Friday, November 30, 2012

Holidays Around the World

I just finished an exhausting but totally-worth-it week in my classroom kicking off what is probably my favorite unit of the year: Holidays Around the World.

This unit spans the entire month of December and provides children with rich exposure to geography, multicultural folktales, and winter holiday traditions around the world (avoiding belief systems since I teach in a public school, but of course you could go into that in different settings or at home). It is organized around the Gingerbread Baby's travels around the world en route to the North Pole. Anchored in literature and social studies, the full unit spans the curriculum, integrating art, technology, science, math, and music, as well. It packs a powerful punch in terms of the Common Core Curriculum.

The unit begins with a study of my favorite gingerbread stories, including: The Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Boy, Gingerbread Baby, and The Gingerbread Girl. When we get to the last page of Gingerbread Baby, we find that the Gingerbread Baby has jumped out of the book and left a note in his place with clues regarding his whereabouts. Thus begins a search around the school for the Gingerbread Baby. Finally, all clues lead back to our classroom, and as we get closer to the room, the smell of gingerbread (room spray) becomes stronger. When we return to the classroom, we find the Gingerbread Baby's house and the Gingerbread Baby inside it sleeping on a pillow of cotton snow!


Children holding down the roof so the Gingerbread Baby wouldn't escape while I got some tape

This year, we put a scarecrow out front to keep watch, and the children insisted on putting up a sign to ensure nobody would disturb the house and let the Gingerbread Baby out.


Despite the safeguards, by the time we return the next morning, the Gingerbread Baby has escaped and left a note telling us he plans to run, run, run to the North Pole and send us mail along the way.

This segues into a study of winter celebrations around the world.

Throughout the month of December, we receive a letter, postcard, or email nearly every day from the Gingerbread Baby telling us about various multicultural celebrations taking place at this time of year. He is directionally impaired to say the least and even ends up in Antarctica at one point! He is a curious cookie who just loves a party!


We read stories and do art projects related to many of the different countries, cultures, and traditions. The places where the Gingerbread Baby stops any given year vary depending on the ties my students have to different geographical locations or traditions.

Poinsettias (Mexico), faux stained glass (Italy), menorahs (Hanukkah), and an Australia display

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I am able to show my students videos of these diverse celebrations taking place far and wide via our large SMART Board screen. I also use Google Earth to show them the Gingerbread Baby's route by "flying" from one place to the next. We touch down at various places to see landmarks or just navigate down a road to see what it actually looks like in different countries. For example, the letter we receive from Mexico references monarch butterflies (which we released in September), and we are able to touch down and see actual monarch butterfly sanctuaries! It takes a little research to find interesting locations and attractions, but the connections are so rich and entirely worth it in my opinion!

Each time we read a letter from the Gingerbread Baby, we use Google Earth to determine whether he is getting closer or farther away from his destination. We notice what kind of land masses or bodies of water he travels over, determine what mode of transportation he may have taken, discuss the different seasons occurring in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, notice how climate is a factor in the way holidays are celebrated in different places, and more.

It is so much fun.

I have spent many hours searching YouTube for the best videos related to multicultural celebrations and have created a Pinterest board that I am thrilled to share with you. (Note: I have found that researching the terms used by those cultures and locales yields some really great search terms that lead to authentic videos of community celebrations!) I've included videos from Thailand, The Philippines, The Netherlands, India, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, Israel, Australia, Finnish Lapland, and even Antarctica. I've really tried to target places and traditions to which my students have personal connections, and therefore the list is by no means comprehensive or balanced. It is a work in progress, and I love adding to it!

Click this link for my Pinterest board:
http://pinterest.com/susantara/holidays-around-the-world/

Watching these videos really puts me in the spirit, and I appreciate how so many of them focus on beautiful traditions and festivals featuring light. If I had access to these videos when my own children were younger, we definitely would have enjoyed them together. I just love sharing them with my kindergartners! I don't know who is more excited - they or I - to see a whole community gathered to witness the festive arrival of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) in The Netherlands aboard a steamboat from Spain! We learn that there are so many ways to celebrate at this time of year and that children around the world are a lot like them. Being able to see the expressions on the faces of children across the world is quite powerful.

