Hungrier Than Usual and Applesauce Mini Muffins

Dear Joey,

The cupboards are pretty empty again. I swear I went shopping five days ago, but between summertime growth spurts and the bottomless pit of a boy we share our table with now, food doesn’t last long around here. Gone are the days when we could get by with making dinner out of a single pound of ground turkey, or when we could stretch a pint of strawberries through more than one meal. These kids clamor for snacks before I finish clearing up the mess from the last time they insisted I feed them. They eat all day long, and I spend so much time feeding them, I usually forget to feed myself. I never thought that was possible.

To make matters more desperate, we’re on week three of swim lessons, which means the girls are even hungrier than usual.  They come out of the water ravenous for a snack right now. I feel like I should be stuffing a muffin in their mouth while I wrap them up in their towels like burritos, instead of giving them fruit leather to munch on after they were settled in the stroller.

This week, I followed that feeling and made some mini muffins. I balked at the 90 degree weather, turned on the oven anyway and proceeded to figure out a way to make applesauce and buckwheat appealing to little tummies. Cranking the air conditioning up a degree or two seemed a small price to pay to have a heartier snack at the ready after swim lessons were over. But wouldn’t you know, those Goobies accosted me for the muffins on the way out the door on Monday afternoon, insisting But I’m hungry right now! and Yes, I’m sure it won’t give me a tummy ache while I’m in the water!

So I handed each girl their own little baggie of them and helped Emery eat one of his own before herding everyone into the car. By the time Addie climbed into her car seat, she was on muffin number two. Halfway through it she paused to say, “Mommy! Hear this!” and  sang me a song:

Do you know the muffin lady, the muffin lady, the muffin lady? 
Do you know the muffin lady who lives in San Ramon? 
Yes I know the muffin lady, the muffin lady, the muffin lady. 
Yes I know the muffin lady because she is my mom.
She then giggled and settled into her seat, clearly enjoying how clever she was, and finished the third muffin before we got out of the driveway.
The next morning, I set what was left of the first batch of those muffins onto the kitchen table and let the girls help themselves for breakfast. Before I knew it, most of them were gone and Mia looked intent on finishing every last one of them.

 

“You really like those applesauce muffins, huh Mia?” I asked, trying to confiscate the last few to save for their original intended purpose.

“Yep, I sure do,” she said. “I guess I’m just a muffin girl.”

The entire batch was gone before lunch.

This afternoon was cooler, so I took advantage of it and had Mia help me bake another batch of those little muffins. I am the muffin lady, after all. I have a reputation to live up to–and hungry mouths to feed.

Love,
Scratch

 Applesauce Mini Muffins (GF/DF/NF)

Hungrier than Usual and Applesauce Mini Muffins

These muffins are a great way to introduce buckwheat flour to your battery of gluten free baking supplies. I experimented with it when I first went gluten free, but it tooksome time for me to find a combination of flavors that made me really fall in love with the stuff. The applesauce, cinnamon and coconut sugar work together perfectly here, making the buckwheat’s subtle nutty flavor shine. All of my kids eat these muffins with enthusiasm, and I imagine yours will too. 

Ingredients:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup Gluten Free flour blend
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1/4 cup Pyure Organic Stevia Blend (or 1/2 cup coconut sugar or evaporated cane juice. These yield a slightly sweeter muffin)
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
cinnamon sugar, for sprinkling
Method:
First, turn your oven on to 375 degrees and give a mini muffin pan a good coat of nonstick cooking spray.
Move on to the dry ingredients. Measure the first seven ingredients into a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk them together. Set aside.
In another, slightly larger mixing bowl, add all the wet ingredients (the following five ingredients) and whisk to combine well. Then gradually tip the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, whisking as you go until the batter forms and there aren’t any more pockets of flour to be found.
Scoop the muffins into the muffin pan using a mini ice cream scoop (or use regular spoons to fill each muffin cup with about 1 1/2 Tablespoons of batter). Dust with cinnamon sugar and bake for 13 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

What I Love Lately: Getting Through the Day Edition

Dear Joey,

Last night I lost my cool and yelled at Mia. Poor thing had a fever, but I didn’t know it yet: I thought she was being stubborn and unreasonable, and after a long day dealing with a whiny toddler, the last thing I needed was a preschooler crying over a potato.

