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Though I strive to update outdated information quickly and work diligently to make sure you have the most accurate information possible at all times, it is your duty to double check labels EVERY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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Friday, April 27, 2018

Family Favorites - April 2018: Chicken and Rice Soup (Soy, Wheat, Egg, Fish, Milk and Nut-Free)

This year, I decided to list a family favorite recipe from the blog (with any adaptions that we use regularly, if applicable) on the fourth Friday or Saturday of every month.  This recipe will be one that we make quite often and that we all enjoy greatly.  This post is the fourth Family Favorites recipe of 2018.

If you have a recipe on your blog that you consider a family favorite that you'd like to share, please comment below with a link to the recipe, and I'll make sure to pop on over and visit your site to check it out (and leave a comment), and hopefully some of my other readers will, too.

This month's Family Favorite recipe is Chicken and Rice Soup which is a gluten-free variation of my Chicken Noodle Soup.  This is a recipe we make about once a week in the winter time, and I always make it when we're dealing with illness of any sort.   It just one of those hardy soups that fills you up, warms you from the inside out, and helps you feel better.  It is also pretty cost effective, and we almost always end up with leftovers.  The best part?  It is free of soy, wheat, egg, milk, fish and nuts (assuming all of your ingredients are)!  Awesome-sauce!

Chicken Rice Soup

1 or 2 raw chicken breast (bone-in and skin-on preferred)
 (We always use a non-broth injected chicken breast (this is one that contains water only), and you'll want to make sure that your chicken fits your individual allergen needs.)

1 teaspoon onion salt or to taste
(We normally use McCormick's.  Sometimes I may add more than 1 teaspoon.)

½ teaspoon celery salt or to taste
(I normally use McCormick's.  Sometimes I may add more than 1/2 teaspoon.)

3 big shakes of paprika or to taste
(Sometimes I may add more than 3 big shakes.)

ground black pepper (to taste)
(We always add this.  I generally add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.)

rosemary (to taste - optional)
(We always add this.  I generally add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon.)

parsley flakes (to taste - optional)
(We always add this.  I generally use about a Tablespoon.)

10 baby carrots cut into bite-sized pieces

3 stalks celery cut into bite-sized pieces

2 or 3 (32 oz.) Pacific brand chicken broth 
(We always use this kind.)

water (if needed)

2 Cups Minute Rice (non-cooked)
(We use brown Minute Rice normally.)

1. Put chicken, spices, carrots and celery into a large pot.  (Note: One chicken breast is more than enough, but you can use 2 if you want a lot of chicken or have a lot of mouths to feed.  Also, the spices are essentially all to taste.  I recommend starting with the amounts given for the spices and adjust from there.  If it is your first time making the soup, start with just the onion salt, celery salt and paprika, taste the soup after step 4, and then adjust or add spices to your liking.)
2. Fill the pot with broth and water (if needed) until it covers the chicken completely.  (Note: I always use 2 boxes of broth and then just add more water if need be.  This will dilute the flavor a little, so you can use all broth, if you wish.  You can also use all water, but the flavor will be extremely mild, and I don't recommend that unless you are ok with a very mild flavor.  There is a variation listed below for using bouillon or soup base instead, but that is harder to make allergy-friendly.  Feel free to use this variation, however, if you don't want to use broth and it works with your allergen needs.)
3. Cover the pot, and cook the chicken on medium-high heat until the chicken is completely cooked. Generally that will take around 2 hours. Check on the chicken now and then, and add more water or broth if the liquid level looks low (i.e. the chicken is no longer covered).  (Note: The chicken will float to the top as it cooks, so it will be a little exposed, but if you are seeing most of the chicken, then you will want to add more liquid.)
4. When the chicken is fully cooked, remove it from the pot and place it on a plate and into the fridge to cool. With the broth, you can either turn it down to low and leave on the stove or put it in the fridge to cool as well.  (Note: I almost always let the soup simmer on the stove unless it is going to be several hours until I serve the soup.  This is one of those soups that tastes better the longer it simmers.)
5. Once the chicken has cooled, remove it from bones, remove skin (if you used bone-in, skin-on chicken which you should as it makes better soup) and pull or cut it into bite-sized pieces and re-add them to the broth.  (Note: I recommend tasting the broth at least once before adding the rice to see if it is too salty or not salty enough. If it’s too salty, add a little water. If not, you can add some regular salt.  If it needs more of any of the spices, you can add those, too.  You will want the broth a little saltier than you want it before you add the rice as the rice will take some of the saltiness out of the soup.  Also, this is the step you can stop at if you want to finish the soup at a later time (that evening or the next day or 2).  You could even freeze the soup at this point and pull it out when you want it and continue on with the recipe at step 6.)
6. Bring the broth to boiling and add 2 Cups of instant rice, and boil it with the lid on for 5 minutes.
7. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup, with the lid on, for 5 more minutes or until the rice is cooked to your liking, and then serve!  (Disclaimer: Rice, especially instant rice, can continue to absorb liquid, so you will only want to use the instant rice method if you plan on eating the soup that day or within the next day as it can get a little mushy.  My husband likes it even after it gets a bit mushy, so (if we have leftovers) we don't have to worry about having to throw out leftovers.  However, if you don't want to chance it, use the "Other Rice" method in the variations to help prevent it from going too mushy.)

