Sunday, June 30, 2013

5 Year Anniversary of being Drug Free

A rather harsh title I know. However as I laid in bed this morning running this post through my head it's what came to mind. I know that many people know the passion that drives our family to become healthier each year, to question what doctors tell us, to push our bodies further and to not just sit idly by and let life happen to us.

Perhaps from the outside I might seem as though I'm being dramatic. But put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Have you:

- ever had to restrain your child so you or he didn't get hurt?
- had your child charge you with a blank look in their eyes?
- looked into your child's eyes and saw his brain racing?
- looked in your child's and seen nothing but blank hate or rage?
- had your child ask you why their brain won't stop racing?
- had to throw your fully clothed child into a cold shower to break their anger and settle down?
- had to make that horrible decision to medicate your child because you knew no other ways?
- ever had the fear that one day your child was going to be bigger and stronger than you and you wouldn't be able to control him in a fit of anger?
- had to sit in a doctors office and have them tell you that your child has severe anger management issues and needs to be put on tranquilizers?
- had your child ask you if tranquilizers were the things they gave to animals in a zoo?

...the last one was the the last straw. After Dawson asked me that question I came home and cried. I told God I was done fighting and that I didn't have the answers. I asked him to show us the path he wanted us to take. Unknown to us God had been setting up a path over the previous years that lead to that day. He had put  Anna in our lives and Dr. Robson. Anna's family had been through NAET's with wonderful results and I'd remembered a conversation I'd had with her several months before. Dr. Robson was a wonderful open minded family doctor that supported us through our journey with NAET's. You can read about Dawson's story here.

So back to the anniversary. 5 years ago this month we got our son back. He was unmedicated, we could really see him for the time for more than a few moments at a time. He was in more control over his emotions than he'd ever been. The best sentence, next to "I love you mom", came out of him. I asked him how he was feeling and he replied "good, my brain has stopped". Can you imaging being age 10 and under and having your brain spin out of control and not being able to control your actions and reactions?

After 10 years of dealing with different suggested diets, ear infections, antibiotics, dr. visits, listening the 'them' tell me what was right and wrong for my child, and not questioning enough, we were done. So how is this all linked back to food? The most true sentence out there that sums it up is that "you are what you eat". In reading Dawson's story you'll understand more, but at the end of the day the american diet with all the processed foods is the worst thing. Doctors and shots / medications are NOT always the answer.

My hope in sharing blog / FB posts about food and exercise is that it makes one more person aware that there are other options. It's more than just a yummy dish that I'm preparing for my family. It's a dish that ,in my eyes, is the difference between my family being healthy or not. It's a dish that gives them the proper energy to live life, have clear brains, learn, laugh, play and love all while allowing their bodies to be as God intended, DRUG / Chemical FREE.

A question I often get is do we 'cheat'. The answer is yes. I don't consider it cheating, as it's a choice we make knowing the outcome. If the boys are with friends they may have a slice of pizza or a cupcake or Kevin and I might have a drink or an old favorite food. Our every day diet is as clean as we can afford it to be so an allowance here or there we consider fine. We are doing our best both in diet and exercise to keep our family healthy.

My hope is that people take a step back and look at what they can do to improve their health naturally, question everything, have an open mind to alternative methods and make an informed choice. Simply put "Let food be thy medicine, and let they medicine be food." -Hippocrates


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Recycling Makes the Garden Grow

This year we planted our biggest garden ever! I was so excited with all the new things we had planted, until our lettuce decided not to grow. I'd given some extra plants to our next door neighbor and among them lettuce. Their lettuce was growing and they shared some with us. After thinking about what could be wrong with ours we came to the conclusion that because the lettuce was in the raised bed it was new soil, so not enough nutrience in it.

Then in a conversation with my sister Annie she suggested I put my weekly prep trimmings into the soil. We haven't started our compost yet so this was a short term solution. I would say 90% of our weekly garbage is food trimmings. I cringe every time I throw trimmings away because I see it as wasteful. So I was happy to take on this challenge for the day!
The trimmings started off in a small container in the morning with strawberry tops, egg shells and coffee grounds. It quickly grew and was transferred to a large and medium soup pot by the end of prep. 

After prep was done, but before the food processor was washed for the last time, I ground up all the trimmings. Yes it was a dirty job but went pretty fast. I think the task was done in just under 10 minutes. By then it was too dark to spread the trimmings over the garden, so it waited until the next day. I topped the large full soup pot and squeezed it in the fridge. 

