mid-week meditation #14

Good morning, everyone! Hope your week is humming along nicely. I woke up this morning feeling a little sore, but still on a high, from last night’s yoga class! We had a substitute instructor who was alllll about the chair pose. I was definitely feeling the burn! But it also felt like an accomplishment to be able to hold the pose for so long. It made me realize that I really have come far in my yoga practice since I began practicing in earnest at the beginning of the year.

It’s been a cloudy, gray couple days here in the Bay Area, which I’ve actually been savoring because it finally feels like autumn! I love cozy autumn weather. It makes me so happy to curl up with a book under a blanket, or open up my laptop in the morning to write with a hot mug of tea while the wind shrieks outside.

That’s pretty much my schedule for today: write in the morning, teach in the afternoon, and have a bajillion cups of tea in between. ūüôā This evening, I’m planning to head to church for a class our ministers are co-teaching on Science & Spirituality. I’ve heard great things about it and am excited to check it out!

This week’s meditation is a quote that my brother sent me:

john gardner quote

 Question of the morning:

  • What do you have to give that you have never given before?

bruce bruce, homemade beignets, pumpkins galore & other weekend highlights

Happy Monday, everyone! How was your weekend? Mine was absolutely lovely and I couldn’t resist sharing some photos… I’ll be back tomorrow with this week’s year of Wooden post!

Saturday morning I slept in a little and relaxed, reading a couple short stories while sipping on a mug of chai tea and noshing on a bowl of cinnamon oatmeal. Then I baked a batch of 3-ingredient banana cookies. Then I got ready to go teach a bunch of energetic kiddos for five hours!

Then I taught for five hours!

Then I was exhausted.

But I quickly perked up because I was meeting my sweetheart for dinner ūüôā We went to Tommy T’s, a comedy steakhouse — it was the first time there for both of us and we weren’t quite sure what to expect, but the food was tasty and the whole place was packed! Definitely a popular venue. The headline comedian was Bruce Bruce, who I had never before heard of but who seemed quite well-known among most of the audience.

I was a bit disappointed because he talked SO fast that I had a tough time hearing/ understanding what he was saying! The jokes I did catch I thought were humorous, and it was clear that his quick-talking was purposeful — it was part of his whole vibe. Maybe if I heard him perform more often and had a better sense of his speech rhythms, I would have been able to understand more of what he said. But in any case, it was still a fun night and I was really glad we went!

Sunday morning, Allyn and I tried our hands at making beignets! They’re the French-style dessert that we loved at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Before he left NOLA, Allyn picked up a box of beignet mix and yesterday we decided to finally put ourselves to the test!

beignet mix

I’ll be honest: at first, I was quite certain they were going to be a disaster. The dough was super sticky and I was having a ridiculously difficult time rolling it out. I used a water glass because we didn’t have a rolling pin!

rolling pin water glass

Lots and lots of flour ended up being the secret weapon. Once the dough was rolled out thin enough, we cut it into small squares and placed them carefully in the frying basket. By the time they reached the frying basket, they usually looked more like distended blobs of dough than squares, but no matter. We pressed on!

beignet dough

making beignets

Then Allyn, who earned the name Mr. Pro Fryer, dropped the basket into the hot oil and … I was amazed! The blobs of dough actually looked like little beignets! Not as pretty as the ones at Cafe du Monde, but still respectable.

frying beignets

little beignets

We topped them with powdered sugar and they were delicious! Eating a Sunday brunch of beignets and fruit salad out on the patio felt super luxurious. Sometimes my Sundays start out way too fast, with me rushing off to church or tutoring commitments. When possible, I want to start waking up early enough to savor a slow Sunday morning breakfast.

beignets breakfast

Church was lovely yesterday. I was honored to do the chalice lighting {a symbol of our religious faith at the beginning of the service} and I read aloud these beautiful words by Joy Harjo:

joy harjo quote

After church, I met up with Dana for a catch-up coffee date, and we also stopped by this super-cute local nursery that was all decked out for Halloween! It was a really warm day yesterday, so the weather felt like summer, but the place definitely felt like autumn. I really love autumn decorations and Dana does too, so we had a great time admiring all the details.

Dana pumpkin patch

me pumpkin patch

pumpkins

sunflower

spider

halloween

There were baby goats, too!

baby goats

I was swooning over these beautiful hand-painted sunflower tiles. I told Dana that one day I want to buy one of these and hang it in my kitchen!

sunflower tiles

My Sunday ended with family dinner, where my Uncle Arn serenaded us with Steely Dan hits on his new electric drum set and my gorgeous cousin Arianna did a fashion show of her beautiful Homecoming dress and accessorizing options. Then I watched The Good Wife with my grandma, read a little of After Dakota, and collapsed into bed. A perfect day!

mid-week meditation #11

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Oh man, I went to yoga last night for the first time in for.ev.er and I am sore today! It’s the good kind of sore, though. I’m already looking forward to class tomorrow! It’s nice to be getting back into my regular routine after such a busy, travel-filled summer.

