Snacks, Sweets

Raw Granola Bars // Surviving February

Friends,

February.  It’s almost over. You’ve almost made it.  The month from H-E-double hockey sticks, with it’s bitter cold and blanket of mute, gray clouds will be a distant memory.  Next month, the hope of Spring is on the horizon.  Although for those of us who are northerners, this hope is still pretty bleak.  But there is hope nevertheless.

Unlike most Februarys, for me, this has been a very good month.  I’ve had lots of time off, time alone with my honey and some upcoming visits from friends and family.  I have made it outside for a walk everyday and I have been dramatically cutting down my sugar intake (mostly on accident but very much in my favor).

So, how are you going to make through the next 2 days of this wretched month?

Tip #3:
Sing.  Yep, you read that right.  Not just singing under your breath or humming a song that is stuck in your head.  I am talking about full on, lung bursting, belting.  Get in your car or wait until you’re home alone, crank up the stereo to some of your favorite singable tunes, and sing your freakin’ heart out.  And hand motions are mandatory.  Journey anyone?

I’m sorry if that’s weird for you.  But it works.  If you feel sad, just try it.  Singing is like crying or yelling.  It blows off some steam and connects your body to your emotions but in a fun and constructive way.  If singing isn’t your thing, substitute with dancing.  Or just have a dance party.  Win, win.

Recipe #3:
These mouth watering little morsels (far better than any granola bar I’ve ever purchased from the store) will make you feel good because they’re so tasty but also because they are packed full of foods that will give you energy and a balanced mood. Bonus: they are ridiculously easy to make.  The easiest recipe I have every posted on this blog.

So here’s the plan.  Throw a party.  Make these bars.  Add karaoke.  Add mix of epic dance anthems. Watch season 3 of “House of Cards”.

And that’s how you end February with a bang, folks.

Lavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping Willow

Lavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping WillowLavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping WillowLavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping WillowLavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping WillowLavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping Willow

Lavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate
Makes 24 bars

Ingredients//
2 cups pitted dates
1 cup pumpkin seeds + a small handful to press on top
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup unsweetened, flaked coconut
1/2 cup hemp hearts
3 tsp dried lavender buds
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1 bar dark chocolate, optional (70% cacao or more)

Method//
1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except for reserved pumpkin seeds and chocolate.  Pulse until you get an even meal that will easily clump into a ball when you squeeze it in your hand.
2. Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with wax or parchment paper.  Put granola mix into pan and press firmly down into the pan to make a nice even layer.  Sprinkle reserved pumpkin seeds evenly over the top.  Press in lightly just so they stick.  Refrigerate 1 hour.
3. Once your bars are chilled, lift bars out of the pan with the paper.  Cut into desired size bars.  Break chocolate into smallish pieces and melt over a double boiler.  Drizzle melted chocolate over bars.  Sprinkle with extra lavender buds.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long) or the freezer for a frozen treat.

Note:  To make this raw, make sure you buy raw nuts.  If you are paleo or avoiding sugar, find some chocolate that is suitable for your diet or throw in some cocoa nibs into your granola mix.  Because lavender tastes so much better with chocolate.  You can find lavender buds at your health food store, at an herbalist or for very cheap online.

xoxo

Lavender and Cardamom Raw Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle // Keeping Willow

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Dating Jazz

Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood

It was 2007, early fall/late summer, and the evening was a quintessential summer night.  A gorgeous sunset, warm breeze and the sweet scent of dusk and soon-to-settle dew.  We didn’t know it was our first date because, you know, we were “just hanging out”.  My relationship with Jazz– my then date/now husband– has been very centralized around coffee experiences.  Four Friends was the “good” coffee shop in town at the time, and if you were anybody, that’s where you hung out.  We sat outside overlooking Rosa Parks Circle, a kind of park/community space/outdoor venue, smack dab in the center of downtown Grand Rapids.  Jazz was wearing the same dirty t-shirt he wore everyday, along with the same dirty pants he wore everyday, adorned by a newly sewn patch.  His mid-length, blond dreadlocks along with a faint waft of body odor was blowing in the wind (so dreamy).  We sat and talked for hours.  When we had finished, we stood up and he grabbed my hand.  Panic set in.  Not because I was repulsed by the romantic gesture but because I was so frickin’ excited.  I liked him.  Jazz was not like other guys.  (sorry if you feel the need to barf)

Fast forward to the present.  Eight years have passed. We’re married, live in another country and have, in my humble opinion, a pretty great 2-year-old daughter.  That coffee shop I told you about, Four Friends, it doesn’t exist anymore.  Much like our dating life at the present.  The sad, honest truth about having a young child, when you don’t have a serious network of friends and family to relieve you of your parenting duties from time to time, or can’t afford a sitter until after you pay off your student loans in 45 years, is that you spend a lot of time not on dates.