Serves a family of 5 easily with leftovers.

Variations (Please keep your dietary needs in mind when using substitutions):
  • Other Rice: Substitute 2 cups cooked rice (more or less according to your personal tastes; white, brown or wild) for the instant rice.  The rice can still absorb more liquid as it sits even with this method, but it is definitely less.  You will still want to eat leftovers quickly, within 2 days.
  • Rice or Egg Noodles or Other Noodles vs. Rice: If you just really like noodles vs. rice, you can use rice noodles (I highly recommend Tinkyada) or even egg noodles or pasta shells, elbow macaroni, etc. if you can have them.  Just add them instead of rice at step 6 (use up to 12 oz., but no more than that), and cook the noodles according to package directions.  Noodles, like rice, can get soft the longer they sit, so keep that in mind when it comes to leftovers.  You'll want to eat any leftovers within a day or 2.
  • Other Broth/Stock or Bouillon and Water Method: You can use any other  chicken stock or broth that you desire in place of the Pacific Chicken Broth.  You can also use water and chicken bouillon or soup base.  For a list of allergy-friendly stocks, broths and bouillons, click here.
  • More Veggies, Less Salt:  You can also omit the celery salt and onion salt and add 1 medium to large onion (chopped in bite-sized pieces) and salt to taste.  You can also keep the celery and onion salt and still add the onion, too.  You can also experimenting with adding things like kale, garlic or any other vegetable that you like in chicken soup.
  • No Meat: If you want to make the soup without the chicken, you can.  It won't be quite as flavorful, but it will still be good.  If you're looking for a soup that can be vegan/vegetarian instead, go here and look under the "Vegetarian/Vegan Vegetable Soup" variation.

So good, so hardy, and so good for you!

I hope you give this soup a try, and that it becomes a family favorite of yours, too!

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

Recent Reflections - April 2018: A Lesson Learned From The Never-Ending Winter

This is the fourth Recent Reflections post of 2018.  Recent Reflections goes live the third Friday or Saturday of each month.  Each Recent Reflections post covers something that I'm reflecting on.  If you'd like to share a post with a similar theme, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your post, and I'll hop on over and leave a comment (and maybe some other readers will, too).

This month, I will be reflecting on a lesson learned from our never-ending winter.

This is a picture of our front yard on Monday, April 2nd, 2018.

We'd had a beautiful day and were able to clean up the rest of the brush from our tree removal and get started on our sidewalk removal, and we began to make tentative plans to start on some much needed house maintenance (namely beginning to scrape the wood siding down so we can paint it).

