NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Month: February 2016

Hawaiian “Huli-Huli” Chicken – THM S, Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free

Anybody else want a vacation to Hawaii?  I know I would love it!  Mom and Dad, you wouldn’t mind the kids for a week or two, right?  

Well, since a trip to Hawaii is definitely not on the calendar – or in the budget – how about a yummy chicken recipe that definitely is in the budget!

One of my family’s favorite recipes is a Hawaiian “huli-huli” chicken that is traditionally grilled outdoors and often sold in street carts in Hawaii.  My husband and kids LOVE this recipe, so it was one of the first I had to change to be sugar-free so that we could enjoy it as a family after I gave up sugar.  I also love this recipe because it is cheap!  Bone-in chicken is some of the cheapest meat you can find – I usually pick it up for under $1/pound, so this makes this meal come in at under $1/person – which is very good for our budget.  I love Trim Healthy Mama, and it really is easy to make affordable on-plan recipes!

This chicken can be grilled on the barbecue or done in the oven with the broiler.  In the winter, I usually do it inside with the broiler – I love how it warms up the house! In the summer, I like to keep the heat outdoors and do this on the grill.  The process is the same both places and it tastes great both ways.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 lbs chicken quarters (thighs and drumsticks) or 1 chicken cut up or butterflied
  • mineral salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 inches ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 cup drained pineapple chunks
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos (make sure to select a gluten-free sauce if you need to)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon THM Super Sweet Blend (or 2 packets Truvia or sweetener of choice)
  • 2-4 tablespoons water

Serves 6

Sauce ingredients

  1. Start coals/barbecue or start heating the broiler to med/high.  I can set the temperature on my broiler, so I always turn it down to about 400 degrees.  I also drop the rack down two places because this chicken gets hot!
  2. Take your chicken and generously sprinkle with mineral salt.  Let rest while you make the sauce.huli_sauce
  3. Place the remaining ingredients in your blender or food processor and puree together.  Add the water as needed. The 1/2 cup pineapple adds 13 grams net carbs, so spread out over 6 servings, it does not add significant carbs to this S-meal.
  4. Put the chicken on the grill or under the broiler with the skin side away from the heat source.  Cook for 5 minutes and turn over.  Do this 4 times for a total of 20 minutes.  Then baste the sauce generously on the chicken and cook 5 more minutes.  Do this 4 times for a total of 20 more minutes.  Your chicken should be cooked  through at this point and the skin should be crispy, sweet, and charred.  Perfect!

    Chicken broiled for 20 minutes without the sauce on left. Chicken broiled with the sauce for the remaining 20 minutes on right.

    Chicken broiled for 20 minutes without the sauce on left. Chicken broiled with the sauce for the remaining 20 minutes on right.

  5. Serve over rice if you want a crossover (my kids and husband need crossovers and they love this with sticky rice).  I like it with a side salad or veggies drizzled in some of the excess sauce collected from the broiler pan. Yummy!
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The boys could not eat this meal fast enough!

I hope you enjoy your little taste of the islands as much as we do!

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The Family Corner: Adopting on a Budget

I am so excited to share this post from my sister, Ella.  Ella and her husband are amazing parents and they have such a heart for kids.  They have chosen to expand their family through adoption and have so much to share on the topic.  I am sure this is just the first of many posts from Ella on this subject.  I hope that you are blessed by it and take the time to share this information with others that are called to adopt.                                 ~Amy

All my life I have wanted to adopt. I can remember sitting as a teenager in a home for orphaned children in Mexico and yearning to take each parentless child home with me. In college I worked with disadvantaged youth in the poorer parts of Fresno and my heart broke over my inability to really help some of the children have the safe homes they needed to thrive. Belizean orphans filled my heart and my prayers during my two years as a teacher in Punta Gorda. I worked with an organization in Romania to take children orphaned by a communistic regime to camp for a week and then place them in group homes to teach them how families lived and thrived.

And then I married a man who also was brought to tears by the plight of the orphan. We were called to this unique and special ministry.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:27

But, like many people, we had no money to adopt internationally or privately. We looked into a few organizations and were staggered by the amount of money they charged for a home study alone, not counting the cost of travel and legal fees. Was this call to be something that could only happen much later in our lives? Would we have to fundraise to get our children?

