Thankful for Rain–Thursday thankful

me and my kaleI love rain. It means I don’t have to water the garden, but there’s also something delightfully soothing and cleansing about it.

I was stuck for a good thankful, and then we had a lovely rainstorm! It was warm enough to go out and dance in the rain, too.

No pictures…it was too dark, and I was having too much fun, anyhow. So instead you get a picture of me and my kale!

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Thankful for Garden Goodness!

mah broccoliI’ve been trying to grow broccoli for about a decade. This is the closest I’ve come. I know he’s puny, but isn’t he CUTE!!!!!???? Durn little bugs and worms are trying to nom on his leaves, and I’m afraid he’ll bolt because of the heat, so I’m going to give him a new home tomorrow. In my belly. Most likely he’ll become Ultimate Roasted Broccoli–’cause that’s an awesome way to go. I’m thinking of taking down all my crucifers and regrowing them in August so I don’t spend the summer battling little bugs, and would love any gardening advice.

turtle 14I’ve had a fun visiting turtle, too. He’s not my biggest fan, but I think he (she?) is super cool.

No foxies…they left early this year. Maybe 4 was too big for the hole under the shed? They, or another foxy family are staying with our neighbors and having a grand old time. But that also means we’ve got little chipmonks again! No pictures, but they’re so thoroughly entertaining.

garden 2014Back to the garden. Lots of good stuff, and we’ll see what grows. I’ve got onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins…

toe 2014…and indoor lettuce. I am so not into providing the deer an open salad bar.

So far, the deer have been kind, except they ate my day lilies. The irony, of course, was that the first two were gorgeous, and I spent time admiring them. I wanted to take a picture, but I kept thinking, eh, tomorrow. I’m glad I enjoyed them while they were here…and it’s a nice reminder to cherish the moments.

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Thankful for Support

If you have ever had a small business, you know the drill. You’ve got clients, you’re super busy…and then there’s a week that is quiet. Like, creepy quiet. Everyone seems to get sick or have their car break down or go off to a funeral.

The first quiet day was fantastic. I was loving the time to catch up and take good care of myself. And then that sense of desperation hit. What if this is forever? Can I really make this work? What if I don’t hit my targets?

Is it me? Do I smell? (long sniff). Has G been doing voodoo magic so I stay home with him?

It’s easy to go from wonderful break to overwhelm in just a day or two.

Panic=a sense of hustling and earning worth=things aren’t fun anymore

I was really grateful to see it as it was playing out, and to hang out with my discomfort without harshly judging myself. I was grateful to realize that no matter what, it would be okay.

And so I’m thankful that I do know deep down that the quiet times aren’t personal, sometimes it’s just quirky timing. It’s okay to freak out, too, from time to time…it’s just human nature.

This week, I’m glad that *just like that* work is back to its normal comfortably busy, too.

I’m also grateful for the inspiration from Elizabeth Lesser in her amazing book, “Broken Open.”

“I pray that each of us stays awake as we fall. I pray that we choose to go into the abyss willingly and that our fall is cushioned by faith – faith that at the bottom we will be caught and taught and turned toward the light. I pray that we don’t waste precious energy feeling ashamed of our mistakes, or embarrassed by our flaws. After years of teaching, I know only only a few things for sure. One is this: We are chunks of dense matter that need to be cracked open. Our errors and failings are chinks in the heart’s armor through which our true colors can shine.”

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Thankful for Lots: Thursday Thankful

ice cream yumThis week is a whole bunch of mini-thankfuls.

I’m thankful I had an awesome birthday with yummy ICE CREAM!!! I’ve been eating the Purely decadent for a few years, but I’ve never gotten really excited over it. My very own vanilla cookie dough ice cream was just the awesomest. I tend to like things I make much better than store bought for starters, and my dear friend Carrie gave me a vegan ice cream cookbook, Lick it. I can’t vouch for the whole book, but the recipe I made was wonderful and I used my cookie dough recipe. And yes, my ice cream photography needs work. Must make another batch pronto. For the pictures…yes. That’s it. ;)

Oh, and just a thought…the ice cream maker Mr. Dude got me is super on sale at this moment…more than 1/2 off…just sayin’!

I’m also grateful for a huge abundance of cute. Serious cute overload, which always makes my day

and…a chicken who loves hugs? Yep.

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Life is now complete!