This is a picture of our yard on Wednesday, April 4, 2018.

As you can see, we got a bit of snow...Over 9 inches.

This threw our talks of house maintenance out the window.  The snow started to melt in a few days, and by Friday, April 13, 2018, our yard looked like this:

We thought again about maintenance plans....

Until Saturday, April 14th, 2018, when we woke up to this:

This time we'd gotten over a foot of snow and ice pellets.

(My husband is pointing to where the ruler is buried in the snow/ice pellets, FYI.)

On Monday, April 16, 2017, our yard looked like this:

I tried to measure the snow/ice pellets with a tape measure, but it wouldn't go through the snow/ice.  I did measure inside a footprint, and along a walk edge, and it was over 13 inches, and the end of the measuring tape wasn't even down to the ground, so it is safe to say we got quite a lot!  According to the news, we'd gotten 14 inches by the 14th, and we'd gotten a bit since then, so I think between a foot and a half  to 2 feet is probably pretty close to right.

Anyway, it is quite depressing to see over a foot of snow where you'd seen the beginnings of green grass just the day before.  It overwhelms the heart, and it makes you want to yell, "Ok, Winter!  You had your turn!  It's Spring's time to shine!"  Through this hard time, though, God has taught me something that I thought worthy of sharing with you.  It's about change.

(Note: I'm not talking about change in regards to convictions or morality (i.e. things that you should not change or compromise on), but in regards to life-changing events that can't be helped or things that are new or different.)

We don't like change.  We fight against it.  We struggle with the idea of "different".  We get comfortable and content, and we hate when things start to evolve into a thing we don't recognize.  We struggle to hold on to the past, and we do our dead-level best to keep things the same.  But when we do this, we are like this never-ending winter.

We tell ourselves that we like the way things are currently.  We love the beauty of what is just like we like the beautiful white snow, the snuggle times with loved ones in the warm indoors, the building of snowmen, the snowball fights, the hot cocoa, the winter fun...and we forget that beauty can also come from change.  We forget that a spring is coming with all its new life, beautiful scents, cleansing rains, gorgeous flowers, and warm sunny days.  All we can think about is that we have to let go of the beauty we know for the unknown that is to come.

When we struggle to hold on, we're just like this stubborn winter.  We don't realize that we're hurting those we love, we're causing chaos, and we are just downright miserable and making other miserable, too.  If we'd just let go - if we'd just relax into the change that God has allowed to come into our lives - we would find that there is something beautiful waiting to take the place of what will be lost.

Oh, change is never easy.  It can be messy and hard, just like spring is messy with it's mud and rain.  But, oh, what loveliness is on the other side of that mess!  Without the thawing of the cold, hard ground that brings the mud there'd be no new grass or flowers.  Without the rain, new life would not grow.  Without the warmth, we'd never see all the beauty that awaits.  Change isn't easy, but it's worth it.

I don't know what you may be facing in your life, but there is probably a change going on somewhere for you.  Don't fight it like this never-ending winter.  Let God use it to show you a new beauty, a new beginning, and a new hope.  Trust Him with the details, and do your best to enjoy the ride.  It may be hard at times, but it will be worth it in the end.  I promise.

"What the caterpillar calls the end of the world the Master calls a butterfly." - Richard Bach

I truly hope this post has been a blessing to your heart!  What has God done in your life lately to bless you?  What are you reflecting on?

Have a wonderful weekend!