When we learn that the Gingerbread Baby finally has made it to the North Pole, the unit culminates in a Polar Express party.

This is a magical time of year! I love it!




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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Wonders of Waiting

Thanksgiving is over, and I hope you had a joyful day filled with blessings. Two highlights of my Thanksgiving were the generously stuffed squash (from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook) that I make every year as my vegetarian alternative to turkey...


and listening to my mom perform a Grateful Dead song (along with many other songs) on guitar. She started playing a year ago (in her mid-70s!) and is unstoppable. I also enjoyed having a special brunch at home with my husband and teenagers and having dinner with my in-laws.

Now begins the season of light. For some reason, this year I'm really understanding on a deeper, soul level why cultures around the world place such importance on celebrations of light at this time of year.

My longing for light had me up and outdoors before 7 a.m. on this chilly, frosty morning, and it was entirely worth it. Although I missed the first part of the sunrise when the colors were especially intense, the sky was interesting enough when I got outside and snapped a warm-up shot.


Then it was time to sit and wait for the next major event of the sunrise, when the sun first becomes visible on the horizon beginning with a sliver of blazing orange light. I sat quietly at the river's edge and noticed a bird that touched down on a branch close by before zipping northward to another branch. I noticed my breathing become slower and deeper as I drank in the sprawling view of the river, acutely aware of my surroundings, as I am when kayaking. My favorite form of mindfulness meditation!

Nature photography involves a lot of waiting - for the perfect angle of light or the moment when various elements come together and something transcendent seems to manifest visually. I might have a vision of a certain shot I'd like to capture, but I need to wait patiently, and that is where the magic begins. In the spaces in between, there is so much beauty that I would miss if I weren't so slowed down and connected with my surroundings. I become aware of the limitless possibilities and manifestations of each moment. Each moment offers a gift.

Soon, the clouds in the direction of the sun turned rosy, signaling that the first rays of the sun would momentarily be visible over the treetops beyond the bridge. Have you ever watched a sunrise or moonrise, sitting still enough to experience the movement of these celestial objects? It only takes a few short minutes from the first sliver of sun until the entire sun is exposed over the horizon. Perhaps my favorite moment is when the rising sun is reflected perfectly by the calm surface of the water. The river is almost always calm and mirror-like at sunrise.


When the sun has risen completely above the horizon, the river is flooded with light, and I climb back up to our yard to await the next act of the sunrise, when the field becomes illuminated with golden light.


I adore the way the world looks when it is bathed in light.

Last week, my husband erected the skeleton of a tipi in the back yard. He plans to make it part of next year's garden so that beans and other vegetables and flowers can climb up the poles. In the meantime, it is a great place to sit around the fire and watch the moon rise.


It also is an impressive sight in the morning, with Tibetan prayer flags, feathers, and birds resting way up at the top.


I noticed the sunlight painting the treetops golden at the far edge of our yard and noticed how the taller structures in growing portions of the yard became golden at the top, as well. I decided to stay outside and photograph the first rays of light illuminating the top of the tipi.

It looked like it might take a while, so I began wandering slowly (so as not to scare away the birds) and became intrigued by the frost paintings on the car windows.


After turning my attention to the frosted windows for a while, I noticed how the sunlight was filtering through a tree in our next-door neighbors' yard. I was drawn to the sunburst coming through the tree and the sun-kissed, frosted field of Queen Anne's lace along the perimeter of the yard.


My intention was to photograph the sun rising over the river and the sunlight touching the top of the tipi. However, so much beauty revealed itself in the spaces in between. It is a simple matter of slowing down enough to perceive it.

And doing that is always worth it in my opinion! What a gratifying way to start the day, steeped in mindfulness.


I now have an Etsy shop open for business with prints and note cards of many of my photos available for purchase! In the spirit of "Small Business Saturday," I invite you to check out what I have to offer! 

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Savoring Light: Leaf Lantern Tutorials

"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness."  -Eleanor Roosevelt


The days are noticeably shorter and colder all of a sudden! The sun sets earlier now, and by the time I get home from work, it's already getting dark. I have a wonderful commute home through lots of cornfields and down a hill with a great view of the setting sun. The colors of the sunset are so soothing, featuring orange-rose toward the ground gradating into a soft blue higher up. There's also purple in the mix. I love seeing the bare trees silhouetted in front of the rich, gradated colors.