That should have tipped me off. On any other day, her refusal of potatoes would be a clear indication she’s unwell. Our carb-loving little girl eats them with abandon, savoring them as if they were a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

But last night, I misread the signs, lost control and made her cry. Later, as I finally sang her to sleep, my mind drifted to a place where guilt and thankfulness made my heart explode with love for her. I kicked myself for what I had done, and wondered at the way our little girl still wanted to snuggle close to me for comfort.

I guess that’s the way of it when we’re facing something that makes us feel diminished. We cling to the things that anchor us and make us feel like ourselves, imperfect as they may be. Being a full time mom–fantastic and blessed as it may be–has revealed major flaws in me. A surprise, I admit. I used to think mothering would bring out the best in me, and sometimes it does, except for when it brings out the worst in me like it did yesterday.

The more time I spend at home with these Goobies, the more thankful I am for the grace that covers me because goodness, I need it. From them, from you, from the Lord. Sometimes that grace takes the shape of a whispered request for “Just one more song, please Mama?” even after difficult day, and sometimes it looks like taking you up on your offer of an icy cold Moscow Mule after the kids are asleep. Lately, the bright spots look like the things on the list that follows.

1. First, I love (love!) the Keurig My-Cup 2.0 you brought home for me. My complaining finally paid off, and gone are the days when I rely on those flimsy plastic pods filled with mediocre coffee. True–I agreed that getting a Keurig was a good way to make our lives a bit easier when the promise early mornings with another newborn loomed heavily before us. Now, even though our mornings are still early, my capacity for brewing a regular pot of coffee has returned, and buying dozens and dozens non-recyclable pods every month got harder and harder to do. Thanks to your thoughtfulness, I get to let go of an immense amount of guilt and enjoy my beloved Peet’s without the grocery budget taking such a hit. Coffee + YouVersion Verse of the day = starting the day on the right foot.

 

2. Next, Orgain Organic Protein, the Creamy Chocolate Fudge flavor, clearly. I know it might sound really weird to profess my love for protein powder, but I don’t care. I have been devoted to this stuff for over a year and I’m lost if we run out. Two scoops, a frozen banana and unsweetened almond milk blended together and poof: I get breakfast. It’s like magic. (Not to mention the fact that all the kids like it, too. And everyone in our family can eat it–no gluten, dairy, peanuts or problems. It’s a dreamy scenario.)

 

3. Also (always), Jenny Rosenstrach. I’ve had a completely acceptable amount of devotion to her since I read her debut cookbook Dinner: A Love Story (DALS). You surprised me with it the same Christmas you got your appendix out. We went up North to your mom’s house in Yakima that year. Finding myself surrounded by extra hands to entertain the kids, I plopped myself down on your mother’s couch and did not move until I read the whole book.

 

In the four years since that day, the recipes and anecdotes in DALS have shaped our own kitchen culture. And while I hope someday we will all have dinner together every night, Jenny’s advice to forego the family meal and just get the job done for awhile freed me, and I hear her voice every evening when I’m trying to finish cooking dinner in time to feed the kids who are hungry by, like, 5:00.  It rarely, if ever, happens, and they tend to get bits and pieces of what’s leftover in the fridge more than I like to admit. But  because of her, I let go of dinnertime guilt and am thankful they get as much to eat as they do. Plus, I enjoy plopping down on the couch with you after the kids are in bed and eating spicy chicken nachos straight from a sheet pan. Her new cookbook How to Celebrate Everything is all about connecting over food and knitting together a family culture with ritual, and I need to get my hands on it soon.

These and so many others are bright spots along the way, making things little bit easier just because they’re there, like a mother stroking a child’s feverish brow. A strange list, perhaps. But for me, these few things keep me company on a daily basis, fueling me and cheering me on to doing my day well, imperfect or flawed as it might be.  Well, these things and you, of course.

Love,
Scratch


Victory! and Herbed Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Quick Pickled Cucumber

Dear Joey,

I don’t remember dinnertime being difficult when I was a kid. It was fun. Maybe the best part of the day.

