Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins


Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins


Happy Hump Day.  This past weekend marked the annual planting of our summer garden.  I had never really thought much about actually growing food until my lifestyle changed about 10 years ago.  When I decided to research and understand everything I was putting into my body, it was a perfect solution to the highly processed foods available in the marketplace.  We made the initial planting endeavor many years ago and have enjoyed eating the fruits of our labor ever since.  Our boys enjoy being outside and getting their hands dirty in the soil, so a home garden has turned out to be a great way to get the kids outdoors and involved.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Berries

Strawberries are perfectly in season right now and that means all things strawberry in my house.  I love to cook and bake using seasonal local produce so I generally purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season and therefore have the most nutritional value.  Strawberries have a fairly short life cycle and because they are so tasty, we really take advantage of their abundance for the next few months.  Find a local U-pick farm and make it a family outing to get berries.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed flour

This recipe was created by accident.  I used frozen cranberries in the batter the first time around and they turned out good.  But, I ran into Swamp Rabbit Café, a local grocer a few days later, and they had pints upon pints of fresh strawberries and my mind went crazy thinking how my new little recipe would be even better with those fresh berries.  I was not disappointed.  These muffins turned out moist and flavorful.  Success.  You must try them and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.  Feel free to pop leftovers in the toaster and reheat for breakfast.

Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed finished muffins


Fresh Strawberry and Flaxseed Muffins

1 cup gluten-free rolled oats – ground (I use a coffee grinder)

1 cup almond meal

1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder

1 TBSP ground flaxseed

1 TBSP chia seeds

1 tsp Himalayan pink salt

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil – melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 heaping cup fresh strawberries – chopped

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a muffin tin with paper liners or spray.  In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine all the wet ingredients.  Combine the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until well incorporated.  Gently fold in the strawberries.  Fill muffin tin cups to about 3/4 full.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Healthy Homemade Pickles

Healthy Homemade Pickles One

I took the kids to the beach for a few days a couple of weeks ago.  It was our first beach trip of the season.  And, my first time ever making that trip without my husband.  We went to meet family, and Tom wasn’t able to join us due to his workload.  So, at 6:00 pm on a Wednesday night the kids and I set out for our four hour trip.  I continued to glance at my GPS timer countdown.  Yes, we still had 4 hours to go!  As soon as we pulled out of our local Whole Foods parking lot (where we had dinner), the kids started asking if we were almost there.  It did cross my mind a few times to turn around and head home as fast as possible.  But, I kept going and we got into our groove.  The kids came together and chose a movie that would please them both, and I didn’t focus quite so much on the countdown timer anymore. The kids were beyond excited about this trip so I tried really hard to change my attitude and my mindset so that I could become excited too.  It worked!  I always tell them they have the ability to change their attitude at any given moment.  This was a time when I needed to practice what I preach. I love how my kids show me my true heart.  They keep me on the straight and narrow and I am so grateful for that.  Once we got there, we had a wonderful three days of eating, playing and relaxing in what I would consider to be my “happy place.”

While we were soaking in the sun on the beach, the cucumbers in our home garden decided to rapidly multiply.  I have honestly never seen a cucumber plant expand the way these beauties have.  As soon as I walked in the door, my husband looked at me very seriously and said “you need to learn how to make pickles.”  We’ve had a garden for several years now, but this is the first time we have ever had such success with cucumbers.  The vines are magnificent and they are taking over most of the garden as well as some of the yard.  So yes, It was crucial that I quickly learn how to make pickles.  As I researched many different recipes I was a bit disappointed as most of them required some amount of sugar.  I was not on board.  Finally I came across this recipe from and I hope I never have to purchase store bought pickles again!  The recipe is simple, the ingredients are wholesome and the results are delicious.  We adapted the recipe a bit to fit our needs, which was to make them a little spicier.   We have wonderful jalapenos in the garden, so it was a natural thought to add them to the mix.  We also opted for the highly beneficial apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar, and I couldn’t have imagined they would turn out so good.  While cucumbers are so abundantly in season, please give this recipe a try.  I hope you enjoy!

