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Grain-Free Chicken Parmesan

My daughter has eczema. She comes by it honestly. She inherited it from me. I inherited it from my mom. My mom from her mom; her mom from her mom, etc, etc, etc. We may be able to trace this back to Eve. Two years ago I gave up grains because my joints are awful and I found a grain-free diet helped a lot. I also noticed that after over 30 years, my eczema cleared up significantly. YAY!!

So when my daughter was on the ground sobbing because her legs were bleeding I decided she should try to go gluten free. A month later, her legs looked completely different. I was shocked at the improvement. I think they’d clear up even more if she gave up dairy, but I want it to be her choice and she said she’d stick with giving up gluten for now.

The point is, with her dietary restrictions and mine, we’ve had to get creative. A few weeks ago she and I were watching The Pioneer Woman (one of our favorite bonding activities) and drooling over her chicken Parmesan. My daughter asked, “Can we please make that?!” I couldn’t let her down so we gave it a try. I wanted to make a grain-free but delicious version of this classic comfort food. We were all pleased with the results.

The process was similar to classic chicken Parmesan. The only difference was the mixture.

Rather than use bread crumbs, I made a mixture of almond flour, tapioca flour, Parmesan cheese and spices.

After I coated the chicken in eggs, I dipped it in the “breading” and fried it in a skillet with a little coconut oil. I used chicken thighs because I like them better than breasts, but use what works for you. The process is the same.

Here is where you have to make a decision. If you like your chicken Parmesan crispy, remove it from the skillet top it with hot marinara sauce and sprinkle the cheese on top.  If you want it softer, pour the marinara over the chicken and sprinkle the cheese on top while the chicken is still in the pan. Let this heat until the cheese melts.

My husband and daughter prefer this over gluten-free spaghetti noodles. I serve mine over a huge handful of spinach. The heat from the chicken wilts the spinach a bit but it gives it great flavor and crunch. Plus it’s a great way to add in some extra vegetables.

A word about marinara sauce. I’m happy to report that it’s becoming much easier to find a marinara sauce without sugar. But be sure to read your labels! The cheapest I’ve found is the Trader Joe’s brand that comes in a can. No sugar, low price and delicious. If you want to save even more money, make my No-Sugar Marinara Sauce.

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No-Sugar Saucy Asian Meatballs

When I first started eating healthier, I wasn’t sure what to eat. I had meat and veggies seasoned with salt and pepper. This is a delicious meal but after a few weeks, I was pretty darn sick of it. That’s when I started experimenting with seasonings. Eating healthy is actually really easy if you figure out how to add flavor to food. Sometimes we feel like eating healthy has to be miserable. Good news. It doesn’t!! These meatballs are proof. They are so yummy! My husband and kids loved them and these are people who order things like chili cheese fries and shakes at restaurants, so that’s quite the compliment. Plus, these are easy to make. These days I’m really lazy with cooking. If it takes me more than 20 minutes active time to cook, I’m out.

The only chopping in this recipe is the green onions. To add to my laziness, I cut these with kitchen shears rather than chop them with a knife and cutting board. Add the onions to a large bowl.

Add in the seasonings, coconut aminos, and sesame oil.

Mix this all together before adding in the meat. This keeps the meat tender.

I make my meatballs about the size of golf balls but make them whatever size works best for your family. Just be sure to increase bake time for bigger meatballs and decrease it for smaller ones.

I bake these in the oven for about 15 minutes.

The sauce was the easiest part.  Because it’s such a small amount I didn’t want to dirty a saucepan. I mixed it together in a glass dish and microwaved it for two minutes. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

Then I just tossed the meatballs in the sauce and sprinkled them with sesame seeds.

You could eat these over rice or rice noodles (if you do, I’d double the sauce), but we just ate them plain with some veggies and cheese on the side.

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15 Minute Smoky BBQ Stir Fry

My favorite lunch is a salad. Not a wussy salad with veggies only and dressing on the side. I’m talking a salad loaded with veggies but also avocado and a nice , filling protein. YUM! But this week in Denver, we got snow. Cold, wet snow. So when it came time for lunch yesterday, I wanted something warm that didn’t take a ton of time or dishes. I decided on a stir fry.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love a to make stir frys. It’s a great way to mix together a ton of leftovers and have a great, filling meal. Yesterday my leftover addition was ribs. The day before I made ribs by covering rib meat in Diane Sanfilippo’s Smoky Spice blend (click here for recipe), topping them with my N0-Sugar BBQ Sauce (click here for recipe) and cooked them in my slow cooker on low for 8 hours. They were AMAZING!

