New Year, New Travel Posts

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about blogging. Why I blog, what I like about blogging, what I have been writing about and what I want to write about in the future. I started blogging mainly for one reason: I wanted to cultivate a habit of writing often. The goal being to write every day… honestly, I’m still working on that one.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was pretty young but I spend much more time thinking about being a writer than I spend actually writing. Starting a blog helped me write more often, but the joy I find in writing for my blog has been hit and miss. Some posts I love writing, others I am less enthused about and write them so I can check them off my to-do list.

I’ve realized that there are three main things I love writing: fiction, personal essays, and posts that promote how awesome my home state is. I don’t really love writing restaurant reviews: it feels like a chore. And since writing reviews on my blog is not my job and I don’t love it, I’m not going to do it anymore. Not in the way I used to at least. I still want to share awesome places in my area with you, my readers, but I am no longer writing a review of a restaurant simply because I ate there and remembered to take pictures before letting my husband eat his dinner (you’re welcome, Kenneth ūüėČ).

I’m going to test the waters on this style of blogging by re-writing my travel blog posts. Instead of posting about each and every place we visited on a trip, I’m going to write about the trip itself and leave out the contact info, hours, and addresses for the places we went (you’re smart cookies — Google them if you want to visit). I want to tell you about how it felt to be in San Antonio when it was over 100 degrees and I decided to walk three miles to the botanical garden because I was too nervous to Uber alone (I was a hot sweaty mess by the time I arrived, but the plants were so worth it!). Or how I want to go back Louisville when it’s warm and sunny because even though we visited in January and it was cloudy and gray the entire time, I could just see how gorgeous this city must be in the summer.

So, if you were desperately searching for what I thought of the fabulous gluten-free almond pancakes I enjoyed at North End Cafe in Louisville, that post is gone. But I will be replacing it with highlights of the entire trip, so it’s pretty likely that those particular pancakes will pop up on the blog again.¬†ūü•ě

Share + Give – The Empowerment Plan

January’s Share + Give 2017 organization is The Empowerment Plan. I first heard about The Empowerment Plan on Facebook from a friend who shared a post about the organization.

The Empowerment Plan creates jobs that lift its employees out of poverty and helps those who are currently homeless. Based in Detroit, Michigan and employing 39 previously homeless individuals, The Empowerment Plan makes and distributes heavy-duty winter coats that double as sleeping bags. They have distributed these innovative sleeping-bag coats in 40 states in the US and 7 provinces in Canada.

The Gap made this video about The Empowerment Plan for their One Stitch Closer program, which shares the stories, ideas, accomplishments, and challenges of women who are improving themselves and their communities.

Veronika Scott, the founder, and CEO of The Empowerment Plan found her inspiration for the organization while taking a class at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit. For the class, she was required to design and create a product that would fulfill a need her in her community. After spending time at shelters for the homeless, she decided to design the EMPWR coat. While working on prototypes of her coat¬†in Detroit, Veronika met a woman who angrily told her that she didn’t need a coat, she needed a job. Thus, The Empowerment Plan focuses on creating jobs, specifically for those who are most in need.

Homelessness should not be a life sentence.

I think this dual focus of The Empowerment Plan is inspiring. Not only is this non-profit creating jobs and helping homeless men and women deal with the cold, but the employees who work at The Empowerment Plan receive support that goes beyond a steady source of income. They provide their employees with training for their job and help them earn their GEDs or higher education by providing them time and assistance with the cost of college or certification programs. They have team lunches at work and give employees food gift cards to encourage them to make healthy food purchases. They also help with child care, initial costs of housing and transportation. To be able to provide such wonderful benefits to their employees, The Empowerment Plan needs support. This comes in the form of donations from private individuals, local organizations, corporations, and foundations.

Donations can be made online, you can even choose what you are making your donation towards. I am making a $25 donation for materials for a coat so I can help #spreadthewarmth. You can also sponsor a coat, donate to the housing fund, transportation or education funds or sponsor a team lunch!

Donate Here

I am making my donation in honor of:
Brittney – my awesome designer sister who is as kind as she is creative!
Emily – my sweet cousin who shares my love of cats, The Doctor and delicious coffee.
Azmara¬†– a friend who is also an amazing fashion designer whom I think will appreciate¬†Veronika’s ingenuity
Manda – a friend whose daily Facebook posts both crack me up, give me the feels and make me smile
Nicole – a friend who is the most bubbly educator I have ever worked with and gives the best hugs

Happy Share + Give 2017!

If you feel like sharing the love by sharing this post on your social channels and/or by giving to The Empowerment Plan in honor of a friend or family member, please use the following hashtags in your post!¬†ūüíó

#shareandgive2017
#thisohiolife
#spreadthewarmth
#empowermentplan

GF Tenera Grains Teff Banana Bread

I had my introduction to unique, staple grains long before I ever started eating or baking gluten-free. When I was a student at Ohio University, I interned for the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC). The ASFC mission is to build a regional bean, grain and perennial nut staple food system in the Appalachia region of Ohio.  Some of the first crops ASFC experimented with were millet, amaranth, buckwheat, black turtle beans and adzuki beans.

I participated in ASFC’s work by attending meetings with the Athens Food Policy Council, photographing events and creating presentations. A business called Shagbark Seed & Mill grew out of ASFC collaborations shortly after I graduated and moved to Columbus. Shagbark is a staple food hub, connecting Ohio farmers to millers and local chefs, bakers and consumers. Today Shagbark offers everything from organic stone ground flour from spelt, corn, and buckwheat, to corn tortilla chips and crackers, heirloom popcorn, pinto and adzuki beans. I personally love their tortilla chips the most!

