Contemplative Photography & Reflections

Category: Nourishment

Canning Jar Oatmeal to Go

Canning Jar Oatmeal to Go

It’s been ages since I’ve written a foodie post! But I just have to share my reinvention of an idea I came across a couple years ago on Pinterest: Canning Jar Oatmeal To Go. It’s similar to the instant oatmeal packets you can buy pre-made but sooooo much more wholesome! I made a case of it for my daughter when she was busy working and taking college courses, and she loved it. You put the dry ingredients in a glass jar with a lid, and when you’re ready to consume it, just add boiling water, put the lid back on, and let it soak and soften for a few minutes. My favorite jars for this are 16-oz. salsa jars or wide-mouthed mason jars.

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I wanted to start making the instant oatmeal jars again recently, but the recipe was no longer available online, and I hadn’t saved or printed it. So I created my own which, in my opinion, is even better than the original. It’s so simple! The recipe is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick or old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. hemp hearts (optional)
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
  • 1 Tbs. raisins
  • 1 Tbs. dried fruit, diced (such as apples, strawberries, or mangoes)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Pinch of cloves

Procedure

Stir the mixture to combine, and then screw on the lid. When you’re ready to eat it, add boiling water nearly to the rim, stir, put the lid back on, and let it sit for a few minutes – and remember to bring a spoon! The jar can be quite hot at first, so you might want to wrap a dish towel around it if you’re going to transport or handle it.

It’s delicious as is, but I often bring along a banana to chop and add to the cooked oatmeal. It’s a nice touch but not necessary by any means! You can keep a couple jars in your car and have an instant meal anytime with a quick stop for hot water.

Enjoy!

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Blueberry Story

A Blueberry Story

“We meet ourselves time and again in a thousand disguises on the path of life.”  
-Carl G. Jung

It is blueberry time in my little corner of the world – and just in time, too! Between my mom and me, we picked and froze enough blueberries last summer to last an entire year. We rarely picked blueberries together because I live so close to the blueberry farm and prefer to pick first thing in the morning before the sun gets hot, and my mom would go later in the day. When she was done, she’d stop by my house with a hot, red face and some blueberries to share, and I’d give her a refreshing jar of chilled spa water to cool her down.

In the weeks before she died, my mom told me to make sure to use up all the berries in the freezer. I just finished her last container of blueberries about three weeks ago, and it’s been lovely to make smoothies and muesli from berries she handpicked. It’s only one way in which her kindness has lived on and continues to nourish me after her death. I still have some of her raspberries, and in my dad’s freezer there are a few remaining bags and containers of strawberries, sliced and prepared for strawberry shortcake. For the Fourth of July, I made shortcake from scratch, and we celebrated with my dad, savoring strawberry shortcake made with strawberries my mom had handpicked for that purpose. Honestly, I can’t remember ever enjoying strawberry shortcake so much!

This morning, I made my first trip of the season to the blueberry farm. Although the picking was great, I was disappointed to learn that they had to spray all the sections because this year was so wet, and there were so many insects, including some new kinds. But I picked nonetheless, hoping that soaking the berries in a diluted vinegar wash – or some other solution – would help to some degree.

Berry field conversations are always interesting. Often, moms instruct their children on how to pick good berries and scold them for eating too many. People (usually, women) talk about what they are going to make with the berries. It’s not that I try to eavesdrop; you just can’t help but overhear since people tend to have to talk with some volume in a berry field.

To keep birds away from the berries, the blueberry farm I go to plays sounds of native birds in distress through speakers mounted on poles in wooden carts. The bird sounds start up again every couple minutes or so, and it’s often amusing to hear first-timers try to make sense of them.

Shortly after I arrived at the blueberry farm this morning, a car parked next to mine, and two women got out. My guess is that they were mother and daughter, and the younger one was probably about my age. The older woman went further down the row, and the younger woman began picking close to me. After a couple rounds of bird sounds, she wondered out loud about the birds. I explained that they are recorded sounds and pointed to the speaker near us then continued picking berries.

A few minutes later, the older woman returned, complaining about how there are no good berries, and it would take all day to pick a container. How curious, for I was looking at a row of bushes overflowing with ripe blueberries. The younger woman replied that she found a great bush and suggested that the older woman look for a good one and just stay with it – and she’d fill her container in no time. But the older woman continued to complain about the lack of ripe berries. This is another typical berry field conversation. People debate whether or not the picking is good. You always can tell who is the pessimist and who is the optimist!

The bird sounds began again, and the older woman wondered out loud about them. Despite the information I gave her, the younger woman suggested that perhaps they have baby birds they are trying to protect. The older woman squawked, “Well don’t worry! I won’t bother your babies!”

Well, the bird sounds continued, and each time they started up again, the older woman expressed annoyance (“Oh, be quiet! I’m staying away from your babies!”), and the younger woman proposed theories about why the birds were making such a clamor. And it was a very loud noise. But then again, we were very close to the speakers – so close that I decided to move away in order to protect my hearing. But I still was able to hear the women’s conversation from time to time.

