To nourish your mind as well as your body

Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.

-Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays, to all of you!

Another year older. Another year (hopefully) wiser. On this Christmas eve, I offer a little bit of perspective. After all, the holidays are about the senses. Taste, for the delicious things we cook and are served in honor of our celebrations. Touch, for the hugs and hands we hold to ward away the cold. Scent, for the smell of the pine trees and candles and homebaked goodies. Hearing, for the sounds of welcome and the voices raised in celebratory song. Sight, for the vision of candles flickering, christmas lights blinking, and our friends and family so very close. But there's another sense (well, several, but I'm only dealing with this one), which is... that other awareness. The feeling that creeps up on you on cool, crisp mornings in dewy gardens, or standing in the midst of an endless blanket of snow, or standing in the hallowed energy of an ancient place.

The winter season is a cold one. It's a season that has always been hard for humans and that challenge is part of the reason why we have so many holidays to bring us together during this time of year. In the time before internet and central heating, we needed the comfort and willpower and wisdom of our fellows to survive the barren, freezing season. If you look deep in your heart, you'll find that need is still within you. At least, it is in me.

Regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, I wish you a warm, comforting, cheer filled evening tonight in honor of the longest night of the year.

And yes, I'm bringing back the old information about various holiday traditions. Maybe you'll read them and, like me, realize how very similar we all are. No more Christmas wars, friends. We're all just Whos in Whoville.

Celebrating Father Christmas

Celebrating Bodhi Day

Celebrating Christmas in Europe

Celebrating Christian Christmas

Celebrating Hannukah

Celebrating Saturnalia

Celebrating Kwanzaa

Celebrating Winter Solstice and Yule

I hope you enjoy learning about these different spiritual takes on the holiday season as much as I did. If you have more or more accurate information regarding any of these holidays, please contact me and share your knowledge so that I can make sure it's all appropriately educational.

Have a peace! Happy holidays!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tasty Ginger Sugar Cookies

One of my favorite holiday traditions is making sugar cookies and decorating them with my family. Now, I warn you: these cookies are not low calorie. But the fats that are in them are (mostly) healthy fats. Just remember, cookies are for nibbling and for bribing Santa - not for eating by the bucketful. Enjoy these tasty, homemade holiday treats, decorate them with your friends and family, and take a walk on Boxing day to feel guilt-free. Go on! Have a peace!

Tasty Ginger Sugar Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour (if you use whole wheat, add more liquid until the consistency is appropriate)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
about 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
about 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract (make sure you get the kind without added sugar or corn syrup)
2.5 cups coconut oil, melted to liquid
1 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp coconut milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar
Orange zest

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Put the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until the color is consistent. Add the egg (I beat mine with a fork) and the coconut milk and continue beating the mixture on a low speed. While it's running, slowly add the flour mixture until the whole concoction is well combined. The dough should peel easily away from the wall of the bowl. Divide the dough into two parts and wrap each part in wax paper. Stick them in the refrigerator for about 2 hours (or longer).

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature, unwrapped from the wax paper, for about an hour and a half. Depending on the temperature in your home, it make take more or less time. Break each roll of dough into quarters and soften it by rolling it between your (very clean because you washed them, right?) hands.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Spread out a sheet of wax paper and smooth out a generous handful of powdered sugar on it. Spray your rolling pin with PAM or some other anti-stick invention. You're going to want to roll out this dough carefully. Keep it warm between your hands then immediately roll it out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Powder it with extra powdered sugar if it starts to stick and if it gets too sticky, put a cold cookie sheet in top of it to chill it out. Use your favorite cookie cutters to create little shapes and place the cut cookies on a cookie sheet prepared with parchment paper. Bake each tray for 7-13 minutes. My family likes ours a little crispy and just on the edge of burned so we stray towards the longer end.

Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes agpfter removing them from the oven to retain their shape, then move them to a cooling rack and load up another cookie sheet of delightful goodness. Makes about 4 cookies sheets worth of cookies.

To make the icing, sift about 2 cups powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and orange zest. Slowly add lukewarm/room temperature water until the icing is the consistency you want. If you feel like its too dry, add more water a little at a time until its good. You don't need much; this icing is very flavorful, soa very thin layer in the cookies goes a long way.

Go in! Have a peace! Enjoy!