Blackberry Cinnamon Rolls

September 1, 2012 at 10:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I’ll make this narrative short and sweet, folks, because the most important thing you need to do right now is try this recipe. I am in the middle of birthday week right now. Today’s portion of the week-long celebration of my 27 years on this earth consisted of a brunch with some very dear friends. I made these cinnamon rolls. They were adapted from a recipe I found on Beantown Baker’s blog and intended to follow to the letter…until I made the classic mistake of not checking to make sure we had all ingredients before baking. That sent me into a spiral of adjustments which then became a new recipe that I’m going to share with you and officially declare as the second original recipe towards meeting my goal. And they’re dairy free. Perfect.

Blackberry Cinnamon Rolls- makes 12


1 c almond milk

1 t apple cider vinegar

1/4 c vegetable oil

1/4 c agave

1 packet active dry yeast

2 1/4 c all purpose flour

1/4 heaping t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 c blackberries

1 T berry jam (I used loganberry. Yum.)

1 t cornstarch

1/8 c water

1 T cinnamon


3 oz dairy free cream cheese (I used Tofutti brand.)

2 T Earth Balance vegan butter

1 t vanilla

1/2 c powdered sugar

To make dough: Stir vinegar into almond milk. Let sit 10 minutes. Combine milk mixture, oil, and agave in a small saucepan and heat until warm, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool until just slightly warmer than lukewarm, add yeast and stir gently just until combined. Let sit for a few minutes to activate. Add 2 cups of flour and stir to combine. Cover loosely with towel and let rise approximately one hour. (I like to place bowl in oven with the oven light on for a bit of warmth.)  While the dough is rising for this hour, make the filling. After the dough has risen, stir in remaining flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until completely combined.
To make filling: Combine 1 c berries, jam, cornstarch, and water in small saucepan. Heat on medium stove, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat and let cool.


To assemble rolls: Roll dough out on floured surface in a rectangle until approximately 1/3 inch thick. Sprinkle cinnamon over top of the dough and then rub to evenly coat. Spread blackberry filling over the dough and sprinkle remaining berries evenly across. Starting with end farthest from you, roll the dough up towards you, pinching last part together to seal. Slice roll into 1 inch pieces and place in a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Let sit for 1/2 hour. Bake 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees.


To make frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter together with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and continue to beat. Add powdered sugar in small amounts, beating in between additions, until frosting is desired consistency. After the rolls come out of the oven, dab a small amount of frosting on each roll and let melt. Feel free to swirl the frosting on top of each roll as it melts to insure adequate coverage.




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Multiples of 3

July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Today’s post is brought to you by the number 3 and its multiples as July 30, 2012 is 30 days before my 27th birthday. Feeling weary for the last couple of weeks, I tried to focus on some fun to get my spirits back up. This resulted in a 30 by 30 list. 30 things to do by the time I turn 30. Cliche, perhaps. But I like lists. And I like sharing with you. Let me know if you want to join me for any of this. It would be way more fun with company.

Jessica’s 30 by 30:

  1. Read or re-read 30 books from this randomly selected list.
  2. Teach a cooking class.
  3. Race 30 K, not all at one time.
  4. Have or be en route to a Master’s degree.
  5. Own a dog.
  6. Contribute 30 original recipes to my blog.
  7. Watch every movie Audrey Hepburn was ever in.
  8. Have zero credit card debt.
  9. Sew a dress.
  10. Perform, solo or in a group, on clarinet again.
  11. Take ballroom dancing lessons.
  12. Buy a nice camera.
  13. Learn how to use my new, nice camera.
  14. Take a road trip more than 3 days long.
  15. Make a quilt.
  16. Sell 30 things from my Etsy shop. It doesn’t exist yet.
  17. Write 30 poems.
  18. Do 30 political actions: vote, call or write legislators, protest!
  19. Donate food or money to UDFB 30 times.
  20. Give 30 homemade gifts.
  21. Send 60 hand written notes. Christmas cards don’t count, but do those too.
  22. Build something from raw materials.
  23. Purchase a subscription to an arts organization.
  24. Sell baked goods to the public.
  25. Stay on or under budget for 3 months in a row.
  26. Donate 30 personal items to charity.
  27. Live on a SNAP budget for 30 days.
  28. Have long fingernails for at least 30 days.
  29. Scrapbook this 30 by 30 experience.
  30. Visit Paris.


