Desert Flour

A 20-Something's Musings on Life, Love and Faith


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Quinoa and Edamame – Food Prep

For this week’s meal prep we went with another spin on a Blogilate’s meal plan staple – the Quinoa Edamame Salad (follow the link for the full recipe).

I didn’t make enough for a full week of lunches, as we have a Halloween Potluck at Work and a Catered lunch this week, but here’s all the ingredients needed for 3-4 servings of this meal.

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Some differences to note:
1) I added spinach for some extra flavor (and because we had a lot in our fridge)
2) I also am not the biggest fan of mustard – so I use a couple different seasonings – Garlic (obviously), Sea Salt, Lemon Juice, Lemon Pepper and Cayenne Pepper

Cooking wise it is pretty simple:

Start off your quinoa first as this takes about 15-20 minutes. We like to put it in our Rice cooker. Just follow the proportions on the package for your desired number of servings.

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bubbles, bubbles, bubbles

The microwave does make an appearance in this recipe – only because those Steam’ables Bags are so convenient! Just pop it in the microwave for 5 minutes for delicious steamed Edamame.

IMG_3309As you are cooking the quinoa and edamame, start your large frying pan with a little olive oil, onions and garlic. Then add your spinach.  Once your spinach has shrunken down and your onions start to brown add in your steamed edamame and tomatoes. Your quinoa should be almost done at this point and it just gets added into the mix.

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Then just season it to your taste preference!

I like my food spicy and with healthy amounts of garlic – so I can be a little heavy handed on my cayenne pepper and chopped garlic.

But enjoy exploring what suits your pallet. Some other options we’ve experimented with include mustard and agave and Italian dressing. So go wild!

And Enjoy!

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nom nom nom

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The Name Game…

Caitlin! Caitlin, Caitlin Bo Baitlin Banana Fanana Fo Faitlin Mi My Mo Maitlin…

Nothing sends a confident, independent 24 year old woman into an existential crisis like the post-wedding name change game.

I married my best friend (gag barf. Cliché death <3<3) back in July 2014. It was all wonderful and we were surrounded by both our families and all of our dearest friends. But now as my honeymoon tan starts to fade there are a number of legal and self-identification issues to sort out.

Scott and I decided during our wedding ceremony planning that we would love to be called Caitlin and Scott Rancher when they announced us after that first newlywed kiss. I was happily prepared to jump into my new life together with my husband and I was really cherishing the thought of sharing the same family name as him.

I had no idea this would offend so many of my friends.

So many women in my life were surprised. I received comments along the lines of – “Didn’t think you were one of those girls.” Or “Wow I really thought you were such an individual in your relationship, guess looks can be deceiving.”

And even comments from within my family circles suggesting – “That’s too bad. We thought you would be the only sister to carry on the family legacy.”

Um. What?

Excuse me?

My decision to change my name to that of my husband’s in no way reflects whether I am an “individual” or my personal belief in my self-worth. My achievements in my life, my family and my everyday actions have constantly, and will continue to constantly, give breadth and depth to my “family legacy.” This suggestion that by somehow sharing something that was my husband’s as we embark on a new life together is self-depreciating – actually really offends me.

Our society seems to have taken the see-saw approach to defining modern feminism in the context of weddings and legal name changes as it teeters as far over as it can from the previous male-dominant standard of the past.

I recognize the historical system of taking on the male’s name following the wedding union was the result of some pretty sexist and degrading practices of marriages made business transaction. The exchange of money and goods for good wife property. The man runs the household and is King of the castle. etc. etc. I know.

I agree that the Patriarch naming scheme should no longer be the forgone conclusion to every marriage. And in some circles it can’t be – prime example: marriages between two women. Obviously there needs to be a conversation there.

And really every couple getting married should be having this conversation. I think the outcome and rationale for the “Last Name Decision” is totally individual to each couple.

I don’t think it’s fair to judge someone else’s decision to either change their name, or keep their name, just because you personally are interpreting the internal relationship hierarchies at play.

I recognize now I am just venting. But it’s not like I made the decision lightly or didn’t put great care and thought into whether I should become Caitlin E Rancher, Caitlin E Cole Rancher, Caitlin E Cole-Rancher, Caitlin C Rancher, stay Caitlin E Cole, etc.

I went through the canon of pros and cons on this decision, considering both how it influences my career and graduate school aspirations, legal documents, and publication record as well as how it influences my family, my husband’s family, my social circles, my social networking, FB, email addresses and on and on. Besides putting great thought into what implications I was setting for myself, I also asked my husband whether he had any expectations or preferences. (If you know Scott you will not at all be surprised to hear he wanted whatever would make me happy. Barf. Jk. Love you. But at least we had a conversation.)

