AM Northwest: Fall Comfort “Must Haves”

I’ve missed you.

Our move is finally done. We are in, boxes are unpacked, pictures are hung… and the smell of quinoa cooking in my rice cooker fills this new house – and it’s a smell that takes this house from just a ‘house’ to our home.

We are home.

Being settled at home means I can now get back to my loves: my love of cooking, my love of writing, my love of connecting with you and sharing this adventure we call life. And what better why to kick off the return to my loves then with this: a little spot on AM Northwest!

Yep, this morning I had the pleasure of talking about my ‘must haves’ from one of my favorite stores in the world: Cost Plus World Market. (I am so humbled to be called a ‘lifestyle expert’, but if that title means I get to tell you about what warms my spirit and my home, so be it!) See, being from Guam where the seasons never changed and I never, in a million years, would have thought about lighting a candle for anything more than light during a power outage, Fall is HUGE to me. It means cozy, crackling fires and vibrant colors, hot chocolate and spicy teas. It means entertaining and guests, long conversations and lots of laughs. It means sweaters and fuzzy slippers and wrapping up in a blanket to read a book. And, more than anything, it means it’s time to PRACTICE HOSPITALITY… the art of having people into our home and making them feel loved on, welcomed, and appreciated.

(And isn’t that what we all hope for? To be welcomed and appreciated?)

So, here’s the segment; and, I hope you are inspired to practice hospitality and make your home the best darn hot-chocolate house on the block. (Don’t forget the homemade whipped cream, too!)

http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/Fall-Harvest-Must-Haves-227429451.html

By the way, right after the segment aired I received a Facebook post from a good friend saying, “I need the list!” Well, no worries – I’ve got it all beautifully logged on Pintrest for you.  As for the Droste cocoa, it’s not on the World Market website for some reason, but it is in the stores. So – go grab it!! Seriously, you’ll never drink grocery store hot chocolate again.

Thanks for being with me.

Raise and Release, Part 2

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At the beginning of last school year, my 12 year old baby girl went off to outdoor school… and I thought I was going to break. Why? Because this ‘raise and release‘ thing we  do is emotionally overwhelming.

We raise them – teach them, comfort them, coach them, guide them, nag them, feed them, remind them, stand beside them, stand over them, love them, tuck them in, and wake them up. We pour all that we are into these little ones and then, before we know it, we are standing with them at the tip of a branch surveying the field of life and, even though we want to snuggle them close sheltered from the heartache, and fear, and discomfort, and mistakes that come with walking boldly through life, there is nothing more we can do but stand behind and watch as they fly.

Because that’s life, right? Every season of life brings new ‘work’ – a new flight into new territory… a little longer, a little farther. The work of facing fears – of taking chances, overcoming obstacles, of letting go of mama’s hand and grabbing for His instead. And, without the work, we stay stagnant, wimpy, and unusable for the greatness God calls us to.

So today, in spite of the pit in my stomach and my own deep seated fears of letting go, I did it to my girl again.The branch was a little higher, the view was a little vaster, but the process was the same: I signed her up for an adventure, walked her to the edge, stood behind her with our breaths almost as one, and I said, “Okay, girl, you can do this: fly”.

She was hesitant to jump and test the strength of her wings. We stood for some time in the church parking lot and quietly watched other campers arrive and mull around. I could tell she was nervous; she didn’t know anyone and felt totally out-of-place. The one person she recognized we approached and said hello to, but the girl and her mom quickly turned to other friends and left us to fend for ourselves in the sea of giggling girls and mamas.

(It’s hard not to feel rejected, whether you’re 12 or you’re 40. We all want to be loved. We want to be brought in to the laughs and the conversations. We want to be noticed, acknowledged, desired. We want to feel special – all of us do. And yet, there I was with my girl: face to face with real life. The lot was packed with moms and kids – yet, she and I were an island. No one spoke to us. No one noticed us. Moms and kids grouped up – hugging and chatting and laughing. My girl and I? Totally alone.)

As tears welled up in her eyes over the fear of four days away and not a friend in site, I felt her pain. I remember being 12 – awkward, unsure, out-of-place. (When I signed her up I thought for sure she’d know a girl or two, but with a church our size, I’m guess I’m not surprised she didn’t.) I cut the ice with some mama-talk: “Honey, I know exactly what you’re feeling. Here I am 40 years old and I feel a little anxiety in my stomach over not having a friend in site. But you know what? This is the kind of thing that makes us stronger! This is the type of situation God uses to pull us out of our comfort zone and grow us – and new friends are often part of that journey. I know God has something so great in store for you this weekend – and I know He has a perfect friend for you, too. You’ll see.”