Once I went gluten-free in 2010, I started my own series of experiments at home. Figuring out which flours work well together and how to adapt favorite recipes to suit my gluten-free lifestyle were definitely a learning experience! I have made hard as rocks biscuits and have had more bread and cakes fail to rise during baking than I care to admit. But I have also had successful baking experiments.

The successful recipes have quickly become favorites in my home. I love baking citrus loaf cakes and use everything from blood orange¬†to Meyer lemon or pink grapefruit to flavor them. Ginger gem cookies that I used to make in college when I was venturing into vegan baking have become gluten-free holiday staples. I baked my first apple pie for my birthday one year, adapting a recipe inspired by the television show¬†Pushing Daisies¬†to be gluten free. It was entirely an experiment and completely perfect… so perfect that I have been unable to recreate it!

That’s the beauty of experimenting. I love the challenge of not knowing and having to solve puzzles and work by trial and error. Then there’s the eating – the best experiments are ones with edible results.¬†ūüėčūüć™

That’s where Tenera Grains, a fellow experimenter, comes in. Tenera Grains is a 2,500-acre family farm in southern Michigan. The Smith family has been farming this land since 1837 — that’s seven generations! Prior to 2015, the Smiths grew¬†corn, soybeans, and wheat. But when the price of corn dropped a few years ago, a family friend from Ethiopia suggested they try growing teff. Despite the fact that teff, a grass crop with a very small seed, is native to the hot and dry climate of¬†Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Smith family decided to give it a go. By experimenting and adapting not only their farming but also their harvesting methods, they were able to make farming teff in Michigan work! Today Tenera Grains uses no-till farming and crop rotation to grow teff in a way that is sustainable and works in Michigan’s humid climate.

Prior to Claire Smith reaching out to me to see if I would review Tenera Grains teff flour for my blog, I had only experienced teff in Ethiopian cuisine. The small, ancient grain is used to make injera, a fermented flatbread with a slightly sour taste and an amazingly spongy texture. Not only is teff a gluten-free grain, Tenera Grains is also a farm that is working to grow unique staple crops in my region – I was definitely on board to try some of their teff flour!

The first recipe I made with the brown teff flour Claire sent me was an adaptation from an I Quit Sugar recipe for banana bread. In addition to teff flour, I used one of my favorite gluten-free flours, buckwheat. The teff and buckwheat both give this bread a nice nutty flavor. Instead of mashing my bananas and having a more textured bread, I put all of the ingredients into the blender. Not only does this significantly speed up the time between making and eating the bread, but the smooth batter gives the bread a spongy texture, reminding me of my first taste of teff in injera.

Teff has a ton of health benefits, including a nice amount of protein, calcium, iron and the amino acids leucine and lysine. I plan to try a few more recipes with teff, focusing on healthy, low sugar baked goods. But first, I think I need to make some peanut butter and teff cookies!¬†ūüėČ

This GF Tenera Grains Teff Banana Bread is the perfect accompaniment to a warm cup of tea and a good book on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

GF Teff Banana Bread

Makes one 9×5 loaf of bread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup Tenera¬†Grains brown teff flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup full-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 medium, ripe bananas

Directions Preheat oven to 350¬ļF and line a loaf tin with baking paper. In a blender, combine all ingredients. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Once cooked through, allow the loaf to cool slightly before removing from the tin and slicing into 12 slices. Serve with a slather of butter if you like.

Adapted from Chai-Spiced Banana Bread by I Quit Sugar.

ohio-120x120Tenera Grains

Address: The Farm 14191 Calhoun Rd Addison, Michigan 49220

Email: info@teneragrains.com

Social Media: Instagram

Thank you to Tenera Grains, a seventh-generation family farm in southern Michigan, for sponsoring this post.

Share + Give 2017

Happy New Year! As we move forward into a new year, trying to eat better, hit the gym, read more (and any other New Year’s resolutions you may be working on), I’d like to suggest another two for your list. Give more. Share more. The winter holiday seasons are often a season of giving, but I encourage you to continue giving well past Thanksgiving and Christmas. Give your time or money. Share love and kindness. Be warm and friendly to those around you and try to be helpful whenever you can.

One of the ways I am planning to share and give more this year is with monthly monetary donations. I will donate $5 in honor of a handful of different friends and family members every month in 2017. Each month I will choose a different charitable cause to give money to, which I will write about on This Ohio Life. During the first week of each month, I will make my donation and tag those friends on Facebook (and give them a shout-out on the blog). If they would like to pass it on, by sharing my post and/or making a donation to the same organization in honor of another friend (one friend, two friends… the more the merrier!), that would be wonderful! If they can’t, that’s ok too. A donation will have already been made in their honor. At the end of the month, I hope to have raised both awareness about the particular cause I chose and a little money to help them in their mission.

I am choosing organizations that align with my values, are recognized as legitimate and respected charities and do not have a political affiliation. I feel very strongly about politics and social justice and make donations to causes that support those beliefs, but I do not want a political slant to this project. This is just about spreading kindness and love. I also want to include friends and family on both ends of the political spectrum in this 12-month long project.

I hope that you will join me in making 2017 a kind and joyful year for everyone!¬†ūüíē