Fig & Orange Honey Muffins

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There is something especially satisfying about using what you’ve got.

Like forgoing the store and layering together an outfit with a top you found in the corner of the closet, or decorating a shelf with your husband’s high school wood-shop work instead of purchased chotchkies, putting together a bouquet from sheds in the backyard, or making dressing for your salad with the lemon in the fruit basket that’s on its last day – instead of driving to the grocery store for a bottle of ranch.

Things feel richer… and lighter, when put together with some resourcefulness and creativity.

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And there are times you just need to put to good use the 40 ounce(!) bag of dried figs you bought from Costco. I must have been needing to replace and mourn the loss of the fig tree left behind at our previous home.

Last week, rotating groups of different mamas were at my house (talk about resourceful, these are the most capable people I know) – my mom, my youngest sis-in-law plus her mother-in-law, my dearest Austinite friends, Taylor and Leslie, who are both in the sweet trenches of adding a second baby to their families and have helped guide me with our first, plus a Small Group of new moms from church. We had these muffins together, crumbs dropping onto soft, bouncing baby heads, and it was sweet.

“For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.” EPHESIANS 2:10

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Fig & Orange Honey Muffins (makes one dozen)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat white flour
  • 1 cup whole oats
  • 1/4 sugar (regular or coconut sugar works well)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yogurt, whole milk yogurt preferably
  • 1/2 cup liquid of choice (nut milk, regular milk, water)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • one orange, zested *(use a bit of the juice directly over chopped figs to keep the pieces from sticking together)
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

For topping:

  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Grease or line muffins tins.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.
  • Add yogurt, milk, honey, dried figs, orange zest, oil, vanilla, and egg to the well you formed in the flour mixture. Combine wet ingredients well, and then fold into flour mixture without over mixing.
  • Scoop batter into muffin tins. Combine sliced almonds and turbinado sugar and distribute evenly over batter.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes, or until wooden pick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean.

Notes:

*Squeeze some of the juice from the orange directly over the chopped figs to keep the pieces from sticking together.

**These muffins must be served with softened butter. Gotta have it!

Cleaning Up My Skincare Routine

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Call me non-committal, but I do not fall squarely in the new-years-resolution-making camp nor the anti-resolution camp. However; there are some things I want to get done in 2015 – like learn more than 4 functions on my DSLR camera, memorize that Wife of Noble Character goodness in Proverbs 31, and continue to streamline the products we use in our home to be as clean and chemical-free as possible.

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If I let them, my skincare products can get a little too wild under the bathroom sink. I have refined my day and nighttime routine to a handful of clean products that I will buy over and over, instead of trying every new potion that comes on the market this year.

I look for products that are fragrance free, use as few sulfates and parabens as possible, and are reasonably affordable – splurging on items that sit on your face for a long time (ie: moisturizer).

DSC_1234Of all the skincare products I tried in 2014, these are the ones that made the cut:

  1. Ole Henricksen African Red Tea Foaming Cleanser – deep cleans without drying my skin, anti-aging ingredients like red-tea, fresh citrus scent (Tim even borrows this one – maybe because it’s fun to see the foam pour out).
  2. Everyone Face Exfoliate for Everyday – packed with tiny exfoliating beads, enzymes from pineapple and papaya fruit also exfoliate and brighten, gentle enough for every day use.
  3. Caudalie Cleansing Water – this feels like cleansing/toning your skin with flavored spa water.
  4. Boots No. 7 Expert Sensitive Light Moisturizing Lotion – bargain alert; light yet fully hydrating with zero scent, so I can add essential oils or this if I need extra moisturizing…
  5. Aura Cacia Sweet Almond Oil with Vitamin E – I use this on extra dry skin (feet and hands), mix it in to body and face lotion, and use as a carrier to create essential oil blends.
  6. Mario Budesco Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater – any excuse to spray this on my face and neck and I do; after moisturizing, before bed, on top of make-up, after a sweaty walk, I’ll even dab on Lambert’s baby acne with a q-tip and it clears right up.
  7. FixMySkin Healing Balm – the only balm that heals and prevents the cracks and irritation I get around my mouth (during stressful times, pregnancy, winter…), I don’t leave home without it.
  8. Eminence Tomato Sun Cream – splurge-worthy because of the purity of the organic, nutrient-rich ingredients (tomato extract, chestnut, aloe, citrus oil), sun protecting AND correcting (ie: sun spots under my eyes fading fast), also healing for blemishes. A little goes a very long way. The scent! I want to eat it and bath in it at the same time. If I have to pick a favorite skincare item, this is it.
  9. Alaffia Everyday Coconut Super Hydrating Lotion – this one had me at coconut, and was on sale at Whole Foods, so I gave it a try and am now on my second huge bottle. This is the every day, all-over lotion. I really like the price since I use it by the pump-full (makes up for the Tomato Cream ), and the light coconut scent from the actual coconut oil in the product.

