Friday, November 17, 2017

The Best Sweet Potato Chili


I cringe at the thought of the dreary cold weather that is making it's way toward us, but one thing that has helped make the cold bearable is a delicious pot of homemade chili. After recipe testing several chili recipes, I have finally found one that puts all other chili recipes to shame. My sweet potato chili is bold in flavor, packed with protein and veggies, and hearty enough that you won't even miss the meat!

The Best Sweet Potato Chili

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs Avocado Oil
  • 1 Red Onion, Diced
  • 1 Orange Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 1 Sweet Potato, Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Can Green Chilies
  • 1 Can Original Rotel
  • 1 Can Kidney Beans
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • 1 Can Pinto Beans
  • 1 Cup Quinoa
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • 2 Tbs Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Avocado
  • Onion, diced
  • Cilantro, Chopped

Directions

  1. In a pot over medium-high heat, pour oil and saute onion, orange pepper, sweet potato, and garlic.
  2. Pour all remaining ingredients into the pot, stir, and bring to a boil.
  3. Once chili begins to boil, lower the temperature to medium-low or low heat, cover, and let it cook for 35 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Top with cheese, avocado, plain greek yogurt, diced onion, and chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Baking With Mama | Gluten-Free Caramelized Apple Crisp


I spent the afternoon with Jackson in one of our favorite places--the kitchen. He loves to climb up on the counter and help me cook. It has easily become one our favorite things to do together because I know that he is able to see my love for cooking and I am able to see his face light up when he discovers something new. I've had to learn patience and move at a much slower pace than I am use to, I've had to throw aside cleanliness and just embrace the sometimes chaotic nature of my kitchen, but most importantly I've had to learn how to acknowledge his interests and pour into those areas to continually build his interest. As long as he has a spatula, or two, he is perfectly content to sit.

In between, prepping ingredients and and caramelizing apples, Jackson discovered the left over bubbles in the sink. I watched as the sunlight danced through the window and kissed his sweet joyful little face. The joy those bubbles brought him, spread quickly over to me. 

We made a gluten-free caramelized apple crisp with a pecan, walnut, and date crust. It turned out being such a light and decadent afternoon treat, but the sweetest part of this treat was the experience that I was able to have with my curious little toddler. 

Gluten-Free Caramelized Apple Crisp 

  • 7 Dates, Softened
  • 1/2 Cup Pecans
  • 1/2 Cup Walnuts
  • Handful Of Pepitas
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil (Or Butter)
  • Handful Of Purely Elizabeth Granola
  • 2 Apples, Peeled and Thinly Sliced
  • 2 Tbs Cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup Coconut Sugar
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Purely Elizabeth Granola
1. Soak the pitted dates in a bowl of hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and pour into a blender.
2. Add nuts and olive oil into the blender/food processor and blend until everything begins sticking together.
3. Move to a bowl, add a handful of granola, and press into a baking dish. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and set your crust aside.
4. In a skillet, pour olive oil over medium-heat. In a bowl, toss sliced apples, cinnamon, and coconut sugar. Pour the apples into the skillet and stir for 2 minutes. Cover and lower the temperature to medium-low so that they can caramelize.
5. Once your apples are caramelized, pour them over the crust, top with granola, and bake for 10 minutes.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Crockpot Chicken Tacos


One thing that I've come to learn about being a mom is that with all of the many hats I have to wear, one is bound to drop sometime. Usually the hat that starts to drop for me is the one that comes at the end of the day--dinner. After chasing around a toddler with my six-month pregnant belly, doing laundry, cleaning the house, running errands, and just trying to keep our house in working order, I'm  exhausted. That's why that I've learned to lean on my crockpot a little more and save myself some time to just rest and eat at the end of the day.

Ever since my husband and I first got married, nachos have been a huge staple in our weekly meals. Let's face it, nachos are the perfect "poor man's" meal. It doesn't take a lot to make nachos delicious, but this crockpot chicken nacho recipe takes nachos to the next level. Make your own homemade pico de gallo and you've easily created a meal that will be a winner with your family.


In a crockpot, place 3 frozen chicken breasts, cover with 2 cans of original rotel, and 3 Tbs of homemade taco seasoning. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. When your chicken has about 30 minutes left, shred chicken, and add a can of black beans.


