hearty pumpkin spice cookies

Before I restocked my white flour, I experimented a little bit more and tried to make a “healthy” cookie using pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, oats and honey instead of sugar. I think these offended my children’s sensibilities of what a cookie is meant to be, but I quite liked them. Here is the recipe:

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3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

3/4 sunflower seeds

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBSP pumpkin spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger)

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup honey

1 egg

2 oats

Preheat oven to 325 and move a pan to the top rack.

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In a blender (magic bullet, coffee grinder, food processor) grind the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds to a flour like consistency. Mix together with the baking powder, salt, and pumpkin spice. I just put the lid on the magic bullet and shook it up.

In a mixing bowl, blend together honey, room temperature butter and egg, then add the dry ingredients and the oats. The dough will be quite moist.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop the dough onto the pan using a small ice-cream scoop. I like to make my cookies quite tiny. Cook for 10-12 minutes on the top rack of the oven until golden brown. They will look a little moist on top. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 5 minutes, they’re tired.

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The texture of the cookies is halfway between a cookie and a muffin. They’re a little bit spicy from the pumpkin spice and a little bit chewy from the honey and a nice little afternoon treat if you’re trying to avoid real treats.

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Enjoy!

Try my other flour-less  cookie recipe here.

saturday is a state of mind

Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30

Ah, Saturday. We’ve waited for you all week.

Nineteen years of school and post-secondary education have deeply engrained into my soul the concept that Saturday is a break from the regular duties of life. It is a day of limitless options when one is free to do anything; be it nothing or everything.

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Saturdays used to be a day to catch up: catch up on sleep, catch up on work, catch up on yard work, catch up on socialising. But as a parent of preschoolers, I have found that Saturday is more or less the same as all the other days. The morning hits as hard as it does during the week. The kids wake up at their usual time and they still want breakfast immediately. There are still noses to wipe, diapers to change, toast to make, peanut butter to spread. This has been a shock to my system to which I am slowly adjusting.

Sometimes it is necessary to take a break, to rest AWAY from the kids, but I’m also beginning to see that if I want to make rest a regular rhythm, I have to learn how to rest WITH my kids. I don’t know what that looks like. Maybe throwing away the to-do list and taking the time to play; just being present. But to be totally present is difficult for me when my mind is moving in 10 different directions most of the time, often feeling the pull of something else I need or want to be doing.

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Child’s play can be tiring for a couch potato like me. It’s challenging for me to level up to the children’s pace for an extended length of time. They seem to operate in perpetual motion and slow motion all at once and it leaves me dizzy. But I think somewhere in my children’s carefree existence and lack of agenda lies the secret of the Saturday State of Mind. They don’t know what time it is and they have no choice but to trust that their needs will be met. The fact that they are well-cared for leaves them free to enjoy life because someone Bigger is taking care of things.

So how can I rest when I am that someone bigger for my kids?

Because there’s someone even Bigger than me caring for us all; Christ is the presence of peace. The yoke of Jesus is easy and His burden is light. It’s the Sunday School answer and I know it’s true but I can’t say that I’ve fully understood it yet.

But I’m OK with being in progress, which is a pretty good place to start.

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Happy Saturday. Take it easy today, ok?

thai red curry

I had my first taste of Thai Red Curry at a little take-out place on Commercial Drive and I never looked back since; I love the bold flavours and colours and the perfect combo of spicy and sweet. Here’s a simple recipe for the Thai food enthusiast, just as easy as counting to two.

Ingredients: 

Jasmine Rice

2 tbsp coconut oil

1 onion, diced (I like using red onions for colour)

2 cloves garlic, diced

2 red peppers

2 carrots

Something green (zucchini, green peans, snow peas, brocolli, etc)

2 lbs chicken fillets (or 2-4 chicken breasts thinly sliced)

1-2 cups chicken broth

2 tbsp Thai red curry paste

2 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar or palm sugar (palm sugar is more authentic, but brown sugar work fine)

2 limes

1 can coconut milk

Instructions:

Put some jasmine rice on to cook (2 cups for a family 5: 2 adults and 3 small children who love rice)

Heat up coconut oil in a large wok then add the onions and garlic and sautee on medium-high heat until fragrant (around 2 minutes). Then add your pre-chopped veggies and sautee until “al dente” – mostly cooked but with just the tiniest bit of crunch left. Remove veggies and onions from pan and place to the side.

