Category Archives: Clean Eating

Cookies, Cookies, and more Cookies!

I’m not the first to dub Christmas as baking season.  But with 2 birthdays thrown in, one 20 days before and another 9 days after, December – early January really is baking season for me.  I have adopted a tradition my mom started for me of baking cookies in the shape of the number of years for each birthday.

I’m not taking credit for this recipe, as I’m sure it was adapted from a cookbook long ago (maybe Mom can tell you?), but I’m sharing it here for those who have asked.  A few years back I made them for a cookie exchange and my super creative husband printed it up on these cute recipe cards!  (I’ll type it out at the end too as it may be too small to read here.)

1-image (1)Among many other pictures for birthdays and Christmas that I will probably be sharing over the next month, here are a few to commemorate all the cookies I made!

First was LM’s 2nd Birthday in the beginning of December.  I actually changed up the recipe a little as I have been trying to eat more “clean” lately.  I used Bob’s Red Mill Pastry Flour Whole Wheat instead of the white flour.  I had read to use less because the whole wheat absorbs more liquid, so I only used 2 cups versus 2 1/2 cups.  And then I also used Sugar in the Raw.  They came out decent, I even got a great compliment from LM’s teacher who is a self-proclaimed cookie aficionado.  We opted for 2’s and trains!

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And I also splurged on some all natural food dyes, here they are on Amazon (click picture), but I found them a little cheaper (still not cheap though) at our local Fresh Market.  For LM I tried to do orange and green, but I could not make green for the life of me, so I settled on a light bluish (looks more gray than anything.)  They may not look as pretty – but they are much better for you so that makes me feel good!

But for Christmas, I went back to the tried and true recipe.  I rationalized it in my head that as least they are still from scratch and I know what is in them (still better than buying from a store.)  I did still stick with the natural dyes as one of the things I am really trying to cut out of our lives is food dyes.  So we stuck with white and red (well maybe more of a dark pink).  While I tried to do only the white and chocolate sprinkles, some colored ones made their way out.  I did a double batch to share with friends and family and got the kids involved in decorating.  They decorated/ate maybe 10, leaving me to do the other 90!  We did candy canes, gingerbread men, gingerbread girls, trees, stockings, snowmen, and bells.

And finally, early January brought my LL’s 4th birthday.  Again sticking with the normal recipe, we made 4’s, hearts, and flowers.  We chose a light pink and light blue (again more gray) for her princess themed party.  (Also pictured are the cupcakes too that I baked decorated with princess and car rings.  They were both from a box, but the chocolate was gluten-free and I think the overall favorite!)

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Thus concludes my baking season.  Over 300 sugar cookies and 4 dozen cupcakes.  I’m sure it won’t be too long until we do it again (Valentine’s day maybe?)  But for now I need a break!  My waist-line does too!

One last product plug – then the recipe!  Thanks for stopping by!

These are similar to the cookie cutters I have – it’s a big bucket including all letters and numbers and even color coated by holiday!  A great investment (anyone is always welcome to borrow too!)
Recipe:

Cookie Dough:
3/4 cup of shortening (or can use 1/2 margarine 1/2 shortening)
1 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups Flour
1 tsp Salt

Mix thoroughly the shortening, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt.  Once mixed, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour (I do overnight).
Heat oven to 400 degrees (F).  Roll dough on a floured surface to 1/8th inch thick.  Cut into desired shapes.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 6-8 minutes.

Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp light cream/half & half

Mix all ingredients until smooth and add food coloring as desired.

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Filed under Celebrations, Children, Clean Eating

Book Review: Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist (plus WIN THIS BOOK!)

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes (click book for description)
by Shauna Niequist
BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book

Despite my long break of book reviews, I have been reading, and actually finished this book in just a few nights.  I loved it.  I will admit – it took me awhile to open up.  But as soon as I did, I didn’t want to put it down.  It is a glimpse into the life of the author, so vividly described that I felt as if I were a guest at her table and could taste and smell the recipes she prepared.  I will be copying most of these recipes too before someone pries (I mean wins) this book from me!  Or I may just need to pick up my own copy!

So many things I loved about this book.  One is that the author is not a trained chef, she simply enjoys cooking and enjoys having a full table.  Many of the recipes are also modified for her husband, who is gluten-free, so many of the recipes are also clean (yay!)  She is a Christian and I actually expected the book to have more references to the Bible, but I think she found the right mix.  She mentions that she finds God through food and asks the reader where they find God?  Even if not through food, this book will motivate you to find God in what you love doing! I love the introduction where she mentions to role of food in our lives and the role of food in the Bible (bread and wine anyone?)  And also poses the question – what you would serve/eat at your last supper?

