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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!! (and our 2014 goals!)

It’s almost 2014 – that means resolutions! We aren’t doing resolutions this year…. I’ll be honest – I usually don’t anyway. Sure I get the idea that it’d be nice to have a resolution but ultimately it’s not important enough for me to stay at it. Before January is up, I’ve forgotten about it. I decided that we would have New Year’s goals instead.

We survived the cold!
2013 proved to be my hardest year yet. If you don’t know, check out my story here. In all honesty, the last few years have been a struggle that has just gotten worse. I now know why my body is fighting itself constantly and why I feel so terrible all the time. That’s a great start for the New Year. It has been hard for me to accept the fact that I’ve gone through so much with little results up until recently. I have spent over a year getting tested for everything under the sun. It’s pretty exhausting. I’ve learned that dwelling on the negative is one of my biggest hurdles to healing. So my #1 goal for 2014 is having a more positive outlook on life and my healing. This includes stronger faith, patience and hope.


We went fishing!
We soaked up some rays!
#2 is to take better care of myself. This includes taking help when it is offered. I’m pretty independent but I just can’t do everything on my own right now (it’s been hard coming to terms with that). So yes husband, I will stop fighting your help every day (or at least try to). I’m also going to completely embrace my new diet, nutrition counseling, etc. I know that next week when I go to my first nutrition appointment my world will be rocked. I know the first few months of this year is going to consist of me letting my body heal – which also means giving up practically every food I’m accustomed to for a while. It’s just food – I can do it.

#3 goal is to control my stress better – at work, at home, etc. I love cooking as a hobby but it’s hard to enjoy cooking when you can’t eat much so temporarily I’m going to try other outlets to reduce stress. I’ve never been one for exercise – I figured chasing kids was exercise enough. I know that I need to stay fit though…. Most people think that since I don’t weigh a lot that I’m fit. Not the case – I’m pretty puny and weak. If I’m going to be scrawny, I might as well be stronger and toned. I’m going to share my exercise plans each month, starting with January.  These will be simple, easy plans that I think others will be able to use. I’d go ahead and call these beginner plans. My husband is active so he helps me out when I need advice. This is a plan I’ve come up with to help me but it is simple enough for others to use. I’m also going to try and get more organized – in every way possible! That’s got to reduce stress right?!

We rested...
We got "more married"
#4 is to save more money. We had a nice little cushion for a family our age. We’ve worked hard for what we have but as the saying goes “you spend what you make”. I’ve also learned the hard way that your “cushion” can be gone real quick. Ours went to pay medical bills. We’d been saving for a nice little vacation or mini honeymoon we’ve never had. That didn’t happen but what a blessing it was to have that little bit saved so we didn’t have to sacrifice anything that makes us comfortable! It made me think though… good grief we have a lot of junk! This goal is simple – don’t waste money on things we don’t need. I’ve got it figured up and I’ll also post our savings plan. We already keep a budget each month that I reconcile often. We go over budget each month but not on our items we need (utilities, etc) but on things we want (clothes, entertainment, etc). I may end up with a few more goals before January is up but they are all attainable and realistic. If you have any ideas for good goals or tips I could use with mine – let us know! It’s always nice to share thoughts and ideas that can help one another!
We had birthday #5!
and birthday #1!

To finish this post, let me just say that I hope your 2014 is full of love, happiness, blessings, faith, strength, etc. Regardless of how you feel about 2013, it is over and behind us! Let’s make 2014 the best year yet and if not, try to enjoy it anyway!!


Things weren't always great....

But we love each other anyway...












Healthy Nachos

Going low carb can be a real challenge. I find it especially hard to eat healthy during football or parties. We just love party snacks but you know as well as I do that they can be awful for you! I’m still adjusting but for now these nachos will work great in a pinch! Believe it or not, the bell peppers make a great substitute for a chip. Let’s be honest though – it’s still not a chip. I really liked the light and crisp taste though. Plus I could eat a lot more without feeling guilty about it! I did made my husband some with tortilla chips though – not everyone is excited about finding a low carb, clean, appetizer like I am : ). Makes enough for about 4-6 servings depending on if you are serving as an appetizer or a meal.

