How to help your digestive system: 10 triggers to watch for.

How to help your digestive system: 10 triggers to watch for.

If there is one thing in how to help your digestive system it is to figure out what is causing the digestive issues. When it comes to gut cramping and rushing to the bathroom it’s usually a bad burrito and clears up in a few days on its own, but when the bowels howl longer than normal something needs more attention. In my own personal experience with IBD (Intestinal Bowel Disease) over the years and with hours upon hours of research, I’ve found 10 major triggers that can set people off. If I would have known these triggers earilier, I would have healed a lot faster. My hope is that this post will save you a lot of time and frusteration. Let’s take a look at what might be triggering your lingering symptoms so you can get on the right intestinal track.

Step 1 in how to help your digestive system

Ever since I started to talk about my own digestive distress, more and more people have opened up to me about theirs. Let’s face it, talking about cramps and diarrhea is not something people want to talk about, but these things DO need to be talked about. A huge part of healing is understanding what’s going on and why. Knowing this, not only gives you peace of mind, but a solid direction to focus on in your healing journey.  Discovering your cause can be a frustrating maze but it could be as simple as asking around and doing some research. You never know what someone is going to say that could be your ticket to healing.

Let me reiterate that when people are silent about their chronic digestive system it is only going to make them worse.  What ends up happening is despair, loss of hope, loneliness, and settling with chronic misery. Self-confidence goes down the drain and limitations in physical activity and social outings go on the wayside. You do not deserve to live like this!

Listen up, this is super important

Another thing about “ignoring’ this issue is that if left untreated, it will lead to other misery down the road; for instance, vitamin absorption problems, depression, stress, hair thinning, and more. I’ve been there, done that, with tears and frustration and a sink full of hair. There is nothing worse than not understanding what is going on and if you’ll ever get better! So please, listen up to how to help your digestive system if you want to get better.

I HIGHLY recommend reading the “Triggers and What to do for IBD: How to identify and heal for good” book. I wish I had this information when I was having problems. This book would have saved me LOADS of time and frustration. Download, read, and heal. It’s a quick read packed with answers that will help you.

Encouragement Coaching Moment

First off, you will get better. If you want it bad enough, you will go into remission and will live a life of no more cramping, no more rushing to the bathroom, and no more uncertainty. The work it takes to heal is totally worth it. It is possible to manage this thing without having to take any pharmaceuticals! The body will heal if you help it.

Your healing journey begins with this

My journey has been quite a road. I am not a doctor or gastroenterologist, but I have experienced firsthand what it’s like to carry colitis and all that goes with it. With an un-relentless drive to figure it out, I’ve tried many different treatments and have spent hours and hours researching (probably too much time) in getting to the bottom of my imbalance. After all, when something isn’t right, things aren’t aligned. So this bullcrap all starts with what threw you off in the first place.

How to help your digestive system starts with questions.

Ask yourself the following questions and maybe even jot down your answers on a piece of paper. I have kept a “digestive journey” journal where I write down my flares, what might have happened before it, and what I tried to manage it. Answer these questions to help you figure your digestive issues out.

Was I recently sick? Stomach bug? Food poisoning? Bacteria infection?

What are my hormones doing?

Did I eat something funny? Eat too much of something? Eat the same thing every day?

Have I been taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc) on a regular basis?

Has my gallbladder been acting up? Do I still have my gallbladder?

What is my stress level been these days?

What exactly am I eating everyday?

Is my back out of whack?

Answering these questions might help you get on the right track from the get-go. It’s important to go over these things with your doctor or functional doctor before diving into a treatment plan.

A closer look at digestive triggers

Let’s take a closer look at what could be the cause of your cramps, bloating, diarrhea, loose stools, and stinky gas. When you have a flare, it is usually caused by a trigger. For instance, when I get a flare I can usually figure out what brought it on. Most of the time it was something I ate. But other times it’s been hormones, stress, or even a change in weather or time zones. The body is so amazing when it comes to healing; it wants to be aligned and working as it should. When it’s not, it tells you through pain or digestive distress. Let’s look at a few things that could be causing the alarms to go off.

Again, I’m not a doctor, nor am I trying to be. I share the information I have either experienced myself or am extremely interested in, and then I keep things simple and give you the nutshell version. This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult your physician before jumping into new things. This post is for information purposes only and to help you figure out what you might have going on.

IBS

What is IBS anyway? IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is simply an angry bowel. For instance, when I was a runner I would occasionally get really bad “poop cramps”, this is what IBS is, cramps out of the blue followed by urgency. With my story, the doctors first diagnosed me with IBS, since I knew what IBS was, I had a hard time respecting their diagnoses. Come to find out what I learned through the years is that if doctors can’t diagnose your digestive problem, they’ll usually say it’s IBS. When I went back to the doctor’s office I asked for a colonoscopy which gave us the real answer. So stick with your gut when you go to the doctor and ask a lot of questions; if they say it’s IBS, ask them why they think so.

Food sensitivities: dairy, gluten, eggs, soy, grains, white sugar, fructose.

Food sensitivities are HUGE triggers that lead to digestive system issues. The number one ‘problem food’ is dairy. So many people have issues with dairy; in fact, I heard everyone is a little sensitive to dairy. Lactose intolerant or sensitivity to whey or casein (a protein found in milk) are a few roadblocks to dairy digestion.

The second big one is gluten. Gluten is the protein found in wheat. People who have Celiac disease cannot have any gluten. Most people with digestive issues steer clear of gluten as well. This bugger is hard to digest and wreaks havoc on your innards. Talk about inflammation! It’s just not worth it folks.

Other popular food sensitivities and allergies are nuts, eggs, soy, white sugar, nightshades, and fructose.

How do you know if you have a food sensitivity?

Pay attention to how you feel after you consume it. Do you have a headache? Is your skin itchy or throat? Heartburn? Do you have gas cramps within an hour of eating? Dizzy? How about your nose, is it runny? What about severe congestion? Are you rushing to the bathroom?

Hormones: can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

This is a tough one to figure out. Hormones play a factor in digestion? Women get a chance to pay close attention to our system every month (if we’re still menstruating). Both progesterone and prostaglandins can mess with your bowels. Even though prostaglandins focus on your uterus, they can also affect the colon that is nearby. Plus our friend, Progesterone, can pilot our trip to the bathroom more often.

On the flip side, when estrogen declines, cortisol rises, which can slow the digestion process down and cause constipation…a.k.a. too little progesterone. Without the proper balance of estrogen and progesterone, your bowels get a bit confused.

Alignment

Who knew that a kink in your back could cause issues in digestion and elimination. The vertebrae in your spine are connected to nerves that send signals to the digestive system which includes the stomach and intestines. When the vertebrae are off or twisted this can affect those nerves and give you symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and bladder issues. Before you head to the chiro, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.

A bug

There are some pesky bugs out there. Bacterial infections, viruses, and parasites, all of these cause inflammation. And when inflammation is present and not calmed down, irritation of the intestinal lining is sure to happen. E-coli, Guardia, Norovirus, and the stomach bug are the main culprits of diarrhea, not to mention vomiting. Yes, even though these are short-lived 1-7 days on average, they can mess up your gut flora and cause silent inflammation in your digestive tract. 

gluten-free granola bars

How to help your digestive system? Reduce stress

Constant stress on the body and mind can be a doozy for your digestion. It can throw your whole system off! From muscle tightness, knots in your gut, to indigestion, stress can physically hurt you. One thing you can do right now in answering the question of how to help your digestive system is to learn some stress-relieving techniques.

