Category Archives: Healthy Living

Start Gardening Part 3

Start Gardening Part 3

With warm sunshine and lots of rain, my garden is growing very nicely. The seeds have sprung into sprouts that have pushed their little heads through the soil and are now reaching for the warm Spring sun. The lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, peas, radishes and kale are loving the cooler days. And as the sun starts to warm the rich soil in the next week, it’ll soon be time to plant the tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers outside.

So, how do you prepare your seedlings you planted in containers indoors for planting in your garden outside?

Once the seedlings begin to lose their first leaves, grow their true leaves and are gaining height quickly you know they are almost ready to be planted outdoors.

Next, its time to move the seedlings in their containers outdoors. They should be placed somewhere outdoors where they’ll get some sunlight but not a full days’ worth of hot sun. Make sure to keep them well watered and watch how low the temperatures fall at night. If the temps are dropping low bring them indoors. They should stay in their containers outdoors for about a week in order to be properly acclimated.

Once your seedlings begin to sprout in your garden, what’s the next step?

If you’re like me, when you read a seed packet and it says to plant the seeds however many inches apart, you think, “but if I plant more that’s even better.” Sorry to say like I found out, wrong…The seedlings won’t continue to grow to maturity unless they have enough room, sunlight, and water. And if they’re planted too close together they rob each other of all three.

So, once your seedlings begin to sprout through the soil, you have to cut some of the seedlings back so the remaining ones will continue to grow larger. Cut them down at the soil level, leaving enough seedlings properly spaced according to the specific seedling packet.

Once you’ve cut down all those little seedlings that weren’t spaced far enough apart, don’t throw them out.
Did you know you can eat the spinach, lettuce, and radish seedlings? I added the seedlings to a some store bought lettuce and had my first taste of my garden produce…even as small as it was.

Make sure to watch your garden plot to see if any little critters have been enjoying your garden space. I found that a few neighborhood deer just loved tromping through my little garden plot, so some fencing was in order.

Enjoy your yard this growing season by joining me and growing your own food!

Mac & Cheese with Sausage

Mac & Cheese with Sausage

After a little bloggin’ break last week, I’m back and diving right in to a new tasty recipe!

So, I’ve been dairy free and egg free for almost 2 and a half years and gluten free for almost a year and a half now. I follow this diet pretty stringently, as I feel so much better when I eat this way. People always ask me “how do you do it?” and say “I could never do that.” My response: By the grace of God I am able to follow this diet and eat an abundant variety of foods even on this strict diet. And if you felt as bad as I did 2 years ago, you would be able to do it too.

Despite my new outlook on food and disciplined eating habits, the one thing I have been craving for 2 and half years is….duh, duh, duh…drumroll…….MAC & CHEESE! Yes, I am dairy free and have a serious obsessive love for cheese….terrible, I know. And yes, even after 2 and a half years of not partaking, this wonderful food has left a great impression I don’t think I’ll ever stop craving.

Long story short, I’ve gone to the health food store a few times, paid 6 bucks for a block of “cheese” (rice cheese, veggie cheese, soy cheese) that says “It Melts” on the package. Sure enough I get it home and it doesn’t melt and tastes like salty rubber…yum. So, I pretty much gave up on using cheese substitutes…until…(heavenly sound) ahhhhh…I found this cheese substitute.

Daiya cheese has been a new found love of my palette. It tastes really good, replicates cheese really well, and it actually melts without a rubbery texture. This one is also casein free. I tried one cheese substitute that was really good, but still had casein (another protein found in dairy that people who are lactose intolerant can often still tolerate) which made me sick. I buy Daiya cheese at Whole Foods and can now make Mac & Cheese. So, here’s the Mac & Cheese with Sausage I made.

3 cups (12 ounces) gluten free elbow pasta or other short pasta
3-4 Italian sausages (casings removed) or about 1 pound ground Italian sausage (mild or hot)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 cup gluten free chicken stock
2 1/2 cups shredded cheese (dairy free cheese)
*Note: if you’re using real cheese, I recommend you use half Velveeta and half shredded cheese.

1. Lightly oil a deep oven proof baking dish.
2. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and transfer to prepared baking dish.
3. While pasta is cooking, saute sausage until brown. Add corn, stirring to combine.
4. Using a wooden spoon, gently fold meat mixture into pasta.
5. Heat chicken stock in saucepan until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat add 2 cups cheese. Stir until smooth and pour over pasta. Gently toss to coat.
6. Top mixture with remaining cheese. Cover dish with wet paper towel and microwave on medium high for 5 minutes or until bubbly. Enjoy!

I served my Mac & Cheese with Sausage as the main coarse with a veggie side of steamed broccoli. Craving satisfied…although I’m craving it now just writing about it!

