I'm still trying to process all that God did for me the past 1 1/2 - 2 years, and during this past birthday/Thanksgiving week. Until I can pull the proper words out of my brain, the following photos and thoughts will have to do.
For my birthday lunch, my parents, Johnny, and I dined at The Chocolate Angel. I enjoyed a Fiesta Cobb salad with turkey, avocado, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, bacon, and eggs; topped with olive oil. And then - the moment I'd been waiting for - I selected the prettiest cupcake underneath the glass case which happened to be red velvet with cream cheese icing. What's interesting about this choice is afterward, my Mom informed me that my very first birthday cake was red velvet. Anyway, this cupcake + the house blend coffee was AMAZING. Perhaps the cake part was a tad dry, but after a year and half of no sugar, who cares? The icing was perfection. I could not finish the entire cupcake though I tried. You might also be interested in a partial journal entry of mine from 4/24/2008:
"I had many crazy dreams last night - some of epic proportions, it seemed. I can't recall all of them, but I do remember one - I was eating a cupcake. In my dream, I was rationalizing. There were 2 cupcakes in front of me, but I thought, 'One can't hurt. How much yeast can it feed?' I focused on the vanilla icing. .... This dream was rather realistic."
[right before I tasted that icing]
We then did a little shopping at Whole Foods where I happily placed Fage plain yogurt, Madhava agave nectar (amber), and Ezekiel 4:9 cinnamon raisin granola in our basket, among other things (such as yummy Go Raw flax crackers).
After hippie-food shopping, we browsed the aisles of Half Price Books where my parents kindly purchased two books for me: Short Trip to the Edge: Where Earth Meets Heaven - a Pilgrimage by Scott Cairns, and Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.
Next up, we dined at Pei Wei with my Uncle. I savored Thai coconut curry with chicken and brown rice, and split a glass of merlot with Johnny. Then and there I decided that God designed me to love Thai curry, brown rice, and merlot. What's even better is that the cashier asked for my I.D. on my 34th birthday. Thank the Lord for youthful genes.
Back at my parents' house, my Uncle set to making a pumpkin ricotta cheesecake with a cinnamon graham cracker crust - this resulted in to-die-for autumnal, cinnamony smells wafting from the kitchen. I did help grease the springform pan as he mixed up sugary goodness, but I also gave my Mom and one of her dogs, Kujeaux, a little Photo Booth lesson. Seeing as I had sugar and wine in my blood, things got a little dorky.
At that point, I already had the best birthday ever, but it got even better. We didn't think my brother could join us for Thanksgiving due to his work schedule. But the door bell rang and we all looked at each other in confusion as we weren't expecting anybody. However, Johnny had an odd look on his face; kind of gleeful. My brother walked into the living room like a rock star as we all yelled, "Jody!!" He and Johnny are obviously the only good secret-keepers in the family. As the cheesecake baked in the oven, I opened more gifts than I deserve: pretty bird-decorated mugs, A Faith and Culture Devotional, and other fun treasures from my parents. Johnny spoiled me, too: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Lotta Prints: How to Print with Anything, From Potatoes to Linoleum by Lotta Jansdotter, Walk the Line (special 2-DVD edition), and a rae dunn home sweet home plaque.
The next morning I sprang out of bed to brew Starbucks Thanksgiving blend coffee and make one of my all-time favorite breakfasts: that Fage yogurt, cinnamon raisin granola, blueberries, and local raw honey. I should mention that every time I put one of these long-awaited treats in my mouth, Johnny and my parents said I looked about 4-years-old, very giddy and cute. All I know is that I was truly grateful to the Lord, and my taste buds were pretty happy.
[this photo may look serene, but actually, my parents' smoke alarm and house alarm were blaring. There was nothing I could do to help (I asked), so I took a picture of my breakfast.]
[Uncle Bobby, front and center. My Dad is behind him.]
[cornbread to go in the stuffing, along with biscuits]
Uncle Bobby was our Thanksgiving chef, or as I called him, our Thanksgiving Ninja - he offered to cook our holiday meal, God bless him (Bobby loves to cook). He prepared a brined free-range turkey, stuffing (Nina's recipe), two kinds of cranberry sauce, two kinds of gravy, and a few buttermilk pies (his Dad's recipe). He also brought over a bottle of merlot; an Uncle after my own heart. My Mom fixed her famous sweet potato casserole (heavy on the brown sugar), orange dinner rolls (and plain), fruit salad, garlic peas, and a fresh spinach salad w/raspberries and blueberries. Aunt Pat whipped up her tasty green Jell-O salad at my Mom's request. Johnny and I fixed our favorite yeast-free dish: grilled asparagus wrapped in proscuitto. It was a verifiable feast! I ate plenty of turkey, asparagus, salad, a small portion of stuffing, and half a sweet potato with a little butter and lots of cinnamon. In my opinion, you don't need to do much to a sweet potato. Oh, and I had a small glass of merlot, of course.
Seated at the dining room table, my Mom half-jokingly suggested that we go around and say one thing we were thankful for. I jumped on it and said, "I am thankful for the past two years - all of it - and my health restored. It is the Lord's doing." I managed to stay emotionally composed (on the outside), but my sweet husband and Aunt Pat choked back tears. And there are no words to describe my small pieces of buttermilk pie and pumpkin cheesecake + cinnamon creme brulee coffee (and one more tiny sliver of buttermik pie - my favorite). I decided that I was also designed to love Greek yogurt, granola, blueberries, honey, agave nectar, asparagus, those two desserts, and coffee. Dear God; hallelujah.
On the way out of town the next day, my Mom loaded up our Element with more treasures from her thrift store outings: two baskets, a large Rothko print, a tea light lantern; as well as several books on loan and a sage/citrus candle. We then met up with Christine and her cool husband, Steven, at Starbucks. We sipped tea and chatted, and Christine spoiled me with a rae dunn "create" mug, a gorgeous handmade card, and a dozen peanut butter-banana muffins baked right in her own kitchen. I about jumped out of my chair to hug her neck. She could have made a cake, but she decided to make muffins so I could enjoy one in the car. Um, I scarfed down three in all, though I did share generous bites with Johnny. Man, Christine knows how to cook. Here's the recipe which she gleaned from the Gluten-Free Goddess:
Peanut Butter Banana Cake (or muffins)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4 über-ripe bananas
1/2 cup peanut butter (or almond butter)
1/4 cup honey (or agave nectar)
2 tsp. vanilla
In another bowl, mix:
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond meal/flour
Dash of stevia
Dash of cinnamon or nutmeg (I say both)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Pour batter into round cake pan (or muffin cups - greased). Bake for 28 minutes or so - should still be very moist in the center.
Last but definitely not least, Alissa sent me the most inspiring, beautiful cookbook: Super Natural Cooking ~
* Black tea spring rolls with mushrooms and mango chutney dipping sauce,
* Fig spread with black pepper and toasted sesame seeds,
* Muhammara-slathered kabobs,
* White sangria with agave nectar and drunken peaches,
* Espresso banana muffins,
* Crema de Guacamole with crunchy topopos,
* Acai power popsicles,
* Mesquite chocolate chip cookies,
It is the perfect cookbook to transition from strictly yeast-free to a more balanced and varied diet. I can't wait to explore a variety of grains and such. "Taste and see that the Lord is good!"
P.S. ~ Last night, we met some friends at my beloved Shiva restaurant. Chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, one piece of naan, and a glass of Chilean merlot. Heaven.
P.S.S. ~ I regret not spending enough time on my parents' back porch swing. Next time, Mom. I do love a good porch swing.