Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Recipe Corner - Gluten-Free Paleo Flatbread

From my pizza days . . . back when I didn't care about eating wheat.
I really enjoy pizza . . . it's a comfort food.  With my O-blood type, however, "normal" pizza is absolutely out of the question as are most "gluten-free" options on the market (they typically include potato or corn of some variety - the only brand I've found so far without wheat, corn, OR potato is California Pizza Kitchen).  Regardless, let's just say it's very difficult to satisfy my pizza craving when pretty much my only option is making my own.  Not that I don't enjoy making my own pizza.  I really do enjoy that . . . worked as a pizza delivery girl/pizza maker for a few years in college.  But it's hard to find a pizza dough recipe that I can actually eat AND tastes good.  I found one on Thrive Market (it's made with tapioca flour and tastes pretty good.)  The one I'm going to share with you today works best if you cut it in small squares rather than large pieces . . . like a flatbread.

I adapted the recipe from this one for a Chicken Alfredo Flatbread.  First, mix together 1c. almond flour, 1 egg white, and 1/8 tsp. salt.
I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it turned into a dough ball with such little liquid.

Next, roll out the dough ball between two layers of parchment paper.  You'll want to make it pretty close to paper thin so that the thick flour will bake more crisply.  This dough recipe was originally a cracker recipe - I thought the original flatbread recipe crafter was pretty ingenious for combining recipes.  Bake the crust at 325 for 8 minutes.

Third, while your crust is baking, pick your toppings!  The original recipe was a Chicken Bacon Alfredo flatbread.  Given that pretty much all commercial alfredo sauce has corn or potato of some variety, I opted for a more traditional pizza.  But I did go with some spinach, tomatoes, and chicken.  And LOTS of mozzarella cheese.  It's the best!

Fourth, add your sauce to the rolled out dough.  Note that you leave the dough on one of the two pieces of parchment paper you used to roll out the dough.  Spread out your sauce and get ready for the fun part!

Fifth, add your toppings!  This looked pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.  Once you've added all of your toppings, broil it on high for 5 minutes or until the cheese is slightly golden.

And voila!  You have a wheat-free, potato-free, corn-free flatbread pizza!  You could even make it dairy-free by substituting a dairy-free cheese or nixing the cheese altogether!

I hope you try this recipe soon!  If you do, let me know how you like it in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Recipe Corner - Spaghetti & Meatballs with a Twist

Spaghetti and meatballs.  Such a heart-warming dish.  Takes me back to Lady & the Tramp.

When I went gluten-free, however, spaghetti & meatballs became much more difficult.  If you've ever tried to substitute rice noodles for wheat noodles, you know what I'm talking about.  So the search was on for a tasty alternative.  Skeptical at first, I've come to absolutely love turning zucchini into noodles!  And here's the first part of today's recipe corner:

Noodles with a Twist

 One of the best (and most inexpensive) purchases I ever made for my kitchen collection was this handy tool.  You twist the food through it (squash; zucchini; cucumber; etc.), and it creates extremely long noodles!  Then all you need to do is fry them up in a pan with a little olive oil, add some seasonings and your sauce, and voila!  Spaghetti!

I chopped up mushrooms to mix in with the noodles and sauce. 

Once I mixed in the sauce, it looked and smelled amazing!

And then came part two: the meatballs.

I adapted the recipe from this phenomenal recipe from Bravo for Paleo.  I substituted ground turkey for the ground pork.  I would also in the future recommend increasing the amount of spices you include.  And potentially adding in some parmesan cheese if you so desire.  Bonus: these meatballs freeze extremely well!

First, blend together the meats and the spices by hand.  This part is sticky and squishy, but it's a lot of fun!

Next, roll the mixture into small balls and place on a cookie sheet covered with tin foil.  You'll bake them at 350 for 20 minutes.

Once your meatballs are finished, add them to your spaghetti and dig in!  Next time, I'm going to make more!  It was so delicious!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Waiting in the Wings . . .

