Life with Littles · Motherhood · Soup · Vegan · What's for Dinner?

No Mistakes In It, and Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” – Philippians 3:13

Dear Joey,

After weeks on end of so much gray, color finally started to come back. The snow has melted; temperatures are cold but not freezing, and flashes of green wink at me from in between the brown blades of old grass, like Addie flashing me a smile and calling me to come out to play for awhile.

Today I joined her: we rode bikes and drew with sidewalk chalk and drank in the sun even as a cold breeze reminded us it isn’t quite springtime yet.  For a moment I was a little girl again, wind tickling my cheeks while I plucked a handful of sour grass and pretended to be Anne Shirley making a flower crown for Princess Cordelia, her imaginary persona that embodied everything Anne wished she herself was: beautiful, important, and loved.

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Anne Shirley didn’t have the luxury of parents to invest in her tender heart. Addie does, but I catch myself wondering if she doubts she is the remarkable girl we know her to be. She asks us all the time: am I beautiful? Important? Loved? She asks it in her own way, of course, and we do our best to answer her in a way she understands. Still, I wonder how much of it is sinking in.

Anne Shirley is the sort of person I wished I was: brave, unabashedly imaginative, and loyal all at once, and in my growing up years I looked up to Anne Shirley as the embodiment of so many things I hoped to become. Of course, she was an awkward, orphaned little girl who feels the sting of injustice at a very early age, but the painful past that marks her as different turns her into I wanted to be: self-confident and outspoken and brave. She stirs the pot and soils her already unpopular name by getting herself into many troublesome situations, and goodness does she have a temper–especially when Gilbert Blythe calls her Carrots. Yikes. But beneath all that trouble is a tender, upright heart.

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I was more like Diana Barry, though: Anne’s soft spoken, sensible, rule-following best friend whose life is governed by the rules of propriety. I wanted to be more like adventurous Anne, but alas, I was far more like demure Diana who craves adventure while comfortably wrapped up in the warm confines of convention. Anne is courageous; Diana is scrupulous. No wonder the two became such great friends: bravery without good sense can easily turn reckless, and what good is wisdom without action?  Courage and scruples go hand in hand.

Addie is like Diana too: she errs on the side of too safe, just like I did, and it bothers both of us. It bothers her because she misses out on so much of life and it bothers me because it hurts her. She quietly confesses this in the shadows of her darkened room as she snuggles into the safety of her bed. “I don’t know why it’s so hard for me,” she admits, talking about how difficult it is to be brave. I tell her this: it’s not brave if you’re not scared, which means that she really is brave, in the truest sense. And I let her in on the secret that even people for whom bravery seems easy struggle with stuff too, that trying our best is what counts, and making mistakes in the process is how we learn best. I also tell her all about how Anne Shirley, the brave little girl in one of my favorite books who famously asks, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” I tell her it’s a question that acknowledges mistakes happen, and also infuses hope into the days to come. I tell her that it reminds me of a verse in Philippians where the brave apostle Paul talks forgetting what has happened in the past and pressing on toward what’s next. We talk about breaking free of the prison mistakes put us in and moving on from them unencumbered.

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It is heavy stuff for an 8 year old; heavy stuff for me too. Being able to move on from mistakes is a life skill that I have not mastered yet, but I’m working on it. As it turns out I may have spent childhood being more like Diana, but in adulthood I am finding I am more like Anne than I thought: short-tempered, easily frustrated, overly dramatic. It is the Diana in Addie that makes me see it: she is soft-spoken, uncertain, a little afraid to draw unwanted attention to herself, and it pushes all my buttons, making me a little bit crazy. I find myself losing my temper with Addie because I see the young, insecure girl I used to be staring back at me with soft green eyes, and instead of being patient with her, I get frustrated that she has to sift through the same internal turmoil that I did.

