Kombucha: Sweet Tea for the Crunchy

Sweet tea is a staple in most Texas/Southern restaurants and homes. When Robert and I were first married, we had a pitcher of it in the frig at all times. Breakfast was the only meal we didn’t drink it with, and that was only because we were drinking hot tea first thing in the morning. You wouldn’t even think of not having sweet iced tea available for dinner guests, but it wasn’t just a mealtime drink. Many an afternoon there would be a trip to Sonic or Bill Miller BBQ drive-thru to order a large sweet tea – a craving and the seemingly perfect relief from those sweltering Texas summer afternoons.

Same thing in Oklahoma where we lived for 4 years prior to our 2000 mile move to New England in 1999. Except I think it was even sweeter there – almost like syrup, if you ask me.

Well, then I started reading up on the stuff that makes tea sweet – white sugar. I suspected it was the culprit in the extreme fatigue I was feeling, and ended up being convinced I should remove it from my diet. That meant the cookies, brownies, etc. we had for dessert almost every day, but it also meant that the sweet tea had to go. (I’ve never been a big soda drinker, but even gave up the occasional Coke.) I began drinking nothing but water at meals and during the day, and using agave or maple syrup in my morning hot tea. (Agave is sweeter than sugar, so you can use less, and it has a lower glycemic index. It does have the same amount of calories, though. Maple syrup is actually the best sweetener nutritionally.) I could tell a huge difference in my energy levels, and without meaning to, I lost about 25 pounds in a fairly short amount of time. (I think this also had to do with my undiagnosed Celiac Disease and malabsorption issues. Sugar, I think, was the only way I was keeping weight on at that time. I certainly wasn’t absorbing much from actual food!)

After all of these discoveries, and more reading, I began to make a lot of changes to my diet – taking out gluten (because of the diagnosis of an intolerance), dairy, a lot of starchy carbs, and most all processed foods. I also began to add a lot of things – nuts and nut butters, fish, lots of salads, and other greens, hummus, fruit and fruit smoothies, eggs, and more veggies. I have never felt better physically, and really enjoy learning more about nutrition and its connection to health.

Two summers ago, our family visited another pastor’s family in Connecticut. The wife is a native Texan, the husband and kids have Celiac Disease, they homeschool, had a bat and rabies shots experience like we did…..just many strange similarities to our family. One of which was that Sandy, the pastor’s wife, had been using the cookbook Nourishing Traditions quite a lot to preserve food from her garden by fermentation. I also had the cookbook, and had become interested in the same type of ideas. She asked me if I had ever made or tried Kombucha, and expressed interest, but some reservation in attempting to make it herself. And the “smelly, rotting, mushroom” she described as being involved in the process definitely lessened my passion to venture into making this “magic elixir.” I pictured a black, hairy, octopus-looking, mushroom in a bowl of its own rotting juices covered in cheesecloth and creating a huge stench in my kitchen. I was becoming “crunchy” for sure, but that was just too much “organic” for me.

A while later, my sister began talking about drinking bottled Kombucha from her Austin, TX Whole Foods store and raving about it. Next, my friend Kim mentioned picking some up at our local Whole Foods and that it drinking it gave her a very healthful feeling. Then, I noticed it for sale at our CSA farm by a local company. OK. Enough exposure and prodding…..time to give it a try. The $3.50 price tag and the initial sour smell upon opening a bottle were worrisome, but the taste was wonderful, and the feeling after drinking it was enough to keep me going back for more. I drank a bottle the day before the half-marathon, and a few sips the morning of – convinced it was going to give my digestive system an extra boost and keep my stomach from getting upset near the end of the run. At dinner the night before, I picked up a magazine introducing a new line of vitamins and supplements, took it back to our hotel, and found it to also include a two-page article on ……Kombucha! Why is this drink so delicious, trendy, and healthful? And is it really the by-product of a rotting mushroom?

The article listed many of the beneficial properties of Kombucha, and while it lamented the price per 2-serving bottle, ($3 – $5) it suggested that it might be worth the investment so that you don’t have to deal with the gross-ness of making it at home. The author described the Kombucha mushroom as “slimey” and “booger-like!”

