Wellness Wednesday: GAPS Nutola

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So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I have good reason, I promise.  We put our first house on the market last summer, and let me just tell you that the whole moving process is A BITCH.  There, I said it.  No sugar coating this one.  Moving kicked my ass!  First, there was the decluttering that started well before we even interviewed real estate agents.  We had been toying with the idea of moving back to our hometown (The PTC Bubble), and when we finally made the decision that we were ready, we were committed.  We had been in our house for almost 10 years at this point.  The longest we both had been in any housing since childhood.  You would not believe the amount of STUFF that one accumulates in a 10-year period.  Or, maybe you would.  INSANE!  We started with closets, and proceeded to the basement, attic, garage, and shed.  We started with plastic storage bins for the stuff we wanted to keep for the time being but knew we needed to keep out of sight for staging purposes.  We spent a small fortune on the cheapest plastic bins The Home Depot sells.  That small fortune was not enough.  Every weekend, I tried to tackle a corner of our modest, but very full, starter home.  It took months.  I’m so proud of how our staging efforts turned out, but I was ready to sleep for a week out of sheer exhaustion of tackling such a large organization project.  I’m looking forward to sharing the end product with all of you.

At the same time, I was also experiencing a health crisis of sorts.  This may be an exaggeration, but I’m sure many of you understand the feeling of being fed up and ready for change.  You may remember from my g-free post that I suffer from psoriasis.  This has been an on-going struggle of mine that is sometimes very manageable and at other times causes a lot of stress.  I was at the point where I knew something had to give.  I had been “managing” for years, but I still hadn’t discovered what would keep it at bay for the long-term.  I debated having thousands of dollars of blood work done to determine the best course of action.  But, then I attended a free class on gut-health hosted by the Green Queen herself and led by an intelligent neuroscientist.  Both of these women had discovered the GAPS protocol on their own and had seen it work wonders in their own lives.  I was intrigued.  I dove into research and decided I wanted to give it a try.  While I was purging my house of material things and cataloging 10 years of memories, I prepared for a life-changing adventure in the kitchen.  Hubby was on board (especially since I decided against spending all that money on testing), and we both agreed Munchkin would join us for the ride.  We started the GAPS protocol the same week the “For Sale” sign went in the yard.

Y’all, I am certifiable.

More on the GAPS protocol at a later date, but suffice it to say, it is labor intensive.  Every meal and snack produced a mess in the kitchen; a mess that had to immediately be attacked so that the house was ready for showings.  I am a glutton for punishment.  The first week is a blur of food prep and food cleanup, but for the first time, I was waking up without an alarm clock and not wanting to hit snooze.  The recipe that follows is one of the first GAPS recipes I made, and it is still a favorite!  It may seem time-intensive, but most of it is inactive soaking and dehydrating time.  These steps are important in the GAPS world and help your body digest the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in the nuts.  Wellness Mama and Mommypotamus both have great posts on the benefits of soaking nuts.  I encourage you to give it a try.  Your digestive tract will thank you 😉

The first step in preparing Crispy Nuts is to start with raw nuts.  This recipe calls for cashews, almonds, walnuts (easily becoming my favorite nut), and pumpkin seeds.  I have been pretty happy with the selection at my local Costco for bulk nuts.  Nuts are expensive!  Trader Joe’s can be another great source.  The package should say “raw” and the ingredients listed should ONLY be the nut.  NO oils, salt, etc.  These are the nuts I used:


Kirkland Signature Whole Cashews


Kirkland Signature Whole Almonds


Kirkland Signature Walnuts

Pumpkin Seeds

Raw Pumpkin Seeds

The next step is to soak.  Measure out the nuts in four separate bowls.  3 cups each of cashews, almonds, and walnuts; 1 cup of pumpkin seeds.  Fill each bowl with warm water until the nuts are covered by an inch.  The nuts will absorb the water while soaking, so you want to make sure there is plenty of water in the bowl.  Next, add salt:  2 teaspoons each for cashews, almonds, and walnuts; 1 teaspoon for pumpkin seeds.  I lined up my bowls in order of soaking times and noted the end time for each nut.  The recommended soaking times are as follows:  Cashews 3-6 hours, Almonds 7-8 hours, Walnuts 6 hours, and pumpkin seeds 7-8 hours.

