Elimination Diet Introduction

I always said I wouldn’t do one. I was not going to do an elimination diet because they seemed like another big fad. And it sort of seems like they are! If you Google “Elimination Diet,” you will find a million different websites. You can find meal plans, recipes, and everything you need to leave you thoroughly confused!

You see, each website tells you to eliminate slightly different things. There are a few items that seem to be eliminated from nearly every elimination diet out there. Dairy, processed meats, and wheat are usually the first things to go. Many websites suggest avoiding soy, eggs, legumes, and nuts. Others also include restrictions on certain vegetables and fruits. It can be a lot to take in as you sit and wonder what exactly you can eat.

Which is why I always said no, until I was forced to say yes. Starting in high school, I developed migraines. They lasted throughout college and into my mid-twenties. Then, I got pregnant with a certain cutie pie and they virtually disappeared! I still got normal people headaches, but no real migraines! Then, the real magic came after she was born. For over a year, I did not have any headaches. No migraines to speak of. It was awesome. I thought I was cured. Then, this summer they returned with a vengeance. I once drove two hours to visit my sisters and nephews to only be able to stay 15 minutes due to a terrible migraine. I barely remember anything from the day, other than pulling over on the side of the road crying because the street lights were too bright for me. It was a difficult day.

Since then, the migraines have continued. I also have been having other odd symptoms. I’ve developed acne that I never experienced before. I have frequent heartburn and digestive issues. I have no energy at all. I am bloated and my stomach frequently bothers me. So, I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Is it hormones? Is it something I am eating? Is it environmental? Am I sick? Is it my thyroid? Anemia? What was going on with me?!

It was then suggested that I undergo an Elimination Diet. I had to get rid of all dairy from my diet for a few months last year for Cupcake. It was hard- really hard. When I added dairy back in to my diet, I looked for any unusual symptoms or reactions. However, my body seemed to be handling it just fine. I was then informed that I had introduced it all wrong. I introduced dairy as a whole category. Welcome back cheese and yogurt and sour cream and milk! Instead of taking time to introduce just one new dairy product at a time, I just reopened that category and never looked back. It is likely that one of the aforementioned food items is a problem for me, but I am not even sure which!

Finally I realized that enough was enough. Life is way too short to be feeling this terrible. I had been told to try an elimination diet in the past to deal with my migraines, so I revisited that idea. With medical guidance, I am going to embark on this journey on October 1st. I will be coming here to share how I feel throughout the process and what I learn along the way. I will be posting recipes in case anyone else ever finds themselves in the same position. This is NOT a tool for weight loss.

If you want to go on an elimination diet as a way to drop some pounds before a big event, go elsewhere. If you want to try it because some celebrity went on one, go check out his or her webpage. Instead, I will be posting because I do not have the time to be making three different meals for my family. My husband and Cupcake will be eating along with me. For those of you worried that they might not get enough of what they need, think again. This is exactly why I am blogging about it. I wanted an Elimination Diet that would work for real people with real families and I had a hard time finding one.

I am not about to go out and buy a bunch of crazy ingredients that we’ve never tried before! My meals will not always be the most exciting. They will pretty much always follow a similar pattern of protein, gluten-free grain and vegetables. Rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes will probably be my BFFs as I love my carbohydrates! This is not, I repeat, a weight loss plan. This is a chance to heal my body and figure out what is going on.

Please join me on my next big adventure!

Homemade Egg McMuffins

It doesn’t matter who you are, it seems like a common thread is that mornings are crazy. Now that we’ve hit the autumn, kids (and teachers) are back to school, adding to the flurry of excitement that is morning time.

We don’t always have time to make a full breakfast. With my husband in residency, he needs a good solid breakfast to get him started. It also needs to be fast. And healthy because I’d like to keep him forever.
Although people frequently slam McDonalds, their Egg McMuffin actually is a really decent breakfast. However, as a chain, their food uses who knows what ingredients to preserve their products. It’s also more expensive to purchase one than it is to make one!

