Allergy Friendly · Back to School · Family Life · Salads

Just One More Day, and BLT Pasta Salad

4Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”

-Psalm 39:4-5

Dear Joey,

Just one more day.

That is what I told myself this morning when I climbed out of bed, not really ready to get up to face one more day of summer togetherness. I trudged my way through the dark of the morning, Emery at my heels: hungry and impatient. The thought of getting through one more day of all the Goobies home all day threatened to steal away the last shred of my sanity.  In the harried moments of the morning, it seemed like school couldn’t start fast enough. Just one more day until I can catch my breath.

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My parents have been here for a week and it’s been fantastic. They brought my grandparents to see our new home and to explore the area a little before heading off to Iowa to take care of some family business. They leave again today. The Goobies don’t want them to go. Neither do I, really. The Goobies seemed more at ease this past week than they have perhaps all summer long. More themselves, as if they had been holding their breath for weeks, not really sure they would ever see these familiar faces again. But they exhaled this week, finally able to relax a little and weren’t so on edge with each other. But today they had to say goodbye again and their tender little hearts were brave, but broken.

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They loaded up the car a few hours ago now after squeezing us tight and calling “See you later!” as they waved goodbye with the sort of cheerful smile that convinced me it might actually be true. We watched them drive away and the Goobies asked me they could please stay for just one more day.

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And those words brought me back to reality: their visit and summer vacation both end today. For me, this means the fridge won’t get magically stocked with Earth Balance and pork chops while I’m not looking; the kitchen sink will stay piled high with dirty dishes unless you or I (or both of us) roll up our sleeves and actually scrub them; and the laundry won’t fold itself while I’m making dinner in the other room. (Bless all the Grandparents.) Suddenly it is a school night and gracious me I have to think about packing lunches again. But for them, for the Goobies, this means there is just one more day until school starts and the elusive change we have been talking about for weeks is finally, unavoidably, here.

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My breath is catching in my throat as I think about the weight of those words: Just one more day is both a promise and a warning. Hang on, there’s only one more day to endure the aggravation of too much togetherness. And also, Make the most of this moment, because there’s just one more day until it all changes again. Just one more day until the rigors of school supersede laid back summer days, as cooped up and crazy as they became. Just one more day until packing lunches and completing homework and enforcing bedtime make the evenings fly by. Just one more day until fighting over outfits and untangling unkempt hair and forcing breakfast into a tummy that doesn’t want to eat, followed by the frenzied dash toward the door and a too-quick kiss goodbye as they topple out of the car. Just one more day to be slow, to lay low, to just be.  When tomorrow comes, I will breathe deeply and exhale slowly, thankful that we made it to the finish line. When today is gone, my heart will hurt and tears will fall, I will face the first day of school wishing for just one more day. I wonder how the Goobies will feel?

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I carried Mia up the stairs this afternoon; it was quiet reading time and she seemed a little off. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I memorized the way it felt to hold her like that.

“I’m going to miss you tomorrow,” I said.

“I’m going to miss you too.”

 

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Isn’t that always the way? We have complained our way through the summer, frustrated with all the togetherness that has made us so sick of each other, but suddenly I want to beg plead and bargain for just one more day with them all here at home with me. I want to finally slow down enough to plop on the floor with Addie and build Legos all afternoon. I want to sit in the shade of the garage and watch them ride bikes until they are red in the face. I want to listen to them squeal with shocked delight as they run through the sprinklers in the heat of the day, and let them lick Popsicles at lunchtime because it’s just too hot to eat. I want to snuggle up with Mia while Emery sleeps in the haze of a lazy afternoon and listen to her read Matilda to me as I fight to stay awake. I want to go swimming at twilight and and pile scoop upon scoop of homemade ice cream high up on a sugar cone, lapping up the frozen treat in the thick evening air right along with them.

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Why is it so hard for me to say yes? Why do I say no, or not right now, or maybe later when experience teaches me that later is the place where regret resides? Today is a good day to look back on all the times I said yes, the times I jumped into the water and played in the pool along with them, the afternoons we pulled out the Whirley Pop and made kettle corn and piled onto the couch and snuggled as we watched The Sword in the Stone or Robin Hood; the mornings when I put on my prom dress and played Royal Family with them, pretending to be a queen dripping in gaudy jewelry, only to have them wrap a cape around my neck and declare me a royal superhero. But instead of seeing all the times I said yes, all I seem to see are the times I said no, not now, and maybe later. Later is here now, and time ran out, and I wish I could go back and do it better.

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Rain is falling now. Gray clouds stretch farther than my eyes can see, a soft blanket nestling us in the house together for one last afternoon before we throw off the covers and crawl out of bed to face a new school year and all the hassle and joy and change it brings. Tears sting my eyes, and I can’t help it. I can’t go back, I can’t do it all over again, but I can re-frame my thinking. I can remember how painful it is to regret saying no, not now, or maybe later. I can choose to be motivated by the promise and warning of what it feels like to have just one more day, every day.

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Addie and Mia have miraculously built Lego’s together all afternoon without snarling at each other over petty little problems. I hardly hear them; but what I hear, I cherish. Their sweet voices cooperative and kind, the soundtrack to my afternoon that romanticizes the idea of having them here with me forever. Tomorrow, the house will be quiet at nap time, and tears fall as I think about it. I will miss them, but I am excited for them too: out there making friends and taking chances and learning, again, what it means to be brave. And while they are there, I will be here, waiting to hear their stories when they pile into the car when the day is done, refreshed and ready to really listen because there are only so many more days left like that out there in the hazy future, and I don’t want to miss even one of them.

Love,

Scratch

BLT Pasta Salad

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This salad screams summer to me: a refreshing salad that requires minimal effort. It was born out of the need to ditch my plans for Friday night pizza and throw something together with minimal effort (because spending a summer morning at the farm in the middle of a Midwestern August day does not make me want to come home and work in a hot kitchen). Not too proud to admit to poor planning, I switched gears and declared we would grill Bratwurst and throw together a few cold salads instead and toast to an easy summer dinner. I didn’t come up with the idea for BLT Pasta Salad, but I followed my own intuition when making it for my food allergy family.  The beauty of it is it is flexible (like so many of my recipes!), and can easily be adapted to suit your family’s needs. My family liked it so much they urged me to post it here on Love, Scratch, so that other families could enjoy it too. Cheers to laid back summer dinners!