It was in our research that we discovered Foster to Adopt. We could adopt from our own state, for virtually free! What? This had never been discussed in our churches. These orphans all around us were in hiding. They were silently wishing for families that could care for them and protect them properly. And I was blind to them. How had I not known about this? Why had this not been discussed in my church?

So we began the process of becoming certified to fost/adopt. The process was not complicated: a few all day (but free with lunch provided) classes; a very invasive but relatively painless home study; and finger print clearance from everybody and their neighbor (our only out of pocket expense).

Meeting the boys for the first time!

Meeting my sons for the first time, ages 6 and 6 months.

We learned that there are over 100,000 children in the US foster system that are up for adoption. Many of these are over the age of five and unlikely to ever find forever homes. A smaller percentage are younger, and ever so needy. We learned that most, if not all, of these children, regardless of age, are “children from hard places.” Environments in and out of the womb were not ideal for these children and they have special needs because of that.

But we also learned that the state will pay a stipend to families who foster children to help cover the costs of another mouth in the home and will continue the stipend after the child is adopted up until the age of 18. Many states offer free in-state college tuition to children adopted out of the foster system. And all medical and psychological costs are covered by the state.

And we learned that there are over 300,000 churches in the United States. There are roughly 60 million worshipers at these churches.

And why do we still have an orphan problem?

In the light of this, the question is raised: Should we all, as Christ followers, try to adopt? Is this the only way to answer the call to care for the orphan?

The answer, of course is no. God has not called us all to adopt, and it does need to be a calling. The adoption road is not an easy one. There are costs to be paid in tears and sweat and sleepless nights.

But,

If you are called to adopt, do not let finances stop you.

If you are called to adopt, find a foster to adopt program to see what your options are.

If you are called to adopt, let God work through you to bless a child’s life and change it for good. Be a voice of stability and God’s forgiveness in a child’s life. Get paid, by our government, to teach a child about Christ’s saving work on the cross.

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The boys legally become part of the family!

And if you are not called to adopt,

Find someone near you who is and love on them.

Find a family in your church or community that has adopted or is in the process, and lend them your support. They need it.

Love on an adoptee. They need all the love they can get.

On vacation last summer - they all hold a special place in my heart

On vacation last summer – they all hold a special place in my heart

And never let anyone tell you that they could never afford to adopt without pointing them toward the need in their own backyard. Most of us may never have the money to adopt internationally, but locally we can make a huge difference. Church, let’s get down to the business of caring for the orphan. Let us leave our hand prints on their lives.

 

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Confessions of a Sugarholic: Finding lasting freedom from sugar addiction

I wrote last week about my Trim Healthy Mama story and why I am kinda obsessed with it.  Part of that journey led me to freedom from my sugar addiction that has been more than just a temporary thing.  Here is the rest of the story…

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My daughter’s first birthday cake – full of real sugar and oh so good!

I love sugar.  Give me any homemade goodness – cookies, cake, homemade frosting and that sugar-sweet high and all the problems of the world seem to melt away!  For years I medicated any problem with baking. It was therapeudic and there is nothing like a warm cookie (or two dozen) right out of the oven.  I baked for friends when they were down, for any special occasion, even just to celebrate a good day. When I was a teenager and in college, this baking and sugar addiction did not affect my weight, but once I started birth control when I married at 22, that all changed.

In 2011, I gave up sugar for long periods of time and just did not bake to avoid temptation. I denied I had an addiction to sweets, though.  In June 2014, I found Trim Healthy Mama and along with it learned how to bake some amazing sugar-free treats.  However, I still could not admit my addiction to sugar. The word addiction was just too much for this good Christian girl to admit – “I wasn’t an addict to anything serious – sugar is perfectly acceptable and I could totally live without it or not – it didn’t make a difference…”  I allowed myself sugar on special occasions.  I lied to myself for years that I could have “just one treat”. “All in moderation.”  I know many people who can do this, but they don’t have a sugar addiction.  I have no moderation when sugar is involved.  One bite makes me crave more… and more… and more…