After the nuts have soaked, drain them in a colander and spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Dehydrate at the lowest setting on your oven, 150 being preferable.  (On my oven, this is actually the “keep warm” setting.)  Dehydrate for 12-24 hours until the nuts are dry but before they brown.  Note:  my oven automatically shuts off after 12 hours, so make sure to reset your oven before that expiration if you want crispier nuts.

Next, prepare the sauce. 

In a large stockpot on low heat, melt the coconut oil, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt until combined.  (Tip: measure the coconut oil first, then use the same measuring cup for the honey.  The oil will keep the honey from sticking to the measuring cup.)  Then, pour all of the crispy nuts into the pot and stir until coated.

Add in the coconut flakes and the raisins.

Voilà!  The perfect GAPS snack!

I store mine in an OXO Good Grip Container (available at Bed, Bath & Beyond with a coupon 😉 ) in the pantry; store in the fridge for a less-sticky version.

Bon Appétit!


Yields 1
A delicious GAPS snack!
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  1. 3 cups raw almonds, soaked and dehydrated
  2. 3 cups raw walnuts, soaked and dehydrated
  3. 3 cups cashews, soaked and dehydrated
  4. 1 cup pumpkin seeds, soaked and dehydrated
  5. 1/4 cup coconut oil
  6. 1/4 cup raw honey
  7. 1 TB vanilla
  8. 1 TB cinnamon
  9. 1 1/2 tsp Celtic sea salt
  10. 2 cups organic unsweetened raisins
  11. 1 cup shredded coconut
  1. Combine coconut oil, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and sea salt in a large stock pot over low heat until fully mixed. Turn off heat.
  2. Add in nuts and mix until coated.
  3. Add in raisins and coconut and mix well.
  4. Store in an airtight container. Can be stored in the pantry, but best if stored in the fridge.
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
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Friday Field Trip: Old MacDonald’s Farm

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The Center for Puppetry Arts is one of my favorite toddler activities in Atlanta.  We have been to several shows now, and each one has been fantastic! Munchkin was about 18 months old when we went to our first show, and I didn’t know what to expect.  But, I was very pleasantly surprised by how interactive the show was and how mesmerized he was the entire time.  

Today, we went with our neighborhood playgroup to see Old MacDonald’s Farm.  It was a blast!  The run-time is about 40 minutes, but this show will definitely hold your child’s attention!  Munchkin was singing and dancing throughout.  And, we have been singing “E-I-E-I-O” all day since 😉  It really is amazing how two actors with puppets can captivate an audience!  There have been a few shows that have a suggested age of 4+, but even those have been relate-able to my toddler. I highly recommend you check out Old MacDonald’s Farm – it runs through September 11th, and children under 2 are free with an adult ticket.  Be on the lookout for other shows this year, too.  We can’t wait for Rudolph in December 😉

Old MacDonald's Farm

Happy Toddling! 


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Throwback Thursday: Curious Colton Turns 2!

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I can’t believe another year has flown by!  Munchkin is about to turn 3!  His upcoming birthday reminded me that I haven’t even shared his 2nd birthday party, yet!  Oops!  I did share his Hole In One 1st Birthday party, and it was a huge success!  There were so many things I loved about his first party, such as the menu and the thank you notes.  But, our goal this party was to have a little less prep.  We knew early on that we wanted to have his party at the park – this kid LOVES to be outdoors!  (This meant not having to keep the house spotless while trying to prep for the party!) We threw around some ideas based on his favorite things, but we decided on a Curious George theme.  I checked around Pinterest and got some really cute ideas!  I wish I could have used all of my ideas, but I’ll just have to save them for another party. . .


Let’s start with the invitation!  I used Silhouette Studio to design these.  I LOVE how they turned out!  I downloaded a free image of Curious George with balloons.  This became our color scheme.  I also downloaded the Curious George font: Wrexham.  One of my favorite (and challenging) parts of designing invitations is font pairing.  There are some great ideas on Pinterest for this as well, but there is a never ending supply of font options.  Overwhelming, to say the least.  I just used Arial to go with the Wrexham.  It’s simple, and I chose all lowercase letters, which I thought was fitting for George.  


