Creating community for yourself

When you are a kid, community is your way of life.  You don’t know any different.   It is made up of your family and extended family, neighborhood kids, kids from school, athletic teams and maybe even church or religious organizations.  You don’t need to create community for yourself because your parents do it for you.

Between the ages of 18 and 30, I moved 14 times.  Sometimes within the same town, but when you’re moving all that stuff, (and my Dad will tell you, I have a lot of stuff,) it doesn’t really matter.  A move is a move.  Not only is a move exhausting, but so is everything else: finding a new doctor/dentist/optometrist, the nearest bank location/pharmacy/hardware store, a favorite sports bar/pizza joint/brunch place and heaven forbid if we can’t find Target.  {If I’m house hunting and can’t find a Target within 15 minutes, I’m not moving there.  Period.}

Image result for we have all known the long loneliness and we have found that the answer is community

All of those things are annoying in the beginning, but they don’t take too long to figure out.  The hardest part?  Community.  How do you find that?  How do you know where your kind of people are going to hang out?  Do you just start wandering up to strangers in the grocery store and ask if they have all 10 seasons of Friends too?  Tap the shoulder of the patron next to you at the new sushi place and ask if they want to be friends?  Hold up a sign at Target like a limo driver that says “friend needed”?  Ok, so these things are ridiculous.  But it is so much harder in real life to make these connections.

There are places that create community in themselves: work, church, your neighborhood.  But, if you are an introvert, those scenarios cause more anxiety than comfort when hoping to build a life with people.  You long for your friendships from childhood or college and can’t seem to get past the reminiscing stage.  The good ‘ole days.  And then, you might become a mom a realize how isolated you feel.

Well, truthfully, I am an extrovert and I got tired of it too.  My husband and I had just bought our (probably) forever home and I had yet to meet one neighbor three months in.  A new baby, a new home and a new life demanded a new community.

When I began to think about it, what I really longed for was easily found.  It would certainly take time to develop, but drawing it to myself wasn’t going to be too difficult.  I didn’t need anything new or to be different than I was.  I just needed to utilize three key things to help me find it: my home, my kitchen and me.

Image result for home quote, maya angelou

“Each of us longs for a place to belong, a connection that gives roots to our wandering lives.  Our hearts hunger for a community where we are intimate members, a sense of belonging to people who love us.  Our souls crave a purpose bigger than our jobs, a connection to a sense of meaning.  We yearn to know that our own stories have significance in the grander scheme of God’s megastory.  All of these may be found in home–a place to belong, a people to be a part of, and a purpose where God’ righteousness and design are celebrated and cherished in community every day.” (Sally Clarkson in The Lifegiving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming)

Lucky as I was to travel all over and have friends and family in every corner of the country (and globe for that matter), I didn’t seem to live near them.  Yes, when I was single and still teaching, I did travel to visit them.  But now that I was committed to staying put, I needed to recreate that group of people in my neck of the woods.  I desperately wanted to feel like I belonged to this community and belong to the people who were in it.

When I came across this book, I was (and am) completely content living where we do.  We have lived here for over six years and for the first time since my childhood home, I feel rooted.  And yet, I still feel there is work to do.  So I’m using this book as a challenge to myself to deepen my sense of community in our area.

This will be the beginning of my Create Community Series.  Maybe you are a newlywed or transplant to a new town because of your job.  Maybe you have lived in the same town for years but still don’t know some of your neighbors.  Either way, the relationships that you have with the people you live among directly affect your happiness in that location.  Join me as we explore ways to create community right where you are.

Have you moved a lot or have you stayed in the same area for years?  What are your favorite things to tell people about your community?  Can you name a couple of things about your town that makes you proud?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

Zucchini Tomato Bake

I hope you all had a great weekend!  I’m still trying to catch up on sleep from my Girls Weekend (which was perfect) and now I’m ready to jump back in with sharing some of my favorite recipes!  Enter: Zucchini Tomato Bake.  (If you would like to check out some of my other favorite summer recipes, stop over here.)

