Thanksgiving Mostly Clean Eating

Brian and I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house for a few years now. We have the most space so it just seemed to make sense for us to take everyone in here (plus, we have the most kids and I’m not trying to cart them around on Christmas!). Over the years we have kind of gotten it figured out, as much as you really can. I do a lot of cooking and prep leading up to the day so that I’m not spending all day cooking and missing out on family time. Having half the dishes already made before Thanksgiving is ultra helpful. Also, our meals have gotten a little more complex since we have been on our limited grains and sugar journey. Gone are the days of boxed anything and cans of gravy.

You know how everyone seems to have their quintessential Thanksgiving dishes? Well, we try to accommodate those as much as we can but also add in healthy options for us. For example, Brian is a huge mashed potato fan and we rarely have them so on Thanksgiving and Christmas I make a lot of them. Everyone else seems to enjoy them as well so that dish doesn’t get modified. In case you are wondering the best way to make the mashed potatoes is in the slow cooker.

On the other hand, I do make multiple stuffing versions. One fairly regular version (except that I make my own bread crumbs because that boxed stuff is no bueno!). The second is one for my family and is never quite the same. In the past I’ve made an almond flour bread stuffing, this year I created one with sweet potato, onions, celery, and a granola that I flavored to be like stuffing. The stuffings are made in advance so we’ve taste tested them. After three years of being mostly grain-free I didn’t even like the regular stuffing (where is all the flavor?! Why do I only taste bread?!). I used to be a die-hard stuffing fan. Eat all the stuffing! And the girls said they didn’t care for the regular stuffing much either, except for the veggies in it. =)


There is always a big salad filled with vegetables. We are also having roasted vegetables. It depends on what I have on hand but this year we are having roasted green beans and chard (so many green beans, yay!). No dinner rolls. It always seems that people get the dinner roll and can’t ever finish it, so I’ve decided I’m not wasting my efforts. I make my own gravy and am still perfecting the recipe. I follow one from Rachael Ray and sometimes it works better than others (I have real gravy issues!).

I married into a family that has both turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas so we stick with that. It’s a lot of meat and makes me sick to think about it but I fear there would be a revolt if both them weren’t present. To top the meat I’ve become a fan of cranberry sauce. I never ate cranberry sauce when I was younger but once I started making my own (recipe here) I converted to a cranberry sauce lover.

Those are the key dinner items. Occasionally, someone will bring something like macaroni and cheese or green bean casserole. We welcome people to bring whatever they may want and I TRY to limit how much the kiddos get of these other items.

Dessert has always been my favorite part and we don’t skimp here. There are multiple pies and other desserts for the after dinner spread. This year I kept it fairly simple. I made THE Ultimate Holiday Pie, grain-free and refined sugar-free! Using this grain-free honey graham cracker crust, subbing honey for the sugar in the cheesecake layer, this pumpkin pie, and the pecan pie topping from here. The healthy version came out beautifully and I’m hoping for no complaints about the lack of sugar. I just wanted to be able to eat this lovely creation and not feel sick. In addition to pie we are having fruit salad (chopped up fruits stirred in with homemade honey sweetened  whipped cream), and these cake batter truffles (also grain and refined sugar free).


Before dinner we snack on vegetables and hummus and this year I made spiced bar nuts. The nuts were a huge hit last year and when I made them earlier this week we were loving the preview.

While I don’t necessarily love making the multiple versions of foods I am excited that this year I have converted all the dessert to be edible for my family. And that despite the mashed potatoes and the regular stuffing the rest of the food fits right into our eating style. I dream of the day when I can say that about all the food on the table. Small steps for now. We have come a long way from Thanksgivings past.

THE Ultimate Holiday Dessert

Looking for an outrageous dessert that screams holiday spirit? I’ve found THE dessert (thank you Pinterest!). Actually, I found it about a month ago or longer but decided to give it a serious look again. My best friend is going through a rough season and I wanted to make something for her. So I made THE ultimate holiday pie. It’s crazy like the piecaken but totally not the same.

Now that we’ve established it as THE ultimate holiday pie. What exactly is it? It is a layered pie. Cheesecake on the bottom, followed by pumpkin pie in the middle, and topped with pecan pie. In each and every bite you get the distinct flavor of the individual layers but in combination! And if that’s not enough to convince you just wait until the smell of this pie while cooking is wafting through the house. Holiday smells irresistible.

