On Rest

The rain is pattering on my windows. My tea is hot. My sweet healthy baby is asleep in her cozy bed. My two lovely children are next door, playing with friends. Our friends. Who just moved in next door. A kind, lovely, beautiful family, with two kids, who share our values and our sense of humour. Right next door. The kids running between houses, biking up and down the street. I want to hold this moment tight. To bask in the beauty and the miracle of it all.

I birthed three healthy babies. How is that possible? We moved to a small, beautiful town, on a big, beautiful Island, in a gorgeous, temperate province of a good, safe country. There is no war. We are not hungry. Our fridge is full. How is this possible? Our hearts are bursting. Forty years ago, God watched two homes being built, and knew that two families who loved each other, would get to do life together. I wouldn’t have dreamed it. Anxious kid with OCD, living with a single, broken, mom, who loved her, but also hurt her. A dad who loved her too, but didn’t know how. Struggling with his own pain and addiction he was here and gone, then back again as though it was all just fine. She grew up believing she was incapable of doing close, healthy relationships. She removed her dad from her life, and spent hours upon hours yelling, screaming, fighting with her mom. She’d never get married. If she did, it wouldn’t last. Maybe she could be a missionary overseas.

Now, here I am. Weeks away from my ten-year anniversary and he’s still my best friend. Even more so. We have walked through four hard pregnancies, two bouts of post-partum depression, the loss of a baby in-utero. We’ve learned to be more open and more intimate than I thought possible. I’ve learned that he loves me even when I’m depressed and angry and scared and completely unattractive and unproductive and unhelpful. I’ve learned that sometimes love means keeping your mouth shut. And sometimes opening it (hehe). I’ve learned that I can do healthy relationships. Not because he’s perfect and loves me sacrificially, having married a woman incapable of relationships. But because we are both here and broken and we use our powerful words carefully and we apologize when we don’t. And because somehow, God let us meet each other and let us date each other and let us marry each other. I don’t think I was smart or wise enough at 23 to know just how incredible he was. God did.

And now, after a decade of struggling through pregnancies and toddlerhood and him working two jobs while doing school, and me trying to work through pain and bitterness and forgiveness and depression and anxiety while parenting and homeschooling and cooking and cleaning and dealing with frustrating landlords and tiny basement suites, we are here. We live on a quiet street, in a big, beautiful house that’s OURS, in a small town that’s lovely, with air that smells like forest one minute, and ocean the next.

My brain and my heart are tired. My body is exhausted. I realize I need to rest. To stop striving. To breathe. Here we are. This life is so good. But it’s time to stop and rest here. Stop pressing on to the next thing and the next thing and let’s renovate and we should start a Bible study and let’s build a deck and I should be more disciplined and fit and I need to meal plan and I need to start doing A, B, and C, and I need to stop doing X, Y, and Z and there’s so much to improve because I am a mess.

So, my question, is this: How do I rest? How do I find time to rest when I squander my time on Facebook and Pinterest and Whatsapp under the guise of being productive? I just have to send this e-mail. I should order some more dish soap and vitamins and some gluten-free flour. I should see if I can find some more socks or soothers online to save a trip to the big city. Oh, I should click on this news story here. Oh, an article about organizing/eating right/being more disciplined. I should read that. That’s a neat sofa, I wonder where that’s from. I should click. Oh, Pinterest. I’m bated and hooked. And two hours go by. How dare I sit down and read a book after wasting my time doing that? How DARE I rest? I should have been vacuuming or cleaning up from today, or planning a nice school lesson for tomorrow. So up I get off the sofa at 10:30 pm and try to salvage my evening after squandering it. And then I’m up late. My mind is racing. I should have been in bed two hours ago. Now I’m going to be tired tomorrow. I should be going to bed early. I should be waking up before my kids. I should be spending time exercising, praying, reading the Bible. I should be making a nice breakfast. And coffee for Cam. And his lunch. I don’t make his lunch. I need to get to bed. So I go to bed before finishing the chores I wanted to finish, with the plan of waking up and doing them before he leaves for work.

