March 2 is a big day at our house.

The girls have been asking all day if they can call Grammy. We’ll FaceTime with her soon. Today is her 52nd 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom.

Today would have been Dr. Seuss’ 109th birthday. Born Theodor Seuss Geisel, this great American writer, poet, and cartoonist penned 46 children’s books under various pen names, most notably Dr. Seuss. His love of meter and rhyme (and social commentary) has made is books favorites of many children, ours included. Thanks to Grandma and Papa, we have quite the collection of books by Dr. Seuss and Theo LeSieg. The girls love them. They are still to young to read them on their own, but they know entire pages by heart. As they “read” along with me I hope that they will always enjoy reading. (Though I still groan every time a little girl brings me Fox in Sox.) As my husband tweeted earlier today, “Celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday with my kids is not about honoring one man; it’s about teaching them the magic of reading.”

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

2 cups white beans (cooked and cooled or canned)
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (liquified)
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Combine wet ingredients with beans and pulse in the food processor. Add dry ingredients and blend until combined. Portion into muffin tins. Bake at 325 for 22-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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Remember, “the more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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Four years ago today I married the most wonderful man in the world. He brings balance, joy and poetry to my life.  We tend to be an odd mixture of traditional and contemporary.  One tradition we have held to so far is the giving of “traditional” anniversary gifts.  The gift for the fourth year is fruit.

Our first date, nearly five years ago, was to the Philbrook Museum of Art. One of the pieces of of art we discussed was a vibrant painting of persimmons. Later that evening we sat together and he read me this poem by Li-Young Lee.

Persimmons

by Li-Young Lee
In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision.
How to choose

persimmons. This is precision.
Ripe ones are soft and brown-spotted.
Sniff the bottoms. The sweet one
will be fragrant. How to eat:
put the knife away, lay down newspaper.
Peel the skin tenderly, not to tear the meat.
Chew the skin, suck it,
and swallow. Now, eat
the meat of the fruit,
so sweet,
all of it, to the heart.

Donna undresses, her stomach is white.
In the yard, dewy and shivering
with crickets, we lie naked,
face-up, face-down.
I teach her Chinese.
Crickets: chiu chiu. Dew: I’ve forgotten.
Naked: I’ve forgotten.
Ni, wo: you and me.
I part her legs,
remember to tell her
she is beautiful as the moon.

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting.
Wrens are small, plain birds,
yarn is what one knits with.
Wrens are soft as yarn.
My mother made birds out of yarn.
I loved to watch her tie the stuff;
a bird, a rabbit, a wee man.

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love.

This year, in the muddy lighting
of my parents’ cellar, I rummage, looking
for something I lost.
My father sits on the tired, wooden stairs,
black cane between his knees,
hand over hand, gripping the handle.
He’s so happy that I’ve come home.
I ask how his eyes are, a stupid question.
All gone, he answers.

Under some blankets, I find a box.
Inside the box I find three scrolls.
I sit beside him and untie
three paintings by my father:
Hibiscus leaf and a white flower.
Two cats preening.
Two persimmons, so full they want to drop from the cloth.

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Oh, the feel of the wolftail on the silk,
the strength, the tense
precision in the wrist.
I painted them hundreds of times
eyes closed. These I painted blind.
Some things never leave a person:
scent of the hair of one you love,
the texture of persimmons,
in your palm, the ripe weight.

This week winter finally decided to visit Northeastern Oklahoma. Granted, a blizzard with ice and 14 inches of blowing snow isn’t really ideal, especially in a city not equipped to clear the roads. We did all the normal winter storm preparation: grocery shopping, winterproofing, menu planning. I decided that a big pot of daal would be the perfect step in our storm preparation.

Before you ask, daal or dahl or dal or dhal is a spicy Indian lentil dish. The spelling and some of the specific ingredients can vary by where regions as this dish is popular throughout the region in Nepal, Shi Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Daal is an excellent source of nutrition and protein, especially in a meatless diet.

Daal

1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 carrot, diced
2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 cup red lentils
1 cup brown lentils
5 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup rasins
3 tablespoons curry powder*
1 tablespoon cumin*
1 tablespoon turmeric*
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes*
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
salt to taste.

