Monthly Archives: November 2013

Christmas Memories: Without the stuff!


Everywhere I listen I hear that the recession is getting better, but I don’t see it. Many of my friends and family are underemployed, have been unemployed for large periods of time this year, or even worse are currently unemployed. When you go into stores this time of year you can get depressed if you don’t have the money to buy things. Everything is bright and shiney and is almost audibly calling out, “Buy me! I will make your kids/spouse/friends/family happy! You NEED me to have a great Christmas!”

I’m here to tell you that’s not true. My memories of Christmases growing up involve the time my mom and dad took to do things with me. I really can’t tell you what presents I got when (unless I go back and look at my journals!), but I can tell you that my parents took time every year to make things special for us.

One special thing we would ALWAYS do and continue to do is bake Christmas cookies. I remember rolling out the dough and the sprinkles everywhere. I remember the different kinds of cookies: gingerbread (so fun to decorate with icing!), spritz, peacan sandies (also know as Greek/Mexican Wedding cookies–my mom’s favorite), molasses crinkles (my favorite), chocolate chip cookies (my sister’s favorite), oatmeal raisin cookies (my dad’s favorite), sugar cookies, and sometimes a flavor of the year. Not only was it fun, but I never realized how much work my mom put into it until I got married.

Another event was the annual reading of the Christmas stories. My mom would take time leading up to Christmas to read aloud “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and “A Christmas Carol.” Until we got copies one Christmas we always borrowed them from the library. I haven’t read them in quite a few years, but I intend to revive that tradition this year!

Every year as soon as Thanksgiving was over we would get out the Advent Calendar. It was a lovely homemade felt tree with felt ornaments that someone had gifted us. Us three kids would spend hours looking at it and calculating who would go first, second, and last so that we could figure out whose turn it was to put the last ornament on top of the tree on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve was our special day. My mom would fix something special for supper. A yummy soup with different favorite crackers, pickles, olives, and cheese. My dad would read the Christmas story after dinner and everyone had their pajamas on. Then we would open our gifts. I’m not sure if we were following Portugal tradition or my parents were just trying to buy a little sleep-in time!

Most of my Christmas memories involve time spent, not money spent. I am carrying that tradition on with my daughter. So let me encourage you–if you find your pocket a little bit empty this year why don’t you consider spending an even more precious commodity with your family–your time? Memories last longer than stuff!

Menu Plan Monday November 25th!


Thanksgiving week! I am so excited! Last week was definitely soup week! We had cloudy, rainy, damp weather all week so we ate a lot of soup. I even found another soup from my new soup friend Shirley at Gluten Free Easily! Her Almost Instant Cheater Tomato Soup was amazing! I forgot how nice it was to have a can of soup to open and heat and one morning I got out what I thought was some soup from the freezer for my lunch that day. Unfortunately, it was APPLE SAUCE! This soup was a complete save in so many ways!

The theme for the Gluten Free Menu Swap over at Celiac Family is Turkey. Obviously, this is my second year skipping out on turkey so I don’t have a lot of tips. I do remember that turkey breasts were definitely a good deal and were wonderful when we went out to someone else’s home and wanted to have leftovers of our own. A few hours in the crock pot and we had enough turkey for sandwiches and some of my favorite leftover dishes.

A wonderful breakfast for dinner from my husband!

A wonderful breakfast for dinner from my husband!

We have a light activity week around here with the Princess off school for 3 days and my husband off work for 2! There will be some more treats for my husbands birthday involving his favorite order in pizza one day (just for him!) and a date lunch out at Outback for both of us on the weekend.

Breakfast: boiled egg, Udi’s bagel, coffee
Lunch: Lunch with family: Baked ham with pineapple and brown sugar, canned green beans, our version of potato skins with a variety of toppings: Velveeta/bacon, sharp cheese/bacon, vegan cheese/coconut bacon (SO super yummy! I was excited that the taste and texture of the coconut bacon was spot on!) and apple crisp with ice cream for the dairy tolerant. (I had a slice of pizza because I forgot to plan my main dish since I was so busy making the other things!)
Dinner: Popcorn, Hot cocoa

Rest of the week:
Pumpkin donuts

Breakfast for dinner: Egg Salad with bacon/coconut bacon
Spicy Shrimp in Saffron Tomato Sauce with rice from “Kitchen Counter Cooking School”
GF Chicken nuggets, French fries, veggie (These butternut squash nuggets for me!)
Thanksgiving: I’m bringing the following: Popovers, green beans (for the GF people who can’t eat the casserole), Vegan Mini Pumpkin Pie Shooters, Sugar-free Apple Chia Seed Jam mini pies. I will use this crust recipe and then top the pies with coconut whipped cream. I will also be making these lentil mushroom meatballs for my main dish so I have something to eat with the cranberry sauce!
Smoothie, popcorn
Fish, sweet potatoes, broccoli

For more menu ideas check out Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday! Or for gluten-free menus check out Celiac Family and the Gluten Free Menu Swap!

