Baking with Tea: Brown Sugar Oatmeal Scones (V)

IMG_2042Before I get into the contents of the blog, I have to note the massive opportunities I overlooked in writing it. When I took these photos, my sole motivation was to highlight the flower shape of the scones without actual foliage, which I don’t currently have. It wasn’t until I texted the pictures to my family that I realized my puzzle pieces could be an homage to Autism Awareness Month–if only that had been intentional! Then, as I was finishing the post, I suddenly remembered that I had done a floral-themed shoot…on Earth Day. Well, regardless of whether it was my initial intention or not, I’d like to acknowledge both beautiful occasions! I’ll celebrate them despite the fact that I had no idea I’d be doing so before I started this–and, if you read the blog, you’ll see that perhaps that was more fitting than anything else…

I’ve been thinking, as I write at my kitchen table, about all the things surrounding this moment that I would have found unbelievable days, months, or years ago. Every single sentence I pull from the description of today has factors that attest to just how much change has occurred in my life! Let me demonstrate with this simple statement:

On this cold Tuesday afternoon in Pittsburgh, I’m writing a blog post for a recipe series about baking with tea.

First of all, the fact that I’m in Pittsburgh is something that I couldn’t have predicted for most of my life; I’ve never had any direct or indirect ties to the city. Second of all, I would have once blatantly refuted the idea that I might have a baking blog by now. Multiple people had tried to convince me to start one a while back, and I was convinced it was beyond my abilities. Thirdly, the fact that the recipe of choice was centered around tea would have been laughable for a long time because I passionately hated all varieties of tea until around 2017!  There’s also no reason that, before March, I would have anticipated being home writing on a Tuesday afternoon instead of at work–that’s something many of you can understand.  Finally, on a more recent note, I would have been shocked and disappointed two weeks ago as I strolled around the neighborhood in short sleeves, to know that today wouldn’t even reach 50°.IMG_2121

The reason I share this “exercise” of sorts is that it’s a reminder of the fact that, no matter how intently we study the past and present, we can never produce a guaranteed illustration of the future. In fact, our speculations are often wayyyy off. It brings me back to a few weekends ago, when I watched Blade Runner for the first time (great movie with a great sequel, by the way). My roommate and I chuckled at how comical the 1982 filmmaker’s depiction of what 2019 was in comparison to the true reality of that year. The boxy vehicles, eccentric fashion, and impossibly accurate photograph enhancement software from the movie certainly did not resemble the 12 months we’d just lived in ANY way. What’s more, just recall the sheer quantity of apocalypse day predictions that have come and long since passed, or the rapidly changing estimations regarding the current pandemic. Even the ideas I had about how I’d allocate my time today have shifted since I woke up this morning. When it comes to foreseeing the time ahead of us, we humans are simply unreliable.IMG_2070

While this inability is discouraging to a degree–I often wish that I could experience the security of knowing with certainty what awaits me in my life–it’s equally, if not more, comforting. When I look at the sentence I analyzed earlier about my day, I noted that essentially every part of it was something I would’ve never anticipated in the past. And yet, nearly every part of it was also positive in some way: I love Pittsburgh and have called it my home for four years now; I have a blog that keeps me inspired and allows me to share my passion for baking with others; my former aversion to tea has, thankfully, reversed course entirely; and despite the difficulties of quarantine, I’ve found countless rewarding elements of the extra time at home (Sorry, I can’t think of a reason to celebrate the freezing temperatures). What I mean to emphasize is that, if I’d had the option of dictating the future based on my own safe predictions, I would have never experienced the delights of those surprises.

In a time when phrases like “latest death toll projection” and “flattening the curve” and “re-opening phases” are bombarding our individual thoughts and global dialogue (and especially when many of the outlooks tied to them present grim depictions), it’s easy to fall into a despondent, fatalistic attitude. Without crossing the line into denial–certainly, many of these prophecies hold scientific weight–it’s incredibly relieving to acknowledge the unpredictability of life, to remember that no blue print contrived by humans is set in stone. Life will produce its unique combination of expected and unexpected scenarios, despite how vehemently we try to anticipate them.