“Mom, stop,” she muttered through clenched teeth as she leaned in closer to my side for protection.

All of a sudden I heard His still, small voice say: This is where the rubber meets the road, Elisha. This is where your girl needs to see how to fly by YOU flying first.

The whisper of encouragement made me stand a little taller and I decided to take command of the situation.

“Okay, let’s look for someone else who is alone and we’ll go make friends with them.”

“Mom, no.”

“Seriously, honey, look around. Who looks like they could use a friend?”

Seconds passed. Minutes passed. Not a word. Finally, I heard a peep:  “Fine, mom – how about her.”

I looked in the direction she was looking and about 10 feet from us I spotted fellow wanderers:  a darling girl and two ladies looking just as lost as we felt.  I put my arm around Selah and whispered under my breath, “Okay – don’t be so obvious, but let’s work our way over there.”

We walked towards the small group and around the backside of one of the ladies and still for about thirty seconds. (It would have embarrassed my girl way too much if I would have just walked to them looking desperate. So, I had to be cool – I had to be smooooooth.)

When I sensed a break in their conversation, I went to work.

I put my palm on the arm of the gal closest to me and she turned around. “Hi – I’m Elisha. Do you all go to church her or are you just here for the camp?” Selah was about 3 feet from me, body language screaming discomfort.

“Oh hi,” the sweet mama said. “Yes, we do attend here.”

We chatted for just a couple of minutes about the services we attend, etc, etc, and then I said, “Yeah, we were nervous when we showed up because we didn’t recognize anyone and everyone seemed paired up.”

“We thought the same thing, too,” the mama said with a lighthearted laugh.

“Well, this is my girl, Selah.”

“And this is my girl, Natalie.”

Selah and Natalie looked at each other, said little girl hellos, and I could feel it: in that instant fear has lost the fight for my baby girl’s wings. (Praise God!)

We continued to talk as the campers were rounded up. It turned out Natalie had forgotten a camp chair just like Selah, so the two girls were summoned to collect one from the church office. Off they went, chatting, smiling. Friends. They were instant friends.

Before we knew it the bus was being loaded and off  the two little birds went. Side by side on the bus, and mine totally embarrassed I was trying to take pictures through the window. But you know what? She was flying! She watched me fly before and then, with confidence, she jumped off, too… and how could I not try to snap a picture of her courage?!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for opportunities like today – opportunities that let my girl test her wings where it is safe, and where You are present. I pray your protection over her and all the campers this week. May Selah and her new friend enjoy each other’s company and may they come back stronger than they left us. Finally Lord, may we mamas never forget that our girls learn more by our example than our words, and may we – Your daughters – be women that exude kindness, gentleness, goodness, and love. Should by chance we ever feel insecure, or overlooked, or rejected, which I know You understand is common for us mamas sometimes, may we be reminded You call us by name – You call us Your Beloved; and, may we stand tall and shine brightly as your Love so the women you’ve entrusted us to raise stand tall and shine brightly as well. Thank you for loving us. In Jesus Name, Amen.

My Out-of-Character Purple Quinoa Soup

We’re officially into summer, but here in Oregon the rain hasn’t stopped. It’s been dreary – just a little chilly. So, last night I decided to make soup for my family to warm us up from the inside out.

I had a beautiful head of red cabbage that I sautéed with some garlic and onions and then simmered in chicken broth. I added cooked quinoa and I seasoned the soup with cinnamon, fennel, and bay leaves. I added a little fresh lemon zest, a dash of sea salt and pepper, and served it with some fresh diced cilantro over the top. It was hearty, chalk full of nutrients, and the flavor was absolutely divine!

The one thing I didn’t bank on, however, was that my beautiful cabbage would go crazy in the pot. As it simmered, my good intentioned meal went from a pot of deliciousness to a big lavender-colored stew. The more lavender it got, the more my stomach sank. Yes, it smelled amazing – and it tasted amazing… but let’s get serious: no matter how spectacular my intentions and the flavors were, it was purple soup.

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Even my man, who loves everything I cook, opened the pot and gave me a look like, “You serious?”

“It tastes amazing,” I said encouragingly. “I know it doesn’t look so great – but wait til you try it.”

