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

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

er”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 because that’s what moms do. We base being responsible on much more than a passing fancy. We show up and do the stuff we don’t really feel like doing because we love our kids more than our pillows. 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. And 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 as 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 though 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

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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.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups unsweetened original rice milk (or almond milk, or other dairy alternative–or just dairy milk)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup refined coconut oil, melted (or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 3/4-1 cup chocolate chips, optional
Method:

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Then, add the rice milk, eggs, and vanilla and stir well. Then drizzle the melted coconut oil into the batter, whisking as you go. (This is an important step because it keeps the coconut oil 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 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.

Breakfast · Dairy Free · Gluten Free · Tinkering with Recipes

Tinkering with Recipes (Even Ones I Love!) and Roasted Sweet Potato and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Dear Joey,

You may have noticed I made a Roasted Sweet Potato and Sausage Casserole a couple times in the past several weeks. I have my reasons for so much repetition, of course, and bless your heart–you never seemed to mind when your question of “What’s for dinner?” was met with “Well, there’s more of that sweet potato-sausage-spinach-egg thing in the fridge …” Nights like those don’t bother you at all as long as you can slather warmed up leftovers with your beloved Green Dragon sauce, which is part of the reason I toss a bottle into the cart at my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s even if we still have a full bottle at home. There’s no such thing as having too much of that stuff.

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In your defense, sometimes hot sauce–Green Dragon in particular–saves the day when my kitchen experiments don’t go very well. It launches otherwise forgettable food into the realm of fun food for you, so clearly having bottles stashed every which where in the kitchen bodes well for me, especially since my experiments usually progress like this: disaster, mediocre, pretty good, keeper. (It’s true–I tend to make the same recipe over and over and over again until I get it just right. I don’t know why I can’t just leave well enough alone.)

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Ok so fine–this means I sometimes run a recipe into the ground, making it so many times that eventually the kids feign a still-full stomach from lunch or an upset tummy to avoid having to eat it for dinner–again. It’s a compulsion, I guess: tinkering with recipes until I find it, that secret something that launches a recipe’s status from meh to it’s a keeper.

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In my defense, I don’t do this to all the recipes. It usually happens when I try a new one and I either 1) despise the finished product, even while still believing in the idea of it, or 2) love the recipe so much that I want it to be perfect. Either way, I end up fussing over the thing ad nauseum–sort of like how you get excited when you come home to a clean house and immediately start wiping down the counters again after I already scoured the darn things. I used to get offended when you did this because I really thought you were telling me “You suck at cleaning. I better come in and do the job right.” I was mistaken. You’re a clean freak, yes– but not a judgemental one. You take what I’ve done and take it a step farther, tinkering with it a bit until it meets your own unique set of expectations. In the same way, when I tinker with a recipe, it’s not because I think its a bad recipe. On the contrary, I tinker because I care. I tinker because I think the recipe has merit, promise–a future in our family’s recipe rotation.

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To those concerned, rest assured I get acquainted with each new recipe before I go messing with it too much. I follow the rules at first because you’ve got to know the rules before you can get away with breaking them. And so, when a new recipe comes my way, I let it lead, and where it goes, I follow. As soon as I’ve gained its trust, that’s when the recipe starts confiding in me, whispering about how it always wished it could have just a pinch more salt or another drop of vanilla, or how it never liked ground ginger anyway and would much prefer the real thing, thank you very much.

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Remember that sweet potato-sausage-spinach-egg thing I talked about earlier? It is an example of taking a really solid recipe and making it my own, launching it from already really good to a definite keeper. The first time I made it, I liked it a lot–so much, in fact, that I couldn’t imagine being more satisfied with the finished product. The second time I made it, I started tinkering. I rounded the measurements of sausage and sweet potato out of laziness, really, and I started to wonder what would happen if I used an even dozen eggs instead of the 10 it called for.  As I cracked the tenth egg into the bowl, the other two eggs in the carton just looked lonely, staring at me with sad eyes that seemed to say, “What about us?” I didn’t have a good reason to leave them out of the fun, so I caved and let them join the party. So I sprinkled a little more salt and stirred them up, making the eggs mingle and dance as the whisk did its job.

