Monday, March 21, 2011

Meal Plan Monday! What's For Dinner This Week?

YEA!  I stuck to my meal plan last week for the most part, with just a few minor changes.    It helps so much to have a plan.  The key for me is to know in my head that it's just a guideline, and if I want to change it I can.   If it's too rigid, or set in stone, I begin to feel caged-in, and then the whole plan is destroyed.    However, I am determined to stick to my self-imposed budget for groceries, and it's easier to do that if I have some sort of plan for using the food I have.

I purposely don't plan the weekends, because that gives me a time to be more creative in the kitchen, and also a time for leftovers if we have them, and a meal out if we want.   This weekend, I experimented with a new pizza crust, and we ate it twice!   For lunch on Saturday, and again for dinner on Sunday.   I'm still tweaking it, but we love it already - and it's grain and gluten free.   We also grilled burgers and I made homemade baked beans (using Navy Beans for the first time - we liked them!), and then used the leftover baked beans in Chili for lunch on Sunday.   Wow!  Who would have thought baked beans would be so good in Chili?   It was some of the best Chili I've ever made.   The leftover beans added a smoky sweetness to it, and it got thumbs up from both of my Guys!

Now - On to This weeks Meal Plan!   It's a strange week here, weather wise, so although I'm really wanting to grill more, and eat more warm weather foods, I'm sticking with more comfort foods for now.

MONDAY -  Baked BBQ'd Chicken, with baked sweet potatoes, and steamed green beans

TUESDAY - Sweet & Sour Ham Meatballs with roasted California blend veggies

WEDNESDAY - Italian Wedding Soup (and trying a new recipe for grain free biscuits.)

THURSDAY -  Kitchen Sink Omelets w/ fresh fruit.   (making omelets with little bits of cheeses, veggies, and meats that need to be used up.)

FRIDAY - Shrimp Scampi w/ roasted asparagus and veggie hash browns.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Incredible Fudgy Yummy Brownies - grain free & refined sugar free!

I love to make really great food.  Not "really great food for being gluten free", but really great food that I can feed to people and they love it, regardless of whether they need to eat gluten-free or not.   I want people to love the food that I feed them and I especially want my guys to love the food that they are eating every day.
 Sometimes I think people might get the idea that our food is no fun.   When I tell people that we don't eat any gluten (and also no grains right now!) or no refined sugar,  or corn, or anything with food colorings, etc...I often get asked "Wow, then what DO you eat?".     Honestly, there is a ton more that we do eat than what we don't eat.    You can see from reading past posts that we eat a great variety of delicious foods, including treats.  We love treats, it's just that we are fully aware when we eat them that they aren't our everyday food.

I was part of an interesting conversation today, where someone was asking for a healthy cake recipe.  I laughed out loud, thinking that there is no such thing.   There really isn't.   You can use ingredients that will make it not affect your insulin, or your gut, or your blood pressure, but cake is not a health food.  And it shouldn't be.  It should be one of those foods that are reserved just for our pleasure - for fun, and for celebration.  I think if we could learn to put foods in their proper perspective,  and eat what we are supposed to eat when we are supposed to eat it, then many many health issues would just disappear.  Have your cake and eat it too - just don't try to delude yourself into thinking that it's a health food!  Enjoy it for what it is!   And whatever you do, don't take out the FAT!  It's the fat in the dessert that provides satisfaction, and keeps you from eating the whole thing!

Today, my little guy and I experimented in the kitchen.   We wanted to make chocolate mint brownies (TREAT!)  for St. Patrick's Day, and so we started cruising the internet, looking through different websites to find a grain-free brownie that sounded good.   I found several, but none of them were screaming "pick me, pick me!  I'm THE one!"   Until that is, we found one that wasn't grain free.   It was this one dark chocolate brownies from The Gluten Free Goddess.   I didn't have everything that she used in hers, and I also wanted to make them grain free,  so we let the experimentation commence!    We switched a Ghiradelli Baking Chocolate Bar (unsweetened) for her Belgian chocolate, then we used Palm sugar in place of the brown sugar, blanched almond flour, and quinoa flour to replace the rice flour.  (quinoa is a seed not a grain, and it's very high in protein.) I also added a couple things, as you'll see in the recipe.   We were so happy with our final product, and I would serve these to guests proudly!

So, totally inspired by Karina's recipe, but then I put my own twist on it...and here it is!