I ladled it into bowls for everyone and, as the kids approached the table and saw servings of purple, I got one, then two, then three, “What is this?”

Again, I let out a little laugh (and a prayer they’d eat it since I had no backup plan) as I said, “You’ll love it – I promise!”

Long story short, my prayer was answered and everyone finished their dinner. Surprisingly, there was no complaining, no sounds of disgust – they just ate. Their eyes were half closed with every bite – but they ate nonetheless. (My man even went back for seconds.) Then, as they left the dinner table satisfied, and warm, and full up on nutrients, I even heard, “Gosh, mom, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be.”

But, can I tell you something?

I was absolutely shocked they ate that soup. S.H.O.C.K.E.D. It was the ugliest bowl of soup I’ve ever consumed in my 40 years of life – and, hands down, it was the ugliest meal I’ve ever put in front of my family in all the years I’ve cooked for them. Maybe it’s just me – or us… but purple is not meant for soup. Purple is meant for hydrangeas, or skittles, or a snazzy handbag that gives a pop of color to a boring outfit. But soup? No thanks.

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So, what gives then? How is it that my family got past the ugly flag that soup was waving and managed to discover it really was tasty?

I am convinced my family got past the ‘ugly’ because they know my ‘cooking character’. They enjoy my cooking night after night. They see the groceries I bring home; they know the flavors I play with; they’ve grown to trust how I put ingredients together; and, they are confident I cook, not to punish them, but to satisfy and nourish them with all things good. They’ve seen my ‘cooking character’ in the kitchen so regularly that, in spite of this total bomb, they knew they could trust I would never in a million years serve something that tasted disgusting… and that meant they simply ignored the ugly flag and dug right in.

With all that said, I turned off the kitchen lights last night with this quote floating through my mind:

My soup? It spoke really, really bad of me last night. Thankfully, though, I’ve lived out enough love in my kitchen that no one believed it to be true.

“Skinny” and Other Dirty Words

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“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.

1 Corinthians 10:23

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Our family has a list of ‘no-no’ words we don’t throw around lightly:

  • Hate.
  • Stupid.
  • Butt.
  • Fart.

I can’t stand them. They are ‘dirty words’ around here – and, I always tell my kids: you are way to smart and classy to need to use these cheap words to communicate an idea.

A couple other ‘dirty words’ in our house are “skinny” and “exercise”.

Skinny is a burdensome word. It’s shallow, and base, and empty. It drives me crazy to see commercials about ‘being skinny’ or ‘getting skinny’; I just about come out of my skin when I read blogs that focus on how to get a ‘hot, skinny bod’ or where women flash photos of their ‘skinny’ selves as the ‘standard’ that all of us other women need to strive for.

Skinny means nothing, okay? Nothing at all. Skinny does not mean healthy, happy, or confident. Skinny does not mean fit. Skinny does not mean ‘good mommy’, ‘hot woman’, or ‘successful lady’. No – skinny just means ‘skinny’… and I’ve seen my share of ‘skinny’ that looks frail, and weak, and gray.

What the real goal should be – and what I tell my girls all the time – is: forget skinny, focus on healthy!

  • Focus on how you eat and what you eat: Are you eating whole foods? Fruits? Fresh vegetables? Drinking lots of water?
  • Be aware of your body: Is it strong? Is it energized? Can you make it do what you want it to do, and can you wear what you want to wear? Is it sickly? Is it tired? Does your body burden you, or do feel like you have control? How do you feel after you eat certain things and/or certain portion sizes?
  • Watch your cravings: Are you in control, or do you eat mindlessly? Can you say no when you want to?

…Because the fact of the matter is this: our bodies are a reflection of our lifestyle. If we focus on a healthy lifestyle, obtaining a lean, fit body won’t be a burden and obsession – it will be a natural consequence.

The other dirty word is ‘exercise’. It’s loaded, and crushing, and heavy, and exhausts us before we even begin the day… and you will never hear me tell my kids to exercise.

I can just hear you now: What, Elisha? You don’t tell your kids to exercise?

No. Never. And I am directly opposed to all the ‘get up and move’ campaigns that are everywhere these days. Why?

Because I don’t want to raise kids that think they can out-exercise a bad food foundation. Period.

Every day in my house is a new day to impress upon my children if we eat out of boxes, wrappers, and fast food windows; if we eat mindlessly and indulge whenever we feel the urge; if we don’t understand how food impacts us physically; if we don’t cook and instead depend on corporations to nourish us – ‘exercise’ won’t do a thing for health.