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What’s more, I believe that we were created by a God who can and will orchestrate goodness through this crisis, even if every single negative prediction surrounding this chaos plays out. Our grasp of normalcy changes by the hour–just imagine what the Maker of flowers and animals and human brains and galaxies can do with today. With tomorrow. With this tragedy. We can appreciate every form of relief available during this time; knowing that we don’t have to (we literally can’t) foresee the days ahead AND that one day we’ll realize something good came from this, something beyond anything we could ever imagine in this moment–what a relief that is.

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4: 14-15

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Brown Sugar Oatmeal Scones (V)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/3 cup vegan butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP water, left to thicken in fridge for at least five minutes)
  • contents of 3-4 tea bags, depending on strength of tea (flavor of your choice: my favorites are Earl Grey and Jasmine)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping
  • Optional: extra brown sugar or turbinado sugar for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the almond milk and oats in a microwave safe measuring cup or bowl. Microwave for one minute, place in a large bowl, and then set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and contents of tea bags.
  4. Mix the vinegar and light brown sugar into the bowl with the oatmeal. Then, mix in the butter (it should incorporate pretty easily as the oatmeal will still be a bit warm).
  5. Mix in the flag egg.
  6. Begin adding the flour mixture to the wet ingredient mixture, mixing until it’s completely incorporated.
  7. Transfer dough to a floured surface, and press into a disc or rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick (either wetting your hands or flouring them will help in handling the dough). Cut desired shapes of scones, flouring your knife/cookie cutter/jar to avoid sticking.
  8. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and top with brown/turbinado sugar if desired.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven until just browned on the bottoms, about 15-16 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool, and enjoy!

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Fudgy Peanut Butter Banana Bars (V)

IMG_1930This quarantine has sparked endless conversation, a popular one of which involves the discussion of everyone’s “new normal.” The sudden, jarring shifts in daily routine and atmosphere and social outlets forced by this pandemic have naturally resulted in the need to adjust–and cope. Everyone has been affected by this situation in some way, regardless of whether they’ve physically suffered from the virus itself.

Sheltering-in-place was not an effortless transition for me. Of course, I realized how fortunate I was when so many were not–I was healthy, able to pay my bills, living in an apartment  with roommates I loved. However, in time, I also had to accept that it was okay–vital, actually– to acknowledge that quarantine was hard. Is hard. You see, I had grown quite fond of normal–my old, worn-with-age, tried-and-true normal, the one in which I had a daily job and specific tasks to complete, the one that allowed me to make random stops at my friends’ homes or grab last minute groceries three times in the same week. As a dancer, I am used to physically expelling energy for hours every day, and as a recipe blogger, I’m accustomed to wandering aimlessly in stores, brainstorming potential baking plans. Being an artist, I felt uniquely stifled by the restrictions; the lack of places to expel my creative energy quickly became overwhelming and translated into many anxious, seemingly unproductive days (as well as a few random sketches and a LOT of walking).IMG_1851

After a week or so, I was beginning to feel a bit more comfortable with the changes. Per the suggestion of my counselor, I began planning out a schedule for each day, a strategy that made a massive difference in the way I approached the sudden surplus of time that almost everyone experienced. With more moments of mental clarity, I was also able to address some specific sources of anxiety for me. One of them, I realized, was my food. In an attempt to adhere to the social precautions everyone adopted, I had ordered my groceries through a delivery service. However, with demand unbelievably high, it was about a week before I received them. This left me with six days of eating whatever pantry items I could use to concoct a meal, and, more often than not, they were all various types of carbs. My diet consisted of around  20% oatmeal, 20% peanut butter, 10% absolute randomness, 50% homemade sourdough (okay, not really complaining about that), and 0% vegetables (anyone who knows me knows that was pure torture). Within just a few days, I realized how frustrated I was, how much my body craved the balanced diet it was used to receiving, how it was affecting my mood. Arguably the most shocking affect, though, was that I, the maker of all things sugary, even started to lose my craving for desserts. Perhaps now you can understand just how dire those few days seemed.IMG_1939