A flared up temper is a flame that spreads fast, and before we know it, I find myself stubbornly fighting with her instead of fighting for her. Tears fall and doors close. In the silence, I remember Addie is tenderly trying to figure out whether what we say is true: that she is beautiful, important, and loved, and my temper is teaching all the wrong things. Admitting I failed this time around, seeking forgiveness, and leaving the mistake behind me does not come naturally to me. I am more apt to wrap the mistakes around my wrist like a bracelets, and their clanging reminds me of all the times I failed to be the person I really want to be, or to invest in the person I really want Addie to become. I am tempted to worry about what comes next and have to remind myself that Jesus said, “[…] don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matthew 6:34). So I pry off those bracelets and fling them behind me, choosing to throw worry away and focus all my energy toward what comes next. I accept the gift of grace and remind myself to extend that gift to Addie, too. She has so many tomorrows left, and I don’t want her to start any one of them thinking there’s a mistake waiting to greet her there.

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I soften as the sun sets. Addie does too. And we whisper apologies along with our hopes for the day waiting on the other side of slumber, thankful that it waits there unsullied by our poor choices and harsh words. We learn together that admitting we were wrong and choosing to try again takes guts and integrity, and the two together are a powerful combination. We agree to leave the wrongs behind us and move toward the promise of a fresh day with courage and scruples, both, and we are better for it.

As it turns out, we are both a little bit more like Anne than perhaps we thought. My girl and I, we have Diana’s good sense, it’s true. But we also have Anne’s gumption. Mistakes will happen, but why worry about them today? And Addie certainly has Anne’s imagination, and I know one day I will look up out of my writing window and see her lazing away a sunny afternoon peering up at the sky, writing stories in her mind about each cloud as they quietly drift by.

Love,

Scratch

Roasted Carrot and Ginger Soup

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Joey is a sucker for all things ginger, and has a particular weak spot for carrot-ginger soup. (If it’s on the menu, he will order it.) As it turns out, Addie has a soft spot for this soup too: her face lit up at the first spoonful, and she smiled as if she had just scooped up sunshine. Addie and I have had our difficult moments lately, but this soup reminds me a new season full of fresh starts waiting there for us. Plus, it’s an easy, colorful way to infuse a little color into the dreary dinner hours of winter, when spring seems like an impossible dream. 

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 ounce peeled/diced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • a few glugs of olive oil, canola oil, or refined coconut oil
  • salt and pepper
Method:

First, set the oven to 425 degrees. Next, spread the carrots onto a sheet pan, drizzle them with a few glugs of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop them into the hot oven. Roast them for about 20 minutes, or until fork tender and golden.

Meanwhile, set a large sauce pan over medium heat. Saute the onions in about 2 tablespoons of oil (olive, canola or coconut oil will do); cook them until soft but not browned. Add the ginger, sea salt, and broth. Simmer until the ginger is soft. Add the roasted carrots to the pot. Using an immersion blender, puree until the soup is smooth. (Or, if you don’t have an immersion blender, pour the broth/onion/ginger mixture into a high speed blender, add the roasted carrots, and puree until smooth.)

 

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).

 

Dairy Free · Gluten Free · Pizza · What's for Dinner?

The Return of Pizza, and Easy Olive Oil Biscuit Crust

If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!

1 Corinthians 10:30 (MSG)

Dear Joey,

Ah, pizza.

When Emery was first diagnosed with his dairy allergy, we let the girls eat the cheese-laden stuff around him all the time. He was an infant, after all, small and snuggly and on a liquid diet. But once the kid showed interest in what we were eating–and then when he started walking and reaching and climbing, we panicked. (The sippy cup incident taught us our lesson). Clearly, we ditched the dairy.

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But, pizza.

We missed the weekly appearance of those slices dripping with cheesy goodness. The Friday night staple sent a signal, telling us something fun was about to happen, and helped us switch gears from get it done to let it rest. Missing the stuff so terribly, we switched to frozen pizzas–the Daiya brand, specifically (because it’s gluten free, too), because it seemed to be the variety most dairy free folks like best. Emery cheered when we set a slice in front of him, so happy was he to be eating the same food as his sisters, but Mia scoffed, saying it smelled funny. Addie wasn’t so hard to please–she liked it ok-ish, she said, but admitted it didn’t taste like our homemade variety to which she was accustomed. She understood why we made the switch, she said, but Mia seemed nonplussed by it all. Somehow we managed to get her to try a tiny bite, after which she insisted, “I don’t like it. It’s TERRIBLE!” and proceeded to cry.

