Dark Chocolate Chia Pudding (and what I did on my summer vacation)

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I realize it has been a VERY long time since my last post, and I plan to elaborate a little more on the reasons below…  I tend to get a little annoyed when people pontificate endlessly, and I find myself scrolling and scrolling, all the while thinking, “Get to the point, already!  I want the recipe!”

The short version is that we moved to Pennsylvania this summer, and we are LOVING it up here!  The weather is fabulous, we spend SO much more time outdoors in comparison to our 10 years of Texas summers, and I’ve found some fabulous local farmers that make it easy to buy local produce.  One of my favorites is Oak Grove Farms, which is located very close to our new house.  I plan to join their CSA in the spring!

It can get frustrating to see all the delicious paleo dessert recipes on Pinterest, click on them for more details, and then learn that so many of them have coconut milk.  I have to go very easy on coconut, as I react to it more severely than I react to dairy.  So I’m VERY excited to share this recipe for Dark Chocolate Chia Pudding.  It’s delicious with all the power of chia seeds, and my children LOVED it too!

Dark Chocolate Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

  • One cup raw, unsalted cashews
  • One cup water
  • One very ripe banana
  • One tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Two tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • Berries for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Place all ingredients except chia seeds and berries in a blender.  Process until very smooth.  Poor mixture over chia seeds, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Stir gently, then cover again and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until ready to eat.  (You may wish to pour the pudding into individual dishes before refrigerating.)  Garnish with berries, if desired.  (You may want to skip this step, but the berries do compliment the pudding very well.)

Enjoy!

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What I did on my summer vacation…

I must apologize for my lengthy absence from the blogging world.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we had plans for a summer move that would end our 10 years of living in Texas, and bring us to new jobs in Pennsylvania that were gloriously within driving distance of many of my family members.  I was THRILLED to be escaping the oppressive Texas heat (sorry, Texans, it’s just not for me), and excited that my kids would get to spend more time with some of their aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.

Selling a house tends to be a stressful task, especially in this economy, and in the weeks leading up to putting our house on the market, I found myself focusing less on taking care of myself, and more on staying up until 3 am painting walls and ceilings, reducing our household “inventory” to create the look of more space, and doing other odds and ends to make the house look as new and inviting as possible to prospective buyers.  We were very thankful to sell our house after only 8 days on the market.  Then came the enourmous task of packing to ready ourselves for the move… which also included ridding the pantry and freezer/fridge of all the leftover foods that wouldn’t travel well.  Admittedly, I didn’t always make the best choices on what to eat, but circumstances were unusual, and there were certain things (like gluten) that were still completely excluded from my diet.  The process also saved us a TON on groceries (I didn’t realize how much extra food I had lying around!) and helped me to reevaluate how I wanted to stock my pantry, fridge, and freezer in the new house.  I was still feeling very optimistic with the anticipation of traveling north!

We got the moving truck packed, said farewell to our worldly possessions (for a few days, anyway) and started the great migration.  After we were on the road, we received some unfortunate news.  The buyers for our Texas house apparently submitted paperwork for their loan only 2 days before we were supposed to close on the house, and they were securing a USDA loan.  Also, the USDA loan offices were terribly backlogged, so there was going to be a delay on our Texas house closing, which meant a delay on our Pennsylvania house closing.

Okay.  No big deal, right?  Things like this happen all the time.  We’ll get a hotel.  I still have plenty of healthy snacks left.  We can make this work.

But then the closing was delayed again.  And again.  They kept telling us that, as soon as the paperwork was processed, we could move forward.  But nobody had a clear idea of how long this would take.

We found ourselves living out of hotels for 5 weeks.  It’s a long a complicated story, but I actually slept in 8 different hotels and at 3 different houses over the course of those 5 weeks.  With two small kids and a chihuahua.  Yikes.

After the first couple of weeks, I ran out of healthy snacks, and bright ideas of how to keep a healthy diet (and a positive outlook) with a tiny fridge and microwave for all our meal prep.  I’m not proud of it, but I must say that it was very difficult to avoid feeling depressed.  I started to wonder if we’d EVER get into our new house, if we were going to lose our contract, etc. etc.  The energies I might have spent on preparing healthy meals were instead spent on finding fun, adventurous activities for the kids, so they would be affected as little as possible by the stress of the situation, and the toll it was taking on their mother.  We frequented MANY parks and libraries, along with other fun recreational centers, like bounce houses, train stations, and The Crayola Experience.  I think my husband and I did a pretty bang-up job of keeping them happy and busy.

I learned a LOT from the experience.  I learned great respect for those who are able to make great decisions despite chaotic circumstances.  I learned to have greater sympathy for those who have difficulty making nutritious choices while living in less than ideal conditions.  I learned to appreciate what I have, and I learned to dig down and find creative ways to spend each new day.

And now that we’ve been in our new house for a couple of weeks?  WOW.  I learned to appreciate it even more than I thought I would.  The first thing I unpacked was the kitchen.  It was a week later that I finally cracked open the boxes of clothing.  I didn’t even care that I had been wearing the same thing over and over for 5 weeks!  I needed to COOK!

We are living in a wonderful neighborhood with a 92 acre park just beyond our back yard.  We also literally walk ACROSS our back yard to get to our new church.  And we have a lovely back patio that gives us a great view of the park, along with the birds and squirrels that live and play in the large walnut trees at the edge of our property.  I moved our table and chairs onto the back porch our second day in the new house, and I haven’t moved them back inside since.  The weather is just too beautiful!  Our next door neighbors have an organic garden, and have urged me to pick whatever I want, whenever I need it!  There’s nothing like a fresh tomato that was picked 20 second before you diced it into your salad.

So, I plan to be a lot more productive in the coming weeks… months… years?  Look for lots more Kokopaleo recipes and stories!  It’s good to be back!

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