My interest in making it was not completely squelched, though. Robert was out-of-town for a speaking engagement last weekend, and as is my usual pattern, I stayed up way too late at night doing all sorts of things. One night I spent a couple of hours researching Kombucha recipes online, and watching YouTube videos of multiple Kombucha cult-members making their own – and making it look so easy. Here’s what I found out:

1. Kombucha is nothing but fermented sweet tea – perfect for the Texan turned crunchy! (And the sugar gets “eaten” by the yeast, etc. during the fermentation process.)
2. The ingredients are water, sugar, black and green tea, and a Kombucha culture.
3. The “mushroom” is not a REAL mushroom, but rather a “scoby” or a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” (And it’s white or light brown – not black and hairy!)
4. You can order a pre-formed scoby or make one yourself.
5. Kombucha is really good for you with its probiotic, anti-microbial, and detoxifying properties.

Here’s a photo of the mushroom floating on top of the fermenting Kombucha:


So yesterday, I finished gathering my supplies, and started the Kombucha making process at home. Since I did not order a mushroom to add to my tea solution, I needed to grow my own. This just means that I added a bottle of already made Kombucha to my tea. Over the course of a couple of weeks, one should form on the top of my tea, and I will be able to use it in future batches. The mushroom or scoby is also referred to as the “mother” since every time you use it to make a new brew, it has a “baby.” This can be passed on to your Kombucha making friends (of which I’m sure you have MANY), or kept and added along with its mother to a new batch. They can also be frozen or stored in the refrigerator, which causes them to go dormant, but will revitalize again at room temperature.

So basically, you bring a gallon of water to an almost-boil. Add one cup of….yes, white sugar (can be organic, of course), and 4-6 black and green tea bags. Organic tea is good to use here, too, as conventional teas sometimes contain chemicals that will kill the needed bacterias in the solution. Let the tea steep about 15 minutes, remove tea bags and let sit until the tea is cooled to room temperature – too much heat will also kill those organisms. After it cools, pour into a glass gallon container, add one bottle of pre-made kombucha tea, cover with cloth and secure with a rubberband or tie of some sort. This will need to sit undisturbed, in a fairly warm place for up to 2 weeks. One demonstration I watched had the tea sitting on a heating pad for that duration. The ideal temperature for the process is between 70 and 80 degrees. I placed mine in the cabinet above our refrigerator which always stays warm with the heat given off by the frig. You can tell the tea is ready by its semi-sweet taste, vinegar smell, and effervescence. Bottling it and/or keeping it in the frig for a few days with increase the effervescence.

Another thing that is really important to remember is to sterilize all equipment you use in making the brew – saucepan, spoon, glass container, your own hands, etc. I washed all mine in very hot soapy water, and then rinsed in boiling water, and dried the outsides with a clean dishcloth. If mold happens to form anywhere in the solution, the entire batch needs to be thrown away.

I’ll try and keep you posted on the progress….

One of the most healthful acids produced in this process is glucoronic acid. This is also produced by our own livers as a detoxifying agent in our bodies. It is extremely helpful to have extra amounts of glucoronic acid to combat the many toxins we eat and inhale each day. Kombucha also contains lactic acid and acetic acid which are both responsible for reducing pH and eliminating pathogens in the body. And these are only a few of its amazing properties. I read several accounts of cancer patients using it with success, and the maker of the store bought brand began bottling it because of his mother’s reversal of cancer while drinking it.

It’s good stuff, y’all! Makes my crunchy Texas heart happy and my New England body feeling good!

Stayed tuned for the final result….

Half-Marathon Wows and Whoas

So, we ran our half-marathon a week ago Sunday, and I have hardly given it another thought since that day – unless someone asked about it. Don’t know why I do this – work so hard toward a goal, train, pray, read up on, get anxious over -finally perform the task and then nonchalantly go on with life as usual without pausing to celebrate or even consider what just happened. Recently though, Robert has been preaching through the book of Joshua, and in it God commands the Israelites to do exactly those 2 things: celebrate and consider, or as Robert put it – be mindful of the “the wow,” and “the whoa.”
Brett and Jenna – sweet friends from church – and running partners!