When I got home from yoga last night, there was this gorgeous cake sitting on the kitchen counter. Apparently one of our neighbors saw my grandma walking with her walker and learned about her hip operation. So she baked this homemade lemon cake as a get-well gift. Such a thoughtful gesture! It warmed my heart {and my belly — delicious!} Next time I see her, I’m going to ask for the recipe so I can share it with all of you.

lemon bundt cake

Last night, my fave contestant Tavis Smiley was voted off¬†Dancing With The Stars. ūüė¶ But I’m happy to be heading into San Francisco¬†today to hear Tavis give a talk about his new book about MLK,¬†Death of a King,¬†at The Commonwealth Club.

Death of a King

Then I’m off to teach my first class of the semester for Communication Academy — I’m excited to meet my students and get started! Tonight I’m heading over to my aunt Annie’s house to watch the season premiere of Nashville with her and Arianna… the other show I watch on a regular basis in addition to The Good Wife. Any other Nashville fans?

Before I go, here’s a September-inspired meditation to add some calm to your week:

September quote

Have a beautiful day!

mid-week meditation #10

Hi there, everyone! How is your day going? It’s been H-O-T here in Ventura this week — temps are up in the 80s, which feels super hot here because we don’t have air conditioning! Don’t usually need it with the cool ocean breeze and fog. I’ve been working in the dining room all day, which is the one room in our house that seems to get a bit of a breeze. Dad and I went out for lunch today — partly for a fun meal out, partly for some air conditioning! ūüôā We went to one of my favorite restaurants, a Japanese place called Kabuki. I got two sushi rolls and chowed down on the complimentary edamame. Yum!

sushi

I’m savoring these final days at home with my parents before heading back up to my life in the Bay. The rest of the afternoon was spent working on my novel, visiting my Gramps, and baking a loaf of pumpkin bread to deliver as a thank-you to the local newspaper for running a guest column I wrote a couple weeks ago.

Now Dad’s having a Guinness (he fell in love with Guinness while he and Mom were in Ireland) and I’m trying out a cider I spotted in Trader Joe’s… has anyone else tried¬†pineapple cider?! I’ve never seen it before, so I couldn’t resist. It is a bit of a strange combination — apple-y plus tropical-y — don’t know if I’d get it again, but fun to try something new!

pineapple cider

Before I close up my computer and start prepping dinner, here’s a meditation for you:

small daily choices

Question of the evening:

  • What are small daily choices that make you feel renewed?

mid-week meditation #9

Hi there, friends!¬†Can you believe it’s Thursday already? This week is flying by!

Here’s a meditation that seemed applicable in these late summer days, as we transition into a new season of back-to-school and new beginnings. It’s a quote from one of my favorite books of all time, The Great Gatsby.

summer quote

Questions of the morning:

  • What is your favorite memory of the summer?
  • How do you feel renewed as the seasons change?

year of kindness challenge: week 43

The autumn decorations are up at my grandma’s house, and I love them!

autumn decorations

They make me smile every time I walk through the door. ūüôā I absolutely adore this time of year! The weather turned the past couple days and it truly feels like autumn. There is a cold crispness to the air and frost is expected here on the ground in the morning. I’ve busted out my cozy sweaters, scarves and boots!

Now, on to the kindness…

year of kindness button

This past week’s kindness challenge was to buy someone else’s morning java fix or afternoon caffeine boost. I gave $10 to the barista at Starbucks to pay for the drink of the next person who came in, and said to keep whatever change there was as a tip. Two acts of kindness in one! It brightened my entire day. ūüôā

The Week 43 Kindness Challenge is to take a batch of Halloween treats to a nursing home, fire station, police department, or school … anywhere that could use some Halloween treats, not tricks!

As always, blog about your experiences and include your links in the comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at dallaswoodburn AT gmail DOT com.

Have a marvelous week!
– Dallas

P.S.: Head on over to this Year of Kindness Challenge page to see all the archived posts from the previous 42 weeks!

Questions of the day:

  • What kindnesses happened in your life this past week?
  • Do you decorate your house for autumn?

curried butternut squash & apple soup

apple week

Oh my goodness you guys. This soup. My grandma pulled out the recipe the other day and I was thinking, “Are we really going to try to make this??” I was intimidated by the blender part of the process. But it really wasn’t difficult at all. The toughest part of the whole recipe was cutting up the butternut squash! Next time we are definitely going for the easy pre-cut packaged option … definitely worth the extra couple bucks, in my opinion.

Anyway … I highly recommend this soup! Healthy, hearty, creamy, the slight spice of the curry mingling with the sweetness of the apples and squash … YUM. This soup = autumn in a bowl. Enjoy!

butternut squash soup

curried butternut squash and apple soup

– 3 lbs butternut squash, cubed
– 2 apples, peeled and chopped {we used gala apples}
– 2 cups onions, diced
– 4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
– 4 or 5 tbsp curry powder {depending on your taste for curry}
– 1 cup apple juice
– salt & pepper to taste
– green apple for garnish, if desired

1. Peel and chop your squash and apples. As mentioned previously, I would highly recommend using pre-packaged chopped butternut squash for this recipe, but if not I’d recommend baking the squash in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until soft. That will make it much easier to peel and chop!