What I also tell them is they should pay attention to the body they’ve been blessed with, and honor it. We must think – and choose. We must honor our body by using our body –  by making it stronger, feeding it well, resting it when it needs rest, pushing it’s limits, and listening to it when it gives signs like sickness, weight gain, and weakness. I encourage them not to ‘exercise’, but to do what they’ve been created with an ability to do: play, run, jump, kick, skateboard, dribble; stretch; move; take a walk; breathe fresh air.

And, on the flip side, I teach them what is not honoring…

  • It’s not honoring to our bodies to sit around all day playing technology…
  • It’s not honoring to our bodies to be lazy…
  • It’s not honoring to our bodies to make food choices that burden us with extra weight, and make us sick and tired…
  • It’s not honoring to our bodies to be mindless with our health, our physical being, our existence.

See, I don’t want my kids to grow up with ‘skinny’ as a goal, or ‘exercise’ as a burden, or victims of their physical bodies, or fearful of food. I DO want my kids to grow up understanding that a healthy, fit body is a free body – and a healthy, fit body naturally flows from choosing the right foods and choosing to honor the bodies they were uniquely created with.

My heart is for my kids to take joy in owning, using, and moving their bodies – and, yes, that may mean they find joy in weight training, or running, or zumba – all those things we term as ‘exercise’ these days. But, again, they will do it by choice and from a desire to push their physical limits – not out of blind allegiance to the buzz word of our time. I want my kids to grow up – particularly my girls – with confidence that, even during seasons where their bodies will change (through age, pregnancy, life), self-control is always theirs… always.

I’m raising my kids to see that truly healthy children – and truly healthy adults! – are healthy and fit in mind first They:

…intrinsically value themselves, and make choices that show it.

…understand how to be in the world without being overcome by the world.

…are honest with themselves and know their choices directly impact their overall well being.

…recognize they are strong.

…recognize they are powerful.

…recognize they are in control of what they become.

And, they, with wide eyes, see the mountain of life in front of them and can’t help but rise to the challenge, wield their body as a perfectly hewn tool, and climb.

AM Northwest: Fresh Fruit Hand Pies

As a mom, there’s not much I get ‘props’ for. No one jumps for joy when I wash and fold their clothes; no one really notices when I go grocery shopping, or make lunches, or sweep the floor. (I wrote about motherhood being a tough gig not too long ago.) And hey – that’s the life of a mom, so I don’t sweat it. But one of the reasons I love, love, love to cook and to bake is because, without fail, when my kids catch whiffs of what I’m stewing, or baking, or sautéing… it draws them to me.

That’s the thing about cooking: the sweet, delicious smells created by my work call my babies to my side quicker than words ever do. They come in close, lean in, and ask for nibbles. They want to talk about what’s going into the pan; they ask questions like: Mom, did you make this up? Have I eaten it before? Will I like this?

They see ingredients at their finest – fresh, colorful, clean. They see me confidently using my hands to prepare and dice and toss and squeeze. They see me choose, and manipulate, and ‘dance’ my mama’s dance of love. And, when it’s all done, they enjoy the fruits of my labor.

It’s seeing my babies enjoy my ‘work’ and celebrate my ‘dance’ – that’s why I cook.

I especially love the squeals of joy when I make these:

Fresh Fruit Hand Pies with Homemade Flaky Puff Pastry

Fresh Fruit Hand Pies with Homemade Flaky Puff Pastry

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Call these my rebel yell against commercialize pop tarts, breakfast strudels, and sugary cereal. I dreamed them up in my kitchen one day when I had an abundance of mangos and some leftover tart dough… and I can’t believe it took me so long to begin creating these. They are just sweet enough with the fresh fruit and the slight addition of sugar that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve one for breakfast with a couple eggs – or as an after school treat with a glass of milk. And man, let me tell you: the kids really think they’re getting something spectacular when they eat these.

The crust is super simple, the filling is fresh and easy to prepare, and based on the reaction of my kiddos, all kids are sure to enjoy making and eating.

Here goes:

First, make the dough.

