Tropical Chia Pudding

Tropical Chia Pudding

I've been (mildly) attempting to curb my pregnancy cravings for chocolate bars and Chick-Fil-A. The other day, I cooked a Whole30 approved dinner (a staple recipe in my house - Cinnamon Beef Stew from Well Fed). But lest you think I succeeded, please know I followed up that healthy dinner with chocolate chip banana bread from the Joy The Baker Cookbook. This banana bread is by no means a healthy, whole-grain bread. It's pretty much cake. Cake that you can eat for breakfast. And dessert. And late at night before bed. Clean eating plus buttery, sugary, chocolatey dessert? I call it practicing balance. 

Tropical Chia Pudding is an attempt to swing the pendulum back to clean eating. When you soak chia seeds in liquid, they create a custard-like consistency, and if you're avoiding dairy, blending chia seeds with non-dairy milk makes a great alternative to yogurt. I like to make a batch big enough to have a few days' worth of pudding. Anything to make mornings more convenient (and nutritious), right? 

For this recipe, I HIGHLY recommend using Ataulfo mangoes. They are creamier and sweeter, giving them the perfect texture and flavor for chia pudding - no added honey or maple syrup needed (read: Whole30 compliant!). Ataulfo mangoes are pretty readily available (I bought some at Costco the last time), and when I'm at the store and have the option, 10 times out of 10 I'll choose the Ataulfo variety over the conventional Tommy Atkins mango.

Who knew I could be this opinionated about mangoes? But trust me. If you haven't switched to buying Ataulfos, you'll thank me. (Also, I don't really know how to properly pronounce "ataulfo," so I try to reserve mango discussions for the written word only.)

Have you made chia pudding before? Let me know your favorite flavor combinations in the comments below!

Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding
Tropical Chia Pudding

Tropical Chia Pudding
Yields about 36 ounces

3 Ataulfo mangoes (about 16 ounce of mango flesh)
1 medium banana, peeled
1 (13.5 ounce) can full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup chia seeds

Peel the mango, and cut the flesh from around the seed. (Yes, this may be the most annoying food to prep, but have no fear. Alton Brown is here.)

Add the mango pieces to a blender along with the banana, coconut milk, and chia seeds. Blend until smooth. The consistency at this point should be similar to a very thick smoothie, or a very runny pudding. It'll firm up a bit more as the chia seeds soak.

Pour the mixture into airtight containers, and refrigerate overnight (or at least three hours). Top with unsweetened coconut flakes, nuts, or additional fruit. Enjoy!

Note: Leftover pudding can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

Learning to Parent Without You

The entire family crowded into the living room of that rental house down the shore. It was you and dad, the six of us kids and our spouses, and several of the older grandkids. We sat on old couches that smelled of ocean, feeling the grit of sand between our toes after a long day on the beach. We gathered as a family to discuss the next few months. What did the doctors say at your last appointment? How much pain will you be in? Are all the finances in order? How much help will Dad need taking care of you in the coming months? When will hospice care start?

You could barely muster the energy for that trip, but barring a miracle, we knew it’d be the last time we were all together. The doctors said you probably wouldn’t be around at Christmas. You looked weary and thin, wearing wrinkles in your skin that aged you beyond your years. But there remained an inner peace beyond understanding that showed through despite the cancer ravaging your body. You sat on that old, brown sofa next to Dad, answering our questions and concerns with a voice occasionally quivering and eyes drooping from exhaustion.

That summer, while talking about the harsh realities of your cancer, it hit me in a deeper way than ever before that you would not know me as a mom. You wouldn’t be there to see my kids grow up or hear them run into your house, arms outstretched as they gave their Nana a hug. I wouldn’t be able to call you when I couldn’t get the baby to sleep or the kids were sick. You wouldn’t be there for their graduations or to teach them how to make Swedish Tea Ring.

My voice shook and hot tears ran down my face as I shared my fear with you and the rest of the family. We wept, my heart aching so deep inside me in anticipation of how much more I’d miss you when I had kids and couldn’t share motherhood with you. During that last year, I so badly wanted to get pregnant simply so that you could be there for it, but I knew at that time, my primary focus was taking care of you. I wanted you to help me learn how to be a mom. Instead, I was living the crude reality of changing you, feeding you, brushing your teeth, making you comfortable. It was a joy and a privilege, a season of my life that in an odd way, I’m thankful for. But it wasn’t what I envisioned.

