Thursday, July 31, 2014

Banana Oat Muffins // Gluten Free

My kitchen floor is a powdery disaster. My feet pick up a mix of flour and carrot shavings that fell off the counter last night as I was making dinner (a serious pet peeve of my husbands....) and the goo-crust from homemade dough is about caked onto the countertops so thick (that stuff should seriously be considered for a super glue replacement) that I dread scrubbing it off with my homemade-non-toxic-vinegar-all-purpose-spray. 

But when your child wakes up at 5 in the morning, you lay back in bed hoping to drift off into slumber at approximately 5:40 and cannot for the life of you get cranberries and oranges off the brain, you get up out of bed, brew a pot of coffee (decaf, but it makes me feel better) and get to baking scones. Naturally, like all mom's would do when faced with the opportunity for more sleep. (......)

The scones aren't quite ready to share on the blog yet, BUT these muffins are. Yet another reason for flour-y floors. I wont tell you how many baggies of baked goods I have lying around because of my need to get food out of my head and into the oven. For my first attempt at developing a baked treat from scratch, I'm pretty impressed. I know it's no french pastry but it's simple and got the approval of many a friend who I may have forced to try while I waited anxiously for their approval. 

Yields 12 muffins

Dry ingredients:
2 cups gluten free oat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Wet ingredients:
3 very ripe bananas
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup melted coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 f

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer on low speed, mash two bananas and sugar until completely smooth with very few banana chunks. Add eggs, one at a time and vanilla, followed by the coconut oil. You may need to increase the speed of the mixer for the oil to completely combine with the other ingredients. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients little by little, pushing down the sides when needed. Slice the other banana lengthwise then horizontally to create smaller pieces and gently fold them into the batter with a rubber spatula.

Line or lightly grease a muffin pan and using a 1/3 measuring cup, fill the tins with batter. Sprinkle a couple oats on top if you like. 

Don't forget to lick the bowl. It's the most important step. 

Bake those puppies for 20 minutes....and prepare for your kitchen to smell p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l. (Your taste buds will be happy too.)

For more, follow me over on bloglovin' 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Reflections on 31 Days of Responding to Him

What has God taught me over the past 31(ish) days? 

On the surface it looks like a big hodge podge of life, doesn't it? Is this a food blog or a lifestyle blog? A mommy blog? As I look back I wonder where the cohesiveness was, and I'm sure to an outsider none of my posts made sense when you saw they were a part of a writing exercise entitled "31 Days of Responding to Him." I mean, responding to God and a diaper bag review? Believe it or not, every post I shared on this blog was an outpouring of my heart. That's what this project was about. To find my voice, my style, my interests. I haven't found all of those things quite yet, but I'm moving towards it and I am excited about how God will continue to use this little space to glorify Himself and inspire others.

Although at times it felt like I was spinning in different directions, it was fun to try out different topics and styles to see what fit me best. Although I adore being in the kitchen and feel the Lord is pressing me to move forward with some ideas for that creative area of my life, I see this blog being a place for more than just  talk of food or recipes. 

I want to feed people -- body AND soul. As the title of my blog explains, I'm a lover of those things ;) Feeding the body always comes with the opportunity to feed the soul, whether we take that opportunity or not. Sure, you could sit silently and eat your turkey sandwich. Or you could set the table with your best dishes and prepare something that will create a memory, maybe taking a step forward into sharing something vulnerable about yourself, and certainly feasting on a few stories and hopefully more laughs. 

Providing nourishment for one's deeper self comes in many forms. Sometimes it's spiritual admonition or a listening ear in times of trouble. It can also mean filling a life with laughter and joy. For me part of that is allowing women to find the beauty in the simple things in life. It's inspiring women to know that they are capable of creating beauty, especially when it comes from a mess. There are no mistakes in the kitchen. Just opportunities to stretch (mind, body and soul) and enjoy. 

Let's celebrate the joys in life. Let's talk about what's messy. Let's create things together that bring joy and simplicity. 

I want this blog to be a safe haven for women. I want it to be a place where you get to be refreshed and inspired, and I hope you leave here better than you were when you came in! 

To answer your question, this tiny space online will serve as a recipe collection with touches of my life sprinkled throughout. I will keep sharing little things I learn in motherhood (because I believe sharing every little bit helps, right mama's?), crafty things that I enjoy, what I'm up to, and different aspects of natural living. Part of that is because not only do I want you to come over to find a recipe, but I want you to be able to get to know the woman behind the food as well. Picture us sitting at my kitchen table, eating scones and gabbing about the happenings of life. Now bottle that up and put it online and you've arrived at the right place. For more, please visit my updated "About" tab at the top of this blog. 

