I’m kicking off the New Year by putting the spotlight on my awesome friend, Amanda Hodgson from www.MyCrazyNonToxicLife.com. She’s runs a very informative blog focusing on how to feel great while easily living a healthy lifestyle with hypothyroidism (although not exclusive to those with thyroid complications). Her blog addresses everything from non-toxic cleaning products, non-toxic personal care, beauty products, advice on various non-toxic lifestyle adjustments, fitness and my favorite part… YUMMY healthy food!
She recently released an eBook, Guide to Nontoxic Living that you can purchase. I highly recommend it, especially for those who are easily overwhelmed with all the endless information out there on the internet. This is a great way to get started to an overall non-toxic, healthy start to living. I will let her take over from here… OH! And hang around a little longer for recipes on how to make her Cajun Sirloin & Bacon Wrapped Asparagus, PLUS dessert; Berries, Graham, and Chocolate Bowl. You won’t go hungry, trust me!
Before we get into the recipes, here’s a little background on me. I’m an army wife and a step mom just trying to live a healthy lifestyle while still actually living and enjoying the things I love. In 2009 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism & put on synthetic hormone treatment. Not only did the medication do absolutely nothing for my symptoms, it made things much worse. After going to multiple doctors complaining of my various ailments (I’ll spare you the details) and being told one too many “I don’t know why you still feel bad”, “your thyroid is fine”, I’d had enough!
I decided to research what lifestyle changes I could make in order to make myself feel better. I found quite a few areas where changes could be made, from food to personal care to household cleaners to certain types of exercise. Using the knowledge I gained by reading books, studies, etc. I decided to start a blog in hopes of helping others who had similar experiences. Food was a major change for my husband and I. We switched to organic food wherever possible, and I had to remove gluten, dairy, un-fermented soy, refined sugars and anything artificial from my diet. I’m a very stubborn person, so I was determined to eat delicious food despite these new restrictions!
The meal below is one of my favorites! It’s a nice splurge to have every now and then. Red meat is a great source of B-12. I’m love to eat grass fed beef because cows that are fed a proper diet are higher in B-12 and Omega 3 fatty acids, both of which are typically deficient in people with hypothyroidism. Now, on to the food, I hope you enjoy!
CAJUN SIRLOIN & BACON WRAPPED ASPARAGUS
Lean grass fed top sirloin
1 bundle large asparagus stalks
1 package uncured bacon from animals with no hormones or antibiotics
Break the fibrous ends off the asparagus stalks. Wrap the bacon around the edible portion of the stalks. Place on a foil lined cookie sheet. Bake on 350 degrees for 25 minutes to cook the asparagus, then low broil for 25 minutes to get the bacon crispy. Adjust time if necessary to get to bacon to desired crispiness
Rub the steak in olive oil & coat each side in Cajun seasoning. Place the steaks on the grill for 6 minutes per side (for medium rare) on the max setting (approximately 600 degrees on our grill).
BERRIES, GRAHAM & CHOCOLATE BOWL
I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not much of a baker. Never have been, and with my dietary restrictions it’s just easier not to! When I’m in the mood for a dessert, I get creative with fruit. This dessert goes really well with the steak & bacon-wrapped asparagus. It’s pretty basic as you might imagine. Simple, easy & delicious is right up my alley!
As I’m sure you know, the cook times will need to be adjusted for your oven and grill.
Organic strawberries & blueberries
Raw dark chocolate
Gluten free graham crackers
Rinse berries, slice the strawberries, and break the graham crackers over the berries. Put the chocolate in the microwave for approximately 10 seconds (raw doesn’t melt well but it will make it warm and easier to pull apart). Sprinkle the chocolate over the berries. Drizzle the top with honey and ENJOY!
When I put this dessert together I was really craving a sweet dessert. This definitely satisfied that craving without taking my diet off track. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do! If you want more yummy, healthy recipes mixed in with nontoxic living tips, please follow my blog at www.MyCrazyNonToxicLife.com!
This recipe is a result of having a super ripe banana, leftover buttermilk and a craving for pancakes. So, I pretty much took my Lemon Berry Pancake Muffins recipe and tweaked it to make this happen. It is yet another super easy recipe that requires no standing in front of the stove. Although if you do prefer your traditional shaped pancakes, this will still work just fine. But, lets face it… I suck at making the perfect pancake, which is why I leave the work up to the oven, haha. Plus, they’re all equally warm, ready to serve. And guess what? If you’re out of eggs, you can still make pancakes happen! Enjoy.
makes about a dozen
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (plus extra just in case)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small ripe banana, mashed
Olive oil cooking spray
Grade B Maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl with a whisk.