Over the past year I have wondered why my memories of family dinner are so warm and low-key when our own family dinners aren’t always the same way. I should give myself a break – our oldest isn’t even five yet, for goodness sake.

I think the biggest difference between my memories of those days and our own reality is my folks were really relaxed when it came to meal time. Meaning, they kept calm if we refused to touch the food on our plate–as far as I remember, at least. If we didn’t like it, there was always a peanut butter sandwich.

In dealing with our own kids, I try to do my best to follow my parents’ lead; keep calm and let them be in charge of what they eat from their plate. As long as they have healthy choices, why should I insist they eat just one more bite before they are allowed to be excused? But the reality is that we have been super tense about eating and frustrated when our kids misbehave at the table (shocking!) or refuse to eat what they are given.

The girls come by it honestly, I guess. My mom tells the story of how she had to finish her peas before she was excused from the dinner table as a kid. She hated peas. I mean hated. But she finally figured out if she swallowed them like little green pills, washing them down with a big gulp of milk, she wouldn’t taste them and she would be allowed to leave table. And let’s not forget your brother’s legendary attempts and “cleaning his plate” – your parents found food hidden in house plants, radiators, you name it: anywhere your brother could surreptitiously stash it without getting caught (until months later, at least).

As much as we laugh about these anecdotes now, I don’t really want history to repeat itself. I’d rather we make the dinner table a fun place to be and help our kids enjoy their food, as much as we can at least.

So far, it’s sort of in-between. We have a long way to go, but we are making progress. I’m pretty sure our two hard-and-fast mealtime rules help:

1. Try at least one bite of everything on your plate. If you do not like it, you do not have to eat it.
2. There is nothing else to eat other than what is served. If you do not want to eat it, that’s ok. But you will not eat again until the next snack or mealtime.

For the most part, these rules work for us. Everyone knows them, and since we are consistent with them there isn’t room for negotiation.

It wasn’t always that way. At first, the girls protested. They whined and complained and feigned disgust and spit food out and begged for macaroni and cheese, or yogurt, or crackers — just like most toddlers are prone to do. But slowly, they came to realize that the food they’re given is all they get, and when they see us eating it, they figure it can’t be all that bad (I suppose).

Here’s the thing that helps me stick to the rules myself: I make sure to offer something I know they will actually eat (like rice and broccoli). Then, I challenge them with something fairly familiar they will probably like if they just try it (like salmon). And third, I add something I am fully prepared for them to hate (like artichokes) just to see if they might have a taste for it.

Before I sound like a total organized, over-achieving freak, let me say this: I often repeat the things I challenge them with, typically things we like to eat (like salad) or things they typically like (such as carrots) that are prepared in an unfamiliar way (like roasted carrots).

Apparently, this is working because in just the past few weeks, things have changed. Whereas it used to be that everything except the vegetables disappeared at dinnertime, now the veggies are being eaten up, too.

First, Addie starting eating coleslaw. Coleslaw! Then she declared her undying love for bell peppers. Not long after that, she braved a bite of a single green bean, a pesky dinnertime menace that has taunted her since infancy. When she announced she liked it, I almost fainted. Mia looked on with a face that seemed to say “Big deal. I have been telling you they are good for ages.” It was not a fluke: Addie ate an entire helping of them that night, and another helping of them a few nights later, and on it continues to go, assuring me that she does, in fact, like them.

Next, just this past weekend (at a pizza parlor!), Addie ordered a green salad and a meatball for dinner. A salad?! Like, a real one. With romaine and tomatoes and peppers and stuff. When I picked off a tomato for myself (thinking she would not notice), she protested, insisting, “But I wanted to eat that tomato!” (I am sure she must have thought I was nuts for the befuddled look I gave her.)

To top it all off, just this past Monday night, when presented with cucumbers, Addie sighed and said, “Oh, yes! I love these!” And both girls began to eat those cucumbers (and broccoli, I might add) with gusto, before they even touched their quinoa and chicken. And they both asked for seconds and fought over who got to polish off the broccoli. Holy moly.

Before I sound all braggy about these successes (too late?), I must admit that they also prefer to eat their fair share of not-so-healthy foods too (like the goldfish crackers they are eating for snack this afternoon), and this morning at breakfast they turned their noses up to my first attempt at waffles made with almond flour. I guess they are not perfect eaters, are they?

