At the time of publication, all recipes were free of the allergens listed as being free of in the title (i.e. soy-free, milk-free, etc.), and all other information shared was accurate to the best of my knowledge.
Though I strive to update outdated information quickly and work diligently to make sure you have the most accurate information possible at all times, it is your duty to double check labels EVERY TIME to ensure that the ingredients you use are SAFE FOR YOU.
Your doctor or allergist should also be your first go-to for information on how to handle your medical needs. That being said, if you DO notice an error, please send me an email letting me know (tell me what page or recipe the error is on, what the error is, etc.), and I will correct the error ASAP.
Thank you so much!

Please Be Advised:
I make sure all of my recipes use foods that are free of the allergens they say they are free of. You will need to do the same. For help with this, please see the appropriate "Alternative Names" page for the allergen(s) you need the recipe free of.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Twinkie Cupcakes (Soy, Fish and Nut-Free, Can Be Milk-Free)

Today is a most exciting day for me!
Today, all, is my SITS Day!

What is SITS and what's a SITS Day
Well, SITS is a group of women bloggers (over 40,000!) who support each other through visiting each other's blogs, leaving comments, rallying behind each other - basically we're each other's biggest fans! :)  It's like constantly having your own personal cheerleaders who are there to answer your questions, give you tips and words of encouragement and so much more.  What's not to love?! :)

A SITS Day is like Christmas or a birthday for bloggers.  Monday through Friday, SITS highlights a blogger and that blogger gets flooded with visits and comments from other SITS girls, and today is my day to be pampered with some SITStah bloggin' love!  WOOT! :)  So awesome!

To all the SITStahs joining me today, welcome!  I hope you enjoy your visit.  To all my returning readers, I hope you'll check out SITS and get to know that wonderful community!  There are some amazing ladies there, for real!  Simply wonderful!  Lastly, to SITS, thank you for featuring me!  I feel beyond blessed to have this honor!

Ok. *tampers down the excitement just a wee bit with a deep breath, but let's out a squeal anyway*  Can you tell I'm just a wee bit excited!?!?!?! :D  Ok, ok.  Back to this post. :)

Today is my brother's birthday, you all!  Seriously!  He's 33!  How cool is that that I have my SITS Day on his birthday?  I just think that's like the best "Big Sister stole your day, bro!" thing ever! LOL :)  No, seriously, John, if you're reading this, I love you, miss you and wish you the best birthday EVER, and this recipe is JUST FOR YOU!

Ok, so when my twin sister and I were Juniors in college and my brother was a Freshman (we went to the same school - yes, we're nerdy that way!), and my brother's birthday came up, we decided that we had to throw him a little party.  My brother is a Twinkie and Oatmeal Creme Pie guy, so we decided to buy him Twinkies (since we were poor college gals) and make him a Twinkie Tower with little plastic bugs on it (we thought that was fitting since he worked in the kitchen and lived in a dorm and things get nasty and smelly...and well, you get the picture), and I think there may have been Oatmeal Creme Pies, too, but I'm not sure.  Anyway, we had our little party in the kitchen where he worked with his kitchen buddies and it was a lot of fun and made his day. :)

In honor of that memory, I decided to find a recipe for a healthier option of the Twinkie (especially since their future is looking not so good), and scoured the web for one.  I found one here by Rachel Rappaport of Coconut and Lime that looked promising.  I did modify it a little to make them cupcakes and fit the flavors a little better and there are some variations you can do to it, as well, but I must say, it is a good knock-off recipe.

Now, if you're thinking the "new Twinkie" taste, you might be a little disappointed with the recipe as is, but if you're thinking "classic Twinkie", this recipe does not disappoint!  It's got great sponge cake with a surprisingly light filling that's simply delish!  The recipe is also soy (if you use all soy-free ingredients), fish and nut-free and can be milk-free (see variations), so you can't beat that.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did (my hubby loved these and he doesn't even like Twinkies!).

Now, may I present to you, in honor of my SITS Day and my brother's birthday...

