A Gift I Didn’t Appreciate, and Almond Butter and Jelly Bars

Oh, the nostalgia one bite of these bars brings. Peanut butter and jelly are the classic kid food fondly remembered by allergy moms everywhere, isn’t it?

The irony is I didn’t grow up eating either of them.

Well, ok, that’s sort of true. I ate my fair share of plain old peanut butter sandwiches–sometimes speckled with a slice or two of dill pickles (Don’t knock it till you try it) and I greeted most days smearing peanut butter on toast, but PB&J’s were my last resort–a punishment, almost, as that was the only other option for dinner if my brothers and I rejected what was served. My parents bought Goober Jelly — peanut butter and grape jelly all in one convenient jar–once in a while, trying hard to sell PB&J as a fun food. But PB&J’s weren’t my jam. (Pun intended.) I couldn’t stand the combination.

It wasn’t until late high school I started really enjoying them. What changed? Who knows. My taste buds, perhaps. Or it could have been my vegetarian friend who seemingly only ever ate PB&J’s or macaroni and cheese. I ate them with boysenberry jam a time or two at her house and suddenly they seemed far cooler than Goober jelly ever made them seem. Go figure.

After that, peanut butter and blackberry jam was my favorite until I was a young mom pinching pennies and buying industrial sized jars of strawberry jam at Costco. My oldest daughter spent her toddler years eating many PB&J’s with me–until Mia came along and everything changed. Peanuts and gluten went on the naughty list and PB&J’s were a gift I didn’t appreciate until our go-to lunch together became a memory. We switched to Sunflower Butter, which neither of the girls really liked, until EJ joined the brood. At that point we switched almost exclusively to almond butter and we were thankful for that one safe nut.

We’re in a season of more transition around here these days. Mia and EJ are both on track to challenge peanuts in the not-so-far future, and I feel like allergy life as we know it is changing. PB&J’s might be back on rotation in the next couple years. Other things are changing too–Addie is wrapping up Elementary school and Mia isn’t far behind her. EJ goes to school full time and I’m still adjusting to a quiet house during the day. I’m feeling so much better–physically, mentally, emotionally–and I see my own life changing in positive ways up ahead. It’s all flying by, and I’m not ok. Looking at pictures of the kids when they were super little makes me cry because I desperately miss those hard, slow days, but I’m also glad they’re over. They were complicated and hard and exhausting. But I’m not there anymore. I’m in-between, and so are the kids. It’s weird.

I’ve been spending time revisiting the earliest years of mothering lately, reminding myself what it felt like to be a young mom who knew nothing about food allergies and had to learn on the fly while dealing with the domino effect of new diagnoses. It was a lot. I found myself longing for a few precious moments with my firstborn little girl during pre-food allergy life. Sharing a simple PB&J on whole wheat bread with my sweet little Addie is something I’m only thankful for in hindsight.

But the mom I am now knows ways to satisfy that craving using ingredients the younger mom wouldn’t have known even existed, let alone known how to use. Ready to prove how far I’ve come–if only to myself– I set out to make a soft and somewhat chewy snack bar that mimicked the flavors of the nostalgic PB&J to remember where we came from and celebrate where we are now.

And the best part? Addie loves them. Mia couldn’t care less about them, but there’s something about this little snack bar that makes Addie swoon, and I think it’s because it reminds her of a simpler time when food was simple and satisfying, not complicated or worrisome, back when she got my undivided attention.

Making peace with our stories is a process of silent long-suffering. Sometimes she suffering is loud too, to be honest. Crying tears of fear and frustration come naturally when what you know and count on gets snatched out of your hands without warning. Of course you miss what you knew. Breaking up is hard to do. Nobody understands the heartache until they walk through it themselves.

The good news is we wake up one day and realize we’re still ok, don’t we? We meet new things that help heal the wounds. Our hurt scabs over and scars perhaps, but we survive. You will survive. Your non-food allergic kids will too. And you might all even be better for it, in the end.

Almond Butter and Jelly Bars prove that to me.

