Thursday, May 8, 2014

Easy Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls

Guys. Guys. Guys! And by "guys" I mean everybody. I have something to tell you today that is very exciting to me and probably will be to a lot of you, too! But first I'm going to entice you to read on with a photo:


You know you want that. Read on to find out how easy it is to get it! It really is easy. Like... probably easy enough to be dangerous.

But let's back up slightly, first!

Have I mentioned at all on my blog how much I love Aldi? They're an excellent little grocery store if you're unfamiliar with them. They keep their prices low by staying small, minimizing the need for dozens of employees at each location, get fewer shipments than other stores, etc., etc., I don't know all the details of how they do it, but they do. Recently they introduced an organic line, after trying out organic stuff from time to time in the past. The prices are good, and I guess it was a popular addition because they always have at least a few organic choices these days! Another specialty line they have toyed with is gluten-free products. Personally I have never seen any in the store until yesterday, but I don't get to go very often because we don't have an Aldi in town and we rarely go anywhere else to shop! Anyway, Aldi decided that they were going to try out a whole line of gluten-free products recently and as of yesterday, May 7, 2014 had the line available at all Aldi locations. I saw the kind of prices they were going to be offering this line at and knew we had to go! So go we did, in the middle of the week and for no other reason at all we went up to Belton to try stuff out. We brought a little cash and got a whole stash of goodies! Brownie mix, pizza crust mix, yellow cake mix, baking mix, soft baked cookies, baked chewy bars, mac & cheese, and chocolate chip cookie mix. We spent a grand total of $22.93 for all of this you see in the photo below, plus the brownie and pizza crust mix we already gave away and used. Way more than I would usually spend on "splurge" foods, but a very worthwhile experiment and FAR cheaper than buying similar items at any other store. Seriously, we spent $6 at HyVee recently on a 10oz box of gluten-free cornflakes for casserole topping for Easter! Compare and awe.



We gave the brownie mix to my mother-in-law, and she made it up into cupcakes that very night for a church event. She gave us one to try out and it was delicious! It didn't taste weird or "gluten-free" like some of these things do. It just tasted like authentic brownie goodness! The taste, texture, and appearance was all great!

Then we decided that we just had to try the pizza crust mix that night rather than wait for the weekend! Once I saw that the mix would make 2, 12 in pizzas I knew I had to experiment. I made one half of the dough into pizza and with the other half I made up some cinnamon rolls! I've been craving cinnamon rolls for my entire pregnancy, but never found a recipe to make them that looked remotely easy and also had good reviews, so I have done without until last night! The few recipes out there that promise to be truly amazing were always complicated, often featured on blog posts longer than I could stand to even read once, detailing how tricky it was and how everything had to be done "just so" for them to turn out right! Well no more. I am here to rescue you from that problem, thanks to Aldi!

But first, a quick, poor quality photo of my pizza. It, too, was amazing. The crust was one of the best gf crusts I've had, though I think I like the mix best for cinnamon rolls, rather than pizza! But I would definitely eat the pizza again with no hesitation. Over and over if it were offered. Ha.

This pizza was topped with Italian chicken, onion, and deli-sliced Mezzetta peperoncini peppers. DELICIOUS! Side note: I've been obsessed with these peppers through most of my pregnancy so far. I want them all the time, and would probably eat them plain if I wasn't so tight with our grocery budget!
 Now for the really important part of this post though. The easy peasy, delicious gluten-free cinnamon rolls! It's so easy you don't even need any actual measurements. Really! Rough measures are all fine here. As I mentioned, I used half the dough, but if you need or want more cinnamon rolls, go ahead and use it all! We definitely did not need 16 cinnamon rolls between the two of us though, especially considering it wasn't our official "cheat" day and therefore the fact of having them (and PIZZA) at all was a big treat!


Easy Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 8, 2 1/2 inch cinnamon rolls

1/2 liveGfree pizza crust mix, prepared (not baked!)
Butter (I used a little over half a stick for the entire process)
Powdered sugar
Cinnamon

Frosting:

Milk
Butter
Powdered sugar
Vanilla
Cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

In a small bowl (like the type for condiments, small) combine 1 1/2 tsp-1tbsp melted butter with a tablespoon or so of powdered sugar. Stir until combined. Pour into the bottom of your pan (I used a glass loaf pan and fit my 8 rolls perfectly so adjust according to how much you're making).