Ibuprofen/Tylenol

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like acetaminophen and ibuprofen if taken on a regular basis can actually cause inflammation in your intestines. Yep. Too much of a good thing can backfire. This is true for anything, even food! When inflammation is present, cramps and diarrhea are sure to show up.

Lack of probiotics and digestive enzymes

Sometimes our bodies need a little help getting back on track. Probiotics and/or digestive enzymes are here to save the day. Getting the right bugs in your gut makes a big difference in your digestive health; a game-changer for most folks. The hard part is figuring out what probiotics or digestive enzymes you’re lacking. This is especially important if you’ve been on a regimen of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill everything in your gut, so it’s important to get your gut back up and running as it should. Incorporating probiotics after your antibiotic treatment will help you bounce back a little quicker.

Probiotics may need to be taken every day depending on your condition. The added bonus is they also help your immune system and even skin.

If you have heartburn or stomach acid issues please read my post about stomach acid, it goes more in-depth about digestive enzymes and food combining, you will get a digestive enzyme chart as well!

Bile acid

This sounds kind of gross but excess bile acid from your digestive system can cause diarrhea. Bile acid diarrhea (BAD) or bile acid malabsorption (BAM) is what can cause that urgency, watery, and bloating feeling. Bile acids are produced by your good ole liver and stored in your gallbladder. Their job is to help break down fats to put it simply. For people who have had their gallbladder removed, you may experience a bit of diarrhea…at least now you know why. However, sometimes the body can get confused and cause large amounts of bile acids to exit into the large intestine, hence, diarrhea. Normally there is very little bile acid in the large intestine. I highly recommend you continue to investigate this; check out Verywellhealth.com for starters.  

Yeast

Where do we start with yeast? Is it good or bad? Well, if you get too much of it, it can trigger diarrhea. Along with yeast-associated diarrhea, you may see other signs of too much yeast by looking at your tongue. If it has a white coat on it, you probably have more yeast than you need. You could also have sinus infections, fatigue, and skin fungal issues. The medical term for an overabundance of yeast is Candida. Check out Dr. Axe about Candida.

In conclusion: how to help your digestive system

WHEW! That was a lot to take in. But how to help your digestive system is no joke. From my personal experience, I wish I had this post in my hands when it all started in me. Again, I can’t tell you how many hours I researched diarrhea. I’ve probably clocked as many hours as a gastroenterologist. Anyway, healing is possible, but you must want it to happen. And if you really want it bad enough, you’ll be able to manage it without drugs and their nasty side effects. You got this. Healing takes time so keep moving forward. To help you get started in healing your gut I wrote this mini book: Triggers and What to do for IBD: How to Identitfy and Heal for Good. It only takes a few minutes to read, but could contain your path to healing! Download it for under $5.

Please note: talk to your doctor or find a functional doctor before you jump into anything new. If you want to go the natural way without prescriptions, I’ve had success with a functional doctor.

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By CT Copyright © 2022 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved
The BEST No-bake Gluten-Free Granola Bars EVER!

The BEST No-bake Gluten-Free Granola Bars EVER!

This is by far the BEST homemade no-bake gluten-free granola bars recipe EVER! These granola bars are actually healthy for you. There is no added sugar other than natural honey. These gluten-free granola bars are also dairy-free, egg-free, and nut-free! They are chewy with a little crisp, and the chocolate chunks are amazing!

no-bake gluten-free granola bars on a plate
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What to know about oats

My digestive system is pretty sensitive, so I need to be careful of what I eat and how much I eat. These granola bars are oat-based. I used verified gluten-free rolled oats. If you need to be gluten-free, make sure the oats say “gluten-free”. Many oats when processed can have cross-contamination with wheat and other grains; therefore, are not considered gluten-free. There are many oat-based cereals that claim they are gluten-free, but when you check out the ingredients, the oats are not certified gluten-free. Please be careful out there if you have celiacs or are super sensitive to gluten.

For my granola bars I like to give the oats a little pulse in the food processor, it just helps me digest them easier. But, it’s totally okay with going the full oat route. Use whatever you like.

More about oats

Oats have tremendous health benefits. They are full of manganese, which is great for bones, muscles, and tendons. It also helps reduce inflammation and regulate blood sugar. For more benefits of manganese, you can check out Healthline.

Rolled oats also have phosphorus, magnesium, and copper to name a few big ones. All and all, oats are high in antioxidants and fiber, which help in weight loss, blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and they’re good for your heart. This grain is a good one.

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No-bake gluten-free granola bars add-ons!

These no-bake gluten-free granola bars are not only great snacks for the family, but if you’re running low on time, slab some peanut butter on them and you’ve got lunch! I did this today…so good. My husband prefers to put goat cheese on his. Really anything that spreads would be delicious on these yum yums.

There are a few other ingredients I want to bring to your attention. Of course, you can add a lot of different things to these, like dried cranberries, ground flaxseed, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, or diced dried apricots. If your budget allows you, definitely try dried cherries!

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Recipe secrets. Shhh!

The ‘No-bake” is super important for this recipe. I tried this recipe baking it in the oven and it did not work! I actually made granola, so if you’re looking for granola, just bake the recipe on a cookie sheet at 350 for 20 minutes. However, if you want true bars, melt the wet ingredients in a saucepan then mix them all together!

For my recipe, to get that extra crisp, you must add the gluten-free crisp rice cereal. Yes, this is one of my secret ingredients. Please don’t tell anyone. 😊 The crisp rice really makes these granola bars come together. I use Malt-O-Meal Crispy Rice Cereal. It comes in a large bag, so if you’re a fan of rice crispy treats, you’ll be all set. The only place I’ve been able to find it is at Walmart. It’s a lot cheaper than the gluten-free crisp rice from health food stores.

Another secret ingredient is ground cloves. Don’t you just love the smell of cloves? When I was little my friend, Jill, would stick an apple full of cloves and hang it in their kitchen. It smelled SO good! Cloves give this recipe a warm comfort feeling, in fact, the cloves might be the culprit of why these are so dang delicious!

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One more ingredient that will make a big difference: chocolate chunks. Because of all my food sensitivities, I spend the extra money and get the Enjoy Life chocolate chunks. These chocolate chunks or chips are free from major allergens including dairy, gluten, soy, and nuts. The chucks in my gluten-free granola bars really give them amazing texture. You, of course, can use the chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips, but if you get a chance, try it with chunks!

More you should know about the recipe

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The trick to this recipe is to add enough coconut oil. Coconut is not a tree nut, it is a fruit. My son has a nut allergy, and he can eat coconut. Think of it this way, if coconut was a nut, wouldn’t the ‘nut’ be formed like a walnut or pecan? Instead, coconut is a meat that surrounds water. This, of course, is my opinion. I know some of you disagree with me. But in this recipe, coconut is not a nut. For the coconut oil, I use Kirkland’s from Costco. I always have it on hand.

Coconut has a slew of health benefits. I have another recipe that lists how good coconut is for you, if you want to check it out you can find that here.

As for the sweetness of the homemade granola bars, I chose honey to do the job. There is no other sugar added to this recipe. No brown sugar, no white sugar, and definitely no high fructose corn syrup! Just all-natural honey. Now. If you want to experiment with maple syrup, go for it! There are some recipes where I put half honey and half maple syrup. I just like to try to avoid white sugar if possible.

gluten-free granola bars
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The Most Amazing Gluten-free Granola Bars Ever!

