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Though I strive to update outdated information quickly and work diligently to make sure you have the most accurate information possible at all times, it is your duty to double check labels EVERY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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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Recent Reflections - September 2019: My Oldest Is A Senior In High School...

This is the ninth 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 my oldest being a senior in high school.

First Day of Kindergarten, 2007

First Day of Senior Year, 2019

I can hardly believe the my little man is no longer a little man, but a full-grown man!  In a few weeks he'll be 17, and in a about 8 months he'll be graduating high school!  That just blows my mind.  Wasn't it just yesterday that I was writing that he was turning 10?  How on earth did we get here?  Time moves the quickest when you want it to move the slowest.

Now, readers, the rest of this post is an open letter to my son, so forgive me if it gets sappy. :)

My dearest Stephen, 

Son, let me get real here...  

First, I love you more than you'll ever understand until you have your own children (Lord willing) one day.  Never, ever forget that.  You can never do anything that will make me not love you, so let me (and your dad) be the first one you go to when life gets hard or when you think you've done something unforgivable.  I promise the love will still be there, and we will work on the rest.  May you never have to face that day (and I pray you won't), but I just want to put it out there that I will always be here for you, no matter what.  That doesn't mean there won't be consequences for wrong choices - there always are - but we will be by your side to help you through it and pray that that time will be the last time we have to do so.  If not, we'll just keep loving you and praying for you like always.  And as a side note, let's try not to use this option, shall we, son? :)  I know we'd both prefer to not have to deal with this kind of hurt, so let's just keep doing right things, ok?  Ok. :D

Secondly, I am amazed every day at the man you are maturing into.  I am not looking forward to the day you move out, be it to college or to a job or whatever the reason, but I know that you will do well no matter what God has in store for you as long as you continue to put Him first.  I am excited for this next phase in your life...even if it will be bittersweet.  

Thirdly, keep your eyes on God!  He will never steer you wrong.  The days will get hard - expect it.  There will be days when you wonder if He is still there or listening to your prayers.  I promise - He is.  He is teaching you something, He is guiding, He is waiting for you to yield or learn, He is leading you down a path that is necessary for you to become who you are meant to be, or any other number of things, but He is also wanting to hold you up through the hard times.  God is not desirous to hurt you, but hurt is in this world because sin is.  You will face pain because we all do...but you don't have to face it alone.  God is there, and we (your dad and I, along with your extended family and church family) will be there to help you through.  So, those days when you feel alone, get in your Bible, keep praying, call your parents for prayer support, stay in church and counsel with your pastor.  All those things will help encourage you on the darkest days that I pray you have very few of.

Fourth, I am so proud of you!  You give of your time and yourself without thought of how it will benefit you because it is the right thing to do, you play with your siblings and (normally) let them have equal say in what you all do, you do the job you say you are going to do and then some, you love to discuss things with us, and you show that you love instead of just saying it.  On top of that, I can very clearly see that you love the Lord and desire to do His will.  You may not know exactly what your next step will be after high school yet, but we'll figure that out.  Just keep asking God to guide you, listen to the advice from those who love the Lord and want His perfect will for your life, and I know you'll do amazing things for Him and in your life!

I love you, my not-so-little man!

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!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Gluten-Free Baked Bacon Mac and Cheese (Wheat, Nut, Egg and Fish-Free, Can Be Soy and Milk-Free)

It's fall y'all (well, if you consider September 1st the start of autumn like I do vs. the autumnal equinox)!  Once it starts to cool off, I do more baking.  One of the things that I plan on adding to my autumnal menu on a more regular basis is this Gluten-Free Bacon Mac and Cheese (recipe of my own creation).

This recipe is wheat, nut, egg and fish-free (if all your ingredients are), and can be soy and milk-free (see variations).  It also has two of my favorite things - bacon and cheese!  DELISH!  And the gluten-free bread crumb topping adds a nice crunch.  Seriously, you guys, you need to try this ASAP if you are a bacon mac and cheese fan.

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.  Also, not all gluten-free bread crumbs are soy-free.  For these reasons, I will not claim that this recipe is soy-free.  I will share a soy-free alternative in variations, though.