Regardless. This isn’t a decision to be made flippantly. But you must define your own standard and your own sense of what is right for your relationship.

The sentiment that I would share something so intimate and so defining to your persona with this man I love, was a really strong argument.

To have those values called into question has been an ongoing struggle. Probably made obvious by the fact that I am still sitting on my Social Security name change papers now at the end of October. After 3 months of marriage.

I am still going forward with my name change – to become Caitlin E Rancher – but I fully admit all of those comments really made me call my decision into question. I think it is very hard to walk the line between evolving social norms and maintaining traditions.

So! I just wanted to provide some of my experience and maybe offer some support to other 20-something newlyweds playing the name change game.

And since that got a bit heavy and ranty – here’s something uplifting to leave you with as you maybe muddle through your own existential crises:


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Cooking Trials: Blogilate’s Clean Meatballs

On Sunday afternoons, if we are trying to be healthy and productive, I will do mass food prep for the hubs and my lunches for that week. We both pack in a lunch every day M-F in order to 1) Save $$ by purchasing grocery items for multiple meals vs. daily purchases of single meals 2) Try and eat a little cleaner for our mid-day meal.

Our typical lunch boxes include the following:

  • Mid-Morning Snack of Fruit or Veggie and a protein. (My favorite is a cut up Gala apple and peanut butter)
  • Main Lunch with protein, veggies and minimal carbs if possible
  • Afternoon Snack of a Granola Bar or Protein powder to be made into a shake

An extremely useful resource I use when making lunches is the popular Blogilates site run by the entertaining and infectiously enthusiastic Cassey Ho. She has a number of tasty recipes and meal plan options (all for free!) for those looking for some advice on how to construct a healthy diet.

This Sunday I returned to one of our favorites from her website — Delicious Clean Meatballs!  (Follow the link for the full recipe.)

I didn’t really have all of the ingredients required for the recipe so I modified with the following:

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I don’t really like Green Bell Peppers (so I don’t buy them..) so I used an Orange Bell Pepper! I find they are a little sweeter and don’t dominate the other ingredients quite as much.
I only had 1 Bell Pepper, so I added in 4 stalks of celery.
I only had a yellow onion so that took the place of the purple one called for.
I also don’t like wasting egg yolks (and we don’t buy egg white cartons) so I just used 1 full egg to replace the 3 egg whites.
I also like the 3lb Ground Turkey you can buy at Smiths vs Ground Chicken by the single pound at some other stores. (I only used 2/3 of that big log).
Spice wise, I love garlic. (Hence the huge Costco container.) So I added in two health spoonful’s.
I also added in some other random spices we had laying around the kitchen to give it a bit more flavor.

Once you have completed taking your aggression out on cutting up all your veggies – you just put everything in a large bowl and mix it up.

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I am a hands on cook. I like to mash it all together with my hands. But if this distresses you I am sure a spoon would work as well…(shown for posterity’s sake).

Then you put big balls of your mixture into a greased muffin tin. (Easy to do when you’re already elbow deep in your bowl). And bake at 375 for 35 min.

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We eat 2 meatballs for 1 serving – so this will make 3 lunches for the week. Yay!

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Nom nom nom

Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! Or have any other resources for our healthy lunches 🙂


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On painting the roses red…

This past Tuesday I met with a group to discuss the potential for giving support for a World Mission Coworker through the Presbyterian Church (USA). These Mission Coworkers make great efforts to legitimize International Christian Mission by living and working in communities for a minimum of 3 year terms. (Although the vast majority decide to lengthen their stay for decades at a time.)

The great significance of these WMCs is in their efforts to work in solidarity with the local communities they are serving.  They meet with town leaders, minority groups, refugees, and other existing sites to define areas that need funding and support. This type of model allows for more sustainable mission as well as more useful service to the community by addressing the areas that they identify as important.

One of the examples as to why this type of community-driven mission identification is so important was presented to us by Rene Myers, the Regional Development Manager from the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

In a rural hospital in Mexico, without a current WMC, groups of volunteers were organized to come down for week-long mission trips to work in the hospital throughout the summer. Without a knowledgeable community liaison, these volunteers, some with clinical experience and some with only willing hearts, arrived to the site without any clear direction for their week of service.

Some of the first volunteers looked at the brown stucco walls of the hospital and decided a fresh coat of white paint would be a facelift project both valuable to the community by providing a new look for the space and would be a reasonable task to take on for their week stay.

brown to white

Bright new and shiny!

So the local doctors and leaders followed their cultural customs of graciously hosting these visitors as they prepared the walls, repaired any stucco imperfections, let the walls dry, purchased masonry brushes and exterior white acrylic paint, painted the entire building and at the end of the week left a white hospital building and lingering paint fumes with pat-your-self-on-the-back-for-a-job-well-done grins.