Of course the next day I had to go out in between sprits of rain to get the job done. So barefooted with trimmings and a scraper in hand we went to work spreading the goodness over the raised bed and some in the main garden. 

 The raised bed focus was around the lettuce that needed some love.
 After I spread everything Kevin hoed it into the soil. He managed to stay clean and out of the mud.
In just a few short days, and lots of rain later, the lettuce showed a big improvement! I'm happy to say that we'll be eating some later this week! The iceberg (planted on Charlie's request) is doing better as is the leaf lettuce (my choice!). I'm anxious to get some onto a plate!
 The rest of the garden is getting very big and as a result the little things are starting to grow. This is the first tomato on the plants. I'm very excited!
Until we have our compost in place I'll be making this a weekly prep habit as that's when most of our recyclable waste is created. 

Give it a try yourself. Even if you just have flowers or a tiny garden, all will benefit!



Tuesday, June 25, 2013


[from December 2012]

Believe it or not lunches seem to stump people the most that I’ve talked to. I’m going to go back to the fact that planning helps! Embrace planning! It is one of the keys that have helped us to maintain variety and interest in our new life style.  

Every morning in our house there are 4 breakfasts to make and 4 lunches. Since everyone has a hand in the menu at the start of the week there should be NO gripes about what is put in lunches. I know very well that the kids aren’t going to eat a salad for lunch, whereas Kevin and I certainly will. So we do not all share the same lunches. However to keep from having to make to many things I’ll do different takes on the same ingredients.


Main ingredient: pre baked olive oil and salt / pepper chicken

Boys lunch: baked chicken slices, green beans, apple and nuts or plantain chips

Adult lunch: salad with baked chicken, almond slices, carrot curls and white balsamic vinegar

Winter proved to be a little more challenging with so many of the summer fruits and vegetables not available. Just because they are at the store doesn’t mean they are in season or taste the best. I worked through it but summer is so much more fun. Charlie, the youngest, has the most things in his lunch and keeps me on my toes for variety.

Here are some of his:

-       Chicken salad, Ham roll on a skewer with green olives (anything on a stick works for him, keeps it fun), baked sweet potato chips (TERRA brand) and apple slices 

-       Ham lettuce wraps (Hormel Natural Choice), broccoli, fresh berries, plantain chips with nuts and a container of coconut milk that he later dumped his berries into for eating. 

-       ABJ Sandwiches (almond butter and jam with fluffy coconut pancakes for the ‘bread’), chicken salad, baked sweet potato chips, carrots and coconut water (this is a treat once each week)  

Baked chicken and cucumbers on a skewer (again anything on a stick works), plantain chips with beef jerky, carrot rounds (different shapes keep it interesting), and fruit on a skewer (again with the stick thing) 

-       Ham and salami sandwiched between two granny smith apple slices – this was a snack one day for a lunch.  

-       Fruit skewers: these went in every ones lunch except Charlie’s on this particular day because he wanted eyeballs. Eyeballs are now a summer specialty which are raspberries stuffed with blueberries. They have smile factor. 

-       Ham and salami wraps on a toothpick (colored toothpicks make it fun), fresh berries and broccoli  

None of these lunches take a great deal to put together, you just needing to have the ingredients. Have fun with your lunches and make the presentation nice. You do not need to have the same boring salad day in and day out.

BONUS: Yvonne’s Secret Chicken Salad Recipe (shhhh don’t tell anyone)

            1 pound chicken, baked, shredded
            ½ cup green pepper , diced
            ½ cup green onions, chopped (both green and white parts)
            ½ cup mayonnaise (We use the recipe from
            pinch salt, to taste
                        pinch pepper, to taste

-       Coat your chicken in olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Bake chicken on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes until done. Chop chicken up or shred lightly in food processor.
-       Add green peppers, green onions and home made mayonnaise then mix well with spoon. Add salt and pepper if needed. We find that when the baked chicken is cooked with enough salt and pepper then you may not need it for the salad.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shopping & Pizza

[from Jan 2013]

I have to admit I’d heard a friend of mine talk about Paleo about 3 years prior to me really knowing what it was. At that point I thought it was another fad diet. Even when Kevin came home from the gym the first night and said he’d like to try Paleo, my first thought was great “less meat more veggies”! Little did I realize what we were in for. This became not only a change in our diet but in our lifestyle. The first thing I did was called my friend Zoe and asked for info. A little while later Zoe showed up with a stack of books and a list of her favorite websites.  I spent days upon days reading everything I could find.

