Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Healthy Pumpkin Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Bread

A simple midweek recipe. :) I always get so frustrated with "healthy" quick bread recipes that cut the oil/butter, but never cut the sugar. To me, that's the unhealthiest part. I finally came up with my own version of a tasty pumpkin bread, that is low in refined sugar but high in tasty fall flavor! I think this recipe could be all honey/date paste and no brown sugar, and also all whole wheat flour, but I haven't tried it that way to be sure yet. If you've never made date paste before, here is a link to a good how-to.
I buy my  dates through Azure Standard, but have also gotten them at Costco and Whole Foods. If you've never sweetened with dates before, it's worth trying! Alternatively, I'm sure you could sub all honey, maple syrup, or Stevia (or some such sweetener) instead. This is a bit of a dense bread, and it didn't raise much, so the loaves are smaller. My girls and I ate almost an entire loaf in one morning. ;) 


2 large eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup date paste

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup liquid-state coconut oil (canola or vegetable may be substituted)
1/2 cup cup greek yogurt
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp allspice


2  cups half white/ half whole wheat  flour
1  teaspoon baking powder
1  teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt

Blend until combined.

8 oz block of cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix very lightly, so swirls and chunks of cream cheese remain.
Bake in two greased loaf pans at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. Store in the refrigerator - we enjoyed it best as cold slices for breakfast. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Banana Muffins

These guys are my newest obsession. I've been searching for just the right peanut butter muffin, and I've finally perfected it!  In the last two weeks I think I've made them four times. And swiftly devoured them. They are the perfect muffin texture, slightly dense, yet fluffy. The peanut butter flavor is lightened by the banana and honey, so it's sweet and not too heavy. And cream cheese? Please. Always. I also like that it's packed with wholesome whole grains, honey, and lots of protein. Enjoy! I know I will...
Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Banana Muffins
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup honey
½ cup natural peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
¼ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 ¾ cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
4 oz cream cheese, softened
Blend butter, oil, honey, peanut butter, eggs, banana, sour cream, and vanilla until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Add softened cream cheese and stir only slightly, so there are lumps and swirls of cream cheese throughout. Spoon into muffin cups (makes about 16.)
Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Once Upon a Time Life

