i used to…

… be a health food nut.

another-summer-dinner-2i bought only organic grains and vegetables and locally raised meats. i never used sugar or caffeine. i purchased the best quality oils and spices and ingredients i could. whole grains all the time.  and i kept track of how many servings of dairy i’d already had so that i could keep it in check. and i ate meat only 1 or 2 times per week. i took vitamins. i planned meals that included the entire rainbow of colored produce.

and all of this is fine. those are healthy choices, choices that honor the body God created for me to live in.

but see, it became a bit like religion to me. it was a way to stay clean, to be pure. there was a certain degree of self-satisfaction in living up to all these ideals, even if it meant my grocery bill was astronomically high for a single young women with no family to feed, even if it meant i couldn’t enjoy fellowship over foods that didn’t meet my stringent criteria. there was lots of low-grade anxiety around it, too, as i would scan ingredients lists and refuse things that didn’t measure up, which i’m sure sometimes caused offense to other people. and if i ever did “cheat,” i’d feel so anxious that i probably made myself sick.

then God moved me to the Boiler Room. suddenly i was surrounded my homeless folks who couldn’t be so picky about food even if they wanted to be (they didn’t). i tried to cook my special, nutritionally healing foods for them and they would choke down a few bites, then tease me about eating nuts and berries while turning down seconds. folks donated food to us often, so that we could feed ourselves (we didn’t have paying jobs) and the recovering addicts who lived with us. they donated a lot of cakes. there was a LOT of coffee. and my habits couldn’t be kept up in this environment. i felt a little embarrassed to be so concerned about dietary purity when suddenly i personally knew so many people who had to eat whatever they could get. i started to see that my eating habits were sometimes keeping me from connecting with other people. i started to see that i was finding solace in food instead of in Jesus’s sufficiency.

the way that i was eating… it had just gotten…out of order.

this area of food was one of the first places where i experienced a parenting technique i’ve experienced with Papa many times since: He takes something away for a while so that He can give it back to me, this time rightly ordered.

He has done this with big things like marriage (or the hope thereof), where i lived, or my career, and smaller things like the way that i eat or my photography hobby.

He takes it away and at first blush it seems so unkind, as if He’s some cosmic spoil-sport. it’s only in hindsight that i can see how He wanted me to have the good gift, but He wanted me to have it in a way that would optimize my ability to healthfully enjoy it, in a state of freedom! He had to re-order it so that my heart would delight first in Him, which is where true joy lies.

things WILL get out-of-order in our hearts. it’s the human condition. as we recently discussed at Mission Church, “the human heart is an idol factory” (Tim Keller). therefore, one of my favorite prayers to pray these days is, “rightly order this thing in me, God.”

i’m happy to live a season or two (or three!) without something that i love in order to have it put back in order by Him. He always returns it to us in better condition than it was in when He took it from our hands.

what is something you have experienced God re-ordering in your own life?


ps: i’m still a bit of a health food nut but there’s been a deep release of up-tightness about it. i’m able to enjoy foods that previously seemed too naughty/disgusting to consider consuming before. i eat sugar and i drink coffee. i also love quinoa vegetable soup and sautéed greens. all things in moderation!


why we don’t have a microwave


1. health

have you seen that experiment in which someone watered two identical plants in identical soil and identical lighting with microwaved [and cooled] water for one and regular water for the other? well, the one that was being fed microwaved water died. terribly and obviously. anecdotal evidence it may be, but that’s disconcerting to me.

2. taste

microwaved chicken has always grossed me out. it tastes just wrong somehow. not to mention that a microwave weirdly blackens and fries parts of the veggies and leaves the rest soggy and weird. icky. toaster ovens produce much tastier left-overs.

3. counter space

the things are HUGE; i would rather have my counter free for chopping and prepping.  they are also usually not very attractive; as someone who values beauty, microwaves don’t move me closer to beauty.