I remember when I found out I was pregnant. I took at least three pregnancy tests that morning, just to make sure. Colson was pouring coffee into his travel mug and grabbing his keys to leave for work. I came downstairs, excitement evident in every bone of my body, and he looked at me quizzically. I tried to keep it a secret – just until the end of the day at least. I knew there was no way he’d be able to focus at the office if the day started off with this news. But he saw right through me, and there in the kitchen, me still in my pajamas, we smiled, laughed, and cried happy tears because of the new life that was inside of me.

When I was eight weeks along, we had our first doctor’s appointment. I wish you could have seen Colson’s face when the doctor told us the news. Twins! Unknown to him at the time, I had been praying for two. He had that “deer in the headlights” look, and I was nervous and scared, but my excitement outweighed all of that. We called everyone in the family on the way home from that appointment, still trying to wrap our minds around the reality of two babies.

Oh, how my heart ached to call you.

As my pregnancy progressed, there was so much I wanted to talk to you about because, well, you did this whole mom thing six times over. What baby gear did I really need? Was breastfeeding hard? Did you have any suggestions on how to sleep better at night during pregnancy? Did you go into labor naturally? Did your water break, or did they break it at the hospital? Any suggestions on how to deal with this annoying pregnancy heartburn? Yours was the advice I desperately wanted.

When people found out I was pregnant with twins, they’d often say something to the effect of, “Wow! Congrats! Is your mom going to stay with you for a while when they’re born?” I know they meant well, because having your mom come help after childbirth is a wonderful, beautiful thing. But it wasn’t my reality. I’d try to dodge the question by saying, “My dad and sisters will come out, and we’ve got family in the area, too, so I’ll have lots of help.”

As much as I tried to avoid the question, I was regularly reminded that you weren’t going to be staying with us. You wouldn’t be stocking our freezer with homemade spaghetti sauce and pineapple chicken. You wouldn’t be there to run errands or rock a crying baby. I wouldn’t be able to ask you about Isabel’s reflux, or whether or not you sleep trained, or the question that’s been on repeat in my mind throughout my entire journey of motherhood: How the heck did you do this six times?

On my first Mother’s Day, my sisters gave me a video of an interview they did with you and Dad. It was about all things pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Your health was in rapid decline when the video was recorded, but you did your best to answer so many of my questions. I wasn’t even pregnant when they interviewed you, but I was given the gift of hearing your answers years later when I was knee deep in spit-up and diapers. At times, it felt like you were there in the room, talking directly to me, as if I was actually sharing my first Mother’s Day with you. It was one of the best gifts I’ve ever been given. But eventually, the video ended and you were gone.

Oh, how I wish I could just pick up the phone and call you.

The kids are two now, running around and being every bit as cute and challenging as two-year-olds can be. Elijah is a snuggler who could spend all day playing in the dirt. Isabel is strong. She knows what she wants and she’s as stubborn as a mule. My husband says she gets it from me – and I know I get that from you.

I want to ask you questions about discipline, the developmental differences between my siblings and me when we were kids, what it was like to have more than two. I want you to cry with me when motherhood is overwhelming. I want you to see the dimples on Isabel’s cheeks when she smiles and hear the giggles from Elijah when he’s tickled. I want you to be here in a couple months when we our third baby comes into the world.

As the years go by, waves of grief make room for waves of healing, and I remember I have much to be thankful for. I’m thankful for all you taught me about motherhood, even before I became a mom myself. I’m thankful you taught me how to cook and showed me the value of as a family at the table. I’m thankful I got to watch you be “Nana” to the other grandkids.

But Mom? I miss you deeply. I wish I didn’t have to learn how to parent without you. I wish you were here to watch me be a mother.

A previous version of this essay was originally published by

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Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon

“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on 'going it alone.' Somehow we've come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It's as if we've divided the world into 'those who offer help' and 'those who need help.' The truth is that we are both.”
-Brene Brown

You know those memes and prints that say phrases like, “You’ve got this!” and other motivational words? I think those are great, and can truly be motivating sometimes. Some days, I really do need a kick in the butt and someone to say, “You’ve got this!”