But I give them a lot of credit because they really are quite good at trying new things now, and perhaps it is because they know from experience they might find another yummy food to enjoy, and if they don’t, well, they know we will not force them to eat it.

To me? That is a victory.

Love,
Scratch

Herbed Chicken with Quinoa Salad and Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Victory! and Spicy Herbed Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Cucumber Ribbons

This is one of Joey’s current dinner favorites, and I love it because it makes everyone at our table happy. Based on the recipe for Quinoa Salad with Vinaigrette in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, my version uses yellow bell peppers and adds spicy, herb-laden grilled chicken and quick pickled cucumber cut into spirals, so that they look like ribbons. The chicken is pounded thin, but feel free to skip that step, but do not let the other steps fool you into thinking this dinner is difficult to pull together. It’s quite easy, and you can do many of the steps ahead of time.

Ingredients:

Herbed Chicken
5 boneless chicken breasts, pounded flat to about 1/4″
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp (or more) red pepper flakes (optional to give it a spicy kick)
course salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Quinoa Salad
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 yellow bell pepper, diced small (or any color you prefer)
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil (or up to 1/4 cup, but we keep the oil content low to make this a super light meal)
salt and pepper to taste

Quick Pickled Cucumber Ribbons

1 English cucumber
about 2 T white vinegar
sweetener of choice, to taste (equivalent to about 2 teaspoons cane sugar)

Method:

For the chicken
Place pounded chicken breasts into a zip top bag, along with all the marinade ingredients (except the red pepper flakes if your kids are like mine and do not like spicy food. You can always sprinkle the flakes on the adults’ chicken right before grilling it.) You may add an additional 1 1/2 T of olive oil if you like, but we keep it minimal for this recipe. Massage the marinade into the chicken and let rest for a couple hours, or overnight. Then grill the chicken, about 3-4 minutes per side if it’s pounded thin. When done, remove from heat and let rest, then slice before plating the salad.

For the quinoa
Bring 1 cup quinoa to a boil in 2 cups water. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Refrigerate until ready to make the salad. Meanwhile, dice 1 yellow bell pepper and slice three scallions. (I cut mine on the bias because I think it feels fancy, but do it however you prefer.) Toss the veggies with the cooked and cooled quinoa. Add the red wine vinegar and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Start with about 1/4 tsp course salt to begin with, and add more to your liking.

For the cucumbers

Using a Spiralizer, slice the cucumbers into ribbons. (If you don’t have a Spiralizer, use a mandolin to cut the cucumber into thin slices in the meantime. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the cucumbers as thin as you can. And if you have trouble doing that, just chop some up. The texture will be different than ribbons, but the flavor will still be great.) After the cucumbers are cut, toss them with a couple tablespoons of white vinegar along with a dash of salt and the sweetener of your choice, about the equivalent of 2 teaspoons of regular cane sugar. Let them sit for a few minutes and toss again before serving.

To serve
Scoop about a cup of the quinoa salad into a shallow bowl, followed by a sliced up chicken breast, and finally topped with cucumber ribbons. Top with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.


Tales of a Peanut Allergy and What I Learned about Being Brave

Dear Joey,

Last summer, just after Mia was re-tested for her peanut and possible tree nut allergy, we were relieved at the news that her allergy was peanut-specific, and that tree nuts would not pose a problem for her. The relief was short lived; the celebratory cashew butter we slathered on sandwiches for lunch that day caused the worst allergic reaction Mia had experienced. It turns out the cashew butter was contaminated with peanuts. I didn’t realize it, of course, and I didn’t notice the warning on the label until it was too late.

I made the girls their cashew butter and jelly sandwiches and settled them at the table to eat while I unloaded the rest of the groceries. I was distracted and I didn’t notice until at least five minutes later, maybe longer, after she had already eaten at least half of her sandwich.

Tales of a Peanut Allergy and What I Learned about Being Brave

I turned around to check on the girls and saw Mia’s face covered with hives. I rushed to her and tore her clothes off to check the rest of her body, which was covered in red-hot, blotchy hives. No swelling, but that could be moments away. She was breathing fine, but again, that could change in an instant.