A Year Later…


For those who haven’t read the events leading up to the birth of a “The Girl Who Couldn’t Eat Anything” began about a year ago last October when I found out that I had to give up whole groups of things that I was used to eating.

Not only was I shocked, but it’s been a roller coaster of a year trying to figure out how to have a divided kitchen, helping my daughter go gluten-free, and wondering if I would ever be able to eat some of my favorite foods or not.

I went from longing to eat bacon, cheese, and roast chicken to being resigned to my fate and back again. As I started feeling better I wondered if I would ever go back to eating the way I used to if I could. I was pretty convinced that I wouldn’t. I mean I love vegan recipes and they are so yummy. I am not completely convinced about not eating animals, but I know they are terribly mistreated in most cases. Now that I know how they are treated I would hate to be a part of that kind of system. Eventually I would like to try some farm raised animals as my budget allows.

I had a checkup a few weeks ago with my chiropractor. I am actually in good health overall. I asked about adding in some meat or something like that and she said that since I’m doing so well the way I’m going that I should just stick with the status quo. I was quite disappointed.

She did suggest adding in some probiotics and I started with GoodBelly. I liked the way it made me feel and it was helpful with my gut health, but I did not like the price and I hated the taste. Then I had the chiropractor test me on Kefir. Amazingly I found out I can consume up to 2 ounces of Keifir per day. I am so excited! Kefir is 99 percent lactose free and I have been excited to feel the results. I have had success in using plain Kefir occasionally as a substitute for buttermilk in some recipes. Amazing results!

I also found out I can have butter! I had forgotten the stupendous taste of butter and I am excited to be able to use it again just in time for Christmas cookies! As I continue to heal and am able to eat more foods it makes me curious as to what exactly caused the breakdown in my digestion. Was it a break down in my immune system with a large serving of stress added on or am I just extremely sensitive to GMOs? Does any of this have to do with the vaccines I was given as a child? Some interesting thoughts as I reflect on the year past and look towards to future.

Here’s to a year with yummy, easy to fix food that doesn’t make us sick to our tummies!

Menu Plan Monday November 18!


It was cold last week for Florida…for one day! However, it was just in time to really enjoy some dairy free gluten-free clam chowder which was just wow. I always feel nervous about creamy dairy free soups, but this clam chowder passed with flying colors! Even my picky husband thought it was amazing, so we’ll be having it again soon.

The theme for the Gluten Free Menu Swap over at Angela’s Kitchen is Thanksgiving menus. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it’s such a relaxed day. We get to spend time with family and eat and we don’t have to worry about doing anything the next day. (I have done Black Friday shopping a couple of times, but I much prefer to do it sitting in front of my computer nowadays if there’s anything I really want!) My husband’s birthday is also around Thanksgiving, so we usually do something special for that also. I am not sure what I am bringing for Thanksgiving yet, so I’ll be checking out the swap for some ideas. Obviously, it’s a bummer if you don’t do the turkey, but there is another vegetarian in the family we get together with so it’s inspiring to bring something to share. I did see these meatballs that looked like fun. It’s always nice to have something to eat with cranberry sauce! I might do some sort of dessert? I am not really sure yet!

GF, DF Clam Chowder with fresh-baked gf bread!

GF, DF Clam Chowder with fresh baked gf bread!

I am bringing on the soup again this week. Maybe if I make enough soup it will get slightly chilly here in Florida right? I am hoping anyway. Our cook once or twice for the week experiment worked wonderfully, so we might be doing that again next month. It was awesome having roasted potatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, and other things all cooked an only needing to be heated up. I almost felt like I was on vacation for the week! We also ate the fridge clean that week which was a change. It was nice to go shopping and have spots to put everything when I got back and it was wonderful not to throw out food!

Breakfast: Paleo donuts, coffee drink (similar to this at Minimalist Baker!)
Lunch: With the family: steak and shrimp, roasted potatoes, green beans, pumpkin ice cream. My sister made the pumpkin ice cream and I SO need to make that again soon. It’s so amazing that my whole family agreed that it was yummy!
Dinner: Avocado Salad, canned fish

Rest of the week:
Paleo Chocolate Chip Muffins
Pumpkin Streusel Loaf (using quinoa flakes instead of oatmeal)

Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs with veggies
Corn Chowder First time trying this–will either make coconut bacon for me or skip the bacon on mine.
Sweet & Sour Stir Fry (with shrimp instead of chicken)
Broccoli & Rice from Happy Herbivore
Smoothie & popcorn

For more menu ideas check out Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday! Or for gluten-free menus check out Angela’s Kitchen and the Gluten Free Menu Swap!

Menu Plan Monday November 4!


After a few days of 85 plus degrees F, we finally got another cold front. I even started my first batch of hot cocoa of the season! I am super excited for cooler weather.

