Sunday, August 10, 2014

Changes, like seasons

So, work has been keeping me pretty busy. Busy, not in a good way. There have been so many changes recently, honestly, I'm still reeling from them. Right now I'm in the midst of making one of the hardest choices in my life. Do I stay, or do I go? My husband and I both agree that, eventually, this place is going to kill me. Heart attack is probably the biggest fear right now. Last winter my doctor ordered a heart monitor for me. Between being over weight, and having a very high stress job - those things combined are a very deadly cocktail. Over the course of 5 years, I've had to be put on anti anxiety medication, anti depressants, I've begun drinking more than I normally did before working here, I've gained a ton of weight, I've stopped doing the things I enjoy doing because I'm exhausted **all. the. time.** - Fall used to be my favorite season - now, I dread it. Fall means people in the building industry lose their minds and are cramming in all their projects "right now, Right Now, RIGHT NOW!!!" before the snow flies, which adds to an already stressful job. I stepped down as inside sales manager because of stress. But, the stress just trickled back down into my old position. But... the other side of this is, I live 10 minutes from my job. I make a decent salary, and I like (most) of my co-workers. It's a casual dress environment, and lets face it, I'm not a glamor girl by any means. It's hard to walk away from any job - for any reason - but especially when you're life goals and dreams are on the line. We've been saving my pay check for several months - living only on my husband's salary - to save up for a down payment on a house. That's the dream. The goal was to do this for 1-2 years to have a good chunk of change to put down. If I walk away from this - that won't happen. But if I stay - what good is a house if you're dead - or if not dead, too sick and miserable to enjoy it?
I hate decisions. They make me nervous and uncomfortable.
So, of course - what do I do when I'm uncomfortable? You betcha. I cook. I bake. I go straight to comfort food. Hence... the weight gain.
We're still trying to remain as gluten free as possible. We avoid grains whenever we can, however we can. But, we have pizza from time to time - and we have pasta from time to time. Those nights, it sure does taste great going in - but later in the night... whoa.... buddy.
I think one of the things that has been saving my sanity as of late, is my garden. I get to tinker around outside, and be with nature. I've found that the bees that visit my garden are not bothered by me at all, and I am not bothered by them. Infact, I can get right up close and personal with them and they don't pay me any attention. They LOVE my lavender bush. There are two bees in particular (I think they are the same two bees) that visit every single day. They are bumble bees. One is very small, the other is plump and very fuzzy. I've named them Theo and Chloe.
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This area is my next project... I have two little flowering bushes here, and this area is where my bunnies that have passed on lay to rest. I want to build this out and create an area where flowers grow every year. Once this area is done, I'm hoping we can find someone to rip up all the existing grass, and put in nice thick grass all around the top area of the property. The grass in this area now is so full of weeds, it's not nice to walk on or look at.
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Other than gardening, we've been trying new recipes out. Last night we made greek lamb burgers and oh my, were they delicious. We used the Schlar Gluten Free rolls for the bun.
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The recipe: 1.5 lbs ground organic grass fed lamb 1/2 cup black olives, chopped 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped 2-3 TBSPN finely chopped red onion 2 tsp dill seasoning 2 tsp parsley handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (or goat cheese, I prefer goat cheese) Salt & pepper Hand mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into patties. Lay on a greased baking sheet and bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes. The sauce: 1/2 cup greek yogurt 1 tbsp. lemon zest 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 1 tsp dill seasoning 1 tbsp. minced garlic Salt & pepper 1/2 peeled cucumber, seeds removed, and chopped into small pieces. Place all but the cucumber in a magic bullet cup (or small food processor), and process until all ingredients combine. The buns: I used Schlar gluten free buns, that I put in the oven and toasted for a few minutes. Once you assemble your burger, top with the tzatziki sauce, and then crumble more feta (or goat cheese) on top. Voila!

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh how the time has flown by...

My poor blog has been dreadfully neglected. For over a year! So much to catch up on.

Where to begin? I suppose we'll do pictures and stories, yes?

