The world is burning

There is nothing more primitively satisfying than making fire. “I make fire!” should be accompanied by chest thumping and grunting. I have discovered in this, our first year of needing fire to keep warm all winter, that making fire is not so simple as one might think. Paper, tinder, lighter, fire – right? Well we eventually discovered that our chimney was almost totally blocked. So part of my struggles could be chalked up to that. But N always seems to have an easier time of it. This handy little life-saving hack has evened the playing field. 

It is so simple to make.  All you need is an egg carton, dryer lint and a tea light candle. Stuff the egg compartments as full as you can with lint, take the wax or soy candle out of the metal and place on top. Melt on a cookie tray (covered with foil if you aspire to use it for anything else ever again. We now have a dedicated sheet just for this), oven at 250, until it is melted. Don’t don’t don’t forget it! Flammable!  :)  When cool just cut the compartments apart, place one in the fire and light. Pure flame that lasts for 10 min or more, which is plenty of time to get a normal fire started (of course you need to add tinder and firewood). 

With the most recent Islamic terrorist attack in Nice, France, it might seem that the world itself is burning up. Sometimes I wonder if that primitive delight in fire is partially responsible for the apparent human desire to create chaos.  What are the most popular movies?  Ones featuring apocalyptic chaos. Zombies. Alien invasions. War.  Yet… Peace.  We all talk about it. Jews even greet each other with the word for peace and wellness in the world, Shalom. Yet we keep making great towers of civilization. ..only to burn them down again. I am talking on the human level not the individual, but it certainly plays itself out there too. A close family member was an abuse victim as a child. As an adult “they” made choice after choice to basically torpedo their own success. Every time things were going well, they did something foolish to ruin it. I know this is a common thing for victims of abuse but still. Why do we self destruct? 

I wrote this commentary on racism this week as the American nation again faces new onslaughts of “race” related violence. I think it applies.

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Racism sucks. There is only one race. The human race. Racism itself, the idea of different races, was an evolutionist made up story to justify racism.  So that it made sense for the African slave trade to continue – because they were a lesser race.  You know what I have noticed? I have lived in a lot of places.  And racism is nothing more than a combination of fear and greed. Fear of losing economic benefits (and / or personal security) to a perceived threatening sub group.  And greed – to keep the status quo going if it benefits you.  Everyone is racist to some degree and we all need to admit it.  Immigrants?  Mexicans? Blacks? Asians? Jews? Muslims? Gentiles?  Whites? Foreigners? Christians? Liberals? Men?  Women? If you have ever jumbled all the people of one group together in your head under the idea that there is some kind of trait shared by all then you have done the same thing as the founder of racism.  The only true solution is Jesus. In him, all are equal, slave, master, male, female….all equal and equally valuable. As the Bible says He came to set us free from the sin that clings so closely. In Him we are truly united into one body, free to love each other as brothers and sisters because we share the one truly important trait – forgiveness of our sins, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God himself, justified in the eyes of the one true Holy God and being conformed into His image daily until we are made perfect in Him. Becoming less racist should not be our goal, as Christians. We should strive to leave all clinging sins behind and cling to our Saviour alone.

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Of course, the Bible says that the end of the world will come in flames. So I don’t think we can escape the fires. But, and here is the important part, we can be saved out of it.

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Creative catch-up

I forgot to post an experiment that was inspired by a talk during our FSJ trip. We were talking about how awesome “Monkey Bread” is, and wondered if it would be just as awesome if it was garlic butter bread? So here are the pics of my attempt:

Garlic Butter Pull Apart dough

Bread dough, in balls, dipped into garlic butter

And here is the finished product. The dough puffed up beautifully so the balls ended up being less buttery than I expected. So I served with a butter garlic dipping “sauce”:

Baked Garlic Butter Pull Apart Bread

Yum!  All ready for dinner!

So, it turns out, you can definitely make it. And it rocks!

The recipe is too simple to make a whole page for, just take bread dough (I do have bread dough recipes here), make into small balls and dip into garlic butter.  Use real minced garlic.  :)  Then pile in and bake!