Simple to make with natural ingredients, gluten-free, dairy-free, no-bake, and delicious. This is what a homemade granola bar should taste like!
Course Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword dairy-free, dairy-free granola bars, gluten-free, gluten-free granola bars, granola bar, homemade granola bars, no-bake granola bars, nut-free granola bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Total Time 14 minutes
Servings 12 servings
Calories 200kcal
Cost $6

Equipment

  • 8×8 pan
  • saucepan
  • large bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 cup gluten-free crisp rice (cereal)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil – heaping 1/2 cup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp Honey
  • 1/4 cup raisins or dried fruit
  • 1/4 cup nut-free roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free, nut-free chocolate chunks or chips

Instructions

  • Line your 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper
    lined pan with parchment paper
  • Pulse the oats a few times if you would like them in smaller bits…I prefer this. Otherwise, it's okay to keep the oats whole.
  • Grab a large bowl and put in the oats, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir with spoon or clean hands. I prefer to use my hands.
    oats and spices in bowl
  • Add the dried fruit, crisp rice, sunflower seeds, and chocolate chunks to the bowl. Stir.
  • Combine coconut oil, vanilla, and honey into a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture is bubbling. Remove from heat.
  • Take the honey/oil mixture and pour over the dry ingredients. Stir using a wooden spoon or spatula.
  • Once everything is coated with the honey/oil mixture, dump it all into the lined 8 x 8 pan. PRESS FIRMLY INTO THE PAN. This is how they stay together. Super important!
    granola bars in a pan
  • Cover the pan with foil and place it in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Two hours+ is ideal. Once formed, remove the block of mixture from the pan and cut it into bars to the size of your liking.
  • Store the granola bars in a Zip-Lock bag or air-tight container in the frig. for up to 7 days.

Notes

Please note the calories and cost are estimated. These would be more expensive if you went the organic route. And the calories will differ depending on the size you cut them…not to mention other ingredients you may add.
These bars are excellent on their own, but feel free to add peanuts, almonds, walnuts, or other nuts for a meater bar. You can experiment by adding peanut butter, if you do, put it in the saucepan with the honey/oil mixture. Dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, or dried cherries would be amazing in this granola bar recipe as well.  Enjoy! 

In Conclusion

Having a teenage son and trying to get him to make wise menu options can be challenging. However, having these granola bars on hand has really helped. I hope you enjoy these no-bake gluten-free granola bars as much as my family has. Enjoy!

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By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.


Speedy Dairy-Free Nachos with Simple Ingredients!

Speedy Dairy-Free Nachos with Simple Ingredients!

Nachos no more? If you have to be dairy-free I bet you said goodbye to nachos. I sure did. I also said goodbye to cheese pizza and many other things, but nothing can replace a good plate of nachos. Thanks to some amazing people who feel for us dairy-free folk they have created some amazing dairy-free alternatives.

pulled pork nachos
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Nacho History

But let’s talk nachos. There is nothing like watching a game or coming in from a fun-filled day of summer than popping in a tray of chips and cheese or stacked nachos. Making chips and cheese is one of my fond summer snacks as a kid…when I could eat dairy. The tips of burnt chips with melted cheese and the right amount of taco sauce hit the spot in my taste history.

But where did they come from? According to Wikipedia, nachos were created in 1940 by Ignacio “El Nacho” Anaya. He served up a batch in his restaurant to a few women that wanted a different kind of snack. It was on that day that nachos were born! And yes, the dish is named after its founder.

No more nachos…

After summer fun snacks, I went to college…and the bars. A plate of nachos was to satisfy any bar babe. My friends and I would order up a dish, gobble it down, then…well…it was in college where I learned I was lactose intolerant, whey intolerant too! Needless to say, if I had nachos, you wanted to stay far from me!

Along came parenthood, and I was jonesing for nachos after a day filled with Lego building and football. Because of my intolerances, I completely avoided any dairy-filled product. I ate pizza with no cheese…which isn’t that bad. And nachos was a big no-no. It had been 23 years without this delicious snack. That’s right folks, I was nacho-free for 23 whole years!

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Dairy-free cheese to the rescue!

Thanks to many food manufacturers we now have many dairy-free options. I have tried a lot of them and they all have their perks, but my absolute favorite is the Violife brand. They don’t use pea protein, which can cause a number on people if you know what number I’m talking about.

With this newfound dairy-free cheese I immediately had ‘cheese’ back in my life. I seriously didn’t realize how much I missed it until I had it. Joy reentered my being! Granted I can’t order nachos at a restaurant (because they don’t have the fake cheese), but I can make them at home!

Wrap up before the recipe

My fake-cheese nachos are so delicious you can’t even tell they have dairy-free cheese on them…ask my husband who can eat dairy. We make this favorite dish for main meals at least once a week. On camping trips, this glorified chips and cheese snack makes the menu all the time. It’s SO easy and filling! This recipe checks all my boxes: gluten-free, dairy-free, quick, delicious, easy to make, and little cleanup.

Plus you can build this plate up as much as you want! Add whatever suits your fancy. This is sure to please anyone.

pulled pork nachos
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Super Easy + Yummy Nachos

These delicious nachos are a quick solution to meal on the fly. Easy to make, quick clean-up, a people-pleaser.
Course Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword dairy-free, gluten-free, nachos, pork tacos, snacks, tacos
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 502kcal
Cost 2

Equipment

  • Microwave, Air-Fryer, Oven, or Toaster Oven. Any will work!

Ingredients

  • 2 handfuls Your favorite plain tortillia chip Any tortilla chip works, I persoanlly like restuarant style.
  • 1/2 cup Dairy-free cheddar cheese My favorite brand is Violife.
  • 3 tbsp Taco sauce Again, use your favorite. I like Ortega Original.
  • 3/4 cup Pulled pork We get the premade pulled pork from Costco or Del Real Slow-cooked Pork Carnitas. We have also used left-over pulled pork that we smoked. Do not use the saucy pulled pork.
  • 1/2 cup Avocado Make sure the avocado is ripe but not too ripe. It should have a medium firmness when you lightly touch it.
  • 1/2 cup Tomato chopped Any kind of tomato will do.

Instructions

  • Warm up the pulled pork in the microwave. If you got store bought follow their instructions on the package. We like Del Real Slow-Cooked Pork Carnitas. At the current time, you can get this at Costco. Any NON-SAUCY pulled pork will work.
    pulled pork
  • Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. You can use a microwave or air-fryer too. When I'm in a hurry I just do the microwave.
  • Depending on your cooking tool, spread your chips either on a paper plate (microwave only) or a cookie sheet with foil. I put parchment paper ontop of the foil…it's a bit healthier than on foil.
  • On top of the chips, sprinkle as much cheese as you like. For you dairy eaters, my family prefers the thick cut shredded cheese. For non-dairy I prefer Violife cheddar shreds over other brands.
    Dairy-free Cheese Violife
  • Drizzle the taco sauce over the cheese.
    chips and cheese
  • Spread on as much pulled pork as you would like.
  • Bake or put in the microwave.
    For Baking, keep an eye on it. It's usually done in 5 minutes.
    For microwaving, start out with 45 seconds, then check it, and add another 30-40 seconds for cheese to melt.
  • Chop up the tomoto and avocado, then sprinkle on top!
  • Feel free to add any of your favorite toppings such as peppers, salsa, onions, cilantro. Enjoy!

Notes

The calories are a guesstimate. Based on a medium-size paper plate with 1/2 an avocado. Remember avocado may be high in calories, but it is super good for you! Don’t be afraid of it. 

