Homemade Jello, an actual health food

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We are having a frozen birthday party this year for the girls. One of the pinterest ideas is “Christof’s ice”. It was just blue raspberry jello cut into cubes. Easy enough, kid friendly, right? Besides the fact I would never let my kids eat jello. Food dye, preservatives, gelatin from feedlot cows raised in horrible conditions. Did you know that gelatin is actually collagen from animal joints? It has the same amazing health benefits as bone broth, which I make and consume all the time. Its extremely healthy and high in protein if its from grass fed organic cows. The conventional gelatin is made from cows who are crowded, cant move, therefore are so weak they can barely stand. Those aren’t the cows you want to consume. The gelatin I used is Great Lakes brand and is from grass fed cows.

This picture is made with organic orange juice. For the party we are going to try and find an organic clear white grape juice so it will look more like ice. Maybe puree a little blueberries into it to give it a blue tint. I have also made it using fruit puree. Everyone has loved it both ways.

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And it is literally as easy as the boxed jello, a million times healthier, and very customizable. If you want a sweeter jello, add the honey. But the fruit juice has plenty of sweetness for us. And its very high in protein too!

You can pour it into individual candy molds, a large baking dish then slice it into squares, or pour it into a set of 4 ramekins to make individual cups.

Homemade Jello

2-2.5 cups* fruit juice or fruit puree

2 Tbs unflavored grass fed gelatin

2 Tbs honey, if desired

If using fruit puree: puree fresh or frozen fruit in a high speed blender. You want 2.5 cups of the puree.

Place 1 cup fruit juice in a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin overtop. Let sit a couple minutes until dissolved and stir gently to make sure the powder doesn’t clump up. Turn on the heat, stir, and heat for a couple minutes until very warm but not boiling hot.

Take off the heat. Stir in the rest of the juice.

Pour into individual molds or an 8 x 8 glass baking pan.

Let it set in the refrigerator for a few hours to set.

*Use 2 cups for a firmer jello if you are going to cut it into squares like jello jigglers or use closer to 2.5 cups if making jello cups that are usually a little less firm.

 

Nutritional information:

Calories: 70

fat: 0.1 g

sodium: 0 %

Carbohydrates: 14 g

sugars: 13 g

protein: 6 g

Honey Vanilla Pudding

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Pudding is a favorite in our house. We eat my chocolate pudding all of the time. Its probably my most requested dessert from my kids. But with nursing the baby right now, I have to watch my caffeine intake late at night and chocolate surprisingly has a lot of caffeine. I learned that the hard way eating chocolate cake with chocolate icing while nursing Cassidy. Nothing is worth a baby not sleeping well at night.

This pudding is quick to make and I always have the ingredients on hand. And being sweetened with only a small amount of honey, its a perfect guilt free weeknight treat. Just make sure to use organic ingredients (especially the corn starch so its gmo free).

Honey Vanilla Pudding

2 cups milk

2 Tbs corn starch

3 Tbs honey

1 egg

1 Tbs vanilla

 

Mix corn starch, honey, and 1.5 cups cold milk in a saucepan. Heat on medium until lightly boiling.

Wisk egg and remaining 1/2 cup milk well. I often put it in the magic bullet for a second or two.

SLOWLY add egg/milk mixture to boiling milk mixture whisking well the entire time. Whisk for another minute or two.

Add vanilla and whisk until combined.

Serve warm or let cool in refrigerator.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 142

Fat: 2.3 g

Sodium: 70 mg (3%)

Carbohydrates: 24 g

Sugar: 17 g

Protein: 5.5 g

Maple Bacon Muffins

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Maple Bacon Muffins…not much needs to be said. These are as delicious as they sound. Probably one of the best muffin I’ve ever had, my husband agreed. I made these for Father’s Day because whose husband doesn’t love bacon? There is no added sugar, sweetened just from the pure maple syrup, which is a great contrast to the salty bacon. Of course use pasture raised nitrate free bacon. Pasture raised pork bacon actually has tons of health benefits and is far from the Oscar Mayer stuff in the regular grocery store.