3-4 bell peppers, seeded and cut into 2” chunks
1 can beans, drained and rinsed (our favorites are black beans or cannellini beans)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
½ cup corn
½ cup jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 avocado, chopped
¼ cup green onions chopped
½ cup shredded cheese (we used dairy free)
Salsa, sour cream, etc for additional toppings


Heat oven to 400°F. On a large baking sheet sprayed with olive oil, line bell peppers in a single layer. Spread evenly over peppers the beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers. Top with cheese and bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and top with avocadoes, green onions and additional toppings if desired. Serve immediately. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

This recipe may trick you. It looks like a cheesy, fattening, heavy casserole. However, it is a slimmed down, lean, tasty casserole that you can feel good about eating. This low fat, low carb dish is still comforting and delicious. Chicken Cordon Bleu can typically be very heavy and most casseroles have a rich and creamy but fatty sauce. I swapped out the heavy cream for a lighter but still savory sauce. I kept the swiss cheese but it could easily be substituted for a diary free cheese and still taste great. I also swapped out the carb filled pasta for some carb free spaghetti squash. I even added a few extra veggies to get more nutrients. Any way you make it (traditional or modified), this dish is savory and wonderful. Perfect for a fall or winter day.
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces


1 Tbsp Olive oil
¼ cup onion or bleu cheese dressing (homemade or bought – I used a sweet Vidalia onion dressing)
½ spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise
¼ cup water
¼ cup onion or bleu cheese dressing
2 cups swiss chard, cut into thin, short strips
4 slices of swiss cheese
3 oz of sliced deli ham, diced
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic, minced


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook chicken breast chunks in olive oil and ¼ cup of the onion or bleu cheese dressing. Cook chicken for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through completely. 
  • In a greased 2 quart baking dish, pour water and place one half of the spaghetti squash, cut side down. Pierce squash shell with a knife or fork. Cook in microwave for about 10 minutes. Once spaghetti squash is cooked, drain any extra water from the baking dish. Turn over squash and scrape edges and bottom of shell with a fork to make spaghetti “noodles”. Place scraped squash into a separate bowl. 
  • While squash is cooking, quick-blanch the swiss chard. Bring two cups of water to boil in a sauce pan. Put swiss chard in boiling water and cook for about a minute. Drain water quickly from chard. 
  • In the same baking dish, spread cooked chicken on bottom. Sprinkle spaghetti squash over chicken. Pour the remaining ¼ cup of dressing over squash and chicken. Place swiss chard over squash and then sprinkle on diced ham. Next, layer on slices of swiss cheese until mixture is covered. Layer on sliced tomatoes until dish is covered. Finally, sprinkle on salt pepper and minced garlic.
  •  Bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted and mixture starts to bubble around edges. 

Menu Plan Monday - Week of 12/29/13-01/04/13

Good Morning All!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday! I know we sure did. We wrapped up our 12 Days of Giving, went to Midnight Mass, celebrated with all of our families, relaxed a little, spent extra time together - it was perfect! I'm not too thrilled to be back to the normal Monday craziness but that's what pays the bills! We've been discussing our New Year's goals (not resolutions!). I'll be posting those later in the week. What are some of your goals or resolutions for 2014? Save money? Lose weight? Travel? Strengthen your faith? I hope to help those of you that answered yes to some of these... we've got some big plans for the new year! If you are looking to get a little more organized this year, check out the Menu Plan Monday hosting site www.orgjunkie.com. If you click on this link, you will also find some other menu plans to start your week and new year off right! Enjoy bringing in the New Year and stay safe!!!

