Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sabbath Adventures: Don Pedro with Friends

Last Thursday our friends and fellow church planters the Foxes invited us out for a day on their boat. Don Pedro is their "happy place" and we're so glad they asked us along. We spent the entire day relaxing, floating, tubing, eating, talking, sun-bathing, and laughing. What an amazing day!

Maddie and Ben were the first to tube. Our little adventurer had a super fun time and kept giving the thumbs-up sign for "Faster!"

Their faces were almost identical: broad smiles and laughter the entire ride!

Sam wasn't so sure about the whole tubing thing to start, but was very happy to hang out on the boat and watch the tubers enjoying themselves. 

Next Ezra, Rebecca and Maddie went for a slow ride. We think Ezra enjoyed himself, but the serious faces made their debut. 

The fellas:

We eventually got Sam on the tube, under the guise of wrestling with Daddy. As the rope lengthened, he grabbed onto the hand-holds and ended up having a great time. He had perma-grin for the entire tube ride until he eventually laid down and tired out. Here they are after their fun ride:

Later that afternoon, Brian gave us a great time on the tube, impressing us with centrifugal force and eventually doing everything possible to toss us off the tube. It was SO fun. Ben and I got to ride together at the very end of the day and we enjoyed a good laugh before flying off at high speeds and skidding across the water. A few days later, my pecs and lats are super sore and the skin is rubbed raw on my knees and wrists, where I hung on for dear life to that tube!

Thanks Brian, Rebecca, Ezra and Ethan for a fabulous day on the lake!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cured and Smoked Salmon

Our family loves to smoke meats, and it's really hard to beat a delicious piece of smoked salmon. Most recipes are full of sugar, which is out for those of us following the SCD. Kendall Conrad (Eat Well, Feel Well) has done it again with a delicious, sugar-free recipe for cured salmon that tastes amazing. If cured salmon isn't your thing, you can completely rinse the fillet after brining and then slow-smoke it. 

Once you've made it through the two-day curing process, the possibilities are awesome: cured salmon and farmer's cheese on grain-free crackers, smoked salmon salad, cured salmon on grain-free toast.

Cured Salmon
Original recipe by Kendall Conrad

One 2-pound wild salmon fillet, skin and bones removed
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vodka
2 TBS orange zest
2 TBS lemon zest
2 TBS crushed peppercorns
1/4 cup fresh dill (optional)

To prepare the salmon:
Lay the fillet on a large piece of plastic wrap.

Mix remaining ingredients (salt through dill) in a medium bowl. Spread the mixture all over the fish, pressing it into the flesh.

Cover the salmon with another piece of plastic wrap and set in a shallow baking sheet. Place another shallow cookie sheet on top and add a couple of heavy items to weigh it down (I use whatever I have in my fridge: peanut butter, leftovers, etc.) Leave in the refrigerator for two days.

To serve:
Slice the salmon very thinly and serve with your favorite garnish (red onions, homemade creme fraiche, capers, lemon wedges, chopped parsley, homemade crackers, etc.)


To smoke the salmon (if desired, not necessary after curing process):
Remove salmon from plastic wrap and rinse thoroughly. Dry with paper towels

Heat smoker to 150. Slow smoke salmon over low heat for at least 2 hours.

Smoked Salmon Salad
Serves Two

Two palm-sized pieces of smoked salmon, flaked
5 cups herb mixed greens (Trader Joe's makes a great one, or just add your own chopped dill and parsley to your favorite lettuces)
1 small cucumber, halved lengthwise and cut into thin half-moons
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup pistachios

Balsamic salad dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 TBS dill (optional)
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 clove garlic, minced
squeeze of lime or lemon juice
salt and pepper

To prepare the salad:
Combine all salad ingredients besides salmon in a large bowl.

Mix salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jarred container. Mix well.

Toss salad greens with as little or much dressing as desired. Divide salad among two plates. Top with flaked smoked salmon.

Monday, May 28, 2012

how he loves: an update on my health

It was eight weeks ago that I came home from a 12-day stint in the hospital. If you haven't read my original post (I know it's long), you should start there. Some amazing stuff happened in that hospital room. And while I wouldn't wish incredible pain or suffering on anyone that I love, I have an entirely new perspective on what it means to experience the overwhelming grace of God, and I would not, for a minute, exchange the experience I had for a life without suffering.

You may or may not recall that in the hospital, the status of my ulcerative colitis was changed from moderate to severe. I lost fifteen pounds in about two weeks and could not keep any food in my body for many days. There were three days in the hospital where I was basically in a sedated sleep because it was the pain and vomiting were so intense I could barely call my nurses for help. It was scary, overwhelming, and the entire situation was completely out of my hands.

Last week I met with my naturopath to review some of the tests she ordered after I came home from the hospital. Against my gastroenterologist's advice, I decided to hold off on the immuno-suppressing, bank account-draining infusions and try some other, more natural avenues first. My naturopath ordered a few tests. The first was a complete metabolic/nutritional panel that measured what vitamins, minerals, or enzymes my body was deficient in, and also assessed how efficiently my body was digesting and metabolizing food. The second test measured the number of beneficial and harmful flora in my gut. I also had some blood tests done to measure my levels of vitamin D, among other things.

