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.

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It’s a Birthday Week and a New Year!

I’ve adopted having a birthday week as of last year.  Too much stuff to cram in on one day.  V turns four on Sunday and it continues to blow my mind that she continues to grow & age and I cannot ever have yesterday back.  She’s a delightful kid with a crazy imagination, the kindest heart that you could encounter, tons of emotion (which she is getting under control with every year under her belt), and has me quite smitten.  Last year we went to the mall to get a charm bracelet, along with a charm.  We started the week by picking out a new charm (Hello Kitty was the charm of choice–I was hoping she went for the donut), which left Tayers in tears saying, “I want a bwaycwet, toooo!”

Birthday week means doing special little things everyday with anticipation for the “birth” day.  And since I get a bit nostalgic, I retell her of a mommy & daddy living in a little duplex awaiting the birth of their first child.  With a middle name like ‘Storey,’ it’s no wonder she sits absolutely quiet, staring intently, while her little mind is picturing how the story looks (it’s also no wonder she asks us to tell a story at least 10 times a day).

In honor of birthday week, we will also be doing some special food items.  I haven’t made scones or muffins in a while, and these are the times to celebrate (still eating paleo).  She has already planned on having Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes for her birthday cake of choice (by the way, this recipe is my number one recipe viewed here–it’s that good).  The difference is that I’m going to use GF ice cream cones and swap out the flour with almond flour, or coconut flour.  We will also be putting butterflies on top (a new V fad).

As for our family, Ben has initiated a technology black out starting at 5pm the whole week.  I’m looking forward to unplugging with a purpose.  He also initiated a little family retreat, which will be a couple of days next week. This year I’m going to embrace simplicity & contentment.  I see how this area has been blooming in my eating & exercise life.  I’ve found peace in feeding my body whole, clean food; as well as, learning how to find contentment when the stress waves hit me by not quenching it with a food “treat.”  I’m seeing this needing to be applied in our finances, our family time, and general interactions with others.  I’ve been asking questions, “Do I need to buy something to make me happy?  In order to make a meaningful time with my family (Ben, or a date with the girls), do I need to purchase something; whether, it be a hot cocoa for the girls, toy, trinket, etc?  How can we enjoy “being” together without the other stuff?

I’m reminded how music is so integral to who I am.  I love singing, creating music and listening to good music.  It’s something I’ve put on the back burner.  This 2011 is about me picking up my ole’ Washburn, that has not seen light more than five times in the past year, and creating with it.  But don’t despair, I will still be creating in the kitchen, too!  What’s been mulling around in your head about this coming year?

A Year Ago: Meyer Lemon-Cranberry Scones


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.


Into the Unknown

This has been a year of working through this notion of forgiveness.  It’s so easy for me to hold onto the past events, conversations, mull over words of pay back to vindicate myself, my family or a messy situation.  As my dear mentor has told me, “pour coals of blessings over your enemy.”  This sounds like vindication, but it’s so different.  It’s being able to wholeheartedly not repay evil for evil, but pray blessings on the person’s life who has done wrong.

It’s interesting how we are all in need of a little grace.  How in Christian and non-Christian circles, we liken to Jesus’ teachings and his life.  Undeniable of his great love & grace.  To the Israelites, his birth meant one of nobility and justice for once–for the usurping hand of the Romans & King Herod.  They likened the coming king to that of the warrior King David, who defended & destroyed.  They wanted to see (what many modernists think) God’s justice & anger to scorn all those who harmed them (we might think of it as the God of the Old Testament).  However, God has always been the same in the Old and New Testament.  He didn’t bring them the warrior king.  He didn’t bring them a priestly, noble baby king born in a palace, wrapped in fine linens.  He turned their worlds upside down.

I read this today from the Apostle Paul,

“For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us…See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”

There are people in my life who have betrayed me, and/or people I dearly love.  It’s far too easy to go down that road of devising a plan to repay evil for evil.  It feels good in the beginning to be the giver of justice.  It’s so much more difficult to choose the road of humility, praying blessings upon the evil doer.  Jesus came as a baby King born in a smelly stable, a feedbox bed, wrapped in less than fine linen, living the life of a vagrant.  And when he was falsely accused, he didn’t defend himself, justify his status–he knew who he was & is.  I’m in awe of this ability to love.

“not to pour out his anger on us.  Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever…Hold onto what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.”

In Jesus’ last hours in the garden, the soldiers came with force to arrest this man who called himself the Christ.  Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, thinking he was doing good by protecting his master, pulled out a sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears.  When we face blatant evil, wrong doing, our first instinct is to react like Peter.  It’s human.

