Category Archives: 24 Before 25

Clean Eating. But First, Banana Bread.

If you remember, dear readers, one thing on my 24 Before 25 list was to go a whole month without eating high fructose corn syrup. In the past month or so I’ve tried – and failed – about three times to do this.  Actually, I wasn’t really failing at not eating high fructose corn syrup – that turned out to be pretty easy.  What I was failing at was not eating something overly processed that technically didn’t contain HFCS (maybe just corn syrup) that then led me to feel like I was eating gross processed crap anyway and turn to more junky foods with the resolution that I would eat clean again starting tomorrow.  I’d get about a week again and then cave again.

The problem was, even though I was technically following my rule, I knew the real goal of the rule was to eat less processed food in general.  So even though my list item is still to go a month without eating HFCS, what I’m really going to do is a month – hopefully more – of clean eating.

There are a lot of ideas of good or clean eating out there.  No dairy!  No gluten!  Everything raw!  So what are my rules for clean eating?

What I will be cutting out:

  • HFCS
  • Chemicals I can’t pronounce or identify on a store shelf (i.e. those crazy stabilizers, flavorings and preservatives in packaged food)
  • Most refined sugar, with the occasional exception for things I bake myself
  • As much white flour and refined carbs as possible

What I won’t be cutting out:

  • Dairy (I rarely eat it anyway, but I like yogurt for breakfast sometimes)
  • Alcohol (but I’ll only drink my usual quality craft beer and whiskey)
  • Caffeine (green tea is totally good for you!)
  • Gluten
  • Fruit (yes, some extreme diets think fruit has to much sugar)

Basically I’m not going crazy orthorexic (orthorexic – obsession with right eating) fad diet here and cutting out whole food groups, I’m just sticking to a faith that anything whole and natural is good for you and anything packaged and processed is not.  Tomorrow will be the day I start, and I’ll go through the end of February – that’ll make a whole month.  Are you in?

But that’s tomorrow, and today, today there’s banana bread.  Not that banana bread necessarily breaks any clean eating rules – especially not my banana bread! My banana bread, which was sort of inspired by this recipe from Joy the Baker and this recipe from Allrecipes, is full of good things like millet and yogurt and fruit and had minimal bad things like sugar and oil.  Okay, so there is flour.  But it’s bread.  Duh.

Millet Banana Bread

  • 2 cups flour (try half whole wheat!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large overripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup millet

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a 9×5 loaf pan.  In a medium bowl, blend your flour, soda, salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.

In a larger bowl, mash your three bananas until mostly smooth – it’s okay if there are a few chunks.  Or, if you’re like me and you froze a super-ripe banana just for this purpose, simply mush up the slimy mess you will find inside.  Seriously, it’s disgusting.  I actually had to call my mom to ask her if it was normal for the frozen banana to turn into a brown, smushy tube – I remember her doing this when I was a kid, and she assured me it was.  This is what the banana looked like out of the freezer:

And this is what it looked like when I opened it.  It stayed in one gelatinous piece, and I just shook it out of its skin into the bowl.

The rest of the bananas I just chopped and rough mashed with a fork.  When that’s done, stir in your oil and yogurt.

Add the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla, and beat with a hand mixer on low for a few seconds, just until everything is blended.  Again, it’s okay if it’s a little lumpy.  No big.  More banana goodness.

Next, stir in your dry ingredients until they are just incorporated.  Add the millet and stir in until it’s evenly distributed, then put it in your prepared pan and make sure the batter is spread to the corners.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top starts to look toasty and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  I know this doesn’t sound like long enough for banana bread, and I was just as surprised when I checked the oven after 40 minutes and the top was beginning to brown.  But hey, it works.  That’s what happens when you make up recipes: you have to adjust when things come up.  And it will come up, into a dome of crunchy banana goodness.  The millet is a great textural component, but walnuts would also be good here.  You know I’m going to tell you to play around with it yourself.  Whoever said baking is an exact science was lying!

So, banana bread for dinner tonight, clean healthy eating starting tomorrow.  The hardest part will be going to work on Monday and not snacking on all the chips and treats we have in the classroom.  But I have faith.  It is on the list, after all, I have to do it!

