Friday, April 29, 2016


After a 2 year long break from writing, I have found myself uprooted. Nothing serious has happened, but something has revolutionized my way of thinking and living. I recently started seeing a holistic doctor who has suggested that I have an overgrowth of bad bacteria verses the good bacteria. I needed to give up all types of grain and avoid sugar as much as possible. Unfortunately, I have been working on perfecting some of my baking skills since I had never been all that great at the science of baking. On the upside, I have an (with all modesty) uncanny ability to teach myself necessary skills. As I returned from my doctors appointment, I immediately began my research. I discovered different types of food that could be turned into a flour substance that could be baked with to  mimic the consistency of wheat and grain based bread and baked goods. I went to my local health food store and found coconut flour. I bought a small bag, went home to experiment.

My first grain free meal was coconut flour pancakes with bananas, peanut butter and honey. It was so glorious, that I ate the entire recipe. I later discovered almond flour which is more  expensive but has a nice texture. I tried it and liked it better! I learned the hard way that you can NOT substitute coconut flour equally for  almond flour. Dry, dry, dry. Coconut flour is D-R-Y!

While finding coconut flour  and almond flour, I found arrowroot and tapioca flour/starch. They worked great in wanna-be breads and baked goods. Well, discovering more about my health condition, I found that I should not be eating starchy foods which includes tapioca, arrowroot, or potato flour/starch. I also had to give up beans, not including navy beans, lentils, or green beans. I, sadly, had to give up all types of potatoes. To eat a sweet potato again would be heaven. I can still eat winter squash, so fortunately, pumpkin isn't out. Another food  group I had to give up is vegetable oils, soy, and gums, nitrates, pretty much any preservative, etc. Reading every label in the stores is almost like I'm trying not to get poisoned. Anytime I go out  to a restaurant, there is a risk. I had Chinese food a week after my new diet started and told the waitress that I could not eat rice or wheat and she made something with soy sauce; this was before I knew I had to avoid soy; I  had stomach pain for the next three days. I avoid soy like the plague now.

For the first month, I tried to make all of my favorite comfort food grain and starch free. I found that I got tired of constantly cooking or making something to appease my old cravings. Don't get me wrong, I  still crave a fluffy hamburger bun over a lettuce leaf. While I still try to make food taste and feel like it used to, a small part of me has given up and stuck to the simple things. A few of  my favorites now are bacon and avocados. Need I say more? I put avocado on EVERYTHING. It is THE food to add for flavor and that creaminess that is lacking. It's very versatile. Bacon on the other  hand, I have to be careful of. I can't handle too much fat in one meal. I learned quickly that I should not eat 9 strips of a 10 strip package of bacon in a matter of 72 hours. OUCH! I have learned my lesson the hard way, again. I like taking risks and I'm hard headed.

Now on to more food limitations. I found that my tolerance for cheese had decreased after about 2 months of this diet. Although 100% of my dairy consumption was organic, I was still having issues. In a class about gut health, I learned that sometimes the lactose/casein in certain dairy products can affect stomach/intestinal/bacteria as well. So, I slowly eliminated cheese from my diet. I can still tolerate kiefer, yogurt and sour cream.

It has been 11 weeks since the beginning of this diet and my energy level is back up, I have a clearer mind and fewer down days. After a long year and a half of feeling like a stranger in my own body, I finally feel like ME again!

I won't leave you for another year! I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes that I've found and created soon!