Ingredients:
  • 1-12 oz box Gluten Free Bow Tie Pasta (such as Jovial brand)
  • 1 heart of romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • real bacon bits* (such as Epic brand, which is dairy free. Watch out for lactic acid starter culture in bacon!)
  • 3/4 cup homemade dairy free ranch dressing (or store bought)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons barbecue sauce (homemade or storebought, more or less to your liking)

* You’ll notice I do not give an exact quantity for bacon bits. This is because you know how much your family likes bacon, and you probably have a grasp on how much they would prefer. I used a 3 oz. package of Epic brand bacon bits for this particular batch, but the salad would have benefited from more. Admittedly, I would have preferred to use a freshly cooked batch of thick cut bacon, crumbled into bits, but I took the easy way out and saved myself the trouble of dealing with hot bacon grease. I humbly suggest you do the same if you make this on a hot summer afternoon.

Method:

First, cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. (I know most cooks frown upon rinsing pasta, but I rinse mine when I make pasta salad. I like the way it helps the noodles cool down and keeps them from sticking together.) Dump the noodles into a large mixing bowl and let them cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes or so.

While the noodles are cooking, get the bacon ready. If you are cooking a fresh batch of bacon, go ahead and do it now. Then wash and chop the lettuce and tomatoes, and set them aside. If you are . Mix together the ranch and barbecue sauce and set that aside too.

When the noodles have cooled off, toss in the tomatoes and bacon bits, and drizzle about half of the dressing on top. Toss it together, making sure the noodles are completely coated with the sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve, so that the noodles soak up all the flavor of the sauces. When it’s just about time to serve, toss in the lettuce and pour the remaining sauce on top and toss to coat again.

Spoon the filling into the taco shells–about 1/3 cup each, then top with the cheese. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are golden and the cheese is melted and golden. (Yes! Even vegan cheese melts and turns golden!)

Serve immediately–or as soon as you can. The filling will be hot, but the shells have a tendency to turn soggy if they sit too long. This never stops any of us from polishing off a taco or two (or five, if we’re talking about Joey).

 

 

Allergy Friendly · Family Life · What's for Dinner?

Better, Not Easier, and Crispy Baked Tacos

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other;

let us show the truth by our actions.”

-1 John 3:18

Dear Joey,

The Goobies have been bugging me.

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I know why: the four of us have been together constantly from the moment we left California–that’s a month and a half without much of a break. Moving to a new state compounded the normal stresses of summer, and here we are two weeks away from school starting and the day can’t get here fast enough because (confession): I’m a wreck.

So much togetherness became too much togetherness for my introverted self. Most days I want to hide away in the deepest corner of our closet, lock the door and never come out again, but dang it, I love those kids, so I greet each morning with a half-hearted smile, willing myself to give choosing what is better over what is easy my very best shot.

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Last summer the days crept by, but this summer flew. It’s not exactly a good thing either, because even though I can’t wait for school to start, I am also dreading the fast and frenzied mornings that will quickly turn into late nights spent toting kids to and from soccer practice and helping them get their homework done, all while squeezing in dinner and keeping Emery busy and stimulated, and us connected to each other.

“It gets late quicker in Kansas, doesn’t it?” you asked me last week, when it was suddenly 9:30 pm and I was still folding laundry.  I think we said said hello to each other when you got home from work that day, but that quick exchange of words and kisses may have been the only moment completely ours. Most conversations get hijacked by one Goobie or another, because they are just as cooped up as I am and they miss you all day too.

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Two nights ago we tried really hard to slow down and recharge, so we tucked the Goobies into bed by 8:30, making sure the girls had books to read and water to sip, then tip toed out to the patio to sit side by side and actually talk to each other. It didn’t last long.

They came out to join us one by one: first Addie, having finished The Princess in Black quicker than we thought she would and not quite ready to succumb to sleep yet. We smiled politely and listened, and when we realized she just wanted to start the next book in the series before turning out her light, I took  her by the hand and went upstairs with her, handed her the book, and whispered another goodnight before closing the door again.

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Not long after that, out came Mia, who flashed us the smile that sets souls on fire and curled up in the rocking chair across from you, poised and ready to participate in grown up conversation. We indulged her for a few minutes (recognizing we don’t often get one-on-one time with her either) before giving her another round of hugs and kisses and walking her back to bed.

The quiet of the night returned, fireflies and lightning flashing bright in the star-studded sky. We talked about blue Wisteria trees and the allegorical quality of Frodo Baggins; the powerful testimony of the apostle Paul and the beauty and gravity of being made human, marveling at the idea that God sees something good in any of us. And then Addie opened the patio door a second time, eyes weary of reading but not heavy enough to close.

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We feigned happy faces, frustrated as we were to be interrupted again. And yet, I opened my arms wide and she came running to me, latched onto me and held tight while you ducked into the kitchen for that box of Pfeffernusse cookies hiding at the top of the pantry. You broke open the box and silently handed one to Addie, who took the cookie with wide eyed wonder, thinking it must be too good to be true. She hesitated to taste it for only a moment until she saw the look on your face, the look that told her it was hers to enjoy. She eased her grip on me and snuggled close to you, listening to you talk about your grandma Adeline–our Addie’s namesake– and the way those spicy German cookies connect you to her memory. I think you hoped they would connect Addie to her memory, too.

We sat like that for a half an hour at least–or maybe more–who knows. Time slowed and we didn’t care what time it was. It was sort of a miracle. Addie’s head rested on your chest as she laid there watching the stars, needing nothing else in the world but you.

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Sometimes we get focused on what we need and end up unwittingly dismissing the cues our kids send us about what they need. It’s not on purpose, and usually the things we need to keep us connected aren’t bad things on their own. We hadn’t sat down to speak to each other without one of the Goobies hanging around, interjecting their childish opinions and derailing our conversations, for weeks. And yet–clearly we haven’t made time to give the girls what they need either. How often do any of them get us, together, alone?