Chop 1 onion, 3-4 roma tomatoes, a handful of cilantro, and pour into a bowl. Juice 1 lime, mince 1 large garlic clove, crack fresh pepper, add a pinch of salt, and mix together.


Crockpot Chicken Nachos

Ingredients

  • 3 Frozen Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Cans Original Rotel
  • 3 Tbs Homemade Taco Seasoning (Recipe Below)
  • 1 Can Black Beans
  • Greek Yogurt (Or Sour Cream)
  • Homemade Pico De Gallo
  • Shredded cheese
  • Avocado

Directions

  1. In a crockpot, place 3 frozen chicken breasts, cover with 2 cans of original rotel, and 3 Tbs of homemade taco seasoning. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. When your chicken has about 30 minutes left, shred chicken, and add a can of black beans.
  2. Chop 1 onion, 3-4 roma tomatoes, a handful of cilantro, and pour into a bowl. Juice 1 lime, mince 1 large garlic clove, crack fresh pepper, add a pinch of salt, and mix together.
  3. Now it's time to assemble your nachos! Over a bead of crispy tortilla chips, top with crockpot chicken, a handful of shredded cheese, a spoonful of greek yogurt, a scoop of pico de gallo, and sliced avocado.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Tbs Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Pepper

Directions

  1. Mix in a bowl and store in an air tight container.


Friday, November 10, 2017

Finding Gratitude In The Not Yet


I spent the better part of my Wednesday bitter, angry about our circumstances, and wishing we'd be past this and into the place in life where we want to be. My attitude was terrible. I cried, I grumbled, and I felt very ungrateful. I spent the day dreading writing this blog because "Finding Gratitude In The Not Yet" just wasn't possible for me to muster up.

I just needed fresh air, to go outside and just be surrounded by people. I needed to go out and be a person, not just a mommy, wife or care taker. I just needed to be. My toddler just finished the biggest meltdown in public, I spent money on an over-priced coffee that was so bitter I couldn't enjoy it, and I felt like running from responsibility. 

While I was on my walk, I looked around, listened to my toddler point out the many things I wouldn't have noticed otherwise, and I was brought back to that place of joy. It wasn't that I needed to step out and be a person, I just needed to find comfort in living in all of the roles that I've been carrying. I needed to see the beauty of the right now--even in the muck. My toddler opened my eyes to that on Wednesday. I wasn't truly living. I was going forth, eyes blurred, just trying to survive. 

God used my toddler to show the areas that I lacked gratitude by showing me all of the little things that brought him gratitude. I may not be where I long to be in terms of location and finances, but this in between space is still life that needs to be well lived. There are plenty of things to be grateful for. Life isn't paused until we get to our end goals--it's moving forward. Time is passing, my babies are growing, and good things are still happening. I'm better because of my walk on Wednesday with Jackson. I feel free to be thankful in this place. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

3 Healthy Thanksgiving Dishes


I spent all afternoon in the kitchen with my toddler recipe testing, taking pictures, and teaching him to hopefully love cooking as much as I do. So far, it seems that my love of being in the kitchen is starting to rub off on him because everyday the first thing that he does is head straight for the kitchen, arms wide, and saying "I sit! I sit!" as he points to the counter. 

My kitchen was an absolute disaster, but it's there in those moments that we create memories. Listening skills are still a little hard to come by, but then again I can't expect much from an almost two-year old. He helped stir, pour, and hand me vegetables to cut. This went on for two hours and to my surprise (even with nap time being so close) we successfully, we meaning me too, didn't have any melt downs. 


There was a point during our time together in the kitchen, when I looked up at him while he tried to figure out the garlic press and my heart overflowed with joy. This child whom I created within my womb, quietly sits before me with his mind deeply engaged. When did he become a little person? I love this new stage. I love that I can slowly teach him about this world and all the beautiful things that we are capable of doing. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for the small wonders, the giggles, tiny hands lifted high asking to "siiit", the tiny baby growing inside of me, family, a home, bills that are paid, our health, and for the ability to create.

Today, this little toddler and I created 3 incredibly delicious healthy Thanksgiving recipes for you to add to your table this year. I hope these dishes become a staple in your home and that they are enjoyed with good conversation, joy, and an abundance of love from family and friends.

