Dairy Free = Happy Baby


By Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa – sxc.hu, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134636


Yes folks!  It’s true.  I’m dairy free.  I avoid dairy because through trial and error, I discovered it really affects my baby (now 6 months old!).  The one exception I make is butter because well butter is delicious and I don’t think it affects him when I nurse.  I started all this in May for two reasons.  The first reason was really that I was trying to cut all forms of sugar out so that I would heal my body of some issues.  I also discovered I was VERY much addictive to sugar.  I craved it and depended on it to get me through the day. Milk products contain natural sugar so I needed to cut those out.  😦  An unintended pleasant discovery was that taking our dairy temporarily helped my little one’s belly issues.  The incessant screaming and hard tummy and evening discomfort no longer became such a huge issue.  Things have improved greatly.

At first avoiding dairy was so hard.  I longed for slices of cheese on my sandwich and I missed Greek yogurt, and real ice cream.  I needed to totally revamp my typical go to dinner menus to make sure there was no cheese or dairy.  The thing I missed the most was (and still is) pizza.  Because cheese is what makes pizza…well… pizza.  I also learned to substitute things in recipes.  Almond milk and I have become quite friendly. I use  unsweetened almond milk in recipes like egg bake, banana bread, and white sauces.  I’ve even learned that there is something out there called dairy free dessert (aka ice “cream”).  My favorite is almond milk ice “cream”.  It costs quite a penny so I learned to make almond milk custard in my ice cream maker.  It is pretty time consuming to prep so I’ve made it… once.  Here is the link to my favorite recipe.   https://www.cuisinart.com/recipes/desserts/5835/ .  It is awesome.  I also discovered many frozen yogurt shops carry a flavor or two of dairy free.  My favorite is always key lime!

Dinner recipes have been fun as well.  It’s amazing how many recipes out there that are dairy free.  Some of my favorites are fish tacos, taco stuffed sweet potatoes, and salisbury steak -all from one of my favorite websites called Paleo Leap.

I plan to be dairy free until my son is weaned.  After that point I plan to add back in dairy products. Once I do, I hope to have whole milk products  that are free of extra added sugar because I think I can eat way to much added sugar if I’m not careful.  But I guess that’s a topic for another post.  In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying my almond milk custard and a happier baby.



Frumpy Friday

I’ve been eating the cute little jars of puppy chow that we were supposed to give to neighbors at Christmas time. We’ve been roughly 50% effective at handing them out, and the remainder are pretty much the only chocolate we have in the house, and my memory for chocolate is like that of an elephant. Thus “frumpy” has become a feeling, a look, and a blog post topic.

The more responsible side of me has taken to taking pictures of recipes, then uploading them to Pinterest. My theory is that this way, “all” recipes will be in “one” place. So far, so good. Now I don’t have to remove myself from the couch where I am eating puppy chow and checking the news on my phone in order to plan meals and update our shopping list app. It’s a huge step in efficiency! 😉 (PS: this recipe is a huge winner Winner chicken DINNER.)

Non traditional toys continue to be big hits around here. In the above shot, you see how my attempt at blocking the kitchen doorway with a turned over stool has turned into an opportunity for them to have an indoor jungle gym. I wish I could say I was smart enough to anticipate this, but no, I vainly thought it may deter them from entering the kitchen (which it didn’t). But it occupied them outside the kitchen, albeit eventually!

That’s all I got. This puppy chow business is really weighing me down. Literally! Happy Friday everyone! What are you up to this weekend? Anything fun?!


Miss Mary Clare

Dinner Meals Made Manageable

An example of a weekly meal plan on the back of my shopping list.
An example of a weekly meal plan on the back of my shopping list.

I remember when I brought my son home from the hospital 2 1/2 years ago, one of my biggest fears was that I would never be able to cook dinner again.  How could anyone cook while having to tend to a fussy, hungry baby?  Cooking seemed like an impossible task at the time.

And then it happened.  He grew up into a toddler.  While my hands are free from baby holding, my attention is undoubtedly divided while trying to put on a meal.  But getting a meal together happens much easier.  This is a luxury that I know I will only enjoy for a few more months since baby brother is due in March.

Once I got back into being able to make meals again,  I planned meals… well loosely.  I sort of thought about what we’d have that week, but then when it came time to make dinner that night, I would either have trouble deciding which meal to make or if I did decide I couldn’t locate the recipe (usually that I found online) but failed to save.  Defrosting meat at the last minute, looking at tiny recipes on my phone, and trying to get it done quickly were not working.

I decided to be more deliberate about planning the meal and preparing for it ahead of time.  Based on my personality type, planning and structure are not my tendency.  I like going with the flow and spontaneity.   I love trying to improvise, BUT toddlers are creatures of structure and predictability so I realized for the purpose of peaceful meal prep, I needed to get more organized.  Now, when I plan my week of meals, I assign a specific day for a certain meal.  Some shifting does occur at times, or if we decide to go out at the last minute, I can try to adjust the plan.  But this is not the usual.