*Recipe Source: Living Without: The Magazine for People with Allergies and Food Sensitivities. Feb/ March 2011 edition. Article by Beth Hillson

Closer Look: Kefir

Closer Look: Kefir

Today I’m taking a closer look at Kefir. When you have to eliminate foods from your diet like I have had to do over the last few years, you have to add new foods back into your diet or you tend to eat the same things over and over again. One of the new foods that I have more recently discovered is Kefir.

What is Kefir?
According to Dr. Mercola, “Kefir is an ancient, cultured enzyme-rich food full of friendly microorganisms that balance your ‘inner ecosystem’ and strengthen immunity.” Think of Kefir as a yogurt you drink. Kefir itself is a grain that is gluten free and is used to culture milk to turn it into a type of yogurt that has become known as Kefir. So, when people refer to Kefir most of the time they’re referring to the cultured milk product not the actual grain.

Why eat Kefir?
Kefir is full of good bacteria, vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Ancient cultures from all over the world have used yogurt type foods to cure all sorts of ailments from gastrointestinal problems, to skin irritations, to sinus and breathing issues. Modern medicine has tried all kinds of foreign substances to heal these health issues and they are now resorting back to this ancient wisdom of health and healing. You’ve seen the evidence of this on tv even; you know Activia yogurt and Align probiotic supplements. Kefir is a traditionally consumed in Russia and the Middle East.

Basically good bacteria (pre and probiotics) help to maintain your intestinal balance. The good bacteria fight off the bad, disease causing bacteria, as well as unhealthy yeasts that can over run your body. Cultured foods found in people’s diets all over the world provide these good bacterias that keep your gut healthy and therefore keep your immune system in top working condition. These cultured foods include natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, olives, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kefir. I can’t say I know what all of these are, so that’s why we’re starting with kefir.

Why you should eat Kefir if you’ve taken rounds of antibiotics for other health issues?
Kefir is a natural source of good bacterias that are beneficial to your immune system function. If you’ve suffered from any illness that has resulted in you having to take many antibiotics Kefir would be a great food for you to incorporate into your diet. Antibiotics do help to treat various sicknesses like sinus infections, tonsil infections, and a variety of other infections, but they also wipe out your body’s natural good bacterias as well. This lack of good bacterias can make you very susceptible to another infection of the same or a different kind or can lead to a variety of stomach or intestinal issues.

After antibiotics always follow with a protocol of probiotics for a few months to build your good bacterias back up. Try Kefir to assist with this.

Why try Kefir rather than yogurt?
Kefir contains many more strands of beneficial bacteria than yogurt does. It also contains many beneficial yeasts as well.

For more detailed information check out this resource:

What if I can’t eat dairy, can I still eat Kefir?
Kefir is generally cultured cow, sheep, or goat’s milk. If you are lactose intolerant you may still be able to eat Kefir as the good bacteria in it consume most of the lactose. If you’re like me and you cannot tolerate other parts of dairy like the casein, then try coconut milk Kefir.

I know you can make your own, but I haven’t gotten that adventurous yet. I found this cultured coconut milk drink (pictured above) (So Delicious brand’s Cultured Coconut Milk) at Whole Foods. Its a little different from traditional Kefir in that this particular one uses inulin from chicory root to ferment it, but its the same idea.

How to eat Kefir?
Drink it straight. Pour it over berries or granola. Blend it with fruit to make a smoothie.

Where do I buy Kefir?
Health food stores and Whole Foods are great places to start looking. But, I’ve also found the regular Kefir (cow’s milk) at grocery stores that carry a variety of cultural foods.

You can also make your own Kefir, which is probably very cost efficient and also ensures that you’ll get the highest potency of the good bacterias. I have to admit that I haven’t tried this yet, but definitely plan on it in the future. If you want to try making your own you can buy the Kefir grains onlne from a variety of sources and most of them show you exactly how to do it.

Here are some resources to get you started:

Other Resources:

Apple Barbecue Pulled Pork

Apple Barbecue Pulled Pork

The weather is getting warmer, the days are longer, people are out mowing their lawns and to me this all means its time for summer food. You know BBQ, grilling, corn on the cob, raw veggies, fresh fruit, and pulled pork. Pulled pork has a fondness in my heart that reminds of the Indiana State Fair, BBQ joints down south, and lots of summer time fun.

This recipe for pulled pork is one that my hubby created. Our dream is to someday have a meat smoker and be able to make it in there someday. But, until then this slow cooker pulled pork recipe fits our busy lifestyle and satisfies the taste buds.

There are a couple ways you can go about making this recipe. One is super simple and only takes like 5 minutes of prep time. The other is a little more involved and is a great make-it- yourself BBQ sauce, but the flavor is worth the time investment. Pick one and enjoy!

