Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Grain Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't know about your family, but we've certainly been doing more baking since we're at home a whole lot more these days. I've always been a baker, it just comes naturally to me, but I've started to enjoy experimenting with different flours and healthier ingredients.

Grains and gluten, in general, do not affect me too much; unless I happen to overindulge...then I think it's only natural to feel uncomfortable. The more I began to study about them through my nutrition schooling. the more I find it fascinating how grains have changed over the course of our history. With that said, I don't think they're something that we need in our everyday diets often. I also know first hand how hard that is to step away from.

Anyways, I digress. Whether you have to, prefer to live a grain-free lifestyle or just want to humor me and try out a grain-free version of a classic cookie. I hope you give these a shot! I promise you can find all of these ingredients at your local grocery store, in fact even the ground flaxseed is at Aldi and for a very reasonable price. These have an almond butter base, which I think helps keep that traditional chocolate chip cookie flavor. But, feel free to experiment with different nut butters you have on hand, even peanut butter.

These do not make very many, which can be good or bad, because I can guarantee they won't last long in the house! Enjoy!

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup almond butter
1 egg
2 tbsp coconut sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
1-1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine together the first eight ingredients using a mixer. Fold in chopped nuts and chocolate chips.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before transferring to a cooling rack.

Makes 16 cookies. Will last a few days in a storage container, after that best stored in the fridge for a longer shelf life. I have not tried freezing these, but I assume they would hold up in the freezer for a couple of months.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

DIY Elderberry Syrup

In the winter months our family likes to add elderberry syrup to our daily regimen. It's a fantastic way to boost to immune system because let's face it; there are a lot of germs and illnesses floating around. Now matter how healthy you eat, we don't get as much natural vitamin D in the winter months here in the Midwest especially, and a little boost never hurts.

Most years I have purchased our syrup online or from a local natural foods store, but it's not exactly cheap. Plus I'm always leery about the added sugars in some brands and prefer not to have that included. Bad bacteria in our guts feed off of the sugar and it sets you up for getting sick, so I'd just rather eliminate cane sugar as much as possible especially during the winter.

If you can get your hands on dried elderberries, I've found that it's actually really cost effective to just make your own. I found mine at our local Natural Grocers, but you can also find them on Amazon if you don't have anywhere local to find them. I promise, if you just give yourself 90 minutes at most on a weekend or whenever you have the extra time; it will be worth your while.

Let me explain a little bit about why I think you should be adding a dose of elderberry syrup daily:

  • Not only does it boost the immune system, but it can help shorten the duration of a cold. Studies have shown that a cold can be reduced by up to two days with the use of elderberry, as well as the symptoms seem to be less severe.
  • It has also been shown to reduce inflammation, due to its high vitamin A and C content, along with anthocyanin (antioxidant).  You may also see some relief in allergies while using elderberry as well.
  • Can help with constipation
  • Promotes healthy skin because of the high Vitamin A and antioxidant content
  • May improve cardiovascular health, along with high blood pressure

Hopefully by now I've convinced you to at least try it out. We're early enough into the season, try an experiment and see if adding a little elderberry helps keep the bugs at bay this winter. If you're really up for the challenge, I encourage you to try making your own at home. You will need a sweetener when making this, and I prefer to use a good source of local honey. Yes honey is sugar, but when it's locally sourced it has so many wonderful benefits as well for our bodies. 

I can't wait for you to try this, be sure to let me know how it goes!

DIY Elderberry Syrup

3/4 cup dried elderberries
3 cups water
1/2 cup good quality honey

Place dried elderberries and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil on the stove.  Once the mixture comes to boil, reduce heat to a steady simmer and let cook for 1 hour. Mixture will be reduced by about half. 

Remove from heat and let cool for several minutes. 

Strain syrup into a bowl, pressing the juice out of the berries using the back of a wooden spoon. This will help to get all of the nutrients out of the berries. Discard the berries.

Mix in honey until well dissolved and transfer to jars. The mixture will not be a thick syrup, but that's okay. You can mix in 1/4 cup more honey or so to thicken if you'd like. 

Store elderberry syrup in the fridge for up to 3 months. Makes about 10 ounces. 