When I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago, I had the chance to go to the local farmer’s market in Holland, Michigan which is one of my favorite things to do in the summer.  It has grown to where college kids come play instruments and sing while locals wander the farm stands purchasing fresh fruits and veggies.  Also, the corner coffee shop posts up so you can grab a latte while wandering.  If you happen to linger too long, there are even food trucks selling food!  It is one of the highlights of summer for me.

While I was there, I was able to pick up some zucchini and summer squash.  This recipe has been a family favorite for a very long time.  This season is perfect for it because zucchini plants are exploding and offering lots of produce!  I know “zoodles” are the hot new thing, but check out this recipe.  You don’t need any special tools and it can be ready in under an hour!

First, slice zucchini and yellow squash into coins and layer into greased 9 x 13 glass pan.  Try to have similar size pieces so they all cook evenly.  I like the color of both, but if you only have zucchini, that is fine too.


Next, slice tomatoes and lay on top of the zucchini.  I believe these were Roma tomatoes, but beefsteak tomatoes would also be excellent.

Then sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over the top.  In a separate bowl mix together milk, eggs, Bisquick, salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper.  Whisk until thoroughly mixed together and then pour over all in glass pan.

Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is golden on the edges and it is bubbling.

Zucchini Tomato Bake is light and delicious and a great way to serve veggies and use up the abundance from your garden.  We love to have this as a side at a cookout, but I have also served it as lighter option at brunch.  Be sure to give this dish a try,  I know you will love it!

Zucchini Tomato Bake

10 minPrep Time

45 minCook Time

55 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups zucchini (or combination of zucchini/yellow squash), cut into coins
  • 3 cups tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. Bisquick
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. cayenne
  • 1/8 t. pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice zucchini into coins and layer into greased glass 9 x 13 pan. Top with tomatoes. Finish with cheddar cheese.
  3. In separate bowl, add remaining ingredients and briskly whisk until thoroughly combined. Pour over veggies and cheese.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbling.
  5. Let cool slightly before serving.

Notes

Please don't leave out the cayenne pepper! I promise it isn't spicy at all, it just gives a slight peppery flavor.

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http://www.thecomforttable.net/zucchini-tomato-bake/

How do you like to use up zucchini from your garden?  What other vegetables or fruit do you grow in abundance?

Black Bean, Mango and Shrimp Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

Happy Friday Friends!  I hope you have enjoyed your week and have fun plans for the weekend.  I get to meet up with my longest friend and have some good catch-up time which I’m so excited about!  But before I duck out for shopping and good food, I wanted to share this Black Bean, Mango and Shrimp Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette.  I wanted to save this recipe for later, but it is just too good to wait!

So, I have made a discovery about myself: in the summer, I want bright, colorful food.  I love to walk through a farmer’s market and see all the fresh produce.  They say you eat with your eyes first, right?  All the colors together makes it look so delicious!  (For example, this.)

In my humble opinion, no salad is really all that great without dressing.  This one, is lick-your-fingers good!  Fresh lime juice and honey are shaken with red wine vinegar and ground chipotle powder for a little kick.  A few more spices and it is ready to go!  It is fresh, a little sweet, a little heat and it completely makes the salad.  Trust me on this one, you have to make your own dressing (this one takes just a minute or two I promise!).

First, let’s just do a little chopping: orange (or red) pepper, 2 mangos, cilantro, grape tomatoes and 2 ears of corn (uncooked, kernels removed).  Add all of these to a large bowl with rinsed and drained black beans.

Next, let’s make the dressing.  To a jar or bowl, add the honey, fresh lime juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, chipotle powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Finally, mince one small shallot and add to the dressing.  Because I didn’t want the shallot to have a strong flavor, adding it to the dressing mellows the flavor even more.  Shake well and let sit.  If you used a bowl, whisk well and let set for a few minutes while the flavors come together.

Lastly, let’s roast the shrimp.  Very lightly toss raw shrimp in 2 tablespoons of the dressing.  Lay on baking sheet covered in foil and roast for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees.  They are done when they are curled, pink and opaque.  Remove from pan immediately and add to bowl with veggies.  Let cool and add remaining juices as well.  (My apologies for not getting a photo of this step!)

You can either serve this when the shrimp comes to room temperature or put in refrigerator for three hours.  Just before serving, toss all together with dressing and diced avocado.

