Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 {a good challenging year}

2013 has been a year of change for my family. My husband had a very rough year at his job in regards to job security and stress. He had to personally lay off 70 employees earlier this year at ONE time. It was very hard on him and he experienced severe debilitating headaches during the final months at that job. Bad enough he decided to get a CAT scan to be proactive and as he would like to report: "there are no cats in my head". 

Please, do not take stress in your life lightly. Stress will negatively impact your life (and fast)!

Also equally stressful for us was the fear of losing our only income at any given time. With that being said he decided to move on from that company. 

By a miracle of God, another job found him a few months ago (it's not easy finding a job near us in his field that he wanted to do). And you read that right...they found him. This job is one that he loves (and it's closer to home)! 

While it is a lot less pay, it is stable and rewarding. The owner of the new company practices many acts of "giving" in the community, which by now you know is very important to me (and to good overall well being).  A true blessing.

Other than that my year has been a great one. 
Could I have worked out more in 2013? YES! 
Will I let that bother me? No. 
I have now completed 3 years off Diet Coke and ALL artificial sweeteners. I have continued to feed my family a healthy clean diet that I feel great about. My 9 year old knows how to read an ingredients label and does so on her own many times. So proud!

Many of my family and friends aren't well and are struggling. This is hard to witness, but it drives home the importance of being healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) for a greater quality of life.



My husband's headaches have went away with his new job.  What a blessing! It goes to show that stress can cause you a lot of discomfort, worry, and medical bills! 




My pastor has been speaking lately on being filled with HAPPINESS vs being filled with JOY.  There is a huge difference. 

Happiness comes and goes as situations change around you (finances, health, relationships), but being filled with JOY stays consistent day in and day out allowing you to see good beyond the struggles. Allowing you to do God's work. Allowing you to accept that life will have struggles and speed bumps and through those you will grow.

Being able to be filled with God's JOY and always seeing things through a positive filter is a true gift. There are many "happy" people in this world that are miserable. They are always wanting more "things" and always seeking other's approval and acceptance. They will probably forever be trying to fill some void.

 Have you ever wondered why a person with cancer (even on their death bed) can be filled with such happiness? Well, that's not happiness, that's JOY!  Deep in their soul they are filled with JOY and share it with those around them.  I have witnessed this first hand with two friends that left this Earth way too soon from cancer.  Their strength, love, and joy has changed me forever.  I will NEVER, EVER take a single day for granted for as long as I am on this Earth. Even the crappiest of days I will look for the good and I have them both to thank for that.



Joy is a Fruit of the Spirit, which every Christian receives at the moment of salvation.  Our joy is constant because God is constant. 
Therefore, we are to be constantly delighting in the Lord.

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, wracked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” - Agatha Christie


I found this wonderful blog post below...

It has never failed that when I have been through the most heart-breaking passages of my life — betrayal, financial hardship, divorce, dreams dashed — the pain brought me to the floor of my being, and what was there to be found?:

The simple joy of being alive. So cosmically basic it’s mind-blowing: the joy to be here, connected, animated, breathing, blessed, resilient, to be broken, to be open, to have what was, what’s left, what’s coming. The joy just to be part of reality.
Happiness. Love it when it comes.
Joy. It’s the love that lasts no matter what.


Read more here:


Please read my link and tips from last year if you haven't, or take a refresher course: Are you ready ???




I hope you have a 
BLESSED and JOYFUL year in 2014. 

Much love, Angie




Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Giving Back {a blessing to all}

My husband's new job is awesome in the fact that the owner challenges his employees to GIVE BACK. He even starts off the challenge with giving his employees money to give to others. If you ask me, there isn't many employers doing this these days. Especially in the hands on type of way this one does. 

My husband shared with me a story from a fellow employee sharing his story of himself and his wife, Jen, on their journey to give back. I wanted to share this with you to show you how being aware of others around you can truly open your eyes to the hurt and struggles others are experiencing. 



Going into the Christmas season, Jen and I had a plan and knew what we were going to do with the Giving Challenge cash and our personal donations. 

 Throughout the year, along with our in-laws, we had been helping a mother who is battling cancer, and her three children.  They live in a “house” with roaches scurrying across their dirt floors, and little more than state assistance to get them by.  Every time the mom is able to get a job, they lose their state aid, which barely makes it worthwhile.  The plan was to help them as much as we could.  That was the plan.  I like plans.  Then, on 11/21 at the company meeting, the match was rolled out.  Jackpot!  I worked out an “arrangement” with Scott (he's the owner) for the match so the family could be helped even more.  Again, I like plans…

...and then the following Monday rolled around.

Soon after I arrived at the office, I got a call.  It was Jen. 
“The van won’t start.” 

