I Led a Sheltered Food Life (Or: Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa)

FB Note Transfer #3

March 5th, 2011

Growing up I was fed well. My mom and dad were really good cooks. I come from a long line of Midwestern restaurateurs and home cooks, so to say I was blessed with good food growing up is an understatement. My dad did a lot of the cooking and my mom did almost all of the baking. She made the BEST pies and cookies! Dad made wonderful brownies and cakes. He baked all of our birthday cakes and even decorated them with our fave characters. My graduation party was complete with a 3 foot chocolate cake iced  with my school colors.

As good as my parent’s food was growing up,and as much as I enjoyed our dinners, there is one thing I will say: it  lacked variety. (or at least the variety I have become accustomed to!) I am not complaining. The food was outstanding and I am so grateful that  we sat down together every night! That is something I will always treasure! You can just tell I am from Kansas as simplicity is in our nature.

You could pretty much count on the following menu in my childhood home:

-Spaghetti w/ meat sauce, garlic bread and salad. (the meat sauce would simmer ALL DAY!! Oh the smells in that house!!)

– Mom’s Meatloaf with dad’s mashed potatoes and canned green beans

-Tuna Casserole (with the ruffles have ridges on top) and canned peas

-Dad’s homemade tacos ( he made his own shells,chips and salsa! So good!)

-Roast beef (dad made THE BEST gravy! I still have not mastered his gravy) with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob (nothing green for miles!)

-Bbq beef with either ground beef or leftover roast beef (they never called them Sloppy Joes–ever!! I don’t know why. See my previous blog post on Sloppy Joes), frozen french fries in the fry daddy and salad. (not green leafy salad mind you. That bagged iceberg with tiny bits of carrots and cabbage. The only dressing provided was Italian and french.)

-Shepherds pie (with leftover roast beef)

-Ham and Beans with cornbread (You had to have the apple cider vinegar splashed in there,or it wasn’t right according to dad.)  The cornbread was always made in a cast iron skillet and slathered with a stick of butter. mmhmmm)

-Beanie Weanies (FRANKS AND BEANS!!), bread and butter and salad

-Dad’s bbq ribs/chicken (His bbq was really the best I have ever had!! Anywhere!! HANDS DOWN!!! I miss it dad.), Potato salad (also the best!) and baked beans.

-Mom’s Parmesan Chicken (no, not chicken Parmesan has . Chicken Parm has marinara and cheese generously covering it. This was JUST baked parm crusted chicken and nothing else.),  buttered noodles and a veggie.

-Chicken and noodles. TRIPLE carbs on this night! They would serve the chicken and noodles over mash potatoes and usually we would have those Pillsbury bread sticks along side. Again, no green stuff to be seen! How did we not get the scurvy? (I guess we loved fruit.)

-Minute Steak (this is basically a thinly crusted Chicken fried steak with no gravy, made on an electric skillet. My sis and I would  would drown it in ketchup. Mom would make fried potatoes and corn with this. (Oh Greens, greens wherefore art thou greens?)

Frozen fish sticks (for shame!) with homemade tartar sauce, mac n cheese and a green (gasp!) veggie.  Confession: I never had real fish until I was 18!!!  I tried it for the first time when I got my free training meal working at Applebee’s. It was salmon and I was in absolute heaven. I may or may not have yelled at my parents for sheltering me for so long. Fish sticks and canned tuna were the extent of my seafood knowledge as a kid. We were truly land locked Midwesterners with disdain for sea creatures. Miraculously,  I love fish–even sushi–now!!)

-Burgers and fries  (either made at home or at our grandparents nearly 40 year old establishment—BILL’S BIG 6— in which we all worked since we were knee high to a french fry!). Y’all I have yet to find a burger to match my Grandpa Bill’s. I am quite the burger snob because of his influence. I am sad that most of you know not of his burger brilliance.

-Asian night: Hamburger stir fry or Sweet and sour Chicken. The most exotic items on our menu. Mom usually only made each of these once or twice a year. The hamburger stir fry was ground beef, cabbage, canned green beans, rice and soy sauce stir fried. The Sweet and sour chicken was not authentic. It was jarred sauce and pineapple with chicken, served over rice, with chow mein noodles to garnish. I was always excited for these nights since I love variety and felt like I was being transported to another land. (or at least a chinese restaurant. haha)

-Thanksgiving/Christmas/Easter dinner-Turkey. Turkey. Turkey!! More Turkey!!! As far as meat goes, we never had anything else for holidays. Not ham or goose or lamb or chicken or Cornish hens or beef tenderloin or prime rib or crown roast.  JUST turkey and all the trimmings for ALL holidays. The L tryptophan should have killed us! Hahahahaha! I think dad was addicted..

That is pretty much it! We would rinse and repeat this meal plan month after month year after year. Delicious,yes,comforting, yes, however, in hindsight,I realize how VERY sheltered I was in the culinary world!  I did learn a few things in the kitchen, How to make pie crust,peel potatoes,fry noodles,make a mean marinara and how NOT to burn the house down at a fairly young age (although in regards to that last one,they never told me that bacon grease  fires get WORSE if you put water on them!  My roomie in college can testify to this fact!! SORRY KATE!!)

When dating my now husband, he introduced me to Lebanese food and sushi. He helped me to branch out in my cooking abilities (and in my eating abilities) by inspiring me with his food favorites. I became passionate about food. After our 2nd child was born, I started checking out cookbooks from the library and “devouring” them with gusto! I wanted to learn as much as I could about all things cooking! The dormant domestic goddess in me had been awakened. I went to self taught culinary school through those books.  I have a bit of a food obsession now, as many must know. This can be dangerous and at the same time liberating for a going on 11 year type one diabetic. Dangerous, because there are so many tempting recipes that scream at me to make them. Liberating, because the variety can help with boredom, which cuts down on me being tempted to eat too much of  something I shouldn’t .

