Category Archives: Recipe

Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes

We just returned from a family getaway.  Ben had planned a surprise adventure for our family for the earlier part of January.  Unfortunately for us, we needed to reschedule to do a bit of a tornado hitting his work staff all at once, leaving Ben to tend to work.  We stayed on Discovery Bay between Sequim & Port Townsend.   The place we stayed had a kitchen, so it made meals so much easier and healthy.  There was also an indoor pool, which Tayers thought was the “big adventure,” and whenever we drove somewhere she would cry out, “I want to go on the big adventure!”

Our family time was relaxed, filled with laughter, reflection, and many joyful moments.  It was the probably the best family vacation we’ve ever been on (and I hope many follow suit).  We also experienced some breathtaking sunrises (the kind you wake up just to make sure you don’t miss it). 

I played my guitar, read, and wrote a personal mission statement, as well.  This little break helped clear my head, refocus and evaluate who I am and what I, Kamille, am called to do in this life.  It was good, so very good and yet so simple too.  It’s kind of like these Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes.  They aren’t fussy, pretty straightforward and simplistic.  Yet, sure to dance on your palate in such a way, which leaves you looking forward to the next time you get to eat them.  I have some great things in store for Evangitality this year and I hope you will continue to join me or better yet, add to the discussion:)

A Year Ago: Banana Macadamia Praline Scones

Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes (printable recipe)

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs sweet potatoes, scrubbed & peeled, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tsp coconut oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup cilantro, fresh and finely chopped
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime

Directions: Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment and put the sweet potatoes in an even layer on top. Add the coconut oil and thoroughly coat, using your hands, the sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt. Roast for 20-25 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, combine lime juice, lime zest, additional 1/2 tsp salt & cilantro. Once sweet potatoes are done, transfer to a serving bowl and pour the lime/cilantro mixture over them while hot. Gently mix to combine and serve.

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Coconut Lime Macaroons

So I mentioned to save those six egg whites from the Sour Cherry Grand Marnier Creme Brulee, but it’s taken a while to post a recipe.  But that seems to be life.  I’ve been in a post New Year’s state making lists of what I value, writing up a personal mission statement and embracing how life is so good.  In July I was dredging through the seas of anxiety & fear, while September came and it was more like wading.  Fear has plagued me in the past(I’m probably not the only one), and it crept up its little head again.

What I have been embracing is the present.

Looking at the little things that bring joy into my life.  Those little things when you add them all up they are exponentially greater than any fear trying to budge its way into your heart & mind.

Little things…infectious laughter of my two year old, the smile on my four year old when I pick her up from the bus, the warmth of Ben’s hand on my back, special snapshot moments with friends that remind me of heaven and sharing these little macaroons with friends while watching Anne of Green Gables.  What little things remind you of joy in this present?

A Year Ago: Grapefruit Yogurt Loaf Cake & Palace Temple & Hospitality

Coconut Lime Macaroons (printable recipe)

These little gems are perfect after you finished making the sour cherry creme brûlée, due to the leftover egg whites.  I love limes and I love coconut, so they are pretty much a great combination.  Plus, they’re a non-fuss sort of treat.

Ingredients:

6 egg whites, room temperature

1/2 cup agave nectar, or raw honey

2 cups almond flour

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

zest of one lime

1/4 tsp lime oil

Frosting:

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

zest of 1/2 lime

juice of 1/2 lime

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on high speed until the egg whites are medium peaks.  Add the agave nectar or honey and salt and whip again until stiff peaks.

In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, unsweetened coconut, lime zest & lime oil.  Combine.  Pour 1/3 of dry ingredients into whipped egg whites and fold it into the egg whites.  Continue with remaining 2/3 (in 1/3 portions) until the wet & dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Using a cookie scoop (about 2 Tb), scoop dough and place on the lined baking sheet 1 inch apart.  Bake for 15 minutes (look for slightly browned parts on the top, but overall white).  Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Make the frosting: Sift the powdered sugar.  Add in the butter and blend it all together using a fork.  Add the lime juice & zest.  Mix until it’s creamed together.  Taste.  If you need a bit more lime taste, then add a bit more zest.

Frost the tops of cooled macaroons.  Serve and eat!

If you want to opt out with the frosting, then up the agave or honey to 3/4 cup in the macaroons.