We decided to make the leap as a family for everyone’s benefit. We used up the last of our ‘normal’ food and implemented Paleo at the same time. Within two weeks we were totally Paleo. I remember my first Paleo shopping trip, it was kind of weird if I might say so. My cart honestly looked like I’d robbed a vegetable garden. On top of that I drew some strange looks in the store and at the checkout.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts we shop at three different stores for our items, by choice. The vegetables and few box / canned items we get are from Meijers. They have a great organic selection. Our meat comes from Amici Deli in Westmont.  Our nuts, ground beef, fish and a few other items come from Trader Joes.  We do not currently purchase grass fed meats due to the cost. We are working towards getting a stand-alone freezer and purchasing a large portion of a grass fed cow, free-range chickens and pork.

I read early on with Paleo that you make the choices that you can afford. I purchase organic when I can followed by the next cleanest option if it’s not organic. By clean I mean no preservatives, nothing you can’t pronounce or you don’t know what it is. You should be able to read a label and know what everything on it is….it should be food not chemicals. Our canned items are really limited to green beans, coconut milk, olives and tomatoes.

I took a snap shot of this weeks shopping trip to give you an idea of what a families Paleo shopping trip looks like. Please remember this is food for meals for 7 days, 3 meals each day (plus snacks) for 4 people. The only things missing from the veggie photo is a head of butter lettuce and a bag of large carrots and a very large head of cabbage (that photo was fuzzy and I’m not pulling all the food out of the fridge again for a photo!). This week our family will go through 34 pounds of vegetables, 23 pounds of meat, and a few other various items. Per person that is 8.5 pounds of vegetables and 5.75 pounds of meat. Since Kevin and I are on a sugar detox our fruit is less than normal. As you can see there is very little that is boxed / canned.  The nuts and seeds will last past this week as they are for cereal and snacks.

Even if you don’t want to go all Paleo, as it’s not for everyone, add more vegetables to your diet and lean meats. Maybe try one Paleo meal each week and increase with time. At the end of the day it’s meat and vegetables with some spices. You’d be amazed at the wonderful tastes you’ll discover.

While I was writing this I remembered a Time Magazine article I read years ago called ‘What the World Eats’. I remember flipping through the photos and being amazed at how few fruit and vegetables most American’s eat verses other countries. The places that stood out the most as far as a large amount of vegetables and fruits for me were Egypt, Ecuador, Bhutan, Poland and Mexico. Here is the link so you can view the photos yourself:,29307,1626519_1373664,00.html

Now it’s pizza time! As I’ve mentioned before I’m often challenged by my family to find new ways to make their old favorites. The littlest one, Charlie, loves pizza. It was his first solid food, I’m not kidding. On my initial search months ago we made this a pizza from Everyday Paleo which you can find here. I recall the crust being very thick and dry. Then a month ago Adrienne, from the gym, said she’ had made the best pizza and sent me the link. I was surprised to see this same recipe pop up again. We gave it another try but rolled the dough out thinner on a cookie sheet. We piled on the sauce, all the way to the edges, and our favorite toppings. It was a hit the second time around with the thinner crust.

However in between the first and second time of trying a large pizza I had located  Paleo Pizzettes by Cavegirl Cuisine. The boys flipped over these.  They taste so much like pizza with a great simple flavor. You can find the full recipe here.

Very simply you combine the ingredients, make little patties, add your toppings and bake. Charlie can make these little things they are so easy! In fact here’s Charlie making them now:

For toppings the boys like sauce (Trader Joe’s Marinara sauce) and Hormel’s Natural Choice Uncured Hard Salami. This is a “clean” meat with no nitrates, no preservatives, etc. Additionally if I don’t have fresh oregano (which it calls for) I use ½ the amount of dried oregano and it works great.

Let me know if you have any questions on this post or any others.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Weekly Prep Work

I’ve referenced in several posts that I do prep work each week for meals. This is essential for our family. Yours may be different.

Math that shows why we do prep in our house:

4 people to feed for 21 meals each week 
2 of the 4 people also eat a fair amount of snacks (blaming the kids here!)
2 people work full time
2 people are in school full time and don’t cook for themselves
2 people have homework 5 nights each week
4 people work out at the gym 3-5 nights per week
2-4 people have school / church activities

When we have free time in the evenings or on the weekends we like to spend it together, and not always in the kitchen (minus what I spend on Sundays for prep). With the above tasks broken down daily it leaves little time daily for putting good meals on the table and in lunch boxes. On gym nights we may not get home until 7pm and we are hungry by that point. With prep done earlier I can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes which puts a smile on everyone’s face.

