Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake
Breastfeeding, Coconut Oil, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Health, Recipes

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake

I think this will be my last post before we move.  There is so much going on right now: phone calls to make, boxes to pack and kids to soothe.  But as overwhelming as it all is . . . I am SOOOO excited!!!  Don’t worry, I won’t be gone for long; move-in date is set for the beginning of September!  Woohoo!  I have not shared a lot of details about the place we have been living in, but needless to say it is time to GO!  It has caused a lot of our physical and emotional health issues.  For the first month, my son cried every time that we pulled into the drive for this house.  How sad is that?  But, we are DONE!

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake

Since I have been testing the waters for being dairy-free to help my daughter while breastfeeding her, I decided to tweak a favorite recipe of mine.  Recently I’ve been making a banana oatmeal bake to help boost my milk supply and it is quite tasty.  Now, I know that oats can be questionable in the gluten-free world.  I refused to eat it for a couple years for fear that I would have a reaction, but once I tried it I haven’t noticed anything.  So I took my banana oatmeal bake recipe and made it dairy-free.  It is still very moist and very yummy!

Baby Girl at 2.5 Mths

I’ve had several people ask me if I think going dairy-free has made a difference for Baby Girl.  To be honest, it’s been very difficult for me to tell because we’ve had to eat out a lot while getting ready to move.  It’s hard enough eating fast-food while being gluten-free, but adding dairy-free is a little overwhelming to me.  I feel like it’s too much to keep adding to my special order of no bun to no bun AND no cheese.  At many restaurants if I ask for no bun they just give me the slab of meat, no condiments and no fixings!  But I think it has been long enough for me to begin to see a difference in my daughter.  Baby Girl doesn’t seem to have any trouble pooping whether or not I eat cheese.  However, she gets really bad tummy aches where she’s writhing and crying in pain if I eat cheese.  Her disposition and her sleep are so much better if I am dairy-free.  So now that I can see a difference I will continue with my dairy-free diet and work harder to keep away from it while eating out.

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake

Ingredients

2 cups Oats
1/3 cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 can Coconut Milk
3 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 large Egg
2 Apples peeled and chopped

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Add coconut milk, egg, vanilla extract and coconut oil.  Mix together.
Add apples to batter and mix until apples are coated.
Pour batter with apples into baking dish and make sure that apples are evenly distributed and covered as much as possible with batter.
Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake

I like this dish because I can use it for breakfast or as a quick snack throughout the day, especially when the kids are cranky and I don’t have time to make food for myself in the morning.  And with the oats, I can also help boost my milk supply!  Over time I have also been playing around with changing the ingredients.  This recipe started out using 1 cup of bananas and I replaced them with apples for this post.  Right now I have a dish in the oven with bananas and peanut butter . . . I’m very excited to see how that will turn out!  I’m seriously thinking about drizzling some honey on top of it once it’s finished baking . . . MMmmmm!

I can’t wait to write again after we’ve moved and let you know what a difference living in this new home makes for us!  Until then!

Dairy-Free Cinnamon Apple Bake

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Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole
Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Health, Paleo, paleo diet, Recipes

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

I have to say that cooking in this heat is hard to take.  I am so ready for this summer to be over!  I’m ready for everything Fall: the colors, the smells, the crisp feeling in the air, the spices and flavors, and yes, that it’s closer to Christmas!  Since it’s been so hot, even in the mornings, we haven’t had much of a chance to go on walks recently.  But we made an effort to go out this week.  I think my son really misses walking because he ran more than half of the way!  He was quite a slave driver, telling me, “Run, run, run!”  Shew!  I’m pretty sure I lost several pounds from that one walk alone with my son making me run, me sweating profusely in the heat and also carrying my daughter the entire way.  Thankfully, I think it’s supposed to cool down a little bit this weekend.

Summer Walk

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

I think this is a recipe one of my friends shared on facebook a while back.  It looked like something that my family would really enjoy.  It also gives my husband a good excuse to fry bacon!  (Like he ever needs one?)

