April 28, 2014

Sit Up And Take Notice Because This Young Woman Nailed it...

Say what you will about our emerging youth, but an interesting phenomenon is taking shape among our next generation. Yes, the entitlement issue is a frustrating one.  And yes, our tweens and teens are moving forward and upward at a rate that far exceeds any previous generation. But let's face it, our parents probably said the same thing about us when we were young.

With the advancement of technology and digital media, we have essentially embedded the issue of rapid progress into their psyches since birth. As a result, we have inadvertently created a culture of informed, enlightened, and strong-minded individuals. Granted, with this comes the unfortunate issue of perpetual distractions like Candy Crush and selfies.  But also, they are the recipients of a constant information stream that is causing our young adults to assimilate massive amounts of information, and feel empowered to pursue it, question it, and own it.

What do I mean by this?  I am pleasantly surprised and pleased by the courage of our youth.  They are putting themselves out there, coming out as gay and lesbian, questioning what they see at home or in the world, and generally speaking their minds without first consulting the social and political opinions of their parents. Naturally, it is perplexing at times, considering the fact that their minds have not yet fully formed! Yet, it is encouraging, nonetheless.

The attached video I found to be an interesting example of the courage and conviction that is finding its way to the forefront of the next generation.  My prediction is that our current middle and high school students will be responsible for eventually changing the overall vernacular.  While they are temporarily incapable of separating themselves from their mobile devices, they are also doing something pretty amazing. They refuse to succumb to a generation that listens to familiar parental quotes like "do as I say and not as I do" or "children should be seen and not heard."

As a society, we have basically opened Pandora's box, but in doing so, we have also invited a new generation to stand firm for what they believe, speak frankly, seek acceptance, and own their true selves. The down side is that it will be done in conjunction with a barrage of  selfies and photobombs...


April 20, 2014

Hunger Is Often Invisible To The Rest Of Us...

I just returned home from a beautiful Easter brunch.  We dined at a chic farm to table restaurant in our town. The spread offered up anything and everything from organic omelets to the most beautiful fruits and vegetables.

Sadly, the issue of hunger looms over the heads of millions. Unlike the physical reminders of so many health challenges that people face on a daily basis, hunger is the silent and invisible reality, depleting far too many Americans of the need for simple nutrition.

We often think of the underprivileged or uneducated sectors of society primarily needing help to supplement their food sources.  While this may be primarily true, there is a growing need for those, who are no different than you and me. Basically, a few bad circumstances can result in the loss of a job, depleted savings, and the inability to provide the basic necessities for a family.

The following video documents a very real example of unexpected families facing the issue of hunger in the Denver area.  A good reminder that we must as a country continue to rally behind those who might just need a hand up.


April 14, 2014

Hey! Don't Roll Your Eyes At Me...

For the past few years, I have been on a food mission.  Mostly, my family joins me in my quest for the healthiest ingredients. But behind my back, I know they are rolling their eyes at me much of the time. Frankly, I don't care because I have never felt better, and I am in the beginning stages of staring down 50.  Still a few years away, but it's quickly approaching!

This blog is going to offer up three of my favorite recipes.  Honestly, if you try them and hate them, I will be shocked!  They are not only easy, they pack a punch with all the good stuff that keeps you well-satisfied.

If you try all three, I will gladly send you a kicker recipe.  It is my super yummy vegan cookie recipe.  And NO, they are not a tasteless styrofoam fake cookies. They are a sweet treat that would gladly compete with the likes of anything you would find in your neighborhood bakery.

Pea Pesto

1 cup basil
1 cup mint
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1.5 cups frozen or fresh peas
1 lemon (juice and zest)
salt and pepper

Combine basil, mint, 1/3 C olive oil, and lemon juice/lemon zest in the food processor. Saute 3 TBSP olive oil, shallot, and garlic for a minute.  Add the frozen peas and continue cooking on low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Add half of the pea mixture to the food processor and half in a bowl.  Process the peas then add to the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy any way you like.  I like it over an avocado for lunch.

