Gluten-free Carrot Cake Muffins

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Did you know that carrots are good for more than just eye health? 

Benefits of Carrots

Want to know my favorite way to eat carrots? Besides salads and with hummus? Muffins! Oh ya’ll, there are few things better than a fluffy, hot, carrot muffin, completely covered in the melty goodness of grass-fed butter. However, sweets are generally drowning in sugar, gluten, and all things inflammatory. These yummy muffins are refined sugar-free & gluten-free! P.S. If you need a dairy-free option, replace the butter with coconut oil.

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Southern Gluten-Free Biscuits

A few months ago, I abandoned all gluten. I avoided this change until it became ABSOLUTELY necessary. Diets tend to become fads. Gluten-free-ness is no different. Initially, my goal was to find out if I had an intolerance. My body was feeling sluggish and I was struggling from digestive issues. So, I decide to dump the gluten for a month. It was a hard decision. Bread is basically sent to us from heaven and if joy, happiness, and all things beautiful, were in the form of food, bread would be it ya’ll.

So here I am, 4 months later and still no gluten. That first month I filled my unhealthy “need” for the fluffy, oh-so-delicious gluten with corn and rice. Yep. I ate corn tortillas and eggs every morning, and most evening had chicken and rice. I slowly started to realize though, both those things weren’t making me feel so hot either. While many of my digestion concerns and sluggishness diminished considerably after removing the most delicious gluten, there was still a concern there. So the next month or two I worked on cutting out the rice and corn too, and most all other grains.

IMG_8315Now, when I consume most corn products and gluten, my body reacts almost instantly. So, now for the adventure of finding “bready” gluten free foods 😉 Can I get an amen?

Something you may not know about me? I’m a southern girl. Through and through. Born and raised in Texas, with potlucks, sweet tea, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy……mmmmm…hungry yet? Anywho, biscuits are my comfort food. Biscuits and jam, biscuits and gravy, biscuits and ham, biscuits and eggs, biscuits and butter, biscuits and…..well you get the idea. So a couple of weeks ago I tackled the task of finding a southern biscuit recipe for those “I gotta have one” moments.

I’ve tested ones here and there, but I always come across the same issue. Everything tends to taste so eggy. While there is nothing wrong with eggy, it’s not the most welcome flavor in bready foods. Well ya’ll, I finally found a winner!

So here, I share with you, my new favorite gluten-free/sugar free southern biscuit recipe:

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Bon appetit!

What’s a girl to do when she doesn’t like health food?

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I have never ever considered myself a picky eater. I will eat basically whatever is put in front of me (within reason of course). But let me tell you……I don’t like healthy food. There. I have said it. I don’t like eating raw vegetables and I never have. Kale is gross. Bell peppers taste like ear wax. And try as I might, I really really hate cauliflower. Fruit is less hateful, but still limited. I can eat Watermelon allllll day long. But give me anything else and I’ll love it for a day or two and then give up.

I don’t like eggs very much without a tortilla or bread. Protein shakes are grainy and the thought of drinking my meal usually grosses me out. I have had quinoa in all different ways, and even mixed with brown rice and it’s still a weird texture and nasty.

I have heard many talk about changing your taste buds and that if you eat it for long enough, you will eventually like it……because that sounds totally appealing…..

This is by no means my way of saying ‘be gone with ALL the healthy food!’, but instead my way of being realistic. I love food. I love how food brings people together. I love how food teaches about other cultures. I love how food can show a person’s giving and hospitable heart. I love how food is an adventure and there is a never ending supply of new things to try. I love cooking and trying new recipes. Food is an art form and can be used in so many different ways. Food can be a form of love, it can be a form of bonding, it can bring someone out of their shell, it can provide confidence, it can be healing.

So, how am I supposed to limit my passion for food to some “diet”? We get one life. In that one life, I intend to live it to the best of my ability. For me personally, that does not mean eliminating everything unless it is no less than 100% healthy. It does mean researching what is better though! Instead of wheat flour, I find heirloom, organic, non GMO flour and stick to making my bread products myself. Instead of fries, I make jicama fries. Instead of sugar, use raw honey or maple syrup (make sure to research the kind you get though). For dairy, find as many raw products as you can. Etc : )

So what’s a person to do when they have allergies, pickiness, or a true dislike for all things “healthy”?