If you’re not smiling yet, check out this hamster who wants to be a turtle.

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The Ultimate Chocolate Guide-Gluten, dairy and soy-free.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI know, “ultimate guide” sounds like fightin’ words, but I’ll stand by them. I set out on a mission to try all of the chocolate I could find that is gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free, and save you the trouble. Especially because many chocolates, like Ghiradelli and Godiva do have potential for contamination, finding a gluten-free chocolate is a priority.

It all started because my old standby, Trader Joe’s 73% purple bar first labeled that it was on shared equipment with wheat, and then “contains traces of wheat”. I found a replacement, which Whole Foods promptly stopped carrying. (hiss…boo…) So much on the shelves contains soy lecithin, like Scharffen berger and Endangered Species. While most people are fine with it, I’m definitely not.more chocolate

So I was determined to find a chocolate bar that I would love, and I was resoundingly successful. I bought every kind of gluten/dairy/soy free chocolate bar I could get locally. As you’ll see, I went for darker chocolate options, and organic and fair-traded whenever possible, because compassion is delicious. What can I say, I’m committed to chocolate quality research.

You’re welcome.

Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate Organic, fair tradeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients: Organic Chocolate Liquor, Organic Raw Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Unrefined Whole Cane Sugar, Organic Ground Vanilla Beans.

Fair traded, vegan.

Warnings:May contain traces of milk, peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios & pecans.

Per manufacturer, tested under 5ppm gluten. Woohoo!

Rating: 9 Mr. Dude and I were both quite taken with this. To tell the truth, since I was meh about the Equal Exchange 80% bar (not reviewed because I forgot to take a picture!) I wasn’t expecting to like this, and I was pleasantly delighted. Creamy, smooth, with a raspberry-ish aftertaste, this was a real treat. Mr. Dude’s fave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA63% Dark Cacao from Alter Eco

Ingredients:Cacao beans, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans.

Rating 9 This is my favorite. It’s a sweeter chocolate, and has cacao nibs throughout so there’s a perfect pairing of the sweet/creamy and the bitter/crunchy. I love it.

GF certified through GFCO

Amore Di Mona Carmella squares:

Ingredients:Raw organic agave nectar, cocoa butter, cocoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa solids, ground whole vanilla beans.

Gluten-free, gluten-dairy and nut free facility. Fair traded.

Rating: 8 Not quite a chocolate bar, but I couldn’t leave it out.These are agave “caramels” wrapped in bittersweet chocolate, and they’re totally delicious. They’re a little over-sweet, but I really enjoy the ability to go out and BUY a caramel I can eat. I also like the allergen friendliness.

Green and Black’s 85% chocolateOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients: Cocoa, cane sugar, vanilla. Fair traded, organic

Made on equipment that processes milk, soy and tree nuts. No warning about wheat given, and per manufacturer, warnings are given with shared lines.

Rating: 7 Sharp, creamy, balanced and just sweet enough, this was my favorite of the 80%+ chocolates. Yet somehow there wasn’t a special enough *oomph* for me to really want more.

Gluten-free statement from the manufacturer

Whole Foods Dark Chocolate Almonds 56%365 choc

Ingredients: Cane sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, almonds, vanilla extract. Organic, fairly traded

Warning: contains tree nuts, may contain other nuts, milk and soy.

Rating: 7 I liked this but don’t adore it. It’s a little sweet for me, but the almond crunch and the chocolate work well together. Tasty.

Fearless Midnight 75% Cacao Chocolate

Ingredients: Cacao, cane sugar. Organic, direct traded.

Warnings: May contain traces of dairy, peanuts and soy from shared equipment. Per manufacturer, gluten- free, and tested for contOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAamination.

Rating: 5 The packaging is way too cute, especially inside. It’s from Berkeley, they give part of their profits away, etc. so I was pre-biased to like it. I didn’t. The chocolate was too bland, and there was no balance to it. It also wasn’t smooth enough for my liking and the mouth feel wasn’t great. A little vanilla and cocoa butter goes a long way! I ended up using it in baking, and it was workable, but I won’t be buying it again.

Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate 55% Cacao with Cocoa NibsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients: Sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, cocoa nibs and vanilla. Vegan, top 8 allergen free

Rating: 3 (me) 7 (Mr. Dude) I was excited based on the package and expected to love this, but it didn’t do much for me. There was an overly intense sweetness that tasted unbalanced and unwelcome. I gave it to Mr. Dude to finish–I’d eat it if I were stranded on an island, but I’d happily pass it up.