29 30 31 1 2 3 4
SUNDAY MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY SATURDAY
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
egg tofu eggs Breakfast cinnamon rolls tofu eggs fruit/nut scones
toast muffin quinoa hashbrowns toast cereal eggs
banana fruit apples orange banana apple fruit
tea/milk tea/milk tea/milk tea/milk tea/milk tea/milk tea/milk
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
chicken olive fruit & nut leftover lettuce chicken chicken
veggie chicken salad pasta wraps soup chili
spring rolls lettuce wraps carrots salmon carrots rolls cornbread
water water water water water water water
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner
leftovers salmon butternut sq. crockpot  chicken KIDS tuna steaks
or asparagus pasta roast chicken enchilada CHOICE kale salad
salad salad kale potatoes casserole burgers squash
water water water water water water water
Snack Snack Snack Snack Snack Snack Snack
pretzels apples celery/PB apples pretzels smoothie smoothie
orange carrots pretzels carrots/hummus celery/PB carrots trailmix
brownies chocolates party food! milk shake cookies fruit pizza cupcakes

I hope 2014 brings as many blessings as 2013!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Zucchini Lasagna & Gluten Free Italian Breadsticks

When I first went gluten free, I was so worried about finding replacement pasta. There are plenty of gluten free pasta options out there that taste great. I have plenty in my cabinets but I find myself trying different alternatives. I really like replacing pasta with different types of squash. Sliced zucchini is a fantastic replacement for lasagna noodles. It is low fat, low carb, grain free, gluten free, etc. It softens up nicely while baking and makes gives the dish and extra boost of flavor. We made this vegan but you could easily add ground beef or turkey to make it a little heartier. As always, you can substitute regular cheese for the dairy free kind. Serves 4-6

1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into 12 slices lengthwise (use a mandolin!)
1-2 cups pasta sauce
½ cup mushrooms, diced
1 cup swiss chard, kale or spinach, chopped (use a combination!)
¼ cup diced onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp parsley
½ tsp basil
2 cups shredded dairy free cheese (I like Daiya brand)


  • In a large skillet, sauté onion, mushrooms, chard and garlic in olive oil. 
  • In a 9x9 baking pan, spread about 1 Tbsp of pasta sauce. Place 4 slices of zucchini over sauce. Top with ½ of the mushroom mixture. Sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese over veggies. Top with about ¼ cup pasta sauce. Repeat layers one more time. 
  • Top with the final 4 slices of zucchini and any remaining pasta sauce (as much or little as you desire). Top with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle over basil and parsley. 
  • Bake at 350°F for about 45 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and slightly brown. Let cool about 10-15 minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.
GLUTEN FREE ITALIAN BREADSTICKS


Just saying – these go PERFECT with my Zucchini Lasagna. These are lightly and fluffy but still filling and as always, gluten free. These are actually made with non-soy flours and no dairy as well. My biggest suggestion with these is that you form them nicely, otherwise they can look like many things, some not so appealing. Either way they still taste great! Customize your toppings to what you like!


½ cup brown rice flour
½ cup amaranth flour
¾ cup potato starch
¾ cup tapioca starch
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp basil
1 pkt of active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar or honey
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
additional basil or other seasonings for topping

  • In a small bowl, combine yeast, sugar and water. Whisk together and let sit for 5 minutes to let yeast activate. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine rice flour, amaranth flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, xanthan gum, salt and basil. Add in olive oil, vinegar and yeast mixture until and mix over medium-high speed for about 30 seconds or until dough ball forms. 
  • Separate dough into small dough balls and form into bread sticks (I made about 8 medium sized breadsticks. The best trick to this is to have wet or lightly floured hands to help keep dough from sticking to you. 
  • Lay breadsticks onto a greased baking sheet. Let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes. Brush with olive oil and add any desired toppings (Salt, pepper, seasonings, cheese, etc) 
  • Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Best if served immediately.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Turtle Surprise Brownies

It’s not New Years yet, which means most of us still have a couple more days to indulge before the resolutions take over. So you better try these in the next few days! They are still more healthy than your typical brownie but they do have some extra sugar and calories for the turtle center. I’d trade the taste of these brownies for any number of calories though! They have a gooey, caramel center complete with mixed nuts, sandwiched in between two layers of cakey brownie. Oh so good… This serves about 16


1 package of brownie mix (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup water
¼ cup applesauce
1 over ripe banana
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar or honey
½ cup butter (I used Earth Balance Dairy free)
1 Tbsp milk
1 cup mixed chopped nuts (I used pecans, peanuts and almonds)


