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Below you will find an archive of all my previous posts, and since this blog has taken on many shapes and sizes over the last five years, you will find everything from Italian wine reviews, to personal essays about writing and moving to New York. And of course, recipes! There are lots of those.

I'm in the process of creating an organized archive where all essays about faith and creativity are in one place and clearly labeled. That goes double for the recipes. But in the meantime, use this handy dandy search bar, and type in whatever you please :)

The Ultimate Homemade Protein Bars With Hemp Hearts and Pumpkin Seeds

In the seventh grade I had a health teacher who was a vegetarian and who showed us an hour-long video on the evils of slaughter houses. This was back in the early 90s, mind you. It was pre-Michael Pollan, pre-farm to table, and pre-organic everything movement. Some may call her a maverick who was way ahead of her time. I would just call her convincing, because she managed to turn me into a vegetarian (well, I suppose pescatarian is the proper word since I did eat fish) for the majority of high school.

It wasn't until that fated job at In-N-Out Burger during my freshman year of college that I finally relented and started eating red meat again. And boy did it taste good. Not only that, but I also got my first gym membership at that time and began to notice that the combination of lifting weights and eating a steady diet of dorm food (a.k.a salad bar, cereal, and Belgian waffles topped with strawberry sauce and a massive dollop of whipped cream) wasn't serving my body very well. I felt tired and my muscles were always sore, as if they couldn't quite heal and rebuild the way they were meant to.

Once I started eating chicken and In-N-Out cheeseburgers, I could feel the difference. Here was the protein my body had been craving all this time and not getting enough of. Over the years, I have taken this lesson to heart and found that while my particular body and metabolism requires a good amount of protein, I don't always need to search for it in animal products. Hemp hearts and pumpkin seeds are absolutely loaded with protein, as one serving of each contains a whopping 10 grams.

I have also noticed that I'm spending a pretty substantial amount of money on packaged protein bars as a post workout snack -- not to mention that their protein is mainly composed of processed soy, which Dr. Oz refers to as "the number one food women should avoid." Both of these factors encouraged me to start experimenting with a homemade version; however, health food is not my forte. I'm more of a brownie and chocolate chip cookie sort of baker.

The first power bar recipes I tried either tasted funny or crumbled into tiny pieces the moment I tried to cut them. After playing around with binding agents and adding various flavors, I finally reached success and am proud to share it with you.  These bars are jam-packed with natural proteins, they taste great, and miraculously stay together. You can find all of the ingredients at your local Trader Joe's, and yes, it will be a bit pricey to buy all of it at once. But each batch makes around 7 bars, and you'll have enough to make several batches and perhaps experiment with different flavors and add-ins.

For example, you could eliminate the cocoa powder and add more pumpkin pie spice and raisins to create an oatmeal cookie sort of feel. You could also use peanut butter instead of almond butter to give it a different spin, and maybe throw in a few chocolate chips for good measure. If you do end up making them, please leave a comment or post a photo on my Facebook page, as I would love to hear how they turned out!

Ultimate Homemade Protein Bars with Hemp Hearts and Pumpkin Seeds

(Adapted from this recipe and this recipe, except minus some of the wonkier ingredients like bee pollen. Because really, who has the patience to try and track down bee pollen?)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup hemp hearts
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
10 dates, pitted
1/2 cup almond butter
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, shredded coconut, and chia seeds. Grind it all together until it resembles bird food (literally), and then dump it into a large bowl.

Reassemble your food processor (no need to clean the bowl) and then add all of the remaining ingredients. Grind everything into a wet paste and then combine it with the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly so that everything is moist.

Transfer the mixture to either an 8 x 8" square baking dish, or a bread pan. You won't be baking them, so it only matters whether you want long and thin bars (use the 8 x 8"), or tall and thicker ones that resemble more of the packaged bars you would buy at the store (use the bread pan).

Place a large piece of saran wrap on top of the mixture and use your hands and fingers to press it down into the pan. Once the mixture is firmly compact, place it in the refrigerator for several hours and then slice it into bars.

Joshua Tree: An Image Journal

This semester, I tried something new with my community college students. I challenged them to lift their noses from their cell phones and pay attention to the world around them as it unfolded. To spend each and every day of the semester searching for one moment that they could record and describe in a sentence or two because it was fascinating or pretty or comical or heartbreaking. I called this their Image Journals, and they were required to write 100 entries,  one point each, over the course of 16 weeks.

It was my own riff on Project 365, the former Instagram challenge to keep a photo diary by snapping one picture every single day for a year. This was the literary equivalent.

Some students loved it and went above and beyond. They printed actual pictures from the Internet and described them underneath. One wrote a single sentence about the sadness he felt while watching his girlfriend cry. Another described the sounds of drunk people laughing at parties as glass bottles clanked against each other in the background. They wrote about watching the sunrise during a morning run, or how bizarre it felt to notice that their baby cousin was now looking and acting like a grown up.

Not everyone engaged with this assignment, of course, and not all were able to come up with 100 entries, but one or two actually thanked me for helping them pay more attention and requested that I give them their journals back after I finished grading them.

Ultimately, I felt challenged to take my own advice. And so I did.

I have begun keeping an image journal, and one of my favorite entries is from May 25 when Paul and I went with our friend Mark to Joshua Tree for Memorial Day. We listened to the U2 album all the way there and Paul told stories of how the whole national park was actually submerged underwater millions of years ago -- a fact that both startled and fascinated me. How could a desert have been covered by the ocean?

As we hiked, I looked for clues of this phenomenon. Upon closer examination of the rocks, I found they actually had a rough, sandpaper-like texture that is similar to coral. These towering boulders gathered in misshapen clusters like mountain ranges, tall and firm. When I stood on top of them and peered out into the vast layers of cactus and planes, I pretended there was an invisible water line covering everything and that I had dived off the rocks and into the watery abyss.