Ugh.  The symptoms she described sounded a lot like the time the battery in our last minivan ended up having a dead cell and we were left stranded late at night in a Terre Haute McDonalds with two five year olds and a newborn.  That vehicle was 5-1/2 years old.  This one was 5-1/2 months old. 

“Keep trying, and let me know if I need to come home to take the boys to school,” I said.  Click.

About 30 minutes later, she called back. 
“I managed to get it started, but something definitely doesn’t seem right.”

“Well, you should probably take it to Penske and have them check it out.”

“Ugh.  I might try going to the new dealership up on 37.  It’s closer, and I really don’t like going to Penske.”
We had always gone to Penske – since about 2003, I believe.

Fast-forward to that afternoon.  At 1:45 PM, I started getting frantic texts from Jen.  She was in the kids’ section of the waiting area at the new dealership.

Jen:  I’m sitting at Honda and almost in tears. I’m sitting with a mom and her three kids. The husband has a brain tumor, they’re upside down on their trade-in, and can’t afford the used 2007 minivan they’re looking at.
Me:  :(
Jen:  They have 5, 4, 1, and are pregnant and due in March with number 4
Me:  Wow
Jen:  I am so sad that I can’t just write them a check
Me:  Would 500 make difference?
Me:  1000?
Jen:  I don’t know. It sounds like thousands :( I’m going to ask if they could use our crib
Me:  K
Me:  Could they use the changing table too?
Jen:  I’m going to ask.  And I’m going to ask about the money too
Jen:  There’s a reason why we are here with them
Jen:  Do you have the 500 cash?
Me:  It’s at home. I can go get it.
Jen:  Let me talk first. He is medically retired from military […] I’ll let you know.
Me:  Ok
[…]
Jen:  He has gone two years longer than expected but is having seizures again
Jen:  He can’t reason and is losing inhibitions. Tumor too close to stuff to operate

[Way too much time goes by]

Jen:  Please go get the 500!!! :)
Jen:  Or stop by bank!!!
Me:  What made up your mind?
Jen:  THEY did!!! Please hurry!!

While the husband had gone to negotiate with the salesperson, his wife felt the need to open up to Jen, and Jen quickly found out the strength and faith of this family.

The husband was deployed with the Army in 2009 when he suffered a seizure.  They discovered a brain tumor in his frontal lobe the size of a fist.  They discharged him, and he had partial removal of the tumor, radiation, and chemo.  The weekend before coming to the dealership (this is almost 4 years later), he had his first seizure since surgery and, as a result, had to give up driving.

Knowing that they were needing a larger vehicle with their 4th child on the way, they were at the dealership to trade both their cars for a used minivan. 

 He came back into the room to explain to his wife that they were upside down on both their cars and couldn’t get the van without paying more money than anticipated.  With his tumor where it is, his ability to verbalize this information was compromised.  He was very frustrated, and they were both near tears.  They prayed about the situation.  Neither one of them wanted to go against God’s path for them.

Jen was touched by their faith and commitment to each other and to Christ, despite their unfathomable circumstances, and felt the Spirit move her to help this family.  She texted me, and I was able to drive over and meet Meagan, Jeremy, and their kids.  We gave them the Giving Challenge $500, some additional money I pulled from our safe, and baby furniture that his wife mentioned they needed.

We could tell that they didn’t want to accept our help but humbly did with deep gratitude.  We didn’t know it until afterwards, but $500 was the exact amount they needed to buy the van.  And the rest was to be used for medical bills and other expenses for their diabetic and autistic child.  Jeremy’s tumor is now inoperable, as it’s too close to a major artery.  It’s only a matter of time before he meets the Lord, but this isn’t stopping this family from following the call of becoming pastors and moving toward being missionaries.
We stopped by their house this past weekend to drop off the baby furniture, and learned that Jeremy had been experiencing partial seizures over the last few days.  In spite of all of this, their faith remains amazing and inspiring, and has touched us in a way we could never have understood had we not been led to meet them personally.

And our minivan? There was nothing wrong - everything checked out fine.  And that baby furniture?    Just the night before, we had decided it was time to get rid of our crib and changing table, and to list it on the Facebook selling site the next day (that Monday).

What started out as a normal day full of activities was turned into a day completely planned by God.  And His plan was way better than ours!
In the end, with the Giving Challenge cash, our contributions, and the match, two families were helped.  We have been blessed in this experience this year.

 It’s amazing what the Lord does for those who seek to do His will! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

{dairy free} Hot Cocoa

Every once in a while I treat the kids to Hot Cocoa (with marshmallows) after school on a cold winter day.  Holy sugar!  If you look closely at the store bought hot cocoa ingredients you will quickly realize there are many added preservatives, added dyes, etc in those convenient little packets. A big NO NO!