Roll out your dough until it is approximately 10-12 inches long, 5-6 inches wide, and about 1/2 inch thick (remember, this is a rough guess so adjust as you feel fit!). Slather the dough in butter, and sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar over top, and carefully roll dough up. I rolled my dough out on a silicon pad, so I was able to use the pad to help me roll the dough nice and tight.

Now take a piece of non-waxed, non-flavored floss (thread will work too if you don't have floss. Wait... why don't you have floss?) and cut dough into 8 equal portions. If you're not familiar with this method, watch this YouTube video: How to Cut Cinnamon Roll Dough

Arrange rolls in pan -- it should be a fairly tight fit but go ahead and cram them in if you have to. Now spread a little more softened butter over the tops, and sprinkle again with just a bit of powdered sugar (the amount of sugar you use throughout this recipe can really be dependent on how sweet you want your rolls!). Bake 10-15 minutes or until rolls just begin to turn slightly golden and feel fairly firm to the touch.

Once they are done baking pull them out of the oven and set them aside while you make up your frosting! You want them to cool slightly before you frost them so the frosting doesn't all melt off.

For the frosting, I again have no actual measurements. Sorry about that, but it really is very easy! I took a spoonful of cream cheese (probably somewhere around 2 tablespoons) and warmed it in the microwave until it was very soft. Then added about 1 tsp melted butter (because butter!), a small splash of milk, about 1/4 tsp of vanilla, and then started adding powdered sugar in small portions until the texture and flavor was what I wanted (yes, keep tasting as you add it -- you'll know when it's right!). You will know you have the ratios correct when the frosting is smooth, and begins to lose it's translucent appearance. If it's still really thin looking, add more sugar! Pour generously over warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy!


These were amazing hot, but probably almost equally good cold the next morning with a cup of hot coffee!

See how easy that was?! No need for a video to demonstrate anything because it is simple, quick, and very much like any other gluteny cinnamon roll recipe you've ever made! YAY!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Another Opportunity

If you've been a reader for very long, you know a little bit about our journey as LifeVantage distributors. You may remember how life changing it was for my father-in-law, how despite our general distaste for MLM's (who doesn't have a general distaste for them, unless you're IN one and see how amazing they are when done right?!) and my hesitation to become distributors, we did it because we saw what an incredible thing it did for my beloved father-in-law and knew that however much "direct sales" may make some folks cringe, this product was worth the frowns because it was giving people their lives back, and I'm not really being figurative here! There are so many amazing stories out there of people with really significant health conditions who begin taking the product and see a dramatic change in their health and lives. Of course, we are not allowed to make any claims except that it reduces oxidative stress an average of 40% in 30 days. So I'm not saying it was the Protandim that turned these folks around. I'm just saying that they started taking it and saw these dramatic improvements in their lives. You can decide what you want about that information!

LifeVantage has been a pretty amazing journey. We haven't really been working the business for the last couple years, which I think was an unfortunate mistake, but one that I hope to rectify in the near future! But I'm not actually writing today to talk about LifeVantage. I'm here to talk about Another Opportunity, one that I've decided to plunge into all by my lonesome!

I decided to do this largely because we have a big expense coming up! Baby! We absolutely have to get a new-to-us vehicle as our truck is only a two-seater. Taxes were higher this year than expected which ate into our savings a little already, and even using up all of what we've saved for a down payment on a house (boo hoo!), we'll still have to get a loan to get a vehicle, I suspect. If I can do anything to help make that easier, I want to do it! So here I am. Trying my best to help in a way that I can.

The company is called Jamberry, and they make vinyl nail wraps -- the end results in what looks like an amazing polish job, but is done quickly, easily, inexpensively, at home, and one of the best parts in my book is that it's completely non-toxic! Oh, and did I mention they last? And last? Most people find that they last around 2 weeks on their fingers and as long as 6 weeks on their toes! And for the most part, by the end of 2 or 6 weeks the only reason somebody removes them and applies new ones is because their nails grew out a bit, not because the wraps were chipping, peeling, or fading! Sound intriguing? Yeah. As someone who can't keep polished fingers looking nice longer than 24 hours, I was interested, and I have never even been very "into" having my nails done up!

