Preparing for Dedication

The fall and winter is usually when Paul and I travel the most for work.  He is a graphic designer by day, but plays guitar in a band at night.  That really is a side project and he isn't gone all the time doing it, but he travels and practices and takes time to write so it still takes up his time and energy.  I travel when I speak at conferences and retreats and have been writing a lot more these days.   He will be gone 1-2 weekends per month and I will be gone 1-2 per month.  We always make sure we are home as a whole family at least one weekend a month together for these winter months of crazy.

People always say that it sounds incredibly hard and busy.  We understand it is a bit busier than usual, but really, how we approach it makes all the difference.  We try very hard to look at our priorities and make room only for the things we won't compromise on, faith, family, fun and structure.  We withdraw from everything else during those times to protect our family.  We don't schedule dinners, parties, classes, or kickball or extra circular activities.  We take the things we usually do and replace then with travel.  So during the week, we don't do anything else.  Whenever we are home, spending time together as a married couple and family is our top priority.  That's probably why people think we are so busy, because we are either traveling or hiding for months, and then in the spring, we come out to play.

Paul and I both feel called to our family, our marriage and to our ministries.  We in no way want one of these aspects of our life to allow the other to suffer.  And we deeply believe that if God has called to us these aspects of our life, then if we seek him continuously and ask for his guidance he will provide a way.  So we pray and talk and schedule and find a way for each of these aspects of our heart and lives to empower the other, not destroy it.  We want healthy rhythms and routine for the kids.  We want and need time together to keep our marriage strong.  We see how our whole family flourishes in our regular life schedule of slower paced living.

I have learned how to prepare for this season of our lives each year. On New Year's we open our schedule and we look over the next six months.  We discuss priorities, time as a family, what we will cut out of the schedule and what we need to keep to stay healthy.  We discuss sitters, schedules, merchandise, food, family chores, the whole bit.  So I have learned how to prepare the house.  Get things in order.  I have learned to love friends through emails and phone calls while being in the airport since I don't see much of them.  I have learned to make lists of financial items that need to be taken care of during the week when I am home.  I have not mastered the birthday thing and remembering and sending cards.  I am horrible at that, and not sure its in my DNA to be that girl that will send you a card to arrive on your actual birthday.  That just seems way too hard.  I have though learned how to organize multiple sitters and a network of people to take care of the kids.  (And this is just all the house/family stuff, I didn't list all the business arrangements that need to take place, writing and preparing speeches, and ordering and organizing merchandise to sell.  Preparation in of itself is a part time job.)

The last two years I have needed to include food preparation into this list which is an enormous task.  I can't leave money for the sitter to buy pizza or McDonald's   I can't let Paul make the kids PB&J for lunch.  I need lists of the "DO NOT EAT" foods.  Lists of the "APPROPRIATE SNACKS".  Most of the time, I need all  the food prepared so that our friends and family watching the kids feel comfortable and confident in their ability to love them and take care of them.  I want to bless them as much of a stress free weekend as I can.  So that now includes lists and lists of food, days of cooking and freezing food, and organizing the menu and vitamins that each kid takes.  Then I think about myself.  What am I going to eat?  I usually take some hard boiled eggs, Larabars, apples and almonds and scones.  I am happy to eat salad for the weekend and know that usually in the green room are veggies and fruit.

But on Thursday what I wasn't expecting and totally forgot was that Paul was now on our diet.  It was Thursday morning and Little and I came home from dropping the boys off at school.  We were going to paint nails, read books and play a game while we waited for the new stove to arrive. (which it didn't and we are hoping comes Monday!)  But then my mind drifted to the fact that Paul was going to be leaving for his Chicago weekend gig at 5am the next morning.  He would be gone all weekend.  Then it hit me, what's he going to eat?  Oh shoot!  So I looked at Little and we struck a deal.  Cook one thing for Daddy and do one thing for her.  What was tricky about this is that Paul may be on our all natural diet, but me and the kids can be fine eating snacks and bird like food for a few days.  We are happy being granola, seed, nut and fruit and veggie people.  Paul needs meat.  Paul need substance.  How the heck am I supposed to do that?  So I did the only thing that made sense to me. I prepared food that he could take, but if he gave me the look of, "am I really supposed to eat that?" then I had it already prepared for the kids.  To me it felt like a win/win.

