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Choolaah Indian BBQ Review & Giveaway

If  you took a look at my 2017 family budget on and tallied up our eating-out expenses you would probably find that Indian is our most frequent restaurant cuisine.  So, when I was invited to attend a blogger event at Choolaah Indian BBQ, I was all-in to try this fast-casual restaurant, learn about Indian spices, and practice my own hand at mixing masala.  (Masala is the correct word, not curry. Check out why from NPR.) Dave and I cook Indian at home frequently since it lends itself well to dairy- and gluten-free adaption but we can’t quite get the spices quite right when we want to up a flavor other than heat (which we aren’t cooking with at all right now because the kids’ palates have become pickier). Choolaah’s  Mosaic District location is bright and spacious. The kitchen is on-display through huge glass panels where you can watch the staff throw naan into the huge tandoor ovens and cook.  The blogger crew got to try our hand at throwing naan into the 700 degree tandoors, and it was intimidating! Choolaah Choolaah In the dining room, I was instantly drawn to the hand washing machine which demonstrates the company’s culture of extreme cleanliness. (When I returned later with my kids,  the 5 y.o. was drawn to the machine, too. That particular child has never washed his hands with such enthusiasm before let alone again, and again, and again.)  Read more…


The mealtime battles have been intense around my house recently. So many meals begin with grumbles instead of gratitude. A dish loved one day is hated the next, then third day it becomes OK again. Plates get over-loaded with food and then it gets trashed. One child seemed to be subsisting on air (ok, fruit) with a negative impact on behavior. Of course, a kid is going to be crazy with fructose hyping the system but no protein to make those nutrients stick. Mealtime questioning, crying, and negotiation was taking over. (I think that last one is the worst for kid and parent alike. It dominates the meal for the adult, gives the child all sorts of attention for a behavior we don’t want to see more of; and it makes food a power struggle rather than about nourishment, enjoyment, and respecting feelings of satiety–not over-full.) One week I decided just to make whatever I wanted even if everyone else hated it because they were going to gripe about it any way. No surprise, but that didn’t actually fix anything.

End Kid Food Battles


Hubby and I found ourselves repeating certain mealtime platitudes endlessly, only to realize we were applying them in different ways. “Eat the food you have before getting new food” works differently when a kid serves himself versus when a parent scoops up adult-sized portions. And, how many meals should leftovers be re-offered for anyway? As a family that rarely has dessert, do we expect clean plates first or do we just eat the beet brownies whenever, however on those few occasions? With all of these questions, and so much frustration, the family decided that we should sit down and come up with some rules together.  Coming up with a morning routine recently has been helpful (despite a rough start), so we figured we’d formalize our mealtime guidelines, too. Here they are!

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Protein for Morning Sickness

I’m almost in my third trimester with Baby 3, and this pregnancy is flying by! This time around, some things are easier because I have a base of knowledge about my body, I have a midwife I adore, etc. But, other things are just as hard: fatigue, nausea, intense back pain.  The good news is that at least now I have some strategies.

With V, I threw up until 37 weeks of pregnancy (thanks to acid reflux from new, unbeknownst-at-that-point lactose intolerance). With E, throwing up wrapped up at 16 weeks. This time, things were mostly settled by 16 weeks, but certain smells will still set me off and I cannot drink plain water without intense reflux or vomiting (same held true with the other two pregnancies as well).

So, what is a natural-minded pregnant lady supposed to do to combat these icky (but for a lovely reason) feelings? Eat protein! Every single time you start to feel nausea, eat something with protein in it. Crackers and carbs are for the birds. I followed the not-so-helpful Saltine advice in my first pregnancy. But, for babies two and three, I knew about the benefit of protein. If you are like me, the idea of protein meat might sound just horrible for a couple of months in there, but there are other options. Instead, try: Read more…


Cold Spinach Artichoke Dip (GF/DF)



In my dairy days, Spinach Artichoke Dip was one of my favorite foods, and I had an amazing recipe for it that was simple, hot, and ooey gooey.  Alas, lactose intolerance has set in and eating that these days would keep me up all night with painful acid reflux.
Spinach Artichoke Dip = Pain is a sad thing.  So, I went about creating a dairy-free version. I haven’t navigated a hot version yet, but this cold one has become a favorite for the kids and me.    Spinach Artichoke Dip 
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 A little over a year ago, my family got hooked on Green and Grateful’s  Oatmeal Bake. Bethanie provides helpful suggestions for adapting this recipe for a variety of dietary needs, which was just what my family needed when starting our dairy-free, gluten-free journey. Since then, I have made this once per week (or more, it’s that good) and have further adapted the ingredients and instructions into something that we’re rather obsessed with in our house. Little E, age 2, wakes up and asks for “Bake O-O” every single day, even though it usually only lasts for two days’ worth of breakfasts each week. This means that we end up with tears at least a few of the other five days of the week when we have less-superior oatmeal for breakfast, and he sobs, “No overnight O-O, bake O-O!” Baked Oatmeal Every Saturday  it’s my day for early morning duty with the kids (my usual shift is late nights and night-wakings), so I get up with them and we make baked oatmeal together. The boys work on their pouring and stirring skills and V (almost 4) is now capable of cracking an egg without getting any shell in it. Then we read books for30 minutes while it cooks and our bellies rumble with anticipation. So, what is this wondrous dish that we’ve settled on as sweet perfection? Check it out!