My good friend Angie sent me the recipe below  when my internet was down last summer.  We didn’t have internet for about a year,so I was having withdrawal from my food sites/blogs.  She was one of the people that kindly kept in touch with me via paper hugs (what I call letters) and sent me all kinds of recipes. My love language surely must be food.

This recipe surprised me and would definitely NOT have been something my parents would have served!

(LOVE you DAD!! 😀 as mentioned I think you were/are  a GREAT cook! * See edit after the recipe.)

The saltiness of the pork blends perfectly w the sweet and spicy “salsa”  (I think it’s more of a relish or chutney…salsa is more pureed and this is chunky).

I had a ton of leftovers and mixed the rice I had on the side w the pork the next day for lunch ..filled the tortillas,topped w/ the salsa and YUM! I liked it so much that way I think I will just put the rice in there next time instead of serving it on the side.  For extra fiber and protein I bet throwing in some black beans would be yummy too!

The original recipe called for  “pork tenderloin sliced thin” I used pork roast and shredded it. I have tried both ways and I like the shredded pork much more! you decide what you prefer!

I also added a tsp of Tejas seasoning to the dressing and sprinkled a bit on the rice….I dunno if yall can get that seasoning but it is GREAT!!  It’s just chiles w/ dehydrated lime…I got it at Kroger. (Wichitans that translates as Dillons)

Explore your culinary world peeps! There is so much to discover!

Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Adapted from Family Circle


1/4 cup lime juice

1 tsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. pepper

3 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Tejas seasoning (optional)

2 Tbls. chopped cilantro


2 cups  pineapple (fresh or canned ) diced

2 plum tomatoes seeded and chopped

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 seeded jalapeno (or for more heat..leave the seeds)


1 pork Tenderloin or Roast (1.5 lbs) sliced or shredded

1 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1 pkg. of flour or corn tortillas


Heat oven to recommended setting on the pkg of pork

Mix all the dressing together by whisk

Make salsa. Combine all ingredients plus 2 Tbls. of dressing

Marinade meat in remaining dressing for 15-20 minutes in fridge (or do like I did and make dressing and salsa  the night before and marinade the pork overnight)

Rub meat with salt

Cook the meat to desired doneness,cut into thin slices or shred

Heat tortillas.

To serve, fill warm tortillas with pork and salsa. Sprinkle with extra Tejas seasoning if desired.

Serve rice and black beans either alongside or in with the tacos!


(EDIT FOR December 29,2017: Though both my parents have passed on into glory, I like to think they are proud of their girls for being adventurous in the kitchen. They laid a foundation of love for cooking and passed it on to us. I aspire to pass it to my own children, and think of them often when I am providing meals for my family. I also still make many of the delicious dinners I grew up on, which warms my heart, satisfies my tummy and keeps their memory alive.)

pineapple tacos


Meatless Meals (or: Hearty Tomato Soup and Protein Packed Grilled Cheese)

FB Note Transfer #2 ( see previous post My Sister’s Sloppy Joes. AKA: “Sloppy Dawgs” (or: Mansandwich? What’s that?))

February 25th, 2011

Every week we have a meat free meal,much to the chagrin of my mostly native Texan husband, who is “starving” an hour after we eat. Sigh.  I don’t know why. I honestly  think he just likes meat, and would like to see me do away with meatless meals altogether. If a steak is chocolate then he is Willy Wonka!!

Let’s face it, we could all use a break from eating animal flesh. When you admit what it is, it’s tough to think about consuming it. I don’t talk about it often. In fact I ban my kids from speaking of its origins while at the table. I choose to do the weekly meatless meal, not because I am a radical PETA member, or even a veg head at all, but because I need to eat as healthfully as possible. Meat free meals tend to be quite healthy.  I guess if you pile a veggie plate with cheeze whiz and sour cream, it’s not, but with moderation and quality ingredients selection, you can almost always count on meat free meals being fairly healthy.

I didn’t grow up ever  having meatless meals. I am from the midwest, so meat (and lots and lots of starch…can we say corn and potatoes?!) is the mainstay of most dinners. We ate salad, but it was always the bags of iceberg lettuce with tiny bits of carrots, instead of the dark green leafy salad I have come to love today. I have grown to realize that meatless meals can be just as yummy and good for you if done right. Sometimes I actually find myself craving a big bowl of dal makani, roasted veggie marinara over whole wheat noodles, or a black bean burger. Good food is good food.

I REALLY don’t get how my sweet hub was hungry an hour after this meal. Maybe his portion size wasn’t big enough! This meal really satisfied the rest of us (even the 17 month old had 3rds!).  I love the veggie purees, because unlike bland canned soup, it adds not only depth of flavor, but a boost of vitamins you just don’t get in the super processed “just add water”, high salt content canned soup. Next time, I think I will add some cheese tortellini to it. I think that would not only up the carb on the meal (and have my hub doing cartwheels around the house,out of sheer satisfaction), but it would be delicious as well!

The “grilled cheese”I changed up from the original recipe. It called for sliced bread that you  slather with  the bean puree. I chose to double the recipe of the bean puree and spread it on a halved loaf of french bread. Perfecto! It’s like a super protein infused french bread pizza! This is not your mama’s 1980s grilled cheese! Way better than the wonder bread/one slice american cheese version!
I hope  you try this. It’s gonna replace Campbell’s  and Kraft in this house for sure!