Next, add your chicken pieces and broth to the pan, cover with the lid, and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.

Once the chicken is cooked through, I recommend setting aside a few pieces of chicken for the kids because now it’s going to get pretty spicy!

Add 2 TBSP curry paste, 2 TBSP fish sauce, 2 TBSP brown sugar, and the juice of 2 limes to your chicken and broth and stir it in well until completely dissolved. (Side Note: the curry paste is quite spicy. You could try starting with a little less but that will also cut back on the flavour.)

Reduce heat to a medium simmer and add the veggie/onion/garlic back into the mix. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer uncovered on medium to low heat to let all the flavours blend together. Salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is an art not a science! I have toyed with this recipe quite a bit and have found the rule of 2 yields great results, but your tastes might differ from mine so go ahead and adjust to taste 🙂 But I recommend adjusting in very small amounts because some of these ingredients really pack a punch. See my adjustment recommendations below.

 

Here are my adjustment recommendations:

To increase punchiness add more fish sauce (with equal parts sugar)- start with a teaspoon or less. This stuff is intense.

To increase meaty/saltiness try a little bit of chicken bouillion (in cube form)- start with a quarter cube go from there. A little bit of soy sauce might do the trick as well. But just a little bit. Or salt could work too 🙂

To increase sweetness add more sugar. Start with a little bit.

To increase zesty/ sourness add more lime juice. Start with a half or even just one wedge.

Any veggies can work! Yams or Pumpkin (sweet pumpkin is amazing), Eggplant, Bamboo shoots are all great. Anything that would work in a curry or stir-fry works here.

 

life inspired: we were here

we walked these streets like kings

For round three of “what inspired me lately” I bring you the song We Were Here. We Were Here is by a Swiss pop duo called Boy and I can’t tell you anything else about them because I haven’t made it past this song yet.

I heard this song on the radio recently and have had it on repeat ever since (ok, not literally :p but I have listened to it lots of times). It totally captured me, although maybe for different reasons than the artist intended. Or maybe not, who knows. In the song, the speaker describes how her presence, her roots in a city change the landscape in a way that lasted far beyond her stay. I don’t know the artist’s motivation behind the lyrics but for me it resonates with my current mandate to rise to the challenge of urban living.

I love that it’s a song about the city- it’s not about frolicking through the fields, exploring the woods, or planting crops. The language is distinctly urban and it has become my Vancouver Song.

Lyrics:

We walked these streets like kings, our faces in the wind

and everywhere we were, we made the city sing

we sang “forever young”, we had our fingers crossed

and when the city sleeps, it dreams of us

yeah, it still does

oh, love, it changes shapes, it glows in many shades

we won’t be gone as long as our echoes resonate

we need no photographs; the past’s not only past

i find us everywhere and that’s how the magic lasts

cause everywhere we’ve been, we have been leaving traces

and they won’t ever disappear

we were here, we were here, we were really here

and the rains get rough but time can’t wash us off

we won’t ever disappear

we were here, we were here, we were really here

it’s only little things; footmarks and fingerprints, a treasure hunt through town

it’s full of evidence, our monuments are all around

everything’s on the move; the paint is wet, all colours new

but if you look carefully, you’ll see us shining through

 

As a young renting family, the question of how to put down roots comes up a LOT in conversations with our friends who, like us, #donthaveamillion. So many have made community here and would like to stay but can’t quite envision growing their family in a basement suite. It might work right now, but what about in a year from now? Five years? Ten years? The picket fence ideal is diminishing and a long hard look at our priorities is in order. In a time of rising rents and reno-victions, can we really make this work?

For me and mine, our living situation is quite stable but we still feel the vacuum sucking our peers away and there are lots of unknowns in our future. What we DO know is that where God has placed us, He has prepared good works for us. We may never own a piece of Vancouver real-estate but the whole city is our oyster. We won’t hold back from investing in a place that may or may not pay financial returns in the form of an appreciating land asset. Whatever lies in the future, wherever we end up, we can always look back on these days and say that we were really here.