As I checked her, I must have been screaming something like “Oh my gosh. Mia’s having an allergic reaction. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Dear Jesus. Help. Help me. Help her! Oh my gosh. It was just cashew butter! What happened?”

I always wondered how I would respond if Mia had a serious reaction: would I be brave or would I collapse in a heap of tears, the paralyzing fear of what could happen preventing me from doing what must happen to prevent the worst possible outcome?  Turns out, my reaction was panic.

Tales of a Peanut Allergy and What I Learned about Being Brave

I have no memory of exactly what I said in those tense moments, but both girls understood what was happening. Addie began to cry and Mia just sort of stared blankly at me as she watched my emotions wrestle with my good sense. Before long, she gently said, “I sorry I had ‘lergic action, mommy.”

All I wanted to do was pull her out of her chair and hold her close to me, close enough so she would be absorbed into my own body, so it could take over and heal her. I wanted to snuggle her tight enough for her to understood just how sorry I was I let something dangerous find its way into her body. I wanted her to understand I would never hurt her on purpose, and I would take her place if I could.

Tales of a Peanut Allergy and What I Learned about Being Brave

Her simple words pierced my heart and snapped me out of paralysis, and in a split second I realized I am going to make mistakes. Even if I’m brave. Even when I’m brave. But it is what I do in the wake of those mistakes that matters most. My children will see both my successes and failures and the way I respond to them, and what they see will shape them. And so, I pushed aside my fear and took action, doing what needed to be done.

Out came the Benedryl, and the Epi Pen was at the ready. Up into my lap came Mia. Addie wasn’t far behind. We prayed. We waited. We cried. We waited some more. Mia apologized again, and Addie asked if her sister would be ok. I told her I believed she would. I shivered as the next 15 minutes passed, praying that God’s grace would cover my mistake. It did.

Tales of a Peanut Allergy and What I Learned about Being Brave

Slowly, the hives receded. Little by little, normalcy returned. When the worst was over, I checked the packaging of the cashew butter, which said, “May contain peanuts”–words that now mean, to me “avoid like the plague.”

Having a child with a peanut allergy is not such a big deal on most days. Sometimes it is frustrating (we always have to be mindful of it, which can be inconvenient, and honestly, selfishly, I really really miss peanut butter). But once in awhile, it is utterly terrifying.

I used to think being brave meant stifling the tears and being fearless in the face of adversity. Now I know being brave means not letting fear stop you from facing the thing that scares you, even if you do it in tears.

Love,
Scratch


It Might as Well Be Now and French Toast Crepes

Dear Joey,

Well, seeing as my attempt at an afternoon nap is shot, and seeing as I am sick of doing housework this weekend, and seeing as I have hit a plateau in caring about the book I am reading (which really is good, but I have walked away from it so many times in the past week that I seem to have forgotten just how good it is), it might as well be now that I mention these little gems before the urge to do so fades.

We tend to do pancakes on Saturdays around here, but yesterday you graciously let me sleep in well past the breakfast hour (in other words, I got to sleep through the typical 6:00 am wake up call of hungry little girls). When I finally emerged at 7:50, it felt far too late in the day to put effort into making pancakes. The better part of our morning was gone by then anyway. Besides, you and the girls had already eaten bowls of cereal by then, so the girls were satisfied.

But of course, after you headed back to bed for a mid-morning nap while I sat down to a cup of tea and the last bit of that Chocolate Banana Bread I’d made earlier this week, those girls were practically stealing my breakfast off of my plate, acting as if they hadn’t been fed in days. Without much to go around, I felt like I should have put in the effort to make those darn pancakes after all. Tomorrow, I promised myself.

And of course that self-made promise was partly out of necessity, as our pantry stores are at the point where creativity will be key to making them last until our next trip to the grocery store. With speckled bananas to spare and our stock of alternative flours diminished, our new favorite banana pancakes would have to be made at some point. Unless I threw the bananas into the freezer. (But then what would we eat for breakfast?)