However, it also takes some time. Time we do not have in our morning. So, I decided I’d create an egg sandwich that we could keep in the freezer and quickly warm up in the morning. In less than a minute, my sweetie has a wholesome complete breakfast.
You can just get your eggs, or even bake them. I wanted them approximately the size of an English muffin, so I used a greased cookie cutter in the pan to form my egg patties. I couldn’t find my circle shape anywhere, so Christmas ornament eggs it was! I also didn’t want to take the time to dirty up another bowl, so I just cracked the egg directly into the pan and stirred it briefly. You can alternatively mix your eggs ahead of time and pour them into a cookie cutter if you prefer!

Easy Egg McMuffins

Ingredients (yield 6)

Six Eggs

Six English Muffins

Six slices of Cheese

12 slices of bacon (or 6 sausage patties)

Directions

  1. Coat a circle-shaped cookie cutter with Pam or butter. Place into warm pan.
  2. Crack egg into cookie cutter. Stir with fork until mixed. Cook on medium-high heat until set.
  3. Use heat-safe tongs to flip egg in cookie cutter. Cook egg throughout. When cooked, turn egg into wax paper.
  4. Repeat with remaining eggs, coating cookie cutter each time.
  5. While eggs are cooking, slice and toast English muffins until preferred doneness.
  6. In a separate pan (or in the microwave) cook bacon according to package directions.
  7. When all items are cooked, assemble sandwiches. Let cool to room temperature and wrap each in tin foil. Place in freezer-safe ziplock bag.

We like to take out our sandwiches the night before and then we need just 30 seconds to the perfect breakfast. Enjoy!


 
  
  
  
  

Cuddle Fairy

The Simplest Crockpot Lasagna

My dad recently came to visit our little family. I have never gone so long without seeing my dad before, so I was very excited to have him over. Growing up, my dad was the main chef in the family. I wanted to show him all the yummy things I had been making recently. I know that he absolutely LOVES lasagna, so I decided to give it a go.

I am not sure about where you are, but in August it gets mighty hot where I live! The idea of a lasagna cooking away in the oven seemed like a bad idea. So I turned to my favorite kitchen appliance-my crockpot. The idea of a lasagna cooking away all day without heating up my kitchen sounded GREAT! This would also allow me to take my dad to the zoo with Cupcake. She has recently become super interested in animals and I figured that’d be a heck of a lot more enjoyable than him watching me cook.

My dad is a great many things. He is brilliant, witty and always supportive. He also can be a bit particular. I was nervous to say the least. If he didn’t like it, I’d know. And then I’d be sad. Thankfully he LOVED it! He ate it and then started inquiring into how much we really wanted to have for leftovers. Cupcake devoured her portion. It was delicious and I am looking forward to making it again.

This recipe is very basic and simple. There aren’t a whole lot of veggies in it, but you could easily add a layer of that in! I am planning on making it later this week with a layer of sautéed spinach and onions. Yummy!

Ingredients

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

29 oz can of tomato sauce

8 oz uncooked lasagna noodles (I use the no-bake kind, but any kind works)

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1.5 cups cottage cheese

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese for top layer

Directions

  1. Brown meat in a skillet and drain off fat
  2. Stir in tomato sauce and mix well
  3. Spread 1/4 meat sauce on bottom of crockpot
  4. Arrange 1/3 uncooked noodles over sauce (Break them to make them fit)
  5. Combine 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese with cottage cheese is a bowl. Spoon 1/3 cheese mixture over noodles.
  6. Repeat sauce-noodle-cheese layers twice.
  7. Top lasagna with remaining sauce. Cover with 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese.
  8. Cook 4 hours over low. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving.

 Let me know what you think!

Easy Breaded Chicken 

Yesterday I posted my “recipe” for homemade bread crumbs. Since realizing that I could make a healthy, clean bread crumb filled with only ingredients I can pronounce- I have been on a quest for all things breaded! After months of setting aside some of my favorite recipes, the floodgates have opened. I have since breaded chicken multiple times, made my own fish sticks, and I am already trying to figure out how to get away with another day or two of breaded meals this week.

This recipe is insanely easy. It requires almost no prep time. I was able to do it all while Cupcake colored. If you know anything about 16 month old attention spans, you know that that is quite an accomplishment!

So without further ado..

Easy Breaded Chicken

Ingredients

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs

2 eggs

1 T mayonaise

1.5 cups bread crumbs (you can use a store bought kind, or use my “recipe” for clean and healthy bread crumbs!)

