Coconut Sugar Lemon Curd on Gluten-Free Basil Shortbread

Coconut Sugar Lemon Curd On Gluten-Free Basil Shortbread

Tim and I woke up screaming in the middle of the night last week. I didn’t check the clock when it happened, but it must have been 2 or 3 AM, the only noise the hum of our air filter, the only light our neighbor’s driveway flood lamp. Even with our blinds closed, the flood light still filters in, our unavoidable night-light while we sleep; we’ve said many times that we should buy drapes to make the room darker, but, two years in, we haven’t. The first thought I had was, I’m screaming! The second was, Tim’s screaming! He’d been having a nightmare, his explanation came out in a slow mumble. In the midst of it, he was about to fall off the bed, bringing our blue quilt with him, but just before he could, his legs kicked and his eyes opened and he screamed, louder than I knew he could scream, and right in that deep-sleeping moment, my body joined in.

The next day, after we’d replayed the entire experience for each other, right down to the way I nervous-laughed for about seven minutes after waking up, imagining our poor upstairs neighbor wondering what was going on, I finished my work hours and Tim said, Go do something that refreshes you—Go bake! And I made lemon curd.

lemon curd on basil shortbread

I got the idea because someone I follow on Instagram made a lemon curd tart recently, saying how it’s the simplest set of ingredients, just egg yolks, sugar, lemon, and butter, and the day after the Screaming Episode, simple seemed like just the thing.

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First Anniversary + Basil Shortbread Cookies (gluten-free, grain-free)

us | FoodLovesWriting.com

When you first get married, it’s wonderful and it’s strange. Part of you has this sense that becoming a new family only makes sense, like it’s the way things were always supposed to be, like, thank God, this person you love so much is now joined to you the way you’ve longed for him to be. Yet right alongside that joy, simultaneously, even as you know those things, another part of you has to constantly catch herself, realizing, oh, there’s another person who needs to be consulted before I make any big decisions or changes or future plans; all of your struggles become our struggles and his pain, our pain; one or both of you faces illness or discouragement or deep hurt and brings it into us; you, together, hit points where you don’t know what to do; sometimes, even, you fight.

dinner | FoodLovesWriting.com

Because, being straight-up honest with you, there are days when marriage is so over-the-moon easy that you find yourself saying things like you think your heart could burst, even when beforehand you would’ve said those expressions were cheesy and ridiculous. But, there are also days of painful conversations or long fights or moments when you look at each other, in tears, arguing about something that feels so important you’re willing to push each other away. Sometimes those days are the same days.

knoxville | foodloveswriting.com
downtown knoxville | foodloveswriting.com
smokies | foodloveswriting.com

Tim and I talked about these things, about marriage, the last two days in Knoxville, celebrating our first full year of being husband and wife, constantly recalling the one-year-ago memories of a rehearsal dinner and wedding speeches and a table of cookies and a too-good-to-be-true honeymoon. Either one of us would tell you that we still look at each other and think, genuinely, that we can’t believe the other one exists, that we fit each other so well it makes us marvel, kind of like looking at the mountains or a star-studded night sky. We feel so overwhelmingly thankful for each other and yet, still, we’re prone to take each other for granted, in the same way that we’re prone to go days without thinking twice about our health or our families or jobs we’ve been given that put money in the bank account and food in the fridge.

fall | foodloveswriitng.com
leaves | foodloveswriting.com
Basil Shortbread | FoodLovesWriting.com

The honest truth is that thinking about this scares me. Intentionality in relationships—marriage, parents, roommates, siblings, friends—doesn’t happen naturally for long. Just one year into marriage, I already see how much easier it is to be lazy with Tim than it is to put thought into knowing him, and that because of this, sometimes, being lazy is exactly what I pick.

