Thursday, April 26, 2012

Eat Your Carrots!

Just a quick thought.  

Are carrots still good for you when you coat them in butter and brown sugar?
I hope so~!  

 There's no special recipe for this... after you boil your carrots, throw them in a pan with some butter (or as I do, non-dairy substitute) and brown sugar.     Make sure stir well as the butter and sugar melt.    

~Sausage Pesto Pasta~

My husband goes back for fourths on this dish, need I say more?
Everyone loves a good pasta dish now and then.  While I don't recommend eating pasta all the time... this is a great easy meal that will give leftovers all week if you're just cooking for a couple.   It could definitely be a hit as a dish-to-pass at potlucks or holidays.... and its not terribly unhealthy!  

I adapted this recipe from a friend's blog which you can find here.  Its perfectly yummy as-is, I just tweaked it to our tastes.    I added more sausage, tomatoes and pesto... and also felt mushrooms were a nice addition... and ricotta! I have a small obsession with ricotta, and while I try to eat as close to dairy free as possible, ricotta is a weakness and sometime necessary evil.     Ricotta is also delicious on pizza...but now I am getting off track.  

So here you go:


  • 1.5 # italian sausage (mild, gluten free in my opinion)
  • 1/2 cup of chopped onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 24 oz & 14 oz can diced tomatoes 
  • Pesto - around 2/3 cup to 1 cup...depending on taste
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 10oz (or so) of cooked pasta (I think any type will do, I use GF)
  • 4 c fresh spinach (or 4 handfuls)
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated parm
  • 1-2 cups mushrooms of your choice, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 15 oz fat free ricotta (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook sausage, onion, and garlic until the sausage is cooked thoroughly.    Add the mushrooms as the meat starts to brown.         

Next, add tomatoes  and simmer for about 10 minutes or so.   Then add pesto, and salt & pepper to taste.  Cook your pasta while you're waiting on the above....

In a large bowl add the spinach, pasta, mozzarella and 1/3 cup parmesan cheese.  Add in your meat/tomato mixture and carefully mix until combined. 

Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish and top with the remaining parmesan.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or you see bubbling.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Simple Fresh Salsa ~

I invested in a Blendtec a few months invested I mean, damn that is expensive!  It truly is an investment, but what a great machine.   This puppy makes everything, and so far, one of my regular favorites is this salsa.

There's nothing like fresh salsa... and its pretty easy to find a good gluten free corn chip so this is a snack I love.    Most ingredients I have on hand regularly.    The recipe makes a decent amount of salsa and I have used the leftovers to scramble into eggs or top chicken for dinner. 

4 oz can green chiles, not drained
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cumin
14.5 can diced tomatoes, not drained
1/4 of a medium onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Add the green chiles, lime juice, garlic, salt and cumin to the Blentec, secure the lid and pulse about 3 times.  Add tomatoes, onion, and cilantro.. secure the lid and pulse about 3 more times. 

Simple easy salsa that's ready in minutes!  Love my Blendtec!

(Amended from the Fresh Blends book of Blendtec Recipes)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter Lilli!

On Good Friday nine years ago I drove 2+ hours in to small town Indiana to pick up my baby Lilli, named after an Easter Lily.    I was a single girl who put a lot of thought into the best breed for me.    I strongly considered getting a pair of mini-daschund's prior to this - boy how different my life would have been had I gone down that path....Lilli  changed the course of everything!    In the end, I loved the idea of a 'lazy bulldog' that didn't need a big yard.

I don't quite remember how I found this breeder, but knowing what I know now, I can say I was extremely lucky that they were decent people and that Lilli was healthy.   She was the last left in her litter, named Mercy on her papers,  and I was in love from the moment I saw her pictures.       She looked like a little white piglet with pinky skin... I was surprised to see her speckles appear as she grew up.