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And so, my own version of this very delicious in its own right recipe was born. It’s a keeper around here, one that halts Emery in the midst of his morning outside playtime, one that he actually cheers for (“Yay! Yay! Yay!“) while he’s waiting for me to fill his bowl with another helping. The spinach didn’t even deter the kid. True: this recipe didn’t need tinkering in the first place, but it established this breakfast casserole as a staple in our home. And that, of course, is the whole point of tinkering anyway.

Love,

Scratch

Roasted Sweet Potato and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

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(I credit Juli at PaleOMG for this recipe and honestly–the original version is perfect as is. I just can’t help but tinker.)

I made this recipe the first time I hosted an If: Table at my house, and I was a little nervous about it because I don’t usually make a new recipe for the first time the day I intend to serve it to other people. But the ladies around my table that morning assured me it was delicious, and Lisa has even asked for the recipe. I take that as a compliment, of course–but alas, I can’t be credited with the original idea. I love this recipe for so many reasons, but the main reason is: it is naturally gluten and dairy free and it is delicious. This is a big deal, people! Especially when you want to make something the food allergy people in your life can actually eat. So Lisa, this one is for you, and Michelle–you too, and all the other ladies who have yet to join our conversation. Because If: Tables can happen around breakfast tables, and because yummy allergy friendly foods exist, and because making food for food allergy friends shouldn’t be make you sweat.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (+ more to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • coconut oil, melted (or other fat of your choice)
Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 glass baking pan and set aside.

Toss the peeled and chopped sweet potatoes with the melted coconut oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Spread the sweet potatoes into an even layer on a cookie sheet and pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes. Take them out and set them aside to let them cool a bit.

Meanwhile, cook the onions and breakfast sausage together in a skillet, breaking the sausage up into smallish pieces as you go. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Remove from heat and spread the mixture in the bottom of your 9 x 13 baking pan, then move on to the eggs.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together, then add the salt and garlic powder and stir to combine. Toss in the roasted sweet potatoes and spinach and gently mix them into the eggs. Pour the mixture over the cooked sausage. (In hindsight, of course, I realize you could mix the sausage right in with the eggs and sweet potatoes and sausage–feel free to do so. Tinker.)

Bake the frittata at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the eggs are well set, puffed and golden and perfect.

Breakfast · Dairy Free · Faith Journey · Gluten Free · Wrestling with Reality

Change Is Coming–Came, Really, and Pink Strawberry Pancakes (GF/DF/NF)

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1

Dear Joey,

I piled the Goobies into the car and drove through that windy canyon over to the other side of the hills to take the girls for a visit to their new school. It was a whole month ago now, on a Friday when another storm decided to swoop in and pound California with more rain. This particular visit was a strange combination of serendipity and providence. The Goobies’ were off of school that week, strangely, for Winter Break, and while so many other people (all the people, it felt like) were trading dank gray clouds for sunshine and fresh air, we hunkered down and spent a week cooped up at home for what felt like no reason at all-until that Friday when God used something ordinary to teach me a lesson in obedience and faith.

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Like most things lately, I didn’t have such a good attitude about it at first: just thinking about Winter Break and ten days spent inside with three spunky kids teased the last string of my already frayed sanity loose. I normally scoop those Goobies up into my arms as soon as we tumble through the garage door after all those hours spent away from each other, smothering them with kisses and cries of “I’ve missed you all day long!” even as they try in vain to hang up their jackets and backpacks. Imagining ten days of so much togetherness made me want to run and hide myself away until Winter Break had come and gone again.

Winter Break came anyway. The sun decided to poke its head out early that week and blue skies beckoned me to come out of hiding. Fantasies of setting up camp under a blanket in a quiet corner of the house (where hopefully no one would find me) evaporated, and before I knew it those Goobies stole my heart all over again as we spent those few beautiful days just being us, here, together.

