chocolate + paper + scissors


Recipe: Erin Erle's Gingerbread

Hello on this cozy, cold, rainy Thursday in Texas. Things aren't as cold as last week, but there’s still a good chill in the air. Days like today make me think of only one dessert that’s just as cozy: gingerbread.

I’ve always loved gingerbread and other “spicy” baked goods – they taste like comfort to me. My mom used to make gingerbread on special occasions when I was a little girl – so it was extra special! In my adult years, though, I gravitated toward cookies because I thought they would be easier and more festive. In 2003, I came across a Martha Stewart recipe for Chewy Chocolate- Gingerbread cookies – and they were delicious, spicy and decadent. This recipe always helped me cure my gingerbread fix. I've also found a recipe for gingerbread pancakes by King Arthur that is equally yummy and a quick way to make gingerbread.

A few years ago, after my husband’s aunt Mary Frank (who was like his grandmother) passed away, a few of her recipes were shared with his large family as a way to celebrate her the first Thanksgiving we were without her. When we saw her recipes, we were all touched - and felt she was with us! It gives me great pleasure to share a gingerbread recipe from her collection with you today, as it’s a tribute to this special steel magnolia. A matriarch of a family with deep roots in a small Texas town, Mary Frank was known for miles for her southern cooking and her giving spirit. My husband still believes that no one can make sweet tea like Mary Frank!

Taken from one of her many church cookbooks, this gingerbread recipe I’d like to share originally came from her good friend Erin Erle, whom I don’t know, but I’m certain she was a special lady if she was close friends with Mary Frank.

I’ve changed a few things to make the recipe a bit healthier, but these tweaks don't change the taste. My apologies on not featuring a photo – I suppose we eat it before I can get it on camera! (I did include a photo of a finished pan of gingerbread and a special ingredient I like to eat with the pan scrapings, however.)

Erin Erle’s Gingerbread

2 eggs

1 cup Grandma’s Molasses

1 cup sugar (or sucanat, organic unrefined sugar)

1 cup canola oil

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar; let sit for 10 minutes)

2 cups whole wheat flour (white flour works fine, too)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ginger

4 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup of chocolate chips (optional but delicious)

Mix all ingredients well - I like to mix the wet ingredients and dry ingredients separately, then combine at the end. Pour into a greased pan…bake at 350 degrees for:

13x9 = 35 minutes

Bundt pan = 45 minutes

Muffins = 15 minute

After cooling, sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

It’s lovely as a breakfast bread, a snack, a dessert; with tea, coffee, milk, peanut butter, whipped cream, and even Nutella. But it’s best when it’s right out of the oven.

When my daughter comes home to the smell of freshly baked gingerbread, her big, beautiful smile stretches from ear to ear. That smile, along with my little man’s chant, “Ginga-bed! Ginga-bed!” are my favorite comforting things about this recipe!

Happy baking!


Intentional Nutrition

This past holiday season, my neighbor and I were chatting about cooking, nutrition and the types of food we feed our families. She was excited about her new blender and about giving her twin boys smoothies for breakfast. What a great idea!

She also mentioned that she would love my guidance on her family’s nutrition and some help on improving things – via recipes, menus or other resources.

I was flattered! Nutrition and the idea of teaching others about making better choices is very inspiring - like a giant puzzle! I'm looking forward to helping her - and I bet she'll find she knows more than she thinks.

In the meantime, I must say that I am no nutrition professional. I am not a registered dietitian. And, as I often say, I’m not a purist! But, I am a mother of two growing, hungry little ones - and I usually cook three meals a day. And good nutrition + a good grocery bill are two key priorities in our family.

There are tons of amazing individuals like the Meal Makeover Moms, Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking and Tsh at Simple Mom/Simple Bites who inspire me each day – and for whom I am so grateful. Many days, I crave inspiration - and these ladies always provide it. They are just a few individuals in the giant online world of those who celebrate food and nutrition.

Last New Year’s Eve, when having dinner with some friends, I had a chat with a friend about his nutrition. He shared that he eats terribly – and eats out a lot. My reply was simple: if you want your car to run at peak performance, what would you put into it? I tried reminding him that we are in charge of what we put into our bodies – no one else is.

