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Though I strive to update outdated information quickly and work diligently to make sure you have the most accurate information possible at all times, it is your duty to double check labels EVERY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 19, 2019

Recent Reflections - April 2019: Resurrection Sunday (Easter)

This is the fourth Recent Reflections post of 2019.  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 Resurrection Sunday (Easter).

I have always loved holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  When I was a child, it was because of all the presents, food, and family time (mostly the first 2 - just being real).  As I grew older, holidays evolved into being more enjoyable due to time with family, and eventually became times to reflect on what God has done in my life.

For Thanksgiving, I now take time to think about and share about all God has blessed me with - family, friends, knowledge, a home, food on the table, being healthy more than ill, etc.

For Christmas, I take time to reflect on Christ's birth, and we always make sure to read the Christmas Story so that our children understand the miracle of the season, not the commercialism.

But Easter?  Oh, Easter is my favorite in terms of reflecting on what God has done.  Easter is the time for remembering that Christ died, but He didn't stay dead - He rose again!  It is that fact that brings us hope!  Christ conquered death, and in that, brought us eternal life if we trust in Him as our Savior!  {If you are curious about or want to know more about trusting Jesus as your Savior, click here.}  That is definitely something to get excited about!

This Easter, take a moment away from the commercialism.  Forget about the Easter eggs, the chocolate bunnies, the Peeps, the Easter egg hunts - forget about all of it.  Just take a moment to think about how much God loves you.  He sent His Son to die for you, and then He conquered death for you so that you could live forever with Him some day if you accept His sacrifice for you.  My friends, that is what Easter is all about and what true love is.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13 (KJV) 

I'm so glad I can call Jesus my Friend!

I truly hope this post has been a blessing to your heart, or at the least made you stop and think a little.  What has God done in your life lately to bless you?  What are you reflecting on?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Gluten-Free PB&J Baked Oatmeal (Soy, Wheat, Egg, Milk and Fish-Free, Can Be Nut-Free)

In this house, we are huge peanut butter fans.  It is the one pantry item that we go through the quickest because it makes its way into breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and even desserts (sometimes all in the same day).  It is also the one pantry item my husband tends to get as gifts (he's a fan of Kroger peanut butter, and we don't have a Kroger up here, so he gets said peanut butter for his birthday and/or for Christmas from relatives that live near a Kroger).  That being said, when I get a chance to try something new with peanut butter or make an existing recipe that already contains peanut butter, I do. 

This recipe is a modification of my Gluten-Free Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal, and it was an instant family favorite!  It tastes like a PB&J, so it is a bit nostalgic for us adults, and it is a real hit with the kiddos.  It is also soy, wheat, egg, milk and fish-free (if all your ingredients are), and can be nut-free (see variations).  You can also eat it for breakfast, lunch, a snack, or dessert.  That makes this recipe a win-win-win-win-wi...Well, just a big win! :)  If you are a fan of PB&J's or love someone who is, you'll want to add this recipe to your rotation!

Gluten-Free Baked PB&J Oatmeal

3 Cups gluten-free quick cooking oats
(Do not use instant oatmeal or old fashioned oats!)

1/4 to 1/2 Cup jam, preserves, or jelly of choice
(You can use any flavor you like on a PB&J, but we normally opt for strawberry, sour cherry, or raspberry in the Smucker's Natural line.)

1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
(Our favorite brand is Hain.)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 to 1 Cup soy-free peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
(We normally use JIF Natural Creamy or Smucker's Natural Creamy, and almost always use 3/4 Cup.)

1 to 1 1/2 Cups juice of choice that you believe will taste good with your jam, preserves, or jelly choice
(We normally use white grape juice, but you can use apple juice/cider, orange juice, cranberry juice, etc.   You can even use a juice blend if that fits within your dietary needs. We also almost always use 1 Cup of juice.)
  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, baking powder, and salt until all ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. Add peanut butter, jam, and juice to the oat mixture and mix until well-blended.  (Note: The amount and type of peanut butter, jam, and juice 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 juice.  If you like it a bit drier, use less juice.  If you like it sweeter/want more jam taste, use the 1/2 Cup of jam.  If you want it less sweet/less jam taste, use 1/4 to 1/3 Cup.  My personal favorite is to use closer to 3/4 Cup creamy peanut butter and to start at 1 Cup juice and add a little more if needed to give it a soft cookie dough looking texture.  I also almost always use the 1/2 Cup of jam.)
  5. Scoop mixture into the prepared pan, spread the mixture evenly, 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 slightly crunchy, cookie-type top.)
  6. Enjoy hot, warm or cold.  (Note: We've found that the flavor is most intense when this baked oatmeal is enjoyed completely cool.  It's good at any temp, but wanted to throw that little tidbit in there for those who want to enjoy the most PB&J flavor!  So, if you try it hot and don't think it's quit strong enough in flavor, try it again when it is completely cooled before you modify the recipe.  You may find that it is exactly what you want flavor-wise once it has completely cooled. :) )

