Friday, September 28, 2012

Chocolate Pancakes

These are a fun breakfast surprise and no more "unhealthy" than any other pancake. The chocolate seems decadent, but doesn't come with the calorie count of chocolate desert. The boys opted for simple powdered sugar to top these with while I put some crushed strawberries on mine with a bit of powdered sugar. I opted for the lesser amount of sugar in the pancakes, but without the sweeter topping, they could use a bit more.

This is one to definitely repeat.

1 1/4 c flour (GF Mix - I used 1/2 c millet, 1/2 c potato starch, and 1/4 c oat flour)
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t Xanthan gum (if using gluten free flours)
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 c raw or brown sugar (1/2 c if you want a sweeter cake)
2 T cocoa powder
2 T oil
1 c milk (cow, rice, nut)
1 egg (or replacer)

Stir dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, wisk the wet ingredients. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Heat your a griddle and oil it with coconut or sunflower oil. Pour about 1/3 c of batter and cook until bubbles start to burst and the batter stiffens. Flip and cook the other side for another minute or two. Serve with powdered sugar, maple syrup, macerated berries, whipping cream, or your topping of choice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Living In Walnut Grove

The magical land of Walnut Grove was so appealing as a child. I really could picture myself and Laura being good friends. We had a common foe - Nelly Olson. Laura dealt with her at school and so did I. She in person and I was teased on the playground by having my name shorted to Nelly (unfortunate nickname that took me until 4th grade to eradicate) and then linked to the snobby TV/novel personality.

Well, the land that sounded so magical, must have been a nightmare to pick up all those walnut trees. While we only have 5 or 6 mature walnut trees in our yard (more in the woods), the harvest of the green covered nuts has been intense this year. With little rainfall this summer, the trees have put their efforts into producing seeds to ensure their existence/propagation.

This bounty in a large yard cart, comes from just about a 5 days since our last clean up on just one tree. Yup, we got plenty of walnuts. Hundreds of them.

We are lucky to have a 6-year-old who is thoroughly fascinated by the nuts and enjoys picking them up. Out 8-year-old, however, is not. He gets a quota to pick up before he is done. The ironic part of this is I'm allergic to the things so we don't put them to use, just dump them in the woods. Such a shame. I have fond memories of cracking walnuts from my Great Aunt Vi's house as a child. I have saved a few for decorating in vases, but they are starting to rot and need to join their friends in the woods as well.

The wind has stopped for now so hopefully we'll have a few days of respite until we are out collecting again. That's a good thing. We've had several of us down with golds and my little man has his first fever of the season.

I think we are all a bit worn down after months of remodeling, moving, starting school, unpacking, sorting, having a garage sale, and trying to keep up with life. I'm not sure which is more tiring, the physical work or the emotional toll of change and instability.

We've all had to work our way through it, some of us better than others. The joy of returning "home" has been mixed with a homesickness for our friends in ND. But finally being in our own home, we are praying that the stability and normalcy that comes with it will help us put down roots and find our place and calling in this place.

We have been blessed. Now is the time to rest and remember all the ways that we have.... but more about that later.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Living

What I'm loving about living in Michigan again...

* Having a bag packed and ready for the beach at all times
* Trees and rolling hills (that my 5-year-old thinks are mountains)
* Watching my children playing with their cousins
* Lower grocery prices
* Fresh fruit and veggies available along the roadside
* The feeling of sand in between my toes
* Watching my boys fishing off the dock with hotdogs
* Sunsets glistening off the water
* Running into people in the store that I knew from way back when
* Puttering around in my mother-in-laws flower gardens (until we get into our house next month)
* No plains for the wind to come sweeping down...

What I have not missed about Michigan...
* Rude drivers
* Summer road construction & pot-holes
* Earwigs & Mosquitos
* Humidity
* Long drive times

It's a good thing that the first list far outweighs the second.  While it is great to be "home" again, I sure do miss the amazing people of North Dakota that we met. It has been much more of a difficult transition than I imagined, but God has been good to us each and every step of the way. We've made amazing memories this summer already, and there is a lot more left to come.

The challenge is to soak in these moments, to be grateful for each blessing as it flies by, to capture each moment and experience the gift that it is.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Mango Salsa

Here's a lovely sweet and spicy mix that tastes like pure summer. This works great with chips, in a salad, or with chicken.

