Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Gluten Free cooking in China

After grieving the loss of homemade bagels and pumpkin spice coffee creamer sent lugged in suitcases, I decided to put on my big girl pants and learn to cook gluten free in China. I could almost live on bread alone, so this has been quite a journey for me and my stomach. About a year and a half ago my stomach took an early retirement from all the things I was feeding it-straight up packed a bag and moved south. After exiting denial, I found that I've really enjoyed eating GF now. Doing this in China can be tricky, but not impossible. You just don't have to opportunity to spend $85 on a loaf of gluten free bread. You simply have to make it. 

A few of my favorite websites:

Tons of recipes that are relatively simply. I’ve been using sunflower seed oil instead of grapeseed oil (or any of the other specialty oils she uses) and it’s worked fine. I actually use sunflower oil for all my cooking. I noticed a huge improvement in my stomach issues when I switched oils. Even olive oil was causing me issues. I can find sunflower seed oil locally, but if you can't, I linked it to TB. 

Lots of Indian recipes. Friend, she even has one for paleo Naan. I'm gonna name a house plant after this woman. We’ve been into curries lately, and her website is a definite go to for us. 

There are millions of great GF websites now. These are just the two I've been using lately. Really and truly, once I got used to cooking this way, I’m able to take standard recipes and make them GF pretty easily. 

Here’s the almond flour I get off TB:

This is for about a 3 cup bag. I just order 6 at a time and they’ve stayed fresh for awhile. I usually use them within a month and have had no problems with them going bad. When we were in the States last fall, I used Honey Mill almond flour. This flour is a little denser, but still works great. 

I also like to use buckwheat flour (荞麦粉 qiao2 main fen3)It has a little bit of a nutty flavor, but it binds really well. I failed miserably with a buckwheat bagel because I put more buckwheat than almond flour. If you add too more buckwheat than other flours, your bagel will taste like shoelaces. Trust me. 

Almond flour is pretty pricey, so I usually try and cut the almond flour with another type of flour. When you’re cooking for 7, I can’t justify spending 100 kuai making muffins. But cutting the almond flour with buckwheat has been a good cost saving shortcut. I have a local friend who can bring it to me, but I imagine you can buy this on TB. It imagine you might be able to find it locally as it’s a pretty common flour in Asia. 

I’ve also cut recipes with millet flour (小米分 xiao3 mi3 fen3), sweet potato starch (use in small amounts 地瓜粉 did gua1 fen3), corn flour (玉米粉 yu4 mi fen3. Some places, this word is also used for cornstarch. You just have to look at the color and texture ), mung bean flour (绿豆粉 lv4 dou4 fen3)。 All of these I’ve found at local stores pretty easily. Mung bean flour also binds well, but has a little bit more of a beany flavor, so I just don’t add as much. Try and look for the character 纯 (chun2), as it will let you know that the flour is pure. I haven't found that to always be the case, but for the most part, it's accurate. Oftentimes these flours will be mixed with wheat flour or they will be almond flavored wheat flour. The Chinese words can be the same, which can get a little tricky. The 纯 character should help clear some of that up. 

When I make pancakes I use corn flour 2/3 and buckwheat flour 1/3 together. and they’ve turned out wonderfully. I throw in several mashed bananas, some eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, sometimes a little coconut milk and mix it into a batter. I have conformity issues, so very rarely do I stick to a recipe. It's a life long issue, I'm working on it. Kinda.

Soy sauce:

This is the bummer one with living here. But with these two sauces, I’ve really been able to make anything involving soy sauce. It made me super happy the day I found these on TB. I vividly remember sending texts to several people telling them what I found. These are both really big bottles. I do a lot of Chinese cooking, so I order a bunch at a time. They do have smaller bottles in the Braggs.  

Liquid Aminos. A lighter soy sauce flavor. 

  Tamari GF soy sauce. A little darker.

Tapioca Flour. (木薯淀粉  mu4 shut dian4 fen3) time I ordered a Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca flour Bob's Red Mill Tapioca Flour and loved it, but it’s too pricey. This one below is really more like a starch. You can find these at local stores pretty easily. I ordered this one on TB, but most of the time I just buy locally. Sometimes I use this as a filler, but only in small amount. It can make things a little pastey if you add too much. 

I’ve loved learning to cook with coconut milk. We’ve learned how to make awesome coffee ice cream. I also use it in my curries and add it to pancake batter to add some good fats. This TB store seems to be much cheaper than other places I’ve seen. 

Coconut flour:

I loved this flour. You pay a pretty price for that love though. All the other coconut flours I’ve found are more like coconut powdered drink. Because the Chinese is the same, it can be a ton of hit and miss finding these flours. 