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 2 regular sticks of salted butter
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 12-13 TBSP ice water
  1. Add flour, butter, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Turn on for 10 seconds nonstop. Then, pulse and additional 5-8 times. The goal is for butter bits to be about a little larger than pea sized…. so don’t over process!
  2. Drizzle a TBSP of water at a time through the top of the food processor and pulse for 1 second after each water addition.
  3. Pour mixture from food processor bowl into a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, squeeze the dough together until all of the mixture is stuck together. (NOTE: The dough should lean to the dry side. If it is too dry, wet your hands and continue to work dough until it adheres. If it is too sticky, add a tsp of flour at a time until the stickiness is gone.
  4. Form two discs, wrap in plastic, and chill.

While dough chills, prepare your filling. Here are some great options…

Mango/Coconut filling
Dice up some champagne mangos and toss with sweetened shredded coconut.

Apple filling
Peel and dice up granny smith apples. (Apple pieces should be just slightly larger than a corn kernal.) Toss the apples with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Fresh Berries
Toss fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries – anything! – with a little sugar and squeeze of lemon juice.

Assemble the handpies:

  1. Preheat the oven and a baking sheet to 400 degrees.
  2. Roll out your chilled dough on a floured surface until it’s about 1/8 of an inch thick.
  3. Cut out whatever shape you’d like with an oversized cookie cutter, or other found object from your kitchen. (Large coffee cups make great cutters for circular hand pies.)
  4. Fill the center of your shape so that you maintain about a 1/2 inch around the outside of the filling. Dip your finger in the egg wash and coat the edge along the outside of the filling.
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  5. Take a second shape and cover the filled piece. Gently push the edges together being careful not to push the filling out of the sides. Then, dip a fork into the egg wash and ‘seal’ the edges with the fork.
  6. Using a pastry brush, wash the top of the hand pie thoroughly, then score with either a knife or a several fork pricks.
  7. OPTIONAL: You can sprinkle colored pastry sugar over the top before baking. If you are making the apple pies, you can add chopped store-bought caramels and sprinkle a pinch of coarse sea salt over the top for a ‘salted carmel apple’ pie.
  8. Place the assembled pies onto a preheated baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 18-20 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown.
For "Salted Carmel Apple" Handpie: fill with prepared apples, a few pieces of store-bought carmel (diced), and then, after you apply egg wash to assembled pie, top with a pinch of corse sea salt.

For “Salted Carmel Apple” Handpie: fill with prepared apples, a few pieces of store-bought carmel (diced), and then, after you apply egg wash to assembled pie, top with a pinch of corse sea salt.

These little gems are amazing warm… but just as yummy served cold – especially when thrown into a lunch pail for your little love.

Check out today’s AM Northwest segment from this morning where Dave and I made these up:

http://www.katu.com/amnw/segments/Homemade-Fruit-Pies-204900551.html

Quinoa (Dutch) Baby, Oh Yeah!

My earliest memories of ‘breakfast’ are from when I was 5. We were living in an apartment in Oakland, California. Every morning before Kindergarten my nana would get me out of bed, sit me in my dad’s antique rocker with the velvet cushions and lions head arm-rests, and she’d serve me toast with strawberry jelly and a cup of coffee.

(Yes, I said “kindergarten” and “cup of coffee” in the same sentence.)

Sometimes I’d get cereal… and, sometimes I’d get her scrambled eggs. But without a doubt: breakfast was always one of those three dishes.

Then, my next breakfast memories are from when I was about 9 and in Guam. I remember the feel of the cool island air on my skin as I sat in the open doorway of our tin shack’s back porch. I always made it just in time to watch my nana throw cracked corn to the masses of chickens cooing in her honor. Half asleep, I’d watch her routine – and then, when her pockets were empty of the chicken goodies, she’d walk next door to her house and then return to mine with one of three things: a bag of warm donuts from the old man that used to sell them out of the back of his car on our street, a stack of her famous pancakes, or a plate of scrambled eggs.

Again, I could always count on it being one of those three things… and, honestly: the lack of variety never bothered me one bit.

So it is in my house these days. Breakfast is one of those meals where my kids can pretty much bank on one of a handful things, typically: cereal, fruit, and hardboiled eggs; quinoa porridge; or this:

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Quinoa Dutch Baby, served with a dusting of powdered sugar, a drizzle of real maple syrup, and fresh strawberries

The beauty of this dish is that, while it looks gourmet and totally wows the kiddos, IT IS SO SIMPLE. Seriously, it cooks itself! Here’s what you do:

Ingredients to make one 9×11 glass baking dish (feeds 4-5):

  • 4 eggs, room temperature (you can bring eggs to room temperature by soaking them in their shell in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • two pinches of nutmeg
  • 1 cup of cooked quiona
  • 3 TBSP butter, sliced in squares
  1. Place your glass baking dish in the oven and pre-heat the oven (and the dish) to 425.
  2. Whisk your eggs until they are light. Add the milk, flour, and nutmeg; and, gently whisk until all ingredients are blended. (NOTE: It’s okay for it to be a little chunky, so don’t over mix!)

