Monday, April 30, 2012

Going Dairy Free…Almost Painlessly



About six months ago I noticed that the skin around my eyes was starting to get red and irritated. I assumed it was just another place that my eczema had decided to creep up. Over the course of the winter it got worse. The thin skin under my eyes became so tender that even the saline in my normal tears stung. And when the it started to crack and bleed I made an appointment with my nurse practitioner. She referred me to a dermatologist.

I have had eczema for years…on my hands, back, under arms and scalp. The patches on my scalp are so bad that my hair falls out. Nothing I take, other than topical steroids…and those are a temporary solution…seems to help.

I have been to an allergist, my NP, an MD and a dermatologist for this problem. Here is the part that irritates me…

Not one of them suggested finding the CAUSE! The derm actually wanted to give me a big injection of steroids in my rear, or scalp injections! Which she admitted would not last forever, and would need to be repeated!

Through the years I have been put on several antihistamines, nasal sprays (steroid and non), inhalers (steroid and non), and topical steroid creams.  I have known, through allergy testing years ago, that I am very allergic to dust mites and cats, and mildly allergic to tree pollen. I also have asthma. I have refused allergy shots…to the disappointment of my allergist.

Why does the entire medical profession seem to be focused on symptom relief as opposed to finding the root of the problem?

Right after Christmas we started an gluten-free diet to see if that was what was causing my skin problems…Gabe also went on the diet to see if it would help with his autism. For two months we suffered with this torturous plan…sorry all you gf fans…we can’t live like that! It did nothing for my eyes, and I swear made Gabe act worse (it broke his eating routines).

We stopped that fiasco. (Please do not email me about how wonderful a gf diet is…it could certainly be wonderful for some…it just did not work for us.)

I had my derm appointment in March (after waiting FOREVER to get into a derm office in my area).

While I declined the shots, I decided to use the steroid creams…yes CREAMS…there were three! One for each separate affected part of my body. AND…they cost me over $90…with my insurance! They worked…like I knew they would.

Guess what…?

A week after I quit using the ultra expensive, teeny-tiny tube of eye goop…my eczema came back!


eye cream

(This eye cream was the smallest container of each of the creams I was prescribed…it was almost $50…and it’s generic!)



Fed up with everything…

I decided to do a little research into common food allergens (which I have never been tested for…only environmental) that may cause skin irritation. Near the top of the list was milk!

My heart sank.

I LOVE milk! Cheese is the best! Ice cream and I are old pals!

I knew that I had to at least try it though. Or suffer through life looking like a monster with red, crusty eyes.

After a week of no dairy, and a good moisturizer, my skin looked better. After two weeks, it was completely clear of eczema. Darn. I was so hoping that dairy and I could still be friends. But, being the risk taker I am, I decided maybe it was the weather that had cleared my skin. It was a little moister…maybe it was a fluke. So…

I ate a teeny bit of butter in a cookie.


The next day…





Although mild compared to what it had been all winter, it had started again!

I can only conclude that I am indeed allergic to milk…RATS!

Plus, my skin cleared up 2 days after resuming my dairy free lifestyle.

I am now on a mission to find the best dairy alternatives out there. And I have actually found a few that I like better (gasp!) than their dairy counterpart.

Here is what I have come up with so far…



Coconut milk, the full fat, in a can variety is AWESOME in coffee as a substitute to dairy creamer or half and half! I was a convert from my first sip! Even if it turned out I was not allergic/sensitive to dairy…I was keeping the coconut milk!


cocnut milk_picnik


I LOVE both of these brands of organic coconut milk.


coconut milk 1


Another yummy use for canned coconut milk…whipped “cream”. Simply put the can in the fridge overnight, do NOT shake it up, open the can and scoop the thick cream off the top. If you like, whip it up with a mixer and add a little organic evaporated cane juice or stevia to sweeten.


I have also tried SEVERAL kinds and brands of milk substitutes…lowfat and fat free coconut milk (tastes like milk of magnesia), soy milk (okay in lattes), and almond milk.

I really like the almond milk.


almond milk


While I am hesitant to just pour a glass and drink it straight…I do love this in overnight oats and cereal.