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Compared to a common cereal like honey nut cheerios, you can eat one of these muffins for the price of one small cup of cereal (and who actually eats just one small serving anyway). Well actually for 25 less calories, 10 g less carbohydrates, HALF the amount of sugar, and TWICE the amount of protein. But aside from them being super healthy, they are super delicious and indulgent tasting! I would eat these even if they weren’t so healthy!

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Maple Bacon Muffins

makes 12

1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

3/4 cup buttermilk or kefir

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup yogurt, butter, or oil

8 pieces bacon

 

Cook bacon until well done and crispy. While it cooks, combine all dry. Combine all wet. Mix together wet and dry.

Crumble bacon and stir into batter.

Place into 12 lined baking tins.

Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes. Checking every few minutes after the 20 minute mark.

*Soaked recipe: combine flour, yogurt, and buttermilk and let sit overnight. In the morning, beat the remaining ingredients together then stir with the soaked flour. Bake as directed.

 

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 120

fat: 2.2 g

sodium: 202 mg (8%)

Carbohydrates: 20 g

dietary fiber: 2 g

sugars: 6 g

protein: 4.2 g

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Crepes

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I make a lot of dessert. But my husbands absolute favorite dessert I make are crepes. That’s saying a lot coming from someone with a big sweet tooth. Before we met I didn’t have a huge sweet tooth but now mine easily matches if not over shadows Dave’s. I have been making these for a long time, before I really even worried about my food being healthy and whole. But as it turns out, they still fit into our healthy lifestyle.

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The crepe is like a really thin slightly sweet pancake filled with fresh fruit and drizzled in homemade chocolate sauce. It is absolutely nothing like the ones you see on the IHOP commercials. Those things look like they are just doused in artificially flavored goo, dye, high fructose corn syrup and covered with oily whipped “cream”.

Crepes sound so elegant, fancy, and time consuming, especially with a homemade chocolate sauce, but they really aren’t hard at all. Maybe 20 minutes from start to licking my plate clean. Lay open crepe, add generous amount of strawberries, drizzle with chocolate, roll up. You can top with homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberry Crepes:

makes 12

Crepes:

3/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry)

1/2 cup + 1 Tbs milk

2 eggs

2 Tb sugar (coconut palm or organic granulated)

2 tsp coconut oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat milk to warm. Add coconut oil and stir well. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Add flour and sugar. Add extra milk if needed to make it thin enough.

Rub a pan with coconut oil. Heat to medium.

Pour just enough to cover the bottom of the pan, quickly swirling the pan around to evenly distribute the batter. If its not getting thin enough, add a little more milk to the batter. They should look like this…

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Let cook for about 30 seconds. flip. let cook for another 30 seconds then move to a plate.

Repeat until all crepes are finished, reapplying coconut oil to the pan as needed It should make roughly 12 crepes. Wrap the crepes up in the plastic wrap to keep warm. You can also make them ahead and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Chocolate sauce:

2 Tbs corn starch

3-4 Tbs honey

1 Tbs dark chocolate cocoa powder

1/2 cup milk

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbs butter

Put corn starch, sugar, and cocoa in a small pot. Stir it together then add milk. Now turn on your burner and heat until thickened, stirring often. It should only take a couple minutes. Once its to your desired thickness, take off the heat and stir in butter and vanilla.

 

Fill crepe with cut up strawberries or favorite fruit, drizzle chocolate over, roll up, and enjoy!

 

 

Simple Coconut Milk Ice Cream

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This is the simplest healthiest easiest ice cream recipe ever. Its diary free, sugar free, and totally guilt free. My family can’t stop eating it. If you like coconut, you will love this.

Coconut ice cream

makes 4 – 1/2 cup servings

1 can light coconut milk*

4-5 dates, pitted (depending on size of date and desired sweetness)

Puree coconut milk and dates. Pour into ice cream maker. Done.

