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Though I strive to update outdated information quickly and work diligently to make sure you have the most accurate information possible at all times, it is your duty to double check labels EVERY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, June 22, 2018

Family Favorites - June 2018: Fruit Smoothies (Fish, Soy, Wheat, Nut, Milk and Egg-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 sixth 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 Fruit Smoothies.  This recipe is basically a re-share of my original Fruit Smoothies recipe with a few more tips and tricks included.  We've recently started making this recipe again frequently, and probably will throughout the summer (possibly daily, I'll wager, when it gets into July and August especially).

This is one of those recipes you can use year-round, but will generally use mainly in the summer.  It is super easy with very few ingredients, very customizable, is better for you than ice cream or popsicles, and is top 8 free (as long as all of your ingredients are)!  You'll be able to find a combination that everyone in the family will love, I promise! 

Fruit Smoothies

allergy-friendly frozen fruit of your choice 
such as berries, peaches, cherries, mango, pineapple, apples, banana, melon, grapes, etc. in any combination
(We normally use frozen mixed berries, but have used frozen tropical fruit blends, frozen mixed fruit blends, just frozen strawberries, frozen cherries, frozen blueberries, etc. - We've not found many combinations we don't like.)

allergy-friendly juice of your choice
such as orange, grape, cranberry, apple, pineapple, etc.
(We normally use white grape juice or orange juice, but have used others as well.  We just whatever juice sounds like it would taste good with the frozen fruit we've picked.)

allergy-friendly sweetener of choice (optional)
such as honey, maple syrup, sugar, agave, artificial sweetener, etc.
(We've used white cane sugar and honey in the past if we need added sweetness, but you can use your "go to" sweetener.)

1. Place desired amount (about a cup per person, generally) frozen (yes, it MUST be frozen) fruit in a blender.

2. Add enough juice to cover the fruit and blend until desired consistency. (Note: If you have a high powered blender like a Ninja, this will be a piece of cake and can take less than 30 seconds, but for other less powerful blenders, you may have to pulse the mix at first until it is slightly blended, then continue full boar (you can always just pulse the mix to desired consistency regardless of what type of blender you have, too, if you are afraid of over-blending).  I have used "Ice Crush" mode on other blenders in the past to make these smoothies, but you can play around with the buttons and see which works best for you. :)  Also, feel free to add more juice if you find the mixture is too thick or more fruit if  you think it is too thin.)

3. At this point the smoothies are good to go, but use a spoon to taste the mixture before you pour the smoothies into to glasses so that you can add a little sweetener of choice if you find the mix too sour and re-blend. (Note: I recommend starting with a small amount (less than a serving size of whatever sweetener you're using), blend, re-taste and add a little more at a time until you reach desired sweetness.)

One more overall note: Please keep in mind not to overfill your blender!  There is a max fill line for a reason!  If you are making smoothies for more than 3 or 4 people, you will probably have to make multiple batches depending on how large of a smoothie you want per person.  I suggest filling your blender no more than 1/2 full with frozen fruit the first time you make these to see how well your blender does and so you have plenty of room to add more fruit or liquid as needed.  Once you've made the smoothies a few times, you will know just how much liquid you'll need, how well your blender will perform, etc. and there will be a lot less guesswork involved! :)

Variations (Please keep individual allergen needs in mind when using variations!):
  • What Juice Should I Use?  Here's my rule of thumb: Use flavors that sound like they'd work together.  You probably don't want grape and pineapple together, but grape and berry works well together.  Think of it this way: If you want tropical flavor, go with tropical fruit and tropical juice like orange or pineapple.  If you want berry flavor, go with berries and grape, apple or cranberry juice.  In the end, if you think the type of juice and fruit sound good together - go for it! :)
  • Frozen Lemonade: If you would rather have a frozen lemonade, follow this recipe: Frozen Lemonade
  • Yogurt Smoothie: If you want more protein or prefer yogurt in your smoothie, follow this recipe: Yogurt Smoothies
  • Hidden Greens: If you want to sneak some greens (kale, spinach, etc.) into your smoothie, you can do that, too.  Just put them in with your frozen fruit.  Start off with a small amount and add more as you desire.
  • Add Some Herbs/Spices:  If you like thyme, mint, rosemary, cinnamon or other spices/herbs with your fruit, feel free to add some to your smoothie mix with the frozen fruit.  I'd start with a small amount, blend well, taste, and then add more as desired.

