Hi I'm Denise! Welcome to my kitchen! If you like to eat you have come to the right place. You'll find all your old favorites from grandma's kitchen and some new goodies too, all "healthified" to make you feel good about what you eat. Gluten-free, Dairy-free or Vegan? Don't worry, I've got you covered. Come on in, look around, stay for a chat and then get cooking. Happy eating!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Balancing Act: Three Ways I Cope Living With Chronic Illness

"There are days when I feel the best of me is ready to begin.  Then there are days when I feel I'm letting go and soaring on the wind.  But I've learned in laughter or in pain how to survive, I get on my knees...."

These are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs that basically sums up my life on a daily basis living with chronic illness.  In the fall of 2012 I started not feeling well.  I began to lose my appetite, having bouts of moderate to severe nausea, lethargy.  I went to the doctor and he ran some tests, put me on some medicines and told me to come back in a month.

A month later, I returned to my doctor and not only was I not any better I had lost about 20 pounds.  At this point, he was concerned and began running more tests.  It took about two and a half months to determine that my gall bladder needed to come out.  Since I wasn't experiencing typical symptoms of gall bladder disease such as stones and excruciating pain, it took some time to determine this needed to be looked into.

By Thanksgiving that year, it was determined that my gall bladder had died and basically quit working.  At this point I had lost another 10 pounds and my health was deteriorating rapidly as I was constantly nauseated and unable to eat much.  I was scheduled to meet with a surgeon to have my gall bladder removed on Dec. 3rd and I was assured by my surgeon that after my gall bladder was removed I would be "good as new".  However, that was NOT the case.

On December 10, 2012 I had the surgery and things only got worse.  I expected a 30 day recovery period and knew that it would take my body some time to adjust to living without my gall bladder.  But instead of getting better, my health continued to decline.  The nausea was worse than ever only now it was accompanied by endless trips to the bathroom.  I could barely eat any thing, I couldn't sleep good at night and at this point was experiencing severe anxiety over my declining health that was beginning to take it's toll on my not just my body but my mental health as well.

60 days after my surgery I had lost another ten pounds.  One day, I had been feeling particularly ill, very ill.  All of medications the doctor had given me to manage my symptoms weren't working, but I keep trying to push through them, determined to try to live a normal life.

On this particular day, my husband and I had some errands to run.  I had been very sick for several days, but I went anyway.  We were standing in the check-out line at Wal-Mart and I started feeling very sick and like I was going to pass out.  I must have turned white because, my husband looked at me and asked me if I was okay as I was eyeing the bathroom and the exit door to determine which on was closer.

We made it out of the store and I burst into tears.  I was hysterically crying uncontrollably.  I couldn't take it anymore.  After nearly six months of living in misery I was DONE.  I couldn't live like this and I knew something had to change NOW.  My husband got me into our truck and said that we were going straight to our doctor who was 15 miles away, groceries and all, and that we wouldn't leave until I saw the doctor.

Once we arrived, I was still crying uncontrollably.  It's amazing how fast your doctor will get you into a room when you walk in having a nervous break down.  After he got me to calm down, he examined me and talked with me about my symptoms.  I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, anxiety disorder (go figure, I wonder why!) and a fancy word that I can't pronounce that basically means Post Gall Bladder Removal Syndrome (Google it.  YES it's a real thing).

I was given more medication to alleviate my symptoms and THEY WORKED.  For the first time in months, the next day I not only felt normal I was HUNGRY.  I began to improve.  Over the next few months I gained about 20 of the 40 pounds that I had lost.  I was getting better.

However by the fall of 2013 things started going down hill again.  I began having horrible stomach pain like a burning fire that felt like I was being stabbed in the pit of my stomach with a hot poker and NOTHING would put the fire out.  The nausea returned much worse than before and again I couldn't eat or sleep and weight started falling off, 45 pounds to be exact.  I returned to the doctor in pure agony.

He sent me for an upper GI scope and it was determined that I had a severe ulcer and that my entire stomach was badly inflamed.  I started on medication to heal the ulcer.  Four months later, I was getting better again.  However, by this point my weight-loss had become a real concern.  I was dangerously close to being underweight with a total weight-loss at this point of 85 pounds.  As a person who was over weight my whole life, this was something that I was finding hard to deal with.