The results showed that I'm deficient in a number of vitamins and minerals: oleic acid, insulin, calcium, zinc, and vitamin K2. However, I'm basically borderline deficient in everything except zinc, which was my lowest mineral by far. Both my antioxidant functioning and my immune system registered in the average levels. There are LOADS of beneficial flora in my gut, more so than my naturopath has ever seen in someone who has my disease. However, I do have quite a bit of one particular dysbiotic flora, and some flora that are out of balance. I have no abnormal yeasts, no blood and no mucous. This is HUGE. Basically before going into the hospital I was losing a ton of blood and mucous (ulcers in your colon = lots of blood. Body trying to heal itself from the inside out = lots of mucous).

The naturopath basically said for someone who had so recently left the hospital, with a condition as severe as mine, she is amazed at how healthy I am. All of my numbers show an average, healthy person!! There's a little work to be done but I am BEYOND GRATEFUL to Jesus for healing me, protecting me, and restoring my body to health.

Right now the plan is to continue with my colitis anti-inflammatory drug (asacol), and a killer round of vitamins, minerals, and gastrointestinal support supplements (to remove the bad bacteria/flora) as well as replenishing and rebuilding supplements (probiotics and fish oil). All in all, I'll taking TWELVE vitamins and supplements. My daily routine is pretty crazy and I have to write it out so I remember everything to take at what meal. :) I've also been strictly following the specific carbohydrate diet. I haven't eaten a single carb, grain or sugar since I left the hospital.

But here's even more good news: she believes that my nutritional deficiencies can be turned around in 3 months and my gut flora rebalanced within 1 month. HOW GOOD IS THAT?!

I've been feeling really good, almost back to normal, but having the science to back it up is just such wonderful, awesome news. I'm so grateful for a naturopath who has been so caring and responsive, for my friends and family who've allowed me to rest and recuperate since coming home from the hospital, and most of all to my Heavenly Father, the Great Healer and Provider, who has done an amazing work not only in my body but also in my spirit. To him be all glory and power and praise!!

For more information on the diet, see the original site or read the book. My naturopath is Dr. Melody Wong and you can read more on her site as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Brunch: Breakfast Pizza

What part of breakfast pizza doesn't make you smile? It's two of my favorite things combined: breakfast and pizza! Except this isn't some cold pizza from last night's box; this is the real deal, folks.

All you need is some leftover Asparagus-Gruyere pizza (or another of your favorites) plus a poached egg:

Breakfast Pizza

2 slices leftover Asparagus-Gruyere Pizza
2 eggs

Preheat broiler.

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add a dash of white vinegar (helps keep the egg white nice). Crack eggs into separate measuring cups or small ramekins. Add egg as quickly as possible with lip of measuring cup/ramekin as close to the surface of the water as possible. Simmer eggs over medium to med-high heat for 3-4 minutes. 3 minutes will give you a very soft poached egg; 4 minutes for a less runny yolk.

Meanwhile, place pizza under broiler until hot and bubbly (about 2-3 minutes).

Top pizza with egg and enjoy!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Grain-Free Goodness: Asparagus-Gruyere Pizza w/Balsamic Reduction

Today's recipe brought to you via the beautiful Joy the Baker blog. She always has such lovely recipes. Last week I was craving pizza and Joy showcased a gorgeous tart with asparagus and gruyere, both of which I happened to have in my fridge. That night, I whipped up a grain-free crust and topped it just as Joy described. I loved it!

I made one for my family using a Trader Joe's whole wheat crust. You could also follow the original recipe and use puff pastry crust for a real treat. Add some fresh Spring berries on the side, and you've got a delicious weeknight dinner.

Asparagus-Gruyere Pizza with Balsamic Reduction
toppings barely adapted from Joy the Baker, crust from Elana Amsterdam's The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook
Serves 4

For the grain-free crust:
3 cups blanched almond flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TBS grapeseed oil
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350F. Set aside two baking sheets. Cut 3 pieces of parchment paper the size of baking sheets. 

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a medium bowl combine wet ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into almond flour mixture until thoroughly combined.

Divide dough into two equal halves. Place one half between two sheets of parchment paper and roll out into a 10-inch circle, 1/8 inch thick. Remove top piece of parchment paper and transfer bottom piece of paper with rolled-out dough onto first baking sheet. Reusing top piece of parchment paper, repeat process with other half of dough.

To bake the crust:
Bake 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden. 

For the topping:
2 eggs
3 cups gruyere, grated (can use your food processor)
2 pounds slender asparagus
olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey

To assemble the pizza:
For a grain-free crust that is already cooked, it works better to gently steam the asparagus before placing in oven. I found about 5 minutes sufficient.

Whisk eggs gently in a bowl. Brush egg wash over baked pizza crust.

Top with about 1 1/2 cups of cheese per pizza, then the asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes, or until asparagus is cooked through (pay attention to your almond flour crust to make sure it doesn't burn!)

While pizza is baking, combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until reduced and syrupy. 

To serve pizza:
As soon as you remove pizza from oven, drizzle with the balsamic reduction, slice, and serve!

