Coming soon….

Hi all!  I know it has been a little silent over here for the past couple weeks.  The reason is that a whole new site design is in the works and should be launching SOON.  Very soon.

So, a blog that was originally intended to update friends and family on our adoption process is not exactly in a user friendly format for navigating things like recipes.  And, as you may have noticed, my love of all things food, cooking, baking, and entertaining morphed this little site into something of the food blog variety.  And I am so glad it did!  I love hearing what ya’ll think and some of the creative recipe tweaks you come up with are borderline genius!

So, I want to keep this recipe mojo going, except in a better and easier to navigate format.  Scrolling through pages of recipe posts to find that one you were looking for is not my favorite past time either, and I am betting that ya’ll have better things to do!  Reader experience and navigation is important, so an easily navigable and responsive site is in the works!

Please, bear with me while we are “under construction.”  I am excited to share a new vision for the site when it launches, and – of course – fresh, new recipes!

So, hang tight!  An entirely new almostproperly.com  is coming soon!!

 

Healthy Vegan Coconut Chia Pudding

Its here!  Its here!  A respite from the rain and gray!  Spring weather has finally ARRIVED in Seattle!  Tulips are blooming and that big ball of fire in the sky is basking us in its warm rays.  Its Seattle, so my standards aren’t high, but we hit 70 the other day!!  70!  Whoop!

The first sign of spring weather makes me a little nutty.  I got all pioneer-y and was tilling up the soil in our little raised garden beds and dreaming about what to plant in them, forgetting that I am a horrible vegetable gardener.

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Every dinner has been made on the grill.  And we have been prolonging staying outdoors as long as possible with the help of our fire bowl and hot tea.  And, most importantly, we have been breaking out the warmish weather treats.  Although this No-Cook Coconut Chia Pudding might taste like a treat, shhhh, its pretty darn good for you.  Tastes little tapioca balls but with all the antioxidants and protein of Chia.  It is made with coconut milk, coconut water, chia seeds, vanilla extract, shredded unsweetened coconut, and a pinch of salt.  Top it with your choice of fruit and honey, and you have a satisfying little snack or dessert.  Best of all, it only takes 5 minutes of prep!!

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Healthy Vegan Coconut Chia Pudding

Active time: 5 minutes                          Total time (including chilling): 3 hours
Servings: 8
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 – 14oz. can coconut milk (approximately 1 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup coconut water
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • Fresh berries or other fruit, for serving
  • Honey (optional), for serving

In a large jar or bowl, add chia and shredded coconut.  Pour in coconut milk*, and coconut water.  Stir to combine.  Then Gently stir in vanilla and salt.

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Cover or fasten the lid and refrigerate for 3+ hours for the chia seeds to gel and the pudding to thicken.  Can be stored in refrigerator or up to one week.

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Serve in small bowls topped with fruit and honey if desired:)

(*Note: Use full fat coconut milk.  If coconut milk is separated or has non-liquid sections, lightly warm coconut milk on stove-top while stirring just until combined and liquid throughout.)

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Peruvian-Style Green Sauce

One of the things that coincides with choosing to live in a smaller and older home is that just about every piece of furniture, shelf, nook and cranny must serve double duty – everything must have multiple uses, functions, or purposes.  Our eating space in the kitchen has storage cabinets under the seats.  The “bench” in our living room is really a trunk that stores our collection of DVDs.  The hall closet is both coat closet and home to our vacuum cleaner. Our home is an exercise in function over form.  Utility over glam.

Any purchase contemplated elicits a “where would I store it?” or a “do we have room for this?”   Needing a new pair of running shoes requires retiring an old pair to Goodwill because there is only one running shoe designated slot on my shoe rack.  My husband’s love for (and collection of) down winter jackets have become a source of contention with closet space at a premium.  I am the queen of donating clothes I don’t wear because I simply do not want them to take up extra space.

Regardless, I wouldn’t trade out little cottage bungalow’s charm for the world.  I love our cozy little slice of town.  Moreover, I love the intentionality it forces us to practice.  In this world of “bigger is better” and excess is the new normal, I prefer to live our lives on a smaller scale.  There are very few items, if any, not in our possession that we truly need.  So in general, if we don’t need it, we don’t buy it.

As you would imagine from my hard-working, multi-function furniture, I love when objects – and foods – truly are “earning their keep”…. which leads me to this splendid little green number.  It is part sauce for roasted chicken or veggies, part veggie dip, and part salad dressing.  But, I promise you, it is 100% delicious.