The key to layering this pie is that each layer is made separately, poured into the pie pan, and set to freeze before the next layer is added. That way the layers don’t mix together and stay nice and separate while baking.

The original recipe called for a pastry crust but I’d never use a pastry crust on cheesecake so I went with graham cracker crust instead. It was the right move. Since the cheesecake is on the bottom the graham crust melts in the cheesecake just as you’d expect from your typical cheesecake. But with pumpkin pie and pecan pie on top this cheesecake is anything but typical:


The pumpkin pie layer is the thickest layer, appropriately so:


After the pumpkin pie layer is frozen on top of the cheesecake layer you spoon the pecan pie filling on top. The pecan pie filling is thin and once cooked sort of melts into the top portion of the pumpkin pie layer. Another reason that the pumpkin pie layer should be slightly thicker. No need to freeze again, but bake and enjoy the delicious smell filling your house. A little pointer: I was extremely nervous putting my frozen glass pie pan into a hot oven. I got lucky with no broken pie pan but next time I will not preheat the oven and let the pie plate heat up with the oven.


I could not follow the original recipe in regards to the pecan pie because it called for corn syrup and that’s just not something that makes its way into our house. Instead I found a recipe using agave and it worked! This whole recipe is not the kind of thing I usually make as it is laden with sugar but like I said, best friend, rough season, seemed like a good time to give this a try.

Once the pie is done, the pecan pie filling will be browned and the pie will still be jiggly but not wet. We had to taste test immediately but it’s much better when it’s had adequate time to set up in the fridge. Topped with whipped cream this pie is the perfect combination of the holiday season and flavors.

pecan pumpkin pie cheesecake

I’m pretty sure I can alter this to be refined sugar-free and grain-free but I had to have the original recipe under my belt first.  The classic pumpkin pie was set to make an appearance on our Thanksgiving table but I’m reconsidering. Classic pumpkin pie or THE ultimate holiday pie?! We’ll put it to a vote.

My Kids Rock

….and I don’t when it comes to updating the blog. I’ve been making great stuff and taking pics of all of it but have been seriously failing when it comes to putting a post up. If there was anything that is deserving of a post it is this: my kids are awesome!

Twice now I’ve made a super easy but incredibly delicious one pot roasted meal. This meal seems fancy but is very simple and requires minimal hands on time. I’ve been roasting a whole chicken atop whatever greens and vegetables I have. The greens, collards, or chard are coated with a little olive oil and some spices and then go into the roaster (I happen to have an electric roaster but in the oven would work too). Same thing with the veggies. As always, I slice up onions for good measure. I’ve been seasoning the chicken with the lemon and herb recipe from The Against All Grain cookbook. This dinner tastes amazing and totally cooks itself! Love! The girls like this dinner a lot and ask for a piece of chicken still on the bone. Eating meat off the bone is a novelty to them.

So when you cook a whole chicken you get a couple of bonuses. One being that you get to make homemade chicken broth with the leftover carcass. Which also cooks itself after you add some rough cut vegetables, water, a touch of apple cider vinegar, and herbs. I get more excited about the chicken broth than the actual chicken. A mug full of homemade chicken broth on a cold day warms me right up. Another bonus is the liver you get from the chicken. In all honesty we usually just toss that stuff (I don’t even like to admit this wastefulness). Not this time, I’ve been hearing all about how nutritious organ meat is. Since I already had some from my chicken I figured I’d give cooking liver a shot. If the family didn’t like it, no loss. Well, I only had a small amount of liver from my one chicken so I bought an additional pound from the store so we could really try it.

How does one cook liver? I was unsure so I did a little research and decided simple was better. Here’s how I did it: I patted the liver dry and then marinated it in almond milk for a couple of hours. I sautéed some shallots in coconut oil until soft and then added the liver (drained and patted dry again). Cooked until the liquid is released from the liver and it’s browned. That’s it, simple no fuss liver.

Now, could I serve this to the fam? Yes, if I was careful to avoid any negative connotations. I dished this up for lunch over some wilted spinach and plenty of other options just in case it was not a hit. Most importantly, I simply called it chicken from a different part of the chicken than we normally eat.