  1. Improvise! There are so many ways to find GOOD tasting food, especially through the never ending lists on Pinterest.
  2. Explore! Don’t be afraid to try new things. I know, sometimes that burger wrapped in lettuce doesn’t look nearly as amazing as a normal burger with a bun. And when eating healthy, feeling ‘normal’ can be hard. But give it a try. You might find something you love that you thought you would hate. I’m constantly looking for a good almond bread recipe and have tried a couple that are pretty good.
  3. My favorite healthy meals are: Taco Salad, grilled chicken with a side, hamburger patty wrapped in lettuce with Jicama fries (my picky hubby LOVES these fries…..possibly more than potato fries), Cracklin’ chicken (a yummy substitute for fried chicken, and if you’re a southern gal like myself, that’s a necessity!).
  4. Don’t be afraid to explore with sweets either. I love this milkshake recipe that I make, or even just blending frozen mango’s up to make a yummy mango ice cream. And those chocolate chickpea cakes are actually good!
  5. Find your “soul mama’s” with cooking! Nom Nom Paleo, Against All Grains, & Pete Evans are a few of my daily go-tos for colorful, inspirational, and delicious dishes.

Cutting out things that make a person feel deprived & alone, especially a foodie, is a hard decision and reality. It took me a very long time and several health conditions to fully accept the reality that I didn’t have a choice. So as soon as I ‘decided’ I started googling and pinteresting as many yummy recipes as I could find so that temptation isn’t quite as hard. It’s brave to go against what others do and the norm. But you deserve that. You deserve to not only love what you eat, but for your food to also heal your body. AND to ENJOY doing it!! You are absolutely not alone and there are very “normal” and delicious recipes out there to explore. As you embark on this adventure, let’s do it together. ❤lauren-lester-205923.jpg

Jicama Fries

What the heck is Jicama?? I was extremely leery when I first saw a post on Jicama fries. I love fries, but they’re usually filled with nasties. So while exploring the many options online for substitutes, I ran across the delicious wonder that is Jicama.

Jicama is a root that has many health benefits. It is an excellent source antioxidants and fiber. It contains important vitamins and minerals, such as thiamine, magnesium, and iron. It’s extremely versatile and can be eaten both raw and cooked. The texture is similar to a turnip, but the taste is somewhat like an apple. It is sweet, but also savory. You can add it to salads, soup, bake it, etc.

When looking for a good Jicama, I always try to go with the smallest ones I can find. The skin is not as thick and easier to peel the smaller they are. So head to your local grocery store and pick up some. Try adding some Jicama as a side for your next meal and see how amazing it is!

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Water Kefir – The Powerhouse “Soda”

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I’m sure you have heard of kefir, regarding milk kefir, but have you heard of water kefir? This probiotic, dairy-free, carbonated, delicious “soda” will become your  new best friend. So let’s start with the facts! What exactly IS water kefir, you ask? Let’s explore 🙂

THE WHAT

Water kefir grains are probiotic grains that consist of bacteria and enzymes your body uses for gut health and enhancing healthy bacterial flora in your body. Water kefir grains are dairy free and they do not contain actual wheat (even though they are called “grains”). Their texture kind of reminds me of those water beads you can get for you littles! They are translucent, jelly-like scoby that you can use in all sorts of ways. Think Kombucha, but milder in taste and much smaller!

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THE WHY

So why water kefir? It contains ALL sorts of yummy benefits, including, but not limited to:

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Water Kefir can also help with cravings. It has helped me SO much with my soda craving. I’m not sure why, and it’s never been so much about the flavor as it is the carbonation in soda, but as soon as I take even just a few sips, I’m HOOKED and have the HARDEST time getting off of it. Water Kefir is one of the only things I have been able to use as a replacement that is actually successful in getting me off the soda and sugar addiction. <–YES! It also helps cut back the sugar cravings. Win win in my mind!

THE HOW

There are lots of different “basic” recipes all over the inter-webs, but below is my go-to recipe. For some more in-depth information, recipe combinations, etc. I love Cultures For Health. You can even sign up for the free water kefir ebook!

You will notice, there is a good amount of sugar in the basic recipe to grow and feed your water kefir grains. When I first learned of water kefir, my question was, with so much sugar, how is that not adding sugar in my body and being counter-productive? It’s a ridiculously simple explanation actually. Water kefir grains need minerals and sugar to really thrive. So when you give them both, they will eat all of it away and grow! Therefore, the amount actually going into your body is extremely low.

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When it comes to making the actual “soda” part, you can use any number of combinations, so be ready to live life on the wild side. Throw in some ginger and lemon, or some all natural and organic fruit juice, or chop up some strawberries and basil! Use your favorite flavorings and enjoy 🙂 Check out my recipe for Water Kefir Soda, below!