So this is what I sent with Paul to help fill in his gaps of meals, and hopefully when in a pinch, make a  meal in and of itself.  My goal was that he wouldn't hate the diet so much that he wouldn't want to do it anymore.  The challenge was great, but I have already heard from him that he is doing well, and every time he eats the food I prepared for him, he knows how much I love and support him.  And that's the goal right?  Take care of our loved ones.  Support them in their dreams and dedication to being the best they can be?  He wants to eat healthy, take care of  himself for me and the kids, rid himself of some chronic issues.  How can I not do everything in my power to help him in that. I can either be apart of his downfall, or his success.  I am his wife.  I want him to succeed.

So I sent him with:

I made our coffee cake which I get from  Its really delicious and sent Paul with three HUGE pieces, one for each morning he was gone.

Paul has eaten Larabars before and I believe his response was, "It tastes like chalk.  I can't believe you eat this."  Welcome to the diet!  So I splurged and bought a bunch of different kinds of bars for him to try.  His homework was if he didn't like it, put the rest of the bar in a baggie and bring it home so the kids could eat for a snack, they are too expensive to throw away, seriously.  And if he liked it, he needed to keep the wrapper so I knew which ones to get him next time he traveled out of town.  And yes you will see Enjoy Life candy bars in there.  I figured, he would be watching everyone else eating oreo's in the green room, if he felt like something sweet, then he had something on hand.

Hard boiled eggs are a great snack in this house.  One splurge item we use is smoked salt.  It it just to die for and we can't eggs any other way.  We are adding it to pop corn and roasted veggies, its just too good not to.  We get ours from here.  It takes our usually every day very plain food, to a whole new wonderful place of goodness.

I found this box of a cookie mix, so I decided to cook them up and had Paul try them.  He loved them, which is a huge test in this house.  So I sent him with some, ate quite a few myself and then each kid got two in their lunch the next day.  Yes, cause I ate that many if you must know.  The cookie mix was Pure Elizabeth.  Don't remember where it came from, but I will keep my eye out for it now.

I was a little surprised that Paul wanted to take the Quinoa and bean salad with walnuts in it.  I thought this was pushing his limits, but he actually really likes it, and its ALL protein   So I am hoping this big batch will help with the hunger over the weekend.

These scones are really very British and not sweet at all.  But they work great dipped in coffee or slathered with a nut butter or jam.  So that is what I sent with Paul, scones for a lunch with a can of our homemade strawberry/apple jam made this past fall.

Here is the jam and the cashew ranch dressing that I sent with him.  I figured, most of the time salad is your only option, so I wanted him to have dressing that he enjoys.

I am not gonna lie, I never thought I would see the day that meat and potato man would take a suitcase of granola, hippy, authentic real  food with him.  He had bamboo silverware and everything.  He was so happy to have food to eat, and I was so happy that was willing to pack a whole other suitcase of food.

Weekend one is a success!  Now in two weeks we will both be gone, so I guess its back to the kitchen to start preparing food for five people, two who will be gone and three that will have sitters.  I should start now so I will be done in time.

But in true confession, every minute in the kitchen is worth it.  It is worth it that my husband is happier with himself and his body and his attitude.  It is worth it for my sons ability to have friends, and interact in a healthy way with others.  That he has stayed of meds because of the food he eats.  The absence of my depression makes every moment in the kitchen worth it.  To pursue our dreams.  To use our God given gifts to bless others.  To have joy in our home.  You will probably find my body dead in the kitchen when I go, but yes it is worth. every. single. second. for the life we have.  The good things are absolutely worth the work.

Gluten/Dairy/Soy/Sugar Free Muffin Mush

This has hands down become my favorite mistake.

The muffin recipe below was the one recipe that I have been using for the last year. Lately it hasn't been holding its own for us. The recipe below has a tendency to turn out a bit dry for us. You can make it work straight out of the oven, but even then its a little full in the mouth if you know what I mean. It isn't dry, or chalky, but it's hard to get down sometimes. It fills your mouth in an uncomfortable way. When you don't eat a lot of muffins though, you think, "Oh for the love of all that's good! I get to eat a muffin!" So you eat it anyway with a big glass of rice or almond milk or you dunk it in coffee, even though it kind of falls apart on you and then you fish the crumbs out and its a big mess. You somehow are still excited to be eating a muffin.

Well, one day I substituted coconut flour for the rice flour and the coconut flour sucked up all the moisture. I would add a big splash of milk to the batter, but it didn't matter, no moisture. Well, I dumped it in the muffin pan anyway and baked them. They were thicker and fell apart as you pulled them out of the oven.

Something you should know about me is I hate waste. Hate it. I hate wasting money. Time. Food. Paint. Fabric. Gas. Water. Doesn't matter what it is, I don't like wasting it. So now, here I have a food, money and my time sitting in a muffin pan that didn't work out.

