Some Grain-Free Baking Going On!

With my 30 day food challenge underway, my girls and I have been experimenting in the kitchen. We’ve had some very cold days here, and what better thing to do than heat up the kitchen with some baking right? I received the cookbook Against All Grain, by Danielle Walker for Christmas, and it has some delicious recipes in it. They are all grain free, gluten free, dairy free, and sugar free – but they are yummy! If you’re looking for a healthy baking alternative (and not just baking, great recipes all around!), check out Danielle’s blog to try some recipes for yourself. Pictured here are some of the cookies that we have made:

grain free baking
grain free nut butter cookies

The 30 day food challenge is going really well. I feel as though my bad food habits are being broken, and that I am making mindful choices about the food that I am consuming. Instead of putting junk into my body when I feel hungry for a snack, I am choosing fruits, veggies, plain yogurt, a piece of cheese, or some nuts. These snacks are much more satisfying, and don’t cause me to crave more that what I need. I have not felt hungry or unsatisfied since starting this challenge, and have eaten very well. My energy level has been high, and I have felt very clear headed. As an unanticipated bonus, my pants which became slightly snug over Christmas, have gone back to fitting perfectly!

This area of discipline has spilled over into greater spiritual discipline and spending more time with the Lord. Praise God! He continues to work in my life and to refine me, as He desires to do with you as well. If you are reading this and want to know more about how the Lord Jesus has changed my life, please ask me! I would love to share my story with you.

For those of you who sent me a message and are doing this challenge with me, keep up the good work one healthy choice at a time!

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

 

Back to the Basics with School Lunches!

Packing a healthy school lunch for your child can be tricky. It gets even trickier when food allergies or intolerances are involved! I still remember the thought and worry that went into packing the first school lunch for my eldest daughter’s first day of kindergarten. I panicked that I didn’t have enough the evening before the first day of school, and drove out to a local vegetable stand to buy just one more thing that I could add to complete that lunch! We’re in a great routine with school lunches now – we know how many snacks our girls will eat in a day, and we know what their individual preferences are.

Some Guidelines:

  1. Keep it simple. Apples and bananas are great snacks! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that snacks have to be fancy looking.
  2. Avoid any prepackaged or processed snacks. Not only are they often full of sugar, preservatives, and artificial colours, but they are also very expensive, and create more garbage waste.
  3. Include a rainbow of colours. This will ensure that they are getting a wide variety of nutrients and vitamins from their food.
  4. Introduce one new snack at a time. A complete overhaul all at once would be a shock to anyone’s system. Take it slow.
  5. If including a juice box, ensure that it is labelled 100% juice. Most juice boxes are laden with sugar, added flavour, and food colouring.
  6. Educate your kids about how healthy their lunch is, and why this is important for their growing bodies and learning minds. They do understand!

School Lunch Inspiration – what to include:

1 main item such as:

  • Hummus with corn chips or whole grain crackers to dip (they also love to dip their veggies in hummus).
  • Guacamole with corn chips or whole grain crackers to dip.
  • Leftovers kept warm in a thermos such as: stew, soup, pasta, casserole
  • A sandwich – egg salad, tuna salad, sunflower seed butter & jam etc.

As well as 3 snacks which can include:

  • 1 piece of fruit such as: An apple (sliced with an apple slicer, held together with a rubber band and put into a reusable plastic bag), a banana, a clementine orange (or slices of a navel orange), grapes, melons, or berries.
  • 1 veggie such as: Cucumber slices, carrot sticks or baby carrots, grape or cherry tomatoes, sweet pepper slices, or celery sticks.
  • 1 “fun” snack such as: Homemade granola bars (nut , dairy and gluten free), homemade muffins (sweetened with honey), trail mix (sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, gluten free cereal, raisins), or homemade cookies (sweetened with honey). With the exception of the trail mix, I make these snacks ahead in large batches and freeze them so that when we’re packing lunches in the morning we just pull them out and they are ready to go!

school lunch

I hope these ideas inspire you as you strive to provide your kids with nutritious, simple lunches that they will enjoy! (Don’t forget to click on the links in the text above for the yummy recipes that I’ve shared in earlier posts.)