Maybe these bars won’t prove it to you, and that’s ok. Something will. Someday you’ll be so confident with cooking differently that you will surprise yourself with how far you’ve come. You will certainly marvel at all the other glorious food options out there ready and willing to bend to your every whim. You’ll celebrate food differently, and that’s valuable in so many ways. And you’ll find new ways to connect with your most favorite people.

Oh, the joy one bite of these bars brings for so many different, delicious reasons.

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.

Death (or Saying Goodbye) and Life (or Saying Hello), and Chorizo Spiced Pork Roast


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

Dear Joey,

It is fitting that school starts in the Fall: the classic symbol of change that is both beautiful and terrifying. Fall is death put on glorious display, isn’t it?

Ok so fine—a new school term doesn’t bring death, exactly. Forgive me for being dramatic. Most folks probably think of it as a fresh start, a reset button that puts things back to normal in an instant. But it does put an end to the carefree days of summer, and there is mourning for the loss of the freedom summer represents, isn’t there?


The words of Paul are ringing in my ears this week: the old has gone and the new is here indeed. Death and life and renewal and starting over—all these things are vying for my attention these days, and all of them from a whole host of places, not the least of which is watching Mia put the final dividing line between herself and her babyhood while Addie insists on losing more teeth and inching her way toward my own height. This day has been a long time coming, and last fall brought with it a sense that life as we loved it was dying a slow death, and I wasn’t ready to face it. But life changed anyway, didn’t it? And here we are back at the start of another school year, saying hello to a new chapter in the life of our family. I feel more prepared for it this time because I know this fall season really is a fresh start.


The girls seemed to feel the same way. Waving goodbye to us on the first day didn’t pose a problem for either of them. We walked them to the playground and helped them line up and followed them to their classrooms because we were sure they needed us. Mia tromped off with the rest of her Kindergarten class without so much as a backward glance at us. Addie saw tears glaze my eyes and bent down to hug me, saying “Don’t worry Mama, I’ll come home after school. I promise.” Saying goodbye to each other on the second day of school was harder. The girls’ pained eyes poked holes in my heart as I eased my fingers from their grip and urged them forward into the unfamiliar, terrifying reality of change. The idea of going to a new school this year seemed exciting right up until the moment they actually had to let go of my hands and walk themselves to the playground without us. In a flurry of tears and tentative hearts, they walked away from me, seemingly unsure of themselves. I waved goodbye to them as bravely as I could, wishing I could nestle myself in a corner somewhere, watching and waiting, ready to intervene on their behalf the moment trouble comes.


I couldn’t help feeling this way, of course. I am a normal mother with a natural need to protect, nurture, and sustain her children. They couldn’t help feeling insecure any more than I could help wishing I could make everything better in an instant. Of course they felt timid and unsure: everything was new. The people, the buildings, the rules, the uniforms—even their backpacks and lunch boxes and shoes were new. Why would I ever expect them to feel completely confident to take on all the newness by themselves? In that moment of goodbye, I couldn’t do much else but smile through my tears and hope it helped them understand that new isn’t necessarily bad, and is often, in fact, actually good.


We forget that new isn’t always bad, don’t we? I sure do, especially because it seems that when something is new, it renders something else old. Old things pass away, and death is difficult, so managing our feelings about losing the things we love gets tricky. We learn this lesson every year when summer ends and the leaves turn color and quietly settle into their final resting place. Soon fall slips into a quiet winter, a time of mourning that does eventually melt away, waking to the brilliant bloom of spring. The point? The promise of new life hinges on old things passing away, but saying goodbye isn’t the end. New life lingers just around the corner. Don’t you think we ought to say hello?