Ingredients

1/2 lb Bacon
1 lb Ground Beef
1/2 Sweet Onion
1 Clove of Garlic
4 large Eggs
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
4 tbsp Cream Cheese
8 oz shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp Ketchup
1 tbsp Mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
1 tsp dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Dice cooked bacon into small pieces.
Cook ground beef until browned.  Add diced onion and minced garlic.
Once the onions and garlic are translucent add cream cheese, ketchup, mustard, salt and worcestershire sauce.  Mix well in skillet.
Spread beef mixture into 8 x 8 pan.  Top with bacon.
Whisk together eggs, heavy cream and pepper.
Pour eggs over beef and bacon.  Top with cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with dill before serving.

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

I served with pickles, I thought it made a nice compliment to the cheeseburger experience!  And my son absolutely loves pickles!  Can’t go wrong there!  And to top it off, my husband absolutely loved this dish!  I always love it when I can make him happy with a gluten free low carb meal!  I had made some changes to the ingredients this last time around.  I’m not a fan of yellow mustard, but I seem to like dijon mustard so that’s what I used this time and it turned out really good.  (The first time I made this dish I completely omitted the mustard altogether).  Also, I ran out of heavy cream so I used half & half instead.  It seemed extra moist to me but everything tasted the same.

Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole

 

Have you been able to stay cool this summer?  I know it is not nearly as hot this year as it has been in years past, but it is oh so miserable!  The humidity has been unbearable for us and it seems to seep into our house.  I hope you are all are able to enjoy your summer!

Ratatouille
Breastfeeding, Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Health, Paleo, paleo diet, Recipes

Ratatouille

I can’t believe that it almost has been 8 weeks since my Baby Girl entered our lives.  We are finally starting to settle down I think.  Breastfeeding has continued to become easier since my last post.  We had Baby Girl’s 2 month check-up a little early, but we were so happy to find out that she is doing fabulously!  She is now just shy of 10 lbs and is 22.5 inches long (2 inches longer from birth!).  I asked to see the Lactation Consultant again.  Breastfeeding had improved greatly but I was still experiencing some pain and nipple trauma.  I had already corrected part of the problem at home by making sure Baby Girl wasn’t ripping off when she was done eating.  But the LC also suggested just shifting her over a couple of inches while I was feeding her so that her head wasn’t scrunched in.  Amazingly enough, that little shift has helped with the pain and I think it has helped her empty my breasts better as well.  I’ve only needed to supplement 1-2 oz per night now instead of 4-6 oz it had been previously!  The LC also suggested supplementing my diet with the herb, Fenugreek, oatmeal and adding one extra feeding a day to help boost my supply.  Honestly, I just haven’t had the motivation or energy to try to get in an extra feeding.  But we seem to be doing alright by just using those supplements and having corrected Baby Girl’s breastfeeding position.

Baby Girl 7wks

As for my family’s health journey, I have finally been able to consistently cook healthy meals during the week.  One of my goals after having Baby Girl was to start eating whole foods more often again.  I also wanted to try to have vegetable sides for most of my meals to make sure that my son was getting enough nutrients.  He has pretty much lost all interest in the fruit and vegetable to-go pouches and so the only nutrients he will get are the ones that I cook.  How intimidating is that?  Knowing that your child’s health depends on what you cook and provide for them.  I really wanted to have a cleansing diet since I had eaten so poorly while pregnant and also because I had another ovarian cyst during this pregnancy.  But, I have to be careful since I’m breastfeeding.  Toxins leaving the body can enter into my breast milk supply and effect the baby.  I also have to make sure that I am eating enough calories that I am able to support the amount of nutrients and calories that my daughter takes while she is breastfeeding.  So as much as I’d like to have a cleansing diet, I really shouldn’t.  Which leads me back to my goal, eating healthy whole foods.  Exciting isn’t it?  But it really is the best thing for us right now.  Lastly, I would like to start stretching and walking again.  I only had to wait until after my six week postpartum appointment to be cleared to start exercising again.  Unfortunately the weather has been so hot that it has made it very difficult for me to make an effort to start an exercising routine.  I would have to do it early in the morning or late at night once everything has cooled down.  I think once I get my house in order and I get into a good routine with the kids then it’ll be easier for me to work out consistently.  I’m hoping to start maybe in the next couple of weeks.

My son

Writing this post I realized that the meal I was planning on sharing would be a perfect fit.  My goal was to start cooking whole, healthy meals for my family and having a vegetable side with most meals for my son.  One of the sides I made this past week was Ratatouille.  This was the first time I made this particular dish.  I had hoped that it would be full of flavor.  In the past, I had tried another recipe that layered chopped vegetables and it turned out extremely bland and boring.

Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Ingredients

1 Zucchini, large
1 Japanese Eggplant, large
3 Roma Tomatoes, large
1 Sweet Onion, medium
1 cup crushed Tomatoes
1 tsp minced Garlic
1 tbsp Basil, fresh
1/4 tsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Rosemary
1/4 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Thyme
1/4 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Olive Oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 6 x 9 baking dish.
Combine the crushed tomatoes, minced garlic, olive oil, chili powder, rosemary, oregano, thyme, pepper, salt and basil and mix together.
Pour the mixture into the baking dish and smooth out.
Layer the veggies in the dish in an alternating pattern forming rows until dish is filled.
You can spray or brush the exposed veggies with oil to encourage browning in the oven.
Bake for about an hour or until the tomato mixture is bubbling and the veggies are tender.
Garnish with additional fresh basil.

Ratatouille

This dish certainly did deliver flavor!  I really enjoyed it and so did my mom who was visiting!  The only part I wasn’t so sure about was the Eggplant.  I had never made much less eaten Eggplant before.  The recipe called for Japanese Eggplant, but my local grocery stores don’t carry it as far as I know.  I used only a regular Eggplant which made the slices much larger and I probably should have made them thinner.  It was kind of spongy, but I think that was because it wasn’t cooked a thoroughly as it should have been.  If you have any tips or suggestions on how to better cook Eggplants or at least know how it is supposed to look and taste that would be muchly appreciated.  I think I would use it again if I was more confident on how to cook it.

Do you have any health goals for your family?  How are you planning on accomplishing those goals?  I’d love to hear from you!

Chicken Alfredo on top of Spaghetti Squash
Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Health, Paleo, paleo diet, Recipes

Chicken Alfredo on top of Spaghetti Squash

Chicken Alfredo on top of Spaghetti Squash

Lately I have been trying to start networking with fellow bloggers and have been finding some new meal ideas in the process.  This is one was inspired by a recipe shared by instagramer @mypaleoishlife.  It looked absolutely delicious and I loved the idea by using spaghetti squash along with chicken alfredo!  I just used a simple alfredo sauce instead of his Better than Alfredo Cauliflower Cashew sauce.  Last night I finally had a chance to try it and it turned out great!

Chicken Alfredo on top of Spaghetti Squash

Ingredients

Chicken

1 lb of Chicken Tenderloins
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
Spices to Taste: Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Rosemary, Parsley, Oregano, Salt & Pepper

Alfredo Sauce

2 cups of Heavy Cream
1/2 cup of Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cup of Shredded Italian Cheese Mix
1/2 tsp of Parsley
1/2 tsp of Oregano
1/4 tsp of Garlic Powder

Spaghetti Squash

1 medium Spaghetti Squash

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Poke holes in spaghetti squash and place in oven for 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.  Once spaghetti squash can be cut easily pull out and let cool off.  While the spaghetti squash is baking, place 1 tbsp of olive oil in large skillet and set to medium heat.  Place raw chicken tenderloins in large skillet.  Sprinkle on spices to taste and turn chicken until cooked through.  I like to add a little bit of water while I cook the chicken so it doesn’t dry out.  Place cooked chicken onto plate and save the large skillet for later.

Chicken Tenderloins

Pour heavy cream into sauce pan.  Stir in Parmesan cheese and Italian cheese.  Add spices to taste.  I kept it on a low to medium heat for a couple minutes and constantly stirred until sauce thickened.  Once sauce has thickened remove from heat.

Alfredo Sauce

Now that the spaghetti squash has cooled off, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Scoop the squash meat and place in the large skillet.  Stir until the squash meat has been coated with the leftover spices and juices.  You can place the spaghetti squash on a plate or in a bowl and top with the alfredo sauce and chicken.  Yum!

Now that the rain has finally subsided in our area, we have finally been able to start getting back to a normal routine.  It had been over a week since we’ve been able to take a walk so we finally got a chance to do that this weekend.  We even got to take a trip to see my friend’s farm critters, which my son absolutely loves!  As for Baby Girl, she is still doing great!  Only about two and a half more weeks to go!  I can’t wait!  I can’t wait to meet her; I can’t wait to have my body back . . . hahaha!  My wonderful sister-in-law took my maternity pictures for me last week.  They turned out so good!  I’m so excited that I want to show you a sneak peek!