Makes anywhere from 12 large servings 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.
  • Grain-Free: If you have trouble with all grains, including oatmeal, sub quinoa flakes for the oatmeal and make as directed.
  • Reduced Sugar/Less Sweet: If you do not like juice, don't have any, cannot use it, or find the baked oatmeal too sweet for you even if you use the lesser amount of jam, you can sub water.  You can also use a reduced sugar jam if that fits within your dietary needs.    
  • Flavor Profiles: When choosing what juice to use, consider what jam you are going to use.  You want to use flavors that work together, not fight each other.  For example, use orange juice with cherry jam or orange marmalade or even strawberry jam, but only if you like the thought of orange with peanut butter.  Use white grape or apple juice with any berry jam or grape jam or apple jelly.  Do not use grapefruit, lemon or lime juices as those are way too tart for this recipe, and they don't go well with peanut butter.  I would not recommend using pineapple juice either unless you like pineapple with peanut butter.  Cranberry juice would work well with berry, apple or grape jam if you like cranberry with peanut butter.  If you do use a tree nut or seed butter, that could open up the juice you use, because you might like orange flavor with almond flavor or pineapple flavor with macadamia nut flavor where you wouldn't like them with peanut.  Also, note that apple juice and white grape juice have a more neutral flavor, so they will work with most jams and jellies.  The flavor combinations are endless and only limited by your palate. :)
  • Alternative Flavors: For a chocolate and peanut butter version of baked oatmeal, see my Baked Peanut Butter Chocolate Oatmeal recipe by clicking hereHere is the link to my original Baked Peanut Butter Oatmeal, too.
  • Mix-In Ideas: This oatmeal is great plain, but you could mix in some peanuts, nuts, or seeds of choice, dried fruit of choice, flaked coconut (this might work better for a seed/nut butter than for peanut butter, but do what you like :) ), or even some chocolate chips (Enjoy Life is a great allergy-friendly choice) as desired.  Use whatever combo you want that you think would work with the jam and juice you picked.  I'd limit your mix-ins to 1 Cup total, though.

PB&J lovers of the world - this one's for you!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

My Quarterly Report: Second Quarter 2019

It is time for my second quarterly report of 2019.  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 some weight by April 6, 2019.
I did not meet this goal, much to my chagrin. This last quarter was a roller coaster ride for me weight-wise.  I did not do well, and it was frustrating!  I'd lose, then gain, lose, then gain, repeat!  It drove me nuts!  I topped out at 212 lbs. in March, so I am glad that I have lost 5 lbs. since then, but upset that I gained nearly 10 lbs. to begin with.  I know part of the problem is not being able to take a water pill to help with water retention, but I also know that I need to eat better and exercise more often.  Now that the weather is getting better, exercise should be easier. 

Goal #2: Eat more foods that benefit.
I think this was about a 50/50 thing.  Some weeks I'd do great, and others - not so much.  I will probably keep this as a goal for this next quarter as I think it is something I definitely need to keep working on.

 Goal #3: Drink 9+ Cups of water per day.
I did accomplish this, but some days were harder than others.  I have no idea why this has been more of a struggle lately, but I will keep plugging away at this.

Goal #4: Drink some green and herbal teas daily.
I didn't normally drink both teas daily, but I always had green tea daily.  I am going to keep working on this, too.

Goal #5: Get some form of physical activity daily.
I normally got some form of physical activity daily, but some days were next to none.  I am hoping to improve this, as I know I need to be more active.

Goal #6: Read more.
I am reading daily, but not really for pleasure, so I would say I didn't really reach this goal.  It is something I will keep working on, though.

