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Why & How I Gave Up Coffee

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My story with coffee starts when I was just a little girl. My Mom, a coffee drinker since before I’ve been alive, would always drink her coffee outside on the patio when the weather was nice. During summer vacations and school breaks she would give my sister and I each a mug of hot chocolate to enjoy while she sipped her coffee. Eventually the hot chocolate becaume these International Cafe drinks, which eventually become coffee.

I was never a heavy coffee drinker, just a cup or two each morning. Nothing about my coffee habit seemed unhealthy. I wasn’t getting a Mocha or Caramel Macchiato every morning, just a simple, regular cup of coffee. I never added sugar, just a splash of skim milk. It was just a warm drink each morning, really. Which would make anyone wonder, why coffee, then? Why not a cup of tea or hot chocolate? Or even decaf coffee? I do enjoy coffee. There is truth to that. But that major reason I had to have my cup of coffee each morning, couldn’t miss a day or switch up my warm drink, was the caffeine.

I’ve tried quitting coffee a few times in my adult life. It would usually happen on a day where I had a particularly busy day and had gone most of the morning without having a cup. I’d think to myself “Hey, maybe I don’t actually need the coffee” and purposefully skip the coffee. Then, around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon the dreaded coffee headache would hit. It wasn’t horrible, but it was annoying. I knew a cup of coffee would fix it and I gave in every time.

Then, a few months ago, we decided to do a Daniel Fast. We’d been thinking about it for a while. I’d done a good amount of research on what the fast entailed and it seemed clear that the only drink allowed was water. I LOVE water, but the idea of not having coffee for days was really daunting. I figured that I would just suck it up for a couple weeks, deal with the caffeine withdrawal, and then go back to my coffee drinking following the fast. The first day of the fast arrived and I replaced my morning coffee with a big glass of water. I knew the headache was coming so I prepped. I made a big pot of Lemon Lentil Soup so I would have something to warm and soothing to eat. The day progressed fine. Actually, around 2pm, when I still didn’t have a headache I was wondering if I was going to get one at all. I thought that a little too soon because it set in about half an hour later. I laid down on the sofa, feel asleep, and when I woke up the pain was much worse. It hurt to walk or move at all. Steve tried to comfort me with the whole “drink water, it will help” but I wasn’t having it. At one point the pain was so bad that I was vomiting. I thought I was going to have to go to the ER.

Somehow, I survived. After a little bit of food and water I was able to peacefully go to sleep. One good thing about caffeine withdrawal is that it also makes you very tired, so sleeping through the pain is an option. I woke up the next morning, still with a headache, and realized the whole cold turkey thing wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t exactly in line with the fast, but I decided to slowly cut my coffee consumption back over the next few days. I still had headaches, but it was the dull ache-y type. I could function like normal, for the most part.

In all of the pain I came to the realization that, although I love coffee, it isn’t good for me. I decided to quit caffeinated coffee. I know there are studies that say coffee is good and I’m not disputing that. I don’t think it is good for me, or anyone, to have such a severe dependency. My violent reaction to missing just one cup of coffee showed me how bad my addiction was. Feeding my coffee addiction each morning wasn’t making me sick or having a negative impact on my daily life but it was an addiction nonetheless. Why would I willingly allow myself to live that way?

Now, a few months later, the nightmare of coffee withdrawal is over and I feel like it was worth enduring. Each morning I have a cup of tea or decaf coffee. Decaf is such a great compromise! It still is everything I love about coffee but I’m not going to get a killer headache if I miss it one day. I love having the peace of mind that I don’t NEED to get my coffee fix. When we travel I don’t have to endure lousy hotel coffee (or worse yet, airplane coffee) or pay some absurd price for cup at Starbucks. Someday if/when we decide to have kids and I am pregnant I won’t have to worry about giving it up or negatively effecting the health of my baby. And, say any other health matters came up that prevented me from having my morning dose of coffee, it wouldn’t be complicated by the already miserable caffeine withdrawal.

If you have wrestled with your coffee drinking habit and are thinking of quitting here are some tips:

1. Don’t quit cold turkey. The pattern below worked for me. My withdrawal symptoms were done on day 8. I did not consume any caffeinated beverage until Day 21, so I had a two entire weeks of no caffeine. Then, I let myself have one or two caffeinated coffee or teas each week, but never on consecutive days.