*You can use full fat if you desire but make sure you use canned. The boxed or refrigerated kind have tons of additives.

Nutritional Information:

calories: 119

fat: 6 g

sodium:

carbohydrates: 15 g

dietary fiber: 2 g

sugars: 13 g

protein: 1 g

Introducing Mallory Brynn

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We recently added a new member to the family, baby girl #3, Mallory. I was recently asked by a reader to tell more about her and what mom wouldn’t love to talk about her new baby?

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To sum it up, life is wonderful. Since she’s the 3rd kid, I am not new at this and the transition was seamless. Neither older sibling (Alyssa is 5 and Cassidy is 2) has shown a single hint of jealousy and both are in love with their baby sister. It helps they have each other and they are great playmates. Of course they bicker and fight some but for the most part they play very well together, for hours on end in the playroom. That gives me plenty of time to sit and breastfeed Mallory and get lots of good snuggles in. Alyssa will even sit next to me and read a book during Cassidys afternoon nap if I want to lay down and take a nap with the baby. They are both wonderful with the baby and run and grab me diapers and wipes whenever they even hear me ask the baby if she has a dirty diaper. So there was really no adjustment period there at all.

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Breastfeeding also went soo much smoother this time. With the older two I bled, blistered, cracked, etc for the first 3-4 weeks. I wanted to cry (and did some) every time they latched on. This time I didn’t have any of that. Maybe its because I stopped nursing Cassidy right before I got pregnant with Mallory so there wasn’t a big gap between nursing. She also just didn’t seem to have such a strong suck like the other two. So that helped with recovery. Breastfeeding is the biggest change because there is a lot I don’t eat. Certain foods bothered Alyssa when I breastfed and others made Cassidy scream with gas. So this time I cut out all of those foods from the start. We have yet to have an upset gassy crying spell. I don’t eat tomatoes or tomato sauce, broccoli, beans, lentils, asparagus, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, onions, garlic, or drink caffeine. I eat lots of protein (chicken, beef, fish), whole grains, peas, zucchini, kale, spinach, greens, salads, green beans, swiss chard, yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds, and any fruit. So its really not too restrictive. And its totally worth it for a happy gas free baby. When shes around 6 months ill start reintroducing those foods. And man, the breastfeeding hunger is starting to set it. I eat more than my 200 lb husband when I’m nursing, I become a bottomless pit.

She nurses every 3 hours during the day, only takes about 15 minutes, and we do the eat wake sleep cycle. For some naps she eats sleeps then eats again since the 3 hours has passed. Then at night she goes to bed around 915 (I lay her down awake but tired and she falls asleep within 5 minutes) swaddled. I dreamfeed her as much as she will eat in her sleepy state when I go to bed around 1045. She will then sleep between 6-8 hours, eat once, then go back to sleep until 8 or 830 am. So we are doing well for a 7 week old.

The birth story is unreal. My nurse told me I better not tell people Mallory’s birth story because all women would hate me and they probably wouldn’t believe it anyway. But here it is…

I had an appointment the morning I was 39 weeks 5 days. She checked me, I was 4-5 cm. They don’t admit until 6 cm unless you are in active labor. I wasn’t having contractions. Based on the fact I have a history of fast labors (2.5 hours and 1.5 hours from start to finish with the older two), she wanted me to go get hooked up on the contraction monitor to make sure I wasn’t in early labor and didn’t know it. She also stripped my membranes at that time.

Around 12 I got monitored, no contractions, but the doctor wanted to check me again after lunch before sending me home. We got lunch and came back around 1. She said I was now a full 5 cm. So really no change. I wanted to stay and have them break my water though since I knew once labor started, it would happen fast. My doctor was just a resident so she didn’t have the authority to break my water so the attending came in to check me. She said I was at 6 cm, no going home now. She gave me the option to walk the halls or break my water to get contractions going because at this point I still wasn’t having any. I decided on breaking my water because I wasn’t even in labor so I knew walking wouldn’t do anything. I went to my room and was messing around doing lunges and grapevines to see if it would make labor start. No luck. I had been doing stuff like that for a week to try and get labor started and nothing.