Maternity Pictures

Maternity Pictures

Aren’t they adorable?!?  After I deliver Baby Girl, I would like to share with you some of the ways that I helped this delivery naturally.  When I had my son, his heart rate was in distress during most of my labor so I wasn’t able to do a lot other than lay on the bed since he had a scalp monitor placed on him.  But since my pregnancy with Baby Girl has been a lot less stressful I have been so much more healthy and feel like this delivery will go by much smoother.  Some things that I am doing to help prepare my body for labor is to take walks (as long as we don’t have any more rain), sit and bounce on an exercise ball, and eat a handful of dates every day.  Blogger Evelyn Ojeda quoted a study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology stating that eating six dates daily during the last four weeks of pregnancy “significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labor, and produced a more favorable, but non-significant, delivery outcome. ” You can read more about it on her webpage here, it is all quite interesting.  I also plan on getting a pedicure the week I’m due to help start contractions.  For all you moms out there, what other ways did you try to naturally induce labor?

How to Make Shredded Taco Meat
Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Paleo, paleo diet, Recipes

How to Make Shredded Taco Meat

How to Make Shredded Taco Meat in the Crockpot

How to Make Shredded Taco Meat

This has been a nice relaxing week for us.  Usually we are going non-stop to doctor appointments or viewing houses (we are currently looking for a new house to live in).  But this week we decided to take a break from looking at houses and I did not have any baby appointments either.  Of course, all it has done for this past week is rain, so we’ve been cooped up in the house and I think everyone is going stir-crazy!  Even our dog!  We’ve had to turn around my son’s crib again so he can’t get out because he kept trying to play with his toys during naptime.  He’d been doing really well for a while but I think since we haven’t been able to go out on our walks like usual or get out of the house it’s been difficult for him to go straight to sleep.

But thankfully I think we are finally over the worst of our colds.  My son had developed a really bad cough over the past couple of weeks and last week it sounded so bad that I went ahead and took him to the doctor.  Fortunately he didn’t have an infection and his lungs sounded clear.  The doctor prescribed him some allergy medicine to help clear up his congestion and drainage which we thought was causing his cough (very similar to what I was dealing with).  So in addition to the allergy medicine, I also pulled out my steam vaporizer to put in his room during the night.  I have been avoiding it because our house has such a bad moisture problem I was afraid that it couldn’t handle extra steam.  But my son’s cough was so bad he was up all night and keeping me up all night as well.  We both needed our rest.  This particular steam vaporizer I really like because it has a little pool on top where you can place extra liquid like camphor or essential oils.  So I also added water, 2 drops of lavender and 2 drops of lemon to the steam vaporizer to help my son’s breathing at night.  And it worked amazingly!!!  We have finally been able to sleep through the night.  And after about a week I have been able to quit using the steam vaporizer as well so I don’t have to worry about the condition of his room being warped by the steam.  Sweet victory was finally mine!

Since we have been recovering from such a busy schedule and finally starting to feel better, I wanted a meal that was cheap and easy to make.  When I was still working, I threw this dish together one day out of desperation.  It turned out so well that it has become a regular staple in my house.  My husband absolutely loves it because the chicken turns out tender . . . and let’s face it, it’s Mexican.  So here’s my recipe for shredded taco meat:

How to Make Shredded Taco Meat

Ingredients

2-3 lbs of Raw Chicken Breast
1 cup of Water
1 Tbsp of Chili Powder
2 Tsp of Cumin
1 Tsp of Salt
1 Tsp of Pepper
1 Tsp of Garlic Powder
1 Tsp of Onion Powder
1 Tsp of Cayenne Powder (optional)

Directions

Place the raw chicken breasts in the crockpot.  Pour 1 cup of water on top of the chicken.  Sprinkle seasonings on chicken and stir in water.  Set crockpot on low for 5 hours or until chicken pulls apart easily.

Raw Chicken in Crockpot

Once chicken is tender, pour out as much excess water as you can.

Cooked Chicken for Taco Meat

Using two forks pull apart the chicken until completely shredded.

