Our Easter sunrise tradition

 On weekends I love to take an early morning run.  Wake up just before dawn, slip on my shoes, and head out into the cool, heavy air, down the dimly lit streets.  I hit the dirt path and lake area right when the light breaks over the horizon, filling the sky with pale pinks and yellows and oranges as the sun burns up the misty dew.

This Sunday I will skip the run for something even better.  We will celebrate as a family, as we have done for over a decade each Easter morning.  And as my family did when I was growing up as well.

Every year there is a steaming thermos of hot cocoa and a bag of bagels.  Fluffy cream cheese, raspberry jam, and wet wipes to clean little chins.  Sam and I will have our travel cups of coffee and a big blanket for sitting while we wait. And read.  And eat.

Then early in the morning, while it is still dark, we gather our family and walk to our spot.  Just as the women went to the tomb two thousand years ago.  The load is a bit heavy, and the dark is a bit troublesome – just as it was for them.  But we have hope and light hearts.  We know how this story ends.  They had heavy hearts and no headlamps.

We spread the blanket and sit down, just as the sky brightens.  We read  Mark 16, then Luke 24, and then John 20.  We read the story of the most magnificent Son Rise, so long ago, that rocked the world and forever changed that fate of humanity.  The rock, the angel, the empty tomb.  We pour cups of hot cocoa to warm us in the chilly air.  We pass out bagels; the hole in the middle reminding us of the empty tomb.  We spread them with both cream cheese and jam.  It’s best that way.  And the sun will rise.

Pack List:

  • blanket
  • headlamps
  • wet wipes, paper plates, napkins, knives to spread jam and cream cheese
  • sliced bagels
  • raspberry jam or fruit spread
  • whipped cream cheese
  • hot cocoa
  • Bible with post-it notes in John 20, Luke 24, and Mark 16




Why I celebrate Valentine’s (and a wheat-free Valentine’s day menu!)

  When I was a little girl we lived across the country from my grandma.  Yet each year at Valentine’s we received a little box from her with the same, predictable items in it:  tiny stuffed animal for each of us girls, a small box of chocolates, and her traditional, heart-shaped, pink-icing, double-layered lemony cookies.  I knew what was in that box each year, and each time it arrived in the mail I couldn’t wait to open it.

Fast forward to my college/career single days, and I still liked Valentines.  My grandma had passed away, so now it meant watching chick flicks and eating raw cookie dough with my friends and waiting until February 15 when all the chocolate went on sale.

Now I have kids.  And they love cookies.  And I love to make our traditional cookies which have next to no nutrition benefits but are oh-so-good for my soul, because they remind me of the love I have received in the past and make for special memories with my kids now.

We will make those cookies tomorrow, together, as we laugh and talk about whatever is on our hearts.  I will make heart-shaped salmon-salad sandwiches for lunch, because my girls love everything hearts right now.  We will have a “treasure hunt” and find a box of chocolates.  And then we will close the day with our traditional “spaghetti” and meatballs dinner.

Last night my hubby and I celebrated at a little Italian restaurant back in the Houston suburbs that we found nearly ten years ago when we first moved here.  It reminds of of Tarentelli’s in New Jersey, where we celebrated our first Valentine’s together.  Today we also ate out,  so I’m looking forward to balancing out the high-carb, high-fat outings and traditional cookies with some protein and fiber tomorrow night.

We don’t typically follow a gluten-free diet, but  I have fallen in love with my Veggetti slicer and  I can’t wait to substitute the long curls of zucchini for traditional spaghetti.  We are cleaning out the freezer, and I have a package of venison and a package of wild pig that I can grind up for the meatballs.

So, my wheat-free, lower-carb plan for tomorrow:

  • zucchini spirals sauteed in olive oil
  • homemade meatballs and spaghetti sauce
  • green beans with olive oil, tarragon, and salt
  • salad of course!
  • fondue-style fresh fruit dipped in chocolate sauce (chocolate chips melted with cream)
  • rose bouquet centerpiece
  • background music (Luigi Boccherini or Yo Yo Ma)

I love simple traditions that tell my family how much they matter.  I love the reminder that comes each year to do something sweet for loved ones.  I love keeping it simple but fun, so that we can look forward to it year after year.

Happy healthy Valentines to you and yours!



Pfeffernusse; a traditional cookie comes back


This year I simplified things for Christmas. We sent out fewer cards, put out only the decorations our family loves, and dropped a lot of my favorite traditional foods for reasons of health (do we need 12 types of cookies?) and time. We kept two types of cookies though; gingerbread men because the kids love them, and pfeffernusse (I say peppernuts) because they bring back sweet memories of making them with my grandma when I was little.  At the time I enjoyed making them more than eating them; why take a low-sugar, bite-size cookie when you are surrounded by an array of decadent sweets? Now as an adult I kind of prefer them. Really.  So much that we named our dog after them.

Besides being tasty, these tiny little gems are packed with healthy spices like ginger and cloves, and they are perfectly portion controlled so I can eat one bite or grab a handful, depending on the mood.  They are also the perfect cookie to make with kids, especially kids like mine who like to play with the dough.


blending up the dry ingredients
whisking the dry ingredients

First step: Pour into a large mixing bowl

2 cups whole grain white wheat flour
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
dash of cloves
and stir well with a whisk.

Next, beat the wet ingredients until well-blended:

either use the measuring cup for oil THEN molasses, or spray your cup with cooking spray; otherwise the molasses sticks like crazy to the cup.

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 egg

Now mix the wet and dry together, beating slowly.  The dough is thick!

pour wet into dry ingredients and blend
all blended up!

Now roll up the dough into a nice little ball, cover in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for a couple hours.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then roll out the dough until it is in little logs about the width of your thumb.

rolling out the dough

Now slice the logs (we just use butter knives) into even-sized little bites. They look a bit like tootsie rolls cut in half at this point.

cutting into little square “pillows”

Now put those little bite-size wonders on a cookie sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes, depending on how crunchy or soft you like them.
After they cool, put 1/4 cup powdered sugar in a bag and shake them up to coat them in a fine dusting of sweetness.