Curious Colton Turns 2!  Let’s Go Bananas!  This was the entrance to the park pavilion.  I used a chalkboard I already had and wrote some fun facts about 2-year-old Colton in the birthday party theme colors.  It got a little smudged on the ride from our house to the park, but I don’t think anyone minded 😉  I also made some George tissue poms.  Let me tell you, I went all over Atlanta looking for brown tissue paper.  I ended up at Hobby Lobby.  Next time, I think I’ll start there for party supplies.  That place literally has everything.  Tissue poms are surprisingly easy to make, and there are instructions all over the internet.  If you’re looking for one in particular, I used this tutorial.  I found the George face on PBS.org.  


We used Munchkin’s wagon to hold presents!  And, best part, we just rolled the wagon home after the party since our house is walking-distance to the park. 


We bought Munchkin a treasury of Curious George stories and asked his guests to sign it.  I didn’t get a close up of the sign, but it says “Someday when I’m older, I’ll be curious about who was here to celebrate with me!  Please take a minute to sign your name or leave a little message for our special and so very Curious Colton!”


The park pavilion includes a picnic table that we used for eating lunch and for crafts for the kiddos.  I printed out the same George face from PBS.org that I used for the tissue pom; these are actually meant to be a mask craft for the kids to make.  Hubby was so helpful and cut out a bunch of these so that all the kids had to do was fit the elastic to make their very own George mask.  We also printed coloring pages that the kiddos, especially the younger ones, could color.  Our last craft was decorating birthday hats!  Here is my niece modeling her finished product:


Isn’t she the cutest?!  (You can also see the birthday banner in the background; I couldn’t get a very good picture of this either.)


The park we chose has a lot of green space – perfect for letting kids run around!  I saw a cute station idea on Pinterest and decided the park would lend itself well to this set up.  We brought over the water table that Hubby built Munchkin for his first birthday.  We set up some balloons and beach balls to mimic Curious George Goes to the Beach.  We also set out the book just in case any of the kids wanted to read, but none of the kids slowed down long enough to read a story, and instead, the book was merely caught in the water crossfire.  We ended up moving it over to the pavilion to be part of the decor 😉  For the other station, we set up a tee with a ball and bat for Curious George at the Baseball GameAll the kids loved the activities, but they didn’t pay a bit of attention to the book vignette.  Oh well!  Now, Munchkin has a few George stories for his personal collection 😉


We set out a couple other George stories that we already owned for a little bit more decor.  We also set out the favors for decor and for easy grabbing as families were leaving.  When choosing favors, I wanted to find something that the kids could enjoy that parents wouldn’t resent having to keep up with or that would just end up in the trash can by the end of the day.  I found Curious George coloring books at Party City.  I paired the coloring books with party favor crayon packs (for less than $1 a piece).  Hubby painstakingly tied each bundle with a little tag that said, “Thanks for going bananas with me!” (I thought I had a close up of the party favor bundles, but I can’t seem to find it!)  I think they turned out great, were inexpensive, and I’ve had several moms tell me their kids still love to color in that particular coloring book.  Winner!



The spread!  Hubby had the great idea to smoke a pork butt on the Big Green Egg.  He cooked it overnight so that it was ready to go at Party Time.  We shredded the pork for sandwiches.  I made my favorite BBQ Sauce to go with it:  Neely’s BBQ sauce (this is the same BBQ sauce we used for Colton’s Hole in One Birthday Menu – that’s how much I love it!)  We also served pinwheel sandwiches (Thanks to Costco!), a veggie tray, fruit skewers, and my mom’s recent party favorite – mac and cheese muffins!  The mac and cheese muffins are seriously a crowd pleaser, and so much easier to serve (and eat) than a huge casserole.  We also threw some banana chips in a glass bowl for a special treat!  For drinks, we served water, juice boxes, La Croix, beer and wine spritzers.  No one is going to go thirsty on our watch!



I’m so thankful my sister is a baker!  She offered to make cupcakes for the party (do you remember the awesome cake and cupcakes she made for Colton’s Hole in One Birthday?!)  She came up with the monkey cupcakes after doing some online research, and how adorable are they?!  On the cake table, I also borrowed my niece’s mini radio flyer wagon, stuck in a stuffed George and storybook.  I also made photo balloons of Colton’s 2nd year; they turned out pretty cute!


And, here’s the birthday boy in his monkey outfit made by his Mémé!  

Happy Birthday, Curious Colton!