Carla slowly turned around as she took in her new surroundings.  She stood in a stark white enclosed room bordered by innumerable doors.  Each door gleamed a different color, and a small sign labeled the contents therein.  Career.  Family.  School.  Travel.  Couch Potato.  Leech.  Hole In Sand.  Party Lights.  Cardboard Box.  Childhood.  Friends.  Alternate Life.  The choices seemed endless as she continued to swivel in her comfortable chair.  So this is it.  This is where my future is decided.  How do I know which door to choose?
A gentle voice behind her caused her to jump up.  "You don't know.  Alone, all you can do is guess.  Each door leads to a possible future.  Whether it is your next destination on the eternal plan, you cannot know without help."
Carla was positive she hadn't spoken aloud, but she turned towards the voice and asked, "What is this help?"  She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the shining light and called out, "I can't see you.  How do I know you're there?"
"You have other senses than sight, have you not?  Senses that course through your entire being beyond the simple external five.  What do these senses tell you?"
Carla closed her eyes for a moment, trying to discern the deeper trust in her faith of the divine.  "That You exist.  That You are here with me even though I cannot see Your face.  And that You are the answer to all of my troubles.  Please.  Tell me what to do."
She felt rather than saw His smile as He said, "Carla, my child, it is simple.  Follow Me.  That is what you must do."
Her heart sank as she complained, "But what should I do specifically?  Which of these doors opens onto the next step for my path?  How do I decide?"
"Talk it out for Me, and you will realize the answer you have always had within your soul."
"But it would be so much easier if You would just tell me."
"Since when has My way been about the easy way out?" He admonished her.
Carla bowed her head in submission.  She rubbed her temples and began to work it out.  "I suppose the first step is discernment of your vocation.  Check.  Mine's marriage and motherhood.  But I can't just jump through the Family door.  I haven't even got the meager beginnings of my own as of yet."
"Correct so far.  This room, then, is the 'waiting' room.  It is where you discover what your purpose on life is between childhood and fulfilling your vocation."
"How long am I stuck in this interim?"  He did not answer.  "I suppose that's for You to know and me to find out."  Again she felt His smile and groaned inwardly.  I always knew He had a strange sense of humor.  But she stopped because she remembered how He could read her thoughts.  "Ok.  So I have to decide, or rather discover, what my interim singlehood is for."  Carla sat back down and tucked her knees under her chin.  The door choices swirled before her closed eyes as she tried to figure out the correct decision.  "I don't know!" she finally cried out.  "At least, I can't know without Your help.  Please help me!"  Her prayer for guidance did not go unanswered.
"All you need do is trust My path and stay alert for the signs which I will send.  They will guide you through the days ahead."
"But how will I know what these signs are?" Carla asked, but she received no answer.  Trial and error, I suppose.  Mixed with a bit of prayer and a large helping of faith.  The next time she opened her eyes, Carla was in her bed once more.  A car horn blew outside as birds heralded the new day.  As she prepared for work, her dream played over in her mind.  "Fine," she whispered.  "I'll try to watch."  As she ran out the door, Carla had no idea how much faith in God's plan could change her life.

Today's post is stolen partially from another blog post I wrote years ago . . . but as I read through it, I find myself going through the same thought processes today as I was back then.  I'm closer to fulfilling my vocation, but as a friend gently reminded me, my focus on that fact is blinding me to appreciating and soaking up the moments of here and now.  I'm getting married in three weeks, and already my brain is stressing about how we're going to afford the huge family we hope to have.  My resolution today (and my challenge to all of you) is to love your life where you're at.  To live each day to the fullest.  To let the ones who matter to you know how much you care.  And not to waste away your present worrying about the future.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How Feminism Destroyed the Traditional Family

"We swapped a society where women could be full-time mothers--a role many found fulfilling and satisfying--for one that fuels consumerism and clogs our roads with second cars on the drive to school, where spoiled children, buried under mountains of toys they can't be bothered to play with, watch suggestive TV shows in their lonely bedrooms. And we have this partly because the equality feminists forced us to believe that motherhood was parasitic, the housewife a leech." ~ James Tooley
There are so many things wrong with society today . . . enough to write multiple volumes . . . but don't worry.  I won't try to cram all of them into a single post.  I was reading back through old papers from my college days, and I ran across the quote above in a paper I wrote on how the mass entrance of women into the workforce during WWII coupled with the rise of radical feminism accounts for a large part of why our modern society is so messed up.  This post is the short version.