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Seriously now. This stuff is the bomb-dot-com.  I have no problem expressing my love for it with cheesy sayings (see previous sentence) because after making it, I spent the next weeks wracking my brain for excuses to make it again and again.  Lucky for me, there are many (see links at bottom of post)!

I make a big batch and use it throughout the week, or you can always freeze a portion of it.  The recipe below is enough for approximately 2 different usages – depending how liberally it is applied in each.

Peruvian-Style Green Sauce

Active Time: 10 minutes   Additional time: 2o+ minutes chilling 

Special equipment: Blender or immersion blender

  • 1 small jalapeño roughly chopped, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 small anaheim pepper roughly chopped, seeds and ribs removed
  •  1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbl. fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbl. extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients, except for olive oil, in blender or bowl if using an immersion blender.

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Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Then slowly drizzle in olive oil while continuing to blend.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 5 days.  The finished product will seem really runny initially but will thicken while chilling.

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Hello, yummy green sauce.

Here is are a couple recipes that puts this sauce to work!  (More to come!)

Thai Shrimp Soup

Going back to last weekend, we did new year’s weekend big.  And by “big,” I really mean that we fell asleep before midnight and had a relaxing, wonderful weekend.  But in other more exciting news, Seattle finally was having snap of winter appropriate weather!  Cool, clear, and crisp Pacific Northwest winter days are some of my favorite weather in the world.  Period.

So in light of the weather, which was a nice respite from the mild, gray, wet days we are so accustomed to, we seized the day!  As such, our day started out with a run around the lake (see cool, crisp Seattle wonderfulness below), coffee, and way too long perusing a book store.

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You may not know this, but with cool and crisp days comes a certain culinary protocol.  You see, these days require a specific type of meal at the end of the day: something of the warm, fragrant, and delicious variety.  And not wanting to break protocol, we made this Thai Shrimp Soup.  Warm? Check!  Fragrant? Check!! Delicious?  Check!!!

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Think coconut milk, ginger, seared shrimp, and curry paste simmered to warm mildly spicy perfection and topped with the freshness of lime juice and cilantro.

For this recipe you must buy the raw, jumbo variety of shrimp – nothing pre-cooked.  Most grocery store seafood departments offer these deveined and already cleaned.  If you have ever deveined shrimp before, you know how tedious it can be.  So, when available, I save the time and purchase the deveined kind!

If raw shrimp scare you, don’t let them!  I put shrimp in the “fool proof” category because they tell you when they are done by turning that nice shrimpy color of pink.  When pan-frying shrimp (as you will do for this recipe), my rule of thumb is to turn those little guys over as soon as they turn pink on one side.  They will get too tough if you over-cook them.

Thai Shrimp Soup

Serves: 4-6

Active time: 30-40 minutes   Total time: 30-40 minutes

  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, deveined, tails left on
  • 3 tbl. butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbl. fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 tbl. red or yellow curry paste
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • Approx. 4 cups of vegetable stock, divided
  • 1 cup. cooked rice
  • Juice from 1 lime, fresh
  • Small handful of cilantro

Melt butter on medium high heat in bottom of large sauce pan. Season shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides.  Working in bathces, cook shrimp in melted butter just until lightly pink on each side and no longer translucent.  DO NOT overcook the shrimp!  Set cooked shrimp aside.

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Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil.  Add garlic, onion, and red pepper.  Place lid on pan. Cook until slightly tender, stirring occasionally. Add ginger and cook for about 1 minute longer until fragrant.  Then, add the curry paste mixing it well with the veggies. Stir in the coconut milk and add 3.5 cups of vegetable stock.  Increase to high heat to bring pot to a boil stirring occasionally.  Once boiling reduce to medium-low and simmer until thickened slightly, stirring occasionally.  The thickening step should take 10-15 minutes.  If soup gets too thick, add in the reserved 1/2 cup of stock.

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Once mixture is thickened add shrimp and cooked rice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately topped with some lime juice and cilantro.

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Voila!  The perfect conclusion to a chilly winter day!

Can Rest be a Resolution?

2016: How did we get here?!  Happy new year!  Does anyone else feel like they blinked and the first 1/2 of the 2010s was over?  Alas, we are in the early days of another new year.  *Sigh…*

Everyone around me is either in the midst of a cleanse or made some sort of resolution involving healthy eating and/or exercise.  Positive energy and a spirit of perseverance coming your way! Whatever your resolutions are: good luck.