We don’t always choose what is better instead of what is easier–in this case, setting aside our own agenda for the sake of showing love to the kids–but that night, we did. Yes, we still need to make the time to talk to each other beyond a quick hello, but our small sacrifice of focusing on what Addie needed right then, in that moment, felt right. She didn’t need lectures about obedience or staying in bed or how our bodies will eventually fall asleep even though it’s hard–she needed us to let her hang out with us. For as much as we tell her we love her, she needed us to show her our love by not saying anything at all.  Spreading our arms wide and pulling her close; sharing cookies and watching a storm roll in; walking her back up to bed as the rain started to fall and singing one last lullaby before saying goodnight–the girl woke up happier than she has in weeks.

I woke up in better spirits too, I think. The Goobies didn’t seem so annoying yesterday, and somehow we managed to squeeze more good out of a single day than we had in quite some time, as if that small act of kindness empowered me to keep on giving them the love and attention they need.

Love,

Scratch

Crispy Baked Tacos

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A couple of weeks ago, after a particularly difficult day of wrangling kids (who were just as sick of each other as they were of me), Joey swooped in and rescued my sanity by taking the Goobies to the pool for an hour before dinner. This was a win-win because not only did I get a little bit of much-needed time by myself, but the kids came home to a real dinner (and not just ham & cracker sandwiches, which would have been the dinnertime solution had Joey not come home right when he did.) After an hour’s worth of playing hard in the pool, Addie walked into the kitchen and smiled wide, sighing as the aroma of her beloved Crispy Baked Tacos greeted her. (It’s one of her absolute favorites.) Sticking with the ham & crackers and putting my feet up while they were gone would have been easier, but this dinner was definitely better in so many ways. A simple green salad and sliced cantaloupe makes the meal complete.

Ingredients:
  • 1-15 pack Stand ‘N Stuff taco shells (or regular ones, but the stand & stuff are more cooperative)
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey (I use 85/15, but you can use a leaner version if you prefer)
  • 1-16 ounce can refried beans
  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 Tablespoons / 1 ounce homemade taco seasoning (or 1 packet store bought)
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • salt, to taste (it won’t need munch–just a pinch or two)
  • 1/2 cup Follow Your Heart brand Vegan Cheddar Style Shreds*
  • 1/2 cup Follow Your Heart brand Vegan Parmesan Style shreds*

*Or use the equivalent of at least 1 cup of your family’s favorite vegan or dairy cheese (but in our opinion, Follow Your Heart brand wins). And I won’t hold it against you if you use more than a cup of cheese–before we were dairy free, we piled lots of cheddar on top, but now we use the vegan varieties more sparingly.

Method:

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Next, spray a 13 x 9 glass baking dish with cooking spray and line up the taco shells all in a row. You will probably need an extra 8 x 8 glass pan too, so go ahead and get that one ready as well.

Move on to the filling: brown the meat over medium high heat. Once browned, but not crispy, sprinkle the taco seasoning on top and toss to coat. Then add the vinegar and a couple pinches of salt and stir well to combine (these two together will wake up the flavors, so don’t skip it!). Next, add the tomatoes and beans, stir to combine well, and cook for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat. Let the filling sit for about 5 minutes to firm up just a bit (if you try to fill the tacos too soon, the filling will still be runny).

Spoon the filling into the taco shells–about 1/3 cup each, then top with the cheese. Pop the pan into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the shells are golden and the cheese is melted and golden. (Yes! Even vegan cheese melts and turns golden!)

Serve immediately–or as soon as you can. The filling will be hot, but the shells have a tendency to turn soggy if they sit too long. This never stops any of us from polishing off a taco or two (or five, if we’re talking about Joey).

 

Allergy Friendly · desserts · Friendship

These Are Gold, and S’Mores Pie

 

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

-Deuteronomy 6:24-26

 

Make new friends but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.

-Joseph Parry

Dear Joey,

I made two S’Mores Pies in the span of two days last week. My important, necessary work was met with your murmur of, “Another s’mores pie? I’m impressed!” This pie is dangerously easy, meaning there is a very good chance one will be waiting to meet you at the end of a long day’s work more often than perhaps it should. (Aren’t you the one who joked about buying a house where I could bake pies to my heart’s content and cool them by the windowsill? This problem is your fault.)

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Of all the pies, why S’Mores Pie? And why make two of them in two days? Fair question, and the answer can be found in a snippet of a conversation that happened several weeks ago now in my grandparents’ backyard between my BFF (as the Goobie girls would call her) Molly, and me.

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The conversation happened during those in-between days after you packed up the trucks and set off for Kansas, but before the Goobies and I hopped on an airplane to follow you. We were camped out at my grandparents’ house, laying low and trying to catch our breath after the frenzied weeks that led up to that point. The reprieve of the quiet was soothing at first, but turned stifling pretty quick without our usual arsenal of scooters, barbie dolls, monster trucks and art supplies. So we bought a kiddie pool and amused ourselves by splashing each other all day long. The kids got bored and I got anxious: we said goodbye but hadn’t left yet, and that span of four days felt tiresome without you. (Luckily hanging out with grandparents still entertains the Goobies for hours on end; I think it was me that was more anxious to go.)

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After a particularly insufferable day in which the heat and the attitudes converged and threatened to steal the last morsel of sanity left in reserve, my phone lit up and revealed a refreshing surprise from Molly: she was up from San Diego that weekend and wanted to know: “Any chance I could run up and give you a hug tomorrow?” My answer? Of course. I’m pretty sure I cried as I typed my reply, because my heart was feeling anxious and timid, like it needed a reminder that it could do brave, fun things. Molly always did that for me, and now on the verge of plunging into a great unknown, one more hug from a friend who has always given me the courage to be myself was a sweet gift indeed.