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Tidying up

July 20, 2012 at 7:15 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve heard some attribute the following feelings to gender, however I think that it’s most likely due to being human: there are just those days when you go from feeling awesome to feeling like the complete opposite in one second. Personal things, plus news of the Colorado shooting, have made me want to hide under my desk all day. It just seems like it would be a better place to be right now.

Seriously contemplating this led me to discover how dirty that space is, though. So I started cleaning. I’m taking a brief break for lunch now and thought I’d share how healing the process of cleaning and praying has been this morning. It’s been a while, for both. Physically cleaning a space is helping me clean up my thoughts. Choosing joy, love, and constructive thoughts is such an effective approach to dealing with emotions and situations that I wish I could remember right away each time something comes up. God forgive me. But eventually I get there, and people…it works.


I’m hoping this weekend brings a few peaceful moments like last weekend, when I took the time to sit on our back deck and pit cherries for 3.5 hours. Many delicious treats are coming from this effort, but there were other benefits like having time to think. One of my favorite thought trains involved comparing our chickens to the ladies in Downton Abbey. Like I said, I had a lot of time to think.

Happy weekend. Love to all.

A better camera and photographer would be able to capture how lovely all of those cherries were.

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Someone else’s thoughts…

July 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm (Uncategorized)

Is it bad form to write a blog post that just refers you on to another blog? Probably. But I love the agency I work for, and it was nice to read someone else’s thoughts on who we are and what we’re doing. Check out Harvest Times!

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Resolutions and Thai Hippie Bowls

June 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

I’m a recent convert to the Mennonite denomination, but as far as I can tell (and this is what sold me), potlucks are one of the core faith values. The church I usually attend in Seattle doesn’t regularly have them like most other Mennonite churches (you’re going to have to forgive my sweeping generalizations in this post, and apparently the overuse of parentheses), so the young adults have taken matters into their own hands and created a bi-monthly potluck group. Google doc organized and always deliciously themed…what’s not to love? But I digress. At a recent potluck, we were doing some ice-breaking and were sharing resolutions that we had made for 2012. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I despise New Year’s resolutions. The only good one that I have ever made and stuck to was when I only ate bread at home that I had made myself. Best. Year. Ever.

So, I made one up on the fly. But now I think I’m going to stick to it. And here’s where you come in…I resolved to write 10 of my own original recipes by the end of the year worth sharing. One has been in the works for quite some time and needs some tweaking, but as we approach the 7th month of the year, I figured I had better get a move on it. So until that one is ready (is the suspense killing you?), here’s my first recipe for the blog world. Drum roll…

Thai Hippie Bowls- serves 6

3 cups quinoa

4 1/2  cups water

1 T olive oil

2 t. salt

1 t. pepper

1 T dried basil

1/4 cup onion

1 crown of broccoli, broken into florets

2 red peppers, sliced thin

5-6 carrots, peeled and diced

2 cups snap peas

Peanut Sauce:

1 cup peanut butter

2 cups canned coconut milk, I used lite.

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 t cayenne pepper, or more if you like things spicy

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup agave nectar


To make peanut sauce:

In a food processor, combine all ingredients until smooth. Pour into saucepan and heat over very low heat while you prepare the rest of the meal. Stir occasionally.

To make quinoa and veggies:

In a large soup pot, heat 1 T oil over medium-high heat. Saute onion with salt, pepper, and basil for about 2 minutes. Add quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until water is absorbed and you can see the white rings around the quinoa.

While quinoa is simmering, prep your veggies. Listed above are the veggies I used, but honestly you can use whatever you like and/or have on hand. Put a small amount of water in another large pot and turn to medium-high heat. Add your veggies, sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt, and steam until they’re a desired doneness. I like mine to still have a little bit of crunch, about 6-7 minutes of steaming.

When everything is finished cooking, serve the quinoa, veggies, and sauce separately so people can build their own bowl. You can also include some toppings for people to add on like diced cucumber, sprouts (for extra hippie-ness), or sesame seeds.