In a large mixing bowl, blend together brownie mix, water, applesauce, banana, oil and vanilla until smooth. In a saucepan, melt butter. Add in sugar, milk and vanilla until boiling. Boil for about 7 minutes or until sugar is complete dissolved. In a greased 9x13 baking pan, spread half of the brownie batter. Sprinkle mixed nuts over batter and pour over caramel sauce evenly. Top with remaining batter. Bake at 350°F for about 25-30 minutes or until brownies are cooked through. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sweet Potato Skins

For Christmas this year, my mother-in-law made these great looking little potato skins for an appetizer. They were just potato skins, stuffed with bacon, cheese and onions. I of course couldn’t eat them because of the cheese and onions so I decided to make my own! We don’t eat a lot of white potatoes and I’m currently on a non-dairy diet so I modified this quite a bit. They turned out really great though. They would be perfect for a game day snack or party food. Plus they are made with more natural ingredients so you don’t have to feel as guilty for eating them! This makes 8 potato skins.

4 small sweet potatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 slices of turkey bacon, diced
½ cup shredded cheese (I used Daiya DF cheddar)
1 Tbsp chives
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
Paprika
Garlic salt
Black pepper


  • Bake sweet potatoes as desired, oven or microwave, until just cooked. Cut baked potatoes in half, lengthwise and carefully scoop out insides, leaving about ¼ inch layer of potato in shell. 
  • In a large skillet, cook diced bacon pieces until cooked through. 
  • On a large baking sheet, lay potato shells and brush with olive oil. Sprinkle coconut sugar, chives, paprika, salt and pepper onto potatoes. 
  • Sprinkle turkey bacon inside potato shells and top with shredded cheese.
  • Bake at 450°F for about 15 minutes or until shells are crispy and cheese is melted. Serve with ranch or sour cream. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Apple Cinnamon Scones

Good Post Christmas Morning! I hope you all had a wonderful, blessed Christmas yesterday! I know we sure did! Now comes the fun part, putting together mountains of toys, finding a home for the old ones and picking up paper… lots and lots of paper! I’m going to need a good breakfast to do all of that! That’s why I’m giving you this recipe today! These simple, yet delicious scones are perfect! Apples and cinnamon just go together and when you add them to a scone it’s magical! They really don’t take too long to make and you could even start the dough the night before and bake the morning of serving. Makes 8 scones.


1 cup white rice flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup almond flour
½ cup tapioca starch
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup coconut oil, softened
½ cup almond milk
1 egg
1 cup apple, finely chopped
1 Tbsp cinnamon
¼ cup coconut sugar
Glaze
1 Tbsp butter, melted (I used dairy free)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp almond milk (more or less for desired consistency)


  • In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add in oil, milk, vanilla and egg. Blend over low speed until dough ball forms. Slowly add in apple pieces until well combined. 
  • On a floured surface (or a counter with a layer of plastic wrap), form dough into a circle about 1” thick. Cut the circle into 8 pieces. 
  • Place scones onto a greased baking sheet and bake at 325°F for about 20-25 minutes or until scones are lightly browned and cooked through. Let cool for about 10 minutes. 
  • While scones are baking, combine glaze ingredients into a small bowl. Whisk together until smooth, adding more milk if a runnier glaze is desired. Drizzle glaze over cooled scones and serve.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 12 of the 12 Days of Giving - Local People Working!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I hope everyone got whatever they asked for! I know I did and I got great gifts too! I’m I love having Christmas at our house! I love seeing my family and loved ones over for the holiday, plus I love cooking. My kids destroyed the house opening presents but that’s okay! I really don’t know why I spend so much time cleaning it – I know what it’s going to look like when everyone arrives! I imagine their house looks similar so hopefully they don’t care! Today is our last day of giving. I’m a little sad as I have really enjoyed all that we’ve been able to do. What I have enjoyed most is the views I’ve received on these posts. Sure I am trying to operate a cooking blog about gluten free (soon to be dairy free, grain free, everything free for a while) in a tiny town in Kansas. My audience isn’t large to begin with but I have had an overwhelming response on my posts. I keep checking the stats and I’m happy to report that my combined views on my days of giving has blown everything else out of the water! This makes me happy! I love it when you all read my recipes but this means that we have at the very least intrigued you. I can’t tell you how many sweet texts or messages I have received about our giving. I love it! Do you know what else we love?? All of the people who are sacrificing time with their families today to keep us safe or comfortable. This includes our military, police officers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, store clerks, anyone who is working today! Thank you! I have the luxury of having a job that is closed today so I get to spend time with my family. Today, we wanted to give to those who are working to help others – in whatever way. My husband’s new hobby is smoking meat. He’s pretty good at it too! My favorite is his ribs. Today, he is smoking ribs that we can take to our local people! We are just going to be at home with family this morning and then going to my in-laws this afternoon so he had plenty of time to do it. So for lunch, some lucky people are going to get to enjoy his ribs! I hope you have enjoyed our 12 days of giving as much as we have! We can’t wait to do it again next year! I hope each of you have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year! God Bless!!! 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 11 of the 12 Days of Giving - Church