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Since this could not be pizza.

So the vegan pies disappeared from our table for awhile (even though, admittedly, we still indulged in a slice of gluten free pizza once in awhile after the Goobies were tucked snug in their beds.) We figured keeping real pizza away from the dinner table might retrain the girls’ taste buds, and met their requests for slices of it with, “not for awhile, kiddos.” Serving slices of regular cheesy pizza to the girls alongside Emery’s vegan variety seemed like an unfairness we couldn’t get on board with. It didn’t go over well with Mia, so we appealed to her deep-set sense of justice and asked her how it would feel if we all ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch while she sat next to us eating a ham sandwich instead. “Not good,” she grumbled.

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So, no pizza.

Time went by and little by little the girls’ taste buds adjusted (or just simply forgot how glorious the real stuff tastes) and eventually we played around with other vegan cheeses that ended up producing food that duped even our toughest critic. So, when things turned chaotic again just a few months ago and I found myself wandering the aisles at Sprouts trying to find frozen convenience foods that were 1) foods safe for everyone in our family to eat and 2) foods that everyone in our family would willingly eat,  I wondered: might it be time to give Daiya frozen pizzas another shot? I grabbed a couple of boxes and tossed them into my cart, asking God to grant favor over this small little thing that really doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things, but would be a huge help to my stressed out self. “Please God, help them eat it without grumbling about it?”

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Because, pizza.

Friday night rolled around and I popped those things in the oven and didn’t give anyone a chance to protest. Out they came, and I sliced them up and stacked them on plates and handed the Goobies their dinner with a feigned look of confidence. After prayers, they ate, and I heard nothing but the warbled sound of voices filling each other in on the day’s events in between mouthfuls of pizza. I silently cheered as I went about my business, only to be shaken out of my silent celebration by Mia’s persnickity voice saying, “Ahem–uh, Mom–is this Daiya?”  I was caught.

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Daiya? Pizza?

Clearly, I couldn’t pass the stuff off as anything but what it actually was, so I claimed defeat and simply said, “Yep.”

“I like it.”

Silence, as all three Goobies continued to scarf the stuff down as if they hadn’t had pizza in months. (Which, of course, they hadn’t.) My simple prayer at that point? “Thank you thank you thank you thank you.”

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Finally, pizza.

And so, since that day I made it a habit to toss a pizza or two into my shopping cart so our freezer is always stocked with them. In theory, this is a great plan: frozen pizza laying in wait is a convenience almost as good as the freedom to call out for delivery. But goodness those pizzas aren’t friendly to my wallet. So once the debris of moving began to clear around here, I got back into the habit of making fresh dough, slathering on some sauce and sprinkling on some Daiya at home, trusting that the Goobies would be excited about them as they were about the frozen variety that Mia now claims she loves. (Praise God.) There may not be any in the freezer at the moment, but don’t worry not: I’ll keep the simple staples stocked so we can have pizza on a whim just about anytime–even at the last minute. Feel free to ask for it as often as you wish. I expect the Goobies will too.

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After all, pizza.

Love,

Scratch

Olive Oil Biscuit Crust Pizza

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My mom mentioned biscuit crust pizzas to me this past year when a yeast dough pizza crust mishap foiled our Friday night dinner plans. It was during the time when I was trying to pass off pizzas made with Daiya to Mia with no success. I spent hours trying on making these pizzas and they wound up in a miserable heap that Mia refused to eat. Biscuit crusts were my mom’s secret weapon during my growing up years–a quick, fuss-free way to make inexpensive pizzas us kids loved. Sheet pans layered with dough and cheese and hamburger happened all the time in our house, and while I hadn’t remembered the biscuit crust specifically until she mentioned them, I do remember those big ol’ pans of cheesy goodness with the sort of clarity only a chubby kid can claim. My mom used Bisquick as a short cut to quickly produce pizza at the last minute: stir together a few ingredients, press the dough onto a pan, pile it high with toppings and pop it into the oven. What follows is my rendition of her biscuit crust, modified to be gluten and dairy free, and as written is free of the top 8 allergens. The combination of vegan cheeses listed below are what we prefer and produce a pizza that really does taste like the frozen ones that inspired it, but if you like the Daiya cheddar shreds, us that instead of the Follow Your Heart brand. As always, if your family doesn’t have food allergies, swap out conventional ingredients for the modified ones below (all purpose flour for gluten free flour; milk for flax milk; mozzarella and cheddar for vegan substitutes). Add other toppings as you like, of course. 