When the oven is ready, here’s where you’ll need to work a little quick:

  1. Remove the hot pan (carefully!) from the oven. Place the butter squares in the pan so they begin to melt. Using a fork, stab a butter square and butter up the sides of the pan, too.
  2. Pour the cooked quinoa into the buttered pan; toss it quickly through the butter and evenly distribute it.
  3. Immediately pour in your batter over the quinoa making sure the batter goes to each edge of the pan. (Yes, it will disrupt the perfect distribution of your quinoa, but that’s okay.)
  4. Return the pan to the oven. Bake for approximately 13-15 minutes, or until the center is set, and the sides are lightly brown and begin to curl up the sides of the pan.

Voilà!

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Now, here’s a big difference between my quinoa dutch baby and a traditional: This version won’t give you the impressive ‘rise’ of a true dutch baby due to the density of the whole quinoa. BUT, what it lacks in rise, it makes up for in texture and flavor. (Since you add the quinoa to a hot buttered pan, it crisps just a little and – mmmm! – you get a little crunch here and there…) 

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Now, peeps, seriously, there are some MUSTS for serving this yumminess hot out of the oven:

  1. You MUST use real maple syrup when you serve this little number… and just a drizzle! You don’t want it drunk on maple syrup.
  2. You MUST also use fresh fruit of some kind, like berries, or mango, or a warm fruit compote made by simply throwing some frozen berries in the microwave. The texture of this dutch baby is very dense, so the fresh fruit lightens it.
  3. You MUST dust with powdered sugar. Notice I said ‘dust’. It’s simply for effect more than anything. The goal is for the sweetness to come from the fruit and maple syrup, not an abundance of powdered sugar.

You may be asking: “Elisha, what if I don’t want it with the powdered sugar and maple syrup? ” Or, “what can I do with the leftovers?”

Here’s an alternative for serving (and it’s even better when they are cold):

Quinoa Dutch Baby topped with a dollop of plain greek yogurt and fresh strawberries

Quinoa Dutch Baby topped with a dollop of plain greek yogurt and fresh strawberries

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And that’s it!

Please note that this recipe is not gluten-free. I used regular flour for this recipe, although I’m guessing it’s possible to replace the regular flour with gluten-free flour. Would you do me a favor? If you make a gluten-free version of this, would you come back and share it with us? I’d love to hear how it turns out and what (if any) alterations you had to make to cooking time.

Happy eating everyone!

The Delight of Home-Made Cookies

When we eat cookies, I prefer they be decadent as possible. Forget the packaged cookies that have been packed on a shelf for months. Forget the ‘treats’ that are low-fat, sugar free, calorie free. Yuck.

If my kids are gonna eat a cookie, I want it to be made with real everything and nothing but pure delight to the palate.

(Same thing applies to cakes, pies, scones, cobblers. If we’re gonna eat it, then I’m gonna make it. Why? Because I know when I make it it’s gonna be the best it can be.)

Take these peanut butter cookies my 11-year old wowed us with yesterday: real peanut butter, pure vanilla extract, a dash of baking soda and lots of pure cane sugar.

Lots of sugar? Yes. But, she took pleasure in the process – and all of us took pleasure in the enjoyment of warm cookies fresh out of the oven. We made several batches, which means we’ll all be nibbling on cookies for the next several days. BUT – when the cookies are gone, it may be awhile before another batch is produced.

That’s the thing about sugar: in moderation it’s perfectly fine, especially if it is contained in what we expect it to be contained in: candy, cakes, pies, treats.

Where I have a problem with sugar is that’s been added to everything these days. We are hard pressed to find anything without added sugars, including “healthy” things, like yogurt, energy bars, condiments, soups, bread. Just take a look!

And, it’s the ‘healthy’ places that sugar lurks that drives me crazy. Why? Because the ‘evil’ is unidentifiable to my kids.

Candy? Identifiable evil.

Fresh baked cookies where my girl has added the sugars firsthand? Identifiable evil.