Chicken After Being Shredded

When I first made this dish I was pleasantly surprised at how tender the chicken was and how tasteful it was with the seasonings.  The seasoning is enough to taste but not punch-you-in-the-face overpowering.  I personally haven’t been using the cayenne powder since Baby Girl won’t let me eat anything super spicy and so that my son can eat it too.  I love this dish because it is so easy to prepare, you can have it cooking while you are working or out running errands.  And you can use it for just about anything!  You can use it for tacos and burritos.  Since I am gluten free, I like to add it to a bowl of rice and add cheese, salsa or ranch dressing.  This is also easy to add to my son’s meals.

Shredded Taco Dish

This has quickly become a favorite in my house and I hope you like it too!  Are there any other ways that you can think of to use this meat?  Let me know what you think!

Stuffed Pepper Casserole
Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Health, Paleo, paleo diet, Recipes

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

How to Make Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

So much has been going on in the past couple of weeks.  The end of March was my last day at work.  My cousin who watches my son is returning home after I have Baby Girl, so we decided since I get paid about the same amount of money as it would cost to put two kids in daycare that I could stay home.  And I would much rather stay home and raise my own children.  So this time between now and when I deliver will give me time to rest and stay healthy during the last two months of this pregnancy and to help my son adjust to a new home-life routine.  And as for how Baby Girl is doing . . . we got to see her again last week!

Baby Girl at 33 Weeks

She is doing so well!  Unlike her brother, she is constantly moving and kicking.  During this last ultrasound she would keep putting her hand in her mouth and at one point tried to fit both in!  The doctors were estimating her weight at 4 lbs and 10 oz, which is only one pound away from my son when he was born at 39 weeks!  I’m so happy at her progress, we really want a healthy baby weighing at least 6 lbs or more this time around!

At the end of March we also had the baby shower and were given a lot of food to take home.  I tried to make the most of it for as long as possible so I didn’t need to make a lot of new meals for a while.  Since then I was looking for a new meal to try and this one popped up on my pinterest feed.  It looked really good and I decided to give it a try!  I was looking for something simple and tasty and this turned out very well.

Recipe for Stuffed Pepper Casserole

Ingredients

1 lb of Ground Turkey
2 Peppers chopped
1 Onion chopped
2 Garlic Cloves minced
2 cups of rice cooked
1 jar (24 oz) pasta sauce
2 cups of shredded Italian cheese blend

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brown ground turkey and saute the peppers, onion and garlic cloves in a large skillet.  Add rice and pasta sauce to the skillet and mix together.  Sprinkle in about a cup of shredded cheese and mix together.  Pour everything into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top of mixture.  Place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

I thought that I would like some sort of bread to go with the casserole so I decided to try the Gluten Free Bisquick Biscuit mix.  You can find the recipe on the Gluten Free Bisquick box.  I didn’t particularly like these biscuits with the casserole myself.  Stand alone with butter (and even some honey, yum!) they seemed alright.  But I still would like to tweak the recipe to improve the flavor a little bit.  It seemed rather bland and had that Bisquick taste to it.  But it was something that I had wanted to try for a while.  I like using the Bisquick mix for my pancakes and pizza dough now.  The pizza dough is especially easier than any of the other gluten free recipes I’ve used in the past.

As for the casserole, the flavor was very good and I will certainly make this again.  Of course, my husband was disappointed that it wasn’t Mexican flavored.  He likes to make our stuffed peppers with Mexican seasoning.  I personally wanted to try something different, and Baby Girl doesn’t seem to like Mexican food nearly as much!  But I’m sure this would make a great Mexican casserole whenever I feel up to it . . . even if it won’t happen until after she arrives!

 

Bone Broth, Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Health, Paleo, paleo diet, Recipes

How to Make Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

How to Make Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This week my family has been struggling with sore throats, coughs and my toddler has been teething.  No fun at all.  I’ve been busting out the essential oils and teas trying to knock this thing out as naturally as possible.  Here is a link to my facebook page discussion of At-Home Remedies.  Earlier this week, when I had a day off I thought that everyone would really enjoy and benefit from my crockpot loaded baked potato soup.  This is another really good recipe to add some immune boosting ingredients like garlic and Bone Broth if you have any saved.  Unfortunately I didn’t have any bone broth leftover and I didn’t really have any time or energy to make it this time around.  Sometimes I get tired of loaded baked potato soup (this is one of my husband’s absolute favorite meals) but I think a lot of that has to do with when I was pregnant with my son I had to limit my sodium intake to help with the swelling and this soup does NOT taste good without salt!  I love adding garnishes to the dish, it brings out so much more flavor and interest to the dish.  And I was right.  It really hit the spot.  It was so comforting to all the sickies in my house.  And my son was even willing to eat it mixed with his rice.  Another mom-win for me!