Enjoy your dairy-free nachos! Be sure to look in your specialty grocery for dairy-free cheese. I hope you appreciated this recipe. And, yes, I did make nachos after I wrote this post. So good!

By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.
Brat n Bacon Stew Recipe

Brat n Bacon Stew Recipe

The combination of brats and bacon is amazing! Add them into a stew and you got yourself a hearty winter meal. This simple and tasty bacon stew is loaded with flavor. It might not be the leanest, but if you want to slurge on a cozy winter evening, this is a stew you should try!

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More about yams and butternut squash

As for nutrition for this stew, we’re getting protein from the brats and the bacon, we’re getting carbohydrates with the noodles or mashed potatoes we serve with it, and we’re getting a slew of vitamins with the add-ins.

Yams or sweet potatoes. There is a difference and you can use whichever one you want for this stew. As for yams, their nutrition label looks great. Yams are a great source of manganese, copper, and potassium. They have a little bit of folate and magnesium too. Yams are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin c. These orange tubers may help our brain function, ease symptoms of menopause, help manage blood sugar, and are a great alternative to white potatoes.

If you go the Butternut Squash route, it’s easy on digestion and has great flavor. This squash is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, E, folate, B-6. It helps lower blood pressure, cancer risk, and asthma. Butternut squash is also great for your hair, skin, and immune system.

Tools I love for this dish

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The number one tool for this dish is the trusty cast-iron pan. It gives the food an extra layer of flavor. Believe me, I’ve done a lot of research on what pan is the healthiest to cook with. One that won’t leach chemicals, aluminum, or Teflon into my food and the cast iron wins every time! It may be heavy, but it’s extremely low maintenance. In fact, if you’re anemic (iron deficient) it helps put a little iron in your system.

One more thing about the cast iron pan, it’s SUPER easy to clean, no soap required. Seriously, no soap, you’ll wreck the ‘seasoning’ of the pan. I highly recommend getting a cast iron pan, even if it’s the small one. You can find them on Amazon.

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Other ingredients and variations

As for other ingredients, I recommend a leaf to two of basil, chopped fresh tomator, or chopped kale to give it some color and extra nutrition boost.

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The piece that brings it all together for me is the olive oil. I use a little bit in the pan, and if I serve gluten-free Ramen noodles I add olive oil to the noodles with a dash of salt. I absolutely love the flavor it brings to each ingredient. My favorite, hands-down olive oil is California Ranch Olive Oil. It’s 100% olive oil. With that said, be sure you get an olive oil you trust is 100%. We don’t need no stinkin’ canola or vegetable oil fillers.

On to the recipe!

Pork stew with bacon
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Brat n Bacon Stew

This bacon n brat stew brings amazing flavor to the table, easy to make, quickly gobbled up.
Course dinner, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword bacon, brats, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, stew, stew with bacon
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 309kcal
Cost $16

Equipment

  • 1 large sauce pan
  • 1 Cast Iron Pan optional

Ingredients

  • 4 links brats, any kind you like
  • 1/2 package pork bacon
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped celery sticks (about 2 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
  • 1 1/2 cup pre-baked yams cubed or butternut squash
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp pepper for taste
  • 1 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup white wine (this is optional)

Instructions

  • Chop the onion, celery, yams (or squash) and make sure they're ready to go.
  • Slice the brats into 1/4 inch slices (chuncks) with skins removed.
  • Slice the bacon into small 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch slices.
  • Put the 2 TBSP of olive oil in the saucepan or cast iron pan, turn on the burner to medium heat. Braise the brat slices.
  • When brats are halfway braised, add the bacon and cook lightly. Do not over cook the bacon so that it is crispy, we want the bacon flimsy. If you used a cast iron pan, transfer cooked brat slices and bacon sliced into a saucepan.
  • Add celery and onion and cook slightly. Stir while cooking.
  • Add the water and garlic powder and bring to a boil. You can add the yams at this time if you want, but I recommend adding them a little later since they are pre-cooked.
  • Once boiling, turn down to a simmer with a top on the pan but slightly cracked.
  • After 10 minutes, add the pre-cooked yam cubes or squash, along with a dash of black pepper, and add the wine (wine is optional).
  • Simmer for the remaning time, checking on it frequently. If it looks like it needs more water, add just a 1/2 cup at a time.
  • Allow to cool to your liking, serve over mashed potatoes, pasta, or Ramen noodles.

Notes

brat and bacon stew
The calories are per serving, which is about 1 1/2 cups; this is an estimate and depends on the type of brats and bacon you choose to use. 
This dish is amazing with Ramen noodles and a side of spinach. Add some fresh tomatoes to give it some color, or a nice piece of garlic toast! 

By CT Copyright © 2022 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.
Warm Kale Salad Recipe

Warm Kale Salad Recipe

Oh my goodness, I am hooked on this warm kale salad recipe! Seriously, this is my new favorite lunch. I actually call this recipe Autumn Awesomeness, but I’ve been eating it all year round. There is something about all the flavors blending so well, crispy curly kale, roasted butternut squash cubes, dried cranberries, grilled chicken, and olive oil…and salt. And my mouth is watering once again. This is a super easy recipe with quick clean-up and packed with nutrition.

kale salad

More about kale and butternut squash

Curly kale is nutrient-dense. I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll just mention the big guys. Per Healthline, curly kale is a huge source of antioxidants, antioxidants fight off free radicals in the body. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for blood clotting. Kale is a source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium! And get this, it even helps us lose weight.

I’m not a big fan of it raw, but I LOVE it crisped up in a pan, especially with a little…do I even say it?…bacon. Be sure to buy organic. The non-organic is has pesticides on it and is one of the Dirty Dozen foods. You can read more about it here. Spend the extra bucks on organic.

Butternut Squash is my favorite squash. It’s easy on digestion and has great flavor. This squash is a good source of calcium, potassium, vitamin A, E, folate, B-6. It helps lower blood pressure, cancer risk, and asthma. Butternut squash is also great for your hair, skin, and immune system.

Roasting it in the oven with a little olive oil and salt is my favorite way to cook it. I’ve also had it mashed, which is delightful especially with a little butter or non-dairy butter. Yum!

This is a great recipe for us folks who have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) like Crohn’s or colitis. With all the ingredients cooked, it makes it a lot easier on our systems to digest and absorb the nutrients.

does a body good

Tools needed for this dish

Get a small one on Amazon!

The number one tool for this dish is the trusty cast-iron pan. It gives the food an extra layer of flavor. Believe me, I’ve done a lot of research on what pan is the healthiest to cook with. One that won’t leach chemicals, aluminum, or Teflon into my food and the cast iron wins every time! It may be heavy, but it’s extremely low maintenance. In fact, if you’re anemic (iron deficient) it helps put a little iron in your system.

One more thing about the cast iron pan, it’s SUPER easy to clean, no soap required. Seriously, no soap, you’ll wreck the ‘seasoning’ of the pan. I highly recommend getting a cast iron pan, even if it’s the small one. You can find them on Amazon.

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Other ingredients and variations

As for other ingredients, I recommend grilled chicken breast. You can opt for already cooked or make it yourself. When I’m in a hurry I’ll buy the already grilled chicken strips. Or if I’m in a BIG hurry I’ll just microwave gluten-free chicken nuggets.

Get it on Amazon!

The piece that brings it all together for me is the olive oil. I use a little bit in the pan for the kale, and then at the end to finish the dish. I absolutely love the flavor it brings to each ingredient. My favorite, hands-down olive oil is California Ranch Olive Oil. It’s 100% olive oil. With that said, be sure you get an olive oil you trust is 100%. We don’t need no stinkin’ canola or vegetable oil fillers.