The night before I remind myself what’s for dinner tomorrow and take any meat or cheese out of the freezer to defrost.  I try to locate the recipe and have it ready and print it if need be.  In regards to remembering recipes, I have found that  Pinterest helps out the process.  If I am using a Pinterest recipe, I can either Pin it to one of my boards or like it. It took me a long time to realize that liking a pin allows you to find it again without actually pinning it.  I also realized that on my iPhone app, if I click on the word PINS under my name I can see all of them, so I don’t have to click from board to board looking for recipes I’ve pinned  I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out this trick.  I’ve also found it is helped to write cookbook name and page number by the recipe plan so I can find the recipe again without page flipping.

And where is all this written?  I write my meal plan out for the week on the back of my grocery list.  I tack my list/meal plan to the bulletin board in my kitchen for reference.  My next idea for organization is to write out a list and reference for my favorite recipes so I can find them easily during meal planning for the week.  I think now the hardest part of all this is deciding what to plan for meals each week.

I know that having a baby and toddler in the house may take me back to square one where I may feel as if I will never be able to cook again, but I now know that organization and deliberate planning can make the process less daunting.




The Small Success of the Week

I made sweet potato wedges on the fly, without planning, without a recipe, without any ingredients (other than the sweet potatoes, of course!). And they turned out!


Sometimes, when I am busy and anxious about many things (nothing too serious, just everything piling up in life), it’s really helpful to focus on something, any thing, even a very small thing, that is working. In this case, something I tried without knowing what I was doing, turned out just fine, and required only approximately 5 minutes of work total. And now, I have something to feed the beast (my 11 month old). That’s saying something, because of the grocery dearth we’ve been experiencing all week.


Bonus Round! The beast. I’ve been admiring our son’s long, long, jealousy-inducing long eyelashes, and I can’t seem to capture them well on my camera, but I got a hilarious shot that sort of shows them off! Enjoy!

2nd Bonus Round! “Blessed is the man whom thou dost chasten, O Lord…When the cares of my heart are many, thy consolations cheer my soul.” (Psalm 94: 12 & 19, RSV)

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone. Hope your labors are fulfilling and fruitful.

Mary Clare

Three Simple Chicken Recipes

photo 2
The ingredients for the Jerk Chicken marinade.

Hey everyone! Its been a while since I’ve written.   I have done a lot of eating of delicious foods this summer.  I’ve tried to keep menu planning simple too by eating our favorites on a more regular basis.  I also have tried to cook meals that do not require a stove which heats the house too much.  Today’s post will focus on three of my favorite chicken recipes: a marinade, a pasta salad, and burritos.

1. Jerk Chicken

I got this recipe from my friend Jen during a freezer meal making event.  It makes a great marinade that freezes well, but we usually eat it right away).  I recently doubled the marinade, so I could make a meal for a friend who just had twins, and it made enough for us and them to eat.  It is definitely one of our favorites.  I’ve used both boneless, skinless chicken breasts as well as chicken drumsticks/ thighs (bone-in) for this recipe and both are great! Here is the link to Simple Caribbean Jerk Chicken.  Note: I do NOT put ground red pepper in my marinade, but if you like it spicy, why not try it.  It can also be cooked in an oven instead of grilling.

2. Chicken Pasta Salad

This is a great cold pasta salad that is great for a picnic or potluck.  I found recipe online several years ago, and jotted it down on a card without a reference.  Oops! I would love to give the author credit, so if anyone knows it’s source, please help me credit it. Of course, my changes to it are in bold.  I also think the original recipe called for garlic too.

Pasta Salad with Chicken


3 cups uncooked pasta (bow tie or penne)

4 cups cubed cooked chicken breast (I’ve used canned, Rotisserie, or cooked it myself)

2 cups chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped red onion

4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled ( I use more)

1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (I’ve also used Feta or grated Swiss)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup minced fresh basil (or dried basil to taste)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons brown sugar (or less is fine)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 pepper

1/2 grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: Cook, drain, and rinse pasta.  Add chicken, tomatoes, onion, bacon, and cheese.  In a small bowl whisk oil, basil, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

3. Chicken Avocado Burritos

This is a new family favorite that I found on Pinterest.  What I like is that these burritos are different that traditional burritos that are often loaded with beef and beans.  The avocado adds excellent flavor, and I usually add extra mozzarella cheese inside.  When I make it I slightly change the recipe to make the burritos smaller and serve more. I buy fajita sized tortillas (8-10 in a pack), and I fill the tortillas with less mixture. I still usually have left over mixture at the end.  Here is where you can find the recipe for Chicken Avocado Burritos.

So, there you have it.  Feel free to try these great chicken recipes.  I am currently on the lookout for homemade kid friendly chicken nuggets, so if you happen to know of a great recipe, please share!  Happy Wednesday!

a hill of beans

By Nomadic Lass from Havre, MT, USA (Anasazi Beans) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Nomadic Lass from Havre, MT, USA (Anasazi Beans) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Departing from the heavier, more spiritual topics I’ve been focused on over the past few weeks, I wanted to share some recipes today.  Specifically, rice-and-bean recipes.  Beans and rice are the centerpiece of my family’s diet; my husband and I consider ourselves “flexitarian”, meaning we enjoy meat every now and then but eat mainly vegetarian meals.  There are lots of ways to eat vegetarian without having so many beans, but beans happen to work great for our family’s budget, palate, and health.  We felt super-validated this weekend when the Wall Street Journal ran an article proclaiming, “The secrets of the world’s longest-lived people include community, family, exercise, and lots of beans.” Continue reading