Incredible Fudgy Yummy Brownies

4 ounce bar of Ghiradelli's Baking Chocolate Ghirardelli Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar (12x4 OZ)
1/2 cup butter 
2 Tbls. raw honey, or agave nectar
2 organic free-range eggs
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus 1 teaspoon peppermint extract for mint brownies)
1/2 cup chocolate chips to sprinkle on top, or a 1/2 cup of chopped nuts - or both!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.   Line an 8x8-inch square baking pan with foil and spray the foil with nonstick spray.

Melt the chocolate bar, the butter, and the honey or agave nectar together.  The little guy did this in the microwave, and then used a small scraper to mix it all together.  (He then confessed to having had a little nibble of the chocolate before melting it, and said it was much better mixed with the butter and sweetener.  "It's amazing how much better it tastes with just a touch of sweetness, Mom.")

In a large bowl,  beat the eggs with a hand mixer on medium high till frothy. Add the palm sugar and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Add in the almond meal, and the salt, baking powder, and baking soda, beat for about a minute.

Add about half of the melted chocolate mixture into the flour/egg mixture a little at a time - incorporate it slowly- and beat well for a minute. Then add in the quinoa flour, and then slowly incorporate the rest of the chocolate mixture, and mix again until fully incorporated, and then add the vanilla, and the mini chocolate chips, and beat for another minute or so.

Pour into the pan, and bake for 30-33 minutes.  Don't overbake!  Make sure they are set in the middle, but it's better to have them a little under-done than a little over-done.    Let them cool and then cut and serve. 
We had ours while still warm...oh my!  What wonderful, dark chocolate fudgy goodness.   We throughly enjoyed our dessert tonight!
 This post is linked to Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade      - Check it out for some really great real food recipes, and articles!
This post is also linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free.   Great site with lots of information on different types of gluten-free flours and how they work together!

Coconut Oil Giveaway Opportunity!

I am loving Coconut Oil more and more all the time.    The blog I am following for my 40 Day Lent Grain-Free Challenge is doing a Coconut Oil Giveaway!  Check it out, and check out some of her great recipes using Coconut oil!

Wellness Mama

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grilled Carne Asada Salad

Today was the first day that it really felt like Spring.  And it felt like Spring in spades!   I can get all mushy about the birds singing, and the snow melting...the sun shining, and that wonderful breeze that just feels and smells like Spring.     You know that one instant when you realize that Winter has lost the battle and Spring is truly on the way?  That was today.   It has nothing to do with a date on a calendar, and everything to do with the hope that wells up within me as I see the earth being reborn in front of me.

So, somehow the Tacos that were on the menu for this evening needed to be changed to celebrate the beautiful day that was today.  When it begins to get warm (and okay - lets be honest.  Here in Michigan, if it hits 50 degrees, we celebrate, and you'll see people all over in their shorts and flip flops - desperate for warm weather.) my body just seems to start craving salad.  So, my tacos got put on the shelf for another day, and today I created a Carne Asada Salad.  It was magnificent!  Delicious!  GRILLED!

Enjoy this recipe - and please comment, and tell me how YOU celebrate the coming of Spring!
I've linked this recipe to Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly The Kitchen Kop.  Kelly's Blog has been a fount of information for me on this Real Food journey that we're on, and I highly recommend checking it out!  For those of you local to me - she's from the area too!   Also, It's linked to The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania - a Carnival for Real Food Bloggers. She has some amazing video tutorials on her site!

 1.5 lbs Skirt Steak or Flank Steak (I used Flank Steak)
 1 med. sized red onion
 1 med. sized yellow onion
 1 large red pepper
 1 large yellow pepper
 1 large head of romaine lettuce
  A couple large handfuls of baby spinach
 2 large Roma tomatoes
  Cheddar Cheese
  Sour Cream

Marinade Ingredients
Juice of 1/2 orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbls. honey
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt Celtic Sea Salt - Fine Ground - 8 oz

Prep to do at least 4 hours before hand - Prepare the marinade by mixing all of the marinade ingredients together in a batter bowl, and then with a meat tenderizer/mallet, pound out the skirt steak to break down the fibers of the meat, and also to make it an even thickness.   Place it in a gallon sized plastic bag, and pour in the marinade.  Massage the marinade through the meat, making sure it's all coated, and place it in the refrigerator.  Marinate for 4-24 hours.   There - you've just done the hardest part!