~*~ Twinkie Cupcakes! ~*~

Twinkie Cupcakes

For the cream frosting/filling:
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy-free, all-purpose flour

1/2 Cup milk

1/2 Cup confectioner's sugar

1/2 Cup cold, salted, full-fat butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the cake:
1 Cup soy-free, all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

dash of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 Cup milk, at room temperature

4 Tablespoons salted, full-fat butter, at room temperature

1/2 Cup white sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

  1. To make the cream filling/frosting, mix the 2 1/2 Tablespoons flour and the 1/2 Cup milk in a small sauce pan and boil over medium heat, stirring consistently, until thick.  (Note: This takes about 1 minute or so.)
  2. Cool the mixture and then beat until fluffy before adding the confectioner's sugar, 1/2 Cup butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (amount based on preference) one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Transfer the cream to the refrigerator for at least one hour.  (Note: The cream should be cold and rather stiff when you go to use it later.  If you are going to use it as filling, don't worry - it softens when you pipe it.)
  4. While the cream is getting cold, preheat the oven to 350oF and line a cupcake tin with 6 to 8 liners.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the 1 Cup flour, baking powder and dash of salt and set aside.
  6. In another small bowl, stir the 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract into the 1/2 Cup milk and set aside.
  7. Cream the 4 Tablespoons butter and the white sugar in a large bowl until fluffy.
  8. Beat the egg into the batter until it is very light and fluffy.
  9. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, thoroughly incorporating each addition before adding the next.
  10. Divide the batter equally among the prepared cupcake liners and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the cupcakes are just becoming golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the center cupcake comes out clean.  (Note: Do NOT over bake!  They tend to be dry if you do.  Thus is the nature of sponge cake.)
  11. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, remove from pan and allow them to cool completely before filling and/or frosting.
  12. If you want to fill them, using a pastry bag or cream-filling gun, fill the cupcakes with cream.  If not, or after you do this step to all of the cupcakes, use the (remaining) cream to frost the cupcakes.
Variations (Please make sure that any substitution you use fit your particular allergen needs!):
  • Milk-Free: Substitute a dairy-free milk for the milk and a dairy-free butter for the butter (SoDelicious and Earth Balance are good brands).
  • If you want a different filling/frosting that may be more towards the "new Twinkie" taste, there is a few things you can try:
    • Add 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice when you add the vanilla to the filling recipe.  This lightens up the filling a little more and might be the taste you want.
    • Use half butter, half shortening/coconut oil or all shortening/coconut oil in the filling recipe.
    • Add 1/2 to 1 Cup Marshmallow Fluff to the filling recipe, either with the original recipe or with one of the variation above.
    • There are also some other variations on the web if you'd like to try them.  You can go to and search "Twinkies" and see for yourself or Google "Twinkie recipes".
  • If you want an even greater "classic Twinkie" taste, use banana extract in place of the vanilla in the filling or use half vanilla extract, half banana extract.

All in all, a good recipe for a great day! :)


If you're interested in connecting with me, you can subscribe to this blog via email (it's in the right sidebar about 1/2 way down or so), join me on Google Friend Connect (also in the right sidebar just above the subscribe button) and/or join me on any number of social channels like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Circle of Moms (these are in the right sidebar, too, if the links here don't work). 

Feel free to email me as well, if you have questions or comments, or you can leave a comment below, and I'll get back with you ASAP. :)  I'll do my best to answer each and every comment and email in a timely manner, but sometimes it takes a few days!  I do hope you understand!

If you're interested about my life with Fibromyalgia (and about the other things pertaining to my personal life that pop up there, too), feel free to check out my other blog, Fibro, Fit and Fab!

Thanks again for stopping by,
and I hope to see you all again real soon!

(This recipe was originally posted on my original site, Natural and Free.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Unknown...

I just love the quote above.  "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God." - Corrie Ten Boom.  She certainly knew what she was talking about!  It is such a relief to know that, even when we don't know, God does.  He will take care of the details, if we just trust Him.

I have struggled to write this post, and it will probably still stay in "draft" for awhile, but at the same time, I feel the need to write it, but in a way that shares just enough and not too much, if that makes sense.  Anyway, I guess I feel like, I need you to know that I struggle, too.  I feel like you need to know that I am not above trials, and even with my positive outlook, sometimes it's hard to be positive.  I forget God is there sometimes and struggle with the fear of the unknown.  I face hardships and fears that sometimes seem even too big for God.  It is at those times that God's Word is a comfort and surrounding myself with friends and family and fellow believers is so important.  It helps so much to know I'm being prayed for. :)

At any rate, here are some unknowns that I'm struggling with at present and ask that you please pray with me about, if you would.  Thanks.