Ingredients

2 1/2 lbs of Russet potatoes
1 small yellow onion
5 cloves of garlic
4 cups of bone broth (or chicken stock)
8 oz of cream cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Garnishes: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped chives

Directions

Chop potatoes, onion, and garlic.  Add to crockpot along with seasoning and bone broth.

Potato Soup2

Cook on high for 6 hours or on low for 10 hours.
Stir in Cream cheese and allow to melt.
Scoop some soup into the blender, puree and add back into soup until desired texture.  (My husband likes to still have some potato chunks in the soup so I don’t completely puree the soup).  This last time around my son was down for a nap when the soup was ready to be pureed so I had it sitting for a couple hours on the “Keep Warm” setting which softened the potatoes even more and made it super easy and super quick to puree.

Potato Soup3

Here is the loaded baked potato soup finished.

Potato Soup4

Top with your choice of garnishes and serve.  Our personal favorites are bacon bits, shredded cheddar cheese and chopped chives.  Yum!

Potato Soup5

It tasted so good and was a very comforting meal since we weren’t feeling well.  This is one of my husband’s all-time favorite meals and he would literally eat this everyday if I made it everyday.  I can never go wrong whenever I decide to make it!  There are so many different ways to make potato soup.  I hope you like this recipe!

Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Recipes

Gluten-Free Tater-Tot Casserole

Latest Updates for changemyhealth

Now that I have more time, I have been really excited to start updating my blog.  I’ve been wanting to make it more user friendly and post more often so you can benefit from my experiences.  So you will begin to see some changes over the next couple weeks and months.  Please let me know what you think, if there are more topics that you would like to hear about or any questions that you have regarding a gluten-free diet or changing your health for the better using diet and lifestyle changes.  Some things to look forward to will be links to purchase the type of gluten-free flours and pastas that I use, guest posts to share an in-depth look as to why I use the supplements and diets that I use, and more social media outlets via facebook and pinterest to keep you updated throughout the week.

Vacation Busy-ness

One of the reasons that I have not been able to update the last couple of weeks is that we have been getting ready to go on our family vacation.  We have been busy making sure that all of our bills would be paid on time while we were out of town, I had to work several days back-to-back due to the upcoming holiday, and prepare by packing or cooking meals in advance because I had to work more frequently than usual.  But we finally made it!  Woohoo!  We’ve had a lot of fun spending time with family and will continue on the next leg of our trip tomorrow.

I was hoping to update with this post sooner but my son became sick yesterday and we spent all day cleaning him up and sitting with him.  Sick babies are a lot of work!  Thankfully today he has been much better.  Still a little cranky and very hungry.  It’s been hard to limit his food and drink intake to make sure he doesn’t overwhelm his stomach all the while keeping him happy.

sick-baby

One of the recipes that I made this past week while preparing for vacation was a Tater-Tot Casserole.  I tried it several months ago for the first time and it was a big hit for my family.  My husband absolutely loved it!  And after persuading my son to try it, he cleaned his plate!  This is a very simple recipe and you can tweak it to however you and your family would enjoy it.  Usually we would add a lot more spices to the meat while cooking it, but since Baby Girl is still kind of picky I didn’t do that this time.

tater-tot-casserole4

Gluten-Free Tater-Tot Casserole

I just love how simple and easy this recipe is to make and how much my family loves it!

tater-tot-casserole

Ingredients
1 Bag of Frozen Tater-Tots
1-1.25 lbs of Ground Turkey (or Beef)
Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1 Chopped Tomato
1 Bunch of Chopped Chives
Sour Cream
Pico de Gallo

Directions
– Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
– Brown the ground meat (my husband likes to use turkey because it is healthier but beef works just fine too).  At this point you could also add spices, chopped onions and peppers to the meat too.  I just chose not to this time.
– Pour the bag of tater-tots into your 9 x 13″ baking pan.
– Pour the browned meat on top of the tater-tots and stir so they are evenly mixed.
– Sprinkle shredded cheese on top.
– Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  The dish should look slightly browned and the tater-tots should be crispy.
– Add your choice of chopped tomatoes, chopped chives, sour cream or pico de gallo.