Here’s what a weekly menu looks like with what the red being what I prep in advance:

Pumpkin Muffins *Bake muffins and store in fridge
Italian Meatballs *Pre bake and store in fridge; can be eaten cold or hot
Sausage & Carrot Patties *Double this recipe so it can be used for Breakfast Sandwiches below

Sausage & eggs *Precook the sausage then reheat and add eggs for breakfast
Smoothie w/ hardboiled eggs *Hard boil eggs and store in fridge
Cereal *Prebake and store in fridge
Breakfast Sandwich with Sausage and Egg *Prebake the sausage & carrot patties from above that are used as the ‘bread’ on this recipe. Additionally you can pre cook the sausage patties and reheat in the morning

Apple Squash Hash *Pre bake and reheat
Ham wraps w/ salad & veggies
ABJ sandwiches *Precook the Fluffy Coconut Flour pancakes that are used as the ‘bread’. Then make sandwich the morning of.
Chicken Fried Rice *precook the cauliflower rice and prebake the chicken; combine when you reheat to eat
Steak Salad w/ Cauliflower Salad *Prebake / grill the steak and pre-make the cauliflower salad. At the very least for the salad pre chop the cauliflower if you want to assemble fresh the morning of

Stuffed Winter Squash
Apple Sliders w/ Roasted Sweet Potatoes *Apple sliders you can pre mix and make patties to store in fridge to cook the day of. The sweet potatoes I will peel and dice then assemble recipe day of.
Tuna Cakes w/ Coleslaw *Chop the cabbage then assemble the recipe the day of
Cod w/ baked veggies *Chop all veggies that will be baked
Family Frittata

As you can see there is very little that you can’t do in advance. The above prep would take about 3-4 hours on the weekend. I’ve gotten more efficient over the months. In the beginning this might have taken about 6 hours. 

If for some reason I’m unable to prep on Sunday then I’ll break the prep over several days. Meaning I’ll cook that nights dinner then while Kevin’s doing dishes I’ll do the prep for the next day. Each week is different. We strive to get prep done on Sundays but it doesn’t always work. Planning ahead for the week starts when I make the menu. If it’s an especially busy week then I’ll pick simple meals. If I have the time to do prep on Sunday meals can be more in depth. So when I sit to create a menu I always pull out the family calendar at the same time.

Another thing to note for prep is that you will need containers, both big and small. I try to keep the same brand of containers as they stack better in the fridge. You also may have to move your shelves around to maximize your space in the fridge. The traditional placement of shelves may not work for your new diet and the containers needed for storage.

Here are a few photos of prep:

Chicken baked with olive oil, salt and pepper (grill it if it's nice!)

Scotch eggs, sweet potato hash, egg muffins, pancakes, chicken salad, egg salad, hard boiled eggs, mayo, hamburgers pre mixed and formed, and a chicken and sun dried tomato casserole (the picture is months old so i can't tell all that we prepped - below is the same).

The baked chicken turned into chicken salad, cubed chicken for green salads for lunch. In the 9x13 is sweet potato and carrot patties along with squash patties. 

I am the master at making everything fit in the fridge. The first few days after shopping people won't touch it for fear it will tumble :) lol. Prepped food is on the top and middle right shelf, nuts and seeds are on the middle left shelf, then all the other shelfs and drawers are un prepared items. There is a separate, very large bowl, on the counter that holds sweet potatoes, onions, and other fruits and veggies that don't need to be refrigerated.

Give prep a try and see how it works for you!


The Grocery List & Menu

 I’ve met people that go grocery shopping with no menu and no list. It’s ok if this is you.  However, I have an inability to ‘wing-it’ so you will always find me with a grocery list in the store.

Prior to Paleo I always planned our dinners but not really breakfast and lunches. Those consisted of cereal, eggs and sandwiches for the most part. That is no longer the case, so planning is needed to keep everyone happy and make sure we have everything needed for each meal.

I start each week by asking everyone what they’d like to have for a few of the meals. It is a family effort and everyone is involved. I generally say that a meal needs to be something we haven’t had in a while and most certainly did not have the week before. I also look at our schedule for the week to see if we need quick meals or we can do more involved meals. This is determined by our gym schedule, Scouts or other school and church activities. Additionally I take into consideration how much of each meal can be prepped in advance because this affects the time for cooking the day of.