It is finally Christmas Eve! The night we have all waited for so impatiently. I’ll be lucky to get my son to sleep! Here’s our typical Christmas Eve routine. We get all dressed up in our fancy Christmas outfits. Then we go pick up my mom for Mass. Hopefully we are on time (usually we are not). If we aren’t, we have to squeeze into a packed pew or split up rows but I don’t mind. I love seeing the church full! Our church has Mass every Saturday night in our town. Most people like going on Sunday so it’s not too full each week. However, on Christmas Eve, you are lucky to find a place to sit! We love going to Mass but something about the Christmas spirit and the great company make Christmas Eve Mass so great! My kids aren’t quite at the age that they can sit still long though, so all three of us are usually wrestling the little ones. Anyway, we get through Mass and then drive around to look at Christmas lights. This is one of my greatest memories growing up. We always drove around and looked at lights as a family. My parents are divorced but there were a few years that we all went to Mass together (we have a picture of my dad to prove it! ha!) and looked at the lights. Now that I am an adult I can look back and remember these little details. It’s not the presents that I remember, it’s the time well spent with family. Sure I remember getting a bike one year but overall, I forget what I got when. I know my kids will too but I want them to have these memories. After the lights, we go home and get ready for bed. Last year I started a little tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve (my parents always let me open just one!). My son gets to open it for now but its usually a big box packed with PJs for everyone, a blanket, new movie or book, slippers, etc. That way we all get new Christmas PJs and get to spend some time together before bed. We tuck the kids in and then Santa goes to work. If I can, I lay awake early in the morning waiting for the kids to get up (or I wake them up!). Then you get the idea, presents, cookies for breakfast, whatever! I just love it all but my favorite part is Mass. It didn’t use to be but I really appreciate it now. There are many churches around but a shrinking number of priests to reverend them. Our priest currently covers four parishes each week. He’s a busy man! Last weekend at Mass, we had a seminarian come visit (a person studying for priesthood). I was surprised to see it was a guy my age that I went to college with for a couple years. I was completely surprised to see what he was doing with his life. He explained his studies and a “day in the life” kind of thing. Each year, they take up a collection at our church for retired priests and soon-to-be priests. That is what our 11th day of giving will be. We giving our tidings at Mass each week but tonight is special and we want to give what we can for the past and future leaders of our church. My son even pitched in some leftover change he had from the library donation (I think he really just likes putting money in the collection baskets!). I know the priests work hard and it’s a lot of sacrifice but they do it with a smile on their face. It’s not just Catholics that make sacrifices but every religion and we should all be thankful for that – whatever our beliefs are! So tonight, we are going to bed with full hearts, tremendous blessings and anticipation. I hope your Christmas Eve is as magical and blessed as ours! 


Coconut Macaroons

Need a quick last minute cookie for Christmas??Try these! I found some delicious little treats at Whole Foods and I fell in love with them. They are called “Snacaroons” made by Laughing Giraffe. They are these little raw, vegan coconut mounds with various flavors. Whole Foods isn’t close but I found them online also. However, they are pretty pricey so I decided to try my own little version. Result = fantastic! These are just slightly baked so they have a nice little crunch but still a gooey texture inside. I made a variety of flavors with the same base ingredients and will probably experiment more. If you like coconut macaroons, you will love these gluten free, dairy free version (note, mine are not vegan as they do have egg whites)! This recipe makes about 24 small cookies


Base
12 oz of unsweetened coconut flakes (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
¼ cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp almond paste (or additional coconut oil)
1 egg white (you could use egg replacer with a little experimentation)
¼ cup almond milk or coconut milk
1 tsp sea salt
¼ cup raw coconut sugar (regular sugar will work)

Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until well blended. This will be your base. To make plain macaroons, form mixture into small cookies using a scoop and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350°F for about 10 minutes. Watch closely to make sure the coconut does not burn. Drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.

