Healthy Living

DIARY-FREE NUTELLA!                                                               (Posted 2/25/2018)

Calling all chocolate lovers!  Every once in a while I want CHOCOLATE!  Actually, I want it all the time, but I have exercised some restraint.  Here is a great new take on Nutella.  My kids and I love this recipe, but if you are looking for it to taste exactly the same as nutella you will be disappointed.  Give it a try though, because it is really good!

Chloe’s Vegan “Nutella”  (recipe is from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups     Can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Soften at room-temperature before using.

 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)                                                                              1 cup almonds, with or without skins                                                                                            1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract                                                                                                   1/4 cup soy, almond, or rice milk (I used unsweetend almond milk)                                   

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave until smooth.  In a food processor, pulse almonds until very find and powdery.  Add melted chocolate, almond extract, and nondairy milk.  Process until very smooth.  There will still be tiny bits of almonds in the mixture, but try to get it as smooth as possible.

Post 3 (2/17/2018)


There are so many great recipe books and healthy living books available today.  I have read many, but the following are the ones that I come back to over and over.

  1.  joy of COOKING by Rombauer, Becker, & Becker     This book has so many beloved and classic recipes.  Although I am dairy-free, corn-free, and try to limit my meat intake this book has given me so many wonderful recipes that I am able to make substitutions for.
  2. Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli   This book is becoming one of my new favorites.  It takes classic italian recipes that I have not been able to eat because of my allergies and makes them vegan friendly.  As I try more and more of her recipes I will post some of my favorites.
  3. The Daniel Plan by Warren, Amen, and Hyman  If you want to live a healthier life style, but don’t want to be a vegetarian or vegan this is a great book to get you started.  The book is written by a pastor and two medical doctors.  Most of the book is focused on educating you on foods that heal or harm, the role of fitness, and how to change the way we eat.  Faith plays an important role in this book, but no matter your belief you will find it very helpful in guiding you to healthy living.  The end of the book offers a great 40 day plan with recipes.
  4. The Daniel Plan Cookbook by Warren, Amen, Hyman   This book offers more than 100 Daniel Plan recipes for healthy eating.  A chapter on how to create a “Daniel Plan” pantry is very thorough and helpful.
  5. The Forks Over Knives Plan by Pulde and Lederman    This book is written by two doctors.  It is a 28 day meal plan with a ton of imformation on why, in their educated opinion, a vegan lifestyle is the healthiest.  I probably use this book more than any of the other books for lunch/dinner recipes.  There is a movie/documentary by the same title.

These books or Forks Over Knives Video can be found by visiting your local library.  If it’s not on your library’s shelf, you can have them request it from another branch.  It’s a great way to spend a few weeks picking through the recipes to see if it’s worth purchasing.

I would love to hear about your favorite recipes or recipe books.

Post 2 (2/6/18)

Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Healthy eating is difficult for me. For one, I have eaten the same foods and cooked the same way since I was a little girl. With education and training, I have slowly incorporated healthier meals into my house, but it doesn’t come natural to me to eat lots of fruits and veggies with a little or no meat on the side. Staying away from dairy and corn products due to allergies has taken away A LOT of foods I enjoy. I know that I am eating a healthier diet because of it, but I don’t always appreciate the changes I’ve made.
Over the past couple of years I have read many books and researched online for great Vegan/Vegetarian recipes to incorporate into our meal plan.
If you are a lover of mashed potatoes and gravy, but you would like to try a healthier version then I have a great recipe to share with you. I haven’t found a better dairy-free version.
This recipe is from, “The Forks over Knives Plan” by Alona Pulde, MD, and Matthew Lederman, MD:
Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
*1/4 c. cashews
*2 lbs. russet potatoes (about 4 medium-large) scrubbed and chopped (I peeled the skin too)
*2 c. cooked brown rice
*8 oz button mushrooms, sliced (about 4 cups) (I have never liked mushrooms and I LOVE this recipe)
*4 c. low sodium vegetable broth
*1/2 t. dried sage
*1/2 t. dried marjoram
*1/2 t. dried thyme
*1 clove garlic, minced
*2 T. fresh lime juice (1 or 2 limes)
*1/8 t. freshly ground white or black pepper, plus 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper (I only used the black pepper)
*sea salt

1.  Place the cashews in a small bowl and cover with 1 cup of water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
2.  Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 20 minutes. Drain thoroughly and set aside to cool.
3.  Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the rice, mushrooms, and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Another option is to leave the mixture in the pan and use a immersion blender to blend until smooth. (I put mine in a food processor, but had to do two batches because it wouldn’t all fit at once.)
4.  Once the mixture is blended put it back in the pan. Add sage, marjoram, thyme, garlic, lime juice, 1/8 t. of pepper, and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Cover to keep gravy warm and set aside.
5.  Transfer the cashews and their soaking water to a clean blender. Add a pinch of salt and remaining 1/4 t. pepper and blend until smooth. Pour the cashew cream over the potatoes and use a potato masher or mixer to mash well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
6.  Serve the mashed potatoes topped with the gravy.