This morning Addie was up at 6:00 as usual, and I somehow managed to whip together a handful of ingredients to make these bare-cupboard friendly pancake/crepe-like things. And you know what? I am just going to start calling them crepes because they are much closer to a crepe in character than they are pancakes. And honestly, I bet they would be perfect rolled up with sliced bananas, strawberries, and/or chocolate or and topped with some whipped cream or powdered sugar (but then they would not be so bare-cupboard friendly, would they?).
This batch was perfect–perhaps the best I have ever made. They tasted just like the crispy, sweet crust of classic french toast. And wouldn’t you know it, after all that, neither of the girls were interested in them for breakfast until you got up and started munching on them. By then, two hours later, they were cold.  (I can’t win.) But I promise these French Toast Crepes (as I am now officially calling them), do win when they are fresh from the griddle.
Maybe next time I will make them just for myself, stuff them with fruit and chocolate and slather them in whipped cream and see if anyone cares to join me. (I know you will, at least.)

 

Love,
Scratch

French Toast Crepes

It Might as Well Be Now and French Toast Crepes
I admit I did not come up with the idea for these on my own. I first read about making pancakes out of pureed bananas and eggs on Shauna Niequist’s Facebook feed. Until then, I hadn’t heard of them. But apparently they’re all the rage and you can find many versions of them. Hers are the simplest: pureed bananas and eggs whisked together and cooked like pancakes. Joey and I liked them well enough, but Joey suggested tinkering around until we found the right concoction to make them taste a little fancier. Cinnamon, vanilla and sea salt did the trick. I used to slather the griddle with butter, but have switched to refined coconut oil due to Emery’s dairy allergy. I still highly recommend using butter (because, YUM.), but refined coconut oil does the job well too.
Ingredients:

3-4 very ripe bananas (3 if they’re large; 4 if they’re on the smaller side)
6 large eggs (or 8 medium eggs)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking powder (optional, but they’ll have a bit more body if you use it)
Refined coconut oil, for cooking

Method:

First, puree the bananas until smooth – no lumps, please! (I use this immersion blender and it makes my life so much easier. I highly recommend it.)

Next, add the eggs, cinnamon, vanilla and salt. Whisk until well combined. Add in the baking soda (if using) and mix well. The batter should look like a thin pancake batter, but a bit thicker than traditional crepe batter.

Heat up your griddle and plunk a knob of coconut oil on top, about a half tablespoon per batch or so.

Pour the batter onto your hot griddle and cook on medium-high heat. I usually use about 1/4 cup per crepe, but you may certainly make them as big or small as you like. Cook as you would a pancake–look for the sides to firm up a bit, and for bubbles to rise up a bit in the center. They won’t bubble as much as traditional pancakes, so watch them carefully. Flip when they are golden and cook for another two minutes or so.

Serve as you like. We like them right off the griddle as a quick hand-held breakfast, but I’m serious when I say they’d be amazing stuffed with something sweet and topped off with something even sweeter.


A Little Bit of Love and No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

“In the twilight of our lives, we will be judged on how we have loved.” — St. John of the Cross

Dear Joey,

Love is on my mind. It invades my thoughts and my motivations and plans and dreams lately. This is probably because Addie has been singing “A little bit of love goes a long, long way…” over and over and over again. I have heard it dozens and dozens of times over the past five months, and I am weary of them, but wouldn’t you know it: the girl’s free spirited singing etched those words into my heart, and now, they convict me when selfishness invades.

And invade it does. Let’s be honest: my first thought after breakfast revolves around my own agenda, well-meaning as it may be, and certainly does not revolve around which princess has been captured by the blue monster today, or what gown I will put on so I am ready to rock out to princess music on Pandora. My first thoughts are How will I manage to get these dishes washed before someone comes begging for me to play with her? Or I should have done a meal plan for this week because I have no idea what to thaw for dinner tonight. Or even, I wonder if they’ll notice if I slip away to go use the bathroom? This is the sneaky sort of selfishness and most of the time I don’t see it for what it really is. Selfishness distorts truth and gets in the way of loving well. 
The truth is, most of the time I do not really want to play dollies–especially when there is an email I would rather write, or a book I would rather read or a recipe I would rather try or a shower I would rather take. Why can’t the girls just play together? I wonder. Why do they always need me? I get frustrated and am tempted to resent these cute little faces innocently seeking a little bit of attention. Lately, in these moments of weakness, I hear Addie’s little voice singing her heart out to her favorite preschool song and I remember that little bit of love really does go a long, long way.