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Pro Tip: Your water kefir grains need minerals to really thrive. You can add a pinch of salt to each batch (make sure it is a high quality salt, such as himalayan), or, you can add some sucanat sugar and dark molasses (instead of the regular sugar) to your batch once every month or two. Both will effect the taste, so try them and see what you are your family like more. If you choose to the second option, you can easily just pour out the kefir water after and start fresh instead of using it to consume.

Happy kefiring! 😉

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Fermentation & Salsa

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Of all the natural remedies and whole-body healing methods, fermentation is one the best. Not only does it taste amazing (let’s be real ya’ll, this can be rare with home remedies), but it’s healing benefits are extensive and long-lasting.

What is Fermentation?

Fermentation is the process when foods are left to sit in all their glory to produce beneficial bacteria. The microflora that is dwelling inside of fermented foods help to protect your body by lining your intestines. Fermenting your food creates a powerful probiotic and your gut just eats it right up! Protecting and nourishing your gut is so crucial to finding whole-body wellness. According to Dr. Mercola, our gut houses 80% of our immune system!

What’s in it for me? 

There is an enormous supply of benefits in consuming fermented foods. Some of which include:

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What we have all been waiting for: Fermented Salsa

So HOW do you ferment? Let’s start with Salsa! One of my favorite go-to foods whether it be with eggs, sweet potato chips, or mixed with shredded chicken for tacos.

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And VOILA! 2 days later, you have some delicious, extremely nutritious, salsa!

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Chocolate -A Girl’s Best Friend

 

When you think sweet tooth, what’s the yummiest treat you can think of? When that craving comes on, what’s the first thing you grab? For me….it’s almost always cookie dough.

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There are few things in this life that I love more than a big spoonful of batter. Whether it be brownie batter, cake batter, or cookie dough. I’m not too picky 😉 But all those things are entirely filled to the brim with sugar, raw egg, and dairy. Which is pretty much a no-go for me right now. So what’s a girl to do?

There are just some days that call for it more than others. Some days you wake up, your hormones are going crazy, you cry because your dog is just too cute or your slippers are too soft, or you’re watching This Is Us and can’t stop the water works.Well, good news, I got you! This tried, tested, and VERY much approved, cookie dough AND brownie batter is refined sugar free, dairy free, and egg free. So you can make up a whole bowl and eat it guilt-free 😉

 

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Essential Oil Safety

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Essential Oils have been the “go-to” for a bit now and making quite a debut! They are an incredible source of natural healing and relief from various symptoms. You can diffuse them, rub them on the bottoms of your feet, place them on a cloth and inhale, keep them on cotton balls throughout your home for lovely aromas, spray for spider protection (a real MUST-HAVE for all ya’ll who are afraid of spiders…such as myself). And SO much more! I keep an entire cabinet full of essential oils in our home and we use them almost daily.

Now, with all this new fame, essential oils also have been slightly misrepresented and left people misinformed about their safety. So, give me a couple minutes here to get on my preacher’s stool and share some truly essential safety necessities (see what I did there? 😉 )

First off, I don’t use one specific company. I love so many and so instead of choosing, I use them all. My TOP brands are Nature’s Sunshine (their Essential Shield and Inspiring blends are so wonderful), and Plant Therapy (I can’t get enough of their Calming The Child for anxiety and those extra doses of stressful that can happen. They also specify which oils are child-friendly! A huge win in my books!). Both those companies have undergone 3rd party testing and are completely dedicated to genuine and 100% pure product. No fillers or additives. They also are very affordable and keep their oils at minimal cost. I love this because not only am I able to get MORE oils for my money, but I also know that I’m getting HIGH-QUALITY and EFFECTIVE oils!

So let’s talk safety!

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Internal Use

You should never, under any circumstance, take an essential oil internally, without the recommendation of a professional and certified aromatherapist. I know, that is blasphemy for some, but think about it this way: essential oils are extremely concentrated forms of flowers, herbs, etc. If you ate as many of those herbs as are in a single drop of oil, it would be an incredibly large amount, and therefore possibly make you sick. There have been oils known to cause stomach ulcers or be fatal. If you see a company ever claim that all of their oils can be taken internally, I would highly recommend you question that. As a general rule, when any company I buy from claims they are the only company to do whatever it is they are claiming, I automatically question it. If you are interested in using essential oils internally, contact a local professional and certified aromatherapist. While some oils can be taken internally under supervision, some essential oils, when taken internally, may cause irreversible damage.