And……they ate it and liked it! My kids eat chicken liver, no questions asked, how awesome are they?! In fact, Brian had more qualms about it than they did. He said he’d be more ok if it was mixed into something rather than a pile of liver on his plate. Understandable, I guess. We had plenty leftover and mixed some with lentils into our chiles rellenos later in the week.


Again, no questions asked! Did I mention my kids rock! They are no different from other kids who love pizza, and cake and sugar but when you feed them real food instead they will eat real food! Amazing. Shout out to my mom who fed me liver as a child. I didn’t remember until I tasted the liver and then the memory of eating and enjoying it came flooding back. I was not at all a picky eater when I was little and my parents fed me all sorts of different things, which had led to some funny stories now that I’m grown. Moral of the story: (not about me but about typical kids, I was weird) don’t give up on the picky eaters! They can and will learn to enjoy a variety of foods if you allow them the opportunity to keep trying.

An Apple A Day

I’m working to prove the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. We were given apples from an orchard of somebody at Brian’s work. A lot of apples! So many that I don’t feel bad using them all the time, they seem endless. In fact, I already made some homemade applesauce (amazing recipe from the Against All Grain cookbook, so easy, no added sugar or juice and very tasty!) and didn’t even put a dent in the apple quantity. Other than that I’ve been feeding them to the girls at least once a day with breakfast or lunch. As for me, I am currently obsessed with an apple dessert I created.

I’m embarrassed to admit how often I’ve made this dessert in the last week because that means that I have eaten a lot of it. Brian has eaten very little of the dessert, mostly because he knows how much I am enjoying it (read: I’m not sharing!). You know I’ve made it often when I have a good idea of the measurements and ratios of the ingredients. Usually, I throw things together until they look and taste good but since I’ve made this numerous times I’ve got an idea of the actual quantities involved.

I’m calling this Apple Cookie Crumble:


Two apples are cut into chunks and sprinkled with cinnamon. The apples are placed in a pan greased with coconut oil. The topping is the fun part! I use about 2 cups of nuts and seeds and process them until they are flour like in texture. I’ve been using 1 cup of peanuts and a mixture of other nuts and pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Almond flour would work too but I tend to have more peanuts on hand. To the nut/seed flour I add 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 2 tablespoons honey, 1/3 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut, and 2 tablespoons coconut flour. I process it all together with some cinnamon and nutmeg until it is crumbly but sticking together. At this point I’ve made something similar to a grain-free cookie base (and it’s pretty yummy eaten just like this too) but to finish the dessert the cookie mixture is scooped and spread on top of the apples to cover them. I cook this at 350 degrees for about 20 mins  and then press a few dark chocolate chips on top to melt into the warm topping.

This dessert has stolen my heart! The apples are soft and warm and the cookie top is a little crumbly, crisp but still soft. Brian enjoyed his with some whipped cream but I prefer mine as is, warm out of the oven. I’ve got some leftovers from making yet another one last night and I’m exercising some serious restraint to not eat it every time I walk by. The only thing stopping me is the fact that if I eat it now, I’ll have to make more for later (problem, I know!) or there definitely won’t be enough for sharing. Apples, warm apples with cookie topping, stop calling my name!

New Recipes Are Fun

Can I just say how much fun I’m having with the recipes in the Against All Grain Cookbook?! I’ve been making my way through some of the recipes, quite successfully. Oh no! It makes me want to actually have the cookbook instead of borrow it from the library. But I’ve already done that recently with a cookbook so no more cookbook buying for me in the near future. (Santa do you hear me?)

I made the Allergy-Free Breakfast cookies. Oh my, they were so good it was hard to remember that they were a healthy breakfast option. They tasted like such a treat, especially warmed up.


I adapted the recipe slightly to use pumpkin puree instead of the banana and added pumpkin pie spices to give them that seasonal flavor. They ended up being quite soft and needed to be handled with care. The cookies are made with coconut flour, unsweetened shredded coconut, and sweetened with dates and applesauce.