Sour Cherry with Grand Marnier Creme Brulee

I recall having a traditional creme brûlée years ago and not liking it. I don’t remember where, just that this raved upon dessert tasted a bit like an eggy mess.  It turned me off completely.  Then, one Valentine’s Day, six years ago my dear sweet friend and old neighbor Allison brought Valentine desserts over to Ben and me.  Allison has this knack of having mismatched, yet whimsical, plates, bowls & cups and other trinkets in her home.  She converted me to forgoing paper napkins, due to her assortment of linen napkins I would find her using with her lunch, or serving me with a cookie on it.

There she was with two little black foiled containers filled with creme brulee sitting on one eclectic small plate; along with a cut out paper heart placed on those white paper doilies.  Allison and I shared the love of eating fine food and here she was sharing this delectable creamy treat with us. As she stood there describing her love of these specific creme brulees (from a local bakery), I stood there smiling with a very thankful heart.  What I didn’t tell her was what I was thinking, which was, “Oh, how incredibly thoughtful, but I don’t like creme brulee.  I won’t let Allison know.”  I placed the plate on the table and gave Allison a big thankful hug and said goodbye.

After I shut the door I said, “Ben, Allison brought over some dessert for us for Valentine’s Day,” to which he replied, “that’s nice.”  “Yes, it was, but do you know what she brought? (because Ben knew I wasn’t fond of creme brulee),” I said, “Creme Brulee!”  I recall Ben laughing at my predicament and then asked, “well, are you going to try it?”  Like any good foodie, regardless if past experience went awry, I responded with an astounding “Yes!”

I got two spoons and dipped my spoon to remove just a little bit.  And what I tasted was nothing like scrambled eggs mixed in cream.  It was simply heavenly.  All Ben heard was, “MMM, OHH!  Ben! (another bite) This is amazing!  You have to try this! (another bite) I could eat yours if you want!”  I was transformed.  So when my dear friend Talia was coming over for a little birthday celebration, I knew I needed to make her creme brulee.  Except, I wanted to put a spin on it by adding the sour cherry with Grand Marnier filling on the bottom.  I recommend ensuring that the creme is very cold while the brulee is warm when you serve–it’s the best way to eat it in my opinion (plus, did you know sweet is more pronounced when it is warmed up, so the cold creme doesn’t allow the sugar to become overbearing).  You’ll be sure to win over even the biggest anti-creme brulee person with this dessert.

A Year Ago: Spicy Caramel Popcorn

Sour Cherry Creme Brulee with Grand Marnier (printable recipe)

Keep the egg whites to use for another recipe. And if you stay tuned, I’ll share a Coconut Lime Macaroon recipe to utilize them.  If you don’t have a blow torch, then put your cooked & chilled creme brulee ramekins in 9×13 pan (or roasting pan) and fill it with ice, in order to keep the custards VERY cold.  Turn your broiler on and put your ramekins (with the sugar on top) sitting in the ice bath directly under the broiler for only 30 seconds.  Check the sugar (brulee) to ensure it doesn’t get too burnt.  If you need it to cook a bit more, then put it back in for another 15 seconds and continue until it reaches your desired burnt sugar liking.

Sour Cherry Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh/frozen sour cherries ( I used frozen sour cherries that were fresh in the summer)
  • 1-2 Tb raw honey
  • 1 Tb arrowroot powder
  • 2-4 Tb Grand Marnier

Creme Brulee Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • 1 tsp Grand Marnier (optional)
  • 6 egg yolks, large eggs
  • 1/4 cup sugar for brulee part

Sour Cherry Filling:

Put all of the cherries, along with the juices into a heavy-bottomed saucepan (ensure there are no seeds in the cherries). Turn the heat to medium. If your cherries are frozen, wait before adding any of the other ingredients until the cherries are completely thawed. If your cherries are thawed or fresh, add 1 Tb of honey and allow to bubble, stirring occasionally. Keep it in this stage for about 10 minutes. You are working towards a nice filling consistency.