At this time of year, I am in search of light - savoring the sunrise and appreciating the way the rising sun interplays with water in its various states. 

Sunrise coming through the window

Frost crystals coating leaves and plants become prisms reflecting the sunlight in a variety of colors, glowing like lights on a Christmas tree. 


It thrills me to see the world fill with light each morning and to see the light shine through leaves and other natural objects, making them come alive with vibrance.

Drawn intensely to light as the sun travels a path lower in the sky, this is also the time of year when I become motivated to make lanterns to illuminate the darkness. This week, I made two different kinds of leaf lanterns. The first is a transparent, wax paper lantern that I have adapted over the years from a wonderful, Waldorf-inspired book called Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash.


Materials: 
  • Some pressed autumn leaves (gather some fallen leaves from the ground, and press them inside a thick book for about a week)
  • Wax paper
  • Cylindrical oatmeal or ice cream container (such as Edy's) 
  • Iron and ironing surface
  • Scissors
  • A piece of orange or red cardstock or construction paper (I used painted watercolor paper for the pictured lantern)
  • Glue (either hot glue gun or white tacky glue)
  • Hole punch
  • Handle from a paper shopping bag or brown- or green- wrapped florist’s wire from a craft store (or you could use a pipe cleaner)
  • Tea light (LED or real flame)
  • Glass votive holder or jar (if using a real tea light)
  • Thick, cushioned double-sided tape (if using a real tea light)

Step 1: The Base

Cut off the bottom 3/4” of the cylindrical container, and recycle the rest. This will be the base of the lantern.

Step 2: The Body
 
Cut out two 18.5" wide by 9" tall pieces of wax paper. Place one piece on top of an ironing board (or  a pillowcase-covered table surface). Turn iron to lowest setting. Arrange pressed leaves on the wax paper, with their most colorful side facing you.


When the leaves are arranged as you want them, carefully place the second piece of wax paper on top of the leaves. Carefully iron over the wax paper, to fuse the two pieces together. At this point, you may want to trim the edges so they’re even and straight. (A paper cutter is handy!)


Step 3: Putting It Together
    

Cut a few 3/4”-wide strips from the cardstock. (I had on hand some pretty paper painted with acrylic inks that I used instead of cardstock.) Glue a strip along the entire bottom and top edges of the wax paper, making sure the strip is glued to the side that shows the leaves’ brightest colors. Although you can't tell from the photo, my strips weren't quite long enough, so I used pieces of another strip to extend them to the edge.


Next, attach the wax paper to the base by lining up the bottom of the wax paper flush with the bottom of the base. (Make sure the side with the cardstock strips faces outward.) Carefully glue around the edges of the base, and roll the wax paper around it. (A hot glue gun makes this step easier, but you'll have to work quickly.) You’ll end up with some overlap between the two wax paper edges, so run a thin line of glue from bottom to top at the overlap, to close the lantern into a cylindrical shape.

Step 4: Attaching a Handle

    

Next, make two holes with a hole punch or a pencil point close to the top of the lantern. The holes should be opposite each other. Attach whatever type of handle you’re using through the two holes. If you’re using a paper shopping bag handle or wrapped wire, either twist or glue each end together to fasten securely

If you intend to light the lantern with a real flame, attach a votive candle holder or jar to the lantern base by using a small piece of double-sided tape, and put a tea light inside.


 Here's what this kind of lantern looks like when it's lit:



And now for the second kind of leaf lantern, which I made this week with my kindergartners.


Earlier in the fall, I had my students do watercolor crayon-resist leaf rubbings. First, they rubbed the watercolor paper with crayons to reveal the texture of the leaves underneath the 9"x12" paper. Then they covered the entire paper with fall-toned watercolors. The crayon markings resisted the watercolor and stood out. These masterpieces were displayed in the hallway for a while until we converted them into leaf lanterns. In other words, we repurposed their art work!