Next on the list is chocolate swirl banana bread. The chocolate swirl was my own addition since it is our family’s favorite version of banana bread. But the base recipe for this banana bread was incredible! Grain-free, sugar-free banana bread that actually tastes like traditional banana bread! I’ve made grain-free banana breads before but they were too dense and just not quite what I was looking for in a banana bread. This recipe has mostly coconut flour in it and a little almond flour (and 4 eggs!). The bananas add most of the sweetness.


Delicious slices of banana bread!


We sprinkled the top of the loaf with mini chocolate chips to give it a special chocolate bonus. The bread is so moist and banana flavored. Chocolate swirl = excellent addition

I even packed some for Izzy to take as lunch one day this week. Since it’s filled with wholesome ingredients I don’t even feel bad about making it the main portion of her lunch:



Pumpkin Patch and Pumpkin Eats

A trip to the pumpkin patch deserves to begin with some pumpkin flavored eats, right? I think I used to make pumpkin pancakes before our pumpkin patch trips….but that was before. I didn’t want to make pancakes this time. But pumpkin flavor is still necessary! Pumpkin eggs? No. How about eggs and pumpkin mini doughnut bites next to them? Yes!

Well I didn’t take a picture of the eggs, just regular over-easy eggs, but here are the pumpkin doughnut bites:


I adapted the recipe from my Oh She Glows cookbook to include pumpkin and pumpkin spices. They are still loaded with chia seeds and oat flour and sweetened with maple syrup.

During our pumpkin patch adventures Brian likes to enjoy a pumpkin spice latte. As fate would have it just the day before I came across a no-refined sugar, no crazy junk, recipe for a homemade pumpkin spice latte. Armed with the recipe I set out to make my hubby a real food version of the fall drink and avoid the chain coffee shop. To make this recipe I had to bust out the blender, a little used appliance in my house (thanks to the food processor). However, the food processor was not going to cut it for this job. We followed the recipe instructions but found that when it came to combining the homemade pumpkin spice creamer with the coffee we preferred a higher coffee to creamer ratio than suggested. Brian is a mostly black coffee drinker so even half the creamer amount was good enough for his tastes.


Homemade pumpkin spice latte! Made with real ingredients: pumpkin puree (shouldn’t it have the real pumpkin instead of artificial flavor!), almond milk, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spices, and coffee (of course!). It was tasty (though I didn’t use quite enough pumpkin) and the leftovers were enjoyed the next morning as well.

Real pumpkin flavors followed by a fun trip the pumpkin patch. AND somehow it didn’t rain on us! Good times!


Eating In

Truth be told eating out is not as exciting as it used to be. Because I cook all day everyday I’ve become very accustomed to having my food the way I prefer it. So much so, that when I go out to eat I’m not as thrilled about my food because it’s not as good or how I would do it. Also, we have now become those people who are very particular about their food order. Can I sub this for that and please leave off the bun, dressing on the side, etc.

Well, to be fair I have had some really unexpectedly great meals out to eat and those always seem to come when I am fairly specific about my requests. Hmmm, maybe be an annoying orderer is worth it. I’m thinking specifically of a dinner Brian and I went out to together a month or so ago when I requested that the contents of a mushroom burger or wrap, not sure which, be put on a salad instead. That salad was made for me! It had portabello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, pesto, Dijon mustard, and balsamic. I’ve been recreating various versions of that salad since.

However, for the most part I’d say I prefer to eat in. There are plenty of recipes to experiment with out there that are just as good and better than what you would get eating out. All this came up because we went out to dinner tonight as a family. My food was ok, not amazing, and likely to make me feel not my best tomorrow. And little Lexi, the girl who knows no limits, could not resist a hot dog and fries. She will be a little off tomorrow as well. And funny little side note: Isabelle has outgrown the kids menu. Kid’s menus are always the same: hot dogs, burger, breaded chicken, or macaroni. Lame. I recently heard a thing that most other countries do not have separate menus for the children. “Kid Food” is a totally American thing. So, now, Isabelle prefers to order something off the actual menu that is a little more “real food”. I totally support her not wanting to eat the typical kid food. Her choice tonight? Southwest chicken salad. And with the exception of the little bit I ate she finished that thing! And she was full!

So, eating out is not as glamorous as it’s made out to be. It reminds me of some pretty great dinners we’ve had recently. Dinners that got a lot of yummy noises.