This Quarter's Goals:
  1. I want to lose some weight.  I didn't set a weight loss amount again, but I do want to at least start losing vs. gaining or staying at the same weight.  I know it will take more effort on my part, but I am confident I will get there!
  2. I want to eat right and for the right reasons.  I decided to modify last quarter's  goal slightly because I know my eating habits need work.  I can be an emotional eater, and I tend to eat things because "it's there" at times.  I sometimes go for the ready-made option because I am not in the mood to make a meal or because I think it may be less calories than the homemade version.  Here's the thing: I am beginning to remember why counting calories doesn't work for me.  I really believe not all calories are created equal.  We would all agree that eating, say, a 100 calorie banana is better than eating a 50 calorie banana muffin, but yet we still convince ourselves that the muffin is better because it has less calories.  We forget that it also has more additives and man-made stuff.  Anyway, to simplify put my goal: I want to eat more natural/less carb-y foods (less preservatives, sugar, man-made additives, etc.), and work on only eating when I'm truly hungry.
  3. I want to continue to drink 9+ Cups of water per day.  This may end up being one of those "always on the list" goals.  I know drinking enough water is essential to my health, so I want to always make sure it is a priority.  I am perplexed why I struggle with this at times because it should definitely be a habit by now (I've done it for several years), but yet it is still hard at times.  Anyway, I know with the warmer weather coming up, this is especially essential.
  4. I want to drink some green tea and herbal tea daily.  I have noticed that when I drink green tea, I do have an easier time losing my water retention and weight in general.  I also know that herbal teas greatly help me when I am feeling unwell, and sometimes they help curb my appetite.  I feel like I have the green tea part of this goal down, but I really want to make it a habit, and I really do want to drink herbal teas that benefit me, too.  I am thinking I will start with trying to drink peppermint or my ginger peach tea in the evening to help with digestion.  I have a few others, too (this brand namely), that I want to start being my go-to when I am having issues that the tea is supposed to help with.  Wish me luck!
  5. I want to get some form of physical activity daily.  This goal should be a lot easier now that the weather is getting better.  I try to take the kiddos on a walk with me after they are done with their school work, and then get at least one more in later in the day.  We love to hike, so I am going to request to do that more during the spring/summer.  My family loves to go to the beach, and sometimes I forego going because I am not a fan of swimming.  I think I'm going to work on going anyway, even if it is just to go wading or walk the beach.  It'll be good for me!  We'll see how it goes!
  6. I want to read more.  I really want to read for pleasure more.  Truly.  I do miss it.  I have told myself that I don't have the time for so long that I have made myself believe it.  Truth is, I do have the time, I just need to make reading a priority.  Wish me luck!  I have a plethora of Mary Higgins Clark's to read (and several other mysteries), and I think it really is time I dive into them again.

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! :)

Monday, April 1, 2019

Essential Oils 101 with Jess - April 2019: Peppermint

Awhile ago, I got curious about essential oils.  A lot of people I know that either prefer natural/herbal medicines or cannot take or use a lot of modern antibiotics due to allergies or other health issues use essential oils.  Because of this, I asked a friend of mine, Jessica, who is an essential oil guru in my opinion, if she'd be willing to do a monthly feature on here for me about essential oils, and she said she'd be delighted to! :)  "Essential Oils 101 with Jess" will go live the first day of every month, and I hope you find the information helpful!  If you're curious about essential oils, this information will be a great starting point for you! (See the disclaimer at the bottom of the post for further information.)

Without further adieu, I give you Jess!


As a wife to a husband who works hard at 50+ hours a week and a stay-at-home Mommy of 2 very busy littles, I simply say, "Hello!  My name is Jess!"  I've been faithfully using my Young Living kit and oils for 2 years now.  I thought that they were just over priced bottles of smelly oils, and it took me a year before I actually USED them in 2016 after my daughter was born and she fell ill.  After a few failed attempts of medicines and research, I made the choice to turn to oils.  The difference within 24 hours sold me out, and now they've become a daily part of my family's lives!  I love to do research upon research to find just what different oils are, what they do, and how I can use them.  My passion to share and teach others continues to grow daily.  Unfortunately, we aren't born with vast amounts of wisdom and knowledge, so that's why I'm here!  I want to make that road a little easier for each of you! 