Gluten-Free Baked Bacon Mac and Cheese

For the Mac and Cheese:
1 lb. gluten-free bacon, cooked and crumbled

16 oz. gluten-free macaroni or rotini noodles, uncooked
(We normally use and highly recommend Tinkyada noodles.) 

1/3 Cup salted, full-fat butter

6 Tablespoons gluten-free flour
(We normally use and highly recommend Namaste Gluten-Free Perfect Flour Blend.)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

4 1/2 Cups milk
(We normally use whole milk, but you can use whatever you have on hand.)

4 Cups (16 oz.) sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

For the Topping:
3/4 Cup gluten-free bread crumbs

1/4 Cup salted, full-fat butter, melted

  1.  Preheat oven to 350oF.   
  2. In a large pot, melt your 1/3 Cup butter.
  3. Add your gluten-free flour, salt and pepper to your melted butter, and cook and stir until bubbly (about 3 to 5 minutes).
  4. Add the milk to the roux you made in step 2, and stir and cook until the mixture thickens to your likeness.  (Note: The filling will thicken up a little bit during baking, but not a ton, so you'll want it basically as thick as you want the end result.)
  5. Stir the cheese into your milk mixture and keep stirring until the cheese is melted.
  6. Mix your cooked and crumbed bacon and your uncooked noodles into the cheese sauce and pour it all into a greased, glass 13x9 inch pan.  (Note:  Gluten-free noodles can get extremely mushy if you pre-cook them before baking them.  Trust me, they will cook in the oven in the sauce to a nice al dente, but if you are nervous they won't be cooked enough or find that they don't cook enough to your liking, you can either just soak them in hot water for a few minutes, drain them, and then add them to the sauce before baking or cook them until they are about 1/2 done beforehand.)
  7. Mix the melted butter with the bread crumbs in a small bowl and sprinkle them evenly over the top of the mac and cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbly and the topping is browned.

Makes one 13x9 pan or about 12 large servings or 24 smaller servings.

Variations (Please keep individual allergen and dietary needs in mind when using variations.  Thank you!):

  • Milk-Free: Use bacon grease in place of the butter.  You could also use a dairy-free butter like SoDelicious.  You will also need to replace the milk and cheese with dairy-free options that fit your dietary needs (Daiya has a lot of great dairy-free cheeses, and there are numerous dairy-free milks to choose from).
  • 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.  Not all gluten-free bread crumbs are soy-free either.  For these reasons, I will not claim that this recipe is soy-free.  You can use regular flour (if you can have it), cornstarch, or potato starch in place of the gluten-free flour.  You can also sub plain potato chips that are soy-free for the gluten-free bread crumbs.  You'll have to make sure all of your ingredients are soy-free, too.
  • Alternative Topping Ideas: As I mentioned above, you can use plain potato chips for the gluten-free bread crumbs.  You can also use regular bread crumbs, crackers, or no topping at all.  You can also put the crumbled bacon into the topping vs. stirring it in the mac and cheese if you want it a bit crisper and find that it gets too soft in the cheese sauce.  The choice is yours!
  • Added Onion Flavor:  If you want some onion flavor, sub onion salt for the salt and/or add in some onion (raw or cooked with the butter in step 1 - about 3/4 Cup).
  • No Bacon:  If you don't like bacon, you can sub diced ham, cooked chicken, broccoli or skip the add-ins entirely.
  • Different Cheese:  I find that sharp cheddar, especially extra sharp cheddar, works best for this recipe, but you can use white cheddar, colby-jack, monterey jack, or any other type of cheese you fancy or a combo of them as long as you don't exceed 4 Cups.  I have not tried using a soft cheese for this recipe, but if you try it, let me know how it turns out!
  • Non-Gluten-Free:  You can always use regular noodles, regular flour and regular bread crumbs (if you can have them).  Regular noodles will need to be cooked before using them in this recipe, however.
  • Time Saving:  Use already cooked and crumbed bacon that comes in a pouch vs. making it yourself, if that is an option for you.  This can save quite a bit of time in the prep-work!

Looks good, right?

It is, I promise!

Have a great rest of your week!

Monday, September 16, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 13, September 16, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.

Here is my thirteenth weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, September 16, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight stayed the same.  I'll take it, but I am hoping for a weight loss over this week.  Wish me luck!