Flaxseed (golden flaxseed: 黄金亚麻籽 huang2 jin1 ya3 ma2 zi3)

I just stick these seeds in my blender and turn them into flour. If you’ve ever cooked with whole wheat, think a similar texture when using flaxseed flour. It’s pretty coarse, so you don’t want to use a bunch. (you might already know all of these little suggestions. If so, just ignore me and take the links :) )You can sometimes find flaxseed at a local store that sells grains.

Both flaxseed and chia seed (soaked and ground) are good for binding things. This can be helpful as one of my daughters has an egg allergy. But sometimes you have to rely on science and use these egg replacers. They are gluten free, wheat free, no preservatives, artificial flavorings, sugar, or cholesterol because they are all chemicals. Awesome.

I would love to use chia seeds, but I haven’t found them affordable yet. I’ll let you know if I do.The tricky thing about GF baking is the binding. You can use Xanthan Gum to help it too, but I've found I don't often use it. 

Our whole family enjoys eating this way now. It took a little bit for me to learn how to cook so that my kids didn’t feel like they were missing out on everything. But now, they really do love it and even comment on how yucky they feel if they do eat wheat at a friend’s house. It really is hard at first, but stick with it. You will get there. Promise :)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015


I have had the honor of getting to write an article for the July issue of Global Missiology. This journal has worked with many groundbreaking thinkers that are pushing forward the conversation of missions and I'm thrilled to be a part of this edition.

I was asked to write an article peeling back the realities of a mom's role in the Great Commission. As a believer, a mom of 5 kids still has an integral role in the working out of Jesus' words to go to the nations and teach them to obey. This is a passion of mine because too often I see moms who are frustrated, bitter, resentful, and about to impale something. Hopefully we can bring some balance and health back to the expectations for moms. 

I attempted to begin the conversation HERE.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Guest Blogging at Overseas Mama: Language Learning Reminds me of Middle School

I had the honor of guest blogging today at  Overseas Mama today. Language learning as an overseas worker will throw you back to the middle school emotions of insecurity, fear, and general daily discomfort. Basically it makes you feel 14 again.

They've got some other great resources there too, so stay awhile.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

God gives us WAY more than we can handle

This morning I found myself simultaneously cooking 4 meals. Lunch for the husband and 2 kids, dinner for seven, chocolate granola bars for tomorrow's sale, lunch for our 20 person church. At one moment, my son asked me a question about his math problem and my daughter couldn't remember how to spell cylinder. While none of these things are monstrously stressful, the overwhelming few minutes of multi-tasking led me to a common motherhood mantra:

"God doesn't give me more than I can bear."

I whispered this "truth" to myself a few times as I stirred the peanut butter. Then I caught myself. I was comforting my mind with what feels like to be a Biblical truth but in fact is just a cute saying. While it might give me comfort in a moment, the truth is that it's not actually in the Bible. And if it's not in the Bible, I probably shouldn't be holding onto it with tight-fisted hope.

My hypothesis is that people are thinking of the verse that says,

"God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." (excerpt from 1 Cor. 10:13)

There is an important difference between the reading of these two verses.  The second verse is a glorious promise that we will never be crushed by temptation. God is faithful and will always provide a way of escape. He never leaves his children strangled by temptation.

In contrast, if we give into the idea that God doesn't give us more than we can bear, then when things get overwhelming we will look to eliminate tasks or people rather than introduce the strength of the Lord.  We will throw our arms up in the air to surrender and decide that never again are we having people over for dinner on a Tuesday night. Inadequacy and stress will capture our minds and we will forge our own defeat. At this point it's
important to frame inadequacy not as a defeat, but rather a rally call for the Lord to resume control.

Motherhood is a prime time to feel relentlessly self-sufficient. Rarely in a day does someone come up from behind you and offer to fold that laundry while you sip tea. Most of our day is wrapped in self-sufficient tasks that require us to man up. While our tasks require independence, the placement of our heart requires just the opposite. Our hearts need to lean into dependence on a Redeemer who has already claimed victory over every ridiculous sin our minds can think of.

God absolutely gives me more than I can handle. He gives us 5 children, homeschooling, cooking, working, being a wife, tragedies, broken arms, cultural missteps, frustrating land lords, and people who cut in line.

Feeling like we are sinking reveals that we have been swimming on our own for too long. The Lord wants to give us WAY more than we can handle so that we can see him show off, not just just show up. We need to treat God as not just our superhero that swoops down to save us in the nick of time. Instead, God is a King who has sent out an edict that says, "Don't worry, I've got this."

