Thursday, March 20, 2014

Quick and Easy Raw Caramel Fruit Dip

Another fruit dip?  You betcha!  You could say that I'm going through a "dip phase". There's something so satisfying about that goo-on-a-chip thing.  It probably stems from my years of eating Mexican food twice weekly and filling up on chips and salsa before my meal ever arrived.  I suppose dips are popular because they're simple, portable food.  And the portable factor is likely why I'm eating a lot of dips right now.  When you're running out the door in the morning, it's so easy to just throw a covered bowl and some fruit or veggies in a bag and go.  

I created this incredibly easy fruit dip by accident while making a raw caramel to pair with my raw chocolate candy.  I had leftovers and thought, "hmm... I wonder how that would taste on some strawberries?"  You know what?  It was AMAZING!  So, I made some more.  Obviously.  This stuff is fool-proof.  You really can't mess it up.  

Raw Caramel Fruit Dip

1 cup dates (I used medjool)
1/2-1 cup filtered water
2 tbsp (or more) nut butter (I used almond butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Soak the dates in filtered water for a couple of hours or overnight, using enough water to almost cover them, but not too much.  After soaking, add the dates and soak water to a blender along with all other ingredients and blend until smooth.  That's it!  It's so simple, so sweet, and SO satisfying.  This dip is wonderful on apples, bananas, and berries.  I think it would be amazing on some nut-based, lightly salted crackers, too.  Salted caramel, anyone?  I could see adding shredded coconut and topping your favorite raw chocolate cake with it.  Remember German Chocolate cake?  Yum!  If you love caramel, but want a healthier alternative, I think this could be perfect.  Enjoy!

Life: 101, Instructor Tiny Human

It’s hardly seems like an entire year has passed.  I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday that I was singing my heart out on stage at our yearly company banquet while lovingly stroking my burgeoning belly and being kicked in the ribs?  I know everyone says that time speeds up after having kids, but I just thought it was an expression.  However, now, looking back at the past twelve months, I’m starting to think I’ve entered a state of hyper-speed.  While I miss those first few months of just sitting in the recliner and staring adoringly at the tiny human sleeping peacefully in my arms, I do find that life is a little easier these days.  After all, Charlotte is walking and much better at entertaining herself than she was just two months ago.  I think the crawling phase was the most difficult as of yet.  She’s begun laughing when we laugh, equaling our enthusiasm too, and trying her best to mimic words we say (not always something that she should be repeating.  I suppose it’s time to put South Park on the late-night-only list.)  She pets the dogs now, instead of tugging at their tail and hair.  It seems like she went from “baby” to “toddler” overnight, and I even see “little girl” sneaking into her at times.  Yes, I’m coming to terms with all of the rapid changes that this child of mine is making.  I suppose at the first year, we mothers tend to do that.  It’s the time to reflect on how much she’s grown and matured in such a short time, but I’ve also noticed that I’m reflecting on the growth of someone else through all of this… Myself.  I’ve learned so many life-lessons since August 3,2012, the day I peed on that little stick… or three. 


I had come to terms with the fact that it would likely be just Jimmy, me, and the dogs before I ever took that pregnancy test.  I’d decided that I could just throw myself into other passions if “mothering” wasn’t something I’d experience, unfortunately that passion tended to be criticizing myself.  I was happy with being the “mommy dog” to our (then) three dogs.  I worked full-time, went to the gym religiously, poured myself into reading any nutrition information I could find.  I was determined to achieve dietary perfection, which I thought would lead me to the physical body I always wanted.  I wanted the ever-elusive “thigh gap”.  Never mind the fact that I’m a pear, always have been, always will be.  I was born with tree-trunk legs, and that’s how they’ll stay.  I guess you could say I was incredibly vein and image-obsessed.  It probably stems from my time spent as a model; always comparing myself to the girl standing next to me who was always a little skinnier, a little taller, a little more gifted (although more often than not, purchased) in the breast department.   My self-esteem had taken many hits, and I was pretty low by 2012.  I weighed the most I had in my life, but I was still wearing the same clothes, so I wasn’t huge by any means.  I was stronger than I’d ever been, but that was just a trivial matter to someone who was obsessed with being skinny.  It was to the point that I didn’t wear shorts the entire summer if I could avoid it.  I felt like everyone was pointing and laughing at my cellulite (another genetic gift that I thought I could diet away).  I just wasn’t happy with me.  We were living miles from civilization, spending almost two hours per day in the car, and losing touch with friends as the months went on.  I was sinking into depression.  Luckily, in the summer of 2012, we were able to purchase our current home, smack-dab in the middle of the city.  As soon as we moved, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  I started running every morning, because, hey, we had sidewalks now!   It was July, and the weather was perfect.  I was so close to everything and everyone, and the gym, of course. 


When August 3rd rolled around, I was so tired and craving white potatoes, which I hadn’t eaten in probably two years.  You may remember from my first post that at this point in time, I had been eating  100% raw vegan for almost a year.  When I decided to take that pregnancy test, I really didn’t expect it to be positive.  I had so much doubt in myself and my abilities as a woman.  I even drove to Walgreens and bought two more, just because I KNEW that first one was toying with my emotions.  When I saw those plus-signs on TWO more tests, something immediately shifted in my mind.  It wasn’t about me anymore.  I had this little life, no matter how small, living in me.  He or she needed me to be the strongest person I could be.  Baby needed me to eat enough.  It was that very moment that I started to think differently.  I started to listen to my body in a way I’d never been able to do.  If I was feeling tired, I knew it was my body telling me to slow down because Baby needed me to rest.  If I was craving white potatoes, it was because Baby needed me to eat more carbs.  My focus shifted to someone else for the first time in my life.  I was bound and determined to do whatever it took to bring this life into the world in the best way possible.


