happy anniversary {expectations}

Disclaimer: This post contains no recipes, unless you want to call them “recipes for a better marriage” (joking…I mean, if this helps someone out there, that’s great, but I’m not trying to prescribe solutions to anyone other than myself at this point).


My husband and I are about to celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary, and this year I’ve really stuck to my guns: HE gets to plan our anniversary.

In years past, I did all or most of the planning for our anniversaries because:

1) I’m a planner

2) I have more free time than he does

3) I was concerned that if I didn’t plan it, nothing would happen -OR- I’d be extremely disappointed or underwhelmed by whatever it was he planned

Those first two reasons seem simple and reasonable enough, right? But what about the third? Upon self-reflection (crucial in any relationship), I find some deeper issues that need addressing. Issues of TRUST, and most of all: EXPECTATIONS.

With everyone so linked to one another’s personal lives through social media, even blogs, photo sharing, etc., I run across pictures and posts all the time of women who post things like:

“My hubby surprised me with a trip to (insert exotic getaway)!!”

“This morning my husband brought me breakfast in bed and a dozen roses!”

Usually these are followed by some photo that confirms that their statements are true, as well as some mention of how “he always treats me like a princess!” or something to that effect.

My husband has never surprised me with a trip. He has never brought me breakfast in bed. He has never bought me a dozen roses. Not even (GASP!) for an anniversary.

But here is what my husband DOES do:

  • He cooks amazing meals for our family any chance he gets
  • He helps clean the house (of his own will) daily
  • He rubs my back or my feet every night – all I have to do is ask!
  • He gives the best bear hugs every day when he comes home from work

More importantly…

  • He’s a hard worker and enjoys working
  • He comes home every day from work
  • He is a great listener and advice-giver
  • He loves his children and puts them to bed every night
  • He is faithful to me, he’s truly my best friend

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

I love the idea of a simple life. I’ve never been one to desire outrageous adventures. I just wanted to settle down with someone who loves God, who loves me, who has a good sense of humor and is a loyal friend. Guess what? That’s exactly who my husband is! My dream man! Rather than basing my expectations on what I see around me, I need to remember who I am. And who he is. And respect that, and be SO THANKFUL. There’s a verse in the bible about how “they comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (1 Cor. 10:12), and this really hits home in this circumstance for sure.

I’m not implying that men who do more exotic/romantic things DON’T do the things my husband does. Maybe they do all of those things, and good for you if you snatched a man like that! But the man I fell in love with, the man I befriended and dated for several years before we married…that man is the perfect man…FOR ME.

So even if he forgets to plan something for our anniversary this year, and we end up grabbing something to eat at a food truck with three kids tagging along, I will be grateful that God granted me this wonderful relationship. Simply wonderful. 

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happy holiday {s’mores truffles}

before the conclusion of another blessed year, i have one more recipe to share: s’mores truffles.

these were such a happy little accident that came about just in time for homemade gift giving season!

they’re chewy, nutty, sweet, and most importantly: MALLOWY (let’s just pretend that’s a real word). let’s also pretend i’m an expert photographer…


1 cup chocolate chips (i used lily’s stevia sweetened)image

1/3 cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons raw honey

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

one batch of elana’s pantry’s graham crackers, crumbled (about 2 cups) *SEE NOTE BELOW

1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts

48 mini vegan marshmallows (optional, omit if you prefer less sweetness)

1/3 cup powdered coconut sugar (optional, to coat truffles)


prepare one cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and greased with coconut oil spray.

heat chocolate chips, coconut sugar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. once the mixture melts, stir in almond milk until chocolate mixture is smooth. remove from heat, let cool slightly (about 5 minutes).

stir in graham cracker crumbles (*NOTE: for a shortcut, mix the batter for elana’s graham crackers, but don’t worry about shaping them – just spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 5-7 minutes – let cool before adding to truffle mix) and walnuts, then let mixture cool 10-15 more minutes.

fill a 1-1/2″ portion scoop halfway with truffle mix, then stuff 4 mini marshmallows into the scoop before filling the remainder with truffle mix. press tightly into portion scoop then place onto prepared cookie sheet. repeat. repeat again…you get the idea. you should have about 12 truffles.

place the cookie sheet with prepared truffles into the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour.

remove from fridge, and roll the truffles by hand to create more uniform spheres. roll truffles into powdered coconut sugar and place back on cookie sheet. chill or freeze 1-2 hours before consuming (i recommend frozen!).

happy holidays and a happy 2015 to my millions (okay, so there are two of you) of fans out there!