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Wellness Wednesday: Dryer Balls

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Do you use dryer sheets?  Do you love that “clean” smell they give your laundry?

I don’t, and I haven’t for a long time!  My quest for all things natural began with food.  Not long after Hubby and I got married, I began transitioning a lot of our foods from processed to natural.  It was a gradual transition.  As I became more comfortable cooking on a regular basis, I also looked for ways to make from scratch and avoid store-bought as much as possible.  I started to pay attention to certain ingredients to avoid:  high fructose corn syrup, high sodium levels, caramel color.  This natural transition started to seep into other aspects of my life:  personal care products and home supplies.  It is definitely a rabbit hole where one could easily get lost!  My best advice:  take it one step or product at a time!  Don’t go through your entire house and throw out anything that may be in question.  Rather, pick a product or an ingredient to pay attention to while shopping.  You’ll slowly make a transition, and you’ll realize that that one ingredient may be in more products than you would assume.  For example, I mentioned in my G-free days that I was surprised at all the places gluten hides in our food:  seasoning mixes, sauces, and just about anything in a box!  This is true for just about anything – as you start to pay attention, you’ll find things hidden everywhere! 

So, as I started transitioning products, I realized that anything not natural smelled fake.  Any chemical fragrances are generally too sweet – just think of walking into a Yankee Candle store!  There’s a reason most people get a headache, and it’s not a good one.  Those chemical fragrances are exactly that: chemicals, and our body does not know how to handle them.  After making this realization, dryer sheets were one of the first things I ditched in my quest for a natural home in addition to a natural kitchen.  I am not a scientist, so I’ll share this article with you that is very informative about how bad dryer sheets really are: 7 Toxic Reasons to Ditch Dryer Sheets.

For years, I’ve just gone without dryer sheets.  Sometimes, clothes come out with a little static cling, but I’ll take that any day over the alternative that is dryer sheet chemicals.  But, I started to hear about safe alternatives to commercial dryer sheets.  Tell me more!  Wool dryer balls are one of the most popular alternatives.  You can purchase these, or, you can easily make them yourself.  (Who am I kidding?  I told my super crafty mom about wanting to make these, and in turn, she used wool she already had to make us both a set of dryer balls!  Thanks, Mom!)  I love to add a few drops of EO to each one every several loads.  This may sound like much, but we actually hang-dry the majority of our clothes, so it’s mostly sheets and towels.  Does it get any better than naturally scented lavender sheets?  I think not! 

Dryer Balls

Happy Drying!




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Tuesday’s Title: Defending Jacob

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I recently shared with you how much I love my local library and, specifically, how much I love their e-book system!  We were on vacation with some friends, and I needed a book to read poolside.  I had my kindle with me, but all of my holds were still pending.  I logged onto Overdrive to start browsing.  I wanted a faster read: something that I could really dive into and potentially finish in a weekend. Luckily, Overdrive has a bunch of category suggestions.  One of these happened to be “books similar to The Girl On The Train.”  Now, The Girl On The Train has been on my “hold” list for months!  I was intrigued.  I read a couple summaries and decided to give one a try.  My choice:  Defending Jacob.

This book is considered a legal thriller, but I find that there is much more to the story than law and order.  This book will tug on your heartstrings.  And, now that I have a son of my own, I couldn’t help but imagine how I would handle such a situation.  A lot of internal struggle resulted, and then, a lot of relief flooded in when I remembered that we are far away from that possibility.  You see, the main character’s son is accused of a dreadful crime.  The evidence is damning and the town starts to turn against the boy.  What is a parent to do in this situation?  What is more important:  to protect one’s child or to bring justice?  Does one trust his or her child unquestionably or does one rely on physical evidence alone?  This book reminds us that there is more to every story than what appears on the surface.  And, for every accused criminal, there is a parent at home wondering what he or she did wrong and if he or she is to blame.  As I said, I experienced a lot of mom-guilt while reading this one.  But, I could not put it down!  Please, check out the e-book, find it the library, or buy it off amazon.  Such a suspenseful read with such a deep lesson.  This is much more than a who-done-it thriller.

My rating:  Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PM

As you can already see, I would totally recommend it.