Healthy Homemade Pickles Four


Healthy Homemade Pickles Three


Healthy Homemade Pickles Two


Healthy Homemade Pickles

1 quart jar with a lid

2-3 pickling cucumbers (as many as will fit in the jar)

1 TBSP dried dill weed

2-4 cloves fresh garlic (I use 4)

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar

1 TBSP kosher salt

20 black peppercorns

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 jalapeno pepper – cut in half lengthwise

filtered water – enough to top off jar

Cut cucumbers and add them to the jar.  Add the remaining ingredients except water.  Once everything is in the jar, fill to the top with filtered water and screw the lid on very tightly.  Shake the jar to equally distribute the spices.  Leave on your countertop for 12 hours.  Shake the jar again and turn it upside down for an additional 12 hours.  For the 2nd 12 hours, I place the jar on a cookie sheet or in a large pot in case the lid leaks.  After a total of 24 hours, taste your pickles.  Refrigerate for up to one month.  Enjoy!

Here is another great cucumber recipe:

Basic Green Smoothie

Summer Strawberry Smoothie

Summer Strawberry Smoothie
Summer Strawberry Smoothie

My kids, on their own, created this tasty smoothie.  We watch Food Network sometimes before bed to round out our day.  This always inspires them to get in the kitchen.  My 9 year old takes this kitchen stuff very seriously.  He gets into the groove and wants to prepare food well after bedtime.  Maybe that’s just a stall tactic.  Anyway, it works on me.  I usually tell myself  “he must go to bed” or I could stay in the kitchen with him all night.  I have found it to be a wonderful place to let childhood creativity and imagination run wild.


Summer Strawberry Smoothie 3



Summer Strawberry Smoothie 2


When it comes to juices and smoothies, they are actually pretty talented.  We have been blending as a family long enough that they have  become little “blender experts.”  During the summer months we have an abundant herb garden and that’s where they find most of the accent flavors for their drinks.  This particular smoothie includes the herb mint and their two basic fruits: strawberries and bananas.  More often than not, they will choose these two as their base and then expand with whatever seasonal fruit we have in the fruit bowl.  On their own they will not willingly choose to add vegetables, and that’s okay.  When I blend a smoothie for them I add their veggies and they happily drink it, but its not a requirement when they are being creative.  This is their stage, not mine.  When they make a new drink they always say to me, “if this turns out good, you should put it on the blog.”  So here we are.  I hope you enjoy this drink that was lovingly thought up and designed by my boys.  They think of you as much as I do.  Happy Blending!


Summer Strawberry Smoothie

1 frozen banana

1 cup frozen strawberries

3 fresh mint leaves

2 TBSP plain Greek yogurt

2 TBSP raw local honey

1/2 lime – juiced

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup almond milk

Place all ingredients in a high speed blender.  Blend until creamy, about 1 minute.

5 reasons we don’t wear shoes in our home + Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffin Recipe

5 reasons we don't wear shoes in our home
5 reasons we don’t wear shoes in our home


This can be a touchy subject.  I am a Southern girl and hospitality is high on my list.  I would never want to offend or invoke feelings of discomfort to those I invite into my home.  But, when I can, I educate our house guests as to why I am politely asking them to remove their shoes at the door.  I have not always felt this way, but after many hours of research, I concluded that wearing shoes in the house is extremely bad for your health.  I have narrowed my research down to what I feel are 5 good reasons to promote dropping your shoes at the door.

1.  Bacteria on the bottoms of shoes  A large portion of the bacteria found on your shoes is from stepping on fecal matter.  It originates from public restroom floors or contact with animal fecal material from being outdoors.  The most common occurrence from this type of bacteria is  E. coli bacteria which can cause sickness including diarrhea and other illnesses according to the CDC.  This can be especially problematic for those who have young children that crawl and play along the floors.   This bacteria can be easily transmitted to tile and carpet.  Cleaning your floors and vacuuming your carpet will greatly cut down on the amount of bacteria in your home.