Another experiment that was delicious I put into a recipe here.  Stuffed wontons

It’s called “Dessert Bows” and it’s wontons stuffed with rice pudding, nutella or lemon curd and strawberries.  The leftovers made an awesome breakfast the next day:

Rice Pudding Dessert wth Strawberries, Cream and Lemon Curd

I may need to stop getting all creative in the kitchen for a while, as we have to move.  Again.  Our rental landlords decided they wanted to sell the house, despite giving us verbal assurance that they would not put it up for sale while we were renting it.  Sigh.  No new place yet!  Another sad note: Parfait cup cracked in the dishwasher.  Goodbye, parfait cup.  It was sweet having you around.

lemon curd yogurt granola parfait

Parfait with Lemon Curd, Granola and vanilla Yogurt

 

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Revisiting the old

I was going through Vancouver on our way home from FSJ and had enough time to stop by an Asian supermarket. The island is fairly limited on those.  I should probably explain that Asian food is my comfort food.  Indian curries are my go-to for comfort, rice is my staple, pandan coconut jam makes me get all teary for Singapore, Japanese seaweed rice topping is a must in our house, and so on.  I found they were having a sale on gold kiwi. …. mmnnn…. this happens once a year and it happened to be happening when I was there! Happy dance. Bags of kiwi later, to be shortly turned into my absolute favorite Gold Kiwi and Banana jam, as I strolled happily through the aisles, I found grass jelly. I haven’t had it for years. In Singapore it is a common hawker stall drink. It tastes really good on a hot day! So I picked up a couple of cans.

I had written this recipe a while back, Coconut Grass Supreme, but hadn’t revisited it and in fact hadn’t even put pictures up with it. So today I made it again. After the last few years of foodie-ism it felt a little lacking so I jazzed it up with fresh lychee and young coconut.  It tastes like a dream…and calorie wise it certainly should be classified as a dessert!  I like weirding my kids out sometimes so I left some of the “snakes” in serpenty form (parfait cup getting useful here):

Speaking of the old, I was thinking of the sad story of David and Batsheba. I have been enjoying discovering Anthem Lights as a band and one of them did a cover of Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which mentions the David story.  One thing that I have heard debated in Christian circles is submission. In this story, Batsheba is married to Uriah. Uriah is by all accounts a mighty warrior (mighty enough to be part of David’s most honored warriors, 2 Sam 23:39), and he is a loyal citizen. In fact Uriah proves to be of stronger moral fiber than David, the man after God’s own heart. Of course it gets him killed. Batsheba is, by all accounts, gorgeous. She seems to be young here as well, in fact one guy has extrapolated ages considering Batsheba’s father and grandfather were David’s men and in his guess, David is about 49 and Batsheba is 21 (link here).  Her character. ..that is what is debated. See, King David sees her bathing. Ah! She bathes in public!  Well, on her roof actually and by contemporary cultural customs what she did was probably normal. And David,  in his palace, while his army is off fighting (which btw _everyone_ seems to think is a shirking of his duty), strolling around at night, sees her and has her brought to him. Here is the crux of the moral question.  Did Batsheba comply in the ensuing sin of adultery? Or is she trapped and David bears all blame?

It seems like perhaps it is silly to debate the sin or lack of it in a story that happened thousands of years ago. Yet… Christianity teaches women to be subject, or in submission, to their husbands. That hasn’t changed. So Batsheba’s actions and the question of her bearing sin guilt before God are pertinent to today because in this story, Batsheba’s submission to her husband and to her king are at war.

Batsheba’s actions after the adultery may be somewhat telling. When she discovered that she is pregnant by David, she sends him a message. She doesn’t tell her husband away at war. She tells the co-conspirator. This act eventually leads to her husband’s death. So not only is adultery potentially laid at her door, but murder as well.  Of course, death was the law’s punishment for adultery and Uriah seems like a real stickler for the law, so she may have had good reason to withhold the information from him – after all if modern readers of the tale wonder if she was complicit, wouldn’t an enraged husband also presumably wonder?

What struck me recently in thinking the story over is, how does God see Batsheba’s actions?  One. She is never rebuked by God. David is. Two. When God sends Nathan the prophet to David he has him tell David a story. In this story, David ends up being the rich man who takes a poor man’s only lamb, one who had slept in his arms, and serves it on a plate to the rich man’s guest. Neither the poor man or the lamb have any ability to resist the rich man’s action. Of course in real life Uriah could not resist David – he was away fighting David’s war. But how much ability did Batsheba have to resist David? My recent conclusion is that God portrays her as a helpless lamb. How much can a lamb resist being eaten?  Even if it resisted with all its might, we all know it is going to be dinner.  So if God himself calls her the helpless lamb, that seems to indicate that He does not count her sin against her (except bilaterally through David, she experiences the death of her son as punishment for David’s sin) who are modernists to do so?

