Apple Butter French Toast

Apple Butter French Toast for breakfast on Christmas morning is oneSmith Family Resources Christmas Cactus Gluten-Free Apple Butter French Toast recipe of our family’s favorite traditions. When gluten had to be removed from my daughter’s diet, my initial plan was to substitute a gluten-free pancake served with apple butter and cream cheese. My daughter wanted to experiment with a gluten-free alternative for the same toast instead. This recipe is the result of her experimenting.

Bekah’s Gluten-Free Apple Butter French Toast

(a modification of a recipe from The Whitehall Inn in New Hope, Pennsylvania, as featured in A Country Inn Breakfast by Gail Greco)

  • 10 slices Udi’s Delicious Soft White Sandwich Bread
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 Tbsp. almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
  • coconut oil
  • Optional toppings: apple butter, cream cheese, maple syrup or honey

Mix together the eggs, juice, milk and vanilla. Coat both sides of each slice of bread with the egg mixture. Add coconut oil to a skillet or griddle. When the surface reaches about 325°, lay the bread in and pour more of the egg mixture over it. Cook until golden brown, then turn the bread over to brown the other side. Top with apple butter and/or cream cheese if desired and enjoy with maple syrup or honey.

Seasonal Substitutions

I started my usual Christmas baking today. Since this time last year, one of my children has learned that eating even one bite of gluten is extremely hazardous to her health. Today I realized that ALL of our go-to recipes for Christmas delicacies include gluten. And I know from past experience that just substituting gluten-free flour for all-purpose does NOT necessarily yield a great result.

While toying with a traditional sugar cookie recipe, I decided to try some almond scones. The recipe was shared recently at Diabetes Brought Us Together by my friend Heidi who learned it from her mother who acquired it from her friend Paula. These scones are incredibly delicious, and they are gluten-free, dairy-free, AND sugar-free! Heidi calls them Paula’s Impossible (to mess up) Almond Scones.  I’m calling mine…

Heidi’s Incredibly Delicious Almond SconesHeidi's Almond Scones

  • 2 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • *Pick an add-in combo

Mix all the ingredients until a thick dough is formed. Drop on baking sheet in generous tablespoon-sized blobs. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes.

*1/2 cup pecans and 1/3 cup shredded coconut

* Chocolate chips and 3 drops orange essential oil

*Dried cherries and chocolate chips

* 1 tsp pumpkin spice and pecans

*Lemon zest and blueberries

I made mine with orange essential oil and dried cherries, and, true to their name, they are incredibly delicious!

I then turned my efforts to our traditional sugar cookie recipe and was very pleased with the outcome!

Melissa’s Almond Sugar Cookies

Cream together 1 stick of butter, 1/3 cup sugar and 1egg. Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract.

Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of almond flour and mix thoroughly.

Form cookies by dropping about 2 tsp. of dough on to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about an inch apart. (I tried using my cookie press but found the dough to be too thin. I see more experimentation in my future!)

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes.

And, finally, what to do about our family favorite, Apple Butter French Toast??

As a substitute for the French bread stuffed with a mixture of apple butter and cream cheese, I’ve decided to serve a gluten-free pancake and an apple butter/cream cheese spread. Here’s my favorite gluten-free pancake recipe.

Kristin’s Pancakes

Stir together:

  • 1 cup gluten-free oats
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1/2 cup egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • 2 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Cook in coconut oil.

    I hope my family will enjoy these seasonal substitutions. If you have other tried and true gluten-free recipes for seasonal favorites, please share!

    Strawberry Cookies

    Strawberry Breakfast CookiesThis recipe was originally shared on http://ditchthewheat.com with the name, “Paleo Strawberry Breakfast Cookies.” But I say, why just breakfast? My family loves these cookies for breakfast, for dessert after any meal and for snacks in between!

    Here’s the recipe with a few minor modifications:

    Strawberry Breakfast Cookies

    Ingredients:

    • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
    • 6 Tbsp. water
    • 3 cups almond flour
    • 3/4 cup raw honey
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup almond butter
    • 1 cup strawberries

    Combine chia seeds and water and set aside for 5 minutes to form a gel.

    In a separate bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

    To the dry mixture, add the “chia eggs,” vanilla extract, almond butter, and honey. Stir to combine all.

    Add the strawberries and stir to combine. Allow to sit for 2-3 minutes.

    Scoop 1 Tbsp. of dough onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and flatten the top of the dough slightly.