Monday, March 17, 2014


I had a hankering for some chili the other day and this is what I came up with:

1 lb grass fed ground beef
1 white onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 can of tomatoes with sweet onions
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can mild chili beans
1 green bell pepper
1 orange/yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
a few shakes Lawry's Season Salt
a pinch of cumin

Start browning the beef in skillet and add chopped onions and garlic when the beef is half way cooked.Add a few shakes of Lawry's season salt and a touch of cumin. In a small stock pot, add chopped peppers, tomatoes and all the beans. I drained the garbanzo beans but used the liquid from the other beans and the tomatoes. For more flavor, add more Lawry's season salt and cumin to the pot. Begin cooking the mixture. When the beef is done, add it to the chili mixture and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. I cooked some macaroni to make it a meal. With a little cheese or crackers, this is a great meal to freeze!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cabin Fever Favorites

Winter 2014 has been and is continuing to be a rough one. After starting my New Year celebration with the flu, I already had a bad case of cabin fever. Soon after I recovered, there was the coldest arctic vortex I've felt in my 30 something years of life. I've grown up in the North of Indiana and South of Michigan, but never felt this kind of extreme cold. With the city shutting down due to weather conditions and snow days, one can only do so much around the house. I got a lot of cleaning and organizing done. I also watched movies and old episodes of my favorite TV programs until I was blue in the face. One can only handle so much.

I decided to try some new baking projects, change things up a bit, and get adventurous. My most recent post was Black Bean Butternut Squash Soup. That one lived for a while in my freezer until I got sick of it. Cut down recipes? A must! I also decided it was time to start making my own bread. I borrowed, rather indefinitely, my mom's Breadman Plus. She used it for a while and became frustrated with it. I was all for it and so excited to make my own bread! My first 2lb whole wheat loaf turned out less than wonderful. I realized my mom's frustration. It turned out just as I remember it growing up, dense as a brick!  Since then, I've discovered gluten and adding more water. So simple.

Over the last month and a half, I've made some mistakes and some successes. My favorite entree success was deep dish pizza in a cast iron pan. I made whole wheat pizza in my bread machine. I didn't read the directions well enough and I ended up having to let the dough rise itself the next day. I decided I wanted to freeze the dough, so the fact that I took it out of the machine before it has risen was okay. Even though the dough rose as it should, it was as tough as old gum. It was now time to press the dough into the cast iron pan. Being tough, the dough decided to split and create holes as I pressed. Normal people would have a rolling pin and a nicely powdered counter top; I did not, hence, I am abnormal in my kitchen. So, I did what made the most sense; cleaned my floor, laid one cutting board on the clean floor and placed the glutenous dough ball on the board, then placed a second identical board on top and did a little jig. I am not proud of this feat, yet it worked like a charm. If i had more counter space, one might have thought to use a jar or bottle to roll in out... I'll leave that one for the next time.

All in all, the cast iron pizza turned out wonderfully. With a nice crispy crust, great sauce and veggies to fill, (oh! and don't forget the cheese!) I enjoyed it for 8 meals.

Now that you are greatly impressed with my cooking abilities and innovative methods in the kitchen, here's something that will fill your mind with doubt. I attempted to make black bean hummus. It was an experiment from another contributor on all recipes. It was the same hummus recipe I used but instead of garbanzo beans, she used black beans. I read the recipe a couple of times to make sure I understood it. I filled my food processor with 1 cup of tahini, 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt and a can of black beans. I was about to add the garlic when I read the measurements again and noticed I only needed 1/4 cup tahini, NOT 1 cup tahini! I tried to salvage the batch by scooping out all the tahini I could, which had mixed at the bottom of all the ingredients. I managed to get about half out and apparently all of the salt came out with it!  I didn't want to waste good tahini, so I put it in a Tupperware container in the fridge. The batch I used turned out okay. It was pretty bitter. Later on I decided to eat the used tahini with a few beans with some tortilla chips. All I tasted was SALT. Gross, gross, gross. EPIC FAIL!

Now that I have possibly impressed and disappointed you, it's your turn to try something new in your kitchen!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Black Bean Butternut Squash Soup.

I had this idea a few weeks ago when a co-worker gave me two butternut squashes from his garden. I shared the idea with another co-worker who said, "ooh, that sounds tasty." I decided I'd try it! I looked up a few recipes just for inspiration and measurements, and I found a stew. I made my own adjustments.