So what should I do?

Then I remembered my individual berry pie's that I served at our harvest party. The topping to the pie's were crumbled muffins and then we would drizzle Coconut Milk over it and it was to die for. Seriously, BEST DESSERT EVER.

Well, I could do the same thing without the pie right? A little bit french toast bake, a little bit mashed cake look, and a lot of yummy goodness. So I took the muffins, pulled out five bowls, crumbled two muffins in each bowl. Then I drizzled pure maple syrup over the crumbled muffin, added some chopped pecans and then poured in a small amount of coconut milk. Not enough for it to look or feel like cereal, but just enough to add sweetness and moisture that I apparently couldn't accomplish pre baking it.


Seriously best dessert breakfast we have ever had. Even Paul pre-diet said this should be a legit recipe and not a mistake. The only warning is that the kids prefer this over regular muffins now. It's hard to get them to eat them plain after this goodness.

So you don't have to use these muffins, you can use whatever muffin recipe you have. They don't even have to be gluten or dairy free. What isn't better with syrup and milk poured over it?

Now I will say that coconut milk adds a richness that rice milk doesn't. Using a flavored milk also helps, like vanilla almond milk. You could even sprinkle cinnamon on top. Get crazy and just enjoy it on Saturday morning!

Muffin Mush recipe

Make muffins according to these directions.

Gluten/Dairy/Soy/Sugar Free Muffins
1 1/2 cup of rice flour*

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of Real sea salt

3 large banana's mashed with fork**

1/4 cup of honey

1 egg

1/3 cup of butter spread substitute (earth balance is great)***

2 teaspoons of flax or chia seeds

Blend all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Mix wet ingredients together in separate bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Extra fun add in's:1/4 cup of Nuts, raisins, coconut, choc chips, seeds, et. .

Bake at 350 for 15 min.

Pull out of oven. Break apart into bite size pieces and place in cereal bowl. Add chopped nuts or coconut flakes. Drizzle a tablespoon of pure maple syrup over crumbled muffin. Add 1/4 cup milk of choice.


*All GF flours are not the same. I have used Bean and Coconut flour in this and neither has worked. Bean adds a very negative distinct flavor and Coconut soaks up all the mixture so you can never get it back to batter consistency.

**You can also replace this with 1 cup pumpkin puree or squash puree. If you use pumpkin or squash I would recommend switching the honey to Pure Maple Syrup because it kind of keep's two fall flavors together and they compliment each other really nicely.

*** I have also used coconut oil here when I was out of butter and that has worked well too. It adds another layer of sweetness to the overall muffin.

Protien packed power snack

I don't know about you, but I need a good go to easy snack that will fill me and keep me from eating the really unhealthy quick convenient food found ,well everywhere!

I remember getting introduced my first Larabar and realizing there were at most 4 ingredients in them.  These cost about $1.89 wherever you are which is pretty spendy if you ask me. So we buy them as our road trip food, special snacks, because they are crazy expensive, and because just one doesn't fill me or the kids up. 

Then I had a friend come to my house with a tray of her own homemade Larabars.  At that point, I thought she was the smartest person on the planet.  Seriously, why didn't I think of that.  Well, I started making them.  I would buy my nuts at Costco or Trader Joe's or a wholesaler online.  Then I would stock up on dates from Costco as well.

One day while I was cutting another section out of our pan, I realized that I could probably roll the raw ingredients together and create a "cookie ball".  If I call it a cookie will my kids think its a cookie?  The answer was yes!

So these little guys are SO easy to make and they are incredibly healthy, tasty, and truly a protein power snack.  They curb my late afternoon cravings every time.  I can also include them in my kids lunch and they think they are getting a treat.  It's beautiful.  Now I am not the first person to come up with idea by any means, and you can still smash your ingredients into a cookie sheet and make bars, or you smash into a cookie cutter for shapes, or just roll dates in nuts, whatever you want.  Get creative.  Just remember, this the foundation recipe for you to add in your own personal taste, flavor, and imagination.  I also recommend going to the store and looking at different flavored snack bars to help get the creativity flowing.  Enjoy!

Protein Power Snack Balls/Raw cookie ball

1 cup nuts (I like using walnuts or pecans but cashew and almonds work great too!)
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup raisins (you could also use craisins, but I can't find any without added sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon flax or chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt

***Remember, this is the foundation/base recipe.  After this you can add either of the following to alter the flavor.  I don't recommend adding all these together, unless you like those fountain drinks where you add a little bit of every pop on tap.  That's just gross.  I'm just sayin.