Materials:
  • Painted watercolor paper, at least 9"x12"
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Pressed leaf (smaller is best)
  • Wax paper
  • Iron and ironing surface
  • Razor-type paper trimmer (or scissors)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hole punch
  • Handle from a paper shopping bag or brown- or green-wrapped florist’s wire from a craft store (or you could use a pipe cleaner)
  • Tea light (LED or real flame)
  • Glass votive holder or jar (if using a real tea light)
  • Thick, cushioned double-sided tape (if using a real tea light)

Instructions:

On the back side of the painted watercolor paper, use a ruler and pencil to draw a line going all the way across the long way about an inch from the edge. Cut 1" wide fringes up to the line, all the way across the paper. (The fringes will be about as tall as they are wide; see second picture below.)


Iron a pressed leaf between two pieces of wax paper on the lowest heat setting. Then trim the fused-together wax paper so there is some space around the leaf.


In the center of the painted paper on the back side, trace around the wax paper piece. Using a razor paper trimmer, make a cutout inside of the traced shape, leaving at least 1/4" all the way around. (In other words, the opening in the lantern needs to be somewhat smaller than the wax paper shape. Save the painted paper cutout; it will be the bottom of the lantern.


Put a line of glue around the edges of the cutout (still on the back side), and adhere the wax paper leaf so the duller side of the leaf is facing you. Since hot glue dries very quickly, you'll need to do the gluing in quick, small segments. 

Roll the paper into a cylinder with the fringes at the bottom. Glue the overlapping edges by running a thin line of glue from bottom to top to hold the cylinder together. (Again, work quickly, gluing a small segment at a time.)

Fold the fringes inward toward the center so they almost form a base (with some space at the center). Then cover them quickly with hot glue, and press the painted paper cutout on top (with the painted side facing you). Quickly turn it so the base is resting on your tabletop surface, and press down with your fingers to adhere the base to the fringes. Trim the base for a neat, finished look.


Next, make two holes with a hole punch or a pencil point close to the top of the lantern. The holes should be opposite each other. Attach whatever type of handle you’re using through the two holes. If you’re using a paper shopping bag handle or wrapped wire, either twist or glue each end together, to fasten securely

If you intend to light the lantern with a real flame, attach a votive candle holder or glass jar to the lantern base by using a small piece of double-sided tape, and fit a tea light inside.

Be careful not to leave your lit lantern unattended, or use an LED tea light for no worries! The lanterns bring such beautiful light and ambiance to a room! Enjoy!


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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Practicing Gratitude

This morning I got up in time to experience the sunrise, and while I was waiting to witness the first rays of this new day, I was inspired to share with you how a simple practice of gratitude has transformed my life. But first, the sunrise. Ahhh - such peace.


I have kept a journal on and off throughout my life, but several years ago it occurred to me that I tended to use it as a tool for venting my frustrations - and that if someone were to read it someday, s/he might get the impression that I was a very unhappy person, which was not the case. I didn't want to leave behind that kind of legacy in print.

Somewhere I came across the idea of keeping a gratitude journal. The idea was to spend a few moments at the end of each day writing down five things for which I am grateful. It is simple to do and only takes a minute or two. However, this practice has had profound effects on my life over the past five or more years that I have been doing it.

I select a journal that strikes me as beautiful and feels good in my hands. I prefer journals with pages that can lay completely flat. The one shown below has a pocket in the back that is handy for holding ticket stubs, photos, notes, etc. I also use a pen that writes smoothly and feels good to hold. The experience of keeping a gratitude journal needs to be inviting. It may or may not involve a cup of herbal tea. (Usually it doesn't, but I like the idea.)


Pausing to recall positive experiences and impressions is a lovely way to end the day. I fall asleep focused on happy thoughts rather than anxieties. This makes for better sleep.