After a special occasion splurge on sweets, if I was very disciplined, I could get back on my sugar-free track in a few days.  However, usually I was not so good.  Often weeks, or months, would go by before I would finally wrench myself away from sugar again.  I started to feel that gentle pull of the Holy Spirit to give sugar up for good.  I knew what He was asking me, being ever so gentle about it, but I tried to ignore it.  I continued to lie to myself and live in this cycle of defeat.  I tried to control my craving for sugar, to have power over it, but it continued to drag me down, again and again…

Last summer, in June of 2015, I was doing a Bible study and the author spoke about her addiction (not to sugar) and the cycle of defeat that she lived in for years. After reading her testimony, I thought to myself, “I am so thankful I don’t have that problem.” No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, then that still small voice whispered to my heart, “But you do, Amy.”  I knew God was again asking me to give up sugar and He was offering me the freedom to walk away from it for good.  I was so tired of lying to myself and living in a cycle of defeat – I was finally ready to make a lasting change.

I had to admit I had a problem and I had to come to a point where I was sick and tired of living in a cycle of defeat.  It took me years of denial and lying to myself, but I was finally ready to admit my weakness. “Hello, my name is Amy and I am a sugarholic.”

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set me free – if I am still living in captivity in any part of my life, I am not embracing the true freedom He has given me!  I was finally at a place where I wanted to give my sugar addiction over to Him – totally  and completely. I was scared – terrified that I could not do it and would be embarrassed as I once again fell into that cycle of defeat.  I knew I did not personally have the strength to do what I knew God was asking me to do – I would have to step out in faith.  So I chose to believe God – that He had convicted me and asked me to give my addiction over to Him. I chose to believe that His all surpassing power was within me and that I could do all things through Christ – even give up sugar for good. (The book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst was very helpful in this journey.)

These are the steps I took to make sure that this change was a lasting change. If this is something you struggle with as well, I hope that these will help you to find lasting freedom from sugar-addiction.

1. Be completely ready for a lasting change – you must be FED UP with living in a cycle of defeat.

I tried to give up sugar so many times before.  However, I always failed because I lied to myself that “just a little bit” or “just for such-and-such occasion” was fine.  Every time I let myself eat “just a little”, I always struggled so hard to go back to my sugar-free ways.  It took me almost 4 years of living in a cycle of lying to myself about sugar, and my relationship with sugar, to finally wake up and realize that I could not keep living in defeat.  I was sick and tired of it and ready for a lasting change.  If you are not at this place yet, it is unlikely that you will be able to truly give up sugar –  at least that was the case for me…

2. Confess your addiction to sugar – out loud and to a person or group of people that you trust and that love you

For me, this was my Bible study girlfriends, my husband, and my sister. All of these people loved me and I trusted them completely with my confession.  Even so, this was not easy.  I was terrified to admit my sugar addiction out loud and afraid that I would be judged, or laughed at, or even shunned.  I knew logically that this was not the case, but my insecurity and pride, and even the enemy wanting to keep me in captivity, made me “feel” otherwise.  Thankfully, this time, I did not listen to that negative voice.

3. Commit to God, your trusted friends, and yourself that you will not eat sugar

Confessing to the problem is only the first step.  The next thing I needed to do was commit to a lasting change and ask for accountability.  Doing this before God and before man is important.  I knew there would be plenty of times I could hide my eating sugar from people, but I could never hide it from God or myself.  So I prayed for the strength to give up sugar for good.  I also asked my friends to hold me accountable and I promised myself that I would not fall back into my old patterns.

4. Know your trigger foods – the foods that will cause you to go back into the cycle of defeat.

For me, my trigger foods are what we call “treats” in our house.  For me, these were sugar laden cookies, cakes, frosting, soda, sugar filled drinks, ice cream, pastries, and candy – all of those things were no longer on the menu (at least not sugar filled versions – check out my THM Pinterest page for many great sugar-free healthy alternatives).  I still have some sugar, in small amounts, in foods that are not triggers for me.  For example, I still have ketchup occasionally, or I might have barbecue chicken that has been cooked with sugar-filled barbecue sauce.  These things are not triggers for me and do not make me crave sugar.