Each chapter is a different story/time in her life.  Some fun, some tough, some will make your heart hurt, while others will make your heart smile.  She has fun telling stories and sharing where each recipe came from and even gives the reader ideas of an easy dinner party, a meal for a new baby, or for a grieving friend.  I love when she points out that we all go to food to show care.

winnie the pooh quotes what is for breakfast

This book challenged me to look at food and the act of eating together in a new light.  “The table is where time stops.  It’s where we look people in the eye, were we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.”

I really liked this book.  Just flipping through looking at the recipes, they look good, but didn’t really stand out and make me want to cook them until I read the text to go with them.  Now I will be copying most of them and trying them out soon!  Maybe for some of you – as I’m also more motivated to open up our table to friends and family often (and it doesn’t hurt that I enjoy cooking too!)

You can win this beautiful hardcover book!
Simply enter your name, email, and “Giveaway” in the comments!
Contest closes at noon (EST) on 8/1/13 and winner will be announced on the blog and notified via email.
Thanks and good luck!

Thanks for all the entries!  Congrats to Casey H. for winning!

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Filed under Celebrations, Chapters, Clean Eating

Garden Gone Wild!

Each Spring, like many, I plant a garden.  It started when we lived in town in a little 1’x4′ shared garden plot in our townhouse community, blossomed to a 4’x4′ box in 2010-11 (see picture), then last year a whole corner of our yard.  The area is a perfect triangle, measuring about 7’x10’x12′.  This year with the addition of a lovely 2′ fence to keep the critters (our dogs) out.

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Our first garden – 2010

Many of you saw a Facebook post I had posted right after I planted the garden:

“Alright – any gardeners out there? My bad bad dogs dug up my freshly planted garden. (Even jumped a fence to do it). Do I just rake it out and see what happens? Or try and start again? Advice please!”

In fact it was 2 of them that repeatedly showed up in the house with brown noses and red paws.  Still can’t figure out what prompted them to do it.  I was so proud of myself – this year I opted for all seeds.  I made little labels and everything was perfect.  Then the dogs got to it.  I knew the seeds were still there…so after consulting Facebook friends, and the local Home Depot expert, I decided to hedge my bets with 2 starter tomato plants and wait it out on the seeds.

That was a good call.  Look at this mess we have now!  Some of this is from seeds, but like last year, we just have tomato plants popping up everywhere.  At last count there were 15 of them!  No idea what kinds, we may have even created our own hybrid plant by now.

  IMG_3242Current Garden – as of June 26,2013

Other plantings include: Basil, Summer Squash, Cilantro, Green Onions, all types of tomatoes, and maybe some watermelon – I think the squash has squashed those though (pun intended!)

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LL with our first picks of 2013!

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A favorite from 2012 – LL picking tomatoes!

I am far from a master gardener, barely touching upon amateur even, but I’ve gotten good results so far!  As for tips, I don’t have anything earth-shattering, but we mixed in garden soil (just from Sam’s) with the Georgia red clay dirt (is there an official name?) already in the ground, kept it watered, never used anything else., and it gets about half a days worth of sun.  Pretty simple!

Now what to do with our crop?  I have a feeling we’ll have tomatoes coming out of our ears soon, so I may just have to learn to can and/or make our own tomato sauce (I think that was on my clean eating goals!)  The garden fits in great with eating fresh and clean.  See below for Tomato Caprese; this time of year, we always keep fresh mozzarella in the fridge and have this often – even makes a great sandwich!  What are your favorite fresh herb and veggie recipes?

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The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

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Filed under Canines, Celebrations, Children, Clean Eating

I Love You Lord (my Sunday song)

Happy Sunday.  I’ll keep this short today as it’s been a lazy Sunday over here and I have some oatmeal chocolate chip muffins and banana bread in the oven!  Great message this AM at the New Church of Peachtree City from our music director, Mr. John Odom.

It was the story of Simon Peter taken from the gospel of John.  In a nutshell after all that Jesus had done for Peter and after Peter had declared him LORD, when put on the spot (before Jesus was crucified) he denied knowing Jesus, not only once – but three times.  Being the forgiving, loving God that HE is, in John 21:15-19 (below), Jesus asks Peter three times (not a coincidence) if he loves him.  Peter affirmed his love for him and was restored by Jesus in his walk.