Thankfully, I write to you from the other side of that battle–never have I been so thrilled to see a bag of green beans in my life. That week of upheaval in my kitchen was a reminder for me of just how important it is to fuel both our bodies and our minds, especially in times of trauma. When so many factors in our lives are shifting, maintaining a level of nutritious eating can be an incredibly grounding practice, whether or not you generally prioritize a healthy diet. Not only that, but in the midst of a viral outbreak, supporting your immune system is particularly important! That’s why, when creating this recipe, I kept three things in mind:

  1. I wanted the recipe to be “healthy,” in the sense that it offered some sort of nutritional/energy value.
  2. I wanted the recipe to be accessible–I’ve been doing a “quarantine series” on my blog that revolves around ingredients most people always have on hand.
  3. I didn’t want the recipe to taste like a “healthy” recipe: dessert is my specialty, after all, and I know first hand the need to indulge! Especially when you’re tackling a new normal.

So, I immediately grabbed peanut butter and bananas: one of those food pairings that was, I think, unarguably meant to be. My initial recipe development was slow and, quite honestly, frustrating. Though it’s been over a month, I still sigh at the lack of variety in my cabinets: I absolutely love both peanut butter and bananas, but I felt like they were rather cliche among nutritious recipes. For a moment, I allowed my unattainable dreams of inventive, exotic flavors to stall my progress. And, as I always do when I’ve run into “baker’s block,” I called my mom. IMG_1953

Thankfully, my mother is the perfect deliverer of sympathy…when it’s due. In all other cases, she tells me exactly the harsh truth I need to hear, and she holds an impressive success rate of steering me back towards the task I’m aiming to complete. This was no exception. Upon listening to my whining about being forced to use bananas again, she replied with her characteristically precise advice: “So? Do something different. Your whole point of quarantine recipes is to reinvent things!”

Thanks, mom. I realized that I’d momentarily let this chaos of pandemic snatch the one thing it could never completely steal from me–my creativity. At once, the seemingly mundane task before me became a challenge (anyone who knows me also knows that the only thing I like more than peas and carrots is a challenge). With this competitive energy fueling me, I worked all day to develop a recipe, not hindered at all by the involvement of ingredients that I’d once considered overused.IMG_1869

That’s how I ended up with these bars. They’re partially inspired by my recent discovery of the magical taste of fried bananas. To make them, I decided to pan fry my bananas with maple syrup before baking them into the bars, a decision that added an especially powerful caramel sweetness. This flavor, along with the salty creaminess of peanut butter, provided a satisfying balance that I further nuanced with cinnamon and allspice. They even have protein powder in them for an extra nutrient boost. To finish them off, I handed off the apron to readers! You can pick from the list of toppings to add crunch and flair to your own batch.

I’ve come to a myriad of conclusions over the last few weeks, some more complicated than others. One of the most troubling dilemmas was learning how this pandemic would affect my identity as an artist. Through time, restlessness, phone calls with mom, and bananas, I’ve finally grasped at the answer: it doesn’t. An artist doesn’t ever stop being an artist. You can remove a dancer’s stage, an actor’s set, a vocalists’ studio, but–as we’ve all witnessed through daily inspiration like this magazine– they won’t stop creating. This pandemic has robbed the world of physical touch, millions of jobs, and a staggering number of lives. So, I encourage you to hold tight to what it can never infect. As we all endure this time of collective grief and turmoil, I hope you can devote time to allocate rest for your mind; to feed your body with what it needs; and to keep making art.  Sending love and prayers to everyone.

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
    my heart is steadfast;
    I will sing and make music.