As I sit here writing this I’m drooling just thinking about how perfect all these flavors are together.  My second (or maybe third) helping was today for lunch and I’m really wishing I’d just finished it.  You must run and make this as soon as possible!  Black Bean, Mango and Shrimp Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette is the perfect way to get the flavors of summer on your table.

Black Bean, Mango and Shrimp Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette
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Ingredients

  • 1 orange (or red) bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 mangoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ears of corn (uncooked), kernels removed
  • 1/2 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 avocado, chopped*
  • 16 oz. raw shrimp (peeled and deveined), 20-30 ct.
  • For the dressing:
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 limes, juiced
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 1/2-3/4 t. chipotle powder (1/2 is mild, 3/4 if you like a kick)
  • 3/4 t. ground cumin
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. pepper

Instructions

  1. Start by chopping the pepper, tomatoes, mangoes, removing kernels from the corn and chopping the cilantro and adding to a large bowl. Drain and rinse the black beans and add to the chopped vegetables.
  2. Next, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add all the dressing ingredients to a mason jar or separate bowl. Shake jar or whisk briskly and set aside.
  3. Line baking sheet with foil and gently toss shrimp with 2 T. of vinaigrette. Separate shrimp into single layer and roast in the oven from 8-10 minutes until shrimp are pink, curled and opaque. Remove from oven and add shrimp to bowl with vegetables. Pour juices in as well.
  4. When shrimp cool slightly, toss all with prepared dressing and a chopped avocado. Serve immediately.
  5. If preferred, chill in refrigerator for 3 hours.
  6. *Add dressing and avocado just before serving.

Notes

This was delicious on its own, but would be equally as good if you substituted the shrimp out with grilled chicken. I would use a bit of the dressing to marinate the chicken to give it the same flavor. Also, because of the citrus and acid in the dressing the avocado was still good the second day and dare I say even more delicious than the first. Hope you enjoy!

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http://www.thecomforttable.net/black-bean-mango-shrimp-salad-honey-lime-vinaigarette/

What are your favorite flavors of summer?  What is your favorite way to celebrate the season?  Be sure to share your thoughts below!

 

 

 

 

The Turquoise Table

The Turquoise Table:
Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard
by Kristin Schell

Product Detailssource

Genre: Nonfiction

Summary: Kristin Schell agreed to host a dinner party at the last minute for a friend (the host of the party) who had an unexpected conflict.  In a moment of panic, she ordered two picnic tables for additional seating and when the delivery truck arrived, they set the tables down in the front yard.  In that moment, she had a glimpse of what those simple tables could be.
After the party, she decided to leave the table in her front yard, paint it a festive color (Nifty Turquoise to be precise) and “just show up.”  This looked a little different everyday but included coffee after getting the kids on the bus, book clubs, craft projects, homework and even meals.  She used it as a tool to get to know her neighbors and now she is starting a revolution.  She is hoping people will join her by creating their own Turquoise Table.

My wonderful friend recommended this book to me after hearing the premise.  First, it is a beautiful book just for the cover alone, but also it is beautiful for its mission.  Schell was craving community with her neighbors but felt overwhelmed with her own schedule as well as her four children and family responsibilities.  She felt encouraged to be the one to start the community but had no idea how.

You see, Schell had experienced one of those uniquely French dinners.   Imagine a rustic table, festive atmosphere, guests that weren’t rushed to get anywhere and delicious yet very simple food to keep people at the table.  Oh, and she described boisterous discussions and LOTS of laughter.

Does that sound like dinner at your house on a Tuesday??  It certainly doesn’t look dinners at my house!  You might start to say this is Thanksgiving or Christmas at your house but do you worry about breaking someone’s china or cracking the crystal?  Schell felt lured to the simple.  To the festive.  To the people.  “I was a stranger in a foreign land, yet being at the table in France fed a basic need–a need every human shares–to belong.  The experience at the table was more than a meal; it was nourishment for my soul.”

In many little ways Schell just “showed up.”  She would bring her morning coffee outside instead of drinking inside.  If she saw anyone (dog walkers, runners, moms with strollers) she would offer a hello or offer for them to join her if the mood seemed right.  Often, the brightly hued table was enough of a conversation starter.  Once a friend called her asking if she could bring someone over to the table because her friend was new in town and wanting to meet people in the area.

