‘Tis the Season for Sweets and an eBook Announcement!

Christmas is just two weeks away; the promise of good things hangs heavy in the air, doesn’t it?

Celebrating the season with sweet things to enjoy and give away is part of what makes Christmas so magical. But making holiday treats safe and scrumptious poses a really big problem to food allergy families like mine. It takes a lot of mental energy to sort out safe ingredients, select solid recipes, and stretch the budget to accommodate specialty products. Figuring out how to keep family traditions alive around our holiday table after allergies transformed our kitchen was burdensome, and I got burned out fast. Finding my way back toward a familiar, delicious holiday treats left me frustrated and too discouraged to do much more than snag allergy friendly candy canes when I saw them.

I refused to give up. Lots of trial and error ended up being worth it in the long run. I have so many recipes at the ready now that I couldn’t possibly make them all in one month if I tried! From childhood favorites reimagined to fresh takes on holiday standby’s, I’ve collected our absolute favorite cookies, candies and sharable sweets that keep my kids clamoring for more into an eBook that I hope will help make your holiday sweet again too.

Christmas Confections: Festive, Friendly Treats to Savor and Share includes two dozen of our most treasured gluten free, dairy free, super allergy friendly recipes written with other allergies in mind (adaptable for egg, soy, and pea protein allergies; options without coconut, etc). Things like Iced Sugar Cookies, Eggnog Mini Loaves, Gingerbread Men, Red Velvet Crinkles, Chocolate Dipped Macaroons, Russian Tea Cakes, and Peppermint Chocolate Spritz Cookies) and empowers you to make them for your family too with tips on pantry staples we rely on to make them safe and delicious.

Plus, it includes double-sided printable gift tags with space to indicate the gift is from you, and space to identify allergen information. We use these tags when we give goodies away to our neighbors and friends, and we love that they raise allergy awareness and holiday spirit. It’s a win-win!

And I’m offering $2.99, the price lets you put a taste of the holidays back on your family table without breaking your budget. Friends, this is the Christmas miracle you’ve been waiting for!

Grab your copy today here (or click the “Shop” link at the top of the page) so you can spend the weekend baking up a storm. And with two weeks until the big day, you’ve got plenty of time left to make and enjoy all sorts of seasonal sweets you’ve been missing.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


Let It Be and Not Doing It All Over the Holidays

Mary’s words: Let it be.

Surrendered. Strong. What bravery she had when unexpected news forever changed plans and altered her schedule. Mary hadn’t planned on pregnancy. Not yet, at least. But there it was, a grace and a gift from the God who favored her.

She could have said no, but she chose to say yes. And her yes altered everything.

This season I’m remembering how unexpected that first Christmas was for Mary. Long awaited, but still surprising, and how those three words–Let it be–rejected her own ideas for her best life and accepted the gift of God’s plan.

I’m modeling my mind like hers this season: curious, questioning, but ready to give my best yes and receive what God has for me anyway so I can say “Let it be unto me as you say” too.

Today I have the opportunity to share thoughts on how to say yes to the things that matter most in this season on the Legacy Christian Church blog — check it out!

Here’s the link:

“Not Doing It All Over the Holidays.”


Ruin, Redemption, and Basic Bone Broth

Warm fall days are fading into cooler ones that whisper winter is coming soon. Even the sun tucked a gray blanket around its neck again, bracing against the sharp winter wind I am still getting used to.

It is hard to have hope when I am chilled to the bone. The promise of ever being warm again is a tall tale my heart won’t receive while my body smarts against the sting of the pain that is now. When yesterday’s disappointments turn into today’s discouragement, hope slips through my fingers until I remember redemption always follows ruin.

I learned the lesson again this week when I stared down a pile of dry, brittle turkey bones. They were leftover from Thanksgiving, of course, and I dutifully salvaged every last morsel of roasted meat for all sorts of post-thanksgiving dinners that keep the gift of that bird going. I got out my stock pot and got ready to plunk the bones into it until that imposing pile of bones gave me pause. I stared in horror at the enormity of the mess, realizing I couldn’t move on. I couldn’t make broth because my stock pot was far too small to fit the carcass inside of it. I was stuck.

I have felt that way a lot this year: caught by surprising circumstances that make me wonder “Why?” The problems loom larger than the hope for redemption. Paralysis sets in when I don’t know what to do, and I’m tempted to give up. To get numb. To hide. To count it as a loss and toss it all away instead of pausing to ask “What’s next?”

A pile of bones looks like garbage. It is evidence of death, and the promise that anything good could come out of it is hard to swallow when the pain, frustration and the inconvenience is bigger than I feel equipped to handle. But I know better. I know healing comes after hurting. I know hope shines brightest in the middle of dark circumstances. I know death is not the end.

