afternoon rainstorms are replacing snow, and there are approximately 5 cars in the grocery store parking lot at any given time.

It’s officially mud season in Fraser.

This is the season in the mountains that falls between ski season and hiking season. I hesitate to even call seasons by their real names anymore, as the above seem to be more fitting. Mud season generally comes with increased inactivity and melancholy; gloomy skies that Coloradans aren’t used to, coupled with muddy trails means that we find ourselves staying in a bit more, being lazy, cooking and eating and drinking, and trying to enjoy this season of down time.

So, in the true spirit of mud season boredom, we were driven to inventiveness in the kitchen this weekend, which resulted in Mud Season Mudslides.

Instead of using vanilla ice cream and vodka paired with Kahlua, Bailey’s, and cream, we picked ingredients for a dairy-free (Cece approved!) mudslide, and used cafe latte-flavored ice cream for an extra coffee-flavor kick. Here’s what we did:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIngredients:

6 ice cubes

6 scoops of coffee-flavored ice cream (we used Cocunut Dream Cafe Latte)

2 cups almond milk

3 shots Kahlua

2 shots white rum

1 square dark chocolate, grated or shaved

Makes 2 Mud Season Mudslides

Step 1: Blend all ingredients. Top with shaved chocolate and enjoy!

Apple and Oat Crumble with Maple Streusel

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For some strange reason, I was awake at 4a.m. on Sunday (as in, I had long ago gone to sleep and re-awoken…not that I was still awake 🙂 ) I lay in bed, tossing and turning and thinking. What was I thinking about?

Food.

In my delirious state, I thought up what I wanted to make for breakfast, and almost got up to make it at 4a.m. Luckily, I eventually fell back to sleep for a few hours, and got to work on my dreamt-up breakfast once I got up.

Although it’s Spring, I enjoyed the Fall flavors of this recipe: apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and maple. I have quite a sweet tooth when it comes to breakfast food, and this treat satisfied that without being too heavy or too sweet.

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1 and 1/2 cups of Old Fashioned Oats

1/4 cup of chopped almonds

5 Tbsp. oil (I used olive oil)

1/2 tsp. of cinnamon

For the topping: 

2 apples,thinly sliced (I used Gala)

2 cups water

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. pure maple syrup

For the Streusel:

2 Tbsp. butter, or vegan buttery sticks, like Earth Balance

2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

Enough flour to make the mixture crumbly, about 5 Tbsp.

First: Preheat the oven to 325. While the oven preheats, mix the ingredients for the crust. Press firmly into a lightly greased 9 inch pie pan. The more firmly you press this mixture, the more it will resemble a pie crust in the end, instead of a crumble. Your choice! When the oven is ready, put the crust in and bake, checking at 15 minute increments until it is as crispy as you want it. A crispier crust will be more like a pie in the end. I baked mine for 25 minutes; I based this recipe off of a recipe found here, and she recommended 15 minutes of baking time. My crust was nowhere near crispy enough after 15 minutes, even for a crumble. This may also have been because she used butter and I used olive oil.

Second: While the crust bakes, slice the apples. Boil 1/2 cup water in a skillet, add apples, spices, and maple syrup. Cover and reduce to simmer. Keep a close watch as the water runs out, and add more as needed until the apples are soft.

Third: While the apples cook, mix the ingredients for the streusel. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes.

Fourth: Once the crust is done, top with apples and streusel. Serve warm and enjoy!

Totally Tropical Breakfast Pudding

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Here in Grand County, there is still plenty of snow on the ground. Despite a March that felt like August, winter returned with its usual April storms for us.

So, in  a place that is still in the throws of winteryness, the sight of a perfectly ripe, silky mango- reminding me of balmy places- was practically like discovering heaven on the grocery store shelf.

Even if it did set me back $2.50.

I found this treasure on Sunday, and spent all week waiting for just the right moment to truly savor it.

My mulling over this mango manifested in the form of totally tropical breakfast pudding, complete with almond milk, chia seeds, pineapple, kiwi, toasted coconut, and, of course, the coveted mango.

Chia seed “pudding” has become a favorite breakfast for me lately. Because of my tragic allergy to dairy I can’t eat yogurt (or pudding for that matter). But mix some chia seeds with almond milk, let them sit, and I’ve got a thick “creamy” treat. When you let chia seeds soak in liquid, they absorb the liquid and a gel forms around each seed, creating something like a tapioca pearl texture. You can mix anything with chia pudding that you would normally put with yogurt: granola, fruit, nuts, dried fruit, cereal. You can get creative with combos: chocolate banana chia pudding, berry chia pudding, maple chia pudding. You can pretty much do anything with it and it’s yummy. Among their many health benefits, chia seeds are packed with protein, and Alex and I have found these puddings to be a super filling breakfast that doesn’t bog down our bellies.

So, without further ado, our most recent chia pudding creation:

Enjoy and energizing and filling breakfast: totally tropical breakfast pudding.

