Submitting to the Plan

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“Father, create in me a clean heart… and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

I sat beside my 13 year old today as she got braces. We’ve been talking about this day for months – and, now, no more waiting: the process to straight teeth has begun.

We had a long talk with the orthodontist before today where we learned the transformation of her smile will happen without her even knowing it. He explained the wires and bands he’d apply would push and pull things into place – that it wouldn’t always be comfortable, but that she could be sure work was always in progress. He said what is crooked will be made straight; and what’s out of line will be brought into order. Slowly… slowly… slowly. He said he wouldn’t have to force anything to ‘right’ itself, but with the ever-so-slight pressure he’d apply over time, she’d eventually end up with ‘perfection’.

So at 7:35 this morning, my daughter walked into the office – willingly… a little giddy even. She sat in the chair – willingly. She opened her mouth – willingly. She gave in to the discomfort, dry lips, and multiple hands in her mouth – willingly. They didn’t have to hold her down, or bribe her, or scream at her, or pull rank. They simply said, if you want straight teeth, here’s what we have to do. And, since she wants straight teeth, she showed up and said ‘let’s do it’… willingly.

I was so impressed by her and her maturity. But, even more important, as I sat the foot of her chair with my mommy hand on the calf of her long, lean leg, I was impressed by a very simple truth I often strive to forget: sometimes I just have to submit to the plan.

HIS plan, not my plan. HIS way, not my way.

I know, I know. “Submission” is a dirty, loaded word these days. “Submission” brings up pictures of doormat women, and weak people, and images of everything most of us dread of being. But watching my daughter submit to the plan this morning wasn’t weakness – it was beautiful STRENGTH. She had a heart that understood the greater plan and she willingly said, “I’m in.” No one would call her a doormat because she submitted to the leading of the orthodontist; she wasn’t coerced or pushed around or belittled because she’s taking the opportunity to ‘perfect’ her teeth. To the contrary: by willingly submitting to the plan she can now sit back and allow the ever-slight-pressure to do it’s work for her good.

Just like my girl’s path to straight teeth began by her willingly sitting in the orthodontist’s chair, my path to ‘better’ – God’s ‘better’ – starts with my willingness to place myself before Him and His word. Yes, there will be troubles. Yet, in spite of the tests and trials He may use to make me uncomfortable and mold me through the process, if my heart is right and humbled before Him, I can know with certainty it will all work for good.

When we walked out of the office this morning, my girl had a Starbucks gift card in one hand and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the other – two gifts to ‘celebrate’ the day. And me?  I walked out praying for courageous willingness to submit to the ‘treatment plan’ my Father’s laid out for me.  I admit it’s so hard sometimes… it’s hard to let go of me and MY way and submit to His spirit and HIS way - especially when things around me aren’t changing as fast as I want them to. But just as the orthodontist promised my girl his work will make a difference over time, my Father promises that, just as the heavens are higher than the earth, HIS ways are higher than my ways, HIS thoughts higher than my thoughts… and, His plan will make me more joyful, more loving, more forgiving, more patient, more kind, more powerful, more EVERYTHING than I could ever be without Him.

 

A Warm and Savory White Bean & Carrot Quinoa Salad

Where has the summer gone? Do you feel that, too? Just yesterday I saw this quote by John Burroughs: “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.” Yep – I couldn’t put it any better than that.

Not only have I been feeling the days are too short, I’ve been feeling my days are way too filled with the ‘tedious things’. The laundry. The organizing. The grocery shopping. The laundry. The cooking. The cleaning. The laundry. (Do you do that much laundry, too?) On more than one occasion I’ve looked at the floor waiting to be swept and the dishes needing washing, and, for a split second, it’s crossed my mind to run out the door with The Kitchen House and hide in the shade of a tree instead of doing my chores. Ha! Maybe after the kids go back to school that will be my ‘free day’: shade, a good book, no chores for mommy.

Anyway, because of all the business of these last days before school starts, there’s been no real ‘plan’ for our days… which is why we ended up eating this last night:

I was staring at my pantry, my overabundance of carrots, and a nice selection of my staples: white beans, lemons, spinach, and arugula. As I started to cook, it didn’t even occur to me I was throwing together a recipe I’d be sharing with you – hence, my lack of ‘how to’ photos in this post. But you know what? It was so yummy… so fast… and so perfect for a quick meal on a summer night – I have to share it.

