Saturday, January 08, 2011

New Years Resolves

I grew up doing these, and always feel like I'm missing out on a great opportunity if I let a new year slip by without some purposed changes coming along.  So... here I go making these public, now that I've had a week to let them stew, and to talk to Ryan about them...

1. Spiritual-  read through the Bible using the Plan for Shirkers & Slackers (explained a bit here).  My buddy Val is teaming up with me on this one all the way from Toronto! Ryan & I are reading through Moments With You, a couple's devotional by Dennis & Barbara Rainey, every night together. So far we've made it a week straight and are enjoying it and finding it helpful!! :) (thanks for the wedding gift, Uncle Jeff & Aunt Karen!)
2. Spiritual- keep more of a liturgical year by celebrating Advent & Lent both personally and as a family, as well as the 12 Days of Christmas (between Christmas Eve & Epiphany/Three Kings Day)
3. Physical- exercise at least 4 days a week (using DVDs, gardening & walking, and that new iPod insert for my shoe Ryan gave me for Christmas), with the goal of running a 10-mile or half-marathon race this summer
4. Physical- continue to cook seasonally, with an expanded garden grown from seeds this summer (the "from seeds" part is what really freaks me out), and canning/preserving as much as I can
5. Intellectual- keep on reading, reviewing one book per week on my children's book review blog.
6. Intellectual- keep on blogging, streamlining my blog to reflect my passion for equipping others to fully use the brains God has given us by thinking critically about what we eat, read, and do.


What about you?  Have you done any formal (or informal) resolves for this year?

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Gluten-Free Flour Tip

I mentioned in my last post about using corn flour (Maseca-- in the Hispanic foods section) and corn starch as easily available & affordable GF flours.  For buckwheat, quinoa, gluten-free oat and millet flours, you don't need to spend a fortune buying all those little Bob's Red Mill bags; they're probably already rancid when you open them, anyway.  Instead, find a bulk source of grains (I get them at a food buying club; if there are health food stores near you, they probably have sources, or could even point you towards wholesalers in your area where restaurants buy their grains.  Another bulk source is Amazon, believe it or not!), buy a little coffee grinder ($25 or less), and dedicate it to grinding your own flour!  It's really that simple.  Dump in some grains or groats, pulse until fine, use immediately or freeze.  That's all. 

Think about it; even if you have a little trouble tracking down the grains, you will save a TON of money over buying pre-ground flours, and the taste & health benefits are worth it.

For quinoa, you will need to rinse the grain really well before grinding them, so allot time to let the grain air dry, or just rinse a big batch when you buy it, and let it air dry before you store it.

The only flour I've found difficult to grind this way is rice flour, so I pick that up at a local Asian market, or I just do without it.  Buckwheat flour, which I grind as I need it, really works wonderfully!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

GF Crash Course

Yet another friend is experiencing relief and greater energy thanks to a gluten-free diet, and asked me for some recipes.  Here is my answer to her, in the hopes that it helps someone else!  Feel free to forward this to any GF newbies, people hosting GF guests, or to link up to this post any time!  It's here to help!!

With gluten-free baking, the smaller the better.  GF flours don't rise very well, and tend to be very crumbly and/or dry out very quickly, so small things like muffins, little waffles, pancakes, mini-quiches, etc., are better than loaves of breads.  You also have to handle the dough differently-- no rolling it out then picking it up; it just doesn't stay together like that.  You have to usually pat it into place on/in whatever you'll cook it in, or put it on parchment paper or a cutting board, then do a sleight-of-hand-dump-over-the-top routine.  It's a talent. :)

I've also found that using the whole grain by soaking it overnight helps make things gum together better than using flours. So does adding in ground flax seed-- it contains a LOT of oils and really helps things gel. Keep a box of it in your fridge at all times and add it to EVERYTHING. Certain flours are "thirsty," meaning they take a LOT more liquid than usual-- corn flour especially-- but I actually like using these since I prefer to sweeten with honey or maple syrup instead of sugar, and often use oil or applesauce instead of  butter (because we go through an obscene amount of butter, and buy organic... so it saves us money for me to bake with some oil instead of always butter).  To buy corn flour, look in the Hispanic section for sacks of"Maseca" or "Masa."  It's cheap, and as an advantage it comes from corn soaked in lime water then ground-- much more nutritious and digestible!!  Your kids will also love chanting "maseca."  I speak from experience. 