Here's the recipe we use to make our hot cocoa. Enjoy!

{dairy free} Hot Cocoa

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups dairy-free milk (I use Unsweetened Coconut Milk)
  • 2 Tbps Cane Sugar (Coconut Sugar Or Maple Syrup would work too)
  • 2 Tbps Cocoa Powder (higher quality the better)
  • 1-2 ounces Enjoy Life dairy free chocolates
  • pinch sea salt
  • pinch of cinnamon
Directions:

1) Add all ingredients to high speed blender (like a Vitamix) and run on high for a few minutes until warmed. Or you can blend and then heat in microwave if you want it hot!
2) Top with marshmallows. I chose Campfire Brand because they do not have added dyes. I found them at Kroger and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Facebook Timeout {2 month break}



I think often in life (especially in this tech age) we get wrapped up the things that aren't that important. Caring about what others think of us daily, what they are doing every minute, and how that impacts one's life.

I decided it was time for a break from my personal Facebook account. So I gave myself a personal Facebook Timeout!  I had thought about it before but couldn't figure out a way to keep my Clean Freak page still going and not have access to the personal side. Little did I know it was super easy and I just needed to use a secondary email address. So the journey began.

Boy, it was hard week ONE! I felt the need to tell everyone the smallest of things and I couldn't!!! It seemed quite strange to tell people the silliest of things once you had time to think about saying them.  

After week one it quickly changed and I didn't miss it much at all. There are so many things I didn't miss.  Politics. Complaining. Comparing. Bragging.  Stalking. The list could go on and on. People ASSUMED you knew everything about their life if it was posted. They assumed you were putting in the HOURS of following it takes a week to keep up. 


I had a new sense of privacy and, quite frankly, I enjoyed it. If someone wanted to know how I was, they had to ask.  If I wanted to know how they were, I had to do the same.  Effort. Before Facebook and social media came along it took effort to remain friends with people. And I can assure you that we all didn't have upwards of 500+ friends we had to keep tabs on at all times.

Moving forward I will not be putting the Facebook app on my iPhone. That will limit my wasted time starring down at my phone when I could be doing something else....like actually having a conversation with someone. 

I have reevaluated what I will be using Facebook for in the future. Don't get me wrong there are many things Facebook is great for, like rallying people for a great cause, asking questions, and selling things. Just to be honest, at about the 6 week mark I logged back in my personal Facebook to post on a church's message board about helping out a mother in need with four children. Other than that I stayed off and didn't even care to check it, which I found very surprising.



Do you feel you are addicted to Facebook? Checking it too much throughout the day? Maybe it's Twitter for you that you feel you can't live without. It may be time for a Tech Timeout. 

I am here to tell you that life does go on when you don't check it on every little detail of Dick and Jane. Taking a break has been great and I think I'll do it once a year to keep in check.  Think of all the time you could use to READ LABELS if you took a break from so much technology. HA!

Moving forward I am not going to keep up with everyone on Facebook. It was insane to think I could in the first place. 



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Ian's {Fish Sticks Family Pack}

My son is rather picky when it comes to fish (or anything for that matter). With that being said, I decided to just "go with it" a while back and serve fish nuggets or fish sticks from time to time to help him be ok with consuming "FISH".  I hope this helps him realize fish is not the evil thing some people make it out to be.



He LOVED these fish sticks. We ALL loved these fish sticks. I think it brought back memories of childhood. AND the best part is there is NO gluten, milk, eggs, nuts, or soy in the product.  These are super allergy friendly. They are not greasy. They cook crispy and there is really no fishy taste at all. SCORE!

Attention (clueless in the kitchen) dads! 
This is something you can bake for your kids when mom is out of town and feel good about it. Heat up some frozen sweet corn, serve some all natural apples sauce and fresh cut fruit and you look like a {clean freak} HERO! Same thing goes for (clueless in the kitchen) ladies too!

I was a little set off by the price (but nothing real is cheap!). Even with being on sale they were over $7, but I am glad I decided to try them. I will be buying these from now on instead of the previous greasy Trader Joe's ones.  These are also cooked in GMO-free canola oil. I rarely purchase anything with canola oil, but let's face it, you can't find certain foods without it.

Give them a try.  I purchased them at Kroger in the Natural Section.


{clean} Chicken Rice Soup

I love soup. I wish my family loved it as much as me, but that won't stop me from making it over and over. Maybe one day they will all come around.

This soup is based on the one I made called Not Yo Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup {Soup}. I love this soup because I usually always have the ingredients on hand, which is how this recipe was born out of convenience. 