We were sitting on the couch, Jazz was reading some weird science fiction novel, I was reading “A Game of Thrones”, duh, and we hadn’t talked much all evening (p.s. aren’t we total dweebs?).  As a matter of fact, we had been rather short with each other for a couple days now.  And while I was trying to read my book, I was really thinking about how badly I just wanted to go get a slice of pizza alone with this guy across the couch and pick his brain for a couple hours (well, really anything that had a proportionate ratio of carbs to dairy).  So I put down my book and asked, “what if we start intentionally dating again?”  Knowing our current circumstances, Jazz looked a little confused. So I explained further.  My idea was this: What if we started thinking about dating as something other than just getting out of the house but more about creating a time and space that is focused on our enjoyment and interaction.  What if rather than letting our circumstances happen to us we adapted our dating life around our current circumstances? For instance, what if once a week we each take turns planning a date night in?  An activity, a game, a cocktail, a … number or endless possibilities.  We started talking about making some subtle changes that would allow the space for us to willfully enjoy each other’s company.

So we’re going to try.  And we want to share what worked, what didn’t, some really awesome meal ideas, cocktail recipes and fun stuff to do when you’re stuck at home on a Saturday night, in the hopes that it will be helpful to others who need a good “date night in” idea, or really just want to try a new twist on a Sazerac.

To kick off this little escapade, this past weekend my parents took Willow for 3 nights.  THREE WHOLE NIGHTS.  So we had like a serious date weekend.  We deserved it after having only one date in the past 6 months.  And in the spirit of what works and what doesn’t, weekends with the grandparents most definitely works.

We went to a crazy, hipster, indoor, music festival that we waited in below zero temperatures to attend.  We visited numerous coffee shops, a really awesome brewery, and an art exhibit.  We went out for drinks with friends and then slept in until the sun kissed our eye lids.  It was sheer bliss.

And yet, my favorite part of our weekend, even in light of all the fun things we did, was the same thing we did on our very first date at Four Friends, having a three hour, uninterrupted conversation about nothing particularly important in the car after we dropped off Willow with my parents.  It was refreshing.  I would have driven all that way simply for that.

There are a lot things I had to un-learn about parenting when I became a mother and one of them is that having children ruins your romantic life. Parenting didn’t kill Jazz’s and my romantic relationship.  Not at all, we are still very much in love, even more so in fact, and have all kinds of fun the majority of the time.  It’s just that our life has changed and so I guess dating has to change too.  I think the trouble a lot of people who are parents get into has to do with not changing, just expecting things to go on as they did before they were parents (that and the fact that all humans have issues and baggage and honestly need to spend some QT with a therapist on a regular basis, myself included).  But it just can’t.  Not at least until your little baby can drive and that’s way too long to wait.  I don’t know, maybe you can wait and see if it will all flop, but I’m hoping you’ll eat nachos and drink martinis with us instead.

Here’s a figurative toast to love and dating in the swell of parenting.  May you always remember, that once the baby is in bed, given a little imagination, the living room can be anywhere you want it to be.

xoxo

Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping Willow Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping WillowDating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping WillowDating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping WillowDating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping WillowDating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping WillowDating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping Willowphoto 2 (5)Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping Willowphoto 3 (3)Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping Willowphoto 1 (5)Dating Jazz // love and relationships in the midst of parenthood | Keeping Willow

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Health, Snacks

Surviving February // Mood Boosting Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

The grey, dark days of winter are starting to grow longer.  The frigid cold seems like it will never come to an end, your skin may be dry and itchy, and the yearning for summer grows ever stronger with each passing day.   For many people, these symptoms of the deep winter of February brings a sweep of uncontrollable sadness.  Last week my tip for surviving February was to force yourself to go outside everyday.  I believe this winter has been bearable for me simply because of the fact that I spend much of my day walking outside just to get around.  While getting out and about has been easy for me, putting good food into my body has not always been so easy.  Often times when we need comfort we seek some of our favorite foods and, let’s face it, most of us don’t consider broccoli to be our favorite food. But the reality is, the food we eat greatly affects our mood.  So theis weeks tip will address this issue.