April's Oil of the Month:
Peppermint 5mL

The snow is gone!  I said, the snow is GONE!!!!!  Open your little eyes and take in the renewed colors and life all around!  Take a deep breath and smell those flowers starting to bloom!  Just inhale…..ACHOOOOO!  Ugh!!  Yes, these new flowers and colors are beautiful, but the allergies that can tag along??  Not so much, huh…… Well, for this gorgeous spring weather, I’ve chosen Peppermint* for April!

Although the peppermint plant can flourish in some of the darker places, it THRIVES in direct sunlight!  So, as our desolate sky begins to fill with rays of our toasty sunshine, it begins to grow more abundantly!  So, what makes this plant a much needed oily asset in your arsenal?  Its wide variety of medicinal uses, of course!  I’m talking about digestion, pain relief, diabetic support, energy support, bug repellent, respiratory support, hunger suppressing, cleaning and SO, SO, SO MUCH MORE!  And with so many uses, to just share one of my fave ways to use it just is a waste!!  So, y’all get spoiled today with several ways to incorporate this into your life!

My number one use is for muscular support.  Now, I am in no way an athlete or even a regular exercising girl and probably never will be!  But what I do have are several debilitating painful trigger point issues that never seem to cease!  I’ve tried just about every relief support there is.  And when these muscles spasm and lock up throughout my body, it refers so many pain symptoms ranging from migraines to no balance that I just feel like giving up!  But, true honesty from my heart, peppermint* is my saving grace!  I take some carrier oil and mix up with my oil.  It gets rubbed deeply into my shoulders, neck and spine! I then close my eyes and cup my hands over my face and take deep breaths (CLOSE THEM BECAUSE THE AROMA CAN BURN YOUR EYES!!).  Within 10 minutes, I literally feel my pain melt away!  It is that simple!  And because YL makes pure oil, I am not putting any chemicals or damaging additives that can harm other parts of my body as I try fixing one!

Next use is my stomach!  Along with those muscle issues, I also have severe stomach/digestion issues that have no cure as well as no safe medications to help!  The meds that doctors try giving to help these issues have massive warnings that it destroys our liver and so on!  With this oil, I can drop it into some water, stir and enjoy!  Or rub it onto my stomach directly and within a few minutes it starts to calm it down!  You will not want your skin to have contact with water or sunlight afterwards, so wait about an hour or so.

There you have it!  And with so many uses and benefits, this isn’t even close to how many ways you can use it!  Diffuse it for air freshening, add it to your cleaning bottle to clean and freshen, add a TINY drop onto your toothpaste for extra freshening and whitening!  The world is your peppermint playground!

*Click on the link to view the ingredient list to see if this product is right for you and fits your individual allergen needs.  Please note that the oil mentioned is of the Vitality variety.  You can search the other oils and blends here.

Ready to have your own bottle of Peppermint or want to know more about how to get your own oils?
Click —>

For even more information on how you can get started with Young Living Essential Oils, click here.

Curious as to "Why Young Living?"  Click here.

Want to keep up with my latest oils, info and discovery?
Head over to my blog, Essentially Balanced.

Disclaimer:  This post is for informational purposes only and is not meant to take the place of your doctor’s medical advice.  Though essential oils can be of great benefit for many people, they need to be used properly, and please be advised that some people cannot use essential oils due to allergies, sensitivities, etc.  I highly recommend that you discuss the use of essential oils with your allergist or physician prior to using them for the first time to see if essential oils are right for you.  All information shared here is based on the personal experiences of Jessica Pero and/or myself, and individual results can vary.  Neither of us are doctors, and we cannot treat, cure or diagnose any medical conditions.  

Neither Jessica nor I have been paid for our opinion of Young Living products, though free samples may have been sent to us at times (most products will have been purchased by at least Jessica for personal use vs. being given to her for free to try prior to it appearing on this page).  Our opinions are 100% our own without censor and reflect our personal feelings on the products and not that of the company/person that sent them to us.  If I do not have a comment on a particular product, it is because I have not personally tried it.  No product will be shown on this site that has not been tried by at least Jessica beforehand.