I shared with him my personal feeling that eating well means putting good things in – not just removing the bad. Regarding diets – and this is my own personal opinion – they don’t work! I also shared with him my passion of thinking of eating as a proactive means of nurturing our bodies – and not punishing ourselves by doing without certain foods. You can enjoy many different foods every day by eating in moderation with a diverse menu. Let us celebrate good food!

One of the main reasons I enjoy cooking at home so much is that it gives me much peace to know that my family is consuming good food, and I am intentional with our nutrition. When we go out to dinner, or when my daughter sometimes buys her lunch at school, I have no idea what we’re eating. As a control freak in the kitchen, I find this completely unsettling.

For our family, for both financial and nutritional reasons, we’ve chosen to eat out only on the weekends, which usually consists of Saturday evening and possibly Sunday lunch.

I love this routine because I try to roughly plan our meals for the week. And I know almost exactly what we’re consuming because I cooked the meals. This process works best for us.

Let's cut to the chase. Here are five random questions to spark some intention:

  1. Do you read the ingredients of any packaged foods you purchased this week?
  2. Do you have a menu plan for this week?
  3. Did you buy your lunch today, or did you make it yourself?
  4. How many fruits and veggies have you eaten today?
  5. How many healthy beverages have you consumed today?

What is one step you could take next week to be more intentional with your nutrition?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Have a lovely weekend!


Getting things down on paper

Happy New Year! Welcome to your clean slate, your blank canvas: 2011.

It feels really good to say that after packing away our Christmas decorations. I’ll admit that putting everything away is always bittersweet; my daughter was disappointed to come home from school on Tuesday to find a tree-less home (me, too – I miss the smell, especially!). But – she does seem to be excited about the new year and being back with her friends at school. And that is a great thing.

Last year was a special year – and despite the few health issues that came up in our family, I am happy and blessed to say that we are all healthy. We mourned with dear friends who suffered loss – but were inspired by their strength. We were able to visit with precious friends from afar and make new friends nearby. We helped welcome new babies to the world! We also started a new journey as a family with our daughter's beginning kindergarten. Her two year-old brother has also begun to find his voice and his place in this great big world. Thank you, 2010, for so many experiences and lessons. (And, thanks to the lovely Katie Brown for reminding me to thank 2010!)

Alas, let us turn our eyes to a new energy for the new year!

Isn’t a new start a fresh, comforting feeling? Each time I’ve thought of the new year this week, I keep visualizing a beautiful vase of bright yellow daisies – even though we’re in the heart of winter. Fun, creative energy, renewal, new dreams and goals (and hot chocolate) – all special things for this time of year.

On the morning of New Year’s Day, while the kids watched their morning program, I took a few minutes while standing at the kitchen counter with a cup of hot tea and my two notebooks. So many thoughts came rushing to my mind that I could barely capture them in time! I didn’t realize I had so many thoughts that needed a safe place to land.

I always keep two small notebooks with me at all times – one is my to-do list, and the other is a small journal where I keep my ideas, thoughts, wishes, dreams – which may eventually get to my to-do list! This week, they’ve been drawing lots of thoughts and ideas from me, and for this, I’m grateful.

These ideas on paper have revealed to me that I definitely have a few concrete, key personal priorities to focus on, including:

  • Improving time management/my relationship with time
  • Making more time for creative projects
  • Maintaining a good (yet realistic) health regime to have more energy for my myself (and thus our family)
  • Intentionally surrounding myself (and family) with more visual beauty in our home

It’s really amazing how a blank sheet of paper can literally pull thoughts from your mind.

Have you tried this lately?

When you have a free moment, try keeping a small pad of paper or index card nearby (or in your pocket) to record your thoughts. If you don’t have a free moment (understandable), when you think of something while you’re working, cooking, playing with your children – write it down.

You’ll be very glad you did! I bet you’ll be surprised at everything that comes to mind.

On a housekeeping note, in the spirit of being more honest with myself and my abilities, I’ve decided to post once a week. I’m hoping to sprinkle in some recipes and nutrition tips, too, as I have many I’d like to share.

Looking forward to more of 2011 with you!