2 medium butternut squash

1 can black beans (with or without jalepenos)
1 Vidalia onion chopped
6 or 7 sweet mini peppers chopped
16 oz vegetable stock
black pepper

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Take out seeds. Fill bottom of baking dish with water. Place squash inside down and bake for 1 hour to 90 min at 350.
Let squash cool enough to handle. Scoop out soft centers and puree in food processor.

In the mean time, partially sautee chopped onion and sweet mini peppers in a skillet with olive oil. Add spices to taste. (I just shook until it looked right) I like my veggies slightly crunchy in the soup.

fill a stock pot with vegetable stock and add squash puree, sauteed vegetables, and add black beans. Let the soup come to a slight boil just to blend the flavors.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 14: Tears for Africa

Waking up at 4 am Saturday morning to drive to the airport was a little less than wonderful. My time in Kenya can be described in so many words, yet it can't. There aren't enough words to express what I experienced or what I felt. Then maybe perhaps a song could express it... Toto, The Rains in Africa:)
We boarded the plane and began our take off. As I watched the plane leave the ground, my heart jumped into my throat and I choked back tears as if I would never return, but anything is possible. Kenya has been yet another milestone in my journey.

Having the opportunity to go to Kenya was such a dream of mine. Not so much the place, the continent yes, but the adventure of going overseas again. It all came about when I had finished going through a class at my church that worked to get people networked into ministries in the church based on their spiritual gifts and personality traits. I didn't really know where I fit. I have a heart for international people. I work well with people from other countries. I can't explain it; its just in my heart, and it's a gift from God. I got a call from the facilitator of the class who wanted to meet with me and talk about where I saw myself getting plugged into the church's ministry. While we were talking, I went through a few options like behind the scenes work like working on food for events, childcare, and whatnot. Even with all of those options, I still didn't feel like I was passionate about any of these things. I can do them, but did I really want to do it with everything inside of me? Not entirely. The option of short term missions came up when I talked about what I had a passion for. That is when I got the contact information for the missions director at the church. On the drive home from that meeting, I cried tears of pure joy. I had apprehension that I wouldn't be able to go for whatever reason- vacation time at work, money or something random that would fall through. I called the missions leader the next week and chatted about the opportunity. I knew that I wanted to go and everything in my heart was pulling me forward. Everything ended up working together beautifully for me to go, so I was on my way. I could hardly contain myself. I was nervous the week leading up to our departure, but I was bursting with excitement.

During my late college years and a few years after was when I first felt called to go to China. I felt that was my one and only dream. I went and came back- my question has always been, "What's next?"  I enjoyed China, but it was accompanied with heartache. I thought I would stay there for a few years or indefinitely. When I went, I just knew in my depths of my heart that I would only be there for the year I committed to. I just hadn't realized the truth in that reality.

One month after coming home from my year in China, I got a job working with internationals. I learn something new and meet people from new countries regularly. They share their language, their food and social customs- they enjoy seeing me indulge in my love of learning about and experiencing other cultures. I have experienced so much more than I could have ever experienced anywhere else, even if I had stayed in China for a few more years. I am so thankful and blessed to have had these opportunities. The truth is that I have a heart for all nations, some people have a heart for one specific region or nation, but mine has always been for all nations. Every nation, every tongue will proclaim the name of the Lord. That has been my heart all along. It took me the last several years to realize that.
My afterthoughts of being in Kenya: of course a trip like that will drive anyone to have more exposure to 3rd world nations. Seeing the missionaries live their lives for the people really impacted me. I thought to myself- why can't I live like that in my current life? With my knowledge and understanding of  my own culture and having the upper hand on the language, I have such a great opportunity to bridge the gap. Having lived in a foreign country and having experienced the emotions that accompany a location shift of great lengths, I can relate first hand. Seeing the poverty sided with joy that people experience in other countries has spurred me on to live a more focused life. To live life on purpose is tough and challenging, but that is why we are here. Jesus didn't live a comfortable life by any means, and if we are His children, then we are called to live like He did.