I have been very fortunate with Lilli's health as compared to a typical bulldog, and she had no issues until a couple of years ago when we found bladder stones.    My love for Lilli and the english bulldog breed changed my path in life!    I married a guy who had to love my dog and not mind when she wanted to crawl into bed (after all, it's her domain, lol!).   I started volunteering for Chicago English Bulldog Rescue and have since tried to educate everyone I know on the breed and the challenges of having an EBD.    

Lilli & I have encountered our share of challenges this past year or two as she ages, but she will always be mommy's girl!

Here's her photo coming home: 
Her 'new baby' gift:

Here she is about 6 months old:

The heart shaped speckle:

Last summer (she loves the pool and jolly egg!)

And here she is today! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Balls ~O~ Energy!

I'm excited to start sharing healthy recipes I've tried.   You would consider me a bit of a lazy cook/baker.  I have big aspirations and I love to read cookbooks but don't USE them enough!

I like to call these "balls" and I've had some fun conversations discussing my balls with my husband.   No bake is great for hot summer days when you don't want to be using the oven.   They are full of healthy ingredients as well and can be gluten and dairy free depending on your ingredients.    These make a satisfying breakfast on the go too!

2 cups of oatmeal (I used Trader Joe's Gluten Free Rolled Oats)
1 cup of peanut butter 
2/3 cup of honey
2 cups coconut flakes
1 cup of ground flaxseed
1 cup of chocolate chips (I use GF/DF chips)
2 tsp of vanilla

Mix all dry ingredients well.   Then add wet and mix & mix.   This part is easy yet boring.   Chill in the fridge for a half hour, roll into balls and chill again for a good hour or so (I do this overnight).   I roll into about an inch to an inch and a half, and this should make about 36 balls.   You will be able to take 2-3 bites with this size, they're pretty rich.  

P.S. The substitutions are endless... but I try to keep things on the healthy side.    Try raisins for a little variety.... and wrap them in foil to make them look like giant 'kisses'!  Fun on the go. 

The Beginning.

Where to start... I live in Chicago with my husband and our fur children…errr.. dogs.  Yes, I am one of ‘those people’ who refer to my dogs as children.    I started this blog as a note to self… a place I can put my thoughts to blog-paper, so maybe I’ll have less swimming in the old noggin.   I enjoy reading a handful of blogs and they have become quiet a resource of information on various topics.   

Topics I’m in to:

My first bulldog is Lilli, who is now nine years old and a cranky senior.   We have our challenges with Lilli.  My husband and I decided to add another bully to our family in Spring of 2008. We met and fell in love with Alice, who was rescued from a puppymill.   Don’t get me started on that.    She was only with us two short months and the loss of Alice propelled us heart first into volunteering.  We thought it was the only way to heal the rip in our hearts.    Fast forward to Bruiser, our third foster.    Bruiser is what we call a “foster failure”.   I couldn’t let go.   It happens.    In the meantime, we have become all sorts of passionate on the topic of animal welfare and bulldogs in particular.   

I am an artist and finally found my path back to this happiness.    Watercolor is probably the most popular medium I currently work in but also really love ‘paper painting’ using an acrylic base painting and building on that with collage.    Starting out with just pencil, it was serendipitous to fall in love with color.   I am not into art-speak, and was always bored by the gallery discussions such as how a branch and an egg have deep meaning…  I just don’t do it so don’t expect deep enriching thoughts on the topic.   

I love food.   I went from being one of the pickiest eaters in the universe, to someone who will try just about anything.    I used to be known for saying “Ew, I don’t like that” when I have never tried the food in question.   With a love of food came extra pounds.    I could blame it on a desk job, age, marriage, pizza, a serious addiction to sweets.  At the end of the day, I strongly believe food was taking me down.  I am being slightly dramatic when I say this, but, food was poisoning me!     You’ll read below and understand why I have become somewhat passionate about this topic. 