  • Day 1: 3/4 cup coffee
  • Day 2: 3/4 cup coffee
  • Day 3: 1/2 cup coffee
  • Day 4: 1/2 cup coffee
  • Day 5: 1/4 cup coffee
  • Day 6: 1/4 c weak coffee
  • Day 7 and beyond: No coffee

2. Drink lots of water. It’s not going to cure your symptoms, but it helps some and honestly, is at least a bit of a distraction.

3. Supplement with herbal tea and decaf coffee. Don’t drink soda or other caffeinated drinks!

4. Sleep through the pain as much as you can. The lack of caffeine will probably make you feel much more tired than usual. Use this to your advantage and sleep whenever possible. It will give you a break from the headache.

5. Let your family and friends know what is going on so that they cane support you. When people know what is going on they have the opportunity to extend grace to you.

6. Be gentle with yourself. Your body is going through a big change, so don’t add any unnecessary stress to yourself!

Important Note: I’m not a doctor or medical professional of any type! This is just what I did to quit drinking coffee that worked for me. If this doesn’t seem right for you or you are having really rough withdrawal symptoms please check with your doctor. If you have another tactic that worked for you, please share in the comments!

I know there are lots and lots of coffee fans out there, so I hope I haven’t offended any of you! Truth is, I still love coffee! I just want my body to be able to function perfectly normally whether I have my morning coffee or I don’t!

 
Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Carrot Noodle Stir Fry

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Everyone needs quick & healthy meals ideas, and I have a great one for you today. Even better, this tastes like any oil coated, sodium loaded stir fry but it’s totally healthy. Carrots + broccoli + a 2-ingredient sauce. It doesn’t get much more simplier or healthier than that! Plus, this stir fry is naturally gluten free!

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So, carrot noodles. You’ve probably noticed vegetable noodles and spiralizers are all the rage on Pinterest and food blogs. I love the idea of eating my vegetables in noodle form but seriously have no room in my kitchen for another fancy appliance. It turns out that you can easily make vegetable noodles with a vegetable peeler, no spiralizer needed!

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When I first started experimenting with veggie noodles, carrot noodles were not on my radar. I hate carrots. They taste like chalk to me. Even dipped in hummus – still gross. Then one evening Steve made some carrot noodles. It’s hard to remember how it all happened. I was in the bathroom vomiting from coffee withdrawal sickness and not really paying any attention to anything. Steve came in the bathroom with a small plate of food, saying I needed to eat. I was too sick to care and just ate whatever he gave me. I guess there had been some carrot noodles in there.

{If you’re interested in my coffee story, check back on Friday for a post about how and why I beat caffeine addiction!}

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Well, the carrots weren’t so bad. It turns out that cooked and flavored carrots taste amazing. There is really no carroty taste at all! I’ve now been honing my carrot noodle recipe, and found that carrot noodles are very well suited to stir fry. The carrots suck up all the flavors from the sauce. It’s very similar to eating a bowl of rice noodles slathered with sauce, but instead you’re eating a bowl of vegetables. Not only will you love how this stir fry tastes, but you’ll love how good it feels to be eating something that is truly healthy and good for you!

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Carrot Noodle Stir Fry

Serves 1. For a more substantial meal, serve with rice. I cook 1/4c rice (dry) for each serving of carrot noodles.
 
Ingredients
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 broccoli crown
  • 1 Tbs olive oil, divided (or other cooking oil, like coconut oil or sesame oil)
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1 Tbs Bragg’s Amino Acids (this is a soy sauce replacement. If you don’t mind the sodium, just sub in soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp chili garlic paste (check label to be sure it’s GF)
Directions
  1. Heat half of the oil in a small skillet over medium high heat.
  2. While the oil and the skillet are heating, cut the broccoli into florets. When the oil is hot add the broccoli to the skillet. Stir the broccoli until it is coated with oil and bright green. Add the water to the skillet (be careful, it may splash/steam), reduce the heat to medium, and cover. Let the broccoli simmer until it is tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. While the broccoli is simmering prepare the carrots noodles. First, peel the outer layer off of the carrots. Using the same vegetable peeler, continue to peel along the entire length of the carrot to make long noodle shapes. Once the carrot is down to the small stub you are holding onto use a knife to cut it up into small pieces. Do this with both carrots.
  4. When the broccoli is tender move it to a plate and drain any extra water out of the skillet. Add the other half of the oil to the skillet and bump the heat back up to medium high.
  5. When the oil is hot add the carrot noodles. Stir to coat them with oil. Continue to cook for about 3 -4 minutes, stirring. The noodles will go from firm to softer, and be brighter in color. Once the noodles have softened add the Amino acids and chili garlic paste. Stir to combine. Add the broccoli back into the skillet and cook for just a minute more to heat up the broccoli.
  6. Serve hot.

