I asked my Facebook community when in their life they’d been the most courageous. I was delighted and overwhelmed by the response this question elicited. What was surprising to me was that with the exception of just a few who wrote about physical feats, most people described pushing through emotional challenges, such as walking away from bad relationships, letting go of people and places, or jumping into the unknown to follow one’s heart. For many, it seems, this is far scarier and more rewarding than any other act of bravery.
A couple people turned the question around and asked me when I’d been the most courageous. As it turns out, I’m much better at asking questions than I am at answering them, which is probably a skill I cultivated as a schoolteacher. I was stumped. When had I been the most courageous?
A number of possible responses danced in my head, but I couldn’t pinpoint a time when I’d truly put everything on the line. I began to make a mental checklist of some of the times in my life when my actions could be considered courageous. When I was 13, I went on my first Vision Quest and spent 24 hours alone in the woods. In 11th grade I left my friends and family in Seattle and headed to Vermont in the middle of winter to spend a semester living on a farm. And, at the age of 31, although I’d spent years and lots of money to attain academic degrees, I quit my teaching job with no plan other than wanting to follow my passion for cooking. That same year I started this blog, where for the first time in my life I began to share my thoughts and feelings openly.
Could one of these events be my most courageous? Hmm… It left me pondering. Leaving my teaching job was scary, but I knew that I had enough savings to get by at least for a little while. And, although I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in at the farm school in Vermont, I was also extremely excited for this unique experience.
I have a feeling that one of the reasons I’ve suddenly become fascinated by the notion of courage is that I’m pretty sure the next phase of my life is going to be amazing, but also it’s going to take faith and strength. These previous courageous acts were building blocks.
While I know that my future will unfold in magical ways, and it will be just as it’s meant to be, it doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. But, isn’t that what courage is all about? Tackling the things we know we need to do, even when it makes us sweat and our heart pound. We do this because we know that the pain of not doing it would be far worse.
When in your life have you been courageous? What was the result of stepping out of your comfort zone? How has your life changed as a result? What kind of courage will it take for you to realize your dreams? What will you need to do to bring your future into focus? What can you do today, no matter how small, to take that first step toward the tomorrow of your dreams?
Coconut Fudgy Oat Squares
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Naturally Sweetened)
All of the food at The Mountain School, the farm school in Vermont I attended in 11th Grade, was delicious and nourishing. However, Marilyn’s (the head cook) Fudgy Oat Squares were legendary. Twenty three years later, I can still remember their ooey gooey decadence. I’ve done my best to do them justice while making them gluten-free and dairy-free. And, I added some shredded coconut…just for fun.
This recipe makes a lot! Share them with friends and family (or freeze for later). Enjoy!
Makes 20 large squares
1 13.5-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup honey
1½ cups coconut sugar
1 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
4 eggs at room-temperature
1½ tsp. vanilla
2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour*
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 cups gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
1 12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
1 cup chopped walnuts and/or pecans
*The blend I use contains brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 15½ x 10 inch baking pan.
In a small pan over medium-high heat, bring the coconut milk to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and whisk in the honey. Simmer for 40 minutes until slightly thickened, whisking occasionally. (You’re making sweetened condensed coconut milk.)
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the coconut sugar, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, shredded coconut, baking soda, and salt together. Pour the flour into the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the oats. Press 2/3 of the oat mixture into the bottom of the pan. If the mixture is too sticky, use damp fingers. The remaining l/3 of the oat mixture will be used to top the bars.
When the coconut milk and honey are finished simmering, remove from the heat and mix in the chocolate chips until fully combined. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Add the nuts and stir to combine. Spread the chocolate over the oat mixture in the pan. Drop the reserved oat mixture in small chunks onto the chocolate. Bake until golden, about 25 minutes. Cool completely before attempting to cut. Once the pan is cool enough to handle, you may want to refrigerate it for a few hours to get the fudge to set faster. Cut into squares and enjoy with childlike delight!