To start the menu I take a scrap sheet of paper and divide it into 3 simple sections: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. I write down the wanted meals as well as where the recipes are located whether it be on my Pinterest Paleo Board, in my recipe program or a cookbook.  This is helpful for the person preparing the meal, especially when it’s not me. (The list above doesn't show everything that goes with the main dish - i've gotten better at writing this stuff out on the menu. However this is an older one.)

Next I walk through each recipe and write down the needed ingredients. I generally have more than one shopping list because we get different items at different stores. Fruit and veggies come from Meijers. Meat and spices come from the meat market. Lastly nuts, coconut water, fish, almond meal and a few other items come from Trader Joes. It will take a few trips for you to figure out what you want to get from what store. You may be lucky in that you get everything from one. I’ve not found this to be the case yet due to cost and variety. Some stores just don’t carry what we need.

When the grocery list is done I review any left over ingredients from the previous week that I might be able to crossed off or reduce the amount that I purchase for the coming week. I also will check the spice list against what we have in stock so I don’t buy anything not needed.

It will take a little while to build up a good spice collection. We started with just the normal size jars because we were unsure of how much we’d use of a spice. As we empty a jar we evaluate if we need to keep it in a small container or move to a large container.  Spices are a very necessary part of Paleo and they are an investment.  The photos below you’ll see our main spice cabinet as well as our spice drawer with the red-topped containers. The red-topped containers are our large containers that we move to purchasing if we are using enough of a spice. These save so much money. In many cases the large container from the meat market is the same price as the tiny container at the grocery store. (Our large spices have grown since I originally wrote this blog. We are at 2 full rows.)


Making a menu and grocery list takes 30-45 minutes each week but saves so much time in the long run. There’s no guessing what we will be having or if we have all the ingredients. By planning ahead and being prepared it also helps you with the transition to Paleo and to stick with it. Additionally planning helps you with not over buying and having food go bad.

Give menu planning a try and see if it works for you!



Kitchen Tools

This week we are going to review what tools / gadgets I find most important to keep my Paleo Kitchen running. Everyone’s needs are going to be a little different so adjust accordingly.

ITEM (What it’s used for / Notes)

  • -       Blender (smoothies, blending soups, making mayonnaise and other sauces)
    -       Food processor (used for everything under the sun!)
    -       Vegetable peeler (seems simple but it’s a powerful tool!)
    -       Cutting boards (we’ve acquired 5 over the years and use every single one)
    -       Knives
    -       Measuring cups
    -       Measuring spoons
    -       Food storage containers
    -       Cookie sheet (making cereal, baking meats and veggies)
    -       Muffin tin (making egg cupcakes, muffins, etc)
    -       Tea kettle (heating water for thermoses’)
    -       Thermoses’ for everyone (to take leftovers for meals away from home)
    -       Lunch boxes for everyone (to carry your containers for meals)
    -       Containers to fit in the lunchboxes (this is very important and makes life easier)
    -       Tin foil (used in kids lunches when a container won’t fit, or a ‘sack’ lunch is needed for field trips)
    -       Re usable water bottles (so the kids have drinks at lunch time with their meal)
    -       Olive oil sprayer (you can find at Bed Bath & Beyond- saves on olive oil consumption)
    -       Parchment paper (used for some baking items because they can be awful to clean up after)
    -       Juicer (manual cheap brand from Meijer’s at about $5)
    -       Ice packs (for lunches)

Most of the items above may seem like no brainers if you are going to cook. However you’d be surprised how un-prepared you might be. Prior to Paleo my husband and I did cook from scratch. We had a great deal of tools but I was without a food processor and a juicer. The food processor is one of the top, if not the top, cherished item in my kitchen now.

The food processor is used for: making cauliflower rice, chopping large amounts of vegetables, chopping chicken, making mayo, blending baking ingredients, etc. On prep days (which we’ll get into in a coming post) it easily gets used / washed 4-6 times in one afternoon.

Measuring cups and spoons you need at least one set, however if you have two sets that is awesome! Again on prep days or if two of you are cooking it just makes life easier than sharing or re washing.

Another top item is everyone’s thermoses’ and lunch boxes. We’ve always been a family that packed our lunches. Being able to pack things in the right sized container that fits in your lunch is a must for me. Also being able to send along things whether they are hot or cold is also important in using leftovers or pre prepped food. In our house anything is game for going in your lunch!

Again these are just my suggestions for what we have in our kitchen and use on a daily basis to make meals happen.