Ingredients:

For the crust–

  • 3 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend
  • 1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened flax milk
  • 9 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

For the pizza sauce–

  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic

For the toppings–

Method:

First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Next, grease a jelly roll pan (use coconut oil cooking spray because it’s easy). Then, in a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce and set it aside, keeping it close because you’ll need it soon. Toss together the two vegan cheeses in another small bowl and keep that one close by too.

Move on to the dough: whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the oil and mix well until the flour and oil have combined completely and looks a little bit like really wet sand. Pour in the flaxmilk and stir until a soft dough forms, and let it sit to absorb the liquid for about a minute. Next, dump the dough onto the greased jelly roll pan and press it out evenly until it covers the pan completely and goes about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan, like you would with a pie crust. Slip the crust into the oven and par-bake it for about 5-7 minutes.

After that, take it out and spread the sauce evenly across the top of the crust, as thick or thin as you prefer. Sprinkle the vegan cheese blend all over, and add any other toppings you want to add as well. Slip the pizza back into the oven for 15-18 more minutes, or until the vegan cheese shreds have melted and started to turn golden.

Slice. Serve. Smile.

Dairy Free · main dishes · THM · What's for Dinner?

The Hot Mama Diet and Cilantro Lime Ground Turkey (GF/DF/NF/THM S)

Dear Joey,

After I so rudely introduced a new favorite chocolate chip cookie to our household, I’m cutting us off for awhile. Into the freezer they went, ready to give to the Goobies as a treat every once in awhile, but out of reach enough to not be tempting anymore.

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I admire your willpower, Josef. You make up your mind about something and ding! It’s done. Over. No wavering. Me? I’m easier to sway, particularly when it comes to food.

Maybe that’s why when I first suggested trying out that Trim Healthy Mama plan, you were confident while I was resistant. Giving up sugar? Really? I think it was the lure of bacon that convinced you this diet plan might be worth a try. Bacon doesn’t move me the same way it moves you. Give me big bowl of buttery popcorn or a bar of dark chocolate and I’m your girl, but bacon? Meh.

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Nearly two years ago, I latched on to the idea that the Trim Healthy Mama plan would be the ticket to ridding my body of the dreaded baby weight–four weeks after giving birth. I presented the idea to you, mainly because if I was going to start the plan, I needed your support because otherwise I’d cave in to my buttery popcorn cravings far too often if I didn’t have you keeping me accountable. Lucky me, you were so supportive that you even wanted to start the plan yourself.

A week into the thing I was snippy, ravenous, and mean. It might have had something to do with cutting out sugar, true: but I think it may have had something to do with being five weeks postpartum, nursing, and sleep deprived. Trying to figure out this new diet plan pushed my already emotional self into an even deeper level of desperation.

But I started to shrink. You did too.

Maybe it had something to do with having just delivered a baby (because bodies have a tendency to shrink after that…), or maybe it had something to do with nursing around the clock (because bodies have a tendency to shrink because of that…), or maybe it had to do with choosing to feed myself in a new way. To be honest, I’m still not sure.

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What I do know for sure, though, is that once the ball got rolling, the baby weight (and then some) did indeed come off–for both of us, actually. Pretty soon this new way of feeding ourselves was all you could talk about. I remember watching people’s faces as you tried very hard to explain exactly what we were doing to cause such a shift in our food life and pant size: their eyebrows would furrow with disbelief even as their lips twisted into a bemused smile when you admitted both healthy fats and good carbs were central tenets to this particular way of eating. The Hot Mama Diet, you called it, a name both playful and totally wrong. I’d laugh and correct you: Trim Healthy Mama (THM). And others would go on their way with real information to look up on their own time.