2014 Gardening Report #1

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Gardening season has officially started!

I live in USDA zone 8a. The first safe-from-frost gardening day for zone 8a is March 15th, so I got right to work on Saturday, determined not to lose a day of growing before the crazy hot summer arrives (and some of my plants bolt).

Before I launch too much into gardening talk I need to express why I think gardening is so great for anyone who loves food. Growing your own food will change how you cook! Having a plethora of fresh herbs around for months on end gives you the opportunity to be creative with flavors. If you struggle with eating enough vegetables try growing some – I bet you will be much more interested in eating your home grown produce! Obviously, these aren’t the only reasons that foodies should love gardening, just some of the ways gardening has benefited me. Now, onto the plant talk!

Most of our garden is a container garden. We rent, so we don’t have free reign to dig and plant anywhere in the yard. Also, the soil here is absolutely horrible. In fact, it is not soil, it is sand! I made most of my self-watering containers last year and they were great. The self watering containers are basically two buckets, stacked one on top of the other. The bottom bucket becomes a little water reservoir for the plant growing in the top bucket.  You just stick the hose in the little opening at the bottom and let the water fill up! This system works great on hot, sunny days.

Self-Watering-Bucket

If you’re interested in a tutorial on how to make these self watering containers let me know! I can put one together the next time I make one!

I labeled all of my buckets this year so I would know what was growing in them! For the most part, as soon as the seed sprouts I can recognize the plant, but it’s always good to be organized.

Labeled-Bucket

Of course, I have some traditional pots, too. I’ve found that herbs like traditional pots better, and vegetables do much better in the self watering pots. Traditional pots don’t always have to be store store bought and fancy. We found this bit plastic tub on the side of the road. Now it’s home to a few kale and spinach plants.

Creative-Planter

Here’s my cilantro, which conveniently reseeded itself from last year!

Cilantro

This is a cactus plant (one of 4) Steve got me for our anniversary. Long story, but I wanted a cactus. Does anyone know what kind it is? It kind of got frozen and snowed and frosted on so it’s not doing as well as it had been before.

Mystery Cactus

Total for my container garden is 10 large self watering containers:

  • 2 green bean
  • 2 sugar snap pea
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 cucumber
  • 1 min bell pepper
  • 1 tomato

There are 7 herb plants in traditional containers:

  • rosemary
  • Thai basil
  • genovese basil
  • cilantro
  • spearmint
  • oregano
  • dill

The in ground garden is a bit more chaotic. The soil is just so sandy, so we’ve been composting. Steve turned a bunch of leaves into the soil to help with the composting effort (we also turned leaves into the containers, as you probably noticed in the pictures). Turning leaves in is hard work (like whoa hard) so it’s not totally done. I did plant tomatillos right away in a cleared spot (yummmmm, green salsa!) because they took a long time to produce last year, and I wanted better results this time around.

Long Garden

My parsley, and a small patch of oregano, from last year are still doing well. I’ve actually been using that parsley all winter.

Outside-Parsley

These interesting plants keep coming up in the planting bed. Does anyone know what they are?

Mystery-Plant

Once we’ve finished turning in leaves and the whole garden area is ready I’ll be able to plant more vegetables! I had a few types of peppers do well in the sandy soil last year, so I’ll stick to those types of plants again. Plus some broccoli and cauliflower, since they will have more space on the ground than in a bucket container!

Now that almost everything is planted it’s just a waiting game. It’s so exciting to see the little green seedlings start to peek up out of the soil! In a month or two, I’ll share again about how my gardening is going and how I’m using all of the produce!