Schell gave up early on the idea that she needed Pinterest, Southern Living or Martha Stewart to do this.  She knew she couldn’t keep up with that.  In the end it was the people that brought her to the table everyday.  Avoiding Instagram feeds that put the best of hosts to shame, she brings back the simplicity needed to welcome everyone in the true spirit of hospitality.

This book isn’t really a how-to or step-by-step of creating your own Front Yard Group, though there are little tidbits throughout that can help you do that.  It is more of Schell’s stories that resulted in simply showing up and sharing her table.  I really loved this book and though some ideas weren’t necessarily revolutionary, we needed to be reminded of them because of our hasty culture.  The Turquoise Table is a beautiful book celebrating the art of true hospitality.  I cannot wait to add this to my own personal collection and I think this would be particularly lovely as a gift.

“Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even dare to be silent with you.”   –Henri Nouwen

Who is the most hospitable person you know?  What about them makes them especially hospitable?  What is one thing you try to do to make your guests feel welcome?  Please share your thoughts below!

 

Spicy Asian Green Beans

When I am meal planning, getting ready to cook dinner or am considering what to bring to a potluck, I rarely think about sides.  Sometimes I think about a salad (pasta or green or maybe this one) but honestly not much beyond that.  Spicy Asian Green Beans changed all of that for me.

To keep it simple, I will focus on the side dish and do a “basic” main dish (like lightly seasoned grilled chicken or pork tenderloin).  That way I can spend my time focusing on our side dish.  Though these green beans are so simple, you should be able to just add it to your regular rotation!

I grew up on green beans and wax beans (the yellow ones), for special occasions (Thanksgiving or Christmas) but also in the summer.  My mom and grandmother would sit with a big bag and cut the ends off for what seemed like a long time.  When I started cooking for myself, I found the work to be not worth the effort for a small portion.  With this glaze, that work is worth it and now I’ve found a quick tip that takes out all of the prep!

First, you can now find trimmed and cleaned green beans in your produce section!  Usually you can find it in the same spot that you’d find prechopped veggies and colslaw mix.  Honestly, I don’t want to spend my time trimming beans for dinner.  So this find made this dish so much easier!  I can find this brand at my local grocery store, but I have also purchased some at Costco.   This brand even lets you steam in the bag! Hericot Verts is another name (in French) for thinner green beans and those are what I used in this recipe.

Pero Family Farms Snipped Green Beans Bag 12 oz

Simply add soy sauce, white vinegar, oil, garlic, brown sugar and red pepper flakes to a fry pan.  Bring to a boil and let it slightly thicken.  Pour over steamed green (and/or wax) beans.  With just a couple basic ingredients, you can turn a very simple side dish like Spicy Asian Green Beans into the star of your plate!

Spicy Asian Green Beans

These beans were also excellent the next day. I added them to a salad with grilled chicken, fresh tomato and light drizzle of olive oil and soy sauce. Also, you can find trimmed green beans in the produce section and I have even found them at Costco. They can also be called haricot verts which is French. Serve these when you have someone you need to impress 🙂

5 minPrep Time

5 minCook Time

10 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 2 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. white vinegar or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 t. minced garlic
  • 1 t. brown sugar
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
  • toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a fry pan and bring to a boil. Let thicken slightly. Pour over steamed green beans and serve with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.
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http://www.thecomforttable.net/spicy-asian-green-beans/

Do you ever focus on sides?  What are your favorite side dishes?  What is your favorite way to eat green beans?

Halo Top: A Review

Happy Friday Friends!  Can you believe summer is half way over already??  It truly just makes me want to cry!  I love summer so much and so I’m trying to soak up as much as I can before it slips away.  Before things too emotional, let me cheer you up with a little known fact…this Sunday is National Ice Cream day.  No really!

One of the best parts of summer really is ice cream for me.  Oooh man I love ice cream.  But there is not much you can claim in the health department.  Dairy?  Fruit??  Ok, that might be pushing it, but I have a really, really nice alternative for you: Halo Top.  It is a low-calorie, high protein and low sugar ice cream.  Also, the ingredients are all natural!  But all of those things are not as exciting as that large number on the front of the pint: the calorie count for the entire pint!!!