I’d rather my kids be able to identify what needs to be eaten in moderation (candy, cookies, treats), then be duped into thinking ‘fat-free’, ‘low-calorie’, ‘whole-grain’, ‘gluten-free’, ‘heathy’ means a free for all. (And yes: there is junk food lurking under each of these labels…)

So, back to the issue at hand: home-made cookies.

Life needs a little sweetness, doesn’t it? So, let’s take the time to make cookies at home. Let’s enjoy them. Let’s dip them in cold milk and savor every fat filled, sugary gulp they provide.

But let’s not do it too often, let’s not overdue it when we do it, and let’s be sure that we keep the added sugars out of the rest of our food so we can eat home-made cookies (and other home-made treats) with pure pleasure, and little guilt.

Rebel on,

Elisha

 

5 Steps to Training Conscious Eaters

This week on twitter I was reminded of a this great quote:

We are walking billboards. If we are overweight and out of shape, lack vitality and enthusiasm, we are telling the world on our billboard, “I don’t care.” On the other hand, if you take care of your body by giving it proper nutrition and exercise, you will exude vitality and enthusiasm. Your sign will read, “I have pride, I have discipline, I take care of this God-given body, it’s my moral obligation.” -Jack Lallane, from his book Revitalize Your Life: Improve Your Looks, Your Health & Your Sex Life.

Growing up in a bodybuilding house this idea that we are “walking billboards” was always top of mind. Why? Because people are watching. Yes, whether we like it or not, others are watching our “example”. How we talk, how we dress, how we look, where we go, what we do – it all says something about what takes priority in our heart. We are a total package… therefore, if we are to have positive influence on others, we musn’t just be talking – we must be WALKING. Our life must say something – and, when it comes to whether we care about our health and fitness, what people see on the outside speaks louder than anything that ever comes out of our mouth.

Now that I’m a wife and mother, my “walking billboard” has grown to include my husband and my children. How they are “nourished” in my home is reflected in who they are – physically, emotionally, spiritually. I am no longer able to just think of health in terms of what I need and want… I must consider what “my tribe” needs and wants. Health and wellness is a family affair… and, if I want my family to be healthy and well, it all starts with me and the habits I cultivate in my home.

One “rebel” habit I am cultivating in my home, for example, is “conscious eating”. How? With these five basic steps:

First, regular meals at regular times of day. We have regular meals at regular times of the day: breakfast in the morning, lunch at mid-day, and dinner in the evening. No matter what our schedule, we do our best to all eat at the same time, and eat the same things; no one gets to “opt-out” of what’s be prepared for the family. And, when the kitchen “closes” after dinner, there is no more eating – period.

Second, proper portions. I serve my children on smaller plates/bowls than adults eat off of; smaller bodies need smaller portions. We rarely serve seconds – if there is still hunger after a meal, then we bring out fruit to top it off.

Third, listen to (and understand) your body. I once heard that the French word for “full” is actually translated, “I no longer have hunger”. This is what I want my kids to understand – that you don’t have to be “full” after a meal, you simply have to “no longer have hunger”.

Fourth, we have clear family definition for what a snack is. In between our regular meals, we have “snacks” – a nutrient dense nibble of whole food that will fend off hunger and provide the energy we need between meals.

Cookies and milk is not a snack.

A bowl of ice cream is not a snack.

A fruit snack is not a snack.

A sugar-laden granola bar (or protein bar or meal bar) is not a snack.

A bowl full of chips is not a snack.

None of these are a snack in our home because none of them fit our definition of snack: a nutrient dense nibble of whole food that will fend off hunger and provide us the energy we need between meals.

So, what is a snack?

Whole fruit is a snack. Nuts are a snack. A bowl of edemame or sugar snap peas is a snack. Crackers with peanut butter is a snack. SmartyBars are a snack. A slice of turkey or a piece of salami with cheese – that’s a snack.

Fifth, everything gets a plate. Nothing gets eaten unless it’s first put it on a plate (or in a bowl) – why? Because seeing how much you are serving yourself is key in understanding how much your body needs to “no longer have hunger”. I want my kids to see what they are consuming, not eat mindlessly.

I share all this because today is a great time for you to think about a couple of things: 1) are you happy with your “billboard”; and 2) if not, what is ONE step you can take to begin remaking your “billboard”?

Just one step… that’s what it takes to go in a new direction.

Rebel on, sister.