That's all there is to it!  Super easy, extremely customizable, good for you, and great for a hot summer day.  I hope you will give these smoothies a try and that they become a family favorite for you, too!

~*~ Coming Soon! ~*~

On July 1st, I start a new monthly feature called "Essential Oils 101 with Jess" that will go live the 1st of every month!  I am featuring a guest blogger, Jess, who blogs over at Essentially Balanced.  If you've ever been curious about essential oils and are wondering if they are right for you and yours, you won't want to miss this monthly feature!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Recent Reflections - June 2018: Turning 40...

This is the sixth 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 turning 40.

My sister and I in front of our 1978 sign.

A few weeks ago, my twin sister and I turned 40.  It's one of those milestone birthdays that tends to get celebrated with black balloons and tombstones.  I was quite insistent that there be no black or "over the hill" type decor (because I don't feel that age is a negative, and I think it should be seen as wisdom and memories gained and not something to dread), and my family obliged.  That didn't mean, though, that there weren't referrals to all the things that came out in 1978 that were "old" - Atari, Garfield, Superman, LEGO mini figures.  Talking about all those things makes you say, "Wow!  I had no idea so much has happened in so little time!"

I am old enough to remember when there was no internet.  I remember when there were no cell phones.  I remember not having a microwave or personal computer.  I remember when social media began.  I remember a simpler life that my parents and grandparents told me was not even as simple as theirs had been.  I remember thinking and asking, "How did you get by without ____?", and their answers always baffled me, and now I get the same questions and bewildered looks from my children and others who are too young to remember life before technology boomed to what it is today.  My elders always talked about how they missed the time before TV or some other invention, and I'd often wonder why.  I don't wonder anymore.

I now understand the total appeal of life without certain technologies.  There are days I wish Facebook didn't exist or that there wasn't such easy access to all the bad things the world has to offer like pornography, online gambling, etc.  I miss the days where you could sit in a room and talk without having to fight social media on a cellphone for attention, when you didn't have to fight the urge to pull out a cellphone to answer a text every few minutes, or when there was no such thing as Instagram and selfie-mania.  I truly miss the days where you could go without every aspect of your life being documented online in some form.  I  miss true privacy.

However, this is the day and age we live in.  To act like I can ignore it and avoid it and it will cease to be is unwise and untrue.  My best bet is to use the technology we've been blessed with in the most positive ways that I can, and make sure that my children know how to use those things for good and how to avoid the evil that lurks there in the shadows.

In my 40 years, I've seen so many things, and I now look at my parents and grandma with new appreciation.  I now truly feel the loss of innocence in our culture in a way I never understood before, and I grieve its loss.  I grieve the fact that my children will never know some of the simpler joys that I did - like a truly lazy Saturday without technology invading at every angle of our lives even if we do "unplug" because it is absolutely everywhere now.  I also grieve that they will have to fight that much harder to keep their innocence and the worldly junk out of their lives.  Their lives are going to be and are so much more complicated than mine ever was growing up.

On the flip side, I am thrilled that they can enjoy so many amazing things.  They have access to so much knowledge, are safer because they can carry a cell phone and call for help if they need it, GPS is available to help if they get lost, and so many more things!  What an amazing day we live in, and I am grateful for the perks, though I have to do my best to teach responsibility before God and man when using them.

I wonder what the next 40 years will bring.  I wonder how much the world will change.  I find myself both curious and leery.  It is my prayer that the benefits of all the changes to come will outweigh the negatives.

I will embrace my new status of being the big 4-0.  I will enjoy that I've made it this far and look forward to the future.  I will embrace the fact that I am seeing things differently now, and use that wisdom to help guide my children and those I influence in a positive way.  I will love that God has given me so much, and pray that He uses me that much more in the years to come!

My sister and I showing off our twin gifts!

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!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Gluten-Free S'more Brownies (Fish, Nut and Wheat-Free, Can Be Soy, Egg and Milk-Free)

Today's recipe is one that was an instant hit with the family.  If you love s'mores, but aren't a fan of camping or campfires, this recipe is for you!  It has all the chocolate-y goodness you could want along with gooey marshmallows and crunchy graham crackers.  It's a perfect year-round treat that is also allergy friendly.  It is fish, nut and wheat-free and can be soy, egg and milk-free (see variations) as long as all of your ingredients are.