Enjoy an energizing and filling breakfast: totally tropical breakfast pudding.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup milk of your choice (regular, almond, soy,etc.)

2 heaping tablespoons of chia seeds

1/2 of a mango, cut into chunks

1 kiwi, cut into chunks

1/4 cup pineapple chunks

Toasted coconut, however much you prefer

Makes 1 chia pudding bowl

Step 1: Mix the milk and chia seeds thoroughly in a bowl. Refrigerate overnight.

Step 2: In the morning, stir the your pudding to remix. Add fruit and coconut and enjoy!

Tuesday Talk: Everything in Moderation

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During my junior year of college, something compelled me to start taking small steps toward better health. Although I had always considered myself pretty healthy- I was active and ate moderately well- I was still constantly stressed, sick, and tired. I think this happens to a lot of people during college, with the heavy load of classes, work, and new-found freedom.

But I was ready to start feeling better. I challenged myself to try cooking with one new vegetable each week. Growing up as a picky eater, the options seemed endless with this new challenge. I challenged myself to drink only one non-water drink each day. These little steps helped me immensely and now, five years later, I feel healthier and stronger than ever: I get sick less and when I do I get over it faster, I trust my body to take on long hikes and cross-country ski trips, I have more energy and less stress.

I credit this a lot to taking those small steps and building on them over the last few years. I credit it a lot to yoga and pilates. I credit it a lot to a mountain lifestyle (there’s nothing to do here if you’re not playing outside 🙂 ).

And over the years I have tried various cleanses, abstaining from certain foods, and so on….like most people who are looking for a healthier lifestyle. But lately I have been thinking a lot about trusting intuition, listening to my body and how certain foods and activity make it feel, and doing everything in moderation, letting go of that guilt that nags when you’ve eaten something that you know isn’t the best for you.

As I look around for new healthy recipes these days, I find so much fear about health (like many other parts of life): gluten will KILL YOU, sugar will KILL YOU, raw cruciferous vegetables cause thyroid problems,….if you don’t eat raw cruciferous vegetables you will get cancer. On and on it goes.

Of course, it’s not good for you to overload on sugar and carbs and fried food. So maybe we are being cautioned against that. Maybe this fear is a basic educational tool…but it seems to have gotten a bit extreme lately. Partially, I believe that all of the extremes about health food and all of the fears are very much the American Way. We are a very extreme culture, and a very fearful one. It seems that we don’t believe in moderation so much. For instance, quinoa. We hear that quinoa is good for us, so we think we should eat it as a breakfast porridge with fruit, on a salad with lunch, and in a stir fry for dinner. Suddenly, we think it’s vital to starting sneaking quinoa into our baked goods and snacks too. Extreme, right?

The truth is, I feel worse when I start worrying about all these problems than I do when I actually ingest food that is ‘bad for me.’ I don’t think I am ignorant about unhealthy foods, and there are certain things that I avoid as much as possible because I think they are icky, like food dyes and foods with unecessarily added sugar (peanut butter does not need added sugar…).But I get sick of the fear that bubbles up in me sometimes when I am just trying to look at a darn recipe! Although I am a big fan of being aware of what you eat and eating with the intention of fueling your body, I get sick of the guilt that sometimes sneaks up when I want one of those foods that everyone says is so bad.

I try to remember, though, that too much of anything throws your body out of balance, even too much of the good stuff. I try to remember the importance of balance, variety, and even the emotional satisfaction that comes from eating a food you really want (people say this is bad too…but with all of the socialness that is tied into cooking and eating, how can it not be somewhat emotional?). I try to remember the importance of paying attention to my own body, because I am not the person on Pinterest that wrote the article about how bad gluten makes her feel. I am me. A bit of gluten doesn’t make me feel bad, so I think I can eat a bit of gluten. But a lot of gluten makes me feel bogged down, so I don’t eat it at every meal. Lately, I am working on basing my diet and recipe choices off of my own body awareness, rather than the latest food-abstinence trend.

I believe it’s important to be informed about nutrition, and not to ignore the cautions about certain foods. And I know that for some people a strict diet is the key to feeling healthier and stronger and for getting rid of certain health problems.

But, 5 years after starting down the path to a healthier me, I believe in moderation more than anything, and in letting go of the worries that come with eating foods that are less healthy, in moderation, (sometimes I still worry, but I am working on it :)).  I know that depriving myself of certain things, like grains and sugar, isn’t sustainable and realistic, although I have done cleanses like this to ‘clean up’ my body at certain times. But, in my everyday life I know there are going to be times when I want some candy and times when I want scrumptious toast with jam. That’s okay! There are also times when I crave a good smoothie or some crunchy veggies. It’s up to me! It’s my job to decide what my body and mind needs 🙂

There’s no real timeliness to this post…just something I’ve been contemplating lately!

So, cheers to a happy and healthy and well-balanced Tuesday 🙂