How amazing is our LORD and SAVIOR that HE can forgive us after our transgressions, even denying Him?  Pretty amazing, and my prayer is for the strength and conviction to glorify him always, even when it may not be the “popular” thing to do (I can only imagine how Simon Peter felt), and find peace knowing of his amazing grace, patience, and love for me.

“15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of deathby which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
John 21:15-19

There are so many songs about God’s love, but I thought today I would pick a song that tells God OUR love for him.  There are a lot of versions, included one below, but my favorite has to be from our church’s own Jay & Abby Akins, Abby’s voice is just sweet and beautiful and I fell in love with this song the first time I heard her sing it.  It has become a staple lullaby in our house and has put our kids to sleep many times over the last 3 years.  I hope you enjoy and can sing along to declare your love for our amazing, forgiving, understanding, and loving God.  God Bless and have a great week!

“I Love You, Lord”

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear

I love you, Lord
(I love you, Lord)
And I lift my voice
(And I lift my voice)
To worship You
(To worship You)
Oh, my soul, rejoice!
(Oh, my soul)

Take joy my King
(Take joy my King)
In what You hear
(In what You hear)
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
(Let it be a sweet sound)
In Your ear

I love you, Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship You
Oh, my soul, rejoice!

Take joy my King
In what You hear
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In Your ear

I love you, Lord
(I love you, Lord)
I love you, Lord
(I love you, Lord)
(And I lift my voice)

I love you, Lord
(Take joy my King)
(Take joy my King)

I love you, Lord
(I love you, Lord)
I love you, Lord
(Let it be a sweet, sweet sound)

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Clean Eating/Living Update

I’ve wanted to start this post every week – or even make it a weekly update.  New products I’ve discovered, recipes I’ve tried, or just steps I have made (or not made) in my journey to eat clean and feel better.  Things have gotten busy – but here goes by first attempt!  I do have to say that between eating better, exercising, and possibly a new medication I am on – I have felt great and am even a few pounds lighter than I was just a month or two ago.  Who knows – it may be psychological – but if it’s working – I’m going to keep on truckin’!

I did want to share a few products that I have discovered or switched to:

Chia Seeds & Flax Seeds.  Supposed to have amazing benefits.  I found a Groupon a few weeks back for 6 bags (3 of each) for like $15.  I have been adding them to my smoothies (which I’ve been making almost daily!)

 
(The brand I have is Gourmet Nut – but I wanted to link over to some products on Amazon!)

Anything Kashi.  Some may not be 100% clean – but they are all organic and compared to other similar bars and cereals – it is a big step up!

Also Cascadian Farm Products.  (Similar to Kashi!):

Archer Farms.  I’ve spent some time at local big box stores mainly looking for “quick” snacks and I’ve been impressed with Target’s in-store organic brand:

Archer Farms® Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips - 14 oz.

Publix Greenwise.  Publix is my go-to grocery store.  I have been pretty impressed with their Greenwise line.  That is the milk we’ve been giving to our babies and have now switched over to ourselves too!

Publix GreenWise Market Organic Whole Milk

For my recent birthday last week – my mom wanted to help support my new eating choices (thanks Mom!!) and asked where she could get me a gift certificate.  It appears Amazon has a GREAT selection of clean products (along with everything else I buy!).  So I thought I would share a few things I’ve decided to try out: (and get back to you later with reviews!)

Whole Wheat Orzo.  I make a pretty good orzo salad and was unable to find a whole wheat brand in store – so I was excited to find this:

Quinoa.  I still may not be able to pronounce it correctly (key-no-ah), but again have heard great things and it a good alternative to rice and pasta and it’s in a lot of recipes I have found!  (In stores – I have only been able to find blends.)

Coconut Oil.  I have a friend who swears by this.  And another friend just blogged about this the other day (here!).  So I thought I would give it a go and ordered this one:

Then I’ve been wanting to try out a cleaner shampoo and conditioner and ordered these:

And finally some lotions too!

I’m sure I could find more products I’ve bought in the last few weeks – but I need to save some for another post – right!?  In attempt to cut this off somewhere – I’ll need to do another post soon about things I have started to make instead of buy (dressings, condiments…) and recipes I’ve tried out.  I have to say it is definitely not easy to be 100% clean – but finding great products I can go-to and trust is one step.  I have good days, I have bad, but overall I am happy with my decision and plan to keep on going!

One last plug – Groupon is running a deal right now for eMeals – a menu planning service that offers Clean, Natural, and I think even Paleo eating plans.  Check it out!

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April showers bring….fresh strawberries!