And so it continued for about an hour. The bird sounds began again, and the older woman scolded the “birds” for making such a racket. I heard her say, “Okay, I get it! You like to make a lot of noise!” Then the younger woman said, “I’m beginning to think they’re not real birds.” I smiled to myself and shook my head. The older woman considered, “Yeah, maybe they’re not real birds after all.”

After a few more cycles of bird sounds, they figured out that the sounds were coming from the speaker. And then for the next half hour, I heard the older woman scold the speaker each time the sounds came on: “Why do you have to be so loud? Can’t you be quieter?”

When I finally was done picking, I walked back down the row to my car and realized that the women still were picking berries right next to the speaker. In a huge, sprawling field of berries, they continued to stand right next to the speaker and complain about the sound, again and again and again. That struck me as hilarious. I paid for the berries with a big smile on my face, trying to contain my laughter, and then laughed all the way home.

We humans are such funny creatures!

It is interesting to notice what catches your attention as you go through your day. I found it so funny that in the huge berry field, the woman chose to continue standing right next to the sound that was irritating her so, without ever moving to another part of the field. WHY? Recognizing myself in the image of the two women in the berry field made me laugh because I realized the absurdity of my own behavior and attitude! I totally “got” how I do the same thing – different context, same basic behavior. And the wonderful and humorous part was that it was completely within the woman’s power to have a more enjoyable time. The solution was so simple!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this website’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography (www.river-bliss.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Food for the Soul

Food for the Soul

The weather has been rather cool and cloudy this week, and I haven’t been on the river. However, with so many people still without power on the East coast, we are grateful that the hurricane spared us without even a single power outage.

Since the river hasn’t been hospitable, I turned my attention toward indoor activities this weekend and thought I’d share with you one of my favorite weekend routines. I call it my “cooking retreats.” Basically, I spend the whole afternoon in the kitchen cooking a few meals and sides for the upcoming week while listening to an audiobook, retreat recording on CD, or online video of a spiritual nature. Pema Chodron is one of my favorite teachers to listen to during a cooking retreat. In the past, I also have enjoyed listening to audiobook versions of Paulo Coelho’s novels.

A cooking retreat is an incredibly restorative and calming activity (and it helps that I love to cook) that elevates my consciousness and results in a refrigerator full of delicious, nutritious food to start the week. I am convinced that being so centered while cooking somehow raises the vibrational energy and quality of the food. Food made with love and a peaceful heart always seems to taste better. It makes the whole house feel peaceful – and smell amazing, as well.

Driving home from work, I passed by a new restaurant with a sign outside that declared: “Soup’s On!” Sounded good to me – and I haven’t gotten soup off my mind since seeing that sign. So split pea soup over basmati rice was part of the menu I cooked up today. I also made corn bread, teriyaki quinoa, browned Brussels sprouts, oven-roasted carnival squash, and apple crisp.

Below is the complete menu, with recipes. 🙂 I’ve been making all of them for years, and they are family favorites.

Split pea soup over basmati rice with corn bread

 Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. (2 cups) green split peas, rinsed
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 cups (or more) peeled carrots sliced about 1/2″ thick
  • 1 cup diced potato or sweet potato
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups (or more) chopped kale, broccoli, and/or parsley
  • Handful of dried arame (optional)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground marjoram
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Black pepper and salt, to taste
  • Brown rice or basmati rice (optional)

Put split peas in a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Skim the foam off the top, and discard it.

Add remaining ingredients to the soup. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 45 minutes.

If you plan to serve the soup over rice, begin cooking the rice at this point using a 1:2 ratio of rice to water.

Ladle out approximately half the soup, and purée it in a blender. Return the purée to the pot, add the pepper and salt, stir, and return the soup to a simmer.

Serve hot. This soup is especially delicious over brown rice or basmati rice! Recipe serves 6 to 8.

Corn Bread
*adapted from The Cabbagetown Cafe Cookbook by Julie Jordan

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup dried milk powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg or egg substitute (I use Ener-G Egg Replacer)
  • 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 1 cup milk or non-dairy alternative (I use Almond Dream)
  • 3 Tbs. light vegetable oil
  • 1 jalapeño or red hot cherry pepper, diced small (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, milk powder, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, honey, milk, oil, and hot pepper. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, and beat thoroughly so the batter is smooth and free of lumps.

Pour the batter into a well-greased pie or loaf pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the bread is firm and lightly browned. Serve warm.

Teriyaki quinoa with browned Brussels sprouts

I fell in love with quinoa the first time I had it more than 20 years ago at Light on the Hill retreat center. It is an ancient grain that sprouts (tiny sprouts) during cooking. It is a nutritional powerhouse – gluten-free and delicious, too! This is my favorite quinoa recipe. I like to serve it with browned Brussels sprouts and either roasted squash “smiles” or orange-sesame tofu.