Granted, Jamberry is not changing lives in the same way that LifeVantage is. Though I suppose you could argue that you are probably reducing oxidative stress on your body if you switch from regular toxic polish, to Jamberry. But no, it's nothing really significant in that way. But it is changing lives in other ways. Ways that are still really significant to those experiencing them! It's giving women (and probably some men) a way to make more money for their families, without having to take on another job they end up a slave to. Whether your desire is to simply pay for piano lessons for your child, or completely replace your current income you earn working outside the home so you can be home with your precious children, or whether you don't have kids or even a husband at all and just want to do something to support yourself without being a slave to somebody else, this could be an opportunity for YOU! Some people join Jamberry to earn money for a one-time purchase they can't afford right now. The possible reasons to join and what you do with what you earn is totally up to you! But isn't that the cool part? It's totally up to you! It's not like getting a minimum wage job where you're forced to work at a certain pay rate no matter how badly you may need more than that. If you need more, you do more work and earn more. That simple!

I won't go into any of the nitty gritty details about the compensation plan or anything else here today, but if you're even slightly interested, contact me! These wraps are great fun, so whether you're interested in simply purchasing some to try out yourself or you're wanting to learn more about working as a consultant, talk to me! I can even get you set up to host an online party, where you basically don't have to do anything beyond tell friends about it, but then get the chance to earn some cool rewards like free wraps, or discounts on becoming a consultant (which is already affordable even at full price)!

Here is a quick low-down of what makes Jamberry Nail Wraps so cool!


  • They are non-toxic (as someone who can often go on rants about all the toxins we're faced with daily, this was a huge draw for me! Especially now that I am pregnant and even more mindful of what I put in/on my body)!
  • There are over 300 designs to choose from, so no matter what your tastes, there is something for you! But even if you're really particular and can't find anything you like pre-made, you can pay a few extra dollars and have some custom made, any way you like! This is an awesome option for weddings and other special events where you may need an exact color/pattern!
  • They are inexpensive! A single mani or pedi at a salon will easily cost $30 or more. And if you take advantage of our buy 3 get 1 free deal, that's enough manis for 8-24 weeks (depending on how hard you are on your nails) and up to 60 weeks of pedis! The same amount of manis and pedis would cost an average of $450 in a salon!
  • Can be used on artificial nails
  • No dry time
  • No chipping
  • No peeling
  • No fading
  • Latex free
  • Do NOT damage your real nails

And lest you think I am telling you about these awesome, fun wraps and not leaving you with photos, don't worry. I wouldn't do that to you! The first 4 photos are of my manis/pedis, followed by some photos of some of the wraps I won hosting a party prior to becoming a consultant!


My very first Jamberry manicure, "Kiss Me Ombre"
I used leftover scrap pieces from my "Kiss Me Ombre" mani, to do a pedicure! This was 6 days in, and I did a pretty poor job applying them to begin with, due to my belly getting in the way. 

Then when I had to remove my manicure after 13 days (due only to my nails growing out!), I tried out some new wraps that came with my consultant kit, "Horseshoes". I thought I was going to hate them, but I actually find them really fun! Then a day or two later I decided to change things up again, by adding a "Kiss Me Ombre" nail to my hand, and doing a mix on my toes, too, as seen below!
Keep in mind the "Kiss Me Ombre" on my toes had been on for almost 3 weeks when this photo was taken!
Now here are some of the wraps I ordered for free and/or deeply discounted as my hostess rewards for my party I hosted recently!
Left to Right: Twitterpated, Hostess Exclusive for April, Prissy Plaid, Wild Elephant, and Stone (matte). The Stone I got to wear with my Army Camo (not pictured but also got free!). And I'll probably wear some Prissy Plaid with some Raspberry Sparkle (also not pictured).

So if you like what you see, and have even a small handful of friends who you think would also have fun with these, get in contact with me and we can set up an online party for you! It's super easy to earn free stuff, there's no pressure to order if you don't want to, and we play some fun games where people can win free samples and things! 




Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two-Minute Molten Chocolate Mug Cake

There are some days where you just need a fix. Most of us recognize it immediately and may try to ignore it, or satiate it with something else but let's be honest. Nothing compares to real chocolate fix, especially not popping a magnesium pill, the common "if you're craving this what you really need is ______" answer to chocolate cravings*. And the warmer and gooier the chocolatey goodness is the better, am I right? I know I am. I won't wait for an answer.

This fix happens to practically be health food, if we conveniently ignore the fact that it's prepared in a microwave. O_o It's healthy enough that I have no guilt at all eating it pregnant, on a weekday**. No gluten. Barely enough sugar to mention. Good fat. But all the YUM your little heart could desire. I can only imagine what a delightful treat it would be on a splurge day with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or drizzled with a little bit of caramel! Prepared as below, there should only be around 7g of sugar in the entire cake, which I split with my dear beloved (see how much self control I have? He was on the phone with a client and I totally could have gotten away with scarfing down the entire thing before he ever knew there was any food at all to be had). You could do even better than that if you had darker chocolate chips/chunks, made your own like I've done in the past, or omitted that part entirely (but where's the fun in that?).

Sorry about the photo. It was too good, I was too hungry, and the fact that any photo at all exists of anything more than the empty cup is kind of amazing. Next time I make this I will try to take a picture of the finished cake, because it's really quite pretty for a microwave mug cake. But for now, this is what you get.

Another thing I love about this little beauty? The butter in the cake makes it so that it comes out of the mug rather easily, which made sharing a cinch, and would probably also make it a pretty one to "dress up" by inverting it onto a plate and topping it with...something incredible. Or even something moderately exciting like a few slices of strawberry. Also, if you're afraid of raw egg, cook yours a little longer than 1 minute. You'll lose the "molten" part, which was part of what made this so good, but like I said... if you worry about that sort of thing there is an easy solution. I get my eggs from my own very healthy, free-range and semi-free range chickens so I don't worry about a little underdone egg now and then. FUN FACT! Did you know that only about 1 in every 20,000 conventionally "raised" eggs are contaminated with salmonella anyway? Most hens whose ovaries become infected stop laying, so if you wash the shell prior to use, your chances should be essentially nil. You would have to eat 250 eggs a year for 80 years to consume 20,000 eggs over your lifetime anyway so you can see how low your chances of illness probably really are, even if you have to get your eggs from less healthy chickens than a well-cared for backyard flock. The only reason to be cautious about eating raw egg whites with regularity would be due to the discovery that raw egg whites (not yolks! Your daily fried eggs are safe, people! Yolks are actually much healthier raw than cooked) can increase biotin deficiency.

Two-Minute Molten Chocolate Mug Cake

1 oz unsweetened baker's chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1-2 tbsp milk (sorry, I wasn't measuring, but this is my best guess)
1 large egg
2-3 tbsp sweetener of choice (mine were a combination of xylitol and several types of stevia)
1/8 tsp salt (again, best guess -- or add more if you like the whole salted-everything fad)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large mug, carefully melt baker's chocolate. My microwave takes a little over a minute to melt 1 oz when I forget to chop it, and is faster than that when I remember (i.e. never). Stir chocolate until smooth. Add butter, then milk, combining each well. Add all remaining ingredients, leaving half the chocolate chips set aside. Stir until egg is fully incorporated. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips and cook in the microwave for 1 minute. Allow to cool slightly, and enjoy!
This is a mug cake my dear husband made for us last night (04.30.14) -- same recipe except he added a little more sweetener and then inverted the cake onto plates for us! It was beautiful, delicious, and as you can see, very molteny! I loved it.

Here is a freshly made cake -- not as pretty as my first because I accidentally overcooked it (I know, in the microwave? How do you accidentally cook something longer than a minute in the microwave?). But it was still tasty! Just less molteny.



*and I'm telling you right now, magnesium deficiency is not the only reason for a chocolate craving; I take 3 magnesium tablets per day aside from whatever I get in a healthy diet and I still crave chocolate from time to time. So there.

**during the week, especially now that I am pregnant, I try to mostly stay very strict about not eating junk/sugar, but on Sunday do still allow myself a few little splurges like ice cream at night, bun-free fast food burgers for lunch, or some GF cereal or chocolate candy.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"What do you think changed?"