 Please forgive me for the poor image, my good Nikon camera is down. I must get it fixed!



Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 3 medium carrots (peeled)
  • half sweet onion (more if you wish)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 - 1 cup kale ( I used frozen, chopped)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups Organic low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 tsp Parsley
  • 1 tsp Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup dry brown rice (cooked, not sure measurement after it was cooked)
  • 1/2 breast of organic chicken (cooked, this was leftovers)
Directions:

1) Rough chop celery, carrots, onions, kale, and garlic. Then add that to pan with EVOO.
2) Saute for a few minutes over medium heat (I am terrible at watching the time). 
3) Then add 2 cups water, parsley, oregano, thyme, pepper, and salt and simmer (covered) until veggies are very tender.
4) Pour hot mixture into Vitamix (or similar high speed blender) and add cooked chicken and chop (speeds 1-3) veggies in the soup mixture and chicken for a few seconds to a minute until it's the consistency you want.
5) Pour soup back into pan and add chicken stock and rice. Simmer on stove until ready to serve.

NOTE: You really can do this in a few different ways and get the same result so do what works best for you. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Enjoy! 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

No Regrets {the clean life}


I often thank God that I was led to Clean Eating. It has changed much more than just my appearance. It has changed my outlook on life. It has changed my purpose.

 I used to always live with regrets. Regrets I wasn't full of energy and was growing older. Regrets I was overweight and not my best me for my family. Regrets I ate this. Regrets I ate that. Regrets I wasn't taking care of my health.

I am not about to tell you this all came about 3 months after I started my clean eating journey. Or even a year after. BUT, I will tell you that as I type this 3 years later, I realize I have NO regrets in life regarding food.

If I eat out, I eat what I want. I don't worry about calories or fat (However, I often choose dairy-free and meat-free when out).  Do I eat out often? No.  But I never find regret in it. Unless, I am laid up in terrible pain from consuming dairy and chemicals. Then I have regrets because of the pain.

 I have found a true balance in life. Between the good and the....evil.  My mind used to be constantly filled with what should or shouldn't I eat. I was a confused lost soul.

I no longer care to eat crappy candy ever again or binge on a bag of Doritos. I have no desire to ever touch Diet Coke again. So much of what I thought I couldn't live without turned out to be what was holding me back from seeing the bigger picture. The importance of good health. The freedom to live life without limits.

I have been freed. Freed from the crap food that was holding me down. I can't stress enough how your life can change when you give your health your all. If something bothers you, go to the doctor. If you are due for your baseline tests, go! We aren't guaranteed tomorrow, but that doesn't mean we can't fight to earn tomorrow.


If you truly want to be transformed begin eating clean. Go all in. Read labels like it's your part time job. Care about every single thing that goes into your body. Become aware. 

I can't change you. I can only inspire you. 


Trust me, friends. Giving up all the fake foods is more than just giving up the fake foods. There is a bigger picture and purpose. 

TRUST the process. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sweet Shop {My daughter's 9th birthday party}

One thing I am passionate about is avoiding artificial food dyes. It frustrates me that I find dyes in Children's medications, along with aspartame in some! Stop the madness.

One to the point...I decided to challenge myself and host a "sweet shop" themed birthday party for my daughter. This girl loves sugar! It's not easy to find clean candy options, but it's not impossible!

I knew throwing this party meant getting creative to find candy and treats that didn't have dyes.  My main goal was to NOT buy anything with dyes (Blue, Red, Yellow, Annatto, etc) and artificial sweeteners. I am pretty sure nothing contained Trans Fats too, which is a huge deal!

The party was a great success!

Here's the whole spread of treats!

 I made the cake pops!

Yummy Earth Brand

 Lovely Brand caramel/chocolate caramel chews Yummy Earth Brand lollipops, 
and Trader Joe's Brand taffy

Yummy Earth brand ginger zest hard candy, Lovely Brand fruit chews,
 and Trader Joe's chocolate covered sunflower seeds

Yummy Earth Brand hard candies

Jelly Belly brand jelly beans (mix of Snapple mix/Superfruit), Trader Joe's Chocolate mints, and Kroger/UNREAL brands mixed chocolate drops

 Whole Foods made the cupcakes. These colored with beets.

 Kroger Simple Truth brand

 Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter cups and Spun City cotton candy

 G. H. Cretors Brand Chicago Mix popcorn (Costco)

Yummy Earth hard candies

I haven't sampled all of these candies yet, but I have liked all that I have tried.

We will be ordering the Roadside Rootbeer again when we run out. I also enjoyed the Wild Peppermint. My kids don't typically eat much candy at all (they get a small treat in their Planetbox treat spot daily). They also get some during movie nights at home or at the theater (of course I sneak in candy!). Vacation is another time we eat more than normal candy.