I looked at the carcass and realized I couldn’t change the magnitude of the mess, but I could break it up into more manageable morsels.

So I grabbed a cleaver and set to work, breaking down the bones further so I could move toward the promise of what was to come. I settled them deep into the base of the stock pot, like a casket, and I remembered the way God asked Ezekiel if dry bones can come back to life (Ezekiel 37:2).

I find I wonder the same thing about my own circumstances too.

But as I lay carrots and celery and onions alongside them, and fill the pot with cool, clean water, hope begins to stir in my heart, and I remind my soul of the promise God made all those years ago:

“Ezekiel, the people of Israel are like dead bones. They complain that they are dried up and that they have no hope for the future. So tell them, ‘I, the Lord God, promise to open your graves and set you free. I will bring you back to Israel, and when that happens, you will realize that I am the Lord. My Spirit will give you breath, and you will live again. I will bring you home, and you will know that I have kept my promise. I, the Lord, have spoken” (Ezekiel 37:11-14 CEV).

Making broth from bones moves me every time I make it–which is often, because I can’t not make it. The rich golden stock that emerges from of the sad remains of yesterday cheers my heart and heals my body. I rely on it. It soothes my system and reduces inflammation; it gives my body the nutrients it needs to knit itself back together; and it helps my own bones stay strong.

When the weather turns cold–when things die, when my soul feels dry, when all hope seems lost, I do what I know to warm myself up again. I salvage the sad remains of yesterday and take them to the source of redemption who never wastes a thing. God radically brings life from death. He’s famous for it. Making soup from bones is the most delicious metaphor for this transformative truth I know.

After all the dirty work was over, the pot sat steaming on the stovetop. The lid clicked as it simmered something good, like a clock counting down the minutes until dinner. The Goobies shuffled in, starving, asking What’s that delicious smell? with anticipation in their eyes.

“Turkey broth,” I say, “And I’m going to use it for turkey soup, and turkey pot pie, and–”

“Turkey pot pie?!” they squeal, and their cheeks swell ten sizes bigger with smiles that brighten the room. They dance while they wait, expectant.

And it reminds me all over again: the miracle of joy is waiting on the other side of today’s loss. Dubious and distant though it may seem, it is there. This cold, dry, dismal season isn’t the end. New life will emerge from this loss, and we will be stronger for it.


When Nice Isn’t Enough, and Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Emery and I spent a lot of time together these days. It’s nice, but it’s not enough.

On school days I scurry through the morning like a frantic squirrel, gathering up bits of this and that and packing things away for later, scooting my pups out the door while Emery perches himself at the window wondering when everyone will get home again. He barely eats a bite of breakfast until after we circle back from school drop off to our own make-shift classroom at home, and even then, staying on schedule distracts him from satisfying his stomach, and he ends up grumpy as we work our way through morning.

Snacks help. So do small breaks to get outside and wiggle. But most of the time Emery doesn’t even want to do that–he’d rather snuggle up close to me and read an entire Magic Tree House book from cover to cover in one sitting, or sit at the table alongside me and work on math games for the bulk of the morning. The laundry sits, as do the dirty dishes. And forget about my cup of morning tea and or a hot shower or any of the projects I thought I would be working on this month–things clearly didn’t turn out the way I thought they would this season.

I know I’m not alone in this. Change charged in uninvited everywhere, and most of us are doing everything we can to make the best of it. We’re saying yes to everything we possibly can to comfort and encourage, not coddle or indulge. It’s a fine line between the two, of course. Sometimes phonics looks more like snuggling on the couch and sounding out words than sitting at the table staring at worksheets. Morning math lessons sometimes happen while I’m making muffins or when we’re sitting in carline at the end of the day.

Like so many of you, I am thankful for the extra time I have with my boy, and most days I remind myself this time is a gift. So I pray for flexibility in my heart to embrace this season despite its disappointments, but still. It’s hard.

It’s hard because for as much as I used to toy with the idea of homeschool life, this isn’t what I imagined. Like, at all. My imagination conjured up images of all three of the Goobies home together all day long, happily learning alongside each other in an at-home school room straight from a Pottery Barn catalog, dressed in corduroy jumpers and leather shoes. We’d romp through piles of fallen leaves in the morning, throwing schedules out the window because learning together out there in the real world would be a treat, not a nuisance. Then we’d huddle back inside for hot chocolate and recite state capitals while munching on chocolate chip cookies. No one would ever be lonesome because there would always be someone to play with. The kids would get bad tempered sometimes, sure–but they’d never by themselves, like Emery is. How many other children are enduring these endless string of empty days looking out the window, waiting for something to change?