This is happening in other places in my life this season, too. It is in the reality of living in this new place, of course, and the reality of how it feels to know that part of our story has ended. It’s showing up in friendships and projects and plans and food and any semblance of normalcy that I had before my health issues took an uncomfortable turn over the summer. Admittedly, it felt like this season held the end of life as I knew it. Control over my health slipped even further from my grip, I spent the summer sequestered at home managing my symptoms and squeezing in appointments and going in for blood draws and scopes and ultrasounds—and came out the other end with a few more questions to answer, as well as the relief that comes with a doctor who confirms my suspicions: that colitis is casting its sickly spell on my insides. It came as no surprise that I have a disease that needs my attention, and walking away from his office this summer, prescription in hand, left me wondering how to manage it in the long term. Clearly, gluten is a known problem. But it’s not the only problem these days, and the best way I know how to deal with the unpleasant reality is to say goodbye to simple gluten freedom. Embracing a new way of living isn’t easy or fun, exactly–but I’m encouraged, because the promise of renewal lingers just around the corner, sad as I may be about the reality I face.


So this season, I’m doing my best to lift my eyes above my circumstance and say, “What’s next?” with the sort of grace that only comes from acknowledging loss and greeting a new reality with hope. What other choice do I have? Modeling this for the Goobies helps me believe things will get better: I leave the girls with a kiss and a smile as they skip off into a new school day without the support system to whom they are accustomed, but I assure them they’re going to be alright. This is new, but this is good, I say as I give them one last squeeze. And when I wave goodbye to those smiling little darlings as they head off to their day, it reminds me that we can’t bask in the beauty of anywhere new if we dig in our feet, refusing to leave familiarity behind. So by the grace of God, and with His help, we walk, together, waving goodbye to the old and hello to the new in one hope-filled gesture.



Chorizo Spiced Pork Roast


This is one of my go-to meals, meaning this: when I run out of creative steam to keep dinner new and exciting, I give myself a break, pull out my crock pot, and get a batch of this pork going. It’s fast, easy, and versatile (and inexpensive, to boot!). Plus (and this could be the most compelling reason why I love it so much) everyone around my kitchen table cheers for it. I make it for friends more often than they appreciate, I’m sure, but no one ever seems to mind. (In fact, most of them end up asking for the recipe, so if that is you? Here you go.) I’m especially fond of it now because as I transition to a Paleo lifestyle, I am thankful to have so many well-loved recipes that work within that framework. Shred it and fold it into corn tortillas (if you aren’t Paleo), lay it atop a baked sweet potato, or pile it high on top of a bed of cauliflower rice. Drizzle with some hot sauce and sprinkle on some cilantro and you’re golden. (Add more spice blend if you want a little bit more heat, but as written, this recipe does not wallop your tongue with a punch of heat.) The picture above shows a double recipe, which is just as easy as a single recipe (which is written below). Just double the ingredients–the cook time remains the same. And don’t skip the red wine vinegar! It makes the other flavors come alive.

  • One 2 pound pork loin roast
  • 2 Tablespoons Chorizo Spice Blend (recipe below)
  • 1 medium onion–any color you choose, but I tend to use yellow
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar

Spray Crock Pot with non-stick cooking spray (such as Trader Joe’s Coconut Oil Spray). Slice the onion and lay it on the bottom of the crock pot. Then, wash the pork roast, pat it dry, and lay it on top of the bed of onions. Sprinkle a thick layer of the Chorizo Spice Blend on top of the roast, then pat it to cover as much of the roast as you can. Carefully pour 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the crock pot, around the perimeter of the roast. Do the same for the red wine vinegar, then put the lid on.

Cook on high for 4 hours; then turn to low and cook for an additional 2 hours (alternatively, cook it for 8 hours on low). Once the meat is fall-apart-tender, shred and toss it with its own juices and the onions and serve.

Chorizo Spice Blend


This recipe is based on Diane Sanfilippo’s recipe in Practical Paleo, 1st Edition, which is super informative and helps make taking the plunge into Paleo not quite so daunting (Thank you Diane! You’re a life saver, kinda in the literal sense.) I keep a jar of this spice mix in the pantry at all times because I love it so very much. I’m sure you will too.

  • 4 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 Tablespoons paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Measure all spices into a jar with a lid and shake until evenly distributed.

Like Summer’s Last Sunset

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.”