I don’t plan (or desire) to celebrate by throwing myself a congratulatory party, but I have been trying to celebrate in my heart and mind – which each have a terrible tendency to focus on negative things, tasks incomplete, areas of struggle, worries, problems, what ifs, etc. So instead of those things…..”wow” things: I just ran 13.1 miles! That was the goal I was working toward! That is an accomplishment! That takes strength and stamina, and I did it!”

And the “whoa” part is stopping to consider what just happened: The Lord cared about my desire to run a half-marathon with my husband. He fully healed a hip problem I was having (leftover childbirth injury!) that prevented me from running for several weeks and finally sent me to the physical therapist. He also heard and answered the many prayers for my stomach that was getting pretty sick on the longer runs all through training. ( I thought I might have to bow out of the race when the time came because of the severe sickness.) Not only did I have no stomach problems the day of the race, I also realized that He showed me exactly what to eat the day before and morning of the race. I had tried all sorts of eating/not-eating routines with no success, but ended up trying something a little different the weekend of the race which involved rice cakes, almond butter, a banana, Indian food, and Kombucha. (More on this new fascination later!) The point is that God was in it, leading me, listening to me, speking to me, revealing Himself to me even regarding something as trivial as a half-marathon! After all, no one needs to run a half-marathon. But still, He cares….He was there with me……Whoa!

After the Race – quickly using the camera’s self timer – we were freezing!

It was such a fun and memorable experience – and so I try to recall and be thankful for….the cold and rain, Jenna’s absolute steady 10 minute pace that kept me going, a chance to chat and catch up with her, a night away with my husband, dinner at Whole Foods, his big hug and smile from him upon finding me at the finish, his coat to stop my shivering, being so thankful for the cap I bought in case it rained (it was dripping by the end), Brett’s gifts of Gu packs for Robert (those make me REALLY sick) and the seat warmers that he tried to keep secret, seeing the full marathon winner come in just minutes behind us, the wonderful GPS that got us to the Cook’s home, a warm shower, hanging out with friends for lunch, the ability to drink coffee on the way home with Robert (couldn’t even think about coffee when I was getting sick), the huge snowflakes and all-out snow storm that hit as we left for home, and 3 happy children because of Sarah and Conner’s fun and indulgent babysitting techniques, ibuprofen, a comfy mattress and electric blanket to drift help me drift off to sleep that night. Lots of “wows” and “whoas.” His gifts are so good. I pray I would practice this thinking more and never take for granted His presence and His help.

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”

Lamentations 3:21-24


The Neighborhood Paper Boy and His Faithful Assistant

A few weeks ago, we got a call from Kory’s paper route supervisor informing us that the local newspaper was planning to hire an outside company to do deliveries. The new company’s policy is to hire only those 18 and older. Bob, the supervisor, apologized and congratulated Kory on his years of faithful service. He also assured us that Kory would still get a portion of the promised college scholarship for those who keep their routes at least 5 years. With 3 years and 4 months of service, that comes to $680 (which might cover books for one semester!) to be paid out upon receipt of the college’s letter of acceptance – it would have been $1000 if he had been able to complete the 5 years.

We were all pretty sad to receive the news that Kory would be losing his route. Because of his job, he had managed to save $1000 in his own savings account, as well as keep a checking account complete with debit card which is handy for making iTunes and other online purchases – sweet independence for any teenager! Fortunately, his customers were even more grieved than he was, and he managed to bring in over $250 in tips just this week after he notified them of the coming changes. And not only tips, but also many kind notes of thanks and appreciation.

I have to include a couple of the notes he received here. They are just so sweet and funny – and even full of social commentary!

Dear Kory,

I am very sorry (and annoyed) by the Gazette’s decision to end the boy+man delivery route in favor of a company. It leaves a lot of people like you in the lurch.

Thank you for all the service you have given me over a long period of time. I appreciate your hard work – snow, rain, and other storms didn’t stop you.