Teriyaki Quinoa 
*adapted from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating by Dreena Burton

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I like to use a mix of different colors)
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger, grated (or 1/2 tsp. dried ginger)
  • 3 Tbs. tamari (I use reduced-sodium)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs. agave nectar or honey
  • 3 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup green onions (scallions), sliced

Rinse quinoa in cold water for 2 minutes. In a saucepan, add quinoa, water, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil on high heat, stir, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 12-14 minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in ginger, tamari, agave nectar, lemon juice, and sesame oil. Cover again, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir. Garnish with scallions before serving, or stir them in (as I do).

Browned Brussels Sprouts

This is my own recipe, inspired by my friends, Sam and Vanessa. It is the most delicious way I know to cook Brussels sprouts! Use whatever amounts of the ingredients that taste best to you.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half vertically (through the stalk)
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh garlic, minced
  • Tamari (I use reduced-sodium)
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • Black pepper
  • Breadcrumbs or Parmesan cheese (optional)

Begin by steaming the Brussels sprouts in a pot with a steamer basket until they are about halfway cooked.

Put a little olive oil in a pan (I use as little as possible), and set burner to medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are nicely browned.

When they are cooked to your liking, remove from heat, and splash with some tamari and sesame oil. Adjust amounts to your liking. Sprinkle with black pepper and breadcrumbs or Parmesan if you’d like. Stir to distribute flavors evenly.

And for dessert – apple crisp! I bought a large bag of Cortland apples from the orchard down the road and made an extra batch for our next-door neighbors.

Apple Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 cups of cooking apples (I use Cortland) 
  • 3 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 Tbs. margarine or butter (I use Earth Balance)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. (or more) cinnamon
  • Dash of allspice
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (uncooked)
  • Very small amount of orange juice (if desired, if the crisp is too dry; I usually omit)

Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel, core, and slice the apples. Put them into an oblong pan, and drizzle them with lemon juice. Toss to coat, and arrange the apple slices evenly in the pan.

Melt the margarine, and stir in the brown sugar or maple syrup. Mix in the spices, flour, and oats; stir well to combine. If you think the topping needs a little more moisture, add one teaspoon at a time of orange juice. Crumble this mixture onto the apples in the pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, uncovered. Cover if it crisps too quickly so it doesn’t brown/burn. Serve warm. Recipe serves 6 and tends to be devoured quickly in my house!

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

Preserving Summer

Preserving Summer

For the past week or so, harvesting our garden has been competing with river therapy. This is the first year we’ve been really serious about gardening, and it’s been an excellent harvest so far, with more to come. We have a variety of tomatoes and peppers, herbs, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, and green beans – with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and acorn squash (“volunteering” from the compost bin) on the way.

At this point, I have canned 30 quarts of tomatoes, made and frozen eight quarts of Italian tomato sauce, and dehydrated a few jars of spearmint leaves and eight jars of cherry tomatoes. 

I had never canned before this summer but am experiencing it as such a satisfying activity! I feel aligned with the energies of the nearly 200 year-old house in which we live, as well as my ancestors – especially my beloved grandmother who passed away nearly two years ago. When cleaning out my grandmother’s house several months after she died, I found one long forgotten jar of carrots tucked away behind cobwebs on a basement shelf. That little jar spoke so much of the life she lived many years ago and brought back so many childhood memories. Canning is an act of love.

People who can seem passionate about it and eager to help a newbie. For example, an old high school classmate whom I hadn’t seen or spoken with in more than 25 years called me from Virginia to encourage me and talk me through the whole process after I inquired about canning on Facebook. It is an activity that fosters connection and goodwill.

It has been so wonderful to step outside and be greeted by the intoxicating fragrance of spearmint on a summer breeze. My favorite beverage this summer has been ice water with mint leaves, which is incredibly refreshing. The mint plants have taken over their corner of our herb garden, and so I began dehydrating the leaves to make mint tea for my family and my students in the middle of winter – and also to make space for the basil, lavender, rosemary, and scallions competing for space in the garden.


And then there’s the smell of the tomatoes. Each time I pick a ripe tomato from the vine, I pause to inhale deeply its earthy fragrance. I do that when I pick up a bunch of tomatoes in the grocery store, too, but there’s nothing like the smell of tomatoes fresh from your own garden. 

I started some of these plants from seed back in the spring, as a hands-on science experiment with my kindergarten students – which makes the harvest even more gratifying.

I wish that growing vegetables would be a common practice in all public schools because it helps children understand where their food comes from and what is involved in growing it, and also connects them with the earth and the miracle and cycles of life. I think children would fall in love with vegetables, too.

 

Today the eggplant was ready for harvesting, so that means more sauce to make and plenty of baked eggplant parmesan to freeze

…and another load of cherry tomatoes to dehydrate. 

But I also intend to take a break for some river therapy! 

 

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© Susan Meyer and River Bliss, 2012-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss (www.riverblissed.blogspot.com) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

 
 

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