–Ecclesiasties 3:11-12

Dear Joey,

Low and slow has been our mantra these past couple of weeks and I am not looking forward to trading it in for fast and frenzied. This summer I have been riding the roller coaster that comes with dealing with flare ups, some days feeling pretty decent and others wishing I could just stay in bed all day long and let the Goobies sort the day out themselves. In some ways, school can’t start fast enough because the sheer amount of energy it takes to keep up with all three of them all day long is more than I have in reserve. I’ve relished these stress-free days with them, but goodness, I’m thankful school is just another week away.


Then again, I’m torn up about it. How can summer possibly be over? It flew, as it always does, and I am not sure how so many days spent at home turned into a blur of summertime memories. We kept busy these past weeks, for sure, but for the most part we spent our days here at home, getting accustomed to a slower, somewhat lonesome life. The girls joined forces against me anytime I suggested we get in the car and go explore our new surroundings, insisting they preferred to just stay home and play Barbies. I let them win most of the time because I didn’t really want to venture far from home anyway because of the not-so-fun games my tummy is playing with me. In hindsight, I wonder if they were sulking because they missed their friends so much and knew it wasn’t easy to just pop over to see them anymore.


We rallied around our big airplane ride last week, fueled by excitement to climb aboard an airplane and make our way to Pepaw & Grandma Lori’s house–and what a fun trip that was–except for the heavy, sticky heat, which I did not love. But I did love the people and the pace and the way land was empty and green, like a comfy blanket spread out for a picnic, inviting us to kick our shoes off and relax a little. Oppressive as the heat was, being somewhere else entirely aired out the stuffy places in the kids’ souls, freshening their perspective in the process.


By the time we got home, I was spent. Vacation zaps the energy right out of me. Does it do that to you, too? But there is no such thing as a post-vacation sabbatical, at least not with three kids in tow. The sun still rose every morning and invited the kids to come out and play, and I begrudgingly got up with them and greeted the day with a steaming cup of coffee and a long to do list. Tired as I was, I started running the moment our plane touched down and haven’t stopped until now. There were doctors appointments and sick kids and BBQs to both throw and attend and Sunday School to teach and school supplies to buy and kids to outfit for the upcoming semester. I haven’t stopped until just this moment.


It is quiet in the house now. The only sound I hear is the scratching of my own mental checklist being ticked off as I recount the day’s activity. It’s barely August and summer seems to have ended already. The week leading up to school is a flurry of activity that leaves me already missing all those lazy summer days that seem to never end, like a summer sun that lingers in the sky well after bedtime, until suddenly, almost without warning, it’s gone.


Addie broke down in tears today just after we finished picking out school shoes, just the two of us. She held my hand and skipped alongside me, content to be quiet and near as we wound our way through the shoe store, until suddenly she flung her arms around me and held me tight, her voice quivering as it eeked out her secret: that she wanted to stay a little girl forever. She doesn’t feel ready for summer to be over either. The immediate future frightens her, as if she’s unconvinced she’s ready to do the big girl things she’ll be expected to do once school starts next week. Putting on a brave face and brushing it off as typical first-day-of-school jitters won’t cut it with her. She doesn’t want the sun to set on summer, on childhood.


I can’t blame her. I tease those Goobies all the time, squeezing them tight and making them promise to never grow up, to always stay little enough for me to scoop them up into my arms and nibble on their chubby little cheeks. The girls’ squeals of delight faded without my permission, and now they huff, “Oh, Mama, I have to grow up” and we giggle and hug and I can’t take it. And then out of nowhere Addie realized she is growing up and it caught her off guard and makes her want to stop inching closer to the big girl she once longed to be. Without warning, she realized that childhood really is temporary.

IMG_2357 2

I held her close and stroked her hair and let her be the one to let go. I didn’t want to rush her. It seems I’m always rushing her. She let go and looked me in my eyes as I admitted I used to feel the same way right before school started. Her eyes softened at that, and her grip loosened a bit as I told her she would always be my little girl. Just like summer gradually fades into fall, childhood slowly shifts into into adulthood. She didn’t have to hurry or make herself sick with worry; there was no rush. The end of childhood will come like summer’s last sunset: gentle and glorious both, when the time is right.