4. slow food

this is more about lifestyle values. i think that we lose something when we hurry hurry hurry so fast about so many things. there’s something to be said about the simple act of exercising patience while you wait for a toaster oven or stove top to heat/reheat your meal. there are a million ways to slow down and be mindful; eliminating a microwave is just one way.

these days

these days

  • we are soaking up the sun for as long as we can, taking near-daily walks around our neighborhood with hazel in the ergo-baby, stepping prayerfully past all the grimy houses and their hidden stories unfolding inside.
  • we are discerning what may be a calling to something that seem impractical and big, and we’re holding our hands open to God as if to say, “you can put here whatever you like, and we will receive it from you.” this something is so sweet an expression of the central message of the gospel that it seems it might be impossible to say no to, in the end. 🙂
  • i am finding Scripture tastes like honey once more. i approach it not so much to study or analyze it, but to be moved by it.
  • i am craving baked goods and feeling thankful that due to amazon subscriptions i now have an ever-present supply of gluten-free all-purpose flour in the pantry that make all my baking desires possible to fulfill.
  • we are spending lots of time sitting or laying on the big floor rug we brought up from the basement to cover our wooden floors on these colder days.
  • hazel is discovering her feet and gifting us with her laughter and grabbing at food from the table and nose-diving open-mouthed into our faces to “kiss” us.
  • i am often photographing the joy and play of families in their own homes or in lovely outdoor spaces. i want to do more of this.
  • we are watching our little collection of TV shows on hulu.com in the evenings after hazel has gone to bed and we can’t go anywhere. we watch The Office, Modern Family, Parenthood, and The New Girl (in case you were wondering).
  • we are sharing meals with the boiler room family two to three times each week. eating together knits hearts together, we find.
  • tim is practicing repentance in the form of  “tweeting” (unlikely form of repentance, i know!) as well as Project Wake Up Before Dawn.
  • we are planning trips to WI in both November and December, anticipating the cuteness of our nephews there and lazy afternoons in the living room of the Collier homestead.
  • we are intentionally interviewing each of the 12 (!) houses full of Jesus-followers who’ve moved into the Boiler Room’s neighborhood in the last year, and asking God how He might want to connect us to one another and send us out for more of His Kingdom come.
  • we are eating good food again, as my energy for creatively cooking returns.
  • i am beginning to image having energy and impulse to do things like disciple women and reach out to my neighbors once more (for a while there, all my energy — ALL — was pointed at preparing to become a mother and then becoming one).
  • we are preparing a 6-week Discipleship Intensive to study The Vision & The Vow and Orphan Slave Son that we’ll facilitate at our house on Monday nights this winter. (if you want to join us, you are welcome! email us).
  • i am enjoying visits from various friends and neighbors, and marveling about how rich a collection of people and stories can come to our very own doorstep when i am not as able to be out and about as i was pre-baby.
  • we are eating the last of our garden’s harvest — the carrots, the squashes, a tiny head of broccoli — and learning about what we’re supposed to do with all the plants before the snow falls.
  • we are content in the shelter of one another, caring for one another in small ways and having hearts full of gratitude.

what a life has been given us.

thank you, Papa.

summer food

i’m not cooking with as much creativity of frequency as normal, but even in this mommy-of-newborn phase of life, we’ve managed to churn out a few goodies to eat…

(i know you’ve missed my food photography)

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mint chocolate chip ice cream

when we got married, jane gave us a really wonderful cookbook — wonderful even though it contains zero food photography — called The Art of Simple Food.

in this book there is a recipe for ice cream that’ll stop your heart in more ways than one. it’s technically more of a custard, because it contains lots of egg yolks. it’s so rich and wonderful. we use a variation on the basic recipe for vanilla that makes it a mint chocolate chip ice cream. it calls for real, fresh mint leaves. in madison, we knew a house nearby that had a prolific supply of mint and so we’d snatch it from there, or else suck it up and buy it from the grocery. but here at our new house we have it growing in our own back yard. lots of it.

mint leaves from our yard!

so on this sunny day, aproned and feeling surprisingly upbeat considering that it’s my due date and i’m no where close being in labor, i went out and cut the sweet-smelling plant, brought it in the house and made us a great ice cream “batter”.

here’s the recipe…

egg yolks and heavy cream

best ever mint-chocolate chip ice cream


  • 9 eggs

whisk the yolks just enough to break them up. put the whites aside for an egg-white omlete tomorrow morning.

pour into a heavy-bottomed pot:

  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt

warm over medium heat until steaming, but do not allow to boil. stir to dissolve the sugar. add:

  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves

when warm, turn off the heat and allow to steep for about 10 minutes. taste now and then, and strain when the flavor is to your taste. reheat the mixture. whisk a little of the hot liquid in with the egg yolks to temper them, then whisk the warmed yolks back into the hot whole milk mixture. cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. remove from the heat. stir in:

