Thursday, March 28, 2013

My Latest Craving {steel cut oats breakfast cake}

Dear Typical Sieb Breakfast,

You are usually riddled with gluten or gluten substitutes, and you are far too intimate with Empty Carbs. Per the doctor's orders, I am putting you on probation and giving you a complete make-over. You will now make friends with Protein. You will need to be on speaking terms only with Instant Oatmeal and will learn to get along with Steel Cut Oats. You may keep your relationship with Coffee for the sake of all the adults involved.

A Mom Who Needs Take You Seriously

So here's some of what I'm learning...

Steel cuts are a raw version of oats. This means two things. One: steel cut oats retain the nutrients lost in the process of rolling and steaming traditional rolled or instant oats. Two: if you're gluten-free, these oats are safe option since rolled oats are often rolled in flour; and also since those with a serious gluten allergy may find that even gluten-free rolled oats can have the same effect on your digestive system as wheat.

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Most baking calls for rolled oats, and you can't just decide to switch them out since they haven't been processed the same way. That set me off to wanting to create a recipe that would work for our allergies and incorporate steel cut oats. After a few times of perfecting it, we now make this breakfast cake almost once a week for breakfast. I make it up the day ahead, and stick in the oven the next morning right after my alarm goes off for the second time, and when we're ready for breakfast we have warm deliciousness waiting for us. It's a "cake" only in name since the ingredients are healthy enough to give you the perfect boost into you day. But when you add in that word, it's amazing how much more enthusiastic kids get about consuming it.

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Steel Cut Oats Breakfast Cake (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

1 cup steel cut oats

2 cups water
3 large, ripe bananas, well mashed
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid state
1 1/3 cup almond meal
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
1/2 c. raisins or blueberries or chocolate chips (you could add in a bit more if you wanted)


In a large mixing bowl, mix steel cut oats and water and let sit until that evening (at least 8 hours).


In the same bowl in which the oats have been soaking (do not drain the liquid) mix the bananas, applesauce, vanilla, and chia seeds. Warm the coconut oil to a liquid state and quickly whisk it into the mix to avoid clumping. In a separate bowl, mix together the almond meal, salt, powder, soda, and cinnamon. Stir the dry ingredients in with the steel cut oat mixture. Fold in the coconut and raisins (or blueberries or chocolate chips). Grease a 13x9" glass baking dish, and pour in the batter. Cover and put into the refrigerator overnight.


Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Cool and continue the con of making your kids think you're actually allowing them to have cake for breakfast.

Update: I've been making this lately without soaking the oats the morning before and have found it works just as well since they sit overnight in the batter before cooking.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Getting My Fears On Paper

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Blogs can be powerful both positively and, well, negatively. On the darker side of the blog world is this lurking beast of comparison. There was actually a point in my life that I had to take a blog break because I began to realize that while reading them, I was subconsciously comparing my life to the blog author's; and it was breeding a baby of ungratefulness.

But on the positive side, I have been repeatedly helped by blogs. I can't tell you how many times I've read a post, be it some organizational secret, parenting encouragement, decorating idea, or Scriptural insight; and been so grateful knowing I would have never come up with such a thing on my own. My prayer is that this post will serve you in such a way. Though, like most good ideas, I didn't come up with it myself.

My girlfriend, whose joyful spirit masks the fact that her childhood makes most people's past look like a picnic, was going through some Christian therapy. Her counselor told her to write all of her fears out on paper. After the task was complete, the counselor informed her that now it was time to see what God had to say about each of those fears; and they opened God's Word.

Since we each have our own fears to face and since she had shared this with me last fall during an especially full season of my life, I decided to do this for myself. And wow. Just wow. I can tell you it that the results were a complete surprise to me. As I began to open up the section of my heart where I stash away my fears, I wrote them down in a private notebook. Things I never realized I worried over started pouring out. And as the writing flowed; so did the tears.

Then the best part began. I asked the Lord for Scripture to speak truth to my fears. And like a tender Father, He brought verse after verse of His truth to bathe my fears in His love and grace. Like the medication for the illness, I wrote the verses next to the fears. Sometime many different verses. When I faced my fear of  walking through days that seemed to overwhelming for me to handle, the Holy Spirit met me with a verse like Isaiah 43:1a-2: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." This simple exercise turned into one of the sweetest times I have ever had with the Lord. Fear wants to stay in the dark; that's where it thrives. With the humidity of sin feeding it in dark places, it grows like a mold. But aired out it out in the light of God's truth, fear is dealt a deadly blow.

Afterward, I shared the list with my husband so he could see what a mess of a woman God has called him lead know more of my heart's struggles. And walking in the light with someone else...bam. There's another death blow to fear.

My fears and their anecdotes sit in my notebook a few pages from my to-do lists. Now, when I'm doing hand to hand combat with one of these anxieties in my head, I can flip to those pages and began to turn the battle over to the Lord. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wrapping Paper Decorating

Because decorating plain white wrapping paper is a lot higher on the fun-o-meter than buying fancy stuff...