Blue Diamond Original and Unsweetened Original are my favorites. It is thicker and creamier that the others I have tried, with a pleasant, only slightly nutty flavor.



almond milk 2


Coming in second…Pacific Naturals unsweetened organic almond milk. This is more watery than Blue Diamond…but the only variety I could find in organic. It has a pretty good flavor, just lacks the creaminess of Blue Diamond. The other brands I tried were a bit chalky, and hardly palatable.


On to the butter…

earth balance


All I can say about this is…YUM. I like it better than butter. With butter I always got a slightly “animal” aftertaste. Sound weird? This has a nice flavor and is all natural.

I did my research, because I did NOT want a margarine type product that would clog my arteries with hydrogenated fats. Earth Balance is recommended by a ton of people…health nuts and otherwise.

I am so happy to have my whole wheat bread and butter back!


This weekend I purchased this…



Which is highly recommended all over the web. It is apparently the best cheese substitute.

Well…It ain’t cheese…

But if I can’t have cheese, I can live with this.

I tried them on a salad…



and melted on some Food Should Taste Good Olive chips (HIGHLY recommend the chips as an occasional snack!).

Melted was definitely better than cold. But, there will NEVER be a substitute for my cheese. I will, however, purchase these again…and also try the Mozzarella Style Shreds.


Next thing I am hoping to try…

soy or rice milk ice cream!

Any suggestions on brands? Or maybe you have other dairy alternatives you are in LOVE with? Let me know!


Hope you are having an excellent start to your week!

Remember, if you want to follow my daily thoughts, rants, pics…or what I ate…I am on facebook 2





Sunday, April 29, 2012

Key West Chicken



This is my absolute favorite way to eat grilled chicken. It is moist, tender…and full of sweet citrusy flavor. I also like to slice it up and add it to a salad with mango slices, green onions and lemon-lime vinaigrette.

Is your mouth watering yet? Haha!



key west ckn 1


Key West Chicken


4 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/3 cup non-GMO soy sauce

2 tablespoons non-GMO canola oil

2 tablespoons raw honey

2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed

The juice of 1 small lime


Pound chicken breasts to even thickness (about 1/2 inch). Combine marinade ingredients in a shallow baking dish and whisk together. Add uncooked chicken. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours for best flavor. Grill until no longer pink and juices run clear.


Printable Version



key west ckn 2


I poke holes in mine to let that delicious flavor seep into the chicken.


key west ckn 3



key west ckn 5


My husband will not use a gas grill. So…our meat gets a tad overdone sometimes…


key west ckn 6


See…a little on the charred side. This rarely happens, but it would of course when I wanted a pretty picture for you all to see.


key west 7



I added Mexican Bean Salad and fresh organic greens, topped with our favorite homemade dressings, to complete the meal.

Crank up the Jimmy Buffet, and enjoy a very yummy summer supper!

(Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude came on my Sirius while I was mixing the marinade…It was VERY appropriate!)



Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tropical Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

I have decided to handle my recipe posts a little differently…for my own sanity. I am going to be posting these individually. I am finding that I am getting too bogged down with life issues to sit down and focus for an entire day, pumping out a 6 recipe post. I know, I know…I could work on a little each day…but that is not how my crazy brain works…haha!
I encourage you to collect the printables to create your own menu plan. I will be posting 2 to 3 recipes a week. I have also decided to include some dessert/snack recipes!

The next recipe…

turkey meatloaf 2

Tropical Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 small-medium onion, chopped finely
1 egg
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons sea salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Divide into eight equal balls and press into a muffin pan. Top with sauce. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until cooked through.


1/2 cup organic ketchup
1/2 cup of fresh, or frozen thawed, pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon all natural, non-GMO soy sauce

Combine ingredients in a food processor. Process for 30 seconds.

