April 7, 2016
by Lacy
3 Comments

Doing Disney

In less than a week, we’re taking my almost-five-year-old to Disney World, and I’m having very mixed feelings about it.

First, let me say this was totally my idea.  One hundred percent.  About a year ago, I thought how cool it would be to take her to Disney for her fifth birthday — right at that sweet spot where she knows most of the princess stories, would recognize the characters, but would still find everything absolutely magical.  My in-laws have a winter home in Florida, and I thought it would be a great way to visit them and do something special.

The plans have been in the works for almost that long. We researched hotels and packages, compared rates, booked flights, etc. It’s all ready to go.

I have never been to Disney World.  I visited Disney Land for the first time at the age of 22, after the most disappointing day of my life, when I felt like all my hopes and dreams were going to hell in a handbasket. My husband-then-boyfriend and I were in California to look at apartments and for me to do the last round of interviews for a prestigious internship in Hollywood with the Director’s Guild of America, and that night, as we drove down Highway 1 watching the sunset, I got the call that I had been cut and would not get the internship.

My world came crashing down. I had no plan B. And when we woke up the next morning, my sweet boyfriend, (unsure what to do with the crying blubbering mess I had become) announced, “We’re going to Disney Land!”

So my impressions of Disney are a bit skewed. But the one thing I do remember with a happy heart were the expressions on all the tiny faces around me. For them, it absolutely was the happiest place on Earth.

And I want to give that to my daughter.

But I’m also feeling very ambivalent about the whole thing.

Last night, I spent several hours on the computer finalizing our Fast Pass reservations and our dining reservations, I felt this overall feeling of stress and disappointment.

Let me just say: I didn’t realize that when they say reservations open for fast passes and dining 180 days in advance, they really mean, you need to get on this website and make them 180 days in advance. It must be like the rush to get concert tickets for the hottest show in town.

I started making reservations more than a month ago — about 45 days before our trip, so don’t think I’m some sort of devil-may-care lazabout — and everything was gone.  Fast Passes to meet Anna and Elsa?  Hahahahaha.  Nope.  Reservations for Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Palace dining with the princesses?  FUGETTABOUTIT.

It seemed like every time I read about a neat or interesting restaurant or event, it was already booked.

Beyond that, every time I discovered some cool gem of a thing to do, a memory to make, I was bowled over by the prices. My sister told me about a salon where they will do D up like a princess!  Starting at $60. Oh, and the appointments are all booked up.  Boat trip to see the fireworks from the lagoon?  More than $300 for a family of 3.  The Hoot-n-Holler (or whatever it’s called) dinner show?  Booked that for $60 per person. Even the tour of the greenhouses and fisheries at Epcot costs extra.

In fact, it struck me last night as I was finalizing reservations, planning itineraries, etc., that planning this vacation felt nearly as complicated as planning my wedding!

And then it struck me that it’s also going to end up costing almost as much as my wedding.

After I shut down the computer, I tossed and turned in bed for a while, wrecked with a weird sort of middle-class, first-world-problems guilt.

What am I doing to my child, giving her this lavish vacation as a birthday present?
My sister and I never got to go to Disney as children, and we turned out fine. More than fine.
How do I feel about promoting and propogating “princess” culture that I feel pretty dang conflicted about anyway?
Wouldn’t this money be put to better use? Hell, wouldn’t it be better to put these thousands of dollars into her college fund and throw her a princess party here at home?

All moot, because the reservations are made, the tickets are booked, the plane leaves in T-minus six days. This morning I’m looking up lemon eucalyptus oil bug sprays to ward off Zika and making packing lists in my notebook.

We will go.  We will have an amazing time. My sweet baby will not know that mama screwed up and couldn’t get Fast Passes to meet Elsa or reservations to dine with Cinderella.  We’ll eat junk food and stay up late to watch the fireworks and parade (for which we also did not get Fast Passes) and I’ll take way too many pictures, and when we get home, I’ll put them all in a book for her and hopefully she’ll remember her fifth birthday.