2 Tablespoons of any of the following:
Coconut flakes
Sunflower butter
Almond butter
Pumpkin puree
Mashed Banana
Finely chopped Pear
Raspberry jam
Maple Syrup

In your food processor, finely chop the nuts.  Dump those in a bowl and add the rest of the dry ingredients.  Then add the date and raisins to the food processor and grind until it forms a ball.  Dump your date ball into the bowl.  Roll up your sleeves because the only way to get this combined is by using your hands. (I am automatically assuming you washed your hands, so I won't put that in here.)  Smash it all up till everything in said bowl is combined.

At this point, dump it on a cookie sheet and press it down till it is even and lying flat.  

Take a small amount and roll it into a ball.  Put finished cookie ball into a glass container and when all the balls are rolled, keep them stored in an airtight container in the fridge.  Nuts get acidy when they are chopped and not refrigerated.


If you have another great flavor, let me know so we can try something new!

Put good stuff in your diet, don't just take bad stuff out.

I don't know about you, but so often I think about the things I need to take out of my eating lifestyle to be healthier.  OK, in full disclosure, I don't just think, I obsess,  I can't have that piece of cake.  I shouldn't eat those fries. I can't have a bagel for breakfast, etc.  I don't even want a bagel for breakfast, but because I can't have it, I wan't it.  We have a tendency to see what we take out of our diet.  I heard once in a documentary called "Hungry for Change" that we should focus on adding items into our diets the things that are good for us.  We will fail less if we look at what we can include, instead of what we have to take out.

So as we look to ways to heal our bodies with food, let's take time to focus on adding some powerful key ingredients that will help boost our brain activity, weight loss, and energy.

Where you can, and if you can eat them, add nuts.  Almonds and Walnuts being the most potent in Omega 3's and healthy fats and protein.  If you are used to the sugar almonds or roasted and salted, start small and take baby steps to replace them with raw and unsalted.  Move to just roasted and no salt and work your way up.  These can be added into granola, oatmeal, muffins, scones, green salads, fruit salads, ground them up and coat your chicken in it with GF oats or flour.  There is always room to add these healthy nuts into items you are already eating.  The best way?  Make a little mix of nuts and seeds and dried fruit and its a powerhouse snack in the afternoon.  Try to stay away from peanuts as there have been many studies that show that peanuts carry a very high mold content.  That contamination will then be transferred to your body, so leave it out and stick with the clean nuts.

When looking up the negative effects of eating nuts to see if there were any, the only thing that comes up is, don't eat them if you have an allergy, and eat them in moderation because of their fat content.  So if you can eat them, it kind of sounds they are perfect snack.

I would like to point out however to stick to the healthiest nuts, walnuts, almonds, pistachios  cashews.  Try adding those in and limiting or eliminating peanuts all together.  More and more research is coming out connecting dangerous levels of mold in peanuts, so branch out and eat the safer nuts.

Here is an article out that you can read when you have time, or here or here is a great resource for all things coconut with all of its benefits.  Coconut oil is naturally sweet so you can easily replace it in recipes that call for oil.  Pancakes, muffins, cakes, etc.  This will add to the flavor and give you all the health benefits coconut provides.  If a recipe calls for butter, use coconut oil.  If you need to grease your pan to make pancakes, use coconut oil.  You don't have to do anything except use a different oil where oil is called for, how can it get any easier?!  You should know also that Olive Oil when heated it looses most of its nutritional value, but coconut oil does not.  So when you are going to start frying up your garlic or onions or whatever you are cooking, use coconut oil instead.

There has been lots of research looking at the power of all the Omega 3's and 6's in Flax seed.  Maybe a seed you don't hear about as often is Chia seeds.  These carry even more of this fatty oil that our body and brain crave.  You can find these powerhouse seeds at local grocery stores, and even better at Costco.  I like having them on hand from Costco because I use them in everything.  They in no way alter the taste of the food I am making, but if I can give myself and my kids as much brain support as possible, than I'm gonna sneak it into everything.  Just throw a handful of these seeds into your muffins, scones, oatmeal, granola, smoothies, cake, brownies, cookies, granola bars, spaghetti sauces, pizza mixes, banana breads, soups, the possibilities are endless.  And its the easiest thing to just throw in a handful, you add so much nutrition without any effort.