The house is quiet, almost eerily so. So quiet that I can actually hear the appliances humming and the cars driving by. In my world, full of incessant toddler chatter and infant cries, this is a rare moment. In fact, it only happens once a day (if I’m lucky), during that one magical, mystical hour - naptime. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. That one, sacred, religiously protected hour without demands to hear, and snacks to get, and needs to fulfill. That one, precious, perfect hour without endless questions to answer, and songs to sing, and games to play. That one single hour, when I can actually sit at my computer without little hands pulling for my attention. Me time.
Life wasn’t always so loud. Once upon a time the most anticipated part of my day was in the evening, and not naptime; closer to ten o’clock than two. Once upon a time I had down time, and free time, and a full eight hours of sleep each night, with a bonus twelve on the weekends. I once had personal space, and personal hygiene, and a chance to take a shower without carrying on a constant conversation with a two year old about what I’m doing at that exact moment. I once stayed up past midnight without paying dearly for it the next day, and stayed out past eight o’clock without throwing a little someone’s schedule off for two weeks. I once partook in adult conversations, and used words bigger than “no-no” and “potty”, and composed sentences more sophisticated than “DON’T LICK THE DOG!!” I once read Hemingway and Dickens, instead of Dr. Seuss and “The Big Red Barn.” I studied human parasitology and animal biology, instead of poopy diapers and ten little piggy toes. I memorized life cycles and scientific names, instead of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and (to my dismay) her favorite episode of “The Backyardigans.” 
Once upon a time I had a life.
But now, I spend my days blowing noses and washing sticky hands, bathing babies and wiping countless dirty bottoms. Vacuuming the carpets, and brushing the dog, and washing the same dishes that I just washed yesterday. Folding the clothes (or, let’s be honest, dumping them on the bed), scrubbing the toilets, and picking up five million My Little Ponies.
I spend it listening to a sweet little voice singing nonsense songs at the top of her lungs. Listening to her endlessly entertaining chatter, with her adorable toddler twang and her own personal pronunciation and syntax. Listening to her proclaim her love for her sister, and her dog, and her toys, and ice cream, all in one breath. Listening to her tell the dog exactly how to sit, so that she can use her as a slide. Listening to her shout her excitement at the top of her lungs. Listening to sweet baby coos, and grunts, and sleepy sighs.
I spend it watching her little face fill with glee as she spins in her new twirly dress. Watching her play with her tiny zebra for hours, in her own little wonderful world of imagination. Watching her kiss her sister sweetly on the head. Watching chubby baby cheeks dimple as her little body wriggles from the pure joy packed into that first smile. Watching her fists wave and her feet kick. Watching her relax and enjoy spa (bath) time. Watching her gaze in awe at that glorious, glorious light bulb.
I now spend my days reciting the alphabet, and naming colors, and drawing shapes. I spend it counting to ten, and painting with glue, and coloring butterflies. I spend it teaching the most precious, beautiful, priceless resources that God has given us about Him, and about good, and right, and preparing them for this life that is sometimes so hard. I spend it doing the hardest job I know, and training them to know what is wrong, and what is sin, and what is repentance.
I spend it reading favorite stories over and over, singing silly songs ten times in a row, playing ring-around-the-rosy and peek-a-boo until we’re too dizzy to stand. Cleaning play-doh off the carpet for the umpteenth time, and washing shaving cream from her hair yet again, because messy play is so much more fun. I spend it laughing at her laughing at the dog licking her toes, or at me saying the wrong word, or at the tickles I can’t help but give her. I spend it realizing the true meaning of bittersweet, as I proudly watch them grow, and learn, and change, and I spend it being amazed that I love them even more than I did the day before.
 I spend it rocking sweet babes to sleep, and kissing soft heads and deliciously chubby cheeks, and smelling that sweet, precious smell that is theirs, and theirs alone. I spend it holding these perfect little gifts in my arms, and aching so beautifully inside, and wishing that somehow this one moment, just this one, will never end. I spend it sneaking into their rooms to look at their innocent, sleeping faces, and wishing they’ll wake up so I can give them one more kiss.
Once upon a time, I thought I had a life. Turns out, I was just waiting for this one.

Friday, February 14, 2014

True love.

It's that time of year again- candy hearts, construction paper valentines, and rose petals. Love displayed for the world to see in pink cellophane wrapping and red window clings. Sappy sayings on cards, hour long reservations at restaurants, and mobs of men buying last minute get-out-of-the-dog-house-free gifts of chocolates and giant, stuffed puppies.
Whatever happened to love?
Don't get me wrong. I think men should show their women how much they love them. And the occasional box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers throughout the year is an important way to show that love. And I think it's darling when a little boy hands his mama a handmade "I Love You" card, or a daddy buys his little girl her first red rose.
But when did love become so easy?
Buying candy and lighting candles is the easiest way to love. I don't want a love purchased with a fancy dinner and a black tuxedo. I'd rather celebrate the hard kind of love.
The kind that takes grit, and commitment, and passion, and hard work. The kind that is gnarly, and not fun, and soul wearing. The kind that is a choice and a sacrifice, and a work of art, not just a cheap pay off. The kind that bears true fruit, not simply earning another year of peace from the old ball and chain. The kind bought with a price far higher than jewelry or electronics.

Let's celebrate the old man who cares for his wife of sixty years, trudging his weary bones to the nursing home every day to see her beautiful blue eyes. Eyes that are dimmed from the sparkle they once had, eyes that forget the faces they once treasured. Let's treasure the tears that drop on their wrinkled, clasped hands when he has to leave her side, the kiss they share when they must part.
Let's honor the mother, who patiently builds block towers for hours on end, and endures tantrums with patience, and endlessly trains and trains and trains her children, when she'd rather give up and give in and let it be. The mother who wipes bottoms and noses, and logs hours of rocking in the middle of the night. Who holds feverish babies, and paces floors worn with worry, and spends every waking moment working and praying for their health, and happiness, and eternity.
Let's reward the fathers who toil every day, and come home beaten and weary from the world. A world they face and bear on their strong shoulders, so that their wives and children don't have to feel that weight. Fathers who put aside their exhaustion and take the time to play peek-a-boo with an infant craving his love, or tickle the toddler that glows from his affection.