I think I would put this on my list of re-reads in a couple years.  I think the lesson can be toned down to apply to more school playground altercations to be applicable to all age children.  As parents, we are often faced with a balancing act of protecting our children and teaching them to be self-sufficient in the ways of the world.  What happens when a playmate points his finger at your child:  do you automatically think your child did nothing wrong?  Do you automatically think your child is evil?  Or, do you first try to gather evidence as to how events actually occurred?  A balancing act, for sure.  You can find me answering “all of the above” on any given day!  For me, the takeaway was more of a parental lesson rather than how to create the perfect child.  Ultimately, we as parents are doing the best we can, and, at some point, our children will be required to take responsibility for their actions.  I do think this book has more to teach me about not only trusting my child, but trusting myself that I am doing the best I can.  

Defending Jacob 

Happy Reading!


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Money on My Mind Monday: Monthly Budgeting Forms

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In my last money post, I shared with you our Budget Box.  I’m still loving this new system, although, I’ll be honest in that I haven’t been quite as diligent on tracking our spending as I thought I would be.  But, still, there have been many times over the past few months when we’ve needed something, and that something has been right at our fingertips in our budget box!  I love that it sits out in our office at arm’s length.  I seem to be staying on top of filing receipts away, even if I’m not taking a second look at them, and our office has been much more organized.  Woo Hoo!

I mentioned in the last post that we decided to move away from a budget binder.  We used a binder for many years, but it just didn’t seem to be quite enough for us.  It always just felt like more work to keep it organized, so we stopped trying.  However, I did use this budget binder post as inspiration when creating our budget box.  While Hubby and I discuss almost all of our purchases – literally, almost ALL – I wanted to incorporate more of a checks and balances system into our financial routine.  One thing we already do yearly is a Tax Return Date Night.  (I know, so romantic!) But, I think it’s important that we both sit down together to go over our yearly taxes; we both know exactly where we are financially and (even less romantic) we both know how to do it in the event that the other couldn’t due to some unforeseen circumstance.  Along those same lines, I thought it would be good for us to get in the habit of sitting down each month to go over the previous month’s spending and to set goals for the next month.  I borrowed the Month at a Glance and the Monthly Check-In sheets from Thirty Handmade Days, and I tweaked them to create my own based on what categories we needed to include.  I love how they turned out!  I have manila folders for each of these forms in the first hanging folder in our Budget Box.

Month At A Glance

Fill this out at the beginning of every month and keep tabs as the month progresses.  If you have a salaried income, you can go ahead and fill in the paychecks  line item.  If your income varies, you can update according to your actual paychecks.  You can go ahead and fill in your recurring expenses at the beginning of the month.  I customized this how our recurring expenses are set up.  These are the items I know will not change (at least, not significantly, month to month.)  Your recurring expenses probably do not look exactly the same.  That’s ok!  The “Extras” column is to capture any variable spending each month:  groceries (because our amount varies), entertainment, gifts, etc.  After you have filled in all of your income and all of your expenses, deduct all of your expenses from your income.  That total is your month’s ending balance.  We choose to put any positive balance into our savings account. 

Month At A Glance

Monthly Check In

At the end of one month and the beginning of the next, we sit down and fill out our Monthly Check In form together.  This is after I have completed the Month At A Glance form with all of our transactions.  The Monthly Check In is where we grade ourselves.  We identify goals that we met as well as problem areas.  Then, we make goals for the upcoming month.  Sometimes these are general (Stop spending so much!) and other times they are specific (compare internet service rates).  This is a great place to brainstorm!

Monthly Check In Final


Happy Saving!

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Meatless Monday: Veggie Fried Rice

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“Chicken and Rice.” This is currently one of Munchkin’s favorite meals.  If we ask him what he’d like to eat, no matter the time of day, the answer is usually “chicken and rice.”  Now, rice is not generally one of my favorites.  At any Mexican restaurant, I will gladly take double the refried beans over rice and beans.  But, I LOVE fried rice!  Hibachi, anyone?  I’d seen some recipes floating around Pinterest and decided to give it a go. 