Women entering the workforce en masse in WWII helped the American economy stay afloat while our men were off fighting.  In no way is this a condemnation or a sneer at their gallant efforts.  In fact, the number of women in the workforce "rose from 14,600,000 in 1941 to 19,370,000 in 1944." Allan M. Winkler, Home Front U.S.A.: America During World War II.  These women in the workforce were a great aid during WWII as they filled the empty jobs left by the men called to be soldiers.  Furthermore, the women who worked during WWII still understood that their most important role was as wife and mother, and society as a whole supported this understanding.  "When the period of postwar adjustment comes, and their men come home . . . you will see women returning naturally to their homes."  Allan M. Winkler, Home Front U.S.A.: America During World War II.

During the war, the Children's Bureau worried that "group care for children under two would cause 'slower mental development, social ineptness, weakened initiative, and damage to the child's capacity . . . to form satisfactory relationships.'"  Allan M. Winkler, Home Front U.S.A.  Society understood at the time that "[b]abies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is general shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren't."  G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World.  The majority of women gladly and willingly returned to their hearth and home and family. 

Sadly, there were women who resented their expulsion from the workforce at the end of WWII, which built up over the next few decades and eventually ruptured into the Women's Liberation Movement, a movement that desired total equality of men and women in society, and many of the changes desired were just and good.  However, what these equity feminists failed to realize were the "real and obvious differences between men and women."  Walter J. Schu, The Splendor of Love.  They failed to recognize what society knew it needed to survive - that "Man was created and equipped to provide for and to protect his family--his wife and children.  Woman was created to bear and nurture the children."  Dee Jepsen, Women: Beyond Equal Rights.  These feminists treated the mother's role as parasitic and fought tooth and nail for equality in the workforce, defending their office "with all the fierceness of domesticity."  G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World.  At the root, these feminists sought to overthrow the norms of society and essentially become men, completely losing sight of their own unique, special, and necessary role in the home as wife and mother.  

As women rejected the home and obstinately remained in the workforce, their children left the home to be taken care of by others.  This resulted in a decline in the intellect and morality of each successive generation (as evidenced today by the state of marriage; the rise of divorce; abortion; morality; etc.).  If women do not raise their children, the family life and morality will suffer a permanent decline.  As women fought to demonstrate they could do it all, men lost their motivation to provide and protect their women.  The advocate of the single, working mother was the enemy of the traditional family.  When women were told they could do it all without a man, the men were listening too.  And this is what they heard: "Men aren't necessary. Women can do it alone.  Women and children are usually better off without men.  Breadwinning oppresses women and children.  Marriage and breadwinning can be hard.  Why do it, if you are only oppressing the ones you love?" Maggie Gallagher.  

As women rejected the family in pursuit of their career, they also rejected their children, which led to the rise in abortion and the use of birth control.  Feminists painted children as feminism's "biggest enemies."  Kate O'Beirne, Women Who Make the World Worse.  They argued that "the battle of the sexes can't be won unless women make war on the tiniest enemies of their independence."  Id.  These radical feminists view abortion rights as a necessity because they believe that the unique gift of being able to conceive, bear, and give birth to new human beings is merely a symbol of the inferiority of women to men.  They refuse to acknowledge that without women bearing and raising children, society would collapse.  "Children need their mothers.  Children need time with their mothers.  The bonding and emotional ties that develop between them affect children's personalities, attitudes, and values--greatly influencing the shaping of their character."  Dee Jepsen, Women: Beyond Equal Rights.  The mother has the most influence over the children during their most impressionable years, and yet the radical feminists managed to take that beautiful and noble role and twist it into something to be despised and feared.