I know the connection between this song and those thoughts might seem like a stretch but in the muddy puddle of my inner workings, the Vancouver Question is something I carry pretty close to the surface. It doesn’t take much more than a pebble or a song on the radio to bring it all forth.

I also think this song might be about when we visit a restaurant as a family. Because everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been leaving traces…

 

tear-down town

We recently had the pleasure of watching our neighbour’s house being demolished.

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It has been a long process. The tenants were renovicted back in November and for a while, I doubted if the owners really would tear it down because nothing seemed to be happening. Prior tenants had been evicted in the past on the premise of a sale or renovation but no visible changes to the house were made and then new tenants were brought in for presumably higher rental prices. I raged “They’ve done it again!!” to anyone who would listen feeling that the owners I’ve never met embody everything that is wrong with Vancouver’s housing and rental system.

But my judgement was hasty. This time they were as good as their word and it became evident that they were dismantling the house from the inside out. First, an asbestos inspector came in a subtly marked car followed by a large group of men with cigarettes and McDonald’s coffee who seemed to be on a long coffee break taking turns doing work inside. Every other day there was a miscellany of people (official or unofficial – I couldn’t say) circling the property salvaging what could be salvaged. Then there was the shirtless de-roofer who offered to hire my four-year-old to rip shingles off the roof because “It’s impossible to find good help these days!”

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Eventually, the progress became undeniable from the pile of debris covering every inch of the back yard. After looking at the wreckage for a couple weeks and imagining what might be hiding beneath it, we were quite relieved to see the CAT truck arrive to finish the job.

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Finally, in the early hours of the first sunny day in months, the excavator began his task.

We had friends visiting from out of town so we all (4 toddlers and 4 adults) lined up on the back porch steps to watch and then removed ourselves to watch from inside after we started wondering what might be floating in the air. It was quite a thing to behold. Seeing that he had an audience, the operator put on quite a show for us, toppling the chimney in one fell swoop and sprinkling what was left in the water heater over the fragmented back-half of the house.

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After two days of crashing and crushing, moving and digging, lifting, crunching, scooping all that remained was a modest-sized lot of dirt worth 1.4 million dollars (approximate) and two abandoned bicycles mercifully spared from the metal beast.

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It was a bittersweet experience for me. In days past, I had ill-advisedly allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to live in the cute little house next to my parents’ which was admittedly run-down but still full of personality and potential. It had the most amazing covered patio with a working outdoor fireplace and there were these adorable little alcoves beside the front stairs where our kids could have played. But alas, it was not meant to be. Gone are the days of the quaint fixer-upper starter home (in Vancouver, at least).

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But I’m not bitter. I hope I don’t sound bitter. It was sad, but also quite satisfying to see that flight of fancy totally crushed and cleared. Sometimes it’s nice to see in black and white what is and isn’t an option. And really, who wants life to turn out exactly as imagined anyways?

the three-step reset

Some days at home are longer than others. When I start to feel like I’m caught in an infinite loop of dishes and dumped toys, I try to catch a second wind by doing a three-step reset.

Step 1: Turn on some soul-nourishing music

Here’s what I’m listening to these days.

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I’m in a bit of a United Pursuit rut, but I don’t mind. Will Reagan and his pals have a way of writing exactly what I’m feeling in a way that encourages me to look UP at God instead of IN to my mind wilderness.

Step 2: Light some candles

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For a quick home makeover, I like to clear the rubbish from my piano or mantlepiece. These are the pretty spots in our house that unfortunately get covered in all manner of things that we are trying to keep away from the kids. When I want to feel a bit better about the state of things (home-wise), I reclaim these spots and give them a baby-wipe dusting. Once clear, I light some candles and let them flicker me through the afternoon slump.

Step 3: Boil the kettle

When in doubt, boil the kettle like Mary-Joe; it’s sure to come in handy. What you do with the hot water is entirely up to you but I recommend a cuppa Joe for an afternoon coffee-break, Swedish style :p

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To recap:

  1. Turn on some soul-nourishing music
  2. Light some candles
  3. Boil the kettle