  1. The decision to home school next year.  I'll admit, this is hard.  I don't know what curriculum to use, how to go about it, and I'm completely overwhelmed.  I know it will all work out because this is what we believe God wants us to do, but it feels "too much" right now.  I will just keep praying that God works out all the little details, and that we will find the right curriculum that will work for my boys, especially my middle guy who struggles with reading and writing.  I want to do right by him more than anything, and I am trusting God to show me the right way to teach him so that he can not only get by but thrive and excel.  I also want my oldest to be challenged enough.  It will be an interesting time, for sure!  Prayers welcome, please and thank you! :)
  2. The decisions regarding our health.  We are trying to make good decisions about what to eat, how much to eat, exercise, sleep, medications, vitamins, supplements, doctors, specialists, etc. and that can be a big task.  Deciding what doctors to see or not see, when to call or not call, can be a bit challenging at times.  We want our kids and ourselves to have the best health possible in all aspects, but we don't want to just leap when sometimes it is better to wait, especially in regards to medications. 

    As to our food situation, we know that is not something we can change all at once, or we won't stick with it, and we've been doing our research.  Let's just say, WOW!  There's a LOT to read out there for sure!  We have the head knowledge, I'm sure of that, it's just implementing what we know in the right way.  God is working in my heart and my hubby's heart on the same things which helps so much.  Being on the same page is always a plus.

    Please pray that we will make the changes we need to in the right way, and know when to press for testing or just "wait and see" or medicate or not medicate.  Thank you. :)
  3. The decision to trust God with a true unknown.  This is the update on the unspoken request I talked about here before, but it may get a little TMI, so I apologize for that (and if there are kids who are reading this, you need to ask your parents/guardian if it's ok for you to read further), but I feel that I need to share this.  God won't let me let it go (trust me, I've tried to ignore this), so I am going to trust Him and share it.  Ok, here goes...

    Before I begin, here's a little background that is important to what I have to share.  After I had our daughter, I had a Tubal Ligation (we think - it was not in the surgery notes, though it was on one piece of paper, so we were told it was done, and we're trusting that) and then about 7 months later or so, I had a Thermal Endometrial Ablation with D&C done. 

    We did the Tubal because each one of our children was born early (each one earlier than the last, in fact), we'd gone through 2 NICU experiences, and my health was not in the place where we thought we should have any more children.  We prayed about it and believed it was the right choice, though definitely not an easy one.  We weren't against having more kids, we just thought (especially after talking with the doctor) that it was more of a risk than we should take. 

    We did the Ablation later due to very heavy periods that were coming too close together in the hopes that it would help that and keep me from having anemia issues or even a hysterectomy.  We agreed that it was the best choice for us and the safest, especially since we'd had the Tubal and were not planning on having more children.  This matter was also bathed in prayer, and we had God's peace about this, too.

    Anyway, the Ablation seemed to work, the Tubal seemed to do its job, and we fell into life again, believing and trusting that everything would be just fine.

    In January of this year, I had a missed period.  I didn't think too much of it at first...but then I started having early pregnancy symptoms.  I knew the chance was pretty slim, but I had read and heard it was still possible, so we bought a pregnancy test.  The results were negative, so I relaxed a little, but still found myself worried. 

    For one, we never had 100% positive proof that the Tubal had been done.  For two, I felt pregnant based on symptoms.  I cried and tried not to worry, begging God to show to me if I was or not so that we could see the doctor and hopefully not hear some horrific news about a tubal pregnancy or low survival rate.  I didn't mind at all the idea of having another baby, even if the risks were higher, I just didn't want to find out that a Tubal had NOT been done and I'd made the decision to have an Ablation that made my uterus nonviable based on the belief that it HAD been done and then have the baby not survive or worse.  Just broke my heart in two thinking about it.

    It was a full week after I took that test before my period started (that's later than I've ever been in my life), and when it did, it was very heavy, almost like a regular period (I've not had more than spotting in over 2 years), and that concerned me a little, but not too much because I was so late, I figured it was probably a little normal.  There was some clotting, too, but most of it looked old vs. new (you gals will know what I'm talking about, I'm sure), so I decided not to worry about it too much...Until it lasted for 2 weeks.  I couldn't get out of my mind that perhaps I had indeed been pregnant and lost the baby, but I decided to call the doctor and see what they thought.

    I couldn't get through to my normal OBGYN, so I called a local doctor who was a midwife who I've seen before, knowing they could answer my questions.  They listened and told me what to watch for, but told me that I didn't need to come in as of right now.  They couldn't tell me for sure or not if I'd had a miscarriage, but from the sounds of it, they thought I should be ok unless this, this and this happened kinda thing.

