Sunday, November 30, 2008

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins and Pumpkin Seeds

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins


• 1 small sugar pumpkin, seeded (2 cups)
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 cups white sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 teaspoons ground cloves
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
• 1 teaspoon ground allspice
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 2/3 cup vegetable oil
• 3 eggs
• 1 cup chocolate chips
• ½ cup walnuts
• milk, for consistency


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

2. Split pumpkin in half. Remove seeds and strings. Place on baking sheet, cut side down. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven until tender, about 90 minutes. Remove pumpkin pulp and puree in blender. Measure out 2 cups pumpkin puree; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together 2 cups pumpkin puree, vegetable oil and eggs. Stir pumpkin mixture into flour mixture until smooth. Mix in chocolate chips and walnuts. If the batter is too dry, add a little millk until it gets to that gooey goodness. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.



• Seeds from one pumpkin
• 2 Tbl. olive oil
• 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
• salt, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly clean pulp off of pumpkin seeds. Pat dry in a dish towel.

2. Place in a bowl and coat with oil, cayenne and salt.

3. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden brown. Check periodically to make sure they don't burn. You can stir them, but I find that tedious. They always seem evenly cooked to me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Untouched Book Review

Untouched: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World Untouched: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World by Mariana Caplan

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Untouched: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World is an excellent book. Mariana Caplan writes beautifully on our need for touch from conception to adulthood. As a psychologist, she shares her insight on touch abuse and deprivation. Although she doesn't use the term, she advocates for attachment parenting, a style of parenting that emphasizes bonding with your child through home birth, infant massage, baby wearing, breast feeding, and cosleeping, etc. This book is not only applicable to parents, though, as Caplan calls us to work on ourselves as adults. "As human beings, we need to become aware of our own power, so that we can consciously harness it as a resource and utilize it to benefit others, instead of remaining helpless at the mercy of pervasive, but relatively unimportant psychological issues. When we turn our attention and power toward getting in touch with our lives, or toward making sure that our children are given ample affection and attention in their early years, or toward acting out of compassion instead of defensiveness, then we have taken hold of the reigns of this force. Until we have admitted our ailment, and allowed this to break us open to the compassion that lies beneath, we will be uncontrollably motivated to continue to exploit our own power for selfish gain. It cannot be otherwise. Yet, when we finally allow our heart to be shared with those around us, we will be inwardly moved to sacrifice our own desires for the benefit of the greater good." She has deeply considered the impact of touch deprivation on society. Her ideas flow logically and are illustrated by thought-provoking example. Mariana Caplan lists "20 Ways to Get into Your Body," as well as various ways to get "in touch" with ourselves: meditation, breathwork, prayer, martial arts, yoga, hospitality and service of the other, and using intention to bring awareness and a goal to a need.

My worry though, upon completion of this book is, "Is this enough?!" It only seems like scratching the surface. But maybe that is the first step.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cream of Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 3-4

2 Tbl. butter or olive oil
2-3 leeks, sliced into rounds
1 fresh seasonal butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
chicken stock or filtered water to cover
1 bouquet garni
½ cup cream, crème fraiche, or yogurt; or 1 cup buttermilk or half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste
crème fresh or yogurt, for garnish
finely minced rosemary, thyme, sage , or parsley leaves (or a combination of these herbs); or a grating of nutmeg; or a grind of black pepper, for garnish

1. Heat the butter or oil in a medium-sized soup pot. Add the leeks and sauté until soft.

2. Add the butternut squash, then add stock or filtered water to cover the vegetables by about ½ inch. Add the bouquet garni and bring the pot to a boil.

3. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is soft.

4. Turn off the heat and remove the bouquet garni.

5. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or a standard blender), adding yogurt or other dairy, and plenty of salt and pepper as you blend. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings—adding more salt and pepper if it’s too bland.

6. Serve in a shallow bowl with a dollop of crème fraiche (or yogurt) and a sprinkling of herbs, nutmeg, or pepper.

Chef’s Note: This is a recipe from Jessica Prentice’s Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection. This is one of my favorite foodie philosophy books. The recipes that I’ve tried have all been yummy, too. The buttermilk in this one made it divine. If you don’t know about Jessica, check out her website.

This is a picture of the last butternut squash from our garden. Mmmm....

Friday, November 21, 2008

Biodegradable Seed Starter Pots and Spring Gardening Preparation?!

I know, I know. I have strange timing. Many of you in the northern hemisphere are either heading into winter or already in the throes of it. But just as the earth becomes inwardly active to prepare for the outbreath of spring, so must we prepare for our spring activity. Here is a spring story to get you dreaming and preparing.

I have heap composts: three foot diameter hills of scraps and yard refuse piled near my garden. Some might think them unsightly and smelly. To me, they are more beautiful than a ballet. They are a transformative dance right here in my backyard. Imagine the time lapse twirling…. This is celestial feng shui. However, not everyone shares my love affair. So last fall, I decided to move them to a less-visible place behind my garage.