2. Saute the diced onions in a little bit of butter or olive oil. Add curry powder and cook until onions are translucent.

3. Add the squash, apples and chicken broth and bring to a boil.

soup pre blend

4. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer, half-covered, for approximately 25 minutes, until the squash and apples are soft.

5. Pour soup through a strainer, reserving the liquid. Blend the squash/apple/onion mixture in a blender or food processor until creamy.

6. Transfer blended soup back into the pot. Add the apple juice. Gradually stir in the reserved liquid until the soup reaches desired consistency.

soup creamy

7. Heat the soup on the stove until warmed through.

8. If desired, garnish with grated green apple. Serve warm.

I paired mine with a grilled cheese sandwich and it was the perfect dinner on a crisp autumn night!

grilled cheese

Question of the morning:

  • What are some of your favorite apple recipes? #appleweek

if you like this recipe, you might also enjoy:
creamy blended potato & cauliflower soup
savory pumpkin & kale stew
shrimp & sausage stew

gluten-free apple pie bites

apple week

Hi friends! Apple Week continues today with a recipe for apple pie bites, adapted from one I came across at The Washington Post online. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of these babies … you’ll just have to trust me on this. They’re: 1) delicious; 2) easy to make; and 3) gluten-free! In other words, these apple pie bites are the bomb dot com.

For the crust:
– 1/2 cup gluten-free flour {I used coconut flour, which turned out very well}
– 1/2 cup almond flour or almond meal
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 2 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup
– 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
– 1/4 cup ice water

For the filling:
– 1 cup finely diced, skin-on apple
– 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp agave syrup or maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a mini muffin pan and set it aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal and cinnamon. Add the maple syrup, applesauce and water; stir to form a soft dough.

3. Divide the dough evenly among the wells of the mini-muffin pan. Use your fingers to press down the dough so that it lines the bottom and sides of each well.

4. Now make the filling: stir together the apple, applesauce, vanilla extract, maple syrup and cinnamon in a separate bowl. Divide evenly among the dough-lined muffin pan wells, pressing down the filling so it is firmly packed.

5. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes; the edges of the tarts will be lightly browned and the filling will have settled a bit. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then use a fork to gently dislodge and transfer each tart to a wire rack to cool.

These are the perfect light dessert or portable snack! Happy baking!

—————-

you might also enjoy these recipes:
apple cake with crumb topping and a brown sugar glaze
baked sugar & cinnamon donut holes
melinda’s vegetable salad with apples, bacon & honey-apple vinaigrette

apple cake with crumb topping & brown sugar glaze

Hi everyone! I’ve decided to designate the next few days as Apple Week here on the blog! I have a few apple-themed recipes I’m excited to share with you, so I thought why not group them together in a single week … after all, no time of year says apple like autumn does!

apple week

Today, I’m excited to share the recipe for the apple cake I shared a teaser picture of in yesterday’s post. Grandma and I baked this cake for our dinnertime get-together at my aunt’s house, and it was a huge hit! There were only six of us there, and pretty much the entire cake got devoured by the time we left.

apple cake with crumb topping and a brown sugar glaze

apple cake

for the cake:
– 5 cups apples {peeled, cored and chopped}
– 1 & 3/4 cups flour
– 1/4 cup almond meal
– 2 tsp baking soda
– 2 or 3 tsp cinnamon {depending on your tastes}
– 1 tsp salt
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 1 cup applesauce
– 2 eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla

for the crumb topping:
– 1/2 cup flour
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 2 tbsp butter

for the brown sugar glaze:
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking pan and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the brown sugar, maple syrup/agave, and chopped apples. Mix until apples are well coated with sugar. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, vegetable oil, applesauce, and vanilla until well combined.

4. Sift together dry ingredients: flour, almond meal, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

5. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.

6. Pour the batter over the apple-sugar mixture. Stir until well combined, then pour into the baking pan.

7. To make the crumb topping: mix together flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add butter in small pieces. Mix until you have a fine, crumbly mixture. Generously sprinkle the crumb topping over the apple cake batter.

8. Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. {Note: your house will smell AMAZING when this is baking!}

9. While cake is baking, make your brown sugar glaze by combining brown sugar, vanilla and water in a small bowl. Stir until smooth.

10. Remove cake from oven and drizzle with brown sugar glaze, which will harden as the cake cools.

In my opinion, this cake is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!!

———

like this recipe? you might want to also check out:
baked cinnamon french toast
incredibly easy pumpkin spice cookies
chocolate spice zucchini muffins
apple banana oatmeal muffins

goals + meal plan for the week of 10/20

Happy Sunday, friends! How is your weekend going? It’s another gorgeous day here in the Bay Area. I love autumn! I think I’m going to bake another pumpkin pie today, or maybe some gluten-free pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies … nothing says … Continue reading