Here are a few variations I’ve tried to so far:
Amaretto Cherry
1/3 of the base mixture
¼ cup cherries, finely chopped
1 tsp Amaretto liquor (you can omit this if desired)

Mix together and bake according to base directions.

Pumpkin Pie
¼ cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
1/3 of the base mixture

Mix together and bake according to base directions.

Caramel
2 Tbsp caramel sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 tsp maple syrup
1/3 of the base mixture

Mix together and bake according to base directions.

Other variations: Cranberry Orange – add in 1 tsp orange zest, 1 tsp minced cranberries, 1 tsp orange juice to 2 cups of the base mixture. Caramel Bailey’s – add in 1 tsp of Bailey’s liqueur to the caramel version. Peanut Butter – add 2 tsp peanut butter or almond butter to the base mixture. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 10 of the 12 Days of Giving - Library

Today I am a proud mom. Ok, everyday I’m a proud mom but today my little fella sure tugged at my heart! Today is the reason why I wanted to do this whole 12 days of giving thing. Sure it has been challenging some days – especially since I was sick the majority of the time. However, today makes it all worth it. Today my son is donating his allowance. I told him I would match (or more) whatever he wanted to give away. He is donating his allowance to the local public library. My mom takes him and the other daycare kids to the library quite regularly. Often enough that he knows EXACTLY where his favorite books are and he frequently checks out the same ones over and over. I didn’t go to the library much when I was younger. I liked reading, but didn’t go to the public library. I am SO happy that he enjoys going. He talks about it all the time. That’s another reason why we decided to reward him with books. Every night since this started we have read at least 2 books each night – many times more than that! A few days ago my husband and I were talking about the recent break-ins at the library. There were two different occasions that it was broken into and computers, electronics, etc. were stolen. Our son overheard us talking about it and said “I want to give my allowance money to the library so they can buy new stuff.” I almost fell over. I never dreamed that he would think to do something so generous with something he treasures so much – his allowance. It has been easy for him to watch us donate to other things because it is not his money he’s losing. Tonight, he got his piggy bank and his allowance jar and was ready to give! I know the few dollars isn’t anything compared to what they lost or what it costs to upkeep everything but I sure hope they know how much the library means to him and how caring he is. Many times as a parent, I question that what I’m doing is right or if I’m teaching him the right things. Tonight, he showed me that I’ve done at least something right for him to volunteer his hard earned money!


Menu Plan Monday - week of 12/22/13-12/28/13

Oh boy--- 2 days until Christmas!?! We are so ready! Presents are wrapped, house is cleaned, goodies have been made... now comes the waiting... impatiently. I might be worse than the kids! On Christmas morning, I will likely be awake at 4 or 5 am... laying in bed until I hear my son rustling around. Or if I'm sneaky enough, I can quietly wake him up before my husband finds out. Apparently, it's weird if you wake up before the kids - just ask him.
"Is it Christmas yet?!"

Here's this week's meal plan. Notice Christmas Day is a little crazy. I plan on eating junk. So it may be a healthier version of junk but still not our usual treats! Lots of GF cookies, candies, cakes, etc. We are having brunch at our house and that will include some scones, cinnamon rolls, etc. Make sure you check out what the other bloggers have lined up this week at OrgJunkie.com's host site for this week's Menu Plan Monday. I'm sure they have lots of great meals, tips,etc for you!