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

Friday, April 13, 2018

Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal (Soy, Wheat, Egg and Fish-Free, Can Be Milk and Nut-Free)

Today, I have another dessert-like breakfast idea to share with you.  In fact, I will probably list it under both breakfast and dessert on here.  It tastes like no-bake cookies, but it is made in a pan, and you could definitely eat them for breakfast with a little less guilt. :)  I mean, it is called "oatmeal" vs. "cookies", so that means they = healthy, right?  I can hardly see a flaw in that logic. ;) 

Anyway, may I present to you Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal!  It's a recipe of my own design, and it was a huge hit with the whole fam!  Not only does it taste great hot, warm or cold, it is also soy (if you use all soy-free ingredients), wheat, egg and fish-free, and can be milk and nut-free (see variations).  And it is my favorite combo - peanut butter and chocolate!  Love!  If you love no-bake cookies, you'll love this.  Promise. :)

Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal

3 Cups quick cooking oats (gluten-free if you need it to be)
(Do not use instant oatmeal or old fashioned oats!)

1/2 to 1 Cup white sugar

1/4 Cup baking cocoa powder (gluten-free if you need it to be)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder (this is normally gluten-free, but make sure your brand says it is if you need it to be)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 to 1 Cup soy-free peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
(this is normally gluten-free, but make sure your brand says it is if you need it to be)

1 to 1 1/2 Cups milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350oF.
  2. Grease a 9x13 glass pan and set aside.  (Note: Use whatever grease fits your allergen needs.  You can use butter, oil, lard, etc.)
  3. In a large bowl, mix together oats, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until all ingredients are evenly distributed. (Note: The amount of sugar you use is based on personal preference.  If you like it sweeter, use closer to 1 Cup.  If you like it less sweet, use closer to 1/2 Cup.  I like it either way, but if I want it to taste more dessert-like, I use 1 Cup vs. 1/2 Cup.)
  4. Add peanut butter, vanilla and milk to the oat mixture and mix until well-blended.  (Note: The amount of peanut butter and milk are based on personal preference.  If you like it more peanut buttery and a bit more fudge-like texture, add more peanut butter.  If you like the idea of bits of peanut in your oatmeal, use the crunchy peanut butter.  If you like it more chewy, add more milk.  If you like it a bit drier, use less milk.  My personal favorite is to use closer to 3/4 Cup creamy peanut butter and to start at 1 Cup milk and add a little more if needed to give it a soft cookie dough looking texture.)
  5. Scoop mixture into the prepared pan, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the middle is set.  (Note: You do not have to bake this oatmeal beyond having the middle set, which is more toward the 20 minute mark, sometimes even as little as 15 minutes.  If you like your oatmeal a little more crunchy/dry (though it won't be completely like that - it will be more like soft oatmeal cookies with a slight crunch on the edge), bake it a bit longer, though you shouldn't have to bake it past 30 minutes.  I normally bake mine for 25 minutes to get a soft bottom with a slight crunchy cookie-type top.)
  6. Enjoy hot, warm or cold.
Makes anywhere from 12 large servings (as seen in the picture below) to 24 small servings.

Variations (Please keep your individual allergy and dietary needs in mind when using substitutions!):
  • Peanut-Free or Nut-Free:  If you cannot have peanut butter, you can sub any tree nut or seed butter for the peanut butter with success.  It will have a slightly different flavor, but should still be equally delicious.
  • Milk-Free: If you cannot have milk, you can sub any non-dairy milk or water for the milk.
  • Grain-Free: If you have trouble with all grains, including oatmeal, sub quinoa flakes for the oatmeal and make as directed.

This delicious baked oatmeal does not disappoint!  Give it a try!

You may find it ticks all the right boxes for you, too!

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

Saturday, April 7, 2018

My Quarterly Report: Second Quarter 2018

It is time for my second quarterly report of 2018.  On the first Saturday in January, April, August and December, I will be posting a quarterly report of how I am doing in regards to meeting my goals, and what my goals for the upcoming quarter will be.

If you want to share a post that has to do with meeting personal goals, just leave a comment below with a link to your goal-related post, and I'll pop over and visit it and leave a comment, and hopefully some of my other readers will, too. :)  

Here is my second quarterly report:

    How I did on last quarter's goals:
Goal #1: Lose at least 5 lbs. by April 7th, 2018.
I did not reach this goal.  My weight yo-yoed a lot, and I am just thrilled I didn't have a weight gain to share with you.  I'll take the "no change" for now, but will definitely keep working on the weight loss!