I write down anything that struck my fancy or uplifted me during the day: Conversations with family members, the earthy smell of a homegrown tomato, the proud smile on a student's face when he showed me how he learned to write the number five, comfortable clothes, eating a pomegranate, holding my husband's hand while taking a walk, a smile from a stranger, the sound of my children's laughter, heated car seats, the aroma of bread baking, having a washing machine - anything at all. When feeling down, it is comforting to open up my gratitude journals and remember all that has brought a smile to my heart. Some days (for example, when I am tuned to the "overwhelm" channel) it is more difficult to think of things for which I am grateful, and the list may consist simply of: good health, electricity, warm house, plenty of food, and a steady paycheck. But think about it: These basic things are tremendous blessings! Consider food: 47% of the world's population doesn't have food security! Sometimes it's useful to acknowledge and appreciate these fundamental blessings that may go unnoticed on other days. Doing so is a surefire antidote to feeling sorry for oneself.


I find that when I set the intention to write in my gratitude journal each evening, my mind is busy looking for examples throughout the day. The result is that I notice more of the good stuff than I did prior to keeping a gratitude journal. Noticing is the first step. When you are able to notice, you can more fully savor the positive elements of your day. I literally find myself stopping frequently to smell the flowers or take in a beautiful sight. My mind is being trained to catch the fleeting moments and really experience them as they happen. The journey is one of joy.

 
After practicing gratitude for several years, I find that I am a happier, more peaceful person. Even in the midst of a difficult situation, I can glance out the window and appreciate a bird flying by or a leaf twirling gracefully to the ground. They are like little teachers reminding me that beauty is all around, even when I'm knee-deep in muck. Attuned to gratitude, it is easier to put challenges into perspective and not give them too much weight. Most of the troubles with which we burden our minds are so petty!

At this point, keeping a gratitude journal is no longer necessary in order to more fully savor and appreciate the goodness of life; the compass of my awareness points in that direction. However, I still try to maintain this daily practice. I also focus on gratitude as I drive to work each morning. 


Some people develop a grateful heart as a result of some kind of wake-up call in their life - perhaps an illness, injury, or loss of some sort. For me, I think it was financial hardship. At some point when my children were young, I came across the book, Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel, which helped to put things in perspective for me. Although it was published in 1994 and is now somewhat dated, it remains on my bookshelf, and I pull it out (along with my gratitude journals) when I feel my life situation is somehow deficient. This book features portraits of families from 30 different nations outside their homes surrounded by all of their possessions. In some portraits, there is little more than a few pots or jugs. Some families live in war zones with mortar shell holes blasted through their walls. What an eye-opener. After spending a few minutes with this book, I realize how privileged I am. Peter Menzel has a number of books out, and all of them are wonderful.

I remember hearing my friend, Al, tell me about a trip he took to Calcutta and how he saw children who were impoverished beyond belief radiating great joy while experiencing simple pleasures. Al, himself, is one of the most content people I know, despite having very few material possessions aside from an extensive record collection that brings him great joy. Likewise, my friend, Trish, and my daughter's friend, Dionna, remind me to be truly grateful for good health.

Our lives are full of blessings that are often taken for granted. Something magical happens when we become more aware of the big and little things for which we can be grateful. Speaking from my own experience, life becomes a more joyful journey. Gratitude gives a buoyant quality to life.

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Food for the Soul

The weather has been rather cool and cloudy this week, and I haven't been on the river. However, with so many people still without power on the East coast, we are grateful that the hurricane spared us without even a single power outage.

Since the river hasn't been hospitable, I turned my attention toward indoor activities this weekend and thought I'd share with you one of my favorite weekend routines. I call it my "cooking retreats." Basically, I spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen cooking a few meals and sides for the upcoming week while listening to an audiobook, retreat recording on CD, or online video of a spiritual nature. Pema Chodron is one of my favorite teachers to listen to during a cooking retreat. In the past, I also have enjoyed listening to audiobook versions of Paulo Coelho's novels.

A cooking retreat is an incredibly restorative and calming activity (and it helps that I love to cook) that elevates my consciousness and results in a refrigerator full of delicious, nutritious food to start the week. I am convinced that being so centered while cooking somehow raises the vibrational energy and quality of the food. Food made with love and a peaceful heart always seems to taste better. It makes the whole house feel peaceful - and smell amazing, as well.

Driving home from work, I passed by a new restaurant with a sign outside that declared: "Soup's On!" Sounded good to me - and I haven't gotten soup off my mind since seeing that sign. So split pea soup over basmati rice was part of the menu I cooked up today. I also made corn bread, teriyaki quinoa, browned Brussels sprouts, oven-roasted carnival squash, and apple crisp.