  • 2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream

cover the custard and chill thoroughly.

put the chilled batter  into an ice cream maker. add:

  • 1 1/2 cups chipped semi-sweet chocolate

freeze the chilled custard  and chocolate in in the machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

and THAT, is a little slice of heaven on earth. trust me.

the finished product

cheesy pancakes

when i was growing up, my mom had a specialty breakfast that we all looked forward to on those relatively rare occasions when she prepared it: cheesy waffles! oh yes, my friends, fluffy white waffles with shredded cheese in them that browned and crisped. then we smothered them in butter and white sugar. oh man. they were so good.

it’s been years since i’ve had a cheesy waffle, but for reasons unexplainable, i woke up thinking about them this morning. i wondered if i could recreate them gluten-free, and perhaps sans white sugar. but i also realized that i don’t have a waffle maker, so they’d have to be pancakes.

while tim still slept, i got out of bed and googled a few cheesy pancake recipes, then using the general idea from two of them, i got to work on creating my own rendition with healthy ingredients. i also made some cooked apples in butter and maple syrup to use as a topping instead of the white sugar.

on this spring morning, we are enjoying cheesy pancakes, watching our baby girl wiggle happily in my belly, and dreaming about the plans of God unfolding in our neighborhood. amen.

a stack of hot flapjacks

a stack of flapjacks


cheesy pancakes topped with maple apples

t enjoys a hot cup of french press coffee

we’re nearly 31 weeks pregnant now! can’t believe our amazing little baby is going to be here, outside my womb and in our home, in about 2 months. goodness!

sporting the silly pregnancy t-shirt

and then, because i’m sure you want to have cheesy pancakes, too, here’s the recipe that i came up with this morning. it should be noted, however, that all measurements approximate because i didn’t actually use measuring spoons/cups. i will not be held responsible for any bad pancakes that result from following this recipe to a “t”….

Cheesy Pancakes (GF)

  • 1/4 cup oat flour (or just grind some oats in the coffee grinder to make a flour)
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup sorghum flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup plain kefir
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 Tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup grated cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
  • 2-3 Tbsp sliced almonds

Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. In another larger bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, mixing well. Then fold in the cheese and almonds.

Drop 1/4 cup at a time onto a preheated skillet. Cook about 2 minutes on each side, until golden.

Maple-Cinnamon Apples

  • 2 golden delicious apples, diced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Put all ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer until apples are softened.

Serve over pancakes.

what a night

it’s been real cold around this house this week. the furnace stopped re-starting itself. we have to run downstairs to manually fire it up. sometimes every 20 minutes. because it’s like 12 degrees outside and the temperature inside so quickly drops. but i have friends who sleep outside on the alley-facing porch of an abandoned house, and i know it could be worse than this (being tucked under a quilt and down comforter, between flannel sheets, with a husband-heater besides).

still, i feel whiney about the darn furnace and the 50 degree air that greets us when we get out of bed each morning.

tonight there was a Love Feast and for the first time ever, and for reasons i do not know, the volunteers that were going to be bringing and serving the food to 150 friends and neighbors never came. we waited until the last minute. we prayed for God to provide. i wondered if there would be a small miracle — the sort where a stranger received a nudge from the holy spirit and comes sheepishly to the door bearing food enough to feed 150 simply because they were being obedient to the nudge, and not because they knew we were in need. we kept the kitchen doors closed so the gathering crowd wouldn’t notice that there was no activity and no food in there. and we waited some more. in the end we made an emergency call to little caesar’s and ordered 38 single-topping pizzas, paying for them with a check that, quite frankly, is likely to bounce. because our account is running low. but we did it anyway, because people needed to be fed, and because God can make provision for that pizza. yes, He can.

and so it was  humble family dinner, and not a balanced meal.

but then a young man i will call A fell down in a grand mal seizure while his hysterical girlfriend shooed everyone away, shouted for someone to call 911, and generally acted hysterical. helpful friends — some with medical training — gathered round him, though she wouldn’t let anyone help, so most of us stood nearby, some half-heartedly munching on pizza, and prayed with hands extended in his direction until emergency services came. they came so fast — within 5 minutes of my hanging up the phone. but A will be okay, i know. at least okay in this sense.

