Monday, May 1, 2017

Hawaiian Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Apparently, summer has decided to show up a little early to the party this year! Instead of the frigid temps of last year, we've already managed to hit 90 degrees a couple of times. 

For my outdoor little girls, this is nothing but good news! Hot temperatures means grilling out and Cades Cove and hikes and parks and, the best yet: water fun. (Admit it. They're pretty much the cutest ever!)

But, I digress. On the food front, Madelyn feels that summer means endless hot dogs.




Don't get me wrong, I'm all about some all-beef franks  every now and again. But, this kid is asking for them every single day! (The plus side is I no longer hear the words 'Momma, want a roll-up!'. Those things were getting old, quick.) The downside is that I'm ready for a break from hot dogs. That being said, Sunday is our crockpot meal day. Since my husband and I work in the two year old class during second service at church, we get home a little past our normal nap time and still need to have lunch. If I don't want to go out and buy something on the way home, the crockpot is about my only option. 

I decided that this Sunday, I would try something a little outside our norm: a pulled chicken sandwich. It would be ready when we got home, and, hopefully, could become a new toddler favorite, which would grant me a blessed reprieve from hot dogs. Did I mention that she wants them every day? I did? Well, go figure. 

I'm pleased to report that these sandwiches were a hit!! We put them on Hawaiian rolls, and they were delish! We ended up getting two meals out of it! Score! Madelyn even asked for them today for lunch, instead of hot dogs!! Miracle!! 

Now, I will say this isn't the healthiest meal option that we've had in a while. It's got processed sugar in it(eek!), the rolls certainly don't make it low-carb, and we definitely had to tweak some things to control the salt content. But, if you're looking for something summery, easy to make, and toddler approved--this is definitely for you!! 

Couple of notes, as always:

First, credit where credit is due: this picture isn't mine. It belongs to the creator of the original recipe (link above).

Secondly, due to my oversleeping, I cooked this on high for four and a half hours as opposed to low for six to eight. Third, I didn't add the teaspoon of salt, I used low sodium soy sauce, and I cut the Worcestershire sauce to 3/4 tsp instead of 1 1/2 tsp, all in the name of lowering the sodium content. Finally, I used dairy free butter instead of the "real" thing. 

I do intend to try this and cut out some of the sugar, whether by just cutting it down, or replacing it with a healthier option. 

Overall, I've got to give this dish two thumbs way up--the girls loved it, I loved it, Matt loved's definitely earned its way onto our regular meal rotation! 

Give it a try, let me know what you think!! 

And, just because I can, one more picture of my summer-lovin' babies!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Oh-My-Goodness-Swallow-Your-Tongue Pancakes

You guys.

I'm kind of a breakfast addict. And, by that, I mean breakfast foods. I can't think of a time when breakfast food is a bad idea. I love it all: eggs, omelettes, bacon, sausage, pancakes, waffles, breakfast bakes, muffins...whatever you want to throw at me, I love it.

That being said, most of the breakfast foods that I like aren't super great for you. Lots of sugar, lots of grease. And, since we're dairy free--I'm now running into the dairy issue. Even still, I occasionally get the urge to play around with a new breakfast recipe, instead of sticking to my new-found tried and trues.

Today was one of those mornings. Over the past six months, I've tried several different pancake recipes. I never can get quite happy with them. Something is always missing. I should mention that the one breakfast thing I don't like is syrup. Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Consequently, my pancakes need to be AH-mazing. And, so far, every recipe I've made has fallen flat. When I announced to my kids I was making pancakes this morning, Madelyn looked at me for a moment, then said, "No. No pancake. Eggs. No pancake." That's how flat they've fallen. Even Lilah looked disinterested.

"It's ok," I assured them. "This time, they're going to be amazing. Girls, you're gonna love 'em! Just wait. Give Momma half a chance, huh?" Another long heartbeat of silence. Then, Madelyn gave her customary little shrug, "Okkkkkkkaaaaaaaayyyyy," she said, dragging it out like she does when she doesn't believe you.

Undaunted, I whipped out the ingredients for yet another dairy free pancake recipe and tugged my beloved Kitchen-Aid front and center.

And, ya'll. This. This is the one. This is the dairy-free pancake to beat all pancakes. I will never go back.

They were fluffy. They were delightfully cinnamon-y. They practically begged for a little drizzle of honey and a topping of tart strawberries. They were (relatively) healthy comfort food at it's very best. And, better yet--it called for one third the amount of sugar most recipes I've seen use. ONE THIRD. (I am really preferring to sweeten things more naturally--honey is my fave way. See above: honey drizzle as opposed to syrup. A grand idea.) These pancakes didn't call for you to cook them in leftover bacon grease. (I've seen that on a ton, and why? Why would you do that?? No judgement here if you like that, but I just can't imagine it.)