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Winter break turned out to be a break in Winter, and that strange, out-of-the-ordinary week was a gift I didn’t know I would need: one last beautiful week spent here in our home before change became reality and took up residence with us. It was Valentine’s Day that week, and I decked out the table with bright colored hearts and pink Strawberry Pancakes, and we spent hours outside blowing bubbles and playing red light green light and flying upside down on the swings those Goobies love so much. I said yes as much as I could, and remembered the days before Emery joined our brood, the days when I spent everyday entertaining those girls here at home without the pressure or restraint of schedules. Those days slipped by without me really knowing they could, and I think I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that they are almost gone. For one lovely week, I got to experience that joy again, and remember.

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Friday came and winter came back with it, bringing another pounding rain storm. The week was over and reality set in and I put on my brave face as I piled those three pajama-clad Goobies into the car and drove West, weaving my way through a wet, windy canyon, toward change.

What a feat to pry those kids off the couch and settle them happily in the car before breakfast. None of them really wanted to trade their cozy little spot on the couch for a cold car seat and a long, gloomy drive through that windy, soggy canyon. On a day they could be marathon-watching Goldie and Bear and munching on chocolate chip banana muffins, they somehow managed to hear my voice above the din of Disney Junior and heaved their pajama-clad selves into the car without complaining. They munched on baggies full of dry Trader Joe’s O’s and listened to music and played quietly among themselves without arguing once.

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I couldn’t get over the fact that they didn’t complain. They complain in the best of circumstances, but on that particular morning when I forced them into the car without a warm breakfast in their bellies, and raced them toward a new unfamiliar reality, they kept quiet. These kids aren’t shy about letting us know when they feel insecure or frightened, so even though they may have been a little unsure about visiting a new school, they didn’t show any outward sign of concern. They were quiet. Their hearts were quiet. They were sure we were headed somewhere good and safe and they were certain I would get them there in one piece. They knew their job was to simply be still and let me do my job. They had faith in me. They trusted me.

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And then it hit me: I was not at peace with getting up and moving because I hadn’t been still and let God do His job. I didn’t really have faith in Him. It started months ago when uncertainty set up camp in my heart as I watched the future fly toward me faster than I thought possible. Instead of running toward it with outstretched hands, I wanted to yell “Duck!” and run away and hide. My feet were firmly set, my heels dug deep in the place I thought God planted us. I felt like a tree, tall and strong enough to endure whatever storm came. But last Fall, I realized just how weak I was. The mere idea of change–of losing this place and the life we’ve built up around it–undid me. I wasn’t seeing what I hoped for, really, and what I was certain about was everything I wanted was being taken away from me.

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Winter brought sadness, and I didn’t think peace or hope could ever really return. I took cover in the safety of familiar things I could count on–like God, and His goodness and love; and in you and this time we have with these kids, here, now. I clung to joy and pleaded for peace because change is scary and I was afraid. The new year came, just as it always does, and the soil of certainty turned soggy when the sky opened up and new things began pouring down. Your Midwestern roots keep you calm when thunder rattles the windows, me. The grumbling clouds unnerve me even while while their sad song is a symphony to your heart.

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Winter brings death, and Spring brings life. I know this very well, of course. Doesn’t everyone? But in the middle of Winter, everything seemed so dank, gray, and just so… final–even here in California where Winter just means cooler weather and leaf-bare trees outstretching their bony fingers toward barren gray skies, as if praying, and the hope of Spring seemed impossible.

This all lasted until that last Friday of Winter Break, when everything suddenly came into focus as my own children showed me what pure trust looks like as they let me lead them away from comfort and into the unknown. They didn’t really want to get up and go–but they trusted that something really, really good (like fluffy scrambled eggs and wind-up robots, and a visit to see a new school where they could see their Papa’s office from the playground) was on the other side of the journey, and they put their faith in action by getting into the car and letting me drive. That’s what God is asking of me: to listen to his voice, to get up and go, and to trust Him to get me there safely.

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Now, a whole month later, Spring is here. Blossoms appeared on the gnarled old apple tree this morning, suddenly, and the changes I saw coming so many months ago are very much here now. A big beautiful demonstration of new life stares me in the face, and I can’t help but see hope.

