Friday, August 30, 2013

Berry Coconut Ice Cream

I have a song stuck in my head. It's basically the word "summer" over and over again, and I love it.

Hottest week of the year? I love it.

Swimming laps every chance I get? I love it.

Summer squash with every meal? I love it.

Sunlit dinners on date night? I love it.

Don't you dare say the F words in front of me (fall, football, you know). It's still summer, in case the weather forecast hasn't reminded you. It's finally supposed to hit triple digits today! For the first time in far too long.

And what would summer be without ice cream? I'm not usually a fan of ice cream. I'd rather chew my desserts. However, if you can't enjoy ice cream on the hottest day of summer, when can you? I've been on a berry kick this summer, as our grocery bill can attest. We sacrificed the last of our local blueberries for this batch of ice cream. Worth it.

Berry Coconut Ice Cream
makes 6 generous servings

{ put the bowl of the ice cream maker in the freezer 24 hours prior to making ice cream }

2 (13.6oz) cans full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup strawberry jam
generous 1/2 cup chopped fresh or thawed berries (we used strawberries and blueberries)

1. Whisk the coconut milk and sugar in a pot over medium heat.

2. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, whisking frequently as it heats.

3. Pour mixture into a heat-safe bowl.

4. Refrigerate until fully chilled, stirring occasionally to accelerate the chilling (this took us about 1 hour).

5. Pour the chilled mixture into the ice cream maker and turn on.

6. When the ice cream starts to freeze, but is still moving smoothly (about 20 minutes in) add the strawberry jam.

7. Continue letting the machine mix. At 45 minutes, pour the berries in.

8. Continue to mix for a total of 1 hour. At this point, you can enjoy it soft-serve style, or you can scoop it into a freezer-safe dish, cover tightly, and allow it to freeze completely. Either way, it's delicious. We found that the flavor was more coconut-heavy the first day, and more berry-flavored after a night in the freezer.

It's summer! Eat it up. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just Six Jam Cookies

Necessity is the mother of invention, right? We've had to be pretty strict with our grocery budget lately, so the day before payday is often quite... creative. Yesterday I found myself hungry after getting back from the gym, but I didn't have any quick snacks available. Cookies were inevitable, but I didn't have my normal cookie ingredients.

I did, however, have some teff flour my mom gave me last time I was at home, and some plum jam my grandma made recently. Thus, jam cookies were inevitable. The teff flour gives these a rich brown color and hearty base, and the jam lends some end-of-summer sweetness to each bite.

Worth noting: I've been making lots of small batches of cookies lately. If you do try to multiply the recipe by 4 for a larger crowd, let me know how it works!

Jam Cookies
makes just 6 cookies

1/2 cup teff flour
1 Tbs powdered sugar
2 Tbs brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt

2 Tbs coconut oil, melted
1 Tbs ground flax + 3 Tbs water
1 Tbs milk of choice

roughly 1/4 cup fruit jam or jelly of choice

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a pan with parchment paper or prepare with cooking spray.

2.) Mix the flax and water together and set aside for several minutes to gel into a "flax egg."

3.) In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking soda, and salt.

4.) Add the coconut oil, flax egg, and milk. Stir well.

5.) Form into six balls of dough and place on cookie sheet. Indent each ball of dough and fill with approximately 1 tsp jam.

6.) Bake for 9-11 minutes and allow to cool before removing from pan.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Rest, or Lack Thereof

A quote I think of often comes from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She's talking about Americans when she says, "Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure)."

I keep thinking, the opposite of working, yes, but not exactly the same thing as rest.

A while back, I remember panicking any time I thought about the fact that I was a full-on grown-up. I kept thinking that life was going to drone on and on and I was going to be overworked and unhappy and not have more than a week off at a time for the rest of my days on earth. That thought restricted my breathing, gave me tunnel vision, and caused heart palpitations as a cloud of doom would settle over me and throw me into a long chain of all-or-nothing, black-and-white internal dialogue.

(Welcome to the life of an overly-analytic introvert who trends toward anxiety and the need for control... and run-on sentences. My husband is a lucky man.)