Here’s what I used:

1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
1 1/2 cups of carrots, peeled and grated (I chopped mine with my mini food processor)
1/4 cup fresh diced parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of water
2 handfuls raw baby spinach
1 cup cooked Andean Naturals quinoa
1 handful of arugula
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

In a large fry pan, sauté your onions and garlic in a little olive oil on medium high. Once onions are translucent, add in your shredded carrots, parsley, dried seasonings; stir and continue to sauté for another couple minutes. Add in your white beans and water; stir again, and allow beans to warm through for a couple minutes. Add in baby spinach, stir to incorporate, cover, and turn off heat while spinach wilts.

Place your quinoa in a large bowl. Add in one cup of your hot bean/carrot sauté, a handful of fresh arugula, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Stir to incorporate. Serve the salad and, before eating, freshly zest lemon zest over the top for garnish.

Now, here’s the truth: After I pulled out the cup of sauté for this salad – my salad, I actually mixed the remainder together with some noodles for my man and kids. So, if you have family that wants pasta – serve them pasta! But, if you want quinoa like me, do it up; and, if you have leftover saute, just mix it with more quinoa and save it for lunch tomorrow.

Before I go, please know I intend to spend more time here once our house is back on a school / work schedule. Thank you for sticking it out with me, encouraging me, and being here! I appreciate you… I hope you know that.

(Want to learn more about quinoa? Check out my brand partner, Andean Naturals. They’re raising the power of goodness and sharing quinoa with the world.)

Spicy Black Bean & Lime Quinoa Salad

I went to a BBQ this past weekend and, of course, was asked to bring a ‘quinoa salad of some sort’.

Now, when you ask me to bring a quinoa salad, I get really excited. Why? Well, because I love quinoa, of course. But, more importantly I get excited because it’s a chance to introduce people to how flavorful, fragrant, and wonderful a quinoa dish can be. I get excited to show everyone that quinoa is a true crowd pleaser… I get excited to have people say, “Wow, can I get the recipe?” (And for my ladies that asked for the recipe, this post is dedicated to you ;) )

Hence, I brought this – THE salad my family and I can’t seem to get enough of right now:

Ingredients:

For salad:

  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 2 cans organic black beans, drained and rinsed (always buy canned beans with nothing but beans, water, and salt on the ingredient label)
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers, diced
  • 2 cups of baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, washed and rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 medium jalapeño, diced (remove HALF the seeds for less spice)

For dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2-3 small garlic cloves, diced and smashed with the back of a fork
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp cumin
  1. Put your quinoa and beans into a large bowl.
  2. Add your argula, chopped cilantro, diced bell peppers, red onion, and diced jalapeño.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together your dressing ingredients and pour dressing evenly over the top of the salad.
  4. Stir to evenly coat all ingredients, taste for flavor, and (if necessary), add more salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s what it’ll look like:

 


And then look at the bowl of beauty you end up with:

(NOTE: this recipe makes about 4-5 full bowl servings. But, here’s the good news: it gets better as it sits! So, even if you don’t have a BBQ or a big crowd to serve, make the full batch and save the rest for the next day or two. You won’t regret it.)

Happy Monday, everyone – I’m so glad you’re here with me. (If you’re on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, connect with me there, too!)

 

YOU CAN DO IT: Gluten-Free Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars

The other afternoon my 11-year old bakerella made some amazing carrot cake muffins. They were “traditional” carrot cake – the kind that’s moist, sweet, and covered in a rich and creamy cream cheese frosting. But, as with most delicious cakes, all the sugars meant they were definitely a ‘treat’ and not something we’d be eating on a daily basis.

But see, I want to eat carrot cake every day – it’s just the processed flours and sugars that keep me from it. So, with that in mind, I challenged myself to come up with a carrot cake that would still taste like carrot cake, but have NO refined sugars or flours. The result?

This:

Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars with A Honey Yogurt 'Frosting'

Quinoa Honey Carrot Cake Bars with A Honey Yogurt ‘Frosting’

I made a couple batches before I had real success. While the first couple weren’t ‘cakey’ enough, when this batch came out I knew it was spot on. And, what did my expert bakerella say?

   

She said, “YUM.”