What are some healthy school lunch ideas that your kids love? Please share with us!

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

 

The Best & Easiest Gluten Free Pizza Crust Ever

Yes, that’s right! This is the best pizza crust we’ve ever tried making (and we’ve tried quite a few recipes). Not only is it gluten free, but it’s also dairy free and egg free (without the optional egg). This is a yeast crust, and unlike other recipes where you have to let the yeast work in a separate bowl before combining, this is a one bowl crust, with no separate processes! There isn’t even any rise time, and it turns out amazing. We LOVE to eat pizza, so for us this pizza crust discovery has been the bomb – I honestly can’t taste a difference between a regular crust and this one. This menu item is found on Week One of The Three Week Menu Plan (that could save your marriage).

best gf pizza EVER

Note: I did find this recipe online over a year ago. We have since made changes, but I have done a search now to find my source and can’t find the recipe that we started out with. Here is our version:

The Best & Easiest Gluten Free Pizza Crust Ever (makes 1 pizza crust)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp quick rise instant yeast
2/3 cup white rice flour
2/3 cup tapioca starch
3 Tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp gelatin
1 tsp seasoning of your choice (I like to use dried onion flakes, or basil and garlic)
2/3 cup warm water (not too hot)
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 egg OR a bit of extra water

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using dough hooks, beat on high for 3 minutes.

3. Put mixture on ungreased pizza stone, or lightly greased baking pan.

4. Sprinkle rice flour on dough, and press out in pan. (This is important – if you don’t use enough flour, the dough will just stick to your hand and you won’t be able to press it out).

5. Bake for 10 minutes.

6. Top with your favourite toppings, and bake for another 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

On the pizza pictured above, we enjoyed a barbeque sauce base, with (leftover) pulled chicken, green pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, and goats cheese. Mmmmm.

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup

This week’s mouth watering slow cooker recipe has been adapted from 125 best Vegetarian Slow Cooker recipes by Judith Finlayson. I also found an almost identical recipe here with bacon added, for all of you bacon lovers. This Black Bean Soup is a hearty and delicious soup that is quick to prep and is good for the budget. It’s also gluten free, dairy free (without optional dairy toppings added), and could even be vegan depending on broth type used. This recipe comes from Week one of my 3 week menu plan (that could save your marriage).

Black Bean Soup

Serves 4-6 as a main course

Ingredients:

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 small can tomato paste
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained (each 14 to 19 oz), or 2 cups dried black beans, cooked and drained
1 freshly squeezed lime (approx 1/3 cup)
Finely chopped cilantro
Sour cream (optional)
Cheddar cheese (optional)
Nacho chips (optional)

I normally skip the step where you precook things a little in a skillet before adding them to the slow cooker, but with this soup I make an exception since I really wanted to boost the flavor of the cumin seeds which make this soup so mouth watering.

1. Saute veggies in a skillet for about 5 minutes, when they are softened add the seasonings and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer to slow cooker, and add the tomato paste, chicken or vegetable stock, and black beans. Stir to combine.

Sauteed veggies

2. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or on high for 4 to 6 hours.

Soup, before pureeing

3. Before serving, puree to desired consistency (I use an immersion blender) and stir in lime juice.

4. Garnish with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!

black bean soup

We like to eat this soup with nacho chips for dipping, and it’s also very yummy on nachos the next day! The lime juice stirred in at the end gives this soup great depth of flavor.

Karen

Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:4&5

Mouth Watering Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

These mouth watering pulled chicken sandwiches are a great slow cooker recipe from  The Three Week Menu Plan (that could save your marriage), found in week 3. They are super easy to make, gluten & dairy free, and mouth watering! This recipe could have a slightly higher sugar content depending on the type of barbeque sauce used – so choose wisely (or make your own using maple syrup or honey as the sweetener). As an added bonus, this recipe utilizes some (hidden) pureed veggies in the sauce to boost the nutritional content. I love to use Jessica Seinfeld’s method (which you can learn more about in her cookbook Deceptively Delicious ) of making large batches of pureed veggies and freezing them in 1/2 cup portions in labeled ziploc baggies in the freezer.

