Sparkling Raspberry Lemonade + Sam’s Club Book Giveaway

I’ve gone to bulk warehouses since I was a kid, tagging along with Dad while he ran errands. My dad worked a lot of nights when I was young, building the cleaning business that he and my mom had started just before I was born. The way they tell the story, in the early days, they mopped up apartments for a local university, my mom then heavy with child. They had me, then my brother, and meanwhile the company grew. By the time I was in elementary school, there were several accounts to keep up with, taking Dad away from us most nights. So to make up for it, he’d take me with him—to work and on errands, the two of us riding together into the night sky.

raspberry_lemon
samsbook_mint

My dad, who sports short, graying hair and a neatly trimmed moustache, stands 5’10”, which today is just two-and-a-half inches higher than me, but I’ve always had to jog to keep up with him. When we’d arrive at the almost-empty parking lot of a shiny office building, I’d be trotting behind his white sneakers, pumping my arms to keep up. Wearing the same pleated Dockers and collared shirts he still wears every day, whether it’s Monday morning or Saturday afternoon, he’d be talking with employees about sealants and floor polishers and machinery, and I’d be hanging behind, hunting for a vending machine.

halvedlemons

It was the same when we went shopping. In the beginning, I think we went for work supplies, but later, we went just as often for laundry detergent or water or something else my family was in the habit of buying in bulk. While he’d be on a mission to get the items on his list, I’d be scoping out cases of candy or granola or chips. I’ve always been able to count on Dad for snacks. It’s one of the main things we share, besides our dark skin and giant smiles and ability to talk in-depth for hours: we like keeping foods on hand that are easy to grab and eat. Cashews, almonds, dark chocolate, dried bananas. We could go to Sam’s Club for fabric softener, but we’d emerge with a bin of something tasty I’d be able to break into and eat fistfuls of in the car. I knew this as well as I knew my name.

pitcherlemonade

Today, living in Nashville, Tim and I have bulk memberships of our own. This feels as much a proof of our adulthood as voting or paying bills. When we walk up to our local warehouse, flashing cards with our pictures on them to gain entrance inside, we’re essentially announcing to the salesperson and our fellow shoppers and anyone who sees us that we are responsible. We plan for the future. We buy toilet paper in advance.

Never mind the fact that both our memberships have been gifted to us (the first as a birthday gift last August; the next, directly from Sam’s Club, who wants us to talk here about the warehouse shopping experience and a summer promotion they’ve got going on). From the first moment we walked those aisles together, calculating the savings on a giant bag of frozen organic fruit versus the 16-ounce bags from the grocery store, we were hooked. Generally speaking, we look to buy local and to support small business, but true confessions: if you show us a 12-ounce container of organic raspberries at Sam’s for $3.99 ($3.99!), we’re sold.

rlemonade_2glasses_fromabove
RLemonade_2glasses

A few weeks ago, we used our new membership to buy 24 ounces of fresh organic raspberries, a bag of lemons and a case of Pellegrino, which we took home and turned into this refreshing, sparkling summer drink. It’s part of Sam’s Club’s current “Fruit Cooler” challenge, wherein they’re inviting bloggers to create refreshing summer recipes based on produce from their stores.

As part of the project, they’re giving away one of their beautiful cookbooks, “Fresh, Fast and Fabulous,” to a commenter on this post (will be chosen Friday morning Congratulations, Kendra!). They’d also love you to try the challenge in your own home. The idea’s not that different from the way my dad and I have always shopped together: go into the store, hunt down what you like—although, I will grant, my preferences today lean more towards organic produce or cases of oranges than they do towards candy bars—take it home and, enjoy.

For more information on Sam’s Club produce, visit SamsClub.com/meals.

Read More

Avocado Fries + Yogurt Sauce

sliced avocados

Two days into our honeymoon, Tim and I are eating lunch at a taco hut near our condo, a whitewashed building where the windows are always open and the ceiling fans are always moving, and the hot Hawaiian breezes blow in and out leisurely, matching the pace of the island where we’re staying, palm tree branches rustling in the wind.

On the porch in front, there’s a cardboard box set up on a bar stool with a sign that reads, “$0.25 each” and which holds a dozen or so avocados, each of them half the size of Tim’s head, and there’s no one around to collect payments, just a large glass jar, so after looking at each other in disbelief, still amazed that we’re in Kauai, let alone that we’re paying 1/8 of what we’d pay for avocados in the states, we grab a handful of dark green, alligator-skinned fruits, leave our money and go.

bowls of flour, egg, bread crumbs

As far as foods go, avocados are the closest thing I know to magic, and not just when you’re eating them on your honeymoon. They’re cool and creamy, filling, versatile enough to be guacamole and smoothies and salads and rich chocolate frosting atop raw chocolate brownies. They’re filled with vitamins: A, B complex, C, E, H and K. They’re high in essential amino acids and rich in minerals: folate, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium and potassium. But most importantly, avocados are fatty—not just any kind of fatty, but good fatty.