Makes about 5 cups each of potatoes and gravy. (I froze some of the gravy to use at a later date.)



Post 1

Welcome to my healthy living section.  I will start by explaining my health journey and then each post after will have recipes, suggestions, and information I have found helpful over time.  I am dairy-free and corn-free, so a lot of the recipes will reflect that.  Don’t run away when you hear dairy/corn-free because I have found many alternatives that taste just as great…really!  Thanks for joining me.

“HEALTH is like MONEY, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.” I love this quote by the late Josh Billings.  It’s so true!  It really hit home with me about four years ago.  I will start by saying that I have never been diagnosed with cancer or any horrible, chronic disease, so although I have had my share of health struggles it is nothing compared to some dear people I have loved and lost over the years.

I really thought I should “suck it up”, count my blessings, and ignore my aches and pains, but my health issues became life altering and really made me stop in my tracks and make some changes.  My health struggles started out in 2013 with some female problems that ended up being endometriosis.  I went in for a DNC which was very helpful for relieving very painful cramping during my period.  It was suggested that I should have a vaginal hysterectomy, but between the medical research I did and speaking with ladies who have “gone before me” I chose to wait on this.  I still have pain here and there due to the endometriosis, but I know what it is, so sometimes that’s half the battle.  Every few years I have a ultrasound to check up on my ovaries and such.

About a year later in 2014, I started having minor chest pain off and on and heaviness in my lower lungs just under my rib cage.  I dealt with it for about three months before going in for a check up.  They did an EKG and x-ray.  It came back fine, so she said to come back for a follow up in a few weeks.  A month later I had my first ever pout with Pleurisy.     OH MY GOSH!  If you have ever had this you know it is horrible.  I woke up with pain in my left side/lung area and a couple hours later I was having trouble breathing it hurt so bad.  I had an x-ray and a CT which showed nothing!  I didn’t wanted to hear a bad diagnosis, but, at least for a second, I was disappointed that I spent all that money to hear the horrible pain I was having had no name on the CT.  It also made me feel like they thought I was making it up.  Anyway, they guesed it was Pleurisy, sent me home with antibiotics and by the next morning the pain was gone.  Speaking with others who have had bouts with this it confirmed for me that Pleurisy is what I experienced.  I have never experienced it again and I have no idea what caused it.  That seemed to be the beginning of the end of my health for the next two years.

I went back in to see my doctor about few months later because the heaviness in my lower lungs was getting so bad I couldn’t go for long walks with my family and I stopped riding my bike, which is something I really enjoy doing.  I was still having pain on my right side of my chest, which was also more frequent.  My upper back started feeling inflammed sometimes.  My right side just below the area of the gallbladder started chronically bothering me as well.  I was emotionally becoming tired and nervous.  My doctor scheduled a stomach ultrasound which came back fine and sent me to see a Gastroenterologist and a Cardiologist.  If you have ever had to start going through testing for any reason you know that the waiting game has just begun.  The appointments took weeks to get scheduled. The Gastroenterologist did a scope which came back fine, but thought it would be worth trying some prescriptions for my stomach.  I started those meds which had side effects. My family doctor also had me on muscle relaxers for the pain/heaviness in my lower lung area (thinking it might be inflammation from a possible pulled muscle).  I was having trouble focusing and other issues on these meds and since they weren’t working anyway both doctors took me off them.  Then came the cardiologist.  After an echo and stress test came back fine he sent me to a Pulmonologist. The Pulmonologist found that I have Reactive Airway Disease, which is a form of asthma. He put me on an inhaler and Singular.  A month after starting that, I found myself in the ER because the pain in my chest and the heaviness in my lungs were so bad.  It wasn’t relate to the medication I was on.  It was the same symptoms I’d been having, only worse.  Another CT with contrast, an x-ray, and blood work showed nothing.  At this point I felt like I was losing my mind.  I became afraid to go out because I feared the heaviness or chest pain would be so bad I would need help.  I stopped shopping for groceries on my own.  I would wait until my husband could go with.  I never told my kids I was scared to be out alone.  They knew I was going through some health issues, but they didn’t know about the anxiety.  I hid it well from most people.