Sprinkle the arrowroot over the cherries and mix thoroughly. If the mixture is bubbling rapidly, turn the heat down, in order to avoid burning. You want it to simmer/bubble. The filling should start to set as you stir occasionally. Taste throughout to see where the filling sweetness is at. If you feel that the filling needs another tablespoon of honey, add it now. Once the filling has thickened (dip a metal spoon in the filling and it should coat it), add two tablespoon of Grand Marnier (I used 2 Tb). Adding more than two tablespoons will make the filling taste more boozy; however, once the filling is added to the ramekins and cooked with the creme, the Grand Marnier burns off a bit with just two tablespoons. Cook on stove top for an additional minute, then remove from heat to cool.

Creme Brulee Ingredients:

Combine the milk, cream, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until it reaches the boiling point. Set aside to steep until it cools down.

Preheat oven to 300 F, and adjust a rack slightly lower than center.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks & optional 1 tsp of Grand Marnier briefly. Add the cream mixture very slowly into the yolks, whisking well with each addition. Once blended, strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Put cherry filling into 8 or 9 (4-ounce) shallow ramekins (about 2 inches high) to cover bottom (about 2 tsp), then pour the custard mixture on top of the cherry filling, and bake them in a water bath for 35 to 45 minutes, until centers are softly set. “Remove from oven and cool in water bath until comfortable to handle. Cover the dishes and refrigerate for 2 hours. These can be stored for 1 or 2 days before serving.

To serve, sprinkle each top with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brulee sugar and torch to caramelize. For thicker caramelized crunch, use more sugar.


Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Does anyone else feel like there is something altogether wonderful & magical about snow falling in the middle of the night, creating a quiet peace that is incomparable to any other? I wasn’t acquainted with this mystery in the deserts of Arizona. It wasn’t until I visited a high school friend during my freshman year Spring break in Providence, RI. It was a Friday, and all the students on the campus had left for their Spring break. Not only
was the campus and surrounding area quiet, but we soon found ourselves inside looking out to what would seem a snow globe world. Picturesque.

It reminds me of Arizona’s desert night sky. When you look up at the open clear sky, all you see is the infinite expanse of stars. Or what I refer to as “the stars beyond the stars.” Snow falling and covering the world at night creates the silence of peace beyond the silence. It reminds me of how finite I am amidst the vast accompaniment of sound. That’s a bit how I feel with every birthday celebrated, especially my kids’ birthday. This finite person, gets to relish in these moments of seeing the stars beyond the stars. Yet I get distracted or overwhelmed by the greatness of it all…the mystery. I would rather spend my time marveling and rejoicing over the unknown, the stillness of the fallen snow, or simply being given the pleasure to be still with the moment.

These moments, these treasures that I wish I could put in a locket and wear around my neck to serve as a reminder that life is worth living to its fullest.  When I see my daughters laugh and hug one another, when I see the white flag of humility waving, or when I see Veronica’s progress developmentally and she isn’t even aware she has a delay (because she sees the stars beyond the stars).  Oh how wonderful it is to look at the world like that.  I think having Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes also makes it easier for a four years old (or 30, 40, 50 yrs).

A Year Ago: Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes, Split Pea Soup, & Mustard Roasted Cauliflower

Gluten-free Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (printable recipe)

This recipe has been adapted from my non-GF recipe.  Both are wonderful and they are a sure hit at kid’s parties and the adults like to eat them too.  A note about measuring almond flour.  I use a blanched almond flour and I scoop it out with a spoon and put it in my measuring cup.  I encourage you to use a scale, which will get the most accurate results; however, I know that is not always an option.  Do NOT scoop out with your measuring cup, because it will yield a higher weight than what my recipe requires.

Cupcakes Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (180 g) almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (65 g) light agave nectar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (170 g) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) multi-colored confetti sprinkles
  • 12 cupcake GF sugar wafer cones

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 cup cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1-2 Tb light agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350.  Place the wafer cones in the muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter & sugar until well blended.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until light.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually add half of the almond flour mixture, then the milk and then the rest of the flour mixture until well blended.  Fold in the confetti sprinkles into the batter.  Using a small ice cream scooper/cookie dough scooper, divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake cones.
  • Bake the cupcake cones for 20-25 minutes.  When you press lightly in the middle of the cone, they should spring back.  Let them cool on a cooling rack until they’re completely cooled.
  • While the cupcakes are in the oven.  Put your metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer.  Allow them to get cold (about 15 minutes).  Remove the bowl & whisk attachment.  Add cold heavy whipping cream to the bowl.  Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Add the agave nectar & vanilla and beat on low speed a bit more, just until they are mixed throughout the whipped cream.  If you want to add a color to it, do so now and fold it in with a rubber spatula.
  • Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Twist the bag right above the tip and push it gently inside the tip, in order to avoid the frosting from coming out.  Turn down the opened end of the bag one inch down.  Place the pastry bag, tip side down, into a glass.  Using a rubber spatula, fill the bag with the whipped cream frosting.  Twist the bag, in order to keep the frosting from squeezing out.  Pipe the whipped cream frosting onto the cupcakes and sprinkle with additional confetti sprinkles.