    Bake at 375° for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.

    Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

    Yields: 36 cookies

    My Favorite Breakfast

    For years, my typical breakfast was a bowl of cereal with milk. I branched out some when I realized I needed more fruits and vegetables in my diet. Then, a month of dairy-free eating caused me to try something I was sure I wouldn’t like: chia pudding.

    Chia pudding is made with coconut milk, and I don’t like coconut.

    But I was pleasantly surprised! I did like it! Chia pudding is so good! It’s better than yogurt. (Scroll down for my recipe.)

    My favorite breakfast now consists of about half a cup of chia pudding with about two cups of fruit.  This morning’s treat features 1/2 cup of kiwi, 1/2 cup of pineapple, and 1 cup of blueberries.

    What’s YOUR favorite breakfast?

    DA8D1C52-DB7A-4648-AC0A-53ACCA5D8768

    Chia pudding

    Add 1/2 cup of chia seeds and 1/4 cup of maple syrup to 14 ounces of coconut milk. Whisk all together and refrigerate for several hours before serving. Add fresh fruit and enjoy!

    Back to Bone Ami

    I never realized how difficult it is to get the necessary Vitamin D, calcium and magnesium in food! After a month of keeping a food diary and tracking my nutrients on Cronometer, it has beome apparent that even my healthier diet with 6-9 cups of fruits and vegetables every day is not supplying what I need for bone health.

    So, I’m turning to an old supplement friend, Bone Ami. This time, I’m choosing the liquid version which supplies 400 IU of vitamin D, 500 mg of calcium, and 250 mg of magnesium in every dose. The liquid form is more readily absorbed, and, in case you’re wondering, it tastes really good! I still have to make good food choices to reach my target goals for these nutrients, but the goal is now possible, thanks to Bone Ami.

    My next bone density scan should happen in October 2018. I lost ground from 2012 to 2014 and barely maintained from 2014 to 2016. I’ve been told that women in my demographic can’t gain bone density, that we just have to work hard to keep from losing. Maybe that’s true- but what if it’s not? I’m giving my bones my best shot. I’m eating well, nourishing them from within, and I’m exercising, strengthening them from without. And now I’m giving them a little extra help from Bone Ami.

    So, friends, is it possible? Have any of you actually gained bone density? Have any of your Bone Densitometry reports ever shown improvement? I would love to hear some success stories!

    Bone Ami Liquid 2

    Click here to learn more about Bone Ami.

    Running

    I did some running when I was in my 20’s. I wasn’t very fast, but I enjoyed it and it was good exercise.

    I took a break from running when my children were young and then started again when they began running cross country. I found out some things had changed over that break, most notably, my knees. X-rays confirmed arthritis in both knees, and I was advised to give up running. I learned from a chiropractor that strengthening the muscles in my legs would help to support my knees, but I filed that information in the back of my mind and settled for occasional walks.

    Fast forward to three years ago. Osteopenia finally woke me up to the need to exercise and I began a regimen of weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises. Even though I had given up running, I walked in some 5K races in the area. My goal was twofold but simple: to finish in under an hour and not to be the last person to cross the finish line! My time was usually between 55 and 59 minutes, and I usually spent the rest of the day with legs elevated, icing my inflamed knees.

    But every now and then, I dreamed that I was running. In my dreams, I had found a way to run without touching the ground! I described those dreams to a Trak Shak salesperson who recommended a Hoka running shoe for me.  Walking in Hokas has been the next best thing to running without touching the ground.

    With three years of exercise behind me and Hoka shoes to support me, I started running again. In June, I walked/ran 3.1 miles (5K) in my neighborhood and finished in 47 minutes- not great, but almost nine minutes faster than my fastest walking 5K.

    Is it possible that my recently improved diet could already be strengthening my muscles and joints? I’m able to run almost a mile without pain now, and my current 5K PR in the neighborhood is 44:33. I’m still slow compared to almost everyone else I encounter on the trail, but I have a new twofold goal now: to run as much as I can without causing injury and to run without concern about others being faster.

    What about you? Do you run for exercise? What are your goals? Tell me what motivates you to keep moving. And tell me about your shoes!

    Melissa and Morgan, Smith Family Resources
    Morgan is my post-run encourager!

    Doing My Homework

    My health coach gave me a pretty easy assignment this week: think about chewing.