    Let's just say, it's been an emotional ride for me.  I may never know this side of Heaven if I was pregnant or not, and in some ways, I don't want to know.  It makes it that much harder.  It's hard to wonder if I'm being ridiculous or not to wonder about it, too.  I guess it's normal to wonder, but still, there are times I feel foolish about it all.  All in all, there may be a sweet little baby I will never see on this Earth waiting for me in Glory, or there may not be, but I know that God is giving me peace about it all.  He has shown me that to dwell on the "what if"s in life doesn't help anyone.  I can wonder about it, but the truth is that I simply don't know - only God does.  I will trust that God will help me through the wondering and help me trust that it will all be ok and calm my heart.

    I know that if things continue to be different around my monthly cycle that I'll have to go in and have a check-up to make sure something isn't amiss (and regardless, I'm talking to my regular doctor about it in March when I'm scheduled to see him).  Early menopause runs in my family and Fibromyalgia can mess with your hormones, so (although this may not have been a miscarriage) this may be the beginning of something that needs more looking into.

    Please pray that I will allow God to bring His peace and that I will know when to call the docs and when to wait.  Thank you. :)

I am so grateful that I have God, wonderful friends and family to help me through all the unknowns in life.  To have someone hold your hand, give you a hug and tell you, "I'm praying for you" makes all the difference in the world.  To know that you can pray, to feel God's peace - I don't know what I'd do without that!  It is such a comfort to me.

I hope you haven't minded reading about my struggles today.  I wish I didn't have any, if I'm honest, but that simply isn't true.  The one positive side in it is that I understand when you say you are struggling.  I may not have your exact struggle, but I know what struggles are like.  Know that I pray for you all, especially when I'm having a rough time because I know I cannot be the only one, and that chances are, one or more of you is having a worse time than me!

What are you struggling with today?
If you wish, leave a comment or send me an email and I'll make sure to pray for you specifically, by name and situation.  You are not alone, my friend!  I'm hear if you need me - don't forget that! :)  Love you, my readers!

UPDATE, 2-27-12: I talked to the doctor's office about the Tubal and was informed that it IS on my discharge notes in several spots, so it was done.  That is a huge load off of my mind.
Also, one of the things we had to decide was about an eval my middle kids to determine the cause of his learning issues.  We could get it pushed up IF we said we were concerned about his condition being a mental problem (like schizophrenia, multiple personalities, etc.) which we (the doctor and us) do NOT believe is the case.  We decided that we'd rather be on a waiting list indefinitely waiting on an eval than to have our child labeled forever as us thinking he was mentally unstable. 
He is also making some great strides in his learning, but still struggles in some basic areas in regards to reading/writing.  We believe he has a type of Dyslexia and/or Sensory Processing Disorder, but the testing (so far) has been inconclusive, so the eval is the only way to get to the bottom of things so that we can help him thrive in the learning department across the board.
At any rate, we'd rather keep guessing and checking with his learning than have it on record somewhere that we thought he was mentally unstable when we clearly do not.  He's just a smart kid who has trouble getting it out in a way we can relate. :)

 (This post was originally posted on my original site, Fibro, Fit and Fab!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake (Soy, Fish and Egg-Free, Can Be Milk, Nut-Free and Diabetic Friendly)

I have been hearing about mug cakes for a long time, but never knew how to make them.  Honestly, I thought they might turn out rubbery or just plain off.  I did try a few recipes that ended up like that, but this one...This one works...Especially if you're a chocolate and peanut butter combo lover like me. :)

I found the original recipe on Budget Bytes by Beth, and modified it to fit my personal tastes better.  It is soy (if you use all soy-free ingredients), fish and egg-free and can be milk-free and nut-free and diabetic friendly (see variations).  I'm sure you could make it gluten-free, too, but I'm not sure how that would work out in the microwave.  If someone is brave enough to try it and let me know how it turns out, let me know!  I'd love to add a gluten-free version! :)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake
2 Tablespoons soy-free, all purpose flour (white whole wheat would work, too)

2 to 3 teaspoons cocoa powder (the baking kind)

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1 Tablespoon olive or canola oil

2 Tablespoons milk

1 to 2 Tablespoons soy-free, natural peanut butter, creamy or crunchy

  1. In a mug, mix flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt with a fork until well combined.  (Note: The amount of cocoa powder you use depends on how you want the chocolate to taste.  If you want it more milk chocolate, use the lesser amount.  If you want it more dark chocolate, use the greater amount.)
  2. Add oil and milk and mix until there are no lumps remaining in your batter. (Note: It is crucial that there be no clumps!  Unlike oven baking that leads to clumps baking out and leaving your cake more light or airy, clumps in microwaved cake leads to bitter bites of nastiness.  Do not do!)
  3. Drop the peanut butter into the center of the batter, and push down to submerge if necessary. (Note: The amount and type of peanut butter you use is based on preference.  I prefer to use a peanut butter that has sugar in it like Jif's Natural over something without sugar like Smucker's Natural in this recipe because it tastes a little more like filling to me vs. peanut butter in the middle of a cake, but the choice is yours.)
  4. Microwave the mixture in your microwave on HIGH for 1 minute and enjoy.