Psalm 57: 7

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Fudgy Peanut Butter Banana Bars (V)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup protein powder (vanilla or chocolate)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • about 3 medium bananas, sliced into about 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 TBSP + 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 2 tsp oil (I used extra light olive oil)
  • Optional Add-Ons: toasted nuts, sea salt, toasted coconut, dark chocolate chips, banana/plantain chips, drizzled maple syrup, melted chocolate

Instructions

  1. Place oil and 1 TBSP maple syrup in a skillet over medium heat. When it starts sizzling, carefully place the banana slices in the pan (it may splatter).
  2. Cook until brown/caramelized on one side, and then flip to cook the other side. Remove from heat, mash in a bowl, and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F, and grease a square baking dish.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together almond milk, 1/4 cup peanut butter, and 1/4 cup mashed fried banana together.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking powder, 1/4 salt, allspice, and cinnamon.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture to the almond milk mixture, whisking after each addition, until it’s completely incorporated. Pour into the baking dish, and smooth the top with a spatula.
  7.  Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 22-24 minutes. Allow to cool.
  8. While it bakes, make the topping: mix together remaining 3/4 cup mashed fried banana, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp syrup, and a pinch of cinnamon (Be sure the banana has cooled).
  9. Once the base is cool, spread the topping evenly over the base, covering it completely.
  10. Finish the bars with your choice of add-ons, and chill in the fridge before slicing. Enjoy!

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Spiced Coffee Cake (V)

IMG_1652Three weeks of quarantine, and I’d say it’s about time for another blog about my daily disasters. Most of you know that I am quite open about the clumsiness, frequent slip-ups, and comical misfortunes that so often seem to characterize my life. And believe it or not, this shelter-in-place has done absolutely nothing to slow the rate of my “incidents.” So, forget about the worries plaguing your brain for five minutes, and sit back and enjoy the latest laughable moments of my week.

I have to provide some background for this in the form of a shout out to my incredible physical therapist. To say she is my physical therapist is to short-change her importance to me: she has, over the past few years, become a mentor, friend, and mom away from home. Anyway, I had emailed her with an update about how I was doing since I’d had to stop seeing her for appointments–she always reaches out when she hasn’t been able to see me in a while. I apparently mentioned in my email that I was baking as much as possible but that flour was frustratingly hard to come by given the recent grocery stockpiling trends. I say apparently because I forgot that I’d even said that until last Sunday, when I received a text and accompanying picture from her informing me that she’d bought me a 25 lb. bag of flour because she “could not resist” when she’d heard about my struggle. She’s just amazing.IMG_1633

She let me know she’d put the flour in the trunk of her car at work so that I could safely retrieve it without violating any social distancing orders. Yesterday afternoon, I donned my recycled t-shirt mask and headed out on probably the third car ride I’ve taken in the last month. After a pleasant drive accompanied by the lively tunes of my recent 1940s/1950s jazz kick, I pulled into the parking lot, eager to retrieve the precious cargo. Not seeing her usual car–and deciding it wasn’t the best idea to go peeking into random car trunks with a mask on–I texted her from my car and discovered she’d taken their other one that day. I excitedly spotted the car and the flour in the window, opened the door, placed a plate of “thank you” coffee cake on the seat, and grabbed the 25 pounds of what may as well have been gold, for me.

I hobbled over to the back of my own car, fueled by visions of the endless hours of baking that awaited me. The bag made a pleasing thud as I dropped it into the trunk, but it was accompanied by a slightly less pleasing cloud of flour that tickled my face. My excitement had blinded me to the little hole I’d poked in the process of transferring it across the parking lot. I pulled back and blinked away the white puffs, noticing the rip on the surface of the bag.IMG_1578

Naturally, in a situation that had no further consequence (the bag was already in the car; I was outside, so no worry about a mess; the hole was on top, risking no further leakage), I panicked. Naturally, my brain was overwhelmed by the sudden interruption to its celebratory state and found the most reasonable reflexive bodily reaction to be for me to give the torn bag a nice, hearty, slightly spastic slap. And, naturally, I was wearing black leggings and a black sweater and black socks and black shoes that day. The bag wheezed with the impact and shot out a wide spray of its contents–I’ve come to understand that, when it comes to flour, the size of a hole is in no way proportionate to the amount of carnage. Giant tear= nuclear flour explosion. Little bitty tear= equally nuclear flour explosion.