Speaking of the list, I’ve been making a little progress.  I already told you I watched a football game, and I’ve also started (really) volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding center.  I’m looking into swing lessons, researching the stock market, and I’ve signed up for a program that matches international pen pals.  I also started taking capoeira lessons, which is an awesome Brazilian dance-martial arts thing that I LOVE.  I know it wasn’t a list item, but I’d been wanting to go to an intro class in Denver for a long time now, and in the spirit of the list and trying new things I finally went.  Now I can’t stop.  Of course I’ll have to wait till my body stops being so sore after every class before I can start swing dancing and rock climbing.  But I’m so glad I faced my fear of the unknown, and my fear of failure, and went for it.

You know what they say: you should do at least one thing every day that scares you!


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*Enter Pithy Title Here*

I have an idea.  I mean I have lots of ideas, but I have an idea I want to share with you for the blog.  I’ve been really slacking on meditating lately, even though I do occasionally ruminate on meditative principles or read lessons.  But as for the real deal, slow-it-all-down, focus on the present meditation meditation, I haven’t been doing as much as I should.  So, to help guide me in this – and everywhere else, for that matter – I’ve decided that one day a week I’m going to pick a quote, concept or lesson to meditate on formally, and to keep in mind informally for the week.  I want it to be things that will inspire, improve and teach, and maybe sometimes just things that are worth thinking about.  The sure-to-be-clever title will come when I’ve decided on a set day for this, but for now I’m keeping it loose.

And therefore, on this Saturday, the fourteenth of January, my first quote for the week shall be:

“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

                                             -Jiddu Krishnamurti, Indian thinker and philosopher

I’ve liked this quote for quite sometime, but it’s been speaking to me especially loudly in the past few days.  I watched a Food Network special on food waste (nothing new to me, after seeing I Love Trash and Dive!, both about dumpster diving and food waste), which was a poignant reminder of not only how much we waste in our present industrial food system, but also a reminder of how absolutely terrified we all seem to be of the world around us.  Bruised fruit?  Irregular eggs?  Fallen corn stalks?  No! When did we become so afraid of everything outside our crisp, clean, perfect expectations (silly question…we’ve always been afraid.  But still.)?

I was also flipping through the latest issue of Glamour magazine to arrive at my door, courtesy of a long-standing Christmas gift from my grandmother.  As I was reading what used to be a fun, if not mindless, indulgence, all I could think was, I don’t CARE about the four latest ways to style my hair, or which nail polish men like most.  All of a sudden the words on the page seemed so painfully empty that it wasn’t even mindless entertainment anymore, it was jut garbage (sorry, Grandma). Don’t peddle your wares and insecurities to me, America.

Of course I’ve always known that neither of these things were really indicators of a fully healthy society, but lately it’s become harder and harder to live with them.  Same goes for my mother’s attitudes about tattoos (I’m going to have gross wrinkly skin anyway in 60 years, who cares if there’s ink on it?  It’s only a body!) and a lot of my own views on money (security is a fleeting illusion at best).  So this week I’m going to make a more conscious effort to see the things in my life that are indicative of a sick society and make a conscious effort to change them, either in practice or mindset.  I feel better already.


P.S. Weekly meditation is on The List, which I’m clearly still working on.  However, I did go to my first volunteer training today at The Right Step therapeutic riding program, and man oh man did it feel good.  It felt like coming home.  It’s so clearly something I love to do, something that feeds my soul – why did I stay away so long??

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Apple Sharlotka and the List

I haven’t been baking in a while, I know.  I don’t know why…probably because I was eating my way through the gingersnaps I got for Christmas and couldn’t fathom any use for more baked goods.  But of course the gingersnaps are exhausted (if I’m honest, they have been for some time) and I’m back in the kitchen.

As soon as I saw this recipe for Russian apple sharlotka on Smitten Kitchen I was…well…smitten.  It’s kind of a cake that tastes like kind of a pie that’s really kind of like just eating fruit.  Aside from lots of apples, there’s not a whole lot more to this pastry…which means you can totally count this as a healthy fruit snack and not a dessert at all.  Win!

Apple Sharlotka (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 5 large apples (I like sweet and tart – I did 3 granny smith and 2 gala)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • powder sugar, for dusting
  • butter, for the pan

Let’s get one thing straight: my sharlotka does not look nearly as good as Smitten Kitchen’s.  That’s probably because I don’t have a 9-inch springform pan, like she uses, and I didn’t butter and paper my dish like she recommends.  Instead, I used a 9-inch glass pie dish, which I thoroughly buttered.  Even though the cake wouldn’t extract itself from the dish in one nice piece, it was plenty easy to cut slices from.  So…make due.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and butter (and maybe paper or flour, as well) whatever 9-inch-ish pan you’re using.