Printable version

For my bread crumbs I used the ends of whole wheat organic bread, which I usually end up throwing away (Bad, bad Jessie). If you want to make these gluten free, use gluten free bread (Udi’s makes a great gf bread product).

turkey meatloaf

Here are the bread crumbs after being pulsed about 20 times in my mini food processor.

turkey meatloaf 3

I  like to use organic ground turkey. That way I can be sure there are no “retained solutions” and “natural flavorings”…which, BIG surprise…are anything but “natural”. These contain heavy sodium…and natural flavor is a tricky way of including MSG.
If your meat mixture feels a tad dry, you can add a little milk for moisture (soy milk works also).

turkey meatloaf 5
I used the middle outer muffin cups for the last two loaves. They will cook more evenly.

turkey meatloaf 4

turkey meatloaf 7

turkey meatloaf 8

I served these with organic brown rice, topped with a little coconut oil…keeping with my tropical theme (and because I am just now finding out I have a dairy allergy, and butter is a no-no). It was WONDERFUL!!

turkey meatloaf 9

So easy! You could whip these up the night before, cover and refrigerate (uncooked)…then pop them in the oven when you get home from work, school, sports practices, extracurriculars… Even the rice can be made up to 4 days ahead of time and reheated!

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Day in the Life of Me…Food Edition



I thought I would put together a little post about what I eat on an average day. I know that that it helps to see examples of healthy eating…and realize that it does NOT have to be boring, tasteless food!

I LOVE to eat…big shocker, huh!?! I could not survive on a diet of lettuce and hard boiled eggs.

Uh-uh…isn’t happening.

So, I seek out creative ways to make healthy food taste amazing. It is possible. Trust me.


Lately I have been drinking a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning. I have read many, many articles and blog posts devoted to this practice. Lemons flush toxins from the body, and aid digestion. Plus, plain water first thing in the morning makes my stomach hurt…weird, right?


lemon water


After I shower and get ready I have my breakfast…


veagn oats


Which has been these Overnight Oats for the past few weeks.



berry oatmeal


Last weekend I tried changing them up a bit, and added a cup of frozen mixed berries. WOW!! They are A-MA-ZING! Of course…I left the peanut butter out…and added a touch more maple syrup. I will be trying fresh strawberries and creamy coconut milk next!


Another of my go-to breakfasts…

breakfast 45


Scrambled eggs and fruit. I often add whatever veggies I have on hand (and cheese…before I decided I might be allergic to milk)…spinach, peppers, onions, mushrooms…anything goes!

The main deal with breakfast is to keep it high in protein. If I eat a carb loaded breakfast, lacking in protein…I am STARVING and hour or two later! I also find that I am hungrier in the evening and snack all night if I eat cereal for breakfast.

Coffee is a must have in the morning!


coconut coffee1


I will not even attempt school traffic without it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have given up my dairy cream for creamy, full fat coconut milk. It is coffee BLISS.


Since my breakfast usually keeps me full for 4 or 5 hours, I don’t usually eat a morning snack…but you certainly could squeeze in a piece of fruit midmorning.

Lunch is almost always some version of the same thing…Soy protein shake!


strawberry cinch

Here is the Strawberry Cinch, with organic almond milk and frozen strawberries.

I am a junkie when it comes to these! I consider it a Godsend that I found Cinch. I have discussed this also in a previous post. But, to be brief…

I was suffering from hemiplegic migraines on a monthly basis, during or right after my period. I knew that it was from the drop in estrogen my body was experiencing at that time, but did not know what to do about it. I was reading about the phytoestrogens in soy, but was unsure how to go about getting enough in my system. Enter CINCH! It is my miracle! Since I started on Cinch I have NOT had a migraine…in almost a year! I have also stopped getting the horrible night sweats that also accompanied that particular time of the month.

I have found numerous ways to enjoy my daily protein shake.




This one is my new fave…Vanilla Cinch, a frozen banana, 1 cup of organic almond milk, 2 teaspoons of cocoa, a packet of stevia and a few ice cubes blended in the blender!


I have found that on the days I work, mixing my vanilla Cinch with 2 tablespoons of PB2…




and a packet of stevia, and putting it in a sealable container, is quite convenient…


wacky 6


and yummy.



On to the snacks!

I like fruits or veggies  mixed with a little protein and/or good fat.