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I just love how simple and easy this recipe is to make and how much my family loves it!  It usually doesn’t last more than the night and maybe leftovers for one or two people.  Even my son, who tends to be pretty picky, will eat quite a bit of it.  I hope you enjoy!

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Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Recipes

Oven-Baked Mac & Cheese

Sometimes I forget how hard the transition from gluten-free (or even something as basic as paleo or just plain healthy) can be.  It has been several years for me now, so I forget the struggles I once had.  My gluten-free diet has evolved over the years and depending on my health at any given point may fluctuate as to how strict I want to be.  I remember when I first started out, I only ate veggies and meat.  Period.  Unless I went to a restaurant that offered gluten-free pasta or sandwiches or pastries, that was all I made.  Since then, I have experimented with flours and pastas and found which ones I prefer to use mainly because of taste and simplicity.  This process never ends.  My local store may start carrying a new product or as I have recently been unfortunate to discover may discontinue carrying a product I like.  So far the store has discontinued carrying (and it may be that the company stopped producing it) my Pillsbury’s gluten-free cookie dough and it threatens to discontinue carrying several dry mixes for my gluten-free cheesy breads and cinnamon rolls.  Sad times.

One of the struggles I hear from my friends often is making gluten-free pasta.  If you have ever tried it, you know what I’m talking about.  Usually the end result is a big pile of mush that is not at all appetizing, and the idea is promptly thrown out.  Trust me, I have had my fair share of piles of mush.  On more than one occasion.  And once I had mastered the art of cooking gluten-free pastas I tried to combine them with crockpot meals or stove-top meals.  Doesn’t work out too well either.  All you get is a big pile of mush in your otherwise nicely cooked meals.  Such a waste.  It can be very disappointing.

All this to say, for this blog post I would like to share a tried-and-true way to cook gluten-free pasta that my family does enjoy eating with me.  To be honest, I have cooked gluten-free pasta for so long now, I’m not sure I can cook regular pasta anymore.  But I hope this is very enlightening and can broaden your meal-plans as it has broadened mine.

Oven-Baked Mac & Cheese

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Ingredients
– 1 lb or 16 oz bag of Gluten-free pasta
– 1 tbsp of Olive oil
– 4 cups of Milk
– 4 cups of Shredded cheese
– 1/2 cup of Butter
– 1/2 cup of Gluten-free flour
– Salt and Pepper to taste
– 1 lb or 16 oz pkg of Kielbasa (optional)

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Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Boil a pot of water 3/4’s full.  Turn down the heat so the pot doesn’t bubble over.  Add 1 tbsp of olive oil to water.  Pour in the pasta.  Keep heat to just under boil and cook pasta for at least 10 minutes.  Make sure you stir the noodles every couple of minutes.  I’ve added the olive oil to help keep them from sticking together, but you still will need to keep stirring them.  The first couple of times you may notice that they like to stick together or to the pot.  Just keep scraping the pot and breaking the noodles apart every couple of minutes.  After the 10 minutes start testing the pasta to see if it is soft enough.  You want the noodles to be soft enough to chew but firm enough to keep it’s shape.  You may need to leave the noodles in for another minute or two until they are soft enough.  But you want to catch them before they start breaking down.  I promise that you will get the hang of it.  Once they are at the right firmness strain the noodles immediately.  You don’t want them sitting in water any longer than necessary or they will turn to mush.

– I would just like to note that the quality of the gluten-free noodles really does matter.  Some will never keep it’s firmness after cooking.  That is one of the most frustrating things about learning to cook gluten-free, you have to experiment with different brands until you find what works best for you.  My favorite pasta to use is pictured below.  I’m not sure if it is just from my region or if you can find it in your local stores too.  But this one stands up to being cooked and I can add it to other meal dishes and it still keeps it’s shape after being mixed in.  It even can be reheated after being in the refrigerator.
– I would also like to note that rice-based pasta seems to have the best taste and texture out of all the gluten-free pastas.  There is a new ramen-type noodle that we tried from the store that is rice-based that tasted and cooked pretty well.