Morning comes too soon, and I force myself awake at the last possible moment. Then I scramble and rush trying to catch up. The trouble is, I spend the whole day running, running, trying to catch up, trying to salvage the day, trying to get ahead, trying to make up for all that I lack. By the time the kids are in bed, I’m exhausted. I just have to send this e-mail. I should order that dish soap and those vitamins. Did I end up getting socks yesterday? And guess what I do at 10:30 pm.

How do I stop the cycle? How do I give myself permission to rest when I have so much to do and I am not doing it?

And what is rest supposed to look like?

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Furniture Free

No, not “free furniture”. Well, not yet, anyway. But keep your eyes open, because we may just give away our sofas in the near future! Until then, I want to share with you a very exciting new blog discovery. It’s called http://www.katysays.com, and the blogger is a biomechanist and mom who writes about healthy bodies, alignment, and a whole bunch of other amazing, fascinating things. And she lives (mostly) furniture-free with her family. As soon as I read this article, I made sure it was all set up nice for Fireman to read, and then not-so-subtly put it right in front of his face.

And waited. With bated breath.

HE LOVED IT! Ah, I love this man who happily joins me on my hippie endeavours. Of course, neither of us are jumping on Craigslist to give away our furniture (yet) but the ideas are percolating. Most of the world’s population lives without sofas, tables, and chairs – why can’t we? Imagine how much SPACE we would have! Imagine how fun and adventurous it would be! So we started by pushing our kitchen table against the wall, leaving a huge space in the kitchen (great for mini-stick hockey, says B!) and allowing us to spread out a blanket and eat on the floor for meals. Just like they do in Afghanistan! (And many other countries, but I just finished a great book about a girl in Afghanistan).

Here is a video tour of Katy Bowman’s house: http://www.katysays.com/furniture-free-ahs13/

Tonight, dinner was our first picnic. And dinner was DELISH. I made Smoked Salmon Asparagus Pasta and it was healthy, easy, and quite delicious if I do say so myself. In fact, everyone gobbled it up. Including K, who is our fussiest eater. I’ll share the recipe and I encourage you to spread out a blanket and eat it on the floor🙂

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 package of pasta (organic brown rice pasta is my favourite, but any pasta will do!)
  • 2-3 TBSP butter
  • 2 large or 3 smaller green onions, finely chopped (makes approx. 1/2 cup)
  • half a bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • zest of one lemon (optional)
  • 1-2 cups of whole milk or cream
  • approx 1/4 cup cream cheese (organic if possible. Island farms is a good non-organic option. Or make your own by straining yogurt through a cheesecloth overnight, and adding some salt!)
  • a chunk of smoked salmon (often called BBQ Salmon Tips) about 200g-400g
  • a few handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. Wash your asparagus and trim the ends. Put in the boiling water and could for 1-4 minutes, depending on the thickness. You want them bright green.
  3. Once they’re cooked, remove them from the water using a slotted spoon and if they’re absolutely perfect, run them under cold water to avoid overcooking. Or you can take them out a little early, put them on a plate, and allow them to continue cooking a little as they cool.
  4. Return the water to a boil and cook the pasta as directed.
  5. Meanwhile, finely chop your green onions and parsley. Heat your butter in a pan on medium heat.
  6. Chop your asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces and throw in the pan, tossing to coat with the butter.
  7. Add the onions and parsley and lemon rind (if you’re using it) and cook for a minute or two.
  8. Check your pasta. Once it’s cooked, drain, but don’t rinse it. You need it to have a little extra starch to thicken the sauce.
  9. Add 1 cup of milk/cream to the pan, as well as the cream cheese. Don’t bother measuring the cream cheese, just put four tablespoon-sized glops, then stir to melt and incorporate with the milk/cream.
  10. If the pasta is done, add that to your pan and mix.
  11. Break or chop the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces and add that too.
  12. If you want to increase the veggies, chop some spinach and add that too, ensuring everything is heated and that the spinach wilts a little. If it isn’t saucy enough, add more milk.
  13. Season with salt and pepper. If your kids don’t like pepper, make sure you have it at the table for adults, because it’s a must in my opinion!