In buying dairy products such as sour cream or yogurt, you MUST buy the all-natural (preferably full-fat) version to avoid modified food starch & other yukkies. Thankfully, most Krogers carry a store all-natural brand.  Cottage cheese is the toughest to find.  Daisy whole-fat, large curd brand is the ONLY one I can find that doesn't have modified food starch, aka gluten.  It is also free of all the other nasty crap in the other cottage cheese brands.  'Round here, Meijer is the only store that carries it... though I'm sure you could find all-natural brands at health foods like Whole Foods or Rainbow Blossom.

The following are some of my favorite bread-like things.  I've culled them from various sources, and adapted them enough that I think I can claim them as my own by now. :)

GF Oatmeal Muffins (originally from Sina Shuey)
1 c gluten-free rolled oats (Bob's Red Mill is the easiest to find; Kroger carries it)
1 c buttermilk (I use whole milk plain yogurt thinned with water and it works GREAT.  You can also use soured raw milk, or whole milk soured with whey, lemon juice or even apple cider vinegar, or sour cream thinned with water in a pinch)
1 egg
1/3 c butter or applesauce or 1/4 c oil
1/2 c b. sugar or 1/3 c maple syrup
1 c GF flour (I use 1/2 c corn starch, 1/2 c Maseca corn flour)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t sea salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 c ground flax seed (can leave it out, but I never do)
1 t xantham gum (when I use maple syrup, flax seed, and soak the oats over 2 hours I can leave this out)
1 t cinnamon
ginger, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves to taste
"add ins" as desired:  raisins, chocolate chips, chopped apple, cranberries, strawberries, etc.

Soak the oats in buttermilk (in a NON-metal bowl) overnight, or at least 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Add all wet ingredients to soaked oats.  Dump in the dry and stir with a fork.
Bake in greased muffin tins for ~14 minutes; watch for drying out!
Serve plain or with butter... yum.

Old- Fashioned Southern Corn Bread (straight off the corn meal sack)
2 T bacon drippings, butter or oil
2 c stone-ground corn meal (OT a cornbread mix!)
2 t bk powder
1 t bk soda
1 t salt
2 T honey
1 egg (or 1 T white vinegar in a pinch)
1 3/4 c buttermilk (or yogurt thinned with water-- you want it to be kinda chunky; thick)

Put grease, butter or oil in cast iron skillet or deep-dish glass pie pan in 400 degree oven until bubbling.
Meanwhile, mix corn meal, powder, soda and salt.  Add in egg, honey and buttermilk.  Batter should be thick.
Pour into the hot pan, right in the middle of the hot oil/butter.
Bake @ 400 for 20-30 minutes or until brown and cracked.

Variation:  add in 1 c shredded cheese (cheddar or pepper jack), 1 T chili powder (or more to taste), chopped bell or jalapeno peppers & whole kernels of corn (I dump in 1 c frozen corn).  I usually add in an extra egg and 1/2 t extra of baking soda to help the heavier batter rise.  I love it!! 

Pre-Soaked Pancakes (originally from John & Jessica Moody)
Day 1 (the night before)
3/4 c water
3/4 c yogurt (or 1 1/2 c buttermilk)
2 T coconut or olive oil
3/4 c millet berries
1/2 c rolled GF oats
1/2 c brown rice
1 t vanilla extract

Blend for 3 minutes on high.  Leave in glass container overnight.

Day 2 (following morning)
1 egg
1 t sea salt
1-2 t bk powder
1/2 t bk soda

Add and blend one more minute.  Do not over blend.  Pour on hot, well-oiled griddle as per your usual pancake-mixin' routine.

Variety:  substitute 1/2 c buckwheat groats or amaranth for brown rice or millet berries.  Can also try with (rinsed!!) quinoa grains or wild rice for a nuttier flavor. Can add in sliced bananas, frozen or fresh berries, chocolate chips, etc.  These just make pancakes trickier to flip (they stick more), so have LOTS of butter on hand to grease that skillet!