Serves 1.

Variations (Please make sure any substitutions fit your individual dietary needs.):

  • Milk-Free: Use a non-dairy milk such as SoDelicious for the milk.
  • Nut-Free: If you can use a tree nut butter, sub that for the peanut butter.  If you can not have either, sub a seed butter for the peanut butter.  You can also omit the peanut butter and sub jam or preserves, chocolate chips, caramel sauce, Marshmallow Fluff, etc.
  • Diabetic Friendly: Sub any approved for baking sugar substitute for the sugar.  If you use a liquid sugar or sugar substitute (i.e. honey, Agave, liquid Stevia), I would mix it in when you do the milk and oil.  I am not sure how that would effect the taste and texture of the cake, but you are more than welcome to try it and see how it turns out. :)
  • Enjoy experimenting with flavors.  As I mentioned before, you can sub any number of fillings for the peanut butter.  You can even mix a few, if you wish, like chocolate chips and caramel sauce, jam and chocolate chips, etc.  Just keep the amount down to around 2 Tablespoons so your cake isn't too mushy.  You can even sprinkle the top with sugar before you microwave it for a little bit of extra sweetness if you'd like.  You could even add a little cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon or so should be sufficient) to your cake if you like cinnamon with your chocolate. 

Chocolaty, peanut butter gooey goodness for one?  Yes, please!
Sounds like something to enjoy after the kiddos are in bed when you need
a nice little mental vaca or unwind time, doesn't it? :)

Enjoy your day!

P.S. Next week, my recipe will go live on Thursday vs. Tuesday or Saturday because...well, you'll just have to wait and see! :D  I just love surprises, don't you? :)

(This recipe was originally posted on my original site, Natural and Free.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

How We Met...{My Valentine Love Story}

Our first official date in February of 1997, a Valentine's Banquet
So I was reading on The Dose Of Reality, how they are going to have some memory lane type Q&A with their spouses on Valentine's Day.  I was thinking that was a pretty awesome idea, and when they asked what question(s) I would add to the list to ask your spouse, I said, "What was your first impression of me and why?"  Why did I want to add such a question?  Well, they say first impressions are everything...but they aren't always the end all.