    Yes, chewing. She gave me a crash course on the digestive system which brought back memories of elementary school, learning about saliva and the esophagus and food’s journey through the miles of intestines. She also gave me a handout with some suggestions- suggestions which have turned out to be easy to read and not so easy to implement.

    Do YOU chew every bite 30-50 times before you swallow it? I found out that my average is about 10. I’m now making more of an effort, but I have some work to do.

    Why does it matter, you ask? (I’ve been doing some reading, so I’m not sure now what I’ve read and what Rebecca told me. I’ll give all the credit to her unless otherwise noted!) Saliva is alkaline. Alkaline reduces inflammation in the body. Chewing efficiently alkalizes our food before it’s swallowed which prevents inflammation. I guess that explains why eating on the go or “swallowing your food whole,” as my mother used to say I did, usually results in heartburn, indigestion, and/or stomach ache, i.e. inflammation of the gut. Chewing matters more than I realized.

    I’m the one who didn’t want to take time to stop for lunch at all, so this is hard! Eating nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day requires more stopping-to-eat than I’m used to, and now I’m adding more chewing to that effort! But I’m already feeling better, so it’s worth it!

    Assignment number two was to learn about albumin. I had heard of albumin in connection with eggs, but this time I was seeing the word on some blood work results. My albumin level was low, and Rebecca suggested I find out what it was and why it mattered. Albumen is the white of the egg, but, albumin is “any of numerous simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins that occur in blood plasma or serum, muscle, the whites of eggs, milk, and other animal substances and in many plant tissues and fluids,” per Merriam-Webster.

    From various medical websites, I learned that albumin is produced by the liver, and it carries substances such as hormones and enzymes throughout the body. If the albumin level is low, it might indicate kidney failure or kidney disease or liver disease. Or it might indicate malnutrition. Well, none of those conditions appeal to me, but malnutrition seems to me to be the easiest one to correct!

    My question is, will my nine cups of improved nutrition correct my albumin level? Maybe. Hopefully. According to Registered Dietician Sarah Pflugradt, “increasing the overall quality of the diet may help increase albumin levels in those who are malnourished.” Writing for livestrong.com, she also noted that some recent research indicates that “albumin was not a direct indicator of nutritional health, but rather a marker of the influence of illness on albumin. For instance, inflammation- present in many diseases- causes protein to break down in the body, leading to a decreased albumin.”

    Homework results: I hereby promise to make every effort to efficiently chew every bite of nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day, hoping to reduce inflammation and to increase albumin.

    Here are a few pictures of some of the delicious and nutrient-rich meals I’ve eaten lately. Recipes don’t seem to be necessary since a picture paints a thousand words, but I’ll be glad to give you the details if you ask.

     

    Progress Report

    At my first health coaching session, Rebecca gave me some homework: increase my intake of fruits and vegetables to 9 cups a day and start tracking my nutrients.

    Background information: I haven’t been eating anywhere close to 9 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. In my last post, I blogged that I had taken the baby step of eating a fruit or vegetable at every meal. Even so, I was eating no more than 1 or 2 cups a day. Nine cups is a BIG baby step!

    Rebecca suggested Cronometer, an online tool for tracking nutrition, fitness, and health data. It will track a lot of things, but my focus is on vitamins and nutrients. (There’s a free online version, but I opted for the $3.99 app.)

    Cronometer app

    Since I started keeping up with my fruit and vegetable intake, I’ve hit the goal once and come very close several days. Even though I’m not consistently meeting my goal yet, I feel better already- more energy, better sleep, and less pain.

    I’ve been trying to learn more about nutrition for several years now, but the design of the Cronometer app has helped me to see more clearly what I’m actually getting from my food. I can tell at a glance whether or not I’ve gotten the nutrients needed for the day. That information helps me eat things that will actually nourish me and not just fill me up.

    One evening recently, I was going to skip dinner and just eat a bowl of cereal. I searched my intended cereal in the app and discovered that there was almost no nutritional value whatsoever. Even though it’s a gluten-free, organic, supposedly healthy cereal, it would basically be empty calories!

    I’ve also been confirmed in my belief in the amazing contribution of SuperMom to my overall health. Here are two screenshots of my breakfast this morning:IMG_9882[1]

    IMG_9883[1]

    The first is my breakfast before SuperMom. Notice in the bar at the bottom that my nutrient target goal is at 28%. The second screenshot is after taking the SuperMom. Now my nutrient target goal is at 69%. Wow!

