The end of the crock pot challenge road.

Seeing that today is the 31st, I declare the October Crock Pot Challenge month over.

How did I do?  Well, I won some, I lost some.  I'd say I probably only used my crock pot, hm, 18, 19ish times this month.  That means I failed almost half of the month.  BUT, honestly, a lot of that was because we made enough to have leftovers the following night, so I don't think it was an entire failure.  I found some really good recipes along the way...and a few that weren't so good.  You might remember I posted my meal plan at the very beginning of the month.  So here are the major winners:

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna (which I translated into a crock pot recipe that you can find here)

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili - YUM.  I made my own ranch seasoning and cream cheese (actually really easy, will post on this later) and used some frozen black beans I cooked last month in the slow cooker and frozen corn, but other than that I followed the directions.  This was SO good.  I served it for company alongside some homemade, warm tortillas (I may or may not have cheated on my no-wheat pledge this night, ahem).

World's Best Chicken - Hello, deliciousness!  This is a new favorite!  I might make myself look weird here, but I've never worked with chicken thighs until this recipe.   As in ever.  But I am a chicken thigh convert now!

The Chicken Enchilada Soup was pretty good.  The Eggplant Lasagna I converted into a crock pot recipe too and we all liked it.  The rest that I posted in my meal plan we either REALLY didn't like or we never got around to trying, and so as not to be rude I'm not going to mention which ones didn't pass our test.  :)

Overall, I'd call the month a success because I got three new AWESOME recipes out of the deal, ones that we'll add into our regular rotation now, and what could be a failure about that?

I haven't sat down to make November's meal plan yet because life has been especially busy this week, but I've got my meal planning stuff all out and ready for me.  I'll be posting it in a few days!


Yep, you should really be eating fat.

Oh, does this fly in the face of conventional health advice.  I've spent a larger percentage of my life avoiding fat than I have eating it (and only in the last year or two have I deliberately begun to seek it out).

First of all, I have several articles/books to recommend.  The first is Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig of the Nourishing Traditions fame.  To side step for a minute, if you have any interest whatsoever in a more natural approach to eating, this, in my opinion, should be the first book to reach for.  I actually took a different route when I began to learn about healthy food.  I read blogs. Lots and lots of blogs.  And while it was great and over time I pieced together most of what is in this book, it took me a long time to do it.  I recommend getting your hands on this book and reading it cover-to-cover.  It has a very large collection of recipes that are traditional and of course all whole foods.  You'll feel like a food pro when you're done.  The next book I'd recommend is Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.  For a shorter version, you could read Why We Get Fat instead (or in addition).

As far as news articles go, here are a few that have just recently come across my radar: politics and food, eat healthy fats and oils and 5 reasons a healthy fat diet is good for you.  This message is even starting to garner mainstream attention, as you can see here, but I wholeheartedly believe they are dead-wrong about saturated fats.  I don't think eating a plant-based diet is a bad thing at all, and I think people can thrive on that as long as they're getting healthy fats in their diet, but I think animal fats and fats from things like coconut are incredibly healthy.  Here's a good article that touches on all of this and the "saturated fat is still bad for you" misconception, too.

Yes, I said it.  Me, the girl who was convinced living vegan was the only way to live.  To side step yet again, a few things converted me back to the land of animals after watching Forks Over Knives.  The first was this amazingly (AMAZINGLY!) thorough review on the film.  The second was this idea that I just couldn't kick.  I just couldn't wrap my mind around why animal fats - something we've been eating for such a large percentage of our history on this earth, could possibly do these terrible things to us.  Now compare that to things that have been chemically altered to have the fat removed and it seems like complete common sense, right?  Which would you choose?  But I did believe some of their science.  I didn't think they made it all up.  Eventually, I settled on the notion that it isn't meat in general (or dairy in general) that's bad, but the conventional dairy and the conventional meat we eat today instead.  There are so many things wrong with our current system that I could write probably 10 blog posts alone trying to cover it all, but instead I'll link to an article I would highly recommend you read.  In short, you are what you eat.  So the cow that eats food it was not meant to eat (and is pumped up with antibiotics and growth hormones) becomes a different animal than a cow who grazes on an open field eating the food its body is meant to eat.  And then WE eat that cow.  What sold me a few years ago were the studies on grassfed beef vs. conventional beef and the differences in their meat.  This was no longer speculation, it was fact.  Omega-3s are the healthier fatty acid, and grassfed beef is higher in omega-3s.  It's also got 4 times the vitamin E and is much higher in CLAs, which is a nutrient associated with a lower cancer risk.  It seems silly to say, because it's almost common sense when you put it this way, but if you could choose between the meat of an animals that eats what it has eaten for all of time (the food God created it to eat) and one that eats food it has never eaten before until the last few decades, which would you choose?

So, I came to the conclusion that eating meat and drinking milk and eating cheese and yogurt and so on is not the problem.  I just quit buying the cheap meat/dairy.  Our eggs and milk come from a local farm.  One of my goals in PRF is to eventually buy all our meat from a local farm, too, but for now we only have beef from a local farm.  Our chickens we buy from Trader Joe's.  We buy the best they have, which is organic and free-range, but I know that's still not the best we could be doing for our health.

Then I began to see article after article pop up about why eating fat will actually burn fat.  And, hence, removing fat from your diet will cause you to gain fat.  At first, it made no sense.  So I kept reading.  It was really the book Eat Fat, Lose Fat that did it for me.  It all passed my common sense filter - much more so than any other "diet" I've ever heard of or tried out.  As a Christian, especially, it makes sense.  God told us it's all ours to eat.  God talks about a land flowing with milk and honey in the Bible.  Historically, milk has been consumed and animals have been eaten for thousands of years (+).  It can't really be killing us, right?  It can't really be the cause of all these "new" diseases (in the scheme of things).  Show me a new way of eating and connect that with "new" diseases (being overweight and obese included) and it'll make sense.  But show me a "new" disease and tell me it's related to food we've always eaten and it just doesn't pass my common sense filter.