Completely related to the food topic.  I had a litany of problems, most of it that little stuff that I was so used to feeling, it just became my version of normal.     Everything came to a head in the Spring of 2011.   I suffered from the same winter colds, no biggie.   When I ended up with a sinus infection I took the normal antibiotics and was cured… except that chronic dizziness and a mental fogginess.    After weeks of dizziness (boy is THAT annoying) I went to an ENT, thinking maybe I had some fluid in the ear. I was also experiencing a mental fog, and at the time didn’t know ‘mental fog’ was something people suffered from.  Frankly I was just terrified because I felt like I was forgetful and plain old out of it all the time.  How could I be losing my mind, I am only in my 30’s?!   
I didn’t understand what was happening to me.   Back to the ENT, I passed every test with flying colors and he could find nothing wrong, but he wanted me to see a neurologist to rule out MS.  MS?! I was terrified and upset.     

The reality was, I was physically a mess.   For years I suffered from chronic fatigue.  I annoyed my husband with the phrase “I’m tired”, but it was the truth, I was exhausted every day of my life.  When I got home from work all I wanted to do was sit on the couch. I suffered from back problems throughout 2011, to the point I saw a physical therapist, the pain in my middle back felt like it was choking the air out of me.  Nothing helped.    I was never athletic, I always felt deterred by the wheezing that would start shortly after starting to exercise.   I had stomach problems ..oh were those fun.    I would eat something small and could bloat to the point I looked 4 months pregnant (and no, that is not comfortable).   I won’t gross you out with all the other details.    I almost forgot – the headaches.  My husband repeatedly asked me to get a CAT scan because he feared the worst….since yes I had headaches almost every day of my life.    For years I dealt with mood swings and the “d” word was discussed with my doctor (depression).   You know, the sadness and funk you can’t escape from, but don’t want to admit to or talk about?      Really, when I think about all the things going on, YIKES!    I gave up on traditional medicine.  Timing was everything and a sign pointed me in another direction.   A facebook post from a friend talking about food allergies got me reading…and researching… and a recommendation from another friend had me make an appointment with a chiropractor who specializes in gut issues.    I have never been a fan of chiropractic aka the unknown but it was time to open my mind.    I saw the doctor and started a 30 day detox, or what turned into a 60 day detox using supplements and still eating real food – not one of those wackadoo detox plans.     I did a blood panel for food allergies/sensitivities.    I came away with a list of foods including gluten and casein (in most dairy products).   I was devastated by the gluten, as I am a lover of all things pasta/pizza/bread/baked goods. 

I stuck to the detox though, and quickly started feeling better.  I started dropping weight.   Three pounds, seven, ten, and ended up losing over 20 pounds without even trying.   More importantly, I felt like I hadn’t felt in years.. I can’t express it appropriately in words, but I forgot what it was like to feel normal.. not have pain, fatigue, stomach issues, etc.    One of the most monumental changes I experience was the calmness and peace I felt, my mood swings were gone.  My life changed.  The more research I did on gluten and dairy – the more I understood why I should avoid it – and so should you!   The number of ailments connected to both gluten and dairy is staggering! I am honestly convinced anyone’s life could be changed for the better with the elimination or drastic reduction in products that contain wheat.    There are a ton of alternatives now, and as people become educated, more options become available for GF and DF substitutions.    I can now feel my body telling me “your full”.       

Ailments related to gluten & dairy, cured with elimination:
*Headaches = cured!
*Mental fog = cured!
*Dizziness  = cured!
*Improved skin
*Less joint pain
*No more bloating!!
*IBS = CURED! No drugs needed
*Weight loss (20+ pounds and counting)
*Fatigue eliminated
*Mood swings – cured!
*Back pain – CURED – no drugs needed!
*Food cravings – eliminated

So check in now and then – hell – you might find a valuable nugget of information. 
The path for me began with tidbits of knowledge I strung together.   I am still in the beginning of my journey for health, good eats, and overall happiness.. so I will share triumphs and struggles along the way.