When she got to go to the happiest place on Earth.

carrot_tabbouli_2

April 5, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Carrot Top Tabbouli (Grain-Free)

I’m in a hustle season right now.

Several years ago, when I had a tiny baby and was lamenting the fact that some days my biggest accomplishment was getting us both clean and dressed, a mom a bit further along in the journy reassured me that this was just one season of life, and that it would pass in its own time.

While not the immediate fix answer I was hoping for, it was still comforting. The same way that I could not will the Earth to spin faster and turn spring into summer or winter into spring, that season of my life would continue and pass at its own pace.

I find this is true of owning a business, too. Some months I glide along at the perfect pace. Everything is organized and I am productive. I have set healthy boundaries and feel good about the amount of time I spend working versus playing versus caring for my family.

And then there are months like this one.

It’s a little ironic that in order to take a vacation, I have to work double time in the weeks leading up to it.  I’m trying to launch a podcast, so I’m attempting to record six months worth of interviews in about two weeks. I’m working on selling my signature program, which requires extra emails and phone calls to prospective students. I’m also reaping the rewards of steady marketing, talking to prospective clients and onboarding new clients — all while trying to keep up with my regular workload.

In short, I’m hustlin’.

Two weeks ago, my dear husband, noticing said hustle (he gets points just for that, I think) offered to go to the grocery store for me. This is practically novel, because I am almost always the one who does the shopping. (I kind of like it, so it’s no hardship.)

So, I passed him my list and off he went to Whole Foods with our daughter in tow.

He did great. He was especially proud of himself that he remembered to get ham for our Easter brunch even though I had not remembered to put it on the list (see: hustle).

He also brought home two gorgeous bunches of carrots, tops still attached because they were on sale.

There’s a myth that carrot tops are poisonous.  I suspect it started because they look an awful lot like poison hemlock (which is, as the name suggests, poisonous). But they’re not poisonous, and in fact are quite tasty.

carrot_tabbouli_1

Which I discovered when I made this recipe: it’s a grain-free, carrot-full take on tabbouli, and it’s delicious. I served it alongside some leftover braised lamb, and it made a quick, tasty dinner (see: hustle).

I’m big on veggies.  Especially in season.

And reducing waste.

And trying new things.

And eating fewer refined carbs.

This recipe satisfies all of those requirements.  Plus it’s awfully tasty.

Carrot Top Tabbouli (Grain-Free)

Carrot Top Tabbouli (Grain-Free)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large carrots – well scrubbed & roughly chopped
  • 4 cups of carrot tops – well soaked to clean, very rough chopped, discard thick stems
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh mint, very rough chopped – amount to taste
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped – or use scallion
  • 1-2 cups medium tomatoes, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
  • Chick peas – 1 can rinsed
  • Dressing (whisk together all ingredients)
  • juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Garlic Clove – finely minced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop carrots, carrot tops, onion, and remove mint leaves from stems.
  2. Process carrots in food processor until they have the texture of a large bulgur grain. Set aside.
  3. Finely chop carrot tops, onion, and mint in food processor. (Do not liquify!) Add to the carrots.
  4. Add diced tomatoes, and other optional ingredients if so desired.
  5. Add dressing and toss to combine well.
  6. Chill and marinate in the refrigerator before serving for best taste (but it tastes great right away, too!).
http://laughinglemonpie.com/carrot-top-tabbouli-grain-free/

Promotional consideration for this post provided by Whole Foods Markets.

March 14, 2016
by Lacy
0 comments

From Classic to Modern: A Denver Date Night

old fashioned at Rewind Lounge

A zillion years ago, I wrote a post here entitled 70 At Home Date Nights Ideas On the Cheap.

It is, to date, my most popular post on this blog.  By a LOT.

It is also slightly ridiculous.

This is not to say that we’ve never done some of these — we have.  But at home date night with a 5-yr-old tends to look like, “What’s on TV tonight?”  “Nothin.”  “Wanna binge watch something on the laptop in bed?”  “YES. Let me put on my jammies.”  (At 7:30pm.)