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Molly loaded her boys up into her minivan and made the trip over to see us and wrapped us up in big monster hugs and hung out with us in my grandparents’ backyard one more time. We spent the morning watching her boys attack the bowl of salsa I set out on a whim, scooping it up with chips so fast I could have sworn the kids hadn’t eaten in weeks. (I guess that’s life with boys?). In between bites her boys regaled me on everything from Broadway musicals to All Star games, and grilled me about my favorite kinds of sauce (chocolate, of course). Molly updated me on her teacher-life and how her son will turn student in her English class this year, and taught me how to use Facebook Marketplace to snag an amazing deal. We talked camping and s’mores and allergies too, and then, (and this is the clincher)–she told me about s’mores pie. (Real friends share all their best secrets, don’t they?)

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Our visit wasn’t emotionally charged with the pressure of saying goodbye; instead, it was just a normal visit. We’ve known each other since before we could speak or walk, and change is a constant in our friendship. College, marriage, children, moving away–every time something changes in our lives, John Rutter’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” rings in my ears and stings my eyes with the overflow of a swollen heart as we wrap our arms around each other for one more hug before parting. It reminds me of high school, and how things just kept changing after that last concert at Mission San Jose our senior year. All these years later, we knew this change wouldn’t alter our friendship. We parted ways with a hug and an unspoken (yet understood) blessing.

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And so, S’mores Pie stuck with me since our last visit on that old patio that saw us through our growing up years. When new opportunities began presenting themselves to engage with the people who populate this new life of ours, Molly and S’mores Pie were the things I couldn’t shake, and I found myself feeling like a shy kid all over again, leaning on my more outgoing best friend to help steady me as I jumped into new social situations. When we were kids, Molly was the one who first gave me courage to interact with others, forced me to join in instead of sitting at home bored and alone, and showed me how to be part of the life going on in front of me. She taught me how to make new friends.

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I am well past that now, really; social situations don’t tend to terrify me the way they did when I was a little girl, but in this unfamiliar place where history hasn’t knit me together with the people around me, I feel a little unsteady and uncertain, and I found myself wishing Molly were here so she could help break the ice for me. But in her stead, S’mores Pie helped me do that last week, and it turns out it was a suitable stand in: it’s interesting and special; never boring, always playful and fun–a conversation starter, for sure; comfortable and familiar even while it’s deep, rich, and complex. It’s so much like Molly, and taking it with me this week into two unfamiliar situations made me feel a little more empowered to be myself. Both Molly and that pie helped me take the first few steps toward forging new relationships, new friends, which I’m sure will be beautiful and sweet in their own right, too.

But this pie, this friend–these are gold.

Love,

Scratch

S’mores Pie

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Inspired to make S’mores Pie, but curious about other folks’ methods, I found this recipe that could easily be modified to fit our family’s food allergy requirements. I made that recipe as written the first time around (swapping out regular milk for flax milk; coconut milk for heavy cream; Enjoy Life Chocolate Morsels for the chocolate chips, etc.) but wasn’t satisfied with the end result. The next time around, I tinkered and came up with the version that is written below. Nana tasted it and loved the crust (Gluten free graham crackers for the win!), and declared the filling very rich indeed. I suppose the highest compliment came from my niece (who isn’t easy to impress when it comes to food), who came to find me after finishing her slice and asked, “Did you make the pie? It was really good.” (Also, an empty pie plate on the buffet table speaks volumes.) If your family doesn’t have food allergies, swap dairy ingredients for the non-dairy ones (milk = flax milk; heavy cream = coconut milk; butter = Earth Balance) and use regular graham crackers and chocolate chips. You can’t mess this pie up: it’s gold.

Note: I recommend using Kinnikinnick S’moreable Graham Style Crackers because they’re gluten free, dairy free, peanut/tree nut free, sunflower seed free, etc., and they make a crust that’s indistinguishable from its traditionally made cousin. I stock up when they go on sale at Sprouts.

Ingredients:

For the crust–

  • 2 cups gluten free graham cracker crumbs (Kinnikinnick brand, if possible)
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread, melted

For the filling–

  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened flaxmilk (without protein)
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 9 oz. Enjoy Life brand dark chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt

For the topping–

  • 25 large marshmallows (or so), cut in half
Method:

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs (the whole package of graham crackers, please), then mix the crumbs with the melted Earth Balance. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie plate and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and golden (but not burned).

Meanwhile, while the crust is baking, whisk the eggs together until they’re a soft yellow color. Then, in a medium saucepan, warm the flax milk and coconut milk over medium heat and add the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate is smooth. Turn the heat down to low. Ladle a little bit of the warm chocolate mixture (about 1/4 cup or so) into the whisked eggs and stir quickly, then pour the mixture into the pan of chocolate and whisk vigorously. Then, add the honey, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined. Remove the filling from the heat and set it aside until the pie crust is done.

One the crust is golden, remove it from the oven and pour the chocolate pudding-like mixture into the still-hot shell and spread the top smooth with a rubber scraper. (Then proceed to lick that scraper clean.) Put the pie back into the oven and bake for about 30 more minutes, or until the filling doesn’t jiggle or wiggle much at all when you move the pie plate.

While the pie is baking, snip the marshmallows in half. When the pie is done baking, change the oven from bake mode to broil mode, and set it to the low setting. Arrange the cut marshmallows on top of the just-baked pie and set on the middle rack under the broiler AND WATCH CLOSELY because it won’t take long for the marshmallows to puff up and turn golden brown. Remove the pie as soon as they look golden enough for your taste. (My pies are perfect after two minutes under the broiler.)

Refrigerate for 4 hours (or more, if you can)–but don’t cover it with plastic wrap unless you want an effective way to remove all the gooey golden goodness from the top of your pie. I know from experience.

Allergy Friendly · Being Changed · Joy · Snacks

Adapting Amid Disappointment, and (Allergy Friendly) Classic Chex Mix

Dear Joey,

For the third year running, the Goobies and I trick-or-treated without you. It all started a couple years ago when you kissed us goodbye and flew far away to say your last goodbyes to your grandpa. We missed you, but it was easy to forgive your absence that year. But the following year, our excitement to have you home with us was short lived: Vertigo stole you from us early Halloween morning (remember?) and didn’t return you back to us until well into the night. The timing of your illness surprised and irritated me and I found it difficult to play the sympathetic wife in the midst of my own disappointment, and I vowed to keep my expectations for future Halloweens low from then on.