I forgot to take a photo of the final dish. I’ve also been studying food styling recently, but for now you’ll have to deal with this photo from my crappy cell phone camera. You’ll also have to trust that my housemates loved this dish based on their expressions in the photo.




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Ahhh, retreat

June 20, 2012 at 5:14 pm (Uncategorized)

Pender Island is probably not the destination most think of when they plan their trip to the San Juans, but it’s where my housemates and I ended up at the end of May for our retreat. We drove to Vancouver to catch our ferry to the island, but first spent some time on Granville Island. Memorable moment: having my plate of Thai noodles dive-bombed by a thieving seagull.

First stop: Granville Island hammock store

Vancouver, B.C.

After arriving on Pender and a wind-y drive through the darkness, we discovered a lovely home waiting for us that had the best back deck with a hot tub and a view. My “routine” involved waking each morning and drinking coffee while alternating between staring at the view, napping, and reading the 3 books I devoured over the course of the week.

This was the view from inside the house, relaxing in the recliner.

Other activities for me included knitting and re-visiting “Planet Earth.” Saturday was our busiest day when we ventured to the Farmer’s Market around lunchtime. Chatting with the locals and listening to a bluegrass band over lunch taught us that the island’s pub was the place to be that night. We also met Maya, a wiener dog that we would run into again at our next stop…Morning Bay Vineyard.

Enjoying a warm afternoon on the lawn.

It was a lovely afternoon listening to live music and wandering through their art show. We learned several more people’s faces that we would see again at the pub that night. Our favorite character ended up being an 86-year old woman who had come out that night for a piece of cake and glass of wine by herself. She ended up joining some hipsters at their table and once the band started playing she got those orthopedic sandals flying around the dance floor and took off her cardigan to reveal some arm tattoos. A local man of questionable sobriety informed us she had only gotten the tattoos 2 years earlier. Cheers to Shirley and a beautiful space to reconnect with myself and housemates.

House love, and jello

After 3 ferry rides the next Tuesday (Pender to Victoria, to Port Angeles, from Bainbridge to Seattle) we arrived home happy to see other housemates, the chickens, and a blossoming garden…but sad to be away from Pender’s laid back beauty.

The first harvest

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No, MY Dad is the Best.

June 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s an argument heard on playgrounds ’round the world: My dad is better than yours. Adorable, but relax folks, mine’s the best. A quick, but very sincere shout out to my dad on this Father’s Day:

Thanks for my curly hair, which I’ve finally come to love…for the now deeply rooted obsession with parking a car parallel to and equidistant from the parking space lines (and in general a desire to do all things well)…for the love of the earth that runs through me and the interest to see what can come of it…

for the habit of looking at maps before I travel and my deeply rooted faith…

for my deep respect of a good nap and possibly most important…my incredible fashion sense.

I don’t love all of the states in between Washington and Ohio, but I do love you! Happy Father’s Day.

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Love and Light

June 5, 2012 at 5:05 am (Uncategorized)

I have a few things in mind to share with you, but as I’m still not 100% healthy, I’m going to take the easy route today. Below is a modified version of what I shared with our two supporting congregations when the house led a worship service at each. We focused our theme around where the first church was in their lectionary cycle and service themes: “Witnesses to the Light.” Enjoy!

“About a year and a half ago I was sitting in my office at Bluffton University chatting with a coworker and friend about my next life steps. As I reflected with her about all of my interests and options, I once again became very overwhelmed at the thought of leaving my community in Northwest Ohio. I had a great job, lived in a charming little house, was very close to my family, adored my church, and had a very strong support system of friends.  But when she left I remained in thought and eventually landed on my desire to do service. All of a sudden the feelings of “someday I’ll do that” changed and became very urgent. I needed to do this now. As my mind raced through all of the practical reasons not to go now, I felt God answering each worry…and God continues to ease my worries as I find myself 2300 miles from where I was one year ago.

My decision to do MVS was rooted in faith and the belief that God could use even me. The final quote of Rumi’s “Lost in the Call” has become my mantra for this year: “Remember God so much that you are forgotten. Let the caller and the called disappear; be lost in the Call.” And so the biggest challenge this year has been to find ways to experience God’s love and then send that back out into the community as light.