But other days, it is so abundantly clear that I don’t “got this.” I need a hand-lettered print that says, “You are completely falling apart today…and that’s OK.” Or “Maybe today you should ask for help – and not feel guilty about it.” Or “You’re not the only one who has massive meltdowns.”

I’m appreciative of the emphasis I’ve seen lately in social media and other places on encouraging others, embracing the messy, and not always trying to be perfect. Even so, those ideals seem nearly impossible for me to live out! I feel like I have to “handle it,” and in my head, asking for help is a signal of failure. Mama, it’s not. There’s a great deal of good in the idea of independence, but let’s remember that we were never actually created to be entirely independent.

I’m currently reading Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman, and one section stood out to me like a blinking neon sign. She writes, “Things that are part of our design – our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an ‘earthly tent,’ and our lack of knowledge – are not failures…this is the way God designed us.”

That was a breath of fresh air to me. While I do fail in so many ways every day, my dependence is not one of them. Asking for help is a part of life – a beautiful part of life that so often I shove to the side for the sake of my independence. If I am created to be dependent, I don’t need to feel guilty or ashamed when I admit my need. (Can I get an “Amen?”) And to take it one step further, when we accept help freely, I think we're more likely to give it freely. As Brene Brown says, “Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.”

We were not meant to do life alone. We were meant to depend on Christ and lift each other up in the good times and hard times. There is no more reward for the one who secludes herself from her community and attempts to “handle it” than the one who works hard and asks for the help and the guidance of others.

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon

Over the last few months as I've been extra tired during this pregnancy and we were sick a good portion of the winter, we've been the recipients of extra hands to help and lots of meals from friends and family. We've been nourished in body and soul, and for that I am learning to not feel guilty, but be truly thankful.

If you're in a place to give to someone else right now, these baked oatmeal cups make a perfect quick breakfast or grab-and-go snack for someone who could use a break. (And since Mother's Day is around the corner, pair a batch with a copy of The Magic of Motherhood to encourage a mama's heart!)

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins, Seeds + Cinnamon
Yields 12 oatmeal cups
Adapted from The Kitchn

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free oats if needed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup flax seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 Tablespoons unsalted almond butter
2 Tablespoons honey
1 cup raisins
Yogurt, honey, or fresh fruit for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular-sized muffin tin or line with paper baking cups. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, baking powder, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut flakes, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, almond butter, and honey.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until fully incorporated. Fold in the raisins. Divide the oatmeal mixture evenly into the prepared muffin tin. Bake for 22-25 minutes.

Serve with yogurt, additional honey, or fresh fruit. These oatmeal cups can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days, or you can freeze them.

Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]

Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]

In my ideal world, I’d sit down every morning for a hot breakfast, complete with over-easy eggs served on top of sautéed vegetables with a side of perfectly crisp, thick-cut bacon. One of those recipes is coming soon to the blog, but I usually end up making that type of "breakfast" dish for lunch or dinner. I can barely think straight enough to pour myself a cup of coffee before 10am. Most days I’m scrambling for something to hold me over until my kids’ nap - when I can hopefully eat for a couple uninterrupted minutes. Unfortunately, my grab and go food choices all too often include treats like chocolatey scones and sugar-topped muffins - hardly a nutrient-rich option (but so delicious!).

This past week, I’ve skipped the pastries (OK, not counting the occasional scone) and whipped up a green smoothie to get fruits and vegetables into my system first thing in the morning. This recipe is dairy free and only uses a banana and dates for sweetness. It also has a good dose of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and potassium. And best of all? It takes about two minutes to make. Perfect for busy mornings!

What's your go-to quick breakfast? 

Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]
Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]
Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]
Green Breakfast Smoothie [paleo + vegan!]

Green Breakfast Smoothie
Yields 1 (12-14 ounce) serving

3 ounces fresh spinach
⅓ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 medium banana
1 medjool date (add an additional date or two for extra sweetness)
1 Tablespoon unsalted almond butter
4 ounces ice (one big handful)

Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve immediately. Enjoy!

This recipe was originally featured at Lark + Linen.