Suddenly becoming fully present in the current moment, I took a step away from the car to evaluate my mistake. My entire front was, indeed, dusted in a layer of white–from my mask all the way down to my sneakers. Now, you have to understand just how accustomed I’ve become to miniature disasters: this didn’t even come close to phasing me. Without thinking, I simply engaged in the practical deescalation steps that one develops when they possess the clumsy inclinations that I do. We’ll call it the triple A:

  1. Address the immediate damage (I thoroughly patted myself down)
  2. Assess and minimize the level of spectators, applying a sarcasm diversion as needed (I scanned the parking lot for any familiar faces and found none)
  3. Act like nothing happened (I calmly got in my car and left the scene, lightly coated in flour but safely undetected)IMG_1624

And that, my friends, is how I cope with my chronic common sense deficiency.

In true character, I returned home, washed my hands, carefully transferred the flour to a safe storage bin, threw away the ripped bag inside a plastic bag to avoid a mess, and…locked my car key in my trunk. By that point, all I could do was laugh. I somehow manage to jeopardize even my most well-engineered moments of caution. Thankfully, I won’t be needing my car for the foreseeable future, so I can write this to you with relatively no qualms. I’ll get around to solving that problem another day (breaking into my own car–oh, I’m certain that will result in a story to tell). For now, I’ll rest in the joy of laughing at myself, of having so many generous people in my life, and of all the baking I can do with 25–ok, maybe 24–pounds of flour.

Hoping you find a reason to laugh today 🙂

Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Genesis 21:6

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Spiced Coffee Cake (V)

Ingredients

CAKE

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (vegan if desired)
  • 2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 flax egg (1 1/2 tsp flax mixed with 4 1/2 tsp water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes)
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water

FILLING/TOPPING

  • 1 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (vegan, if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening, melted
  • 1/4 tsp maple syrup

Instructions

CAKE

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8″ cake pan.
  2. Make filling/topping: in a bowl, whisk together oats, cardamom, ginger, and salt. Mix in shortening and maple syrup, and set aside.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix together shortening, sugars, and vinegar. Use a spatula to fold and mix until well combined.
  4. Mix in flax egg.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, and salt.
  6. Gradually add the flour mixture and the water to the shortening mixture in small additions, alternating between each and whisking well after each addition. Continue until all ingredients are incorporated. The batter will be very thick
  7. Spread half of the batter onto the bottom of the prepared cake pan.
  8. Sprinkle half of the filling mixture evenly across the first layer of cake batter.
  9. Spoon the remaining cake batter on top of the filling, and spread to cover the pan with a spatula.
  10. Top with the remaining filling, and bake until knife/toothpick comes out clean, about 45-50 minutes.
  11. Enjoy! Store extras in sealed container on the counter.

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Banana Pancakes–3 Ways (V)

IMG_0782What an unusual time to be blogging, to be doing anything, really. You’ve probably shared my bewilderment with this situation, with how quickly our world was stricken with this virus and how instantly our lives came to a halt. In an attempt to grasp onto some sort of normalcy (and to contribute to the growing trend of baking as a therapeutic practice), I will keep on cracking away in my kitchen and sharing the results! Today, I wanted to start this semi-quarantine period with a pancake recipe that you likely wouldn’t need to leave home to make–I don’t want to encourage any unnecessary trips to the store! The goal of my posts right now is to provide a little bit of calm, of quiet, in this very chaotic time.