2020 taught us many things: how to be flexible, how to give grace, how to adapt and adjust and choose joy anyway. It also taught us the value of togetherness from the abrupt absence of it. Visiting through glass–while nice–isn’t good enough. Waving at people six feet away isn’t good enough. Staying away altogether because of what could happen if you get too close isn’t good enough for establishing friendships or maintaining relationships with the people we need in our lives. Nice things aren’t the best things.

I know we’ve all got to make sacrifices this week, this season, this year. I get that and I’m on board with doing our part to make things work for everyone. But the harder truth is this: I also want the best for my boy, and so much alone-ness isn’t the best.

After a turbulent couple of days last week, Emery fell into bed, emotionally exhausted. He clutched my neck and held on tight, unwilling to let me go. My mama heart should have swooned, but the thought of all the broken moments that left him crying and asking questions I simply couldn’t answer nagged my protective heart. The weight of loneliness settled in as I remembered the hurt in his voice: “Why did they have to go? How come I can’t go too? Where did daddy go? When will he come back? How come the girls get to do that and I don’t? Why do I have to stay here? I don’t want to stay here.”

I know there will be a day when these moments will be a memory. The dragged out days of Kindergarten homeschool will fade into a time I wish I could return to, just like the hard and hazy first years of parenthood did. The sting of this season will wane as time ambles on, but for now, it hurts. I hug him back tight and memorize the way he breathes, and he whispers something into the dark of the room: “I would be delighted if you made pumpkin muffins with cinnamon sugar for breakfast tomorrow.”

I smiled, laughing a little as I hugged him tight and replied, “I would be delighted to make some for you.”

I’m not sure what I expected him to say, but it most certainly was not that. Hadn’t he had enough mommy and muffin mornings? But I realized there is comfort in the familiar, and when we ache, we look for something to cling to that calms us down and consoles us, steadying us for what comes next. Mornings, muffins and me–those are his constants these days. I can’t solve the world’s problems. Muffins can’t do that either, but they can smooth out rumpled feelings for a little while at least. Making them is one small act of love I can do right here behind the glass, despite the darkness swirling just outside the panes. Baking them won’t change much outside, but perhaps they’ll change something on the inside a little. After all, when love charges into the darkness, it changes things.

It might not be enough, but it’s a start. And since we’ve got to start somewhere, muffins are a delicious place as any. These gluten free Pumpkin Spice Muffins are top 14 free when you use an egg replacement. They’re warm, comforting, and flexible–just like we’re all trying to be these days–and a beautiful reminder that good things are right here in front of us when we slow down enough to see them.


This Week Is Nuts, and So Is This Creamy Baked Chicken

This week is nuts.

It’s crazy on a national level, clearly, but chaos happens behind closed doors in the very ordinary goings on of life too. My calendar is slammed. So is my brain. And lots of personal, real-life-problems showed up on my doorstep and holy moly can’t I just catch a break?

My mom, bless her, showed up on my doorstep too, but instead of trouble she brought tubs of almond-milk ricotta and almond-milk Greek style yogurt. And other things too, like hugs.

I guess there’s just always something, right? Some weeks just feel more fraught with hardship than others, and on those particularly tense days I focus on the things I can control, like my attitude. And dinner.

My guess is you are having a hard week too, and I bet it goes deeper than just the uncertainty of the election itself. I wish I could reach through the screen and give you a hug. I wish I could invite you over and pour you a cup of tea and chat over a plate of chocolate chip cookies. But alas, since I cannot, I’ll leave you with a recipe that might make you feel comforted just the same.

This Creamy Baked might look a little basic–breast meat slathered in a white sauce–but aren’t the most comforting meals also the most simple? This is quick and easy and packed with flavor–and easy enough to get done in the middle of a particularly nutty weeknight. Joey and the Goobies lick their plates clean when I make it, and while I show a pinch more decorum than that, I admit I really want to do that too. It’s that good.

Take good care, friends. Make yourself some dinner. Gather your people around the kitchen table. Nourish your bodies and your souls, because you need your strength in both places. Today, yes. Tomorrow too. Start with something basic, like baked chicken.


Starting from Scratch and the Reason I Keep Writing

Dear Readers:

When I first started writing here, I called this blog “Love, Scratch.” It was a love letter, really: notes and recipes from my kitchen addressed to Joey, the man who called me Scratch before circumstances earned me the nickname.