Now, before you discredit this, let me say first:  I don’t like frozen yogurt.  I don’t like “light” ice cream.  It just isn’t creamy enough (frankly I feel like most of it tastes like its been sitting in the back of the freezer for months).  This was totally different.  They do recommend you let it warm up on the counter just a bit before eating to make it a bit creamier (which I would agree with).

I did try all six of the flavors above (17 flavors in all).
Well, you know, for research.

Other flavors include: Vanilla bean, Chocolate, Lemon Cake, Strawberry, Mint Chip, Chocolate Mocha Chip, Chocolate Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup, S’mores, Black Cherry and Red Velvet.

My favorites?  Probably Oatmeal Cookie, Sea Salt Caramel and Chocolate Almond Crunch in that order.   When I go out for ice cream I always order something with lots of flavors together (peanut butter/chocolate, toffee/mocha, toasted coconut/chocolate).  So, I didn’t try any of their “classic” (vanilla bean/chocolate) flavors, but I look forward to trying them next time.

Overall, I thought this ice cream was creamy, flavorful and delicious.  I also found myself feeling satisfied before typical ice cream would.  There was one time when I finished the pint in one sitting….but it was only 280 calories!  My suggestion, the next time you are hosting some adult friends, buy a handful of these and add some toppings.  You’ll have a great sundae bar!  Now go get some ice cream!

 

 

Circling the Sun

Circling the Sun: A Novel
by Paula McClain


source

Genre: Historical fiction

Plot summary:  A fictionalized story of the real Beryl Markham, celebrated horse trainer (one of the first women recognized in Africa) as well as record-setting aviator.  Pursuing a new job opportunity, Beryl’s father brings the whole family from England to Kenya.  Not long after, her mother decides she cannot fathom staying in Kenya and returns to England with Beryl’s brother.  Though she is content in Kenya and staying with her father, she is baffled and deeply hurt over her mother’s departure.  Seeking out the motherly relationship she lacks, she finds it among the tribes that surround her father’s land.  She also finds great satisfaction in training horses with her father.
Battling loneliness and depression, her insecurities spin her into a long line of bad relationships.  Her nature seems to mirror the wildness of her surrounding Kenyan landscape.  Beryl’s refusal to be tamed makes her tough and perfect for the work and environment, but miserable in her relationships.

{If you would like to check out other book reviews or other book club selections, please look here!}

Beryl Markham was unknown to me before reading Circling the Sun: A Novel by Paula McClain.  (You might be familiar with Beryl’s friend, Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa under the name Isak Denisen.  Out of Africa then became an award-winning film starring Robert Redford and Kathryn Hepburn.).  McClain’s descriptions of the beautiful, exotic Kenya were breathtaking.  She certainly can offer a wonderful sense of place.  Because it is so different than where (and when) we live, it is needed to guide the reader in understanding the nature of Beryl’s home and life.

Though much more rustic than England, it is unfathomable to me that Beryl’s mother would leave behind her child regardless of her own discomfort.  This happens in the beginning of the book (as well as the beginning of Beryl’s life, she wasn’t even 5) and from that moment, Beryl became wild and opinionated and stubborn.  It felt like she was fighting to prove she didn’t need anyone while at the same time silently begging people to notice and care for her.

Beryl was fiercely independent but also struggled to manage her fear.  Her complex relationship with Karen Blixen revealed opposition (because of a love interest) but also a confidant.  She said to Beryl: “We’re all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren’t your own person at all–are you?  The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy.”

Frustrations mounted for me throughout the book.  Clara, Beryl’s mother was among the worst.  Expecting sympathy from her daughter after being abandoned without much of an after-thought.  “She didn’t seem embarrassed to be speaking of the past with me.  She didn’t seem to remember I was a part of her past in the colony, in fact.  Though maybe that was best, when I thought about it–if we could treat each other more impartially, as if there were nothing to apologize or make amends for.  As if nothing had been lost.”  