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cocoa nib sea salt cookies {two ways}

i’m proud to announce that i can retire from (cookie) recipe testing!

photo 4-16

these are by far the best cookies i’ve made — free of gluten, dairy, eggs, and refined sugar.  slightly crispy on the outside, and soft and chewy on the inside, with two of my favorite components in a dessert: a hint of saltiness, and the richness of chocolate.

i’ve made these two ways because i’ve come to realize that some people believe oats are off-limits to those of us going gluten-free, but others seem to be A-OK with them. i haven’t noticed any reactions when i have bob’s red mill gluten-free rolled oats, so that’s what i used in version #1 of my cookies (my favorite version!).


first things first…here’s the flour mix i used for each (each makes about 5 cups):

flour blend A (used in version #1): 

2 cups brown rice flour

3/4 cup almond meal

1/2 cup quinoa flour

3/4 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup tapioca starch

flour blend B (used in version #2):

2 cups brown rice flour

1-1/4 cup sorghum flour

3/4 cup almond meal

3/4 cup arrowroot starch

3/4 cup tapioca starch


VERSION #1: cocoa nib sea salt oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

{dry ingredients}

1 cup flour blend A (above)

1 cup GF oats (i prefer bob’s red mill gluten free rolled oats)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cocoa nib salt — i made mine with this —

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{wet ingredients}

1/4 cup palm oil shortening

1/4 cup applesauce

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup grade B maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 flax “egg” (1 tablespoon flax meal + 2 tablespoons warm H2O, whisk, then let sit for 5+ minutes)

1/2 cup chocolate bits/chips/chunks (i recommend either enjoy life dark chocolate chunks, or chopping your own raw/dark chocolate or cacao bar)



mix all dry ingredients together, then in a stand mixer bowl, combine all wet ingredients except the “egg” and chocolate chips, mixing on medium speed until you achieve a fluffy texture (about 3-5 minutes). add “egg,” then mix on medium speed for about a minute before adding dry ingredients, gradually increasing mixing speed back to medium-high. slowly stir in chocolate chips until incorporated. drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet. bake at 375 for about 8 minutes. makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

VERSION #2: cocoa nib sea salt almond butter chocolate chip cookies

{dry ingredients}

1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour blend B (above)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cocoa nib salt (see version #1 recipe above)

{wet ingredients}

1/4 cup palm oil shortening

1/4 cup almond butter

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup grade B maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 flax “egg” (1 tablespoon flax meal + 2 tablespoons warm H2O, whisk, then let sit for 5+ minutes)

1/2 cup chocolate bits/chips/chunks (i recommend either enjoy life dark chocolate chunks, or chopping your own raw/dark chocolate or cacao bar)


mix all dry ingredients together, then in a stand mixer bowl, combine all wet ingredients except the “egg” and chocolate chips, mixing on medium speed until you achieve a fluffy texture (about 3-5 minutes). add “egg,” then mix on medium speed for about a minute before adding dry ingredients, gradually increasing mixing speed back to medium-high. slowly stir in chocolate chips until incorporated. drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet. bake at 375 for about 8 minutes. makes approximately 20-22 cookies.


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light and lightly sweet {ginger ale}

i’ve gone over 10 years without drinking sodas on a regular basis, and i honestly haven’t missed them much. i don’t miss the immense sweetness, and i definitely don’t miss how i felt after drinking one. but i do sometimes crave the carbonation. it seems like most carbonated drink alternatives are either completely unsweetened, or have a HUGE dose of some alternative sweetener, such as stevia, or fruit juice and honey. so i decided to set out to create a lightly sweet version, and this was the result:


light, refreshing ginger ale! (serves 2)


1/2 cup water

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup frozen pineapple chunks * see NOTE below

2″ chunk of ginger root, peeled and sliced


bring all ingredients to a boil over medium-high heat. reduce to low simmer, and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until liquid reduces and fruit is soft. place contents into a fine-mesh strainer fitted over a glass bowl, and strain, mashing the pineapple pieces until you’re able to get as much juice from them as possible. toss remaining fruit/ginger. pour about 2-3 tablespoons of your syrup into the bottom of a drinking glass, and add sparkling mineral water. obviously, feel free to adjust the ratio of syrup to water according to your taste. drink up!

*NOTE: have fun trying this with other fruits! another i’ve tried: a combination of apples, cucumber, and rosemary – delicious!