Easier said than done, of course.

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In hindsight, I realize I made myself an empty promise because why wouldn’t I expect you to spend Halloween with us?  In the days leading up to Halloween this year, you doted on the Goobies, going above and beyond (ahem, spoiling them) with costumes this year in a subconscious attempt to make up for your absence the past two years, I think, and all the while I was bracing for the blow that hadn’t even come. Until then, out of nowhere, it did: urgent surgeries had been scheduled for Halloween night. It wasn’t your fault, of course, but my disappointment made me want to blame you. Can’t you get out of it? I begged. This is the third year in a row. Your hands were tied, there was nothing you could do, and so I excused myself from the conversation, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried.

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As the tears fell, I realized I wasn’t really mad at you. I was upset about the situation and  confused by your seemingly cool attitude toward it. You didn’t seem nearly as ticked off as I felt, and that bothered me. But oh, those Goobies. They are defenders and copycats, a dangerous combination when adversity tempts me toward a bad attitude. But I was quick to remember that if I continued to slink around with a chip on my shoulder, they would do the same. I didn’t want them to be angry with you. Disappointment is part of life. People will let us down, but what we do with that disappointment matters most.  After a moment or two, I wiped my eyes and shook off the crazy, resolved to make the best of it.

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All of this reminded me of a story Sally Clarkson tells about how her husband’s work took him away from their young family more often than she appreciated. An otherwise doting and involved father, his career took a turn that demanded a bit more time and effort than anyone at home really enjoyed. One night in particular, Sally was particularly not happy about having to say goodbye, but she knew showcasing a bad attitude about the ordeal would give resentment a foothold–not only in her heart, but in her kids’ hearts too. So instead, she chose to send him off with waves and smiles from happy kids, then wrapped her arms around her them after he had gone and suggested with a smile they go inside for cheeseburgers and a movie. She chose not to let disappointment dictate her behavior. I realized, I ought to do the same.

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I didn’t make cheeseburgers like Sally did, but I did make Chex Mix. And corn dogs. And I served dinner on a festive table with candy corn strewn this way and that in an attempt to bring fun into what could have been a bummer of an evening, if I had let it. In the days leading up to Halloween, all I could see was my own disappointment over the past few years. Until then it didn’t occur to me how disappointed you must have been. You were the one having to do hard things instead of traipsing through the neighborhood asking for candy with the kids. Dealing with death, suffering through illness, and working late into the night are not the same as skipping out on your family. You were forced to spend another evening missing out on all the fun. My moping around and holding a grudge wouldn’t make any of it easier on you; if anything, it made it more difficult–and not only for you, but for all of us.

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We missed you, of course, but we had fun anyway. Friends came over and my folks skipped choir and we all bounded out the door toward an evening of fun–all because, well, what good does it do to sulk? Life’s let downs aren’t easy to face, but it is possible to adapt amid disappointments. We just have to choose to do so, which admittedly, isn’t easy or immediate, but it is always worth it. When you finally made it home to rest late that night, you flicked through the pictures on my phone and laughed out loud, heart bursting to see your Goobies smiling.

Love,

Scratch

Classic Chex Mix (Gluten and Dairy Free Style)

IMG_3844In our house, Chex Mix in October is like cookies in December: you can’t have one without the other. The warm, savory scent of this stuff crisping up in the oven plunges me right back into the Octobers of my high school years when I first started making it on my own. I must have learned how to do it from my dear friend Molly’s dad (thanks Allan!), although I don’t remember him ever showing me how. But I do remember him making it every year without fail, a tradition both Molly and I have embraced as our own, in our own ways. Clearly, our family makes it both gluten and dairy free, but believe me when I tell you you cannot taste a difference. This version is every bit as fantastic as its gluten-and-dairy laden cousin. Chex Mix is an effortlessly customizable treat, food allergy flexibility at its finest.

Note: If you want to use wheat Chex in addition to rice and corn, use 3 cups each rice, corn and wheat, for a total of 9 cups of Chex cereal.

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 4 1/2 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 2 cups gluten free pretzels (such as Trader Joe’s or Snyder’s)
  • 1 cup almonds, or mixed nuts (or omit altogether if your family is allergic to them. No big deal!)
  • 7 Tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan buttery spread), melted
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
Method:

First, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, in a large bowl, mix together the cereal, pretzels and mixed nuts. In a separate small bowl, mix together the Earth Balance, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Drizzle the seasoned sauce over the dry ingredients. Using your hands, toss the mixture well until evenly coated. Pour onto a cookie sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for a total of an hour. Pour the mixture onto a big paper grocery bag (that’s been cut open, as shown below) and let it cool. (The mix gets crunchier as it cools.)

IMG_3853This is what a double batch looks like, about 24 cups worth. A single batch (as written above) yields about 12 cups.

Allergy Friendly · Control · Family Life · Food Allergy Family · main dishes

Teaching the Kids to Camp (or Learning to Teach by Example) and Hobo Dinners

28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30

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Dear Joey,

We started taking the kids camping this summer. Equipped with a new-to-us pop up camper and fueled by your adventurous spirit, camping sounded fun to all of us until the reality of doing so with three small children slapped us both in the face. I dreaded going because it sounded anything but easy, and while being outdoors and drinking in the warm, sweet scent of the redwoods is up my alley, the whole roughing-it-with-three-kids-in-tow part fills me with dread.

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I come by it honestly: the family vacations of my childhood involved running water, actual beds, and corner diners where kids eat free on Sundays. Roughing it for us meant five people sharing one bathroom and trying in vain to get a decent night’s sleep (which was challenging, since my dad and brothers all snored). Camping just wasn’t something our family did together, so the weight of your expectations for it all to go smoothly made me nervous before we even left the driveway.