I didn’t grow up eating these delicious sandwiches, and was first introduced to them at my sister’s house a few years ago. Since then, they have become a regular favourite in our house, and my kids actually cheer when they learn that this is what’s being served! I have just recently started making them in the slow cooker, and the chicken is so tender that it practically falls apart.

Mouth Watering Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Serves 5-6 people

Mouth watering pulled chicken sandwiches

Ingredients:

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, or a combination of breasts and thighs

1/4 cup water

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 medium onion

4 cloves garlic

1/2 cup your choice of either pureed butternut squash, sweet potato, or carrot

desired amount of favourite barbeque sauce

buns

Directions:

1. Place chicken, water, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high for 3-4 hours.

2. In the slow cooker stone, pull the chicken apart using two forks.

3. Stir in pureed vegetable of choice, and desired amount of your favourite barbeque sauce until desired yumminess is achieved.

4. Serve on gluten free buns or buns of choice, with a salad or vegetable.

On a side note, if you have any leftover pulled chicken, it is fantastic as a pizza topping, or on loaded nachos, or baked potatoes.

Shown in the picture above are a quick gluten & dairy free bun that only take 20 minutes to your first batch being completely baked! We do prefer a yeast bun, but on a day when time is limited (almost always), these are our go-to buns. I no longer have the source, but I’ve adapted them quite a bit, so here is my version:

Quick and Easy Gluten Free Buns

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients:

1 cup rice flour (brown or white)

1 cup potato starch flour

1 cup tapioca starch flour

2 Tbsp ground flax seeds

4 tsp baking powder

2 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1 tsp salt

4 eggs

1/2 cup oil (I like to use melted aroma free organic coconut oil, but any oil works fine)

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 cup milk of choice (unsweetened almond, coconut or rice)

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients, and whisk together until fully incorporated

2. Add wet ingredients, and stir well to combine

3. On a baking sheet, place batter in heaping tablespoons 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly

4. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 – 17 minutes

5. Allow to cool slightly before slicing

Enjoy!

-Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

 

 

 

 

 

The Three Week Menu Plan (that could save your marriage)

I was encouraged by all of the feedback that I have gotten regarding my post Suppertime Stress – a Solution. I had the hunch that this was a struggle for some other moms out there, and now my suspicions have been confirmed. I have been asked repeatedly to share my menu and my recipes from all you weary moms out there, and so I will be happy to do so. And just to clear the air, my marriage didn’t need saving. But more on that later.

Today I will share my 3 week menu plan, and then I will share the recipes in several mid week posts throughout the next few weeks. Without further ado, here is the menu plan (that could save your marriage):

Monday to Thursday utilize the slow cooker, so that on those busy school nights supper is ready right on time with no last minute stress.

3 week menu plan

There it is! I should mention that all of these recipes are gluten free and dairy free (with some optional dairy toppings). It’s been amazing having a go-to menu plan. I never have to try to come up with something at the last minute anymore which has been so stress free. I also now feel like I have the freedom to try something new if I want to change it up a little, and I’ll most likely end up adding a fourth week for all those other yummy meals that haven’t made the menu yet.

But how can this meal plan save my marriage, you ask? Well, that may be an outlandish claim BUT even so, following this menu plan has led to more harmonious, peaceful, well running days for our family as we go about doing all of the things that we do. There are fewer harsh words spoken; there is calmness where there was often calamity. Could that be enough to save your marriage? Well, it could be… What I do know is that it’s simple, and simple is good.

Go ahead, try it!

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25 4 & 5

 

 

 

Suppertime Stress – a Solution

Suppertime was getting to me. My two older kids get home shortly after 3pm, and I want to intentionally connect with them each day when they get home. We’ve got commitments and activities happening a few nights a week which means that supper has to be ready at 5pm so that we can all sit down together each night – something that is a priority for us. This meant that I was feeling the stress of wanting to play and connect with my girls and the necessity of having supper ready on time, and not just anything ready for supper; something yummy and nutritious… this was driving me crazy!!! I realized that I needed to come up with a better solution than just frantically preparing supper each night.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time writing a three week menu plan that involves four nights of slow cooker meals a week (which are used on our busiest nights). So far, this has been AMAZING. My only deadline is getting the food prepped and in the slow cooker before it needs to start cooking, sometime between 9am and 12pm. The afternoons at our house have been stress free and fun! I can just enjoy the kids and rest easy knowing that supper is already taken care of. And, I have been able to try out some new recipes which have turned out really well. We have decided that we love our slow cooker. I have decided that I never want to look in the cupboard at 4pm again trying to decide what to make… because although I was fairly consistent with making a menu each week, I wasn’t consistent enough. The problem was that each week I went through the work of making a menu again and again. Why was I doing this unnecessary work????