At 3:45 they broke my water. So at this point I am still not in labor, still not having any contractions, but somehow I am dilated to 6-7 cm now. After about 5 minutes I started having contractions that were registering on the monitor but I couldn’t feel them. A few felt like braxton hicks I had been having for months but that’s it. I stood there talking to my doctor (a family friend) and the attending. They left the room at 3:57 hoping labor would start soon. This is me then. Still a smile and no contractions

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At 4:00 I had a legit contraction and knew labor was on its way. At 4:03 I had one that hurt like hell. This was labor now. The next one, the doctors and nurses rushed in saying the baby’s heart rate was dropping. I needed to get in bed and get on oxygen. I had them wait while I breathed through contraction #2. #3 I got into bed. #4 they turned me on my side, still sitting up, and put the oxygen mask on my face. #5 I said I know its crazy but I feel like I need to push. The doctor said don’t because the baby needed oxygen before we spent a while pushing. The doctor was sitting on my bed, looked down, and said, “oh nevermind” and the baby literally came out as I tried not to push. Contraction #5, 8 minutes after my first contraction.  8 minutes. Not 8 minutes of pushing, not 8 minutes of transition or active labor. 8 total minutes. Insane.

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The doctors and nurses took bets on how fast labor would be since the first two were so fast. The attending won with a time of 4:40. So still way later!

Healthy, Whole, Organic, and Cheap too

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About a year ago I tracked our food budget for a week and it was really interesting so I decided to do it again…

People have the misconception that eating healthy is expensive. I recently watched a popular health food documentary where a low income family said they couldn’t afford to eat healthy and they were forced to eat fast food to feed their family of four because its cheap. They had access to a car so getting to a grocery store wasn’t the problem. Now I know I don’t know their whole story but many people think this way. “Eating healthy is too expensive” is a common misconception.

We eat 100% organic foods and local as much as possible. We made the decision a while ago that food is something we were willing to spend more money on. So we don’t skimp on expensive products when we want them. We eat steaks, meat at every dinner, seafood, tons of fresh produce, organic greek yogurt, and ALL organic. All places we could save on, but we like it and its worth it to us. We eat unprocessed whole grains, meats, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and dairy. We go not eat anything processed or anything that comes out of a box. We also do not go out to eat. Well with one exception. Once a month when we do our big whole foods trip (an hour away but the best option since we live in a small town), we stop by an organic restaurant for a meal.

I tracked every penny we spent on food in the last month (ETA: this also includes things like toilet paper and paper towels. It also includes about $30 worth of wine we bought when we had visitors which we don’t buy otherwise. And also food for a meal I made for a friend who recently had a baby. I refigured out my numbers not including those things so that its just our food alone and put that in parenthesis).

It looks like this…

$540 whole foods: We make one big trip a month. We freeze a lot of meats and vegetables. We stock up on meat, 1-2 weeks of fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables and fruit, dairy, bulk bin items (barley, amaranth, quinoa, steel cut oats, raisins, nuts, seeds, beans)

$120 trader Joes: whole chickens, dairy

$45 commissary (military grocery store): fruit, ground turkey, milk and cheese

$40 produce delivery box: vegetables

$25 organic market: fresh vegetables

$55 commissary: fruit, milk, yogurt

$28 Epic Food Company (the organic restaurant)

That totals $833 ($793) for an entire months food for my entire family. That includes one 200 lb man, one breastfeeding mom, and 2 kids who eat so much I get frequently asked if I ever feed them because of how much food they put away in a single sitting. My parents always comment how one of my kids eats more than they do.

That’s $208 ($198) per week, $29.75 ($28) per day, $9.90 ($9.44) per meal for the entire family. That’s $2.48 ($2.36) per person per meal.