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I love fresh fruit.  Not only do we get the benefit of straight off the plant fruit, it is also an enjoyable outing for the kids and myself.  Yesterday, Danette from Mercy Drops and I headed over to Adams Farm in Fayetteville, GA, to pick some fresh strawberries.  A little bit of chill in the air meant we basically had the whole place to ourselves.  LL and I managed to pick 5.5 lbs.  At $2.15/lb – that isn’t too bad!

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Now, what to do with those strawberries?  I felt like Forest Gump yesterday listing out the possibilities, you’ve got strawberry smoothies, strawberry muffins, strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie…I’ll spare you my whole list, but we started yesterday with strawberry smoothies:

IMG_2837I love smoothies, kids love smoothies, win-win for all of us.  For these I used strawberries, vanilla greek yogurt, almond milk, and honey.  I may try it later today with some fresh spinach too.  Then I washed the rest to store for the timing being, and had a little strawberry monster pop up and tell me she was going to eat all 5.5 lbs!  I should have taken a picture of the WHITE shirt she wore yesterday – stained with streaks of red by the end of the day!  Good problem to have though!

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We will be back weekly.  As the summer goes on Adams Farm will also offer pick-your-own blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries, as well as a variety of pre-picked fresh produce, mixes, nuts, and candies.  The combinations and recipes are endless!

What is your favorite way to use fresh fruit?

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Filed under Children, Clean Eating

Clean Eating – Week One Update (and a few other things!)

It’s been an interesting, eye-opening week.  I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs.  I’ve felt encouraged, I’ve felt discouraged.  I’ve been praised and supported, and I’ve been criticized and put-down.  It’s amazing the mixed responses – but I am still encouraged for the most part and plan to keep going strong!  We’ve been far from perfect, especially trying to clear out reserves, but I’ve been more aware and I feel that is the first step.

After much research and recipe pinning, I decided to dive-in with some Clean Eating Chocolate Chip Muffins.  This is a breakfast staple for LL, and I’ve made my own many times (even using applesauce trying to be healthier), but this included many new ingredients I had never used before.  My first stop was Publix, my go-to weekly grocery store.  When that turned up empty (well maybe a few items), we tried Fresh Market where we found a few more ingredients.  Then when I still was missing my Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, Steven made one last trip to Kroger of all places and came up successful (thank you baby!)  Here is a picture of my first set of clean baking supplies:IMG_2681

Finally on Sunday night I made my muffins.  I used Agave Nectar instead of honey, safflower oil, and almond milk.  And I have not had success finding the grain sweetened chocolate chips yet, so that was my one “non-clean” ingredient (but I’m thinking chocolate may be an acceptable deviation!) .  The batter was darker and I was very skeptical – but the overall verdict is that they were good!  We all ate them for breakfast a few days this week, LL was little harder to convince but she ate them, and ofcourse my LM loved them.  Even Steven said they were better than my usual muffins!  Yay for a successful first recipe! (Many more to come as my Pinterest board is filling up!)

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I’ve also been on a mission to find some quick snacks (thank you to everyone for your suggestions too!).  I’m not sure anything will ever replace Goldfish my kids hearts and stomachs (and I probably won’t even try) – but I’ve found a few contenders and will update more later whether or not these will be staples.  Reading labels has been the most discouraging part of the week, but I feel if I invest the time now and get my “go-to” brands that like everything, it will get easier over time.  (And yes – those are Cheetos – and maybe someone can correct me – but the ingredient list actually looks good to my novice eyes!)  Then, as always, fresh fruit, smoothies and raisins/craisins.

photo.JPGI did sign up for eMeals – but haven’t tried any recipes yet, but I plan to this week.  There are many “new” ingredients that I either have never heard of or will probably spend some time trying to track down.  For instance, rice noodles, bulgar wheat, red pepper jelly, and jicama to name a few!  I’m also trying to clean up some of our other staples, like pizza by making my own pizza dough and sauce.

Now on a fun note – it is our 6th year anniversary on Sunday!  To celebrate – we are going to the Taste of Senoia.  I believe I mentioned before that we do love good food and trying new things so I feel good about being able to do that knowing that majority of the time we do (will!) be eating good at home.  Also I’m excited about a trip to the Peachtree City Farmer’s Market.  We always enjoy farmer’s markets, and go often, but armed with my new mission and information, I’m extra excited this week! (Especially for some good honey!)

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And lastly – prayers going out to Boston, Texas, and my in-laws this week.  It seems like April brings too much tragedy, as I am remembering 6 years ago this week, the VA Tech shootings too.  I’ll leave you with 2 verses today.

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:2

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.”

Psalm 136:1

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Filed under Calling, Celebrations, Children, Clean Eating