Since announcing my pregnancy back in December I've had a lot of people ask me, "What do you think it was that changed?" and every variation of that question you can imagine. Some people are just curious for the sake of curiosity. Others want to know because they have a friend struggling with infertility and when you or someone you love is in the midst of that struggle you will grasp at anything that offers even the slightest glimmer of hope. Some want to tuck the information away in their own minds in case they someday face this heartbreaking trial. Some already are in the middle of that pain. After 3+ miscarriages, followed by years of not conceiving, totally in 5 1/2 years of days and nights of praying fervently that God would someday bless us with a child we could actually hold in our arms, the question really feels so... big.

Ultimately, we know that it was God. All God. Nothing but God and His infinite wisdom and knowledge and perfect timing. Could He have given us a child sooner? Sure. Did He? No. Why? No clue! But that's okay, because God knows. And God is the author and creator of all things, and I would rather be in His will, pain and all, than outside of it. I won't pretend it didn't hurt. I won't say that all those days and nights, I didn't sometimes question His will. His timing. Or even His love for me. I did. There were times when I would cry so hard I couldn't even ask the question, but He knew. There were times when all I could do is cry, and ask, "Why, Lord? WHY?!" Because it just hurt so bad. There are days when I sit here, thinking about my tiny baby growing now inside my womb after so many prayers and tears and high hopes followed by broken dreams, and I can't help but turn my thoughts towards my dear friends and even women I don't know at all who are still in that struggle. I know I can't make it okay. I can't take away the pain, or give you the child you so desperately long for. But I can give you my prayers. And I can tell you that if it is part of God's plan for you to have that precious little one in your future, while the in between time is hard, it is worth the wait. And suddenly, when it does happen, you realize that right now was the right time. Not before. God always has the best plans, and sometimes His plans hurt a little, sometimes a lot. But He always loves us. Always does everything for a reason, whether we see it right away or not.

I know even that isn't always as encouraging as we'd like it to be though, when you're at your lowest. You can tell yourself in your head it's all true, and good, but when you're in those darkest moments, it still hurts more than you can say.

Doing something about it isn't always the answer, and I can't say I have a magic bullet that will work for everyone. But I'd like to tell you a little bit about some of the things we were doing in the months leading up to this precious little one, and hopefully someone somewhere will benefit from this information.

1.) Have you considered the possibility of having a methylation defect? A significant portion of the population (somewhere between 40-60%) does have some form of this genetic defect (my husband and I both have it), which causes the body to not be able to convert folic acid into methylfolate. Without that conversion, your body will be severely lacking in the very important methyfolate and all the supplementing in the world won't help, because almost all prenatal vitamins and other supplements are the synthetic folic acid instead of folate. Over time this can wreck havoc with your fertility, causing miscarriage, and eventually often progressing to no longer being able to conceive at all. It causes other problems, too, including decreased detox capabilities, which can also cause a host of problems, so whether you're trying to get pregnant or not, or are even female or not, doing something to correct this defect is ideal.

So what can you do to correct it? Fortunately, correcting this particular gene defect is pretty easy! You just have to take pre-methylated folate! But be careful; you don't want to just take folate without adequate levels of B-12 beforehand or you can make things worse. Ideally, consult a healthcare provider familiar with methylation defect in order to best go about correcting this condition.

In my case, it was January of 2013 when we began to seriously consider the fact that I likely had at least some degree of methylation defect. I had some of the signs that indicate methylation defect (midline defects such as lip and tongue tie, for example were my primary signs aside from infertility. Other signs include things like sacral dimples, and certain heart conditions) and some of those signs also ran in my family. David had started looking into the issue before I did but once I started digging into it myself I remember calling him one day when he was out somewhere, very excited, doing that whole familiar, "I think this might be it!" thing. Before the month was out, he had me start on a supplementation protocol. After already dealing with infertility for years at this point I was rather impatient. I took my supplements daily for the first 3-4 months and then slacked off a little. I continued to take them at least a few times every week though, "just in case" -- though emotionally I had given up on the idea that that would help after the first few months. See what I mean about impatient? It is a problem that took years to develop; I shouldn't have expected it to fix things overnight!