You see, my hubby and I met under...unusual circumstances to say the least.  First of all, my first memory of him: He was trying to dunk a basketball in short 80's shorts in the gym at college and failing miserably!  I took it as him trying to impress the ladies in the house and not doing so hot!  The shirt he had on was a weird Mountain Dew one, too, that totally looked like a Budweiser Frog shirt to me which made me do a double take because we were at a Baptist College that did not allow those things (FYI, neither one of us drink and never have - but I didn't know that about him at the time) so I wondered just who this yahoo thought he was!  Needless to say, I left the gym laughing about "the guy in the shorts who had that shirt that looked bad but wasn't and who so can't dunk!"
Just days later, if not the next day, we were playing sand volleyball on the same court and ended up on the same team.  The game was horribly one-sided, and our team was winning and the other team had a horrible time serving.  My hubby (who then was just "that guy") decided he was going to plop down on the ground and start building sand castles in the middle of our game!  Not only that, but when he got the chance to serve the ball, he nearly took my head off - TWICE!  Seriously!  I asked another girl on my team who this idiot was, and she said, "Oh, that's Bob!"  I decided then and there that I did not like this "Bob" very much, and went away from the game hopeful to not see him again!
Fast forward to the next semester (our second semester of our Freshman year), when there is a Valentine's Banquet coming up.  I don't have a date and my friend, Andy, who I'd helped fix up with the girl of his dream (they are married with 4 girls, I believe, now) decided that he simply MUST repay my kindness by finding me a date to the banquet.  Well, I blush and stammer and hem and haw and tell him that that's totally ok, I don't need him to do that.
His response?  "Oh, Julie, you need a date!  I'll tell ya what!  The next guy that walks through that door is going to be your date!"  Did I mention that we were in the cafeteria full of mostly guys and that it was a small college so everyone knew me more or less and everyone heard his announcement?  Oh, yes...Embarrassment knows no bounds here!
The next words out of my mouth were my mixed blessing, "No way, Andy!  You wouldn't do that to me!"
That, to Andy, screamed one thing: CHALLENGE!  I saw his eyes twinkle.  I saw his smirk.  Oh, boy!  I'd done it!
And who do you suppose was the guy that walked through those doors?  The college hottie?   Nope.  The college jock?  Nope.  The guy formerly known as Bob who, I learned in that moment, was really named Aaron by Andy's declaration, of course!  It went something like this:
Andy, jumping out of his seat and looking like a crazed mad man, way too giddy to be human: "AARON!  Roomie!  Buddy!  You know Julie, right?"
Aaron, nodding a little while turning the same shade of red as me, while we both were so stunned and powerless to stop it all.
Andy, plunging ahead without waiting for a proper response, the rest of the room silent and watching, whispering to each other: "A little?  Ok.  Cool.  You don't have a date to the banquet and she doesn't have a date, so why don't you go together?"
Oh, yes.  It happened.  Time stood still, the world waited and watched Aaron, waiting for his response.  What was it?  Wait for it...
Aaron licked his lips, fidgeted a little and looked like a deer caught in the headlights and said, "Um...I think...I think I have to work that day," and RAN out the door.  Worst part?  He didn't have a job! (Not a paying one, anyway - he did do odd jobs for experience/school credit, but no one knew that.  All anyone knew was that he was an unemployed guy who just said he had to work to get out of a date!)
Oh, the horror!   He didn't just leave, he high tailed it out of there like he was on fire, too!  Ugh!
The laughter that erupted.  The redness of my face!  The look of "Well, I tried!" on Andy's face and the shrug!  I tell you what, I felt like the ugliest and most unwanted woman on the planet at that moment.  I wanted to kill Andy.  I nearly did!  He did apologize for making me look bad and all that, told me it was Aaron's loss, etc. - all the proper things to help a girl feel better, but it still hurt.
Over the next week or so, interesting things happened, though.  Aaron had asked Andy if I'd really wanted him to ask me.  Andy said, "I dunno.  You'll have to ask her!"  When I asked Andy if Aaron (who was actually kinda cute, even if he was kinda color blind and didn't always match and seemed a bit nerdy) really wanted to ask me, he'd say, "I dunno.  You'll have to ask him!"  The frustration that is that man! LOL :) 
Andy must've known what he was doing, though, because that wondering lead me to start asking questions about Aaron and finding out he was actually a really nice guy.  Aaron was also asking question about me, and knew my sister (who had actually gone out to dinner with him - he'd taken her as a "thank you" because she'd helped find him a ride home at Thanksgiving, nothing romantic) and thought I was kinda in her shadow and wondered what I was really like, and suspected I was pretty cool.  Anyway, one thing lead to another, and I determined that IF he was the first guy to ask me to the banquet, I'd say yes (like any guy would ask me after what Andy had done in the cafeteria, but I digress).
Word must've gotten back to Aaron, because the next Chapel day (I believe it was a Wednesday) he asked to sit by me, which I agreed to.  He showed me pictures of his sisters (Don't ask - I still don't know and neither does he.  An attempt to break the ice, I guess.) and then said, "Did you want me to ask you to the banquet?"
I said, "Um, sure," and he said, "Ok," and then there was silence.  I was waiting for an official asking, but it didn't happen.  I was left wondering if I had a date or not when Chapel begun and we could no longer talk.  I figured that at least I got to hear him sing (he has a lovely baritone voice), and I could figure out a way to ask if it was a date or not when it was over, but before I could get a confirmation and as soon as Chapel was done, he was gone and I didn't see him for the rest of the week!
Obviously this was NOT ok with me.  On Saturday, I found Andy with the help of his girlfriend, Heidi, and pretty much let all the anger out on him that I'd pent up from the cafeteria debacle.  I got in his face and pointed my finger and shook it at him and said, "There is NO way I'm going to the banquet with a guy I can't even TALK to and never see.  You got me into this, so YOU'RE fixing it!  Fix it, Andy, or I'm done!"  Oddly, enough, the guy blinked and stammered (Vindication!) and told me that a bunch of them were getting together to play sand volleyball later, so I should invite Aaron and see what happened.
With Heidi's help, we tracked Aaron down, and I told him about the sand volleyball.  He had a few things to do, so he wasn't sure, but he'd try.  I felt in the pit of my stomach that this was going to be another cafeteria scene, but it wasn't.  He showed up to the game later, and we spent the whole time talking and getting to know one another (he even bought me a cappuccino - SCORE!).
The rest, they say, is history. :)
I later made him officially ask me, which he did, and we did indeed go to the banquet together, by the way (see top picture as proof).  Years later, I also found out that we had almost met so many times before that (we'd been to the same Tigers game just feet away from each other when we were in Jr. High, and he'd offered to carry my luggage at college because he'd thought I was cute, and a few other times, too), but I think that God knew what he was doing with the timing.  If we'd met in any other way, at any other time, things simply would not have worked out like they did.  That imperfect meeting was what was needed to make college sweethearts who dated throughout college, got married the May after finishing said college in December (13 years this May, all!) and now have 3 amazing children (ages 10, 8 1/2 and 2 1/2)...and a cat!  Who knew, right?  God, obviously!
This time of year, especially today, Valentine's Day, reminds me of all those things; how an imperfect start can lead to an amazing finish, how first impressions don't have to be the end all and how love knows no bounds...and how guys named Andy are so NEVER to be trusted! ;)  All in all, I'm glad we met like we did - it's one of those stories you just can't forget and is so great to pass along! :)
Us in January of 2013
~*~ Happy Valentine's Day, all! ~*~ 
If you'd like, take a moment to leaving me a comment about how you met your spouse or some other memorable moment.  I'd love to hear about it! :)