Spicy Coconut Green Bean & Sausage One Pot Wonder

 

We ate this at my in-laws house over Christmas and I loved it. If you were to step in my mother-in-law’s (Cherie) kitchen, she would be the first to boast of her ineptitude in the kitchen. However, I think she’s much harder on herself than anything. So I’m here to boast of her dish and give it special spot on my recipe wall of Fame. It’s simple, quick, tasty, you can forgo the small pan to toast the nuts and make it in one pot. Plus, it has cumin, fits our eating plan & did I mention tasty? Try it.

 

A Year Ago: Posole & Cinnamon-Almond Danish Rolls

Spicy Coconut Green Bean & Sausage One Pot Wonder (printable recipe)

My sweet mother-in-law made this for us while we were visiting during Christmas. I made a couple changes…mainly increasing the amount of cumin, because lime/cumin/pepper flakes are divine.

Ingredients:

1Tb olive oil or coconut oil

2 Tb blanched slivered almonds

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tb + 1 tsp ground cumin 1/2 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp paprika

1/2 – 1 tsp red chili pepper

1 1/2 tsp sea salt

1 lb sausage (pastured-raised)

1 can coconut milk (full fat)

1 lb of trimmed green beans, or broccoli

Juice of 1 lime (or two if you like)

Directions: In a small saucepan, heat 1 Tb olive oil or coconut oil over low-medium heat. Add slivered blanched almonds and
toast. Constantly stirring the almonds to avoid burning (it doesn’t take long to toast). Transfer the almonds to a small bowl and set aside for later. In a large saucepan, add the remaining Tb of olive or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the onions, stirring until they get a bit soft. Add the garlic & stir (about 20 seconds). Add all spices, ground cumin, cumin seed, coriander, paprika, and red pepper chili flakes. Now, stir constantly for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The goal is to toast the cumin seeds and cook up the spices. It will get a bit dry and that’s okay–just keep stirring.

Add the sausage & salt to the pan and thoroughly stir the onion/garlic/spice mixture into the sausage. Continue stirring occasionally until the sausage is completely cooked. Pour the coconut milk in, stir. Add trimmed green beans and stir around. Turn the heat to low and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Cover the pan and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes (depending on how soft you like your green beans). Squeeze fresh lime juice over it and stir. Add the toasted almonds and serve.


Tasty Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was in the children section at a bookstore with my friend Tina.  We were recalling some of our favorite childhood books.  I pulled out Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with nostalgic fondness.  I remember thinking how amazing it would be if meatballs fell from the sky, and as a child I daydreamed about it.  Then, there was Stone Soup, another favorite with ingredients like carrots, beef, potatoes & barley.  I never had barley at that time, but it sounded wonderful.  As I continued to pull out books there was a common theme Tina pointed out…FOOD.  She said, “Kamille, you’ve always been a foodie.”

Never gave it much thought, but I guess she’s right.  I still have my first cookbook from age 7, Mickey Mouse Cookbook with little notes inside.  One of my favorite treats is checking out cookbooks from the library.  When Tayers was born, I seriously had at least 10 cookbooks from the library (you know to read while nursing, etc).  And what is it with the fascination with Food magazines.  How many recipes does one truly need for Chocolate Cake, brownies, or apple pie?  And if you look through my recipes you’ll see that I have three different chocolate chip cookie recipes available.  So you might wonder why I’m offering you another one.  Well, I haven’t done much baking lately and I’ve been trying to eliminate wheat flour from our diet; however, I wanted to make a special New Year’s Day treat, which could be made fairly quickly.  I adapted my Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe with this one to make it a paleofied version.  As Ben said after eating one, “these are good and not just Paleo good,” meaning they don’t taste like they’re a second rate version.