What can I say? We are old, and we are tired, and we really like watching bad TV on the laptop in our jammies.

It is a little hilarious to me that I was more ambitious about date night when I had a 2 yr old than a 5 yr old.

BUT we do try to actually go out — without the kiddo — at least once a month.

And in February, I noticed that they were going to be playing The Maltese Falcon on the big screen for its 75th anniversary.  And I knew what we were going to do.

(You like how I consult my husband about what he wants to do? Yeah, me too.)

It only sealed the deal when we were invited to check out the new Rewind lounge at 1515 Restaurant in Denver.

We took in the matinée downtown at the Pavilions theater on the 16th Street Mall. How do you describe seeing Bogey on the big screen? It was amazing. I’d forgotten how funny bits of it are, and how clever the dialogue. It stands the test of time well, with a mystery just as intriguing and engaging now as it was then.

After the movie, we wandered down the 16th Street Mall, something we rarely do, and ended up at the opposite end at the Tattered Cover bookstore, where I promptly bought a copy of The Maltese Falcon — the original novel by Dashiell Hammett.

At the appointed hour, we wandered back up a few blocks to Market and 15th and took in the lovely new Rewind lounge on the first floor of Restaurant 1515.

The lounge combines the old and the new, the classic and the modern.  It’s a brand-new, green-certified, modern space on the first floor, right below the more traditional fine-dining atmosphere of the restaurant above.

The menu is mostly classic French cuisine with some exciting small plates and molecular gastronomy thrown in for fun. They also have an award-winning wine list — with plenty of bottles around $20 (all the way up to hundreds of dollars), and an innovative bar manager who likes to play with molecular techniques.

A perfect mix of classic and modern.

I chatted with the chef as he warmed chunks of fresh mozzarella in slowly simmering water, then placed them over a CO2 canister and blew them up with garlic-scented air to create a pillowy, ethereal centerpiece for a caprese salad sprinkled with balsamic vinegar “caviar.”

Next to him, another chef deftly seared Japanese wagyu beef on hot stones for delicate, perfectly cooked bites of heaven.

wagyu beef at 1515 Restaurant

 

We sampled classic escargot and Dover sole en papillote and  sipped cheerfully unusual cocktails, including a raspberry “lemonade” with shattered raspberry garnish, and an orange basil “old fashioned” that was decidedly not.

drinks at Rewind Lounge

Maybe the best part of the Rewind Lounge is that it’s an easy way to have an elegant meal. Here’s what I mean:

While the Lounge has its own, very accessible, menu of tasty small plates and Asian-inspired bites, you can also order from the full 1515 menu.

And you can get a table there at the last minute, without a reservation.

Which is just about the perfect recipe for a date night for me at this stage of the game.

1515 Restaurant

Rewind Lounge

 

 

February 15, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

How I’m Eating Now

SONY DSC

Eating is such a daily thing.  It’s so constant.

My dad used to joke that when my mom’s family gets together, we’re all planning the next meal even as we’re eating this one!

What’s not constant is my approach to food.  It’s mutable, variable — sometimes in the space of as little as an hour, or even a single meal.

And I find, especially lately, that dogma just doesn’t work for me when it comes to food.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to eat healthfully lately, and I’ve vacillated: should I go Paleo? Should I go back to Weight Watchers? Should I try something new?

What I realized, though, is that any prescriptive “diet” has things I don’t like or don’t agree with about it. And it has that big looming problem of being so restrictive, it might trigger a binge cycle at some point.

I actually worried (this is my disease talking) about how I would explain my diet choices to people if I didn’t go all-in with one type of diet or another.  Well, I’m Paleo, kind of, but I eat bread sometimes, and cheese, and cheesecake…

And so, I decided, I needed to stop listening to what other people tell me to put in my body, and start finding out for myself what works for my body (and my life).

I know. Kind of revolutionary.