(This post was originally posted on my original site, Fibro, Fit and Fab!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Individual Heart Pizzas (Soy, Nut, Fish and Egg-Free, Can Be Wheat and Milk-Free)

So I decided that I really should post one more Valentine-themed recipe, after all. :)  I am sure you'll forgive me, too, especially when you see how easy and adorable these are! :)

About once a week, we have pizza at my house.  Maybe that sounds like a lot or horrible, but the majority of the time it is homemade with as natural as possible ingredients.  We do use pepperoni, but we get the best we can afford with the least amount of junk in it as possible (Hormel makes a good, allergy-friendly one).  Sometimes we do Hawaiian or Chicken BBQ or even just plain cheese...We're flexible. :)  Anyway, not important. :)  This last Sunday was our pizza day, and (with it being so close to Valentine's Day) I decided to turn them into heart-shaped individual pizzas.  They were a HUGE hit!

These fun and festive pizzas are soy (if you use all soy-free ingredients), nut, fish and egg-free and can be wheat and milk-free (see variations).  Though pizza is by no means original to me, though I'm sure I'm not the first one to come up with the design, I am still ok with calling this mine because I didn't Google the recipe or get it from a book. :)

Anyway, without further adieu...

Individual Heart Pizzas
1/2 Cup hot (NOT boiling) tap water
soy-free flour (for kneading)
olive oil (for greasing)
soy-free pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce
mozzarella, Italian cheese blend and/or your favorite pizza cheeses
your favorite soy-free pizza toppings
1. Preheat oven to 425oF.

2. Add water to contents of package in a bowl; stir until moistened. (If mixture is too dry, add a little more water, 1 Tablespoon at a time until all contents is MOISTENED only. It's supposed to be a bit sticky and lumpy.)

3. Cover bowl and let stand for 5 minutes in a warm place (about 85o). (I just put the bowl on the top of my stove top towards the back while the oven is preheating for this step. There's generally enough heat coming from the oven for the dough to rise this way.)

4. Knead the dough several times on a floured board/counter top and separate it into 2 to 4 pieces.

5. Grease 1 to 2 cookie sheets or pizza pans with the olive oil.

6. Grease your fingers and shape each piece of dough into heart shapes on the pan(s) until you've used up all the dough.  (Thickness and size is personal preference, but note that if it's thicker or larger, the cooking time may be increased.  Also, I wouldn't put more than 3 pizzas per pan if the pans are large and rectangle shaped, 2 if the pans are smaller and rectangle, and 1 if the pan is round.)

7. Pre-bake dough for 2 to 3 minutes before topping each heart with pizza or spaghetti sauce, cheese and desired toppings and returning it to oven to bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is golden.

Makes 2 to 4 individual pizzas.