Maybe that’s also why I chose to make pancakes; something about a nice, hot stack of pancakes seems to conjure up instant feelings of relaxation, of contentedness. Pancakes are for days when everything is right in the world–whatever that looks like in your current life situation. Fifteen years ago, that meant that my sister and I had convinced our dad to make flapjacks with us that we’d catch out of the pan with excited squeals while cartoons buzzed from the living room behind us. More recently, it means that I’ve had a long week of rehearsals and have managed to score a cozy morning at home in sweatpants, free of physical and mental obligations.IMG_0806

One of the first things that came to mind when I’d decided on this recipe, though, was the song “Banana Pancakes” by Jack Johnson. It’s one of my favorites for a few reasons. For one thing, I just love its cheerful, relaxed tone–a tone that has earned it a special place in my Winding Down playlist on Spotify. And like pancakes in general, the song possesses reminiscent qualities for me, as it has been one of the songs our family listens to during our annual beach vacation for as long as I can remember. Just hearing the first few guitar notes transports me to that breezy back porch on Edisto Island, air laced with the smell of salt water and sunscreen and the sound of laughs. In fact, it’s such a strong emotional response that I’ve found myself getting a bit teary when the song plays on a particularly rough day.

Jack Johnson was clearly no stranger to this sentiment–the feeling of being separated from and even unaware of the goings on of the world and yet still experiencing a peaceful celebration of the present place you find yourself. You can just feel his lyrics assuaging the anxiety of the listener– reassuring her that, through whatever turmoil was going on around them, they could find joy and rest, simply in each other’s company:

“We could close the curtains
Pretend like there’s no world outside
We could pretend it all the time
And can’t you see that it’s just rainin’
There ain’t no need to go outside”

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

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I sympathize with everyone out there who is frustrated and stir crazy and lonely. I sympathize with those who feel like they can’t just relax at home during a time when so many people are suffering. I sympathize with all the people who are afraid of just how long this could go on and who wonder how we’re supposed to just pick up where we left off when it’s over. I’m grateful that I can’t sympathize with those who are feeling the direct effects of this illness.

None of us have ever experienced something quite like this in our lives–unrest is inevitable. I hope, though, that you can find moments of solace in the confinement:  through time with your family, through the rare quietness we’re experiencing, through pancakes. Remember that, by enduring this solitude, you’re playing a role in the efforts to fight this emergency–you’re important. By no means should we exercise any sort of denial about what’s going on. But, while we’re here, on our couches, in our kitchens, working from our living rooms, we may as well let ourselves enjoy the time we have–it isn’t for nothing. Besides, when you’re content indoors, “There ain’t no need to go outside.”

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

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Banana Pancakes–3 Ways (V)

Ingredients

VERSION 1

  • 1 small banana, mashed (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 TBSP oil (I used light olive oil)
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax mixed with 3 TBSP cold water, left to thicken in fridge for at least 5 minutes) **you can use a real egg if you’re not vegan
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • vegan butter, for frying

VERSION 2

  • everything in VERSION 1, except
  • whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose
  • 2 additional TBSP almond milk

VERSION 3 **not vegan**

  • 1 small banana, mashed (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 TBSP oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 100g sourdough starter (doesn’t need to be ripe)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • butter, for frying

Instructions

  1. Mix together all wet ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients.
  3. Heat a skillet over low-medium heat, and grease well with butter (I have a gas range, so I have to keep the heat on the lower side to avoid sticking. You may need to use a higher setting on electric stoves!)
  4. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined. It will probably be lumpy!
  5. Scoop out batter for a pancake (size is up to you!), and cook until the underside is a warm brown.
  6. Enjoy immediately–add all the toppings your heart desires first, of course–and store leftovers in the fridge!

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Pumpkin Spice Overnight Oats (V)

IMG_7544I could be off here, but it seems to me that a majority of my blog posts come laced with a tone of chaos: my schedule is always crazy; my mind is always racing; I’m always struggling to keep up with the general pace of life. And perhaps you can relate to that sensation, the feeling that you never really stop moving, thinking, doing–achieving moments of pause can feel as rare purchasing a winning lottery ticket.