1 Mango, finely diced
8 Roma Tomatoes, finely diced
2 Jalapenos, finely diced
1/4 t Salt
1/2 Fresh Lime, juiced
1 t Sugar
1 T Cilantro, chopped (optional)

Give this about 30 minutes to let the flavors meld together. But yes, it can be eaten right away if you can't wait and it still tastes good.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer Jicama Salad

For those of you not familiar with jicama - it's a white bulb with a fibrous texture, also known as a Mexican Yam. It's fairly plain tasting, but adds crunch and a hint of sweetness, similar to like a carrot. It contains vitamins C, A and B, along with calcium. To eat, peel the exterior and then thinly slice or grate (my preference) the jicama.

A couple of years ago I posted a different recipe for a jicama salad - (Jicama Lime Chicken Salad) which I love, but I was looking for something a little more on the sweet side. This is what I came up with for a family get together over Memorial  Day weekend. You could definitely add chicken to this if you wanted protein in it.

1 head of Romaine, chopped (or two hearts)
2 Roma Tomatoes, chopped ( I remove the seeds/juice and use just the flesh)
1 c Sweet Corn
1 c Carrots, shredded
1 c Jicama, shredded & drained*
Optional Crunch Factor (I wish I had added something like wonton strips, tortilla strips, or chow mein noodles for a bit of salt & crunch to the salad)

* The longer shredded jicama sits, the more the moisture comes out. I just squeeze the liquid out with my hands. You could use a towel or press into a strainer.

-- Wisk ingredients together or shake in a sealed container. Add a little bit at a time, depending on how much lettuce you use, you may not need the whole amount.
1/4 c Lime Juice
1/4 c Oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/4 c White Sugar
1/2 t Cinnamon
2 t Sesame Seeds
1 t Sesame Oil (optional)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Settling In... Sort Of

What a roller coaster the last couple of months have been. We've gone from playing the waiting game for a new job, to hurry up and get there to start a job. Then my husband moved with all of our "stuff" (well, most of it) while the boys and I stayed in ND to finish up the school year (okay, almost the end). After being apart for 3 weeks, we packed up what we had left and packed up the Blazer (most of it fit) and headed east to start a new life in an old place.

Before we left, the boys and I made a "Bucket List" of what we wanted to do before leaving. We managed to check off everything on the list, plus a few. We missed out on seeing a few people we would have loved to see one more time... but know that we will be back to visit.

The trip in our tightly packed/cramped quarters took about 15 hours over some intense conditions.
  • Minnesota was rainy and I got stuck behind state police going 5 under the speed limit. Took me almost an hour to work up the courage to pass him (after watching about 5 other vehicles successfully do so).
  • Wisconsin was intensely windy and it was a battle to keep the truck on the road. The conditions however did keep me from getting lulled to sleep through a beautiful but very long part of the trip. We toke a break from sitting to stop and see some friends of mine from college. It was great to see them again. I may or may not have stood the whole hour we were there...
  • Illinois was equally windy, but just add traffic. As we got closer to Chicago, all the buildings eventually provided some relief from the wind. 
  • By time we hit Indiana it was late and my butt was done... 
  • I breathed a sigh of relief crossing over the Michigan border, but not as big of a sigh as when I pulled into the driveway and saw my husband and we were all together again. Home really is wherever we are together.
The next day, my husband had slated us to go look at a house we had our eye on in our online investigations. It had been listed as sold, but had come back on the market. A mere 12 hours after arriving in the state, I found myself putting an offer in on a house. Talk about overwhelming! My husband had been touring houses but was convinced it was the one. Our offer was accepted, and now we are on to inspections. It's a 100+ year old farmhouse. There is room for kids to play and I can plant a garden & fruit trees/bushes. The house will take quite a bit of work, but God blessed me with a handy husband when it comes to those things.

We've the gift/luxury of staying at a family member's house for the summer while they stay at their cottage. We will have time and freedom to make repairs, paint & update much of the house before moving in. What a blessing.

So we are here. Settled in to a place that isn't as familiar as it use to be. We are loving time with family and friends, but missing our far away friends dearly. We keep praying that God will continue to direct our steps as we make a new home in a familiar place. We look forward to reconnecting with friends and family, and forging new relationships. We are blessed with so many amazing people, across so many miles, that we call our friends and family.