Taking Photos in the Smokies

But while we got away this weekend, just him and me, walking through streets of old Knoxville architecture, driving through golden leaves in the Smoky Mountains, sitting next to each other and asking hard questions and doing the work of relationship, of long talks and clarification and trying to explain thoughts and feelings, I tasted that real joy that comes from learning what it means to love, and I thought, again, how relationships are the hardest but best parts of living.

golden leaves | foodloveswriting.com

I taste it in marriage, I taste it in friendship, I taste it in the inward struggle I feel when someone does me evil and I try to return good. It makes me think of what C.S.Lewis wrote when he said:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

I think there’s this constant struggle in human nature, although we each face it in different ways, of whether or not to let people in and to work to know them and be known. “To love at all is to be vulnerable,” Lewis says, and to be vulnerable is to open yourself up to hurt. But the thing is, even though that’s true, to love is always better, always. Because only in letting yourself be vulnerable do you let yourself experience the best parts of life—in marriage, in friendship, with strangers you’re getting to know.

sitting at the park | foodloveswriting.com

And of all the things marriage is teaching me, this is one of the best.

(More Knoxville photos in our Facebook album here.)

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust

cauliflower pizza

“When a wife has a good husband, it is easily seen in her face.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

cauliflower

Today is Tim’s birthday, the first one since we’ve been married.

And over the last few weeks, as I’ve been thinking about its coming up, reflecting on what our life together is like now, about how this birthday would be different from all his previous birthdays, sandwiched between our daily rhthyms of working from home and sleeping side by side and sharing breakfasts, lunches, dinners, I’ve been wanting so much to explain to you, somehow here on this blog, exactly what my face would show if you could see it: I have a good husband.

pizza ingredients

I told Tim early when we were dating, I had a little bit of a fear of marriage growing up, a fact I know some people can’t understand and others get all too well. The best I can explain it, I think, is that when you’ve been exposed to bad marriages, or to their problems, when you’re young enough, you don’t know how to take it. And for me, I took it and turned it into fear, the kind of fear that made me read books about marriage in junior high.

tim dressing the pizza tim grating cheese

Even after I met Tim and shared deep parts of my heart with him, moving to Nashville and planning our wedding, a little bit of that gnawing fear hadn’t left. There are so many men who aren’t like him, I would think to myself, there’s no way he can always be like this. Sometimes still, that fear comes up—when something triggers that part of my mind that adds up the realities of broken people (i.e., us!) covenanting their lives together. It’s almost crazy when you think about it. How can anyone really make it work?

pizza on cauliflower crust

And then I look at Tim and I marvel at our life, and I think, that’s it, that’s mystery: how God can take two selfish people and make them one, to push through the hard and the ugly and the wonderful and the unexpected, together. That adventure, that battle, is in itself a gift, a refining tool like my friend Carrie and I were saying the other night, something that changes you whether you mean for it to or not.

But the second mystery, at least for me, is that of all the people on the planet, I get to do it with Tim, a man who is, literally, unlike anyone I’ve ever known.

pizzas

I am married to the kind of man who doesn’t cancel plans at the last minute, because he believes in honoring commitments, even small ones like having coffee with a friend; a man I can go to, randomly on a weekday morning, and say, you know that story in Judges chapter 6? and he knows exactly what I’m talking about; a man who’s been cooking with me since I first knew him; a man who has taught me, and teaches me, to pray about everything, from finding a source of income to resting about an upcoming conversation to writing posts like this one; a man who can humble himself; a man who, above everything else, loves God.

my plate

I feel so blessed to share this simple life with him, to work in our dining room together, to laugh about the things the neighbors do, to make a cauliflower pizza crust and eat it across from each other, next to the window, while the longer April daylight streams inside.

dinner from above

I have a good husband.

dinner

So to Tim, that husband: I want you to know you have a happy wife.

I love you. Happy birthday!

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Almond Thumbprint Cookies (no flour!)

almond thumbprint cookies

Nothing says simplicity like reducing your diet to fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy for a week—which is exactly what we did recently, when we temporarily cut out grains and sugar from our daily meals (even the good kinds).