Obviously, this is a loaded topic so I'll stop there.  But if you're curious, check out the articles linked here if you have some free time.  It's sort of mind-blowingly awesome and "duh" at the same time.


Sugar, continued.

If you have an hour and a half to spare, this is an amazingly thorough presentation on sugar as a toxin by Dr. Lustig, who is a pediatric hormone disorder specialist and the leading expert in childhood obesity at  the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine (one of the best medical schools in the country). It's been viewed over 2.5 million times and is quite the popular video on Youtube.

If you don't have an hour and a half to spare, here it is, summed up the best I could (and I also added a little extra research I've done since watching it):

The First Law of Thermodynamics has long been interpreted to apply to the human body in this way: If you eat it, you better burn it, or you're going to store it.  Dr. Lustig doesn't believe this is true.

His take, or the way he says we should look at it: If you're going to store it (an obligate weight gain set up by a biochemical process) and you expect to burn it (normal energy expenditure for normal quality of life), then you're going to have to eat it.  He says this changes the way we look at it.  Calories in and calories out then become secondary to weight gain, or the biochemical process, which is primary.  This alleviates the person who is overweight or obese from the guilt society inflicts on them for being "gluttonous."  Like he says, there are obese six month olds.  There is a real story here that is much more than just "people being gluttonous."

Like I touched on in my last post about sugar, Dr. Lustig explained that we're fatter than ever (and also sicker than ever) but eat less fat than ever.  Now it's not a perfect science experiment, but it should at least make sense that it's probably not the fat in our diets making us fat then.  At least, not as long as we're eating the right fats (which is actually my next goal and something I've already been reading and writing about).

As the quantity of fat in our food has decreased, the taste has also decreased.  To make up for this, manufacturers add sugar (most likely in the form of high fructose corn syrup).

Dr. Lustig says sugar is not just an empty calorie.  More than empty calories, he thinks sugar is actually a poison.  He says that the extremely large amount of sugar the average American consumes is responsible not only for the obesity epidemic, but for many or most of the Western-specific diseases like heart disease, hypertension, many common cancers, etc.

High fructose corn syrup has become quite possibly one of the most targeted and vilified food additives to date that started out viewed as the healthy alternative to sugar, but in an ironic turn of fate, products now boast labels like, "Now made with real sugar!" or "No high fructose corn syrup!" as if table sugar is the healthy alternative to HFCS.  It's not.  Lustig argues that sugar is sugar is sugar.

Dr. Lustig says HFCS and sugar are pretty much identical - both bad, both poisonous.  Sucrose is table sugar.  It's made of fructose and glucose.  The fructose is the sweet part and it is what distinguishes carbs like potatoes and bread (which have glucose) from sugar.  Fructose in and of itself isn't a terrible thing.  After all, it's what is found naturally in fruits and vegetables.  If we got all of our sugar from these natural sources, we would be consuming only about 15 grams per day.  Prior to World War II, the average fructose consumption was anywhere from 16 to 24 grams per day.  From 1977 to 1988, it jumped to an average of 37 grams per day.  In 1994, about 55 grams per day on average.  And today's adolescents average about 73 grams per day.

The problem isn't that we consume fructose.  The problem is that we consume massive amounts of it every day because it is now added to most processed foods and Americans eat diets very high in processed foods.  If you believe what Dr. Lustig says, this is the single worst component of processed foods and the biggest reason to avoid it completely.  Without processed foods, as I've discovered over the past three months, it is very easy to control the amount of sugar in your diet.  With processed foods?  Virtually impossible.

Now getting back to the First Law of Thermodynamics, Lustig says (and others agree) that eating an equal amount of sugar calories to any other calories won't produce an equal reaction in your body.  In other words, you can eat 100 calories of something very sweet and it's going to do something totally different in your body than 100 calories of, say, chicken.  All calories are not created equal.  The fructose in sugar (and HFCS) is metabolized by the liver.  The glucose, on the other hand, is metabolized by every cell in the body.  When you eat sugar, you tax your liver much more than if you were consuming another food, like starch.  To make matters even worse, if you consume that sugar in liquid form, like so many Americans do in the form of soda and juice, it hits the liver quicker which affects how it metabolizes the fructose and glucose.  An interesting point to keep in mind: we know that the job of the liver is to rid the body of toxins.  Is it any coincidence, then, that all the fructose goes to your liver?  Perhaps it's our body's way of telling us something that we've not wanted to hear yet.

In studies done on mice, when fructose hits the liver in large quantities quickly, a large portion of it is converted to fat.  This creates insulin resistance which, in turn, creates obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  There is even speculation that it could be a big component of many cancers.

And like I touched on in my post about HFCS, the brain cannot properly tell your body you are satisfied, no matter how much fructose you consume.  Fructose doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin.  Without insulin, there is no leptin.  Without leptin, the brain can’t “hear” a signal that you are satisfied and you will just keep on eating.  This is why Lustig says we need to stop blaming obese people for being obese.  Sugar causes us to lose that instinctual ability to determine when we should stop eating.

Where there is obesity, diabetes and metabolic disorder, there is also increased rates of cancer.  It's not controversial to suggest that being obese or having type 2 diabetes or metabolic disorder increases your risk factor for cancer.  There is a definitive correlation there that has yet to be completely understood.  But if sugar increases your chances of becoming obese or developing diabetes and metabolic disorder dramatically, then it stands to reason that sugar, then, increases your risk factor for getting cancer.