If using unseasoned bread crumbs- add 1 t garlic powder, 1 t Italian seasoning and salt/pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Trim any excess fat off your chicken. Set aside.
  2. Turn broiler to high.
  3. In a bowl, mix together the eggs and mayo.
  4. In a separate bowl, add bread crumbs (and optional seasoning)
  5. Dip chicken first into egg/mayo mixture and then into bread crumbs. Be sure to coat entire piece. Place on foil-lined pan.
  6. Put pan in oven. Cook for approx. 8 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest for five minutes before serving.


 

    

Homemade Bread Crumbs

In the life of a blogger, there comes a moment when you are about to hit “publish” on a post and you wonder if what you are writing is sincerely foolish. I mean, a recipe for bread crumbs? I don’t even know if I can call it that in good faith! However, I once had to look up a “recipe” for bread crumbs and I wanted to share it with you all. Maybe it’s not so much of a recipe, but rather a method. Either way you put it, it seems crazy because it is so SO simple.

This was where the problem started. Dear Cupcake had a milk protein intolerance that she has thankfully outgrown. As a nursing mama, however, I had to completely eliminate any sources of this protein from my diet for the first year of her life. I went on a rampage! I read every label. I called and contacted many companies and restaurants. I talked up every waiter I could and wrote in special requests at weddings. I was that person, but I was willing to do anything to ensure that my baby girl wasn’t in pain from me consuming any delicious, wonderful, magical dairy.

I had to seriously alter the way I cooked. I am half-Italian, so cheese was a pretty favorite food of mine. It was easy enough to cut that out of recipes. What wasn’t easy? Realizing how many foods have dairy hidden in them! My favorite bread crumbs was one such item that I had to eliminate. I remembering sitting in my kitchen with the canister in my hand. I looked at the ingredient list, found the offending dairy, and realized we had an even bigger problem than I thought. If you ever want to make yourself sad (and waste about five minutes trying to decode unusual words), look at the ingredient label of your favorite bread crumbs.

So, I gave up bread crumbs. I gave up making breaded chicken. We no longer had fish sticks. We no longer made my favorite pork chop recipe. I was sad. Even after I could have dairy again, I couldn’t fully accept my old bread crumbs anymore. I mean, if I don’t know what’s in it, do I want to put it in my body? In Cupcake’s body?

It wasn’t until last Tuesday that a silly idea hit me. As a family, we were now exclusively relying on bread I made from scratch. It definitely doesn’t last as long as the store bought kind in the fridge. By day 5, it starts losing some of it’s softness, but we just couldn’t always eat it fast enough. I wondered what I could do with the three slices we had leftover before they went stale.

Bread crumbs. 

I could make bread crumbs. I could make breaded chicken with homemade bread crumbs! But, how on earth do you do that? It seems silly to just use bread, right? There has to be some magical list of ingredients or some special process, right?

I sent my hubby to play with Cupcake while I started my experiment in the kitchen. A few websites suggested baking it, but it was 95 degrees outside and I did not want to turn my oven on! I decided I would toast my bread. In order to avoid it burning, I did three cycles on a low setting.

Then, I laid out the toast on a cookie rack to allow any extra steam to escape. Once the bread had cooled, I added it to my food processor and voila! Bread crumbs. Three slices of my homemade bread yielded about 1.5 c of bread crumbs. It was that easy. I used them just the way I would use the store-bought kind. Being made from my homemade bread, they were pretty simple on flavor. When cooking, I decided to add Italian seasoning and salt.

So, again, I feel silly even writing this. Maybe the thought that bread crumbs should only really have bread in it has already crossed your mind. However, if you are like me and have taken nearly 30 years to come to this realization, I hope this helps! I used this first batch to make a super simple breaded chicken (recipe to come!) and it tasted so much better than I could have hoped!

Since I have rediscovered my ability to make all things breaded, what are your favorite recipes that require bread crumbs? Comment below with your links!

Stretching the Budget

I have always been someone who thinks frugally. I started keeping a budget at 15! I have no idea what prompted me to do so, but I thought it’d be smart saving for the future. It is times like now that I am so appreciative of this.