Let's commemorate the husbands who love their wives with deeds, and not just words, and on every day, not just on the days society demands it of them. Who wash the moldy, week old dishes, and spend their Saturdays fixing clogged pipes and squeaky doors. Who lead their wives with prayer, and honor them with their thoughts, and love them, wholly and alone. Who fight every day against a culture that does not expect them to be men, does not want them to be men, a culture that belittles them for striving to be men, and who stand up as men still.
Let's thank the wives who live their vows, and stand by their man, and serve him in the mundane days. Who cook dinners, and wash clothes, and rear children, and let their husbands be boys every once in awhile. Who adorn themselves in humility, and grace, and battle against the pressures of a world that values the opposite. Who choose to love, when they'd rather walk away.
Let's memorialize the daughter who serves selflessly by filling needs others can't meet, and the brother who serves God in ways we may not see.  Who give of their heart, and time, and energy so others can rest from their own weary toils.
Let's remember the aged grandmother, caring for the grandfather who is slipping away before her eyes. Who doesn't remember dates, and details, and names like he once did. Who's very personality and essence is changing. But she sticks with him. Because she swore to do so, even in the unlovely.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13

That, my friends, is true love. Not this papered and candied confection of love that we "celebrate" once a year. Because love is patient, and kind, and selfless, and true. And not made from teddy bears and Hallmark towers. Love takes from the lover. And expects nothing back.  

But mostly, love is a Man, on a cross, bleeding red for you and me.

"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

Monday, February 3, 2014

Keeping it Real.

I admire the bloggers that have the guts to post “Keeping It Real” photos. I honestly do. I appreciate that they are willing to admit the fact that they aren’t perfect. That they have days full of dirty dishes, and screaming babies, and cluttered floors. I think that the fact that they are willing to share their shortcomings with the world, so that we know they’re human too, and that we are encouraged on our dirty days, is laudable.
But nobody shows us their most real days. You know which days I mean. The days when we wake up tired, and angry, and foul, and right-down-to-the-core rotten. The days when we have pure, putrid, stinking hate in our hearts. When we hate the day, and the job, and the very air we’re breathing. The house may be sparkling, the children may be darling, the day may be blue, but we are still filthy inside.
We don’t share those days. We don’t keep those days real. Because on those days, we don’t want to be seen. We want to crawl away into our little hole and hide from the light of day. We hide, because we know. We know the depths of the ugliness still rooted in our hearts. We see without a doubt the very sin that brought Christ to the cross, and we cling to it with all our meager might. These are the most real, the dirtiest of days.
God sees those days. We may hide it from others behind cheery smiles and empty platitudes and good deeds, but He sees us down in the pit of our hearts, relishing in the muck and the mire of self-love and self-indulgence and self-pity.
He sees our wretched sin, and He condemns us to hell for it. For our selfishness isn’t just an annoyance to others, or inconvenience for us, or a bump in the road to holiness, but it is damnable blasphemy against our holy God Himself.
We carefully avoid the Bible on those days, for the Word of God brings condemnation. We avoid Christian fellowship on those days, for they point us to the Word of God. We avoid letting our putrescence show to the world, for then our Christian brethren would seek us out. Instead, we cover our sickness with a spotless veil of piety, and avoid anything that would root it out.
But, thank God, He is gracious. He does not leave us to rot in our depths of despair, though His holiness allows it. He gives us a way out, even in our darkest of dirty days. He doesn’t let us try to worm our own way out, but sends His precious Son, Who has not a spot on His shining soul, to plunge His holy hands into the filth that surrounds us. He sends His Son to pull us onto His back and out of the muck. He washes the filth from our being with His priceless blood, and presents us to His Father as clean, holy, worthy.
Thank God, that on our truly dirty days He does not abandon us.