I am working on creating a sidebar tab so you can locate recipes and topics a bit more easily. For now, utilize the search function on the right side of this blog to find any recipes or tips you may be looking for. You can also browse the rest of my 31 Days of Responding to Him at the top of my blog page. 

Blessed to share with you, and grateful you'd follow along this journey! Leave a comment and we'll continue the conversation some more. 

"Reflections on 31 Days of Responding to Him" 
is the conclusion to a blog relaunch series entitled "31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Read the rest of the story here

Monday, July 28, 2014

Currently // Vol. 3

thinking about //

My cookbook. (Surprise! I'm writing a book. Or was that cat already out of the bag?) Well, to be more specific, the book and the blog. How do they fit together? What's my voice and where am I going? And oh by the way, how do you go about starting as huge and overwhelming a project as writing a book?! Before the pen hits the pad of paper (or my fingers click to the keyboard) I need to let all my passions and thoughts gain a little bit more focus. 

reading //

In preparation for such an all-encompassing task, I'm reading "Will Write for Food" by Dianne Jacob. Basically what I've learned so far is that I'm doing it all wrong. Hooray for the first chapter! But really...I'm digging into it and feverishly taking notes. I have much to learn, y'all. 

listening // 

To grasshoppers bang on the glass windows......ick. 

watching //

Old videos from my time in Italy a couple years ago. It's safe to say an Italy inspired food week is coming to the blog soon! 

thankful // 

For sweet graces from God that allowed Jordan and I to get away for a special fancy date night this weekend. This is something we are not afforded often these days and we soaked in every precious minute of it. I meant to take pictures the entire night but was too wrapped up in my man to remember! Don't you love when life is a little too sweet to stop and snap a picture? Just imagine giggles and feasting on Brazilian meats followed by a tour of Whole Foods and devouring a pint of dairy-free chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Mmmm...

Linking up with A Mama Collective this morning and hoping you'll join in to. What's new with you?

"Currently // Vol. 3"  is part of a blog relaunch series entitled 
"31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here

Friday, July 25, 2014

Homemade Cinnamon Latte // Diary Free

You know when you hit a slump in the middle of the day and just need a little somethin' somethin' to get you through until your husband walks in the door and can hold the screaming (playfully....or is it angrily?) baby? You know?

Anyways, I'll admit I've had one or two or three of those days and just needed a little mental break from the day. A little recharge, or re-start as we call it in our home. I don't do much caffeine for my own health and battle with anxiety as well as to not pass it on to Reaghan. But on these particular days sometimes you need something a little stronger than herbal coffee. Amen? 

This makes a single serving of coffee, so adjust the proportions according to how many cups of coffee you would like. 

What you need

1 scoop regular coffee (whatever you use, right now we're trying out some herbal coffee)
1 scoop espresso
Almond milk (or milk of your choice)
Milk frother
1 tablespoon sugar

How to:

1. Brew coffee as usual. Add a few dashes of cinnamon in the grounds and swirl it around to combine before you start your brew.

2. Pour almond milk in a mug until a third of the way full. Add a couple dashes of cinnamon as well.
3. Heat milk in the microwave for 30 seconds. 
4. Add sugar and use frother to mix and foam up the milk. 
5. Once the coffee is done, pour it slowly into your mug. Top with more cinnamon, find a cozy place to rest in your home, and enjoy. 

Happy Friday!

"Homemade Cinnamon Latte // Dairy Free" 
is part of a blog relaunch series entitled "31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Homemade Lavender Lotion with Coconut Oil

I've mentioned before that I have been on a journey of discovering ways to live more naturally since getting pregnant, but more specifically since after Reaghan was born. Giving birth to her naturally has allowed me to be in a community of women who know far more than me, and have been caring for their families in a more natural way for years! I've learned so much already, and am constantly soaking up new information. Turns out I am quite the researcher when it comes to anything concerning my baby and now, our family as a whole. 