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Now that your pasta is sitting in the strainer, use the same pot to cook your cheese sauce.  Turn the heat to low.  Melt the butter in the pot.  Slowly add the gluten-free flour to the melted butter and stir until completely mixed.  Start adding your milk but keep stirring.  Once you’ve added the milk, add the cheese.  Keep stirring as your add each cup of cheese.  Salt and pepper the cheese sauce to taste.  You can turn up the heat to medium/medium high to help melt the cheese but be careful not to turn the milk.  Once the cheese has melted to your liking you can turn off the heat and add the noodles into the mixture.  The noodles may still stick together from being in the strainer but they will break apart as you mix them into the cheese sauce.  Using either one 9 x 13 pan or two 8 x 8 pans, spray non-stick cooking spray onto the baking dishes.  Pour your cheese and noodles into the pans.  You can also mix in any kind of sliced meat into your dish if you so desire.  My family loves kielbasa, so we add that to just about everything.  (Unfortunately the little princess doesn’t seem to like it as much so I have been avoiding it more lately).  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

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My son still isn’t too fond of noodles, but he loved the kielbasa and cheese!

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There are a couple of basic rules to remember when cooking gluten-free pasta:
1. Quality really does matter
2. Always have the water boiling first before adding the pasta
3. Stir constantly
4. When you test your pasta, you want it to be soft enough to chew but firm enough to keep it’s shape
5. Once the pasta is finished pull it out of the water immediately

I hope this has been helpful and you can begin to add pasta back into your gluten-free diets.  If you want to add pasta to meals, always cook the noodles by themselves and never let them sit in a soup or stew.  Anytime that I have tried this they have deteriorated.  I have come to the point where I will keep the noodles separate from something like a chicken noodle soup until I add it to my personal bowl.  But anything with a thick sauce like Mac & Cheese or Alfredo or Red Sauce seems to be okay and will hold up even to being refrigerated.  It’s so nice to have a comfort food available again!

Let me know if you have found any other types of gluten-free noodles that work for you!  I think once I’ve found something that works for me, I’m extremely hesitant to try anything else for fear I will ruin another meal.  Do you struggle with that too?  I’d love to hear your struggles and and stories as well!

Gluten Free, gluten free diet, Recipes

Broccoli Apple Salad

It’s difficult to stay healthy while your pregnant, and as I am finding out, even more so when you are pregnant with a girl.  This little girl is very picky with the foods she allows me to eat and most of them tend to be sweets.  I like to joke that my son was grown on Mexican food.  Not so much with this one.  She barely let’s me eat Mexican.  I have had times when I have put together a whole bowl of taco salad together and from just the smell alone I know that I won’t be able to eat it.  *sigh*  Meal planning has become very difficult because there’s a lot of food that sound and look really good, but I’m always worried that when I’m done making the meal I won’t want to touch it.

But, there are times when I do crave raw fruits and veggies.  So when I came across this recipe, it looked really good and I thought we could give it a try.  To be honest, I was slightly nervous about making it.  In the past we had tried a cucumber salad recipe from pinterest and it was an epic fail.  I don’t know if I misread the measurements or what, but it tasted awful!  Thankfully this one turned out really good!  Everyone else really likes it and baby approves.  And that’s really all that matters!

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Broccoli Apple Salad
Ingredients
4 cups of broccoli
2 large apples
1/2 cup of matchstick carrots
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped red onions
1/2 cup of pecans
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 cup of Greek yogurt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Directions
– Start with your veggies and dry ingredients.  I just bought a bag of pre-chopped broccoli florets.  I’ve bought and chopped the whole head before, but this is just so much easier and faster!  All I did was chop some of the large pieces into smaller pieces and remove any long stems.  Slice your two large apples into bite-sized pieces.  Chop the red onion (I only needed to use about a third of one).  Combine in a large bowl.  Add the carrots, cranberries and pecans and mix together.

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– In a second bowl mix your sauce.  Combine the mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar.  Mix well.
– Add your sauce into the large bowl with your fruits and veggies.

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– Mix all together.  And voila!  Yes, it really is that easy.  The majority of my time was spent chopping and that really didn’t take that long.

I had been craving raw fruits and veggies so much that I had like a whole bowl full of this salad!  It was so good!  My son even got in on the action.  I had sliced some of the apple pieces without the sauce into smaller pieces and cut off the peels.  After having to persuade him to try a piece (he has refused to eat raw apples for a while, he only likes applesauce from a pouch) he downed a little bowl’s worth.  I was so ecstatic!  Recently he has been doing much better trying new foods and eating big people’s food with us.  Another mom-win for me!