Friday, May 25, 2012

first day/last day

to my daughter, on her last day of preschool

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Dear Maddie,

Today is your last day of preschool. It seems like only yesterday that you started, and I remember it clearly: your blond, wispy hair fell into ringlets that graced your shoulders. You wore pink and brown stripes and polka dots and an expectant smile on your round face. On your hands were two one-cent stamps, "protection" from the bees that might exist on the playground. Without thinking much about it, I snapped your picture in front of our door, a tradition that continues to this day.

When I sent you off for your first day of school, I worried whether you'd make a friend the first day. I worried you'd miss me. I wondered if it was okay that you refused to wear socks beneath your rubber-soled shoes.

So much has changed in three years. You wear your hair shorter now, a compromise borne out of many tangly mornings. It is mostly straight, with a gentle wave, though I keep a lock of your ringlets tucked away to remind me of those early days. You pick your own outfits, often multi-colored and multi-patterned, never boring or simple. You remember to bring your own book bag, you brush your own teeth and wash your own face. 

Next year you start Kindergarten at a public school. You will no longer be one of the biggest kids, but one of the smallest in a sea of large bodies. You won't have four teachers to accommodate your need for hugs, attention, and an audience for your larger-than-life storytelling. At this point the least of my worries in sending you out into the real world are the bees on the playground.

I've spent the last five and a half years instilling every important value and piece of wisdom I could possibly think of in order to prepare you for what lies ahead. I've snuggled you to sleep so you felt comforted and secure. I've stood my ground and enforced consequences even when it hurt to see you in pain. I've encouraged you to test the waters of independence, holding back in order to let you try something on your own, even if it meant you might fail.

And now, with your time at preschool drawing to an end, I hope that the lessons of the past three years will stick with you, carrying through into Kindergarten and the years beyond. Together we've learned:

You are a unique and beautiful child of God. In the years ahead, there will be ample opportunities to compare yourself to others. There will always be someone who is better than you; someone prettier, smarter, faster, funnier...but there is no one like you. There never has been and there never will be, because you are uniquely and wonderfully made. You are my precious girl and, more importantly, a daughter of the King. 

School is fun! Learning is a delight, and any new information that is shared is soaked up like a sponge into that marvelous brain of yours. As academics continue to grow increasingly difficult, I will help you to remember the joy of seeing something for the first time, of discovering a new skill, the anticipation of whether an idea will play out. Tests don't define you. Grades don't define you. Teachers don't define you. You have a brain that is all yours. Make the most of it!

There are going to be bad days. The best thing we can do is weather the storms together, holding fast to what we know to be true and secure, and hold out hope that tomorrow will be a better day (thanks, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.) You will make mistakes. But as Mrs. Powell always says, "No big deal."

Family comes first. As seasons change, as lives become busier, as activities increase and time together decreases, I will fight for family time. We will gather at the dinner table at the end of the day, sharing our highs and lows, praying together, and connecting. Our home will always be a safe place for you, for your friends, and for the growing community we call "family." Just as we'll expect you to spend time with us, you can count on us to carve out special time just for you.

Finally, nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever separate you from the love of your Father in heaven. He is yours, forever and ever. No matter what the years ahead bring--trouble, heartache, disobedience, joy, triumph--you will always be loved, adored, cared for and treasured by God. He is all you need now and all you'll ever need.

I love you SO much, my big, big girl, and preschool graduate.



Friday, May 18, 2012

good eats, good reads

Check out the links below for some awesome inspiration in both the kitchen and in life!

good eats:

Joy the Baker has this uncanny ability for coming up with recipes that are precisely what I'm craving, before I could even put words to it. This week I was stopped in my tracks by both her blue cheese, hazelnut & honey polenta as well as the asparagus tart. Tune in next week to see my SCD rendition of the tart. (spoiler alert: I loved it).

My neighbor Danielle writes about her tom kha gai recipe, "This soup is my chicken noodle soup." I couldn't agree more. Have a cold? Need a comfort dish? Try this soup!

Roost has done it again with an absolutely stunning cake. Not like I needed an excuse, but both my anniversary and birthday are quickly approaching. I see a multi-layered, strawberry-studded vision in my near future.

good reads:

If I had to choose a last meal, it would be cheese. No doubt about it. David Lebovitz' post on a cheese shop in Paris had me swooning, drooling, and searching priceline for cheap cross-Atlantic flights.

I go through a crazy amount of honey each week. I'm really thankful I can buy a three-pack of organic goodness at my local Costco and don't have to climb up rope ladders in pursuit of the golden delight.

Kristen has done it again. The girl gets me going with her insightful, hard-hitting blog posts. I've seen this post making its way around fb and I hope it gets pinned a million times. It's that good.

Happy Weekend, dear readers! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grain-Free Goodness: Breakfast Biscuits

This is one of those recipes that I make every week, a staple in my daily routine. I serve batches of these biscuits at breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are just as wonderful toasted with butter and honey as they are topped with avocado, tomato and cheese for a mid-day sandwich.

They are fluffy, golden morsels of sunshiny goodness (feel free to quote me on that).