I don’t want my sugar issues to become everyone else’s problem – I don’t want to inconvenience a host who has made barbecue chicken, or something with some sugar, by refusing to eat the main course.  But, I find, a dessert is usually easier to pass up without offending the chef.  I believe that relationships come before my eating hangups, however. In my over 8 months of sugar freedom, I have had one occasion where I was not comfortable refusing the gift of some lovingly made homemade ice cream.  I prayed about it, had a few bites, and shared the rest with my toddler.  Thankfully, God gave me the strength to not be triggered by that treat and continue on my path of sugar freedom.

5. Be prepared. Determine before hand what you will eat and will not eat (whenever possible)

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Along with making sugar-free treats at home, it is also fun to make crafts that satisfy that holiday baking urge. Salt dough ornaments to the rescue!

Eating well at home was not the biggest challenge. For the most part, I keep the trigger foods out of the house.  The biggest issues come when I am at special events where I do not control the food choices.  However, if I come prepared, either physically with a treat to share that I can eat, or mentally prepared to not have a treat, I am fine.

At holiday events, I always bring my own sugar-free treat to share. I still love to bake and there are endless healthy sugar-free options.  (THM’s Gentle Sweet has been a game changer for me – if you have a hard time finding a natural sweetener you like, I highly recommend it.  You can buy it here.) I also find, at most events, there are usually many good non-sugary options – like a yummy fruit, veggie, or a cheese tray – I choose those instead of my trigger foods.

If I know I will be surrounded by only sugar, like the gingerbread house decorating party I went to in December, I make sure I come prepared with a drink I enjoy and I keep sipping on it the entire time.  My current favorite is “Cuddle Family Hot Chocolate” from the THM Cookbook.

7. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – nothing tastes as good as freedom.

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A selfie with my baby girl – nothing is as sweet as freedom!

What I had learned from my many failed attempts to give up sugar was that the battle was mostly in my mind.  I found that if I determined before an event that I was not going to eat sugar, I just didn’t.  I wasn’t upset about it.  I did not feel deprived.  I had determined before the event that I wouldn’t do it and I didn’t.  However, if I went to an event thinking maybe I would be good and not eat the dessert, I failed every time.  Attitude is everything on this journey.  I have determined to NOT eat sugary treats anymore. Period.  So I don’t.  Since I no longer give myself the option to eat sugar, it is no longer an option.

However, if I let doubt sink in, that would be a different story. If I went to a party with the attitude that “It’s not fair that they all get to eat that cake and I don’t.  Why do I have to struggle with sugar addiction?  Life’s not fair.” Even if I came away from the party without eating the cake, I would have failed.  This is not “a fair or not fair” issue.  This is a personal choice to live in freedom from the cycle of defeat I lived in for years.  Thank you, Lord! I am no longer in bondage to the control of sugar.

If you struggle with sugar addiction, I hope that this is a freedom that you will find as well.  The freedom that I have found tastes sweeter than any piece of cake.

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The Family Corner: Life on a Hobby Farm

Let me introduce you to my wonderful older sister (by 20 months), Ella.  Ella has been my best friend since the day I was born and I just love her and her wonderful family to pieces.  She has been so supportive of my blog and will be guest posting about her rural family life, family friendly recipes, and adoption regularly.  I live in the suburbs of a small town, but Ella lives in the country, with all the animals to prove it!  We are very alike (we even look alike) and spent our entire childhood correcting people as they mixed up our names and claimed we “must be twins” – actually, it still happens!  We both are Trim Healthy Mamas.  We both homeschool. We both are passionate about Jesus, our families, and living greener lives.  I think you will love her posts!

~Amy

I have a farm. Five acres of gently sloping hills with trees scattered throughout, a castle farmhouse, three outbuildings, one pig, two dogs, two cats, 10 ducks, 25 sheep (though that number may change due to lambing season having started early this year), 50 chickens, four kids (and counting), one husband and me. I have fruit trees and a large garden and I rarely get enough sleep.

My husband (the Sheriff) and I did not set out to run our own small village. But there is something magical about owning land. It gets to you. Three sheep to help mow turn into twenty seemingly overnight. A few chickens become many more when you realize that fifty chickens are no harder to take care of then five. Gardening and growing your own fresh produce are addictive.

The Sheriff maintains order and does most of the heavy lifting, while I plot and plan. The kids are roped into feeding pigs and collecting eggs. Friends come by to pick fruit when the plums are ripe and abundant. We hire kids earning money for mission trips to help clear land and build garden beds. It is our own little community and we love it.