2.  Toxins on shoes – Shoes pick up all kinds of toxins in the course of a day.  Anywhere you walk, you are likely grabbing a toxin.  From the dry cleaners to the gas station, and everywhere in between, there are toxins.  Environmental pollution from spilled gasoline at the pump to walking through grass that has recently been sprayed.  All of it then comes right into your home.  This is probably the most important reason I initially began removing my shoes at the door.  These pollutants are extremely harmful to our systems and can potentially cause serious side effects.

3.  Dirty – I have two young boys.  Dirt is a constant.  If they wore their shoes in the house, I would be cleaning the floors all day long!  I believe this one is pretty self-explanatory.  No shoes=no dirt.

4.  General Health – I am a firm believer in the notion that not wearing shoes in the house makes for overall healthier people.  Given that we have discussed the fact that large amounts of bacteria and toxins travel on shoes, it makes sense to me that a home without shoes is healthier than a home with shoes.  I believe the instances of allergic reactions and respiratory issues as well as general sickness is much lower.

5.  Comfort – Whether you work outside the home or are a stay-home mommy, when you finish your workday, the first thing you want to do is take off your shoes and relax.  Make your home a haven of comfort.  Put a few pairs of comfy slippers by the door that you can slip into as soon as you walk inside.  You may even want to offer a pair to your guests if you feel they are uncomfortable removing their shoes.  Remember, hospitality for guests is still crucial.


Now for the good stuff.  One of the very first books I bought when I decided to follow a clean eating lifestyle was Sophie Uliano’s The Gorgeously Green Diet – How to Live Lean and Green.  I have prepared countless numbers of her recipes and they are all fabulous.  Her website is full of helpful ideas and perfect ways to eat and live a gorgeously green lifestyle.  She posted this Lemon Chia Seed muffin recipe on twitter last summer and my family fell in love with them.  I made a batch this week and she kindly gave me permission to share the recipe with you.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Sophie Uliano's Lemon Chia Seed Muffins
Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

Sophie Uliano’s Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 cup coconut palm sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups sprouted spelt flour (just use Spelt if you can’t find the sprouted version)

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

grated zest of 1 lemon

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1/2 cup rice milk (I used almond milk)

2 TBSP chia seeds

Makes 6-8 medium muffins.  Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the sugar and oil in the food processor until creamy.  While the processor is still running, slowly add the eggs.  Finally, add the flour, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and milk.  Process well.  Finally add the chia seeds and pulse just to mix them in.  Line a muffin tin with liners and fill each liner with the batter.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Serve immediately, or gently warm again before serving.



Healthy Tart Pastries

Healthy Tart Pastries
Healthy Tart Pastries

I recently posted a list on Facebook of foods you should NEVER feed your kids.  Pop-Tarts made the cut.   It’s unfortunate, but they are loaded with junk.  And when I say junk I am referring to the high amounts of sugar (corn sugar and high fructose corn syrup), preservatives, and highly processed oils.  None of these ingredients fuel your body or your brain.  When I am thinking of  breakfast or snack options for my children, these two issues are always at the forefront of my decisions.  Will this food strengthen their body and their brain?  If not, then we try to skip it.  That’s not to say that we don’t sometimes have things that may not fit into these two questions, but my goal is to be around 85-90%.  That leaves us with enough room for birthdays, celebrations or the occasional special treat. I have been working on these pastries for quite a while.  When I posted a picture of them on social media a few weeks ago I got several requests for the recipe. I needed to make a few adjustments before I was ready to share it and, of course, test them on my children.  They loved them.  I tried them with several different fillings and they were all yummy.  So, I am going to share the basic recipes and you can substitute any fruit you desire.  If you were like me and enjoyed countless pop-tarts as a child, these are going to quickly bring back the nostalgia of childhood.  They don’t taste exactly the same, but I wasn’t going for that highly processed taste.  Just the opposite, in fact.  These are hearty, flavorful and flaky.  I hope you enjoy this makeover.