When spring rolled around, I prepared to plant in the rich earth where my compost had been. But when I went out to weed, I saw something curious. Mother Earth hadn’t “rolled around”; she’d been busy already! The ground was covered in green sprouts. They didn’t look like the weeds I was accustomed to, so I gave them a chance to show themselves. When they got their first leaves, I bent down to examine them. Now, I’m not an experienced gardener, but I thought some looked like squash leaves and others had fuzz on their serrated leaves that looked suspiciously like tomato plants. Again, I let them grow. When they got those pretty little star-shaped flowers, I knew. Eighty-seven tomato plants! The vines took longer to flower. But there were forty-two of them!

I can’t believe how many seeds survived my compost and were viable. My daughter and I spaced the plants out so they had more room. But there were still so many that we decided to replant some to give away to friends. I found this helpful idea from Mother Earth News magazine: biodegradable seed starter pots. It’s really easy. If you start collecting toilet paper rolls now, you should have a good amount by spring. We bundle ours up in rubber bands and keep them in a shoe box. This could also be a great fund-raising idea!

Our self-sown garden grew and grew, producing cherry tomatoes galore. And eventually (after much speculation), we found out what the vines were: butternut and kabocha and acorn squash—and cantaloupe! The rolly-pollies and possums got to the cantaloupe before they could get very big, but we ate a golfball sized one, and it was golden juicy deliciousness.

I have been so timid about gardening. I don’t want to waste money on seeds and starters if I fail. But here, my garden practically grew itself! I did spend some time getting to know it, though. I was in the midst of reading The Secret Life of Plants and found myself communing with these little plant beings and even playing my flute for them.

As you can see, my optimistic tomatoes are still flowering, but the fruit no longer turns red. Look, there’s even a cantaloupe trying to grow! I probably should compost what’s left, but there is still so much vitality there. It stirs my spirit. I hope my blundering love inspires you into your own spring dreams.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jerk Chicken Sandwich

Serves 2

2 tsp. dry jerk seasoning
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
¼ cup all-fruit apricot preserves
2 whole grain hamburger buns
¼ cup watercress (optional)

1. Rub seasoning into each piece of chicken. Coat well. Cook for 30 minutes.
2. Stir horseradish into preserves until well-combined.
3. When chicken is done, turn oven to broil and toast buns facedown.
4. Place chicken on buns, top with sauce. Add watercress. Top with bun.
5. Serve.

Chef’s Note: This recipe was adapted from my daughter’s Smoothies and More! Prevention Guide. We used chicken instead of fish, because it was on-hand, and spinach instead of watercress. We had heated up someone’s leftover potato skins and took our lunch outside. Yum!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Character Analysis Book Review

Character Analysis: Third, Enlarged Edition Character Analysis: Third, Enlarged Edition by Wilhelm Reich

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, William Burroughs…they all leave me with a feeling of emptiness. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are all brilliant, and I enjoy them all (with the exception of Led Zeppelin). However, I can only take them in small doses. Why is that? I’ve come to the conclusion that they, among others, are masculine-centered. There is nothing wrong with masculinity or delving into your gender experience, but it does end up being one-sided. I would feel the same way about a book that excluded the male experience, as well. It leaves me with the feeling that something’s missing and makes me sad. I don’t think this should deter people from experiencing their art, though. It is one aspect of the rich human experience. You just have to be in the right frame of mind for it.

Reading Wilhelm Reich’s Character Analysis left me with a similar impression. He was brilliant. Wilhelm Reich was one of the first western scientists to contribute to the study of mind-body medicine. His methods and insights are thought-provoking. I hadn’t read a book this wonderfully challenging for a long time. There were vast sections, however, where I yearned to hear how his theories apply to me, as a woman. There is only so much penis talk you can take!

Although I wished for more coverage of women’s struggles, I kept reading. I kept reading, because it was strongly evident that Wilhelm Reich was on a quest to heal all people. He says, “Accordingly, the fear of orgastic contact constitutes the core of the fear of genuine, direct psychic contact with persons and with the processes of reality.” Reich wanted people to connect with and release their armor that no longer serves them. He wanted us to connect genuinely with each other. “Contemporary society, with its sex-negating morality and economic incompetence to guarantee the masses of its members even a bare existence, is as far removed from the recognition of such possibilities as it is from their practical application.” He was fighting against the malaise that continues to inflict the people of our world.

Like I said, this book was a challenging read. I think it was written for the professional psychoanalytic audience. While it’s not necessarily intended for the layperson, if one has an interest in getting to the root of their motivations and repressions, and a wish to experience full vitality, this makes an enlightening read. Wilhelm Reich was calling us to fight, too, to fight for our lives.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Spaghetti with Crawfish and Clams

3 tbl. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. hamburger
1 28 oz. can tomatoes, diced
1 can tomato paste
¼ cup red wine
2 cups water
1 tbl. oregano
1 tbl. parsley
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
salt and pepper, to taste

spaghetti noodles

crawfish and freshwater clams
3 tbl. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Melt butter and sauté onions until translucent (about five minutes). Add hamburger and brown. Stir in diced tomatoes, paste, red wine, and water. Stir in spices. Cover and simmer for half an hour.