    Unfortunately, I’ve been relying on SuperMom to make up for the deficits in my diet, and, as super as it is, it just can’t do it all. I can see in my nutrient reports that I’m still not consistently getting enough Vitamin D, Magnesium, or Potassium every day. Those are important nutrients for healthy bones which probably explains why I’ve had issues with arthritis and osteopenia.

    So, enough about me! I’m excited about my progress, but my reason for sharing is to encourage you in yours! Please share your own progress in the comments or by email. I’ll be glad to hear from you!

    About those Baby Steps…

    Seven years of baby steps… A lot of progress can be made in seven years, but my steps have been small, and I find myself very near where I started. I’ll have my first session with health coach Rebecca Mills-Anderson tomorrow, and I’m ready to learn take some bigger steps with diet and nutrition. I’m eager to move closer to the goal of better health.

    So, about those baby steps… In preparation for the health coaching to come, I’m reflecting on the progress- however small- that I’ve made thus far.

    1. I eliminated caffeine. I took this step as a young adult when I realized that my daily Diet Coke and ever-present glass of sweet tea were creating problems for me. That first step could have been a bigger step if I had known to replace the offenders with water, but I simply replaced them with decaffeinated sweet tea. Still, it was a baby step in the right direction!
    2. I began taking a daily multivitamin. SuperMom was the first vitamin I’d ever taken that actually made a noticeable difference in the way I felt.
    3. I eliminated fried foods. Gall bladder pain prompted this step, and it was not hard at all. Pain is a powerful motivator!
    4. I increased my water intake. If you follow this blog, you’re probably tired of hearing about drinking water! But, this has been huge for me. I went from drinking almost no water at all to half of my body weight in ounces. This big step is probably the main reason I’ve remained reasonably healthy in spite of the deficiencies of my diet.
    5. I began exercising regularly. I started for my bones but am gradually realizing the benefits of exercise for the whole body.
    6. I eliminated high fructose corn syrup from my diet, and I cut way back on processed foods.
    7. I realized that I was relying on supplementation and elimination to get me to better health. I’ve added some things- vitamins, water, exercise- and I’ve taken out some things- caffeine, fried food, high fructose corn syrup. But I’m just now facing the fact that my diet doesn’t include all the nutrients and vitamins I need to be truly healthy.

    Okay, #7 may not be a true step. But that realization is already making a difference. In the last few weeks, I’ve made a conscious effort to eat three healthy meals every day, no matter how busy I am, and I’ve eaten a fruit or vegetable at almost every meal.

    And that’s where I am today. On to bigger steps tomorrow!

    Baby Steps

    So, I’ve been taking baby steps now for about 7 years. I’m definitely moving in the right direction, but I really have not made much progress toward better health.

    I know some of you are stepping along with me: drinking more water, taking multivitamins, and trying some nutritious recipes. Those are great steps, and I celebrate the progress- yours and mine! But I still have a long way to go.

    This post isn’t leading to a happy ending or to a product recommendation. I’m just letting you know that I’m still baby-stepping my way to better health and I thought a little transparency on my part might help you on your way as well.

    It was almost three years ago that the technician who did my bone scan uttered those dreadful words, “Whatever you’ve been doing, it hasn’t been enough.” I blogged then that I realized I hadn’t added much calcium to my diet and I hadn’t learned much at all about the importance of other vitamins and minerals. Well, I’m sorry to say, three years later, I’m only a few steps out from that place of not-enough.

    With the help of a few perfectly-worded questions from a holistic health coach recently, I  saw for the first time that I’ve been relying on my supplements to make up for the deficits of my diet.

    Nutrition overwhelms me. Food overwhelms me. Even grocery lists overwhelm me! Can anybody else relate or is this my own strange struggle?!

    I’ll be meeting with a health coach regularly for the next six months and I’m really excited about learning more about the unique needs of my body and about how to feed it nutritiously. I’ll share my progress in hopes that it might help someone else. And I would love to hear from you, too. I would like to encourage you if you’re just taking your first baby steps. And I would love to learn from you if you’re ahead of me by leaps and bounds!

    Speaking of baby steps, here’s my son in his first walkers.

    baby steps MK

    He’s holding on for support, but he’s taking steps. He’s happy! He’s out of the stroller. He’s walking on his own feet. He isn’t discouraged at all that he can’t run across the room yet. And I’m drawing analogies… Here’s to baby steps!