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intermission {birth story}


i’m taking a break from my usual posting to record a pretty special event from my life: the birth of child #3.

after some long months of waiting (she was 11 days overdue), rosalie sage was born into this world on november 19.


rosalie’s birth story is especially…special to me for several reasons:

  • she wasn’t “planned.” this was a big deal to me, mostly because of our history of having trouble conceiving our second child. we tried and tried, conceived, then miscarried, then after several months finally conceived baby #2. so THIS baby coming completely effortlessly was a total shock (i learned later i should have reacted with profound thanksgiving!). we found out we were expecting her at a stressful time in our lives when my husband and i had just listed our house for sale, were both working while he was also going to grad school, all while raising our other two children. needless to say, we both sort of freaked out when we found out i was pregnant. it was a rough, but luckily brief time filled with tears and frustration, but with the help of lots of prayer over time, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (phil 4:7) guarded our hearts and our minds.
  • during this time of fear and stress, i began bleeding and cramping. since i had miscarried once before, i just knew that’s what was happening. i took a bath and cried for a good half hour, praying that the baby would be safe. after an examination, i learned the baby was indeed safe, and that was the turning point for me – i embraced the fact that i was pregnant, and was actually EXCITED.
  • one of the main reasons i was so stressed out by the news of my pregnancy is because i dreaded having a third c-section. i had attempted a natural, drug-free, vaginal delivery with my first two children, but ended up with cesareans in both cases for the same reason – failure to progress. the first time, i had used a traditional practice, and they seemed very pushy very early in labor about administering pitocin and then, of course, having a c-section. i was uneducated, and although we tried to negotiate with the doctor some, we gave in pretty easily in the end because i was so exhausted. with my second, i used a less traditional practice – one with doctors and nurse midwives who utilized the same hospital where my first child had been delivered, and they were completely on board with my attempts to VBAC. in the end, they were much more patient, but i still felt that we had to negotiate our way through the process. this time, after much research and study i decided to attempt a home birth VBA2C. i found an amazing midwife (referred by the helpful doula i’d used in my second child’s birth) with tons of experience who supported my wishes for a home birth.
  • in the end, i was fortunate enough to experience a long, pleasant home labor on one of the most beautiful days of the year. my water broke on monday night (the 18th) around 10 PM, and contractions began about an hour afterwards. they increased in intensity and frequency all through the night, and when the midwife checked me early tuesday morning, i was already 3-4 cm dilated (which was the most i ever got to with my previous two). i was definitely hopeful at that point because of how quickly that portion of labor had progressed compared to my other two labors. once the sun began shining, we started working to make those contractions keep coming – walking, using the exercise ball, squatting, etc… but around 8 AM or so, the contractions just…STOPPED. and they never really returned. i still had a few every now and then, but they were nothing like the ones i’d had the night before. so essentially, we were facing the same scenario we had with the previous two labors – failure to progress after my water had broken hours before. sometime that afternoon (maybe around 4 or so), my midwife suggested we consider some options and some risks and benefits to continuing an attempt of labor at home. for one, i was dehydrated..so much so that she wasn’t able to hook me up to her IV fluids b/c my veins wouldn’t cooperate. she had always told me that she “doesn’t wait for an emergency,” and i could see in her eyes that she was concerned we could have an emergency on our hands if we kept pushing for our labor/birth at home. she very gently and genuinely explained her concerns, and gave my husband and me time to discuss our options together. we went for a walk outside and took our time talking and praying about our choices. when we came back we were convinced that a repeat cesarean was the best/safest route. NO NEGOTIATIONS REQUIRED.
  • our midwife had developed a relationship with an OB/GYN from the nearby hospital who had agreed to be on back up for me if needed. when we got to the hospital and met him, i was so impressed by how supportive he was of my decision to attempt a VBA2C. during the surgery, he talked me through everything he was doing and what he was finding (noting observations about my scar tissue from the previous c-sections, the baby’s position, etc…). as soon as rosalie emerged, i heard that sweet first cry, and cried tears of joy. the pediatrician took her and handed her to me, placing her on my chest as i had requested, and she immediately stopped crying. i felt such an intense bond right away. i had no doubts about my decision, because it had been MY DECISION 100%, and i felt SUPPORTED 100% through the entire process.

i know people say, “all that matters is that you and the baby are here and are healthy,” and i understand and agree with that sentiment to a point…it matters a great deal. BUT, it’s not really all that matters. after my first cesarean, i felt totally defeated and now know that i was experiencing postpartum depression for the weeks after my son’s birth. i had suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, and had a really rough time bonding with my son for several months. after my second cesarean, although i was much more supported, i still had doubts and a lot of “what if” questions took over my thoughts in the months/years to follow. for this third (and final) experience, i have felt totally at peace with the whole experience, and haven’t felt any doubts or depression creeping in. this is the first time i’ve been able to completely enjoy my newborn baby in these precious first days/weeks of her life.