For me, exercise and diet are not where I struggle most.  Slowing down and remembering to breathe are where I often utterly fail.  So in some ways, diet and exercise are my enemy, but I certainly won’t be cutting out my love of cruciferous veggies, yoga, or running this year.  Rather, my husband and I have agreed to prioritize restorative practices in an effort to re-energize our bodies and minds.

For us that can mean a few different things, but one of them is the power of day trips! A day of adventure and getting out of our typical routine is a practice we have found to be one of the most mentally refreshing activities we do together.  We have resolved to do at least one “adventure day” every month.  We used to rock at regularly planning day trip but fell out of the habit this past year. Instead, we allowed work take over our entire beings.  As a result, we have spent much of the past year in some never-ending and unnecessary endurance test of long hours and weeks.  Needless to say, we are burnt out.  Vacations should not be viewed as a luxury.  They are a necessity, people!  Even if they are the stay-cation variety!  So while we are hoping to put a real vacation on the calendar very soon, in the interim, day trips it will be!

In the spirit of our resolution, we started the year off with a New Year’s day trip adventure snow shoeing in the mountains.  It was a wonderful day of clear sunny skies, beautiful mountain views, deep powdery snow, and a meandering scenic drive home.  All in all,  the perfect winter day trip.

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The second facet of our resolutions are restorative weekends!  After an incredibly over-scheduled and exhausting year and holiday season in general, we are determined to invest in and even schedule some relaxation time!  Sure, weekends must include necessary evils like some housework, laundry, etc. but even though there is always something that could be done, we aren’t committed to not over-doing our weekend chore loads.  We want to leave mornings wide open for dog-walks or breakfasts and afternoons available for such pressing tasks as reading, gentle old-lady style yoga, documentary watching, cooking some delicious simmering-something for dinner, or even napping!  Life will undoubtedly get in the way some weekends, but we are promising to prioritize restful weekends and limit scheduled events!  Sign me up for a whole lot of nothing and I will be a happy, well-rested girl!

And now, our final resolution….  As a self proclaimed foodie who loves to cook, this one kind of kills me.  In keeping with the prioritization of restful practices theme, I am not going to kill myself over weeknight meals.  I am trying to stick to simple 15-30 minute meals that are easy to prep and easy to clean-up.   (I will be posting some of my easy weeknight go-to recipes in the coming weeks, so watch out for those.)

The second prong to this resolution is if I get home late, am exhausted, or don’t feel like cooking, that is OK.  Although it goes against every grain in my body to give in to the urge to rest rather than make the meal I had planned, I need to learn that sometimes freezer pizza or takeout is just what the doctor ordered.  Therefore, if I need a break from mid-week dinner prep for whatever reason, I am resolved to take it!

The third and final prong to is that regardless of my weeknight meal schedule, Tim and I have decided that Friday nights are fun food nights.  During the work week and honestly most of the time, we eat fairly healthy meals (much to Tim’s dismay), but friday nights will be reserved for something fun.  Either an at-home splurge meal like extra cheesy pizza, or something along the lines of Chinese take-out, one of the ridiculously delicious gourmet burger establishments, the authentic Neapolitan pizza joint down the street, etc. This will keep my husband happy, me sane, and also give us a nice easy opportunity to catch up at the end of the week.  (Since I am writing this on a Friday afternoon with a relatively empty stomach, I am pretty psyched to put this “third prong” into action TONIGHT!)

So while to me this post feels like way too much of an over-share, busyness has become such a status symbol that I am pumping the brakes on the exhaustion that ensues.  This American race to to stay-ahead/get-ahead is an unsustainable pace.  Look at Europe!  They have known this for years!  In my opinion, if you feel like you have to have a quad-shot americano to wake up in the morning, you should probably take a hard look at your lifestyle.

So after reflection and exhaustion, I am listening to my body and it says to slooooww doooowwn.  As such, I am challenging myself to incorporate more simplicity and restful-ness in my life this year!  Anyone else feeling the need for something similar?

Adoption from the eyes of Adoptees

November is National Adoption Month. So each week for the month of November, I be posting some adoption related info, links, books, and shouting from the rooftops that our beautiful world sadly has many beautiful children in it without families!