Here is some info regarding Flax and Chia seeds:

REAL SEA SALT -  This will be blue or pink.  If it's not, its not real salt.
Table salt as you are used to seeing it is an overly processed chemical that has stripped all nutrients out of real salt.  Our bodies need salt, what they don't need is the table chemical you add to your food.  Another incredibly easy way to improve what goes into your body is stop using regular table salt and purchase, REAL SEA SALT.  It's like the coconut oil, you aren't learning new things, or a new way of cooking.  You are simply switching out what you used to use for something that is significantly better for you.

What is the difference between table salt and real salt?  Here is some research on why you should make the impossibly easy switch.

Eat your fruit.  Find ways to snack on it, include it in breakfast and lunches.  Eat it at a movie instead of popcorn.  Just try to increase your fruit intake one more serving than you are used to.

Eat more veggies.  Find ways to include it with your dinners and lunches or snacks.  Include it, include it, include it.  Choose a veggie over another unhealthy snack at least once a day.  Choose the veggies people, these are your life source.

I would encourage you as well though to try including one of these other ways.  These simple add in's are such a simple way to add health into your life.  To add nutrition.  To add vitamins.  To add energy.  To add brain power.

We all have to start somewhere.  And the only to start eating and taking care of your body the way you want to is by taking steps.  One step at a time.  Before you go all extreme on your diet and worry about failing, try adding in instead of taking out.  Bring the nutrition in.  Add the flavor and the health benefits into your diet.

Its a great way to start.

Its a great first step.

20 days in

This blog post has no meat to it, its just a quick little update on our family.

I told you already that for the last 18 months, I have tried to adhere to the diet but would struggle every few weeks due to emotional baggage and years of bad stress habits.  I also told you that up until this point, Paul wasn't on the diet.  Many evenings, he cooked his own dinner because there just wasn't enough food for him.  He had his food, and we had ours.  Except when I would grocery shop and splurge and binge.

Well, it has been three weeks and we are doing awesome, all five of us going strong and sticking to it.

This is where I want to be real, I am so tired of people who change their eating habits and when they tell their story, it goes something like this, "I was so tired of trying every diet, but then I woke up one morning and juiced for 20 days and I feel awesome!  Life has never been the same since."  OK I get that, but they make it sound so stupid easy.  I hate that.

The last 20 days our bodies have been detoxing and its not always easy.  Most night Paul and I go to bed hungry.  We look at each other and say, "I want something to eat, but there is nothing to eat in the house. Do you want chips? I do, but I shouldn't have any."  Some days we eat them, some we don't.  Trying to break out of our habit of eating at night.  It's hard to be hungry.  When I am hungry I eat, kind of like how I just got done eating granola cause I was hungry!  It's hard to make that choice and stick to it.  Instead we will go to bed or we will work on one of our projects to keep busy and our mind off food.  It doesn't really work but we try.

The first two weeks I was craving sugar like there was no tomorrow.  Seriously, your body has to readjust to not having it, so it has to go through withdrawals.  To get through my withdrawals I would eat our fudge.  I would take small bites of it all throughout the day, or I would drink small glasses of OJ.  It's hard craving sweets.  Craving them so bad you can't think about anything else.  But every day you get through it, the next one is a little easier.  I can honestly say I don't really crave it anymore, but I want it out of habit.  Bad habits of rewarding myself with food, or I'm bored so I eat sweets habit.  Name the bad food habit and I have it.  But those are different issues to work through.

Paul has been very satisfied with three fried eggs and juice in the morning.  I drink a smoothie and a handful of almonds.  Paul has a hearty salad for lunch with our dairy free dressing and I have veggies and hummus, or  soup or guacamole with chips.  We have also had success with dinners that can serve everyone.  So far, no major disappointments or frustration with our restrictions from Paul, me or the kids.

The cravings are getting less.  The energy is getting higher, and we all just feel good.  Paul has lost almost 10 pounds which he is really happy with.  I am just happy to not be obsessing over my next fix.  Now I am not naive in my thinking.  I know I have months ahead of me to make sure I overcome all my hurdles.  But every time I go grocery shopping and I don't binge, I claim my victory and smile to myself.  Every time I conquer that, I change my deep rooted habits.  I have started taking my own creamer in my travel mug if I am going to a coffee shop to stick to my no soy rule.  Or I order tea.  It's been working.

One of the best parts is being honest with you.  I saw a tootsie roll in my purse, one of my absolute favorite candy, and I thought to myself, if I eat that, I have to tell you.  I'm not loosing to the tootsie roll.  That will not be the thing that breaks me.