Here's to new beginnings, fresh starts, familiar faces, and new places...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Moving Time

Several weeks ago my husband left to return to Michigan. His start date with the new job came too early for the rest of us to leave because of school. So we loaded up almost all of our earthly possessions into a big yellow moving truck and said goodbye for almost a month.

Generous friends have shared their guest bedroom mattresses, pots & pans, lamps, and hospitality with the boys and I to make our stay more comfortable and easy. However, with about 1/20th of my kitchen available, I do have to say that I've missed "cooking." I froze ahead several meals, cooked rice, cooked chicken, and a few other odds and ends that has helped tremendously. I've tried cooking simple meals (tacos, spaghetti, stir fry, etc), but grocery shopping has gotten expensive. Buying ready made foods (and trying to buy quality ones without a lot of junk in them) is FAR more expensive that what I am use to. For the same price of a box of gluten-free frozen waffles (about 2 meals for 1 kid), I can make 4 meals of waffles for the whole family.

We are less than a week away from our departure now. I think the absence has eased our transition from this place and made our heartache of leaving much easier - because our desire to be reunited is so great.

I am so thankful for my family, and the blessing of knowing the value of what we have been blessed with. I'm excited for the adventures that lie ahead.

Thankfully, part of that excitement means being unemployed for the time being, This should help afford more time to experiment with recipes in the kitchen again and to this blog in the days to come.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I'll be updating my blog in a few weeks. I'll need to scroll over to the profile part of the page and update our location from North Dakota to Michigan. Yeah, it's the same spot that I switched from Michigan to North Dakota a little over two years ago.

People keep asking if I am excited to be going "home." The reality is we are thrilled to be near family again. The other reality is I find myself mourning the loss of this place, the place I came to kicking and screaming. This is the place I told God I didn't want to go. Why should we go if we were being effective/helpful/useful right where we were. Oh yeah, we needed a job and they have those in North Dakota.

After God busted through every excuse and road block that I put up, I found myself in my own personal wilderness. I felt like Moses wandering around in the desert (in my case the prairies) without direction, purpose or a place to call home. I combed my Bible looking for some sort of solace, studying the word hope with the intent of finding some again.

The funny thing is I found it... I found hope. I found purpose. I found a home. God blessed us richly in our wilderness with family that we are not related to - a group of like-minded and compassionate people. We've been given occupations and service opportunities that we find a great sense of purpose out of. We've made a home here...

And now I am heartbroken to leave this place. I come to the edge of tears when I think of how long it will be until I see some of these dear people again, or to sing at the top of my lungs with arms open wide at Bethel, or to finish my work/efforts against human trafficking in this community.

It will be a different woman that will make a home in a familiar place. I am not who I was, nor do I wish to be. I am changed. I can't step back into what was, so my thoughts turn to what can be. There is a plan, a purpose, and hope. If I can be found in North Dakota - I can be found anywhere.

So let the adventures begin... again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Crispy Gluten-Free Waffles

Had I not made these waffles myself, I would have had NO clue that they were gluten-free. They were very light and crispy. I smothered mine with blueberry sauce while the boys opted for a just a bit of powdered sugar (because they weren't allowed a LOT of powdered sugar), and my husband went the usual maple syrup route.

1 c Millet flour (sifted)
1 c Potato starch
1/2 c GF Oat flour
2 t Baking powder
3/4 t Salt
1/2 t Baking soda
1/4 t Xanthan gum
1/4 c Brown sugar
2 Eggs
2 c Milk (I used 1 c Coconut Milk + 1 c Almond Milk)
1/4 c Oil

Mix together all the dry ingredients and whisk in the wet ingredients. All to sit for 1-2 minutes for the xanthan gum to activate. If the batter seems a bit thin, add in an extra tablespoon or 2 of potato starch.

Pour batter into a screaming hot and well oiled waffle griddle. Make sure the waffles are really done and crispy before trying to remove them, otherwise they tend to stick. Once you think they are done, give it 30-60 more seconds and you'll be glad you did.

We've been really happy with our Buckwheat Waffles, but these really taste like a traditional "plain" wheat waffle. Glad to be able to offer a bit of variety.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In The Waiting

I'm not a free spirit. I enjoy a well laid out plan and order in my life, but not too much. A bit of spontaneity is necessary to ward off routine that becomes confining. As long as I have a destination, I can improvise on the plan to get there. But that doesn't seem to be God's plan for us.