this is the sort of night that leaves me feeling frazzled and a touch overwhelmed…

…and scratching my head about the many small ways (the furnace, the missing food, and the seizures are only three examples) that God seems to be stirring the pot these last couple of weeks. it’s been churning ever since we started on this journey of learning about and opening up to the ministry of the holy spirit with all its unpredictability and power. it seems like things have gotten a bit crazier. i’m sure they actually have. and i keep thinking there is some sort of faith response He is looking for in us, or some thing that He wants to open up to us here, perhaps a display of His glory. but i feel like we’re mostly sorta bumbling. praying differently as we bumble, though.

and now i need to go to bed before the temperature drops another 5 degrees.

each in its season

nature, in all its seasonal manifestations, offers enough variety to keep a person on her toes for a lifetime. but have you ever noticed that within each season variety is often lacking? you don’t have to dabble very long or intensely into an attempt to eat seasonally before you will find that this is true: the first taste of each will be sublime, but then…. there can and will be far too many zucchini in the summer, and enough potatoes in the late fall to feed your family well into winter. and so you get creative, attempting to make many new things out of the same vegetable, but you might get to the point where you feel like if you have to eat one more tomato, you might go crazy. so they rot in the fridge or the pantry, and maybe you give up and go to the grocery store where you can have your pick of colorful and various vegetation from around the globe, from all the different growing climates — both real and artificial — the world has to offer.

this came to mind this afternoon while i was thinking about the season i’m currently in. this season of waiting, of being changed, but not yet fully. in six months a very mighty and violent disruption will occur in this household: a baby will be born. and with that baby, a mother and a father, too. waiting here in my second trimester, feeling that wee one wiggle around inside me, barely perceptible, i’m finding that this life season is consumed with the attempt to get my head and my heart around this thing. and i want to be present to it, attentive, grateful, slow. but this means a certain quietness. inwardness. and sometimes the thought of this season continuing for another six months, only to yield to another season that will be dominated by feedings and diapers and sleepless nights and possibly some baby blues… well, i’m afraid i’ll get sick to death of the winter squash and potatoes that nature is offering up… that i’ll want some days nothing more than to go to the supermarket and get some guavas and a prickly pear and a bunch of bananas.

but i have winter squash. and some potatoes.

this analogy feels weak when i put it down in a place where you will read it.

but what will you make with the in-season produce? what will you make of this season of waiting, of being transformed deeply in ways that i am sure you don’t even know the half of? (every vegetable comes when it comes because it is meeting a need for that particular time.) will you allow it to be what it is, submitting to the Teacher, who made all seasons for good reasons? or will you try to turn it into something that seems greener, brighter, and fuller of adventure stories?

there’s something for us here. let’s resist the temptation of the supermarket. the raspberries will be back in season soon enough. wait for it.

9 of 101: date night at sardine

i like food. i like getting just a tad bit dressed up and sitting down to eat food that someone else made; someone who is a better cook than i. and so, of course, i put it on my list of 101 in 1001 to go to one of madison’s finer restaurants. i didn’t realize when i wrote that list, how soon afterward we’d be moving away from madison. so this one almost didn’t happen.

BUT, a few days before our move, we were given some gift money from two different wonderful people (you know who you are), for the sole purpose of going out to eat. we went to Sardine, which is funky and fresh and right by lake monona. oh, how wonderful to be allowed to go out to eat without counting up the total bill in your head while ordering. we could simply order what we liked, guilt-free. we still didn’t do appetizers or a salad course, but it wasn’t because we didn’t have money, it was because we simply don’t have room in our bellies for all that food!

here is a little photographic journey through our date.

and, how good to have this special evening with t in the midst of all our packing, loading, moving, and hosting friends….because for two weeks we are apart… until we can settle in together in Grand Rapids together for the long haul. hooray and amen!

i wrote a book

well, sorta. it’s a wee little cookbook, thrown together rather quickly as a parting gift to Big Oak. i wanted to leave them with all the recipes the kiddos there have gotten to be so fond of.

and, i made a home edition. meaning, with the recipes scaled down for a family of 4-6 rather than massive quantities to feed 38 small children and a handful of adults.

you can get a copy, if you like. 🙂

Brooke Cooks for Big Oak: Home Edition (click on this one to buy it)

By Brooke Collier, MA

ps: as you may have guessed, my commitment to whole real foods pervades this book.