My greatest enjoyment was the setting.  Seeing the rich landscape through Beryl’s admiring eyes, made me appreciate it so much more.  Reading a tough, independent, hard-working narrator is great though I was easily frustrated by her very poor relationship decisions.  And she never got better at it!  She knew, from the beginning, that Kenya was truly her first love.  It brought her the most joy, the most freedom and her deepest sense of peace.  Also, the native Kenyans seemed more “her people” than the transplants she befriended, married and with whom she socialized.

One final note, the jacket describes this book to be about Beryl the aviator.  If you read the book for that purpose you will be sorely disappointed.  While it is true she set records with feats in this realm, it is only discussed in the last chapter of the book (Imagine if I said Unbroken was a book about an Olympic runner.).  This book is much more about Beryl’s early years with her father and her life as an accomplished horse trainer.

What were your thoughts about Circling the Sun?  What did you learn about the real Beryl Markham?  Can you relate to her independence?

Spice Bars

Hello, friends!  Have you all been having a good week?  We are getting back into the swing of things after the holiday, finally!  I hope you all had a great celebration with fireworks, fun and family!

Unintentionally, I might have misled you a bit.  I shared this deliciously grilled salad, fresh salsa,  and this perfect sheet pan dinner.  This is how I cook, but I have neglected the other side a bit…my love for baking.  My mom, sister and I love to be in the kitchen together.  Mom was always on the hunt for a fun new recipe to try, my sister was the adventurous cook always making her own spin on it, and I loved to bake.  My mother-in-law told me it was like watching a finely tuned machine as the three of us cooked together in my mother’s kitchen.  That always makes me smile to think of that memory.

This recipe is probably one of the very first recipes I remember baking with my mom.  She made them all. the. time.  They are fantastic so I never minded!  Sometimes when the to-do list seems to grow exponentially, I will suddenly have a strong craving for something sweet.  Spice Bars are the way to satisfy that craving!  (Or maybe that is me stress eating but we aren’t talking about that right now….)

ahem…

 

Spice bars are so wonderful for so many reasons.  They have a wonderful golden color and warming flavor (from the cinnamon).  Chewy and so simple to make, they are even more perfect for the sole reason that you literally have everything in your pantry RIGHT NOW.  I’ll wait while you go get the ingredients….

Eight simple ingredients: vegetable oil, sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, honey and one egg.  That’s all!  Ok, let’s get started.

First, grab a mixing bowl.  Add oil, honey and sugar and mix well.  Finally, (I told you this was QUICK!) add flour, soda, cinnamon, salt and egg and mix until it just comes together.  It should look like this:

Press into cookie sheet with clean hands.  You will think that there is no way you have enough batter but you do, just keep pressing lightly until the bottom of the cookie sheet is completely covered.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes until light golden color (like honey).  Do not overbake as the cookies can get a bit tough if left in too long.  Let cool and cut into squares.  So delicious and would be perfect for a school party, dessert when you have friends for dinner or just a rainy day.  When you’re stressed…

….ahem…

A big thanks to my mom for this recipe and all the memories that go with it!  (I’m sure my brother and sister have a few memories too.)

Yields 24 small square cookies

Spice Bars

10 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

25 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg, beaten well

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix the oil, honey and sugar well.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and mix until it just comes together.
  3. Press dough into cookie sheet in thin layer, covering the bottom completely.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes, until lightly golden (about the color of honey).
  5. Cut into squares.
Cuisine: Dessert |

Notes

If you can, try to use really good cinnamon. Since there are so few ingredients, make each one a quality ingredient!

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http://www.thecomforttable.net/spice-bars/

Let me know if you try these spice bars!  I would love to know the occasion (maybe a Tuesday??) you decided to try them.  Happy snacking!

Whole30: Final Thoughts and Lessons Learned

If you missed my first three installments of this series on Whole30, start here, followed by this one and then read this.  In this post I wanted to offer my final thoughts and lessons learned from my Whole30 experience.

Image result for healthy fit

Here are my major takeaways:
#1: Veggies play a much smaller role in my diet than I originally thought.  If I actually counted out my vegetable intake, it would probably be ONE serving at dinner and maybe a few random ones at lunch (i.e. baby carrots or lettuce/tomato on a sandwich).  This was a pretty embarrassing realization.