Littles

Not all essential oils are safe for children and it is usually recommend not using them at all for babies 6 months or younger. In fact, there is only a handful that ARE safe for children. Essential oils are extremely strong and concentrated. Children have sensitive skin, bodies and organs. If used improperly, it can cause a negative reaction on a child. Make sure to fully research which oils are safe for children before applying/diffusing them around children. One of my absolute favorite blends is by Plant Therapy and it is called Calm The Child. They offer various blends that are safe for children. You can find a link to those blends here.


Expecting Mamas

As with all essential oils, make sure to research and thoroughly study before applying or even diffusing it around you, especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Often, it is advised to not use essential oils at all while pregnant or nursing. They can effect your hormones and other important parts of your health and can be a huge risk when your body is at such a sensitive stage.


External Use

Avoid putting oils directly on your skin. Because of their high concentration, they can cause much damage to your skin and easily access your bloodstream which can cause a lot of damage. Always mix it with a carrier oil before applying it, and when applying an oil for the first time, use a very small amount to test how your skin will respond to it. There are many different oils you can use for carrier oils. I personally use coconut and almond oil.

Bottom line: Please be extremely careful when using essential oils. You would be amazed at their power while even just diffusing. I have a couple resources below if you would like to further study essential oils and the complexity/safety of each one.


Now, with ALL that said, oils are a truly FANTASTIC source of healing and relief and have an entire world of benefits! Don’t sway from using them, just be aware and oil-smart when you do 🙂

Happy Oiling!

 

Resources:

Nature’s Sunshine: How Safe Are Essential Oils

The Humbled Homemaker 

Aura Cacia 

Advanced Aromatherapy

Homemade bread – Comfort for the soul

Don’t ya’ll just love the inviting smell of homemade bread? It hits almost as soon as you stick a ready loaf in the oven and sweeps throughout your kitchen and home for the rest of the day. Homemade bread, slightly toasted and covered in butter is equally as comforting for me as curling up on the couch, wrapped up in a big yummy blanket, sipping a mug of something hot and steamy on a cold rainy night.

But it seems like with all the gluten-intolerance and ‘bread is bad’ talk, it’s so hard to know what is actually ok to eat and what is not. And that solely depends on your body and what works for you! So let me share what has worked well for me and you can find what works well for you.

Because I love bread, probably way too much, I have researched and tried to find the best grain I can. Really just to accommodate my love for the warm pillowy goodness 😉

Have you ever heard of Kamut (Kam-oot)? This nutrient-filled grain is an heirloom, trademarked, non-GMO, wheat. It was brought to the states from Egypt in 1949 and was planted in Montana. There, it still grows and thrives on all-organic farms and has never been hybridized with other modern wheats, according to Montana Flour, the company that sells it. So what’s so great about Kamut?

Here are some of the MANY benefits to Kamut, besides being yummy of course:

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I’ve been using Kamut for the past 2 years and I love it. It’s versatile, easy to bake and cook with, and tastes absolutely delicious!

Let me share my favorite bread recipe with you to help get you started!

This recipe is simple, with ingredients you probably already have! I just throw everything in a Kitchen Aid and let it go. Simple as that. It makes a great base dough as well for pizza crust, rolls, etc. If you REALLY want to get crazy with it, toss in some of your favorite herbs like I did here:

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Homemade Bread

Makes 2 loaves

Prep Time: 90 minutes

Bake Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 7-8 cups of Kamut flour
  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon of yeast (I use active dry)
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Begin by adding the warm water, oil, and honey, and salt to your mixer and attach the knead hook. Set it on a low speed.
  3. Add in 2-3 cups of flour as well as the yeast. Let everything mix thoroughly. (this is also the point where you can add any yummy herbs your heart desires. I love adding thyme, rosemary, and dried minced onion)
  4. Slowly add in the remainder of the flour. Do not over-flour. This will result in a dry loaf. You will know that you have added enough flour when the sides of the bowl are clean.
  5. Knead everything for 10 minutes on a medium/low speed. Then let sit for 5 minutes.
  6. During this time, prepare your loaf pans by making sure they are well oiled.
  7. Place the dough on an oiled or wet surface (do not flour this surface. The more flour you add the more dry the loaf will be become).
  8. Cut the dough in half. With the first half, roll out just slightly and then roll up and tuck the ends in to create a pan-sized “loaf”. Do the same with the second loaf.
  9. Add both to the loaf pans and cover with a dry cloth. Allow loaves to rise for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  10. You can either stick the loaves straight in the oven at this time, or, I like to slightly cut the tops down the center to create a slit. I also oil and add more herbs to the top. 
  11. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and beautiful.

And voila! You have yummy, easy-peasy, homemade bread.