Goal #2: Drink 9+ Cups of water per day.
I was able to do this without difficulty!

Goal #3: Eat more vegetables.
I was able to do this overall.  I ate more salads, and added a bit more variety of veggies as I could more regularly (namely baby spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes and carrots - I am still trying to get brave enough to incorporate things like kale, avocado, etc.).

Goal #4: Eat less sugar.
I did so-so here.  I'd do great for a few weeks, and then I'd find myself giving in to a chocolate craving or eating way more sugar than I'd planned.  I think this fail played into the lack of weight loss.

Goal #5: Get some form of physical activity daily.
Overall, I did ok with this.  There were several days where outside activity was impossible, but I did try to do something daily, but not as much as I'd like.

Goal #6: Be grateful even when it is hard.
I feel like I am still a work-in-progress here, but I've also made improvements in this area.  Though this goal has served as a reminder to have the right attitude, it is not always easy to be grateful, especially right away in a rough situation.  However, when I chose to be grateful, God always let me see a blessing in some form.

Goal #7: Meet my blog posting goals.
I have been keeping my blog posting goals on Natural and Free, but only been able to post once a month on here, so I met this goal 3/4 of the way.

This Quarter's Goals:
1. I want to lose 5 lbs. by August.  Again, I've made a weight loss goal of 5 lbs.  I'm hoping that some of my other goals will help me reach this one this time.

2. I want to continue to drink at least 9 Cups of water per day.  I feel pretty good at 9 Cups of water per day.  I may up this to 12 at some point in the summer, but for now I'll keep it at 9.

3. I want to eat only when hungry.  One thing I noticed over the last 3 months especially is that I tend to eat when bored more than when hungry.  This is something I really want to work on.  I am sure this habit (eating out of boredom) makes it harder for me to lose the weight I need to.  I plan on asking myself, "Am I hungry or just bored?" before I eat anything.  If the answer is "bored", then I will just go find something to do!  We'll see how it goes.

4. I want to eat less sugar/processed foods.  I decided to change this goal from last quarter to included processed foods.  I always do better when the food is more natural, so I really want to focus on eating less processed and less sugar overall.  I didn't do so great with avoiding sugar or processed foods last quarter, and it really hurt me at times!  I don't want to make the same mistake.  Wish me luck!

5. I want to get some form of physical activity daily.  I decided to keep this goal.  The weather is being all over the map right now, but very soon we should have some lovely weather to really get outside and enjoy.  When we did have good days, I made it a point to go out and walk.  I plan to try to get at least a short walk in daily whenever possible at least.

6. I want to manage stress better.  I am not a good stress manager.  Pressure gets to me, and I tend to want to hide away and avoid rather than face things head on, partly because I hate being a grouch, and I know I get grouchy when I am stressed.  I need to find a good way to stress manage.  I want to pray more quickly about things that stress me, take a moment to re-group when I need it, and honestly, just make time to relax.  I am a "go, go, go" type of person when there is something to do.  I forget to relax, and I really need to.  I am finding that walking is a great de-stresser for me, so I want to do that when I can.  Pleasure reading is also relaxing, so I plan to fit that in, as well.  We'll see how it goes.

7.  I want to keep meeting my blog posting goals that I'm meeting, and work on meeting my posting goals that I am not meeting.  As I said earlier, I have been able to meet my new blog posting goals that require me to post twice a month minimum on Natural and Free.  I have not been able to post twice a month on here, though.  I am going to work on that.  We'll see how I do!

That's about it for now.  How are you doing?  Are you reaching your goals?  Have you tried something new?  Come up with a new recipe?  I hope all is going well with you, and I hope you will leave a comment sharing your thoughts and/or goals (with a link to your post, if you wish).  As always, I wish you the best of luck in all you do, and hope you will return soon! :)

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