Breakfast Biscuits
recipe from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam
makes 8 biscuits

2 1/2 C. blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp sea salt plus 1/4 tsp coarse grain sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350F.

For the batter:
Combine dry ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a large bowl. Mix well. Whisk together wet ingredients (oil through lemon juice) in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until well combined.

To bake:
Drop by scant quarter-cup measurements about 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in 350F preheated oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake.

To serve:
Smother in butter and honey. Yum!

Also great sliced in half and made into a scrambled egg sandwich. 

Or slice in half, serve open-faced with poached eggs and sauteed spinach and mushrooms.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Maddie: 64 Months

Dear Maddie,

Today you are five years and four months old. Yesterday was Mother's Day, and I shared with you the story of my very first Mother's Day six years ago, when I had just found out I was pregnant. It was such a wonderful, glorious, hopeful day as I sat in church and bawled throughout worship. the greatest, most heartfelt prayer of life had been answered: I was going to be a mom. And not just anybody's mom; I'm your Mama.

Being your Mama has been the most fulfilling yet challenging job of my life. You are a child who is passionate and curious. You are determined and strong. You are the best and most difficult parts of both your Daddy and me, and it makes for some interesting adventures in parenting. I keep reminding myself that both of your parents turned out okay, even despite ourselves, so even on our worst days I remember I'm just planting seeds; it's going to be a long time before I see all the fruit.

You love all creatures, great and small. You will observe bugs outside for hours at a time, making them little homes of tupperware, grass, and flower petals (for a soft bed, of course). You catch butterflies and bees in your net and watch with equal parts curiosity and amazement as they fly around. Snails and slugs are allowed to crawl up your arms and over your legs, much to my dismay. The slime never bothers you; instead the snails are "kissing" you as they glide along. So I just let it be (and then insist your scrub up before dinner).

You are quick and a lively conversationalist. We are constantly talking. Up until you started listening to the Bible on CD in the car, following along in your big book, I can't remember a time when the car has been so silent. Often my "nap times" are just an excuse to enjoy an hour of quiet, a break from the neverending stream of questions, observations, challenges, debates and musings that originate in that marvelous brain of yours.

This morning Sam woke early and crawled in bed between Daddy and I, where he promptly fell back asleep, snoring, arms raised above his head, body snuggled in tight. When you came in an hour later, you laid on top of Daddy, leaned over to give Sam a gentle kiss, remarked how cute he was, and said, "I just LOVE being a big sister." It was so tender and so unexpected, given your sibling quibbles of late. Yet such a good reminder that despite all the petty differences and disputes, down deep you are a proud, loving, protective big sister.

Yesterday we had lunch at one of our favorite places in the city. I ordered an enormous serving of mussels and the two of you couldn't keep your hands off my plate. Long after the shells were emptied, the two of you took turns slurping the garlicky sauce from the bowl, completely coating the table and your clothes with gobs and gobs of oil. At one point, the waiter came by to tell me that when the owner came through the door and saw those two kids joyously slurping down mussel juice, it was one of her happiest moments in the restaurant. Much like your sweatshirts will now and forever be covered in oily stains, I trust that the memory of your joy-filled, shiny faces will stick with me long into the future.

Thanks for making me a Mama on that Mother's Day years ago. Thanks for continuing to surprise and encourage me every day with who you are and what you are capable of doing. Thanks for reminding me to stop and enjoy the slowness of snails, the delight of slurping garlicky sauce from a mussel shell, and the importance of praying daily for the ability to be the best mom I can be.

I love you, marvelous, funny, creative, spunky, assertive, sassy, dramatic, hilarious girl.



Sunday, May 13, 2012

illuminations: the path unseen

On Wednesday, when both my kiddos were at school, I went for a short hike. This is the first week that I attempted to exercise since coming home from the hospital. It's taken over a month, but it feels so good to stretch my legs again. I took it really easy on the steep uphill climb, pausing frequently to take pictures with instagram and take in the beauty of my surroundings.

One of my favorite ways to connect with God in prayer is by spending time outside, alone, hiking the hills of Las Trampas. With my praise music blasting on the iPhone and the sun shining down warmly on my back, I offered up praise for all that is going well in my life and turned all my worries into prayers. 

About halfway up the hill, I chose to veer south on the flat leg rather than continue climbing, trying not to overdo it. I've done this same course many, many times but when I started to veer left, I couldn't find the path.

I started in, walking through Spring's knee-high green grass (and occasional thistle or prickly weed), trying again and again to find the path. I could see in the distance the brown streak through verdant fields indicating there was, indeed, a path to be found, yet with each passing step it somehow eluded me.

Eventually I found it, not six feet to my right. Six feet! After a lengthy trek through the tall grass, there it was! I laughed at how obvious the path seemed now that I was on it. My steps hastened and I fell in step with the music as my feet no longer needed to high-step it through tall grass and unfriendly thorns. 

Then it dawned on me--how much my morning hike resembles my walk with God. 

I am coming out of a Winter season, both literally and quite figuratively as well. The past few months have included some of the most trying times of my life. I have had to cling to my Savior like never before. Much of my prayers during that time acknowledged my journey of trust and obedience as I simply put one foot in front of the other, marching forward on the path I knew God would have me walk. 