Several months ago I decided to slowly transition our family from mainstream personal care products to some more natural alternatives. Have you seen the prices on some of these products though? It makes buying shampoo at $5 a bottle seem super cheap! I discovered that I could make many natural beauty products for less, and I hope to share a few of those with you on the blog. Here's my all natural lotion replacement -- but it doubles as so much more!! (see the end of this post)

What you'll need:

Benefits of coconut oil: 
  • natural SPF 4 sunscreen
  • extremely nourishing and hydrating to the skin without leaving you feeling greasy
  • anti-bacterial
  • kills yeast/yeast infections
  • helps skin heal faster after injury or infection
  • can help the healing of a sunburn
  • can help resolve acne
  • reduces itchiness from bug bites

Benefits of lavender EO: 
  • natural bug repellent
  • get better sleep
  • treats acne
  • decreases pain in minor burns
  • put on a cut to heal wound and kill bacteria
  • treatment of ecxema and very dry skin

Benefits of frankincense EO: 
  • heals scars
  • boosts the effectiveness of other EO's
  • tones and tightens the skin
  • promotes relaxation
  • promotes rgeneration of healthy cells

Here's the simple how-to!

Step 1 // 
Save an old jar or use a small mason jar. Order your supplies! I like because they sell all natural products from food to supplements to beauty products for a fraction of the cost you'd find them for in the stores. 

Step 2 //
I never measure when I'm making this, but scoop about 1/2 a cup of coconut oil into a stand mixer. Add 10 drops each of lavender and frankincense essential oil. 

Step 3 //
Allow the mixer to whip the coconut oil for 10 minutes. This allows the mixture to incorporate and become very fluffy and soft, like real lotion!

Step 4 //
Use a spoontula to scoop the lotion into the jar. It's important to remember that coconut oil melts at 76 degrees fahrenheit, so make sure to keep it in a cool place. I keep mine on my bathroom sink pretty close to where I shower and it stays solid, but be mindful of this when traveling, etc. 

Y'all, I use this stuff for just about everything. It doubles as:
  • diaper rash cream (safe for cloth diapers!)
  • eye make up remover (dab a pea sized amount on a cotton ball)
  • baby lotion
  • lessens the appearance of stretch marks
  • healing balm for dry or cracked skin
  • face moisturizer 

I started using this over the winter, and at first the feel on my skin took a little getting used to. It is oil after all. After about a week I started to really love it. I thought it was a great substitute for regular lotion and seemed to soak into my skin very quickly. I thought I'd see how it stood up during the Texas summer and it has definitely held it's own! No greasy feeling, and dries completely on the skin!

What do you think? Have you made the switch from mainstream to natural? Would love to hear what other natural products you use whether toiletries, cleaning supplies, or anything else!

"Homemade Lavender Lotion with Coconut Oil" 
is part of a blog relaunch series entitled "31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Texas Stuffed Peppers

Part of the beauty of living in Texas is the food culture. I love it. It's funny because we rarely eat out, but it seems that I default to the more rustic, tex-mex cuisine quite a bit when we do! Anytime we go out of town this is what I crave the moment I step foot on the dusty Texas soil. Something slightly spicy (I'm a wimp, but I'm growing in this area!) with salted chips and preferably lots of guac! 

Why wait to go out to satisfy this craving? Here's my own version of a Texas take on stuffed peppers. 

Serves: 4

4 large bell peppers, any variety 
Olive oil
1 cup quinoa 
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons taco seasoning 
½ onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. ground beef 
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup frozen or fresh corn
Cheese of your choice – cheddar, Colby, pepper jack, etc.  

Preheat oven to 400 f

With a large cutting knife, halve peppers length-wise. With the tip of your knife, carefully slice off stems along with the inside ribs. Shake out the ribs & seeds and discard with the stems. Place cut side up on a large baking sheet, lightly drizzle with olive oil and bake for 25 minutes. 

You've heard of "mom brain," right? Well, this is a classic example: using two baking dishes rather than one baking sheet....not smart mama, not smart. Learn from my mistakes. Moving on.....

Follow the package instructions to cook your quinoa. Add some salt and pepper and one teaspoon taco seasoning. You’ll know it’s done when the water has been completely absorbed. 

While the quinoa is cooking, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add ground beef, seasoning with salt and pepper, until almost all the pink is gone. Add quinoa, black beans, corn, and 2 tablespoons more of the taco seasoning. Mix all together until well incorporated. Give it a taste and adjust seasoning if desired.  

beauty in the mess :)

Let peppers cool just a bit so you can handle them. Scoop generous portions of the quinoa “stuffing” into the peppers, grate cheese on top and pop back into the oven for another 20 minutes. 

Top with salsa, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, sour cream or Greek yogurt. 


Stuffed Peppers" is part of a blog relaunch series entitled 
"31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here

Monday, July 21, 2014

Currently // Vol. 2

Thinking about // 
How in the world I'm going to raise this girl. How am I going to teach her all the important lessons in life that she needs to know? How will we instruct her and mold her as she grows? The task seems extra overwhelming to me today, though I know it's one foot in the front of the other, one day, and one hour at a time. 