I was literally having panic attacks due to my health issues.  Not the kind of panic attacks that others could see.  These were the ones where your heart would race so fast it felt like it would explode and I began to feel dizzy and clammy.  No one around me knew anything was wrong, but inside I literally thought I was dying.  At this point my family physician started me on a low dose anxiety pill once a night.  I felt like a failure to have to be on anxiety meds.  How come I was having panic attacks?  It only made my real health symptoms seem fake.  I thought that the medical professionals would think that all my “symptoms” were just in my head.  I also remember feeling embarrassed picking up my prescription from the pharmacy.  They would no longer think of me as a productive member of society, but as someone who couldn’t get her life together.  Wow! I read this now and see how prideful and ignorant I was.  If you are going through any kind of health issue whether it’s physical or mental, it is real and needs addressed.   Those anxiety pills were such a God-send during a difficult time.

At this point I had lost almost 30 pounds.  My Pulmonologist said that if I didn’t show any improvement with the heaviness/pain in my chest within six months he would need to do a slightly invasive test to check for pulmonary hypertension.  This was when I decided to try some drastic approaches to my health that I had not considered.  FOOD.  Could food have anything to do with my health conditions that had been financially, physically, and emotionally draining for not just me, but for my family at times.  I had previously read up on healthy eating plans, but now I needed to implement them.  So, I decided to get rid of all dairy in my life for a month.  People ask me why I chose dairy.  I had heard that dairy can cause inflammation and stomach issues, so I thought it was a good place to start.  This was so hard because I love dairy!  It’s in a lot more food than you would think.  Most breads, cereal, snacks, as well as many other items have milk ingredients.

FOUR days after starting a dairy-free diet I woke up to no heaviness in my lower lungs for the first time in over a year.  I almost get emotional thinking about it now.  I couldn’t believe it!  I kept waiting for it to come back that day and evening.  The next day was the same, no heaviness.  The heaviness remained gone for weeks until I added a little bit of dairy (just a little bit of milk ingredients).  I woke up to heaviness in my lower lung area.  I was so scared that I stopped all dairy permanently from that point on. During my follow-up with the Pulmonogist a month off of dairy, he was so happy with my health that he took me off the inhaler and had me start weening off the Singular over the next few months.  He even recorded in his notes that the problem appears to be caused by a dairy allergy.  I have never had to go back to see him.  The chest pain I had been experiencing also went away after about a month off dairy.  I was able to come off the anxiety medication at this point too.  Disclaimer:  I alway sought medical advice from my physicians before starting or stopping any medications.

There was a huge spiritual battle that went on in me during that time too.  It is during our most difficult moments that we find out what we really believe.  I will blog about that in a later post, but I need to thank my Father in heaven for giving me the wisdom to find an answer to that health issue.  God is good all the time…no matter the outcome of my health issues.

So, why did I give up corn?  A year ago I started breaking out on my legs and stomach with hives.  I would wake up with 2 to 5 big welts on my body that were very itchy.  The welts didn’t happen every day at first, but about four months ago they became an almost every morning occurance.  Another strange thing about them was they usually went away everyday by midday.  The hives were getting larger, itchier, and I even had an instance where my lip swelled.  My doctor put me on Singular.  This helped the welts to be smaller, but it didn’t solve the problem.  Now this will sound crazy, but at this point I remembered that we had to take our dog off all corn products years ago because of his itchy skin, so I wondered if this could be what was happening to me.  It’s ridiculous to compare myself to my dog’s health, but I knew that humans could be allergic too, so I thought it was worth a try.  I thought giving up dairy was hard, but giving up corn was even harder because it is in EVERYTHING.  Well, it’s in a lot of things I eat at least: corn, corn starch, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup.  I think it took about a week to see the disappearance of welts in the morning.  Within the month though they were gone.  I am still on Singular, but during my next doctor appointment I will discuss going off the Singular and see if I remain hive free to confirm that it is a corn allergy that caused the hives.  I am optimistic!  At some point I may need to go in for allergy testing, but for now I’m having success by eliminating certain food.

Being dairy/corn-free can be a hard life style when you have eaten a certain way for 40 years, but with the popularity of places like Whole Foods Market and many great new recipe books and online sites I have found many wonderful alternatives.  If you have food sensitivities or allergies I’m sure you have found some great recipes too.  I would love it if you shared some.

Have a great night!  I look forward to sharing some recipes in future blogs.




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