Now I'm entering a Springtime. Life is teeming all around me. Prayers have been answered. Fruit is growing. The grasses of my life are green and abundant. And it's in the time of blessing and growth and abundance that the path is not so clear. The tall grasses and flowering plants conceal the dirt path beneath. Finding the path requires trudging through some weeds and thistles.

In the Winter of life, the starkness of the world around us forces us to look down and keep our eyes on the bare path ahead. In Spring, the lushness of life around us sometimes conceals the path forward.

It is my prayer that in any season, whether in want or in plenty, poor or rich, brown earth or green grass, I will continue to walk forward and trust that when I walk with Jesus--when I align my steps with those of my Rabbi--I will be right where I need to be.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
Psalm 25:4

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sunday Brunch: My Mother's Day Picks

My idea of a perfect Mother's Day would start with a steaming cup of my homemade chai. This is pretty much how every day starts for me, and I wouldn't have it any other way. The warm, vanilla cinnamon flavors wake me up just enough to sit up at the bar and read through my scriptures for the day.

And because I love sweets, my ideal brunch would most likely include these fabulous mini-donuts I made after stumbling across Roost's recipe. I'd either bite into one with coconut and toasted hazelnuts (their suggestion) or just coconut. Yummy!

There's always almond flour waffles for the grain-free mama in your life. Topped with sauteed apples, bananas or even pineapple, they are sure to be a hit. 

For a savory treat, check out this amazing frittata. Simple, quick, and full of flavor.

And, just for kicks, a delicious new recipe I tried out today: Raspberry Poppyseed Muffins. Sure to be a hit with any mom who enjoys the tart taste of red raspberries, all in a delicate and light crumb.

Raspberry Poppyseed Muffins
adapted from Eat Well, Feel Well
makes 10

3 C. almond flour
2 large eggs
8 TBS. unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/2 C. fresh raspberries
2 TBS. poppyseeds

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a standard muffin pan with liners (or use these fancy stand-alone paper cups). In a food processor, combine all ingredients except raspberries and poppyseeds. Process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl, mix in poppyseeds, then gently fold in raspberries using a rubber spatula.

Using two spoons (one to scoop, one to scrape), fill muffin liners 1/2 of the way full. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grain-Free Goodness: Thai Red Curry Sweet Peanut Sauce

Again with the Thai. I know, I know, but it really comes down to a simple equation: coconut milk + curry + vegetables = happy me. When you add peanut butter into that equation, well, it just takes me into really happy territory. Let's get started, shall we?

Your sweet peanut sauce-making friends, clockwise from upper left: olive oil, fish sauce, honey, thai red curry paste, peanut butter, peanuts, basil, lime zest, ginger & garlic.

This curry starts much like the other. Toast the curry paste in a little oil, add coconut milk and simmer. Add meat (thinly sliced raw chicken or beef). To complete the sauce, the original recipe calls for all peanuts but I think it's easier (on the palate and on my belly) to use peanut butter. Balance out those flavors with sweet (honey), salty (fish sauce) and sour (lime zest and juice) and you've got a delicious meal.

Thai Red Curry Sweet Peanut Sauce
Adapted from an old, uncredited authentic Thai recipe given to me by a college professor
Serves 4-5

1 lb. beef or chicken, cut into very thin slices
1 TBS olive oil
3 TBS red curry paste
1-inch piece of garlic, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 cups (or one can) coconut milk
3 TBS honey
3 TBS fish sauce
zest and juice of one lime
1/2 cup minus 2 TBS natural creamy peanut butter
2 TBS finely chopped roasted peanuts
1/2 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped

For the sauce:
Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. When warm, drop in curry paste, ginger and garlic and toast, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Add coconut milk and simmer 5 minutes more.

Stir in honey, fish sauce, and lime zest, lime juice, peanut butter and peanuts. Stir well.

Put in beef or chicken strips and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Stir in basil and remove from heat.

To serve:
This is delicious on a bed of white or brown rice. Grain-free folks can peel a few carrots and steam some broccoli and pour the sauce over the top. Any way you serve it, this sauce is a winner.

*Note: the sauce thickens up A LOT in the fridge. Don't be scared (there's a lot of coconut and peanut butter fat in that sauce): things will loosen up when it is reheated. You can also add chicken stock to make it less thick, if you're still scared.


You could also use this as a dipping (or satay) sauce for vegetables or skewered chicken for a fancy appetizer. Instead of adding protein, just make the sauce. Serve it in a bowl alongside grilled chicken skewers and chopped raw vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, celery, asparagus and bell peppers.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sam: 38 Months

Dear Sam,

Three is such a fun, funny, and frightening age. You are so full of life and zest and humor; you are also full of it, in general. So many nights I either leave your room completely in stitches laughing, tears in my eyes from your incredible sweetness, or up to my eyeballs in frustration. It's all about the extremes, baby boy.