Slow cooker in action!

Does this all sound too simple? Here are the main things that have eliminated suppertime stress for me:

1. I have a menu for every day of the week, that I never have to change or come up with again, unless I want to
2. I now know exactly what groceries I’m going to need for each meal, making grocery shopping much easier and exact
3. I can get all my food prep done in the morning, when I have more time to do so
4. I can get all the supper prep dishes done early in the day, eliminating piles of dishes after supper
5. I even have time to make a salad or add a steamed vegetable to the meal, if I want to, and if time allows
6. I have more time with the kids, and while I’m enjoying them I am not feeling torn about what I need to be doing!

Did you know that “families that share mealtimes at least four times a week see improved communication and healthier eating habits?” And interestingly enough, “children of families who regularly have dinner together also develop a protection factor against all important risk behaviors (focusonthefamily.com).” Sitting down for a meal together as a family has been a priority for us since we’ve been married, but knowing these things solidifies our commitment to do so.

What do you do to make the time before supper stress free? Has anyone tried making meals in advance for the month and freezing them?

Thanks for reading,

Karen

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25: 4 & 5

School Lunch Ideas – Installment #3 Guacamole!

I can still remember my attempt at making guacamole when I returned home after a three month stay in Guatemala. I fell in love with guacamole while I was there, and my first attempt to create that yumminess failed miserably! I had the recipe from my host mom in Guatemala which was so good, but my problem was that I was so unfamiliar with using avocados that I attempted to make guacamole with avocados that were rock hard…. oops. Somehow I was unable to mash those babies up. I was determined to master the art of guacamole making, so I found out how to tell when an avocado was ripe: it needs to feel slightly soft to the touch when you apply a small amount of pressure (you can buy them when they are hard and just let them ripen up at room temperature which usually takes 2-3 days).

Avocados are a super food. They have a large amount of good monounsaturated fat, which has actually been shown in a preliminary study to lower blood cholesterol levels. Avocados have more potassium than bananas, and are rich in B vitamins, as well as vitamin E and vitamin K. And to boot, they are high in fiber! (Wikipedia). This is a seriously nutritious food to pack in your kids school lunches, and it’s a hit with my kiddos – they can’t get enough of this dip!

This isn’t the exact recipe that I was given from my host mom – I simplified it a bit, but go ahead and be creative!

guacamole ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guacamole

  • 5 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
  • Juice of two limes
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Optional: diced tomatoes, cilantro, finely diced onion, crushed garlic
  1. Mash up avocados until they are nice and creamy.
  2. Add other ingredients and stir – Voila!

guacamole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This doesn’t last overly long without getting brown, but if you make a quick batch in the morning and pack it in a container for lunch, it will still be awesome when eaten that day. My kids like to take this to school as a sandwich alternative with some corn chips or rice crackers to dip into it. It is also so yummy as a topping on tacos, fajitas and burgers. I hope you enjoy this healthy school lunch idea!

eating guacamole

AWESOME Granola Bars! School Lunch Ideas Installment #2

My kids LOVE to eat granola bars! I also love it – when else can I get them to eat so much nutrition packed into a little bar, with only a small amount of sugar to make it all stick? Oh yeah, and I make these gluten free, oat free, dairy free and of course nut free. Well, what do they have??? Here’s the recipe that is always a hit in my kid’s school lunches. I must admit that I found the base to this recipe online a few years ago and do not know the source.