In a food processor, pour 1 cup of raw slivered almonds and grind until it becomes a chunky flour. Pour into a bowl, mix with 1 Tsp pepper, 1/2 Tsp salt, and 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder, and set aside. This is the "breading" for your crispy shallot topping.


 Now it's time to prepare your "creamy" sauce base. Begin by pouring 1 Cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 Cup + 2 Tbs raw slivered almonds, and blend until smooth. Set aside for later.


In a pot, pour 3 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in diced onion, celery, carrots, and minced garlic. Saute until the veggies are translucent and season with salt and pepper.


Add 1 package of frozen riced cauliflower and 2 cooked chicken thighs that have been shredded. Cook until cauliflower rice is hot and set aside.


In a skillet, pour 3 Tbs of water over medium-high heat. Once the water is steaming, add diced mushrooms, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and saute until the mushrooms are tender. Pour in the "creamy" sauce from the blender, turn heat to low, and let it simmer.


Pour the sauteed veggies into a baking dish, cover and stir in "creamy" sauce, add a splash of almond milk, and set aside. Have your oven preheated to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, toss your sliced shallots with 1 Tbs of olive oil, and then dust the shallots with the almond flour mix. In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute almond dusted shallots in 3 Tbs olive oil until fragrant and crispy. Cover the casserole with the crispy shallots and bake for 10 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion, Diced
  • 2 Celery Stalks, Diced
  • 2 Carrots, Diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 Package Frozen Riced Cauliflower
  • 2 Baked Chicken Thighs, Shredded
  • Salt + Pepper
"Creamy" Sauce
  • 1 Cup + 2 Tbs Raw Slivered Almonds
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 6 Mushrooms, Diced
  • 3 Tbs Water
  • Salt + Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
Crispy Shallot Topping
  • 3 Shallots, Sliced
  • 1 Cup Raw Slivered Almonds, Ground Into Flour
  • 1 Tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 3 Tbs Olive Oil

Directions

  1. In a food processor, pour 1 cup of raw slivered almonds and grind until it becomes a chunky flour. Pour into a bowl, mix with 1 Tsp pepper, 1/2 Tsp salt, and 1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder, and set aside. This is the "breading" for your crispy shallot topping.
  2. Now it's time to prepare your "creamy" sauce base. Begin by pouring 1 Cup of unsweetened almond milk, 1 Cup + 2 Tbs raw slivered almonds, and blend until smooth. Set aside for later.
  3. In a pot, pour 3 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in diced onion, celery, carrots, and minced garlic. Saute until the veggies are translucent and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add 1 package of frozen riced cauliflower and 2 cooked chicken thighs that have been shredded. Cook until cauliflower rice is hot and set aside.
  5. In a skillet, pour 3 Tbs of water over medium-high heat. Once the water is steaming, add diced mushrooms, season with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and saute until the mushrooms are tender. Pour in the "creamy" sauce from the blender, turn heat to low, and let it simmer.
  6. Pour the sauteed veggies into a baking dish, cover and stir in "creamy" sauce, add a splash of almond milk, and set aside. Have your oven preheated to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, toss your sliced shallots with 1 Tbs of olive oil, and then dust the shallots with the almond flour mix. In a skillet over medium-high heat, saute almond dusted shallots in 3 Tbs olive oil until fragrant and crispy. Cover the casserole with the crispy shallots and bake for 10 minutes.

Your Thanksgiving plate doesn't have to be boring or dull in flavor. This salad incorporates all of the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving without causing your cholesterol to sky rocket. This bed of beautiful greens is topped with roasted oven baked turkey, dried cranberries, crunchy raw crushed pecans, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, and drizzled with a tangy homemade dijon vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients

  • Handful of Mixed Greens
  • 1 Roasted Turkey Breast, Shredded
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Raw Pecans, Crushed
  • Parmesan Cheese
Dressing
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Tbs Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Lemon, Juiced
  • 1 Shallot, Minced
  • Cracked Pepper + Pink Salt

Directions

  1. In a bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. It can be stored for up to a week in a sealed container.
  2. Assemble Salad and drizzle with the homemade dressing.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Dice up 1 loaf of Gluten Free Bread. (I found this gluten-free multi-grain loaf at Meijer's and it's hands down the best gf bread i've tried) Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Pour onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes.