If you’re a frequent reader, you know that I am a SAHM to my favorite little girl, Cupcake. My husband just started his medical residency. A common misconception is that because my husband is a doctor, we are rolling in the money. This could not be further from the truth! To put it in comparison, I made more as an elementary school teacher.

So our family has had to look at things from all angles. I grew up with a working mom and always saw her as strong and motivated. I was proud of her for working. However, this did not seem like the right fit for me. Prior to having Cupcake, my students were my “babies.” I stayed late at work and arrived early. One of my favorite custodians used to always tease me that I was “still here.” He had to walk me out to my car on numerous occasions.

I am positive that there is a teacher out there who has a spouse completing residency, all the while raising a family. If you are that person, I bow down to you. I literally could not figure out how to make it work. The cost of childcare alone would eat into essentially my whole paycheck. When we factored in all the variables, we decided that the best fit for our family was for me to stay home with Cupcake.

Although I am not earning a paycheck, I am greatly helping our family by finding ways to save us money. I have the time to research coupons and plan my shopping trips better. I can cook from scratch, saving us the expense of having to pick up prepared meals. And all of this is still pushing it.

So, part of my “job” is looking for ways to reduce our grocery bill. I almost wish I didn’t care about preparing healthy meals so much. One of our biggest expenses is our food budget. Recently, I have been looking for more ways to cut down. I update our budget weekly, and with the numbers staring me in the face, I knew I had to find more ways to cut back. Thank goodness we live in the modern day, where finding more budget-conscious recipes are just a Google search away!

I have several websites that I use, but you all know my love for Ms. Andrea at Pennies and Pancakes. If you haven’t checked her out, please do! She has amazing recipes that not only taste great, they are very affordable. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on bread? Yea. Look for upcoming posts with some of my favorites from her website!

How about you? What are some of your favorite money-saving ideas? Please pass them along in the comments section below!

Easy Crockpot Clean-Eating Thai Chicken

You know what seems really terrible? Teething.

My poor Cupcake is currently working on adding eight more teeth to her little mouth. She is in a ton of pain. She is drooling all over the place, not sleeping well, and barely eating. As a result, I have a very clingy little girl who just needs her mama!

You all know that I try to cook in a “clean” way.I try to not drive myself too crazy about it (I’m looking at you delicious Oreos), but overall I do attempt to make clean recipes. Often when I am looking online for some momming inspiration in the kitchen, I find what looks like a great recipe. That is, until I realize it is either labor or ingredient intensive. Mama ain’t got no time for that, especially with a sad Cupcake on my hands.

After searching for a little, I kept coming across a few recipes for Thai-inspired chicken. I noticed a theme and started pulling bits and pieces from different recipes. I decided I wanted something I could literally just dump in the crockpot without doing anything extra. That is the type of easy I wanted. Plus, with the crockpot doing all of the work for me, I had more time to hang out with my favorite little lady and cheer her up!

I was surprised with how simple prep was (approximately 5 minutes), how good this was! I have made it using chicken breast, thighs or drumsticks. Pick whichever is your favorite or on sale this week, depending on your needs!

This recipe can also be made as “clean” as you want. It does have soy sauce, which in my house we use, but it’s up to you if you’d prefer a substitute! All of our ingredients are from clean brands, but you’ll have to read the labels carefully if that’s your thing.

Little side note, store brand natural peanut butters tend to be made of only peanuts and salt. Brand name ones include sugar and added oils. So, I save money and get my clean pb? Works for us!

Onto the deliciousness…

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken
1/2 c salsa
1/4 c peanut butter
3 T soy sauce
3 T lime juice
3 T water
1 T ground ginger
1 T ground garlic

(Using freshly chopped ginger and minced garlic would probably be super yummy, but again, no time).

Directions:
1. Put all ingredients into ziplock bag. Shake, massage, etc. to spread ingredients all over chicken.
2. Dump bag and all contents into crockpot.
3. Cook on low 6-8 hours

I serve ours with rice and cooked veggies for a delightfully awesome dinner.

I apologize for the lack of pictures! Once my hubby got home last night, it was time to eat and then put Cupcake (and this Mama) to bed! I will try to get some for the next time we make this and update!