Variations to the recipe. This is such a versatile recipe that any protein would work: brats, strips of steak, shrimp, or bacon. Adding a thinly sliced red onion also adds more depth. Enjoy!

On to the recipe!

kale squash recipe
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Autumn Awesomeness

This is an amazingly healthy yet tasty dish for lunch or dinner. The chard kale and roasted butternut squash complement each other, while the dried cranberries make it pop. This is gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and nut-free!
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, kale, low-fat, nut-free, soy-free, squash
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Servings 1
Calories 598kcal
Author Christy
Cost 2.00

Equipment

  • small cast iron pan
  • baking sheet with parchment paper
  • knife and cutting board

Ingredients

  • 3 Organic Curly Kale Sprigs
  • 1 c Baked cubed Butternut Squash
  • 4 Strips of grilled chicken or 4 GF Chicken nuggets
  • 2 TBSP Dried Cranberries or Cherries
  • 3 TBSP Olive Oil 1TBSP for frying kale, 2 TBSP for topping at the end
  • 1 pinch Salt

Instructions

  • Heat cast iron pan on low.
  • Wash thoroughly, pat dry, remove stalks, and chop. Put chopped kale into the pan. Then add 1 TBSP olive oil. It might get messy and splatter if kale is not dried off. Be careful.
    kale
  • I pre-roast an entire cubed squash. 350 for 40 minutes. Just toss a little olive oil and salt in before baking. Tip: Costco usually has raw cubed squash. Do not use frozen squash! You can also peel and cube your own squash.
    butternut squash
  • After kale is charred and well cooked, wrap a dish towel around the cast iron panhandle and put kale on a plate.
  • Take leftover chicken, pre-cooked grilled chicken (Costco), or Gluten-free chicken nuggets. Microwave for the allotted time, or cook in your cast iron pan to warm. When done, put on top of kale.
  • Add squash to kale and chicken. Sprinkle dried cranberries on top. Drizzle olive oil and add a pinch of salt. Delish!
  • For added flavor, add thinly sliced red onion, roasted pecans, or crispy bacon!
    kale salad

Notes

Calories may vary on chicken type and the amount you use. 

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.
How to Simplify Meal Planning! + My Secret Weapon

How to Simplify Meal Planning! + My Secret Weapon

When it comes to meal planning it can either be super fun or a drag. Cooking and I have a love/hate relationship. There are days when it is soothing to my soul, and other days it’s like a ton of bricks on my shoulders. For those hard days, it would be easy for me to tell you to look at it with a fresh perspective; like a form of entertainment or a ‘serenity scene’. There are times when kitchen-time will do that for me, but let’s face it, just figuring out what to eat has been a chore. Today I have a simple yet powerful solution for you when you have to answer the question “What’s for dinner?”. It’s my secret weapon to reduce stress for everyone under the roof!

Do you have a plan when your family asks What's for Dinner?

What’s for dinner?

During my morning coffee time with my husband, I noticed when we ask each other what we want for dinner I start sweating. How could three little words stress me out? What’s for dinner?  

Starting the day out with these words was not doing me any favors. The problem? I didn’t know how to answer the question. Foods would start swirling in my mind with questions like What does Mark like? What can Dave eat? What is easy? What is healthy? Should we go out? But where? When can we all eat together? Hence, the sweat.

There are times in life when it’s actually nice to have someone tell you what you’re having for dinner instead of giving you a choice. Have you ever looked at all the different kinds of jelly and jam at the grocery store? There are a TON of them. How did we get to this point of too many choices? For me when there are too many choices, my friend, Mr. Overwhelm, comes to visits. He tornados through the shelves blurring my vision and confusing the heck out of me. I’ve had times I even walked away because there were simply too many choices.

So when someone asks me “What’s for dinner?” and I can’t answer that, it usually results in me thinking about it ALL DAY LONG. This can be a major distraction and a nuisance. If only I put more thought into meal planning!

How to answer the question

My fix to this madness is to have a piece of paper tell me what’s for dinner. Yep, a simple piece of paper. If you really wanted to get creative, you could origami a paper puppet and have it talk to you. Okay, that’s a little crazy, but your kids might like it!

When I have a plan in place, my stress level drops tremendously and I can move forward with my day. There are a couple of ways we can go about this. We can either look up meal plans online or we can create our own. Either way works. But to make life simple, just use my monthly guide and fill in the blanks. You can find my guide in Freebies. Some meal planners online can be overly complicated and have ingredients or items that are unrealistic.

Meal planning made simple, we’re not going to die

For my family, simply writing out the source of protein and one side dish does the trick. With that said, every Sunday I grab my piece of paper and write out the week’s meal plan, and if it’s like last week, so be it. No one is going to die.

When I plan I only plan dinner; breakfast and lunch are ‘whatever meals’ in my head. As long as I have healthy choices for the kiddos, I’m good. In fact, I gave my son a guide for making his own lunch. His lunch needs to include a source of protein, a veggie, and some fruit…then he picks what he eats! Our kids have to learn how to meal plan and prep too!

As I said earlier, for dinner, I only pick a protein and maybe a side dish, then I fill in the gaps with what I have laying around. For instance, tonight, we’re having brats and green beans. I’ll probably fill in the gaps with either noodles or plain potato chips. Tomorrow we’re having salmon and baked potatoes, and I’ll probably throw in blueberries. The next day it’s grilled chicken and roasted butternut squash, and I’ll probably add some strawberries. Simple, easy, and good for our bodies.

Grocery shopping made super simple

To save time and cravings at the grocery store, don’t go to the store. That’s right, now a day, there are people who will grocery shop for you! This is an incredible service, especially if you hate grocery shopping or you just can’t get to the store for other reasons.

My preferred service is Shipt. Not only am I a Shipt shopper…because I do love grocery shopping…but I know the quality Shipt delivers. Most of these shoppers take it seriously because Shipt takes care of the shoppers. Sure you’ll run into a few incompetent eggs, but most shoppers do their best. We want to help people and earn a few extra dollars. With that said, tipping is always appreciated.

But I have food sensitivities

My family is a bit unique. Remember the jelly and jams in the grocery store? Well, our specific diets went from being able to have many choices, to just a handful. Actually preparing meals, where we could eat anything, was a heck of a lot more stressful than being able to eat just a few things… the bright side to food allergies and sensitivities.

My son and I have limited menus due to inflammation in our bodies. Sure, we could continue to eat everything we wanted, but we would pay a huge price for it. It’s been my choice to reduce the inflammation in our bodies as much as I can by making a few changes in my diet. And it has been very effective and I don’t feel deprived!

My son and I can’t eat dairy or gluten (wheat, rye, barley). He also can’t have nuts. But I can. I can’t do eggs or soy, but he can. It gets really confusing. We both have gone through tests and we also went through food elimination to help us determine what we could eat and what would backfire. We want our bodies to heal, in order to do that we must eliminate the bully. So when it comes to meal planning, it actually becomes a little easier after you figure out what is causing issues! Yes, I said easier. How? There are fewer choices.

does a body good

But what if you don’t have a special diet to follow?

If you want to be healthy, stop weight gain, and put an end to cravings, eat like you meant it. Food is meant to fuel our bodies. Having food taste good is a bonus. When we cut back on processed and sugary foods, our bodies will be given a chance to heal and be happy.