In those early days, I wrote to relate my days to him, the ones spent in small spaces with two baby girls who kept me busy. My words were limited to the pages here, and that was enough for me. It was a season, and I knew it would pass before long. When it did, I wrote to remember: documenting days of struggle and success, heartache and hope. Life unfolded and revealed all sorts of things we didn’t expect, as most of you know. The food and the kitchen and all the things I cherished about both went from friend to foe in an instant, and the light-hearted spirit with which this blog began faded. I wrestled my way toward hope during those scary, painful days right here and many of you followed along, praying big prayers for us even as our life got smaller.

It was a hard road.

The kitchen got complicated and messy, and the table got lonelier and lonelier as the years wore on. Food kept complicating things that should have been simple. Throwing open our doors and inviting people over got inconvenient; accepting invitations to other homes felt impossible. But the Goobies stayed hungry. We all did. For food. For friendship. For life around our table.

Under normal circumstances, food slows us down and calms our hearts when pain and uncertainty wrench us out of our normal routines. Showing up with chicken enchiladas and a pan of lemon bars screams I see you right in the middle of your mess and I’m coming to you anyway. Food doesn’t fix the problem, but it acknowledges the pain and whispers hope that things could turn out ok after all. Friends show up with casserole because it invites people to catch their breath.

The very tricky part about our particular pain was this: food couldn’t soothe the ache away even if we wanted it to. Dietary restrictions barged into that sacred space that ministers hope to the hurting, and it doled out fear and loathing right along with rules we didn’t know how to follow yet. I was hurt and needed help, but it was extremely difficult to ask for it and even harder to accept it.

Letting go of the way things used to be wasn’t quick or easy for me. Lord knows I folded my arms and clutched what was left tight to my chest. It felt safer to live that way. But life became small and living in fear wasn’t really living at all. Fear told me staying home meant staying safe. Faith taught me God is good everywhere, within my home and beyond my walls, regardless of whether I’m what I think of as safe.

The tricky part was this: the risks of leaving our safe zone are very, very real. Getting glutened. Cross-contamination. Alienation. Hurt feelings. Accidental ingestion. Anaphylaxis. Just because God is good doesn’t mean those things aren’t real. They are. We’ve experienced them all. But the rewards of leaving our safe zone are very, very real too. Making friends. Connecting across tables. Bearing each other’s burdens. Acceptance. Adventure. Life.

A few days ago, I was exploring all this in a project that’s diverted my attention away from this space for awhile now. It’s been taking shape and going well until suddenly, surprisingly, my words dried up. I stomped my feet and cried ugly tears over the ones refusing to be written. I tried forcing them into a place they didn’t belong, and it just plain didn’t work. I labored over that document for hours clicking it open and snapping it shut and getting nowhere fast. I pouted. I cried. Lord knows I shouted a thousand times over “That’s it! I quit!” but something inside told me to start from scratch.

But staring down a fresh blank page and stringing together beautiful, brilliant words while the cursor blinked at me, taunting my effort felt foolish too. The idea of scrapping all the work I had already done made me mad. No thanks God. I’d rather quit than start over. Starting over hurts. What we leave behind feels wasted, as if walking away from it means it never mattered in the first place. (Or am I alone in that feeling?) But I couldn’t shake it. My spirit whispered, “Start from scratch.”

I clicked open a new document and sat with it for a moment, begrudgingly at first, waiting. The cursor finally winked at me, and words rippled across the page like cake batter tipped into a sheet pan. It settled and smoothed, and I realized God was right. Starting over hurt, but it’s what changed me, what shaped me, and what grounds me. As it turns out, starting over heals too.

That’s why I write any of these words at all: because starting from scratch hurts, but it also heals, if we let it.

Opening myself up to the possibility of starting over did more than just save my life: it made my life. When I realized God is just as good now as he ever seemed before, that’s when I realized why he had written it on my heart to start Love, Scratch in the first place, and why changing course with Rachel Maier Writes makes perfect sense: Rachel Maier writes to Joey, always. But she also writes to you: to remember with you and relate to you and remind us both that God is good in both places.

Later that day, satisfied and surprised at what had just spilled out on the page, my doorbell rang. I opened the door to find my brother standing on the stoop, juggling a box of frozen fish sticks and a covered casserole dish.

“Hey Sis!” he said. “Mom sent fish sticks for the kids’ dinner tonight. She sent over this chicken casserole so you could eat something too.”

I eased the pan out of his hands and laughed in spite of myself. The chapter that spilled out that day was about showing up anyway, arms heavy with casseroles if you can. Just like that.