3. Health News: I was just able to average over 6,000 steps per day last week.  I am hoping to do better this week.  We'll see how it goes.  It's supposed to be a beautiful week, so I will do my best to try to get those steps in!

Insomnia is trying to rear its ugly head again.  It's not been too bad, but it is definitely not fun.  I was told to try cherry juice for it, so I will probably start that at some point, most likely today.  Hopefully it will help!

I am still dealing with the side effects from the herbal water pill, but they are definitely improved, and hopefully I will be done with the side effects soon.  I am definitely disappointed that those herbal water pills didn't work out.  At least I figured it out now before I heavily invested in them (I normally buy my vitamins a year at a time, and that would have been a nice chunk of change!).

4. Diet News:  I feel like I did ok this last week, but not as good as I could have.  I'm trying to really cut back on sugar and carbs, and I feel like I do well avoiding sugar for the most part, but carbs...those little devils are harder!  I am at least trying to make sure the carbs I do get are less processed on the whole.  Anyway, I am going to keep working on it, and hopefully I will get better little by little.

The intermittent fasting is going well.  I feel like I feel better overall and am eating more out of hunger than boredom.  This is a good change!  Hopefully I can keep up with it, and hopefully it will be the key to losing more weight.

5. Other News: It is looking like the next month or so is going to be very busy.  I am finding that I need to re-figure out how to manage my time.  It isn't as easy as I thought it would be.  That said, I am hoping to have that nailed down in the coming weeks.  Wish me luck!  Thanks! :)

How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 12, September 9, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.

Here is my twelfth weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, September 9, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight went down a pound!  I am hoping this will continue.  I have been able to stay a bit more active, and I feel like I am making better food choices, so that should help.  Wish me luck!

3. Health News: I averaged over 8,800 steps per day last week.  I know that that number is a bit skewed because of the Bridge Walk last Monday, but I was out and about as I could be, so that's a positive regardless!  I will keep trying to stay active as I can, and hopefully I will average 6,000+ steps per day this week.

Though my insomnia is definitely better, I am still dealing with some consequences of taking that herbal water pill.  I am hoping they clear up soon, and they seem to be, but they have been no fun!  I definitely won't be taking the herbal water pill again, and I can say that I will not be recommending it.  I am still contemplating another herbal alternative, but I am definitely going to wait awhile for that if I ever decide to try an herbal alternative again.  I have a feeling I am just going to have to deal with the water retention for the foreseeable future.

4. Diet News:  I definitely feel like I did better with my diet this week.  I think that is in part to trying to be very aware of what I am eating and why, but also I decided to try intermittent fasting (for more information on that, click here).  Basically, I am only eating anything calorie containing between 10am and 6pm (though I do have to modify that to like 9am to 5pm on Sundays due to church activities), and limiting myself to water, unsweetened tea or black decaf coffee at any other time.  The biggest thing that I will need to do with this is avoid the trap of eating the convenience foods or anything high in sugar.  So far, I have done very well.  The other thing I am going to try to do is add in more fruits and veggies.  That's something that I got a bit away from, and I would really like to change that.  Wish me luck!

5. Other News: School is in full swing, and this week is going to be insanely busy!  My head swims just thinking about it all.  But you know me - better busy than bored!  Also, I have a few unspoken prayer requests, so if you have time and think about it, I'd appreciate your prayers in those areas!  Thank you!

How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Weekly Weigh In: Week 11, September 3, 2019

I have decided that this feature will now run indefinitely, and will replace the My Quarterly Report feature.  It will go live every Monday, and it will be a weigh in that will share how I'm doing health-wise, and it will give me more accountability with my health.

{Sorry this update is a day late.  We had a busy day yesterday!  I'll share more below. :) }

Here is my eleventh weigh in:

1. The Selfie: The selfie is me as of today, September 3, 2019.  

2. Weight: My weight has stayed the same.  I can say that is probably in part due to not making the best choices with meals.  I am still working on that.  I find that busy-ness makes it easier for me to choose the quick fix vs. the best choice for me (think grabbing the potato chips vs. a salad or a higher-in-sugar cereal bar vs. a bowl of lower-in-sugar cereal situation).  I'm thinking I may need to make some individual portions of things up for me and keep them handy so that I can reach for those vs. the bad-for-me options.  Might help.  At this point, I'm just glad I didn't gain, and I will continue to press on!