Before I tell you all that you need and how to do it, let me fill you in on a couple things:

1) You’ll need ground almonds. This means just take some almonds and grind them in a grinder (or food processor) until you have this:

2) You’ll also need ground oats, which means just take your gluten-free oats and grind them in the same grinder (or food processor) until you have this:

(I rarely have specialty flours on hand, but always have nuts and oats on hand. So, this is a great do it yourself – and you only need to grind what you’ll need for the recipe.)

With that said, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients for cake:
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/4 cup grated carrots
1 cup ground gluten-free oats
1/2 cup raw organic honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup greek yogurt

To make ‘frosting’:
1/2 cup greek yogurt + 1 TBSP of raw honey whisked together until smooth.

FOR CAKE:

Place your ground almonds, ground oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a bowl, and mix by hand with a fork until incorporated.

Add precooked quinoa, carrots, honey, melted coconut oil, cinnamon, and vanilla to the mixture, and mix again. It will look like this when it’s all mixed:

Next, in a separate bowl, whisk three eggs until loose. Add greek yogurt, and whisk again until mixture is creamy.

Add cream mixture to dry mixture and still well until incoporated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread mixture into an even sheet. Do not push into corners of the pan, though.

Bake at 375 for about 18 minutes, or until golden brown and cake springs back in center when you touch it.

Allow to cool on pan, then slide the parchment and cake out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Slice into small squares for easy storage and snacking.

They’re sweet (but not over-sweet), moist, and have a wonderful texture. Eat the bars plain, or for a little extra sweetness add a little schmear of honey yogurt ‘frosting’, or with a drizzle of maple syrup or warmed honey. (They are a perfect compliment to a cup of coffee or tea.) No matter how you eat them, I know you’ll be saying ‘yum’ just like us.

Let me know if you make them… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

I love farmer’s markets… but I really love u-pick farms. I love the hunt, the abundance, the quiet of the open space. I’m happy to wander… to move from bush to bush, or tree to tree, selecting the best of the bounty.

We usually start with strawberries in mid-late June - and, let me tell you: you’ve never really had a strawberry until you’ve had an Oregon Hood strawberry straight out of the field.

Then, in July we move to the berry varieties: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries… and, once I get picking, you almost have to pull me off the fields before I stop.

But come the last days of July into August, we move to peaches. When we went just a couple of days ago, the peaches were dripping off the trees. We picked, and picked, and picked – and, while we picked, we discussed all the great things we could turn the peaches into: peach smoothies, peach tarts, peach scones.

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For me, though, I was excited to get home with my peaches and make these:

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

Peachy Quinoa Pancakes

YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 cups precooked quinoa
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 heaping cup of finely diced peaches (or other fresh fruit)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP organic raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder

NOTE: Here are a few other of my favorite variations for these fruity quinoa cakes:

bananas and cinnamon
strawberries and walnuts
blueberries and lemon zest

STEPS:

Crack your eggs into a large mixing bowl, then whisk until smooth.

 

Slice up your peaches and remove as much skin as possible. Finely dice/mash the fruit.

 

Add your quinoa and finely diced peaches to the whisked eggs, then add your flour, baking powder, and vanilla – and stir to incorporate completely.

 

Heat a fry pan and lightly butter the bottom. With pan a little higher than medium heat, use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to make patties in pan. After 3 – 3 1/2 minutes, carefully flip patties.

 

Isn’t that easy? And – DELICIOUS.

Now, seriously - don’t skimp! Use REAL organic maple syrup for these… or, maybe a drizzle of some warm honey.

 

These will become a new favorite around your house… I’m willing to bet on it.

 

Visiting with My Friend Nick @Macheesmo

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I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Nick – the man behind Macheesmo and all around cool guy. Nick and I met while filming Food Fighters and, since then, have become pretty good blogging buddies. He has a beautiful site, a beautiful book, and – seriously: he’s one of the kindest, most encouraging people around. Believe me: you want to know him.

With all that said, I’m honored Nick invited me to guest on his site today and share my quinoa love with his readers. Pop over there and give it a read…. and, if you leave a comment on his post you might even win a FREE copy of my ebook, The Quinoa Habit!

READ POST HERE.

Have a great Monday everyone – and, one final thing: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8)

I’m glad you’re here with me ;)

The Food Fight Is Over…

I win!

Well, that’s it! After a year of waiting to see it come to pass, Food Fighters finally aired and I can say with joy: this little mama threw down and beat some of the best chefs in the world!