Happy Gardening to all of my fellow gardeners out there!

GF Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

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I’ve really been craving an m&m cookie. Not just today, or this week, but for months! When you eat GF you can’t just go to the store and buy some m&m cookies. You’ve gotta make them. So I did! And they were delicious and worth the wait!

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For how much I enjoy cooking, I really don’t enjoy getting out a dozen different flours/starches just to make some cookies. When I open the flour bags, a big cloud of flour always appears, and then ends up all over my shirt. No matter how hard I try to be careful and clean the counter top still ends up with a white flour coating. This is why most of my baking recipes are very simple, and my eBook only uses all purpose GF flour. Less flours = less chance for a mess.

I was thinking over how to make a GF m&m cookie without messing around with lots of flours. I had a few ideas, but the quickest and easiest was to use my Peanut Butter Cookie as the base of the recipe. With only 5 ingredients, none of which are flour, you can’t get much simpler! Especially for a gluten free cookie!

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With the exception of the m&ms, the five ingredients in these cookies are all pantry staples. Maybe other people keep m&ms on hand, but I don’t. And, being the thrifty shopper that I am, I waited for m&ms to go on sale before I bought them for this recipe. I was really ready for an m&m cookie by time I actually got around to making them.

It’s easy to whip up a batch in under half and hour, start to finish. Great for a last minute dessert or when you want to impress with soft, warm, freshly baked cookies and don’t have time for something complicated. Enjoy!

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Gluten Free Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Ingredients
  • 1 c creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c mini m&ms
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Mix the first 5 ingredients (you can do this by hand or in a stand mixer. I used my KitchenAid with the paddle attachment).
  3. Stir in the mini m&ms.
  4. Rill a spoonful of dough (about 1-2 tablespoons, but you can approximate) into a ball in the palm of your hand. If the dough is sticking too much run your hands under cold water, shake dry, and then try working with the dough again. Place the balls on a non stick baking sheet, or a regular baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
  5. Bake for about 12 minutes total, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The cookies should be set and golden brown on the bottom but still soft on the top. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack or eat!

 

Almond Joy Oatmeal

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This is one of my current favorite breakfasts. It tastes just like the candy bar, but is totally sugar free! It’s actually a 100% healthy, filling breakfast. What a great way to start the day – with a warm bowl of oats that tastes like candy but is secretly healthy.

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Let’s break down the flavors in this oatmeal. First, there’s chocolate. Chocolate for breakfast – I’m in.  Then there is coconut. I’ve always been a fan of coconut. Coconut with chocolate – even better! Remember when they came out with coconut m&ms a few years ago? I ate a lot of those.

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Finally, the almond flavor. To be honest, until recently I could take or leave almonds. When I was working on my eBook last year I bought a bottle of almond extract for some of the recipes. There’s something about that strong almond flavor that just melts in my mouth. The GF Candy Cane Cookies from my eBook were one of my favorites. I enjoyed every single bite of those. Well, now I’m all about almond flavored things. Almond butter is a new found favorite ingredient for me. I made these mints (but un-vegan), and the almond chocolate ones were seriously amazing. I brought them on a weekend family trip. At the end of the weekend I traded the leftover mints with my mother in law for basically all of her remaining food + some incredibly soft toilet paper.

Anyway, I digress. Chocolate + Almond + Coconut + HEALTHY = winning breakfast combination.

Since I mentioned my eBook, can I insert a shameless plug here? If you read this blog and enjoy the recipes, please help me keep it going by buying a copy of the eBook! I have plans to expand this blog to a more sophisticated site with easier to read recipes, better site navigation, and a much nicer recipe index. All funds from eBook sales will go straight into improving the blog! Plus, you’ll have a few new cookies recipes! You can check out my eBook page, or go right to my Selz page to purchase it. Thanks for reading my blog, trying my recipes, liking my posts, and leaving encouraging comments! I appreciate all of your support!