For use: children take 1 teaspoon daily, adults 1 tablespoon. If you have a cold or the flu; you can double your dose for extra benefits.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Winter is quickly approaching here in Iowa, I'm afraid. We've got some pretty low temperatures forecasted this week with a little snow mixed in, and I'm not happy one bit. Hopefully that will change around though and we can continue to enjoy a little more fall like weather.

In the meantime though, I'm diving right into the warmer dishes of the season. Our bodies crave warm foods this time of year. Although we want comfort, our meals don't have to be filled with empty calories. I made this for the family this past week and I'm quite pleased with not only how it turned out and tastes, but with the nourishment it provides for our bodies.

Incorporating foods like garlic, broth and various veggies are so good for our immune systems in the fall and winter months when we're not being exposed to as much sunlight.

If your family enjoys buffalo wings and the hot sauce flavor in general, then they will like this! It's slightly spicy, but not too much. I am providing you with measurements, but certainly feel free to use less or more of the sauce. It's officially time to start adding more soups, stews and chilis to our menus; I hope you love this one as much as I do!

Buffalo Chicken Chili

1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups chicken broth (depends on how thick you'd like it)
14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
3 celery stalks, diced
1 large carrot, diced
14 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or about 3 cups shredded chicken meat)
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce
1/2 tbsp chili powder
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large sauce pan; saute avocado oil and onion for about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and let cook for an additional minute. Then add in all remaining ingredients, stir to combine well and let cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes or until heated through. You may add in more buffalo sauce or chicken broth to adjust heat and/or consistency of the chili.

Serve with various toppings such as: cheese, cilantro (for a nice cooling balance) or even a little bit of your favorite ranch dressing. We did add a few crushed up grain free tortilla chips to ours and that was a nice touch!

You may also let this cook in a slow cooker all day on low.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

What to Expect the First Year {College Edition}

This has been a post on my mind for several months now, and I think I'm just slightly qualified to write it. Especially since I just sent our daughter off to begin her second year of college a couple weeks ago. {Insert tears} No, but really, I have struggled with this new season a little more than I ever expected. But, it's also such a fun time in our lives. I've witnessed a complete transformation in her, in a good way, of course. She's growing up, maturing, figuring out her path and what she wants out of life and it's just a whole lot of fun to sit back and watch it all take place!

So, this is my post for you mamas. The ones that are getting ready to drop their babies off in the next couple of weeks. The ones that aren't sure what this new season of life may bring.

If you are like me, you made it through graduation, the open house celebration and every other important event without breaking down. It's a time for celebration, right? There was no need to cry or feel sad. We did it! I say we, because us parents have just as much claim in that diploma as they do.

You've hopefully spent time this summer enjoying last minute trips, embracing these "final" days together, making them their favorite meals and treats and shopping trips for all of the dorm essentials.

The day is set, you've probably got two car loads of belongings to take with and you're moving your kiddo into their new home away from home. You might have a bit of an anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach, holding back tears that you don't exactly know where they're coming from. And then you get there, and there's so many students and families all doing the exact same thing you are. It's crowded and you quickly move boxes and totes from the car to the itty bitty dorm room. If you're lucky, you'll get to stay and help them set up their new arrangement. But, in all reality, there just isn't enough room and it's time to let them go. You've done your job, you've set them up for success and now it's time to let them fly.

Driving away was the hardest. Giving that final hug before we got back into the car was not easy. I instantly got into the car and literally began bawling. And I'm not going to lie, that whole week afterwards was difficult. There were tears out of the blue. The walking past her bedroom and it being so empty. The getting used to one less person in the house. It was just a new normal and it takes time getting used to.

If I had to give you a few tips for the upcoming school year, they would be:

1. Give yourself grace and let yourself grieve. Like I said, it's just a new normal. It takes time getting used to the changes. Even though we as parents are happy for our children, it's okay to feel sad. They are growing up and not needing us as much anymore. It's fun and a little sad at the same time.

2. Be prepared for full laundry baskets when they do return home for visits! Haha! I'm serious though. But, I'm pretty sure you won't mind doing some extra laundry again for the weekend.

3. It never gets any easier watching them drive away. When it's time to head back from the holidays, winter break, etc. You might still find yourself fighting back tears. It's almost like it starts all over.