3. Health News: I only averaged about 5,500 steps per day last week - same as the last 2 weeks.  I was busy with doctor's appointments and back-to-school prep and family party prep, so actually getting in some good walks didn't happen until the very end of the week.  This week, however, I should do much better.  That's the plan, anyway! 

The herbal water pill is now officially out.  I stopped taking it on August 31, 2019 due to some possible health issues that arose from it (the doctor and I believed it may have changed my urine acidity which caused some very unpleasant issues).  Though not 100% certain that the pill is to blame, the timing of the issues coincide with the addition of the pill and are too coincidental to be ignored.  These issues, coupled with the fact that it was not very effective, helped me to decide not to continue taking this particular pill anymore.  I definitely don't want to be taking something that will be giving me more things to deal with!

I am dealing with a little insomnia again, so consequently I am dealing the other issue associated with that.  Today, in fact, I just feel completely run down with a migraine (thankfully the ibuprofen is keeping the pain away, but I have the other issues that go along with migraine like the nausea, fogginess, etc.).  I know that part of my issue is that I got less than 4 hours of sleep the night before last due to the insomnia and it's very stormy today (changes in weather pressure really do my head in), but I think I may also have eaten something bad at lunch time yesterday when we ate out.  Either way, I'm not feeling too awesome today (as you may be able to see in the photo).  Anyway, I'm sure that I should be feeling a bit better tomorrow.  I hope so, anyway!

Also, the doctor did decide to up my thyroid pill due to my issues with more migraines and such.  Other than today, I've felt a million times better since then.  I was having a lot less fatigue, less head fog/pressure, less moody - just overall felt better.  I am hoping this will help me a bit with the weight gain train as long as I can be honest with my eating.  Wish me luck!

4. Diet News:  Menu planning this week was pretty much an epic fail for me, so I'm going to modify it.  I've learned in the last few weeks more what I should eat to feel better, so I'm just going to record as I go vs. plan it out.  I am hoping this will help me be more honest.  Why is it so easy to lie to yourself about food?  Maybe I'm the only one who deals with that, I don't know, but it is one thing that I really don't like about myself.  I may not lie about what I eat, but I struggle to be honest about the portion sizes.  I am going to work on that more.  I know that is going to make a big difference - being honest with portion sizes.

5. Other News: We were going to start homeschooling back up today, but have decided to let it go until tomorrow.  Why you may ask?  Well, the kiddos spent the night with their aunt, uncle and cousins who they don't get to see very often last night and are not home yet (it's nearly 10am now, and I'm assuming they are probably not wanting to come home just yet), and partly because I feel blah today.  Also, we're (at least the boys, hubby and I) are recovering from walking the Mighty Mac yesterday!  Not only did we walk it one way (5 miles), we walked it back to where we started (another 5 miles).  Not only did we do that, we had to walk to our car and we walked around town, so we walked another few miles with that.  Needless to say, we're a bit tired! LOL :)  I'm sure my hubby wishes he could have had today off, but he did not.  I've a feeling he will be crashing tonight when he comes home.

Here's some pictures from yesterday:

This was us at the beginning of the walk.  You may not be able to tell, but it was 7am EST, and there were thousands there.  It was a great time...even if we did get up at 4am (well, I got up at 2am thanks to insomnia, but the rest of them got up at 4am).

This was my shirt I got to commemorate my accomplishment!  It's a long trek, but beautiful and so worth it!  We walked the bridge from about 7:30am when we got on until about 10:30am when we got off.  That's 3 hours of walking without a break, and that doesn't include the rest of the time we spent walking to our car, around town, etc.

Here's the official, end-of-day step count!  Now, the 18 miles is an estimate the step counter does based on average steps-per-mile and is not based on my stride.  My stride is shorter than my hubby's, so he got less miles than me because he got less steps.  Anyway, when I averaged out our miles, we figure we did at least 15 miles of walking.  That's a lot of walking in one go!

And here are some of my favorite photos from the walk.

If you want to know more about the walk, here's some more info:

How are you doing?  Do you have anything you want to weigh in with?  Any health progress or goals you want to share?  If so, please leave a comment below (with a link to your post, if you have one and wish to leave it), and I'll respond ASAP.

Have a great week!