We find ourselves in the landing of waiting. Life change may becoming, but answers don't seem to come. So we don't plan, don't act, and don't seem to live. We exist. We accomplish what needs to be done, and I feel a bit suffocated. I want to breathe easy and live. I long for stability.

I'm at one of those points in life that I don't know what to say or what to do. I hurry up and wait. Long for answers that don't come. Try to beg patience our of a heart that wants to race ahead and plan away.

I know my weakness is a need for control. The reality is that control is an illusion, a mirage in the desert that melts away the closer you get to it. In my quest to gain this control I only find myself tired and frustrated.

Then comes the simple words of hope and refreshment leaping from the words in the devotional book I am reading (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young). My need for answers and my longing heart such beautiful illustrations of God's provision in my life. Answers are coming, but the timing is my hang up. What would it take for me to understand and trust that the God of the universe has a perfect plan for me... faith... and that is a gift, not something I can produce.

My faith is weak and fragile. The faith that He gives is strong and unshakeable. I attempt to plan and earn. He gives and provides. I long for answers and security. He holds his arms open wide to hold me and protect me...even from myself.

For as neglectful as I've been to this blog, I'm not sure if there will even be anyone to read these words, and I'm not really writing for any response. Somehow as I sit here in the quiet the words needed to be spoken, or written to be measured and understood. The rambling thoughts in my heart and mind needed to escape to an outlet to find their freedom and voice. The reality in writing is that it helps me release the racing thoughts that bind me so that I can take hold of what is true rather than the fears that consume me.

The truth is that wherever God leads, God provides. He's proven that every step of the way.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle

I had a cookie baking incident this weekend. I was making my favorite chocolate chip cookies for the cake walk at our church carnival. So, I discovered halfway into mixing the dough that I had not oatmeal to use (except for my gluten-free oats that are expensive and used carefully/sparingly). So I substituted too much flour and ended up with some very dry cookies. So I couldn't use them for the cake walk, but weren't so bad that I couldn't bring myself to through them away. And I couldn't bring myself to waste calories on something I didn't really love...

So what's a girl to do? Invent a new dessert. My mind went to the Pumpkin Toffee Trifle that I enjoy (okay, I love). The finished product is moist and amazing melding of flavors creating something greater than the sum of it's components. Could the same be true with cookies and as with cake?

So enters the Chocolate Chip Cookie Trifle. I crumbled up 2 dozen cookies and layered it with pudding mixed with whipped cream and chocolate chips.  I tested a batch right away and it tasted okay, but the cookie bits were still a bit solid and dry. However, letting the trifle set overnight made the cookies moist and tasty. The extra chocolate chips and added a bit of texture to the mix. Next time I think I would use miniature chocolate chips in the mix.

Not a bad way to redeem a baking failure.

2 Dozen chocolate chip cookies
2 lg boxes of pudding (vanilla or chocolate), prepared
1/2 c Chocolate chips (I'd prefer mini chips)
4 c Whipped Cream (about 2 c heavy cream whipped with 1/4 c powdered sugar)

Whip heavy cream with powdered sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in gently to prepared pudding. Set aside. Break cookies into small bite size pieces. Take a third of the cookies and line the bottom of a glass bowl. Spread half of the pudding mixture on top of the cookie pieces and sprinkle with half of the chocolate chips. Top with about 2/3 of the remaining cookie pieces, and then the all of the remaining pudding mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie pieces and chocolate chips. Refrigerate 4-18 hours before serving.

NOTE: This makes a lot of trifle. Make sure to bring it to a party, or have a large hungry family waiting. If not, I would suggest you half the recipe.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fruit Pizza Toast

I hosted a Christmas brunch for friends and served a variety of dishes that were red and green - including this lovely. It can easily be adapted to most dietary restrictions.

Bread (French, Gluten-free, etc.)
Butter, Palm Shortening, or Vegan Spread
8 oz Cream cheese (or vegan alternative)
1/4 c Powdered sugar
2 T Milk (cow, nut, rice, hemp)
Fruit sliced thin

This simple tasty treat is a great way to use up bread (gluten-free or regular) that is starting to go stale. Spread a thin layer of butter, vegan spread, or palm shortening on small slice of bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake in a 300 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Meanwhile, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and milk. Spread a thin layer of the mixture on top of each piece of toast. Top with your favorite slices of fruit and enjoy.