Then the next week’s volunteers arrived with more willing spirits, limited experience and little direction. These volunteers took a look at those white sterile walls and thought a fresh coat of yellow paint would be just the facelift project, pleasing to the eye and accomplishable within a week.

white to yellow

So they sanded down the stucco walls, purchased more masonry brushes and exterior yellow acrylic paint, painted the entire building and left a yellow hospital building and lingering paint fumes with the same self-satisfied grins.

The next week’s volunteers preferred a soft baby blue.  A few weeks later it was a pastel green.  And then back to white.

blue green white

” ♪ We dare not stop or waste a drop so let the paint be spread ♪”

Over the summer the rural hospital was painted 5 different shades over the course of 9 weeks they hosted mission trips. The local doctors and community leaders didn’t want to dissuade the volunteers from their projects as they were gracious for the gift to their hospital – although the summer did little to meet their actual needs for upgrading clinic supplies, purchasing medicines, wheelchairs or offering further training to their staff and nurses on proactive health advisement and sterilization techniques.

Not all short-term mission projects result in this kind of unsolicited “service” to the community. But the same risk exists for any kind of short-term placement by imposing whatever vision or specialty the visitor has onto the work done during their stay. A surefire way to avoid this quandary and to make sure a community’s needs are being addressed – is to ask them!

But asking a community what they need requires taking the time to demonstrate respect. To form bonds and relationships with those you are serving. To become “one of us” and develop solidarity for the mission you are living – not breezing through for the week to give to a vague, undefined “them.”

And in order to form this kind of in-depth community, mission organizations and long term volunteers like the World Mission Coworkers are desperately needed. So I am personally very excited to continue these discussions and try to discover the exact type of WMC and community we want to commit to supporting.

I am curious, what are your thoughts on short-term mission? Are they effective? Do you need someone stable on the ground in order to do any mission work?


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Balancing Productivity and Being a Sloth

When mountains of papers, binders and folders crowd my desk, to-do lists in five different expo marker colors cover the entirety of my whiteboard and gold flagging stars mark nearly every email in my inbox – I go to work.  I am a tornado of productivity from filing papers, responding to messages, making calls, doing research, mailing letters, tracking down signatures, writing and editing and more editing. (Anyone else experiencing the slow-death joy that is group writing?)

This easily translates into post-work activities. When I have an 8-5 workday and then another dose of meetings, volunteer work and social functions for the next 5-6 hours, I grab a granola bar and throw myself into my extracurriculars and relationships.

I like to be busy. I thrive off of constant activity.

Besides working full time I volunteer at a grief center for children and families. I am Social and Co-Mission Chair for an active group that meets weekly and does mission and ministry work throughout the city. I sing in my Church choir. I am in a book club. I plan date nights with the hubs and happy hours with my friends. I call my sisters at least once a week. I’m applying for doctorate grad school programs. (How this all fits into my introverted personality will have to be explored later…).

Oh and don’t forget all of those other life necessities: grocery shopping, meal cooking, laundry folding, pet feeding fun! I even go to the gym 2-3 times a week (or at least most weeks…).

However this manic frenzy of Getting. Ish. Done. only works when there is that claustrophobic feeling of having so very much to get done. When I have one folder on my desk and maybe one pending email – it will take me all 9 hours of my work day to get through them. Literally my arm will reach over to that folder with the same speed of a two-toed sloth stretching for the next branch.

..almost...there...

..almost…there…

This has nothing to do with deadlines. It’s not that last minute productivity magic that encourages so many people to become efficiency masters when the count-down buzzer has started. No, it’s literally just a workflow to work-pending ratio.

For example choir practice. Meets every Thursday evening at 7:30pm. If I am having a Tornado day, I’ll finish work, go to the gym, feed the kitty, make dinner, go to choir practice and come home and visit with the hubs. But on a sloth day – I’ll amble home from work, stare into our refrigerator for several minutes eventually grab chips and salsa and turn on Netflix. Around 7:15pm I will have a debate with myself about the merits of going to sing vs. continuing my Supernatural marathon. (Spoiler – those Winchester brothers often win in this argument).winchesters

My logical brain tells me: busy day at work = relaxing day at home. Or even the opposite: slow day at work = efficient housekeeping and social visiting at home. Nope.

I’ll give you tornado=tornado and sloth=sloth. I am the human scientific proof of Newton’s First Law of Motion – “An object at rest stays in rest and an object in motion stays in motion.”

Does anyone else seem to follow this whacky pattern? Or do you function with more balance in your schedule?