At only three years old and two months, you have an advanced degree in weaponry. You wield a sword like you've been training with the knights of the round table as a young squire. You point guns (and sticks and golf clubs and bats and any other object resembling guns) with accuracy and often a little too close for comfort. Almost every toy becomes an eventual weapon of mass destruction in your hot little hands. I'm not sure how and where you've learned such precise, impassioned, accurate use of cutlasses, swords, guns, rifles, slingshots, box & arrows, and the like, but I'll just chalk it up to one of the mysteries of man.

It's no secret that your Mama loves her some Hawaiian Daddy; on vacation he's relaxed, adventurous, joyful, and full of fun. After our recent vacation I can say that I pretty much love me some Hawaiian Sam, too. You were crazy and energetic, adventurous and silly. I loved watching your little brain think of ways to play on the tree and hill outside our condo. One specific afternoon I watched as you stood on the boogie board and rode it down a (very steep) hill, shouting "Woo HOO!!!" the whole way down. Your brain just follows a different operating code. You think outside the box and are unafraid to try new things, often as I watch, holding my breath, as you navigate taller trees, steeper hills, stronger waves, and further distances. Feeling very grateful that your strong and sturdy body is constantly surprising me with its capability. 

You're starting to resist the camera, much to my discontent. Where you once used to light up with glee and flash me a cheesy grin, you now throw a open hand my way, shouting, "No Mama! No camera right now!" I'll need to invest in a telephoto lens to continue documenting your funny and frightening moments. 

You and your sister continue to be quite a pair. Though we are moving out of the delightful, intense sibling love and more into the arena of sibling dispute. I feel like our trip to Kauai and the weeks after have been one big argument. The competition is at an all-time high, as is the demand for my constant attention. "Watch me, Mommy!" you say, approximately forty times a day. I play a referee much of the day, intervening when things get ugly, sending you back to your corners to cool down. It's nuts. But when the love is there, it's fierce. You love your "MahMah" like nobody else. 

This past week I had the pleasure of attending a Mother's Day Tea in your classroom. We listened (and teared up) as your sweet teacher read Love You Forever, one of my all-time favorite books. We sat and enjoyed a delightful snack together, cookies and punch and water and strawberries. You handed me a beautiful bouquet of hand-made flowers (and I noticed how much bigger your "buds" were than all the others, my sweet 97th percentile boy). And then, the coup de grace, a hand-decorated picture frame, covered in stickers you picked out yourself. Such a treat to see how you have grown and blossomed this year. 

But above all else, above the weapons and sibling fights, above your adventurous spirit and "tricks," I think I'll best remember this stage of life by your outfits. You are expressing yourself more and more through clothes these days. Always, always in the repertoire are boots: cowboy boots, fireman boots, and, most recently, Maddie's fake uggs. And usually on the wrong feet. You like it that way. A t-shirt, short sleeved. Jeans. In Hawaii I had to hide the pair of jeans you wore on the plane because I knew you would try to wear them every day (and, consequently, we'd have to fight to get you into your swimsuit every morning). Also on vacation, you asked at least once a day about your Hee-Haw Man boots, which I reminded you were left behind in the car in California. No sooner had we exited the airport and entered our old explorer, than you kicked off your crocs, pulled on those boots, and sighed a huge sigh of relief.

You bring such joy and life to our family. You shower us with affection and love. We can't imagine our mornings without your exuberant door-slamming or sweet cuddling. Thanks for keeping things light, for keeping us on our toes, and for staying out of the ER (so far).

Love you,


Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday Brunch: Herb Frittata

I love eggs. They comprise an overwhelming majority of my morning breakfast options because they are fast, hot and filling. I love a simple scramble with cheese or poached eggs over a veggie saute. Every once in a while, it's fun to try something a little different. For a Sunday brunch or mid-week dinner, a frittata with fresh herbs and cheese really hits the spot. So when my neighbor Danielle invited us over for cashew-butter waffles, I whipped this up along with a fruit salad. It made a delicious and fun way to spend our Sunday morning.

Start to finish, a frittata only takes about twenty minutes. It tastes good hot out of the oven, at room temperature, or even cold like leftover quiche. You can customize it easily, based on whatever you happen to have in your fridge or what vegetables sound especially delicious. I've provided some variations below.

And what could be better than a post-brunch lego marathon with friends? Asher and Sam enjoyed the waffles and the company (as did the parents).

Herb Frittata
Based on an original recipe by Cook's Illustrated
Serves 4 as a main course or 8 as a side

6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
3 TBS basil, finely chopped (can also substitute other fresh herbs)

To make the frittata:
Adjust an oven rack to the upper middle position and preheat to 350F.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, cheese, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add fresh herbs and egg mixture. Stir gently for about 30 seconds until eggs on bottom of pan start to set. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently loosen the egg from the side and tilt the pan in that direction, allowing uncooked egg to run under the spatula. Continue lifting with the spatula, tilting the pan and letting the uncooked egg run under, until the egg on top is mostly set but still appears moist. This whole process will take about 2 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook an additional 3 minutes, or until the top is completely set. 

To serve:
Run a spatula around the skillet edge to loosen it and invert on a serving plate. Garnish with fresh basil sprig and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.

In the step where the onions are sauteed, you can add up to 8 ounces of fresh vegetables, such as asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, or a combination of these. 