Best wishes for the future, Mrs. B

Dear Kory,

The enclosed is just a token of my appreciation for your prompt delivery of my newspaper.

I think it is very sad that you and your fellow deliverers won’t be doing it anymore. It takes away the neighborhood feeling we have enjoyed.

Sincerely, Mrs. B

And last, but by far the most thorough and thoughtful … 🙂

Dear Kory,

Together all of us “face the end of another era” – through no fault of any of us. Many of us are giving up kicking and screaming to no avail. (A lesson….things change – like it or not – no matter what one does!)

We have particularly valued having you – a neighbor – as our “paper boy.” They are “the natural part” of our lives – and then suddenly – they disappear from our lives as they lose their jobs. As a sociologist – who is seeing more and more “natural” connections disappearing in our society – I worry about what that does to how people interact – or not – and care – or not – for one another. This worries me on a larger scale than just our immediate neighborhood.

Anyway, I want to thank you for doing your job so well. We never could figure out how you managed to deliver our paper – opening a door – about 20 feet from our ears – and never awakening us! Truly magic! And – mornings when we caught a glimpse of you – and Buddy (now and then) on your trek – always started our day with a feeling that all was right in the world – at least for a few minutes, anyway.

We hope that you will find something to take the place of being a paper boy and that, now and then we might get to see you and catch up on your life. Maybe the dogs in our lives will keep us somewhat attached!

We send a few dollars to give you spending money until you can find new “work” – and to thank you for sharing your time with us in the past.

Best wishes – take care – and keep in touch when that is possible. Cheers, Mrs. W

I feel sorry for the Gazette with these earnest ladies on their hands. I can only imagine the phone calls they have gotten just from Kory’s route! I wonder if the employees of the new company will also pick up the customers’ New York Times that simply gets thrown in their driveway and hand deliver it along with the Gazette to their front door? Or if they will separate the paper into sections, fold each section into thirds and pass each third through the mail slot of a certain house? I wonder how long it will take them to master the art of opening the glass door just enough to drop the paper between it and the wooden door without letting the paper fall to pieces in the process?

And I KNOW they will not be as adorable as a freckled 14 year old boy, newspaper satchel over his shoulder, and golden retriever leading the way!

(My goodness… now I’m in tears. It is just so sad! At least he has an appointment with one of the Mrs. B’s for some pet siting and other odd jobs which he offered in his goodbye note to all his customers. Hopefully we’ll keep some of these precious connections.)

Gluten Free Friday – Homemade Crackers

I learned to make these crackers at a “gluten free day” at a local health food store. I was asked to be a vendor that day with my book, and there were many other vendors serving all kinds of yummy gluten free foods. Another part of the day was a cooking demonstration by Ingrid Lysgaard, a Danish-born pastry chef who recently, ( I believe) discovered a gluten intolerance in herself. I think she has even been a “pastry professor” at Boston University, and Boston Globe food correspondent. She made these crackers right before our eyes, and had small “favor” bags of different versions/flavors of this recipe for each person to have and try. They were delicious, and of course, she made it look so easy!

Well, it’s really not that difficult, and you can’t beat the price when a small sleeve of rice crackers can cost over $3! Here is the recipe for a version I made recently – sort of a combination of a few of her recipes. They go great with hummus or cheese!

Homemade Garlic and Herb Gluten Free Crackers

2 cups GF flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder or 2 Tbsp fresh garlic
6 Tbsp butter
1/4 + 2 Tbsp water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Use a food processor to combine flour, sugar, salt, cumin, and garlic. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add water while machine is still running. Stop when dough turns into a soft ball. It should be soft, not sticky. (And, of course, you don’t HAVE to use a food processor – you can do it the “old-fashioned” way by cutting in the butter, kneading with fingertips, etc.) Place dough onto greased cookie sheet and press or roll out to 1/8 – 1/16 inch thick. Pierce rolled dough with fork tines. Cut crackers to desired shape and size. Bake for about 20 minutes, watching closely to make sure they don’t burn. Remove any crackers early that are browning too soon. Let cool on a wire rack. Store in airtight container or in the freezer.