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But the promise of an overnight camping trip practically made Emery come unglued. He shrieks with hysterical glee at the mention of the word camper, so the idea of actually going out in the camper overnight, with you? Talk about excitement. That kid is happiest just being near to you, and watching him watch you reminds me of how thrilling it must have been for the disciples to walk with Jesus all those years ago, living with him, learning from him. And your patient, nearly wordless interaction with Emery helps me understand what Jesus must have meant when He said, “walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it.” As soon as we ease the camper into its spot, he pops out of the Durango with one thing on his mind: being at your side as you crank and secure and connect and make ready. You hardly have to say a word: being with you is enough for him.

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The Goobie girls learn by watching too, of course, but we’ve slipped into the habit of doing things for them because it’s easier to keep them out of the way until suddenly we remember we ought to be teaching them life skills and we end up barking orders left and right in the name of proactive training (and retraining) that elicit tears, not results. They end up trying to follow a stringent set of rules they don’t fully understand, and we get angry when they break those rules or when our instructions are met with blank, confused stares.

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We end up sitting them down to have a lengthy discussion about the do’s & don’ts and how’s & why’s of this that or the other. It’s forced, and the girls couldn’t care less about whether we think it’s important for them to follow those rules or not. They are burned out. Why do we think we’ve got to sit them down and lecture them about rule following instead of letting example be their teacher? Jesus didn’t go around checking off a what-not-to-do list with His disciples; He showed them how to live by living that way Himself and inviting them to join him. Shouldn’t we do the same?

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We’re trying, of course. At least we know this about ourselves (right?). But it’s extra challenging when it comes to camping because the onus falls on you to take the lead because you are the one who actually knows what he’s doing, and it’s a tall order for you. Your patience runs thin against your will, like that last time we took the camper out for a quick over night trip when those Goobies tested your patience before they even got out of the car, for goodness sake. They didn’t know campsite etiquette or decorum; they didn’t know their boundaries or even what to do, really. They wanted to help, but didn’t know how to help, and I didn’t know how to have them help either. So they played in the dirt and complained and cried and I tried to keep them quiet (ha!) as you tackled setting up camp on your own.

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The hard truth is that your fuse for little people who still didn’t know a thing about how to camp was short, and you spent the evening fighting the urge to lose it with the kids. At breakfast the next morning, after one too many cereal spills and too-loud early-morning giggles, your stern face betrayed the fact that you were frustrated, upset, and not having fun at all. I quietly put my hand on your arm and whispered, “If you want the kids to enjoy this, you’re going to have to change your attitude.”

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In that moment, you realized this: the kids don’t know how to camp, and they won’t know how to camp unless someone teaches them. Of course kids run and jump and scream and shout, laugh and giggle and chase and zoom this way and that, gathering sticks, making dirt roads, balancing on old logs and flinging piles of leaves toward each other. They run down hills and shine their flashlights in each other’s eyes and sing at the top of their lungs and exclaim at the beauty of the forest without feeling sorry about it (and is that really a bad thing?). They don’t know how to help or what not to touch or what leaves are ok to touch and which ones are poison oak; they don’t know how close is too close to a campfire or how to roast marshmallows; they don’t know the value of sitting quietly to appreciate the echo of chirping birds–they don’t know because, well, how could they? When you  realized this something clicked, breaking down the idea that the kids instinctively should know how to do things you’ve known how to do for decades. You realized the only way they’ll learn is if we teach them. I imagine that’s why Christ came and taught the way he taught. Clearly the rules and regulations of religion weren’t cultivating relationship, and so He came to teach a better way of living by example.

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That trip shifted something inside you, and armed with the promise to do better and be better for the sake of all our sanity, we set out for another camping trip, and oh, what a difference. We all worked together to set up camp; the kids jumped in and found ways to be helpful almost without any instruction from us at all. Mia swept; Addie decorated; Emery turned the crank. We went exploring and found white fallow deer and a shady bench beneath an ancient redwood tree and sat, quietly watching the Goobies relish the wide, unrestricted space of the mountaintop and all the dirt that went with it, digging, drawing, and dancing in the stuff. Dirty faces and dusty clothes in tow, we came back to build a campfire and cook dinner. You situated the Goobies’ chairs, taught them how to respect the fire, and set about showing them how to roast hot dogs and marshmallows right along with them instead of doing it for them. And the evening was sweet, fairly stress free, and promising.

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The kids walked away from that trip wishing it wasn’t over so soon and begging for another camping trip to be in the near future. It wasn’t perfect, exactly, but it was wonderful. We showed up and worked hard and exercised patience–and we enjoyed each other. By the grace of God, and with His help, the kids learned so much more this time because we taught them–you taught them–with so much more than words.

Hobo Dinners

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Hobo dinners are a new-to-us camp food experiment that will certainly turn into traditional fare around our campfire. Root vegetables, onions, meat, fire–these are the simple things that kept fed families for generations, and making them in the crisp September twilight made camping seem totally doable–and enjoyable, too. I love how easy they are to throw on the grill–fussing around with dinner prep was one of my biggest objections to taking our food allergy family camping. As if feeding the five of us isn’t complicated enough, throwing camping into the mix made my head spin. This time around was even harder, what with me on the Autoimmune Protocol and Joey on the Whole30, dinner at a campsite made me want to cry. But then in a moment of inspiration, I thought, “Oh yeah! Hobo Dinners! I’ll try those.” I saw the idea for them earlier this summer when we first got the pop up camper, but just hadn’t tried them yet (hot dogs were just easier the last couple of times). But this time, Hobo Dinners came to my rescue and they were a hit. Use stew meat instead, or add some potatoes or mushrooms, and throw in whatever seasonings sound good to you. This recipe yields 4 portions, so multiply as needed. You’ll see the recipe is more of a method, so don’t fret too much about quantities. (In fact, you can cook two burgers in one packet if you want to.) Follow your gut.

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Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for seasoning the veggies
  • 3 cups root vegetables (sweet potato, carrots, parsnips, yukon gold potatoes, etc)
  • 1/2 cup sliced onions (red, white, yellow–use what you like)
  • a few glugs extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
 Method:

First, mix seasonings into the ground beef–mush it all together and form into four patties. Set aside.