2.) We seriously addressed my adrenal fatigue, and not a moment too soon, as testing revealed that I was on the cusp of falling into stage 3 adrenal fatigue! We took a few months off from trying to get pregnant so I could take some supplements that are great for adrenal fatigue, but are contraindicated if pregnant or trying to conceive. Adrenal fatigue can play a significant role in fertility problems as the adrenals are key in hormone production. If you're chronically stressed (and remember, stress comes in MANY forms; just because you love your job does not mean you are not stressed in some way), you'll eventually begin to burn out your adrenals. Your body will then start to express this in the form of a hormone disruption called "pregnenalone steal". For one thing, this means your body will start converting your progesterone into cortisol to try to make you feel better, instead of letting the progesterone do it's job of creating a good environment for implantation to occur, and support a pregnancy if fertilization is successful.

 So how do I fix this? Do some research, look up "adrenal fatigue + infertility" or "pregnanalone steal + infertility" or something along those lines and you'll find a lot of information about this problem. Of course, I cannot vouch for the information you find or the suggested methods of treatment -- like so many things when it comes to our health, a lot of people have an overly simplistic view of things and as a result may not treat adrenal fatigue properly; for your best bet, look for a healthcare provider with a good track record with adrenal fatigue, and ideally, someone who is familiar with the Kalish Method!

Here is a quick little image to show you how what this hormone cascade looks like:

For me, we went with a simple version of what my naturopathic doctor (husband!) has learned from Dr. Kalish. We didn't do it for very long, but I felt a positive change in my overall well-being, and I'm sure a few more months on the protocol would have been ideal! However, God had other plans for me and I got pregnant while on the protocol, so we had to halt it entirely for now. Most likely I'll go back on some other variation of an adrenal support protocol after the baby, though it will be pretty limited since a lot of the good herbs for adrenal support are contraindicated during breastfeeding.

So while this is by no means an exhaustive list of everything we tried (ha ha ha!), it is the two things that we believe were the most likely to have been God's tools in bringing about our precious little baby! Also consider looking into myo-inositol (and be specific, don't just look into "inositol" -- they are different) which is great for ovarian health, and if you have any reason at all to believe you may have PCOS (being overweight is not required, even though that's often the picture presented of women with PCOS), look into some simple things like spearmint tea to help lower your androgens. Also consider looking into Protandim, if you're infertility is unexplained, or suspected to be due to age related factors. There are no guarantees, but things like high oxidative stress can play a role in all kinds of disease and conditions, and for $50/mo, it's worth a try. It wasn't "the thing" for me, but I have heard testimonials from couples where it was.        

Monday, January 6, 2014

Soup, Summer, Surprise!

Okay, several topics for today.

First off, SOUP. For Christmas my in-laws gave us a Vitamix blender. The funny thing is, my parents did, too. I guess it was just in the air! But we are returning the one from my folks and got a super fun replacement gift already! I'm getting a tad bit distracted though. The point is we got a Vitamix blender. So now we can BLEND ALL THE THINGS!!!!!

The thing I was most excited about was making broccoli soup like my mom makes with her Vitamix. I tried with my regular blender once. IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS SOUP WITH A REGULAR BLENDER. Trust me, I thought it could work but you simply must have a very high quality blender like the Vitamix in order to really puree the soup. Otherwise you end up with chunky, watery soup with a horrific texture. Just don't even try. Don't.

So the first thing I did with the blender (after David made a protein shake) was make the beloved broccoli soup! This is the only picture I took of it though before we ate it all up. Yum, yum! This is definitely something I will be making over and over and over again.

Then today I tried cauliflower soup, and it too was amazing. I am in love. With soup. Sprinkled with a bit of cayenne it was amazing. I wouldn't want to put any meat or anything into it because it seems gross to puree the meat, but it also seems to me that it would be gross to have such a nice smooth, creamy soup, with random chunks of meat in it. No, this soup should be left entirely alone. It is food perfection.
 

I'm sure now you'd like to try this amazing soup with all this talk of perfection. It makes getting your veggies in really easy, too, as a serving is about 1/4lb of either broccoli or cauliflower. Talk about healthy! So without further adieu, I give you

Broccoli or Cauliflower Soup
 Yield: 4 servings

1 lb broccoli or cauliflower, frozen or fresh (I find frozen easier just because it's pre-chopped but still very inexpensive! I get 1lb frozen broccoli for $0.98)
1 tablespoon butter
Water
Salt
Pepper
Garlic (optional)

Notice the overall lack of measurements? Don't let it scare you if you're a strict recipe follower. I promise this is easy enough without exact measures! 