Gruyere, havarti and brie are all suitable choices for a frittata as well. 

In addition, you can 2 ounces of cooked, chopped ham, bacon or breakfast sausage to make it more savory and more filling.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

This, my friends, is the best mango margarita I've ever made. Way better than any sugar-laden drink I've had in a restaurant. And just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Serve up some fish tacos with cabbage and cilantro, bust open the chips and salsa, and blend yourself one a couple of these. You'll love it!

barely adapted from Eat Well, Feel Well by Kendall Conrad
Serves 4

3 mangoes, peeled pitted, and sliced
1 cup honey
3 cups ice
1 cup fresh lime juice (about 6-7 limes)
6 ounces tequila
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup salt
1 lime, cut into wedges

In a blender, puree the mangoes and honey until smooth. Add 3 cups of ice, lime juice and tequila and blend until slushy.

With a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor, crush the mint with the salt. Place on a plate. Rub the rim of a margarita glass with the cut lime and then invert the glass into the mint salt. Pour in your mango margarita and enjoy!

Friday, May 04, 2012

good eats, good reads

Happy Friday, dear readers! Kicking off my inaugural good eats, good reads with a roundup of all the things that made my mouth water and my heart beat this week.

good eats:

Do you know about roost? The photographs and recipes are mouth-watering, and you can be sure I went right on amazon and ordered a mini donut pan after seeing the post on cinnamon roll almond flour donuts.
I don't think free super saver shipping is going to be soon enough.

Another new site I've been drooling over is shutterbean. The internet is so amazing. Just when you start to get bored with your usual blog feed, something new comes along. For days at a time in Hawaii, I scrolled through the archives of this beautiful, inspiring site looking at food, drinks and photos that made me want to get up and dance. I made this juice earlier this week and it was so refreshing. Plus, her eye for design (and her cutey-pie house) make me wish I had endless time and money to put into decorating.

My beautiful and talented neighbor Danielle has done it again. Her recipe for fish tacos is enough to make grain-free folks the world over want to sing Mexican ballads to their loved ones. I mean, crispy coconut fish + homemade tortillas + pico de gallo + avocado cream? Si, si, si, gracias.

good reads:

I've followed Kristen's blog for a long time now. She is one of my favorite bloggers because she's real, funny, but also whip-smart. She posts some of the most thoughtful, smart and brave things I've read. She's  not afraid to talk race, politics, religion, and her "What I Want You to Know" series provides a vital forum for women to share unique, sometimes hard-to-read perspectives. But it was her recent post in response to an "internet kerfuffle" that had me raising my fist in solidarity. Sister knows how to draft an awesome, pointed response without being catty or snarky.

Kelle Hampton's blog, if you aren't already reading it, is like a breath of fresh air. Kelle, like me, is an eternal optimist. She doesn't pretend like motherhood is peaches and rainbows and unicorns but she tends to focus on the small joys and the everyday triumphs rather than venting and ranting her mommy woes all over the place. Many, many of her posts just take my breath away. Her style of writing makes me want to be a better writer. If you've never been to her site, start here. Then I triple-dog-dare you not to stay up until midnight, combing through the archives, reading blog entry after blog entry as you fall in love with her little family. I picked up a copy of her new book, bloom, and read it completely on our flight to Kauai. I couldn't put it down. (BTW, if you live locally and want to borrow my copy, let me know).

My friend Jeanine and her hubby are local church planters in the South Bay. She posts over here and always has good wisdom to share. Her recent post on pregnancy after miscarriage had me simultaneously in tears and praising God for his goodness. I'm so thankful that God has not only answered the cry of her heart to be a Mama but continues to meet her day by day in her fears and struggles. 

Happy weekend! Go out and enjoy the sunny weather! And if you want a unique and fun church experience, join us for Soma in the park this Sunday, 10:45am at Hap Magee in Danville. We'll have a time of teaching and sharing, followed by a good old-fashioned potluck! Bring a chair and something to share.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Grain-Free Goodness: Thai Green Curry

I'm so excited to kick off this new recipe series with my FAVORITE meal as of late. I'm not sure if it was the two weeks of not eating or the few days of hospital food, or if my body is really in need of some coconut fat and curry, but I have been craving Thai food like crazy this month. When I go out to eat at a Thai restaurant and order family-style, this is always one of the dishes.

Making a Thai curry might seem intimidating. You might wonder how many extra items you'll need to buy and keep stocked in your pantry. The truth is, the flavors of Thai cooking are actually pretty simple. The one ingredient that is admittedly kind of strange is fish sauce. It smells like really strong fish but imparts a delicious, salty flavor to dishes. The rest of the ingredients you might have on hand and/or are easy to find at your local supermarket: coconut milk (you can substitute light but it's not as flavor-packed and tends to separate in leftovers), olive oil, honey (or brown sugar), green curry paste, lime juice and lime zest.

Authentic Thai cooking calls for kaffir lime leaves. If you have an Asian market close by, pick some up and substitute 5-6 leaves in place of the zest and juice of one lime. We always have limes on hand so I almost always just stick with those.