In another bowl whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, olive oil, vanilla extract and mashed banana together. Add half of the dry ingredients and mix well. Then add the last half of the dry ingredients and whisk until everything is smooth. If the pancake batter is too thick add another splash of buttermilk or milk to loosen it up.
Spray the inside of the muffin tin with cooking spray making sure you cover the bottom and sides. Pour the batter about three fourths of the way in each muffin tin and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes.
Serve warm or room temperature with grade B maple syrup and fresh raspberries.
There’s more to a sweet potato than just throwing a bunch of brown sugar and spices to it just to make it taste good or making french fries out of it. Try something different this time by making a twice baked potato out of it. The natural sweetness of the potato mixed with the sharp cheddar and a little salty from the bacon will likely have you drooling a little.
The only time consuming part is baking the potato, but you can literally throw it in the oven for an hour, set a timer, walk away to do other things. Feel free to throw in the chopped bacon into the sweet potato mash if you prefer instead, it works out just as great. And if you can’t find chives, then green onion works great too. And most importantly, take this recipe and make your own version tailored to the flavors you love most. Enjoy!
3 medium-large sweet potatoes
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons grade B maple syrup
1/8 – 1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup sharp white cheddar cheese (best if aged 2yrs), shredded + extra as topping
5 crispy bacon strips, finely chopped
Wash the sweet potatoes and dry. Rub them all over with some olive oil and toss in a bowl with sea salt. Bake at 400 F degrees for a hour or until done. Remove and let cool.
With a sharp knife slice the top third of the sweet potatoes off and with a spoon remove the flesh into a bowl leaving about 1/8in left all around. Mash the sweet potatoes that are in the bowl, add the salt, mix and set aside.
In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and let it come to a boil. Keep stirring until brown bits start to appear at the bottom. Keep a close eye as the butter can burn real fast. Once you start to smell a caramel scent from the butter and it’s fairly golden brown reduce the heat to low, add the maple syrup, and stir for about two minutes.
Pour the maple brown butter into the mashed sweet potatoes, add the chives, shredded cheddar and mix everything together really well. Spoon the mixture back into the sweet potato skins, top them with the chopped bacon and extra cheddar cheese. Place them back into the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until the cheese on top is completely melted.
You can spend all the time in the world cooking in the kitchen making amazing food but you can also do so in a short amount of time too. This is one of those go-to dishes for something quick but elegant. I LOVE using filet mignon for this recipe the most but you can use any kind of cut you like. I’ve tried flank steak and it works fantastic so long as you slice against the grain. Also, if you’re watching your red meat intake, feel free to use chicken breast instead.
I’ve made slightly different variations of this recipe such as caramelized onions or none at all, saute mushrooms for more heartiness. You can replace the arugula with fresh baby spinach instead. It’s just as amazing. And as always, feel free to add or replace with any other of your favorite veggies. There’s no wrong way to make it taste good!
1 – 1.25 lbs New York strip steak
2 tablespoon herbes de provence
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Sea salt & pepper
Olive oil for cooking
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 overflowing cup good quality balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 small yellow onion, halved & sliced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped
2 big handfuls arugula
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more if needed
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (optional)
Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the packaging.
Cover the steak both sides with 1 tablespoon of herbes de provence, garlic powder, salt and pepper by patting it firmly into the meat. In an iron skillet on medium-high heat, drizzle the bottom of the skillet with olive oil and sear the steak on both sides for about 5 – 7 minutes on each side depending on the thickness of the steak. Then, let it finish in the oven at 400 F degrees for about 5 – 15 minutes depending on the thickness. When done, let the steak rest for about 10 minutes.
In a large, deep sauté pan cook the onions in olive oil until they become translucent. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for another 5 minutes or until the onions are caramelized.
In a bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, the remaining herbes de provence, salt and pepper. Set aside. Slice the steak thin into bite sized pieces.
Toss the cooked pasta, steak, and arugula in with the onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Then add the balsamic vinegar mixture together. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil generously all across the top, about 1/4 cup and gently fold everything together until everything is well coated in the balsamic sauce.