Organic Nectars 85% Raw Cacao Barorganic nectars

Ingredients: 85% raw cacao (raw cacao nibs, raw cacao butter) coconut palm sugar, Madagascar Vanilla, non-GMO sunflower lecithin.

Raw, vegan, organic, made without refined sweeteners. Gluten-free per manufacturer.

Rating 3: Dry. I can’t think of any other way to put it. It’s like the opposite of melts in your mouth. The flavor is nice, although not exactly like chocolate, but it’s the texture and the lack of creamy meltiness that un-does it for me.


Ingredients: Cocoa butter, cocoa solids, raw organic agave nectar.

Gluten, soy and nut free & a dedicated facility. Refined sugar free, vegan.

Rating: 2 I almost feel guilty because I LOVE the Carmella squares, but these also fell into the “wanna love them and totally don’t” category. The texture is absolutely lacking. I’d melt it as a sauce on something because the flavor is fine, and I know it’s hard making something without sugar, but I swear my home-made chocolate is so much better.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA80% Dark Stone Ground Chocolate

Ingredients: cacao beans, cane sugar, cocoa butter.

Certified gluten-free through GFCO, organic, direct trade.

Rating: 1 Yuck. I mean, I loathed this one. The chocolate taste was fine, but the grittiness was a huge & insurmountable turn off for me. I didn’t finish it and will leave the rest for a baking project.

Note: I bought all of this chocolate myself and my views are my own. Generally, I avoid negative reviews, but I also think (hope!) it’s useful to my fellow choco-holics.

Always see manufacturer for updated allergen info.

Agree? Disagree? What’s your favorite chocolate?

I’m submitting this chocolate review to Gluten Free Wednesdays, a carnival of gluten-free goodies co-hosted by Linda of Gluten-free Homemaker, Shirley of gluten free easily and Lynn of Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures. Hop on over for some more yum!

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Short and sweet: Thursday Thankful

  • 4 day weekend!!! Woohoo!
  • Dates with Brazil nut butter. So amazing.
  • I left my phone at work–bonus!

Life is good.

Wishing you all a joyful holiday weekend.

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I Scream for Ice Cream!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr. Dude gave me my birthday present early–an ice cream maker!I’ve know I needed one since Shirley’s GFE retreat last year. Debi made her Java Chunk Ice cream. One bite, and I was sold.

When I came back and asked for recommendations, I kept hearing “Cuisinart”. Which fell into the category of, yes, that’s nice, which one? And I didn’t get a clear answer. So I left it up to Mr. Dude and he collaborated with Mr. Google and poof, the ICE 21 it is. It’s got a ton of good reviews and so I’m quite optimistic.

So…this is very new to me and I’m really excited! In the past decade, I made mint ice cream using an avocado (bad–very bad–still scarred), peach ice cream which had way too many ice crystals, and a bunch of store bought coconut milk ice creams, which have been not bad, but not exciting or great, either.

Where do I start? What did you wish you knew when you ventured into ice cream land? Recipes you love (without dairy, sugar, gluten, eggs, etc.)?

Subs for agar?

My perfect dish of ice cream awaits. Point me in the right direction!

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Thankful for my garden: Thursday Thankful

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve had a lot to say for my last few posts, so I’ll let my garden do the talking here. (collards above, kale below)





Garlic shoots






Tomatoes and a pepper











Such a joy to watch everything grow! and here’s to hoping the deer don’t use my little garden as a salad bar.

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Corporate sponsorship of nutrition? Thanks, but please no.

When I first saw the link on California’s Dietetic Association conference, I didn’t even click through. Call it learned helplessness if you will—I’ve gotten burned out on seeing the ridiculous practices at conferences over the 18 years since I’ve been in the world of dietetics and nutrition.

I got emails from four clients asking about the article in the past 24 hours. FOUR. One client as far away as Chile. The emails all had the same general theme—can this POSSIBLY be true? This is disturbing. Is this typical for dietitians? Do you have to take these classes?