The sun will set on summer eventually, but not today. School will start soon, but summer will linger for a little while longer.  Watching these kids grow up breaks my heart and puts it back together again, changing me and creating something new in the process, and my very being is a mosaic made of those fractured, beautiful pieces.



The Season Is Now, and Apple Cider Donuts

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Matthew 6:34 (MSG)

Dear Joey,

Remember how I felt so against the change in season a couple weeks ago? I’m still in that place a little bit: not really ready for some of the things I know are just around the corner. With Fall pressing in on us I felt pushed, like I had to hurry up and pretend to be excited for change. I wasn’t ready for a lot of the change that happened so far this year, and really, I’m not sure I’m ready for most of what’s waiting just around the corner either. But this past weekend reminded me to be present to what is now as it is now because someday soon I will be lonesome for these moments.


Fall doesn’t last long, does it? Summer seems to drag on forever, and every October we seem surprised the weather is still warm, too warm to put a pot of soup on the stove or cradle a mug hot apple cider. By the time cooler weather comes around, Fall is halfway over. Christmas arrives on its heels and before we know it, the best time of year is gone, just like that. The weather turned cooler over the weekend, and I think it must be the swirling winds and rainy days that changed the way I’m feeling about Fall. A blustery Saturday whisked away my lingering resistance to Fall and ushered in much needed rain–and a fresh perspective for this season.


Addie has her first loose tooth I want to pretend it isn’t happening. She has been wiggling that thing all weekend, and every time she announces “It’s getting even more wigglier!” I tear up and she rolls her eyes and I smile and and she laughs as I tell her to stop growing up already. That wiggly tooth is evidence her babyhood flew by just like they say it would, and I didn’t know “they” would be right.


Then again, the baby-toddler-preschool years are like a wiggly tooth that seems to hang on forever, and sometimes I just want the thing to fall out already. Sometimes little kids are just, well, annoying, and as much as I treasure our own and don’t want to rush them into being big kids, sometimes I wish they could just pour themselves a bowl of cereal in the morning without me. The implications of that moment are terrifying, of course, because the reality of the big kid world is unknown to me still, and I often wonder how I’ll be capable of mothering older children when I feel so inept at mothering such small ones.


I keep reminding myself the anticipation of change is often harder to deal with than the change itself. Addie’s fear about what it will feel like when her wiggly tooth actually falls out has a pain all its own, the sort that will be dispelled the moment that tooth pops out and she realizes losing teeth doesn’t hurt at all. I expect the same will be true for me when I wake up one morning not to the sound of “mama!” but to the clinking sound of spoons scraping the bottom of bowls of cereal I didn’t pour.


It’s Fall right now and if I don’t immerse myself in the beauty and flavors and traditions of these moments now, when will I? Fall will come around again next year, true–but we’ll all be a little bit older and Addie’s tooth will have long since fallen out, Mia might be losing her baby teeth by then, and these days will be just a memory. I don’t want to miss my chance to enjoy these days because I’m too preoccupied with the things that scare me about the next chapter in our lives. I’ve got to grab hold of these moments, right now and really give them my attention, or they will be gone before I really notice. I don’t want to miss my chance. And so, in celebration of the season and things that are, I made Apple Cider Donuts.



Apple Cider Donuts (GF/DF/NF)

These mini donuts prove vegan treats are delicious! They’re gluten free, dairy free, nut free too–and brimming with flavors of fall. Fantastically easy to make: use a donut maker if you have one, or a donut pan if you have that. If not, just use a mini-muffin pan and pass them off as donut holes, or use a donut pan and bake them in the oven (375 degrees for 12-15 minutes ought to do the trick). Roll them in cinnamon sugar if you don’t want to fuss with the glaze (and I don’t blame you if you don’t), but goodness that cinnamon glaze is yummy.