Gluten Free Friday – Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

This recipe appeared in a 2004 issue of Real Simple magazine. I’ve made it several times through the years, but only recently felt that I tweaked the recipe enough to make a good gluten free version. I love making it to go with soups – especially Minestrone. It is also great as a side dish for other meals, on an appetizer platter, or toasted for breakfast! It is the perfect combination of sweet and savory! (And it’s dairy free, too!)

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

2 1/2 cups GF flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup apple cider (juice or sweet white wine will work also!)
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
zest of one lemon – optional

Stir together flour, sugar, walnuts, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder, rosemary and lemon zest. In another bowl, blend the cider, olive oil, and eggs together. Stir into dry ingredients. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Use a toothpick or fork to test for “done-ness” before removing from oven. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. Makes 1 loaf. Freezes well.

* If you don’t have, or just don’t like using xanthan gum, you can increase the eggs or oil or both by a bit.

A Special Birthday

So much has been happening here that I want to blog about….field trips to wind turbines and apple orchards, visitors from Texas, football games, back to school stuff, half marathon training, etc., but this event was so special that I’m skipping over lots of things for now to give you a peek into our church’s 10th Anniversary weekend.
I can hardly believe that 10 years has passed since we left Oklahoma and a thriving college ministry to follow this church planting call. Kory turned 4 years old on that trip north, Cooper was 2 – still sucking on a pacifier because we wanted a peaceful road trip, and Kayla wasn’t really even a figment! This strange land is now their home, and it is also where Robert and I have spent the majority of our married years.

And though this past year has been the most difficult one of all – emotionally, physically, spiritually; the celebration that recently took place reminded us of the Lord’s purposes in it all. We have been SO blessed to call Mercyhouse our church and family these last 10 years.

The weekend began with a coffee house in our “basement cafe” complete with live guitar music and coffee and pastry bar. We weren’t able to attend, but Laura and Ben always do such a great job creating a true “coffee house” feel!

On Saturday morning Michelle G. organized an alumni brunch. The decorations and food were amazing, but even better was the chance to catch up with current and “old” church members. Pictured above is Emily and new baby G! Emily graduated from Smith College and was a part of our church during her years there. She married Sean, a UMass grad, and they all traveled from Boston/Cambridge to be a part of the weekend. Sean used to play drums in the worship band with a big smile on his face, and for a whole year they served together in the church kitchen creating the most delicious and creative lunches for the weekly “after church lunch.”