Since then–almost two years ago–I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the plan, and so have you. The lingo of THM bothers you (which is part of why you started calling it the Hot Mama Diet–that, at least, makes you chuckle). You also love the way the food tastes, the way it fills you up, and how you leave the table satisfied and well-nourished. I love the way THM promotes whole, unprocessed, real deal superfoods. I don’t love the way it relies heavily on very processed supplements (like glucomannan and psyllium husks) to make low-carb renditions of foods that in my own opinion aren’t exactly “bad” in the first place (like pudding. And bread.) I love that it encourages us to fuel our bodies with both healthy fats and good carbs, both. I don’t love that it makes us separate them to be able to lose weight (but…it really does work). I love that once weight loss is achieved, a smear of butter (or Earth Balance, these days) melting into a sweet potato doesn’t do any harm at all.

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For the most part, we’re pretty devoted to this way of eating. We don’t freak out about having a few grams of sugar here and there in our regular every day diets (like the little bit that’s in our almond milk coffee creamer), and we most certainly eat nachos piled high with cheese and sour cream late at night on weekends while the kids are sleeping and the Warriors are playing, because that’s just how it goes around here sometimes.

Our tenets of the Hot Mama Diet are easy: eat healthy, real, not scientifically fabricated foods instead of junk. Use alternative flours (like almond flour and coconut flour) when we can, but don’t stress out to much about using gluten free whole grain flour blends for baking (because really, the kids eat most of the muffins around here anyway). Limit sugar (and use stevia or stevia blends instead). Go easy on good fats in a carb-heavy meal (like this super light Herbed Chicken and Quinoa Salad and Cucumber Ribbons), and vice versa for richer, more decadent meals, like that Cilantro Lime Ground Turkey with Cauliflower Rice that swims in thick, creamy coconut milk.

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Our “diet plan” isn’t really so much of a set of rules as it is a way of thinking about food and choosing to feed ourselves well. And so, in celebration of a new year and renewed commitment (and your success this week), I’m going to keep your favorites coming. It’s an easy way for me to stay motivated because let’s face it: food is my love language. Well, that and words of affirmation, and when I make food that makes you lavish praise upon me? I’m smitten.

Love,

Scratch

Cilantro Lime Ground Turkey (GF/DF/NF/THM S)fullsizerender

 

One of Joey’s Top 5 Favorite Meals Ever, this is a simple dish that is, again, very quick to throw together. The possibilities here are endless, because these flavors–while fantastic just as they are–could also act as a canvas against which you can add your own finishing touches. Toss in some snow peas and carrots if you want to. Sprinkle in a little ginger and see what happens. Have some curry paste? Sure, throw it in. Serve it over cauliflower rice to be THM approved, or lavish it over brown rice and don’t beat yourself up about it. If you want to lighten it up a bit, use light coconut milk instead of full fat. Either works just fine, of course–but we prefer the full fat version.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 6 green onions, sliced (diagonally, if you’re feeling fancy)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1-13.5 oz. can full fat coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (the juice of 2-3 limes, depending on size)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • zest of one lime
  • red chili flakes
Method:

Melt the coconut oil over medium heat, then add the green onions and saute for two minutes or so, until you start smelling the onions and they begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, again–until they’re soft and fragrant, but not golden.

Next, turn up the heat to high and immediately crumble in the ground turkey. Sprinkle in the salt and cook, tossing together with the onions and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Lower the heat to medium high and pour in the coconut milk, lime juice, and cilantro. Stir it all together, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you go. Once combined, toss in the lime zest and red chili flakes (about 1/2 teaspoon or so, more or less depending on how much heat you like). Turn the heat back up to high and cook the sauce for a few minutes–maybe three or so, so that it begins to reduce and thicken slightly.

You may stop here, if you like, and ladle the sauce over steamed rice, cauliflower rice, or even rice noodles–but you may want to thicken the sauce a bit before you do. If that’s you, read on.