Healthy Tart Pastries

For the pastries:

3 cups whole spelt flour

3/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp ground flaxseed

3 tsp baking powder

5 tbsp coconut oil – still solid

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2-1 cup almond milk

For the filling:

1 cup fresh or frozen fruit of your choice

1/4 cup water

1 tbsp raw local honey

1 tbsp chia seeds

For the topping:

1 tbsp raw local honey

1 tbsp grassfed butter

Preheat oven to 400.  In a small saucepan add the ingredients for the filling with the exception of the chia seeds.  Bring to a boil.  Turn temperature to medium and let the fruit continue to slowly boil about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and add the chia seeds.  Place the fruit into the freezer while you are preparing the pastry dough.  This allows the fruit to set.  Add all the dry ingredients for the pastries into a large mixing bowl.  Add the coconut oil and work the oil into the flour mixture.  Add the olive oil and continue to combine.  Add the almond milk beginning with 1/2 cup and work the mixture until it begins to become a dough.  Add the remainder of the milk if you need it.  Knead the dough a few times, but be sure not to overwork it.  Roll the dough out onto a large piece of wax paper.  With a rolling pin roll the dough out very thin.  With a pizza cutter, cut the dough into equal sized squares.  Add a few spoonful’s of the fruit compote to half of the dough squares.  Place the remaining half of dough squares atop the compote.  With a small bowl of water, dip a fork into the water and make indentions all the way around the pastry until it is closed up.  Place all the pastries onto a baking sheet and bake them for 20-25 minutes.  In a small saucepan melt the honey and butter.  When the pastries are done, rub them with the honey/butter mixture.

Here are a few other healthy pop-tart recipes:

Chocolate Covered Katie

Vegan Berry Pop Tarts

Whole Wheat Toaster Pastries


Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato


Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato
Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato

This is a new, healthier spin on the classic.  I used to love a good “stuffed” baked potato.  You know, the kind loaded with butter, sour cream, cheese and a few chives.  Chives are green.  That’s makes it healthier right?  Well, at least that’s what I told myself.  I completely understand the desire for carbohydrates.  That is, honestly, my weakness.  Because of this weakness, I had to invent an alternative to satisfy my craving.

My version of a “loaded baked potato” is truly loaded. It begins with a vitamin C packed sweet potato and includes lots of yummy vegetables and healthy fats.  Not only is this a perfectly balanced meal, it is super simple to prepare.  I generally make this dish for lunch as it gives me the energy I need to get through the remainder of the day.

For more simple, family friendly recipes, check out my monthly column in Upstate Parent Magazine.


Vegetable Stuffed Sweet Potato – Serves 2

2 medium sweet potatoes

½ TBSP extra virgin coconut oil

½ yellow or white onion – chopped

1 large clove garlic – chopped

2 medium carrots – chopped

½ bell pepper – chopped

5-6 stalks asparagus – chopped

½ cup broccoli – fresh or frozen

4 mushrooms – chopped

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tablespoon bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce – adjust the amount you use based on your taste preference

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake the sweet potatoes for approximately 45 minutes or until soft.  In a large skillet on medium heat add the coconut oil.  Add the onion, garlic and carrots.  Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the pepper, asparagus, broccoli and mushrooms.  Cook for 4-5 more minutes.  Turn heat to low and add the spinach.  Toss until wilted.  Drizzle the soy mixture over the vegetables and toss until well incorporated.  Open the sweet potatoes and load them with the vegetables.

Here are a few other healthy sweet potato recipes:

Healthy Sweet Potato Skins

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pie Smoothie


Simple Overnight Oats


Simple Overnight Oats
Simple Overnight Oats

With the holidays behind us and routines back in full swing, I am always open to anything labeled “simple.”  Our morning routine is pretty basic.  We all stumble to find the motivation needed to get moving and one-by-one end up in the kitchen.  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is the perfect meal to encourage healthy eating habits with your entire family.  But, it also happens to be the meal when most families are the busiest and saving a few extra minutes can be the difference between being late or on-time for school or work.

Oatmeal is always a sure thing for my family, so this easy and nutritious recipe is a staple.  I have posted several other oatmeal recipes which further proves our love of this healthy grain, but this one takes the least amount of time.  Prepare this healthy dish the night before, stick it in the fridge and don’t think about it again until morning.  It’s that simple. Now enjoy a hot cup of tea and begin pondering what’s for dinner, at least that’s what I do every morning.  I hope you enjoy!