I’ve been overwhelmed with emotion this last week as we awaited the episode. It was exciting giving interviews and seeing my story unfold in the media… but I was nervous to see how it all would come together. Thankfully, I LOVED IT.  So, thank you Electus and NBC – I am honored you chose me to be part of this amazing project.

Words cannot do justice to the experience of competing on Food Fighters. Nothing I say will ever help you fully grasp the emotions – the anxiety, stress, fear, and excitement! – I felt as each new chef walked on stage. While America watched an hour long episode, in reality the competition took hours upon hours to unfold.  The freshness I took to the first couple rounds was soon zapped by the pressure, and by the end of the day I was exausted, dehydrated, and running on nothing but pure adrenaline.  It was so hard; and, you can see the nerves started to take their toll as I began making mistakes in my last two rounds! Thank God He pulled me through and I was able to recover after that devestating loss to Marcel! UGH! I honestly didn’t think I could keep going…

I am so thankful for ALL OF YOUR LOVE you’ve poured out on my blog, facebook, and twitter. It especially warmed my heart to hear from fellow Guamaians expressing pride over seeing our island represented on national TV. Yay, Guam!!!

Here are answers to some of the questions I’ve received (and that you may be wondering about):

Q: How did the morning show in Seattle go? 

I kicked off yesterday in Seattle where I appeared on New Day Northwest. We talked Food Fighters, and I made a chocolate quinoa pudding – a ‘healthified’ version of a traditional Guamanian dish called ‘champulado’. Here’s the segment:

Q: When are you going to Guam?

Good question! Lord willing, it will work to go this December. My hope is to be there for about a month. It takes almost a full 24 hours to get there – and airfare alone will be close to $12,000! So, if we’re going, the plan is to stay as long as we can and make the most of it. We have tons of family to see. PLUS I really want to work on a Guamanian food series while I’m there. Guamanian food is exceptional… and I plan to continue sharing our food and culture with the world.

Q: What happened to your finger?
Ohmygosh – my finger! At the beginning of the second round my nerves had me shaking so bad! I had to cut open the plastic bag the fish was sealed in and, while I held it in one hand and sliced at it with the other, the tip of the exteremely sharp pearing knife knicked me just enough to cause a small problem. Thankfully it took just a minute to wrap it up and I got right back to cooking. Thank God it didn’t jeapordize my round!

Q: Can you share your recipes?
NBC has all the recipes HERE.

Also, check out the ‘extras’ from the NBC website:


Q: I missed the show… where can I watch it?

NBC has the full episode posted HERE.

Anyway, while I don’t think I’m fully processing anything in my brain just yet, I couldn’t let today go by without saying THANK YOU for your support, encouragement, and for cheering me on! Food Fighters was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in my woman skin… and, I am grateful for every minute of it.

So, again, thank you for being here with me… and I hope you’ll watch every week and make Food Fighters one of the summer’s best new shows!

Much love to you, my sweet friends.

 

It’s Finally Here: NBC Food Fighters!

In less than 12 hours, millions of people will be watching as I battle against five of the best chefs in the world on NBC’s brand new culinary competition, “Food Fighters”.

I’ve been sitting at this computer for over an hour trying to figure out what to say about it… and, to be honest: I’m speechless. Even though it’s happening, I can’t kick the feeling that this is too good to be true. Me? Really? Am I really going to be on NBC? Really?

I’m humbled.

I’m excited.

I’m nervous.

I’m honored.

I’m grateful.

And, more than anything, I give all glory to my Heavenly Father for bringing me to this place and to this opportunity, for I am nothing without His grace and mercy over my life.

Wow. Wow. WOW.

I guess the only thing left to say as we push forward to 8pm tonight is… LET THE FOOD FIGHT BEGIN!!

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Photo Credit: Food Fighters, NBC Universal

TUNE IN!

Watch Food Fighters TONIGHT (Tuesday, July 22nd) @8pm ET/PT on NBC

Grilled Beef Bone and Quinoa Kadu Soup

One thing my nana frequently said as I walked into her kitchen to eat was “All I had was ‘x’, but look… I made something real good.”  She’d say it as she was pulling the lid off the pot of steaming yumminess, or removing the napkin from the plate of freshly fried beauty. I’d sit at her tiny table, roosters crowing outside and mosquitos on my legs, and she’d serve me ‘all that she had’.