It is interesting with hindsight to see that this relationship, begun in the darkness and secrecy and covered by blood guilt, ends up being a vital link in the genealogical chain of Jesus Christ. Their son Solomon of course goes on to inherit David’s kingdom and provide a Davidic heir to one of Jesus’ parents. What is less noticed is that Jesus’ other parent also traces their genes back to Batsheba, but through one of her other sons (she and David eventually have 4), Nathan. Nathan.  David named him this after the prophet who was sent by God to tell him that his sin would result in the death of their first boy. It appears that no “bad blood” remained between them, from this and the fact that it was the prophet Nathan who was also integral to Solomon’s ascension to the throne when his brother tried to usurp it.  Nathan means gift of God. Solomon was also named by God “Jedediah” or beloved of the Lord…

All of this encourages me. Why? This world can’t seem to go one day without brother killing brother, wars, famines, etc.  Seeing how God used a dark period to bring about redemption reminds me that the story isn’t over yet. God is still calling his people home. Still in the redemption business. Thank you!:)

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Easy peasy lemon squeezy

For some reason my kids started saying that one day and now it has entered the family dictionary. It’s silly but hey what can you say when skiddly rink a dink a dink comes back out of your mouth due to a wasted childhood?😉

I am the leftovers queen.  I get to use my creative juices to figure out how to use up all those bits and pieces left over from Nathan’s stable dinner fare. Half a serving of potatoes, a chicken carcass, and some rice? I scrounge up some veggies and wham, a yummy nutritious soup.  Actually making a menu and sticking to it gives me anxiety. Because in the back of my head I’m secretly wondering, “but then what will happen to all the leftovers?” The him/dinner/me/lunch system works well for us but sometimes I have no leftovers to work with and I have to come up with something completely from scratch.  

A recent dish this week was cheesy cauliflower and pork. When I processed all the cauliflower from our garden last week I chopped it up into very small pieces, did a quick partial steam on it and froze it. Now whenever I want cauliflower I just pull some out, steam it for a few minutes and it’s ready. The THM diet recommends using cauliflower as a starch substitute so I started trying to use it more often; however it’s not cheap around here so I was really excited when our cauliflower plants actually produced nice big heads of cauliflower (as a total cauliflower newbie I let it go too long, and it started trying to flower):

I whipped up a quick homemade cheese sauce that surprised me by turning out really good; from memory this is approximately what it had in it:

1/3 c. Sour cream 

1/2 c. Milk

2 t. Corn starch

3/4 c. Shredded cheese

Salt and powdered garlic

I guess it would probably be an S meal according to THM. Mixed with the cauliflower it was a big hit! The baby had three servings of it and ignored his meat. It did a fine job of making the absence of pasta or rice not even noticeable.

The sunshine girl got her present of the month as cake or cookies (we give them a homemade scratch off sheet with 12 prizes at Christmas – each month of the year they get to scratch off one prize). I had fresh strawberries that were chopped up into little pieces and sugared, lemon curd from yesterday, and of course my favorite rice pudding because I’ve been making it regularly for months now. I didn’t have enough time to whip up an actual cake so I got some wonton wrappers out from the freezer. Since Nathan was cooking dinner using the deep fryer and the oven at the same time (fish and chips, homemade) I had to use the stove, so I made wontons with lemon curd, rice pudding and strawberries. I also made some with Nutella instead of lemon curd. A dollop of whipped cream finished it off.  It was good! And easy. Recipe soon to follow.

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Another venture into GF living and random thoughts on Bounty

GF Peanut Butter Brownie and Ice Cream

You know, not all my experiments work just how I planned.  For example, the predecessor to this recipe is not up here.  It tasted great, nobody could tell it was primarily made from  chickpeas, but it gave all of us gas!  So back to the drawing board. :)

Tonight, it worked (recipe here).  Actually it exceeded my expectations.  I had planned on making another Ahern GF recipe, Peanut Butter Brownies, but discovered I didn’t like the look of the recipe.  Their last one, the carrot cake, used gums and I found it had a slightly slimy after taste.  It’s inevitable, that’s simply the gums in action, but I wanted to do a gum-free (xanthan and guar, to be precise) brownie.