So for my stir fly, I stripped some meat off the bones, mixed it with some veggies, a little more smoky spice blend and some coconut aminos. It was so warm and delicous! Plus with all those veggies it was loaded with great nutrients. I’ve listed the veggies I used but feel free to customize this how you like. You really can’t mess it up!

 

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Healthy Remake: Gluten-Free Pumpkin Soup with Apple Relish

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A few weeks ago I was more stressed than usual. I decided the thing that would decrease my stress would be to organize my pantry. I know this doesn’t make a ton of sense, but you people like me (Type A and slightly OCD) understand how a well-organized pantry can lower stress.

In my organization, I stacked 13 cans of pumpkin puree. Thirteen!! That’s when I knew I had a problem. But since it is fall, I decided to put that pumpkin to good use and not just for pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes… I really want some pumpkin right now.

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I immediately thought of this amazing pumpkin soup I had a few weeks ago. My friend had a pumpkin party (best idea ever, right?) and made this amazing pumpkin soup from Rachael Ray (click here for original recipe). But I was sad when I saw the recipe and realized it included flour and diary. The soup is actually pretty healthy in its original version but if you are like me and swell up in your joints and gut if you eat gluten or dairy, you’ll appreciate my dilemma.

I decided to make the soup but change the ingredients and adjust them to still get the same creamy consistency without the flour.  I also wanted to up the protein with some chicken. I’m pleased to report I was very successful. My whole family loved this soup.

The best part is that it comes together in one pan. Start by sauteing the vegetables in the butter.

The bulk of this soup comes from three cans. How easy is that?! Just a can of chicken stock, a can of pumpkin and a can of coconut milk.

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Then it gets some great flavor from the nutmeg and bay leaves.

After this simmers together, just add some cooked chicken pieces. We use thighs because we like them better than breasts,  but any chicken will work great.

As far as the relish goes, I left it completely the same as the original recipe but replaced the Craisins with raisins. It’s close to impossible to find dried cranberries without added sugar, so I opted for the raisins. The flavor was still amazing. I also left out the chili as I knew that would not impress my 5-year-old.

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Now I have 12 cans left of pumpkin in my pantry. Guess I’ll have to try one of these (click here for a link to some great pumpkin recipes).

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The Easiest Meatballs You’ll Ever Make

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You know what makes me crazy? (I promise it won’t be a long tirade this time) Meatballs. By the name we should be able to infer it’s just a delicious ball of meat. Sadly this is not the case. Next time you go to the store, check the back on a bag of meatballs. All meatballs are made with bread crumbs but often also have soy, sugar and even corn syrup. Why must we defile a beautiful ball of meat this way?

Because meatballs are an important part of life, I came up with my own recipe with, wait for it… MEAT! Aside with the meat and an egg to bind it together, the only other ingredients in these meatballs are Italian spices and seasonings to make said meat taste amazing. The best part is, these meatballs are SOOO easy to make. Way easier than a meatball full of strange ingredients.

At first I chopped my onion and garlic with a knife. I realized they weren’t chopped finely enough but decided I was way too lazy to try to chop them smaller. I threw them in my mini food processor and they were finely diced in about five seconds. That moment changed my life. I decided to never use a knife to chop onions again. I feel a freedom I haven’t felt since the day I graduated from college.

See that cute, little hand. That’s my 5-year-old daughter. She loves to help me cook.

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The key to a tender, juicy meatball is to mix everything but the meat together first. I learned this tip on the Food Network. Thanks celebrity chefs. After I mixed the onion, garlic and seasonings together with a fork, I added in the meat.

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Another key to a great meatball is to use your hands to mix it together once you add the meat. No it’s not your most glamorous moment, but you can’t mix everything properly with a spoon. You need to use your hands.

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I like to bake my meatballs rather than fry them because it’s a lot less work. Once you bake them you have two options. At this point, you can stick them in a freezer bag and have delicious, Italian meatballs for another day. Or, you can simmer them in my sugar-free marinara sauce (click here for recipe).

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When I make them for my family, they eat them over a whole grain pasta. I eat mine over a bed of spinach. I love the slight wilting the heat gives the spinach, which makes it warm but still slightly crunchy.

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One Pan Autumn Chicken and Veggie Dinner

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I recently got a new set of knives. I didn’t exactly need them, but they were at Costco and they came in different colors. They were so pretty I couldn’t resist. I’m kind of like a fish drawn to shiny things. I brought my lovely knives home and unpacked them (which was quite an accomplishment since the package was pretty much welded together) and selected which knife to use based on color. The massacre began when I was slicing an onion. My new, very sharp knife slipped and I cut my pointer and middle finger. Luckily we have a rather extensive collection of Star Wars band-aids, so I wrapped up my hands and went back to making dinner. The next cut was to my knuckle. I’m still not totally sure how that one happened, but there it was. Another R2D2 bandaid and I was set to go.