Adapted from “Double Delicious”
by Jessica Seinfeld.
Hearty Tomato soup and Protien Packed “Grilled” Cheese

2Tbls Olive oil
2-3 stalkes celery..chopped in a processor
1small onion…chopped in a processor
3 cloves garlic
1 28 oz can Whole tomatos w/ juice pureed in a blender
1 can sweet potatos pureed in a blender (if using fresh yield about 1 cup and add water til smooth)
1small steamed head of broccoli florets pureed in a blender.. (slowly add water til smooth–don’t over do the water!)
4c beef broth
1 bay leaf (I used 1 tsp marjoram as I ran out of bay)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 oz cream cheese cubed..softened

warm oil in soup pot over med high
add celery,onion and garlic..cook till soft–6-8min
add tomatoes,sweet potato and broc purees,broth,bay and pepper
bring to boil. reduce heat to a slow simmer and cook about 10 min til
it starts to thicken
turn off heat
add cream cheese
blend w/ a hand mixer or stick blender til smooth.
serve immediately.

“Grilled Cheese”
(I doubled the bean spread recipe)

bean spread
1 cup low sodium black beans (she used white)
drained and rinsed
2 Tbls lemon juice
1/4Cup ricotta cheese
1Tbls olive oil
1/2 clove garlic minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

oven 350

1 loaf french bread–halved
4Tbls butter
1/2 c mozzarella cheese

blend all the bean spread ingredients in a blender til smooth
set aside
split the bread spread both sides w/ butter
place under broiler a few minutes til a lil crispy but not quite browned
spread w/ bean mixture
sprinkle w/ cheese
place in oven about 5-7 min or until cheese melts and edges are crispy and golden

We dipped our cheezy beany bread in our soup!
It warms the heart,soul and body,and pleases the tasty buddies!!
mmm mmm good is right!

I know this isn’t the best picture, but this is before I ever had a smartphone! I made the best effort with my dumb flip phone. haha





My Sister’s Sloppy Joes. AKA: “Sloppy Dawgs” (or: Mansandwich? What’s that?)

Hello my loyal readers ( all 2 of you. HAHA).

I know, I know. I haven’t written in a very long time. I chalk this up to be massive writer’s block, coupled with zero time for creative pursuits. No excuses really. I am sure I could watch less Netflix before bed,and have plenty of time for writing, musicianship and various other hobbies. Because of the writer’s block and lack of Netflix restraint, I have decided that in the absence of writing new entries, I will  transplant some of my FB notes onto my Blog. Even 6 years later,it seems I have the same issues finding (read:making) time to write!! In any case, I hope you find time to read and enjoy!

From April 22,2011

Finally!  I am blogging!

What a busy 6 weeks it has been!

March and April have been busting at the seams w/ guests! My sister and nephew came to stay in March,and some good friends from Ks. came at the beginning of this month. We had so much fun! We cooked up a storm,visited extended family in Crosby,and took our friends out to explore The Woodlands and Spring. All this, added to schoolwork,dr’s appointments,ocd type house cleaning and tons (no literally tons!) of laundry!!  Most of this is the norm for me,other than the guests. You  know how it is when you have visitors! Everything has to be perfect, despite the fact they probably don’t care that your grout is sparkling,and your windows are gleaming. I have fallen away from my loves of studying the word,singing,writing,practicing guitar and piano, and even blogging. I digress.

The topic at hand?  My sister.  Yep, I am gonna make her blush and give her a shout out! My sister is AMAZING. I said it. I  love her to bits!! “Of course you do Jax, she is your sister  and you have to love her, duh.”   NO, but really, she’s just great.  This girl is my heart, and it pains me to be so far away from her! I love her laugh,her compassion for others,her tenacity.  I love that she gives of herself, and is willing to really do anything for her loved ones. I love her ridiculously dry and sarcastic sense of humor. In fact,when she and my husband are in the same room,I almost die laughing!  She kept it together so well last year, when our mama died suddenly. She fared way better than I did, and she was 4 months pregnant!  She has inspired me to be and to do better. She gave me the drive to  have integrity for what I want and  believe and she has shown me how to LOVE better.  She taught me that forgiveness is more important than water.  Without forgiveness,your life is dry and empty. She loves her dogs like they are her kids,is a wonderful, mom to her son,my adorable nephew,Logan.She is an absolute master at calling at odd hours,when you need to hear her voice the most.(seriously how do you do that!??) THAT is a good  sister, friends! A good sister,a good woman.

Added to all this awesomeness, my sis has become quite the Suzy homemaker. She has given me some incredible recipes,not excluding this very simple recipe of an American classic: SLOPPY JOES!!  (or what our parents called “BBQ BEEF” when when we were kids). I had never made sloppy joes from scratch, until she gave me this recipe. I honestly only ever used Manwich,or I made them the way dad did growing up.  I never asked dad for his recipe, but I am pretty sure he just dumped some Bullseye in there and called it good (it WAS good). I  could be wrong.

I have to double the recipe,because my kids eat the heck out of it. It is sweet and tangy and compliments any bbq spread. Pair it w/ potato salad or french fries and a green salad and you have yourself what I call a feast! (no, I didn’t invent the word,but I like to think I did.) I bet if you put it on the table for Easter,no one would complain because really it’s THAT good. I love how the simple can be just as yummy as the complicated!

I serve these on hotdog, buns, and sprinkle them with cheese.  My boys call them “sloppy dawgs” (“cept without the dawg mom” ~Gabriel )  They are less messy that way, but if you are a sloppy joe purest…use the regular hamburger buns. My son Sebastian dips his in mayo (he is British…lol). He gave me a bite,and it was actually really good! I was shocked!

I will be sharing more of my faves from my sis, like her best ever hashbrown casserole, ham and cheese quiche,baked ziti, and of course her raspberry bars.  This food keeps her close to me,even though we live 500 miles apart. When I am making something that she has made for us on a visit or a recipe she’s given me, I feel it’s like looking at the moon. We are sharing a moment.