As for me, I have been shooting for zero added sugar at home and I don't think this is a radical way to live at all.  This means I'm trying to get all of my sugar from completely natural sources like fruit.  To sweeten my smoothies, I use bananas and/or dates.  If I'm craving sweets, I'll grab an apple.  If my sweets craving gets out of control, I make myself a juice in my juicer.  While I don't completely buy that it's some health wonder to juice like some people do (because, afterall, didn't God give us the whole fruit for a reason?  Eating an entire apple gives us fiber and other goodies we don't get if we juice), I believe that making a big ole' glass of juice made of an apple/several carrots/three big handfuls of spinach is still much better than unwrapping a candy bar, and since it fulfills a craving, I'm going with it.  In the end, it's at least a completely natural form of sugar and I try to keep it in moderation.

It's impossible to never, ever have added sugar.  Well, maybe not impossible but very unlikely if you are doing anything at all outside of your home.  If I'm out and about and have a coffee or a cookie, I have to be very mindful when I get home not to take the sugar train to sugar coma (like I did this past weekend).  The only way I can really do this is to have no sugar in my house.  Because if there's sugar, as an addict, I'll go a little crazy.  :/  The rule I've given myself, and maybe one that will work for you if this is something you're interested in, is that I can have a little added sugar here and there in social settings as long as it ends when I get home.  A 90/10 philosophy is one that suits me well.  I try to eat as healthy as possible 90 percent of the time so that the 10 percent of the time I indulge with friends, I can feel confident that I'm not permanently harming my body.  A little sugar here and there doesn't hurt anyone.  It's the quantity in which it's consumed in modern day America.


Giving up on sugar.

I actually never had a sweet tooth.  I was always one to turn down chocolate cake for a big, juicy hamburger and french fries any day of the week.  I could easily avoid the Halloween candy bowl and didn't have to exert any self-control whatsoever when walking past the bakery.

Then I got pregnant with my daughter.  Old wives' tales tell us that when pregnant with girls, mothers crave sweets.  This definitely held true for me (as did almost every other old wives' tale).  I couldn't get enough.  Cookies and candy and juice, oh my!  Unfortunately, this sweets craving didn't end with the birth of my daughter.

With the pinterest sensation of mug cookies and brownies came an insatiable desire to make 60 second cookies and brownies every day (WARNING: DO NOT OPEN THESE LINKS IF YOU HAVE A SWEET TOOTH AND NO SELF-CONTROL OR YOU WILL END UP LIKE ME, A VICTIM OF MUG COOKIES WHO WILL NEVER LOSE HER BABY WEIGHT).

My juice addiction got so out-of-control that I would get a bottle of Simply Lemonade and drink the entire thing in 24 hours.  By myself.  That's 60 ounces of juice, or - wait for it - 840 calories and 196 grams of sugar - or 47 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR IN A 24 HOUR PERIOD.  Hello, obesity, here I come.  Honestly, that is just sick.  When I finally calculated it, that was pretty much all it took to keep me from ever buying it again.

But the question for me was, "How did this happen?"  I can usually tell myself no when it comes to food.  I mean, sure, I give into cravings on occasion, but who doesn't?  Why had I developed a sweet tooth and how had it gotten so out of my control?  In fact, as I write this, my stomach is rumbling and all I can think about is making a mug chocolate chip cookie and washing it down with some Simply Lemonade.

Women crave things during pregnancy.  I'm not sure of the science behind it, but it's pretty common knowledge.  For me, while pregnant with Adalyn, it was definitely sugar.  The problem with sugar, though, is that once you begin, it's tough to ever stop.

Sugar begets sugar.  Oh, how I wish this were not true.  The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you want.  What had begun as a fairly benign pregnancy craving that I thought would end 9 months later has turned into an addiction.  Once I started down the road of sweets, I couldn't stop.  My brain is literally wired to seek out sugar wherever I can get it now.

Symptoms of Sugar Addiction

I've turned to a few different sources for help kicking this sugar addiction once and for all.  The first, Beyond Sugar Shock, has been an eye-opener.  In the beginning of her book, the author, Connie Bennett, begins by illustrating for us her own beginnings as a sugar addict.  She explains all the symptoms brought on in her life by sugar.  I couldn't believe how many of these symptoms I shared.  These symptoms were things that have become so "normal" to me, I didn't even realize they were symptoms!  A few of them are:

  • Crushing fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Mental confusion

  • Heart palpitations

  • Dizziness

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

Time will tell if these symptoms can all be related to my sugar addiction (or wheat, or a combination of both or something entirely different), but I do know sugar is bad in anything other than moderation and that it has been proven as addictive as cocaine and cigarettes, so it's time that I quit this addiction for good.  If I experience relief from these symptoms at the same time, then it's a bonus!

Nutritional value, or lack thereof

Sugar offers no nutritional value.  None.  I suppose I always knew that, but I never stopped to actually think about what that means.  Because white sugar is devoid of the vitamins and nutrients it needs to digest and metabolize itself, your body will deplete your own vitamins and minerals from your diet or your internal stores in order to digest it.  So eating sugar actually rids your body of the good stuff.  If you eat a lot of sugar and not enough healthy food, you can then become deficient in necessary vitamins and suffer a whole array of new symptoms (aside from the ones caused by sugar alone).  Let's just pick vitamin D.  If you become deficient in this vitamin, you:

  • Are at an increased risk of death by cardiovascular disease

  • Can experience cognitive impairment (in older adults)

  • Can experience severe asthma (in children)

  • Are at an increased risk for cancer

That's just one.  There are a lot of vitamins and a lot of associated symptoms that go along with deficiencies in these vitamins.  The SAD (Standard American Diet) is already severely lacking in vitamins and nutrients, but to add insult to injury is to take away the already lacking vitamins we have by consuming sugar.