4. Have faith that you raised them well and they will make the right decisions in life. You have to step back now and let them figure things out on their own. It's not easy, but they have to make the mistakes. They might fall, but you better believe they'll get right back up. You did good mom and dad!

5. Cook their favorite meals and snacks for when they come home. Visits are few and far between, so ask what they'd like to have for dinner. You have to remember, those cafeteria meals don't compare to mom's home cooking!

6. They might not admit it, but they get a little homesick too at times. Phone calls, text messages, facetime calls; they want to share their new life with you just as much as you want to hear about it. I pray that you are able to keep in touch with your child just as much as our daughter does with us. They love receiving fun surprises in the mail too!

7. Sit back and enjoy this new season! Life is beautiful. Be sure to enjoy each and every moment. This new season that you're in; it's one to be cherished.

So dear mama, I know what you're feeling. I really do. And, I'm here sending you a big hug and lots of love during this transition. You've done good. Now, it's time to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Chia Seed Pudding

If you're like myself and need to be careful with sweets or that inner sugar dragon comes out real quickly; then this recipe is for you!

Do you use chia seeds in your house? Ever had a pudding made with them? This is something fairly new to our household. And, I really like it! I'm thinking of it as a dessert or treat, but I would totally let the kids eat this for breakfast if they wanted. I can only imagine how full and satisfied they would be all morning long in school.

Most everyone doesn't geek out over nutrition and the science behind food, but I'm going to share a few health benefits real quick regarding chia seeds. I want you to really understand why they're good for you. Not only do they help keep inflammation in our bodies in check, they are high in fiber, which I'm sure you could always use a little more of. They are great for digestion, known to help reduce belly fat and can improve insulin sensitivity. They're a pretty awesome healthy fat, and I think you should keep a bag in your pantry at all times.

Often times I see them added into smoothies, but I'm hoping you give this pudding a try. It's pretty basic and very versatile. You could add in some cocoa powder for a chocolate version. Add different fresh fruits on top. I was pretty basic and mashed up a few frozen strawberries that we picked in June. I also added a few Lily's chocolate chips on top. It certainly satisfied my sweet cravings.

Chia Seed Pudding

2 tablespoons chia seeds
3/4 cup coconut or almond milk
1/2 tablespoon Swerve sweetener (you may also use honey, maple syrup or agave)
Fruit toppings

In a small bowl mix together chia seeds and milk, add in desired sweetener. Please note that I have only tested this recipe with Swerve. If using a different form of sweetener, start small and work your way up to your desired taste preference.

Pudding will begin to thicken. Divide into two servings, it makes enough to fill one 8 ounce jar. You may serve immediately or let chill in fridge for 1-2 hours to thicken even more. Serve with choice of toppings.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ditch the Cereal! {Kid-Friendly Breakfast Ideas}

I might ruffle some feathers a little bit here, but I'm going to state it: Our kids do not need cereal every morning for breakfast. Or ever, honestly. Take a look down the food aisle, or in our pantry cupboards and I'm sorry, but these have become more like dessert and we're serving it every day in a rush to get out the door on time.

I don't know about your kiddos, but many times mine are starving come lunch time. Cereal doesn't exactly keep them full and ready to take on a full morning of learning. Did you know that most cereals are 75% sugar? Therefore, causing our body's energy levels to go through it's own sort of rollercoaster; up and down all throughout the day. Plus, have you ever noticed within your own self, that you crave more sugar and carbs throughout the day once you begin with cereal, pop-tarts, muffins or donuts? Consuming sugar just makes you crave even more sugar.

But, I'm not here to lecture. We're all doing the best we can, I know we are. And when we know better, we can do better. I also understand that there's just not a lot of time in our schedules to prep a bunch of foods. Oh do I get it! We're rushing around in the mornings getting ready and packing lunches just like everyone else, and I'm in the classroom with our kiddos all day too.

I want to give you some ideas for healthier, more filling options for that first meal of the day. These are all kid-friendly because my own girls love them, but they work for us as adults too. Yes, some require some advanced prep work, you can fit this in on the weekends or any time you have a free moment. I know you're busy, I really do, and I also know that if it's important to you, you always find a way to get it done.

