budding chef

I love this little man-in-the-making for SO many (countless) reasons.
Including his budding chefness.

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The mushroom? Ah!
It is the proof of creation ex nihilo,
the paradigm of the marvelously solid unnecessariness of the world.
How anything so nearly nothing could at the same time
be so emphatically something—
how the Spirit brooding upon the face of the waters could have brought forth this…
well, words fail, and mystery reigns.

~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p82~

oh, spaetzle!

It was spaetzle that brought me to my senses. Spaetzle, if you do not know, are the very flower of all foods made with flour. They are tiny bits of soft noodle dough, boiled to a light and lovely perfection, and served with butter or gravy. It took only one taste of my wife’s first batch to make me realize that I could not go on as a dieter. Spaetzle exude substantiality: A man who takes a small helping is a man without eyes to see what is in front of him. Accordingly, I passed my plate back for seconds and then thirds, and made a vow then and there to walk more, to split logs every day and, above all to change my religion from the devilish cult of dieting to the godly discipline of fasting.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p114~

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To eat nothing at all is more human than to take a little of what cries out for the appetite of a giant. One servingspoonful of spaetzle is like the opening measures of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: any man who walks out early on either proves he doesn’t understand the genre—and he misses the repose of the end. To eat without eating greatly is only to eat by halves.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p114~

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Life is so much more than occasions, and its grand ordinariness must never go unsavored.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb: a Culinary Reflection, p27~

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(…and yes, my mother made me some of my very favorite things in gluten free versions!
like schnitzel and spaetzle and peanut butter cream pie!!

Date Night: Daily & Divine

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Food and cooking are among the richest subjects in the world. Every day of our lives, they preoccupy, delight, and refresh us. Food is not just some fuel we need to get us going toward higher things. Cooking is not a drudgery we put up with in order to get the fuel delivered. Rather, each is a heart’s astonishment. Both stop us dead in our tracks with wonder. Even more, they sit us down evening after evening, and in the company that forms around our dinner tables, they actually create our humanity.
~Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb~

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Food matters because it’s one of the things that forces us to live in this world—this tactile, physical, messy, and beautiful world—no matter how hard we try to escape into our minds and our ideals. Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness. Try to think yourself through starvation. Try to command yourself not to be hungry, using your own sheer will. It will work for a while, maybe, but at some point you’ll find yourself—no matter how high-minded or iron-willed—face-to-face with your own hungry, and with that hunger, your own humanity.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p250~

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So try it. Try Keller’s three-times plan. Make it once according to the recipe. Then you know how the chef or recipe writer intended it to taste. Practice your scales. And then write your own version of the recipe. And then make it entirely from memory, at which point it’s yours.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p102~

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But our goal, remember, is to feed around our table the people we love. We’re not chefs or restaurateurs or culinary school graduates, and we shouldn’t try to be. Make it the way the people you love want to eat it. Make it the way you love it. Try it a million ways and cross a few off the list because they were terrible, but celebrate the fact that you found a few new ways too—ways that are fresh and possibly unconventional but perfect for your family. That’s the goal. Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p51~

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I am a bread-and-wine person. By that I mean that I’m a Christian, a person of the body and blood, a person of the bread and wine. Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater—mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p11~

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meat and grain

What about Jesus’ own parable of the prodigal son? The Father in the parable told his servants to prepare the fatted calf ready for a feast when his son returned home. Of course, this parable was not told as a lesson on what to eat, but we need to pay attention to every red letter word in the Bible. We shouldn’t gloss over any of Christ’s words as trivial. There is joy and celebrating in eating meat, and we are not any more righteous or holy, or even more healthy, if we deny ourselves red meat.
~Trim Healthy Mama, p49~