Is sugar making us fat?

Like wheat, sugar spikes your blood sugar.  It's rapidly absorbed into your bloodstream and triggers insulin to burn it off.  When you eat too much (which I would bet the majority of Americans do), insulin goes into overdrive and will store everything you don't need right now as fat.

Years and years ago, someone (named Ancel Keys) decided eating low-fat was the key to being low in fat.  Eat no fat, gain no fat, right?  Interestingly, we're eating more low-fat food than ever, have joined more gyms than ever and are collectively fatter than ever.  It really isn't rocket science or a stretch to say that we don't have it figured out.  Eating low fat foods isn't working.  In fact, after my own limited research, it's easy for me to develop my own theory that the fat is actually good (in healthy forms) but the sugar (and perhaps grains) is the real evil.  It would make sense, then, why we're fatter now than ever.  We eat less fat, but all these low-fat products, in addition to including many more chemicals on average than their full-fat counterparts, include loads of sugar to make up for the lack of taste.

What a crock, right?  It seems crazy that a company can get away with plastering "low fat!" on their packages while being high in sugar.  It's as if they're implying it's a diet food that will help you get or stay skinny when in fact, it is exactly the opposite.

How much sugar is too much?

There is no hard and fast rule here, but the American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than 100 of their calories each day from added sugar.  For most of us, that's no more than 5 or 6 teaspoons per day.  Unfortunately, sugar is sugar and it acts the same once in your body, whether it's honey or pure maple syrup or white sugar.  That's not to say there aren't advantages to eating the healthier sugar, because there are (more on that later) and I have no plans to ever go back to white sugar, but I think it's easy to think that since it's "healthy" sugar, it's free game.  I say that from experience.  Unfortunately, it's not free game.  It won't make you skinnier.  It won't prevent a sugar addiction.  I gave up refined sugar quite awhile ago (the exceptions, of course, come in the form of my Starbucks/Caribou addiction which I'm sure use refined sugar) and have only used pure maple syrup, honey or stevia.  Guess what?  I'm still a raging sugar addict.


So I wrote this post a month ago or so and intended to add more to it, but you know: life gets busy, kids go through phases like teething (sometimes two kids at once...ahem) and posts don't get written.  So this is all I have to say about sugar for now.  It was enough for me to step away for awhile.  And I did.  For about a whole whopping week.  And then I cheated *justhisonce* with a chocolate chip cookie (yeah, cheated on wheat, too) which lead to a Caribou coffee the next morning which led to half a cupcake later that afternoon which lead to...you get the point.  I've been riding the sugar high for the past two days and I'm so bummed!

Just keeping it real.  I'm far from perfect.  Even though I have all the passion in the world about food, I can sometimes conveniently forget everything I know when tempted with a hot, chewy chocolate chip cookie.  And once you start on the sugar train, it's tough to get off.

Saturday morning, as my husband and I were pulling out of the Trader Joe's parking lot, I told him that I hadn't felt this good in so long I can't even remember.  No pain, no exhaustion, no headaches or skin problems, etc.  But the coolest thing ever?  No depression.  NONE.  I'm not a depressed person all the time, per se (though I've had my bouts), but I just sort of live in this state of meh.  I'm not a generally happy person, I guess.  That's probably the best way to describe me.  A constant cloud of mild depression usually looms over life.  I know I'm not alone.  A lot of friends have shared the same.  Eleven percent of us go so far as to take antidepressants daily.  Depression is fairly prevalent these days.  Perhaps sugar was it for me!  Time will tell.  As long as I can, er, get back on the no-sugar train.

Over the last few months I've watched my fatigue slip away, my energy levels skyrocket and best of all, my zeal for life is back!  I'm happy.  Truly.  Truly happy.  :)


These are a few of my favorite things...

Positivity, peeps.  It's what's for dinner.  Or something.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that I'm a negative person by nature.  I also just watched this documentary (I can see your shocked face now) called happy.  It's about, well, being happy.  The science behind it, what you can do to have more of it, etc.  Good stuff.  One of the things I took away was that genetics plays about a 50% part in your happiness level while lifestyle (job, house, where you live, etc.) only plays about 10% into your happiness level.  The other 40%, they theorize, is choice.

I've been a follower of the choose joy movement anyway, and I've been keeping a gratitude journal.  So this is just an extension of that.  I'm choosing joy and happiness even though this has been a crappy week with sickness and then teething (I think?) and all sorts of fussiness, tears and disobeying.  I could succumb like normal, but I'm trying really hard to embrace it all by choosing joy despite the situation.

A few of my favorite things that bring me so much joy:


Free GMO documentary this week only

GMOs are the next goal I'm tackling once I've got sugar conquered (ha...ha).  It was actually the trailer for this documentary that set these wheels in motion a few months ago and made me want to learn about GMOs.  I've since seen another documentary and read a book and am working through another on the issue of GMOs, and I have to say that it's one of the scarier issues in my opinion.  Pesticides aren't great, high fructose corn syrup is gross, but GMOs?  They're in an entirely different playing field and what I've learned has me steering as clear of these bad boys as much as is humanly possible.