Reading // 
Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. I'll admit, this is a hard one for me to read. Who wants to admit that they make a god out of good things? Makes me feel rubbed raw and I try to hide from it. But alas, I must finish this book. I need to hear these truths. 

Listening to // 
If this doesn't describe my life right now then I don't know what does. 

Watching // 
Every morning I pull back the curtains in my kitchen and take a look at my tomato plant. I pruned it about two weeks ago and it is still pretty bare bones. I also made a mixture of epson salt and powdered milk and added it to the soil. I read somewhere that this works miracles? We had a good rain this week and I thought for sure my tomato plant would burst with fruit, but it hasn't. It's making me a little sad.....any gardening friends out there have any tips? 

Thankful for // 
When the Lord calls out my brokenness. I was talking with a friend this week and counseling her through some sin in her life when my eyes were opened and I saw the true state of my own heart. Broken. Blinded. Distorted. My pride had gotten so big that it was completely clouding my view of God's grace and beauty. I was doubting His goodness and seeking my own glory. So grateful that He pursues me when I am less than pursuable. 

I love that I've been able to meet some really sweet bloggers through this link-up with A Mama Collective. If you're a blogger, hop on over to her site and link up with us! 

What are you currently up to?

“Currently Vol. 2
is part of a blog relaunch series entitled 
"31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Simple Meal Planning: Part Two

I was a little hesitant to post Part One of this series because although I broke down meal planning in five steps, I feared that some of my non-type-A friends would still feel intimidated by it! I get that, and I'm back today because I want you to know that you don't need to start out implementing every one of those steps right off the bat. If you're not used to planning meals for the week, take it slow! Start with one or two steps and see how you like it. Adapt and change things up to fit your family and stage of life. 

And as a side note, I think these tips apply to anyone college-aged and up. You do not have to be married to implement these strategies! I was a single working girl when I first started planning my meals this way and this system still serves me well with a husband and baby. 

Now, I promised I'd share some tips for making the grocery store a little less stressful and how I make sure our house is stocked with plenty of food for the rest of the weeks meals. 

Grocery Shopping
- Go on a Monday or Tuesday morning. Avoid the weekends like the plague! Contrary to popular belief, I actually hate the grocery store. More so now that I have a baby. Now if it's Central Market....then that could almost serve as a vacation. Mmmm...strolling through Central Market sampling gelato and prosciutto.....okay I'm back. 
- As much as you can, try to learn the store. Truth be told, I still am terrible at this. There are some days my mind is worlds away, I'm a sweating mess (um, because I'm carrying a baby around and it's Texas) and I have searched for an embarrassingly long time for the olives!!! I mean, some days just go like that, don't they? But on a typical day I will give my list a glance right as I walk in (or better yet when I'm still in the car) and mentally walk through the store with it. It's so much simpler to tackle the store in one clean sweep than to be going back and forth between aisles. 
- I try really hard to limit grocery runs to once a week. I'm usually trying to squeeze it in during my daughters wake time and it kind of feels like a chore! Making a list is helpful for this, but I do forget some things from time to time or realize I want to change something up mid-week and head back out for a quick trip. 
- Stick to the list. Don't fall in love with some weird European chocolate or latest super food you heard about. Just stick with the plan and move on. Your wallet will thank you later. 

Preparing breakfast, lunch + snacks
- I really don't prep breakfast. As I mentioned in Part One, we have been gravitating towards eggs or oatmeal. Haha...pretty boring I know. Whatever is quick and simple. I do try to have enough bananas on hand to make paleo pancakes on the weekends though. ;)
- Lunch is another thing I don't give too much attention to. For a while I was cooking several additional meals for my husbands lunches! That got crazy and old really quick. Now I try to make sure to make enough during dinner for leftovers, and that serves as lunch for the both of us. A can of tuna and avocado can also make a quick lunch in a pinch. 
-  Here's a great picture I found on Pinterest that I like to browse to get healthy snack ideas from. They're all pretty simple but sometimes I need an extra reminder of what is good for me. :) 
- Some snacking staples you'll find in our home: nut butter and apples, bananas, nuts, berries, hard boiled eggs, or homemade granola. 


Pre-washed grapes, carrots and hummus

Here's my snack section of our fridge from the week! These are easy to grab and throw in Jordan's lunch or for myself when I need a pick-me-up. 