In a medium saucepan steam, or boil veggies until tender. If boiled, drain (but retain!) the water. Dump your broccoli/cauliflower into the blender, add 1 tablespoon of butter, salt, and pepper, with enough water for the veggies to blend. Add more water as desired until you achieve the thickness (or thinness) you prefer! I like mine thick and add as little water as possible. Add more salt and pepper to taste (I'd guess I add around a teaspoon of salt to mine). 

For the garlic I peeled 4 large cloves and tossed them in the pot with the cauliflower to boil. Easy peasy. But if you don't like garlic (sadness!) you can leave it out. But that will make me sad if you do, so don't tell me you did that. 

See? That's literally all there is to it! My mom has tried it with chicken broth instead of water, and adding some heavy cream to it, but I really like it simple like this. It's easy and cheap! I like the butter for flavor, but also because the fat helps your body to absorb the nutrients in the veggies better! So you really don't want to omit the butter. If you don't have butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or other healthy oils can be substituted just fine! 



Now SUMMER and SURPRISE! 

Am I the only one already excited for summer to hurry up and come? I want the blue skies, the green grass, the hours spent in my garden with my hands in the dirt and the sun on my back! The shorts and the tank tops. I am already working on plans for the garden this year and can hardly contain the excitement! I'm going to be adding a fence this year, because my free-range chickens have discovered tomatoes. That would be not good. So it will cost a bit more this year, but it will be worth it -- it will give me plenty of space for cucumbers and other climbing things! Now I have to admit, I have an extra special reason for wanting summer this year. The best reason! That is that I'm going to have a baby this summer! WAHOO!

I have never really mentioned it specifically on my blog partially since it is a public blog I never really felt like being that open, but we've had fertility problems since we got married. In the first 12 months of our marriage I got pregnant 3 times (possibly more) only to miscarry every time. After trying to improve my health for over a year after that, we started trying again and for over 2 years, nothing. Then we started seeing a specialist in June and still nothing. But after a total of 5 1/2  really difficult years, we were overwhelmed with the wonderful (and totally unexpected!) blessing of a positive pregnancy test a few days before Christmas! It was the most awesome gift of all, to be sure. Thrilled doesn't begin to describe my feelings. But it's a scary time, too, because of my history. So we're trying hard to take it all one day at a time, and just be thankful for every moment that we have with this precious little baby. Things seem to be going well though, and for that I am so, so very thankful. I am 6 weeks along now, so it's my 2nd longest pregnancy to date thus far. We're praying fervently of course that it ends up the longest of all, with a healthy, happy baby at the end of it! Oh and for the record (because I know some of you will think it!) we were on break from the specialist for Nov/Dec, so no higher-than-average chance of multiples. ;)  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Salted Christmas Crack

While I typically try to focus my blog posts mostly on natural/diy/self-sufficiency subjects, or sharing recipes that are for. .. you know, fish soup or beef liver, the holidays are always a fun excuse to throw caution to the wind -- eat some sugar, and maybe even some gluten-grains if it doesn't make your stomach blow-up or your skin break out. Ha!

Since gluten-grains don't have any obvious negative side-effects on me or my husband, we do allow ourselves treats during the holidays, though we still try to keep them minimal throughout most of the season, really up until the actual week of Christmas when we generally allow ourselves to eat whatever whenever.

This week though I desperately wanted some Christmas goodies! Half for the taste (DUH), and half for the experience of getting to do a little bit of holiday baking. So I thought about the few "bad" ingredients I have picked up over the last couple weeks in anticipation of this very moment, trying to think of what treat sounded best. Ah! Saltine Cracker Toffee, I tell myself. But of course, I have no saltine crackers in the house (What my brain thought it was doing including ingredients I didn't have, I'll never know when I told it to consider what I did have -- my mind has a mind of it's own. Uh, creepy.). Never one to shy away from a recipe due to missing even a main ingredient, I looked through my cupboard to see what I could substitute. Oatmeal! Yesssss. This will work just fine. So I set to work. I'll show you the end product now, because being the lazy blogger that I am (and anxious to just EAT IT) I forgot to take pictures until practically the end:


Now you REALLY want it, don't you? Alright. So I won't be one of the recipe bloggers that writes a whole book before getting to the actual recipe. I hate that. It usually makes me look elsewhere for a recipe (laziness again? Oh brother!). The only thing I will add at this point is that you could substitute SO MANY DIFFERENT THINGS for the oats I used. Saltine crackers. Gluten-free crackers. Crushed pretzels. Cornflakes. Chopped nuts. Coconut. Toasted coconut. You could probably even leave the toffee portion plain and it would still taste amazing. Just a little less amazing. I am partial to the Saltines though because they give it such a great texture and flavor. 

Christmas Crack

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
 Oats/crackers/whatever filling (I used two big handfuls of oats; don't you like my measuring method? It's all about laziness and quick clean up -- easier to brush my hands on a kitchen towel than to wash a measuring cup)
1/4 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet would be best but all I had was milk chocolate)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Margarita salt (optional)


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Set aside an 8X8 glass pan, or any other similarly sized bakeware. In a small saucepan combine butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Allow to come to a slow/med boil and continue to boil, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and a very small sprinkle cayenne. Very small. You don't want the end product actually tasting spicy. But trust me, a teensy bit of heat just kind of enhances the flavors (I can't make chocolate anything without a sprinkle of cayenne or chili powder -- please don't start calling me Jesse, please!). Add the mix-in of your choice, stir until well coated and spread on the bottom of an 8X8 pan. Place in 400° oven for approximately 5 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly all over. Remove from oven and allow to sit approximately 3 minutes to cool slightly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips while still warm, allowing it to sit for another 3-5 minutes or until chocolate chips are nice and gooey. Gently spread melted chips over top of the toffee. Sprinkle generously with margarita salt (unless you used a salty filling like Saltines or pretzels). 

Similar recipes call for a lot more chocolate (like an entire cup), but it's already so very sweet due to all the brown sugar that I like it with less chocolate like this. Which is saying something because I'm a choco-holic. Feel free of course to add more if you so desire! Allow the candy cool completely before cutting or it will fall apart. 

Now is the hardest part of all. Try not to eat the entire pan in one day. Good luck! You're going to need it. 




Thursday, December 5, 2013

Changin'

So for a long, long, looooong time I had been seriously contemplating cutting my hair. Not a trim. Not a few inches, even. But like, seriously whacking most of it off. I had been growing it out, and was close to my favorite length, which is just below the bra strap. But for a variety of reasons, I felt it was time to let go of the hair. The security blanket. If I only feel pretty or feminine with long hair maybe I need to get rid of it in order to gain more self-confidence. Which, yes, I need.  Not sure how obvious that is or isn't to those who spend face-to-face time with me but it's something I've struggled with my whole life. I've improved some in the last few years but it's still something I'm working on. And really what adult woman wants to feel like it's only her hair that makes her attractive? That's not right. Not biblical. Our beauty and worth comes from so much more than hair! I know the whole hair-is-your-glory thing, but I don't think that means you have to have waist long hair.  So I cut mine. Especially considering my hair is not super-anything. It was just average-ish. My hair isn't thin, but it is fine, which makes it look thinner than it actually is at times because it doesn't have a lot of body (except if I let it air dry but that takes FOREVER so I rarely do) due to the silkiness, and I just never felt confident that I had "good enough" hair to keep it long, even though I almost always did have it long (even as a child I never wanted to cut my hair short, except for that one time when I decided I wanted to look like Marty Stouffer from "Wild America" and how else could I get a beard and mustache if I didn't cut off my hair? He is 65 now, btw. Whaaaa?!).

There were Other Things that factored strongly into my decision to make the cut. But I won't get into that stuff because I don't wanna.

So here is the old look (yes, looking at this picture DOES make me miss my longer hair, but I have to remind myself that that was a particularly good hair day; who does profile pictures on bad hair days?):

And here is the new look (although this is not the best photo, lighting-wise): 

So there you go. I whacked off my hair and so far I don't regret it. Oh yeah, see the "diy" label? Yup, did it myself, and I somehow (miraculously) got it even!