I just noticed that the documentary that originally piqued my interest is now out and they're streaming it free this week.  I just watched it this morning and it's pretty educational.  If you really don't know anything about GMOs (like I didn't about a month ago), you will learn a lot about why GMOs are such a hot topic right now and how they may really be affecting nearly every facet of our health.  I know that sounds radical/extreme/alarmist, but I really don't think it is.  It really hits home for our family because there may be a strong connection between the rapid rise in allergies/asthma/eczema (as well as increased autism, GI disorders and infertility) and GMOs.  Watch here.

They also have a section about shopping for non-GMO products that was helpful for us.


Project Real Food: Coffee Break

It's been a month since the first coffee break, so shall we sit down, grab a cup and have a look-see at how Project Real Food is impacting us?

I started Project Real Food about two months ago.  So far, I've dug into coffee, processed foods, wheat and sugar.  I've been limiting wheat for six weeks and  mostly completely off of it for four.  I have had the occasional splurge, like on my birthday when my hubby brought me coffee and donuts and we all went out for pizza later that day, as well as a few other random occasions.  We've had almost no processed foods in our house at all for about two months and I'm only four days off sugar and coffee (and only off coffee because I've given up sugar and I can't drink black coffee).

Like I did before, the easiest thing is just to review my objectives to see how this is all impacting our family:

1.  Increased energy levels?   YES!  Although ironically I took a nap today for the first time in a looooong time.  I blame it on the sleepytime tea I drank this afternoon.  I figured it wouldn't really work but I think I was wrong.  I don't notice my energy levels improved in that I don't feel tired as often.  I notice them more in that I feel like a nesting pregnant woman, if that makes sense.  I think being tired is inevitable because I have three kids who wake up during the night.  The best part is that I have all this desire to go out and do things!  A month ago you could barely peel me off the couch and now I find myself wanting to exercise, wanting to go out on walks with the family, wanting to clean and organize and just plain old wanting to leave the house every single day.  This has actually been a really drastic and dramatic improvement.

2.  Weight struggles?  This is still a really sore issue for me.  Like I've said a few times, my body has not let go of the baby weight this time.  I struggled a bit after Ben was born but pretty easily lost most of my weight after Adalyn was born without doing too terribly much.  This time around I have not been able to lose it.  I'm still up about 10 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight which I realize isn't the worst thing ever, but I still was up 5 pounds from pre-Adalyn weight when I got pregnant the last time, so I have about 15 pounds to lose to feel good again.  The last time I felt good was back in April of 2010, after the famous diet my mom put me on.  :)  Since kicking the wheat I've lost 7 pounds, but that has completely plateaued already and I'm no longer losing any.  It's extremely frustrating, but I'm trying to be patient and recognize that there are worse things in life than being three sizes bigger than all the clothes in my closet.  I really, truly believe that I can end my weight struggles once and for all when I find the right lifestyle for me.  I don't want to go on another diet only to lose and gain even more yet again.  I just want to change my lifestyle, as cliche as that sounds, and eat the foods that work for my body.

3.  Relief from pain/dizziness/allergies/asthma?  Yes, yes, yes!  I don't know if wheat has always bothered me but my body became used to it or what, but since giving up wheat and then reintroducing it on a few occasions, I have pretty bad asthma attacks each time.  When I've been off wheat for at least two full days, nada.  It's amazing!  I'm seriously blown away by it.  My allergies also seem to be better, but it's not as drastic an improvement as the asthma is.  I'm still struggling with dizziness and minor pain (I have a bum knee and some joint pain when I get up after sitting for awhile that leaves me limping around like someone my age should not be doing yet).

4. Relief from eczema?  Like I said last month, I don't have eczema in the summer so I don't know if this is improved or not yet.  Adalyn's skin is getting pretty bad all of a sudden with the changing weather.  I'm considering removing gluten & dairy from her diet to see if it improves.  Just this week her cheeks have gotten super red any time she goes outside and it looks like it may be the beginning of what we experienced with Ben.  Praying it's not!

5.  Skin cleared up?  On a somewhat related note that I can't remember if I've mentioned before, I have had pretty bad acne as an adult.  Strangely enough I had completely clear skin as a teenager when so many of my friends struggled with acne and thought I'd escaped that curse.  Until about 23.  All of a sudden I started getting acne and nothing has ever worked.  The only time I don't have it is when I'm pregnant.  It's bizzarre, but most of my pregnancy I have completely clear skin with nary a blemish and then BAM, once I have that baby I am all acne'd up again.  So far, again, knock on wood, I've had completely clear skin since Landon was born.

6.  Decreased illness?  Well, crossing my fingers but all the kids were sick this week and I did not get it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  That's worthy of all those exclamation points, trust me.  My immune system has been so beaten up and I've been so sick so often over the past few years that to not catch what all the kids have even one time is nothing short of miraculous.  Believe me when I say that in the last few years, I have caught almost 100% of anything that anyone in this house had.  Time will tell if things actually are better for me this winter.

7.  Improvements in the kids?  Well, no.  Ugh.  I'm bummed because last month this was the only improvement I'd seen so far, but now everything has gotten worse.  Their sleep has become downright terrible.  Last night we had been up five times already by 11:00 (with a different kiddo each time) and this is a fairly regular occurrence in our house.  Like I said, Adalyn's skin is getting really bad, Landon's isn't great and he is really struggling with gas issues.  The past two days have been pretty awful.  Ben is back to complaining about his stomach here and there and his behavior has also been getting worse again.  I haven't been implementing all the changes to my children's diet that I have to my own, but this has me considering kicking the wheat from their diet, too.  When Ben was gluten-free last month, things were better for sure.  The only reason we stopped the GF thing was because when we reintroduced gluten, everything stayed the same.  It wasn't until the past two weeks that things started getting bad again with the stomach complaints and the behavior.  So I'm a little stumped.  Was it a delayed reaction to gluten or something entirely different?  A mystery, for sure.