Ingredients for Apple BBQ Pulled Pork:
4 to 6 boneless pork chops
1 recipe Homemade Apple BBQ Sauce (or for the easy way use store bought BBQ sauce and one diced apple)

Homemade Apple BBQ Sauce Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 large sweet onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon red chili paste
1 1/2 cups ketchup
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 jalapeno pepper finely chopped (seeds removed)
1 large honey crisp (or similar apple), peeled, cored and diced

Directions for Homemade Apple BBQ Sauce:
Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.

1. Add pork chops to slow cooker. Cover with Homemade Apple BBQ Sauce or with store bought BBQ sauce and one diced apple.
2. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. Flip pork every hour if you can. If you’ll be unable to attend the pork for more than 5 hours, set the slow cooker’s timer to 5 hours and then it will keep it on warm until you get home.
3. Shred meat with two forks and mix with sauce to reincorporate.
4. Serve pulled pork on buns or without if you can’t eat the bread. I love to serve this recipe with homemade cole slaw (that recipe to come at a later date).

Asian Citrus Salmon

Asian Citrus Salmon

I thought I’d post this recipe today that I created myself. Its really simple, quick to make, and very flavorful. I love salmon and I’m always trying new ways to prepare it. For this recipe I just pulled together ingredients I had in my fridge and pantry at the time.

I really enjoy preparing salmon as it already has such a nice flavor, its kind of hard to mess it up. Hope this one hits your taste buds just right! This recipe serves 2 people.

1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 orange, juiced
1 teaspoon gluten free soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 salmon fillets (about 5 oz. each)
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Combine orange juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, garlic and ginger in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add salmon fillets and pour 3/4 the sauce over the fillets.
3. Cook a couple minutes until the bottom half of the salmon begins to brown. Then flip fillets and finish cooking through until flaky.
4. Serve salmon fillets with sauce over chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

There’s nothing more comforting, as far as food goes, than a big bowl of chili on a cool day after a hard days’ work. And this White Chicken Chili is a wonderful more “Springy” version of your red winter chili with ground beef. This one is a little lighter and is perfect for these Spring days when the evenings are still chilly. It uses fresh ingredients that keep it light, yet full of flavor.

This recipe serves 6 people, is relatively quick to make (about 30 minutes), and makes great left-overs.

1 medium onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans (15 1/2 oz. each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
2 cups cubed chicken cooked

1. In a large saucepan saute the cubed chicken with a little oil, salt and pepper. Remove chicken when cooked and set aside.
2. In the same saucepan cook onion, jalapeno and garlic in oil until tender.
3. Stir in broth, beans, parsley, lime juice and cumin; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into chili. Add chicken. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve and Enjoy!

This White Chicken Chili is great served with gluten free bread toasted with butter of gluten free cornbread with melted butter. You might also try this one with fresh cilantro rather than the parsley.

*Recipe source: Indianapolis Star, Joanie Fuson adapted from Taste of Home’s Big Book of Soup, Reiman Media Group

Quinoa, Mango, and Black Bean Salad

Quinoa, Mango, and Black Bean Salad

I’m always looking for dishes to make for lunch that are quick and easy to eat on the go. I have to say turkey sandwiches just don’t call my name at lunch time anymore. This Quinoa Salad is packed with so many flavors that blend together into this delicious lunch medley.

Need a meal that gives you a break from meat? Packed with protein and fiber? Full of flavor? That doesn’t have to be heated when you’re ready to eat it?

If you said yes, then this Quinoa Salad is for you! Just make it the night before and pack individual serving sizes into containers in your fridge and grab it as you head off to work in the morning. Store in the fridge and enjoy for lunch!

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 small mango, diced
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed
2 scallions, thinly sliced

1. Toast quinoa in small dry saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until it crackles and becomes aromatic, 4 to 6 minutes. Careful not to burn.
2. Transfer to fine sieve and rinse thoroughly. Return quinoa to the pot and add water.
3. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until quinoa is tender and the liquid has been all absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Whisk orange juice, cilantro, vinegar, oil, ginger, salt, salt and cayenne in medium bowl.

5. Add mango, bell pepper, beans, scallions; toss to coat.
6. When quinoa is finished cooking, add mango mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled and Enjoy!

*Makes 2 servings, approximately 2 cups each
* Recipe Source:

* Per serving: 422 Calories, 9 g total fat, 15 g protein, 74 g carbohydrates, 0 g cholesterol, 19 g fiber

Frozen Coconut Macaroon Bonbons

Frozen Coconut Macaroon Bonbons

With Good Friday today and Easter approaching this weekend, it’s really such a wonderful weekend of reverence and celebration that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, died and rose again for our salvation! What a wonderful celebration!