First up is this one. I actually commented while I was eating this dinner that it was so much better than anything we’ve had in a restaurant. These tacos are made with my homemade tortillas. They have sautéed broccoli, beans, onion, and garlic with taco seasoning inside. As well, as a hint of cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and olives. Salsa, plain yogurt, smashed avocado, and a little cashew cheeze sauce on top. All those flavors! Next to them we had roasted green beans (my fave!) and cob corn (or corn cut off the cob if you are my husband, he just can’t get down with the corn on the cob).


This dinner was a snap to prepare. The veggies come in a big fresh stir fry mix filled with chard, carrots, snap peas, broccoli and kale. I cooked up some onions and added the veggies with a homemade teriyaki sauce. Toasted cashews top the stir fry. That little tiny brown stuff next to the veggies is kaniwa. We found it on our most recent trip to the natural market I love so much. Apparently, this kaniwa stuff is related to quinoa and cooks the same way. We call it mini quinoa because that’s exactly what it looks like. Kaniwa and quinoa are both seeds and you definitely get that sense with stuff because of how little each one is. It tastes very similar to red quinoa.


Stuffed pepper casserole! I used to get so excited to have peppers on hand and want to make stuffed peppers. Then I would make them and we would always struggle to eat them (they just tip over or have the stuffing spill out!). What’s more is that it never seemed like the ratio of filling to peppers was enough. I have learned! Now, when I get the urge to make stuffed peppers I tell myself, no, and make a stuffed pepper casserole instead. Same idea, easier to eat, more filling! Problems solved. I made this stuffed pepper casserole with beans, riced cauliflower, peas, kale, canned diced tomatoes, and, of course, the roasted peppers. Mine and Brian’s got the last bit of cashew cheeze leftover from the tacos above. Mmmm. I can still remember the warmth of this filling casserole in my tummy. Piping hot casseroles in colder weather, yes please!

I’d gladly take these dinners over what I ate at the restaurant today (a lettuce wrapped burger, in case you wondered). However, we didn’t go to the restaurant because we didn’t want to cook or didn’t have the time to. We went, purposefully, to spend time as a family doing something different and going to a new place. The girls look forward to doing these kinds of things and we don’t eat out very often. In the end it’s much less about the food and more about being together. (But darn those kid’s menus!)


I am a lover of baseball, have been for years. A lot of people complain about how slow baseball is and how it’s not much fun to watch but I just love watching it (playing is a whole different story). Unfortunately for me, our lack of real cable means I don’t get to watch much baseball. A few years ago we ditched cable and Brian installed an HD antennae so we could get locally broadcast stations. What that means is I get the basic channels: ABC, NBC, FOX, and a few random extras. Do you know how much baseball they show on those stations? Well, I do, once a week, usually on Saturday they will show one game. Which game? Who knows, not the local game that’s for sure. And to keep it even more interesting, it’s always at a different time. Sometimes, the game will be on at 10 am or noon or 5 pm. There is just no telling. I have a better chance of actually going to a baseball game (I’ll take either the Mariner’s or the Rainiers, both fun to watch) than catching one on tv.

Except during playoff time. Those games are broadcast on the basic channels and that is my opportunity to soak up as much baseball as I can! Baseball Saturday happened at our house. And what says baseball better than hot dogs and french fries?!


We really jazzed up these hot dogs with cream cheese, relish, tomatoes, onions, and banana peppers. Next to the hot dogs we had peas, sweet potato fries, and roasted zucchini. The hot dogs were leftovers from camping so we only had a few and I supplemented with lentils for the girls and me. That salad you see is actually what I ate. I put all the hot dog toppings (including ketchup and mustard) on my greens. Also on my salad are the lentils and sweet potato fries. I have gotten to the point where it’s just easier (and honestly tastier) for me to just add the things to my salad instead of eating them separately. I’d rather have a salad that tastes like hot dogs and sweet potatoes than eating a boring salad next to sweet potato fries and lentils.

Remember, earlier this year when I had seen my fair share of hot dogs and couldn’t stand the thought of another? Well, I’m still there except that I can tolerate watching my family eat them, sort of. I do limit the girls, they only got half a hot dog, and I definitely don’t give them a whole bun. But the hubby makes his own choice. He is able to tolerate a little bread every now and then much better than me and probably better than the girls. So as long as this is not a daily in our house we’re ok. It sure made for a great baseball Saturday!