Serve with pecorino Romano cheese.
Soooo… I feel guilty coming up with this batch of gluttony, kinda. Thing is, as I always say, I’m all about moderation. I will choose to eat a small portion of pure guilty pleasurable goodness over a lot of some health-ified OOOOKAY tasting recipe. Yes, this is my excuse. This is me justifying that it’s okay to make this. Make it once a year and share it with EVERYONE and then you won’t eat it all to yourself.
The brownie recipe alone is fantastic if you’re all about a chewy, fudgy brownie with a perfect crust and edges. And feel free to add any of your favorite chopped nuts after you’ve combined everything together. Or chocolate chunks if you’re a chocoholic. Mix in some ground Mexican cinnamon for an Aztec flare, along with other spices like chili powder. There’s so many things you can do with a brownie recipe but most importantly, today it’s all about the bacon. CRISPY SALTY BACON! Wrapped around a pool of maple caramel. For goodness sakes!
Hopefully you’re reading this blog entry because I didn’t include this in the recipe… but I did sprinkle a little bit of pink Himalayan salt on top of everything to really make the bacon pop through all the sugary components. It works amazing. It’s worth at least sprinkling a little on one square first to try if you like it. Anyways, make this at least once… like now!
makes 16 two inch squares
8 – 10 strips crispy bacon, chopped
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup real maple syrup (grade B)
Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl use a rubber spatula to mix the melted butter, sugar and cocoa powder together. Then, add the eggs and vanilla extract. Lastly, fold in the flour until the flour is completely blended into the cocoa mixture. Pour into the baking pan and spread out evenly.
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the salted butter. Add the brown sugar and stir until it’s completely dissolved. Increase the heat to a low boil for about two minutes. Stir in the maple syrup and continue to boil for another 2 minutes until thickened. The syrup is ready once it coats the back of a spoon.
Generously pour the syrup over the brownies and sprinkle the chopped bacon on top.
A friend of mine celebrated his birthday in September and gave me a little hell for not posting a Bourbon Balls recipe on the food blog in honor of bourbon month. I’ll admit I had never heard of bourbon balls before until he mentioned it. WELCOME TO THE SOUTH, JENN! I had discovered there are so many ways to make yummy bourbon balls and I truly wanted to try a few different variations but because I was on a mission to make a batch for his birthday, it was important that I took into consideration of his nut allergy. Instead of using 1 cup of ground pecans, I used shortbread cookies. All that butter, come on… of course it was still good. So, if you’re looking to make this recipe, feel free to use pecans if you like. I have found using pecans is most traditional.
When making these sexy bite-sized treats it’s important to keep extra bourbon available because depending on the weather that day you may need to add more bourbon. For example, the dry air of Autumn was kicking in and so I had to add an extra splash. And even some times had to dip my finger tips in bourbon that I poured in a bowl to help smooth everything out. Also make sure you use a bourbon that you love drinking.
A few last things to make your bourbon balls more to your personal liking. You don’t have to roll the balls in cocoa powder, you can use whatever you like. Finely chopped coconut shavings, mini chocolate chips, crushed nuts, powdered sugar, or sprinkles. I lightly brushed edible gold dust on top of mine after rolling them in cocoa powder for a subtle look of class, which you can find at pretty much any craft store or on Amazon.com. Let me know how they come out for you!
Makes about 36 balls
1 cup ground Nilla wafer cookies (about 40 cookies)
1 cup ground shortbread cookies (about 10oz box of cookies)
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more reserved
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup bourbon, plus more just in case
2 tablespoons honey or light corn syrup
36 paper candy cups
Use a food processor to ground the Nilla wafers and shortbread cookies until it’s a flour consistency. If there are any big chunks, remove them. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Pulse several times until everything is combined together. Then, add the bourbon and honey. Let the food processor run until everything forms together like a big sticky ball. Add a splash of bourbon if the dough is too dry.
Place the bourbon dough in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Put about an 1/8 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder in a bowl.
Use a medium-sized melon baller to scoop out the bourbon dough. Gently roll the dough in between the palm of your hands until it forms a perfect sphere. Roll each ball in the unsweetened cocoa powder and place in a paper candy cup.
Refrigerate until ready to serve. They also stay just fine at room temperature.