 I also enjoyed the Yummy Earth Hot Chili Lime pops. Spicy! The Lovely Brand caramels are DREAMY! A must try.

 You should have seen my daughter all "hyped" on candy that night. Even my best friend made a comment that she has never seen her act so wired....or weird. HA!

Here's a great source of natural candies. Just keep in mind that I don't know many candies that are completely "natural".

I managed to get all mine from Amazon (way better price on Yummy Earth & Lovely), Candy store at our mall (jelly beans), Trader Joe's, Kroger, and Home Goods. (I think that's all)

I typically would never buy anything with "natural color" or "natural flavor", but I did for this party. I think it's VERY hard not to when it comes to candy.

More info on Yummy Earth
More info on Lovely Candy Co

I'll leave you with this funny image. I guess that's her excited "sugar buzz" face! 



Saturday, October 5, 2013

Food, Inc. {a documentary for change}

I will never forget sitting down to watch Food, Inc. for the first time in my life a few years ago. There was so little I knew at that point in my life about food. I lived on frozen Lean Cuisines, a lot of other frozen, highly processed foods, and Diet Coke. You know, convenience foods.

 I knew the first steps to me changing my life (and my family) was to get further educated on food. Fake foods vs real foods. How the food gets to my plate.

I learned so much from this film. Parts of it made me sick to my stomach. Parts of it made me cry.  Parts of it made me feel empowered and hopeless at the same time.  But, one thing is for sure, it changed the way I purchased food forever. It changed the way I view food at the supermarket and for that alone I feel blessed.


I am not sure if this link will work always, 
but here is a chance to watch the film for free online:

<<<<You can change the world with every bite you take. >>>>


 I have now watched Food, Inc. for a 3rd time and it never gets old. What has changed is how I live my life now after my first viewing of the documentary. 

Read Labels. Buy local when you can. Plant a garden. I do all of those things now.  It may not seem like a huge thing, but it is. We can make a difference.  
I encourage you to watch this film. 

I have never bought another Tyson or Perdue chicken since I watched this film.  I buy local whenever possible.  I eat way less meat in general. I can't tell you how much super cheap chicken I purchased prior to watching this film. It was a lot. 


Although "real" food is often more expensive, Michael Pollan says you either pay for real food now—or pay the doctor later. In 1960, Michael says 18 percent of our national income was spent on food, and only 5 percent on healthcare. Today, he says 9 percent of our income is spent on food and a whopping 17 percent on healthcare. "The less we spend on food, the more we spend on healthcare," he says. 


I am not going to tell you everything that is in the film because I want you to take the time to watch it.  Please watch it.





Thursday, September 19, 2013

Happiness {spread the love}

When I decided to make a change back in 2010 it wasn't just about learning to eat clean. It was about changing the way I lived my life and transforming it to be a better life. Changing the way I saw the world around me. Changing my attitude about growing older. After losing my friend, Megan, to Breast Cancer and then another friend/neighbor, Jen, two years later... I have been forever changed. 

It doesn't have to take a tragic event to make you realize there is more to life than money and monetary items.  My journey of eating clean has taught me so much about myself and others around me. I have lost some friends in the process, but I have gained strangers that have become some of my greatest supporters and friends.  Once you open your life up to those you interact with daily something magical happens.

My best friend recommend a documentary named HAPPY on Netflix. I knew right away I wanted to watch this film and that I did. The same day she told me about it.


This film is great. It is eye opening if you haven't ever considered the correlation between true happiness and depression.  Many people don't realize how the little acts and choices one does day in and day out can immensely affect their mood and longevity.

This film had me saying "amen!" on more than one occasion  This film also hit home to me and my family.  My husband left a Japanese company after a decade of working there about 5 years ago. We decided to leave that company for many of the reasons listed in the film.  No job should come before family.

Fast forward to today, my husband is leaving his current job for a more rewarding, fulfilling, but substantially less paying job so we can continue on our journey of "happiness".  I have lived this film first hand, so to speak, and I highly recommend you take the time to watch it.

Are you feeling HAPPY in your life? Do you try to think beyond yourself? Do you try to think about the stranger that may be having a bad day and how you can smile and make their day? Do you take the time to help others? Are you always worrying about what's the next new thing you will buy and own? Are you trying to impress others? Just stop and think about your answers.

Watch the film. 


Click here for the trailer: HAPPY 

This world would be a lot HAPPIER if everyone had the mindset that is described in the film. Get out there and grab your happiness!


