Raw Teff Carrot Cake Bars   You know what they say about the third time being a charm? I think it’s true. And isn’t it usually the third wish in fairy tales that sets the story in dynamic motion? Often though, that magic is bestowed upon the heroine by the humblest looking creatures, ones we wouldn’t expect to hear talk, let alone have the power to make wishes come true.

Like fairy tale princes disguised as frogs, these bars fall into the category of Food That Tastes Way Better Than It Looks.  It’s necessary to get past any dismissive first impressions based on appearances. But I guarantee you, if you have a food dehydrator and a food processor and are willing to soak your grains for 4 hours, you are in for a treat.

These humble little bars are made with the world’s smallest grain: teff. Teff comes in a variety of colors, but up here our co-op carries brown teff, so that’s what I used. Teff is a gluten-free nutritional powerhouse. Among many other things, it’s extremely high in protein and calcium. If you’re unfamiliar with teff, here’s a fun Huffington Post article to introduce you to why some are calling it the new (but ancient) superfood. While I was not able to chomp on a whole carrot as I awaited my dental work, I decided to try something similar to the zucchini bread bars, but with carrots as the vegetable ingredient.  I thought the extra calcium and minerals in the teff might help my teeth. And if I whirred up my carrots in the food processor I could still eat them, even if I wasn’t chomping on whole ones for the time being. These bars are quite tasty even though I purposely made them a bit less sweet then the zucchini bread bars. But sadly, they aren’t much to look at, as you can see from these before dehydrator and after dehydrator photos. DSC03175 DSC03162   Humble in appearance though they may be, these are one of the delicious and extremely nutritious ways I treated myself to my carrots  until I could chomp on them whole again.

Since I made these earlier in the season while awaiting my fate at the dentist, i’m pleased to announce I have once again been able to do (a little) chomping on an actual raw carrot. I’m grateful my teeth and mouth  seem to be healing up fine from both the effects of what needed work and the work itself. Nevertheless, I’ll make these humble but magically sweet and spicy bars again. They are the healthiest carrot cake I will ever not bake. Maria (moonwatcher)

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Notes at the End of Summer

by moonwatcher on September 22, 2014

original plein air watercolor "Horses, Polk Extension," by Maria Theresa Maggi 2014

Out west, September is often a warm (hot), dry and (sadly) smoky month. The dry heat torches forest and field fires. Air quality can suffer. But it is also a time of end of season magic. The days do get noticably shorter, especially here up north, but oh, the slant of the evening light turns everything golden, or rose. Even on days when there isn’t a cloud in the sky, there’s something palpable about the air at sunset, as if it’s been spun and softly draped over the whole landscape. And even though it’s mostly hot, we’ve had our first hard frost. Tomato plants and squash droop here and there, but also there’s still gems of red, yellow and orange to be harvested. The last of the high summer veggies. Pears. Apples. Plums. And right next door to me, two kinds of grapes. There is such an overabundance, my neighbor assures me I am welcome to help myself any time I want.

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I’ve always wanted to grow grapes. I used to dream about seeing them all along the south fence of the star garden at the Asbury Street house. I tenderly nursed 3 cuttings given to me by my former neighbor Keith. They sprouted, but have not grown any grapes so far. Now I live next door to a mini-vineyard, and without doing a thing, I just fall out my front door and pick a bunch of grapes.

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This has been the summer of spelt bread. On the last day of summer I had 3 slightly different sourdough starters going, and a fresh loaf of bread cooling in the kitchen while Romeo and I walked to the Farmer’s  Market. I know what most of the plant-based doctors say about losing weight and eating flour products, but I have to say the making of my owl sourdough starter and bread with spelt, a grain that has not been hybridized like conventional wheat, feels nothing to me like eating wheat bread once did. Instead, I feel nourished, with no cravings. So as the waving hills of wheat on the Palouse fall to the combine, I celebrate my dumb luck to enjoy bread again that’s actually really good for me.