Now - about 20 minutes before you're ready to eat - get the coals on your grill ready.  Unless you're using a gas grill, and then I guess you need to just do whatever it is gas grill users do.   I would have no idea, because I'm a charcoal grill girl.    You don't have to tell me all of the warnings about it - I know all about them - but seriously,  I don't care.  I don't eat any of the normal junk that is part of the Standard American Diet, so let me have my charcoal, okay?  :-)

Wash the lettuce, tear it, run it through the salad spinner, then add it to the baby spinach and either put it in a large serving bowl, or individual bowls or plates for serving.  We like to use large pasta bowls, and then build our own salads.

Then,  slice your onions into wedges (a good apple wedger works great for this!)  and slice your peppers into strips.  Massage them with a bit of olive oil, and place them in a grill basket,  then sprinkle with a little bit of your sea salt.

Grate your cheese (as much as you want on your salad.  I like a little, but the guys like a lot.)
Mix up a quick guacamole - 1 avocado, 2 tbls. sour cream, a couple shakes of chili pepper, and a squeeze of lime with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Roughly cut your tomatoes.

Now, put your guacamole, cheese, tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa in serving bowls.
Grab the steak out of the refrigerator, along with your grill basket full of veggies, and a good pair of BBQ tongs, and head out to the grill.   Place the steak and the grill basket on the grill and put the lid on.   Let it go for about 4 minutes, and then open it up, and stir up the veggies, and flip the steak with the Tongs.   Put the lid back on and let it go for another 4-5 minutes.   Don't let your steak get done more than medium.  You most definitely want medium rare to medium steak for this recipe.  I like it medium rare.   I did mine 4 minutes per side, and the veggies and the steak were both done perfectly in that time.
Take it all inside, and transfer the steak to a cutting board.  Slice it thinly against the grain.  Make sure you're doing this, as it will make all the difference in the tenderness of the steak. 

Put the steak and veggies on a serving plate, and serve it with the rest of the salad ingredients.  We like to dress ours with the guacamole, sour cream, and salsa, instead of a salad dressing.

This post is linked to Fight Back Friday at The Food Renegade 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pumpkin Almond Pancakes & Maple Breakfast Sausage

We love breakfast for dinner.  Almost once a week, it's what's for dinner at our house.  Sometimes it's eggs and potatoes, sometimes pancakes, but always a favorite.  

I was supposed to be making coconut flour pancakes, but I've been doing alot of experimenting with Coconut products lately, and I discovered I didn't have enough coconut flour left.  So - Plan B!  (AND STAY TUNED!  Cuckoo For Coconut post coming soon!)

Tonight, I experimented with an oatmeal pancake recipe that we love, but without using oatmeal.  Instead of the oatmeal and the oat flour, I used almond flour and quinoa flakes.   Quinoa is a seed that can be used in place of rice, or in place of oats, and it also can be purchased as a flour. (read more here Quinoa)  For the recipe tonight, I used the flakes.  By using the almond flour, and the quinoa flakes, I was able to make fluffy, flavorful, and healthy pancakes! 

The sausage is a recipe I'm so very proud of...I even surprised myself with how good it is!   We LOVE sausage at our house,  but our favorite name brand is full of all kinds of crap that I refuse to bring into my house any more.   I wasn't sure how to break it to the little guy that we wouldn't be having maple sausage any more, so I set out to re-create the one he loves.   I scoured the internet, and read through cookbooks, and took a little piece from so many added a couple touches of my own.   It got two thumbs up from the little guy, and also two thumbs up from the big guy, who said that he likes it better than the national brand!   Now, does it taste just like the boughten sausage?  No - but it's so good, we don't even care that it doesn't!
 I've used ground turkey, ground pork, and a mixture or turkey and pork - and all have been delicious!
Sausage is a very personal thing though - so I would encourage you to take my recipe, and tweak it for your own tastes.  THAT is the beauty of sausage - you can make a signature blend very easily...and who can resist saying they have a special recipe that's all their own?   

Pumpkin Almond Pancakes (grain free!)
 Wet Ingredients
   4 eggs**
   1 cup pumpkin puree
   1/4 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
   2 Tbls. honey
   1/4 cup palm sugar
   2 Tbls.  melted butter, coconut oil, or olive oil
   2 teas. vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients
  1/2 cup Quinoa flakes
   2 cups Almond Flour
   2 tsp. cinnamon
   2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
   1/2 tsp. celtic sea salt
   1/2 tsp. baking powder
   1/2 tsp. baking soda

** I have Jumbo sized eggs that I get at the health food store - if you are using large eggs, you might want to use 5 eggs.