The familiar adoption narrative is almost always told through the eyes of the adoptive parents.  These narratives often focus on the positive and redemptive aspects of adoption experience, as seen through the parents eyes.  We rarely hear the adoption story through a lens of loss, confusion, frustration, heartache, and even anger that are experienced by the adoptee.  Many adoptees learn to “parrot” the redemptive,positive adoption narrative as told by their parents since it seems to be the more accepted perspective and also because this is the narrative their adoptive parents prefer to hear.

Especially for children adopted internationally, their entire wold was virtually flipped upside down when they were adopted so their perspective on the adoption experience is typically one of fear, unfamiliarity, and confusion.  In other words, the opposite of their adoptive family who are overjoyed after waiting and waiting to bring this child home.  These “homecoming” stories however are not where the experience of adoption end for the adoptees.

Psychologists, therapists, and counselors will all tell you that hushing of the adoptee is the wrong way to approach the adoption narrative. Children and adult adoptees alike should be free to voice their experience and their parents should be there to help facilitate and welcome those discussions, even if they are painful for both parent and child.  As Patty Cogen states in her book Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child, “what is mentionable, is manageable.”  Parents and communities need to open our minds to hearing about the adoption experience through another lens.  This is how the healing process can begin for the adoptee, and adoptive parent’s fears that talking about it will make it worse are completely false.  The fact is that having the airwaves open for these discussions will help the child to feel more, not less, connected to their adopted family.  They will feel more understood and accepted by their adoptive family, which is why these discussions are such an integral part of the process!

You don’t have to take my word for it, even though I could talk your ear off on the subject for hours, but I won’t…  BUT if you want to read more check out the book referenced above or this one!

Hearing about the adoption experience through the eyes of adoptees shouldn’t be something new, but unfortunately, theirs is often not the version of the story we hear.  If we as communities, families, & churches are going to throw our support at friends and family who decide to adopt, then we, as a community, should also be listening to the adoptee’s stories and learning what we can do to support them through their healing process and beyond.

Now, I will step down from my soapbox, but please lets hear adoptees voices during National Adoption Month!  #flipthescript on adoption!

See what they have are saying in some of the video clips below…

Or view the extended version of the above video here.

 

The Time I gave out “Condoms” on Halloween

You know those things in life that at the time feel mortifying, but as time passes, you begin to see the humor in them? For me, this was one of those times…

I will be honest. I don’t put all that much thought into what candy we give out on Halloween. I just insist that if its chocolate, it has to be ethically traded chocolate. Not hard to find. My husband thinks my insistence on this for Halloween is a bit over the top, while I think not doing it is hypocritical, since its all we buy otherwise.

A couple nights before the holiday, I bought a couple of bags of Halloween chocolate squares from a Fair Trade brand. Sure, its a little more expensive, but we really don’t get many trick-or-treaters and spending a few dollars more on Halloween candy isn’t going to break the bank. I think it actually tastes better than some of the cloyingly sweet cheaper options.

Halloween night, we were heading to a party at my parent’s house and wouldn’t be home to pass out candy. So I planned to dump the bags of chocolate in a bowl, turn on the porch light, and leave the bowl of candy on the stoop. We were in the process of rushing out the door (late as usual), but when Tim saw me holding the bowl of candy he said, “Are those condoms?!”

What is he talking about? I began scanning the ground for something that might look like a condom, but he provided the clarification himself. “Is that the candy? It looks like we are giving out condoms to elementary school kids.” He looks at me as if trying to ascertain whether or not I have gone off the deep end and decided to make some inappropriate safe sex advocacy statement to young, costumed children.

I never would have thought of that when looking at the plastic wrapped chocolate squares, but as soon as he mentioned it, I couldn’t get past their resemblance to condom wrappers. Embarrassed, I encouraged him to try one in an attempt prove that they are in-fact chocolate.

He picked one up to verify that it is indeed not a condom and shook his head. He concluded, “Every parent is going to look at that bowl and think ‘What the heck?!’”

I lamely tried to defend myself with some stupid statement about Fair Trade candy having fewer options and that “kids don’t care – candy is candy.”

Tim whole-heartedly disagreed.

At this point, we were extra late, so I plopped the bowl full of condoms – I mean candy – on the front porch and left.

When we got home, my supposedly indiscriminate, candy-loving trick-or-treaters had failed me. Even kids didn’t want my “condom candy.” The bowl was still completely full. Oops.

Next year, I am buying boxes of Nerds. Forget about chocolate. Lesson learned.

Tim: 1 point

Maria: 0 points