So, thank you for walking this road with us.  Our little family is enjoying the deep benefits of healthy eating.  Our focus, our energy, our kindness towards each other is just a nice overall benefit to our lifestyle.

Simply Sugar Free Vegan Fudge

This fantastic recipe came from a dear friend Kristy Grannis, who has her own blog here.  I asked her where she found this recipe and said she couldn't remember.  Kristy and her family live with an even more extensive list of "can't eat" foods than we do, so I knew exactly what she meant when she said, "I don't remember. I probably saw a recipe some where and thought, I can change things around enough to make this something we can eat."  So she adapted, changed some things around, tested it and came up with this.

What I love about this recipe is that it is only three ingredients.  That's right people, THREE!!!!!  Seriously, how much easier does it get?

Now this fudge recipe is perfect on it's own, but it also serves as a great base for all sorts of different flavors and add ins.  The other great thing about this recipe is that is is wonderfully sweet, and there is no sugar, so when you are having those cravings, and huge need for something sweet, but are trying to eliminate processed sugar, this is the perfect go to quick snack.  Keep it in your fridge and you can cut yourself a little piece whenever you want to keep yourself from feeling deprived.  I think its key that when you are changing your eating lifestyle, you need to recognize that your body will crave what it knows.  You need to give it time to adjust to enjoying the way you need to eat.  That being said, give your poor self a break and find ways to help yourself along with treats and food that will get you through cravings and detox while sticking to your new lifestyle foods.  For example, when I am having a sugar attack, I drink a small glass of pure orange juice.  It may sound odd, but it totally works.  Then the less sugar I am consuming on a regular basis, the less the cravings come, and I drink less OJ.

This is also a great desert to serve to guests, add to a cookie tray, package up as a gift, put in your kids lunch box, you name it.  It's perfect.  And its THREE ingredients!  Yeah, probably still my favorite part.

So here you go, and enjoy adding more health into your life and removing refined sugar once treat at a time.

FUDGE - Vegan, Gluten and Soy free
(This is  your base.  Leave as is, or throw in some add on's.)

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup honey

Line a bread pan with wax paper or plastic wrap.  Melt your three ingredients in a saucepan.  Whisk till are ingredients are thoroughly combined.  Pour into lined bread pan.  Put melted fudge in the refrigerator.  It will be ready for cutting in 15 minutes.

(If you have never worked with coconut oil you should be!  It's so wickedly good for you.  But what you need to know is that when coconut oil is warm, it becomes a liquid.  When it is cool, it is a solid.  With that being true, you need to keep your  fudge in the fridge, if you want fudge.  Otherwise you just have melted chocolate oil.)

Now for the add on's:

Throw in a handful of nuts: walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews (cashews are probably my favorite..mmm...chocolate cashews.), coconut flakes

Try pomegranate seeds.  This is a fun addition because when you bite into pomegranate fudge, it has a juicy explosion in your mouth.  Its savory and sweet at the same time, its awesome!  Seriously, try it.

Try adding dried fruit; dates, raisins, mango, apricot, pineapple.  If you try some of these options, I would suggest leaving the cocoa out and then the fudge would be white.  Increase the coconut oil to 1 cup and puree in a blender.  The simple coconut oil and dried fruit would compliment each other really well.

Again, this recipe is a base for your imagination.  Another way to use this recipe is to pour the mixture over your add on's and scoop them onto wax paper to create clusters.  All the same ingredients, just presented in a different way.

So enjoy this recipe.  Enjoy the freedom of having a sweet treat to curb your cravings.  Having a sweet treat to give your kids without refined sugar.  Just enjoy!

Guidelines for the Joy Free diet

Sorry, this didn't post when I wanted it to.  If you have been waiting, I apologize for the wait.  If you don't care, glad to know I didn't disappoint you.

So if you would like to look at where our story started, and why we changed our diet, scroll down this page and look under the heading, "Life with food issues." There are lots of posts taking you more in depth, but  I won't rehash them here.

I will tell you up front that by changing our very normal American eating habits, we have kept one child, potentially two off medicine for ADHD, sensory issues and possibly emotional unbalance.  The other positive side effect is my mood swings, seasonal depression, lethargic behavior, frequent headaches and sporadic stomach aches have all gone away.  Also gone are the dark circles under my eyes, and the small red bumps on all of our arms.  In place of all that is missing is my constant enjoyment of my life, my kids, and my husband.  I have the energy to invest in my children's education, the organization of my home, my book and future speaking career.  With my new found energy, I have the will and commitment to getting up early, doing a light workout and spending amble time in prayer or reading the Bible.  This is most likely my greatest bonus.  For all the times I have longed, willed myself to get up, set my alarm and went back to bed, I now have the energy and focus to get up, and invest in my life this way.  I can't even find the words to express to you what this has meant to my sanity, my influence on my children, my relationship with the Lord, my husband.  It is deeply creeping into all of my dark places and replacing it with light.  All because I have the energy to get up and claim that gift every morning.