Cranberry-Maple Waldorf Salad

If your camera roll reflects what matters most, then prior to July 25, 2014, dog faces and pretty produce topped my list of favorite things. When I opened the camera roll to upload these photos of cranberries and such, my focus had clearly changed… their is a baby that now monopolizes just about all of my waking (and some of the sleeping) hours. She has taken claim to the majority of my thoughts and ramblings, triggered about a million extra prayers that constantly flow in thankfulness and pleading for her well-being, my Google searches are less recipe-hunting, more “how to protect an infant from germs on a plane…”, and certainly and most definitely the camera roll is now dominated by her little peach of a face.

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Back to the cranberries.

I bet Lambert loves them one day.

But really the cranberries…

DSC_1011There are only so many things you can do with a fresh cranberry, and I want to use them for all they’re worth during their short season. This is my second Costco-sized bag, and my 3rd version of this salad. Have it by itself, or add chicken for a festive holiday salad sandwich. It’s tart and crunchy and forgiving, so a little more of this or that depending on what you have in your frig will work.

Here’s to front-loading your Christmas Eve with something light and fresh in order to make way for the feast ahead!

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Currently cooking at our house for Christmas… in order of my 3-day-long cooking to-do list:

Better Homes and Gardens’ Five-Minute Fudge (done. made. sitting in the frig with a spoon-full missing.)

Jack Allen’s Pimiento Cheese (a snack for kitchen hover-ers)

Wilton’s Roll-Out Cookie (don’t skip the almond extract!)

The Pioneer Woman’s Lasagna (for Christmas Eve – tried and true, no fail)

Jack Allen’s Jalapeno Cornbread Dressing

Old-Fashioned Ham with Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze

Jack Allen’s Sweet Potato Bourbon Gratin

Martha Stewart’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Butter

The Pioneer Woman’s Southern Biscuits (actually bought lard for these. what!?)

The Pioneer Woman’s Caramel Appie Pie (made this a month ago and my parents requested it again for Christmas… I add cinnamon and don’t even worry about using the caramel)

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Cranberry-Maple Waldorf Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup fresh cranberries, quartered
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 large celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 honeycrisp apple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (Nancy’s, whole milk yogurt is my all time favorite)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice
  • a healthy pinch of salt

*I like a quarter-inch dice on the produce, so all of the ingredients fit onto your spoon for the perfect bite every time!

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients (add the orange juice directly onto the chopped apple to prevent browning), mix well, and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Packing & Snacking: Coconut Chia Pudding

Coconut_Chia_Seed_PuddingHave you tried this before? (Chia seed pudding – Not the packing, remodeling, and moving at 30+ weeks pregnant – I don’t recommend that for sane people.) If you’re a pudding person, believe in powers of the mighty chia seed, or want a science experiment of making a seed turn to jello – check out how easy this is. I like the taste and texture, and the polka dots, and the Omega 3’s for my preg brain.

DSC_0540I’ve tested this with several types of milk, and in many different ratios of liquid to chia seed. The healthy fat content in the light coconut milk works best, imparts the best flavor on the plain chia seeds, and keeps a creamy, jello-y texture for the longest period of time in the frig. This pudding is a breakfast, snack, or dessert kind of thing.

Packing up the computer now!…

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Coconut Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 13.5 oz. can light coconut milk (unsweetened, with as few added ingredients is best)
  • 1/3 cup raw chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt (I’m into the White Mountain Whole Milk Bulgarian yogurt lately)
  • sweetener of choice (a teaspoon or two of honey or maple syrup works well)

Directions:

Place all ingredients into a medium size bowl, whisk well, the seeds like to form packs. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, stir pudding to break up any pods of chia seeds, and top with whatever you fancy! Lasts several days in the frig.