You have a couple of choices about which way to thicken the sauce. If you want to use what I will call the “approved” THM method (meaning, a method of thickening a sauce without adding any carbohydrates), sprinkle glucommanan little by little directly over the sauce while it’s still warm and in the pan, and whisk well after each addition. But, if you’re like me and think glucomannan makes food just a little too slimy, go the Hot Mama route and use a little bit of corn starch, for goodness sake. Mix 1 Tablespoon of corn starch* with cold water, pour it right into the pan, and whisk quickly until the sauce thickens (it will go fast!). Cook another minute or two, and then serve.

*There are only 7 carbs in one tablespoon of cornstarch, and if that’s all I’m using in the whole recipe? I don’t stress about it. Neither should you.

Love & Marriage · Take Out · What's for Dinner?

The Trouble with Zoodles, and Please Bring Home Some Take Out

Dear Joey,

Well here we are again: it’s Tuesday at 1:30 in the afternoon and I still have no idea what we’re having for dinner.

I pulled out some ground turkey from the freezer last night in an attempt to get ahead start in today’s race toward dinnertime. We have gobs of zucchini in the fridge at the moment, and zoodles were sounding like a good idea to use them up. Except then I realized Addie has ballet this afternoon and we don’t typically get home until close to 5:00, and did I really think spiralizing zucchini was actually going to happen in those tense minutes leading up to dinner when the Goobies are literally clawing at each other, hungry and grumpy and pushing my patience to its ragged end?

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But if we don’t do zoodles tonight, when will we? Plus, there are tons of those little green beauties in the crisper right now, and they will not keep for much longer. I keep putting them off, assuring them they’ll get their moment to shine as I opt instead to pull out the sugar snap peas and grape tomatoes for a vegetable side for the kids’ beloved (or loathed, perhaps) diet of leftovers.

This morning at breakfast we talked briefly about having some friends over for dinner because we haven’t seen them in ages. The Warriors have their season opener against the Spurs tonight, so it seemed fitting to invite these particular friends over to balance dinner plates on their laps and watch the Warriors do their thing right along with us because we did a lot of that last season with them. We ate things like homemade pizzas and salad with Mr. Cy’s now-legendary magic sauce in our living room after the kids hit the sack for the night. The idea of having zoodles during a Warriors game felt a little…boring.

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When my panicked face met your gaze across the table this morning, I wasn’t trying to tell you “don’t invite them over!” I was picking a fight with myself over something as silly as zoodles. If I did go ahead and make them tonight, I would need to thaw another pound of ground turkey, and I might need to swing by and get more grape tomatoes for the Quattro Rosso Sauce that would go on top of the zoodles–or could I just use the half pint that are left and make up the difference with the sad little Roma tomato still waiting in the wings? But if I do thaw another pound of ground turkey, I will have to swing by the store later this week for another pound so I can still make Pumpkin Chili for Halloween (which is what the turkey in the freezer is earmarked for). And anyway, do I really want to go through all that fuss and make the zoodles today after ballet? I guess I could give the kids noodles instead of zoodles and do my best to get the zoodles made later, like after bedtime. But again, do we really want to eat zoodles when the Warriors make their regular season debut tonight?

It was in the midst of this internal madness that you asked, “Do you want me to just pick something up?”

Those words: music to my stressed out ears.

I’m not sure you will ever completely understand the spin that happens when you ask the simple question “What are we doing for dinner?” There is so much going on everyday that sometimes trying to figure out what to make for dinner pushes me over the edge. It’s not just about figuring out what sounds good to me on that particular day (although, sometimes it is). It’s also about negotiating what everyone else around here can and will eat (which aren’t always the same), what we have in our cupboards, what needs to be used, like, yesterday, and how much time I have to actually cook something. On days like today, it all seemed like a little too much to handle, and I think you must have seen that.

I imagine you offered to grab take out tonight to quell the crazy. But I bet you’d also admit it was to say thank you for being such a stellar wife who does such nice things for you (like watching basketball. Ahem.).