Some principles of the paleolithic diet do have some merit. Our culture overdoes grain and there are some people who have legitimate allergies to gluten and need to avoid many grains. But Jesus likens himself to the “Bread of Life.” He fed over 5,000 hungry people with loaves and fishes. He broke bread with His disciples. Was He intentionally harming them? No. Did He not know better? Better than us, for sure. God included grains as “the increase of the fields” (Deuteronomy 32:13) as part of His food groups. Paleo diets teach that grains are toxic to our bodies. God obviously thinks differently. Who’s right? That’s a no brainer.
~Trim Healthy Mama, p53~

this & that, on gluten free food

It’s not, actually, strictly, about food for me.
It’s about what happens when we come together,
slow down, open our homes, look into one another’s faces, listen to one another’s stories.
It happens when we enter the joy and the sorrow of the people we love,
and we join together at the table to feed one another and be fed,
and while it’s not strictly about food,
it doesn’t happen without it.
Food is the starting point,
the common ground,
the thing to hold and handle,
the currency we offer to one another.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p14~

It was nine months ago that I began a journey with food that I had not seen coming. The whole gluten free craze sweeping my region, my infertility comrades, and even a few friends/relatives has been something I like to keep at bay. Partly because I don’t like hype, and I tend to like steering clear of things that are fads. 🙂 And also partly because I did not want to give up so many delicious things. If you know me well, you might know that I have a longstanding difficult relationship with my body. And while my journey has not lead me to quite the level of epiphany or exposure that some have reached by God’s grace, I continue to struggle on and off with the body the Lord has given me. It feels like quite the feat to even admit that “out loud” into the blogosphere, but there it is. So to suddenly have to throw myself into a “diet” (whether or not you like that word to describe a gluten free, very low sugar lifestyle) after struggling for years to embrace the body God gave me, and to let go of stressing about foods in general, has been a real struggle. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with food for a lot of years, so that’s not exactly something new to me: but this year, instead of trying to look past ingredient lists and calorie counts and nutritional labels in general, and simply accept with open & thankful hands whatever the Lord gives me to feed my body & nourish this temple of His, I have now been forced to stare those labels in the face, to analyze things before I put them in my mouth, even to cook separate things for myself than I cook for my family or guests. I now have to make special requests at restaurants, and figure out ways to humbly & graciously accept hospitality without over-emphasizing my dietary restrictions. Especially when the dietary restrictions are basically self-inflicted. Do I swell up or break out in hives when I eat gluten? No. But it seems like I may have less inflammation throughout my body when I am not including gluten in my diet ~ and I’ve also simply been having less carbs and sugars altogether, so there’s that as well. So why do I care about underlying inflammation in my body? Because it seems that my body’s underlying inflammation is somehow connected to my miscarriages (and nine miscarriages for a 30 year old woman in 7 years of marriage is outside the realms of normal, my friends). My autoimmune problems cause my body to reject my babies, rather than nurture them. It is a horrible burden to live with, and just one huge aspect that causes me to stumble in my relationship with my body.

But ~rabbit trail notwithstanding~ back to the practical side of the gluten free diet. I’ve done a lot of trial and error with recipes and with products over the last nine months of living, cooking, and eating this way. I kept a food log for a couple months, but then that got stressful so I gave it up. I kept lists of recipes to try, and star-rated them after I tried them. Some things were worth a second shot, and some things actually met my garbage can (and as a homemaker who basically never throws away so much as a scrap of food in our home, that’s really saying something). I quickly learned to use cornstarch in a lot of my basic cooking techniques, and that was a nice easy transition. Bread? Desserts? Pastas? Crackers or  pretzels? Breadcrumb replacement? Baking flour replacement?

I have had some true duds, but the Lord has been kind to provide me with some delicious finds as well. And I just wanted to take the opportunity to pay it forward, and share some of the things that have made this diet/lifestyle easier as the months have progressed.

Sometimes food is the end and sometimes it’s a means to an end,
and sometimes you don’t know which it is until it happens.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p177~

Products I do not like & don’t suggest:

1. Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour.