A Year Ago: Quicky Sticky Biscuits

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (printable recipe)

I love my Superlative Chocolate Chip Cookies and these ones are even more moist, and possibly better.  This is the first time I have used coconut sugar.  It didn’t make the cookies taste like coconut either.

Ingredients:

3 1/3 cups (8 3/4 ounces) almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

10 Tb unsalted butter

1 cup coconut sugar

1 tsp Celtic sea salt

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg

1 egg yolk

4 ounces Valhrona chocolate (82% cacao), chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Vanilla sea salt, or flaked sea salt

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper & set aside.  Measure almond flour & baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.

On medium heat, melt 8 Tb of butter in a pan, constantly swirling until the butter is browned and smells like yummy toasted nuts (about 3 -4 minutes).  Pour the melted butter into a metal bowl, while trying to leave the bits in the pan.  Add the remainder 2 Tb of butter to melted butter and stir till it’s all melted.  Add the sugar, vanilla & salt and thoroughly combine.  Add the egg & egg yolk and mix for 30 seconds then allow it to rest for 1 minute.  Continue to mix for 30 seconds again, then rest for 1 minute and repeat one more time.

Add the almond flour & baking soda to the wet mixture and stir to combine.  Add in the chopped chocolate & pecans and mix throughout.  Place 2 Tb of dough onto the parchment paper, spaced 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle vanilla salt or flaked sea salt on top of dough.  Bake for 12 minutes.  Let cool completely on pan and then remove.


Satisfaction & Lemon Ricotta Muffins

We’ve been busy, but that seems like a typical December response. Our oldest began her special little school this past week. It seemed harder for me than her. I’m amazed by her growth. This little girl is showing signs of improvement with every week, which makes me excited with anticipation to see it all unfold.

As I see life twirling around with what seems longer lines and crowded parking lots, I’ve been reminded to breathe and bring in my family to bunker down. Each night we light our Advent candle, read a small portion of Scripture, say a prayer of thanksgiving and see which girl gets to blow out the candle to conclude one more day.  I’m so thankful that I’m able to be in a season of seeing each day as a gift these days.  When I look back on the summer, walking in some of the darkest days I’ve known to see God’s grace & faithfulness on the other end.  And now here I am in the season of Advent to welcome in the coming of not only Jesus’ birth, but the reminder that he will again bring hope.

So remind me of this moment friends…when I begin to worry about whether V will move beyond her current developmental delays, about my health or my families’, or anything else under the sun (you can fill in your own blank here), that there lies a hope, which I find in this Advent season.  I think King David puts it well:

I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Here’s to some satisfaction with yummy muffins.  I have yet to make anything with gluten for a while, so these are from this summer.  However, I think they are fitting for any season, especially a Saturday morning cozy with your loved ones.  Where are you finding satisfaction or sharing that these days?

A Year Ago: Intensely Chocolate Cake & Cranberry-Orange Crostata

Lemon Ricotta Muffins (printable recipe)

This recipe is adapted very slightly from Giada De Laurentis.

Ingredients:

2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tb lemon zest
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/3 cup thinly sliced almonds

raw sugar for sprinkling
Directions:  Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 12 cup muffin tin with papers.  In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt, whisk together.

In a large bowl, (or bowl of an electric mixer) using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, butter & lemon zest until light & fluffy (2 minutes).  Beat in the ricotta.  Then, beat in the egg, lemon juice, & almond extract until just combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir till just combined (the batter will be thick).

Scoop the batter evenly among the 12 lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle with thinly sliced almonds & some raw sugar on top of muffins.  Bake until the muffins just become pale golden on top, about 20 minutes (it will smell amazing).  Cool slightly.  Serve warm or at room temperature.


Whole 30: Day 30 & Key Lime Pie Kamillebars

Well friends, today is day 30 of my 30 day challenge.  It is officially over at 12:01 am, but I will avoid any temptation of getting out of bed for a glass of wine.  These 30 days have been quite remarkable, in the physical yes, but even more in the emotional, mental & spiritual realm.  It’s interesting when I tell people about this challenge, because there have been typical responses.

  1. Eyes pop out of their head
  2. They realize their eyes popped out and try to compose their facial expression to a more subdued look.
  3. Nodding of the head (as in I cannot believe you are doing this to yourself).
  4. The response, “Wow, you must have a lot of willpower,”
  5. Or my other favorite response, “That’s amazing (but I wonder if they really think I’m nuts), but I couldn’t live without…FILL IN THE BLANK!”