We haven’t decided yet if we’re having friends over for dinner tonight. We haven’t even landed on whether you are bringing home take out or not (although street tacos from Mexxi’s is really sounding fantastic right about now). I don’t know what to do about the zucchini that desperately need to be used up, and I’m not sure what I’ll be feeding the kids when we get home from ballet in just under three short hours. But what I do know, is that I’m not taking out another pound of ground turkey today, and at some point I’ll plop down on the couch to watch a game of basketball with you.

Love,

Scratch

 

 

 

Condiments · Love & Marriage · What We Do for Love · What's for Dinner?

I’m Forgiven, thanks to Lime Sour Cream

Dear Joey,

I know your secret. You can’t hide it, you know.

Sometimes, you get a little …. frustrated with me.

You don’t like to admit it, I don’t think. It seems that you pretty much take my quirks in stride, opting to make light of my shortcomings in a light-hearted, loving manner. But sometimes – especially when you’re tired or hungry or already irritated – you get frustrated with me. Sometimes there are things I do that make you crazy, and in these moments can I see you stewing inside, wanting to pull out your hair or walk the other way or shout in frustration – but you don’t. You hold your tongue and temper your feelings so that you can calmly deal with the results of a mood swing or hair-brained idea or bad choice I have made. You give me lots of grace, and for that I am thankful.

Like the other day when I dragged you out to Toys R Us before dinner. You came home hungry that night, tired from a week’s worth of surgeries and patients and paperwork, ready to start the weekend. Instead of welcoming you home to a relaxing, let’s-get-this-weekend-started-right sort of atmosphere, I jumped into high gear and listed all the things we needed to get accomplished that night. With a birthday party just a few days away, I was starting to panic because of all the things that were left to do:  presents to pick up and party favors to find and banners to assemble and cakes to bake and and and. 

Into the car we went, dropping the girls off with their grandparents for an hour or so while we got a few things done, but before I let you pull out of the driveway, I proceeded to give you one of my overly detailed explanations for my thought process that day, walking you through every factor that impacted each minor decision I made. You waited, as patiently as you could, for me to get to the point, and once I got there, you didn’t really say much as you finally started to drive, listening to the Giants game as you did so.

A few minutes of semi-silence later, I asked if I had upset you. You said that I had not; you had just needed to know what to do so you could do it, and you were just waiting for me to get to the point.

We drove along, and while you listened to the game, I tuned it out, opting instead to over-analyze everything that we had just said to each other: what I said, why I said it, and how you responded.

I realized that even though my long-winded explanation frustrated you, you took it in stride, knowing that this was one of my quirks, and just waited as patiently as you could for me to get to the point. As you did so, you were telling me something I need to remember in moment like that one: Save the chatter – just get to the point. You don’t need to defend yourself to me; just tell me what I need to do. If I want to know the backstory or extra details, I’ll ask. It’s not because you don’t care about what I have to say, or think it’s unimportant or boring even – it’s because you trust my decision making, you believe that I have good reasons for doing what I do, and all you really want to know is what I need you to do.

A few short stops later and we found ourselves finally talking about dinner as we made our way back to pick up the girls. In a moment of weakness (or sheer starvation) you actually suggested we grab something from a drive through. I countered with an idea for quick bean burritos at home, to which you seemed a little indifferent. When I mentioned that we could top them with lime sour cream sauce, your face lit up and you asked if we had shredded cabbage.

I knew I was forgiven my long-windedness and my wild-goose-chase of an evening right then.

Love, Scratch

Lime Sour Cream
We love sour cream at our house, but adding lime zest and juice to it makes it even more awesome. There are about a million ways you could make this sauce, but this is our favorite because it is incredibly simple. We love it on fish tacos, but it dresses up an otherwise ordinary bean burrito, too (especially if you add shredded cabbage and hot sauce).  

Ingredients:
16 oz. sour cream
4 large limes, zested and juiced
1/8-1/4 tsp kosher salt (or any kind of salt really, to taste)

Method:
Start by scooping out the sour cream into a big mixing bowl. Next, wash and zest the limes over the bowl; then cut them in half and juice. Add the juice to the sour cream, along with the salt, and stir to combine.