Mix together wet ingredients with a hand mixer until blended well.  Add in dry ingredients and keep mixing until it's all blended together well.     Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes to half an hour to thicken up a bit, then pour onto a skillet or frying pan that has been oiled, and heated.  Flip when bubbles form over the surface.
Serve with maple syrup, honey butter, or applesauce.

Maple Breakfast Sausage

2 pounds ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp. Frontier Maple Flavor Alcohol-Free, 2-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 3) (I get this at Harvest Health Foods)

I mix this all together (with my hands - it's the best way to get the spices distributed evenly) , and then scoop it out with a 2 tbls. cookie scoop, flatten it into patties, and place on parchment on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Then, once frozen, I put them in a freezer bag.   These are actually better if you wait a few days before cooking them.  The flavors meld together into deliciousness.

This post is linked to   as part of Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.   Check it out for all kinds of great recipes!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meal Plan Monday! What's For Dinner This Week?

Here is what I'm planning for Dinners (Monday - Friday) this week. 
There are lots of recipes in this group of meals - I'd LOVE some feedback - which recipes would you like to see most this week?

Monday - Roast Chicken w/ roasted cauliflower and steamed green beans

Tuesday - Breakfast for Dinner! Coconut Flour Pancakes w/ homemade applesauce, and homemade sausage

Wednesday - Skirt Steak Tacos with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, gaucamole, and homemade salsa - trying a new recipe for grain free wraps from The Spunky Coconut website  ( )...hope they're good!

Thursday - Corned Beef with roasted Brussel sprouts, red potatoes, and carrots

Friday - Broiled Whitefish Parmesan and Creamed Spinach

For Snacks - I'm making Crispy Cheese Crackers, homemade Beef Jerky,  Chocolate Coconut Clusters, and Coconut Macaroons.

I'm not posting Breakfast and Lunch plans because we don't all eat those meals together, so they are more varied.  This morning, the little guy and I had a peach blueberry smoothie w/ homemade breakfast sausage. (no idea what Rick ate, because he eats so stinkin' early!)  Lunches are often leftovers, or a salad.  For instance, today, Rick took leftover egg salad from Saturday in his lunch, while the Little Guy and I are both having leftover Smoked Turkey Fajita Soup.

So - let me know which recipes you most want to see!   Enjoy today - the sun is shining here in MI - I may go for a walk and get some Vitamin D!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

FAVORITE FOOD FINDS FRIDAY (on Saturday) PLUS a Really great recipe...

The Flu Bug has invaded our house this week.  Although I've tried my very best to ward it off, it seems we've all been hit.    So, things are a little behind, but I wanted to share with you a couple of items that I am loving in the kitchen.

First -
Almond Flour.   I love this stuff.  I've been able to bake so many different recipes using almond flour.   I recommend this one to start, because it's a smaller amount for you to try if you are just getting started with higher protein, no starch/no grain baking.  One of my favorite websites where I've discovered some great Almond Flour recipes is Elana's Pantry    I do end up changing most recipes, since I don't use grapeseed oil or much agave nectar (anymore) but even with that, her recipes have worked well for me.

Next, my newest favorite flour - Coconut flour....although I don't recommend this is you don't like coconut.  It's not strong AT ALL, but it does give what you're baking/cooking a hint of coconut.  I love coconut, so this isn't a problem for me, and neither of the guys has commented on tasting coconut.  It's more that I can smell a hint of it when I'm measuring it out for the recipe.   It produces a lighter texture than the almond flour, so I like it better for certain things.  Coconut flour is HIGHLY absorbant, so you need to make sure you are using coconut flour recipes.   Two of my favorite go-to sites for recipes are

The Spunky Coconut

and Coconut Mama

I made a coconut flour recipe this morning - Banana Caramel Sticky Buns.  They were given two thumbs up by both of my guys, and the little guy ate TWO!   They are so full of good stuff for him, so I was excited about this!    The original recipe can be found here: ,  but a little later, I'll be posting my version....because of course, there is no way I can make a recipe as written!
Enjoy today - Love your families - Be Blessed.

OH - AND if anyone can tell me how to make these sites automatically link from this post, I would love to know that secret!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Whole Foods Shopping - On A BUDGET!

One thing that anyone who is trying to eat healthfully knows is that shopping can be much more expensive when you are staying away from processed, and conventionally grown foods.   Although I like coupons,  there aren't many I can use.