And so I am choosing to engage with them and figure out a way to make whatever is important to them fun. Of course, I am not very good at this, and some days are better than others, but I am realizing that giving them small acts of love throughout the day builds up credibility with me (doesn’t it?). If I say I love them, do I make good on my word by show them this love in a way they can understand? Washing dishes and thawing chicken does not speak to their hearts. Building LEGO castles and dancing in the kitchen and singing at the top of our lungs in the car; letting them dress me up and pinning princess capes onto their shirts; having tea parties (real and imaginary); wrapping dollies up in blankets and putting them to bed over and over and over – all of it speaks one thing to them: Mommy loves you.

If I am not able to love them well now while they are young, what are the chances I will get a chance to do so later, when they are older? If I cannot lay aside myself for them—the most important things God has ever entrusted me with—do I really think He will entrust me with much else? Plus, what kind of love am I modeling for them? Do I want my actions to teach them that love is selfish, when really, the opposite is true (1 Corinthians 13:5)?  If I want them to believe the truth that “Greater love has no man than this: that he lay down his life for  his friends,” shouldn’t also love them that way (John 15:13)?

It is a part of my faith that I am still working out – saying no to selfishness and saying yes to loving well. Clearing weeds and digging up roots and nurturing new love-seeds to grow in the fertile soil of a pure heart a so that my actions are motivated by love for others, not by love of self.

No small task. It is tough. But Addie’s little voice skipping through the house reminding me that “A little bit of love goes a long, long way” is helping. Isn’t it worth the work?

Love,
Scratch

No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies (GF/DF/optional NF)

(Gluten-free, grain-free, nut-free; Modified from A Dash of Compassion’s Nut-Free Cookie Dough Balls)

A Little Bit of Love and No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies (Gluten-free, grain-free and nut-free)
My girls love having post-nap tea parties, especially when they get a sweet treat. Giving up grains for awhile (wheat, rice, corn) renders our house fairly free of cookie making supplies, and I am still learning how to make a truly delicious grain and nut free cookie (sometimes, honestly, they are just plain no good.). But these No Bake Cookies save the day for tea time: they are not only quick and easy, they are also versatile and very forgiving. If you wouldd rather use almond butter in place of sunflower seed butter, do it! If coconut flakes make you cringe, use rolled oats like the original recipe. If you could not imagine ever having tapioca flour on hand (which I do not blame you for. Neither did I until recently.), then try something else you do have on hand (like all-purpose flour) until you work up the courage to seek out said tapioca flour (which you should. Be brave.)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sunflower seed butter (or almond butter, or peanut butter, or …)
3 T pure maple syrup
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup tapioca flour
2 T flax seed meal
1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes or shredded coconut
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
Chocolate chips, as desired

Method:

Mix wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients (except for chocolate chips) and mix well. Sprinkle in desired amount of chocolate chips.

Form into balls. I use a 1 1/2″ ice cream scoop (which I love) so that all I have to do is scoop – no messy ball making for me. (Plus, the scoops end up looking more like cookies than balls of dough – which I like.) The cookies are firm enough to eat right away, but may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator (or freezer) until ready to eat.

 


Finally Feeling Like a Parent, and Broccoli Cheese Egg Cups

Dear Joey,

Until recently, I haven’t exactly felt like a parent.

I know that I am one, clearly, since I happily live that reality every moment of every day. But just because I do all the things a parent does, does not mean I feel like a parent. I often feel like I’m still 20 years old and a little bit naive, and if I’m really honest, most of the time I’m in a bit of shock that anyone trusts me to know what I’m doing around here. What we know to be true doesn’t always feel true, I guess.

For me, a week ago, finally, I felt like a parent. Didn’t you? All because of this little girl and a long-awaited appointment to confirm our suspicions.

Calling on a friend early in the too-early morning for a last minute favor and dropping off a slightly confused little girl at her house, and meeting you in the waiting room, not fully prepared for the gravity of the news we would soon get.

Holding a scared and angry toddler as she clung to my neck and pierced me with her deep blue eyes, imploring me to make it stop.

Blowing on the welt that came screaming to the surface after the little pokes were over.