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two favorites: {holiday cookies}

since baby #3 is due any day now (actually, she was due three days ago…), i figure i’d better blog while i can. this is a post i’ve been looking forward to sharing, because it features my favorite baked good: COOKIES.

i hope you’ll enjoy these two cookie recipes; these are my go-to cookies, and as a bonus, are both suitable for the holiday season!

1)  cranberry coconut cookies


these are a spinoff of “dina’s delightful cookies,” featured on elana’s pantry (one of the best recipe blogs EVER!). they are so wonderful – they have the taste/consistency of shortbread cookies.


1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/4 cup almond flour or favorite GF flour mix (or a combination of both, which is my personal favorite)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup frozen or fresh cranberries


after toasting walnuts on the stovetop (til aromatic and browning), place walnuts and cranberries in a food processor or blender and quickly pulse until ingredients are pea-sized. next, mix wet ingredients: coconut oil, maple syrup (or honey), and vanilla. separately combine dry ingredients, including the walnut/cranberry mix. stir dry into wet ingredients, mix well. form dough into 1″ balls, flatten slightly with the palm of your hand, and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

2) peppermint chocolate cookies

these require very little modification from sarah’s gluten free vegan chocolate chocolate chip cookies, so i’ll simply refer you to her site for the recipe. the only changes i made were as follows:

  • i used 1/2 cup coconut sugar in place of the brown sugar, and omitted the cane sugar.
  • i used almond milk instead of coconut milk.
  • i replaced 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract with peppermint extract.

these come out soft and fluffy, with a perfect balance of chocolate-peppermint flavor.

i’m also working on a cut out “sugar” cookie recipe that i hope to be able to share with you before the new year…stay tuned!

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three unexpected uses of {avocados}

my husband and i love avocados in just about any form. in fact, my husband has a “guacamole” tattoo, featuring all of the ingredients of guacamole in their whole food form…


love the diversity, the flavor, the texture, the nutritional benefits. if only my children felt the same. sure, they’ll try a little guacamole every now and then (especially if their dad makes it – his is the best!), but beyond that, they seem frightened by the sight of an avocado. so, i finally figured out that i can HIDE avocados in the unexpected (i know, i’m way behind most moms who’ve been hiding veggies in their kids’ food for ages), in several dishes and treats, and my kids are none-the-wiser.

my top three unexpected uses of avocados:

1) as a substitute for mayo in a tuna, salmon, or chicken salad recipes (got this idea from this post by aprovechar)

2) as a base for chocolate pudding or mousse (giada’s recipe is wonderful, with a few substitutions to suit our dietary needs: use 3/4 cups cocoa powder instead of chocolate chips + cocoa powder, and 1/3 cup maple syrup instead of 1/2 cup of agave) – delicious with fresh fruit on top!

3) as a substitute for butter in chocolate cookies (i liked this recipe by two peas and their pod. subbed gluten free flour mix for all purpose flour, and 1/2 cup coconut sugar for both the brown and white sugar)

please feel free to share more ideas for hiding this amazing fruit, particularly in some kid-friendly dishes!

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maple cinnamon “cream cheese” {spread}

this is so quick and easy, i only regret that i didn’t think to make it before…VEGAN MAPLE CINNAMON “CREAM CHEESE” SPREAD. no dairy, no refined sugar, just simple goodness. the basic concept came from this recipe for a basic vegan cream cheese spread. i imagine you could spruce this up any way you’d like: savory (like…onion and herbs), or sweet (i think i’ll try fruit next time).