Below is the complete menu, with recipes. :-) I've been making all of them for years, and they are family favorites.

Split pea soup over basmati rice with corn bread
 Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. (2 cups) green split peas, rinsed
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 cups (or more) peeled carrots sliced about 1/2" thick
  • 1 cup diced potato or sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups (or more) chopped kale, broccoli, and/or parsley
  • Handful of dried arame (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground marjoram
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Black pepper and salt, to taste
  • Brown rice or basmati rice (optional)
Put split peas in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Skim the foam off the top, and discard it.

Add remaining ingredients to the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 45 minutes.

If you plan to serve the soup over rice, begin cooking the rice at this point using a 1:2 ratio of rice to water.

Ladle out approximately half the soup, and purée it in a blender. Return the purée to the pot, add the pepper and salt, stir, and return the soup to a simmer.

Serve hot. This soup is especially delicious over brown rice or basmati rice! Recipe serves 6 to 8.


Corn Bread
*adapted from The Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook by Julie Jordan

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup dried milk powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg or egg substitute (I use Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy alternative (I use Almond Dream)
  • 3 Tbs. light vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeño or red hot cherry pepper, diced small (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, milk powder, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, honey, milk, oil, and hot pepper. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, and beat thoroughly so the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

Pour the batter into a well-greased pie or loaf pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the bread is firm and lightly browned. Serve warm.

Teriyaki quinoa with browned Brussels sprouts

I fell in love with quinoa the first time I had it more than 20 years ago at Light on the Hill retreat center. It is an ancient grain that sprouts (tiny sprouts) during cooking. It is a nutritional powerhouse - gluten-free and delicious, too! This is my favorite quinoa recipe. I like to serve it with browned Brussels sprouts and either roasted squash "smiles" or orange-sesame tofu.


Teriyaki Quinoa 
*adapted from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating by Dreena Burton

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I like to use a mix of different colors)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (or 1/2 tsp. dried ginger)
  • 3 Tbs. tamari (I use reduced-sodium)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. agave nectar or honey
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup green onions (scallions), sliced
Rinse quinoa in cold water for 2 minutes. In a saucepan, add quinoa, water, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil on high heat, stir, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 12-14 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in ginger, tamari, agave nectar, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Cover again, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir. Garnish with scallions before serving, or stir them in (as I do).


Browned Brussels Sprouts

This is my own recipe, inspired by my friends, Sam and Vanessa. It is the most delicious way I know to cook Brussels sprouts! Use whatever amounts of the ingredients that taste best to you.

Ingredients:
  • Fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half vertically (through the stalk)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh garlic, minced
  • Tamari (I use reduced-sodium)
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Black pepper
  • Breadcrumbs or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Begin by steaming the Brussels sprouts in a pot with a steamer basket until they are about halfway cooked.


Put a little olive oil in a pan (I use as little as possible), and set burner to medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are nicely browned.


When they are cooked to your liking, remove from heat, and splash with some tamari and sesame oil. Adjust amounts to your liking. Sprinkle with black pepper and breadcrumbs or Parmesan if you'd like. Stir to distribute flavors evenly.


And for dessert - apple crisp! I bought a large bag of Cortland apples from the orchard down the road and made an extra batch for our next-door neighbors.


Apple Crisp

Ingredients:
  • 6 to 8 cups of cooking apples (I use Cortland) 
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 Tbs. margarine or butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. (or more) cinnamon
  • Dash of allspice
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (uncooked)
  • Very small amount of orange juice (if desired, if the crisp is too dry; I usually omit)
Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Put them into an oblong pan, and drizzle them with lemon juice. Toss to coat, and arrange the apple slices evenly in the pan.

Melt the margarine, and stir in the brown sugar or maple syrup. Mix in the spices, flour, and oats; stir well to combine. If you think the topping needs a little more moisture, add one teaspoon at a time of orange juice. Crumble this mixture onto the apples in the pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, uncovered. Cover if it crisps too quickly so it doesn't brown/burn. Serve warm. Recipe serves 6 and tends to be devoured quickly in my house!

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