Peel your apples, cut into quarters and slice the core from each piece.  Then cut your quarters in half again and chop into quarter-inch slices.  (There’s a pear in the picture because I thought this might be really good with half pears, spiced up with autumn flavors.  However, five apples proved plenty to fill my pie dish and I didn’t use the pear after all…but you could!)

Put apple slices in a bowl and toss with the juice of a half a lemon, or a little more if you like, or a little zest if that what catches your fancy.  Then put the apples directly in your buttered pan or baking dish.

Next, whisk the eggs and sugar together until well combined, then whisk in the vanilla.  Add the flour and cinnamon and stir until just combined.  The batter will be very thick!  Pour it over the dish of apples and spread with a spoon or spatula to make sure it gets between all the cracks.

You might need to lightly shuffle the top layer of apples to make sure the batter gets to the bottom pretty evenly.  I just kind of poked around with a butter knife and checked under the dish (the perk of using a glass pan!) to make sure it looked satisfactory.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let it cool for ten minutes, then, if you can, flip it out onto a cooling rack.  If you can’t, keep it in the dish, dust with powdered sugar and enjoy!  It’s basically health food, right?

In other news, I already crossed something off my 24 Before 25 list!  Are you ready?  Drumroll please…I watched a whole football game!  Ta da!  I know that doesn’t sound impressive, but it was on my list because it’s something I’d normally NEVER do.  But my lovely boyfriend drew out diagrams and taught me the basic rules, and we watched our Denver Broncos crush the Steelers in a wildcard game tonight (I already sound like I actually know what I’m talking about, right?  I don’t, really).  There was even overtime…so I was committed to sticking to my list.

So…do I like football now?  Heck no!  But I have a better appreciation of the skill required to play the game, and I guess I sort of understand why people like it (I, after all, love baseball – and lots of people think that’s uber-boring).  The real lesson was that I really, really shouldn’t dismiss anything outright, and in a roundabout way it reinforced my belief that understanding is the key to compassion.  Of course I don’t really feel compassion toward the sport, but now that I understand it a little I can almost sort of kind of maybe appreciate it.  A little.

So there it is.  One down, 23 to go.  Next up I think is snowshoeing, reading a book in French (I bought a copy of Balzac’s Pere Goirot) and volunteering (at The Right Step, a therapeutic horseback riding center).  Really I’m excited to do everything.  Stay tuned!

P.S. This apple sharlotka totally doesn’t count as baking pie, either.  I wouldn’t cheat like that!

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24 Before 25

Before you say anything: yes, I know it’s trendy.  No, I don’t care.

It seems like every blogger and her mom is doing a ___ before ___ list, a list of goals you want to accomplish before your next birthday.  But you know what?  It’s a great idea.  Bucket lists give you too much time to slack off.  Resolutions never last past a month.  But these lists give you specific things to accomplish within a specific period of time – and who wants to celebrate their next birthday knowing they didn’t complete their list?  Now that’s motivation.

For me, I have a good chunk of time to complete my list; my birthday is July 3, so I have about seven months.  It seems like too long, but at the rate I’m going, I might need it.  I made the goals big though, so I need to start now!  So, in no particular order:

24 Before 25

  1. Try rock climbing (indoor or out)
  2. Take swing/Lindy Hop lessons
  3. Finish Gravity’s Rainbow and House of Leaves (both started!)
  4. Meditate at least once a week (starting NOW)
  5. Paint a (finished) picture
  6. Become proficient in sign language
  7. Make a pie
  8. Sew an article of clothing
  9. Try an outdoor winter sport (this is the only one I’m not looking forward to)
  10. Be able to stand up on a slackline
  11. Learn the rules of football and watch a whole game
  12. Write letters of thanks or appreciation to a dozen people
  13. Volunteer (anywhere!)
  14. Go a month without eating high fructose corn syrup
  15. Get a business license
  16. Visit one of the following: Salvation Mountain, Portland, and/or Yellowstone
  17. Read a book in French
  18. Write to a pen pal in another country
  19. Take photos with the Minolta
  20. Learn to knit
  21. Model for an art class or project
  22. Buy stock
  23. Learn Spanish
  24. Celebrate an unfamiliar holiday

So…I think it’s a good list.  I like it.  I’m excited.  Let’s go!

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