Tuesday, January 22, 2013

20 things : pudding

1. I made the special pudding again yesterday. Added more seeds so it took less time to set up.
2. 2c milk plus 7-8 tbsp seeds yields quite a satisfying goop.
3. I redid the chocolate and the cinnamon lavender clove.
4. Sometimes my thoughts are like a pudding.
5. On Saturday I received in the mail an envelope containing my mother's will and a document called Petition to Probate Will in Solemn Form.
6. Since then, pudding. Both the eating of and the thinking like.
7. Besides thinking like pudding, I do a lot of things in solemn form lately.
8. It's why I'm not all over fb being like rah rah readings and such.
9. It's why on Friday everyone thought that reading I did was good but me.
10. I don't know what probate means.
11. Apparently I need to sign it and get it notarized.
12. It was probably not helpful to pick out all the poems that dealt directly with mental illness and read them.
13. I thought it would be liberating.
14. This one therapist is like, grief is different from depression.
15. Something about external triggers and emotions eventually getting back to normal.
16. It's that eventually I'm stuck on, like probate.
17. Apparently probate means prove or establish the validity of.
18. Validation is important.
19. My thoughts are either a dessert with a creamy consistency or a sweet or savory steamed dish made with flour.
20. Eventually is in the end, especially after a long delay.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Delicious Chia Pudding Experiment

A friend of mine who is doing the Paleo Diet brought some unusual dessert to lunch the other day. It looked like wet sand. I asked her what it was and she said chia pudding. I was like, pardon? Apparently the same seeds that they cultivate for Chia Pets are actually, in non-sprouted form, a superfood that people are putting on salads, in smoothies, yogurt, even just eating raw --and have been doing for years now. I asked to try some. It was a little like tapioca but with more granularity instead of the soft bubbles of tapioca. Also, it had a pleasingly nutty taste. I find the flavor of tapioca rather bland and unappealing. My friend said that there were a zillion recipes on the internet for chia pudding and encouraged me to go for it. She said she bought the seeds at Whole Foods in the bulk section.

So when I got home I researched chia seeds and found out some things that convinced me I wanted to try making chia pudding. The seeds are high in fiber (higher than flax!), full of antioxidants, packed with omega-3, and they're a complete protein. Here's one article I found from the NYT explaining the history of how chia seeds went from a pop culture phenomenon to a health food. And here's one quick & dirty run-down of the nutrition benefits plus a pudding recipe from PETA.

Also, it should be mentioned: I like pudding. I mean I realllly like pudding. Or anything with a puddinglike texture --yogurt, smoothies, frozen Cool Whip eaten standing over the kitchen sink at 1am. But I'm lactose intolerant, and I gotta cross the river to get my soy yogurt, pudding, and so forth, and frozen Cool Whip ... yeah. I don't have to explain what's bad about eating that.

What I'm trying to say is: chia pudding is SO EASY to make that even the laziest cook (or, just perhaps, maybe you are suffering from a major depressive episode) can get behind it. Chia seeds and almond milk in sealed containers keep for a good while. No pesky trips to WF all the time.

These are the seeds. Mike drove me to WF and I too found them in the bulk bins, but you can get them in your local health food co-op or order online.

When you put them in liquid, they absorb it and become tapioca-like in their consistency. Actually, to me they are a little more crunchy and nutty than tapioca, which I find is an advantage. So to make the pudding base, all you gotta do is take a liquid, like almond milk for example (you can use any kind of milk), add seeds, stir-stir-stir for five minutes, and put it in the fridge overnight in a covered bowl.

Out of curiosity more than anything, I went back a few times during the day and gently tipped the bowl around to see how it was setting up. After about six hours I took the lid off and gave it another stirring, which seemed to be the right thing: the thickness increased dramatically after that. This is the chia pudding base the following morning. See how the seeds have absorbed the milk? Cool.

I found many ratios of seeds to milk while browsing internet recipes. I decided on 1c milk to 3 tbsp seeds + 1/2 packet of stevia extract to sweeten it. Sweet tooth plus grief-eating adds up to "I wanna keep it sugar free." You can also use maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar. Another cool thing about chia pudding: the high fiber content and the fact that the seeds have absorbed liquid keeps you feeling fuller longer. Yay!

 I knew I wanted to make A LOT of base and fool around with spices, so I made 4c milk, 12 tbsp of seeds, and 2 packets of stevia extract. It came out pleasingly creamy and just sweet enough. I like my pudding pretty dense though. The next time I make a large amount I might add an extra 1 to 2 tbsp of seeds to see if it firms up a bit.

When I was out getting seeds and spices, I also got some tiny food storage containers (1/2 c each) to portion out the pudding. I wanted to try four different flavorings. This is where I abandoned the recipes and struck out on my own. I'm a much better improvisor than recipe-follower. I wanted 1) chocolate 2) ginger-cardamom 3) cinnamon-lavender-clove and 4) mixed berries.

Here's the chocolate:

I added (to 1c base) 2 tbsp of Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa + 1 packet stevia extract to counteract the bitterness of the cocoa. RESULT: Yummy but tastes a bit too diet-y. Next time, 1/2 less stevia.

Here's the ginger cardamom. The picture isn't so interesting because I took it after I stirred in the spices...

I added (to 1c base) 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 tsp ground cardamom. RESULT: Spicy like a good chai. I love it!