Just, you know, keepin’ it real

Friday, January 24, 2014

Spinach Ricotta Slab Pie

Yum. That's all I have to say.
Spinach Ricotta Slab Pie
1/2 lb Italian sausage
1/2 lb ground beef
1/8 cup minced sweet onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup Italian cheese blend
1/4 cup parmesan
1 bag fresh spinach
Sauté meat and onions until browned, then add garlic and sauté for just another minute. Drain off grease, and then add cheeses, including the ricotta. Add the spinach and allow to wilt. Remove from heat.
Roll out one pie crust to line a 9x13 sheet pan (or whatever your crust will fit in!), pile on filling, then roll out your second crust and lay it on top. Pinch edges to seal, cut a slit in the top, then bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I’m tired today. So. Tired. We’re going on two weeks strong of really bad sleep from the kids. We’re all exhausted, cranky, emotional, and very short on patience. Parenting is hard, with no weekends off, no vacation days, no sick days. I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure how anyone survives it, but we’re all still here, so I guess it happens somehow. Never mind, I do know how. Purely by the grace of God.  But, anyway, through the tired and the cranky and the inconvenience and the unruly children, I still strongly believe this:
Raising children is a high calling from God. He treasures His children, and the littlest of these He calls to Himself.
But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ ”
Matthew 19:14
We are raising them to be followers of Jesus, “little Christs”, and in turn they bless us daily. They give us joy and teach us patience and are tools in our own sanctification (oh, are they ever tools in our sanctification!) And they point us to Christ.

Our toddler prayed her first prayer the other day. It was simple and cute and full of childish innocence.  She thanked God for Mama, and Daddy, and Charlotte, and Ice Cream, and Kona the dog. Aaaw, adorable, too cute, precious…moving on. Only, that’s not all my husband and I saw in it. To us, it wasn’t just something sweet to jot down in the baby book. It wasn’t just a cute little anecdote to post on Facebook. To us, it was awe-striking.
" Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger."
Psalms 8:1-2
The praise of the little ones is a mighty thing. Without prompting, without truly understanding herself, our two year old just praised God for ice cream. She gave God glory for the things He has created. And God loves her praise! He ordains it, He creates it in her heart, and He establishes strongholds against enemies through it. That simple prayer that we witnessed was her first purposeful act of praise to God. It showed us the tenderness of her heart, and the working of the Holy Spirit. It gave us hope for her salvation. It turned us to Christ, and made us glorify His name as well. It filled us full of awe. It may sound childish to thank God for ice cream, but when is the last time you simply thanked God for the things you love? Our daughter gave heartfelt thanks for the things most important to her in her little, two year old world. For the things she loves the most - family, and ice cream.
So, consider this. If God values children so highly, how heinous is it for the world to devalue them? To slaughter them as unborn babies, to dispose of them as unwanted newborns, to disregard them as irritating toddlers, to belittle them as immature grade-schoolers, to ignore them as angst ridden teenagers, and to excuse them as irresponsible young adults? How surprising is it that this generation is full of selfish, immature, worthless adults when they were so cheapened as children? Who are we to put such a low worth on children when God Himself deems them so very precious? Who are we to kill them when they are unwanted, to ignore them when they are inconvenient, to disregard them when they are seeking guidance? Sure, you say, that’s how the world thinks, but we Christians understand the importance of children. So, I challenge the church. Who are we to automatically usher the tiny babes from the worship service because they’re too distracting? To shush the toddler belting out his favorite psalm because he’s too enthusiastic? To quiet the chatty preschooler, fervently praying the Lord’s prayer at the top of her lungs? To be embarrassed when our child is the one who shouts a lusty amen with the pastor at the end of the prayer?
God cherishes the praise of babes. We should see those moments for what they are. Pure, childish, godly, awesome praise. Let’s join them.