2. Bring two pots of water to boil (one for noodles and one for crawfish and clams).

3. Fifteen minutes before you’re ready to eat, add noodles and the crawfish and clams to their respective pots. Both will need to be cooked for about ten minutes.

4. Drain and rinse noodles in cool water to stop them from cooking.

5. Melt final 3 tablespoons of butter in a pan. Pull the crawfish and clams out and sauté them with garlic for about five minutes.

6. Serve and enjoy.

Here is my daughter, communing with the crawfish....

She decided to keep three, one for each of us.

Chef’s Note: This post is going to make some people squeamish. I am an omnivore who chooses to eat meat. I’ve always thought that, being a meat-eater, I should have the courage to be able to procure my own food. My daughter actually caught our dinner.

It took my husband and I to cook it. Here is a link on how to cook crawfish. I used to fish with my family when I was a kid but have since been removed from that part of the process. This was a new experience for me as an adult and was not taken lightly. We very much appreciated the life force of the crawfish and clams. We savored this dinner.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Time Change

With the rise of industrialism and the transcontinental railroad in the United States, it became necessary to establish time zones . They were introduced in 1883 and codified into law in 1918. This enabled commerce to be shipped and tracked in a timely manner. People, once used to directing their gaze to the sky or to the trusty town clock, now had time streamlined with others in their nation. While this is helpful for accountability, as well as scientific measurement, it also creates a schism between an individual and their personal relationship to time.

There are numerous ways to perceive time. What is time, anyway? It is the measurement of the movement of objects (or the procession of events) through space. Historically, however, time was important to people as a tool for understanding the duration of the day and seasons. Native Americans (and many “primitive” cultures) named the months after foods that were available during that time. Their survival depended on their intimate connection with the cycle of the seasons.

When standard time zones were made into law, Daylight Savings Time was also written in. This addition manipulated the standard time so that during the equinoxes daylight would be conserved by one hour. However, people were not ready for it, and it was repealed. The idea was toyed with until 1966, when it was written into law again with the possibility of exemption. Among the states today, Hawaii and most of Arizona claim exemption. Why was Daylight Savings Time so important? We already had standardized time to create accountability. However, the seasons still progressed as they do and became a hindrance after the autumn equinox, when the tilt of the Earth angles North America away from the sun, and hence, away from the light. Our current law stipulates that at 2 a.m. on the first Sunday in November we “fall back” or set our clocks back on hour, and on the first Sunday in March we “spring forward” or set our clocks forward one hour. What would be the benefit of this? Perhaps if we get up earlier, we will work more? This further manipulation of time is also beneficial to economic ends. It feels somewhat like a ball and chain.

When I worked an 8-5 job, Daylight Savings Time always took some adjustment of my circadian rhythms. It always felt like jet lag. I’ll have to admit that, in the last three years I’ve been homeschooling, I haven’t really been affected by it. For some reason, this year I have felt the pull of the season more acutely. It’s getting dark a couple hours earlier than it was during the summer. Consequently, I want to go to bed a couple hours earlier. This confounds my family, who knows that my "normal" bedtime is at 10. It is a little disconcerting. Bedtime at 8?! This might seem like a handicap when I normally see time as so limited anyway. But I’ve chosen to establish a different relationship with time. When my body is tired, I go to bed. Fortunately I have been afforded the opportunity to homeschool. The ball and chain is gone and so my belief that time needs to be saved.

The question remains: How can we honor our circadian rhythms—our relationship to the light? As time seems to be so inextricably linked with the economy, how can we work within the constraints of our modern world? Of capitalism? In what ways can we re-imagine it? This last question normally leads people to think about socialism, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about creating a new paradigm. These questions are so amazingly complex, that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Respectful dialog is always a positive step, though.

Another step may be to start at the beginning, to re-establish our relationship with the processes of our Earth and its relationship with the Sun. To work with our rhythms instead of against them. To get to know the growing cycle of our food. To work with the light instead of against it.

“It used to be that inner and outer light were one. When it became dark, a candle was lit. People sat around the light; it was a precious thing. And something enlightening always radiated from it. Today light can be had without effort by pressing a button. We can take light for granted; an unconscious and loveless relationship arises,” Manfred Schmidt-Bryabant says in The Spiritual Tasks of the Homemaker. “We cannot do without electricity any more. But we must create a way of compensating inwardly for what has been lost through external aids.”

Future Reading (any other suggestions?):

Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time by Margaret Wheatley

The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism by David Korten

Capitalism at the Crossroads: Aligning Business, Earth, and Humanity by Stuart Hart