Jesus stopped Peter, picked up the hacked off ear and healed the soldier to prior form.  This king was like none other and even his followers didn’t fully comprehend his greatness.

And here we are approaching 2011, still with the options before us to repay evil with Jesus’ style love, or with Peter’s vindication.  The Apostle Paul concludes,

Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you to belong to Christ Jesus…Hold onto what is good.  Stay away from every kind of evil.

Happy New Year and may this year be more about true life-giving love, transforming your soul and all you encounter.


Apricot Rosemary Bars & Post Whole 30 Living

The end of Whole 30 has come & go and I’m able to eat whatever I’d like.  If I want chocolate, I can.  If I want dairy, I can.  If I want to continue eating Whole 30 style, I can.  After reading about my limitations during November, you might think I would wholeheartedly forgo what I did in those 30 days.  But, I have found a different kind of freedom and my tummy (and more) actually has made it quite clear what should not go in it.

I think the hardest part for me is the anxiety about eating food that might be less than optimal for me.  I have gained not only a leaner body, but the best energy level I’ve ever known.  I even got to a place where I wasn’t even tempted to eat sugar, drink a mocha, or have a pastry.  I have come to recognize where my pitfalls are along the way (sugar is huge).  I feel like I’ve found food salvation.  A freedom to eat to nourish, sustain & enjoy without partaking in what might be viewed as “extras.”  And I truly would love for everyone I love to give it a try, because I think it will not only tell them a bit about their physical body, but mental & spiritual body as well.

Where do I stand at this point in life.  I haven’t felt any better than I did during Whole 30 and the days following.  When I added gluten, dairy, sugar or corn back into my body (even in small amounts) it didn’t leave me with a great, healthful, energetic feeling.  Dairy hit my stomach with gurgles.  Gluten has done some other stuff, along with inflammation throughout.  While sugar is a big one.  Just the littlest amount made me sick.  However, being a couple of weeks off of the challenge, I have had a bit more sugar than I would have liked to put in.  I’ve realized that although I had a sugar upset in the first couple weeks (post Whole 30), it would go away if I continued to feed my body sugar.  My body would get use to the upset; however, a host of other problems occurred that had gone away when I wasn’t partaking in sugars.

What I’ve discovered so far is I’m pretty sure I’m going to eliminate gluten from our household, along with most grains (gluten and non); as well as, limit sugar intake.  (Sidenote: I’ve also noted the rise of behavioral episodes in my girls when they have had refined sugars & gluten in their system) I like what these posts have to say about living out a balanced life.  I’ve hit a place in my life where I actually don’t feel like I’m missing out by not having a mocha, or gluten-filled goodness.  I have also realized that I’m excited about balancing out the sweets I make, and the challenge I get to embrace by transferring all my baking & cooking knowledge to this new food eating thing.  So, if I can share one of my first baked goods creations with you, I’m certain you’ll be surprised that this does not fit in the ‘bleh’ gluten-free, sugar-free, grain-free category.

Here are my Apricot Rosemary Bars. I spotted them in the book Baked Explorations.  I knew that I would need to change it up quite a bit.  And let it be known that I’m not willing to compromise taste, or make something that was once texturally appealing is now very ‘bleh.’  I am also fine with using butter.  If I can sub in another form of healthy fat, then I will.  But when a recipe would benefit from the buttery goodness found in “butter,” then you’ll find it here.  But…I will still keep my recipes with gluten and non on this blog, because they are apart of my journey.  And you will receive no scorn from me if you check out some of my other goodies from last year–Merry Christmas!

P.S. Today is my nephew Lucas’ birthday.  I still remember seeing him just a week old, while Tayers was 6 weeks.  He was a little pipsqueak, but so very precious.  His parents were overcome with joy as their anticipation was finally revealed.  Seems fitting as he was born just two days before Christmas.  Happy Birthday sweet Lucas!

A Year Ago: Gingerbread Man Pancakes & Swedish Tea Ring (Vetekrans)

Rosemary Squares (printable recipe)

This recipe is inspired from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  I have revamped quite a bit from the original; however, the spirit of the original is still fully in this recipe.  I used Honeyville Blanched Almond flour.  I also used California dried apricots and not the typical, sweeter ones you find, which are a product of Turkey.  Opt out of the product of Turkey and find the California ones, which are a bit more tart and a beautiful, bright orange (Trader Joes carries them).  Also, I don’t have a dilemma in using real butter; yet, I chose to do half coconut oil & butter.  Another fat option for the shortbread might be olive oil.  If you are wanting to make this without the egg yolk–it would be fine.