What fast food restaurant can you feed a family of 4 for UNDER $10? The dollar menu cant do that. A happy meal costs more than $2.48. So our way of eating is cheaper and obviously exponentially healthier. And this cost per meal is assuming we eat just 3 meals a day. In reality we all have an afternoon snack and we all have an evening snack around 730 since we usually eat an early 530 pm dinner. So each meal is actually cheaper than that.

Where do we save?

Bulk bins: For example, I use dried beans instead of canned. Bulk bins can save but some stuff is actually more expensive out of the bulk bins so I have compared and know what to buy bulk.

Beans for protein: We eat beans at lunch pretty much every day for protein instead of meat or processed expensive lunch meats

Homemade: I make everything from scratch. Premade hummus is $4, the dried beans cost a matter of cents. We make huge batches of steel cut oats for breakfast throughout the week instead of pricey boxes of cereal. It takes a little more planning but really not much extra time. I am a stay at home mom but I have 3 kids, one is a newborn and I homeschool my oldest, so I don’t have loads of free time for sure.

Snack foods: We don’t buy fruit snacks, crackers, cookies, etc. We snack on fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. When we eat dessert, I make it myself. A box of cookies is quite a few dollars but oats, dates, milk, peanuts (cookie or ice cream ingredients) are pretty cheap.

Chickens: Instead of buying chicken breasts I get whole chickens and cut them up. Organic chicken breasts are $7 per pound where a whole organic chicken is $2.69. I also use the chicken bones to make bone broth which saves money on not having to buy chicken broth.

Eggs: We have backyard chickens. We have 6 and we get roughly 3 dozen eggs a week. And they are the best eggs you’ve ever tasted. We do supplement them being free range with a small amount of grain however.

Eating out: we really don’t do it. We don’t drive thru Starbucks a couple times a week or catch lunch while we are out. We eat breakfast before we leave the house, we eat lunch at home since its right before naptime so we have to be home anyway, then dinner is shortly after naptime so we are still home and eat before we go back out anywhere. I also either pack my husband a lunch or he meets us at home every day for lunch.

Where we splurge. We could save here more but we just don’t for various reasons:

Coupons: I rarely use them unless they are on the front of the package in the store, ready to peel off. I need to get better about this but it seems coupons are mostly for processed foods. And its not really worth my time to search the internet for an hour to save $2 in coupons. Again, I have 3 kids, I’m busy.

Meats: We eat meat at every dinner and enjoy red meat and seafood weekly. The other nights its usually chicken or ground turkey. We could eat more beans or cheaper cuts of meat. But good food is our splurge. I don’t have 10 purses or a closet full of shoes. But I do have delicious grass fed organic beef in my freezer. Priorities.

Fresh Produce: Frozen is way cheaper and we buy a decent amount, especially in the winter to get us through the end of the month before we can get back to whole foods for more fresh. But fresh ones are just so good and theres such a better variety. We love them raw and roasted so we love fresh produce.

Organic: Organic is absolutely more expensive. No doubt about it. I think everything is more expensive organic. But we feel its worth it, so we do it. We have growing kids we don’t want chemicals, pesticides, gmos, or poor quality meat in their vulnerable bodies. So if we didn’t buy 100% organic, it would be way cheaper. Imagine that? Its already so cheap when you break it down!

It all comes down to priorities. I read so many blogs saying they cant afford to buy all organic, its just not in the cards. Well that may be true with their current budget.  But to me I’d rather spend the money on good quality healthy food than a pair of shoes I may want, but not need. Another common reason is that someone doesn’t have the time. Again, its priorities. Do you ever watch a tv show? Ever spend time reading or doing another hobby? Of course most people do. And that’s fine. But the reason is because you don’t want to, not because you can’t. But honestly, once you have a routine down and plan ahead, it doesn’t take much time at all. Planning ahead really is key. No last minute grocery trips which end up in higher food bills and it saves loads of time when meal time rolls around.