22 23 24 25 26 27 28
SUNDAY MONDAY TUESDAY WEDNESDAY THURSDAY FRIDAY SATURDAY
Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast Breakfast
cinnamon egg banana CHRISTMAS cranberry scrm egg french
rolls muffin smoothie BRUNCH scones apple/milk toast
fruit banana toast (pancakes) banana smoothie banana
tea tea tea tea tea tea tea
Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch Lunch
spaghetti shrimp kale ham chicken veggie mixed
squash w/ olives veggie salad potatoes lettuce baked veggie
garlic bread rice fruit lots of food! wraps potatoes salad
water water water water water water water
Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner Dinner
bean/corn baked stuffed leftovers bean  KIDS turkey
nachos chicken acorn cookies soup CHOICE taco
salad spaghetti sq. squash splurge! cornbread (pizza) salad
water water water water water water water
Snack Snack Snack Snack Snack Snack Snack
graham crackers carrots cheese all carrots PB celery veggies
oranges celery grapes kinds of apple trailmix trailmix
cookie trailmix popcorn goodies! yogurt fruit GF granola

Chocolate Caramel Dipped Graham Crackers

I am not a huge fan of sugar cookies. They are a LOT of work and I haven’t been able to create a GF recipe that works. Plus I don’t like icing (I know weird). I do love graham crackers though! They too are some work BUT they are very good homemade! This year I decided to do a different take on a cookie cutout and use my graham cracker recipe. I made some homemade caramel sauce (SO good!) and some chocolate sauce to dip the crackers in. They are so delicious! Sprinkle on a little sea salt for even more flavor!

Graham Crackers – see my recipe for GF version here! (cut into shapes or just squares)
Caramel Sauce
1 Tbsp butter (I use Earth Balance DF)
½ cup sugar (I like the dark coconut sugar)
1 tsp almond milk
Chocolate Sauce
2 squares of chocolate baking squares (I used unsweetened natural chocolate)
1 Tbsp honey (if you are using sweetened chocolate, you can leave this out)
1 Tbsp almond milk
  •  In a sauce pan, combine caramel sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. 
  • Quickly (and carefully) dip graham crackers into caramel sauce. I find the best way to do this is to use tongs or forks. Place dipped crackers onto a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Let chill for about 30 minutes. 
  • In a sauce pan, combine chocolate sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until chocolate is melted. Dip caramel coated crackers into chocolate sauce (or you could drizzle the chocolate over the top). 
  • Return dipped crackers onto lined baking sheet and let chill for about 20 minutes. Store in a sealed container. 
    • NOTE: This caramel sauce is also great over ice cream or for whatever you would use caramel sauce for!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day 9 of the 12 Days of Giving - Ice Melt & Santa

I’m not sure what the weather is like where you are but here in the four states it has been nasty. Over the weekend, we have received quite a bit of ice and a little dusting of snow. Luckily, it was a little warmer last week so the roads stayed pretty clear (at least the ones I was on). Unfortunately, the trees and other things got weighed down with the ice. Our cedar tree limbs were touching the ground! We’ve had worse ice storms so I’m thankful that this wasn’t as bad as previous ones but it is still a pain. Anyway, today we decided we’d take some ice melt over to one of our elderly neighbors and make sure her drive and sidewalk were clear for church. My son got all his winter clothes on and grabbed the ice melt. As I mentioned earlier, the sidewalk and roads were not too bad so it wasn’t much use. The thought was nice, just didn’t go very far after that.



Yes.. you need ski goggles in KS to throw ice melt...
Since the ice melt didn’t work, we decided to make some Christmas goodies. And by we, I mean me. My husband and son went to work on my husband’s smoker. I got out all of our Christmas dishes, utensils, etc since we are having breakfast here Christmas morning. Earlier in the week, we made Santa’s cookie plate and milk mug. I put it out with the rest of the stuff. When my son got home, he was so excited to see Santa’s stuff. Then he said, “Mom, we need to give Santa something.” I replied with “What? Are you sure?” He, of course, said “Yes. I want to do something for Santa.” Well…. what do you say to that?? You say, “Ok son. How about we color him a Christmas picture?” That worked for him so we all laid on the floor and colored pictures to give to Santa, along with his milk and cookies. While we were coloring he said “Do you know what my favorite thing is? Coloring with my family. I like it better than work.” I’m so happy it meant so much to him. Of course, now Santa needs a real gift. Not sure what we are going to do about that one… 