In a large pot, combine carrot, 1 tablespoon ginger, lentils, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until lentils are tender.
In a separate skillet, heat sunflower oil over medium heat. Saute green onions, garlic, ginger, and raisins. Add curry, cumin, turmeric, and dried chili flakes and saute for about two minutes to allow spices to bloom.
Add tomatoes and coconut milk.
Add to pot of lentils and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Salt to taste and serve with brown basmati rice or naan.

*My curry powder has a lot of great flavor but not a lot of heat to it so I added additional spices. If your curry powder is hot you may not need these ingredients.

Snow and cold weather always make me want to bake. With a solid layer of sleet on the ground and the snow piling high and drifting in the front yard, this morning seemed the perfect time to settle in and bake something tasty for breakfast.

These muffins are hearty and healthy. As the recipe is, it is egg-free. If you use non-dairy yogurt and milk you could easily make these tasty muffins vegan.

Gluten Free Banana Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup yogurt, plain low fat
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil, sunflower or vegetable oil
2 bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon flax meal
3 tablespoons water
1 cup oat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine oats, yogurt and milk in a bowl and allow to soak about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl combine flax meal and water and allow to sit 3 minutes.
Combine flours, salt, spices, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl. Whisk lightly to combine.
To the oat mixture, add brown sugar, mashed banana, and flax meal mixture. Mix well.
Add dry ingredients to the rolled oats mixture and mix well. Fill greased or lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes (10 minutes for mini muffins) in a 400 degree oven.

I love being able to stay at home with the girls, but some days are trying. Elie is normally very easy-going and happy, but cutting two molars will put anyone in a bad mood.

Audra is always a little bit more challenging. She’s brilliant. She’s strong-willed. She’s spirited. And she’s two. Sometimes this combination leads to beautiful moments and amazing discoveries. Other times it leads to screaming and crying and poop on the walls.

Today we had a mix of both. On the one hand it’s better than having a whole day of destructo-toddler, but it can emotionally be very challenging for mommy. All morning Audra used the potty and shared with her little sister. She ate well at lunch. She said she was sleepy and ready for a nap. Then she smeared poop all over the nursery walls and carpets while I was getting Elie settled down for a nap.

On a day like today, let’s just be honest, Mommy NEEDS chocolate.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookies
Cookies:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer, beat butter. Add sugar and cream together.
Add vanilla and egg. Continue mixing until creamy and smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients (tapioca flour, teff flour, sorghum flour, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Whisk together to combine.
Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix. Dough will start out grainy, but will come together to form a dense cookie dough.
Roll the dough into teaspoon-sized balls and put on lined cookie sheet. Place a small piece of parchment paper on top of balls and press to 1/4 inch thick.
Bake cookies 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.

Filling:
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together all ingredients until a fluffy frosting forms.
Smear on top of one cookie and place a second cookie on top to form sandwich.

When my younger daughter was born (about 15 months ago) our
wonderful friends at church brought meals so that I wouldn’t have
to cook. With a toddler running around the house, a c-section
incision to tend, and a newborn to nurse I couldn’t have asked for
a better gift in all the world. People brought lentils and rice,
fruit, bread, pasta dishes, soups, quiche, and other delightful
meals.

Our pastor’s wife brought baked oatmeal. Randall doesn’t
like oatmeal, so I had a whole pan of baked oatmeal to myself,
until Audra found me out. Evey morning I would have a bowl of baked
oatmeal with warm milk. It was perfect and filling but I could eat
and prepare it quickly and get back to the babies demanding my
attention.

The cold weather (and promise of snow) got me thinking
about baked oatmeal again. As we waited for the now to fall, Audra
and I got out all the ingredients for baked oatmeal. I created our
assembly line and she poured and mixed to her little heart’s
content until we got to our ever-important B ingredient. Around
here, B is for blueberries. Audra carefully counted the blueberries
as she added them to the baking dish, then ate one, then fed one to
sister, then added one to the baking dish. As I’m sure you can
imagine, not as many made it into the oatmeal as I had intended.

We had a wonderful time mixing and counting and baking and eating this
simple baked oatmeal based on my pastor’s wife’s recipe. I hope you
enjoy it as much as we did.

Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries

1 egg beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup agave syrup
3 cups old fashioned oatmeal (gluten free)
1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 cup blueberries

Mix ingredients in a lightly greased 8-inch
square pan or 9-inch round pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and
turbinado sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

I started out the week with great plans. Recipes were selected, ingredients purchased, plans made.

With Monday came the reality that this week was not going to go as planned. Recipes failed, mommy got sick, our younger daughter got sick. It was not a good week at our house.

I also began a new battle with migraines. One of the perks of all the the pregnancy hormones that I’ve had coursing through my body for the last few years has been the disappearance of my migraines. Now that my younger daughter is 15 months old they have made quite a comeback. My husband even made me lavender headache balm for Christmas in a sweet attempt to help. (It should be noted that the headache balm is wonderful, it just can’t stand up to a migraine.)

Everyone at our house seems to be feeling better, so we’ll try this again.

My girls love to “read.” At this point this means that they like to sit in Mommy’s or Daddy’s lap with whatever book they brought for them to read. Occasionally I’ll catch them sitting in the floor “reading” together. This morning while I was getting ready for a relaxing day with the family I turned and saw Eleanor right outside the door. She had found her favourite book  (10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle). With a proud look on her face held it up: “DUCK!” She plopped down on the floor and began reading her book upside down.

The girls also really enjoy reading anything by Dr. Seuss. Audra loves it when her daddy reads Fox in Socks. I refuse to read it. I always get frustrated and tongue tied. At naptime she often demands that I read “ABC Book!” (Dr. Seuss’s ABC’s). It begins “Big A, little a, what begins with a?”

This year we will be going through the alphabet with the girls. Recipes will have key ingredients or methods that start with the appropriate letter of the alphabet. I hope that this will provide a fun media for exploring letters with the girls, though I may kick myself for this commitment as we reach the end of the alphabet and I have to find foods that begin with x, y, and z.

My husband and I are both making a conscious effort to write more often on our blogs. If you’re literate you should check out his blog.

I am in the process of moving my blog to WordPress and updating the look of things. Please be patient with me while I improve my blog.

It seems that the organic bananas have been turning very quickly recently. I buy them when they’re still green and within a couple of days they are half brown, skipping the yellow stage entirely. Audra and Eleanor both love bananas, but they can’t eat them that quickly. Or rather, I won’t let them. When Audra was starting on solids I learned the hard way what too many bananas do to a baby.

Three over-ripe bananas have been sitting on the kitchen counter for several days. I have thought several times about making banana bread, but the recipe I have always used is wheat-based and full of loathsome gluten. On several occasions I have looked online for a gluten-free banana bread recipe, but my little girls seem to have been exceptionally demanding.

One of our friends is moving to Michigan next week and there is a going away party after church on Saturday. I found out yesterday that everyone is supposed to bring snack food. With renewed purpose and a deadline I set out to find a recipe.

Currently my favourite gluten-free cooking blog is “Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.” Shauna has wonderful recipes and stories. She also has a little girl about Audra’s age. On her blog is a recipe for a chocolate banana bread. Her recipe calls for yogurt. Since I make my own yogurt it is difficult to resist the urge to cook with it.

I adapted this recipe to make an amazing egg-less banana bread with a nearly cake-like consistency. For vegan banana bread try using a non-dairy yogurt (soy, coconut, etc).

Nearly Vegan Chocolate Banana Bread (egg-less)
  4 oz teff flour (about 1 cup)
  6.5 oz brown rice flour (about 1 cup)
  5.5 oz sugar (about 3/4 cup)
  6 tablespoons cocoa powder (high quality)
  1 teaspoon baking soda
  1/2 teaspoon salt
  3 overly ripe bananas (about 1 cup)
  1/2 cup applesauce
  1/3 cup light olive oil
  1/4 cup plain yogurt
  1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease two small loaf pans.

Combine flours, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Use a fork to break up clumps in the cocoa powder. Use a whisk to incorporate dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl mash bananas. Add applesauce, oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix well.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spatula. Batter will be lumpy. Do not over mix.

Portion batter into pans. Bake for about 45 minutes. When bread is done a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on rack to finish cooling.

Serve warm or completely cooled. Enjoy!

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