For the donuts:

  • 3/4 cup spiced apple cider (such as Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup pure cane sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons Vegan buttery spread (such as Melt or Earth Balance brands, or use regular butter if dairy isn’t a problem for you)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sorghum flour
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

For the glaze:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons Soy Free Vegan buttery spread (such as Melt or Earth Balance brands, or use regular butter if dairy isn’t a problem for you)
  • 3 Tablespoons original, unsweetened non-dairy milk ( or regular milk if dairy isn’t a problem for you)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of kosher salt

For the donuts: First, the dry ingredients: whisk together the sorghum flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, kosher salt and xanthan gum in a small bowl and set aside. Next, move on to the wet ingredients. Melt the buttery spread and set aside to let it cool slightly. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the apple cider, apple sauce, sugar, and vanilla extract, then slowly whisk in the melted butter. Once the wet ingredients are mixed well, whisk the dry ingredients into the batter in three additions (pour a third of the dry ingredients in and whisk; pour another third in and whisk; pour the last third in and whisk).

When using a donut maker:  Heat it up, then spray the iron with non-stick cooking spray and scoop about 2 Tablespoons of batter into each mold (each donut is about 2″ wide–if your donut maker is larger, increase the amount of batter accordingly).  Cook for about 3 minutes (or longer, if your donut maker is bigger), until the donuts are golden and easily pop out from the molds.

When using a donut or mini muffin pan: Grease the pans, scoop dough into cups or molds, and bake. 12-15 minutes ought to do the trick.

If you are making the glaze, proceed to the next step. If not, toss the hot donuts in cinnamon sugar and call it a day.

For the glaze: Melt the butter over medium heat, then whisk in the powdered sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Add the almond milk and whisk until the glaze is smooth–no lumps, please.

Dip the donuts in the glaze, flip them over, and make sure to coat both sides. Let them dry on a wire cooling rack (with parchment paper beneath them to catch drips). The glaze remains sticky, but goodness they’re good that way, and sticky hands can be washed, right?






Letting Autumn Inside, and Classic Hot Chocolate (Non-Dairy Style)

“What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.”

Ecclesiastes 3:15

Dear Joey,

Autumn is here again. I usually run out the door before she arrives, arms outstretched and ready to receive her warm, familiar hug, but this year I stayed inside as she walked toward the doorstep alone and started knocking. I wasn’t really ready for her to show up yet, and so I hid from her. She stayed out there a long time calling to me, her voice feeble and melancholy to my indifferent ears. My attention was elsewhere, and the poetry written in the changing color of the trees and whispered in the crisp evening breeze wasn’t making my soul sing.

Last week when September faded into October, I wanted to welcome the new month with the same sort of wistfulness Anne Shirley did in Anne of Green Gables when she says, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it?” But I didn’t. Instead, I sort of rolled my eyes.


I tried to get into the spirit of Fall before October came. I bought a new banner for the mantel, hung my sunflower wreath on the front door and filled Grandma Adeline’s candy dish with the candy corn everyone around here has come to expect this time of year. I even made Baked Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Sage on the first day of Fall. That is as far as I got because when we turned the calendar to October, I didn’t have time for anything else. I was too busy stroking feverish brows with cool washcloths, refilling sippy cups with icy-cold white grape juice, wiping up the mess made by an upset tummy, and snuggling each child as much or as little as they needed. There wasn’t much time to day dream about what is usually my favorite time of the year, let alone enjoy it once it arrived.


And so last Saturday night you practically kicked me out of the house once evening fell. Mia had crawled into bed on her own and fallen asleep a whole hour early, wiped out from the fever as she was. Emery practically skipped toward his crib when we told him it was bedtime, and once he was asleep you told me to just go–you didn’t care where. Several days spent at home tending to very-needy children drained my reserves, and you knew it. You saw it. So out I went, begrudgingly.

I drove to Starbucks and ordered hot chocolate instead of the Pumpkin Spice Latte you suggested when trying to convince me to get out of the house because I couldn’t bear the thought of drinking one that night. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it, so I chose hot chocolate instead, and it soothed me and gave me a bit of perspective: I didn’t have to hurry up to be excited about all-things-Fall just because everyone else (whoever they are) is thrilling at the idea of apple cider anything and pumpkin everything. I usually do too, but this year, I am not.


