Time to celebrate!

Camp Korey

Today is a day of celebration. We celebrate our country. We celebrate the freedoms we enjoy as a result of our forefathers declaration of independence. We celebrate the special memories we get to create with family and friends as we gather around picnic tables, bonfires and watch Technicolor fireworks illuminate the sky in honor of this declaration. Sure, we celebrate a day off work and throw in some good sales too, why not? In the spirit of celebration and honoring amazing things, I wanted to share my adoration for Camp Korey. What is Camp Korey? I am so glad you asked! Camp Korey is an amazing haven that provides recreational programs for children and young adults with serious medical conditions who are unable to attend traditional enrichment programs due to their high medical needs. Camp Korey is a place that provides kids the opportunity to build self-esteem, meet friends that can relate to similar challenges and empower them to try new things rather than feeling isolated or limited as they might elsewhere. It is the place where pure joy is palpable.

I had the privilege of volunteering at Camp Korey as medical staff this past week. On a larger scale, the camp is part of the Serious Fun Children’s Network and in partnership with the American Academy of Dermatology hosts Camp Reflection, which is a camp specifically geared towards children with skin disorders and is held on the Camp Korey campus. As a dermatologist, I had the opportunity to oversee the medical care of children with both relatively common skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis to rare entities that most of us only read about during our training. The diversity of skin disorders at camp may have been vast, but the love of fun, camaraderie, mutual respect and unwavering support was homogenous. The kids had a blast, and no one was left behind or left out. From the beginning of camp where a young woman had such severe social anxiety that she wouldn’t utter a word to me, to the end of camp where she bestowed upon me a smile that could light up the darkest of skies, it was magical. Although I was there to serve in a professional capacity as a physician, I was gifted a profound personal re-awakening. Today is a day of celebration of our nation’s independence, but I would suggest that every day should be a celebration. The kids at Camp Korey reminded me that we can and should celebrate our abilities, but we should also celebrate our limitations to help catapult us beyond them to achieve true bliss. Happy 4th everyone!

Chocolate Almond goodness

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These little nuggets of goodness are made from a recipe adapted from an inspiring and beautiful blog I have come across (thank you Caitlin-roostblog.com)  It was originally made as a dinner biscuit, but I tweeked it make it an after dinner treat. Depending on which of my adaptations you try, you can make it more like a biscuit(less sweet) or more like a true dessert….a girls got to have her chocolate right?

Over the last few months, as I have jumped, I mean seriously, like off the high dive right into the deep end of a pool (and I’m afraid of heights mind you…another wonderful bonus of getting older, but I digress) into the gluten-free realm, I have tried to nudge my family, especially the kids into the “shallow water” of gluten-free eating. So when my son, the pickiest eater of us all gives something a thumbs up, believe me, I am going to shout the recipe out to anyone willing to listen. (just turn down the volume if I’m being too loud).

I have now made this 3 ways, using either butter or coconut oil for variety. Choose whichever one sounds good to you!

Chocolate Almond Goodness: Subtle sweetness for a mini-biscuit

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted organic coconut oil or butter (Note: coconut oil will impart a somewhat “tropical” flavor and butter will provide a true biscuit flavoring)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
    3 Tb organic cacao powder

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat (or whatever you’ve got so things don’t stick to pan).

In a large bowl, combine the almond flour, salt, cacao and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, brown rice syrup and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. With a spoon or if you are willing to get dirty (which is more fun in my opinion) scoop up some dough in your hands and make small/medium blobs (very technical term) probably equivalent to 2 teaspoons or tablespoon size depending on your blob preference.

Bake for 15 minutes (give or take depending on your oven) so that a toothpick inserted into the center of a biscuit comes out clean. Let cool briefly on the baking sheet. Serve warm. ( I have also frozen the leftovers and they keep well!)

Makes about 25-28

The one below is the sweet treat version and my favorite one so far. Not too sweet, but just enough to satisfy my cravings…and hopefully yours too!

Chocolate Almond Goodness: my version of an “Almond Joy”

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c organic melted organic coconut oil
  • 1/2 c organic light brown sugar
    1/4 c organic cacao powder

The mixing and cooking directions are the same as above but instead of brown rice syrup use the brown sugar and add it to your dry ingredients. Enjoy!

The sunny side of rainy days

We recently moved from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest. Days of endless sunshine have been replaced by gray skies punctuated by rain showers with only glimpses of the sun. The weather folk on tv call these “sun breaks”.  It is an odd concept to wrap my head around, but I am getting used to it. At least I keep telling myself that.

I admit that seeing the sun peek out from the clouds at the end of long wet day, feels like being greeted by a warm smile when you enter an unfamiliar room. It immediately lifts my spirits. I know sunshine has this effect on many people. It’s the reason why so many of us travel to warm, sunny and tropical places in the winter to experience that instantaneous mood elevation. (Of course, that’s also why I am marred by sun damage and saw so many patients in my office with skin cancers, but that’s a downer, so let’s focus on mood elevation!) The good news, is that I have recently found the sunny side of rainy days. Who knew there was one right? But there is….just look in the mirror, it’s you.

Spending more time indoors, I have spent more time getting to know me. It sounds strange, that after all these years of being me, I never spent much time really listening to my inner voice: what she likes, dislikes and is curious about learning. She talks a lot by the way, so for the longest time I just shut her up because I had work to do, or kids to chase around, or frankly (and most truly) I was afraid of what she might be saying. But this recent move has provided me with an opportunity to spend more time indoors and by default more time with me, so I have indulged her (speaking about myself in the third person is odd, I know, but bear with me).

She wanted to cook. Now for those of you who know me, know that this is outrageous because the stove and I had never really bonded. There was always the occasional flirting with brownies and chocolate chip cookie baking, but real cooking… not a chance. My sweet husband had indulged my culinary incompetence for the last 18 years (I know, he is a saint) and whipped up delicious meals for the kids and I.  Until now.  At the beginning of the new year I started critically reading food labels and realizing that despite my umpteen years of schooling and learning the crazy terms and acronyms that lend themselves to dermatology, I couldn’t pronounce or understand 90% of what was on the ingredient lists of most packaged food. I knew I didn’t need to have gone to medical school to know that this was not a good thing.

So what next? I got schooled. I recruited the help of a nutrition counselor (love her!) and delved into the realm of whole foods. Now I know this is not a new concept. But while the rest of the gang was getting wise to the ways of nutrition, I had my nose in the derm books and remaining blissfully ignorant to all the additives and preservatives that filled the boxes in my pantry.  Long story short (sort of…I told you “she” had a lot to say), empowered with my new knowledge and abundance of rainy days, I put on my figurative big girl pants and dove into cooking. I have  roasted vegetables. That’s right rutabaga, you don’t scare me anymore. I have made soups, stews, gluten-free and dairy-free entrees, desserts, sides and salads… it has been life altering. For me. For the kids. For my my husband.

Yes, the warmth and vision of the sun is uplifting emotionally, there is no doubt. But you may find that if you step into the shade, whether literally or figuratively, and listen to your inner voice, she/he may have something interesting to say and lead you to a new type of “shaded bliss.”