Lettuce Wraps

My friends. The recipe that follows is a recipe that will change your life. You will never want to eat anything else again. If you were on a deserted island, THIS is the meal you would choose, and you would not regret it.

I love combining multiples textures and flavours to create a party in my mouth. This meal has it all. Crunchy, chewy, crispy, velvety, sweet, salty, tangy…the list goes on.

Now, this is a throw-together easy-going one-pot sorta meal, so don’t worry about quantities, okay? It’s a little mix ‘n’ match, and that’s what’s fun.

You may want to plan to double or triple this recipe, because tomorrow at breakfast you’ll wish you were eating it. And at lunch. And dinner. Plus, the filling freezes really well.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce (it’s an Asian condiment that is absolutely worth having in your fridge if you like chinese food. Add a bit to fried rice and it’ll taste exactly like takeout!)
  • toasted sesame oil (you can certainly make this recipe without this ingredient, but it adds a great flavour if you have some on hand!)
  • a good-sized package of coleslaw or some finely sliced cabbage…but I’m not sure how much cabbage, because I did the pre-sliced bag. So, chop maybe half the cabbage? Or maybe the whole one…basically, once it’s chopped, take the sliced cabbage in your hands, and it would be about the size of your child’s head.
  • 1 can of sliced water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped.
  • 1-2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, or a tsp. of garlic powder
  • a chunk of fresh ginger about the same size as the garlic (finely chopped or crushed in your garlic press) or 1/2 a tsp of ground ginger
  • leftover brown rice if you’ve got it. Two cups is great.

Garnishes:

  • little handful of cilantro
  • 2-3 large carrots, grated
  • hoisin sauce
  • peanut butter or other nut/seed butter
  • a package of ramen noodles.
  • don’t forget lettuce

Easy version: fry up the ingredients. Serve in lettuce. Top with garnishes. Eat.

Detailed version:

  1. Get a nice big cast iron frying pan (any frying pan or even a dutch oven will do, but I have a massive cast iron frying pan that I love deeply, so I’m gonna recommend you use something like that!)
  2. Throw your chicken in and cook it up. Add some oil if needed.
  3. Meanwhile, open and drain the water chestnuts and chop finely. Push them to the side of the cutting board and peel/chop your ginger. Or just peel, quarter, and stick it in your garlic press to save time.
  4. Once the chicken is cooked, add the chopped cabbage, water chestnuts, ginger, and garlic, and cook until the cabbage is translucent.
  5. Say “translucent” out loud and enjoy how it rolls of your tongue. It’s a fun word.
  6. Add some fish sauce (like ten good shakes?) and some soy sauce (more than you did the fish sauce, but not so much that everything tastes really soy-sauce-y), and a little bit of sesame oil.
  7. Chop your green onion finely and add it to the pan.
  8. Add cooked brown rice if you’ve got it. This is a great way to extend the meal if you have a big family or just like to be a little frugal. Also makes it a little more filling!
  9. Mix everything around and adjust seasonings to suit your tastes.
  10. Turn the frying pan down to low while you get everything else ready.
  11. Wash the lettuce. Romaine works wonderfully because you just fill the leaves like ‘boats’. Iceberg is more traditional for lettuce wraps and is crunchier. I’ve also heard butter lettuce can be good. My kids prefer lettuce wrap bowls, (they’re much less messy) so I chop up the lettuce for them and serve the filling on top, like taco salad, but not Mexican.
  12. If you like cilantro, chop that up to serve as a garnish.
  13. Wash, peel, and grate your carrots with a large-size grater. Like, the kind you’d use for cheese. This gives you some good crunch. Put it in a bowl. It’ll go on top of the filling in your wrap.
  14. Mix hoisin sauce and peanut butter together. Roughly half and half, or maybe 2/3 hoisin to 1/3 peanut butter. Add some soy sauce to thin it out, and even a little water to make it thin enough to pour. Depends a lot on your brand of hoisin.
  15. Crunch up your ramen noodles. You know, like, Mr. Noodles? Or Ichiban. Anyone remember the old Ichiban commercials? So good.
  16. Put everything on the table and make sure you have good-sized plates to catch the mess! To make a lettuce wrap, grab a piece of lettuce, fill with the meat/cabbage mixture, top with grated carrot and cilantro (if desired – it’s really good either way), add crushed uncooked ramen noodles, and drizzle with the hoisin peanut sauce (or you can use the sauce to dip).