Sing it with me: “Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight…someone’s thinking of me and loving me tonight….” take it away Liz! 😀


1 lb ground beef

1/2 medium onion..chopped

1 whole green pepper..chopped

3/4 c ketchup

1 tsp yellow mustard

1 tsp garlic powder

3 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

buns (hot dog or hamburger)

shredded cheese (optional)

Brown beef w/ onion and green pepper til no longer pink


add back to pan

add next 6 ingredients

serve in buns topped with cheese if desired.

I highly recommend doubling this! Especially if you have a big family!! It goes fast!



The Sunday Feast: Chicken Piccata

imageWell here it is folks. Another 7 months gone by, with no blog entries from me. I have come to the conclusion that:

A) I have practically zero time for this blog.(unless I want to give up teaching or cleaning or cooking or outings with friends or singing on the worship team at church or reading or watching movies with my husband or playing  board games with my kids, etc… which, I am unwilling to do!).

B) The technology afforded to me is old, slow and anxiety inducing, so I just as soon go write in my PAPER journal with my INK pen and call it good.

Yet, here I am. Compelled to share with you my musings and inspirations as of late. I guess that is just my personality. Some people are sporty and need the gym or team sports as an outlet. Some like an adrenaline rush and will go bungee jumping or sky diving to help them relax. Me? I must be creative. Almost all the time. Whether it is in the kitchen, in my writing, singing, or in helping my kids with some creative project, being hands on and creating something from nothing is so therapeutic for me.

Today,I would like to tell you about The Sunday Feast.

Growing up in a small city in Kansas, special Sunday dinners were the norm. Usually,mom and dad tried to feed us homecooked meals every night of the week(even if it was sometimes just tuna casserole or beanie weanies).Sundays,however,were just different. More of a production. Sometimes,mom would bring out the good dishes,and almost always a dessert. Dad would usually make his famous roast beef with mashed potatoes and green beans,or simmer a big pot of spaghetti sauce all day long,and serve it with noodles and salad.

When I  moved to Texas with my kids and husband to be closer to my mother in law, we started recreating my beloved family tradition of special dinner every Sunday night. Every other Sunday, we have small group with some good friends from church.There are about 6 families,and we all have a potluck.There are around 20 children playing and grazing,while the parents talk,stuff their faces and study The Word. Such fun, inspiring and and delicious times!

On the off Sundays,my mother in law will come over and we will have dinner. I instill the help of my kids, and we make a big dinner that includes  a dessert  (and sometimes the good dishes!) We are usually in the kitchen from the time lunch is over after church until 6:30 when dinner starts! My kids have developed a love of cooking, since I started teaching them pretty much as soon as they could stand on a step stool, and see over the counter. It  is something I cherish. I am so grateful for these times, bonding with my kids over creating great food.

About two months ago,I decided I have way too many recipes just sitting around my house, and that I would never ever in my lifetime be able to cook them all.  So I am making an effort to try(a’la Julie Powell),and I am cooking through my archives to determine what recipes to keep,and what recipes to chuck.( I will tell you more about this next time!)

The following recipe is one I most recently cooked for Sunday Feast. I have made it only once before,and absolutely love it! It is Ina Garten’s wonderful, crispy  version of Chicken Piccata. This recipe can be found in her “At Home” Cookbook. Have I mentioned my obsession with poring over cookbooks? I may have a problem. Ha!

For you foodie geeks, piccata is the Italian word for “escalope”,which is a French term for a very thin slice of meat. You can also use veal for this dish,however,veal is more difficult to find,and much more expensive. My son Gabriel had a brilliant idea upon tasting this dish,to use white fish in place of the chicken. I may just have to try that next time!

Most piccatas will have a lightly seasoned flour coating,that has been quickly fried in a bit of oil,and served with a beautiful lemon butter sauce. This has all that,and an extra couple of steps that will knock your socks off!

PANKO my friends. Panko is the key to push this over the top. Haven’t heard of Panko? Well,pull yourself out from under your rock  and go buy a canister of this crisp, light,large breadcrumb, hailing from Japan! It is so versatile,and adds a crispness to this dish that is divine folks! (I hope I am not building this up too much).

I love how she cooks it in the oil for a couple of minutes,and then throws it in the oven to finish off,so you can make the sauce and your sides.Very efficient. I am nothing,if not efficient. Who am I kidding? It took me all day to clean my  bathroom today. Multitasking isn’t what it’s cracked up to be ALL the time. I digress.

This dish is simple yet spectacular. Serve it with buttery noodles or potatoes,and a vegetable and you have a Sunday Feast! (don’t forget the dessert and good dishes!)

Chicken Piccata*

4 split (2 whole) boneless,skinless chicken breasts (kosher salt and freshly ground pepper)

1 cup all purpose flour

2 extra large eggs

1 1/2 cups seasoned Panko

good olive oil

3 Tbls unsalted butter

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons) lemon halves reserved

1/2 cup dry white wine

sliced lemon, for serving

chopped fresh parsley, for serving

capers (optional)**

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper and use a mallet to pound it out to 1/4 inch thick. (be careful not to beat it too hard or you will have chicken mush, instead of beautifully flattened cutlets). Season with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp pepper on a pie plate. On a second plate, beat eggs with 1 Tbls of water. Place bread crumbs on a 3rd plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour,shake off excess and dip in egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 2 Tbls of olive oil in a large saute’ pan over medium-low heat. Add  2 chicken breast halves and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan while you cook the rest of the chicken.

Heat more olive oil in the pan,and cook the remaining 2 chicken breasts. Place them on the sheet pan,and allow them to bake 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute’ pan with a paper towel. On medium heat, melt 1 Tbls of butter and add the lemon juice, white wine, reserved lemon halves, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Boil over high heat,until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat,add the remaining 2 Tbls of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves.