Before I decided to do the Grain-Free for 40 Days Challenge, I'd already decided to create a grocery budget.  This is the one area where we just haven't budgeted - it's been a "whatever it takes to get what we want" deal since we started eating Gluten/Sugar/Corn free.   But a couple weeks ago I realized I really needed to reign in on the grocery spending.  I'm still willing to pay for real foods, but I think that I can use my shopping dollars more wisely.   I consider our food to be not just our fuel, but also our preventative medicine, and in the long run, the money that I spend will pay off in better health, energy, and well-being.

So, now I have a budget.   This budget is only for food items - so cleaning supplies, and toiletries, etc... are not included in this.  For our family of 3,  I will have $150 per week to spend.    To some, that may be extravagant, and to others, you may wonder how I can do it for so little.  It's all in your point of view - but I think that to feed each member of the family for $50 a week (21 meals plus snacks) is pretty good.   We eat out maybe once a make that 20 meals and snacks.  :)

Another struggle is that I can't get everything that I need at one store.  I'm okay with this, because I'm the weirdo who loves grocery shopping.  Really.   I've loved it since I was a little girl and I'd go with my Mom.   I love making out my list, and comparing it with the Ads, and plotting my strategy to get what I need. I love reading labels and comparing them (did I mention I'm a weirdo?).   What's even weirder is that I don't like other shopping.  I do as much as possible online, because I really dislike the Mall, or other Big Box stores, and I will make every excuse not to shop.  Except for groceries.

  Although I'll have the equivalent of $150 per week, it won't be spent at a rate of $150 per week.  For example - this week, I drove across town to Heffron Farms, which is a local farm that has several stores in the area.  They sell frozen grass-fed, and humanely raised beef, pork, and also free range chicken and turkey.  They have great prices on wild-caught fish - but you have to buy it by the case...which I do.  Last time, I bought wild caught Alaskan whitefish, and we still have some, so I didn't get any fish this time. They also sell local, lightly processed dairy products, and it's where I get much of my cheese, and also some yogurt.   Because it is a longer drive, when I go, I try to stock up and buy what I'll need for the month.   I already had some meat in the freezer from a previous trip (a whole chicken, 2 pkgs of chicken legs, chicken liver,  a beef roast, skirt steak,  smoked pork, and pork stir-fry meat.)   This week, they also had yogurt that was nearing it's sell by date.  Since I know that yogurt is good for a few weeks past that date, I was really excited about the deal I got.  They had Cascade Fresh yogurt (cultured in the cup, and sweetened only with fruit) for 2 for 2 cents with each $10 purchase!  Hubby loves this as a snack, or also as part of his lunch, and I occasionally use it making smoothies for the little guy and myself - and the price was at miracle status!

Here is my grocery list for Heffron Farms:

Soup Bones  3.25 lbs                                   3.87
Smoked Turkey Thigh                                 7.77   (love this to make split pea soup - it's amazing!)
Ground Beef patties (1 lb pkg - 4 patties)   3.99 x2
Ground Beef  1.5 lb. pkg.                            4.93
Ground Pork 1 lb pkg.                                 3.19 x2   (I make my own breakfast sausage with this)
Bacon - 1 lb pkg.                                         5.69 x2
Boneless/Skinless Chix Breast - 1 lb.         6.75 x2
Bone-In Chicken Breast    (4.25 lb)            7.48
Bone-In Chicken Breast                              5.91
Leg Quarters (on sale for 1.39 lb!)              2.01
Heavy cream - pint                                      2.50
Butter - 1 lb.                                                3.75
Italian blend cheese (shredded)                   4.89
Marble cheese - block                                 3.02
Cheddar Cheese - block                              3.24
Smoked String Cheese                                4.50
Cascade Fresh Yogurt - variety of flavors     .02 x8

TOTAL for this Shopping Trip - $107.45  - but remember, this is a once a month trip!

NOW!  On to Harvest Health Foods.   I so wish we had a Trader Joes or a Whole Foods in the area, although with Whole Foods now bowing in defeat to Monsanto and the onslaught of GMO's, I guess I should be happy with Harvest Health, and their commitment to only Non-Gmo foods.   They also have a commitment to NO artificial sweeteners, high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated oils.  It's a safe place to shop, and they do try to be competitive with Meijers and Costco pricing.  I appreciate that.  They also have COUPONS that I can use sometimes!