Peanut Butter Popcorn Mix

Think of this like Chex Mix – popcorn style, drowned in peanut butter. It’s fantastic. This would make a perfect homemade holiday treat to give a loved one or neighbor. Throw it in a cutesy container, slap on a bow and you’ve got yourself a wonderful, tasty, thoughtful gift! Makes about 5 cups of mix



3 cups popped plain popcorn
1 cup rice cereal (like Chex - any flavor will work)
¼ cup chopped nuts (I used almonds)
½ cup oats, toasted (heat them in a greased skillet)
½ cup coconut flakes, toasted (heat them in a greased skillet)
1 cup all natural peanut butter (other nut or seed butters will work also)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup sugar or stevia
½ cup butter or coconut oil


  • In a large saucepan, melt peanut butter, honey, sugar and butter/oil until melted and smooth. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine popcorn, cereal, nuts, oats and coconut flakes. 
  • Drizzle peanut butter mixture over popcorn mix and stir until mix is coated with peanut butter sauce. 
  • Spread evenly over a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 
  • Bake at 250°F for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for about an hour. Break apart and put into sealed containers. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day 8 of the 12 Days of Giving - Blankets to Homeless Shelter

Today we decided to help the homeless again. I saw a news report on the need for items in the local homeless shelters. They advertised for Soul’s Harbor and said they were experiencing a lot of people in need. We decided that blankets would be a good item to donate. We went to Wal-Mart, grabbed a few blankets and some gloves. It’s definitely not much, but it is cold out and I know we like snuggling with blankets! We also decided to throw in a package of apple cider mix. I can’t imagine not having a warm place to come home to or a nice cup of cider/tea/whatever. There are so many little things that we take advantage of everyday. We are so blessed to have a warm home, plenty of food, clothes, toys, etc. We’ve been trying to be extra thankful for everything we have and take for granted. Every evening we pray and say what we are thankful for. My son is always thankful for his toys, which is fine, but I’m hoping after all of this he is thankful for more than just material items and toys. It’s going well so far! Be prepared for what he has in store for the rest of the days of giving – I’m very impressed!


Orange Currant Cinnamon Rolls

I’ve been thinking of brunch recipes we could have on Christmas morning and I knew I wanted to make some cinnamon rolls. However, you can’t just wing it on the day of – trust me, I’ve tried that and it doesn’t always work. These were actually supposed to be scones but I wasn’t paying attention and following my standard cinnamon roll recipe so once I got in the middle of making the dough I knew I had to commit! Good thing I was spacing because these are great! I’m sure they’d be awesome as a scone too but the cinnamon roll works so great, we may not try the scone! I was missing my "Granny Grunt" this morning and decided to use her plate for my picture. The holidays are hard when loved ones are gone but its little things that make you remember and enjoy their spirit! This makes 12 cinnamon rolls.


Orange Currant Rolls

Dough
1 cup white rice flour
¾ cup amaranth flour
½ cup potato starch
½ cup arrowroot starch
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 Tbsp yeast (1 packet)
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup stevia
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 egg
¼ cup applesauce
¾ cup almond milk
½ cup water
1 tsp vanilla
Filling
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
½ cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup dried currants
Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp coconut oil, melted (or butter)
Juice and Zest from one orange


  • Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together water, almond milk and yeast for dough and let set for a few minutes. Add in applesauce, coconut oil, egg and vanilla to dry mix and blend well.
  •  Pour in milk mixture and blend on medium speed for 2 minutes. 
  • This part is key. Put a large rectangle piece of plastic wrap onto your counter or tabletop to roll the dough on. Pour dough onto plastic wrap and spread into a rectangle. Place another sheet of plastic wrap onto dough. Roll out into a thin rectangle. Remove top layer of plastic wrap.
  • Spread the coconut oil for filling over the dough. Sprinkle on coconut sugar, cinnamon and currants. Take the long side of the dough and roll over the rest. 
  • A trick here is to roll the dough using the edges of the plastic wrap. The dough is sticky and hard to roll if you use your hands. Cut dough log into 1” pieces. 
  • In a greased 9x13 pan, place rolls cut side down. Cover and let rise for about 20 minutes. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes or until browned on top. 
  • Mix together icing ingredients and spread over warm rolls.