Now I'm at the tail end* of eight weeks off of work. Eight weeks! Longer than I ever foresaw being off work. And under the circumstances, it was about 4 weeks longer than I'd hoped. It was restful, kind of. Not as I restful as I hoped it would be. Not as restful as other people hoped it would be.

I can see it in the eyes of the same friends who encouraged me to take a break in the first place when they ask, "Are you rested now?" All I hear is, "You're so lucky you caught a break. You'd better be grateful. Rest, gosh darn it!" And as usual, the perceived pressure to be or feel a certain way has had the opposite effect. Kind of like when people tell you to Enjoy. This. Time. (Be it high school, college, being married with no kids, having little ones at home, etc etc. We're always looking toward the next thing anyway.)  

You'll never get this chance again. You're gonna miss this. Carpe diem. You're only as happy as you make up your mind to be. Cue panic attack. Those kinds of thoughts are threatening to me. I just can't grasp timelessness this side of heaven.

I know that my loved ones have had their hearts in the right place. All they saw this winter was a haggard girl who cried all the time and carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. So they rightly, stubbornly encouraged me, Let go. Lay it down.

They said, I'm so excited to see what God does with this time!

I thought, Me too. God owes me.


And when the dream job with the dream salary didn't fall into my lap when I held my hands up in surrender? When our drastically smaller bank account ran dry? The sand drained to the bottom of the hourglass and there stood my idol, brazenly exposed: myself.

My self-perception, my self-worth, my priorities, me, me, me.

So this is me saying, Huh. I didn't handle this time well at all. Which can really be said of most things that have happened in the last 12 months. I put my hope in a new job. And it was awful. So I put my hope into working harder, and it failed me. Then I put my hope in rest and restoration. But I expected it to find me, and I didn't seek it with my whole heart. By now, I'm bored out of my ever-loving mind and catch myself thinking if I had just the right job to keep me busy and interested but not overwhelmed and overworked, well, that would just be great.

I wish I could snap some sense into myself sometimes.

But don't we all need to be reminded of this? As Thomas Watson says, "'Til sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet!" When I find myself just plain bitter, sweet is the relief I find in the arms of Christ, who is willing to shoulder my burdens and give me rest.

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may brow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, my children, listen to me:
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good good days,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
{Psalm 34:8-14}

Yes, my soul, find rest in God'
my hope comes from him [...]
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
{Psalm 62: 5-8}

*I start a new job tomorrow! Back in the NICU! At a new-to-me hospital way the heck across town. I'm so scared but also so excited to be back with the babies.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hearty Blueberry Muffins

We went blueberry picking with friends this weekend and came home with four pounds of fresh berries! After making these muffins, I'm wishing we'd gotten twice that amount.

Ross and I used to treat ourselves to Betty Crocker blueberry muffins before I went gluten-free. You know, that boxed mix that uses canned blueberries but makes fluffy muffins sweet enough to eat for dessert.

I considered buying a gluten-free muffin mix at the store and adding blueberries to try to emulate that, but between the starch and the sugar they use in most mixes, I wasn't too keen on it. I decided to make some healthy muffins from scratch, based off of this recipe, and I'm so glad I did!

The fresh blueberries in each bite are juicy and slightly tart (so much better than frozen), and perfectly complimented by the hearty whole grain flours. This is not your typical fluffy, sugary muffin. But it's complex, fresh, and it'll keep you full for hours.

Hearty Blueberry Muffins 
makes 12-16 muffins

1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup buckwheat or teff flour (I personally think the teff flour is a bit sweeter)
1/2 cup almond meal
2-3 Tbs brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbs ground flax seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
7-8 Tbs unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
1/4 cup honey, warmed slightly so it's easier to stir
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/4 cup blueberries (I bet they'd also be great with fresh peaches or strawberries, too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place liners in a muffin pan.

2. Add dry ingredients to a large bowl and mix well.

3. Whisk eggs, applesauce, milk, honey, and vanilla in a small bowl. Quickly stir in the coconut oil and add wet mixture to dry.

4. Stir mixture until just combined. Fold in blueberries.

5. Scoop into muffin liners, filling 3/4 of the way with batter.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes

I hope you love them as much as we did!