Sunday Brunch

The family and I decided to go for the early church service in Tacoma. Early service means getting up and leaving the house earlier than on a school day, yikes! It also means there is no time for a real breakfast. A bowl of cereal or grain-free granola was all we had time for. However, in addition to actually making it to church we were looking forward to having brunch afterward.

Brunch is very much a fall/winter thing in our household. During the spring and summer we are gone camping or doing other activities that lazy weekend mornings are rare. In the fall, though, football starts and Brian loves to watch it so we end up lounging around the house and brunch begins making its way into our weekends.

Our brunch this past Sunday was not spectacular in terms of spread but it was spectacular in terms of taste. I like brunch to be buffet style with lots of different options: sweet and savory, fruits, and even a little dessert. And the girls like the idea that they get to fill their plates themselves with all the choices. Not this brunch. This brunch was made when I was hungry and didn’t want to go overboard with the making of all the food. No choices for this brunch, I dished up the plates and that was all there was.

The most exciting part of brunch was that I, for the very first time ever, made eggs benedict! Brian likes eggs benedict and I’ve always thought it seemed so fancy. Too fancy for me to actually make on my own. Inspired by the recipe I saw in a cookbook I decided to give it a try. So glad I did because now I am also a fan of eggs benedict! The recipe I used is actually from the Against All Grain Cookbook and it’s here. The method in the cookbook was much easier and gave a lot more information but the online version has the ingredients and ratios so I’ll be using those and sticking to the cookbook methodology.


Yeah, we went a little heavy with the hollandaise sauce (oh so good!). The poached eggs are hiding under there, I promise, as is some roasted cabbage and chickpea flour pancakes. I cannot say enough good things about chickpea flour pancakes. They are my new go-to. First, they are easy: chickpea flour and water with some spices! Second, I can make as few or as many as I want at a time. Third, the flavor is so unique. And lastly, they are incredibly versatile. I used them for my tacos the other night, I’ve used them as wraps for lunch, and here they serve as a nice hearty base to soak up all that delicious hollandaise.

The flavor combination of the chickpea flour pancakes, the roasted cabbage, the poached egg, and the hollandaise was out of this world good! Since, it was my first attempt I only made one for everyone but we really could have used a second one (note for next time). Brunch was rounded out with some apples, some leftover fruit salad (various fruits, unsweetened coconut flakes, and homemade honey sweetened whipped cream), and a sample of sausage (also leftover).

No, this brunch wasn’t brimming with variety but what we did have was so tasty it didn’t matter.

No Oatmeal Porridge

Weekday breakfasts are tough! It doesn’t matter what time I get up, I always end up in a breakfast crunch. And there are too many things to do at night to make breakfast ahead of time consistently. I do try to do that a few times a week but I like to feed my family a variety and pre-made breakfasts rely on having the same thing multiple times a week. No fun!

I tried a new breakfast recipe yesterday morning (adventurous for a weekday morning)! And I loved it! The recipe was for a grain-free coconut porridge. My girls love their porridges. They like grits, cream of rice, oatmeal, buckwheat, steel-cut oats, etc, etc.

Ever notice how traditional breakfast foods are so grain heavy? Like that is the only option other than eggs for breakfast. I do make a lot of eggs for Brian’s breakfast and the girls partake in that as well. But they really like their oatmeal and such. In fact, I’d say most people will tell you they can’t give up their morning oatmeal. Enter the No-Oat Porridge. It is grain-free, and sugar-free and can be completely nut-free (if you use coconut milk or other alternative)!


This porridge was simple enough for weekday morning prep. It is made of almond milk, coconut flour, unsweetened shredded coconut, and an egg (or a banana if you want to be egg free). I made the version with an egg to add some extra creaminess but maybe next time I’ll experiment with the banana. The texture is similar to any creamed cereal (wheat, rice, etc).  I topped the porridge with toasted almonds, dried cranberries, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and dash of maple syrup. Both girls had a hard time finishing their portion, it was so filling. So we saved some and they were thrilled to have it again the next morning. Even I had some as my breakfast forgoing my usual greens (oh, missed opportunity, I should have added some to it!).

Looks like oatmeal without the oats is possible and satisfying.