I decided to go ahead and use chickpea flour, quinoa flour and almond flour/meal instead of their flour blend as well…basically all I kept was the hope for peanut butter and chocolate.  :)  That trio of flours is my current favorite for gluten-free baking.  The crumb and lift on this brownie/cake exceeded all my gluten-free expectations!  Probably the eggs helped.  I like a good amount of eggs in a recipe, as it adds to the protein quotient of the final product.  I suppose there must be some kind of egg replacement out there for vegans?  If there is, go ahead and try this recipe. :)

Eggs.  Side note.  I thank God for eggs.  I never had an issue with eggs even when vegetarian (ergo, being vegetarian, which is technically called lacto-ovo-vegetarian since milk and eggs are ok vs. vegan where they are not), because only fertilized eggs have the potential to be baby birds.  Therefore no death is involved in their consumption.  I thank God that he made birds to produce so many eggs, even without fertilization, as an important food source for the animal kingdom!  Even reptiles eat eggs, and they lay them!  Actually, it’s kinda gross, but even birds eat eggs.  Ya.  Apparently chickens will eat their own eggs if their feed is low in protein.  So much for the kind, gentle side of the animal kingdom.  :P  But eggs are a high quality protein and fat, and are a readily available source of nutrients.  I am not pro-chicken abuse, I like my eggs to come from happy, well treated chickens but I do appreciate eggs!

One of the things I love about gluten free baking is that it never seems to spike my kids’ behaviour like normal sweets with wheat do.  I don’t know if that’s because of the wheat, if it’s the presence of the almond meal that adds the extra protein punch that helps balance the insulin/blood sugar issue, or what.  But I will happily give my toddler a second helping of a cake like this while I groan inside whenever we are at a party or something and the kids are given regular cake.  That’s why I am not on a sugar free diet.  Well, one of the reasons.  I just don’t see the sugar as causing the problems.  I can use it in GF baking without issues.  This recipe uses palm sugar, which is supposed to be easier on the insulin reaction.  But the chocolate chips have regular sugar and still no issues.  I am opposed to aspartame, and its related ilk but had been excited after reading up about xylitol.  I had high hopes.  Unfortunately, a known side effect of xylitol, one that’s apparently true for me at well, is gas.  It’s thought that the side benefit of xylitol, killing bad bacteria by starving them, also works for the good gut bacteria that we need.  Ergo, gas.  I still buy xylitol gum and xylitol teeth products, but I’ve stopped using it as a sugar replacement in my tea and baking.  Insert sad face.  LOL.  Instead I stick to palm sugar for baking as it’s got slim evidence that it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as much as regular sugar.  I also like muscovado sugar, for flavor and because it retains some nutrients.

Another side note.  I looked into sugar replacements as a way to reduce calories in my diet.  But I’ve become aware that apparently there is a contingent of people who blame all modern evils on the amount of processed sugar in the diet.  I don’t know of any proof for this, or how you could possibly locate high rates of cancer and such to sugar intake when there are SO many other factors at play, but apparently it’s a thing.  Again, back to God.  He created sucrose.  Yes, that white stuff that everyone loves to hate.   Well, it’s not “modern” – sugarcane use can be dated back to at least before the 8th century _BC_ because it’s mentioned in a Chinese text as coming from India that far back.  And it’s 100% natural.  Yes, modern techniques are certainly an improvement on the past but it’s not a different beast.  Same ol’ stuff the ancients were eating.  And, apparently enjoying enough to trade…in fact Buddhist monks brought sugar processing techniques to China.  Ha!  How’s that conjunction for the modern mind?  Buddhist monks and sugar processing??  LOL.  So, I’m gonna take Paul’s advice on this one.  All things created by God can be enjoyed by the believer (_in moderation_) while giving thanks to God for his Bountiful provision.  :)  (…ps….I will except tobacco from this because of the modern genetic manipulation to it to make it intensely addictive, and because of all the evil side ingredients.  God said to be enslaved by NOTHING.  And this should especially include things that can kill you.  I thank God for his provision of the coca plant, the poppy plant, the marijuana plant, all plants that are the basis for modern pain killers…but I believe humans should partake of them only in very small doses and for extremely good reasons, not just to get “high.”)

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Gluten free yummy cake experiment

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Carrot Cake with Yogurt Cheesecake "Icing"

So I borrowed a book from the library to get to know the Gluten Free diet a bit better. We don’t need to be GF but I have been exploring reducing how much wheat we eat to see if it helps the kids learning disabilities.
The book is called gluten-free girl and the chef by the Ahern’s. She writes their love story through food. It is cute. There really are not a lot of sweet recipes but I learned quite a bit from the chef tips (the guy is a professional chef). For my 7 y.o.’s birthday I made the carrot cake recipe.  It turned out pretty good.
Recently I made some yogurt cheese. Nathan is working at a yogurt plant and the side benefit is free yogurt. To make yogurt cheese it is simple. Just drain yogurt. We leave the yogurt in a cloth covered strainer over a bowl for hours until it is as reduced/thick as we want. It is amazing how much it reduces! This yogurt cheese I had flavored with honey and vanilla. It was excellent with apple slices! 