All-in-all I'm extremely happy.  My asthma is gone, my face is clear, I want to DO ALL THE THINGS(!) and I'm just feeling overall healthier.  There are still some discouraging aspects like my stupid weight and the kid's difficulties, but I'm going to keep pressing on.  So far this has all been worth it and then some!


What is your thing?

My thing is food. If you don't know that about me yet and you've read my blog, you might be in denial. ;) 

My thing is also Jesus.

Food & Jesus.

What are you passionate about?

Here's the thing: it's okay to be passionate.

People have often made me feel like I'm not allowed to be passionate.  Or that if I am passionate, I need to keep that inside.  Be politically correct, if you will.  I've spent a lot of time trying to squelch my own passion over the past few years.  I even set up little filters on facebook where I try to share food stuff with people who are interested in food or mom stuff with other moms, etc.  That isn't entirely a bad thing, and I really have no intentions of changing that.  But it's representative of the bigger issue.

Peeps be trying to put out my fire!  ;)

You know that famous little Seuss quote from The Lorax about caring?
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

I mean, it's true.  God gave us different gifts.  For some, it's the gift of hospitality.  That's not really my gift.  I try and try and will continue to try until I die, but I get stressed when people come over that my house isn't perfect enough or my food isn't tasty enough or I'll inconvenience someone somehow, etc.  It's not the gift God gave me.  For others, it's the gift of generosity (like my hubby).  I'd say one of my strengths is my sheer determination when I put my mind to learning about something to do it with everything I have.  And then to share it with the world.

Do you know how much of my life I've been trying to suppress that "gift"?  Been embarrassed by it?  Tried to hide it or felt shame because of it?  A lot.

But as Dr. Seuss reminded me, passion can be a good thing.  It's all in your approach.  Years and years ago, I was a passionate and judgmental person.  I looked my nose down on people who didn't see things like me.  I'm so ashamed of that now, in hindsight, but it's the truth.  I thought I had the world figured out and if people didn't "see the light," there was something wrong with them.

Over the course of the last few years, as I've walked with God and grown so close to him, that part of me changed drastically.  It was almost as if He was working in me on exactly this very thing, almost exclusively.  He has humbled me so many times and taught me that I do not have it all figured out.  I do not have the market cornered on how to live.  I do not do things better than the next person just because I do it differently than the next person.  Eventually, my heart just changed.  At first, I had to force myself to stop judging.  Eventually, it just became inherent.  I found myself being judgmental on the inside less and less often.

Back when I was such a judgmental person, I imagine most of what I said went through that filter.  I bet I came off as incredibly egotistical and judgmental and know-it-all.  Sometimes that was probably even my intention, although I promise not all the time.  I hate looking back and knowing how much I might have hurt others with my judgments.

These days, I strive so hard to express my thoughts & opinions without a layer of judgment because there really isn't one!  I know I probably fail, and I probably come off as judgmental when I really, truly am not judging.  It's something I work on everyday.  It's hard to share a passion, whatever it is, without coming off as holier-than-thou.  There's a very fine line there between wanting to share out of a desire to encourage others when you've found something that has changed your life in a good way and being judgy.  Judgy is so yuck.  It hurts people and knocks them down.  I share my passion with a desire to build people up, but sometimes I may choose my words in a way that inadvertently tears them down instead.  That sucks.

Whatever your passion is, don't be ashamed of it.  Don't try to keep it hidden away in your heart.  Perhaps God lit a fire in you for a reason.  Perhaps you can change the world with your passion!  Don't ever feel like you don't have the power to change the world.  We all do.  I may not care about what you care about, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't care about it.  That doesn't mean my heart is closed to new ideas.  I learn everyday, and I love learning from others, even if I'm not quick to admit it.  Sometimes I may disagree with something that, over time, I come to agree with.  But that wouldn't happen without other people sharing their passion.  If you're coming from a place of love and a desire to help others, your passion can be an amazing gift to the world.

Like I love to say these days, check your heart.  If your heart is pure & your intentions are good, share your passion!  Just remember that while it may be something you care about immensely, your best friend/sister/aunt/cousin/coworker may not care at all.  That doesn't mean they're wrong and you're right (or vice-versa).  It just means they're not interested.  And that's fine.

That's probably my biggest struggle of all; accepting that not everyone cares about food.  Because it's one of my biggest passions, I feel that if I could just use the right words, I could make Sally see that changing the way she eats would change her life!  But the truth is, Sally may not need to change the way she eats.  Just because it worked for me or think Sally needs to change the way she eats doesn't mean she does.

I'll keep sharing my passions as long as my heart keeps beating, constantly keeping myself in check and making sure my intentions are pure.

And if I've ever offended you, you have my sincerest apologies.  Rest assured that just because I care about something doesn't mean I judge anyone who lives a different life than me, caring about different things than me.

FOUR(!) months

Okay, okay, I can't resist.  The close runner-up:

Yikes, does time fly!  I love this boy so stinkin' much it hurts.

Baby boy, at four months:

You weigh almost 15 pounds.  A pound a month seems to be the norm for you.  I still have yet to find out your height percentile, but I'm guessing it's much higher than your siblings were.  You're in 9 month sleepers now and 6 or 9 month onesies.

You roll all the heck over the place.  You're starting to crawl.  Like, for real.  CRAWL.  Nuts.  Last month I said something about how you would be our latest mover and shaker and you set out to prove me wrong.  You went from completely content to lay on the ground to moving all over the place any second I put you down.  Awesome and equally exhausting.  :)

Your eczema waxes and wanes.  Some days it's good, some days it's awful.  Who knows.