Fast forward almost four years and while I am not as sick as I was I still battle with stomach issues.   I never did regain the ability to digest foods properly, especially fat.  I am suddenly gluten and dairy intolerant.  I still have IBS flare ups that usually lead to an ulcer soon after.  While I have gained about 20 pound in the last year and maintained that weight, I still struggle with chronic illness.

I have had to do a lot of soul-searching and talking with God.  He has allowed me to have these issues for a reason.  He has given me a story to tell and hopefully I can help other who are struggling in their lives.  There are some things that I have learned and had to accept in order to live my life as normal as possible.

1.  "Accept The Things I Can Not Change"
The beginning of the serenity prayer says, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."  We all have struggles in our lives.  Some are physical, some are mental, some are circumstances, but in order to function as human beings we have to ACCEPT that there are some things that we can do nothing about.  No matter how much we want them to change, it is out of our hands.  We have to learn to let go and let God handle these things and trust in him that he is working all things for our good.

2.  "The courage to change the things I can."
In my life I needed to make some changes.  I had to stop eating certain foods, including gluten, dairy and maintain a low-fat diet.  Just learning how to cook gluten free was a challenge.  Forget everything you ever learned about baking. If you don't have an anxiety problem before trying to learn how to make gluten-free bread, you will have one soon after trust me LOL!  I had to reduce my stress level that causes stomach inflammation, ulcers and exacerbates IBS symptoms.  I had to leave my job and trust God and my husband to provide for me.  I was scared.  I have prayed more in the last four years than I probably have in my whole life, but I have learned one thing, God is FAITHFUL.  When we come to him with broken bodies, broken dreams, broken hearts and seek him, he will be there.

One of my hardest times of the day is bedtime.  My stomach gives me a lot of trouble when I lay down at night.  One night I was very sick.  I had taken all the medicine I could take for my digestive issues and nothing was helping me.  I was laying in bed in agony.  I closed my eyes and started singing to myself quietly in my mind the words to "Jesus Loves Me".  I sang this song to myself over and over again slowly until I finally fell asleep.  To this day, I still do this when I am having a hard time a night.  It calms me.

3.  "The wisdom to know the difference"
Off and on during my illness I have not only struggled with anxiety, but also depression.  My life is not the same as it was just a few years ago.  Some days I am fine one minutes and an hour later I feel like I am dying.  I never know from one day to the next how I am going to feel.  It makes it difficult to make plans do to anything.  Just the simple task of going to eat in a restaurant or eating in a social setting in general gives me anxiety, to the point that we rarely eat out because I am so limited on what I can eat.

It would be easy to curl up in a ball and not feel sorry for myself, which I have done on many occasions, wallowing in the fact that the deck of cards I have been dealt just plain STINK sometimes.  But, wallowing in my own self-pity doesn't do me any good.  I had to make a decision a long time ago that I was going to live as normal a life as possible NO MATTER WHAT.

I love the song my the Rory and the late Joey Feek "That's Important To Me".  What's important to me is being a good wife, taking care of my husband, being a good mother, being able to take care of my home, going to church, working from home and so many other things.  Joey not only had courage, she had wisdom to know the difference and she accepted her challenge that God had given her and fought her battle with cancer with such grace and dignity right up until her last breath, she LIVED.

My hope is to live my life with that kind of faith, that kind of courage, that kind of determination and not let my circumstances define me or confine me.  I want to be the vessel that God chosen for me to live this life in and use my story to change the lives of others, to the the light in your darkness and to make a difference.  If you are struggling, no matter what your circumstances are, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  I am making it one day at a time and so can you.

Phillipians 4:13 "I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength."

Love life and be well,

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Vegan Spinach Alfredo Lasagna

Vegan Spinach Alfredo Lasagna

Alfredo Sauce:
18 oz. Silken Tofu, well drained several hours
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup plant-based milk

Blend all ingredients in a blender until thick, smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

1 box of lasagna noodles cooked, drained and rinsed
4 cups of fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan cheese

To assemble the lasagna layer the noodles, then some of the sauce, then a couple of handfuls of spinach.  Continue repeating the layers until you reach the top of the pan and end with a layer of noodles.  Cover the top layer with remaining sauce.  Sprinkle generously with nutritional yeast or vegan Parmesan cheese and a little bit of sea salt.  Cover with foil and bake @ 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Slice and serve with garlic bread and a salad.
Love life and be well,

Vegan Peanut Butter French Toast

Vegan Peanut Butter French Toast

3/4 cup plant-based milk
3 tbsp. Powdered Peanut Butter
1 tbsp. Agave Nectar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 slices of bread

In a small bowl combine all ingredients except the bread.  Whisk until well combined.  Add bread slices and coat them evenly with the mixture.  In a hot griddle or fry pan cook the french toast until it is golden brown on both sides.  Serve with dark agave nectar, berries, or any other toppings of your choice.