I’m so glad I just ate that meal. It was so good. So, so good. Everyone in the family loved it.

A side note about rice: I started making big batches of rice and freezing it so I can have rice on hand in an instant. I soak 2.5 cups of brown rice in filtered water with a little bit of yogurt or whey overnight. In the morning, I rinse the rice and put in my 8-cup rice cooker with 5 cups of water. This is the maximum amount I can fit. If you have a bigger rice cooker, go bigger! Once the rice is cooked, I scoop it onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet using an ice cream scoop (a 1/2 cup or 1-cup measure also works). Then I pop it in the freezer, making ‘rice pucks’ which I then transfer to a freezer bag. Then I have soaked, cooked brown rice on hand for a quick lunch (my son likes it with melted cheese and salsa, my daughter likes it with butter and salt) or to add to soups or these lovely lettuce wraps!

Breakfast Bake

Oh. My. Word.

Woke up this morning and decided to exercise some breakfast creativity. While I was sick, Fireman seemed to have gone on a cold cereal binge. There are boxes of flakes, oats, puffs…even granola.

I love cold cereal. But I firmly believe it does not belong on a breakfast menu. It’s generally full of sugar and weird unknown ingredients, possesses very little protein, and aside from the odd sweetened dried berry it has zero fruits or vegetables.

It’s delicious, but it’s dessert. Maybe an afternoon pick-me-up or a good little snack before bed.

Breakfast is the first meal of the day, and regardless of whether it’s the most important, it’s a meal. And cold cereal is not a meal!

At some point in the last hundred years, I think North Americans decided to let Santa’s Elves dictate what was appropriate breakfast fare. Flat little cakes with syrup? Or wait, let’s put big dents in them to hold more syrup, or top them with whipped cream! Bread dipped in egg, fried, and THEN doused in syrup? Doughnuts? Muffins? Scones? Pop tarts!? Cereal with little dried marshmallows?? Or how ’bout cereal BARS? Sugary cake stuffed with sugary jam! Or how ’bout chocolately protein shake mixes so we can drink milkshakes for breakfast!

It’s almost ingrained in us that breakfast should be sweet. Meanwhile, people in China are eating fried rice for breakfast. And people in India are eating curries.

Fried rice is one of my favourite breakfasts. Or any leftover dinner, really.

But I haven’t totally gotten my family on board with the dinner-for-breakfast idea. And sometimes oatmeal is a great way to start the day…even if it is topped with sugar. Or berries. Mmmm, or cinnamon. A little butter and salt add a great dimension to plain ol’ oatmeal.

OR…I could get back to the original point of this post, and tell you about the amazing oatmeal berry cake I made for breakfast! Low sugar, eggs for protein, and lots of berries and oats. It was a win-win-win-win. My family got cake for breakfast, and I got to serve them a fairly balanced meal.

Here’s the recipe:

http://apple-of-my-eye.com/2014/05/02/baked-honey-berry-oatmeal/

I used unsweetened almond milk instead of regular milk. Actually, I made it ‘buttermilk-y’ by doing about 1.5 cups of almond milk and half a cup of plain yogurt. Mixed that together just to add some extra moisture and deliciousness. Not necessary, though. I just particularly love buttermilk in any sort of cake or muffin. I also used coconut oil instead of butter, and coconut sugar. I was extremely generous with my cinnamon and vanilla, because I don’t think you can ever add too much! I skipped the nuts because we didn’t have any. And I used three eggs, but next time I think I might even try 4. That’s my favourite part about this breakfast – good protein to start the day! Also, the first time I made it, I found her timing way too short. It took almost 45 minutes for the cake to be solid. Then I realized maybe it was a bit dry and it doesn’t need to be entirely solid. So the next time, I baked for maybe half an hour? My requirement was that the eggy moisture on top was gone. It doesn’t have to be solid in the middle, though. Make sure the edges have a decent solid-ness to them, though. OH, and grease the pan generously with butter. It makes the edges a little crispy and super yummy!