There were days when my mom wouldn’t have dared to send dinner over on a whim. She would have stuck to something less risky, like nestling a whole chicken in a crockpot, sprinkling it with salt and cooking it low and slow until the thing fell apart. She’d serve it with a baked potato or a mound of white rice, and coleslaw with vinegar and sugar and not sleep all night long, worried and wondering if she fed us well or made us sick. But we’ve come a long way from there, and we’re both armed with more confidence now.

She walked alongside me–alongside us–and invested her time in learning how to make food work for our family so that she could feed us well, even in this complicated place. At her house and at ours. She helped me learn how to put feet to my faith and walk out the message I preached: that life is more than food. That people make food what it is food. That God provides and makes a way and gives us every single thing we need, like comfort food I didn’t have to make, but trust enough to enjoy.

I know this life is hard. Exhausting. Overwhelming. Scary. I know you feel alone sometimes because I did too. I still do. But this place is also a sacred one with an opportunity for connection and camaraderie. All of it together makes the reason I keep writing: to share the reason I have hope into the homes of women like you and me–and our mothers and sisters and best friends and neighbors–women who are hurting and in search of healing, and the people who love them but don’t know how to help. I remember how it was. I’ve tasted what it can become. Life is good here too, because God is good in both places. Starting from scratch–painful as it may be–is worth it when we do it to make room at the table for people we love.


The Real Thing and Cocoa Cola Cake

Dear Joey,

Without further ado, here is a fun cake that made an otherwise lonesome birthday a little bit more fun last week: Cocoa Cola Cake.

It was Grandpa’s 90th birthday, which felt big and important, of course. Celebrating him mattered, Covid or not. But the big question looming over my head was this: How?

Not one for making a big to-do about himself, Grandpa is a cool, come-alongside sort of guy who built and nurtured things his whole life. He planted seeds; watched them grow; and today he reaps the reward of a life well-spent.

But life doesn’t look much like he thought it would look these days, I imagine. Settling into a new rhythm in a new home thousands of miles away from where he built his life, adjusting to life’s complications as they presents themselves; turning 90 in seclusion with most of the folks he loves so far away from him now–the idea of this milestone birthday must have made him feel more lonesome than ever. Even so, he never complains.

In fact, I have never heard the man complain. Instead, his calm and quiet strength taught me to accept what comes with an attitude of hope that the Good Lord knows what’s best for us and divvies things up accordingly.

He taught me that speaking one’s mind doesn’t have to include shouting; hamburgers taste better after a long, hard day’s work; and use up every ounce of the things you are blessed with, because you’re lucky to have them. He taught me to be thankful for the the things we have and to care for them well.

I know a Cocoa Cola Cake doesn’t really sound like it’s at all good enough to honor or celebrate such a milestone, but Grandpa loves the classic cola from which it gets its name, and every time I see him take a sip of his favorite afternoon beverage, it I hear that old soda pop jingle singing in my memory: “Can’t beat the real thing.

My Grandpa: he’s the real thing, and nothing beats that.

When someone you love turns 90, and he loves Coke, and you need a way to celebrate his birthday in the middle of a disappointing, hard season, and you miraculously find a way to make it free of all those pesky allergens and it’s still moist and delicious? You celebrate and eat a slice and feel like things aren’t so bad after all. Gluten free. Dairy free. Egg free. Soy free. Nut free. The list goes on. Full of rich, chocolatey flavor that won’t let you down. (Which is why I changed the name from Coca Cola Cake to Cocoa Cola Cake. It’s that chocolatey!)

A few notes:
1. It’s flexible! Use regular flour or regular buttermilk of that suits your family.
2. Use a gluten free flour blend that contains xanthan gum. The xanthan gum acts as a binder, so don’t skip it.
3. Try any non-dairy milk you prefer, but I am devoted to plain unsweetened Flax Milk.
4. The original Coca Cola Cake recipes I consulted contained eggs. This made it *too* moist in my opinion, but if you’d like to try it that way, add 2 eggs with the wet ingredients.
5. Sugar content reduced down to 1 cup instead of the 2 cups all those originals called for. It was waaaay to sweet for me that way (thus the reduction in sugar in my version).

Best enjoyed with family and friends: this one’s a keeper!



Grumbling and Granola

Dear Joey,

Everyone is bored with breakfast these days. I’m not sure what it is–the monotony, the lack of urgency to get out the door, the repetition that renders it boring? The promise of a full belly holds no sway over the Goobies these days. Lucky Charms doesn’t even seem to tempt them to the table. Breakfast in isolation robs us of our appetite, it seems. Morning meals still happen, sluggish as they are now, but none of us are particularly fond of the mopey feet and grumbling tummies that bring us to the table.

Reality met us there every morning, and no one was particularly fond of the unwanted guest.

IMG_3379
Read More