Sweet Potatoes - 5.5 lbs                                          7.81
Plain Greek Yogurt                                                 4.49
1 quart non-homogenized, cream line Milk           2.99
Cauliflower - 1 large head                                      3.80
Coconut Milk                                                         2.39  x2
Palm Sugar                                                             5.15
Chocolate Chips - Enjoy Life brand                      4.79  x2
Navy Beans - dry, bulk                                          2.83
Buckwheat Flour (not wheat, and not a grain!)     4.39
Nut-Thin Crackers (for Hubby)                             3.19
Coconut Oil                                                            7.49 (I've found it cheaper online now though.)
Eggs                                                                        2.39  x2
Hamburger Buns (fermented wheat - for Hubs)     3.99
Bagels (gluten free, again for hubby)                     6.45
Coffee                                                                     6.90
Provolone Cheese (on sale for 25% off)                 2.85
Apples  (Gala - 6 ct.)                                              4.39

Harvest Health I do every two weeks, although sometimes I make a quick trip for Eggs, Milk, Coffee....
Total for this trip - $81.86

Then, onto COSTCO!   I love COSTCO - and I love some of the great, healthy deals I can get there!

Organic Baby Spinach                          3.99      (same cost as the grocery store, but 3x the amount!)
Mixed Bell Peppers                              6.79
French Onion Soup (Hub's lunch)      10.89
Almond Butter                                      5.99  (UNBELIEVABLE price for the large jar I get!)
Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip                      5.99
Izze Sparkling Juice (12 count)           10.79  (treat for us - it's our "Pop".)

Then, I also discovered something NEW at Costco that had me so excited!   I spent a little more money than I had planned for groceries, but I couldn't pass these up!

Cranberry White Cheddar Cheese  1.5 lbs    9.88    (This is addictive!)
Kerry Gold Irish Butter    1.5 lbs                  7.35    (The gold standard in pastured, grass-fed butter!)
Kerry Gold IrishCheddar Cheese   1.6 lbs    9.26     (again - the best!)

Total Cost at Costco - $72.02   

Total for all three - $ 261.33  -  leaving me around $40 for next week, to buy eggs & milk. I spent almost $30 more than I had planned at Costco, but I have plenty of cheese and butter now for the month!

I should say also that I have some veggies and fruits already.  From last summer, I have home canned applesauce, and fozen butternut squash, blueberries, peaches, and salsa.  I also have frozen green beans, california blend, broccoli, and peas.  Lots of canned tomatoes.   Also 2 heads of Romaine, 2 lbs of carrots, celery, red potatoes, red onion, yellow onion, garlic, and asparagus, yellow pear tomatoes, and a Roma tomato.   Fruits - lemons, limes, 2 grapefruit, a bag of oranges, 4 Kiwi, and a couple bananas.  Oh - and 2 ripe avocados that I need to use!    I expect that my next big shopping trip in 2 weeks will be to restock veggies and fruits, mostly.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

40 Day Challenge and My Thoughts on the Lenten Season.

I was raised Baptist.  Baptists, as a denomination, do not observe Lent.   I had no idea what Lent was or what it meant until I went to college.   Then, I thought it was an interesting Spiritual discipline, but at the same time, I was thankful that it wasn't something I felt compelled to do.    Plus, I really disliked it when people would announce what they were "giving up for Lent", and then I'd have to hear them moan and groan and complain about it, and count down the days until they could have whatever it was back again. 

Really?   If you're going to complain about it for 40 days - are you really learning the lessons that are supposed to be significant to Lent?   Are you really understanding the sacrifice of our Savior, and the fact that He loved us so much that He was willing to give everything for us?  Are you meditating on that in the midst of your bellyaching?   At the end of the 40 days, are you more intent on grabbing hold of what it is you've given up, or are you contemplative and thoughtful about how the 40 days has changed you?

Okay...stepping slowly off my soapbox.  Sorry for the mini-rant!

Back to my story.   Over the years, there have been times when I have participated in the Season of Lent.   But it hasn't been something I've done with regularity.  Because even though I no longer attend a Baptist church, I still am not affiliated with a church that practices Lent, so I'm on my own with this...and sometimes (more often than not) I forget about it.

However, this year, I've been thinking about it a lot.  I've been thinking about sacrifice, and what it means, and how sacrifice in our lives can actually build strength, and character...including Christ-like character.   I was ready for the Lenten Season this year, but I wasn't sure what I could sacrifice.  Then, I received an email with a post from a blog that I read -    and I knew THIS is what I wanted to do.  