My feet are not firmly set anymore; they are loosening and small steps are leading to bigger ones as I walk in obedience and faith. And so, transition is taking up space all around us. The bare walls look like closed eyes now, as if the house has fallen asleep. I tiptoe through the hallway trying not to disturb it, and its echo reminds me that this place is ours only for a few more weeks, really.

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Every day another box gets packed and another piece of furniture disappears and the Goobies wake up to a house that looks increasingly less familiar and they ask, “Why does our house look so different, Mama?”  I wipe my eyes and smile through the tears, reminding them again and again we are getting ready for the big adventure God is taking us on- because in the end, isn’t that what this is? Most of the time they squeal with delight, but every once in awhile their tears come, too. “Will I get to take my bed with me? What about the swing set? Are you and daddy going to come with us? Will we ever come back to visit this house?”

Obeying isn’t easy, nor is faith. It’s hard. I would much rather stay where I am, nose nestled under piles and piles of blankets, comfy and warm, in a place I’ve grown to love more than I thought I ever could. But I’m swinging my legs out from under myself anyway because like you taught me all those years ago: faith isn’t just in the knowing, it’s also in the going. I know now the challenges ahead will be worth it because the God who is calling us to a new life this Spring is faithful and trustworthy. The Goobies reminded me of that on that glorious gift of a Winter Break. I am ready to head through that canyon again with you in the weeks that will be here before I know it, because I know who is doing the driving, and with Him, we are safe.

Love,

Scratch

Pink Strawberry Pancakes

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I spent Valentines Day with my Goobies at home this year, since they were off of school for Winter Break that week. But I hadn’t really planned a special breakfast and since it was the day before pay day, the pantry was a pretty sparse. But pancakes are an empty pantry wonder-food, and I used them as a canvas for coming up with a way to make the morning feel a little more festive (because if any day of the year calls for a little whimsy, it’s Valentine’s Day, right?). As with all my recipes, substitute real milk for the dairy free milk if you aren’t dairy free and use regular all purpose flour too if you aren’t gluten free.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free flour blend
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups unsweetened (vanilla or original) almond milk (or rice milk, or regular dairy milk)–start with 1 1/4 cups and drizzle in up to another 1/2 cup if your batter seems to thick
  • 1/2 cup organic strawberry spread (or strawberry jam)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons refined coconut oil, melted
  • a drop or two of red food coloring (either a natural one, like this one from India Tree, or a conventional one from your local grocery store)
Method:

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, almond milk, strawberry spread and vanilla and mix well; then drizzle in the melted coconut oil and stir to combine. Drop the food coloring in little by little, and stir; add until you get the shade you desire. (Natural food coloring yields a paler, more earthy shade of pink, which is pictured above; conventional red food coloring yields a bolder, more noticeable shade of pink, which the kids prefer because the color is far more noticeable.)

Over medium high heat, warm up a griddle and spray with coconut oil cooking spray. Scoop 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.

Serve warm, with syrup or not. Sprinkled with powdered sugar or not. Topped with whipped cream and strawberries or not. The Goobies tend to eat straight from the plate without toppings, just as they are. Your call 🙂

Breakfast · Dairy Free · Gluten Free

An “If You Want to Eat Breakfast, You Better Make Muffins” Sort of Day, and Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins (GF/DF/NF)

Dear Joey,

It happened again – I sang the Muffin Man song all morning as I cleared up the mess I made baking another batch of muffins, which I am hoping won’t completely disappear before tomorrow’s breakfast.

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This morning’s hodge-podge of a meal essentially cleaned out the cupboards and didn’t leave much to offer the Goobies for tomorrow’s breakfast, so after Emery and I got home from dropping the girls off at school, we got busy in the kitchen and made a batch of muffins (mainly so I am not tempted to pull the covers over my head and sing la la la in the morning, hoping in vain they will magically come up with a solution to the breakfast problem without me).

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Banana muffins are my go-to solution for make-ahead breakfasts, followed closely by pumpkin muffins and baked egg cups, of some sort, none of which were an option today (because it’s slim pickin’s around here until I get around to going to the grocery store later this week). I did find a sad looking zucchini in the crisper, though. Relieved to find it buried under a few stray sweet potatoes and convicted that I had ignored it for too long, I gave it some long-overdue attention, after which it exploded with the sort of happiness that is only conjured by chocolate chips and cinnamon.