In a skillet, Saute 1 package of Italian sausage until thoroughly cooked and set aside.


In a pot, pour in 3 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat, saute onions, garlic, celery, and carrots until translucent. 


Toss in freshly chopped sage, thyme and rosemary into the pot, stir until fragrant, and set aside.


In a bowl, whisk one egg with 2 cups of vegetable (or chicken) broth and set aside.


Once your gluten-free bread is crispy, pour into a bowl, add the cooked sausage, cooked veggies and herbs, and the broth mixture. Stir until all ingredients are well combined and pour into a baking dish. 


Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Ingredients

  • 1 Loaf Gluten-Free Bread, Diced
  • 4 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Pepper
  • 1 Onion, Diced
  • 2 Celery Stalks, Diced
  • 2 Carrots, Diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1 Package Italian Sausage, Cooked
  • Handful of Fresh Sage, Thyme, and Rosemary, Chopped
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Cups Vegetable Broth

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Dice up 1 loaf of Gluten Free Bread. (I found this gluten-free multi-grain loaf at Meijer's and it's hands down the best gf bread i've tried) Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Pour onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes.
  2. In a skillet, Saute 1 package of Italian sausage until thoroughly cooked and set aside.
  3. In a pot, pour in 3 Tbs olive oil over medium-high heat, saute onions, garlic, celery, and carrots until translucent.
  4. Toss in freshly chopped sage, thyme and rosemary into the pot, stir until fragrant, and set aside.
  5. In a bowl, whisk one egg with 2 cups of vegetable (or chicken) broth and set aside.
  6. Once your gluten-free bread is crispy, pour into a bowl, add the cooked sausage, cooked veggies and herbs, and the broth mixture. Stir until all ingredients are well combined and pour into a baking dish. 
  7. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Thanksgiving Side Dish | Butternut Squash + Spinach Infused Macaroni and Cheese


Can you believe we are just a few weeks out from Thanksgiving? This year has flown by! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it brings the people I love most around a table of things of which I love most: food. 

This year I wanted to play around with the idea of creating a few dishes to add into the usual mix of what usually gets set onto our table each year. I wanted to come up with a kid-friendly dish that is loaded with vegetables, so that my picky two-year old would want to eat something other than bread, turkey, and mashed potatoes. After a few test runs, I finally came up with something that not only was loaded with veggies and protein, but is also award winning in the flavor department.


The base of this recipe is not the typical roux that you would naturally think to make. Instead, this creamy base is a mixture of raw slivered almonds with an equal amount of unsweetened almond milk blended until smooth.


This sweet beautiful butternut squash is the real mvp of this dish. To make it easier, I purchased the butternut squash pre-cut and then steamed it until it was soft. By steaming your veggies, you preserve the nutrients.


Spinach isn't a typical macaroni and cheese add in, but adding it proved to be a game changer. 4 ounces of vibrant green spinach, sautéed in olive oil, shallots, and garlic set the tone for the over all flavor of this dish.




Gruyere cheese is one of my all time favorites for macaroni and cheese. It has a way of adding a depth of flavor to the sauce, but I make sure it's not the one and only cheese that gets added to the mix. This dish is also filled with an aged white cheddar, and topped with parmesan cheese.


Assembling the sauce is very simple. Once you've blended your almond milk base, add the steamed butternut squash, and sautéed spinach. Blend until you get this rich creamy texture and then transfer to a skillet.


Here's where the magic happens. After you've grated all of your delicious cheese, add it to the skillet with your base over medium heat. Stir until all of the cheese has melted.



Set your heat to low and let that baby simmer. I tossed in some garlic powder, cracked pepper, pink Himalayan salt, and allowed all the flavors to fuse together. 


Once you've boiled your noodles, pour them into a dish, cover them with your sauce, top with parmesan, a homemade toasted panko bread crumb, and let the feasting begin!