And, look at them. Just look.

 (One of these days, I may quit taking pictures on paper plates...) But, they're still amazing, even on a rather plain canvas. Here's the link back to the original recipe:

As always, a couple quick notes:
    First, I used my organic coconut sugar for the tablespoon of sugar. I find it lends more of a--caramel?--taste, which I prefer.
    Secondly, when it calls for a smidge of cinnamon, I went a little happy and put in a tablespoon and a half.
  Third, to butter the griddle, I used dairy free butter.
  And lastly, I mixed my dry ingredients in the Kitchen Aid, used a bowl to mix all the wet ingredients together, and then created a well in the middle of my dry. I then added the wet to the dry and mixed it together until I got the right consistency. That was instead of adding the dry to the wet and whisking it all by hand.

All in all, I've got to give this recipe five stars and then some. It was absolutely delicious. The kids ate theirs with no topping as fast as I could them off the skillet. I waited and topped with a small drizzle of honey and strawberries. Yum.

 These pancakes were so easy! From start to finish, the whole thing was completely done in less than thirty minutes. Give them a shot and tell me what you think!!!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sesame Chicken and Veg

Uhm, yum.

Seriously, guys, this stuff was delish. Usually, when I cook, the kids like it, but pick and choose what they're feeling. Matt eats it, I eat it, and there's still some left over.

Today, so not the case.

(Granted, we were all starving after an impromptu trip out to the runner's market. And, after an Insanity workout, a smoothie to tide you from breakfast to almost two o'clock--just not going to cut it.)

Anywho, I digress. The point is, I almost didn't make the planned lunch. We almost cheated huge and went out to eat, because it was easier and would at least feel faster. Thankfully, the kids were already crying for a nap in the backseat, so we decided going out would be too risky and instead headed straight home.

This meal--sesame chicken with rice and vegetables--was super, duper easy. The ingredients were simple, the steps were well laid out--from start to finish, it's thirty minutes of cook and prep time. So, all in all, not so bad.

And, I mean, seriously. Just look at it. It's delightful. It's got just a little bit of kick and a hint of tang and...yum. Go make it. Seriously. Like, today.

In fact, here's your link:

That being said, a couple of notes I'd add:

First, this recipe is not laid out to cook for a meal right then. (Obviously, right? It's a meal-prep lunch bowl.) I didn't think about that, though, and so my veggies were just a hair on the cool side. Next time, I'll use two pans and make it at the same time so that everything is hot and fresh.

Secondly, I reserved a little of my sauce and stirred it into our rice for added flavor. You can choose not to, but I think it really made everything go together well.

Lastly, I didn't add salt and used low sodium soy sauce and chicken stock. Trust me, this stuff doesn't need it. (And, of course, we're trying to watch sodium intake.) It's still got quite a bit of salt, and, personally, I think adding salt to any part of it would make it a little like licking a salt lick. Without added salt, it was perfect! (I did put some Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle Seasoning on the veggies.)

And that's it! Give it a shot! Tell me what you think!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Better Together

You guys. I've said it before, I'll say it again:

My husband rocks.

Absolutely rocks.

Over the last several months, I've developed something off a passion for getting more healthy and more fit. (I mean, you guys have seen the posts: the billion recipes, the new-found love of green and growing things, the Insanity workout program. I'm not-so-secretly obsessed.)

And, various things have given me little "highs" that keep me reaching for that goal--not necessarily a body weight goal (though I have one), but that desire to be healthy and fit and strong. When I see results, it keeps me motivated.

In this one week of Insanity, I've lost several inches off my body. In a week. That'll keep you going back for more!!

When I started, I couldn't make it through the very first part of the warm-up without a break. Doing some push-ups was right up there with being placed on a torture rack, and, though I've never thought of myself as a heavy sweat-er, my daughter picked my bra up out of the floor while I was showering and asked, "Mommy, why's this so wet?" I, still gasping for breath, informed her that was Mommy's sweat. She nodded sagely: "Yeah. That's shoo. Shoo." And dropped it back to the floor. Yesterday, I made it through the first AND second parts of the warm up without even a pause. Heck, yes!

My kids are another little shove in the right direction. I have spent most of my life worried about my weight. Sometimes I was up, sometimes I was down, but I don't think there has been one day that I was comfortable in my own skin. I want pictures of myself with my kids, but I wind up deleting most of them because I can't handle the way that I look. I hate to go clothes shopping anyway, but especially when I go and everything on the rack looks like it was made for one of Madelyn's dolls in comparison to me. I do not want my kids to suffer with body image like I have. How miserable!

And yet, the only real way to do something about that is to show them, every day, what being comfortable in your own skin looks like. It's to show them that working out is as much a part of our routine as breakfast or combing their hair. It's to live out exercising as a joy instead of a drudge. It's being excited in front of them about healthy foods and good, clean sweat, and changing, stronger bodies.