The theme for the Gluten Free Menu Swap is cranberries. I haven’t bought any cranberries yet this year, but they are one of my favorite fruits for holiday themes. Last year I went on an all out search for cranberry sauce without corn syrup in it. I finally found it, but it was difficult. Maybe I will consider making my own, but I do love that it comes all smooth in the shape of a can! There is also a quick bread that we always made with cranberries. Maybe I will rework it to make it gluten-free! I think the only thing I will be having with cranberries this week is this smoothie: Clean Eating Chocolate Cranberry Smoothie.

Halloween candy I made for myself!

Halloween candy I made for myself!

I made my own Halloween candy since there is barely anything I feel safe eating. This was certainly delightful! (I subbed almond butter for the peanut butter!)

We decided to go about our menu planning a little differently this week. I have to work mornings again and although I like cooking, but I don’t like getting stuck in the kitchen in the evening (the worst time of day for my energy level!) cooking and cleaning up. So my husband and I came up with a bunch of things that he and I could cook this weekend and doing that have the bulk of the cooking out-of-the-way for the week! So while there will be a slight lack of recipes this week I hope it will inspire you to try some of the same ideas and create your own meals with a bunch of ingredients.

Baked fish, baked sweet/regular potatoes, roasted butternut squash, cooked beans, roasted broccoli, grilled fish/pork chops (we used the new Penzey’s 3001 BBQ spice blend and it was WONDERFUL!), grilled zucchini and onions, and baked beans.
We also purchased some lunchmeat/steak sandwich meat for the meat eaters, and have some ground beef available for meatballs.
I have beans available for beans and rice(in the freezer) or refried beans, some cashew cheese, spinach/lettuce/tomatoes/cucumbers/carrots for salads, soup in the freezer, and several kinds of fish.

We have eggs (both for breakfast and other meals) and waffles for breakfasts and plenty of apples/oranges/pineapple/bananas/pears for breakfasts and snacks.

I normally like having a detailed list of meals so I know exactly what I have to do each day. Usually I do menus a month in advance, but with Halloween last week and the Fall Festival at our church plus a couple of memorial services in October the menus just didn’t get done. This kind of menu plan is a nice break to help me catch my breath while I work outside the house this week. I’m also excited because I’m hoping that it means less food waste–I hate throwing veggies out!

For more menu ideas check out Org Junkie’s Menu Plan Monday! Or for gluten-free menus check out Celiac Family and the Gluten Free Menu Swap!

A Tribute to a Friend…


rain drops
These past weeks I’ve been extra sad. One of my friends from college passed away recently. We had lost touch since we both graduated, but his name always made me smile and made me remember the experiences we had working together. He was great at making people laugh and being a friend. Here are some of my memories of Chris.

When I first started working with him (we worked in the computer lab/tutoring center together) I was in charge of putting together the schedule for the students. I got Chris’ availability sheet from him and filled out the schedule according to the needs of the computer lab. Chris didn’t like his schedule so he went to our boss’s boss and got it changed to what he wanted.
Even though we got off on the wrong foot after the scheduling conflict it was impossible to stay annoyed with Chris for long. He would tease and crack jokes until even the people who never smiled were laughing heartily.

On Valentine’s Day that year I was feeling a bit blue. It seemed everyone around had significant others to celebrate with. In trying to focus on others instead of myself I brought heart shaped cookies into to share with my co-workers. Chris went crazy over them. He couldn’t stop complimenting them and he made my day brighter. When they were gone he suggested that I should make St. Patrick’s Day cookies for the next holiday!

Chris took St. Patrick’s Day pretty seriously. I made sure that I wore the required green in the form of scarf. Sure enough, Chris went around trying to pinch everyone who had not donned green. When he got through with those people he came around and tried to steal my scarf so he could pinch me also!

Chris liked to get involved in his workplace and correct things that he saw as problems. He lobbied with our boss to get a raise for some of the students who had more responsibility. When our boss wouldn’t deal with something that Chris saw as a problem he would fill out a complaining comment card. Boy did he get in trouble, but he soon charmed his way out again.

Chris was smart, had a lot of confidence, and he loved helping people. This made him an excellent tutor. I also knew I could ask him whatever outrageous question that came into my head and he would either know the answer, make a satisfying answer up, or be able to find the answer. I wasn’t one to regularly ask for help with my school work, but I requested Chris’s help with a couple of school projects and I was glad I did. He helped with a group accounting project where the whole group was confused. We got an excellent grade. He also helped me with a web page project that I was making too complicated. I ended up getting 100 percent on the project. I made him some cookies to thank him for his help.

Looking out for others was part of Chris’ personality. There were a few older guys around campus who were known as stalkers. One day one of them came into the computer lab and was talking to me. Chris came over and told him to get lost. When he didn’t leave right away Chris came over and spoke to him again. I never saw or heard from that stalker again.

Chris was a good friend. He had that unique quality of irritating you, but making you smile and laugh at the same time. It was fun watching him win people over with his charms. He will be sorely missed. Some quotes from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White accurately sum up the way I felt about Chris’ friendship. “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte, “That in itself is a tremendous thing.” “Wilber never forgot Charlotte…. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend…”

Photo Courtesy of Douglas R Witt via flickr.