Tip 2:
Avoid sugar!  Few things will impact your mood in a negative way, with the exception of alcohol, as much as sugar will.  And yet, isn’t that one of the first places we turn when we’re sad.  I have a vivid memory of a rather brutal breakup where the first thing I did to ease my pain was to buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.  Chubby Hubby to be precise.  I did a little research, and the consumption of large amounts of sugar causes inflammation of the brain which is linked to depression.  If you’re in the mood for something sweet, opt for honey instead (especially raw honey), which actually enhances mood and collects the cancer causing free radicals that cane sugar releases into the body.

Recipe 2:
In conjunction with the tip for this week, through further research, I have created a recipe full of ingredients known to enhance mood but also gives you a little sweet fix: salted chocolate dipped coconut macaroons.  These sweet and savory cookies are delicious, healthy, and pleasing to the eye.  They will give you that sweet fix without a raging sugar crash.  Oh, and they are super easy to make.  I hope you love them.

Mood Boosting Salted Chocolate Dipped  Coconut Macaroons | Surviving February // Keeping WillowMood Boosting Salted Chocolate Dipped  Coconut Macaroons | Surviving February // Keeping WillowMood Boosting Salted Chocolate Dipped  Coconut Macaroons | Surviving February // Keeping WillowMood Boosting Salted Chocolate Dipped  Coconut Macaroons | Surviving February // Keeping WillowMood Boosting Salted Chocolate Dipped  Coconut Macaroons | Surviving February // Keeping Willow

Salted Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
makes 16 cookies

Ingredients//
2 1/2 cups unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups canned, full-fat coconut milk
2 eggs, divided
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
1 organic, very dark, chocolate bar
sea salt

Method//
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Combine shredded coconut, coconut milk, egg yolks, vanilla and honey.
2. Beat egg whites until they reach medium, stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into coconut mixture. If the mixture is very runny, add a little more coconut.
3. Onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan, spoon 1 tablespoon of macaroon batter spaced 2 inches apart.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until macaroons are slightly caramelized.  Allow to cool on a wire rack.
4. Once the cookies have cooled, chop chocolate bar into fine pieces.  Over a double boiler, melt chocolate.  Dip each cookie into the chocolate and place on wax paper, chocolate up.  Sprinkle with a small amount of sea salt.  Allow chocolate to set.  Eat and maybe share.

xoxo

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Dinner

Indian Tofu Curry with Roasted Eggplant

Happy Wednesday folks! Just a few more days until one of the most celebrated days of the year.  Friday the 13th! (this is funny– cuz I hate Valentine’s Day …ahem). But seriously, I am very much looking forward to this particular Friday the 13th because little Willow is getting shipped off to spend some QT with her grandparents– FOR THREE DAYS!!!!! And let me tell you what we’re going to do now that we’re going to have a bedroom all to ourselves for 3 whole nights.

Sleep in!

And then we’ll eat left overs from this amazing curry dish and start watching a new TV series that will consume our lives for another month.  No really, we have some amazing things planned.  We’ll keep you updated on how the weekend goes.  Well, most of it ;).

Now onto curry.

Have you ever watched “The Mind of a Chef“?  It is a show created by PBS and produced and narrated by Anthony Bourdain that focuses on the work and inspiration of a single chef for an entire season.  Not just any chef.  The cutting edge, leading the way kind of chefs of America. First of all, if you are even remotely interested in food you must watch this show.  Second of all, isn’t public broadcasting the best?  Third of all, when I watch that show I come to life.  It’s actually kind of bizarre.  I watch this show and afterwards I feel like I am floating on air.  Something about experimenting with textures, colors and flavors of food that was so lovingly grown in the ground and cultivated at the perfect moment is almost a spiritual experience for me.  It invigorates something very deep inside of me and all I want to do is create and share.  If only I didn’t hate the environment of the commercial kitchen so much… This is part of the reason I am constantly sharing recipes on Keeping Willow.  It is an aspect of life that I am very passionate about, sharing beautiful food with people I love.