Continue Reading →

February 7, 2016
by Lacy
1 Comment

Making Room for Cupcakes

For years, I thought restriction was the answer.

I couldn’t be trusted around food. I was afraid that, given the opportunity, I would eat myself into oblivion.

Or, at least into obesity.

Cookies were the enemy (especially chocolate chip cookies — especially my homemade chocolate chip cookies). Desserts of all kinds were verboten. And don’t get me started on tortilla chips.

And, when I did — inevitably — eat those forbidden things I was bad. I was wrong. I beat myself up about it.

Or, I didn’t.  At least, not at the time.  Because I was too busy eating ALL THE COOKIES.  (Or cake. Or chips. Whatever.)

And then, of course, to punish myself later, I’d go back on a strict diet.

Sometimes those strict diets would stick for a while. Even a few months.  But then I’d start eating all the things again and head back towards tight pants and emotional woes.

I have since learned that those terrible swings, eating all the things then eating none of the things, it has a name. And it’s called binge eating disorder.

The binge eating didn’t surprise me that much. The fact that dieting was also a big part of my disorder?

THAT rocked me.

What am I supposed to do when my pants get too tight if I can’t diet????

I’m working on it.  I tune back in.  I get more mindful.  I try to pay attention to my choices and what I’m actually putting in my mouth.

But the one thing I don’t do?

I don’t restrict any more.

So when my daughter asked if we could make some chocolate cupcakes — and I happened to notice that it was national cupcake day — of course I said yes.

room for cupcakes Continue Reading →

February 1, 2016
by Lacy
7 Comments

Digital Detox

sugar snap peaA lot has changed for me since I started this blog.

When I started this blog four years ago, I had a new baby, I had just quit the 9–5 workforce, and I was trying to make it as a freelance writer and blogger. I was obsessed with going green and eating organic both for my and my new baby’s health. And I HAD to do it all on a budget, because I earned about $1500 that year. Total.

Today, my precious baby is now a precocious almost-5-yr-old, I run a successful content marketing business that grosses almost three times my previous 9–5 salary, I have team members, and I still love good food. I also lost my dad last year to leukemia, which changed my outlook on life.

But something else important has changed.

Last year, when my father was dying of cancer, I started seeing a therapist to help me deal with my grief, and she promptly diagnosed me with binge eating disorder.

This actually wasn’t the first time I was diagnosed with an eating disorder. Back in 2010, before I got pregnant, I saw a different therapist for a short time, and she also diagnosed me with “disordered eating.”

But I didn’t take the diagnosis very seriously either time.  It didn’t seem real to me — I didn’t have a real eating disorder (like anorexia or bulimia), I just had some issues around food. In 2011, when my primary care doctor asked me about the diagnosis in my file, I told her I was “better,” and she deleted it from the computer.

Just like that.

What I know now is that saying your eating disorder got “better” is kind of like saying an alcoholic or drug addict is “better.” We might be in recovery, but it’s not the sort of thing you ever cure.

In the last few months, I’ve gotten a lot more serious about tackling my eating disorder, and trying to come to a place of balance. For me, binge eating wasn’t about taking in thousands of calories at a single sitting (though I certainly did that as a teenager), but rather about the loss of control I felt around food, and the wild swings I had between restricting and eating anything and everything.

And one of the biggest changes I’ve experienced as I become more educated about my diagnosis and more open to working on those issues is that my feelings about food and food culture have shifted dramatically.

Junk in, junk out…

It’s become clichéd to say that the media isn’t good for women’s body images, but I realized this was actually extremely true for me. I would see magazines, Facebook posts, blog posts, TV programs all talking about the latest diet or “healthy” food fad, and I’d want to hop on that bandwagon so fast it’d make your boots spin.

But, as I was learning, dieting is a trigger for my eating disorder.

So I slowly started phasing things out. I’ve changed the magazines I buy from titles like Cooking Light and All You to body positive ones like Darling and Happinez and business mags like Independant.