Ephesians 1:3-10
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 13: Part II – Austerity to Luxury

After returning from our trip to IDP that morning, we headed back to Nairobi to meet up with the Hovingh's and have one last day together. As we drove, there was an obvious change of scenery. The roads became smoother, the houses got bigger, and the commerce seemed to be more sophisticated. A shift in socioeconomic status was evident. I was amazed at the difference! When we arrived in Nairobi the first day, the sun had already set so, we weren't able to really see much of Nairobi on the drive up. 

We arrived at the mall and weekend market in Nairobi and met for lunch. The open air food court was beautiful... I felt like I was in Chicago or somewhere out west.
All I could think about was all the villages we had visited, the hospital, the ladies at Gil Gil, the kids at Helping Hands and House of Hope. Those images flooded my mind as we ate in the busy food court. I looked at my surrounding and felt like a foreigner in such a modern city. I've lived near Chicago all my life, visited Beijing, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Houston, D.C. and several other larger cities, but having been in such opposite circumstances for a seemingly long time, I felt new to this arena. 

After eating lunch, we went to a market, not the Masai market, but one that was comparable. We were able to get most of what you would find at Masai. We entered the market being greeted by eager sales people. Each had their own space on the roof of the mall. They were shaded by umbrellas from the scorching sun that afternoon. 

In Beijing's pearl market, I had experienced aggressive sales people before all shouting at the foreigners. Their attempts were unfeeling and non relational; cold to a point. Walking down the aisles of the market that day was warm, friendly, and inviting. They addressed me as "Sister" and gave a warm smile. The welcome I felt was different and comforting as they had hoped me to feel. As I relaxed and accepted the greetings, I began looking at the variety of fares I could take home to show my friends and family. The sales people were friendly up to the point of the sale – then reality hit. I was looking at a map that was carved on a thin piece of delicate bark from a tree. This type of tree was rare, so it was going to be more expensive. It had a hole in it which was probably natural, but the sales person wanted about 2,000 shilling (roughly $25) for it. He offered it to me for 2,000 shillings to begin, and I came back at 1,000. I then said that I needed to think about it and I proceeded to browse around. There were several other sellers I could buy the same type of map from, and this sales person was painfully aware of that. A few minutes later, I see him approaching with the map. He said, "Okay Sister, I give it to you for your price, 1,000."  I say, no thank you, and move on. 

The frustration from him and my anxiety of the situation was teeming. Not understanding the culture and what could make or break a sales person's business, I was confused and afraid to be alone! I usually love shopping and looking at what I can bring home to show everyone, but this was too intense for me. 

In China, since I had worked there and understood the commerce and appropriate income, I could be at more ease. While the Kenyan culture is welcoming and more relational than I've ever experienced, I felt uneasy and a little cheated that day. I'm not reflecting my feelings of the market experience on the culture as a whole; it was just such a contrast between what I had experienced the days prior to now. I decided to stick closely to Lisa the rest of the day knowing that she could help me understand what is cheating the sales and what is appropriate. We struck up a pretty decent deal with a very comical and skilled sales woman. We bartered her down from 2,500 shillings to 1,600 for two skirts and a wooden giraffe. At one point during the end of the sale, she said, “Okay, don't talk anymore, you cut me!” as she motioned with her finger sliding across her neck. Lisa and I both knew that this was a reasonable deal and she would still get a good profit from it. She just had to make a big deal as she knew we were right. 

Later that afternoon, the kids and a few of the adults wanted to go to a giraffe exhibit. It was all the way across town. It closed at 5pm and it was around 4:30 and traffic was horrendous. We made it after closing time, but they let us in for a discounted rate. They gave us pellets to feed the giraffes. The workers said that some people enjoyed feeding them from their mouths. Well, being the adventure seeker that I am, I couldn't pass this up.

That evening we went to a restaurant called, "Carnivore" and you can guess what they served, meat and lots of it. It was like a Brazilian steakhouse. We ended up ordering a platter of meats consisting of chicken, beef, sausage, lamb, crocodile and ostrich. I ate all of them. The ostrich meatball was my favorite. The crocodile was fishy and stringy which is now my least favorite of animals to consume. Apparently, I had part of the arm which isn't the best. The tail has the best steaks, but I guess those are too pricy!