I’m always looking for desserts that are extra special to make for such celebrations as important holidays and birthdays. A treat that really wows and says “Now this is a celebration!” Even those of us with restricted diets love a decadent dessert to celebrate special events. Restricted diet or not, these Frozen Coconut Macaroon Bonbons are a mouth watering dessert to have at your Easter dinner this weekend or at a birthday bash! If you gave up sweets for Lent this year, what a better way to end your sweet fast than with these delicious little treats?

I actually made these Bonbons for my birthday last fall and lost the recipe…sad day! To my wonderful surprise I received a card from my Mom yesterday with a copy of the recipe I had made for her inside! So, thanks to my Mom for saving the recipe!

2 2/3 cups (one 7 oz. bag) sweetened, flaked coconut
1/4 cup well-shaken, unsweetened coconut milk (not light)
2 tablespoons organic, refined coconut oil (get it in your health food section of your grocery or at Whole Foods)(try to liquify the oil before measuring)
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup gluten free, dairy free semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together coconut, coconut milk, oil, agave syrup, vanilla and salt.
3. Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheet, then roll into balls, and freeze for at least 1 hour.
4. Remove bonbons from freezer and dip bottoms into cooled, melted chocolate. Return bonbons to the freezer for at least 20 minutes and remove them from the freezer 15 minutes before ready to serve. Enjoy!
5. Store completely hardened bonbons in an air tight container and keep frozen for up to 2 weeks.

*Recipe Source: Allergy-Free Desserts by Elizabeth Gordon, 2010
*25 minutes prep time plus freeze time
*Makes 16 bonbons
*Per serving: 97 Calories, 2 g Protein, 8 g Carbs, 1 g Fiber, 7 g Total Fat, 41 mg sodium

Moroccan-Style Stewed Chicken

Moroccan-Style Stewed Chicken

Well, the weather where I live decided to resort back to winter for a few days. So, I thought this warm stew would be an appropriate recipe to share today. I tried this recipe for the first time last week and both Matt and I really enjoyed it. It only took me a total of 20 minutes to prepare and then cooked in my slow cooker for a while and voila!..a warm, healthy meal that was ready when we were ready to eat it.

The Moroccan style dishes that I’ve had seem to combine savory and sweet flavors to create a whole new flavor. This one is really great for people with restricted diets, as the ingredients are very basic and it’s really light on your stomach. It also makes really great left-overs, so start cookin’!

4 cups gluten free chicken broth
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (14.5 oz. can) diced tomatoes (I had whole can tomatoes, so that’s what I used)
1 large green pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
8 (2 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Hot cooked quinoa, rice, or orzo (whatever you like to serve with it)

1. Stir in stock, honey, cumin, cinnamon, tomatoes, green pepper, onion, and raisins in to your slow cooker. Add chicken and turn to coat.
2. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours or until chicken is cooked through. Salt and pepper to taste if you like.

3. In serving bowls lay a layer of cumin, rice, or orzo and then dish the stew on top of it. Enjoy!

Easy Spiced Lentil Spring Soup

Easy Spiced Lentil Spring Soup

This recipe is simple to make, can be made in a slow cooker, and includes 2 types of meat, 2 types of legumes, and plenty of Spring veggies (spinach, parsley, and onions).

I’m all about healthy homemade meals, but I have to say, the recipes I make again and again are those that are not only healthy and satisfy my taste buds, but those that are quick and easy to make. From all the recipes I post it may look like all I do is cook, but I generally prefer recipes that are low maintenance (those that I can let cook in my slow cooker are the best).

This Spiced Lentil Soup serves 10 people, so if you want less serving portions decrease all the amounts by half, or have left-overs and freeze portions. The creator of this recipe said that her kids loved this one too.

1/2 pound gluten free Italian sausage (casings removed, crumbled)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/3 cup brown rice (uncooked)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 quarts gluten free chicken stock
1 cup lentils (uncooked)
1 chicken breast (uncooked)
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 can (15 oz.) garbanzo beans
1/2 to 1 pound fresh or frozen spinach
1 jar (12 oz.) salsa, mild or medium

1. Brown sausage, onion, rice, and garlic in a skillet. Transfer to the slow cooker or large stock pot (whatever you want to cook the soup in).
2. Add the chicken stock, lentils, chicken breast and parsley. (I added a little less stock, as my slow cooker got a little too full). Simmer for as long as you desire or until lentils are tender. (I simmered mine on high in my slow cooker for a few hours while I ran errands).
3. Stir soup breaking chicken apart. Add beans, spinach, and salsa and heat through. (I cooked it on high for about another 1/2 hour). Enjoy!

*Recipe Source: The Country Cooking Recipe Collection: Prize-Winning Soups & Sandwhiches, (1993 publication) recipe submitted by Marty Rummel, Trout Lake, Washington