#2: Our dinners were usually pretty healthy (whew!) but it was breakfast and lunch that did me in.  Serving three kids under 5 quick-fix meals (pasta, PBJ, cheese quesadillas), it was just easier to eat what they were eating.  It is quicker, cheaper and easier.  And also a LOT less healthy.  Oh, and it made me feel super guilty that I feed my kids so many carbs!!!

#3: Feeling self-conscious over being a high-maintenance guest for dinner or even at a restaurant was stressful for me.  As far as I’m concerned, if someone else cooked it, it is delicious (especially if it is a friend).  Even though we planned not to have many outings during this time, we unexpectedly had to and it was stressful (more on this in a bit).

#4: All the “experts” say to eat protein for breakfast because it will sustain you through to lunch.  I could never figure out why that never worked for me until Whole30.  By about day 12, I could agree that my daily eggs were sustaining me through.  I just hadn’t tried long enough to see the effects.

#5: I slept SO HARD during this whole process.  Truthfully, it was something my husband didn’t like about it because he felt so sluggish in the morning.  Once we were both up and moving we felt good but getting out of bed was tough.  But, we also slept better than we ever have.

#6: It IS possible to eat nothing but healthy foods for thirty days straight.  It felt great knowing that I was putting only the best fuel into my body.  The feelings of empowerment, self-discipline and control felt great.

Some confessions though…

Sadly, my desire for sugar has not changed.  It isn’t something that just tastes amazing to me, it is something I enjoy.  Loving to bake and making fun sweets for my kids and parties will not go away and I hate to miss out on that enjoyment.  I just need to learn when to say no (way more than I am now…) and when to choose to indulge.

Secondly, I have three children.  Under the age of five.  Not surprisingly, they weren’t elated when I served roasted brussell sprouts and butternut squash.  But I served it to them anyway.  We have one child who will try almost anything and she would attempt a few bites of our “weird” dinner.  But, to make our dinners successful, I would give them what they know alongside our dinner.  (For example, when I made roasted spaghetti squash with meat sauce, I would just make some pasta with the same meat sauce for the kids so it at least felt like we were eating the same things.)
Understanding it is a process, I will continue to offer new things regularly regardless of whether they like it or not.  Sometimes, though, out of necessity I would make a completely separate meal for my kids.  This was kind of annoying, but when I knew it wouldn’t go well I would prep a couple sandwiches for them while we ate.

Also, during this time, a dear friend lost his mom and we decided to drive out of state to attend the funeral.  This was obviously not something we could have anticipated but we tried (oh, we tried) to keep up the plan.  Salads eaten standing up in a parking lot while we waited for my dad to pick up our kids had dressing that I’m certain had a little sugar in it.  After the service, we ordered steaks, potatoes and veggies of which I’m certain all had butter.
Whole30 purists would tell us that in that moment we cancelled out the previous days of work and would have to start over.  I refused to do that.  We just kept going.  Even though we planned ahead, sometimes it doesn’t matter and life happens.  We decided to roll with it, do our best and just keep going.  Our friend is way more important to me than proving a point.

Finally, I’m not following Whole30 now.  And the creators don’t expect it to be a 100% of the time change.  Sometimes I will choose almond butter and banana as a snack instead of graham crackers with the kids because I know they are better for me.  And sometimes I don’t.  I lost 8 pounds in 30 days and my husband lost 6 pounds.  My friend absolutely killed it and lost 14!!  It can be very successful but I appreciated the lessons I learned almost as much as the weight loss.
Now, if we stop off for ice cream as a family, I understand what needs to happen to counterbalance the treat.  If I’m feeling groggy after a breakfast and lunch of carbs, I know why.  It also leaves very little whining room if I continue to make bad choices.

I hope this series in Whole30 has given you some good reasons to try it, some strategies for success, tools to help you through and understanding to know that no one is perfect and no one gets it right all the time.  I heard a well known television anchor say that she sets *little* goals for herself (a couple weeks at a time).  She will eat very healthy until that date (maybe a wedding or dinner party) and then splurge on anything she wants.  When it’s over, she gets right back on and plans out her next treat.  The goal setting helps her stay focused in the middle while also helping her enjoy the indulgence even more.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Whole30.  How has life derailed healthy eating even when you were focused and determined to do well?  What lessons have you learned about yourself in the process?