2. Glutino crackers that I thought would be a nice Ritz replacement. Yeah. Not so much.

3. The Crunchmaster rice crackers (esp the Artisan Cheese flavor) that Costco sells.

4. any gluten free bread that comes packaged in a vacuum sealed plastic tube.

5. Bob’s Red Mill multi grain bread mix.

6. Bob’s Red Mill pancake mix.

 

Products I truly enjoy & highly suggest:

1. Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour.

2. Glutino pretzel sticks.

3. This and this for traditional pasta replacements, and these lasagna noodles.

4. the Udi’s gluten free bread that is in the freezer section at Costco.

5. Trader Joe’s bakery gluten free blueberry muffins.

6. Trader Joe’s gluten free version of Joe Joe’s.

7. Pamela’s chocolate cake mix.

8. Pamela’s pancake & waffle mix.

 

Things I continue to miss:
Ritz crackers, Cheez-Its, and being able to say that I have zero dietary restrictions so don’t need to worry about anything I put in my mouth. Let me tell you: this is a MUCH shorter list than it was six months ago, or even six weeks ago!! The Lord continues to give me new gifts. And I continue to grow in thankfulness. May He bless my efforts to care for this particular temple for His Spirit, and may He enable me to love my husband & children especially through this sacrifice but also in every other way I can.

Before I go though, there have been a couple particular experiences that God has used to encourage my heart along this hard journey that I really want to share.
The first was in September when my husband and I had an upscale picnic with another couple from our new church. They are professional musicians, so have to do whatever they can to take care of their bodies, especially their joints and hands. The husband particularly (a superb violinist, married to an angelic harpist) finds that his hands do substantially better when he lives gluten free. Meeting with another couple who eats gluten free (one spouse 100%, the other spouse when it’s convenient ~ just like Steven & me), and getting suggestions on products and recipes and things was so encouraging. And talking to someone who is on the gluten free diet for a similar reason, in that it isn’t life & death necessary, but it also isn’t just a cool thing to do because it’s such a current fad (in fact, they are as cynical about the fad as I am, but equally as thankful for the gluten free options available due to it being such a fad). What a gift these friends are for so many reasons… but that day, at that picnic, it just felt like that was one little slather of icing on the cake.
The second experience was when Steven and I were in Portland on our long weekend trip in October. That was the weekend I decided to introduce some sugar back into my life (after 4 long months of having only fruit, and an occasional tablespoon of maple syrup or pinch of stevia in my coffee/tea as my sweet options), and going to such a crunchy place as Portland really opened up a lot of eating options for me. It was like a golden gift! Although I was still on a medication that made me have nearly constant nausea (four months of continual nausea is pretty discouraging, especially when it is clearly not because there’s a baby in my womb), I was able to enjoy both sweet and savory foods that weekend in a way that I had not for over four months. What a gift. But the day before we headed home, we went to the famous (or infamous!) farmer’s market in Portland, and found a couple dedicated gluten free booths. At one, an extremely friendly woman stood at the booth of a gluten free bakery stand, but the baker was on a break. I almost kept walking, not thinking it would be worth the wait. But the friendly woman literally grabbed my hand and said that I needed to plant myself there and wait for the baker to return, because she was worth waiting for no matter how long it took for her to return. Looking in her case at bagels, muffins, cookies, and baguettes that looked convincingly delicious, Steven and I stood in the line, and while we did, this friendly woman continued to explain to me that she and her beau were both professional cooks (if I remember correctly, he was an all-around chef and she was a pastry chef), but neither one of them could pull off such delicious gluten free breads as this woman selling at the farmer’s market. Once the booth was staffed again (we probably waited less than ten minutes), the friendly woman filled her market bag with things, and then proceeded to buy me a beautiful, big, crusty baguette. I nearly wept in her arms, as she gave me the bread and hugged me saying “welcome to Portland & welcome to being deliciously gluten free.” I proceeded to buy myself a bagel, and if I’d had enough cash I would love to have tried the muffins and cookies. But what a gift. A baguette might not seem like an incredible gift to the average person, but to me in that moment, that woman was like an angel giving me a handful of the Milky Way.
The third was on Christmas Eve when we went to my parents’ home, and my mama uncovered two plates of Christmas cookies that looked basically identical to one another ~ and she announced that the red snowflake plate was all for me because every last treat on that plate she made gluten free just for me. I can not explain what a Christmas joy it was to have so many sweets just for me: I did not have to give up my great grandma’s chocolate iced cookies or the Tomer tradition of pecan puffs! Crisis averted!
And then for the fourth, there was a man, a Mr. Griswold by name, in customer service at Bob’s Red Mill just a couple weeks ago. After months of trying to stomach some of their gluten free products (which I had bought in bulk in May), I finally decided it was my duty to let their quality control folks know that I was not one of the “guaranteed satisfaction” customers. I was highly disappointed because I had long used other Bob’s Red Mill products, and had simply assumed their gluten free things would be as instantly pleasing and tasty. But no. Really, when all your baked goods taste like ground up garbanzo and fava beans; and when your pancakes and waffles taste like dry cornbread; and when your multi grain bread tastes like a sour rye mess… well, things go in the garbage that I once never dreamed of throwing away! Even my children would not stomach these things. I was not expecting anything from the company, and I was kind & respectful in my note. But if my customers were so discouraged with a product, I would want to know. So I told them. And they surprised me with such kind generosity and blessing that I promised Mr. Griswold I would share my excitement with all my friends! 🙂 They sent me a refund check for over sixty dollars, the amount that I had spent on their products last May. And because his wife has celiac disease & loves their new 1-to-1 baking flour, they sent me a complimentary bag of it. Well, when the UPS guy delivered it one recent afternoon, I immediately put aside other things and whipped up a tiny batch of chocolate chip cookies. I was too skeptical to make a big batch… but oh my goodness!!! I actually CRIED. The cookie dough was incredible (umm ~ I think I ate three cookies’ worth…), so it was the first time I have eaten cookie dough in like 9 months, and the baked cookies are AMAZING. When my husband walked in from work, I gave him one and he gushed, “that is SO good, thank you for baking cookies” ~ and then I stuffed one in my mouth and his eyes did this :shock: because he realized they must be gluten free and he could not believe it. They are that good. So I have to say, this new product may have changed my gluten free life. I can’t wait to make more chocolate chip cookies, because that original dozen? Gone far too quickly.