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A couple of weeks ago I had the best melon I ate all summer. Possibly the best melon I’ve ever eaten. It was worth waiting until September to taste it. An heirloom honeydew. A lovely orange on the inside. At first I was disappointed it wasn’t the pale green I love so much, but then I tasted it. I love when what I think will disappoint me instead transports me. And this melon did. It reminded me of Linda Gregg’s correlation between melons and happiness at the end of her poem “Gnostics on Trial.”  And perhaps, too, it was especially sweet because a friend offered to bring it home for me from the Farmer’s Market, since it was too heavy to carry along with everything else that was already in my backpack.

The last university student to help me with the Zen Chore of my firewood over at the Asbury Street house came to see me in my new place. Sam’s a world traveler and a local guy from just south of Moscow. His family’s farm supplies Whole Foods, among other giants, with lentils and garbanzos. Sam and I like to spar about farming practices and whether organic is better or not. (I tend to say it is, and he tends to say it isn’t always, but that makes for really interesting discussions.) His family’s large farming operation stops short of going organic, but uses good practices like no till and no GMOs, with no pesticides and judicious use of herbicides. This year they experimented with growing a thousand acres of quinoa. Imagine that. I like to, anyway. Quinoa that comes from the United States. If you’d like to dream on a national scale with Sam and me, here’s a half-minute video of the quinoa harvest out at RimRock Ranches. (Sam’s the one giving a thumb’s up at the end.)

And although they’re not organic, these pedrosillano garbanzo beans their farming cooperative grows are the absolute best tasting garbanzo beans I’ve ever cooked. They’re smaller than the others, so they don’t look as “good” dried as regular garbanzos, but like the Whole Foods article says, they nearly double in size after soaking and make the best tasting hummus you can imagine. These get sold to big companies that actually make hummus on a large scale, but lucky for me they’re on sale at the Co-op too. I’ve never cooked a dried bean that tastes so fresh. Sam’s family’s farm and others are part of Pacific Northwest Farmer’s Cooperative, so if you see that label on bulk beans at Whole Foods, you’ll know they are coming from my neck of the woods. The PNW farmers have nicknamed them “Billy Beans” after the CEO of the cooperative. To get an idea of the scale they are growing these on, here’s another short video from Rimrock Ranches of the garbanzo harvest.

Although Sam and I don’t always agree on what farming methods we think are best for the world’s future, I treasure my conversations with him about it, and have learned to watch the weather and the sky and think of what it means in terms of timing the harvest. I also like to watch Sam examine my jars of grains and legumes and ask me where they come from. He’s fascinated by amaranth and says he wants to ask his Dad about trying to grow that, too.

Last but certainly not least, September is the month of  the Palouse Plein Air painting event. At a time of literal harvest, plein air painting is food for my soul. I never seem to settle on the traditional subjects or styles like most of the artists who participate do, but I love the challenge of painting an entire painting outside from what I see. And for me, it’s also about how what I see makes me feel. The watercolor sketch at the top of this post of horses feeding in a field at evening is testament to one of those sublime experiences.

About a half mile from my new house is a farm which was there long before all the houses sprung up around it. I love to walk by the open field next to Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute in the morning or evening and see the horses gently grazing. In evening especially, the slant of the falling sun casts them in lovely, rich tones. And sometimes a horse or two will look up and wonder at what Romeo and I are doing there, staring, me as dumbly happy they are there as I’ve ever been about anything. The evening I painted this loose  rendering, their owner came out to check on them as I was packing up my watercolors. I went over to the fence and introduced myself and thanked her for her beautiful horses. I showed her the painting and her face lit up. “That’s nice,” she said. “Do you do art walk?” And then we talked about how they all have different personalities, even the ones who are sisters: one of them likes a blanket at night even this early in the season, but her sister doesn’t.