Serve the chicken with the sauce,sliced lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Eat delicious to live!:)

*I have a large family of six,and on Sundays my mother in law comes for dinner, so I had to double this recipe. However,I don’t think doubling the sauce is necessary. We had way too much leftover. It would be delicious tossed with pasta though so if you want to keep it for that use, go for doubling it!

**Ina Garten’s recipe does not call for capers. Traditionally this recipe does contain them. If you would like to add them to this recipe, I would start with about a 1/4 cup in the sauce. Add more if you wish!






Eat (Delicious!) to Live.

It has been over three months since I last posted. The hustle bustle of the holidays,(which really start in September for us with most of our family having birthdays.) has prevented me from regularly pursuing my creative interests.

This year wasn’t as chaotic as the last. (That is a whole other post!) The short version is,last year came to an end with me in the hospital. Needless to say,I was forced to look at how I was handling my health as a type one diabetic. I started all over in my food choices and portion control. I acted like I was new to this illness and not as if I have had it for nearly 15 years. I had to take it on with fresh eyes.

I went back to the gym,(after a 12 year absence), counted carbs, kept a food diary and returned to my former habit of checking my blood glucose levels 7-10 times a day, and using a mathematical formula to calculate my insulin dosages. I was an absolute stickler. I am pretty sure I annoyed the pants off my family. Oh well. Better than mama dying right?

As of late, the busy has gotten a hold of me again. I am not ignoring my disease per se. I am just not as strict. At the turn of the new year, I found myself slipping back into old habits. We haven’t been to the gym since October because of financial reasons. I still eat well and haven’t been cheating too much. I just need to be a tad more disciplined about exercise and checking my numbers.

Something that helps tremendously is drinking half my weight of water in ounces every day. The best thing I can do to help curb those crazy cravings is to drink God’s beverage! I am 140 lbs so I drink 70 ounces of water per day. It is a must for appetite control and overall health.

Another thing that helps is to up my vegetable intake,and not completely cut out those “forbidden” foods, everyone talks about (ie pasta, bread, potatoes, sweets). Veggies (especially complex carbs like green leafy veggies) are filling without making you feel sluggish. They give you the energy and vitamins you need to sustain you. God gives us the food that will make us healthy, fit and satisfied. We just have to have the discipline to actually eat these foods.

Completely cutting out “forbidden” foods,always leads me to overindulgence. As a foodie who has had a problem with emotional eating, I will say deprivation isn’t the key to success. It’s moderation. I love food. I love carbs, sweets and grease. I am a Kansan,and come from a long line of mom and pop entrepenuers Fried food and gravy is a staple. Doughnuts and pancakes are like air to a Midwesterner. So I have had to force myself to change my relationship to this food.

I can have a doughnut. ONE doughnut. (Or half a doughnut, depending on my day). I can have pancakes. Two pancakes with fruit instead of a sea of syrup. I need to be ok with these portions and realize that I eat to live. I don’t live to eat. This doesn’t mean my food can’t be delicious as well!

I have taken to eating a lot of kale (woah,easy hipster! lol) in the last year. I love it. It is like ambrosia to me. I have always loved my vegetables. Even as a four year old, I would ask my grandma to make me brussels sprouts, when I would visit her. She thought I was weird, since she didn’t even like them. I found Pioneer Woman’s recipe for panfried kale in her 2nd cookbook and I was a goner. It’s recipe gold y’all.

A few weeks ago I was scrounging for lunch. We needed to make a market trip. Our kitchen was practically bare. I found half a bag of kale, some onion and leftover macaroni noodles. I proceeded to cook the best lunch I have had in awhile, basically from scraps. (And my trusty PW kale recipe) It was a loaves and fishes kinda miracle.

My oldest son, Kristofer and I really enjoyed this dish. There were even leftovers for the next day! I am obsessed with carmelized onion and garlic, so it may be a bit of an overstatement to say they are essential to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.(Hahaha. Silly foodies.) If you are watching your carbs, like me, you can absolutely omit the pasta or lower the amount you add. The kale is plenty of carb, but the pasta adds a rich flavor to the dish when carmelized with the onion.

Please make this. You will have a whole new lease on life! Feed youself from God’s bounty. be grateful for the abundance we enjoy. Just say no to the McD’s special and realize that what you eat can prolong or shorten your life! It doesn’t mean deprivation to eat well. Remember to eat (delicious)to live!

Loaves and Fishes Kale

4 tbls olive or avacado oil (divided)
Half a large sweet yellow onion
(Sliced into strips)
1-2 cups cooked macaroni noodles.
(Gluten free or Whole grain works!)
2 bunches of torn,washed kale.
(Stems removed)
2 cloves of fresh or jarred garlic
Sea or Kosher salt to taste
Fresh pepper to taste

In a large skillet, warm two tbls of oil. Add onion and cook for ten minutes. Add macaroni (if using). Stir until pasta starts to turn slightly golden and onions become carmelized. Add 2 more tbls of oil. and prepped kale. Stit constantly until kale begins to wilt. Add garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Remove to plates. Enjoy!
(I bet this would be delicious with sliced mushrooms and Parmesan cheese! Be creative!)

Peace in the Void Part 2 (Seeing the Joy)

I want to tell you something. This is a truth that I have had to learn  through much reflection, study and meditation. I have learned it the hard way thorough many tough life lessons and I share it with you now, hoping to save you some of the trouble. (though the trouble is what grew,deepened and changed me, I will share it nonetheless.) The truth I learned is that GOD IS NOT A GENIE. It’s so easy to slip into the mindset that because God loves us and wants us to have joy that He will just give us what we ask, without reservation,all because we believe He will. Yes the Word holds much that seems to speak those exact  words, however, we must take this in context of the Word  and what we know about God’s character, vision and actions.