Love life and be well,

Friday, March 25, 2016

Low-Fat Homemade Parmesean Cheese Crackers

In my journey to eating healthier, I have decided to make as much of  my food and meals from scratch as possible, including our snack foods.  We love chips, pretzels, crackers, etc.  Unfortunately, most of these items that you buy in the store are LOADED with a bunch of junk, preservatives and chemicals to make them shelf stable.  My motto has been for a long time, "If I didn't make it, I don't eat it." and "If  I can't pronounce it, I shouldn't eat it."

Cooking from scratch is not difficult.  It takes some forethought, time and preparation, but the end result is REAL food that you can feel safe eating, because you know what's really in it.  A lot of people have concerns about eating white flour, store-bought cheese and dairy products and anything that is not organic.  My response is, if you can afford the "good" stuff (aka organic), then go for it.  But, for those of us on a food budget who don't have money falling all around us, just do the best you can with the money God gave you.  I do buy whole wheat flour (I keep white flour on hand too), low-fat cheese and dairy product and the healthiest versions of real whole foods that our budget will allow.

Having said all that, let's get on to the real reason for this post and make some healthy, super yummy, cheese crackers!  Here is what you'll need:

2 1/2 cups white flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. unflavored organic coconut oil
1 to 1/4 cups water
1 cup shredded low-fat cheese (Any kind will be fine, but I had some reduced-fat Colby Jack on hand so that's what I used)
Parmesean cheese in a jar for sprinkling
Sea salt for sprinkling

In a food processor combine flour, baking soda, salt, coconut oil and water.  Process until the mixture is starting to combine.  You may need to stop several times and scrape down the sides.  Add the cheese and continue to process until the mixture forms a well-formed dough ball.  The dough will be pretty sticky, yet it will have a nice smooth creamy texture, yes I tasted it...smiles.

Divide the dough in half.  On a well floured surface (I used parchment paper to make the transfer to the baking sheet easier) roll out one half of the dough in to a VERY THIN rectangle (or as close as you can get to that shape).  Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into tiny squares.  Then, using a skewer or a chopstick or something like that, poke a single hole in each cracker.

Next, transfer the crackers to a baking sheet.  Lightly spray the crackers with some non-stick baking spray.  Liberally sprinkle them with salt and Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they are a dark golden brown and crispy.  You don't want to over cook these or they could burn and they will crisp up as they cool, but you want them to be pretty crisp when you take them out of the oven.

Let them cool completely and then store them in an airtight container.  This makes a lot of crackers depending on how small you make them.  They are really good and cheesy with a nice crisp toasty flavor and sooo much healthier for you than the ones on the shelf at your grocery store.  I was so excited to find it was so easy to make these at home and be able to save my $$$ at the store!

Love life and be well,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Back To Basics: Healthy Eating Challenge

Hey friends!  Over the last few months my life has been changing.  I have been making a lot of the changes.  My social media preferences have changed.  My attitude towards life has changed.  My gratefulness and thankfulness for what God has given me has changed.  I am changing.  God is changing me.  I am doing a Healthy Eating Challenge and would love for you to join me!  To join me in the challenge, read through this post, let me know in the comments that you are doing the challenge, get your copy of "The Bible Cure" and head over to Basic Reset to check out the great products there that we will be using.  We will begin the 30 day challenge on Monday, March 28, 2016.

During the holidays last year and into the new year I really went off track with my eating habits.  I started eating a lot of things I knew weren't good for me and justifying it by telling myself, "Well, it's okay because, I need to GAIN weight."  I do need to gain weight.  After several years of chronic illness (no I am NOT anorexic nor do I have an eating disorder.  I get asked that a lot) I had gotten to an unhealthy weight.  Not quite underweight, but very close.

Two things that I had cut out of my diet was gluten and dairy.  After I realized that I don't have an intolerance to these foods I began to eat more of them.  I also began to eat more processed foods, refined sugar and flour.  Now, gluten, dairy, flour and sugar aren't necessarily bad for you (unless you have a food intolerance), if eaten in moderation, but I have a serious love for floury, glutenous, sugary foods.  I have a hard time eating these things in moderation.