A few days later I was making something with coconut milk and cut my other knuckle on the can. It’s been so bad lately that my 8-year-old who is as oblivious to what’s going on around him as any 8-year-old said, “Mom. Why do you keep cutting your hands? Maybe you shouldn’t use knives anymore.” Seriously! Am I the only one who is a total spaz in the kitchen? Am I the only one who goes through more band-aids than their children?

To make my story relevant, I have a recipe for you that requires a lot of chopping. One thing it doesn’t require though is a lot of is dishes. I wanted a complete meat and veggie meal that could be made with one pan. Done!

Not only does this dish come together in one pan, but it’s a savory dish that has all the delicious flavors of fall.

To make things easier, chop all your veggies and add them to a large plastic bag with the oil, salt and pepper. Then shake it up to coat the veggies.

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Here’s where the fall flavors come in. We get to make a fabulous spice blend that has slightly sweet flavors like cinnamon and orange, and warm flavors like paprika and cumin.

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Using the same bag you tossed the veggies in, toss some chicken thighs with the seasoning mix. Remember that commercial back in the 80’s/90’s with the little girl who helped make the chicken? “It’s shake and bake and I helped.” Funny. I don’t remember freshman science, but I remember that commercial. That’s basically what we’re going to do here.

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So if the veggies and chicken covered in delicious flavors isn’t enough, we up the flavor with the ingredient that improves anything: Bacon! I ended up using 8 slices of bacon to wrap all 6 thighs but use however many you need/want based on the size of thighs you have.

The chicken goes on the same pan as the veggies and it all goes in the oven together.

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I like to eat mine over spinach, but my husband thinks that’s a terrible idea. You choose.

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However you eat it, be careful cutting those veggies.

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Sugar Detox Sloppy Joes

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1969. It was a big year the world. Richard Nixon became president, man walked on the moon and Hunts came out with a can of deliciousness called Manwich. Yes, Manwich. Just add ground meat and you have yourself a delicious sloppy joe. I grew up with this stuff. We kept it on hand a long with emergency water and matches in case of power failure. So when I got married and started my own family, I knew I had to stock up on the Manwich.

Sadly, life changes. Richard Nixon resigned after questionable activity, NASA had budget cuts and had to put an end to the Apollo missions, and I read the label on the back of a can of Manwich. The second ingredient listed is high fructose corn syrup, followed by regular corn syrup. A few ingredients later we have sugar and down the list we have ingredients with a breakdown that include high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup and sugar. That’s one giant crash for mankind, Manwich.

Yet if we learned anything from Adam Sandler and Chris Farley, it’s that sloppy joes are awesome. So something had to be done.

What I came up with was a delicious, healthy, saucy mixture to go with my ground beef for a sloppy joe that puts Manwich to shame. Eat your heart out, Manwich! But first, drizzle a little high fructose corn syrup over it.

The key is to let the ingredients simmer together.

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After you brown your beef and onion, add the liquids and spices and let the whole mixture simmer together for 20 minutes. One of the ingredients in this recipe is that amazing bone broth I told you to make a few weeks ago. Now it’s even healthier than before.

We sometimes have this on whole wheat buns, but my favorite way is to scoop some into a lettuce cup. The crunch pairs nicely with the meat.

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My husband and kids eat this with shredded cheese on the top, but dairy makes my hand beak out in eczema like I have a zombie hand, so I pass on the cheese.

Now if I could just find another way to put man on the moon…

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Forget Taco Tuesday! Let’s do Taco Burger Tuesday!

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A few weeks ago our family was in Breckenridge, CO. It’s one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I’ve ever been and one of our family’s favorite vacation spots. Seriously, if it didn’t snow six months out of the year, we’d live there. Our first night there we ate at a steakhouse. Steakhouses are great for healthy eating because it’s usually really easy to order any cut of meat you want and a ton of veggies.

I saw a “Spicy Santa Fe” burger on the menu that looked delicious. I asked if they could serve it without a bun and they were more than willing (side note: most restaurants will happily serve a burger without a bun).  The burger was so amazing I wanted to recreate in at home. While I love the name “Spice Santa Fe” burger, It basically seemed like a taco in burger form to me, so I decided to just call it a Taco Burger.

I seasoned the meat with my Healthy Taco Seasoning (click here for recipe). This gave the patties themselves great flavor. Then add the toppings to the cooked patties and they tasted like a taco, but even better.

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We all used different toppings in our family, but some suggested toppings are:

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The rest of my family had their burgers on whole wheat buns, but I had mine on a lettuce cup. You could even serve it on a bed of spinach like a salad.

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