You are super duper interested in people, not at all interested in toys/play mats/exersaucers/bouncers, etc.  You want to be interacting with someone at all times!

You're still a happy kiddo.  We feel so blessed!  You just aren't a crier.

As for sleeping...meh.  You could do more of it.  ;)  You actually slept from 7:00 until 2:00 a few nights ago on the first night we put you in the room with your sister and brother.  Our new little routine is going down with them at 7:00 and then coming to bed with us after your first waking which is anywhere from 11:00 to 2:00. I honestly don't even know how many times you wake up once you come to bed with us.  Which is nice.

We all adore you!  Your sister considers it her mission to be your second mama and Ben is almost as enamored.  He's always looking after you.


Giving & giving.

(Lost most of my pictures when I switched from WP to blogger. Slowly working on putting them back, but it's a massive undertaking so please forgive the broken image links!)

See that beach?  That's where I'd like to spend all my time.

Unfortunately, it's not something we can afford at this time in our lives.

It's really easy for me to get hung up on a want.  I decide I want something (or typically, about 65 somethings) and I usually go so far as to bookmark them or stick them on my amazon wishlist.  And then I daydream about them forever.  Right now I'm a little hung up on a beach vacation.

I've been extremely convicted over the last few years to give, though.  Giving is something inherent in my soul, even though I'm inherently greedy, too.  It's like the devil on one shoulder, angel on another scenario.  I'd say the single biggest reason I consider myself a liberal Christian is because I think giving is one of the most important things to be taken away from the Bible.  It's something we (collectively) don't do nearly enough.

I can't even begin to explain the frustration I feel when I hear Christians say things like, "I'm not handing over my hard-earned money so someone else can mooch off me!" and other such ridiculousness.  First of all, it isn't our money.  It's God's money.  Spend it wisely.  You're blessed to make as much as you do (and if you think you aren't rich, my guess is you still make more than most of the world).  Secondly, you're not taking it with you.  Third, who are you to judge who is worthy of your "charity"?  It makes my heart literally ache, and it's a theme I've seen so, so often in the past few years.  Otherwise loving and devoted Christians so bitter about paying taxes, being forced to give to people who "don't deserve it," "abuse the system," etc.

I hold on to this passage ALL THE TIME.  It keeps me going when I feel tempted to blow my money on stuff we don't need so I can fit in with everyone around me or give less one month so I can give more to myself.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Matthew 25: 31-46

Perhaps had we been living in Jesus' time, we would have thought he wasn't "worthy" of our charity, either.  Perhaps Jesus is living among us in the homeless or the welfare mom you look your nose down on, the one you judge and scorn with your statements of their worthiness of your hard-earned money (I may or may not be actually talking to you when I say you - only you know what's on your heart).

My husband and I happily pay our taxes.  I don't mean it actually brings us joy to see how much of our paycheck never reaches our hands, because in all honesty it doesn't.  There are days I feel the same frustration about it as the next person.
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent."  Luke 20:20-26
I know I'm supposed to pay my taxes.  On the days I feel frustrated by the sheer amount we pay or the fact that some of it will undoubtedly be used inefficiently, I remind myself that God is in control and that money was never mine to begin with.

So, we pay our taxes.  And we tithe.  A few years ago, my husband expressed a desire to have a separate account where we put extra money to donate to others.  Each month, we deposit money into this account.  I have to admit I wasn't immediately excited about this.  I have a selfish heart.  I look around me at our friends and their nice cars and big homes and stylish clothes and I feel a twinge of jealousy.  Why is it that we make more money than some of these people but appear to make less?  I was so embarrassed to have those thoughts.  How selfish am I?!  How sad that I'm living by man's standards, more concerned with what a stranger thinks of me than God.

I remember during our journey through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, there's a place in the workbook where you list your expenses, and many of them have a suggested percentage listed next to them.  When we got to the line about our home, I immediately saw that we were paying less than his suggested percentage (I believe significantly) and my husband looked at me and said, "What does that make you think?"  I stopped for a second, unsure what he meant, but then I knew what he was getting at.  My first thought was that we should immediately go buy a newer, bigger home.  His first thought was pride.  In a good way.  He was happy we were paying less for our home than the average American.  I used it as justification for buying a bigger home.  An easy way to sum us up.  He is definitely the better giver, but I've learned a lot from him.

Shortly after deciding to put away extra money into a donations account, we began to see magic happen.  We started using this money.  We donated it anonymously to people in need around us.  We donated it to people we didn't know.  We were able to bless friends and bless strangers.  Just the other day at a stoplight downtown, Tim handed me cash to give to the homeless man on the corner.  How often in my life have I snubbed homeless people?  Thought to myself, they'll probably just smoke away this money or this seems like a dangerous situation or he's probably not even homeless.  Shameful!  I am seriously just...ashamed.

But once I got on board and felt what it feels like and saw what it looked like to be generous and kind and giving, I couldn't get enough.  This is why we make so much money!  I don't mean we're rich.  By American standards, we are not rich.  By the standards of the world, and I would argue of the Bible, we are very rich.  But perhaps we're rich for a reason.  Maybe God blessed us with this so that we can bless others.  We'll keep driving our old cars and living in homes that most people with our income wouldn't live in and I'll never really be able to keep up with the Jones' when it comes to style...but it's okay because I'll be getting something even better in return.  The gift of knowing that I did something good with our money.

I don't want to come off as superior.  I don't want you to think I write this because I'm so proud of us.  Far from it.  We have a long way to go.  After all, I just blew all my birthday money on a juicer, clothes and a Kindle when I could have donated it.  I am not perfect.  Right now we give as much as we can afford to.  My aspirations are to give more.  I know that there are many line items in the budget than can be scaled back so that we can do more good with our money.  And though it's a slow journey for me, I am working every day to get there.