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Babies and baby goats!

It is lambing season currently and we are enjoying seeing the new colors of lambs produced by our new ram, a white kataden, out of our Barbados black-bellied ewes. We deal with disappointment when some lambs don’t survive, and we laugh at the antics of the twins who start butting each other at just a week of age.

Soon our pig will fill our freezer. It is the second we have raised and the kids love the bacon so well that they don’t mind knowing the pig personally. The Sheriff and I love the fact that we know exactly what went into the production of our pork and lamb. We know that our animals were happy and healthy with no added hormones or abnormal fattening agents. We rarely buy beef any longer and never any pork from the store.

My garden planning is already under way and I am combing seed catalogs to see what new and fantastic things I can add this year. (Did you know you can grow purple carrots?) Soon we will be out in the garden on each sunny day to dig and prepare the garden for the coming spring. Manure from all of our animals will be added to the soil to enrich it. Our compost pile will be mixed in to replenish the organic material from last year. New beds will be built and filled with soil. The automatic watering system will be set up. I will clear out my junk storage room just enough to make room for the new seedlings that will be started indoors. And I will enlist the Sheriff’s help to fight the battle against the encroaching blackberry bushes once again.

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A rainbow of carrots from my garden.

I have a farm. It is small. Just my size. But it is full of life and magic.

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My Trim Healthy Mama Story…. or why I am crazy about THM

This post is long overdue. I’ve been wanting to post my Trim Healthy Mama (THM) story for a while, but I always felt like I had to explain the plan in detail before I did.  I finally decided that there are many wonderful other blog posts by many great THM bloggers on that subject and I am not going to recreate the wheel… Simply type “start THM” into Pinterest or Google and you will find some good ones! So instead, I am just going to tell my story and why I am a Trim Healthy Mama for life!

Out for a family hike at 35 weeks pregnant. We went camping and caving the next weekend.

Out for a family hike at 35 weeks pregnant. We went camping and caving the next weekend.

I came across THM quite by accident when I was trying to lose the baby weight from baby number three.  I always gain about 50 lbs with each pregnancy, and although I lose the first 15 lbs within a week or two of birth, the rest of the weight sits there unless I start watching what I eat.  So at one month postpartum, I was ready.  I am never upset with my body during pregnancy.  My body does pregnancy very well and I have had beautiful natural births (although all quite long – 16 hours is my shortest so far).  I am able to be very active right up until delivery – I took students camping and caving when I was nine months pregnant with my third, and that is not unusual for me!  But soon after I give birth, I want MY body back – but I am always three sizes from my goal and hate the sight of my postpartum body.  Anyone else feel this way?

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At the zoo with all three kids at 10 days postpartum.

Determined to get back to my happy jeans as soon as possible, at one month postpartum, I pulled out my calorie counting books and food journal and tried to figure out how many calories I needed to lose weight but also have a good milk supply. Was 1500 calories enough? 1700? 1300?  I’ve always been successful losing weight by eating whole foods, cutting out sugar, and counting calories, but I also was my daughter’s sole food supply and did not want to jeopardize that.   Nevertheless, I started food journaling and counting calories.  I also started reading Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst, which I had read the summer before to get my mind and spirit on track.

I always do better when I have accountability, so I searched for an online group also doing the Made to Crave study and found one just starting hosted by A Home with a Purpose. I joined the Facebook group and started reading the posts.  Little did I know, this was a popular THM blog.  Again and again I read the acronym THM, and curious, I finally Googled it.  Trim Healthy Mama popped right up. “That sounds about right,” I thought, and clicked on the webpage.  Several hours later I had ordered the Trim Healthy Mama book (an early birthday present as my birthday was 3 days away), joined the Facebook group, and printed off several helpful files from the group page.  I started the next morning and have not looked back since.

What I liked so much about THM was what it was NOT. It was NOT about counting calories.  It was NOT about buying products.  It was NOT about cutting out carbs.  It was not about artificial ingredients. I have never done a fad diet – I believe in eating whole food in all the food categories.  So I refused to try Atkins or Paleo or going vegan or the Blood Type diet, etc.  I believed God gave us food and in its true form – not overly processed or modified – that food is good whether it is a carbohydrate, a fat, or a protein.  So I am wary of any diet that says otherwise.  After I spent a couple hours researching THM, I knew it was something I could do and that it was a way of eating that was not against what I believed to be true about food.  It was good for families and compatible with my husband’s many food allergies. It was also very good for pregnant and/or nursing mothers – I was in!