Cindy, Kim, and I got to catch up over brunch as well. Cindy has been with us many years, and is our current worship leader extraordinaire. Kim was a UMass grad who received Christ through the influence of a few friends there. She was baptized shortly after with our church, and remains a special friend of mine. She was houseguest extraordinaire – helping me clean and prepare for lunch at our house after church. Kim is a physician’s assistant (PA) after surviving a few grueling years of PA school on Long Island, and serves as a surgery assistant in a Boston area hospital.
Tony and Jill were a part of the original small group of students that made up our church. I remember Tony juggling and doing magic tricks for a fall carnival we did for local families. He is now married to Heather and expecting baby #2 as well as working on his PhD at Brown University. Jill traveled from Seattle, WA to be a part of the weekend – only because the Lord caused a business trip to Guatemala to be postponed! She is working as an architect there. The weekend wouldn’t have been the same without her. (More on that later!) And finally…Lois! We have known and loved Lois since she was 17 years old and a youth in our Austin, TX church youth group. Lois has only been here one year less than us. Robert was quick to recruit her to join us in this church planting adventure because of her servant-hearted-ness, and ability to lead and love young women through many issues of faith and life.
Later in the evening there was a spectacular worship concert featuring 3 different bands – the two that rotate Sundays at Mercyhouse and one that plays for a recent church plant – Vita Nova. It was an amazing time of worship and celebration. A live recording was done, and everyone is “chomping at the bit” to get their hands on the coming CD! The musicians at our church never cease to amaze me with their talent and absolute humility before the Lord.
Sunday morning’s worship service topped it all off with a huge crowd because of the combined services, and several extra-special testimonies of how the Lord had used the church in their lives by some extra-special folks.
Jill (from Seattle) started us off by getting everyone to laugh and then cry. She surveyed the crowd for their respective campuses and life stages. Upon seeing the hands from the 5 different local colleges, she recalled being on each of those campuses 1o years ago – prayer walking with the 10-12 other church members as we were just beginning. Praying for the dorms and those who would fill them, the classrooms, and those who would study in them. She told of the family that Mercyhouse was to her upon the news of her parents being in a serious motorcycle accident in which both had legs amputated. She celebrated God’s faithfulness to answer prayer, and she encouraged everyone present to not miss the opportunity to grow in Christ and be part of a church family.
Next, Ryan, who was a college student in our ministry in Oklahoma, shared about his family’s recent arrival here, and opportunity to plant a church out of Mercyhouse. The name of this new church plant is Valley Church and will be located in a neighboring college town. The Lord has already used he and his wife Christie to reach out to so many. In less than 6 months or so, they had such a large mid-week home group, that they had to split. Now with 3 groups, they have a strong and eager core of folks ready to launch their first public service this coming Easter.
Justin and Rebecca traveled from Brooklyn, NY to be with us. Justin is a high school math teacher also working on his PhD, and Rebecca, who is expecting their first child, has worked for a non-profit in NYC for several years. They gave a tag-team testimony of how they each came to faith through our church. Rebecca had grown up in a Unitarian church which upheld and patched together many faiths, excluding Christianity, for the most part. Justin had grown up in a church, but had, as a teenager, declared himself an agnostic. They beautifully wove together their story, in which Justin always likes to recall the Bible study he attended “in the pastor’s bedroom.” (Hey, we just ran out of rooms for groups! Not a bad problem to have.) They are now part of a church plant in the NYC area called Mosaic. We miss them dearly, but know they are considered priceless in their new church home.
Lastly, Sarah C. shared about arriving at UMass as a “brand new believer with a devil-worshiping roommate.” She immediately met another student, John D., who was helping with our plant and quickly became an integral part of the church. She was close to Jessica Sachs, whom our church lost to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and recounted Jessica’s passion for Christ and for Mercyhouse. She also described a season of praying with a friend from church and UMass for the friend’s prodigal boyfriend. In pure God-like fashion, that prodigal boyfriend returned to the Lord, and to our church, and Sarah married him! Now, she and Nate are the pastor and wife of the first church plant out of Mercyhouse called Vita Nova. They have now been meeting for a year, and growing like crazy. They also have two adorable children – which makes me feel especially old since Sarah was present at Kayla’s birth as a young college single lady!
Robert’s choice to preach through the book of Joshua fit quite well with our anniversary celebration. The week prior, he taught through the passage in which the instructions are given for crossing the Jordan. The Israelites were also commanded to take stones from the river and build an altar. They were also told to take stones with them – as a remembrance and as cause for curiosity amongst the children. When children asked what the stones were for, the adults were to recount the miracle God performed in parting the waters at the Jordan just as He had done at the Red Sea.

Ready with stones purchased from our local farmer’s supply store, Robert stacked them up one by one, and recounted the “stones” and “milestones” upon which our church has been built. They are:

1. The Gospel: Jesus’ grace and forgiveness on the cross for us all
2. Our Marriage: “The red-hot love affair with that woman in the front row.” (I got flowers in the service and a new James Avery double-heart bracelet at home!)
3. The Core: those first 12 or so crazy folks brave enough to join us
4. The Staff: Lois, Cindy, Elaine, Kristen, Nate, Ryan
5. The Opening Up of the 5 Colleges: access to all of them through a few special students
6. Momentum: the growth in numbers and move from the Jones Library to Stirn Auditorium
7. Families: the growing marriages and children in the church
8. The Building: God’s miraculous provision to purchase a 1 million dollar property
9. Finances: The Lord’s continuous provision in spite of being a church of 20-somethings
10. Church Planting: the vision and the realization of multiplying congregations to reach the pioneer valley