Then, the part that added a whole other delicious dimension of perfection? A garnish, of course! I love sauces and toppings. So I served the cake with plain yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup on top. It was amazing. I could eat this all day!

UPDATE: A friend of mine asked about soaking the oats. Of course! I’m a big fan of soaking/sprouting grains before consuming, and I highly recommend the book, Nourishing Traditions. So, I think what I’ll do next time, is add 1/2 cup of yogurt to the oats, more if necessary, and let it soak for a little while (or overnight). Then I’ll do 1.5 cups of almond milk. This recipe isn’t super fussy, so if you add a little more or less moisture, you’ll be okay. By the way, I used 4 eggs last time I made it, and it was good, but a tad eggy. Still really good, so I think I’ll stick with four, but if you’re making it for the first time, or for company, maybe just go with 3.

Enchilada Soup

Made this soup tonight. It was amazing!

http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/slow-cooker-chicken-enchilada-soup-recipe/%20http://

I’ve tried a few recipes for enchilada sauce, and her recipe is my favourite:

http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/red-enchilada-sauce/

I did a quadruple batch and froze the extras so next time I really can just throw everything in the crock-pot.

For recipe changes, I used thighs instead of breasts. I had two packages, which came to three pounds, but for the rest of the soup I just doubled it the recipe. Perfect for my meat-loving man. I didn’t have enough beans to double them, so I just used half the beans but a bit more corn and it was great. Oh, and I sauteed the onions first. I once made a slow-cooker soup where the onions were not fully cooked, so I made sure they were soft before adding them. I’d love to know if I could skip that step, but I really don’t want to make a whole pot of soup with raw onions floating on top! So I’ve resigned myself to sauteing them even though it’s against my Crock-pot Beliefs. (Which are: if the crock-pot makes things so easy, why do half the recipes out there require searing, sauteing, or pre-cooking the ingredients!? I will not use a slow-cooker recipe that does not actually make my life easier. I need to be able to dump, turn on, and go. Except for sauteing onions for soups.)

Anyway, this is a recipe that really doesn’t need any significant changes for me to love it and make it. The aspect that keeps you coming back for more, is the garnish. Definitely definitely have fresh cilantro on hand, as well as sour cream (or yogurt). Torilla chips and grated cheese are also really good, and make this dish especially kid-friendly. But the sour cream and cilantro are a must!

Apple Pie

When I imagine my ideal, dream life, it usually looks something like Little House on the Prairie. Living in a handmade log home, heated by a fire, lit by lanterns, surrounded by trees and grass. No computers. No cars. No TV. No noise. No buzzing lights or fridges. No hum from the furnace. Just quiet. The sound of birds, rain, light breezes, wood crackling in the fire, and my manly man chopping wood out back. No stinky smog or the sickly smell of phthlalate-laden laundry detergent wafting out of the dryer vents of every house on the block. Instead, I’m surrounded by the smell of cedar and pine, of wood smoke, of freshly baked bread. The smell of cows and horses and straw. Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong century. Or at least the wrong decade.

One thing I imagine about my Little House on the Prairie self, is that I’d be able to whip up a pie like nobody’s business. Like, an afterthought. I’d look outside, note the angle of the shadows, and realize it would be a wee bit longer until Pa was in from the fields. Just enough time to whip up a pie for dessert. “Easy as pie” would actually mean that something was easy.

I don’t really do pies. I’ve done them before, and they were pretty good, but pastry makes me nervous and pies generally feel like a LOT of work. And I don’t really love pie. Mostly because when I eat it, it has been purchased from a store and is laden with un-pronounceable (impronounceable? non-pronouceable? I don’t know, you get the idea) ingredients. The filling is sickly sweet and the crust is dry and bland. So…I don’t really eat pie. Or make it. We’re kind of a pie-free house.

Or we WERE.