How about you? I'd love to hear how you meal plan or what tips and tricks you use to simplify! 

Simple Meal Planning: Part Two" is part of a blog relaunch series entitled 
"31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here

Friday, July 18, 2014

Simple Meal Planning: Part One

I've had conversations with countless friends about this issue of meal planning. Most of my girlfriends absolutely loathe planning meals for themselves and their family, while simultaneously dreading the aching feeling caused by having no clue what's for dinner at 4pm...and an empty fridge. Without a doubt the whole idea of meal planning can be daunting. I'll be honest, it does take some time. BUT, I would argue that the time spent in the beginning of the week is nothing compared to the sigh of relief I literally release each afternoon when I'm desperately needing a snack but don't have the energy to prepare one.....or when my husband and I both wake up 15 minutes before he walks out the door and I don't have a thing planned for his lunch.....causing yet another Subway run for him [as I shake my head in disgust ;)]

So here you go -- 5 easy steps to simplifying meal planning...part one!
Step 1: Look at your schedule
Each Saturday or Sunday I sit at my kitchen table with my planner, laptop, notepad and pen. I plan our meals for the week based on what we have going on -- are we eating out with friends, have an event at church, going out of town for a few days, or having people over? I take all of this into account and try to eliminate as much waste as I can even as I plan for which meals I'll make on which day. 

An easy example of this would be to roast a whole chicken on Monday for dinner, then use the leftover meat for enchiladas or soup on Wednesday, and keep the bones and leftover veggie scraps to make homemade chicken broth for a meal the following week. See what I mean?

Step 2: Check your pantry, freezer, fridge
As I mentioned above, you want to make sure nothing is going to waste. Is there a half of a package of cilantro still in your crisper that might go bad? Plan something Mexican. A can of black beans? Black bean burgers! So, before making any type of grocery list, make sure to take stock of what you already have. Heck, you might even have an entire meal in the freezer that you can just heat up and enjoy. Wouldn't that be a time saver?

Step 3: Plan meals (lunch, dinner, snacks)
Okay, so now you know how many meals you need to plan for what you have going on during the week. I go to the same resources each week when looking for a quick and easy meal I know will deliver. Sometimes I am eager to try something new, like when I cooked straight through Dinner: A Love Story last year. But these days, with a tiny baby, I tend to stick with known winners. 

I'll go through my recipes (some listed here), the DLS cookbook, my Pinterest board of tested and approved meals, my home-base binder with recipes from friends, or another trusted cookbook source (see my post for cooks who inspire me). 

In Part Two of this series, I'll explain how I prep snacks and lunches and give you some ideas. I don't usually plan anything for breakfast per-se, just jot down eggs or oatmeal (our common choices these days) on my grocery list.

Step 4: Make a grocery list
As I choose a meal from any of the above resources, I write down the ingredients. I like to be strategic (again) and look for meals that call for similar ingredients or ones that I may already have hiding in the pantry. This helps save us money on our grocery bill and not let food sit around until it's moldy. 

I write everything on a regular pad of paper! I keep this pad in the junk drawer in our kitchen and write items down on it throughout the week as we run out of something. In Part Two I'll also go over my tips for tackling the grocery store with as little stress as possible! 

Step 5: Write it down!
Here's a trick -- I keep a white board on the side of my refrigerator where I list all our dinners for the week. There is also a section in my planner this year for dinners so I go ahead and write it there too. I could live without the addition in my planner, but having it somewhere visible in a central part of my home makes it easy for me to know when I need to pull out some meat to defrost or pre-soak some nuts for a recipe. 

Now, here's is an example from real life, people! This weeks menu:
Thursday: Dinner with the cousins!
Saturday: Breakfast for dinner

As you can see, the above list does not match the list on my fridge! That's because I plan one less meal than is needed for the week and call that day "leftovers." I figured we'd have some leftovers from the spaghetti squash and could just eat that as an easy meal on Sunday. However, later in the week Jordan's cousin invited us over for dinner, so I simply switched things around! Now, we'll make the spaghetti squash on Sunday and probably have leftovers for lunch the next day! 

I plan one less meal to allow for life to happen. Sometimes things pop up last minute, and I want to have room to shuffle things while minimizing the stress on myself. And when a night became available to gather around someone else'e table...I jumped all over it!

I hope this makes meal planning simpler for you! Make sure to stop on by again tomorrow to check out my tips on grocery shopping and prepping breakfast, lunches and snacks!

Simple Meal Planning: Part One is part of a blog relaunch series entitled 
"31 Days of Responding to Him" 
Follow along here