Almost 6 months on plan and 40 lbs lost. I felt like myself again!

Almost 6 months on plan and 40 lbs lost. I felt like myself again!

I jumped right in before even reading the book (although I read it cover to cover as soon as it arrived) and after the first month I had lost 12 lbs.  Two months in I had lost 20.  Because I was nursing, I had crossovers most days, but the pounds still came off.  My milk supply was great and my nursling was happy and thriving.   I did not buy a single THM product for the first five months, because it was not in our budget.  (I will post about how I did THM with no special ingredients soon!) I used what I already had and bought a few items at the store as I could afford them.  I lost almost forty pounds in those first five months which brought me down to below my starting weight for my last pregnancy.  I’ve lost another ten pounds since then but I have gained so much more than the 48 lbs I have lost.

This picture was taken by my 7 year old while on a picnic and swim at the river. I was not ready for it to be taken, but I was really happy with the girl I saw in it, even though it is blurry!

This picture was taken by my 7 year old while on a picnic and swim at the river. I was not ready for it to be taken, but I was really happy with the girl I saw in it, even though it is blurry!

One of the biggest things for me is my weight no longer fluctuates up and down fifteen pounds or so.  As an adult, I have always gained weight easily and then worked hard to lose it.  It seemed that whenever I let my guard down and gave in to my sugar addiction, my weight would go up.  I would give up sugar for a while and fight to lose it again and it would go down.  This has been my pattern my entire adult life, up until now.

The biggest victory for me, though, was the ability to give up sugar and overcome my sugar addiction for good.  I wrote a post just on this subject – you can read it here.  Briefly, I had given up sugar for long periods (well, 6 or 8 weeks at a time) for several years, but I always went back to it.  Even after starting THM, I had cheats with sugar quite frequently and it would derail me from the plan for days or even weeks.  But one year into my THM journey, 8 months ago now, I gave up sugar for good and resolved before God and my trusted friends to not eat it.  This has been huge for me.  It has not caused a big weight loss in the last 8 months since I was very close to goal anyway, but it has caused tremendous freedom and confidence in my God and even in myself.

I am a Trim Healthy Mama for life, and my family along with me!  I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us as we continue this journey.  All I know is that I feel lighter, happier, freer, and healthier – and I don’t want to give any of those things up!

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Amy’s “Famous” Taco Chili (THM E)

It may seem pretty arrogant to call this my “famous” chili recipe – but that is what my kids named it so the name has stuck!  They LOVE this recipe and so do children everywhere, and adults, too!  This makes a huge meal that is allergen-friendly so it is my family’s go-to meal for large family events, camping field trips, freezer meals, bringing to other families when they need a meal, etc.  This is a great and healthy meal to have in your recipe arsenal, especially if you have picky eaters to feed.

My oldest would eat any kind of veggie up until he turned three.  But something switched at three and he started turning his nose up at any and every vegetable out there.  He still claims to “hate vegetables” except for lettuce drenched in ranch dressing even though he is now seven.  He still must eat at least a few bites each night, but I love meals where I can trick him into eating much more.  This is one of those meals.  This chili is loaded with veggies – the trick is to chop them very, very small – I use the “wet-chop” method with my blender for this and it is super quick.  A food processor would also do the job well.  You can even do it by hand and get some good exercise in while making dinner. Just make sure the veggies are so small they are not recognizable – that is the trick with picky eaters.

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This is a Trim Healthy Mama E (for Energizing) meal, so it is naturally low in fat and high in healthy carbohydrates centered around a protein source, of course.  I am a “Whole Grain Jane” so I naturally gravitate to E meals.  Healthy carbohydrates are a very important part of a balanced diet and one of the reasons I love THM is because they do not shy away from them.  This meal can easily be made a cross-over (to include more fat) for your growing kids, slim husband, or if you are at or near goal weight or pregnant/nursing.  I love this as a crossover, but usually have it as an E.