I’ve made this recipe several times now and have combined several recipes into this one.  This recipe is perfect for Meatless Monday because it’s quick and easy, but you could also easily add some cooked chicken or any other protein you happen to have on hand.  I made a full recipe of rice last week for my stuffed peppers, but I only used a portion of it, so I had just enough left over for this recipe without having to make any more.  It doesn’t look like much going into the crock pot, but we always have plenty for seconds and leftovers.  😉


Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice

Veggie Fried Rice
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  1. 2-3 cups cooked brown rice
  2. 3 TB butter
  3. 1 TB sesame oil
  4. 2 TB soy sauce
  5. 2 TB Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1/4 tsp salt
  7. 1/2 tsp pepper
  8. 4 garlic cloves, minced
  9. 1 TB minced or grated ginger
  10. 1 onion, diced
  11. 1 red bell pepper, diced
  12. 1 frozen bag of peas and carrots
  13. 1 cup broccoli (optional - I use if I have on hand)
  14. 1 cup corn (option - I use if I have on hand)
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, just long enough to cook the eggs.
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
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Meatless Monday: Stuffed Peppers

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I am terrible about using up food in our refrigerator, but I am trying to be better.  I menu plan several days at a time, but it never fails that I have left over ingredients that end up in the trash can.  Not only is this wasteful of good food, but it is also unnecessarily expensive.  I’ve been cleaning out our fridge on a weekly basis when I menu plan so that I can see what ingredients I should include in the upcoming week’s meals.  Certain ingredients obviously keep a long time in the fridge, but if I have leftover parsley, I can be sure to use it up in the next couple of days.  I call it the Fridge Challenge.  This is also a good way to see what I’m buying that we are not eating.  For instance, I always seem to have a giant bag of baby carrots in the fridge.  Untouched.  I KNOW carrots make a great snack, but I never seem to CHOOSE carrots for my snack.  So, on my menu this week is homemade hummus.  Maybe then I’ll eat those carrots.  (Or, at least, they’ll make a colorful spoon! 😉 )

Today’s recipe is a great way to use up leftovers.  You could use so many different ingredients to make your own custom recipe.  This is actually one of hubby’s favorite dinners.  He knows they are easy and cheap, so whenever I ask him for ideas to fill in during menu planning, he picks this one often.  Another reason I love this recipe is that it cooks in the crock pot but only for a couple of hours.  This is very easy to throw together at the last minute. 

Last week, I made my fabulous black bean chili.  Now, I’m not kidding when I say that this recipe makes a ton.  We ate it for lunch and dinner for a couple days, and I froze a couple pints for future use, and I STILL had some leftover.  So, I decided to use up those leftovers in some stuffed peppers.  Chili really makes a great leftover; there are so many ways you can use it!  I mixed it with some rice and tomatoes, and voilá! Yummy dinner!  Don’t forget your favorite chili toppings!  We topped ours with Greek yogurt. 🙂


Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers
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  1. 4 green peppers, tops and seeds removed
  2. 1 1/2 cup leftover chili (Use black bean chili for meatless!)
  3. 1 cup cooked brown rice
  4. 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  1. Combine the chili, rice, and tomatoes. Scoop into the prepared green peppers. Place in the crockpot, making sure that the peppers stay upright. Cook on high for 2 hours. (If you like your peppers softer, cook for longer.)
  1. Look for green peppers with flat bottoms. This will ensure that the peppers stay level in the crock pot 😉
  2. Also, when cutting off the tops of the peppers. I like to insert the knife perpendicular to the top and cut in a circle around the stem. This will also cut off most of the ribs of the pepper inside making clean out very easy!
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
Bon Appétit!

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One Pot Wonder Wednesday: Taco Stew

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I found this recipe years ago!  In fact, the printed date on the recipe is 2009.  This is definitely a favorite, although I tend to forget about it.  We make crock pot chili fairly regularly, so I have to be careful on chili-esque overload.  The great thing about this recipe, though, is that it comes together so quickly!  As in, less than 30 minutes.  This is the perfect mid-week meal when the last thing you want to do is spend hours in the kitchen.  Unless your kitchen has wine, in which case, I will gladly spend hours there 😉 

I adapted this recipe from Whole Foods’ Mexican Taco Stew.  If you haven’t checked out their website for recipes, you should know that it is a great resource.  They also have some great categories for whatever requirements you may have when menu planning.  I especially like their budget category and have made many recipes in that category over the years. The original recipe calls for taco seasoning.  While I’m sure Whole Foods has a great option free of preservatives, I have really moved away from using any pre-packaged spices.  After our g-free experiment and years of reading about the food industry in general, I’ve adopted the philosophy of making as much of my food at home and that includes spice mixes.  Not only can I better control preservatives and hidden ingredients, such as gluten where it doesn’t belong, I hardly ever have to worry if I have a certain spice in the pantry.  I also added additional zucchini to the recipe to make sure we’re getting enough greens.  Then, I don’t have to worry about a side salad 😉  Add a little Greek yogurt and shredded cheese for some oomph!