As our body adjusts to a cleaner menu, our cravings will change from wanting junk to wanting pure food. You might be like, “Shut up Christy! I’m not doing that!” Friend, that’s the junk food talking, not you. Bad mood foods? Yes, they exist. Trans fats disrupt the balance of our omega-3 fatty acids, and when our omegas are low, it can lead to a bad mood. Not only that, but blood sugar can play a role in mood swings as well. When our nutrition is off, so is our frame of mind. I didn’t even talk about hormones and foods.

You might save a few bucks too by eating a simpler menu. Fewer doctor visits, simpler food. Cha-ching!

Meal planning in a nutshell

Circling back to taking the stress out of meal planning; simply use a pencil and my meal planner to extinguish the “What’s for dinner?” question. It’s okay if you have the same menu plan for a couple of weeks. We just need to feed our family wholesome foods.   

Post your planner on the refrigerator or a kitchen cupboard so everyone can see what the main meal will be for the night. Heck, you can even use a paper talking puppet to tell your little ones what’s for dinner. Download the Meal Planner in Freebies. Bon appétit!

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.    

No-bake Cookies with Coconut!

No-bake Cookies with Coconut!

You’ve had no-bake cookies before, but have you had healthy no-bake cookies with coconut? I seriously cannot tell the difference, making these cookies guilt-free! These are easy to make and are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and soy-free. With coconut oil, coconut milk, and shredded coconut you’ll be amazed at the flavor and texture they add to these tasty treats!

Jump to Recipe
no bake cookies

Gluten and cookies

Cookies are one of my absolute favorite food. So when I had to change my diet to gluten-free, you better believe I got a little depressed! Let’s face it gluten-free cookies are not the same as chewy gluten-filled cookies. But we gluten-free consumers need to work with what we got, right? It’s not worth eating gluten and suffering for hours.

What gluten does for cookies, is that it helps hold things together. There have been countless attempts to make the perfect gluten-free cookie when then it crumbles in your hand and jams up your mouth with an occasional crumb going down the wrong pipe. It boils down to the flour. In this recipe, I just took out the flour!

Easy Peasy Making

This is probably my favorite gluten-free savory cookie. No baking is involved here, you could easily make these cookies camping, or even backpacking in the cool mountains. These decadent biscuits melt in your mouth and feel sinful to eat, but they aren’t! I don’t know if I’d say they’re good for you, but you can be the judge of that.

Peanut Butter Benefits

Peanut butter has been around since only 1904. It was introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair. It was used as a protein source for World War I and World War II.

Not only is peanut butter a good source of protein, but it also contains omega-3 fats. It is a good source of vitamin E, vitamin B6, manganese, and magnesium. Believe it or not, it also has copper in it!

Peanut butter is good for your heart; it can help reduce the risk of diabetes, and it even has some anticancer properties.

Where to buy peanut butter

Get it on Amazon

The best kind of peanut butter to buy is organic. Organic peanut butter doesn’t have any added trans fats, sugars, or other hydrogenated oils. When those extra things are added to peanut butter, there are no health benefits; in fact, it’s the opposite. Hydrogenated oils increase omega-6s, and when you get too much of a good thing (omega-6) it makes it bad for your body and may cause weight gain along with inflammation. Yikes!

Spend the extra money and buy organic! Organic peanut butter is simply organic peanuts and salt. Please read the labels on your peanut butter, it makes a huge difference. I personally like Costco brand, Kirkland Organic Peanut Butter. Plus, I store my peanut butter in the refrigerator.

What’s up with Coconut?

Coconut is so incredibly healthy for you. These cookies have coconut oil, coconut milk, and organic shredded coconut. Coconut oil may be 90% saturated fat, but the highest in content of lauric acid, which in a twisted way can help improve the level of lipids traveling through the blood. That means it is likely it will reduce the risk of heart disease! That sounds pretty technical, but I wanted to share this with you because I eat this every day.

15 Benefits to Coconut

1. It helps prevent heart disease and high blood pressure.

2. It can help treat Alzheimer’s.

3. It BE good for the ole liver.

4. Reduces Inflammation and Arthritis

5. It’s antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral! Works well on cuts and skin issues.

6. Improves energy

7. It helps the gut heal by destroying bad bacteria and that nasty Candida (yeast overgrowth).

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8. Prevents Osteoporosis by helping to increase the absorption of calcium and magnesium.

9. It’s Anti-aging. Now we’re talkin’!

10. It helps balance hormones naturally. Now we’re really talkin’!

11. Thickens hair and helps with dandruff. It’s a natural hair conditioner.

12. It helps improve sleep when consumed every day.

13. It can help with environmental allergies if you rub the inside of your nose with it.

14. Speeds up the healing of sunburn.

15. It’s an amazing oil to make homemade popcorn with. Just sub coconut oil in place of your other oil. Yum!

Sources: Dr. Axe, Wellness Mama

Get it on Amazon

What kind to buy?

When buying coconut oil get the Virgin, Unrefined. We get our coconut oil from Costco because we go through quite a bit. If you don’t have a Costco Membership, no problem! You can get it on Amazon. I highly recommend this product, especially if you use a lot of it. If you don’t use a whole lot, get a smaller container at the store.

Let’s get to the no-bake cookies with coconut recipe!

no-bake cookies with coconut
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No Bake Cookies with Coconut

Gluten-free, Dairy-free delicus no-bake cookies with coconut! Health snack filled with comfort.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword cookies, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, no-bake, peanut butter
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Chill for at least an hour 1 hour
Servings 8
Calories 200kcal
Cost $3.00

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
  • 3 Tbsp Honey
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Milk
  • 1/3 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1+1/2 cup Gluten-free Rolled Oats
  • 1/3 cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

Instructions

  • Get all your ingredients out and ready to go. This goes kind of quickly!
  • Size a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper over a cookie sheet.
  • With a food processor or handheld pulser, process the oats with a few good pluses. This makes the oats easier to chew and digest. If you like the oats whole, skip this step.
  • In a saucepan, turn heat to medium and add the coconut oil.
  • Slowly add the maple syrup, honey, coconut milk, and peanut butter. Using a whisk, stir the mixture.
  • Add the peanut butter and continue to whisk. Then add the cocoa. Keep whisking!
  • Bring to a slow boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat.
  • Stir in the oats.
  • Add the shredded coconut.
  • Using a spoon, scoop mixture onto the cookie sheet to desired size, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.
  • After at least 60 minutes, remove and put cookies in a baggie for storage in the frig. Or, simply enjoy your amazing no-bake cookies!
    no bake cookies

Notes

no-bake cookies with coconut
Calories are an educational guess, this depends on how large you make your cookies. I based the calories on a cookie the size of the palm of a hand or 3-inch diameter. 
If you want to cool the cookies faster, put them in the freezer for about 30 – 40 minutes.Store cookies in the frig. for up to 10 days. 
NOTE: I experimented with organic sugar cane instead of syrup and honey, and it didn’t work for me. While in the saucepan it became frothy and gave the cookies a grainy texture and burnt-like taste. 

All in all

These no-bake cookies with coconut are a perfect 3:00 snack at work, after school, or even for breakfast. I’ve been known to eat one after a workout, why not? It’s healthy, full of protein, and has just the right amount of carbs and benefits from coconut. Note, I have not tried these with almond butter or cashew butter, but I’m sure it would work. Enjoy!