Super Power Chia Bread

3/4 cups gluten free rolled oats
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 cup water

Blend rolled oats in a standard blender until it resembles flour.  Combine with the rest of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add water and mix together.  In a 9x9 pan place two sheets of parchment paper (one going each way).  Put the bread batter on the parchment paper and press down.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely on a cooling rack.  Slice into about 8-10 pieces and store in the freezer or refrigerator.  I like to toast it with earth balance spread. Yum!

The Best Granola Bar (sans the refined sugar and weird stuff)

1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups gluten free rolled oats
1 1/4 cup brown rice cereal
1/4 cup pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup organic brown rice syrup (be sure to get organic)
1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spread the chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine oats, rice crisp cereal, pepita seeds, cranberries, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir in toasted pecans.

In a saucepan, stir together brown rice syrup and almond or peanut butter. Cook over medium heat until the mixture softens and bubbles.  Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour mixture over the oat mixture and combine well.  It is difficult to stir so you can use disposable plastic gloves and avoid the pain of mixing with a spoon or spatula.

Transfer mixture to a 9x9 pan with parchment paper  (two sheets~one going each way).  Press the mixture down.  I wet my fingertips since it is a bit sticky.

Put the pan in the freezer for 10-15 minutes and remove.  Cut into 12 bars and return to the refrigerator or freezer.  

P.S. If you are like me, you have a tough time with the jaw-dropping prices for organic groceries at your local markets. I find most of my organic ingredients from www.vitacost.com.

April 7, 2014

Do Our Minds Play Tricks On Us...

Memory is a funny thing. Details and experiences are so ingrained in our minds that we move through life certain that we recall past events exactly as they occurred. Although, we hear time and time again that when asked, groups of people recall specifics with a completely different lens after observing the exact same occurrence. As time goes by, our experiences are reiterated with the same narrative and cadence; further solidifying the specifics in our minds. Real to the person who claims to have experienced the event, and real to those who are the recipients of the story.

Last month I came across a Ted Talk that discussed this exact issue. Elizabeth Loftus is an expert in memory. Not maintaining memory, but rather, the study of fictional memories. She specifically discusses a case that took place in Seattle where a man was wrongly accused of a crime simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And all because the eye witness thought she recalled his face and vehicle near the scene of a brutal rape. Although, it turns out that the eye witness was wrong. Initially, she said that he was the closest, while looking at her choices in a police line up.  By the time the case went to trial, she claimed absolutely positively that he was the man she saw at the scene of the crime. Why? Because the story had become factual after repeating it over and over again. By the time she took the stand as the only eye witness, she had probably repeated her statement hundreds of times. Although, as you can see by the vignette posted below, it was a fictitious account of the events as they occurred. Not intentionally, but rather a story that essentially evolved over time, eventually solidifying the details through repetition.

I was reminded of a man, who was in my high school class. I didn't know him well, but I recall that he was smart and reserved. I remember being shocked after reading that he had been convicted of a horrific crime in our hometown of Salem, Oregon. It ended up being another example of wrong place wrong time. And sadly, he spent over a decade in prison before a local journalist turned private investigator proved that he was innocent of the triple homicide.

This case was slightly different than the case in Seattle. Turns out the owner of the property where the triple murder occurred was the prosecution's star witness. Her story, which later appeared to be just that, drew the eyes of the authorities away from the actual facts, and conveniently to an innocent man.

In 2010, Dateline NBC did an in depth story on this case called The House on Murder Mountain. It was like watching a movie of the week. Yet it was an actual account of the story, making me terrified to think that inadvertently being at the wrong place at the wrong time, coupled with a viable story from an "eye witness", could change the course of an innocent life.

As the study of DNA and forensic science continues to advance, a fictitious account, whether intentional or unintentional, is oftentimes discredited. Although, sans any viable DNA, our police and prosecutors have no choice but to rely on witness statements. A task that I would not want to be responsible for as a witness or depend on from others as an innocent defendant.