If we look at our life like a circle, I think a lot of us divide the circle up into a pie.  We cut a piece out and work on it.  We know and understand that our life has lost of different areas and we play lots of different roles (the pieces of the pie) so we approach our betterment like compartments.  In the new year we pick the piece of pie we want to work on and focus on it.  I want to craft more.  I want to serve more.  I want to eat healthier, or exercise more.  I want to go to church, or be in the word more.  I want to spend more time with my kids, or my friends.  I want to find a new job.  The list goes on.  But if we look at it as a wheel, then you can enter the circle at any point. But wherever you enter this cycle, you move forward and you touch each and every piece because you move fluidly through it.  It is a rhythm that is never ending, it is always moving, and it is whole.  Some would call it a holistic approach.  When you change one aspect of the cycle, that change effects all other aspects of your life.

This is what changing our diet has done for me.  It was entering the cycle at one point, but watching how it infected and changed all areas of my life.  Wow, let's get down to business now, and the whole point of this blog, to share with you our family guidelines.

So what exactly don't we eat in our house?  OK, here goes the list:
White Potatoes
Shell fish

So when most people look at this list, they first wonder why.  Why can't you eat so many of these things?  Tomorrow I hope to provide you with some research into the big triggers.  The small items are personal to some of my children's body.

So what do we eat?  Easy;

Any vegetable
Any fruit
All nuts (but no peanuts) and seeds
Fish (with the exception of shellfish)

This may not sound like a lot to you, but you really can do so much with these items, including baking.  With these restrictions, here is generally what our week looks like, food wise.

Breakfast:  Eggs in any form, scrambled, omelets, fried over spinach, baked with veggies.  During the week we limit ourselves to either eggs or oatmeal with a smoothie.  We eat GF oats, even though Oats are naturally GF, they are highly contaminated, so we just eliminate the  possibility and eat GF.  This makes mornings simple during the week and then the kids and I bake something yummy for the weekend mornings.  We either have coffee cake or muffin mush or scones and fruit or pancakes or french toast.  It makes those weekend items more special and we do it together.

Lunch: We have a variety of whatever is easiest that day.  Green Salad, egg salad, pasta salad, muffins with nut butter and Jelly, rice cakes with nut butter and jelly, soup, left overs, buttered noodles, veggies and hummus, a huge bowl of fruit salad with chips, rice chips with guacamole.  See there are lots of options.

Snacks: my kids take either a piece of fruit, a homemade larabar, or veggies for snacks.  When I am really tired and we have them on hand, they get a little bag of chips, but those are expensive so that is a treat.  Sometimes, they just opt out of a snack and wait till they get home.  Sometimes they take two honey sticks with them as a fun little treat.

Dinner: Again, here we have a wide range of ways to cook chicken, rice and veggies, we have sweet potato burgers, we have Stir Fry's, soups, salads, baked potatoes, hamburgers, risotto's in all flavors, homemade gnocchi, BBQ chicken, fried rice, Mexican rice, Lasagna.  I don't know, we just eat whatever we have in the house.

Desserts: Baked fruit, cake, pies, fudge, cookies.  All just like you, expect I make them all, without sugar, so my kids don't go crazy, we don't grave sugar, and they don't need treats all the time.

Our general rule is that we get one treat a day if mom or the kids remember.  But they have to remember at lunch time, because we don't have treats after dinner.  I figure your body has less time to burn it off before bed time, so its lunch time or no time. We have a treat maybe three times a week.

Another general rule for us to make breakfast and lunch vegetarian.  We allow 3-4 dinners a week to have meat.  I can talk about meat in another blog, but one I know to be sure, our bodies weren't created to take in the amount of meat we do.  We get lots of protein in our nuts, smoothies, veggies, and beans, so don't worry about us.

We also try very hard to include vegetables at every meal, yes even breakfast.  Find me one medically trained person who says we don't need to eat more vegetables.  The health benefits of this are incredible.  So even though they don't like it all the time, my kids know they have to eat them.  They don't have a choice.