Taco Stew

Taco Stew

Bon Appétit!

Taco Stew
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  1. 1 lb ground beef
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. 1 TBS chili powder
  5. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  6. 1/4 tsp onion powder
  7. 1/4 tsp oregano
  8. 1/2 tsp paprika
  9. 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  10. 1 tsp salt
  11. 1 tsp pepper
  12. 2 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
  13. 2 zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
  14. 1 1/2 cups black beans (or 1 can)
  15. 1 can diced tomatoes
  16. 1 jar of salsa
  1. Over medium high heat, brown ground beef in a soup pot. Remove, drain, and set aside. Then, sautée the onion and garlic in the soup pot until translucent. Add the ground beef to the onion and garlic. Add in the spices and stir until combined. Add in the remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer for at least 15 minutes.
Adapted from Whole Foods Market
Listfull Days http://listfulldays.com/
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Tuesday’s Title: Book Ratings

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I’ve already shared how much I’m loving Goodreads these days!  It’s helping me stay on track with my reading goals so far this year simply because I want to update my progress and watch the slider move.  (This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  You already know how much I like to make lists, and especially, how much I like to check things off my lists. 😉 )  Each time I finish a book, I’m prompted to rate it and give a review.  That’s a lot of pressure!  I love to read, and I love to discuss the books I’ve read, but somehow putting a rating on it just seems so complicated.  It is really difficult for me to say I do not like a book.  Sure, there are books that I like more than others, but I think of books more as people who are coming in and out of my life:  they each have their place in time.  Some I may remember more strongly or more fondly, but just about every one has shaped me in some way. 

So, I figured if I’m going to start sharing books here, I should probably get more comfortable with rating them.  Part of the reason I started this blog in the first place was to get out of my comfort zone a bit.  Gotta keep pushing myself here.  When I mark a book as “finished” on Goodreads, the site prompts me to rate it and review it.  Goodreads uses a 5-star rating system:

   Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.32.52 PMDid not like it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.03 PMIt was ok

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.15 PMLiked it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.40 PMReally liked it

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 12.33.53 PMIt was amazing

Seems simple enough, but the tricky part with this generic rating system is that it doesn’t account for differences in literary style or subject.  It’s merely a factor of liking.  I guess that’s where the review comes into play, but I think there are a couple other classifications I would add to this rating system.  And, going forward on this blog, I will include them in my reviews. 

1) Would I read it again?  There are plenty of books that I liked or thought were just ok that I would love to read again.  Many classics fall into this category, mainly because I think the reason these books are considered classics is that they speak in so many different ways.  There are many books that I read in my high school English classes that I didn’t really connect with, but I would love to give these books another chance to see what message they have for me now.  Likewise, there are many amazing books that I’m not sure I would read again.  For me, they may hold a special place in my heart that I don’t want to taint.  Kind of like the concept of overselling or going back to a place that holds a special memory.  You will never experience it in the same way, and so, it will always fall short of your expectations going forward.  Better to just let the memory live on unspoiled.

2) Would I recommend it to others?  Because reading is such a personal experience to me, there are books that I think are amazing simply because of where I was (in time or place) when I read them.  Maybe I learned something about myself while reading a book, but the book itself didn’t necessarily offer profound wisdom.  In this case, it’s not the book that I remember, but what my brain registered as a result of reading the book that I take away.  In this case, I would not expect the book to have the same effect on another reader, and so, I may or may not recommend it as a must-read.  I really do think that everyone can take away some piece of wisdom or experience from just about any book.  It has more to do with the reader’s relationship WITH the book, than the book’s causal effect on the reader.  In a way, reading a book is more of a conversation, albeit a silent one, between the reader and the characters because the reader is always coloring the characters as a result of his or her own personal experiences.  For me, reading is the greatest teacher of empathy and one of the reasons reading to young children is so important.

I can’t wait to share my first review of my 2016 reading list next week!  Until then, happy reading!


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