In John 14:13-14 it says “And I will do whatever you ask in My Name so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”  This is one of the most misunderstood passages in all of the Bible. Does this mean that if we actually fervently pray: “in Jesus name please give me a Porsche, a gorgeous house, a spouse, heal my child, my marriage, my addiction etc…”  that He will automatically deliver with no questions asked? With no action from us other than prayer and belief?  Does it mean  if we pray in His name and He doesn’t deliver, that He either lied and doesn’t want to truly give us what we want, can’t give us what we want, or doesn’t actually exist ? (that last one is a popular one with the atheists). I have come to learn that none of these are even remotely true.

I used to think this verse literally meant that if you ask in His name he will wave his mystical prayer answering wand and everything I ever wanted would come true. I would listen  to messages  from Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer (and even Oprah) and drink in the prosperity gospel koolaid with a straw. Even as recently as 5 years ago, did I hold this belief ,that if I wasn’t  getting, I wasn’t   believing it enough. I am not a baby Christian and something that starkly contradicts the Word,  was a forefront of my basic everyday faith code. It was almost my mantra.

When I was pregnant for the 4th time, I desperately wanted a little girl. After having 3 sons I was ready to be the mama of a daughter. I prayed and prayed for months and repeated the verse  in John 14 over and over again. I stood on faith and bought girl’s clothes and even pink baby announcements. I “JUST KNEW”  God would deliver.  When the time came for me to get the sonogram that told us the gender of our child, I was so nervous with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hear the words “it’s a girl”. Lo’ and behold I did in fact hear those words! I was so on fire with joy I cried and cried. The tech looked at me like I was crazy. My oldest son who  was only 9 at the time and had come with  me , was a bit embarrassed at my display, but consarnit, I was happy! I got what I wanted and you  know what the best part was?All I  had to do was “ask in His name”! I had stumbled upon the proverbial wishing well! This was great! Joel Osteen was right! Just believe and keep believing and eventually you will have success in whatever you want!  Like it says in Best Life Now “It’s OUR faith that activates the power of God”! He NEEDS us to believe before He can DO anything! My daughter existed because of MY FAITH!  WOW! How  profound this was for me!

It was profound until my whole world shattered and crumbled all around me ten months later.  It shattered and crumbled and I could do nothing about it. It was a Monday, early in the morning that I got the phone call that shook me to my core. I heard my sister’s trembling, tear-filled voice and her words, but I couldn’t believe it. Our mother was on life support at the hospital. She had suffered some sort of trauma in her sleep and stopped breathing long enough to need the vent. So far the tests concluded she had no brain activity and may not come back from this. I was frozen with fear and shock and just couldn’t process it to be true. Aside from the fact that I was over 500 miles away from the hospital my mother was laying in, she and I hadn’t spoken in over 8 months at this point. We had some issues between us that led to  me making the decision to break contact with her. I immediately started berating myself. ” I am the most horrible daughter”, I said. I kept repeating these words, because I really  felt they were true. How could I quit talking to my own mother? No matter what she had done, she at the very least deserved to know I loved her. She was my mother. I was raised to forgive. ALWAYS. I did not forgive for 6 years, and I didn’t realize until right then that I had made a grave mistake and was so scared that it was too late to make it right!

The next few days were a whirlwind. My church took up donations so I could travel on such short notice. Some friends of my sister’s (whom I had never met), offered to come get my then 5 month old daughter, Eleia and I from Texas and bring us up to Kansas so I could see my mother. The Doctors had concluded zero brain activity with no hope of it coming back. She was basically a prisoner in her own body. My sister and I had to make a decision and I needed to be there soon if I wanted to say goodbye. I spent these few days in a shock-filled, stressed out haze. I had laundry to do, groceries to buy and bags to pack and I also had to somehow come to grips with the fact that my mother was going to die any day.

I couldn’t accept it. I wouldn’t! God wouldn’t let this happen. He would never take my mother so early. She was only 50! She didn’t look  a day over 35!  She was spunky and energetic and had so much life to live and so much to give the world! We had so much time to be able to reconcile! She couldn’t leave before we made up! She hadn’t seen or talked to my kids or husband  in 4 years. She had never even met my daughter. My sister was newly pregnant. If she died now, my niece or nephew would never get to meet her. No. This couldn’t happen. I would not let it.

So while I prepared to leave, I went to my arsenal. I prayed like I have never prayed before. I repeated those cherished words in John 14 over and over. I asked God to please let her stay until old age or at least long enough so I could say I love her and that I forgave her. That I have never ever hated her and that I was grateful for how she mothered and loved me my entire life. WhenI  found out she was near death, I forgot the conflict between us and remembered all the beautiful things about her.

I kept praying all the way to Kansas. My faith would save her. My faith would keep her from dying just as my faith brought my daughter life.  God told me to sing to her. I didn’t understand that. Sing to her? How could I do that?  This wasn’t a joyous occasion for me. I sing when I am happy. When I worship. This was not a time for happiness  or worship. This was a time to go to the throne and make her stay!

When I entered the room I barely recognized my mama. She was so puffed up from fluid they were giving her ,she looked 40 pounds heavier.  Her eye lids were very swollen and there were tubes and machines everywhere. I couldn’t breathe. I thought, how can I leave this room knowing this will be the last time I see her? At this point my faith was quickly dwindling. I had been so sure that if I just prayed and asked in HIS name that her life would be given back to me. That I could ask in His name and He not let her live for even a few more moments would make me go  with her. I couldn’t bear the thought.