In the beginning, I felt hungry, but by the end, I felt fantastic.

And today, whenever I eat something sweet, I start craving a vegetable.

I see that as a very good thing.

mixing ingredients

So last Saturday, it was in the midst of this experiment that we were planning a movie (Super 8!)/dinner (Silly Goose!) date with good friends and wanted to bring something to snack on. If you’re also the type to sneak treats in at the movie theater, I’m sure you’ve been where we were: you want something easy to transport in your bag, easy to share, totally non-sticky, and totally appropriate with the jug of water you’ve also got shoved in your purse. So for us, this usually means cookies.

tasting the batter

The only problem last week was that meant a cookie without flour (or at least with only a little flour—come on, we were allowed to cheat a little), which reminded me of some adorable little thumbprint cookies I’d seen at Nourishing Gourmet and marked on my Pinterest last month.

forming cookies

Reminiscent of kolachkys but made with ground almonds (or almond meal) rather than flour, these little desserts look like baby danishes and smell like bakery doughnuts, featuring dollops of fruit preserves right in the center.

balls of dough with jelly

(Speaking of fruit preserves: If you’re looking for a good jelly, whether for peanut butter sandwiches or baking almond thumbprint cookies or something else, let me give a shout-out to Trader Joe’s, who makes an excellent organic jelly sweetened with fruit juice rather than sugar. We picked raspberry. It is excellent.)

lots of cookies

We made a batch Friday and it was almost gone by the next day, so we made a second batch Saturday, that time subbing whole-grain spelt flour for part of the ground almonds when we ran out.

finished cookies

Both times, these little cookies were just what we were after: small, sweet, and, best of all, so simple: simple ingredients, simple baking process, simple enjoyment—whether in the movie, at coffee or grabbed off the counter in the kitchen.

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Birthday Giveaway Three (or, how far we’ve come)

It’s pretty easy to see things I’ve inherited. I have my dad’s olive skin, my mom’s round face, the bump on my nose found in both sides of my gene pool. I like good conversation, working in the garden, making a big meal to eat with people I love. And, sometimes, when I laugh very hard or hear myself telling a story like it’s a routine, I think how my grandma used to do those things.

homemade granola

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oh, spring

may lilacs

All week, you have been fascinating me with your comments on the giveaway post (where there’s still time to enter!), as you’ve shared who inspires you to cook and/or some teachable kitchen moments you’ve experienced. With the inspiration answers especially, I find myself mentally nodding my head with you, because it’s so true that I get pulled towards cooking via a myriad of sources—my family, other food bloggers, magazines, commercials, TV, something random someone says in the middle of the afternoon. And I think all these things are good to think about, especially so we can remember them on those days when we’re not so eager to cook.

But the inspiration for today’s recipes is something I hadn’t really thought about before, something that several of you said strikes you the same way: this beautiful time of year we call spring.

Oh, spring.

I have been marveling at spring this year: the buds on branches, the evening thunderstorms, the colorful flowers everywhere you turn. And, as it is with some of the best things in life, just when I think I can’t possibly appreciate it anymore than I already do, spring goes and surprises me again.

Untitled

Like last weekend. I had decided to make a quick stop at a local French market that people seem to love on Yelp. I went in with $20 in my purse and a hunger for nothing special, and I came out, in 15 minutes no less, with two boxes of green beans, a pound of asparagus, two bags of mixed greens and a bunch of tall and red fresh rhubarb, for a grand total of $8.50.

Spring! Oh, Spring!

rhubarb on table

This might be a good time to recall that CSA I participated in last summer, which while I loved (and if you have a bigger household, it is really worth looking into), I also struggled with its sheer quantity of vegetables (organic! beautiful! but just too much for one person). That’s why this year’s plan is to shop at more farmers’ markets, to buy locally and seasonally but just less.

If Saturday was any indication, I’d say this plan is going to go very well.

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