Let’s see: the answers would be yes, YES, somewhat, no. I’ve been concerned about corporate sponsorship since I was an undergrad, and it’s only gotten worse since then. No, these conferences are not required. RDs can get CEUs elsewhere, and that’s what I’ve done over the years. For me, it hasn’t been a principled stand, as much as other conferences interested me more. So I’ve been getting all my CEUs at Celiac conferences, mindfulness trainings, coaching certifications, a ton of webinars and articles, etc. And I’ve taught CEU courses to other RDs for years (shameless plug: I’ve got a gluten-free vegetarian course in May) so RDs certainly aren’t limited to these conferences.

I did speak at the Virginia Dietetics Association conference in 2011 on gluten-free diets, and I don’t remember seeing any corporate goofiness. The session was not sponsored, and I was paid a nominal fee and had to disclose any conflicts of interest, which is standard. I can’t say that was my main focus of awareness, but I also most likely would have noticed lots of corporate ickiness. I also have never seen corporate interests at local Virginia events. When I worked running programs for the health department in DC, essentially we vetted vendors for the large WIC conference we hosted, so it was a non-issue. Sponsors were strategic and appropriate—i.e., a breast pump company sponsored the lactation room. I consider that synergy. However, I’ve been aware that it’s quite an issue nationally. Long story short, it’s an embarrassment.

I do not fault RDs who choose to work for Pepsi, fast food and the like—everyone needs to choose where and how to work based on interests, available opportunities, finances and values. However, sponsorship is a different beast, because like it or not, we’re all painted with the same brush. Yes, RDs should and do have enough intelligence to discern that Mikky D’s isn’t health food. I also understand the argument that we should be educated about all foods, and that corporations potentially hold the key to making different nutrition changes on a broad scale. And yet… I honestly think all people are swayed by what we see repeatedly, and it’s disturbing that money likely influences AND’s corporate policy. To be clear, as the article points out, it’s not just AND, but it seems like all the nutrition organizations. This is nothing new under the sun, because physicians have conferences sponsored by drug reps, but that doesn’t make it any less distasteful.

There’s a one line claim in the article that a gluten-free panel talked about how a g-free diet is a fad diet, and was sponsored by the Wheat Council. While I’m concerned, I’m reserving judgment here without more details about how this discussion went down.

It’s hard for me to reconcile all the different parts. There are many, many thoughtful, committed and dedicated RDs, and yet AND’s refusal to evolve is disgraceful, and harmful to many RDs. I’ve been a member of AND since 2000, because I value the dietetics practice groups. I can’t belong to them if I’m not a member of AND. I also don’t have the energy to run for AND and try to make changes—it’s just not that far up there on my list of priorities.

It’s sad. People largely become RDs out of a desire to change the world of nutrition, and yet we’ve ended up as part of an institution whose values don’t mirror the majority of nutrition practitioners. I’m encouraged by the efforts of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, and hopeful that policy starts shifting, either due to advocacy or public awareness. From everything I’ve seen, I absolutely believe that most RDs want change. I certainly do!

Cheryl Harris, MPH, RD

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A Mother’s Day PSA

A few thoughts in honor of Mother’s day:

I’ve also been lucky that while I frequently get questioned about children, most people are well-intentioned. While some of the questions have been truly off the wall (do you have kids? Why not? Don’t you like kids? But you don’t LOOK like you can’t have kids) the majority have been quite respectful, which I appreciate.

And yet so many people have asked me, “Do you have a family?”, and I’ve always been stumped for an answer. Of course I have a family—I’m blessed with a loving husband and two 4-legged children with whiskers and tails. I have a sister, and other family members that care about me.

Almost everyone has a family, either by blood or by love.

But thOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAat’s not what those (well-meaning) people are asking. When they say, “Do you have a family?” what they mean is, “Do you have children?” There is a world of difference between those questions, and to miss that distinction is to miss out on the value of all sorts of bonds.

Please consider the words you choose.

Yes, I have a family. No, I don’t have children. I don’t know if I can get pregnant; I’ve never tried. I do know that I’ve chosen not to get pregnant or adopt because my medical issues are significant enough that I don’t have the physical energy and stamina to be the kind of mother that every child deserves. I do hope that changes and I don’t know what’s in store.

I suppose that’s probably too long to fit on a t-shirt.

While it fits for me, it also leaves out all sorts of people who choose not to have children for more perfectly valid reasons than I can count. In fact, I’d suggest that all reasons are perfectly valid and none of your (or my) business.

Happy Mother’s day to all of you who have given your time, energy and love to “mother”, nurture and care for children, elders, friends, animals, nature…

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