Confession time. Clearly you don’t really have to live in the South to find “biscuits and gravy” but I’ve lived in the “South” for about a year and a half and have never taken the time to try it, or any Southern food for that matter. Yeah, shame on me. For a foodie lover of many foods, even ones that I won’t eat regularly that I can appreciate… Southern food quite honestly has never looked our sound appealing to me. Doesn’t mean I won’t try it of course. OF COURSE!
My husband has asked in the past about me making biscuits and gravy. The pictures on the internet, how people describe it and the thought of figuring out another culture of food literally overwhelmed me. So I put it off. I’m pretty sure he asked me again another time. Then I hear among the social crowd how one could go for a good “Southern Biscuit and Gravy.” So, you can see at this point I’m slightly intrigued. Then a friend presented me a challenge; to make Southern Biscuits and Gravy with maybe a twist or make it fancy. I thought, hmmm… okay, now I’m fully interested. I figured at this point there’s enough signs to finally give it a try. What better way to do it than ALL HOMEMADE FROM SCRATCH! Go big or go home!
I’m crazy… but, it’s really worth it. And not as hard as it appears or sounds. I should’ve known better. I did add a little Italian touch to it. Nothing crazy. Just some fresh minced garlic and oregano. You’ll see. Of course. But I do intend to take this and make a full blown Italian version and truly start an Italian Southern Fusion. We’ll see LOL. All credit should go to my friend of course. I probably would’ve never thought of this on my own, ever. And to make it slightly more classy, I took the basic concept of an Eggs Benedict by cutting the biscuit open in half, placing a poached egg on each one THEN topping everything with the gravy. I must say, the yolk tied in with everything was spectacular. You have to give it a try at least once.
Last thing. I think this can go without saying that this is definitely not the healthiest breakfast. It’s likely the least healthiest breakfast recipe on this blog. I already have ideas on how we can make this healthier but the question is, will it taste as good? Probably not. Is it even worth it? Ehhhh. Should I even bother when you can just have the better version once in a while instead? Moderation, I swear. It’s your friend. It’s awesome. Okay, go try this recipe like, NOW!
FOR THE BISCUITS
makes about 10
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder (without aluminum)
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold
1 cup buttermilk (approximately)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven at 450 F degrees.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor. Cut the butter into chunks and cut into the flour until it resembles coarse meal. If using a food processor, just pulse a few times until the consistency is achieved. Add the buttermilk at a slow continuous stream until it’s combined into a sticky dough. If it appears on the dry side, add a bit more buttermilk.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Gently pat (don’t use a rolling pin) the dough until it’s about ½” thick. Fold the dough about 5 times, gently pressing the dough down to an inch thick in between each folds.
Use a round cutter to cut into disks. Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet about an inch apart. Brush melted butter on top of each biscuit. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top and bottom.
You can gently knead the scraps together and make a few more, but there’s a chance they may not be as good as the first batch.
NOTE: You can make these biscuits, cut them, put on a cookie sheet and freeze up to a month. When you’re ready for them, place in the oven at 450 F degrees for about 20 minutes.
FOR THE GRAVY
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound pork breakfast sausage
¼ onion, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk, plus more just in case
Fresh ground black pepper
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil, sausage and break it up into fine pieces using a wooden spoon. If it’s too dry, add more olive oil and allow everything to cook through.
Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage into a bowl leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the grated onion, garlic, dried oregano and butter. Stir until the butter melts then add the flour one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly to make a roux. Continue to stir and let the mixture cook for a minute or two. Don’t let it burn.
Slowly and constantly stir in the milk about ½ cup at a time to work it all together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then, add the cooked sausage back into the pan and stir well. Let everything simmer for about two minutes or until the gravy has reached your desired consistency.
HOW TO POACH AN EGG
Add a dash of white vinegar to a medium pan of boiling water. Crack an egg into a ramekin or cup. Create a gentle whirlpool in the water to help the egg white wrap around the yolk. Slowly tip the egg into the water and let cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the poached egg with a slotted spoon and place on some paper towels to drain any excess water.
There are so many ways to have a fantastic breakfast for a group of people without having to spend a lot of time or buy fancy ingredients. Frittata’s are one of my favorites because I love throwing a bunch of things, especially veggies, together to make a healthy yet filling meal. And because there are no rules, you can totally slice as much frittata as you like and put between two of your favorite slices of toasted bread for an awesome egg sandwich.