I started unfollowing accounts on Facebook that were making me feel bad — for one reason or another. I unfollowed the Whole30 people, a couple of nutritionists, and even an acquaintance whom I like and respect very much — but who recently became a Beachbody coach, and whose posts were triggering for me.

Slowly, slowly I’ve been getting rid of the media that isn’t healthy for me, and replacing it with better stuff. I follow Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert, Bréne Brown and Geneen Roth.

And it’s made me come to some uncomfortable conclusions.

For a long time, one of the main rationales I had for fighting restrictive diets that promised me slender thighs and a less-jiggly belly was that I was a foodie; I couldn’t condone giving up entire food groups. I reveled in that self-appointed title. I loved being a food writer, a restaurant reviewer, someone in-the-know about cooking and eating and all things food.

But now I’m starting to realize, I don’t want food to define me any more. I don’t want my life to be all about what’s on my plate in public, while in private I agonize about what’s around my waist.

I’m craving more — and not more food.

Where does my voice fall?

I believe we have fetishized food in our culture to an unhealthy extreme.

One of the mental pitfalls I experience when I swing from permissive eating to restrictive is that I don’t know what to do: there are so many different rules out there, so much conflicting advice, so many hard and fast dogmas about what is and is not healthy that directly oppose one another. I become overwhelmed and, frankly, despondent that I will ever reach my goals — so I just go back to eating, because it’s easier.

To paraphrase Geneen Roth, when we are dieting, we are relying on other people to tell us what is right for our bodies. We’re listening to other people’s rules and advice and treating it as gospel.

When we give up dieting, we take back our voice.

I’m deep in the frightening process of remembering how to listen to my own body, to trust its innate wisdom, and to accept that the size it wants to be may or may not conform to what all the voices around me tell me I ought to be.

And I realized: I don’t want to be a part of the noise.

I don’t want to be one of those voices telling anyone else what’s right for them, for their body, for their family, for their life. I am actively trying to get away from that for myself, so I cannot abide the thought of being that distraction for anyone else.

I also realized that keeping up this blog in its current form had become a burden. What had once been a passion project had fizzled and become just one more thing on my to do list. And that’s never what I wanted this to be.

Putting the laughter back into Laughing Lemon Pie

This blog was born of joy. The family story that gives it its name was a moment of pure joy. The blog was born of a desire to share, to teach, to talk, to cook. For me, food has always been equated with love, and I wanted to share that love with an audience, with the world.

But I don’t want to contribute to the noise any more. I don’t want to be a part of that tsunami of information that keeps so many of us mired in negative thoughts, believing that we are wrong, or bad, or that foods fall somewhere on the spectrum of good vs. evil.

I need to preach what I hope to practice.

After much soul searching and talking with my dear friend and contributor, Emily Klopstein, we have decided to let the old version of Laughing Lemon Pie go. Its time has passed.

What that means practically is that we won’t be posting weekly any longer (unless we feel like it). We won’t be doing many sponsored posts, and I’ve removed the advertising from the site.

I also won’t be paying dear Emily to contribute here any more, though I will leave the door open if she ever feels the desire to come back and share!

It also means that you’ll probably be seeing more things like this essay, and fewer recipes, fewer reviews, and absolutely no dogma or judgement.

Instead, I may choose to talk about my journey, about the insights I gain as I turn my attention to the hard inner work of listening and being kind.

I still love to blog. I still love my silly laughing lemons. I want this to be a place that continues to provide joy, to me and others.

Thank you for coming with me on this journey.

Here’s to the next step.

Homemade Kitchen book review on LaughingLemonPie.com

January 29, 2016
by Emily Klopstein
3 Comments

Book Review: The Homemade Kitchen

I’m so thankful for The Homemade Kitchen because it saves me so much time.