As for willpower.  I guess if you asked my mom about me being a girl, if I had a strong will, she’d say yes.  If you asked Ben the same, he’d probably agree.  However, I think willpower is more about seeing the potential for something good and setting on the course to achieve it.  It’s making choices everyday because you see the end goal.  I make choices now as a mother to discipline my girls, in order for them to know of life’s consequences and how to have enough “willpower” to say no when faced with life’s bigger dilemmas (you know the ones that have catastrophic effects).

When I looked at myself in the mirror even three years ago, I didn’t see someone who was healthy or someone I wanted to be.  But when you hit a place in health decline, whether that’s being overweight, chronic health issues, lethargic, etc, you can easily get so trapped and wonder, “How did I get here?  And how do I get out?”  This goes for any challenge in life, it just happens to be nutrition & exercise for me.  And specifically, this 30 day challenge was a challenge; considering I love to bake and my shelves are overflowing with cookbooks.  Yet, when I see myself now compared to the girl who walked into Jogo August 4th for a basecamp fitness introduction (ached for days), I remind myself of her.  I see that girl and think, “that’s willpower, to get up at 5:30am to come workout, completely out of shape and all because she wanted better in life.”

Who would’ve thunk it?  Certainly not me, but I’m SO VERY THANKFUL for it.  In fact, it’s amazing how alive your taste buds are when you take away sugar for 30 days.  Dates are simply ethereal (and a bit dangerous) and figuring out how to make my own Larabars were even more so.  I first had a Key Lime Pie Larabar during the challenge, and I could have sworn there was cream cheese in it.  The ingredients simply said: dates, cashews, almonds, key lime concentrate.  I set out to do what any rational person would do…figure out how to make my own.  And they’re good, really good!  But, I’m warning you right now to only save a couple and share the rest, because 1. you’ll be sure to make friends that way and 2. you’re body will thank you later.

Key Lime Pie Kamillebars (printable recipe)

I have made these twice.  The first time they turned out better than the second time, merely because the nuts didn’t get finely chopped in the food processor.  I realized that the first round I used dates from Trader Joes, which were more dry.  I think more dried dates work better in this recipe.  While the second time I had these wonderful, soft dates from Costco.  Due to the dates being quite soft, they pureed before allowing all the nuts to puree.  So the pureed dates caused everything to stick without chopping.

Ingredients:

16 ounces dates (weight is based on dates with pits still in)

2 cups/225 grams raw cashews

1 1/8 cup/165 grams raw almonds

1 cup/80 grams unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 tsp pure lime oil

3-4 key limes, juice OR juice of 2 limes (the kind you find at the grocery store)

Directions: Place cashews, almonds, coconut, & pitted dates into the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the nuts are almost pureed, just not into a nut butter.  You may want to pulse a couple times.  Once the the nuts & dates are chopped well, add the lime juice & oil and pulse to combine.  You will want the mixture to be a bit sticky.  Taste to see if you need to add more lime juice.

Put in a 9×9 square pan, patting down evenly.  You can slice fairly soon after.  I cut mine into small squares; rather, than the traditional bar.  If left out they will dry a bit.  So cover them if you want to retain some moisture.


Meaty Spaghetti Sauce on Spaghetti Squash

One of my favorite meals growing up was spaghetti.  And I can see why my mom made it fairly often.  It was quick, relatively easy and no one complained.  Sometimes when money was tight, she might buy that really horrible powdered spaghetti sauce mix (I believe it’s in between the taco seasoning and biscuits & gravy powdered mixes).  Talk about disappointment.  You walk into the kitchen to find noodles boiling in water, spaghetti sauce on another burner and soon it would dinner paradise.  Only to realize that my mom was trying to use chopped up olives & mushrooms to mask the taste of astronaut spaghetti sauce.