After dinner, we headed to our guesthouse for the night. When we arrived, it was late and dark. We had to get up at 4 am in order to catch our plane in time. Before settling in for our last night in Kenya, we had to check to make sure there were no TIA situations that would happen in the morning. In other words, we wanted to make sure a driver would be there to take us to the airport at 4 am, not 6 am or even 5 am. When it comes to making a flight, there is no room for TIA (This is Africa). When they assigned our rooms, they gave us all separate rooms even though each room had two beds- I ended up on the top floor while everyone else was on the first floor. All I could think about was not waking up. I went up to my room and the windows were open which meant mosquitoes were my sleeping pals for the night. When I went to close the windows, two geckos scurried up the wall. I had had it. I went downstairs and asked to be in one of the rooms on the floor with my team! My gracious bunk-mate from our room in Naivasha agreed to let me sleep in the spare bed in her room. We all woke up in time and our driver was right on time. These Kenyans knew that TIA would be unacceptable for this group of westerners.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 13: Part I - I.D.P.

Our view from the drive down

Our last day in Kenya was spent at I.D.P. (Internally Displaced People). It's more or less a refugee camp for tribal groups of Kenya. Every ten years there are elections in Kenya. They are divided by parties like American politics, but the parties are split by tribal groups. 

IDP from a distance - see tin roofs and community of buildings

During the election ten years ago, there were two tribes that were in opposing parties. To help explain this, imagine that you belonged to Tribe A and you lived in the same neighborhood as a person from Tribe B; one or the other tribe would try to run you out of your neighborhood. While in Naivasha the previous week, one of our dinner hosts told a story of escaping from his own church family that tried to kill him during the elections, all because he was from a different tribe. Lacking details and historical backgrounds of the tribes and politicians, that is all I understand of the situation which was the reason I.D.P. was established.
The elections for 2013 just occurred on March 10th. We have all been praying that the 2013 elections were favorable for the nation and the tribal groups living among one another. (I actually heard from a student of mine from Congo who said that the same president is still in office now, so that may prove to keep some peace for a while). 

Now that you understand some of the history of the peoples issues, we can talk about I.D.P. This is a small village in the flat lands below the mountainous regions where we had been staying. From the long drive down, we could see the sun shining on the tops of the tin roofs. Anywhere from singles, mothers and fathers with and without children live among each other as victims of the riots of the past elections. There is something to be said about the ability of the human spirit combined with the provision of God to survive the greatest of trials and tragedies. 

We visited the school of I.D.P. and taught them the Zacchaues song – I think all the children of Kenya know this song now! It was a nice tool to have in our belt since we visited several schools; it could be reused and it was appropriate for each place.

The typical classroom
The most prominent observation of I.D.P.: austerity. Everything was as simple as it could get down to the walls and the roofing. Basic trusses, Kenyan style, held up the tin walls and roof all resting on roughly 15 inches thick cement foundation. The children were much more reserved than the Elementary Mob in the Kikuyu school. They were somewhat somber. The obvious stares me in the face, they had probably experienced so much tragedy and loss that it rested heavily on their souls. 

Their joy wasn't as noticeable, however, they were content and grateful.

Remembering my thoughts and emotions of the anticipation of visiting I.D.P. – I was scared, unsure of what we would encounter, and hesitant. I had built up this I.D.P. camp to be a place of sick and pain filled people who would be in such need that it would suck all of our joy and energy away. It was quite the opposite as I described. I guess I assumed that seeing people living after a great tragedy, it would be chaotic and hopeless.

Is that my own culture coming to the surface? Is this a representation of the Kenyan culture and their ability to survive in all severity? What seems to be is that they had community and commonality of values; but what is most evident is God's blessing and provision for His children.

George and some kids

Distributing "sweeties" (sweet cookie-like crackers)