And that's a promise worth holding onto.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Being Pile-Driven by a Blind Masseuse

When you look at the price and decide that a $10 hour long massage sounds heavenly, you need to be prepared for the very earthly aspect of blind massage. There is no diffusing jasmine and new-age pan flute lulling you into pampered bliss. As you walk inside, you are greeted by young men forming loogies and old women yelling about their boils. There's no spa to it. You get a massage because your muscles are broken. That is all.

The first indication that this will not be relaxing is the fact that everyone is dressed in a white overcoat and are referred to as doctors. Most of the hour is spent with them commentating on much improvement your body needs. I once had a blind massage man who kept squeezing my arms and telling me it was obvious that I didn't exercise.

These amazing men and women have either complete blindness or severe sight loss and a very heavy hand.

After you lay down and situate your face in that bed hole the game begins. I explained to the doctor that I had tweaked my neck the night before and she replied, "Well, this is going to take at least an hour."

She took her sledge hammer thumbs and started working on my neck. It was so painful that my hands went numb. I tried avoiding unconsciousness by reminding myself to buy eggs on the way home. I couldn't let my pain eek out because I wanted my neck fixed. She was pushing so hard on the back of my neck that I inadvertently started humming as she violated my vocal cords.

The pain on the left side of my neck started to ease as I began to rhythmically breathe loudly like I was some sort of race horse anticipating the starting gun. My palms were sweating and I realized that I had been chewing on the bed sheet that was pressed against my face as I lay in the bed hole. Sometimes there is brief yelping as if you've stuck your foot in boiling hot tar.

At one point, I channeled my inner "Rudy" so as to not roll off the bed and run out screaming of the room. If Rudy could play football for Notre Dame, I could endure the rest of my massage.

It was now time for my lower back. She employed both her elbows and was poking me with her index finger as she made her way down each side of my spine. I'm pretty sure I felt my non-funcionting right kidney start working right there on the bed.

Then comes the rub/pound combination. This is how most Chinese massages end. They rub your back as if to console you. Then she does the traditional chop chop to your spine, pats you twice like you're in the locker room and tells you, "You're good!" Then you're on your way. Well, you're on your way if you are still able to use your legs to support your body weight. It took me about 2 minutes to get blood moving back into my legs. I took a dizzy exit to the cashier, paid my $10, and walked out pain free!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our Corners


They're inherently defined, small, and cozy.

Sometimes they're dusty, war torn, and full of last week's hash browns.

I've struggled with this blog corner for some time now (allowing the last post date to be the screaming confessor of this). I've struggled because it doesn't feel big enough or viral enough to keep writing. If I could just come up with some ultimate "Let it Go" parody that would go viral...again. Or if I could write something witty about how moms need to stop worrying about perfection, but start worrying about eating GMOs, then someone somewhere would say I'm awesome.

And if I'm honest, I spend many wasted minutes of my day trying to figure out how to get others to think I'm awesome.

Or at least interesting.

Or even just ridiculous.

I've been craving adjectives.

These last few months I've spent looking to my left and to my right. Really looking into my people and I've come to see that I've bought into the lie that I NEED to be noticed by the masses in order to have value. Andy Crouch at Christianity Today is spot on when he says that in the West we have evolved into a 'fame culture.' A culture where ministry success is weighted according to high attendance and large Twitter followings. We've created a place where name dropping and conference hoarding have become the litmus test for whether or not we are accepted into certain communities.

This is a shame.

A shame because there are shy, introverted, non-social media people who are crushing it for Jesus. But somehow it doesn't seem like enough unless you document it along the way. No longer is getting honor from the Lord enough. We need a collective pat on the back in order to feel validated in our ministries and lives.

This makes the philosophical part of me panic. Once we as a Christian culture start taking our cues on success from numbers and popularity, we begin making hasty decisions. When we feel like we've gotta hurry up or get left behind, there becomes very little room for long-suffering and endurance. Anonymity and service look like traits belonging to the outed kid on the dodgeball team. But over and over again, this is what Jesus was doing.

He was picking up the towel to scrap the junk off the disciples' feet.

He was turning his head and healing unpopular, outcasted women.

He picked a rag tag group of men to call friends.

And yet here we are as a culture.

I don't know what this will mean for writing here. For me, I'm turning off the comments and the followers tab. It's a self-imposed fence to keep out my ego.

We've each been given a corner. Big people, little people, angry people, flighty people, hurting people, dying people. People who need my adjective to be: humble, fierce person of prayer, gracious, loyal, full of faith.

I am to be faithful to my little corner. You are to be faithful to yours.

 Let's let that be enough for today.

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