To give my mom credit, she did make a killer lasagna (thanks mom).  And she wasn’t a ‘horrible’ cook or anything, it’s just that I may have branched out a bit more (does anyone else find it interesting that spices were a novelty in the 80s home?).  Well, this Spaghetti Meat Sauce is good.  And when I say meat sauce, I mean, MEAT SAUCE.  I’m not talking about skimpy amounts of beef where the ratio between tomato sauce & meat is more like a “flavored” meat sauce.  I’m not talking about Ragu.  I’m talking about meat being the main ingredient.  At the end of this meal you won’t find yourself saying, “Where’s the beef?”  The 80s is gone my friends, so retire your lemon pepper, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, dressing in a bottle for Iceburg lettuce salad (in case you still have it in your cupboard).  Enjoy the first time ever–picture tutorial!

Clean Spaghetti Squash pricked with a fork all over--ready for destination oven.

 

Cooked for an hour in the oven at 350. Sliced in half, remove the seeds, and scrap with a fork to produce "noodles."

 

Meet the carrots, no need to peel.

 

Yes blurry, but do you see my fingers curved inward--do this!

 

Using the curved fingers to hold the carrot (above pic) and holding the knife with the other hand. Thinly slice off a side, turn it over to slice another. Until all sides are sliced.

Until it looks similar to a Lincoln Log.

 

Now cut them into four smaller logs, like so.

 

Get them lined up, ready for a small dice.

They should look something like this, but no one will judge if they're not.

 

Oh those cute little diced carrots.

 

Celery. Start the cut here and keep rocking it to get more julienne-like cuts. Then small dice.

Meet Mr. Onion who will only make you cry.

 

Once again, pay attention to finger positioning to avoid chopping your finger off. Cut off the top portion, not the scraggly root portion.

After slicing it in half and keeping the root intact. Put one hand on top.

 

With the edge of the chef knife, begin to make a slice at the bottom of the onion. Use your hand on top to help it through if need be.

As you can see, I've created three slices, which will give me four layers. And notice the knife has not come in contact with the root.

 

Here's a front shot of the sliced onion, now for the vertical slices.

Vertical slices. Use the tip of your chef knife to do this.

 

 

Now it's time to cut it into a small dice.

 

I poured about 2 Tb olive oil in my dutch oven over medium heat. After heated a bit, I added the mirepoix.

Skipped a couple steps, but do you blame me--I was hungry.

Dinner is served.

A Year Ago: Roasting a Chicken or Cleaning the Carpet

Meat Sauce with Spaghetti Squash (printable recipe)

I’m a big fan of meat sauce, not so much meatballs, but give me meat sauce and I’m a happy woman.  However, I rarely make it for my family, because of the pasta noodles.  This is a perfect little compromise in my book and my girls don’t care anyway, because they’ll eat just the meat sauce (my kind of girls).

Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash

2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
2 carrots, small dice
1 celery stick, small dice
1 tsp sea salt
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 Tb tomato paste
3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped up small (not oil packed)
1 lb grass-fed hamburger beef
1 lb pastured pork sausage (no flavoring, but you could if you want)
2 cans (14 oz ea) diced tomatoes
2 (more) Tb tomato paste
2 tsp dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.  Once it’s heated, place a sheet of aluminum foil on the middle rack and place your cleaned spaghetti squash on top.  Bake for 1 hour.

Mirepoix: There are two types of mirepoix’s.  The one I’m using is the traditional mirepoix, which is simply a mixture of diced carrots, onions, & celery.  I am choosing extra virgin olive oil instead of butter to cook it.  Do a small dice on each of the vegetables.  Add the olive oil to your heavy duty pot and turn heat to medium.  Give it a minute to heat up, then add the vegetables.  Stirring and avoid burning or adding color at all to your onions.  After it’s been cooking for 1 minute or so, add the salt.  Stir and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or till the onions are soft.

Add the finely diced garlic to the mirepoix and stir constantly for 30 seconds.  Now add the first round of 2 Tb tomato paste.  Mix completely with the mirepoix and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chopped up sun dried tomatoes.  Stir an additional 20 seconds.  Now add both meats.  Stir the mirepoix/tomato mixture all into the meats, until thoroughly incorporated.  Stir occasionally to evenly cook the meat.  Once the meat is mostly cooked (small to little traces of pink left), add the diced tomatoes and stir around.  Turn the heat to low/simmer.

Add the bay leaf.  Place the oregano in your hand and grind it up in your hand to release the oils in it.  Now add it to the pot.  Add the remainder 2 Tb tomato paste & stir around. Cover and allow to simmer for anywhere between 20 minutes to 1 hour.  If you have it on simmer for longer than 30 minutes, check on it periodically and stir.  Season with salt & pepper before serving.