A few on my yummy list..


snack 4


Organic berries and coconut…



hummus and veggies


Hummus and veggies…




Love this new “ice cream”concoction…


ice cream


frozen berries, frozen banana, and coconut milk!


Then there is my favorite high fiber treat…


popcorn snack


Popcorn! Popped the old-fashioned way…in non-GMO canola oil with a little Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt sprinkled on top.



Who could forget…

A girl’s best friend…


dark choc


CHOCOLATE! 1/2 to 1 ounce of this is heavenly. I have been known to hide these…


For dinner we have any number of things. I try to include a lean protein…whether it be beans, meat or poultry…a veggie or two, and maybe a grain.








curry 12



venison burger






mexican salad 33


I will usually have another snack in the evening. I try to make it high in protein…but sometimes I go for a high fiber alternative.

I finish my day with a cup of green tea (which I drink throughout the day) and a couple tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar.

Have I given you some ideas?!? I hope so!

As always…If you have any questions…ASK! You can leave a comment here, or on Facebook.



Monday, April 23, 2012

Tour My Town



I LOVE to walk.

I would walk every day if it were possible.

There is rarely a problem that a nice, long walk can’t make at least a little better.

Lately I am finding this peaceful time to myself especially helpful. The monster that is our son’s autism has decided to wreak a bit of havoc on our lives. We are staring down the long road of adolescence, wondering how we are going to do this…praying for a shortcut. I find myself caught between tears and screaming most days.

But…enough about that!

Back to my happy place…or places!

We live in a relatively small town situated on Little Traverse Bay, which is part of Lake Michigan. It is a prime tourist destination in the summer. When you see the pictures you will know why! The town itself is laced with high-end boutiques, quaint specialty and gift shops, and a few small restaurants and bistros.

On the weekdays, either after work, or after I drop Lily off at preschool, I walk 4 or 5 miles around town.

Today, I decided to take pictures along my normal route. So I could sort of take you along!



Petoskey 2


This is the park across from Gabe’s school.


Petoskey 3


I LOVE this house…set back from the road, and gated, it has an AWESOME view of the Bay. Or at least I assume…I really didn’t want to sneak onto the property and take an actual peek.


Petoskey 4


When I pass this century old house, I always admire the gorgeous porch and lovely landscaping. There is something about a big old porch that whispers relaxing.



Petoskey 6

Here is one of my favorite houses. It is pretty little craftsman, in a nice, neutral color.

I tried to get a picture of my absolute FAVORITE house…but the homeowner was doing some gardening…and I didn’t really want to look like a weirdo.


A little side story (I do those a lot, don’t I?)…

I sometimes (well…always) like to make up little stories in my head about what the homeowners of certain houses are like.


I know!

But, you can tell a lot about a people from looking at there home…or at least you can certainly make up a lot about people…haha!

Did that just completely discredit me in your minds? I hope not…



On with the tour…


Petoskey 7


This is the historic, Perry Hotel, Can you spot the trolley?


Petoskey 8


One of the old train depots, which has been converted to an office building.


Petoskey 10


Ahhh…Little Traverse Bay. A statue of Ignatius Petoskey, the Odawa Chief for whom our city was named, overlooks the sapphire splendor.


Petoskey 11I


Gorgeous. Now you see why I LOVE to walk…I am motivated by breathtaking scenery.


petoskey 30


The waterfront…


petoskey 31


a popular wedding photo destination…


petoskey 33


especially this waterfall.




I swear the sky is bluer here!


The next few photos are in the shopping/restaurant areas.


Petoskey 12I



Petoskey 13I



Petoskey 14I


I would have taken a few more…but road construction was ruining the scenery.


Petoskey 16I


The gazebo in the park.


Petoskey 17I


White picket fences.


Petoskey 18I



Petoskey 19I


Spring gardens.


Petoskey 20I


Tree lined streets.



Petoskey 22


It seriously doesn’t get much better than this.


Being an amateur (stinky) photographer, with a mere Canon Powershot…I was unable to capture the true beauty.

I hope you weren’t bored to tears. Haha!


Happy Monday!!



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