Friday, August 30, 2013

Gluten Free Muffins {Chocolate Chip Coconut}

I am always looking for something that is simple to make for breakfast or an after school snack with no guilt. These muffins were adapted from a recipe at  100DaysofRealFood.com

I wanted these to be dairy free and gluten free. They are also lacking many other things, like colors, preservatives, and trans fats!

My sweet tooth friend came over the other day and tried these. She loved that they were moist and sweet! Yes, even she thought they were sweet. These do not last in my house so I am going to have to make a lot and freeze some for later.

You can add whatever toppings you would like to this recipe.

Gluten Free Muffins {Chocolate Chip Coconut}


INGREDIENTS

DRY
  • 2 cups quick oats (blended into flour with the Vitamix) or 2 cups of oat flour
  • ½ cup flaxmeal (I use golden)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
WET
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup coconut oil (I use Barlean's), melted or ¼ all natural apple sauce
  • 1 cup apple juice (You can juice your own if you have time)
FILLING
  • About 1 cup of total filling (berries, fruit, nuts, etc. – see below for details)
DIRECTIONS:


1) Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2) In a large bowl mix together the DRY with a fork or whisk.

3) In a separate bowl mix the wet together.

4) Add the dry to the wet and stir.
5) Then add 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut. (This is just for this variation of the recipe)
6) Grease muffin tins or use liners. Fill them ⅔ to ¾ of the way full with batter. Sprinkle 1 – 2 teaspoons of Dairy Free mini chocolate chips. onto the top of each raw muffin in the pan. Then gently mix each one with a fork or spoon. 
7) Bake for 10-13 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature and freeze some for a later date. 
Enjoy!


Here are some options to consider for the fillings:

- blueberries
- diced strawberries
- peeled and diced pears
- applesauce
- either diced or mashed up bananas and chopped walnuts
- raisins and chopped pecans
- grated carrot and chopped walnuts
- orange or lemon zest (only add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of zest per individual muffin)
- a mix of dried fruit bits
- jelly

NOTE: You can easily add the toppings in last and mix in the bowl to avoid the individual mixing of the muffins but that step does insure all muffins have equal ingredients. And please note, my kids don't like coconut but love these!

When I make this using my Vitamix I do all dry ingredients in Vitamix then add them to the wet mixture.



Saturday, August 17, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

{clean} Tuscan Herb Pasta Salad

This recipe I created rather quickly with things I had on hand in my kitchen (or garden). It was so simple that I can remember the ingredients to make again and again just off the top of my head. I know, impressive! 

It was very good too! Using garden fresh vegetables made it even better. YUM! Before going clean I would have reached for a Soybean/Canola Oil Italian dressing with preservatives and additives to make this. I am glad I didn't because this is even better.

{clean} Tuscan Herb Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
  • 2 boxes Gluten Free Pasta (Cooked and Chilled)
  • Tomatoes, chopped
  • Cucumbers, chopped
  • Mild yellow peppers, chopped
  • Fresh Basil, chopped 
  • 2 Tbps Rustic Tuscan Herb Blend (Found at Costco or online)
  • 2 Tbps Bragg Vinaigrette Dressing (Found at Kroger or other stores)
  • 1-2 Tbps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • juice of one lime (or lemon will do)
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill for 1-2 hours or longer before serving. 

NOTES: Do not overcook gluten free pasta it will start to fall apart. This is my favorite brand: TinkyadaI have found it many places, but the best selection is at Super Target or online. For this image I used this brand: Deboles.
If you choose not to buy the Rustic Tuscan Herb Blend (which I do suggest, it's good), then you can look for one similar or make your own. Here's a screen shot of the ingredients. Also, add any veggies you want (and you choose the quantity) and even olives would be a great addition to this pasta. Enjoy.





Friday, August 9, 2013

Children {our future}




I will admit, I was FAR from perfect when it came to feeding my kids prior to 2010. That was before I actually opened a book, watched a documentary, and took action.  Times have surely changed in our household, and for the better.

This country is in full out crisis mode with childhood obesity. Americans need to wake up and realize that the children are our future. They will shape the food industry as a whole in the coming decades.  We must start with us, the parents or mentors, to make a change. If we teach our child the importance of nutrition and the purpose of food, we can begin to shape their future.  