“SING.” was all my Father in heaven would say. I prayed and begged and shook my fists at the sky and nearly screamed through my tears  right there in the ICU. I resolved to obey, because I could not move. It was as if I was paralyzed. Finally I stopped begging God. I held her hand and said I was sorry. I said I loved her. I asked her to stay. I started singing. It was part of the chorus of a song I had started writing a week before I got that fateful call:

stand beside me now when I’m awake when I’m awake

stand beside me now, when I’m asleep when I’m asleep

Don’t you know when the weight of the world is coming down around you

you don’t have to bear the weight anymore because He died for you

I had no idea when I got this melody and these words from the Lord the impact that they would have or what they meant. I was having other issues in life at the time and assumed that was why He was sending me this message. Clearly the message was meant to get me through this moment. To help me see that she would be ok. That I would be ok. That I could walk out of that room knowing that I would see her again and that even though she didn’t open her eyes we DID have a reconciliation because of the blood of Christ. Because He died, she would live again and I would see her again. He said sing because singing is my spiritual gift, and I believe it was the way He could make her hear me. It wasn’t the answer I wanted. It wasn’t my wish granted or my prayer answered. Praying those verses in John didn’t get me the desires of my heart.

This doesn’t  mean HE didn’t have a plan or know what he was doing. It didn’t mean that He could NOT do what I was asking. It definitely didn’t mean that He wasn’t real. It meant that His ways are not our ways and I was not seeing the mosaic picture. I was merely seeing one tiny piece of marble. I was meant to find the peace in the earthly void of my dear mother. I was meant to see the joy in the sorrow.

I still don’t see the full mosaic, even 4 years later, but I surely understand it much more and catch glimpses of it here and there. He shows me little flashes of light to let me know He is there and in control of  ALL things, even in the darkest moments. He sent healing through the gift of song writing. Since her death he has direct downloaded almost a dozen songs (included the completed song they i sang in my mother’s ICU room)This has been monumental in my healing. It has been the answer to the asking in His Name, the light in the darkness, the joy in the sorrow. His ways are not our  ways.

I don’t believe that our prayers mean nothing or that they are all said in vain. I do believe He WANTS us to ask.  I just know that prayers  hold the power that GOD and ONLY GOD gives them. I don’t have the power, HE does. I don’t know the plan. HE does. My job is to trust in my God through faith. Not use my faith as a tool to get my all my needs met, then get angry at Him when He doesn’t meet my needs. I must be ok with God saying “Not this time my child.” Even if I am not ok (because let’s be honest, sometimes His “Not this time my child” hurts like crazy)  I must trust Him. It is no longer I. It is HE that runs the show. (see Galatians 2:20)

I tried for so long to do this thing called life on my own without even knowing I was doing so. Let’s face it I still do it. It doesn’t ever work. Anytime I step in without Him it ALWAYS fails eventually.  I have seen friends have terrible losses,shattered dreams and huge betrayals and it makes me wonder how I could have ever had the mindset and been so presumptuous to think that praying harder and believing bigger would have got them what they wanted every single time. GOD IS NOT A GENIE.  This is a slap in the face to the suffering believers  of this world. That starving child, that childless mother, that divorced couple, that cancer patient. He tells us in that profound book of the Bible I stood on for so long  for an instant fix: ” in this world  you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).I believe this with all of my heart.

I know the power of prayer. I have seen marriages restored, sicknesses healed and finances repaired. I have seen so much something come from so much nothing because God’s people gathering and prayed. I believe in it. I also believe in God’s powerful loving arms. His comforting words when the answer is “not this time my child.”  I often hear and read the common thought that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” This simply isn’t true. The world constantly gives us more than we can handle. He could stop it but doesn’t  always do this. It is HE who is bigger than our problems. HE can make victory from our suffering. Not us. We can’t always handle it. I will go as far to say as we can’t EVER handle it. Not without Him. He will help us my friends. HE will help us find peace in the void and see the joy.

Peace in the Void Part One (Seeing the Real World)

The last year or so, I have (as mentioned in my first ever post) been very put off by social media. Do I use it? Yes. Do I love it? Lately,not so much. You see I am a child of the last generation that grew up without all this tech. For kids, teens and young adults today, all the tech is the norm.(Ya know like color tv and VCRs were the norm for kids of my generation). I hear myself sounding like my parents once did (they warned me). I say things like “when I was your age, I didn’t have a phone that wasn’t plugged into a wall” or “you don’t need that gadget, it’s too expensive”, or “shut that thing off, you’re gonna rot your brain!”

We have major rules in this house about media use. No more than two hours total per day on all media. That includes DVDs (we have no cable), the Wii and computer use. (Unless there is a school project needing more research than our home and public library can provide). Our kids don’t have phones,(Not even the teenager) so texting and constant attachment to the cell isn’t an issue. I view this as I viewed pacifiers: don’t give them the chance to form the habit and you won’t have to drive yourself mad trying to break them of it.

There is a big reason we are so strict about media use. It’s not because we are behind in the times fuddy duddies with no concept of the “real world”. Quite the contrary. We believe the real world is what happens when the screens are no where to be seen. I saw a quote a few weeks ago that drives this point home. “You’ll never come to the end of your life and regret not having watched enough tv”. Well Amen. You know what you may regret? Not getting down on the floor with your kids and pretending to be a horse while they ride on your back. Not tickling them enough. Not reading to them. Not cooking with them. Not running, jumping and laughing enough with them. Not listening to them becasue you had to send one more text or read one more blog or like one more post. Not playing board games with your spouse. Not talking to them everyday. (Really talking not just texting). Not writing them love notes or making them feel like they are the most important adult person to you. When the phone is in your hand more than your guy or gal’s hand is in your hand, it’s a problem.

I realize the irony in me saying these things while sitting behind a screen. That is the paradox of our world. It’s how we can be heard now. It’s the platform from which people listen and love and share and fight and move forward. I can’t begin to imagine how different life would be, however, if for we all decided to go dark. Would you take this challenge? Would you put down the screens? Even for one day? One week? One month? More?