Variations (make sure all your substitutions fit your individual dietary needs):
  • Wheat-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pizza mix (such as Chebe or Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix or any homemade gluten-free crust you prefer) and the ingredients used to make it in place of the Jiffy Pizza Crust mix and water, and make sure all your cheeses and toppings are gluten/wheat-free.  Your cooking directions may be different; just follow the ones on the crust mix package or on your recipe.
  • Milk-free: Use a dairy-free crust (such as Chebe or  Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Mix or any homemade dairy-free crust you prefer) and the ingredients used to make it in place of the Jiffy Pizza Crust mix and water, and use dairy-free cheese (some ideas on brands to try are listed here) and toppings.  Your cooking directions may be different; just follow the ones on the crust package or on your recipe.
  • You can use any type of dough for the crust that you like, just use your crust package or recipe cooking instructions.
  • You can turn these into bread sticks, too, by keeping the heart shapes, but following the directions for pizza style plain, garlic, garlic cheese or cinnamon sugar bread sticks here.
  • You could also make this into one large heart-shaped pizza instead, too.

 I can't think of a better way to say, "I love you!" to the pizza lovers in your life, can you?

Happy Valentine's Day (a little early), all!

(This recipe was originally posted on my original site, Natural and Free.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sweets For My Sweetie: Feature Day, Giveaway Winner and A Gift

Welcome to the Feature Day of
with Natural and Free, Glued To My Crafts and Vanessa's Place!

Today we share with you our TOP 5 FAVES, our giveaway winner AND a special gift to you all for all your wonderful participation! :)  Don't forget to head over to Stacey's and Vanessa's blogs to see who they've featured, too! 
As a recap, here's what I've shared with you over the last week:

1. Chocolate Syrup

2. Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Smoothies

3. Buckeyes

4. Red Hot Latte

5. Easy Mint Patties

6. Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

7. Flourless Chocolate Cake

I hope you all enjoyed the recipes as much as I did sharing them!


Now onto my TOP 5 FAVES!

Since this is a food/allergy blog, I picked recipes and/or allergy-friendly info (and trust me, it was STILL no easy task!) to feature, but I know that Stacey and Vanessa featured other things, too, so make sure you head over to their sites if you weren't featured here because you may have been there!
Anyway, here are my faves, in no particular order:
submitted by Heidi of One Creative Mommy
I love this post because it shows you how to make shaped pancakes so easily!   I have never been able to get this art down, but I think I will be able to now! :)  Besides that, you can use any pancake mix (homemade or otherwise) you want, so you can use one that fits your allergen needs.  Win-win!

submitted by Camille of Growing Up Gabel
I love these for a few reasons: 1) I love chocolate. 2) They sound super easy. 3) They can be egg, wheat, fish, soy and nut-free!  Sounds good to me!

submitted by Pamela of Pamela's Heavenly Treats
I love these because they sounds so easy to make and like melt-in-your-mouth goodness!  Not only that, but they can be milk (by subbing a non-dairy butter), soy (if you use salted, full-fat butter instead of unsalted), fish, nut and egg-free!  You could leave out the food coloring, too, if you were worried about the dye or needed them dye-free.  Totally awesome!

submitted by Devin of Nom Yum and Free
I love these because they are top 8 free and corn-free!  They also use a dye-free colored sugar vs. artificially colored sugar.  Bonus!  Don't they just look yummy!?!

submitted by Caroline of Grateful Foodie
I love this because it is some seriously valuable info!  Not only is there some great tips on helping keeping your holiday allergy-free (especially in the classroom), but also some links to allergy-friendly Valentine's ideas.  Awesome stuff!
Thank you all so much for participating and
congratulations on your features!
Please grab a button, if you'd like, for your blog to say you were featured. :)

Also, if you'd like to be a guest for me some time, please send me an email and we'll set something up. :)
Congratulations!  Vanessa will be sending you an email shortly to get your address from you so we can send you your prizes!


And because we love you all and wanted to leave you with a Valentine's gift to remember us by and to thank you for all your amazing participation (46 link-ups in 7 days - that's pretty AWESOME!!), here's a FREE eBook...JUST FOR YOU! :) 

(NOTE: This e-book is no longer available.)
    15 Ways To Say, "I Love You!"
You will be taken directly to the eBook when you click the link above.  To download or print the eBook, click on "File" then on "Download"  or "Print".

To read this eBook after download, you will need a copy of Adobe's Acrobat reader.  You can download a free copy from

Enjoy and thanks again for being amazing! :)  If you have any trouble viewing it or downloading it, send me an email and I'll get you a copy. :)


If you haven't gotten a chance to see all the amazing recipes, projects and posts that were linked up, here's your chance now!  If you didn't get your badge yet, you can still get one of those, too.

(This post was originally posted on my original site, Natural and Free.)