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Almond Joy Oatmeal

As written, this oatmeal is sweetened only with banana. If you find that isn’t sufficient sweetness for your tastes, try adding 1 – 2 tablespoons of sugar.
 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 c GF oats
  • 1/2 c almond milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 Tbs shredded coconut (unsweetened)
Directions
  1. Combine the oats, almond milk, and water in a small sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium.
  2. Stir in the cocoa powder, making sure it dissolves completely, and then the banana. Let cook, stirring frequently, until much of the liquid is absorbed (under 10 minutes).
  3. Add the almond extract. Cook a few minutes longer, until the oatmeal reaches your desired consistency. Personally, I like to have nearly all of the liquid absorbed.
  4. Sprinkle with the shredded coconut before eating.

Lemon Lentil Soup

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Best soup ever.

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If you’re looking for a bland, mushy lentil soup recipe then you have come to the WRONG place. This lentil soup is different from so many others. First off, the texture. Unlike so many other lentil based soups, it’s not mushy. It’s not quite creamy or chunky either. It’s just the best of all worlds. Even the texture of the lentils themselves is easy to customize to your own preferences. Cook for less time if you like lentils a bit al dente, or more time if you prefer softer lentils.

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What’s really out of this world about this soup though is the flavor. The lentils simmer with onion and garlic, then cook in chicken stock to make a delicious broth. A splash of lemon juice and a sprinkling of cilantro take the flavor of the broth up to a whole other level. The flavor combination is perfect – nothing is too strong or too weak.

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And have I mentioned how easy this soup is to prepare? Similar to my simple Avgolemono Soup, you dump some ingredients in a pot and let it simmer away for a while. Come back in about half an hour and you have soup. And not just any soup, but a seriously delicious and healthy soup!

P.S. Here’s the original recipe source. My version has extra lemon flavor and added cilantro!

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Lemon Lentil Soup

Ingredients
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes ( or more/less depending on tastes)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 cups brown lentils
  • 6 c chicken stock (may use vegetable broth for a vegetarian option. I’ve tried both and prefer chicken stock.)
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1/4 c chopped cilantro
Directions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the oil is warm add the onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft.
  2. Stir in the cumin and lentils, followed by the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Reduce the cook time for firmer lentils, or lengthen cooking time for softer lentils.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice and cilantro.
  4. Serve hot (or let cool if you prefer)!

Dijon Quinoa & Green Beans

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This is an efficient side dish, great for a busy night. Its a grain and a vegetable all in one! The quinoa and green beans cook in the same pot. When the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid and the green beans are tender you just stir in this 4 ingredient sauce. Little effort, little time, lots of flavor. Healthy, too!

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I usually serve this with some sort of chicken. Its a great side for anything grilled. I can be outside tending to the grill and just let the quinoa and beans simmer away without needing to stir the pot, add any ingredients, etc, etc. Have you ever gotten into that mess of needing to tend to something cooking on the grill and on the stove at the same time? I do often. I end up going back and forth between the kitchen and the deck every two minutes. Sometimes I burn something or forget an ingredient, other times I just temporarily can’t keep track of what’s going on.

Anyway, it’s not even quite grilling season but I’m still rambling on about it. I do really enjoy grilling though!

Back to the quinoa and green beans. Tasty, quick & easy side dish that’s naturally gluten free! Just make sure you check the label on your dijon mustard and creole seasoning to make sure both are gluten free. For a quick (and totally indoors) meal, try doubling the sauce and stirring in some shredded chicken. Yum!

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Dijon Quinoa & Green Beans

Ingredients
  • 3/4 c quinoa
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 8 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces.
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard (read label to make sure it is GF)
  • 1/2 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp creole seasoning (read label to make sure it is GF)
Directions
  1. Add the quinoa and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling reduce the heat to low, gently place the green beans into the pan (just kind of set them there – don’t stir) and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.
  2. While the quinoa and green beans are cooking mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.
  3. Once the quinoa and beans have finished cooking pour the sauce into the pan and stir until well combined.

 

 

PGF: Pesto Chicken & Lemon Kale Sandwiches

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Pesto Chicken & Lemon Kale sandwiches make a quick and healthy meal. These warm, toasted sandwiches can be made with GF or wheat bread. Perfect for a group of people who have differing dietary needs. The lemon and pesto combination is irresistable. Whether you are eating GF or not you will love this sandwich!

I really enjoy eating soup. There’s nothing else like a tomato soup and grilled cheese, and any time I feel sick with anything I make Avgolemono Soup. I have a whole pinterest board just for soups I want to try!