Peel and slice the root veggies. Toss them in a couple of glugs of olive oil and sprinkle with salt (and pepper, if you you like; I omitted this for AIP).

Assemble the packets:

Arrange two 2′ lengths of aluminum foil in a cross. Place the root vegetables in the center, top with an uncooked patty and drizzle some more oil on top. Fold the first layer of foil up over the burger and crimp, as if you were rolling up a paper bag. Then do the same with the bottom layer of foil, enclosing the first packet in an outer layer of foil and crimping tightly, so that the foil is sealed.

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To cook:

Place the packets on top of the campfire (use the grate provided!) and let cook directly over the flame for 15 minutes. Remove, and let rest for a minute or two (they’ll be hot!). Unwrap foil and enjoy.

 

 

Allergy Friendly · Dairy Free · Dips and Sauces · Friendship · Side Dishes

Our People, and Summertime Fruit Dip

Dear Joey,

One of the hardest parts about moving was putting distance between ourselves and our people. But one of the easiest parts about moving is being close to our other people again. But my heart is divided because to be there means being with those people. To be here means being with these people. I love them all.

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There are people here, there are people there–shoot, we have people all over the place. We have people right across town, over the hills, up the valley in Napa and down the road in San Diego; we have people in the Midwest and people up North and down South and people all close enough to the Atlantic to go for a quick dip if the mood struck them. Our people are everywhere.

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But distance makes it difficult to see them very often–even the ones across town–and proximity matters when it comes to building friendships. It’s the people nearby that we end up living our lives with. Friendship is forged in the trenches of the daily, and enough small talk over time builds into something much bigger. Strangers turn into people we trust enough to pick our kids up from school in a pinch, and before we know it, they’re the people we live with, lean on, and love. It’s hard to say goodbye to that sort of security, even harder to start over.

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When I think about all our people, I wonder which ones will dissolve into a fuzzy memory as the years continue to slip by and which ones will remain a fixture in our hearts and home. Whose kids will our Goobies remember growing up with? Which ones will eek their way into their hearts and become their people? Who will we call at midnight when an emergency jerks us out of sleep? Which ones will hop on a plane if tragedy strikes? Who will show up to wave goodbye if our story leads us elsewhere and we move farther away than just across the hills? Who would pick up the phone at 10pm to settle an argument over cult classic movies and laugh with us as we bicker over whose favorite nostalgic movie was more important in the scheme of things: Mall Rats or Shag: The Movie?

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People move, and people move on. Out of sight, out of mind because what’s right in front of us demands our attention more than keeping up with people who aren’t in our immediate, day-to-day circle. The demands on our time shout loudly above the need of our hearts–to connect–and sometimes, friendships falter because of it. Keeping up with all the people all the time is hard. I wish I could be in both places (or really, all the places), all the time. I can’t, of course, but I think about all the people all the time. And I also wonder what new people are out there ahead of us, waiting for us to open our circle and extend our hands to them.

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Maybe that’s why we made the hour long drive to see our not-so-far-away people to swim and grill and indulge in their hospitality, pretending we’re far away and on vacation together. Maybe that’s why we keep asking our local people to come play at a moment’s notice, grilling and letting kids play outside until well after bedtime. Maybe that’s why I’ve made this fruit dip so many times this summer: when I’ve felt displaced, unsettled, and uncertain about where to plant my heart, this dip steadies me. Some people look at old pictures of the people they love (I seldom remember to snap them); others pick up the phone and call (I always feel like I’d be an inconvenience), but me? I cook because making recipes like this one is like grabbing the hand of an old friend while extending the other hand to a newer one, and I am safe, balanced right there between them both.

Love,

Scratch

Summertime Fruit Dip (GF/DF/NF)

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When one of our people came to visit this summer, it just felt right to whip up a batch of fruit dip–a creamy, dreamy wonder to which she introduced me well over ten years ago (thanks Felicia!). I couldn’t make her dip the conventional way (with regular old cream cheese), but I found a way to make a dairy free version that fooled my own mother. I’ve made it several times since that early summer morning well over a month ago now and one thing proves true: everyone loves it (not just the kids: it’s become a guilty pleasure among adults in our circle who tend to have difficulty with self-control around this stuff.) I recommend the Trader Joe’s brand Vegan Cream Cheese because I’m pretty much devoted to its clean, non-vegan flavor, but you could certainly substitute other brands that are accessible nationwide (such as Daiya), or just use regular cream cheese if your people don’t have issues with dairy. If you use another brand, taste and tweak as needed until the end result suits your fancy. 

Ingredients:
  • 1-8 oz. tub Vegan Cream Cheese (such as Trader Joe’s)
  • 1-7 oz. tub Jet Puffed Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Method:

Whisk together all ingredients until fully combined. Chill for an hour or so to help firm it back up again. Serve with an assortment of fruit (strawberries, pineapple and cantaloupe are our favorites).

 

Allergy Friendly · Birthdays · Breakfast · Life with Littles · Motherhood

On Being Childish, Laying Bricks and Birthday Chocolate Chip Pancakes (GF/DF/NF)

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.

But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT)

Dear Joey,

Yesterday morning I felt like a failure before my feet even touched the ground. I hadn’t even had a chance to come up short on anything yet, but there I was flirting with the lie that tells me to lift my hands in surrender anyway. The past few weeks have worn me down, sopping up the last few drops of my energy and leaving me very, very tired.

It was Mia’s fifth birthday, which is probably why I felt extra pressure right away in the morning. School mornings are loathsome evil things anyway, but throw in a little girl’s fifth birthday? A whole extra set of responsibilities and expectations greeted me before coffee even had a chance to be my cheerleader. For someone prone to perfectionism (like I am), I was overwhelmed before I started. I wanted to ignore responsibility and nestle deeper into bed, mumbling instructions to just pour the kids a bowl of cereal because I couldn’t bear the thought of making a birthday breakfast.