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And for an excellent read, check out an article that made this mommy have to repress the impulse to scream "AMEN!" over and over while digesting it.

Raising Girls in a World That Devalues Them: 7 Things We Must Tell Them 

(Reader's Note: If you get hung up on "you don't don't need guy" statement as anti-marriage, the author clarifies her stance on this in her comments thread.)

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Latest Craving {ethnic food}

As you know from my last blog post, half of our household has a gluten allergy; plus my littlest is dairy-free as well.  When it came to changing what I prepared for meals, I've found that dinner time to be my easiest to adjust to because of one simple trick...I cook almost exclusively ethnic. If you think about it, a majority of typical American food is riddled with gluten. Chicken nuggets: check. Mac & cheese: check. Pasta: check. Ceasar salad: check. PB&J: check. Meatloaf: check. Cheeseburger: check. Apple Pie: check. Pizza: check, check.

Now I have to admit that giving up the above list wasn't a serious sacrifice since those weren't my favorite foods. Well, minus pizza. *sob* (And don't leave me comments about how delicious gluten-free pizza can be. Nothing will ever fill the hole in my heart that is Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust Pizza. Nothing.) But I digress. I personally think that gluten-free replacements for American foods aren't the greatest. However, ethnic food is almost entirely naturally gluten-free (and usually dairy-free as well).

Now my kitchen prep is like a little world travel: Korea, India, Vietnam, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Mexico, Greece, Thailand. And allow me to demystify it for you with a little secret: it's actually not difficult to prepare.

I'll pass along to you, a current favorite in our house which can actually be made in the slow cooker (bonus!). It's Chicken Tikka Masala. A girlfriend of mine brought it to us when we moved, and one bite let me know I had to have the recipe. I've tweaked it a little bit, and have some notes for how to make it without any cow products since many people with dairy allergies, like my daughter, can handle goat and sheep's milk. The recipe allows for a full pot so that you can pull at least two meals out of it. Bon Appetit!

Chicken Tikka Masala 
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Chicken Tikka:
1/2 cup plain yogurt (Get goat's milk yogurt if you can't have cow's milk. Trader Joe's has the best price for this.)
11/2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tsp cumin
1/4-1 tsp cayenne (Depending on your personal spice tolerance)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
8-10 chicken thighs (Costco has some great boneless chicken thighs)

Put all ingredients except chicken into a gallon-size bag. Sealed the bag and "smoosh" the ingredients until they mix. Add the chicken and coat the chicken completely with the marinade, cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.

Masala Sauce:
2 can 28 oz. diced tomatoes
12 oz tomato paste
4 inches fresh ginger, grated 
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 onion, diced
2 tbsp garam masala
3 tbsp tikka paste (Can be found at Wegmans. Mild curry paste can be used instead, if you add about a Tbsp of lemon juice.)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp dried coriander

For the end:
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
2 cup cream (omit if dairy-free)
4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Turn your oven to broil. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a rack over top. Take the chicken out of the marinade and place on the baking rack with the marinade on top. Place under the broiler about 6-10 inches from the heating element and broil on each side about 6 minutes. You don't have to worry about cooking the meat all the way through, you are just looking to lock in the flavor.

While the chicken is broiling, in a pan over medium high heat, add about a tsp or two of oil. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes to soften. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for a few more minutes until the mixture is nice and fragrant. Place the mixture into your crockpot. To that, add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, garam masala, tikka paste, cumin, chili powder and coriander. Stir together. When the chicken is done broiling, add that with all the marinade/juices straight to the slow cooker and stir into the sauce.Slow cook on high for 4-6 hours or on low 6-8 hours.

Before serving stir in 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp garam masala and salt if it needs it. I find this just brightens up the spice flavors a bit. Then stir in the cream and fresh cilantro. Serve a chicken thigh and lots of sauce over basmati rice or any rice of your choice. 

If you have a favorite gluten-free meal, I'd love for you to share the recipe link in the comments. I'm always up for trying something new!

Friday, March 15, 2013

When a Food Allergy Diagnoses is a Relief

At 3 months old, my Ava started her first lung infection. We were out in a rural area visiting friends, miles from a hospital and I spent anxious night holding my coughing, wheezing little one; wondering if I should jump and the car and head to the ER. We headed to a doctor as soon as we could. A week later when she started breathing normally again I felt such relief. Such premature relief. From that point on my daughter experience lung infection after lung infection. Sometimes the infection would go for 3 weeks then we'd have a one week break only to start another one. I'm a pretty laid back mom, but sitting up with your child at night, wondering if they'll take their next breath was one of the harder things I've done. I took her to pediatrician after pediatrician looking for answers. To my frustration, I was told I just had to wait it out, that she'd eventually grow out of it. And then I'd be there again at 2 a.m., praying through tears as my daughter slept on my chest, and I spent the bulk of the night sitting up so that she was propped up enough to breath. She learned at a young age not to be scared by the loud noise of a nebulizer which we seemed to have to use constantly.