Homemade Granola Bars

1 cup puffed rice (if you eat oats, you can use them instead)

1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (sulphate free if possible)

3/4 cup ground flax

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

2/3 cup brown sugar*

1/2 cup honey

4 Tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

8 oz dried fruit

  1. Mix dry ingredients in 11 x 13 baking dish with sides, toast in oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Put brown sugar, honey, butter, vanilla and salt in saucepan. Bring to simmer, stirring constantly.
  3. Mix dry and wet ingredients in large bowl. Mix well.
  4. Prepare 11 x 13 dish by lining with waxed paper that is lightly greased.
  5. Dump mixture into baking dish, spread evenly, cover with waxed paper and press down HARD.
  6. Wait 2 – 3 hours until cool. Turn onto cutting board and cut with knife.
  7. Wrap individual bars in saran wrap, put them all into a large freezer bag, and store in the freezer. Go ahead and put these directly from the freezer into those lunch bags, they don’t take long to defrost.

*I should note that I always try to eliminate as much sugar as I can from a recipe, and I did try unsuccessfully to reduce the amount of brown sugar in this recipe (and increase the amount of honey) and my bars fell apart.

toasted dry ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stirring liquids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stirring wet and dry together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pressing Down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the endless amount of variations that this recipe allows. Think dried apples and cinnamon or dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips. If you are making them for home and can eat nuts, go ahead and add almonds, or some peanut butter to the recipe.

Although this may seem like a lot of work, it takes only about a half an hour to make these (not including cooling time), and it makes about 24 bars when cut so they do last for quite a while if you are using only one a day in school lunches. Enjoy!

finished product!

 

School Lunch Ideas – Installment #1

Over the summer while spending time with friends and talking about the impending school year, I have realized that school lunches are quite a challenge for many families. I realized that they were hard for families with food allergies/intolerances like ours, but I had never really thought about the challenge for families with children who simply won’t eat what is considered the “typical” school lunch. I am a self professed health food nut. The joke remains that I made brownies with whole wheat flour for my roommates in university… it was absolutely out of the question in our family growing up to even have white flour in the house! That being said, I realize that not everyone eats the way I do – I’m okay with that. I do want to point out though that while on my daughter’s kindergarten field trip this past year, I was appalled at some of the lunches that I saw. Not a single fresh or unprocessed item to be seen, loads of sugar, food coloring, and preservatives. How is a child supposed to learn while their body is dealing with so many toxins???

My kids and I have collectively come up with some pretty stellar healthy lunches that are gluten, dairy, and of course nut free, and I thought I would spend a bit of time between now and when school starts in a week and a half sharing some of our favorites.

Our girls love dip. Who doesn’t? Even something tasteless slathered in some delicious creamy dip becomes a hit! That’s why we love hummus. I also love it because my girls will consume copious amounts of fresh veggies (carrot sticks, sweet peppers, celery, mushrooms, cucumber…) if they have hummus to dip into. Without the hummus there is some grumbling involved. Now, there are some seriously unhealthy dips out there that are loaded with bad fats, MSG, and preservatives – this easy-to-make dip is not one of those and is only filled with health-giving ingredients!!! Here is our recipe, which can be modified to your liking:

Hummus

1 can drained and rinsed chickpeas (from a BPA free can, or even better – soak dried beans overnight, and cook. Use approximately the equivalent amount that would be in a can)

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp cumin

1 tsp olive oil

1-2 cloves garlic

juice of one lemon (1/4 cup) (or raw apple cider vinegar as a tangy alternative)

2-3 Tbsp tahini (this is sesame seed butter – found in the international section, or the natural section of the grocery store)

Puree in blender or food processor. Before serving drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil and paprika on top. Adjust amount of liquid (olive oil or water) as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

That’s it! Very easy and economical (way cheaper than the pre-made varieties) and SUPER healthy. Oh yeah, and sooooo yummy. We use this fairly often as a sandwich alternative. I’ll send it along with fresh veggies and some rice crackers to dip. For those that can have gluten, you could also send along some whole grain pita bread cut into triangles, or some yummy whole grain crackers. If your kids like bread, and you just want to add some pizazz to their lunches, try using hummus as a sandwich spread – put it on nice and thick with some sprouts or lettuce and some tomatoes.

I hope this school lunch idea finds a spot in your child’s lunch!