So - for the next 40 Days, I will be eating NO grains.  Not just glutened grains, but also no rice, or oats, or millet....none of the grains I've used as a substitute for wheat.   No pasta.  (that's the hardest part!)    BUT - you won't hear me complaining!   I'm looking forward to this time of sacrifice,  reflection, and contemplation, and listening for what God wants to teach me during this time.   I'm looking forward to the challenge of it also.    If you read through the Challenge Post by The Wellness Mama, you'll notice that her challenge is Grain & Sugar Free, but I've already done the sugar-free, so that's not a challenge really for me, and certainly no longer a sacrifice. Grain-Free is something I said I'd never do.  So - here I am.  Doing it.

Of course, I'll be posting my grain-free recipes, and my grain-free meals.   My next post will be my Grain-Free Grocery List, and what I've shopped for this week in preparation of going Grain Free for 40 Days!

This is the verse that keeps running through my mind as I start this 40 day journey.

I Samuel 15:22 (The Message)
Then Samuel said,
    Do you think all God wants are sacrifices—
      empty rituals just for show?
   He wants you to listen to him!
   Plain listening is the thing,
      not staging a lavish religious production.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Welcome Friday!  I love Fridays!     Welcoming Friday means that I've successfully made it through another week, and can prepare for the weekend.   Friday also means lunch date with my husband.  This is a tradition that we started about 9 years ago - when I had to work every Friday night.  I had a 1 hour dinner break, so he would come home from work, take a quick shower, and then come pick me up for dinner.   That was our Friday night date.   Then, I started my own business, and was free for lunch on Fridays, so we began meeting for lunch.   Then, along came the Little Guy - and my Friday lunch date became "Lunch with Daddy Day".   For five years, the three of us had a lunch date.  Now, the Little Guy is a First Grader, and has his lunch at school, so I have my lunch date back again!    Our favorite place to meet for lunch?   Bangkok Taste!  Our favorite Thai restaurant, where almost always, one of us gets Pad Thai, and the other gets Thai Peanut Curry noodles, and then we share.   And we talk for 45 minutes uninterrupted by a 6 year old.  Pure Bliss.

I've decided that on Fridays, I'm going to share some other Food Bliss with you, and tell you about some of my favorite food finds.   These may be things that I just currently love, or they may be things that I cannot go without in my daily kitchen.   

First on my list, because I ran out last week, and then Oh JOY!  Found that it was on sale at my local Health Food Store this week, is Naturally Nutty Vanilla Peanut Butter,  and Butter Toffee Peanut Butter.   Oh.My.Word.   This is the most incredible peanut butter EVER!   The butter toffee does have a tiny bit of added sugar, but the Vanilla has none....which is unbelievable.  Every time I stick my spoon into the jar, I read the ingredients list again, because I cannot believe that there isn't any sugar in this. It tastes like dessert!    Seriously, if you love peanut butter, you have to get some of this!      If you live local - it's on sale at Harvest Health.   If not, you can get it through Amazon, or through their website.   It's made fairly locally too, since it's made in Traverse City, MI.

Those who know me know that I am a Coffee Loving Gal.   I LOVE a good cup (pot) of coffee.  But,  in the evening, I also love a soothing, relaxing cup of tea.   I most usually choose a green tea, but lately, I've been completely nutso over this new herbal tea I've discovered.  I am so happy when I find things that have no added sugar, and yet satisfy my sweet tooth (like vanilla peanut butter!)  Yogi Egyptian Licorice Mint Tea is like candy in a cup.    I don't need to add any sweetener to it, and it's so smooth and sweet tasting.  This stuff is amazing!   I can also get this locally at my Health Food Store, but if you can't find it locally to you - it's at Amazon!

So how about you?  Do you have a favorite food find?   Let me know yours, because I love trying new foods!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tomorrow Morning's Breakfast

Tomorrow morning we are having Soaked Oat Porridge.   This is at the request of the Little Guy, who asked if he could have it, and then said "Maybe I could have that every morning for breakfast, Mom."

He has no idea how happy that makes my heart to hear him say that. 

There is a whole philosophy of soaking and fermenting foods.  I'm just learning about it all, so I'm not ready to blog about it in detail...but I have had some early success with soaking my grains, and also soaking nuts.   This blog is about soaking oats.  It’s important to soak oatmeal prior to preparation.   Doing so increases the digestibility of oats as it does and it enables the nutrients found in the grain to be better absorbed by your body.   Oats, like all grains, contain phytic acid which can inhibit the proper absorption of minerals zinc and iron.  
(Phytic Acid is the principal storage form of phosphorus in many plant tissues, especially bran and seeds.  Phytate is not digestible to humans, however, so it is not a source of either inositol or phosphate if eaten directly. Also , it binds up and makes unabsorbable certain important minor minerals such as zinc and iron and to a lesser extent, also macro minerals such as calcium and magnesium.)