Nothing makes me prouder, of myself and of my girls, than having them squat down on the floor beside me and attempt to go through motions that they've watched Mommy do. When they succeed, Madelyn jumps in the air, laughing, and yells, "I DID IT! Li did it, too! Yay!" ( I assure you, sometimes the girls do it better than I do!) When I love my exercise and I love my good, clean foods, I'm teaching them that those things are of value and something to find pleasure in. It's not something that we do to approach a number on the scale, or get a certain look--it's joy in taking care of the body that God blessed us with. It's remembering that, though my "temple" has gotten saggy and a little rough around the edges, I can whitewash it and sweep out the cobwebs and patch up some boards. And, then, watching my kids get excited right there with me--what a thrill.

You guys, I've even caved enough to let Mads help me cook. This is a huge step, and I wash her hands up to her armpits first and am still really paranoid, but once she helps cook it, she's excited to try it. And I want veggies to be exciting for her! So. Big deal there.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, that I'm LOVING this life-change. It's not a diet, and it's not one exercise program: when I'm finished with Insanity, I plan on looking into Insanity: Max 30 and TurboFire. I love the push, the intensity. I. Love. It. And, my wonderful husband has watched me love it.

He's graciously allowed me all the freedoms in the kitchen that I want, to change our whole family's eating habits.

"What? You don't want to buy soda anymore?...Ok, we'll drink water."

"Cutting back on carbs and processed sugar? Alright, sounds like a plan."

"No dairy?? Uhm. Well, if you think so. I trust you."

Guys, who does that? Who literally says, whatever huge changes you want to make in the kitchen--even though when we got married you couldn't so much as plate a grilled cheese sandwich--you go for it. I've got your back, I'm great with whatever you want to do. ???? Is this man trying to apply for sainthood or what??

And,then, the kicker.


"Matt, if I finish Insanity this round, will you do another round with me?"


"I want our kids to see healthy living as something we both do and love and are excited about...." Cue about a thirty minute long discussion, which was mostly me rambling about all the reasons I've become passionate about this subject. (Hint: There are a lot of reasons. I'm keeping this post relatively short. He patiently listened to them all.)

"Ok," he said when I was finished, "But, if I'm going to do it, let's do it together from the start. You're already a week in. Would you mind starting over with me, so we can do it together?"

WHAT? Uhm, YES, totally!!!

So, today, instead of being the start of Week Two for me, is going to be the Fit Test to start Insanity for both of us. I love my husband for a million reasons, but not the least of them is that he takes my passions, and he doesn't just encourage them from a distance. He grabs hold and helps me succeed. He stays alongside me
to make goals seem achievable. He doesn't complain about the logistics. He just finds a way to make it happen.

We're going to get healthier, fitter, more active, together.

We're going to be good examples to our kids, together.

We're going to fall in love with being healthy and fit and strong, together.

We're just better, together.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Tuscan Chicken: DO IT

Ok, so another killer recipe.

 Because. Hello? Food.

Like I mentioned before, we've started being dairy free. Honestly, (I know we're only about a week in), I haven't found it just terribly difficult. In fact, Matt told me just yesterday, "I think I had a harder time switching to eating healthier foods, when we first started that, than just cutting out the dairy."

Now, I don't know if we'd still feel that way if we weren't trying new, delicious stuff all the time, far, so good!

The other day, I stumbled on a recipe for Tuscan Chicken. I know that, traditionally, this recipe is fairly heavy on the dairy aspect. In fact, the blogger that I jacked the recipe from started her post with:

              "There are some original recipes that are so laden with dairy, that I wonder if I’m a pure lunatic to even try replacing them."

But, trust me, here, guys. This recipe is a definite win. 

It has sun dried tomatoes, swimming in a (miraculously dairy free) cream sauce, along with spinach, and tasty chicken. Garlic gives it another little boost of flavor, and that SAUCE. Gravy sakes, that sauce is out of this world. 

Madelyn, who I never expected to care much for tomatoes as everything new is a challenge--actually picked them OUT to eat them first. Shocker, I know. 

Lilah didn't have a favorite part, she just dug into everything in front of her with gusto. She loved every bite.

Matt insisted that this recipe be in our usual rotation, almost as soon as the first bite hit his tongue. 

I LOVED it. 

And, it was super easy!! (In fact, it was easier than the side I paired it with--Scalloped Potatoes. Though, those were delish, too!! You honestly never even missed the cheese!) 

Isn't it gorgeous?? And, to think, it tastes even better than it looks!! Quick note: That picture is not mine. That is courtesy of the original author. No copyright infringement intended, all credit where credit is due!  