Cottage Cheese Pancakes (from Ryan's first-ever company retreat)
1 c cottage cheese
1 c sour cream
1 c rice flour  (can use some GF oats too if you like)
4 eggs

Mix- batter will be lumpy.  Pour onto well-oiled griddle...
These are high in protein and will fill you UP!  Great with peach butter & creamy butter... oh yes...

My favorite Double Crust GF Pie Crust (great for chicken pot pie!- adapted from Mrs. Mohler's "famous" pie crust recipe)
1 c cornstarch or tapioca starch/flour
1 c rice flour (I usually substitute 1/4 c of this with ground flax seed) or buckwheat or millet flour, or a combo
8 T butter
2 T olive oil
1/3 cold milk (or my favorite: cold orange juice- it provides a light sweet tartness that is great!)
1 t xanthan or guar gum
1 t salt (can omit if using salted butter above)

Bake as needed.  For pumpkin pie, add in pumpkin pie spice (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg & ground cloves or allspice) and 1 t maple syrup.

Emergency One-Crust Pie Crust
1/2 c butter
1 1/2 c rice flour
4 T cold water

Mix, then press directly into pan.

Dairy-Free GF Pie Crust
3/4 c rice flour
1 t honey
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 t xanthan gum
1/3 c butter or oil
2 T cold water.

Mix, then roll out between aluminum foil sheets for easy(er) transfer.

Another breakfast favorite (recipe has been referred to dozens of friends with rave reviews all around) is baked oatmeal from my friend Emily-- just make sure you use GF oats. I've used this pita recipe several times and it's good. I make my gyros like my friend Jenny does, except I add in cumin, coriander, cinnamon & other middle-eastern curry spices, as well as using 1/2 ground lamb, 1/2 ground beef.  Everything on here is amazing.  But as she's a chef, married to a chef, sometimes the recipes are a bit too involved for me... Go here to my staple meat-loaf recipe. Lastly, in a pinch, Pamela's Gluten-Free Bread Mix is my favorite.  You can make it in any bread maker on the white wheat setting.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Toast to the Yearly-Weds

--Edit-- a good post on a similar topic can be found here.  It has several analogies to help you think through (or maybe guide your child or mentee through) purity before the Lord!

A year ago today my sister and her best friend woke up as Mr. Samuel & Mrs. Lauren Pond for the first time.  In a bizzare twist of fate-- i.e. God's sovereign sense of humor-- their legal names would sound equally unfamiliar to their friends, as both go by their middle names... and since their second names contain most of the same letters, we call them collectively "Nicolin."  Yes, this time last year my mom, dad, and sister Anna were still reeling in post-wedding shock, and trying to internalize the knowledge that the eternally-messy bedroom to the far right of the stairs was in one sense empty forever... though (hehhe) its occupant has left many a sign of her long residency, much to my mom's chagrin (it still hasn't been cleaned out.).

I think it's safe to say that any guest at the Thompson-Pond rehearsal dinner, wedding, or reception, was treated to an amazing party. I've never had more fun at any rehearsal dinner-- the dancing was, well, for lack of a better word, amazing.  It was hands-down the best New Year's celebration I've ever been to!  Both families know how to boogie, and the late-night-festive atmosphere was enough to bring out even our shyer friends to the dance floor in droves.  Oh so fun.  There were toasts a-plenty, with lots of laughs and even a few tears... the sister in me could not resist a roast, I dredged up an old email from a teenaged-Nicole in which she outlined her plan to be married and pregnant with her fourth child by the time I found a suitor at all and read pertinent portions aloud.  As guests could see MY husband and 3 month old daughter while I read, the irony was not lost.  We (Anna & I) followed that up with a musical number of our own composition... it began "She was getting behind on the plan/ getting desperate to locate a man..." and poked fun at my sister and now-brother-in-law's unusual meeting and courtship.  It was a pretty catchy tune, and Anna & I had way too much fun singing it.