Not time in the kitchen mind you, it’s not full of minute-shaving tips. The Homemade Kitchen is saving me oodles of time in that now I don’t have to write a cookbook! WooHoo! Alana Chernila has said eveHomemade Kitchen book review on LaughingLemonPie.comrything I’d ever want to say, and about half the recipes are things I make on a regular basis and would put in my own cookbook. Except that now I don’t have to. What a relief! It’s all so beautifully done and with absolutely zero stress or effort on my part. 😉

The subtitle, “Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure,” is a five word manifesto for how Lacy and I aim to feel and eat. As with Chernila’s first book, The Homemade Kitchen is written in such a realistic and approachable way. The food photography is gorgeous, and the recipes are solid.

“How do I eat? Organicish. Locenough. Homemade when I can. Fresh. Good. Mine.” – Alana Chernila, The Homemade Kitchen

More than a cookbook, The HomeSwiss Chard Tacos with Fresh Cheese and a Fried Egg from The Homemade Kitchen on LaughingLemonPie.commade Kitchen opens with an invitation to “speak honestly about why we cook, and who we are.”

Alana, you had me at “honestly.”

She acknowledges that “all this [modern] focus on the redemptive power of home cooking can feel oppressive and judgmental,” and that in the same week we can both love and loathe the act of feeding our families: “Talk to me on a Saturday morning when I’m working at the farmer’s market, and I’ll convince you that a locally grown kohlrabi can change your life. Walk into my kitchen when the whole family is grumpy with hunger and I can’t figure out what’s for dinner, and I’ll pour you a glass of wine and admit that I, too, just hate making dinner. One perspective doesn’t negate the other.”

As for the homemade aspect of this book, that’s some powerful stuff as many of us know: “Small as the act might be, having the power to feed myself and my family makes me feel optimistic about my own resources to create what I want in life…I can choose, day by day, to pay attention to the small moments, to love the work of life, and ultimately, to love the days I get to live it…When I cook and eat in a way that reflects how I want to live, it means I have the opportunity three (or more!) times a day to make decisions that help me live that life.”

“You can create the life you want out of the small, ordinary moments of every day.” – Alana Chernila, The Homemade Kitchen

Stuffed Winter Squash from The Homemade Kitchen on LaughingLemonPie.comOut of this cookbook, I’ve made the Ginger Pumpkin Pie which uses maple syrup instead of a more refined sugar; the Tagliatelle with Fresh Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar was perfectly simple and delicious; the Swiss Chard Tacos with Fresh Cheese and a Fried Egg were a major revelation; and the Stuffed Winter Squash inspired my own mash up version which is now my best/favorite autumn recipe EVER!

“Homemade food is the opposite of perfection…Cooking at home is my window into what I want to create in life as a whole. I want to make it better, unique, delicious, stamped with my own love and work. It’s going to be imperfect, and I’m good with that.” – Alana Chernila, The Homemade Kitchen

The mindfulness that Chernila brings to cooking and making things homemade also extends to the act of eating, and the many ways we sabotage ourselves: When I “eat with the thought of some differently shaped me, the food tastes different than it does when I rest in the deliciousness of the meal, when my focus is on enjoying my food. In fact, I don’t taste it at all. Instead, I feel afraid of my food.”

“I think enjoyment might just be a nutrient in itself – in fact, it might be the most important one of all.” – Alana Chernila, The Homemade Kitchen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Homemade Kitchen also includes tips and tricks like the “Ten Bits & Scraps Worth Saving” which has great ideas for how to use things like citrus peels.

Her other book, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making is pretty cool too, if you’re so inclined.

This book was provided tBlogging_for_Books_Lockup_2o us free to review by Blogging for Books, a service of The Crown Publishing Group. Opinions are entirely my own.

January 25, 2016
by Lacy
3 Comments

Zen and the Art of Conscious Consumption

satsumasI’m in the process of trying to learn to be more mindful: about my eating, but also about my consumption in general.

And in the process, I’m redefining what it means, for me, to be a foodie.

I used to think being a foodie meant eating anything and everything. Trying everything. Going to every restaurant. Tasting every dish, every cocktail, every ingredient. It meant cooking the “right” recipes, eating at the right places, drinking the right locally distilled alcohol.