Last summer, I participated in the 7 Experiment by Jen Hatmaker, with my women’s group at church. The experiment was to abstain completely from 7 areas of life for one full week.(The author did 7 weeks for each area) This.Woke.Me.Up. The area that I struggled the most with was food. No brainer right? I am a foodie, amateur chef/baker and I read cookbooks as a hobby. We had to eat only 7 foods for 7 days. Brutal. Media was not much of a problem for me, however,abstaining from media opened my eyes to how much I used it and missed out on real life.

How often was I on the FB while drinking my morning coffee and missed something my husband said? How often was I responding to an email and half heartedly hugged one of my kids? How often did I chose a favorite tv show (thanks Netflix) over reading my bible? How often was I in a texting marathon while complaining I didn’t have enough hours in the day to get all the housework finished? The list goes on. I realized my fun and harmless little iPhone hobby was interfering in the quality, connection and experience of my life.

Did I really need to inform everyone of every move I made? Did the world really care that much about what I made for lunch everyday. Did I really need to pin 57 recipes when I have a cupboard filled to the brim with cookbooks? Was it necessary to share a hundred photos on Instagram when I could just have the photos for myself? These habits are fun and they are common but what are they truly doing for us? They are teaching us to go to our phones first when we should go to our people first. There’s a popular phrase: “moderation is key”. This is a truth that is being lost. We need to take stock and really pay attention to the people to tech ratio. If our time with people is not outweighing our screen time, we need to do something different. We need to find peace in the void of the electronics. You won’t die. I promise. People can live without your vast knowledge, beautiful pictures and wild opinions about everything for a bit.

If you find yourself to be a person of enormous integrity and just have to express or you may implode,then a break from media may be a good thing for you. If you tend to want to prove yourself to the naysayers and are a highly sensitive person who gets hurt if you are misunderstood, a break from media may be a good thing for you. If the state of the world and today’s modern society effects your spirit throughout the day to the point that you feel burdened, a break from media may be for you.

I say this not because I am trying to be Ms. Self righteous bossy-pants, but because I am all of the above and I have benefited from what I have come to call the media fast. In January of this year, I realized I was spending too much time on my iPhone. I decided my New Year’s resolution was going to be to axe the Words with Friends and Candy Crush and to take a one week break every month from all social media and texting. (Except for in emergencies or basic inquiries of course). I still checked my email once a day to stay in the know about our activities, however, media was not a forerunner of my day. No more fb marathons with my morning coffee. No more pinning for an hour a day. No more reading a dozen mommy, homeschooling, food blogs a day. No more Instagram. God and my family are first and I needed to act like it. I am not saying social media and the like is evil or bad, just that it doesn’t have the importance we have put on it. I enjoy peeking into my friend’s and family’s lives. Especially being so far away from my hometown. It helps me to stay connected. However, I don’t want that connection to become priority over real time connection.

I am passionate about my family and I want to show them that they are the priority. We can say this with our mouths but when we put our media needs ahead of them how are we showing them that? We must be ok with just sitting in silence with each other, listening to a book being read,a song being sung, eating a meal, playing a game or going on a date without feeling the need to always post to fb about it. We must be ok just laughing at something someone said or agreeing heartily with them instead of just liking something they posted. If we don’t, we will end up not really knowing each other. We will end up knowing only diet versions of each other. I don’t know about y’all but I want the full fat version of life! During the time we aren’t media socializing, think of the wonderful things we could be actually doing! We must become content and at peace in the void of media. There we will find true and REAL joy.

The New

This is the new. The start. The beginning. This is a years in the making attempt to finally get into words the fun, the complex, the crazy, the simple, the hilarious, the heartache, the redemption, the joy and the love that is my story.

I must admit that as of late I have been superbly jaded about social media, bloggers and the internet as a whole. I feel the disconnect that has happened in our longing to be connected. I feel the unauthentic communication that comes with the “likes” and the “shares”. I feel like it’s time to simplify and get back to really talking to one another. So ironically I sit here typing, hoping to glean out some kind of inspiration for myself and for others. I hope this helps to begin a conversation into the real world. I long for letters and more visits. I miss the phone calls and the group outings. I get a bit of this from my beautiful church but as a homeschooling stay at home mom it’s not as frequent as I would like. I do realize that my main focus is my family and though I have wanted to be a real writer my whole life, hope this creates an outlet to create something good for the Lord.

Some beginnings are tough. Some starts are the end. Some new journeys reach nothing. Do I know what will come of doing this? Not at all. Do I hope to gain a following that makes me famous the world over? NO. I am not one for the pretentious, but I do hope to give light and inspiration to people. I hope I can find a connection with those with similar stories and we can lean in and teach one another!

I thought long and hard about what to call my blog. At first I thought I would call it the “All Things” blog referring to one of my favorite verses, Philippians 4:13 ” I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. I would blog about all the things in my life and all He is doing. After praying and thinking about what I wanted to share, and the journey I have taken, I kept getting another favorite verse repeated to me. Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your Paths Straight”. Then the kids’ VBS theme song back in June were those exact words sung to a catchy tune. I knew I had my title. Echo Factor reached. I hear you Lord.

I just think back to my story and how many times He has straightened my (and my family’s) path! How many times has He pulled us out of the mire and set us upon a solid rock? How many times when life seemed hopeless did He bring unfathomable joy?

This blog will not be a daily spewing of my events (that would get boring to most of you I think!). I plan to share my testimony from beginning to end. I plan to share whats He is doing in our lives NOW and what He continues to do. I will sprinkle my blog with things that make me passionate: food/cooking, homeschooling, marriage, my kids,music/ministry/worship, books and anything else that may inspire. The ongoing theme,however, is that GOD is at the center of ALL of this. Everything is spiritual (as Rob Bell says) and HE is in charge of the new, the starts and the beginning. Most important HE is in charge of the finish and HE wins in the end. HE is our victory in this life and that my friends is something we can always take solace in.