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INGREDIENTS:

Building the Chili Base:

  • 1 lb ground turkey (if you want this to be a THM E-meal, it must be 97% lean or more)
  • 4-6 celery stalks
  • 1 large onion
  • An assortment of veggies of your choice which may include:
    • zucchini
    • yellow squash
    • small eggplant, or half of a large one
    • radishes
    • carrots
    • bell pepper
    • anything else you want to put in it
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Chili Powder (to taste)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Cumin (to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

All of the following ingredients are in cans, so this base can be frozen or brought along on a camping trip.  It makes a very quick meal to add the cans for a quick “from scratch” dinner.

Add to the base:

  • 1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 – 10 or 15 oz can of diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 5-6 cans of beans of choice,  drained and rinsed (black, pinto, kidney, navy, and garbanzo are all good options)
  • 1 – 15 oz can of corn (or 1.5 cups frozen corn will work)
  1.  First finely chop the vegetables you are going to use.  If you only use celery, onions, and bell peppers, you will have a decent base, but I like to add as many veggies as possible.choppedveg
  2. Brown your turkey in a large pot.  If you are using turkey with more than 3% fat, you can drain and rinse the browned meat with very hot (boiling) water to strip the excess fat for a good E meal.  This is not necessary if you want a crossover meal.
  3. Add the chopped veggies to the browned turkey and mix well, stirring often.  The veggies get soft and start to cook and steam, shrinking in the pot and blending in with the turkey meat.
  4. Add the spices to your desired spiciness. I use the spices separately for a taco-like flavor so that the meal is allergen friendly – I do not make this with pre-made taco seasoning.  However, if you always use pre-made taco seasoning, you can use that in place of the spices.
  5. Add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes with chilies and stir well.  Drain and rinse the beans and corn and add to the pot.  Stir carefully at this point because your pot is likely very full and thick.  Add water to your desired consistency.  We like this thick, so we only add about 2 cans full of water for a very hearty chili.  Let it heat through and the flavors marry for at least 15 minutes.chilistove
  6. Serve this up.  Your main dish and veggies all fit in one bowl!  You may garnish with plain non-fat Greek yogurt for an E, or add sour cream and cheese for a yummy crossover.  We generally get two good sized meals for our family of 5 with this one pot of chili!  Enjoy!
Kids love this meal and don't know they are eating their veggies!

My veggie- hating seven year old LOVES this meal! Don’t tell him he’s eating squash and eggplant.

Don’t worry too much about going back for seconds with this meal – it is so loaded with veggies that you can have up to 3 cups of this chili and still be within the healthy carb limit for THM E-meals.  If you want to have the meal with some on plan baked organic blue corn chips, you will have to have less chili, but even one (or two) cups of this hearty chili is very filling!

I hope your family enjoys this as much as we do!

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Finding Peace in Living Simply: or why we got rid of so much stuff…

Do you ever feel like there is just TOO MUCH STUFF!  Kids toys, junk mail, cheerios everywhere, piles of kids craft projects? Laundry, laundry, never ending piles of laundry… A to do list a mile long?  I am not an easily stressed person – okay, let me rephrase that – before kids I was not an easily stressed person – but something about the uncontrollable nature of these little monsters children makes a once calm person want to scream.  The constant barrage of questions, the never ending cleaning, the demands of homeschooling and extra curricular activities makes me want to lock myself in the bathroom and not come out for a week!

kidsplay

Creative play is always a big part of our homeschool day

But, I can’t escape motherhood – well, maybe I could, but I definitely don’t want to.  As much as they might drive me crazy at times, my three kids are my joy and they truly are blessings from God and a reward from Him. I believe that the highest calling in my life at this time is to be a present and engaged mama – teaching my kids, encouraging them, disciplining and training them.  I am so blessed that I get to be their mama and I get to spend each day with them.

But I hate house work and cleaning and I don’t think that will ever change.  I am not a naturally organized person – I clean because I need to, but it is not something that I want to do or that I can’t go to sleep without doing.  I’m a mom with three young kids – I would much rather sleep than have a clean kitchen!