Soup is a cold weather food. The last thing you want to do on a hot day is eat a big bowl of steaming soup. Hot days are the majority here, so as summer approaches I’ve been trying to get my fill of soups.

A few weeks ago, when the temperature starting getting into the 70s, I kind of freaked out about all the soup recipes I wanted to try and hadn’t had the chance yet! There was one soup in particular that I was anxious to try so I planned to make it that very night. I needed something a little more substantial to go with the soup so I invented these sandwiches out of ingredients from my refrigerator.

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The soup, sadly, wasn’t that great but the sandwiches were awesome! The lemon flavored kale and pesto go together strikingly well. As someone who usually eats all of my foods separated I was honestly a little worried, but the sandwich was 100% enjoyable. The tastes and textures all blended together perfectly. Even the GF bread was perfect. It browned and crisped up so much better than the sandwiches I made on wheat bread for Steve.

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Before actually putting together these sandwiches you’ll need to cook some chicken and saute some kale. It sounds like a lot of work for a sandwich, I know. First, I will tell you that it’s worth it! I’ll do a little extra work for a healthy, delicious meal that everyone in the family likes! Second, these two steps take about 20 minutes total and can be done ahead of time. These sandwiches are a great use of leftovers if you happen to have some extra cooked chicken laying around!

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Pesto Chicken & Lemon Kale Sandwiches

Steps 1 – 3 can be done ahead of time. Store the cooked chicken and kale in the refrigerator until ready to use.
 
Ingredients
  • 8 slices of bread (GF, wheat, or combination of both)
  • 8 tsp pesto
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
Directions
  1. Fill a saucepan with water. Bring to a boil and add the chicken breast. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.
  2. While the chicken in cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add the kale and saute for about 5 minutes. The kale will turn to a brighter green color and then soften and wilt. Add the lemon juice to the pan and cook, continuing to stir, until there is no more liquid remaining on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.
  3. When the chicken has finished cooking shred it using two fork (or cut into bite sized pieces).
  4. Heat a skillet (the same one you cooked the kale in is fine) over medium heat. Prepare the GF bread by spreading a tsp of pesto sauce on one side of each piece of bread. Spray the other side of the bread with cooking spray, and place that side of the bread down on the baking pan. Put about 1/4 of the chicken on one slice of bread, topped with 1 tbs of cheese. On the other slice, spread out some of the lemon kale and top with another tbs of mozzarella.
  5. Cover the skillet with a lid and let cook until the cheese is mostly melted. Remove the two bread slices from the skillet and carefully put them together. Press down on the top of the sandwiches with a spatula to help keep the sandwich together.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with the reaming bread. Be sure to cook all of the GF sandwiches before cooking any sandwiches using wheat bread.

BBQ Chex Mix

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A few months ago I made an awesome find at the grocery store. Clearance, gluten free, corn chex cereal. It was $1 a box. Awesome deal! I put all of the 6 or so boxes on the grocery store shelf in my cart and when I was checking out the cashier commented on how I must eat a lot of cereal. I’m actually really not a huge fan of eating cold cereal so I’ve been putting my boxes of corn chex to use in chex mix.

The idea for this recipe came from the back of a box of Crispix from the 1990′s. My sister and I used to make it. I vividly remember us tossing a plastic bag full of chex mix across the kitchen to “make sure it was fully mixed.” I still have that back of the box cut out and hole punched in my recipe binder. I made some modifications to the recipe.

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First, I doubled the spices. Great chex mix just needs a lot of spices. In making Crispix’s recipe more flavorful I also replaced most of the oil with significantly more flavorful worchestershire sauce and liquid smoke. It’s a great trade off because it cuts out some calories, too! Finally, I baked the chex mix. The originally recipe was just mixed and served. The end result was, well, a little soggy. Tasty, yes, but a strange consistency for a snack mix.

Baked, this chex mix is identical in consistency to usual chex mix, but the flavor is a fun alternative. While you’re baking it your whole house will begin to smell like BBQ. After an hour+ of smelling a BBQ aroma, when you finally get a bite of the finished chex mix it will hit the spot. Everyone who has tried this has loved it!