So last night I made the carrot cake recipe again and when it was almost done I added my sweetened yogurt cheese/egg mix on top and baked it another 20-30 min. I have noticed that GF cakes tend to fall. This one might have had a chance if I hadn’t added the topping. But it made a rich, dense cake layer topped by a cheesecake “icing” – oh my what a pie as my kids would say. Rich, sweet, but not heavy. You don’t feel sick eating a slice like some super thick cheesecakes can make you feel.  Good as a breakfast or a dessert.  To up the sweetness  (I made it fairly light on sugar), adding a sauce on top would be easy as the cake creates a natural lip when it sinks down.

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Journey to the end of the earth

Well, we’re back.  We didn’t make it quite to the end.  But it sure felt like it!

We drove up to Fort St. John, BC.  This is near Dawson Creek (of the tv show popularity), and kinda close to the Yukon Territory (and about the same longitude as southern Alaska).  Well, close to me, but apparently the Yukon is still 6-8 hours further north.  The trip took about 18 hours from where we started, on Vancouver Island.  That’s because kids have small bladders.  ;)  It really felt like we were approaching the end by the time we hit FSJ.  We could see the trees already greening up from the recent forest fires, it’s amazing how quickly everything recovers!  FSJ seems like a really nice place, if you don’t mind 8 months of winter.  Personally, about 4 months of winter is what I prefer.  The kids got to meet so many relatives, and ride quads and horses, and I don’t think they wanted to come home!

We were there to celebrate the 90th birthday of Nathan’s grandmother.  I did up a family tree in a quilt format (using fabric markers) and it turns out she has over 100 direct descendants!!  Not bad for 90 years!  9 kids, 30 grandkids, and the rest great-grandkids…two more coming this year!  It’s really amazing to see the power of multiplication at work.  And such a blessing to visit with all the family who were able to make it – over 80 people were in the family photo!  Although it does remind me of the pictures in the vets’ offices – “If you don’t fix your cat, it could outnumber humanity in three generations!” LOL.  Ya.  Well, the bald eagles and coyotes apparently help handle the stray dog and cat population in FSJ. Thankfully, none of the kids went astray while we were there.  Of course, we came home to find that a local cougar has taken up residence in our area.  A couple of neighbors took pics of it lounging on their back porches, and at least one recent deer kill has been found….but Nathan says he’s been seeing the deer the last couple of days (they make themselves scarce in cougar country) so we’re hoping the cat decided to move on.  I won’t let the kids play in the backyard without our pit mix dog around right now, anyways.

We also found out while we were gone that our current landlord won’t be renewing our lease as they have decided to sell the house.  There’s a massive housing bubble blooming in the Vancouver area, and it’s coming over to the island as well.   Unfortunately it means that people like us, unable to qualify for a large mortgage (average house prices are $300-500,000) are plumb out of luck.  The rental market is almost completely gone, between houses being put up for sale and a glut of people needing rentals.  With our family size, 8 people, it’s looking almost impossible to find something even with two months notice.  We may be living in our 22′ trailer soon.  Which would be better than being homeless…but 8 people in a small trailer…well…let’s just say I’m not looking at the prospect with eagerness.  It’s ok during warm months but the winter??   Our trailer (technically my mom’s) is a hybrid trailer, so two beds pop out with canvas roofs on each end.  It’s pretty spacious for a small footprint but NOT cold-ready.

And so the adventure continues….:)  I’m already downsizing.  We’ve been here 10 months, and were only 12 months at our previous place, so it’s not like we have a lot to downsize.  But we have acquired more stuff, and part of me is happy at the prospect of slimming down again a bit.  I went through the kids’ clothes to see where we’re at there.  I made 10 outfits each my rule last purge.  I was surprised to find that they’re all still at that number.  They’ve gotten more clothes but have also outgrown more clothes, so the only clothing clog we have is the stuff my 3 y.o. girl is outgrowing but won’t be passing down to her little brother.   That’s at least several days worth of work I don’t have to do, yippee!

Nathan’s working odd shifts, sometimes days, sometimes nights, so I’ve been making more dinners.  This is yesterday’s creation: GF Meatballs and Taters

GF Meatballs and mashed potatoes

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