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Truman and Dusty are doing swimmingly well. Truman is 10 years young this year, and Dusty is 5 years young. My fur babies continue to give me endless entertainment and love in my life. Though, I have lost all but 1 of my bunnies.

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Heart of my heart, Peanut, passed away a couple months ago. Lion head dwarf rabbits live, on average, about 7 years. He was 6 years old and battle with health problems his entire life. I woke up to find him laying on his side, and I knew something was wrong. He let out a very loud rabbit scream, and I wrapped him up and held him. I called the Vet to try to bring him in. He passed away before they opened. I know you're not supposed to play favorites... but I have to admit (out loud) that Peanut was truly the beat of my heart. As a baby, I didn't think he would survive. I made sure his mother gave him regular feeds and checked him constantly to make sure he was getting enough food and was healthy. I suppose I babied him his entire life. Losing a pet is never easy. They become part of you - part of your family. To me, these are not just pets - they are my children. I love them as if they were my own children. To watch any animal suffer, or pass away, is heart breaking. With that said, about a week ago, I lost Peanut's mother, Honey Bear. She was 7 years old. I came home to find her already passed on.

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So, now I am left with one. Mischief - Peanuts twin. Poor thing has had to bare the brunt of kisses and cuddles. Mischief keeps to himself, mostly, only venturing out into the living room when it's peacefully quiet and no guests are here. I think he misses his mother and his siblings.

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BJ and I have been wishy-washy with our Paleo / GF life style. We feel off the wagon for a bit but have been slowly reintroducing ourselves back into the life style. Lets face it - we're not very good at this. We try - but we've never been able to actually maintain for long periods of time. A lot of it is self defeat. But if there is anything that my last year of health issues has taught me, it's that you need to listen to what your body is telling you. My body has been screaming at me for the longest time - and I've been neglecting and ignoring it. I certainly don't wake up every morning thanking God that I'm over weight and unhealthy. It is true that when a person is ready to make changes - they will.

We've been working pretty steadily on paying down debt. I think we've come quite a ways over the last few years. We will hopefully in the next year or two be where we need to be to buy a home somewhere in PA - with lots of property. I would love to have acreage to build on - to plant gardens, to raise chickens... to homestead. I want to nest. Not necessarily with children in tow - but I want to nest with my husband, and our little farm of animals. Someday...

BJ has been perfecting his chainmaille skills - he's come a long way. I'm very proud of him. His work is beautiful. I wish we were able to get into the local Ren Faire here in PA - I think he would do well there. He's been working on a series of wallet chains in chainmaille that seem to have generated a large interest on Etsy. I'm happy for him. I've been waning in and out of a creative rut for a few months. I haven't produced much of anything.

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Well, I suppose that is all for now. :) Recipes later on!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

C'est moi et Paleo chicken nuggets

I have found a new obsession. No, not just Pinterest - though that has captivated most of my time these days (you know, wanting to reorganize my home, pinning things to reorganize my home, being too busy pinning things to actually reorganize my home, etc). I have become OBSESSED with make up tutorials on youtube.com. I've discovered a young lady in the UK named Tanya Burr that has me completely in awe of her make up application abilities. Watching her video's has inspired me to test my own make up application abilities. This is not my first attempt as I've been applying different colors and techniques for the past week, however, did not take any pictures until this weekend. This is my blue hippie look:

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Since I've been wearing ALOT of make up lately - I've had to find something that not only takes off the make up, but also isn't full of chemicals that will damage my skin. I'm completely in love with a face scrub I've been making with honey. It's so luxurious, and makes my skin feel like satin when I'm out of the shower.

Honey has natural anti microbial and anti fungal properties that also help in rejuvenating your skin cells. Hell, if it worked for Cleopatra with her honey bathes to stay young - why not apply it to today's natural remedies for skin repair and anti aging?

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You can make this to your desired texture/consistency - but this is how I like to make mine. Just put all the listed ingredients in a bowl, and mix until completely incorporated. I store mine in little mason jars, and make several jars at one time.