We try to meal plan, but I'm not perfect at it.  We eat better when I do.  When I am too tired to cook, we have a bowl of GF pasta with garlic butter sauce.  That's our go to meal.  When Paul cooks, its chili or hot dogs.  Hot dogs without port or sugar or corn or nitrates cost about $6.99 for 7, so we buy them when they are on sale and stick them in the freezer.   They are our in a tight pinch, we really need something treat.  A lot of food that are convenience for others are very expensive for us, so those are extra special treat items here.

What I like about this, is my kids eat incredibly well because they don't know another way.  They also aren't offered a ton of options all the time that allows them to be picky.  They don't get special things to eat all the time, so they remain special and unexpected.

So that is where we are at.  And yes, I do make my own Ranch dressing, soy sauce, ketchup, BBQ sauce, caramel, hot chocolate, milk and nut butters.  If we didn't add sugar and corn syrup to everything, I wouldn't have to.   I will get you those recipes though, I promise.

Anyway, those are our guidelines by which we live.  Trying to find a balance between what all the experts say is the right way to eat, we are finding a good happy middle.

Good luck finding your happy place and way of eating that supports and takes care of your health.

The Food Journal Project

So I confessed much to you yesterday and it feels good to be starting a brand new day.  My rhythm, however, is that I can have much success with my first few days/weeks, and then I falter.

Since I have laid my insecurity and weakness bare to you, I can also tell you that my husband, who is the biggest Texas meat and potato lovin man I have ever met, has started on our diet as of Jan. 1.

Here is a photo of my handsome man and me at Christmas just a couple weeks ago by our tree.

We have had over a year and half of changing our mindset around food.  Always striving to be healthy eaters, it was a whole new idea and hard concept to wrap our head around what gluten/wheat, casein and sugar does to our bodies.  We watched in awed silence as our son came back to us, but even more so, after months of being on the diet, we would watch the transformation happen right before our eyes as his whole personality changed when Big would eat something off his "Stay away from" list.  Big was the reason we started the diet, but we have seen the immense benefit to all of our health by eating the way we do.  All except Paul.  We have spent many hours talking about the changes in me when I adhere to our "joy free" diet.  We both experience how I speak more gently, I have more patience with the kids, I don't seem so down all the time and struggle to be motivated.  I'm not so easily angered and my emotions don't swing so much.  I am not as easily offended, and I find joy in so many more things.  I actually enjoy so much more of my life, and the kids sense it too, and it improves their behavior as well.

I had told Paul once that I would love for him to try being on board with our lifestyle for a few months.  Paul also struggles with many of the same things I do, being lethargic, mood swings, discontentment, depression, anger, sugar cravings, you name it. I was curious to see, since all of our children have issues with food, as do I, would Paul find the same kind of freedom and joy that we have?   I had this dream of wondering to what extent our home could experience peace and joy if we all fueled our body the way it needed.  If our bodies weren't at war with itself, then they would have time to heal themselves and there would be more time for joy and understanding.  I know that this many sound crazy to you, but even after one week of cutting gluten/dairy/sugar our of our diet, I have experienced already a change in my behavior and attitude.  This is not to say that I don't get frustrated, or that Paul and I didn't have a small fight last night.  What I am saying is the way I handle myself, feel about myself and others is completely different.

I say all of that to say this, our eating and food lifestyle over the next month or so will become my blogging project.  Though I am not an expert by any means, many have come to me seeking advice, recipes, tips, information, websites, and resources.  So even though I have always blogged about many different things, and most likely, there will still be a fun and  random post thrown in, my focus for the next month will be sharing with you what I have learned in regards to food and resources.  I will share our menus, recipes, websites, tips and encouragement.  I will be forthcoming and honest about where we are at as a family, and keep you posted on our progress.

Before I move on tomorrow with more specifics, I need to make one thing abundantly clear.  Food is not my salvation, nor the way in which I fulfill living in the fruits of the Spirit.  I deeply believe that God is the one who heals our bodies.  He is the one who gives knowledge and insight and wisdom in how to take care of ourselves.  What I also believe is that he knows our bodies better than we do.  We knows what it takes to fuel it, make it work, but more than just make our bodies exists, he knows how to make us thrive.  Eating an all natural, no processed diet gives us the ability to receive all these gifts.  To live in a way where we are more open to his leading.

I have more thoughts on that later, but I just wanted to give you an insight in what I will be blogging about over the next month.  I am not your expert, but I am your doorway into resources that can help.

Please feel free to ask questions, correct me, or share what you know.  I want this to be a place where people can find good, truthful information about how we take care of our bodies and thrive in our lives.  Please join me this month and be encouraged.  We can all start over.