In 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is made complete in us.” I have loved the opportunity of this voluntary service experience to establish roots in a community, meet others who have done the same thing or are working on it, and then talk to people who wonder things like “What is a Mennonite?” “Why do you live with 6 other people that you never really knew before?” “Why did you move so far away from home?” “Why do you have chickens?” Answering the questions of fellow food bank volunteers, clients, and coworkers often reminds me of the important responsibility I have to embody God’s love and radiate light. It’s not always easy when I’m up to my ears in sad stories, customer requests, and dry beans. But all I can do is share my story and hope that people experience my presence, work, and listening ear as the love it is intended to be…even if they’re not quite ready to receive it or haven’t yet come to good terms with its source.

My time sharing with you would be incomplete without mentioning the community that we have at the MVS House. My housemates are by far the highlight of the last 8 months. Seattle is beautiful, my job is great, but the times spent with these lovely people are what fill me with love. I see God in the times we spend around the dinner table with one another, weekends when fun memories are spontaneously created, and each time someone opens up a little more about themselves and what life is revealing to them right now. I am so grateful for the home we have created and that I got to be a part of this community. They have given me a lot of love to share.

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From the inside out

June 3, 2012 at 7:29 pm (Uncategorized)

Greetings and happy Sunday, readers. The housemates and I went on a retreat to Pender Island, part of the Canadian San Juans, last week and it was lovely. I’ll post some photos and updates from that soon. But right now I just want to take a moment to remember my mom. She passed away 15 years ago today.

Every year this anniversary kind of sneaks up on me, even though it trails along soon after Mother’s Day. I usually prefer to just spend the day alone reflecting on the positive memories and all of the reasons I admire her so much. But the last few days I’ve been dealing with a very painful ear infection and have had a lot of time to lay around by myself and think. I keep thinking about how much of my life she didn’t get to see and all of the things she may or may not know about me. She died before I started playing clarinet, before I learned French, and before I learned how to cook and bake. Does she know how much of a mentor she still is to me? I still look at her as the embodiment of spirituality, strength, joy, beauty, and love. Oh, we had entered the mother/daughter pre-teen years fighting, but she never stopped being my hero and the captain of my home team. I miss her telling me that she loved me. And in the few moments before she died, when my grandma told me to to tell her that I loved her, did she know that I couldn’t because I was crying too hard…not because I didn’t?

So I’m hurting inside and outside today, and I really just want my mom to take care of me. As a young woman, I’d love to have her guidance on a daily basis. There’s so much I didn’t learn about her, either. But I’m grateful for the people that have stepped in and fulfilled these needs in various ways. So much good has come from a life event that at 11 years old, felt like the end of everything good.

Love you, mom

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Big News!

May 2, 2012 at 11:40 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

HA! I tricked you into reading my blog. I knew I had to come up with something good in order to pull you in. Now let’s see if I can create some content that doesn’t disappoint.

I have been thinking a lot lately about my MVS assignment and all of the things I wanted to do this year. I wanted to remove myself from the rat-race of the American dream and getting ahead. I wanted time to reflect on my skills and desires. But most of all, I wanted to do some good somewhere. In orientation we talked a lot about community and the benefits of being present. This appealed to me a lot. I envisioned myself attending community meetings/meals, volunteering extra time to community clean-up efforts, knowing all of my neighbors, etc. I thought I would immerse myself in getting to know more about Seattle and its issues, then venture out to save the city. (Or at least try.) As it turns out, though, I’ve only really met a couple of my neighbors.

I’ll give myself a little bit of grace and mention that I don’t just sit around inside the house all of the time. I meet a lot of great people at work and get to talk to them about what I’m doing and why I’m here. But I could do so much more to engage in the community. Occupy Seattle was less than a 1/2 mile from my house this fall and I didn’t even really try to seek out activism opportunities. So, the big news is I’ve renewed for a second year of MVS. I want to do more. I want to be more active in the community- and saying this here is my way of asking for folks to hold me accountable. Same house (new housemates, though…*sniff*), same job, new approach.

AND EVEN BIGGER NEWS! Our house welcomed 4 new ladies into the family a couple of weeks ago.


Our track record with animals has not been good this year. But Laura and I are co-parenting, and so far so good. The girls are adjusting well, love socializing, and provide the house with fresh eggs. Aren’t they so CUTE?!?!?!?

I am a proud mama. Have a great week, all.

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