 

A deep enjoyment of food and its preparation
is evidence of the love of the creativity of God
that is both wildly expansive and precise.
~Deborah Madison (in her preface to Supper of the Lamb)~

My First Gluten Free Thanksgiving

And it was downright delicious.

We were created to eat!
The eating experience is as much a part of living as breathing.
The natural cycle is to eat, become satisfied, take a break—then eat to get satisfied again.
There’s no getting past it.
We are wired to get satisfied from food
~Trim Healthy Mama, p37~

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I love to eat.
And in my very honest moments, I have to admit that giving up food and wine felt like more than I could manage.
What I eat and what I drink are little moments of joy throughout the day—the things I think about, plan around, daydream about.
No one changes their life until the pain level is unmanageable, and in all sorts of ways for me, the pain level had reached the unmanageable point. …
I felt like I wasn’t living in the same world everyone else was living in.
It was like choosing to live with the volume turned all the way down, or going to the beach but not being able to put my feet in the ocean.
My senses were starving. …
There has to be a way to live with health and maturity and intention while still honoring the part of me that loves to eat, that sees food as a way to nurture and nourish both my body and my spirit.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p137~

Keeping our home, Together

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Do not sigh while you are washing the dishes. Do not have a pity party, and do not teach your children to act this way, because they will learn from your example. If you work cheerfully and use the time well, you will teach them to enjoy their work too!
~Kim Brenneman, Large Family Logistics, pg215~