The only thing I changed with this recipe was that I used low-sodium chicken broth. And, I opted for their optional choice of spinach instead of romaine. Oh, and I used about a fourth of a cup of the sun dried tomatoes instead of a half, on the grounds that they aren't cheap and I have other recipes I want that bottle for!

Here's the recipe:

You guys have got to try this one. Dairy free or not, it doesn't matter. This is straight up gold when it comes to feeding your family something that makes their bellies smile. It's easy and straight forward and delightful--no excuses!! :)

 Let me know what you think after you've given it a shot!!

Friday, March 3, 2017


   Around Easter, quite a few years ago, my husband and I got engaged. I looked down at myself and decided that I needed to lose some weight--fast. In my search, I stumbled on the Insanity program. It looked like an effective means to lose, so I started.

I lost alright. But it was a beast. I mean, killer. I didn't finish the full sixty days, but I did it fairly consistently until not far off of our wedding day.

Now, back then, I worked out, but I never changed my eating habits. I still drank soda, ate a ton of processed sugar, and vegetables were unidentifiable oddness that took up an unreasonable amount of the grocery store--space that would be better spent on Oreos and Hot and Spicy Potato chips. These days, I'm losing slowly but surely, even without consistent exercise, just by cutting out the crap. But I'm ready to move it along!

Fast-forward. I'm considerably larger than I was back then(as in, a good fifty pounds bigger--EEK!), and my gym visits have been somewhat sporadic, related to kids' illness, general busyness, that sort of thing. Today was one of those days where it was going to be difficult to carve out enough time to drive over there, workout, and get back in time. Then, I remembered.


(The name is so, so apt.)

Excited, I threw on some ok-to-sweat-to-death-in clothes, cleared a good space in the living room, and put the Fit Test video on. Madelyn wandered over and sat on the couch, Lilah not far behind.

"What'cha doin', Mommy?" she asked me.

"Mommy's tired of being fat, honey," I informed her. "I'm going to exercise! Eating right has helped, but Mommy wants to get fit and healthy again." She didn't look noticeably convinced. In her sweet little drawl, she said,

"Oookkkaayyyy." I nodded, taking that as encouragement, and hit play. By the middle of the warm up, I was ready to collapse into a puddle in the floor. Both girls stared. Then, Madelyn hopped down off the couch.

"'Mon, Lilah! Exer'ise with Mommy!" And, the next thing I knew, Mads was jogging in place, jumping, and giggling her way through the various exercises.

At one point, I paused, doing all I could to draw breath. I swiped a forearm across my sweaty head, shoving back unruly hair. I dropped my hands to my hips and sucked in air as best I could.

Beside me, Madelyn used a palm to push back her--still in place--hair, put her little hands on narrow hips, and let out a breath in one big gush. "Whooooooo!" she said, mimicking my panting. Then she laughed, little rotten thing! If she were any older, I'd think she was making fun of me!!....I'm still not totally convinced she wasn't!

I dropped down for plank obliques. Madelyn laid face down on the floor, cheek pressing up against the cool hardwood and watched me. Lilah laid on her back, then scooted underneath me, so that her nose was an inch from mine. She clapped and laughed and thought my struggle was so funny--what new game was Mom playing with her, here in the floor? (I didn't have the heart to tell her that Mommy wasn't playing--she was dying.)

When the workout finally finished, a mere million years after it began, I laid on the floor myself for a few minutes. When I almost had my breath back, I sat up.

"Well, girls," I told them, "I think that deserves a high-five." Both of the kids obliged. "Let's hit the showers!" Madelyn nodded.

"Hit shower, Mommy!" And we were done.

For today.

Tomorrow, be watching, here we come! I've got cheerleaders/helpers, now!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It's Finally Here!

Guys, this is it.

Today is the day.

Today is the going-all-the-way-dairy-free day.

For the last several weeks, I've tried out some recipes, not used as much milk, as much cheese--basically, we've been nervously dipping our toes in the water, checking it out.

But, today, March the first, is the day that we quit that nonsense and cannonball on in!!

I'm super excited about the switch; I really, wholeheartedly believe that it will be a game changer for us. As I've studied up on it, I've found the health benefits to be amazing and the literature to be absolutely inspiring.

Already, we've found some recipes that we've loved: Ham and Potato Soup with Leeks, for one.

Some recipes that will probably be even better with some modifications: I'm gonna have to put Butternut Mac (As a replacement for Mac and Cheese) pretty firmly in this category.

And some recipes that we will never, ever try again: Creamy Lemon Asparagus Pasta--wow. Matt said whatever we did to that dish caused it to kill flavor. No matter what you added, no matter how much spice, and even with the pretty powerful taste of asparagus, that dish pretty much tasted like straight up wet cardboard. It never developed a flavor at all. Which was sad.

But, I digress.

Wish us luck, and send us your recipes!! (Or jump on the bandwagon with us, and I'd love to hear about it!!)