I’m not particularly a big breakfast person but I do force myself to eat something small regardless; but when I’m in the mood for eggs I’m a sucker for a little bit of mayonnaise on toasted bread for my egg sandwiches. (You should try making your own Mayo some time using my Homemade Mayonnaise recipe.) Or just simply put some of the frittata on top of one slice of breast like crostini. You do whatever the heck you want. Not only that but frittata’s can have ANYTHING in it. Better yet, double the recipe for leftovers. You won’t be disappointed.
Olive oil cooking spray
5 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/4 cup small red onion, finely chopped
1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained & finely chopped
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh baby spinach, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Spray a 9 inch round baking dish.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, salt and pepper. Stir and let cook until the onions become translucent. Turn the heat off, stir in the chopped spinach, and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl whisk the 5 eggs, add the crumbled feta and the sauted mixture together.
Add the quiche mix into a round baking dish that’s been sprayed with a cooking spray.
Bake for about 15 minutes at 400 F degrees or until the top is golden.
Lets face it, we’re always busy regardless what time of year. But with Summer around we are busy on top of wanting to enjoy those days of perfect weather to do the things we couldn’t do otherwise. With this quick dish you can’t get anymore healthy with pasta when you throw together a bunch of tuna, spinach, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s light and filling enough to not weigh you down on those hot days we’ve been having. I eat this either cold, room temperature or warmed up depending on my mood, it’s super yummy either way.
I’ve made this with arugula instead of spinach and it’s just as yummy. There are no rules so, feel free to use any leafy green and any other favorite veggie that appeals to you. That’s the best thing about cooking is you can eat healthy and make it taste good, it’s all about using lots of fresh flavor and your favorite ingredients. If you’re gluten free, use a GF pasta or any other pasta alternative like whole wheat, quinoa pasta for more protein or zucchini noodles for low carb! You can learn about zucchini noodles and how you can easily make them on my Garlic Shrimp Zoodle recipe. Enjoy!
6 – 8 servings
1 lb. rotini
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 lemon, juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon, sea salt
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil from sun-dried tomato jar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained & flaked
3 cups tightly packed fresh spinach (or arugula)
1/2 cup grated parmesano reggiano
Fill a large pot of water for the pasta and bring to boil. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging. When the pasta is done, reserve a glass of pasta water and set aside.
In a large skillet on medium-high heat, drizzle the bottom with olive oil and saute the onions until softened. Add a splash of the reserved pasta water, lemon juice, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, sea salt, sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried tomato olive oil, and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for abount 3-5 minutes.
Add the tuna and fresh spinach, toss for a good minute allowing everything to warm through. Then, add the pasta, stir until everything is well incorporated.
Toss the parmesano reggiano while piping hot and serve immediately.
Stir fry’s are another super easy and fairly healthy dish that I love to make in large batches for a quick meal or paired with anything else you love to eat with a stir fry. I use my favorite Turmeric Jasmine Rice to make it, it really adds more flavor than your standard fried rice flavor but feel free to use whatever kind of rice you like. And you’re certainly not limited to only using shrimp either. Use any kind of meat or fish that you love or simply add more of your favorite veggies. There really isn’t one that doesn’t go great with this.
about 6 – 8 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil + more just in case
12 – 15 asparagus (or French green beans), rough chopped
8 – 10 baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 carrots, grated
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, minced
3 cups cooked turmeric jasmine rice (or your favorite)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
3 eggs, whisked in a bowl
1/2 pound peeled & de-veined shrimp, halved
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, or more to taste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
In a large skillet drizzle the bottom with olive oil until covered. Over medium-high heat saute the asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, onion, peas, garlic and ginger until everything is almost softened after about 5 minutes.
Add more oil to the pan if needed before tossing in the rice with the garlic powder, onion powder, and white pepper. Stir everything for about two minutes allowing everything to heat through.
Move the rice towards the outer edges of the skillet creating a reservoir in the center. Add a little oil to the center and pour the whisked eggs. After about 30 seconds when the eggs gets a little opaque, use the spatula to scramble it up in with the rice.
Lastly, add the shrimp, soy sauce and fish sauce. Toss everything until the shrimp is cooked to tender after about 2 – 3 minutes. Add more sauce to taste if needed.