Here's the cinnamon lavender and clove:

I added (to 1c base) 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/2 tsp crushed lavender flowers, and just a sprinkle of clove. RESULT: Unexpectedly delightful. I would almost say magical. You get the lovely floral taste from the lavender and also a slight bitterness, but then it's very earthy and sweet from the cinnamon and clove. When I was making this one I felt my mom's presence there for half a second. Maybe I just imagined it, but whatever. She was all about making cakes, pastries, and breads... maybe when I experiment with a sweet, I will feel close to her. For those of you who don't read this blog regularly, my mom passed away four months ago, almost to the day. Tomorrow it will be four months. EDIT: When I ate this pudding this evening, the cinnamon had overpowered the lavender. Next time, reduce cinnamon by half.

Lastly, the mixed berry:

As you can tell, I added WF Cherry-Berry Mix to the 1c base. Dried fruit is good for you but I don't like the taste of raisins... This mix has sour cherries, bing cherries, strawberries, and blueberries. I just tossed in a handful and stirred until it felt right. RESULT: The pudding seemed a little more all-over sweet plus I got extra pops of sweetness from the fruit. I wonder if the fruit will re-hydrate as the pudding sets in the fridge.

Here's what it looks like portioned out:

So each container holds half a cup. This pudding is rather rich, so half a cup should be enough to satisfy... and if you eat more at one time, who's judging? It's good for you.

NOTE: 4c of almond milk plus 12 tbsp of seeds makes about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2c (dry measure) of pudding. This might be obvious to people who measure things a lot, but it wasn't to me. Like I said, when I cook I'm improvisational. I'm mentioning it because, if you decide to do this method and make 1c each of different flavors, you can use an ample cup. The chocolate was the first one that I made and you can see in the picture that those 1/2c containers aren't full! I was using a scant cup and then I had leftovers. I ate the remaining 1/4-1/2c for breakfast. To me it was even tasty all by itself.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I stuck to my plan

and went back to work on Monday even though the thing with Alaina happened and I'm still splashing / flailing around in the grief pool. In fact it did re-open things with my mom so it's like twin griefs each hauling downward on an ankle.

My work right now consists of writing, revision (of poems and the full-length MS), going to readings and reading at open mic so I can hopefully get offered gigs, submitting to one journal per workday, sending the MS to two presses a month, and putting together a chapbook.

I'm thinking of doing a second chap because it could be awhile before the full-length MS is taken and I need a self-esteem booster. Somehow I feel it is easier to do a chap now that I have done one successfully. That could be a load of crap.

I'm investigating micropresses. I find the concept and the aesthetic highly appealing.

This work takes between 3-4 hours per day.

I do a LOT of research on the journal and sitting with poems before I decide what to send. The decision of what to send ends up being more intuitive and less scholarly, for me. This feels right.

I'm still going to group. The discharge date has been pushed back a little. Basically I'm trying to get comfortable with the fact that there is not a date, and that I don't have to be well, rather, improved, before I go.

This work involves a lot of solitude and rejection, which I knew before I accepted it. However, I wish I could shed more grief before getting back to it. I came to the realization, though, that it's probably better to get back to it AND be going to group, so that I can process any issues that come up.

Part of me thinks that I'm blocking feelings by going to work. But doesn't everyone block feelings by going to work? Isn't that called "keeping busy?"

Mike tells me to not overdo it.

The fact that I can work, after many many months of simply not having the energy / concentration level, is such a relief to me that it is almost intoxicating. Well, yesterday it was. Today it just feels like work.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Angel for Alaina

Yesterday I found out my friend Alaina was killed in a car crash; apparently she'd had an undiagnosed heart condition and had a heart attack while driving. We had been friends in high school; then Facebook reconnected us after many years. She was a back-to-the-land type of girl who ran a small farm with her husband, had her own silk-dyeing business, and home-schooled her six children. 

She even commented on my blog sometimes, especially on the posts about dealing with chronic pain or disability. A year, or was it two? time seems to fly faster and faster she was in a previous car accident that left to her endure multiple surgeries and lots of medication. We never got to re-connect in person, but I always looked forward to her fb posts. She wrote about her family and her daily adventures with such honestly and wit. The love she radiated to the world was amazing. I can't believe she's gone. 

I made this collage for her this morning. I hope the loving energy I felt while doing it makes its way to her on her journey.

Angel for Alaina

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Click to enlarge

The Broken Line


I went on my first solo outing today in awhile. Probably since before I started group.

I think I'm supposed to begin being able to say it specifically. Probably since before my mom decided to end her life this past August. Wow, that was extremely uncomfortable.

[I wonder how many people are reading this and whom. I re-read the sentence and don't hit delete.]

Solo, meaning I did not have any assistance getting out of the house (namely a ride), nor was I going to see someone.

I took the 48 to REI to investigate their winter boot sale. And came away with a nice pair of boots. North Face. Waterproof. Stylish for being so good in the snow and wet.

And then I waited at the bus stop for 20 minutes. The temperature with wind chill was 16. First the cold stung my face and made tears run down it. Then my face went completely numb. I got on the warm bus with the young moms on welfare who all seemed to know each other and talked about the vicissitudes of bureaucracy and people who smelled like they'd been drinking quite a bit since before noon. My face thawed. I felt class-conscious and race-conscious and very aware of where my own inadequate, ridiculous self ended and other selves began. I felt just the smallest bit of happiness that I had accomplished it.

Even asking the question of myself, has my rabid social anxiety come down a micrometer? --this makes me want to not dwell even for a second on what I believe to be the answer. I don't want to jinx it.