It was all about more.

My job as a restaurant critic encouraged this. Being the only person on the food “beat” for my magazine, I felt like I had to know everything, be everywhere. The restaurant scene in Boulder is so vibrant, I could barely keep up with the new restaurants, let alone visit all the old standards that longtime residents already knew. And forget Denver. It was all I could do to keep on top of what was happening in one town, let alone the entire metro area.

I continued feeling that pressure when I started this blog. I felt like I needed to be everywhere, know everything. I was the “expert” after all, the author.

It was exhausting. And a bit demoralizing for this perfectionist. I simply couldn’t know everything and be everywhere, so somehow that meant I had failed.

But as I work towards being more mindful with every bite, I’m coming to redefine my relationship to food and food culture. Perhaps I don’t want to be a foodie, with all the urgency and feigned mastery that implies.

Maybe I want to be a gourmand.

Slower. More elegant. It’s about savoring one thing rather than trying everything. It’s about taking deep, slow pleasure in a single bite of food, rather than worrying that this bite might not be as good as the one you did not order or cook.

I’m reading a new book called The Joy of Half a Cookie, and in it, the author talks about nurturing your inner gourmand as a path to mindfulness — and eventually better health.

And I love it.

I love the revelations I’m finding.

One blueberry tastes just as incredible as an entire mouthful. Maybe more so.

I can feel full after one delicious slice of pizza, and not crave more.

A few bites of cheesecake may be all I need to satisfy me, rather than downing the whole slice.

It’s not automatic yet. It’s not even at every meal yet. But I’m savoring these moments of clarity and success the way I might savor a perfect bite.

~*~

Shopping used to be a hobby for me. I’d go to the store and buy a shirt, a pair of pants, a dress, a pair of shoes. Even if I didn’t need them.

Now I’m trying to be more intentional about my purchases, my wardrobe. Fewer clothes, but better. I’m a little put out nowadays when a t-shirt only lasts one season. Or when I forget myself, buy something on a whim (or on sale) and realize after a few wearings that it doesn’t really bring me joy.

I’m finding the same is true of grocery shopping.

A full fridge used to make me feel rich.

Fill those shelves with beautiful ingredients — rich cream and cheese, beautiful jewel-toned vegetables, baskets of succulent berries, farm-fresh eggs. That, to me, was true riches.

Now I find I’m savoring the spaces in between. The shelves that aren’t crowded with boxes and jars. Actually being able to see what’s in there.

And I’m savoring the seasons. Rather than feeling dissatisfied with a strawberry in February, I’m embracing what comes naturally.

Right now it’s citrus.  From early season satsumas and mandarins (don’t offer me a “Cutie” in March), through to the gorgeous Cara Cara oranges and blood oranges, all the way to the juicy Rio red grapefruits I avidly await from Texas and the Meyer lemons with their incomparable smell.

I bought a pound or two of satsumas at Whole Foods this week with their leaves still attached, and I’ve been savoring every one. Their season only lasts a few weeks, and their flavor is possibly my favorite.  I eat them morning noon and night.

But in another week or two, they will be gone. And that’s ok. They might lose their preciousness if I could buy them in a big five-pound blue box any week of the year.

One final lesson I’m teaching myself, day after day: I don’t have to try to cling to any one thing, when the next amazing thing to savor is right around the corner.

Promotional consideration provided by Whole Foods Markets.

Peppermint Cupcakes with Natural Flavors on LaughingLemonPie.com

January 16, 2016
by Emily Klopstein
1 Comment

Nature’s Flavors & Peppermint Cupcakes Recipe

Over the holidays we had the opportunity to try 6 different organic flavor concentrates made by Nature’s Flavors: Vanilla, Pumpkin Spice, Cranberry, Gingerbread, Peppermint, and Eggnog. These are organic and all natural ingredients used primarily to recreate or amplify flavors in baking, ice cream, anNature's Flavors on LaughingLemonPie.comd/or coffee drinks.