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Instead, I did what I always do: I stretched my legs, rubbed my eyes, and got up anyway because that’s what moms do. We base responsibility on much more than a passing fancy. We show up and do stuff we don’t always feel like doing because we love our kids more than we love our pillows. And so, I trudged into the kitchen and pulled out my birthday morning breakfast arsenal and lined up the ingredients for the much-anticipated chocolate chip pancakes that only show up on someone’s birthday. Just when I was about to scoop out the flour, I realized my favorite recipe for gluten free pancakes was packed away in a box already, not to be unloaded until after our move next month. I hung my head in defeat.

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So much for birthday tradition, I thought, and for a moment I tried to convince myself that Mia would understand if I served a bowl of cereal this morning instead. She knows half the house is packed up already; surely, she’ll give me some grace. But the grown up inside whispered to the childish part of my soul: No, she won’t understand. She’s still a very young girl who is staggering through this transition too. She’s just as weary as you are, but uncertain too–and she’s counting on those pancakes to give her a little sense of stability.

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We have spent the past several years making these seemingly small, disjointed traditions a priority, laying the foundation to their lives–brick by small, seemingly insignificant brick–in hopes that they will build their lives on the groundwork of love and stability. A “Happy Birthday” banner to greet them the morning; chocolate chip pancakes with a candle and the birthday song at breakfast; the You’re Special plate showing up again and again and again at the kitchen table, filled with the birthday child’s favorite foods; the anticipation of opening their four presents–something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. These traditions somehow became part of their birthday vernacular, and they speak of them with the sort of excitement and awe I always hoped they would. This is what their little lives are built on, isn’t it? Not the stuff–the tradition. And what is tradition without consistency? And oh, how important consistency is. Consistency breeds trust, and trust demands consistency, otherwise things break.

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Get over yourself and make the pancakes anyway, I thought, and I managed to whisk together a batch of batter that worked just as well as the other recipe. Maybe all those years of making them trained me for the day I would need to make them without help, I thought as I flipped the first few golden round beauties dotted with gooey chocolate. And no sooner had I thought all this than I got distracted and annoyed and ended up overcooking (ahem, burning) a pancake (or five) and made a snarky remark to Addie after her very innocent observation that the pancakes didn’t smell very good. I was irritated, yes–because the comment sounded rude to my already-bummed out self who felt like I had taken the high road to make the pancakes in the first place, and an imperfect messy batch is what I came up with. Why did I bother at all? I wondered. But I saw the sad look in Addie’s eye and realized she hadn’t meant to be rude; she was being observant, and her remark wasn’t my progress report. I scolded myself for my short temper and made it right with the girl (“You know, you’re right–they do smell a little funny. I sure hope they taste better than they smell!”), settled into my chair, and slurped down my coffee before any more damage was done.

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Mia beamed as we lit the candle and sang her birthday song, and she happily ate her sort-of-burned pancakes, and so did everyone else (even Emery, the kid who usually just picks the chocolate chips out of the pancakes, actually said, “MMM! Thas good, mama!“). The overcooked pancakes turned out to be a problem in my mind alone. And as I watched Mia tear open her presents with the purest sort of joy there is, I was glad I hadn’t let my perceived stress get in the way of her joy.

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Most days I’m pretty realistic, meaning I know most things don’t turn out the way my perfect ideals dictate they ought to. But yesterday I let my eyes focus on the imperfect pancakes, my own bed head, and the idea that I wasn’t a very good mom because I didn’t greet the morning with lipstick and balloons. I sat and thought about how lucky I am that the Goobies focused on fitting raspberries on top of their fingers and savoring the rare treat of chocolate for breakfast. I’m the grown up, but I was acting far more childish than my own kids. As I watched you usher the Goobies out the door and into their day, I was left wrestling with all this and asking the Lord to help me grow up, to help me be the grown up and model good behavior for these kids who are watching everything. And wouldn’t you know, not long after that, He gently (and pointedly) reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13: 11, and how it’s ok — good, even–to be childlike, but it’s time to give up my childish ways.

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I do my best to do my best at mothering, which means sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m the grown up and do things I just don’t want to do. Getting up in the morning is a struggle for me. Being kind in the morning is too. Walking through my day being others-focused is not always easy. Sometimes, I slip into that peevish childish behavior I was supposed to have put away once I grew up. But in a bout of grown up wisdom, the adult in me scolded the child and reminded me that these are the moments upon which lives are built. It was our little girl’s birthday and we don’t get a do-over. It didn’t have to be my idea of perfect to be Mia’s idea of perfect, and because Mia trusts me, and trust is built on consistency, I did the grown up thing and chose to set aside my childish behavior to lay another brick. And then, I got to enjoy Mia’s birthday with childlike abandon.

Love,

Scratch

Classic Pancakes, with or without Chocolate Chips (Gluten and Dairy Free!)

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These pancakes are simple and yummy–even when they’re sort-of burned. Leave the chocolate chips out if you want a plain pancake, or add blueberries instead (that’s the way Joey likes them). In a pinch, they can be made with a premixed bag of gluten free flour blend that already contains xanthan gum and measures cup for cup (like Bob’s Red Mill or Arrowhead Mills), but the finished product will be a little thinner and turn out crepe-like pancakes instead of these fluffy beauties. Bonus? These are dairy free too.

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt* (use 3 teaspoons kosher salt when using coconut oil)
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened original flax milk (or rice milk, almond milk, or other dairy alternative–or just plain dairy milk)
  • 3/4 cup melted vegan buttery sticks, such as Earth Balance (or refined coconut oil*, melted, or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, optional
Method:

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the non-dairy milk, eggs, and vanilla, then pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well. Next, drizzle the melted vegan buttery sticks (or other liquid oil) into the batter, whisking as you go. (If you use coconut oil, be careful to add it slowly and whisk constantly to help keep it from hardening when it hits the batter.) Dump in the chocolate chips and give it one more good stir.

Over medium high heat, warm up a griddle and spray with coconut oil cooking spray. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the griddle at a time and cook until the edges have set and bubbles emerge on top. Flip gently and continue to cook until golden.

Makes 24 pancakes