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Some find the idea of working with children impossible. This is a wrong perspective to have. Children do not need constant entertainment and play. They need to be learning from you. Even on big project days, they can and should be learning from you. With the right attitude from you, they will learn that work is satisfying and fun. You just need to plan carefully to make the process conducive to learning and fun.
~Kim Brenneman, Large Family Logistics, pg291~

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Managing the kitchen well makes everyone’s time in the kitchen more productive and enjoyable. When the kitchen is well-kept, creativity flourishes.
~Kim Brenneman, Large Family Logistics, pg282~

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Lower your expectations and realize that as long as we all choose to walk around clothed, the laundry will never really be finished. If we live fully in a home, there will be messes. Why does that surprise us and make us feel guilty? As long as we eat, walk, and need places to sit down, the kitchen sink will have a few dirty dishes in it and the living room will never be clutter-free for long.
~Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, p50~

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Recipes

It is rare these days that I find recipes for sweetish things that I love and can eat. No gluten, no sugar, no oats, no rye or malt or barley.
So here are a few new finds that I am really enjoying. I should figure out how to replace the maple syrup with medjool dates… but I haven’t yet. I am cheating on my sugar free aspect a little with a wee bit of maple syrup. Sue me. 😉

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Breakfast Bars

  • 1 ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup unsalted nuts
  • ¼ cup raisins (and/or other sugar free dried fruit)
  1. In a small bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda
  2. In a large bowl, combine oil, maple and vanilla
  3. Stir dry ingredients into wet
  4. Mix in coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts and fruits
  5. Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish
  6. Press the dough into the baking dish, wetting your hands with water to help pat the dough down evenly
  7. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes
  8. Cool bars in pan for 2 hours, then serve

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Gluten Free & Grain Free Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nut butter (I actually used sunbutter)
  • 2 medium sized bananas (The more ripe, the sweeter!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Toppings: unsweetened shredded coconut, raisins, seeds or nuts, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, and/or anything else you can think of.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor.
  3. Blend until well mixed.
  4. Pour batter into a greased muffin tin. You can also use a mini muffin tin to make 24 mini muffins.
  5. Add additional toppings of your choice to each muffin and lightly stir into each cup
  6. Cook time: 15 minutes for full size muffins and 10 minutes for mini muffins.
  7. Reheat in a toaster oven for about 4 minutes at 350 degrees F, or eat at room temperature.

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And I made this cobbler for a Sabbath meal with friends, where the hubby is gluten free. I couldn’t eat it because of the sugar (I could probably have figured out a way to make it without sugar, but I didn’t bother… not worth it for a fruit dessert I wouldn’t have loved much anyway!), but he said it was probably the best gluten free dessert he’s had. 🙂 I could easily make this vegan by using coconut oil instead of butter, and almond milk instead of dairy milk. But I didn’t and it was delicious! Of course. Nothing is better than butter in dessert!!

Gluten-Free Peach Cobbler

1 stick of butter, melted
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour mix
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg
pinch of sea salt
2 cups chopped peaches (or any other kind of berries/fruit)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 3-quart baking dish with butter.  Whisk together flour, 1 cup sugar, and baking powder. Stir in milk, vanilla and then the melted butter. Pour into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the fruit evenly over the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar over top. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until golden.

More of this!

Can I ever be fed, and need no more food?
Can I ever sleep and need no more rest?
Can I ever feel my wife beside me as we watch
living, eternal, laughing things we were used to create,
and not want to see them again tomorrow?

~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p61~

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Be Nourished

Gather the people you love around your table
and feed them with love and honesty and creativity.
Feed them with your hands and the flavors and smells that remind you
of home and beauty and the best stories you’ve ever heard, the best stories you’ve ever lived.
~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p256~

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The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed,
and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children.
We allow someone else to meet our need.
In a world that prides people on not having needs,
on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through,
the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity,
where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.
If the home is a body, the table is the heart,
the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.

~Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine, p258~