Today, I’m struggling with a bit of a contrasting feeling. Today, I’m still. Unbearably so, in fact. I’m writing this from our apartment couch, where I’ve essentially been glued for the past 24 hours with a right ankle that’s thoroughly puffy and beginning to take on the color of a nice, ripe plum. On Friday afternoon, during the last rehearsal of the week, I sprained it. I managed to remain calm when it happened, in attempts to downplay the pain, but it soon became clear this would need some rest–by that night, I could hear the narrator from The Grinch chanting “and Allie’s small ankle grew three sizes that day.” Through the exhausting week we’d had of six-hour rehearsals, an opportunity for some couch time was welcome to me…I guess I just imagined it would look a little more like a cozy movie night and a little less like a tornado dumped the contents of a physical therapy office on my living room floor.

But of course, I have a point (other than spewing all the figurative language my passive brain has spun while banned to the sofa); because, as you may already know, there’s always something to be learned from these things–these comically cruel, unfortunate, seemingly meaningless things. I’m thankful that this time around, it didn’t take months for me to begin to unfold the lessons I’m going to learn through this; God blessed me with a little bit of a head start. IMG_7560

I’ll explain. Not long ago, I had one of those days when it seems like everything you read or hear or watch is all mysteriously about the same thing. Maybe you’ve experienced this, the kind of message, conviction, or whatever you choose to name it, when it feels like a book or video or pastor’s talk is aimed directly at you, with an Uncle Sam-esque deathly stare and point? Yeah, that’s what happened to me. Within two days, the number of times I unintentionally encountered the topic of evangelism and sharing my faith was undeniable. By probably the fourth time it happened, I’d reluctantly agreed to acknowledge the pattern (blaming things on coincidence is just so wonderfully easy sometimes, isn’t it??) and accept that God was just maybe trying to get a word in through my stubbornness. IMG_7567

When I finally chose to do my best to listen to what He might be trying to say, I felt like there was a resounding message to be heard throughout all the connections: there’s always a way to move. Even when you’re stuck, when you’re in a situation where you can’t act, when all you want is to fast-forward to the next time things pick up the way they’re supposed to, there is ALWAYS some way for you to move. My faith calls me to believe that my entire reason for being on this Earth is to live for Jesus, to spread the news about who He is, to play my significant role in the grand masterpiece that is God’s love for this world. That’s why, when Jesus told his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations,” we call that our Great Commission, our most important command in this life. Jesus didn’t say “go unless you sprained your ankle,” or “go once you feel a little more ready,” or “go to the people you know will accept what you have to say.” I just loooove to rewrite that verse to fit my own desires, but Jesus says himself that He’s with us through everything–that’s all we could need to head out on this mission.

The lesson isn’t an easy one–in fact, I will most definitely fail plenty of times in my flawed efforts to heed it, or in my failures to act. What’s clear is that I can no longer sit here (with my foot propped above my heart like a good patient) and pretend that something as trivial and human as a puffy ankle puts any pause on the work that God–THE God, the one who made ankles and people and everything in existence– calls me to do. This week I asked for clarity and was hit with a hard dose of it: here on this couch, sitting rather motionless, moderately frustrated, and very swollen, I gotta move.

“…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

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Pumpkin Overnight Oats (V)

(Halve the recipe for a smaller meal/snack)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup plus 2 TBSP almond milk
  • 1/2 cup pure canned pumpkin
  • 2 TBSP pure maple syrup
  • 2 TBSP cacao nibs
  • 2 TBSP flax seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of each cloves, nutmeg, and allspice
  • 1/8 tsp salt (or to taste)

Instructions

  1. Stir together all ingredients in a container, and seal.
  2. Leave in the refrigerator overnight, and enjoy the next day!IMG_7589

AND, because I promised 2 recipes but clearly wasn’t in the best condition to stand in a kitchen, here’s a Fall recipe straight from the pages of my great grandma’s cookbook!

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(^^ make sour milk by mixing 1 TBSP of vinegar or lemon juice with enough milk or almond milk to make 1 cup)

(soda = baking soda)