About a quarter of 2-5 year olds and one-third of school-age children (including adolescents) are overweight or obese in the U.S. (Ogden et al., 2012). Want more statistics? Here's the link: Hunger and Obesity in the US


Click on the links below and you will find a lot of helpful information:

Healthy Eating Tips

10 Things Everyone Should Know About Artificial Food Coloring

12 Signs Your Family Has Food Coloring Sensitivity   

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Prescription Medications


I know many people in my life that take over a dozen prescription medications daily. Please, before going on any new medication, do your own research. Take the side effects seriously. Make sure there isn't ANYTHING you can do to make your overall health better before going on a pill.  In regards to my cholesterol, I am glad I did the research. I chose not to go on Statin drugs at this point in my life (if ever).  I got second and third opinions.  I changed my life. I lost 20-25 lbs. I avoid trans fats. I eat a diet rich in fiber. I exercise. I have now changed my overall "picture" of health drastically. 

If you are reading this and you are already on several medications, speak to your doctor. Get to the bottom of which medications are truly needed and their side effects. Find a doctor that cares and is willing to embrace natural therapy and a lifestyle change. Realize YOU have the power to make some life altering changes when it comes to your health and getting off some (or all) of the medications. Don't be afraid to question your doctor.

Please. Take the time to read the following story.

Are you taking too many meds?
Editor's note: Americans have been led to believe -- by their doctors, by advertisers and by the pharmaceutical industry -- that there is a pill to cure just about anything that ails them. This week, the networks of CNN go deep into the politics and the pills.

(CNN) -- For Alesandra Rain, it all started with sleeplessness. In 1993 she was having marital troubles and her business wasn't doing well. Anxiety kept her up at night, so her general practitioner prescribed sleeping pills.
"It worked fabulously. I felt very relaxed and I would sleep better," Rain remembers. "I thought this was certainly the right prescription for me."
Then a few weeks later, another symptom developed.

"It was so unusual. I started having bronchitis and lung infections," she recalls. She went to a pulmonologist who prescribed an antibiotic.
Another complication soon followed.

"My heart started skipping beats, so I was referred to a cardiologist," explains Rain, who says other than a series of surgeries after a car accident, she had been completely healthy until this point in her life. The cardiologist ran a few tests and prescribed medication to treat arrhythmias.
It didn't end there.

Eventually she developed seizures. At this point, she was already taking at least six different prescriptions from three separate specialists. She went to see a neurologist who prescribed an anti-seizure medication on top of that.
"My whole day became pills and doctors and shots," she says.
In Depth: Are Americans overmedicated? How safe are natural medicines?

Rain's insomnia returned as things continued to spiral out of control. Despite all the testing and prescriptions, she says no one could figure out the problem. She was put on temporary disability. Depression followed.
"When I finally got to a shrink of course I was depressed, because no one could figure out what was wrong with me! It never occurred to me that it might be the pills themselves."

Too many drugs, too little communication
At her worst, Rain was under the care of a general practitioner, pulmonologist, cardiologist, pain management specialist and a psychiatrist. She was spending more than $900 a month, taking 12 different types of medication, amounting to about a thousand pills a month.
"That's what I call prescription multiplication," says Michael Wincor, an associate professor of clinical pharmacy, psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the University of Southern California.

He says it is not uncommon for patients to receive multiple prescriptions from different specialists, each focusing on a specific symptom. Wincor says it can be potentially dangerous for the patient, especially if the various physicians aren't communicating with one another.

"A patient could have adverse effects and think the medical condition is getting worse, when in fact it is a side effect of several different medications which are all interacting in a negative way," Wincor says. "When you're on more than 20 drugs all at the same time, you'd want to question whether or not that's really necessary."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, prescription drug usage in the United States is continuing to rise. A recent report finds the number of prescriptions filled each year increased by 39% between 1999 and 2009, and the amount of money spent was $234 billion in 2008. The average American fills 12 prescriptions each year.

"Many side effects from drug interactions (not all) are exacerbations of known side effects of the single drugs that are made worse by the two drugs together," says Dr. Russ Altman, a professor of bioengineering, genetics and medicine at Stanford University.

He co-authored a study in the journal Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics that found a widely prescribed antidepressant used in conjunction with a common cholesterol-lowering medication caused unexpected increases in blood sugar levels.

Altman says most drugs are tested and approved independently, and it can be difficult to predict the side effects of drug combinations.
"It is very hard to find these in advance of release of the drug, because sometimes these effects will only manifest in the context of large numbers of patients," he explains.

"I don't think people really understand the nature of medication; the (drugs) will, by definition, have some toxic, collateral side effects," says Dr. Douglas Bremner, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University. His 2008 book "Before You Take that Pill" warned patients of the risks and benefits of some commonly prescribed drugs.

Bremner says medications clearly do a lot of good and are needed in many situations, but warns that when a patient is on too many at once, there are serious questions about whether the therapeutic benefits outweigh the collateral. "When you end up on 12 prescription medications you need to seriously look at what the situation is," he says. "At that point, there's no way of knowing what's causing what anymore."
"I don't want to do this anymore"

Wincor recommends patients fulfill all their prescriptions at one pharmacy, especially if they are receiving treatment from multiple practitioners.
"Often the pharmacist is the best point person because they're the last stop before the prescription hits the hand of the patient and are ready to be taken."