Note: The gluten-free flour I recommend does not technically contain soy, but it does contain guar gum (see "Soy-Free" under variations for more details) which can cause issues for people with soy sensitivities or allergies, and that is why I will not claim that this recipe is soy-free. 

Gluten-Free S'more Brownies

Brownie Portion:
3/4 Cup salted, full-fat butter

1 1/2 Cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

1 Cup gluten-free flour blend 
(I recommend Pamela's Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour)

3/4 Cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Topping Portion:
1/2 bag of Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips

1 1/2 Cups gluten-free mini marshmallows

gluten-free graham crackers (individual squares) or cookies, crushed - amount to taste
(I recommend Enjoy Life Crunchy Vanilla Honey Graham Cookies)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together, until blended.
3. Add to mixture, gluten-free flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, until well blended.

4. Pour into a greased pan (9"x 13"), and bake for 15 minutes.
5. Remove the brownies from the oven and top with the chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and crushed gluten-free graham crackers/cookies.  (Note: The amount of graham crackers are to taste.  I recommend starting with 5 to 10 individual cookies/squares and working your way up from there.  You shouldn't need more than 20 individual cookies/squares, though.  You can also put all the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix them together before adding them to the top of the brownies, if you wish.)

6. Put the topped brownies back into the oven and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden brown and the brownies are cooked to desired doneness.  (Note: The brownies will be more fudge-y when cooked for just 10 more minutes, and more set or cake-like if cooked for the 15 minutes.  Brownies are generally considered done when a toothpick inserted in them comes out with moist, sticky crumbs. )

Makes 12 large to 24 average-sized portions.

Variations (Please keep your individual dietary needs in mind when using variations):

  • Milk-Free: Use non-dairy butter of your choice, coconut oil or lard in place of the butter in this recipe. I am not sure how these would turn out if you used oil, but you are welcome to try it if you've used oil in homemade brownies in the past and like them made with oil.  My guess is that they'd be a lot more dense/fudge-y with the oil.  Also, you will have to make sure that your marshmallows and gluten-free graham crackers/cookies are milk-free.
  • Egg-Free: Use an egg replacer in place of the eggs, and make sure your gluten-free graham crackers and marshmallows are egg-free.  For ideas on what to use in place of the eggs, check out my ingredient substitutions page.  The flax seed "egg" replacement would be a good fit with this recipe.
  • Soy-Free: Pamela's Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour does not claim to contain soy, but it does contain guar gum, which can cause issues with people who have soy sensitivities and allergies, and hence the reason I won't claim this recipe is soy-free already.  You can use regular flour (if you can have it) or a soy-free, gluten-free flour of your choice.  Keep in mind that if your blend doesn't contain guar gum or xanthan gum, you may need to add between 1/4 to 1 teaspoons of ground flax seed, guar gum or xanthan gum to help with textural issues, too.  You'll have to make sure all of your ingredients are soy-free, too.
  • Alternative Topping Ideas: You can use any chocolate chip, chocolate pieces/candy or combination of those that fits your allergen needs that you wish (dark, white, milk, chocolate chunks, M&M's, Reese's Cups, Snickers, etc.).  You can also use vanilla wafers, regular graham crackers, chocolate graham crackers, Teddy Grahams, or other equivalent that fits your allergen needs.
  • Less Fuss S'more Brownies:  You can use any boxed brownie mix that fits your allergen needs for the brownie portion (Enjoy Life makes a great one!).  Mix the brownies according to the package directions, and then follow the recipe directions from step 4 onward.  Keep in mind that you are putting the s'more topping on about 1/2 way through the cooking of your brownies, so if the box mix you are using says to cook the brownies in either a smaller pan, at a different temperature and/or for a longer or shorter time, follow the box instructions and adjust the times, pan size, amounts of topping, etc. accordingly (you'll want to 1/2 the amount of topping for a smaller pan).  Simple!

This is the perfect treat to make on a cooler, rainy summer day when you wish you could be outside enjoying a campfire or even on a winter day when you just need a taste of summer.

Give them a try!  You won't be sorry!  Yum!