There are also times where a quick egg and toast breakfast are what works. We do this often in the mornings and take it on the go. Cooking up an egg takes no longer than it does to pour a bowl of cereal, honestly. And, if your kiddos just really do enjoy that bowl of cereal or whatever it is you have, then I'm going to ask you to at least pair it with some sort of protein like an egg. Help fill their little stomachs up for the morning so they can focus longer and be productive in their day. I think you'll notice an improvement in so many areas.

Let's take a look at a few suggestions:

Healthier Breakfast Options:

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Low-sugar Baked Oatmeal

Quick 2-minute Ham & Egg Bowl  Now, everyone has time to make one of these. You can even prep them ahead of time. You could add in chopped up peppers and onions for extra nutrients and flavor. These are great for adults too, not just the kids.

Breakfast Quinoa

Freezer Smoothie Packs  These are so versatile! We always use either almond or coconut milk, coconut gives extra healthy fats that are great for the brain and helping to keep our kids full for longer periods of time. You can also add in avocado for extra creaminess without adjusting the taste of the smoothie, the kids won't even notice it's in there! Tossing in a little bit of protein powder or nut butter is great as well.

Buckwheat Pancakes

Veggie and Sausage Frittata  You can easily make this for dinner one night or ahead of time on the weekend, and just slice and reheat throughout the week.

Yogurt Parfait  My only tip here, is to make sure to avoid sugar laden yogurts. Otherwise our efforts are tossed out the window. There are some better yogurts on the market now sweetened with stevia and such.

Wonton Breakfast Cups

Friday, July 12, 2019

Egg Crust Pizza

It seems like everyone I know these days is trying to follow a more low carb lifestyle, which makes my heart happy! Our bodies don't need all of these processed food products and grains. We can get enough carbs in our day just through wholesome foods like vegetables, for instance. I'm not saying you shouldn't ever turn down your favorite foods and treats, it's just that we don't need them in our lives as often as we probably are consuming them.

Life would be pretty boring without some of our favorites like pizza. Pizza is good! We probably have it for dinner almost once a week. I came up with this healthier version so I can still satisfy my pizza cravings, but not feel so bloated from the dough afterwards. The girls have yet to try it, but I did make one for the hubby last night and it passed his test. He can be pretty picky at times too, so this is a win in my book.

I'm definitely not the first person to ever make a pizza crust using eggs, I've seen them before. But, I'm using the whole egg and not just egg whites. I pay a pretty penny for my local eggs and I don't want to waste any bit of them. Plus, the egg yolk is so good for you! You've heard me say this before, just eat the whole egg!

So far we've only tested out pretty basic toppings on our pizzas, but I'm sure anything will work. Get creative with these and send me pictures, I want to see! While it's very easy to make and will fill you up, my biggest tip is to make sure your pan is greased very well. I used butter with Josh's pizza and definitely did not get it as well as I should have, it ended up sticking a bit and came close to falling apart when I tried to serve it on his plate. Coconut oil has worked best for me so far.

If you want video directions for this pizza, check out my story highlights on Instagram, you'll see the "egg crust pizza" there.  I can't wait for you to try this recipe. Enjoy pizza as much as you want with this healthier version!

Egg Crust Pizza

2 whole eggs
Coconut oil, butter or avocado oil; for greasing pan
Pizza sauce
Mozzarella cheese
Choice of toppings

Grease a 10-inch saute pan well with choice of healthy fat (coconut oil, butter or avocado oil). Make sure to grease up sides of pan.

Let pan warm up on stove over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat together two eggs.  Pour eggs into pan and let cook for a few minutes. As eggs are cooking, make sure to run spatula along the edges and lift egg to prevent sticking.

Once egg is cooked almost completely through, add a little bit of pizza sauce on top of egg. Spread with a spoon, the amount you use is up to you. Sprinkle toppings over the sauce and finish with mozzarella cheese. Place a large plate over the pan and turn down to a very low temp, let the cheese melt and toppings heat for 2-3 minutes.

Remove plate, if cheese is melted, turn off the stove and remove from the pan. Your pizza should slide out nicely with the help of your spatula. Serve on a large plate, cut into slices and enjoy!
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