When I was pregnant, my birth plan was made to be as natural and calm as possible.  I was going to give birth quietly at home, squatting in a tub, with my mother and midwife assisting while Jimmy waited anxiously right outside the door.  I was going to cradle my daughter in my arms as soon as she was born and immediately breast feed her.  I was going to feel so great after my natural home birth that I’d be up walking around and making dinner a few hours later.  This was my plan.  Of course, plans have a way of going… NOT according to plan.  After 37 hours of tough, mind-bending, unbelievable pain and blood-curdling screams, I gave birth in a hospital bed, on my back, with a room full of strangers.  I was able to hold Charlotte for a brief moment before she was whisked away for a bath, measurement-taking, and the full 120-point inspection.  I was then stuck in a hospital bed for the next two days.  I was disappointed to say the least.  I felt like I’d failed.  I felt like I wasn’t able to give my daughter the start in life that she deserved.  I was back to my old feelings of inadequacy, my mind telling me I wasn’t woman enough.


                      "Hello, world!"

The funny thing, as tiny and helpless as a newborn is, she sure can teach you some lessons about yourself.  When I was settled into my hospital room, they brought Charlotte to me.  I couldn’t wait to hold her and count her toes, smell her few strands of hair, kiss her tiny fingers.  I sat there for a few minutes just staring at her as she slept, curling her precious lips and made little stretching movements.  That’s when the thought occurred to me… I MADE THIS.  My body, however imperfect, cellulite and all, I made another person.  And she was beautiful and perfect in every way.  She had fat legs… just like me.  Suddenly, that was a desirable trait.  She looked just like her daddy (still does), and that was the most precious outcome of which I could think.  I looked down at my stretched out skin around my mid-section and in my mind, I said “thank you.”  Charlotte’s birth gave me so much confidence in my body.  I started to see myself differently.  Sure those skinny models in the magazines have a thigh-gap, but had they endured 37 hours of labor followed by a completely natural birth?  I doubt it.  I had a newly profound love for, not what my body looked like, but WHAT IT COULD DO!  Since that life-affirming moment, I’ve learned many lessons. 


For many years, I had thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom, but in the current economy, I had to come to terms with the fact that we couldn’t afford that luxury.  I resented that for many months after returning to work.  However, now I’ve come to appreciate that I have a great job working with some amazing people who I’d probably never see if we weren’t coworkers.  It affords me the opportunity to buy organic groceries to feed my beautiful family.  Because I work, Charlotte gets to spend many hours daily with her grandparents who are two of the coolest, most intelligent, loving people I’ve ever known.  She’s read to and played with all day, and who else would care for her in the way that I would?  And as her mom, there’s no greater feeling than that of walking through the door after work and seeing her grin as our eyes meet.  I know she’s as happy to see me as I am to see her.  


"The speed demon moves quickly toward her prey."

Having this amazing little person watching and listening to everything I do has made me hyper-aware of the life I’m demonstrating.  I’m becoming a better person, and it’s all because of her.  My  language has evolved to a more “acceptable” vernacular.  I’m learning patience… oh dear Lord, am I learning patience.  I no longer rush in the mornings.  If she want to take an hour to eat half of a banana, so be it.  If I’m making a smoothie and she’s clinging to my leg whining because she just wants me to hold her, I stop what I’m doing and pick her up.  There will be time for blending smoothies in just a few minutes.  If I don’t make it to the store because Charlotte needs a nap instead, I just wait until she’s ready.  If we’re at Trader Joe’s and she decides she wants to spend ten minutes discovering the flowers, then our grocery list can wait.  It’s like she’s literally telling me to “stop and smell the roses.”  I’ve started to think more about the world around us and the planet I’m leaving behind for the next generation.  We've started a compost.  I’ve been diligent about recycling plastics, even carrying home any plastic trash that I happen to have from work.  I’m trying to buy most of her clothes and toys secondhand to cut-down on the environmental waste caused from manufacturing.  She and I already eat a vegan diet, and I’m making sure to prepare all of her food from-scratch.  It saves money, and bulk items tend to create less waste. 


I guess what I’m saying, is that it’s all coming full-circle.  She’s taught me how to be a better person, which has made me want to strive to teach her to be the best person she can possibly be, all while learning how to flex with the changing winds of life.  Oh, and that body-image issue… I stopped worrying about it, and I’ve lost a couple of pounds.  When I gaze into my mirror, I see a strong body, a body that carried and birthed an amazing daughter, breasts that have produced enough milk to grow a very healthy and happy child.  More often than not, I even catch myself smiling.  My new mantra is “I love myself right now, as is.”  I may not look like a supermodel after having my baby, but then again, no one is paying me to look like that.  And who are we kidding?  I’m awesome!  But you know who’s even more awesome?  Charlotte.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Orange Cream Fruit Dip

I've spent the past three days battling a nasty stomach bug, so I'll keep this short.  

When I was at home for those few weeks after Charlotte's birth, I created a lovely orange cream fruit dip for the strawberries I seemed to be addicted to at the time.  Oranges are one of my favorite foods, and since they're in season, I had to bust it out once again.  There's something so pleasant about oranges and vanilla.  If you love orange dreamsicles, this will take you back to childhood.

Orange Cream Fruit Dip

1 navel orange, peeled
1/4 cup raw cashews
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medjool dates (could use any sweetener of choice)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
Splash of water

Toss all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, adding just enough water to get it moving.

This dip goes wonderfully with strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and apples.  I'm sure other fruits would be great as well.  

Enjoy this beautiful Sunday, and make sure to incorporate some healthy raw food into your day.