For the rosemary shortbread dough:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, chilled
6 Tb coconut oil
1/3 cup + 2 Tb (70g) raw clover honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
grated zest of half a lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 cups (250g) almond flour
1 egg yolk

For the apricot filling:

2 cups (8 ounces, 230g) California dried apricots (not from Turkey)
1 1/2 cups (375ml) water
3 tablespoons (60g) honey
pinch of salt

For the crumb topping:

1 cup (85g) almond flour
1 Tb raw clover honey
1/3 cup (40g) pecans chopped
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, chilled

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 9-inch (23cm) square pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides of the pan.

2. Make the rosemary dough by creaming the butter & coconut oil for about 1 minute, or until it’s fluffy & creamy.  Add the egg yolk and mix just till combined. Add the salt, vanilla, lemon zest, and rosemary, then add the 3 cups almond flour, mixing until the dough is smooth and all the ingredients combined.  The dough will be more sticky, but not wet.

3. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and pat it flat into the bottom of the pan. Spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula.  (if you want to refrigerate for 30 minutes you can; however, I did not and it was fine.)

(No need to wash the mixer bowl; you can use it as is for the crumb topping in step #7.)

4. Bake the rosemary shortbread for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Once baked, let the shortbread cool to room temperature.

5. Make the apricot filling by combining the apricots, water, honey, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has just about been absorbed. Let cool for a few minutes, stirring, then puree in a food processor until smooth.

6. Make the crumb topping by mixing together the 1 cup (85g) almond flour, honey, pecans, salt, and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, until the mixture just barely starts clumping together.

7. Spread the apricot filling over the shortbread in the pan evenly, then top with the crumb topping and bake for 25 minutes, until the topping is browned.

8. Remove from oven and let bars cool completely in pan.

To slice, lift the bars out of the pan by grasping the edges of the parchment paper. Slice into squares.


Finding Your Voice

There are those moments when I want to chase after my dream of performing vocally, buy a mandolin & join a band.  They are fleeting, meaning they only last a couple days.  But, I miss singing with other musicians.  I miss finding my voice.  My voice singing that perfect song lifting the melody up like a free flying bird in the blue sky.  Or my voice slowly melting like butter against the tongue as it accentuates the melody with it’s dear old friend called harmony.  It’s no wonder we chose the name Cadence for our youngest as she kicked twice as hard when I sang with the bass.  It’s seeped in our veins.  Every person, whether musician, vocalist, longs to find their voice.

Do you ever feel like your looking for your voice in all the wrong places?  It’s easy to do in our day of instant messaging & communication.  We forget how to find our original voice as it gets lost & muffled among so many others.  I have found myself searching for my voice; whether it be in the musical sense or life sense.  I wrote about something similar about comparison & living life looking through rose colored glasses.  And although I’ve written about it before, I’m reminded time & again how vital it is as a person to find the voice I was given and embrace it.

But like the beauty of life, seasons change the elements.  In this season of Advent & Christmas, I have purposed to not put any expectations of busyness on me or my family; while, I have purposed to say yes to rest & togetherness.  Today I was encouraged & reminded of just this…resting in the mercies I’ve been given.  Resting in the peaceful baby King born in a lonely stable.  Resting in knowing I do not need to fill my week with buying more presents, baking new cookies, writing a Christmas letter, or staying stagnant in hopelessness.  I’m filled with awe & wonder that this baby King has given me a voice of hope to sing.

And that’s why I haven’t been here lately.  I’ve been resting from any expectation to blog, to do what I feel someone else expects of me, but to listen.  This is critical in being hospitable, which the false hospitality world would make you think is anything but that.  In order to love, make room for the stranger/guest, we need to listen to find our voice amidst all the other voices.  We might need to take a backseat and say no.  We need to be more like Mary who took the time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.  We might need to neglect the duties, the expectations of tending or organizing all of life.  I would love to hear where you are finding your voice these days?  Where are you finding your voice being muted?  Where are you finding it come to life?

Have a restful week and embrace the hope!

Coming Up This WeekApricot Rosemary Bars…gluten-free, refined sugar-free and you wouldn’t even know it!  Get ready by having the ingredients:

  • blanched almond flour
  • raw honey
  • coconut oil
  • butter
  • pecans
  • California dried apricots
  • lemon
  • fresh rosemary

A Year Ago: Grandma’s No Bakes, Orange Cardamom Cookies, & French Lentil Soup


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!