After the sermon, there was a special time of prayer by some Mercyhouse “oldies” and one “newbie.” Jill, Steve, and Abbie (and Dan, too – who I somehow chopped our of this pic) are all almost original and founding members of the church. They each prayed, thanking God for His incredible faithfulness, and asking for His continuous presence and provision. Brett, the newbie, was kind in his prayer of thanks for the Krumrey family and request to continue God’s protection and provision for us.
Tracy and Sarah – our wonderful announcement and follow-up ladies – surprised Robert with a birthday cake to close the service. I think he got all the candles blown out in one try, and then Tracy urged everyone to stop by for a “to-go box/cup” and fork for the ride home.

Of course, there is so much more to tell and so MANY of you that we missed last weekend!

And I have to say that (second to Jesus, of course) my husband is my hero in all of this. Were it not for his humble submission to the Lord, I don’t believe our church would be what it is. He is truly the most incredible, wise, passionate, caring, humble AND handsome 🙂 pastor I know. His undying and sincere desire to share the gospel and see it transform lives amazes me on a daily basis. And in the midst of the heavy responsibility the church often is, he prioritizes me and the kids above it all. I am blessed. Our church is blessed.

(And I let him read this post BEFORE I added this section – didn’t want any protests!)

It was an incredible weekend of celebrating the faithfulness and grace of Christ, and I thank Him for the privilege and blessing of being a part of it all.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20

One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And He said to him, “
“This is the great and foremost commandment.”
“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:35-40

Gluten Free Friday: Apple Picking = Apple Crisp

The kids and I have been apple picking twice in the last month. Once with dear friends and visitors from Texas, and once on a homeschool field trip. I think I have made a total of 5 apple crisps since then for various occasions. You just can’t beat it served warm with ice cream on a fall New England evening! I’ve posted this recipe before, (I really need to create a recipe index on this blog!) but I just had to post it again along with some apple-picking photos!
We also got to pick pumpkins at the Red Apple Barn!
Jack will go to great heights to get the best apples!
(Jack also fixed my apple-peeler/corer/slicer so that I could more easily mass-produce this dish!)
The newlyweds under the apple tree!

Hopefully, I’ll get around to posting more photos from our recent visitors and outings, but there have been SO MANY visitors and outings, there has been no time for blogging!
Miss you Jack and Kelly!

Apple Crisp

4-6 medium peeled, sliced, tart apples
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup GF flour
1/2 cup oats (Use Bob’s Red Mill GF Oats, Lara’s GF Rolled Oats, or use a crushed GF cereal in their place.)
3/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg (I use less.)
1/3 cup softened butter

Butter a square baking dish. (8 in.) Place apple slices in dish. Mix remaining ingredients, and sprinkle over apples. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is golden brown.

This recipe doubles and triples easily. Sometimes I make double the topping for a more crusty dessert. To make it “gluten-full” just use regular oats and regular white flour or whole wheat flour. I simply substituted GF ingredients where needed.

Gluten Free Friday – Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip

I remember being introduced to this dish quite a few years ago as an appetizer at a restaurant and really being surprised at how good it was. Years later, my kids had the same experience…as an appetizer at a restaurant….and surprisingly delicious, even to them. So, I decided to try and make it myself this week as a contribution to the weekly potluck dinner at my house for our couple’s small group Bible study. I served it with crackers and tortilla chips, and it seemed to be enjoyed by most. Unfortunately, it is FULL of dairy, so those with lactose problems won’t want to indulge. There was only a small amount left over, which my kids ate for lunch the next day!

This recipe will fill a 10 inch pie dish and serve probably about 15 as an appetizer.

Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip

2 8oz packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup Parmesan/Romano blend cheese
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 14oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup grated mozzarella

Mix together cream cheese, sour cream, Parm./Rom. cheese, garlic, basil, garlic powder in medium bowl. Fold in spinach and artichokes. Spread into greased baking dish, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and bake at 350* for 25-30 minutes until bubbly and browned.