I have gained about 10 pounds over the last few months with is REALLY good.  I fit into a size 8 pair of carpi's now that I haven't been able to wear in three years because they were too big.  So, I am on my way to being a healthy weight again.  However, I have decided that I really need to get my eating habits better control and make sure that the food I am eating is healthy and good for me, not just eating foods that I like even though I know they are not healthy.

I am growing tired of the everyday meat-cycle two or three times a day.  Now I LOVE me some meat and I eat meat and I like meat, but sometimes I just get tired of eating it everyday.  The last couple of weeks I am finding that my food preferences are more along the lines of the Mediterranean Diet, where I only consume meat a few times a week rather than daily and I eat more whole grains, fruit, veggies, dairy, etc.

One of my favorite books that I am currently re-reading is "The Bible Cure" by Reginald Cherry.  This is an excellent read on how to use foods to improve your health and well being. Dr. Cherry goes over all kinds of great stuff including specific illnesses that some of his patients have overcome using the eating plan outlined in "The Bible Cure."  You can get a paperback copy here or a Kindle version here.

Another thing I am doing to improve my health is changing the water that I drink.  A good friend of mine introduced me to a company called Basic Reset at the beginning of the year.  Basic Reset includes two products, Aqualyte and Ionyte, that you add to your drinking water.  These products transform drinking water, even TAP WATER, into healthy, alkaline, tasty drinking water while giving your body the MINERALS it is missing.  My household has stopped buy bottled water and now we only drink tap water with Aqualyte and Ionyte in it.  Those who know me well know that I HATE tap water.  I don't like the chlorine, chemical tasted of it.  I have been drinking tap water with Basic Reset products for several months now.  We are saving a lot of money just by not buying bottled water.

Ionyte is a powerful "electrolyte" of coral minerals combined with organic complexes from plants. Organic complexes contain the basic "building blocks" that plants use to create the nutrients in fruits and vegetables. Adding Ionyte to your drinking water helps to make up for what's missing in our food. It is also treated with a proprietary "energizing" process to further enhance its benefits. Some have referred to it as "liquid acupuncture". It will boost your energy levels without the side effects of caffeinated drinks. It is effective at relieving aches and pains whether taken internally, or applied topically. Ionyte can be used to speed the healing process of cuts, burns, bumps, bruises, insect bites, leg ulcers, bed sores, toothaches and muscle cramps. It even dissolves kidney stones and bone spurs! Ionyte is our #1 selling product because it works so well for just about any problem.

Aqualyte is a sachet (tiny tea bag) of specially processed coral minerals and is known as "The Secret of the World's Oldest Man". In as little as 5 minutes, it transforms ordinary drinking water into antioxidant, alkaline water, rich in ionic minerals. Once you put a sachet of AquaLyte into any kind of water, that water is quickly transformed into "healing water". Drinking AquaLyte water gently helps the body rid itself of toxins and brings your body systems into proper pH balance. Now you can have the very water that the people of Okinawa drink, which is attributed to their excellent health and longevity.....without the trip to Japan! You will never want to drink "ordinary water" again. One AquaLyte pack contains 30 sachets which makes a total of 15 gallons of healthy water.

Here is what one woman had to say about how Aqualyte and Ionyte have helped her, but don't our word for it.  Read more testimonies here.

"CIDP (Neuropathy with symptoms like MS) I have suffered for 22 years with CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy) - The symptoms had made it very difficult for me to walk. I couldn't feel my legs from the knee down or my feet. In less than 30 minutes of drinking only about 8 ounces of water withAquaLyte and Ionyte, I could feel the shoes on my feet, and the wind blowing on my legs! I stood up and walked without first having to steady myself, and to everyone's amazement I wasn't strangely kicking out my left leg! Usually, I can only sing a few songs before sitting down, but the very next day, I rehearsed and performed for 4 hours on my feet! Another major improvement is my balance. After, only 3 weeks, I could dance a little, and could perform without holding onto the microphone stand or sitting on a stool; my doctor even lowered my medication. After 4 months my neurologist declared, for the first time ever, that I was in remission …and now I'm off all medication! WOW! This stuff is working well for me! Thank you Kim and Fred, for sharing these life-changing products with me!! My mom is having great results also!! She and I are very excited!! All glory to God!!"

Laura Dodd, Nashville, Tn.

I hope you will join me for this challenge! I look forward to seeing your successes and chatting with you in the comments below!
Love life and be well,

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