A year ago, I had just about had enough – not of being a mom or wife – but I had had enough of the constant work of house cleaning and trying to keep things tidy in the midst of the chaos of homeschooling two kids and nursing a baby.  Before I started homeschooling, I would devote a good amount of time each morning to housekeeping while the kids played (and undid what I had just cleaned). After I started homeschooling, those morning hours were instead devoted to teaching my kids reading, writing, and arithmetic. My house cleaning time was pushed to the back of the list.

We have a small house and the chaos of toys and clutter, schooling, cooking, and nursing was more than I could sanely handle.  The mess and clutter was causing stress in my life and adding stress to my already-stressed-by-work husband.  I knew something needed to change, but I felt like since we lived in such a small space with five people (and therefore did not have enough room to have “a place for everything, and everything in its place”) that there weren’t too many options.

I have decluttered before (in fact, I did it about every 6 months or so) but I had never really purged.  I realized that the size of our house was not going to change any time soon, so the amount of stuff in it needed to drastically be reduced for the sake of my sanity.

Decluttering allowed me to make room for a homeschool room in our home office.

Our home office after I turned half the room into a homeschool room. It looks so nice and clean in this picture – usually there are papers strewn all over!

There are a lot of methods of reducing clutter, even to the point of becoming a minimalist with only the bare essentials for survival.  I was inspired by a pin I found on Pinterest January 1st, 2015 and decided to jump in.  This Household Organizational Diet by Clean and Scentsible was exactly the motivation I was looking for and only required 15 minutes per day, which I thought was doable with my busy schedule.  Although, once I jumped in, I found I would spend hours each day tackling a room or area in our house until it was done.  15 minutes was not enough for me to feel like I got anything done. In some ways, I embraced the popular KonMari Method (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing) although I didn’t know it at the time.  I dove in and at the end of the month I donated dozens of boxes and bags of stuff.  I sold a few things and I recycled whatever I could and threw away things that were too destroyed to be donated.  I felt lighter and much more on top of things, but I knew I was not done.  In May, at the end of the school year, I donated a medium amount of stuff, although not as much as before, and again I felt lighter.  In August, when my husband left for a two week work trip, I tore apart his office, files in the garage, our closet, anything that had been hard to do with him around.  I donated the largest amount of stuff and spent hours shredding paper and documents and redoing our filing system (this video by Do It On A Dime was very helpful).  I felt ready to tackle the new school year after that and I had used the extra space in his office to make a school room for the kids.

 

Simple toys engage kids imaginations and allow them to play more peacefully and for longer.

My boys playing happily with their castle blocks  and  – keeping it real – a pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded behind them.

Decluttering toys is something I want to talk extensively about, so I have written an entire post on it.  Suffice it to say, kids don’t need as many toys as our consumeristic society says is normal.  In fact, my kids play better, and for much longer, with fewer and simpler toys that engage their creativity, don’t make noise or light up, and keep the imagination flowing.

After all that decluttering in 2015, I felt much lighter, but even with all that, I still had a hard time staying on top of all the house work.  Most things had a “place” but not everything.  So this January I did another large purge.  I finally feel like I can keep up with the house while homeschooling and doing all the extracurricular activities we decide to participate in (I actually limit these as well because keeping a simple schedule also brings peace).  I have time to cook from scratch (with the food allergies in our house, that is just the way we do things, plus I think it is healthier) and exercise often.  I have time to hangout with friends and not spend hours before they come over trying to straighten up the house to be at least slightly presentable.  I am less stressed and so is my husband.  He comes home to a mostly clean house each night and it really has helped him to feel more loved and less stressed, which is great for our marriage.

For me this was a year long process, but the time was necessary to find the right balance for our family. I find with each purge, I can release things that just months before I was not ready to let go.  It takes time to say goodbye to sentimental objects.  It also takes time to realize that there are things that I really do not need and that they are adding stress, not joy, to my life.  After this most recent purge, I think I may have found the right level of stuff for our small house, although I will continue the process (I want to try the KonMari Method and will post about that after I try it) until we find the perfect balance.  We are not minimalists, but we are learning to live with less and find joy and peace in the simplicity.  It is also liberating to our budget (I don’t buy it unless we really do NEED it) and helps us to be less focused on stuff and more focused on others. This helps us to live cleaner, and greener, lives and really is bringing peace to our little house.  

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