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I have made this recipe many times over, which is saying something because before it joined my repertoire I didn’t even like zucchini bread. Now, the Goobies and I all love it. (And I can’t believe I don’t have a clue how you feel about it. Hm. Must fix that.) To save time, I scooped the batter into muffin tins so I didn’t have to wait for a standard size loaf to bake all the way through. Plus, the kids seem to prefer muffins over loaves anyway (and they are a lot easier to handle in the morning. Simply pass them out, instead of slice them up and pass them out. Gosh, I’m lazy.)

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Funny how I went into the kitchen a little unsure how I would come up with something the kids would actually eat amid the tidbits hiding in the deepest nooks and crannies of the refrigerator and pantry. I felt a little like the widow who was down to her last bit of flour and oil when a stranger with an empty belly asked her to use what little she had in her cupboard to fill it. I know, my circumstances are entirely different from hers (I am not a widow. The little bit of flour and oil I used for these muffins weren’t the last bits of food in our cupboard. A prophet didn’t come asking me to feed him. I know.) I guess what I mean is this: I felt like I didn’t have much to offer the kids, and I felt a little … curious how to stretch the last of the flour, one measly egg, and a withered zucchini into anything palatable, let alone delicious. But, it worked, and Mia was very upset with me when I wouldn’t let her eat one for lunch today. Promising she could eat them for breakfast wasn’t a good enough trade off, I guess, since chocolate chips were involved. Oh well.

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So without further ado, here is the recipe just in case you ever want to slip into the kitchen early one morning when the bread is gone and the cereal has run out and there is only an egg or two and you just don’t know what else to make, but you want to make something, if only to save my sanity. (Or you know–when you just want to surprise us all with a muffin we will all enjoy.) You will find they are very easy to whip together, and even a novice muffin maker like you will have success. (Let me know if you like them, will you?)

Love,

Scratch

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins (GF/DF/NF)

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This is based on this recipe, which I first used before I was gluten free. I have adapted it over the years to suit our family’s needs. Feel free to swap out alternative ingredients based on what your family can tolerate (Don’t have refined coconut oil? Use canola, or another neutral tasting oil. Out of an egg or two? Substitute apple sauce, 1/4 cup per egg). Want to make a loaf of it instead? Grease two standard loaf pans and bake for about an hour or so, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs (or apple sauce. See note above.)
  • 1 cup refined coconut oil (does not taste like coconut), melted and cooled off a bit
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups gluten free flour blend (that already contains xanthan gum)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or 2 teaspoons kosher salt)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (from 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • cinnamon sugar, for topping
Method:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin pan with paper liners. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, whisk together the egg, sugar, then slowly pour in the melted (and cooled!) coconut oil until the mixture is creamy yellow, smooth and velvety. Then, add the vanilla and stir.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the gluten free flour blend, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Slowly add to the wet ingredients, stirring after each addition. Once you have added all the flour, stir in the zucchini, followed by the chocolate chips.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake for 18 minutes, or until puffed and golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

 

 

Breakfast · Food Memories · Learning from Mistakes

Mistakes Are Part of the Process, and Scrambled Eggs with Crème Fraîche

Dear Joey,

Remember that day you tried to watch Worst Cooks in America and you couldn’t stand to watch the chefs scrutinize the contestants’ fried eggs?

You turned the channel, muttering under your breath you had a hard time believing there were people out there who actually cared enough about fried eggs to pick them apart like that, and how lucky you felt that your wife knew how to decently fry one. I sat quietly, thankful you appreciate my cooking, and let you flip the channel back to the basketball game. But inwardly I sulked, for I knew the truth: I am no good at making fried eggs. Haven’t you noticed I usually ask you to fry them?

The heat is always too high. Then it’s too low. Then the whites stick. The yolks are too runny, or not runny enough. The yolks break and bleed and get cooked into a brown spider web of disaster. Even Eggs in a Hole are hard to perfect, and while you happily eat whatever sludge I slide out of the pan, the younger, pickier mouths in this family protest even the slightest deviation from their idea of a perfectly cooked yolk.

