Local Love for Central Los Angeles

As a little detour away from typical subject matter, I wanted to share about some local places I frequent. It’s a random assortment but for the USC/West Adams/Koreatown/Downtown community, especially if you’re planning a party or new in town and … Continue reading

Reality Bites

Sometimes you just have to face it: healthy snacks don’t taste good.

Okay, I’m sure there are some but as I was tidying my cupboards this week, I had to come to terms with the fact that that large quantity of raw almonds I bought in a moment of healthy valor was going no where.

And that brings me here:

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Delicious crunchy sweet salty dressed up and roasted raw almonds that won’t last a week in our house. 🙂

In case you too would like to eat what’s in your cupboard, here’s the recipe.

4 c. roasted almonds, unseasoned*

1/2 c. honey

2 T. butter

1 tsp. coarse sea salt

1/2 tsp. table salt

3 tsp. cinnamon

1 c. + 2 T. raw sugar

(*If you have raw almonds, roast them by baking them in a single layer at 375 for 10-12 minutes, stirring them every few minutes, until aromatic and darker on ends.)

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Simmer the honey and butter together for a couple of minutes over low heat until translucent. Stir in all the almonds and keep stirring for a few minutes until they’re all shiny and warm. Dump them all out on a piece of wax or parchment paper.

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Gather all the other ingredients in a gallon size resealable bag or bowl with a lid. Once the almonds are cooled enough to touch and not melt the plastic bag, use the paper they’re on like a sleeve and empty it onto the sugar pile. Shake until coated and spread out on a new piece of parchment or wax paper.

Store in airtight container to keep fresh. I like mine in the fridge. Or by the handful.

A Sweet Story

There sure are a lot of things to learn about. My 1-year-old is having a hard time learning to control his temper and throwing arm. My husband is learning about me. Pray for him. Our just-turned-4-year-old is learning that if he spends his birthday money from great grandma on one thing, he cannot get another (bummer). Such a hard thing, especially on the heels of mastering wiping his own rear end. And I? Well I am learning about many things, most of which I’ve written about. Thanksgiving, marriage, pausing, racism… those are some biggies. But there are also the things that fill out the fabric of every day life that you can’t find volumes of books about. Just random blog posts.

An important “scrap” that recurs throughout my “quilt,” if you will (I promise, I’ll stop), is a heart-warming pattern of brown sugar and butter. That’s right, cinnamon rolls. Among other things, I’ve been learning about cinnamon rolls. I’ve made a lot of versions, from my aunt’s roll recipe-turned-breakfast to the Pioneer Woman’s abundant version, and I have the love handles to prove it. And today, I wanted to share my favorite recipe. I know, longest intro ever to a recipe. However, I’m sure that brevity is not why you read this blog…

My Favorite Cinnamon Rolls –

5 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 5 tsp. yeast or 2 packets – mix all together in large bowl and make a well in the middle.

Warm 1.5 c. buttermilk, 1/4 c. water, and 1/2 c. oil on low heat on stove, stirring constantly – till thoroughly warm to finger; add to large bowl.

(You’ll also need butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dental floss, cream, more buttermilk, and powdered sugar in the future for these babies if you follow these strange directions to a “t.”)

*if you have a breadmaker, put wet ingredients in bottom, add dry, with yeast last. Let it do its thing through the first rising and then get Jabba the Hut out to shape. My lovely neighbor convinced me to try one. Found it at the thrift store for $4! Maybe your local thrift store has one too. 🙂 It’s nice to try something for the first time 20 years after their peak.

Gently incorporate into flour mixture. Take your time, go slowly. Knead several times. Let rise 45 mins. in warm environment. (Breadmaker Owners, come back here.) Prepare filling ingredients: melted stick of butter, all your brown sugar, a lot of cinnamon.

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Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into rectangle. Pour most of the butter over dough to make nice puddle. Spread out evenly. Smear your buttery hands or spatula and the extra butter in a 10×15 pyrex, or a 9×13 and 8×8. Cover the butter with layer of brown sugar. Heavily sprinkle brown sugar with cinnamon. Drink water. You’re going to need it.

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Roll “hot dog” ways until you have one long log of cinnamon roll goodness. Get out dental floss (thanks, Mom!). Cut one inch segments by placing a length of floss under the log, grabbing ends and crossing them until it cleanly slices through dough/goo. (I confess, this is the primary use for floss in my life.) Place in dish, repeat. Give them a little space to grow. If you have some extra inches that don’t fit in your prepped dishes, use a few ramekins, and bestow caloric wealth on your neighbors for their breakfast.

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Cover tightly and put in fridge overnight for a delicious breakfast. Bake at 325 for 15 mins or so, until golden brown. Don’t worry – they’ll still be soft and gooey. Mix equal parts buttermilk and heavy cream with powdered sugar for an icing if you wish. Store in fridge.

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The Whole Enchilada

My favorite dish at our local Mexican restaurant is Enchiladas Suizas, which I believe is usually made with tomatillos, resulting in a green sauce. I didn’t have any of those tonight, but I did have chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and big tomatoes to use. The result is a new recipe for Chipotle Enchiladas Suizas sauce. (I think that “suizas” refers to a sauce with dairy in it.) It’s loaded with vegetables and protein. We loved it!

2 large tomatoes, 1 zucchini, 2 cloves garlic, 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, 2 tsp. adobo sauce, 2 small avocados, 1.5 cups chicken broth, 1 tsp. chicken bouillon, .5 cup chopped spinach, 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, .5 cup half’n’half or cream.