I walked home on the gilded air, as if my feet no longer needed to touch the ground, so grateful for  the chance to feel the horses through the painting, along with the way the hillside behind them was drenched in deepening shadow. Only later would it come back to me that when I was too little to say much about it in words other than “horsie,” my mother would take me down to a very similar place just beyond the tract house I grew up in, where only blocks away there was still farmland and grazing horses and cows. The horses drew me to paint them because somewhere deep in my memory is a love of seeing them gently grazing in a field that came early and never left me, blooming all over again in my little watercolor. I’m happy to say it’s framed and hanging in the Plein Air Show at the Third Street Gallery here in town.

Some people complained about it being too smoky to get out during  Palouse Plein Air. But it was only really smoky the last couple of days. If you got started at the beginning like I did, there were plenty of clear, warm days, plenty of time to enter into the magic of feeling what I see, and painting from that feeling. For that alone, September is a golden month, even if it is a bit hot and smoky. Back in northern California when I was growing up, my Dad would call the relentless succession of hot and empty blue (or smoky) skies and soaring temperatures “state fair weather.” Perhaps we need the heat so all the life on display that’s worked so hard to grow can shine its ripeness in this harshest of lights. The days grow short, and before long the cold weather will set in, and we’ll be dreaming once again about starting over. But for now, everything is ripe on the vine, and in the heart. All of it, and us, made stronger by the first hard frost creeping in at night between the hot days. September, you are a month of extremes. Thank you for giving Summer another dramatic curtain call.

Maria (moonwatcher)

 

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Happy Tooth Visualization (and Piled High McDougall Style Hash Browns)

September 11, 2014

I interrupt my food dehydrator love fest to bring you a report from my dental odyssey. Instead of the gorey details or the latest scientific debate on what the best procedures are, I’d like to share something that came to me almost a month ago, as I was walking with Romeo and mulling over the […]

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Food Dehydrator Love, Part 2: Bacon Style Eggplant Chips

September 4, 2014

I’ve always been somewhat taken with the general project of vegan transformations of standard American favorites. It’s just plain fun to make chips out of kale, mayonnaise out of tofu, or, if you’re ingenious like Susan is, chocolate cake with beets.  I rarely want to actually make these things (too lazy), but I love seeing […]

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Food Dehydrator Love, Part 1: Slow Miracle Raw Low Fat Zucchini Bread Bars

August 27, 2014

One summer many years ago on Asbury Street when Mike was a teenager, I opened my front door to a couple of college students who introduced themselves as my neighbors from across the street. Two English majors: Peter and his girlfriend Jennifer. In fact they and their roommates were the first to call the yellow […]

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Happiness Challenge

August 22, 2014

I had a very difficult week. At a visit to the dentist I thought was a conscientious inquiry about a sensitive tooth, I discovered I need much more extensive work than I would ever have dreamed. I won’t be discussing the gory details here or in the comments, but suffice it to say that I’ve […]

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Instant Vegan Carob Banana Ginger Dipping Sauce (or Pudding)

August 18, 2014

I’ve never had any hesitation that moving to the little house on Van Buren Street was anything but the absolutely right thing for me to do. I just knew it from the very beginning. But if you’d asked me why I’d have a hard time telling you. I could have said “time for a change.” […]

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White Bean and Basil Spread (and The Return of the Sandwich!)

August 13, 2014

Feeling at home on the electric range was just the beginning of what seems likely to become a chain of surprises revealing themselves in my new home. This latest story of surprise and enlightenment has roots that go all the way back to when I was first diagnosed with MS in 1996. One of the […]

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Cucumber Water: Poetry in a Jar

August 9, 2014

Last July I was scurrying around my old kitchen to create sugar free low fat whole food treats for the guests that would arrive when I hosted poetry night at the Asbury Street house. But this July poetry night was literally a walk in the park. It was being hosted quite a ways farther south […]

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Tasty Thai Style Hummus

August 6, 2014

  When it comes to a vegan staple, hummus is right up there at the top of the list–it’s healthy, can be made low fat or fat-free, travels well, and can be spread in a sandwich, a pita, or used as a dip. The usual treatments with garlic and lemon, or the addition of roasted […]

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