Baked Oatmeal
Easy to make, delicious dairy-free, gluten-free breakfast that is just as good the next day and bakes in the same container you mix it in.
  1. 1 cup olive oil
  2. ½ maple syrup
  3. 4 eggs
  4. 4 cups dry oatmeal (gluten-free)
  5. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  8. 2 cups coconut milk
  9. 2/3 cups dried cranberries
  10. 2/3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)
  11. 2/3 cups nuts, unsalted (we love cashews or slivered almonds)
  12. Optional toppings: additional coconut milk, additional maple syrup, applesauce
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Add the olive oil to a 13x9 pan and let it coat the bottom of the pan. Add the remaining ingredients through the coconut milk. Stir thoroughly, making sure that the eggs are broken up and the baking powder does not clump. Add the remaining mix-ins and stir again. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
  2. Serve warm or cold, it's delicious either way. Top with applesauce, coconut milk, or maple syrup, if desired.
  1. A frequent substitution for us is using a "chia egg" for one or more of the eggs. For one egg-alternative, mix 1 tablespoon of chia seed (ground, if possible) with 3 tablespoons of water. Let it stand until thick like egg white. Use as one egg in the recipe. Using all chia eggs is possible, but does lead to a drier texture. Also, using duck eggs works well and makes the oatmeal a bit fluffier.
Adapted from Green and Grateful
More Green for Less Green


The Amazing, Versatile Canning Jar

As a family who minimizes plastics, glass canning jars come in handy in many ways in our house. They are affordable, versatile, and easily washable. It took us several years to gradually weed out our plastic containers and switch to Pyrex and jars, but now that is the primary way we store food.

I frequently get asked how often we deal with breakage.  I am, by far, our family’s worst culprit of dropping and breaking glass items.  In all honesty, these glass items are so sturdy that a drop doesn’t necessarily mean breakage anyway, especially on a more yielding floor like hardwood. 

As for the kids: yes, we let them use glass.  Usually they choose the stainless steel dishes and cups from the cabinet, but have glass in the mix, too. Both boys’ first drink of water was self-fed from a tiny open glass at 6 months old. Our kids are very careful with breakable items because they’ve seen the mess when accidents happen. (It usually happens when I am pulling something out of the fridge and a jar slips from my hand and lands on the tile kitchen floor. It stinks when something breaks and we have to sweep it up, but it doesn’t happen often.)

Without further ado, check out some of our favorite ways to use canning jars:
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Granola bars are a necessity in my house for my picky tummy in the morning, but the gluten-free, dairy-free, wholesome variety tend to be pricey. About a year ago, I started devising this recipe to be a bar alternative and discovered that they are sweet enough for a dessert. My kids are crazy about them and they are so easy to make!
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Appetizers are my favorite category of food, especially chips and dip. When I switched to a dairy-free, gluten-free diet last year I thought my days of nachos and dreamy, creamy dips were over. It was sad. But, life marches on, and this girl is still grooving on corn and root vegetable chips and finding ways to make the dipping happen. (Nachos with hummus instead of cheese, anyone?)

My number one party  favorite was buffalo chicken dip (also known as crack dip in some circles because of the delicious addictiveness). After nine months without this zingy, creamy treat, it was time to find a dairy-free alternative. After some tinkering in the kitchen, I devised this yummy, (dare I say) healthy creation:

Buffalo Chicken Dip DF GF

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As we continue our gluten-free (GF), dairy-free (DF) trial, we’ve rediscovered our love for bulk cooking. Our general approach to cooking is that Dave and I each cook one bulk meal per week. We eat some that night, keep some in the fridge, and freeze some to create a versatile freezer rotation. By combining fresh meals, leftovers, and freezer meals, we can eat all week despite only cooking twice. It’s a great plan, but life with two tiny kids had made even that difficult. But, going GF/DF encouraged us to re-prioritize cooking. Our kitchen is messier now that we are back to cooking this amount, but we’re enjoying some yummy, healthy foods without breaking the bank.

Here’s what we’ve been doing: if we cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker, it gives enough meat for that night’s dinner as well as leftovers for chicken salads (like Asian Chicken Salad) and general lunch munching.

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10 Ideas for Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Meals

We are six weeks into doing a gluten-free (GF), dairy-free diet with hopes of it addressing health concerns for three out of the four of us in the family. Several doctors had recommended this to me as part of an anti-inflammatory diet after V was born and my pelvic instability was so intense that walking, sleeping, moving, really anything and everything was difficult. I had enough going on between new baby, work, and extreme pain, and many medical appointments that overhauling our family’s eating seemed impossible. So, we shelved the idea. Fast-forward to now. As we’ve been looking at ways to address V’s eczema, both our holistically-practicing medical doctor and our chiropractor suggested that V cut gluten, dairy (or at least pasteurized dairy), melon, oranges, berries, and juices. After a month of planning time, we were finally ready to do it.

The first week was the hardest, as 2.5 year old V had some major behavior and sleep disturbances that might have been some sort of withdrawal or might have been normal 2-year-old stuff.  He also had the most dramatic benefit—his eczema cleared up rapidly, at least until we stupidly tried a new soap that caused a major flare-up. His healing from the flare has been much quicker than normal, though. But, he still does get new patches of dry, itchy skin.

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