Boil tomatoes and zucchini whole 10 minutesish or until easily punctured with butter knife. Put in blender with everything else except cream. Blend. Pour a layer in bottom of casserole dish. Construct enchiladas with whatever you want (we used chicken, jack cheese, spinach), plus a few spoonfuls of the sauce inside, and line ’em up. Stir cream into leftover sauce and pour over enchiladas before baking. The recipe makes enough for 2 large dishes of enchiladas. I froze half of my sauce (pre-cream) in a jar.

If you try it, let me know how it goes. 🙂

Lifting

The past couple of months I have been mindful of a small but pervasive victory in my life that I feel important to share. It is not a new leap and it is not due to my own problem solving. It is extremely ordinary and normal but it is not commonly spoken of, at least in clear terms, and so I hope that in sharing my departure, maybe others can feel hope or companionship or compassion towards others who resemble this journey.

I am not very willing to get emotionally involved in food regulations and rules. I understand basics about healthy eating and it totally seems like I would be the type of person to become passionately indignant about certain ingredients, treatment and modifications of our food. Lord knows that I could certainly use a few diet changes and I do try to implement some improvements as a mom and wife. I just exhausted myself long ago when it came to thinking about what I ate and I am reluctant to focus much on it again, no matter how valid the cause.

I turned 18 in the first weeks of college. I found myself surrounded by a new and exciting environment in which I would soon be thriving in almost every way. I also found myself attending social events that centered around food, living on a very limited budget, eating off a meal plan a hemisphere away from the fresh foods of Kenya and, as you may have guessed, gaining weight. I reeled when things did not fit the way they should. I truly had little point of reference for moderating what I ate in a healthy way. I had always been thin but I had also always been ridiculous about how thin I should be. It was convenient that my metabolism accommodated, for the most part, my expectations and my neglect of caloric restraint. Until the perfect storm of moving countries, turning 18, and starting college.

To briefly describe the next couple of years, I will just say this: I was in a mental war with food. I lived under the tyranny of enough or not enough, disgusted with my body and yet able to compartmentalize the battle effectively for a while so that only I knew the captivity I had become wrapped up in. The pendulum of depriving myself and then overeating to somehow try to overcome the enemy in my mind led to significant damage on my hormones and metabolism. While I was never actually anorexic or bulimic, it has since been described to me that I was had adopted disordered eating as a mode. It’s a catchall phrase that, for me, describes feverishly trying all sorts of unhealthy methods to lose and manage weight. I had never known the power and privacy of the mind until I was under an oppressive, fearful relationship with food. Eventually, the sense of damage and desperation could not help but interfere with my prayers, my reading, and my faith.

Truth and Grace helped me realize at one point in a chapel service that I would not be able to go farther with the Lord, that I could not fill a soul hunger while I entertained a vain and futile battle with all its barbs and traps about bodily hunger, until I acknowledge that this internal battle was not separate from but part of me. I could not entertain two choruses in my mind any longer, and still expect to hear His clearly. One was estranging me from the other. The battle was not isolated. It was a part of my heart. It was a part of my body. It was a part of my soul. And I could not neglect it or try to manage it anymore. My greatest fear at this time, even as the Spirit gave me a moment of enough space to back up and plan to speak with a couple of friends about my pain, was of course that I would start gaining weight rapidly. Coming to a crossroads in no way meant that my impulses were any different. If I sought to slow the panic, how would my body respond? How would I stop the guilt and endless thoughts about the last meal? Even if it meant that I was morbidly obese, would I believe that this was the way to life? That this was the way to Truth and Healing? Now, this greatest fear seems absurd at the point of Hope and yet another Love Invitation–but that is truly where I was then. I could not be certain that what was healthy for my soul would also be healthy for all of me. It still felt that striving and controlling and despising and differing were the only way to deal with food.

My friends and family responded gracefully. One of them was blessedly unimpressed with my struggle, my antics, and somehow knew how to ask me about how I was doing before we went to an event or after leaving a party only occasionally. I was not treated as someone to be tip toed around or someone to babysit. And slowly, one bite, one “no thanks,” and one laugh at a time, I slipped away from a gripping, bi-polar, panicky relationship with food. By God’s slow, pulling grace, I was able to shyly reacquaint, or perhaps learn for the first time really, what it felt like to be hungry, to need food so that my muscles and mind could work. And then, to know when I was physically full–when I had had enough to live that day well, and put down the fork or walk away from the buffet. Eventually I was even able to enjoy food without recklessly indulging and I can usually have it around without distraction. After years, my metabolism and then, after another year or two, my hormones, seemed to timidly start working again. I was surprised and thankful that during my pregnancies, I was able to gain weight happily, without obsessiveness or fear; it was truly not my doing.  I have moments where I am overly distraught over a morsel or disturbed by a picture, but they are passing and not overpowering.

This is my story of flailing with food and weight. I am continuously grateful for the freedom and space the Provider has offered me in this area now. I know now the power of lies and the mind left unchecked. I know the suffering to which ordinary pressures and practices can lead. I know how sneaky corruption can be–of good food, good bodies, and good minds. This is one meadow I now enjoy–a space that is a testament to how some ugly holes in my faith and heart were accommodated for at Calvary and how others gathered there helped untangle me from my self. It is not only my story.

“He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog…He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart. O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me. For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; there are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.” – verses from Psalm 40