Singing silly songs with all the motions without feeling awkward or self-conscious or the least bit aware of the nurse that sat quietly in the room with us, monitoring our little girl’s progress.

Offering what little I could to appease her – crackers, water, hugs, books – as we waiting to hear what the red blotches actually meant for our daughter, for us.

Steadying my heart and keeping my cool as the doctor let us know our child is one of the statistics now, and while she may indeed outgrow her peanut allergy, she also may live with it her whole life.

The weight of my responsibility for this child, for these children, settled itself on my shoulders that day in a new way, and I felt both love and fear course through my veins in a way I’d never experienced before.

As we walked back to the car and eased that exhausted little girl into the familiarity of her car seat, I realized how fast one’s world can change. I know that sounds dramatic, perhaps even verging on hysterical, but it’s the truth. That appointment changed things.

Early this week, a full week later, I tried to put the doctor’s advice into practice:  Be prudent. Be proactive. Don’t live a life motivated by fear. But just seven short days into all this, I see how that could easily happen, and I’m struggling to figure out how to make sure it doesn’t. Fear has been whispering to me, telling me lies about how life for Mia – for all of us – is going to change for the worse, and how nothing I do will make anything better for her because bad things happen despite anyone’s best efforts. Random, cruel, horrific things that no one can foresee or stop. It plays with my mind, and I see how parents can err on the side of overbearing because they probably feel like to be anything other than crazy overprotective feels, well, wrong. Uncaring. Negligent.

But the truth is that even though all that is true (random, cruel, horrific things do happen, don’t they?), the thing fear fails to mention is that even though I’m not in control, Someone else is, and to be overprotective is me trying to usurp the power that isn’t mine anyway.

 

I thought about all this as I read nearly every label in our pantry on Monday morning. I panicked at breakfast because I couldn’t find anything “safe” to feed Mia. Just about everything that was the easy road to take for breakfast – the loaf of bread, the box of cereal, the breakfast bars – bore warning labels that they could contain trace amounts of peanuts or tree nuts, or that they were made on shared equipment as peanuts, or made in a facility that processes peanuts. I couldn’t decide where to draw the line between being overly cautious and prudent, so I did the only thing I really know how to do: I reheated leftover broccoli cheese egg cups, sliced some strawberries, and gave Mia a breakfast she favored over boring old toast anyway.

 

And as she ate, I stirred together a fresh batch of those little egg cups, and as they were baking, I realized that the only thing I really can do at this very moment is to say no to the fear, and stop giving it a chance to say anything to me. Change my thinking. Renew my mind. Sort out the things I can control (like reading labels more carefully, stocking up on EpiPens-just in case, and amp up my efforts on the homemade food front) from what I cannot control (like whether she’ll ever be exposed to peanuts someday at school or camp or a friend’s house or college – you know, someday in the hazy future). And anyway, my worry won’t add a single day to Mia’s life, so no matter how prudent or proactive we may be as her parents, ultimately we are not the ones in control – God is.

 

Even though it doesn’t always feel like the truth, I know that it is.

And really, that’s what matters most, right?

Love,
Scratch

Broccoli Cheese Egg Cups

Finally Feeling Like a Parent, and Broccoli Cheese Egg Cups
These are mini quiches, really, made without a crust and baked in smaller, kid-sized portions.  Both of my girls devour them, fully aware that they are chock full of broccoli (a miracle, in my opinion). It’s the mustard that makes this recipe extra savory, I think. My favorite is Thomy Delikatess-Senf, a German mustard with far more flavor than American yellow mustard, but I’ve had wonderful results with Dijon mustard as well.


Ingredients:

7 large eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used 2%)
2 T good quality mustard (like Dijon)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 T dry minced onion
1 1/2 cups shredded mild white cheese, such as monterrey jack
2 cups steamed, chopped broccoli

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Start by preparing the broccoli. Peel the stalks of two small stems; steam as desired. After they cool a bit, chop into bite sized pieces.

While the broccoli is cooling, prepare a 12-cup (or two 6-cup) muffin tins. Grease each cup liberally (or line with greased baking cups). These things stick!

Then, beat together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt and minced onion. Stir in the cheese and broccoli. Pour  the mixture evenly into the muffin tin(s).

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the eggs are set and golden brown.