A good sauce starts with toasting the curry and slowly adding the other sauce ingredients to taste. Then it's as simple as bringing it to a simmer, then adding protein (if using) and vegetables.

Thai Green Curry generally has zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and bok choy. I like to fill it with all kinds of veggies. Lately I'm really enjoying the colorful assortment seen below:

The key is to add the vegetables in batches to ensure nothing gets overcooked or mushy. By the time everything is finished cooking, it's hard to find a more satisfying, delicious, veggie-packed meal:

With this cooking on your stove (or steaming in your bowl), the aroma of curry plus coconut will be intoxicating! It smells so good!

That bite right there: perfection. Baby bok choy dripping right off the spoon. :) So without further ado, I bring you the recipe...

Thai Green Curry
serves 4 (easily doubled or tripled)

olive oil
2 TBS green curry paste
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced thinly in rounds
1/2 yellow onion, sliced lengthwise
1 can (2 cups) coconut milk (full fat always tastes better; light is a fine substitute)
2 TBS fish sauce
2 TBS honey (can substitute brown sugar)
juice and zest of half a lime
4 C. assorted chopped vegetables: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, baby bok choy, eggplant, green beans
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
OPTIONAL: 2 chicken breasts or 1/2 pound beef, cut into thin strips

For the sauce:
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Add curry paste, garlic, ginger and onion to pan and allow ingredients to sit and toast for about 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add fish sauce, honey, and the lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust as necessary. If it's too sweet, add more curry, fish sauce, or lime juice. If too sour, adjust the curry, fish sauce and honey. If too salty, add honey and curry. Get the picture? If you want extra spice, you can also add cayenne pepper or a diced hot pepper.

If you are cooking chicken or beef right in the sauce, this is the time to add it. Let the sauce coat the meat well and then move on to the veggies. For fish options, see below.

Once you've got the flavors balanced, it's time to add the veggies. One of the hallmarks of a good Thai curry is the perfectly cooked veggies. You'll have to add them in batches. If you recall my picture from above, I've provided a little map with a key to help out:

1. Carrots and bell pepper first. Broccoli would be in this first category as well.
2. Zucchini, baby bok choy stalk (save the greens for later), eggplant and mushrooms next.
3. Bok choy tops, basil, green onions and spinach last.

I let the first batch simmer in the sauce, lid partially covering pan, for about 3 minutes. Then I add batch 2 and let them simmer, lid partially covering pan, 3 minutes more. I test the carrots or broccoli with a fork. If approaching al dente, I throw in veggie batch 3. Basically the heat of the sauce will wilt the last ingredients quickly. Then you're finished!

To serve:
Thai green curry is wondrous and beautiful all by itself. If you want more of a soup, it is possible to add 1/2-1 cup chicken broth after the sauce is balanced and tasty, before adding the protein and veggies. I basically just slurp this up as is. My family enjoys it over steamed rice (white or brown).



For an awesome, inspiring meal, try adding a grilled fish fillet and spooning the curry sauce right over the top. (The recipe above was made with light coconut milk. If you compare pictures, you can see that the full fat version looks thicker and creamier).

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry Vegetables
Serves 4

4 Mahi Mahi fillets (I buy them at Costco, frozen, and defrost for a bit in warm water)
1 TBS butter, melted
1/2 lime or lemon
salt and pepper

For the fish:
Preheat your grill to high. You want a good sear on these bad boys. Squeeze your lime or lemon over the fish. Pour melted butter over that. Season with salt and pepper. 

To cook:
Grill to desired degree of doneness (or until fish flakes easily with a fork).

To serve:
Place fish fillet on a plate. Spoon the thai green curry vegetables right on top!


I've saved my favorite variation for last. I don't have a picture because when I made it earlier this week for dinner, I was too hungry to set up my camera and tripod and wait until I'd snapped the perfect shot. So you will just have to trust me that it is delicious. Especially when it is piping hot. :)

Coconut Mahi Mahi with Thai Green Curry Vegetables
Serves 4

4 Mahi Mahi fillets (I buy them at Costco, frozen, and defrost for a bit in warm water)
1/2 cup dried unsweetened coconut flakes (Go Organic!)
1/2 cup almond flour
1 egg
salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive or grapeseed oil, or combination of the two

For the fish:
Combine coconut flakes, almond flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat egg. Dip each fillet, one at a time, into egg mixture, letting extra run off. Then completely coat the fillet with almond flour/coconut mixture.

To cook:
Place a large skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Add oil and cook until shimmering. Add fish fillets (don't crowd pan) and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Keep an eye on the browning so as to not burn the coating. Carefully flip fillets over and cook an additional 3-5 minutes on second side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

For a lighter option, you can also bake the fish fillets in a 425F oven for 8-10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork, carefully flipping the fish halfway through cooking, at about 4-5 minutes. The easiest way to get a crispy exterior is to coat a cooling rack with cooking spray and place it on top of a foil-lined baking sheet. The cooling rack allows heat to circulate the entire fillet and keep things crisp, rather than one side getting mushy from sitting on the pan.

To serve:
Place Mahi Mahi fillet on a plate. Spoon the thai green curry vegetables alongside, or right on top!