 Now that you've heard the scientific mumbo jumbo about the benefits of soaking oats, let me tell you how it works out in our everyday lives.   Soaking the oats DOES make them softer and more digestible.   The oatmeal...ahem, the PORRIDGE (because the Little Guy doesn't like oatmeal, but he LOVES porridge.  So we go with that.) is much creamier after soaking.  They just taste better. The fact that my little guy is requesting them as his every morning breakfast says a lot!   And they're better for us.    You'll see in the recipe that you can add any of several different fermenting agents.  I use whey that's leftover from making yogurt cheese - but that's for another blog for now, just know that you can use lemon juice, or vinegar...or whatever you happen to have on hand.

It only takes a moment to start this in the evening, and then it's ready to go the next morning.  I double the recipe and make enough for a couple mornings for the three of us.


  1. Soak rolled oats overnight in enough water to cover – adding lemon juice, kefir, whey, yogurt or cider vinegar to the water.
  2. In the morning, drain oats in colander and rinse them well. Press them down in the colander to drain most of the rinse water.
  3. Add oats, milk, and water to a pot and bring to   a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Immediately turn down heat and add remaining ingredients.
  5. Stir frequently and continue to simmer until oatmeal has thickened to your liking.
  6. Serve with cream, or milk and natural sweetener of your choice.  (we like raw honey.)

"These Taste Like Real" Chocolate Chip Cookies

I admit it.  I've had some real bombs in my attempts at gluten-free, sugar-free cooking and baking.  Especially the baking.   I am not a baker, even with gluten & sugar.  I LOVE to cook, because I love being able to just grab what's available, and make something delicious from it.  To me, Cooking is an art form.  Baking - that's more of a science, and I usually don't have the patience or attention span for it.  That's why I'm always wondering if the cookie recipe I'm looking at can be made into a batch of bar cookies.  So much quicker and easier!

But - I love my guys, and so I bake.  To them, baking cookies is an act of love.  They really don't care what's for dinner,  as long as they know that there are fresh baked cookies on the counter.    The meat and veggies for dinner are just a means to an end - DESSERT!
And to them, all other cookies pale in comparison to chocolate chip cookies.  So, when we started on this Adventure of GF/SF/CF...and everything else free, I started searching for a GREAT chocolate chip cookie recipe.   A good recipe wouldn't do, I needed one that would be amazing.    I tried a lot of them, none of them quite right, and finally, came up with my own.   I pulled recipes from several different sources, and took the best of each one, and created a cookie that gets the two ultimate compliments.  First, I was told that "these cookies taste like real chocolate chip cookies",  and then "you are the best cooker in the world" followed swiftly by "can I have another one?".

I wanted a cookie that would be higher in protein (hence the almond flour - there are two brands that I recommend  - I've only been able to find them online, but they are WAY better than any I've found in the stores around here.)  Almond flour also lessens the carb impact of the cookie, making it a snack/dessert that doesn't send Micah bouncing into the walls.  
I also used coconut palm sugar  - This has become my sweetener of choice most of the time when I'm baking.   It's nutrient dense, low glycemic, tastes fantastic (like brown sugar, but with a hint of caramel) and can be used on a 1:1 ratio with sugar in recipes.   LOVE it!   I cut down the sugar in the cookies - most recipes with this amount of flour call for at least 1 1/2 cups sugar.  I used 1 cup coconut palm sugar...but that's just because we are used to less sweet.

"These Taste Like Real" Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 Cup Almond Flour (lightly packed)Blanched Almond Meal Flour, 5 lb.,JK Gourmet Almond Flour, 16 Ounce Box (Pack of 2)
3/4 Cup Oat Flour (gluten free) Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour, 22-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4)
1/2 Cup Millet or Brown Rice Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum  (this one is corn free) Authentic Foods Xanthan Gum
1 Cup butter or coconut oil, softened.  Spectrum Naturals - Coconut Oil Organic, 14 oz liquid
1 Cup coconut palm sugar  Big Tree Farms SweetTree Organic Coconut Palm Sugar, Blonde, 16-Ounce Pouches (Pack of 6)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips - I use these - Enjoy Life Foods Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips 10 Oz
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1.  Heat Oven to 375F
2.  Stir together Flours, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt.
3.  In another large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer) beat butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.  Add eggs, and beat well.
4.  Gradually add flour mixture, again beating well.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
5.  Using a 2 Tbls. Cookie Scoop, drop onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly and remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.  

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.