Enter: tortilla pie! Yay! Still with a few un-pronouceable ingredients, but largely home-made, using real butter, and very little sugar. I got the recipe here, but found it a little sweet and a little too…tortilla-esque. It just didn’t taste pie-ish. So this time I used sweeter apples (gala and ambrosia) and didn’t bother peeling them (the peel gets soft and cooks with the apples so might as well keep it on – just wash them well!), I reduced the sugar to 1/3 cup coconut sugar, and… AND (here is the clincher) I brushed each tortilla with melted butter inside, before adding the filling. Then I rolled ’em up, stuffed them into the pan, brushed with butter on the outside, sprinkled with sugar, and stacked more rolls on top. I generously greased the pan with butter so the bottoms of the tortilla rolls got sort of crispy. We ate them warm with vanilla ice cream. They were so. very. good. A perfect combination of buttery and sweet. The outsides of the tortillas were a little bit crispy, the insides soft and chewy. The apples were sweet and the ice cream was…creamy. It’s an amazing blend of textures and flavours, and it really IS as easy as pie!

Quick Herby Prawn Pasta

Fireman came home after work today (he works Saturdays but has Mondays off) to zero dinner. I just couldn’t wrap my head around another meal. Saturday, which is the end of the week for us, tends to be that way for me. I’m done. Order a pizza or miraculously produce some sort of delicious, healthy dinner, just don’t make me cook.

Well, Fireman didn’t catch on to the pizza vibe I was telepathically sending him. Which is good, because I really didn’t want to order pizza, I just didn’t want to cook. Instead, he came home, grabbed some pasta, and asked me what he could make with it. Together we (by ‘we’ I mean I verbalized ideas and he did all the work) created an awesome pasta dish that he will hopefully re-create EVERY Saturday night!

Ingredients:

  • prawns
  • broccoli
  • pasta (after trying spaghetti, we decided fusili/rotini is best)
  • butter
  • parsley
  • green onions
  • fresh spinach
  • salt
  • garlic powder
  • white pepper
  • salt
  • ‘Better Than Bullion’
  • maybe some fresh spinach and garlic to saute with the butter and herbs.
  1. Grab frozen cooked prawns from freezer and run under water to defrost.
  2. Put a pasta-sized pot of water on the stove to boil. And a small pot with a steamer.
  3. Wash and chop some broccoli and steam it when the water is ready. Remove the steamer, but leave the broccoli water in the pot. You want to have about a cup or two.
  4. Cook pasta. Organic brown rice rotini is my favourite with this dish, but any pasta will work.
  5. Put a frying pan on the stove and turn the heat to med/high. Throw the prawns in with the intention of evaporating some of the excess water in them.
  6. When the prawns are sizzling a bit, add a good lump or two of butter and stir it around.
  7. Finely chop a big handful of parsley and at least three green onions. And two big handfuls of spinach.
  8. Throw herbs into the pan and mix. Add lots of salt. Add the chopped spinach.
  9.  Add a scoop of ‘Better Than Bullion’ to your hot broccoli water. Put it on high. If you’ve got 2 cups of water, you’ll want about a tablespoon of bullion. Add a teaspoon of garlic powder and about 3/4 of a teaspoon of white pepper. (More if your kids don’t despise a little kick!)
  10. When the pasta is all cooked, reserve a cup or so of the starchy water. Drain the pasta but don’t rinse it. Now add it in with the buttery herbed prawns. Mix mix mix.
  11. Add the broccoli to the pan as well.
  12. Now pour the bullion water over the pasta and mix some more. If it’s too runny, add some starchy water until it’s to your liking. Make sure you didn’t forget anything. Add some more spinach if it’s not green enough for ya.

Nom nom nom. This was sooooo good. Definitely gonna be part of our regular meal rotation. Which probably means I’ll make it every week (or more) and then we’ll all get sick of it because we’re eating it too often. And then I’ll be out of dinner ideas once again and scouring Pinterest for something yummy, healthy, and easy. Tough combination. Yummy and healthy usually isn’t easy. Yummy and easy usually isn’t healthy! And healthy and easy tends to be not very yummy. Sigh.

First world problems…