1 can full fat coconut milk

1 cup raw cashews

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, depending on your preference)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon starch (i used potato starch, but cornstarch or tapioca starch would work here too)


place all ingredients EXCEPT starch in a food processor or high-speed blender. mix on high until smooth. transfer to small saucepan over medium-high heat, add your starch, and stir until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. let it cool, then go ahead and indulge, or refrigerate if you prefer it cold. spread on your favorite gluten-free bread or cracker – enjoy!

my super fan:


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berry-filled {cinnamon rolls}

these berry-filled cinnamon rolls were inspired by some mouth-watering photos by veggie and the beast.

as you may or may not know, baking yeast breads with gluten free flour and no eggs is extremely tricky, and is rarely as pretty as the pictures you see on her site (you’ll see my proof below). but if you’re in the predicament of avoiding eggs, dairy, gluten, and refined sugar but still long for the occasional breakfast treat, bear with me, and try to look beyond the outward appearance — i promise their taste will overshadow any unattractiveness you see on the outside. actually, the end result is not too bad, if i do say so myself…


{dough ingredients}

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 cup ghee, cut into chunks (if you unable to tolerate ghee, any butter substitute would work)

3-1/4 cup gluten free flour mix (see my post about pancakes for my recipe – double this, b/c you’ll obviously need more than the 2 cups the recipe yields)

2 tablespoons instant yeast

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 flax “egg” (1 tablespoon flax meal whisked with 3 tablespoons warm water – allow to sit for 5-10 minutes)

{filling ingredients}

2 tablespoons ghee, melted (or other butter substitute)

1 cup fresh raspberries

1 cup fresh strawberries

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

{glaze ingredients}

1/2 cup maple syrup

4 teaspoons almond butter

a few dashes of cinnamon

(glaze recipe from this no sugar cinnamon roll recipe)


warm the almond milk over medium heat until it starts to boil. remove from heat, and stir in ghee. let it sit and cool a bit while you prepare the dough mix. in a stand mixer bowl, start by whisking together all of the dry ingredients for the dough, and then add your wet ingredients, including your almond milk mixture and flax egg. add the hook attachment to your mixer, and knead on medium speed for a few minutes (3-5). if your dough is too dry and won’t come together, you should add some water, a couple of tablespoons at a time (i only had to add 2-3 tablespoons). after 3 or so minutes, your dough should hold together and be soft to the touch. cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise for a half hour.


meanwhile, mix all of the filling ingredients together (except the ghee) in a small saucepan on high heat for about 7 minutes. the mixture will boil, which helps it thicken as it should. be sure to keep stirring as it boils. if you don’t like a lot of seeds, you can then put the filling in your vitamix or other high speed blender for a minute or two to create a smooth filling.


roll out your dough into a large rectangle (about 16″ x 12″).  i like to use cling wrap to roll my dough — simply tape down a large rectangle of it to your countertop, put your ball of dough on top, and then put another rectangle of cling wrap on top before rolling out with a rolling pin to your desired size. remove the top layer of cling wrap, and then spread the butter substitute (or brush melted ghee) onto the dough. add your berry filling, distributing it evenly across the dough.


roll your dough carefully, and then, using a serrated knife, slice into 8 pieces. place them into a greased (i used coconut oil spray) 8″ or 9″ round cake pan. WARNING: as you roll your dough, much of the berry filling will likely ooze its way out onto your cling wrap. my parents taught me not to waste my food, so i spooned up the excess filling and spread it on top of the cinnamon rolls.


cover, let rise for another half hour while you preheat your oven to 375.

NOTE: these gluten and egg free cinnamon rolls do not rise a whole awful lot, so don’t expect them to double in size or anything. you’ll notice they spread much closer together than in my photo above within that rise time.

bake for about 20 minutes. while they’re baking, use a small saucepan over low heat to whisk together the glaze ingredients. you can immediately drizzle the glaze onto the cinnamon rolls once you remove them from the oven.

hope you enjoy them as a special treat like i did!

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cast iron skillet {banana bread}

banana bread is another one of those that i have tried to make gluten, dairy, egg, refined-sugar free many times, with absolute failure each time. this morning i came across gluten-free goddess’s vegan banana bread recipe, and was so excited to give it a try, especially seeing as how it would require very little tweaking.

if you make this banana bread, USE A CAST IRON SKILLET. it was so wonderfully delicious, i’ve basically been thinking about it all day, and i’m pretty sure it was largely because of the consistency/texture the skillet created. i’m sure it would have been great in a loaf pan too, but something about that crispy texture around the outside and that heartwarming feel of the cast iron skillet really made my day.


the only changes i made were:

  • i used 3/4 cup of coconut sugar instead of 1 cup of brown sugar
  • i used 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup chocolate chips (i think i would have preferred it with 1/2 cup walnuts only – no chocolate chips)
  • i baked it for about 40 minutes instead of a full hour
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