Finally, I went to see an M.D. that my friend recommended to me. This doctor felt that allergies play a big part in people's health. When we went, Ava was in the middle of another infection which the doctor said had gone into full bronchitis. The doctor tested her and found that she was allergic to dairy and gluten. She said that taking her off of both should clear up her lungs totally. After almost a year and half of infections, I was skeptical but ready to try anything. We completely removed these things from her diet, and within only a couple days her lungs cleared up and the mysterious rash she almost constantly had on her face went away. Now over a year later, Ava has had only one lung infection and has become my healthiest kid.

Since this diagnoses, I've researched and learned how much what we eat and what we are allergic to affects our health. A few months back, the same doctor did testing on me. She found a gluten allergy. And guess what? Those doubled-over stomach pains I've experienced for the last 14 years of my life? They don't come around anymore. 

But during the past month, I've learned another way that food allergies manifest themselves. It's something I never would have guessed...behavioral problems. Who woulda' thunk? A few weeks ago I was on the phone crying to my mom; telling her I couldn't do it anymore. My older daughter who could be the sweetest cupcake you ever met could also have her eyes glaze over as she went into another temper tantrum. I'm talking half-hour long temper tantrums that left me dazed. I kept thinking she would outgrow them or that she needed more sleep. But at 6 years old, even getting 11 hours of sleep a night and still clinging to a nap, she would sometimes be having two or more tantrums a day. We had tried all different sorts of parenting approaches to try to help her. Often you could find me sitting and trying not to cry with her. When the glazed over look came, she couldn't be reasoned with. In her sane moments, the amount of fits she had even bothered her, too. Flash back to that phone call when I felt I couldn't handle one more day of it. And the Lord heard my desperate mommy cries as suddenly people began to share with me information on how food allergies can affect behavior.

Fast forward to the doctor looking up at me after testing my girl, "Wow! There is something about your family and gluten!" (Did you know allergies actually can be hereditary?) After a testing, she announced that my Adriana has a strong gluten allergy.

Now fast forward a second time to my daughter's life with gluten removed from her diet. Now that the substance that was wreaking hidden havoc on her little body is gone, guess what? Yep. The full-blow fits are gone. In the last couple of weeks, the two times (did you catch that I said TWO times) that she started to have a breakdown, I was able to reason with her. No glazed-over eyes; no full blown tantrum. She also begun to respond to correction. My sister that lived with us commented on how much happier Adriana seemed. It's like our own little miracle.

Some people have expressed their sympathy over our family's food allergies. But I'll tell you what, saying good-bye to lung infections, stomach pains, and major behavioral issues, I don't feel sorry for us. I feel incredibly grateful.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

A Single Snow Day

In typical Northern Virginia style, our one good snow of the year was preceded by a warm spring-like weather and followed by a day where the temperature melted our 8" of snow down to yard swamps. My son sat in awe as his Grammy explained that when she was growing up in Northern Michigan the snow wouldn't melt for five months. To him, it sounded to good to be true (to me it sounded like the kind of bad dreams I have after a chocolate binge before bed).

So they relished our one snow day; and we did it up with snow suits, a roaring fire, and, of course, hot chocolate.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

DTE & Things That Amuse Me

Today will look somewhat normal and calm in the life of the Sieb fam. And yet on this day, something that's kind of a big deal is happening for our family. As the international adoption world would put it, it's our official DTE date. And de-acronymizing that for you, it's our Dossier To Ethiopia date. From here on, our referral clock starts ticking; we're on a waiting list for our baby girl.

In the corners of my brain, I find myself trying to compare this to a typical pregnancy. It took me awhile to think how to look upon this. Maybe you could say that all that paper chase madness (which felt more like a part-time job...except I had to pay someone else) was like some sort of crazy fertility treatment, and this is like a conception date. Somehow I feel like I'm officially pregnant...only triple the gestational time and then skip the face-in-the toilet dates, ballooning body, and aches. And, just as with the first four pregnancies, sometimes when I think about the little person whose face I have yet to see my heart is already bursting with love.

Now on to things that amuse me right now...

First, Adriana is supposed to write a short composition for school every day. Today's topic was to write about what you would do if you were going to the moon. Normally, I require a longer composition; and we fix her spelling. But this I simply couldn't touch.

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Apparently, the moon is scary and can blow you away. Plus on an even more convincing note, the astronauts have to wear diapers. Nuff said.

And for your further humor enjoyment, my sister secretly took some video of my four-year-old nephew strumming on his guitar and singing his own original composition that we could title "Baby Jesus & Ava". Oh, and just because I needed this clarified. I was informed he was singing "He was strong" not "He was drunk".

Carter has taught Ava the virtues of Tow Mater and Ava has tested his safety patience with her daring antics. Ah, cousins.
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Monday, March 4, 2013

My Elijah {day 7}

In our family, dive-bombing is one of the ways we show our love...

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Elijah {day 6}

Late-night landings...

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Elijah {day 5}

According the monologue story I was hearing, the monster truck was about to shake up some unsuspecting drivers...

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