And while I know in this world of low-fat diets and counting calories that putting words like good and fatty together can seem like an oxymoron, kind of like saying gorgeous ugly or smart stupid or transparent Southerner, they’re the fatty that promotes good cholesterol (HDL) and lowers bad (LDL). The fatty that’s good for heart health. The fatty that makes it easier for your body to absorb and use the good vitamins and antioxidants in the rest of the salad you’re eating them in. The fatty proven to work against inflammation, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In other words, like I said, magic.

making avocado fries with tim

I love avocados because they taste good and because we eat them in Hawaii and because of their health benefits, and I spent a good chunk of time trying to convince my dad (and all men I know) to eat them more often because they’re also shown to reduce risk of prostate cancer, but mostly I love them because they literally amaze me—avocados are one of those rare things in life that regularly make me think, wow, now this is exactly as it should be, and we all need more of those moments.

avocado fries

Because, you know, in this life, it’s not hard to be disappointed. In a broken world of child abuse and poverty and fundamentalism and egos, it’s not hard to put your heart out there and have it crushed, not hard to be hurt, to feel the sting of someone’s words, to be forgotten or ignored or misunderstood. And there are days, I’ll just be honest, when I feel overwhelmed with all the bad things that surround us, enough that writing a little post on avocados seems pretty silly, pretty paltry, pretty small.

chopped cabbage

But here’s the thing I tell myself when those thoughts come: it’s good to see the truth of what is hard and face it, yes, but it’s better to see the whole truth, that hard things are not the only things and that there are good gifts too surrounding us—surrounding me—every day.

avocado fry with yogurt sauce

That’s why it’s blessed to look at the avocados we buy in Nashville and bring back to our gift of a home to cook in our gift of a kitchen, covering in flour and eggs and bread crumbs and sauteing into fries, so we can share them together at the table, dipped in yogurt sauce and eaten while the daylight pours in. And it’s blessed to be in Hawaii marveling at the abundance of avocados and starfruit and bananas, blessed to recognize how produce and vacation and the very marriage that they’re celebrating are gifts to make our hearts grateful and more filled with joy.

So we do, when we slather avocado on toast, when we eat guacamole late at night, when we add an avocado to our salad, when we make avocado fries. We thank God for making a food so rich and nutritious and enjoyable, even as we thank Him for everything else.

Read More

Gluten-Free Tabbouleh

quinoa

It doesn’t matter if I’m with you in the kitchen making quinoa or talking to you through the lens of a computer screen, telling you I’m having a hard time making friends is one of the fastest ways I know to bring back all the emotions of second grade P.E. class. It’s humiliating—kind of like announcing you’re the kid no one wants to sit next to on the bus or that the guy who’s taking you to dinner is only doing it because his mom knows your mom. Over and over again the last few days, when this topic has come up in conversation with acquaintances and friends, I’ve been shocked at how humbled I’ve been to simply state the truth, how much I’ve wanted to color it with less emotion and try to hide the fact that I crave deep relationships. I feel so embarrassed to say it, like I’m asking you to pity me and tell me I’m wonderful and invite me to your dinner party, but I force myself to do it anyway because it’s true and I want to say what’s true, and also, I want to fight the urge to only tell you what I think you’ll think sounds good. I’m too good at that already.

soaking quinoa

Sometimes when Tim and I are cooking together, I’ll ask him how he wants the vegetables chopped, and he’ll say fine and minced, and he’ll ask me how I want the table set, and I’ll think, I wonder what he would want me to say? before I answer him. I don’t always do this, mostly because he’s helped me see how unhelpful it can be, but sometimes I still do because it’s a deep habit, one so ingrained in me that I fall back on it without meaning to.

I grew up what some people might call a people pleaser. I studied what the crowd around me liked and wanted, and I worked very hard to make myself fit their desires. I didn’t get in trouble, I said kind things, I learned to ask you more about your life than I’d say about mine—constantly working to gain your approval, whomever you were, so that you would like me, so that you would say something that would make me feel OK inside.

chopping herbs

In many different types of society, people pleasers hide really well. They’re not the ones parents worry about or the ones dealing with failure—they’re usually, on the outside at least, fully functional, engaging, pleasant people to be around, successful in work and at home and in churches. But the thing is, trying to please everyone else is a mask. Keeping it up isn’t just impossible; it’s exhausting. And sooner or later, you start to see that it’s nuts.

tabbouleh ingredients

Early when Tim and I were dating, we talked about this and about how I’d spent a lot of my life thus far trying to be exactly what I thought people wanted me to be. I didn’t know how to say no without guilt or how to willingly disappoint someone without anxiety, and so I started to ask myself why. Maybe it was because I was afraid of loneliness? Maybe because I liked the illusion of control? But mostly, I think it was this: maybe I was trying to fill my soul with their acceptance.

quinoa with add-ins

I recently finished the book “Grace for the Good Girl,” written by Emily P. Freeman who blogs at Chatting at the Sky. It it, she says this:

Life behind a mask may feel right and may even be fun for a short time. After a while, though, recycled air becomes stale and the effort it takes to continue trying to be someone you aren’t becomes a burden rather than a game. Only in returning home, taking off the mask, and being you again will you find relief.

holding bowl of tabbouleh

The lie of seeking people’s approval is that it will actually satisfy me, that it will actually fill me up. And I am repeatedly, regularly capable of hiding who I really am because I think that will give me what I think I need: your acceptance—even here on this blog when I talk about recipes for cauliflower rice or grass-fed pot roast or raw brownies or sauteed Brussels sprouts. There’s something really, really appealing about feeling well-thought-of or appreciated or valued.

quinoa tabbouleh bowl

And so part of learning, slowly learning, to stop hiding yourself means learning instead to do the opposite: to speak the truth and to be embarrassed and to, when you boast, boast of your weakness (or in the One who has none). Otherwise, it’s a treadmill that never ends and worse, it’s impossible to ever lose sight of yourself enough to do what really does satisfy: to taste and to give real love.

Read More