Simple Overnight Oats

1/2 cup whole grain oats – not instant

1 TBSP chia seeds

1 TBSP pure maple syrup

1/3 cup fresh or frozen berries

1/2 cup almond milk plus a bit more to stir in the morning

In a bowl or glass jar combine the oats and chia seeds.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely combined.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.  In the morning, add a bit of almond milk and stir.  This recipe is for one serving.  Duplicate it for the amount of people you need to feed.

Here are a few more simple oatmeal recipes for you to try:

Baked Oatmeal

Healthy Oatmeal Muffins

100 Days of Real Food – Favorite Overnight Oats


5 Healthy Lunch Ideas

5 Healthy Lunch Ideas
5 Healthy Lunch Ideas

I had the pleasure of writing a guest post on the very informative blog  Dr. Joe is a pediatrician with The Children’s Clinic in Greenville, SC.  He is our personal pediatrician and I admire the fact that he is open to my natural approach to medicine.  He listens carefully to my thoughts and ideas and this lends to a very successful partnership between parent, child and doctor.  His bedside manner is one that makes children feel comfortable and safe during the time they are in his care.  I eagerly accepted his request to guest post on his blog as I feel our desire to educate and assist others with health goes hand-in-hand.

5 Healthy Lunch Ideas

With school starting this week, my brain began the process of planning daily lunches for my grade-schooler.  As he has grown more and more open to eating clean healthy foods, I am continuing my quest to ensure these habits endure by offering exciting fun lunches that he will look forward to, and better yet, will eat.  This process is not difficult, it just takes a bit of planning and creativity.

After being diagnosed with severe IBS nine years ago, my family and I have been on a clean eating journey.  My passionate pursuit of research and education began so that I could prepare clean healthy meals using ingredients that I was somewhat unfamiliar with.  I walked out of my comfort zone and never looked back.  Today I educate others in my minimally processed, whole food approach to eating, so that small changes can take place one family at a time.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite “go-to” lunch items along with the health benefits of making these particular food choices.

1. Chicken Wraps –   I choose fresh chicken over processed deli meats.  I purchase either a whole organic chicken or organic chicken breasts and cook them over the weekend to use for sandwiches and meals during the week.  Choosing organic chicken ensures that there were no hormones or antibiotics administered to the chickens, as well as limits the amount of pesticides used. Fresh chicken also doesn’t have nitrates or nitrites added (to keep color and extend shelf life). For a sandwich, I add chicken, goat cheese, hummus and cucumber in a whole grain wrap.

2. Sprouted Grain Bread with Nut Butter –   I use sprouted grain bread such as Ezekiel 4:9, since it is a healthier alternative to standard white bread.  Sprouted grains are soaked in water until they begin to sprout and are then dried and ground into flour.  There is minimal processing involved with sprouted grains and are therefore easier to digest than other highly processed grains.  For a sandwich, I add organic almond or peanut butter and slices of apple or banana.

3. Hummus and Vegetables – I used to purchase container upon container of hummus at the grocery, until I realized I could make it homemade for much less money and a whole lot more nutrition.  When you make your own hummus, you know exactly what goes into it and the list of ingredients is very short.  Please check out my homemade recipe that takes 5 minutes to prepare. For lunch, I cut up veggies such as carrots and celery and have a side of hummus for dipping.

4. Fruit and Yogurt Dip – I choose seasonal organic fruits and mix Greek yogurt and raw local honey for dipping.

5. Organic Cheese and Whole Grain Crackers – I use goat Gouda and Nut Thin crackers as a side item for my children’s lunch.  Organic Valley makes a great string cheese that is really easy to pop in a lunchbox.  We do not eat cow cheese very often, but when we do, this is my choice.  Goat cheese is much easier to digest and isn’t loaded with antibiotics or hormones.

I hope this list is helpful.  Please know that starting a clean eating lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, and taking small baby steps is absolutely okay.  I understand that the health of your children is of the upmost importance and my thoughts and ideas are meant to be a guideline as a good place to start.