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By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.
Quick Healthy Meals On a Budget? 5 Criteria

Quick Healthy Meals On a Budget? 5 Criteria

How can we make a quick healthy meal on a budget? When it comes to meals I use five criteria to measure success: taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. Let’s jump right in.

quick healthy meals on a budget

My secret ingredients to flavor

Have you noticed when you eat something that tastes good, stress doesn’t exist for that moment? Bland food is quite boring and can leave us unsatisfied. Let’s fix the “blaa” with a little “bam-bam”. Here are some of my favorite flavor touches that are easy to use and budget-friendly:

McCormick’s Steak Seasoning.

This is so simple and super tasty.

Hot sauce.

My husband is Mr. Hot Sauce. He enjoys: Red Hot and Sriracha.

Fresh garlic.

I make my own garlic bread with fresh garlic, I simply use a mincer. It’s a much cleaner and healthier way than garlic powder or garlic salt. 

Oregano.

This herb helps fight bacteria, it’s high in antioxidants, helps reduce viral infection and many more benefits.

Salt.

We love our salt but need to watch the blood pressure and bones. Salt helps with fluid balance, nerve transmission, and even muscle function.

Does a Body Good Printable

Methods for a healthier meal

My second criteria for reducing stress in the kitchen is to concoct a healthy meal using the right tools. I have five main ways to cook healthy meals:

The oven. Baking fish and starches instead of frying save us a lot of heartaches…literally…and calories for that matter. Roasting potatoes, squash, and even cauliflower are super easy and a healthier method. All you need to do cube the veggie and toss it in olive oil with a little salt set the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes with a little toss mid-way. Simply test with a fork for your liking.

The Air Fryer If I’m in a hurry yet want a break from the microwave, I opt for the Air-fryer or the toaster oven. I love these things! I use them for warming up homemade waffles, a small batch of cookies or brownies, garlic bread, a small pizza, and chicken nuggets. Both cooking devices automatically shut off when the timer is done, so I can put my dish in it and forget it. The air fryer is awesome for campers and RV’s. We use this one.

The grill. We use our grill all year round and we live in Michigan! To keep grilling safe and healthy, it’s important to keep it clean. Be sure to scrape the grill with a brush before using, and clean the grill at least three times a year if you’re a heavy user; meaning, giving the grates a good soak in Dawn dish soap.  

The microwave. Yes, I use the microwave to warm up meals when I’m in a hurry. My main reasons for the microwave are frozen veggies, chicken nuggets, and microwave popcorn.

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Cast Iron Pan. This is my secret weapon in the kitchen when it comes to speed, taste, and easy cleanup. Everyone should have a cast iron pan. This pan, as my son would say, is ‘Beast’…meaning cool. When it gets hot, it stays hot. And cleaning it is a piece of cake, no soap! Simply rinse and heat back up on the stove to dry. Easy peasy! I love my cast iron pans.

Speed

I do love my Crockpot, but I only use it maybe once a week. There are loads of kitchen gadgets promising this or that; we get excited for a few weeks then tuck it away in an abyss cupboard. Keep it simple in the kitchen, stick to the old fashion way of cooking. You’ll find it actually goes pretty fast.

Cast iron pan

I wasn’t joking about old fashion. Like my son says, “It’s beast!”

Boiling water

The old saying to put a wooden spoon on top of the rim of the pan to make the water boil faster? Well, it works. Simply lay a wooden spoon across the top of the pan, kind of like a bridge. In about a handful of minutes, the water is ready for the pasta.

Freezer meals

I’m not a fan of freezing meals unless it’s leftover chili or stew. Lasagna is another good freezer meal, but other than that, it’s easier to resort to the grocery’s freezer meals. You should venture into your freezer and clean it from old food every quarter.

Digestion

There are a lot of factors leading to diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, acid reflex, and cramping. They range from food allergies, food sensitivities, food combining, eating too fast, the lack of digestive enzymes, hormones, bile acid, autoimmune disorders, gut flora, leaky gut, and/or viruses and bad bacteria.

My first strategy in figuring out why I feel icky is to eliminate the most common inflammatory foods: dairy, gluten (wheat), nuts, soy, and eggs. Food elimination will take time, but it’s worth it when you figure it out.

Disclosure

*Please note, I’m not a doctor, nor am I trying to be. I share information I have either experienced myself or are extremely interested in, and then I keep things simple and give you the nutshell version. Please consult your physician before jumping into new things.

Just so you know, it takes about three weeks for cow’s milk protein to vacate your system. For wheat, it takes two weeks to feel a bit better, but around three months for it to be out of your system. For soy and eggs, it’s two weeks. Here’s a good post from All Ways Well on how to go about it. Keep it simple, your body will love you, and you’ll help it heal!

Budget: 6 ways to save on meals

1 – Join store membership

One of the ways I save money on meals is to join the store membership. One of my stores kicks back $7.00 after I reach a certain goal. They also have online coupons. Not to mention member only specials! And you can even shop and scan with the app.

2 – Buy what’s in season

Another way I save is to adjust my menu with what is growing in season. For squash dishes, I delay until fall and early winter. Strawberry pie is good in March. Here is a quick guide to knowing what fruits and veggies are in season so you know when you’re getting the best deal on them. Download my In-Season guide now.

3 – Go to different stores

A third trick is to go to different stores to get the best price. For instance, the coconut milk ice cream I buy isn’t on sale at my normal store, but it is on sale at my secondary store. This may be a lot of running around, so you’ll have to make the call whether it’s worth the gas, but I find this technique helpful. I have about five go-to stores to get the best deals. But how do you remember where you got what? You can download my Where I Buy Memory Guide and tuck it in your planner or handbag. Now you’ll never have to remember where you got what again!

memory guide

4 – Buy store brand

Buy store brand. There is not much difference in taste and quality from name brand goods to store brand.

5 – Watch the ingredients

Watch the ingredients! Yes, you can save money by reading the nutrition label. How? Some food manufacturers use ingredients that are addictive, like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and MSG…not to mention salt and just plain sugar. When you eat more, you buy more of it! Steer clear of HFCS and MSG. I know they’re tasty but they don’t do you any favors from a wallet and health perspective.

6 – Don’t skimp the protein

Don’t skimp on the protein. Sure some proteins can be expensive, but so are second helpings and snacking! When our bodies don’t get the protein we are hungry all the time, which can lead to overeating, weight gain, and crankiness…yes, carbs do that. Make a point to eat some protein at every meal. To save even more money, buy protein in bulk at a membership store like Costco or Sam’s. Be sure to look at the price per unit to make the best decision.

Sources of protein include nuts, dairy (unless you’re sensitive), seeds, chicken, fish, pork, beef, turkey, tempeh (soy), quinoa, broccoli, and lentils.

In conclusion

When it comes to meals, use your head not your stomach. My five criteria get the job done for me. I go for taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. My hope is that you found some new ideas to test out. As an added bonus, here is a 5-day menu plan based on all my criteria. Enjoy!

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

Simple Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Leg Recipe

Simple Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Leg Recipe

The bacon-wrapped chicken leg is a tailgate show stopper. This recipe is also a hit at summer barbecues, picnics, and Super Bowl parties. With only two ingredients this dish is super easy to make and fun for the kids.

Jump to Recipe

Bacon + Chicken?

Bacon marries well with anything, and chicken is a top 5 bacon-lovers mate. Move over salmon BLT, here’s come the chicken leg! When it comes to making this recipe involve the kids. Wrapping the bacon around the chicken leg is a lot of fun and easy to do.

Even though there are two ingredients, make sure you buy high quality chicken and bacon. The cleaner the chicken the better tasting and texture, same with the bacon. I opt for the organic chicken and nitrate-free bacon.