I halfheartedly walked over to the bookstore, and as soon as I saw its warmly lit windows my heart smiled the way it does whenever I see an old friend again. I sipped my way through its endless aisles and let myself get lost for awhile. When I got home, I unloaded my goodies and told you a little bit about each of them. You chuckled a little at my jumble of disjointed selections, telling me it was like that scene from the movie Dan in Real Life where Dan walks around the tiny old bookstore piling up book after random book in his arms, doing so just to be there, in that moment, happy. And I was happy in those few stolen moments, and even more so when I got to come home to you refreshed and ready to take on another day or two of the sick kids around here. Sunday’s blustery grey afternoon almost convinced me I would start enjoying Autumn the way I usually do soon enough, but even if that doesn’t happen this time around, there is always next year.

Perhaps I am feeling the melancholy some folks feel when the last luxurious unhurried day of summer waves goodbye and Autumn arrives with shorter days, bursting at the seams with busyness that makes it hard to be still and enjoy. Or maybe on some deep level the changing colors of my own heart are feeling like brown leaves blown off scraggly tree branches that sit decaying in the gutter, wet and forgotten. I wandered around the bookstore, plucking book after book from the crowded clearance rack, collecting them as if they were fallen leaves. I saw beauty in those cast off editions no one seemed to want anymore. New books come out all the time and with them new stories and new perspectives and new ideas that replace the old. I felt a sort of sorrow for those books, and so they came home with me that night.


Having that stack of books hang around helped me come to terms with the fact that Autumn is here now because they are symbols of what has been and a reminder that new things will always turn up, but that those new things eventually fade into old things too. What has been, will be; and what will be, has been. And so I dug out bits and pieces of mismatched decorations yesterday afternoon and finally got around to putting them up, juggling a very clingy Emery as I did so. I finally let Autumn inside our home and my heart.


Autumn is the season for gathering up all the beautiful bits of the year behind us and putting them on display, I think. It is a time to give thanks for what was and give thanks for what will be–because we all know another year is coming, full of new chapters to be lived whether we feel ready for it or not. I don’t quite feel ready to say goodbye to the year behind us because I am not sure I am ready to face the new chapters waiting for us just around the corner yet.  I think that is why the change in season was hard for me this year: change is here and more is coming because change always comes. I’m not quite ready to say I’m excited for what will be yet, but at least now I am ready to say Thank you for what was.



Classic Hot Chocolate, Non-Dairy Style (GF/DF/THM S)


A good cup of steaming hot chocolate soothes me unlike much else, perhaps because it’s something my parents used to make me when I was a child, and sipping on it now takes me back to those days when small things like making homemade hot chocolate were really the big, enduring things. Since Emery is allergic to dairy, I cannot make hot chocolate for him the way my parents made it for me, exactly, so I knew one day I would take on the challenge of transforming non-dairy milk into a creamy, satisfying cup of piping hot chocolate. My visit to Starbucks three days ago was the tipping point for me, and so today was the day I made it happen. For my Trim Healthy Mama friends out there, this is an S. For anyone allergic or averse to almond milk, use rice milk or soy milk (or whatever your non-dairy beverage of choice might be), but just be sure to start with the unsweetened kind otherwise the end result will be far too sweet. Of course, regular old dairy milk will do the trick here, too. This recipe makes one large 12-oz mug full, or two smaller 6-oz mugs. Double or triple it if a larger batch is necessary.


6-oz. full fat coconut milk (from a can)

6-oz. unsweetened original almond milk

2 Tablespoons cocoa powder

3 1/2 teaspoons Pyure Organic Stevia Blend (or 7 teaspoons regular sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional, but essential in my opinion)

pinch of kosher salt


Warm the coconut and almond milks in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the cocoa powder, stevia blend (or sugar), vanilla extract and salt. Whisk constantly (and carefully) until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the milk. After that, continue to warm the mixture until steaming hot. Remove from heat and pour into your favorite mug to enjoy.