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A few ingredients notes for this recipe:

First, I like to break up the pretzels into small pieces. It just absorbs the flavor better. It’s not necessary, and does take a bit of time, but I suggest doing it for maximum flavor.

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Second, I’ve tested this recipe with regular sugar and a stevia blend and both have worked great. I haven’t been able to tell the difference in flavor.

Remember to read all of the spice labels, especially the worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke to make sure they are gluten free before you start baking!

BBQ-Chex-Mix-5

BBQ Chex Mix

Based off a a recipe on the back of a Crispix box from the 1990′s.
 
Ingredients
  • 8 c corn chex
  • 1 1/2 c GF pretzels
  • 1 1/2 c peanuts
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs hickory flavored liquid smoke
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 250° F.
  2. Combine chex, pretzels, and peanuts in a baking pan with high edges.
  3. In a small bowl combine the oil, worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke. Combine remaining  dry ingredients (sugar, garlic and onion powders, dry mustard powder, cayenne pepper, salt) in another small bowl.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the baking dish and stir well, until the chex, pretzels, and peanuts are coated. Next, add the dry ingredients and stir again until the mixture has an even coating.
  5. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
  6. Serve hot or at room temperature. Store in an air tight container.

PGF: Macaroni & Broccoli

Posted on

Macaroni-&-Broccoli-Both

Macaroni & Broccoli is a quick, healthy pasta dinner. It can be difficult to make a quick GF dinner, and even more tricky if you’re trying to make that meal healthy, too. Since the base of the dish is pasta and there are no strong flavors this healthy, gluten free dinner will please picky eaters, too.

Really, this is so simple to make that it hardly needs a recipe. I set two pots of water on the stove over high heat. While the water is coming to a boil I chop some broccoli florets and garlic. When the water is boiling I add some brown rice pasta to one pot, some regular pasta to the other and steam the broccoli. If I’m not feeling lazy I may saute the garlic in a little oil, but it’s not a necessary step.

Macaroni-&-Broccoli-Tall

It goes without saying that you NEED to be careful when cooking GF pasta and wheat pasta side by side. Use two separate pots and get out two separate stirring spoons. I like to keep my GF pasta, pot, and stirring utensil on one side of the stove and the wheat-laden food on the other side. Package up any leftover pasta right when you are done with it to avoid any cross contamination! I time the pasta cooking times so that the GF pasta will be done first. I drain it, put in on the table, and then drain the wheat pasta when the GF portion is totally out of the way. If you take these simple precautions to avoid cross contamination your meal will be safe! (Of course, you could also make this meal entirely with GF pasta, or even entirely with wheat pasta if you don’t have a gluten intolerance).

Once the pasta is cooked I stir some broccoli and garlic in to each pot and dinner is ready! Super easy and dinner will be on the table in under 30 minutes! For a fuller meal, serve with a salad and some grilled chicken. You’ll still have a quick, simple dinner!

Macaroni-&-Broccoli-Close

PGF: Macaroni & Broccoli

See post for additional tips on safely cooking GF and wheat pasta simultaneously.
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c GF pasta
  • 2 c wheat pasta
  • 1 large or 2 small heads of broccoli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbc olive oil
Directions
  1. Fill two saucepans with water and heat over high heat.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, cut the broccoli into small florets and mince the garlic.
  3. Place the broccoli florets in a steamer basket. Fill another sauce pan with an inch or two of water and put the steamer basket in the pan. Heat to boiling, and then reduce the heat to low and let the broccoli simmer for about 8 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat. (See this post for step-by-step instructions on steaming broccoli).
  4. In a small bowl, mix the minced garlic with the olive oil. If you’d like, you can saute the garlic and oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, until the garlic has softened, but this step is not required.
  5. When the pasta water is boiling, add the GF pasta to one pan and the regular pasta to another. Stir each, being sure to use separate stirring utensils. Cook each pasta according to package directions and then drain, starting with the GF pasta.
  6. Return the pasta to their respective pots. Add about 1/3 of the broccoli and 1/3 of the garlic/oil mixture to the GF pasta. Stir until the oil has coated the pasta.
  7. Add the remaining broccoli and garlic/oil to the regular pasta and stir to coat the pasta with the oil.
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