Clearly, fried eggs aren’t my idea of a quick and easy breakfast. But scrambled eggs? That’s a different story.

Before I met you, I mastered the art of egg scrambling by taking Julia Child’s advice and cooking those beauties at a low temperature. Making a tender, fluffy batch on Saturday mornings was my specialty, so much so that my roommates praised them and clamored for them nearly every week. The longer cooking time, while admittedly a bit of an annoyance, yields unparalleled results. For me, a reluctant egg eater in the first place, Julia’s technique changed me forever.

When you and I decided to get married, I was sure my egg-scrambling confidence equipped me to meet your every whim of “Breakfast for dinner, please!” with brag-worthy fare. And for the most part, it has. Except for when it comes to fried eggs. But we’re talking about scrambled eggs here.

Even so, my confidence was shaken a little just days into our marriage. We were on our honeymoon, starting our last day in Seattle at a quaint little basement cafe nestled beneath The Elliot Bay Book Company in Pioneer Square. I don’t remember the specifics of what we ordered that morning, except for the scrambled eggs with crème fraîche and scallions. They were fancy, and just the sort of simple and delicious that made us sure we could replicate them at home.

But then, we didn’t.

The idea came up over the years (meaning: you asked me to try to make them, but I put it off, afraid of ruining the memory of them.) But eventually,  finally, I did it, and in the process, I learned something: I put off most things I really want to do because I am afraid: that I’ll make a mess of things; that it won’t measure up to my expectations; that I will fail. I learned I let fear paralyze me and keep me from trying new things – even something as small and insignificant as making scrambled eggs with crème fraîche instead of milk or water. I don’t really trust myself.

After I finally got over it (sheesh–they’re just eggs!), in making them made I realized I am far more capable that I give myself credit for, and when I try new things (not if, but when), I ought to approach them with the attitude that accepts mistakes as part of the learning process. And goodness – trying and failing is more important than not trying at all, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t that what we tell our kids?

As it turns out, it was not nearly as challenging as I had imagined, nor did I ruin our memory of our charming breakfast in Seattle. Instead, we can re-live that moment in the taste of those eggs whenever we want, really, since we can’t just pop over for a quick little breakfast on a whim.

I gather the bookstore has moved since then anyway, to a new location with a different sort of cafe, which while it may be delicious and charming in its own right, will never be our cafe, so to speak. But whenever I make scrambled eggs with crème fraîche at home, I am transported to that place and that time for a moment long enough to remember what it felt like to experience something familiar and new all at the same time.

I’m so glad I got over myself and tried something new.

Love,
Scratch

 Scrambled Eggs with Crème Fraîche

Mistakes Are Part of the Process, and Scrambled Eggs with Crème Fraîche

Inspired by the best eggs Joey & I ever had, this recipe elevates an ordinary breakfast food to something truly special. (I even made them for breakfast on Christmas morning when I was too pregnant to manage much else.) Crème fraîche (“krem fresh”) is really just unpasteurized heavy cream that is thickened by the good bacteria it naturally contains. Rich and velvety, it’s perfect for making these decadent eggs.

Ingredients:

8 large eggs
4 oz. crème fraîche (plus more, for optional topping)
2 T salted butter
1/2 tsp salt
3 green onions, chopped (green parts only)

Method:

First, warm up a large skillet over medium-low heat and let the butter begin to melt. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, crème fraîche and salt. When the butter has melted, pour the egg mixture into the skillet. (I often use non-stick, so you will need to use more butter–say, 4 Tablespoons or so– if you are cooking the eggs in a stainless steel skillet.)
Let the eggs cook slowly, gently scraping up big fluffy curds as they begin to set. Do this until all eggs are soft-cooked: not runny, but still moist. When they’ve set, serve them warm, sprinkled with green onions. Top with additional dollop of crème fraîche if you want to be really fancy.

Allergy Friendly · Breakfast · Life with Littles

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.

Breakfast · Food Allergies · Life with Littles · Uncategorized

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.