Butternut Squash + Spinach Infused Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

Sauce:
  • 6 Ounces Pre-Cut Butternut Squash, Steamed
  • 4 Ounces Spinach, Sauteed with Shallots and Garlic
  • 1 Shallot, Diced
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 Cup Raw Slivered Almonds (plus 1/2 Cup more if you prefer a thicker sauce)
  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (Plus more if you need to thin out your sauce)
  • 1 Block Gruyere Cheese, Grated
  • 1/2 Block Aged White Cheddar, Grated
  • 1 Tsp Cracked Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Pink Salt
  • 1 Box Pasta Noodles (I used Rotini for this recipe)
Bread Crumb Topping:
  • 1/2 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs, Toasted In Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Pepper
  • 1 /2 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Cup Parmesan Cheese

Directions

  1. Steam the butternut squash until is soft. 
  2. In a skillet, sauté spinach in olive oil with a diced shallot, and 2 cloves minced garlic.
  3. In a blender, pour slivered almonds, almond milk, and blend until smooth.
  4. Once your base in blended, add steamed butternut squash, sautéed spinach, and blend until smooth.
  5. Pour the blender mixture into a skillet over medium heat and add grated cheese. Mix until cheese is melted, add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and turn the heat to low. 
  6. In a skillet, add 2 tablespoons of olive over medium heat, add bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cook until golden brown.
  7. Pour cooked macaroni into a dish, cover and mix with sauce, top with parmesan cheese, and toasted bread crumbs.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Our Breastfeeding Journey




An hour after you were born I was tired, recovering from surgery, and the nurse helped latch you to my breast. There was no struggle to latch you. You were determined to eat and once you were on you weren't going to let go.

I used to have dreams throughout pregnancy of nursing you--the bond that would be created, the rush of emotions and love that would fill me, and the satisfying feeling of filling your little belly. 

The first time was like magic. There was no pain. We just fell into the natural rhythm of it and we both drifted off to sleep. It was the next few days that became difficult. We were just getting used to one another when they took you away to the NICU. You were hungry and I was engorged and in pain with all the new milk that needed to fill you. 

I cried because I wanted you there to help release the immense pressure that had built up. I knew it had been hours since your last feeding and I was sick with worry that you would begin feeling the pains of hunger. I begged the nurses to bring you to me so I could feed you, but instead they brought me a pump and told me to hook up to it every two hours. So I did. I pumped every two hours, wrote my name on a label, and asked them to store it for you.

I only produced small 15ml bottles of thick gold colostrum. I was proud of what I was producing for you. They fed you with the bottles as I longed for you to be at my breast. I got a call late in the night saying that if I didn't produce 30ml a bottle they were going to supplement with formula. I cried, begged and pleaded them to not give the formula to you. I told them I would pump more, I prayed that I could pump more. I hooked up to the pump, produced just over 30ml, and cried with relief. We brought it straight down to you and for the first time in hours I was able to feed it to you. 

My milk came in strong and fast. I spent the first month engorged producing what seemed like flowing rivers of milk. With one breast, I could produce 8 ounces of milk in a pumping session. It took some time once you were out of the NICU to get into a groove, but we did. Nipples raw and sore, but you had a full belly and with time the pain just went away.

It's been a month and a half since our last nursing session. It is with so much thankfulness and pride that we ended with a solid 22 months of nursing. My body sustained you, created 22 months worth of milk for you, and grew our bond. It was both a satisfying yet heartbreaking end. I reached a point that I knew was the end of our journey. With pregnancy bring back the tenderness in my breasts, my supple slowly dropping, and you losing interest after small sessions of comfort suckling--I knew it was time.

No one tells you about the end of the journey, they only talk about the beginning. Which I understand now because in my experience, no words can really describe the pain, loss, joy, and relief that you feel all at once when it's over. I held on for so long because I was so afraid that if and when I stopped, you would stop needing me, but the reality is that no child will stop needing their mother. Just because we no longer share a bond through a breast, or even bottle for that matter, doesn't mean that you stop seeking out the loving nurture from me.

Our breastfeeding journey was a dream. It's a period of time that I revisit over and over, miss every now and then, and hold a tremendous amount of thankfulness for. It molded me, taught me how to nurture you when I didn't know to, and gave me the courage to see and acknowledge the beauty and power that the human body, my human body, is capable of.

One journey of ours may have ended, but now we enter into a thousand more. Only you and I know the deep bond of those hours spent intertwined with one another. I'll never be able to forget the way you snuggled your face up to me, your quiet rhythmic suckles, and the many gentle kisses on your fingers and toes. That time was ours and it will forever be ours.