Nature’s Flavors has 335 different organic flavor concentrates to choose from, as well as flavor powders and powdered and liquid all natural food colorings. Their flavor concentrates make it so easy to make the holidays taste special, naturally. How simple and delicious would it be to add liquid peppermint flavor to hot chocolate, a coffee drink, or even cheesecake? You could make your home baked goods say “Happy Holidays!” by adding eggnog or pumpkin flavor to whipped cream, coffee cake, or even pancake batter!

I’ve been using the Vanilla in all my baked goods for the past few months, and featured it especially when my daughter and I made and decorated Coconut Oil Sugar Cookies. I added the Pumpkin Spice to a pie, but that wasn’t really it’s best use. I’d recommend it as an addition to your favorite Pumpkin Scone recipe, and/or it would be great to experiment with making your own Pumpkin Spice coffee drinks at home. Even just adding a teaspoon of concentrate to a plain cookie or cake recipe would be such a simple way to make it festive. I haven’t gotten a chance yet to try the Cranberry flavor extract – but I’ve been thinking it would be the ideal way to amp up the flavor in something like a Cranberry Sweet Potato Quick Bread.

In December I made many attempts at Gingerbread Scones. I’m still looking for the “perfect” recipe – but a dash of Gingerbread Flavor Concentrate really helped enunciate that flavor in the recipes I tried. Eggnog Scones have also been popular around here this holiday season – and the Eggnog Flavor Concentrate was just the thing to drive that home. My recipe is very similar to this Cream Scone recipe, but I use eggnog in place of the cream and top with cinnamon sugar (YUM!!).

When my daughter smelled the Peppermint Flavor Concentrate she was smitten. Candy Canes are one of her favorite things and a rare treat for her each December. She smelled it and said – We should make a peppermint cake. Well, who can argue with that? Since peppermint + chocolate is one of my favorite December combinations I made sure that a chocolate peppermint ganache was part of the plan, and then we decided on cupcakes because…CUPCAKES!

So, for your holidayPeppermint Cupcakes with Natural Flavors on LaughingLemonPie.com baking pleasure, here’s our recipe for Peppermint Cupcakes with Chocolate Peppermint Ganache featuring Nature’s Flavors Organic Peppermint Concentrate.

Peppermint Cupcakes featuring Nature's Flavors

Ingredients

  • For the Peppermint Cupcakes:
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 cup Butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 cup Sour Cream
  • 2/3 cup Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Peppermint Flavor
  • For the Chocolate Peppermint Ganache:
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp - 1 Tbls milk
  • 2-3 drops peppermint flavor concentrate
  • crushed candycanes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Whisk to combine your dry ingredients in one small bowl (flour, baking powder, and salt).
  3. Measure the milk into a cup and add the peppermint flavor.
  4. In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light. Add the egg, and sour cream.
  5. With the mixer on low, alternately add the dry flour and wet milk to the bowl of butter et al.
  6. Once combined, pour the batter into buttered or sprayed muffin tins - DO NOT OVERFILL! These rise quite a bit.
  7. Bake 13-15 minutes.
  8. Cool and let rest in pan for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a rack to finish cooling.
  9. Once the cupcakes are cool, microwave the chocolate chips in a bowl for 10 second intervals, stirring between each. You are looking for the chocolate chips to melt together, but not be overcooked. Stir gently and be patient - the heat in the bowl and the other melted chips will encourage them all to melt.
  10. Add a splash of milk and a few drops of peppermint flavor and stir some more. The addition of cold milk may make your chocolate seize. It's OK! Stir it gently, again coaxing the heat from the bowl back into the chocolate. If that doesn't work, give it another few seconds in the microwave and stir it gently back to glossy.
  11. You can try dipping the cupcakes top-first into the ganache or use a spoon to spread some on each one. Top with crushed candy canes (this can be accomplished via food processor or good old aggression - you pick! A rolling pin will do the job, but may be overkill. A 1 cup dry measuring cup did the trick pretty well and makes it a lot easier for small helpers to assist).
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