This post will also contain links (that were safe and valid at the time of posting) to outside sources to give you more information about the products listed and about how to purchase these products, including but not limited to the option to set up an account with Young Living.  You are not required nor obligated to set up an account with Young Living nor to purchase products from them by visiting these links.  If you choose to set up an account with Young Living or buy their products, you do so at your own discretion.  Furthermore, by using the information in this post, you expressly acknowledge and agree that Caring Foodie, its author (Julie Moore), Jessica and Caleb Pero, Essentially Balanced, Young Living, and are not responsible for the outcomes of your decisions resulting from the use of this information including, but not limited to, your choosing to purchase or not purchase products, to take (or not to take) a specific course of action based on the information shared herein or your seeking (or not seeking) professional medical care.


Thanks for being my guest, Jess!

I hope you all have enjoyed learning a little more about Peppermint Essential Oil.  If you have further questions, please leave a comment below and Jess will respond as she is able or contact her via her "Contact" page.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Family Favorites - March 2019: Gluten-Free Frosted Sugar Cookies (Wheat, Nut and Fish-Free, Can Be Soy, Milk and Egg-Free)

I decided to keep posting 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 year.  This recipe will be one that we make quite often and that we all enjoy greatly.  This post is the third Family Favorites recipe of 2019.

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 Gluten-Free Frosted Sugar Cookies.  This is my regular Frosted Sugar Cookie recipe made gluten-free...with a few other tips and tricks shared, as well.  These cookies are probably one of my most favorite, and definitely my family's favorite sugar cookie.  They really are very easy to make, and are wheat, nut and fish-free (if all your ingredients are), and can be soy, milk and egg-free (see variations).  They are also extremely soft (like a certain famous brand I will not mention by name that is sold is stores), and the frosting is creamy and indulgent.  What's not to love, right?  If frosted sugar cookies are your thing, you'll definitely want to try this recipe out!

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

Gluten-Free Frosted Sugar Cookies

Cookie Portion:
1 Cup white sugar
(We always use cane sugar.)

1/2 Cup full-fat, salted butter

2 large eggs

1/2 Cup sour cream
(We always use Daisy brand, and normally use the full-fat version.)

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract

3 Cups Cup-for-Cup gluten-free flour blend
(We normally use and highly recommend Namaste Gluten-Free Perfect Flour Blend.)

1 1/2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
(We almost always use Hain brand.)

1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Frosting Portion:
2 Cups gluten-free powdered sugar

1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract

1/2 Cup full-fat salted butter, softened

 Dash (up to 1/8 teaspoon) salt

1 to 2 Tablespoons milk
(We normally use whole milk.)
  1.  Preheat the oven to 350oF.
  2. In large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, lard, eggs, sour cream and vanilla until well blended.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the sugar blend and mix until well blended. (Note: Dough will be soft and a bit sticky, like your traditional sugar cookie or peanut butter cookie doughs.)
  4. Take about a Tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball, and place the dough ball onto the ungreased cookie sheet and flatten it with your hand or the bottom of a glass, repeating the process for each cookie, spacing them about 1 inch apart.
  5. Bake cookies 6 to 8 minutes (less time if they are thinner/smaller cookies, longer if they are bigger/thicker cookies).  DO NOT OVER BAKE!  (Note:  Cookies will look pale, NOT golden brown.  You want to cook them until they look just cooked through (read that as dry or dull vs. shiny on top), but not until they are browned on top.  You are better off slightly under baking these cookies than over baking them.  Also, you can make your cookies bigger in step 4, but they will take slightly longer (about 10 minutes for a 2 Tablespoon-sized cookie) to bake.)
  6. Transfer cookies onto waxed paper or brown paper or cooling rake to cool completely.
  7. Repeat steps 4 through 6 until all the dough is used up.
  8. While the cookies are cooling, mix together all the ingredients for the frosting portion except the milk in a medium mixing bowl until well blended.
  9. Add the milk 1 Tablespoon at a time until the frosting is the right consistency for spreading.  (Note: You can add more milk a teaspoon at a time, if need be, to get the right consistency.  I prefer my frosting light and fluffy, so I beat mine a bit longer to get it that way, too.)

  10. When cookies are completely cooled, frost them and enjoy. (Note: You can decorate them with color sugar or sprinkles, too, but make sure those items fit into your dietary needs before doing so.)
Recipe makes at least 3 dozen cookies (I normally get between 40 and 50, depending on size).