The wedding was gorgeous-- flowers and candles which many talented folks had spent the week arranging, unique music, a Gospel-centered ceremony, awesomely cool vows (hehehe there is a story there), my dad crying his eyes out (he's a softie when it comes to his daughters), a bazillion little cousins in tiny suits and flower girl dresses, and my bubbly, friend-to-everyone sister as a bride radiant with happiness.  The reception was tamer than the rehearsal dinner, but was still a blast, full of old friends and family come from far away; good food and more great music (like my sister Anna's performance with a family friend for the couple's first dance).  Dancing, talking, photo shoots, food, nursing my refluxy, grumpy baby in a bathroom stall and gladly handing her off to auntie after auntie, and all of a sudden, we were blowing bubbles on Prince Charming and Snow White as they sailed past, then... they were gone.

My husband got me and the baby home, where we collapsed still-dressed on the bed.  I got to thinking... about how right everything had been, from their courtship to their wedding ceremony to their send-off, and that amidst all the toasting and the roasting, the dancing, and the music, that I hadn't really heard or said much to honor them.  I resolved to correct that with a blog post... but, well, between the 4-state-drive home and two more months of acid reflux in Eowyn, then an absolutely travel-packed summer (we were away more than we were home)... it never happened.  So now, it's finally time.  :)

Nicole & Colin, I want to honor you for walking in purity and in righteousness.  You guys did so many things right.  Two years of dating under parental supervision... Colin even agreed to book/Bible studies with my dad (his girlfriend's father... woah talk about intimidating).  A commitment to a God-honoring ceremony and an engagement period that honored each other.  You have each always had an attitude of doing what was best for the other, not just yourself.  I'm not saying that you were perfect, that it was a flawlessly smooth road between starting to like each other and driving away as Mr. & Mrs.-- there were plenty of blow-ups and frustrations and eye-rollings, and "seriously, Dad!?"s, and lots of times where y'all wished you were already married and the whole dating/engaged phase was just OVER.  But I am confident that God the Father was smiling as you got married, and that angels were cheering & devils were booing at your triumph over the overwhelming worldly pressures to compromise and rebel.  There wasn't any "oh I hope no one ever finds out about __" in your eyes as you watched each other during the ceremony.

Little saddens me more than to see our culture's acceptance & encouragement of promiscuity & independence at the cost of parental authority.  Yeah, that was a mouthful, I know... but think about it.  What romantic comedy have you seen recently in which the happily-ever-after couple didn't sleep together before they were married?  ... yeah... can't think of one, either, aside from Jane Austen novels. Today, it's expected that one way you show that you are a grown-up, one way that you show you really love each other, is that you sleep together and see if the sparks fly.  I have seen a lot of shows in which parents tell their kids that they shouldn't sleep with someone "until they are ready," or "unless you really love each other."  I haven't seen any in which parents told them that being "in love" & "ready" meant that you were wearing a wedding band on your finger.  What movie has the star-crossed-lovers listening to and honoring their loving, wonderful parents as they date?

In real life, promiscuity doesn't lead to happy-ever-afters.  Refusal to listen to parents isn't smart or wise.  I can think of literally dozens of friends of mine who went against their parent's advice or other godly counsel and dated that guy or that girl, and are now hurting and full of regrets.  By contrast, I know of only two couples who went against their parents' wishes and have "lived to tell the tale," and in both cases they had the backing of their churches and Scripture, and it was their families who were in the wrong.  I've seen people who lived together torn up inside by a break-up, bleeding and wounded as if they had gotten a divorce.  Promiscuity leads to shame, to deep heart-ache, to lonliness, to disease, to pregnancies (or even worse, abortions), to brides feeling like filthy hypocrites in their white wedding gowns.  And even if you make it through "unscathed," there's still the opinion of God to consider.  Deep down every human knows that He is watching, that He does care, and that there will be a reckoning.  God's laws aren't arbitrary; they are set up for our own greater joy!  (Please don't misunderstand: in no way do I want to minimize God's forgiveness, of any sin or even sinful life pattern-- "His love can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me!"  Whenever there is repentance, there is forgiveness and a new beginning-- "the vilest offender who truly believes/ that moment from Jesus forgiveness receives./Praise the Lord!")

Purity isn't prudishness.  Honoring your parents and obeying them even in your dating relationship isn't a sign of weakness or immaturity.  Both take far more courage, prayer, and supernatural grace than giving in to what comes naturally.  The reward, though, is a wedding day like you two had:  one in which there were no regrets.

I raise my glass to you, and to the warriors behind you whose fervent prayers kept you walking in the Light.