Added bonuses to the bacon-wrapped chicken leg

My husband has played around with putting chicken seasoning on the chicken before the bacon is wrapped around it, I personally don’t think it needs it. With this recipe, you’re open to experimenting. You might even like to play with a little barbeque sauce. Yum!

bacon wrapped chicken leg
Check price on Amazon

Special chicken leg tool

You will need a tool to make this all happen. Get on Amazon and buy a chicken leg rack. We have this one, which we bought on Amazon. You can use it in the oven or on the grill. We have used it in both environments. It’s a good buy and a necessity for this recipe.

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The perfect sides and finishing touches

My only advice when eating bacon-wrapped chicken legs is to have a toothpick handy when you’re done; not to mention, a napkin or hand wipe. They may get a little messy, but who cares! Your family and friends will enjoy this recipe. If there’s bacon, they will come.

Great side dishes to serve with bacon-wrapped chicken legs depends on the season. If it’s summer, I’d go with an amazing potato salad and watermelon mint salad. For game day, I’d choose some fancy potato chips and veggie sticks with dip. If you’re having this dish for dinner, go for some fun garlic noodles, steamed broccoli, and red grapes. Another great healthy choice is to make my warm kale salad, this dish is nutrient-dense!

bacon wrapped chicken legs
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Easy Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Legs

This simple chicken recipe is a family favorite! It has bacon… Only two ingredients and not that high in calories!
Course Appetizer, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword bacon, chicken, dairy-free, gluten-free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 215kcal
Cost $8

Equipment

  • Chicken Leg Rack
  • Meat thermometer

Ingredients

  • 6 Legs A package of chicken legs Skin on is fine. Spend the extra dollars for a higher quality chicken. It makes a big difference.
  • 1/2 Package Bacon Any bacon will do. Again, to be healthier, choose a low sodium bacon or preservative free.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and get your chicken rack ready.
  • Take the skin off the chicken legs
  • Grab one strip of bacon and wrap one chicken leg. Start at the bottom of the leg and work your up to the top. You might be able to tuck the bacon into a bacon row.
  • Continue to wrap the rest of the chicken legs and put them in the Chicken Rack.
  • Bake or Grill the bacon wrapped chicken legs for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
  • Check the internal temperature of the chicken, remember it's to be 165.
  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes then DIG IN!

Notes

Calories are an estimate per bacon-wrapped chicken leg. This is an amazing tailgate snack. My teenage son loves these things, he’ll eat four! Serve with some greens, potato salad, pasta, or broccoli and you’ve got yourself a meal!

Wrapping it up! (get it?)

We took this recipe to a tailgate for a college football game and let’s just say the chicken was gone in an instant. So if that’s your plan…to take it to a game…you may want to get two chicken leg racks!

FYI- My son is known to put the leftovers in his lunch. Yes, bacon-wrapped chicken legs are good cold too! Another great lunch option for the kiddos. Enjoy!

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By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.
Fried Walleye Recipe

Fried Walleye Recipe

Fried Walleye

This walleye recipe is a family favorite! If you missed my post about Omega, Oils, Why I’m Picky, you’ll want to check’r out. Walleye has got to be one of the best fish to fry, well Crappies are good too. But walleye is definitely a special treat.

More about Walleye

Walleye got its name from its eye. The eyes are very big on a walleye and it’s pearlescent, which helps them see and feed at night. With that said they are a nocturnal fish. It lives in freshwater and is related to the perch family. Walleye like cold deep waters. You can find them in the Great Lakes region, Canadian lakes, Northwest Territories, and the Mississippi River basin.

To eat, walleye is one of the healthiest fish. It’s a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for our hearts and brains. Walleye is also a good source of vitamin D. The fish has white flesh and has a clean, succulent taste, it’s mild and sweet perfect for frying or baking. Yum! My mouth is seriously watering now. I should mention to not eat ‘walleye sushi’ so-to-speak. Always cook walleye before eating.

Walleye fun fact

Ingredients needed for this dish

click the pan for details

I use a cast-iron pan, not a deep pan, just you’re regular pan. We’re pan-frying for this walleye recipe, not deep frying, we’ll leave the deep frying for Blue Gills. A cast-iron pan really does make a difference, plus it’s SUPER easy to clean, no soap required. Seriously, no soap, you’ll wreck the ‘seasoning’ of the pan. I highly recommend getting one, even if it’s the small one. You can find them on Amazon.

click for details

As for other ingredients in this fried walleye recipe, we use coconut oil. It has a high flash point, which is great for frying. It heats up quickly. The coconut oil is a clean oil. It doesn’t taste like coconut at all. And it’s good for you! Much better than Canola or Vegetable oil. We get ours through Costco because we go through quite a bit. If you don’t have a Costco Membership, no problem! You can get it on Amazon. I highly recommend this product. When buying coconut oil get the Virgin, Unrefined.

For the breading, since my family and I need to be gluten-free we use a gluten-free pancake mix. I personally like Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Buttermilk Pancake Mix. We’ve tried Bisquick Gluten-Free too (that’s dairy-free). And I should mention we also tried Potato Starch. All work well! If you’re not gluten-free, I recommend any pancake mix. With this recipe we only want a dusting on the fish, we aren’t getting the pancake mix wet. Simply put the mix in a bowl and dust the fish with it, done!

Fishing Facts & Fun for Kids!

If your kids love to fish, this download will be a winner. Whether you are camping with kids, or you’re headed out to fish, be sure to bring this fishing printable along!

Designed for kids 6+ years old. Games, puzzles, fishing tips, facts, jokes, and coloring. This will keep them busy while watching their bobber!

Click here for more details and to purchase your copy!

Side dish?

As a side dish, anything works well. Although I’d stay away from pasta. Green beans and a store-bought potato salad are easy and good. Or the infamous broccoli/bacon salad is a favorite. If you’re going to have fruit, eat it while cooking your meal. You can check out my food-combining chart here to learn more about it.

On to the recipe!

Walleye
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Fried Walleye

Walleye fried in coconut oil.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword egg-free, fish, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free
Prep Time 12 minutes
Cook Time 4 minutes
Servings 1 person
Calories 229kcal
Cost $3.00

Equipment

  • Cast Iron Pan
  • Tongs
  • Filet Knife
  • Cuttingboard
  • Bowl
  • Papertowel

Ingredients

  • 3 oz. Freshly caught walleye Go by size not weight, 1 large filet or so will work.
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Oil A heaping tablespoon in solid form.
  • 1/3 cup Pancake Mix I used Trader Joe's Gluten-free Buttermilk Pancake Mix.
  • 1 tsp Salt

Instructions

  • Wash fish off in cold water, pat try with a paper towel. Carefully remove any skin from walleye with a filet knife.
  • Turn stove on to medium heat and heat cast iron pan.
  • Put solid coconut oil in the pan. After it melts, you may need to adjust how much. You want about 1/4 inch of melted oil. Do not let the oil smoke…this is too hot.
  • While the pan is slowly heating up. Place fish into the pancake mix and dust all sides.
  • Slowly insert dusted fish into the hot cast iron pan. The oil should sizzle.
  • When you see the outer edges of fish start to brown, about 2 minutes; flip the fish with the tongs gently and cook for another 90 seconds to 2 minutes.
  • Turn off the stove and transfer cooked walleye to a plate covered with a paper towel. 229
    walleye recipe
  • Salt the fish to your liking.
  • Eat within a few minutes.
    walleye

Notes

Calories are an estimate. Walleye is 79 calories per 3 ounzes. Consuming raw or undercooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish, or eggs may increase your risk of foodborne illness.

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

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