In our modern society, where the traditional family is constantly attacked and abused, it is our duty to return to the roots of a traditional family.  To build up the women who are mothers and wives in our life.  To praise the role of mother and emphasize the immense responsibility and honor that role brings.  And similarly, we need to raise up the men who are fathers and husbands.  To encourage them in their providing for their families.  To praise them for their devotion and protection.  And to the children, we owe this debt.  To raise them in a world where the family is respected and revered.  Where a mother can choose to stay at home with her children without being questioned by society at large.  Where a father can support his family on a sole income and not receive flack from society for letting his wife stay at home with their children.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Marriage Losing to the Wedding?

I'm 40 days out from my wedding, and yes, there are dozens (well, maybe A dozen) of things left to take care of before the "BIG DAY".  And yet as I sit here trying to check everything off my list, I find myself saddened by the fact that so much emphasis is placed on the WEDDING and none on the MARRIAGE that follows.

I am blessed that my Catholic faith requires extensive marriage preparation before the Church will allow us to be married.  This marriage preparation is essential to addressing and confirming that both future spouses understand the teachings of the Church, the struggles and temptations they will face in their married life, and how they can fight the good fight against the Devil.  As G. K. Chesterton so aptly put it, 
Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.
The family is the foundation of all society, and marriage is the battleground of the family.  The Devil wants to see the world tumble around our heads, and he is cunning.  He doesn't strike the strong, stalwart defenses.  He looks for the cracks in our armor.  The wounds or chinks that leave an opening, however small, for him to slip in.  This is why couples MUST prepare for their marriage continually.  This preparation is absolutely more important than the perfect wedding.  A wedding is one day.  Yes, it is an important day since it is the day you and your future spouse stand up in front of God and your loved ones and declare your fidelity to one another.  It is the day that your souls are knit together and bound for life.  It is the beginning of your marriage, but it is only one day.  Your marriage is the rest of your life.  

If we kept things in perspective, we'd do better at preparing for marriage and not just our wedding.  And right there, that's where the devil sneaks in . . . even before you're married.  He's in your head raising questions about wedding details and stressing you out about guest lists and finances.  Anything to keep you distracted from the fact that you're getting MARRIED and to keep you from preparing your defenses so that you can have a holy and sacred marriage.  

My fiance and I have been attending our marriage preparation meetings with our priest for 6 months.  During those sessions, we've discussed various issues including birth control, the roles of the parents, discipline, children, finances, religion, economics, and so much more.  We read Casti Connubbi and are working our way through Three to Get Married by Fulton J. Sheen (there will be posts on those soon).  We have been doing a holy hour once a week together where we pray for ourselves, for each other, for our marriage preparation, and for our married life.  I cherish this time together because it continues to build the rock solid spiritual foundation that will get us through those rough times that inevitably arise since we are fallen human beings in a world constantly under attack.

As we enter our 40 days before marriage, we've mutually decided to increase our zeal and vigor in preparation for marriage during these last 6 weeks.  As the wedding preparation stress heightens, our reliance on prayer shall increase.  Prayer and preparation during this "Lenten" journey of ours will help us keep perspective on what truly matters.  In the grand scheme of life on earth and our Heavenly goal, it doesn't matter if the food doesn't taste exquisite, if the guests don't RSVP, if the flowers go flat, if the stress multiplies tenfold for no reason.
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. ~ Ephesians 5:21-33
This is our guide - the battle plan for marriage.  It is the rule for our lives as husband and wife.  If we follow it faithfully, God's blessings and grace will strengthen us in our fight against the Devil.

If you are preparing for marriage yourself, or you know someone who is, I encourage you to ponder the gravity, mystery, and wonder of what you've decided to enter into.  Marriage is not a picnic.  It is not a walk in the park.  It is a struggle and a harrowing journey, and you will not emerge without being changed.  But it is a beautiful, joyous, and wonderful change.  And the struggles lighten when you place God at the center of your marriage and take His scriptures and teachings as your guide.   
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? ~ Psalms 27:1