Elisha

The Food Pyramid of Common Sense

I don’t listen to “experts” when it comes to how to eat healthy. Why? Because if you’re going to listen to experts, how do you know what “expert” to listen to? “Healthy” to one is not “healthy” to another;  a “proper diet” to one is not a “proper diet” to another. Some say supplements, others say no diary, and others say nothing but protein.

So what’s a mom to do? I go with common sense.

See, if I just look around me and study creation there are great clues on how our Creator intended us to eat – what I tell my kids is the “food pyramid of common sense”:

1) Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds – these are all in abundance and easy to harvest and eat without any processing or preparation. Therefore, the foundation of our daily diet should be based on these things.

2) Eggs, milk. These are animal products that are abundant and, therefore, are a good source of protein on a daily basis. (I put cheeses and yogurt into this category since processing these items can be homemade without a factory.)

3) Fish and chicken. Easy to catch, easy to prepare… but not so easy that they need to be part of our daily intake.

4) Red meat, pork. Based on how difficult it would be to catch and prepare one of these animals if we had to do it ourself, we eat these things occasionally as a compliment to our overall intake.

What I just laid out is the foundation of how we eat as a family. Whole. Real. As simple as possible as often as possible.

Here are some habits I practice in my home:

About 90% of what we consume is homemade.

Not a lot of salt, rarely, rarely much processed sugar. (Unless, of course, we are making a batch of homemade cookies or fresh whipped cream!)

I buy the highest quality food my budget can afford at any particular time; I buy organic fruits and vegetables as often as possible. (I love frozen organic veggies – a little more cost effective if you buy them in the bulk bags.)

I keep what I want my children to eat the most of in plain view: fruit all over the place, nuts in see-through containers at eye level in the pantry.

What I don’t want them eating without permission is kept in our “naughty cabinet”. The “naughty cabinet” is where we keep crackers, chips, candy (if we have it), cookies… the “treats” in our home. If the kids want any of these things they must get permission first. (I’m a big believer in training kids how to enjoy treats in moderation. So, while we enjoy our “treats”, they are “treats” and not to be consumed without thought.)

Common sense eating has served us well – and it has also helped me to raise a little tribe of kids that truly LOVE good food – all food. We don’t have food fights around here, I don’t make separate meals for people, they eat their veggies as happily as they eat an apple. And, best of all, my kids are healthy, lean, strong, smart.

So be encouraged today. Now that 2012 is here I know many of you are probably trying to kick off better eating habits in your home… but don’t allow all the voices out there overwhelm you! Take a step back, breathe – take cues from nature and let simple common sense be your guide.

What’s A “Meal”?

My dad’s gym was right next door to our neighborhood market and, come lunch time, he would send me over to grab our “lunch” – fresh shrimp and a lemon. The ladies there knew us well and so would always help – and back I would go to our weight room where we would unwrap the shrimp, squeeze lemon juice over it, and eat it up with a protein smoothie on the side. Quick. Easy. Lunch.

This was always how we ate in our family. A “meal” was rarely a plate of food with a starch, a protein and a vegetable all prettied up and perfectly separated on a plate; a “meal” was also never so heavy that we walked away “stuffed”. No, our meals looked more like this:

A bunch of raw radishes and a chicken breast.

Hardboiled eggs, grapes, a couple pieces of wheat bread.

Shrimp (like I already mentioned) with a smoothie or some fresh fruit.

(These are the meals I mention because they are the earliest meals I remember as a child.)

This “training” I got growing up set the tone for how I eat now and how I am training my kids to eat:  sometimes a “meal” isn’t a full plate of food. I want them to learn this because, in our fast paced life, “busyness” is too easy of an excuse to eat like garbage. So, in our home when we’re pressed for time, we still eat in a way that shows them by example that whole, simple foods are the go-to.

Sometimes a “meal” is a couple slices of rolled up turkey, fruit and a handful of almonds.

Sometimes a meal is a peanut butter sandwich on seed bread and a banana.

Sometimes a meal is a bowl of roasted veggies, a few slices of chicken and a glass of milk.

This is an important concept for my kids to live out because I want them to go into the world on their own with a habit of reaching for the “good stuff” – the simple whole foods that energize us without wearing us down, that nourish us as we were created to be nourished.

Does it mean we never, ever eat fast food? Of course not! BUT – fast food is neither the norm, nor the habit. And, it is a choice we make – not something we “fall” into.

So, be encouraged today. If you want to eat healthier in your home, maybe one step is simply transforming your mind about what a “meal” has to look like.

Rebel on, elisha