He says the most important thing is to have one person who is keeping track of the various drugs and how they could interact.

If you can't have a single overall manager of treatment, experts suggest keeping a list of all your prescriptions and showing the list to any physician introducing a new medication.

Altman says, when possible, introducing new medications one at a time can help you recognize side effects and interactions earlier. You can potentially trace them to the most recent drug added, he says.

Bremner also advises patients to check out websites like Medications.com and Askapatient.com and read the experiences others have had with the medication you have just been prescribed. "Patients should become more educated about the effects and not just blindly take what is given to them."
Alesandra Rain says she reached her tipping point in 2003.

"I opened my medicine cabinet and saw it lined with prescription pill bottles," she remembers. "I looked at myself in the mirror. My skin was gray, I was hunched over in pain, my eyes were swollen and I had no quality of life. I thought, 'I don't want to do this anymore.' "

She decided to quit taking all her prescriptions cold turkey -- something neither she nor other experts recommend for any patient. "You can't go cold turkey off that many pills without doing some damage," Rain says. She eventually enrolled in a drug rehab facility that helps victims of substance abuse.

Today, Rain runs a company called Point of Return, which educates patients about the effects of prescription medications and helps them outline an "exit strategy" for safely tapering off highly addictive varieties of prescription drugs.

"I spent 10 years on the pills before I realized there was no exit strategy. It was always more drugs, never less." says Rain, who later learned the cause of her initial insomnia was a B-12 vitamin deficiency. She is now taking one daily multivitamin. "My life became nothing but a bag of pills, and I just thought there has to be a different way."

Here's a link to the article: Are you taking too many meds?


Make sure you grasp the whole point of this story. In the last paragraph the whole story of the insomnia (reason she started a medication in the first place) was a lack of vitamin B. Instead of checking for this, she was given a PILL and the rest was a decade of pill popping!

I started this blog to help others (and journal my journey). I like to "keep it real" and honest with you. With that being said,I will discuss my medications I use.

Headaches. I truly believe they were a result of chemicals in food and medications. I often had headaches before eating clean and was popping Tylenol like it was candy. Now, I rarely take anything and my headaches are no longer a bother.  I am looking for natural ways to treat them thanks to some willing friends that know way more than about essential oils than me. I'm hopeful they will work! (Update 2015: I love Young Living Peppermint oil for headaches and still occasionally take an OTC pain reliever)

I do still take an allergy medication, Zyrtec. I am getting immunotherapy shots and hoping to get off of them completely in the near future.  Same goes with my 5 year old son. I have seen a great improvement in both of us with immunotherapy.  Occasionally we use a nasal allergy spray too. (Update 2015: I no longer take Zyrtec and I take Allegra on occasion. I have stopped immunotherapy after almost 3 yrs)

I have reduced my anxiety medication to half the dose and I had been on that dose for over 10 years!  At this time, I will remain on this small amount. I did (after a decade) finally read the inactive ingredients of my anxiety medication and found Lactose, which gives me stomach issues (that explained a lot)! See, being thorough is the way to go! I am no longer on any anti-depressant drugs. Yippee! 
I now look for triggers, eat a clean diet, and limit alcohol in the peak of the depressing no sun days of winter in Indiana (I fixed that problem, didn't I?). Oh, and I bought a Happy Light for the winter months! Last winter was the first one that I didn't get the seasonal winter blues!  I also have a RX for a low dose of Xanax for situations that cause severe panic to me, like flights, very ill family members, or a death of a friend. I really don't take it much these days! I think it's more reassuring I have it than anything else. HA! (Update 2015: I have been off anxiety meds for a year now! WOOHOO! And I have taken one xanax in the past 12 months)

On occasion I still take a Sudafed and/or Mucinex for sinus issues, but rarely and it's half the recommended dose if I do. I figure I would rather take it than a stronger antibiotic if I land myself with an infection. 

I now take fish oil and probiotics. Probiotics are so important. Especially if you are taking antibiotics or have some issues! Antibiotics destroy all the bacteria so it's important to always have good bacteria in your gut ready to fight! Probiotics have helped my IBS so much! (Update 2015: I no longer take fish oil, but still take my probiotic twice daily)

I think that's it. I can't think of anything else I take on a regular or semi regular basis.  Make sure to do your own research on your illnesses prior to going on any prescription medication.

Update 2015: I have used many of the Young Living essential oils and have found them to be very effective. Read up on them, it's worth a shot.