Your squash should be able to be sliced without any give.  Scoop out the seeds.  Get a medium bowl ready.  With a fork, scrap the squash and you will begin to see it turn into miniature spaghetti “noodles.”  Put the spaghetti squash into the bowl.  Serve the squash and top with your meat sauce.

Serves: 8-10


Thankful with Sweet Potato Goodness (& so much more)

The words that penetrated my soul the most, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.” This was part of a guest speaker’s story. She was a small Honduran woman, measuring a mere 4 feet and 9 inches, but she made up for it with tremendous heart & conviction. Her name, Danubia Orellana Lopez, and she is apart of the Agros village of Brisas del Volcan.

Danubia was the speaker at the Agros International fundraiser dinner Ben and I attended at the end of October.  It seemed fitting that we attended just days before we plunged into doing this 30 day challenge.  Agros is an amazing organization, who seeks to empower people in Central America & Mexico through micro loans to purchase land.  Many of these people, like Danubia, lived in the slums and had to wake up at 2:30 am to walk 2 hours to get to the farm (to which she & her husband worked for someone else), work an 18 hour day and only get paid $.40 a day.  She recalls the times when payday arrived and the owner of the land wasn’t there to pay her & her husband.  Those were the days when all she could offer her children was water to fill their bellies.  She also recalled a time at the age of 14, when her mother only had 3 eggs to feed the 14 kids….I am truly blessed.

I can’t imagine that world.  To feel absolutely defenseless and unable to give your children a basic necessity.  Agros seeks to extend both physical means to these people who are willing to work REALLY hard to till their land; but, also give them emotional/spiritual means.  They come in to teach the people how to cultivate the land, how to educate themselves, how to make financial deals, etc.  What Agros does, is tell these people like Danubia, that if they are willing to want something more, then they can have it.  More importantly, what Agros does & says to them, “You are worth it!  You have value!”

Danubia spoke of telling her mother that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up.  Her mother said, “Danubia, people like us don’t dream, because our hearts just get broken.”  After Agros came in to empower Danubia, her family & community, she and other women worked together to make the men realize that they are just as important & valuable as them.  And you know what, after the women worked just as hard, the men realized that these women, their women, had dignity & value.

When I think about what Evangitality means–this is it.  This is the global representation of it.  It’s finding value, dignity & worth in each individual, because they are created in God’s image.  It’s empowering them by giving them a hand up, and not a hand out.  It’s not entitlement, because there are many people who choose to stay in slums so they can keep their TV or refrigerator.  Instead, it’s for the people who want something more, who want to dream.  Life without dreams isn’t a life worth living, and Danubia knew this.

Walking back to the hotel that night, I told Ben, “You know, the poor in America aren’t that poor.  They still get assistance.  They’re not putting their children to bed without food.”  It has made me more thankful than ever.  And that’s why I give thanks before my meals.  I thank God that I have more than enough to fill my family’s bellies.  So when I’ve been cranky during this 3o day challenge, or hear people whining about, “Oh, I ONLY get meat, vegetables, limited fruit & nuts, and eggs,” I’m reminded of Danubia’s words, “my sons were hungry and the only thing I could give them was water.”  Oh how I have nothing to complain about, and everything to give thanks about.

I’m thankful for simple meals too.  So simple it seems almost too good to be true.

A Year Ago: Brown Sugar Cupcakes with Sea Salted Caramel Frosting &   Oatmeal Carmelitas

Cinnamon Sweet Potato Goodness (printable recipe)

This is for one sweet potato, but you could easily increase the amount and play with the ingredients.  If you’re not a cinnamon fan, sub some nutmeg (but go easy on it) or add some smoked paprika.

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato

1 tsp coconut oil

dash sea salt

2 Tb pecans

sprinkle cinnamon

Directions: Bake a sweet potato on 350 for 30 minutes or so (check a source, I’m that person who pops it in and doesn’t worry about it).  Do this the day before if you’re having it for breakfast.  Remove the skin and cut up the sweet potato into chunks.

Heat up coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat.  Add the sweet potato & salt.  Stir around letting it get a bit golden, about 3 minutes.  Add some chopped pecans & a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Cook for an additional 1 minute or so.  Serve and enjoy!