Most of these recipes are born out of love.  They are things that I make at home for my family.  I experiment with some things and share what I think is really delicious.   This curry recipe is one of those dishes.  It is some serious comfort food, but not in the super rich and heavy way that mac and cheese and chocolate cake are comfort foods.  This dish is loaded with flavor from the fresh ingredients and fragrant spices but it is creamy and satisfying.  The crispy tofu gives that decadence that helps this dish cross the threshold into a filling weekend feast.  I served it with some quinoa, full-fat greek yogurt and fresh cilantro sprigs.

Jazz doesn’t really like eggplant for it’s tendency to sometimes be a little chewy, so I roasted it in the oven to give it a softer texture but also to add some caramelized flavor.  Also, to add some crispiness to the tofu, I tossed it in a little cornstarch and shallow pan fried it in some pure olive oil, dusting it with a light dose of sea salt (for you gluten free people, this corn starch trick is a keeper when it comes to breading things).  Overall, this dish is warm, fragrant, bright, creamy and rich.  I hope you try it.  And then try it again the next day.  Curry leftovers are always the best.

Give it a try and leave a comment letting me know what you think.  Do you guys have any plans for V-Day (the Vagina Monologues anyone)?  Friday the 13th? Which ever it is, make sure you find some time to be with people you love.

xoxo

Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping WillowIndian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping WillowIndian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping WillowIndian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping WillowIndian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping WillowIndian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping WillowIndian Roasted Eggplant and Tofu Curry // Keeping Willow

 

Indian Tofu Curry with Roasted Eggplant
serves 4-6 people

Ingredients//
1 medium eggplant, cut into this slices
1/2 green bell pepper, julienned
1 small onion, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry powder
2 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp sugar
2/3 cup half and half
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For tofu|
1 package firm tofu cut into large pieces
1 cup corn starch
pure olive oil or other mild oil for frying

For garnishment|
cilantro
full fat, plain greek yogurt
rice or quinoa

Method//
1. Preheat your oven to 350° F while you prep your veg.  Toss eggplant slices with 1 tbsp olive oil and some sea salt on a baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, flip and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, sauté your onion and bell pepper on medium high heat (in a larger skillet or sauté pan) until just starting to soften.  Add your garlic and spices and cook for one minute.  Pour in your diced tomatoes and sugar and bring up to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
3.  While the curry is simmering, start your rice/quinoa and fry your tofu.  Put your cornstarch into a medium size bowl.  Heat a medium size sauté pan on medium-high heat and add a half inch of oil. The oil is ready when you flick a little corn starch in and it bubbles immediately.  Once the oil is ready, toss 1/3 or your tofu in the cornstarch (this should be done in batches).  Don’t coat it ahead of time or you’ll end up with a messy 5th grade science experiment.  Crisp all sides of your tofu, take out and place on a cooling rack above a sheet pan, and season with salt immediately.
4. Once the eggplant is cooked and slightly golden, toss it with your curry.  Add your tofu immediately before serving to retain some crispiness.  Garnish as you please.  Enjoy!

 

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Adventures

Solitude

Solitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping WillowSolitude // Keeping Willow

100% of my day is spent with other people.  I am an introvert my friends.  Do you understand what that means? It means that if I can’t find space to be alone to process my thoughts, I feel cramped.  Creativity falls through my fingers like sand.  So I found some space.  A winter walk.

I have always hated winter.  I hated being cold.  I hated snow.  Then I met this great guy named Jazz (he is so great, I married him) who loves the winter.  I couldn’t understand it, but the more time I have spent with Jazz the more I understand.

Going outside and raising your heart beat, forcing your blood to warm your entire body, while a cold breeze brushes against your skin is an amazing feeling in the winter months.  Allowing any UV rays that make it through the clouds to nourish your body with vitamin D makes your mood more even, more joyous.  Experiencing still moments of soft snow flakes, after miles of travel, humming down onto the earth or hearing a gentle wind blow in off the lake brings a different kind of peace and quiet than the summer ever could.

I have found that what is true for the winter is often true for the difficult feelings in our lives. If you don’t get out and face the cold, face the pain in our lives, you start to decay a little.

I am not afraid to face the cold of winter or of my heart.  Are you?

xoxo

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