I only want to encourage.  Had it not been for my husband, we never would have begun doing this.  You wouldn't find me getting excited about handing over our money had he not pushed me into that.  But once he did and once I began to reap the rewards, it had powerful effects on my life.  I just encourage you to look in your own heart and be real with yourself.  Could you give more?  Want less?
Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”  Luke 6:38
Give out of a desire to do it (not out of obligation) and it will be given to you in return.  In one way or another, I promise, you will reap rewards.  Even if it isn't until Heaven.

Perhaps my reward in Heaven will be living on the beach for eternity.  :)



Hi, I'm Chelsea and I'm a sugar addict.

Seriously, I am.  I actually never really cared much for sweets until I got pregnant with my daughter a few years ago.  I always chose foods like hamburgers and french fries over sweet treats.  Now I'm like an addict constantly looking for her next fix.  Give me sugar!

Giving up the sugar is definitely going to be, I'd say, the hardest part of Project Real Food.  But I'd also say it's probably the single most important factor in improving my health and cutting my weight.

Over the next week or two, I'll share some of the scary stuff I've learned about sugar and why I'm so desperate to break this habit once and for all!

In the mean time, I leave you with a great, brand new documentary called Hungry For Change.  I bought the book and got to see the documentary as soon as it was released, but now they've offered it up for free on their website for the next two days.  I'd encourage anyone who might be looking to shed a few pounds who is also interested in real food to watch this!  It's a good one.  :)

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna in the Crock Pot

I'm kicking off the month's challenge with a DELISH recipe!  This one is adapted from a favorite recipe site, Skinnytaste.com.  I, er, added a little more cheese than she calls for in her recipe, so that's mostly what I mean when I say "adapted".  :)  I also converted it into a crock pot recipe.

To start, gather up your goodies:

First you'll need to cook your spaghetti squash.

To cook your squash, set your oven to preheat at 350.  Slice open your squash and scoop out the seeds.

Sprinkle it with some sea salt and a little pepper:

Pop it in the oven and cook away!  I cook anywhere from an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes.  I don't like my spaghetti squash to be crunchy at all.  In the end, it'll look something like this:

Use a fork to scrape out all the "spaghetti" strands.  You'll need it all for this recipe.

Next, let's discuss our sauce.

So I took a lazy shortcut this week and I don't love it, but after looking at the ingredients, I allowed myself to cheat a little.

That's pretty dang good for sauce in a jar.  No preservatives, nothing I don't know or can't pronounce.  And it was only $2.25. So I went for it and broke my rule of 5 ingredients to make this meal a little easier.  Sometimes convenience can win out!  I like making it because I think it tastes better (I'm not big on lots of spices in my sauces and this was too much) and I like to be able to use something like pure maple syrup over sugar just to make it a wee bit healthier, but you win some and you lose some.  If you are feeling more domestic than me, use your own marinara sauce.  I used the whole jar, the original recipe from Skinnytaste calls for 2 cups.

Now pour half of your jar (or a cup) of marinara sauce on the bottom of your crock pot.

Next, I added all the spaghetti squash on top of the marinara sauce (I'm using a 6 qt crock pot, for reference).

Then half of my ricotta cheese (I used a 15 oz container, so I added about 7.5 oz on top of the spaghetti squash).

And 3/4 of my mozzarella cheese.  I used an 8 oz bag, so I added about 6 oz in this layer.

Next, pour the rest of your marinara sauce on top.

And finally, the other half of your ricotta cheese (7.5 oz) and mozzarella cheese (2 oz), and 8 tsp of parmesan cheese:

I set my crock pot to low and cooked it for 2.5 hours, then switched it over to warm for another 1.5 until it was dinner time.  I honestly don't know how this would turn out if you are gone all day and leave it to cook the entire day, so tread with caution!  I could see it getting really mushy, but then again, if you have a programmable crockpot maybe just keeping it on warm for the last half of the day would be okay?

My verdict?  OH MY GOSH, YUM.  Two things: I love spaghetti squash and I despise ground beef or sausage in my lasagna.  I can't eat meat lasagna.  So this thing was right up my alley!  My son hated it (but then again he hates everything if it doesn't have banana on it or almond butter and jelly in it) and my husband wasn't the biggest fan.  He really doesn't like spaghetti squash, but I was hoping the marinara sauce would cover up the flavor enough that he wouldn't notice.  Not so much.  But he did at least eat at all.  :)
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna in the Crock Pot

Recipe Type: Entree, Crock Pot

Cuisine: Italian

Author: Chelsea

Prep time:

Cook time:

Total time:

Serves: 4-6

A delicious spin on traditional lasagna that works great for grain-free diets!


  • 1 jar or 2 cups of marinara sauce

  • 15 oz container ricotta cheese

  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (you'll want about 3 cups of cooked squash, give or take a little)

  • 8 tsp parmesan cheese


  1. Begin by cooking your spaghetti squash. Preheat oven to 350. Cut lengthwise in half, scoop out seeds and place in a baking dish, the cut sides facing up. Cook for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, until squash is soft. Once done, use a fork to scrape out the "spaghetti" strands. Set aside.

  2. Add half of the jar of marinara sauce to the bottom of your crockpot, or 1 cup. Add your cooked spaghetti squash on top. Add half of your ricotta cheese as the next layer and about 3/4 of your mozzarella cheese. Pour the remainder of your marinara sauce over this. Finally, add the rest of your ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and all of the parmesan cheese. Set your crock pot to low. Cook on low for 2-3 hours or until all the cheese is melted.