Nana with the ever present kitchen towel over her shoulder

Nana with the ever present kitchen towel over her shoulder

If ‘all she had’ was a coconut milk and some flour, we’d end up with some handmade tortillas that would blow your mind.

Nana making her homemade tortillas

Nana making her homemade tortillas

Or, if ‘all she had’ was overripe bananas off our tree, we’d get buñelos aga (banana donuts). Most of the time, though, ‘all she had’ was a potato and a small piece of beef (or even beef bones) out of the freezer, or a couple pieces of chicken from the neighbor and some pumpkin tips out of her yard. And, when that was ‘all she had’, we’d end up with kadu.

Kadu is the Chamorro variation of a broth soup and it’s what I was raised on. It would be 85-90 degrees outside; I’d be sticky from the heat, yet I couldn’t wait to get off the school bus and let nana serve me a bowl. Almost every day I ate kadu over rice with a generous helping of finedene and ice cold rain water to wash it down. And, while I don’t have my sweet nana anymore, every time I make kadu I do it with her heart and feel her right her with me.

For nana, kadu was typically beef or chicken, onions, garlic and water since that was usually ‘all she had’.  While I often make it just as she did, this has become one of my favorite versions:

Grilled Beef Bone Quinoa Kadu

When you have leftover BBQ bones, this is a beautiful way to use them. I mean, even when you cut off all the meat you think you can, look how meaty they still are!

leftover porterhouse steak bones

So, next time you BBQ and have leftover bones, gather these ingredients and turn those meaty bones into a beautiful summer kadu:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 cups of water
  • a couple pounds of beef bones
  • 1/2 pound or so of any cut of steak (fat trimmed)
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the best)
  • Black pepper and salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a rapid boil.

Once it boils, cover, and turn heat down to just above simmer. Allow soup to simmer for 3-4 hours on stove top until the bones are dry and the meat can be pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the bones. Serve over precooked quinoa; and, when you set it before those you love, I hope you’ll say, “All I had was leftover bones, but look – I made something real good.”

(I miss you, nana.)

This photo was taken a handful of days before my sweet nana passed away.

This photo was taken a handful of days before my sweet nana passed away.

 

 

 

Pepper Boats Filled With Lemony Quinoa Tuna Salad

Growing up, my mom didn’t cook often.  She could cook – and when she did she filled our house with delicious Puerto Rican inspired food – my favorite being her famed tostones with a sprinkle of sea salt. But, since my nana lived with us and my nana lived to cook, over time I think my mom just leaned into nana’s love and was happy to let the responsiblity of cooking regular meals out of her hands.

With that said, my mom was our snack queen. It was my mama that took our armfuls of just harvested avocados and whipped together the guacamole we’d devour by the spoonful; it was my mama that mixed our over-ripe papayas, bananas, and mangos into cold cottage cheese; it was my mama that would take our just-picked calamansi lemons and squeeze warm juice over green pepper boats filled tuna. Yep, it was my mama that welcomed us in from the mid-day, sticky island heat and made in-between meal snacking something of refreshing delight.

So yesterday, as I retreated inside from the 90 degree weather craving something light and refreshing for mid-afternoon sustenance, I spied these two things…

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and, as a vision of my mama flashed through my mind, I knew what I had to make: pepper boats filled with lemony quinoa tuna salad.

All you need is 5 minutes and:

  • 1/2 cup of pre-cooked quinoa
  • a can of tuna (I like the tuna in olive oil because it’s less dry)
  • 1 sweet bell pepper
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 TBS of soy sauce (or liquid amines which taste almost identical)
  • 1 TBS of olive oil
  • 1 tsp of black pepper

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Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil...

Put the quinoa, tuna, and black pepper into a bowl, then drizzle with olive oil…

drizzle with soy sauce...

drizzle with soy sauce…

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squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the mixture.

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Next, slice the cheeks off the pepper so you end up with pieces like this…

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and, after you’ve mixed your tuna salad really well, fill the cheeks like this.

Since there’s no mayo or sticky binder in the salad, yes – the filling might be a little loose as you eat. But hey – it’s summertime! Make up a plate, head outside in the shade, and don’t let a little mess get to you. The kids with popsciles dripping down their arms don’t seem to care… :)