Variations (Please keep your individual allergy and dietary needs in mind when using substitutions!): 
  •  Milk-Free: Use any milk substitute of your choice for the milk.  Use any dairy-free "butter" for the butter in the recipe.  You can even use shortening, lard or coconut oil if they fit your dietary needs.  Sub a dairy-free yogurt (plain or vanilla) for the sour cream.
  • Soy-Free: Namaste Gluten-Free Perfect Flour Blend does not claim to contain soy, but it does contain xanthan gum, which can cause issues with people who have soy sensitivities and allergies.  For these reasons, I will not claim that this recipe is soy-free.  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 3/4 to 3 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.
  • Egg-Free: Use an egg replacer for the eggs or any of the substitutions listed here for the eggs.
  • Other Fats: As mentioned in the Milk-Free variation, you can use shortening, lard, coconut oil, a dairy-free "butter", etc. for the butter in this recipe.
  • Sour Cream Substitution: As mentioned in the Milk-Free variation, you can replace the sour cream with vanilla or plain yogurt, if you wish.
  • Colored Frosting:  You can color the frosting if you wish, using natural food colorings or traditional store-bought types that fit your allergen needs.
  • Flavored Frostings:  You can change the flavor of the frosting by using another extract other than vanilla that fits your allergen needs such as strawberry, almond, peppermint, coconut, etc.  You can even use it along side the vanilla if you wish or use another combo of extracts that sounds good to you.  I would not use more than a total of 2 teaspoons worth of extract, though.  Also, you could sub juice for the milk in the frosting for some flavor, leaving out the vanilla or not depending on your personal preference.

I hope you will give this recipe a try soon and that it becomes a family favorite for you, too!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Recent Reflections - March 2019: Living a Blessed Life

This is the third Recent Reflections post of 2019.  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 living a blessed life.

What does it mean to live a blessed life?  I used to think it meant having excessive amounts of money, having all my desires met along with all of my needs, having no worries, and living whatever my dream was for the moment.  Basically, I thought it meant living with the world's view of prosperity and fortune.

I have come to realize that those things - riches, fame, dream jobs - don't define a blessed life, though they can be part of a blessed life.  So, what does define it?

Well, a blessed life is simply a happy life.

But what makes a person truly happy?

It's not things or money - we all know someone who has "everything" and still battles depression or commits suicide.  It's not a dream job because we all know people who have their dream job and are miserable.

So, what makes a person happy?
Being content with what you have (and don't have), loving the life you have and not longing for the next best thing, living in the moment vs. looking to the future - these things make for a happy life.

When I am content, I am truly happy.  When I trust all the details to God, I feel blessed beyond measure - even when the bank account is lean, the cupboards look bare, and/or the doctor's report looks bleak.

We all know those people who are going through ridiculous hardships yet just radiant happiness, and we just don't get it.  How can they be so happy?!?!?  How can they not be worried?!?!

Truth is, their happiness is not in their situation, but in trusting the God of the situation.

They know that, even if the worst case happens, it will be ok.  
How do I know?  I've been there.  

When I was facing the possibility of MS or even the possibility of breast cancer, I felt God's peace.  When I was facing the possibility of losing my daughter to a hemorrhage after her tonsillectomy, I felt the same peace.  When I went through having children in the NICU twice, I felt God's peace.  When I went through months of testing more than once in my life only to be told, "We don't know why you are having these problems," I felt God's presence and reassurance that it would all be ok.  I was scared, I was unsure about my future, but I knew God would see me through somehow, no matter what the outcome.

It wasn't that I expected a good outcome - I didn't.  Truth be told, I always prepared for the worst.

So, why did I still feel so blessed despite the fear and unknown?
Because God was with me.

You see, the difference between a truly happy person and everyone else on the planet is that they have God to hold their hand in the hard times.  They have God by their side when it's a good day or a bad day.  They have a Rock and a Strength the world just doesn't understand.  This makes all the difference in the world - having Someone Who is always there. {Proverbs 18:24 (KJV)

You want to know the true secret to living a blessed, contented life?
Hebrews 13:5 (KJV):
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."

Live your life not coveting what you don't have and can't get.  Be content with what you have already been blessed with - family, friends, shelter, food, clothing, etc. - and realize how blessed you are if you have God in your life.  

If God is not a part of your life, you can fix that today!  How?  Go here: Want Some Good News?  If you have questions, feel free to email me, and I'll answer them the best that I can!

I truly hope this post has been a blessing to your heart, or at the least made you stop and think a little.  What has God done in your life lately to bless you?  What are you reflecting on?

Have a wonderful weekend!