Aside from feeling fabulous in my own skin - I've also gotten back into the Paleo / Gluten free saddle completely. Over the Holiday we slipped off the saddle a little bit. I feel so much better when I'm not treating my body like a garbage disposal. And honestly, stress at work is what really triggered falling off the saddle more than the Holidays. It's normal to try to compensate for stress with eating - it's a basic human reaction - the trick is finding balance when dealing with those types of stress that make you want to stuff your face with whatever you can get your hands on. While I still may have stress in my life from work, family, etc - I should not be taking that out on my body. Stress does enough damage, no need to add a bad diet to the mix!

My husband has been making these divine paleo chicken nuggets for us for dinner and snacks.

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2 chicken breasts trimmed of fat & cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup butter w/ 2 tbspn garlic, melted in a bowl
2 cups almond meal w/ desired spices. We used a basic Italian mix with red pepper flakes, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic salt, and black pepper. Mix into the almond meal.
Dip chicken bites into the garlic butter, then toss into the almond meal mixture. Place chicken bites on a greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
We served ours over zucchini pasta with peppers and onions. So delicious!
I hope you try out this recipe and enjoy as much as we do!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Have you ever had green bread?

I will not eat green bread with ham, I will not eat it, Sam I am!

Well, I apparently WILL eat green "bread" because hey, it's festive - it's fun - and I like to freak people out. "OMG, WHAT ARE YOU EATING!" Why, it's my sunbutter paleo bread, of course! This little gem happened by complete accident, and personally, I think it will be fantastic for St. Patty's Day.

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We have been pretty obsessed with a blog called Against All Grain: http://www.againstallgrain.com They have this wonderful grainfree bread that is made with cashew butter. We've made this recipe numerous times - however, the night in question of the green bread - I was out of cashew butter. I did have Sunbutter, however, and the blogger said that sunbutter would be an acceptable substitute. Ehem. However... they failed to mention that the interaction between sunbutter and the vinegar in the recipe would transform my normally beautiful brown bread into a bright flourescent green! It tasted exactly as it should, so no harm, no foul.

One of the major parts of living gluten free / paleo is researching new ways of eating. We've found Fast Paleo, Against all Grain, Joy the Baker, and many other gluten free / paleo friendly blogs that help us to stay focused. Though, I will admit - over the Holiday - I did fall off the wagon a bit. *Hangs head in shame*

But, today is a new day, right? With so many paleo and gluten free options, there really is no excuse to not jump back on the wagon. During the week my breakfasts consist mainly of eggs - usually with some kind of sauteed veg mixed in. The weekends we like to splurge a bit and make something more fun and exciting. BJ found this recipe for grainfree waffles. We have a waffle iron and let me tell you - GREAT investment. We love making home made waffles. Wwhen we started on paleo - I thought I'd never see a waffle again. Recipe that follows is also from Against All Grain.

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What you'll need: 3 eggs 1 cup raw cashews 1/3 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk) 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted ¼ teaspoon salt ¾ teaspoons baking soda 3 tablespoons coconut flour

1.Preheat your waffle iron. 2.Combine the eggs, cashews, milk, honey, and melted coconut oil in a blender. Blend until very smooth and creamy. You may need to stop the blender and push the mixture down the sides a few times to get it all to blend really well. 3.Add the salt, baking soda, and coconut flour, then blend again for about a minute until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet. 4.If you’re iron requires oil, spread a little coconut oil on both sides. Pour the batter into the waffle iron so it just covers the bottom portion of the iron, being careful not to overfill it as these do rise quite a bit and will spill over. 5.Cook the waffles for about a minute, more or less depending on the heat of your waffle iron. If they release easily with a fork when you open the lid, they are probably done. 6.Repeat until the batter has been used up.

You have no idea how delicious these waffle are. Boarder line addicting, and so worth the effort to make. Add a little whipped cream sweetened with honey on top? OMG. Out of this world.

Another thing that is out of this world is roasted pumpkin & butternut squash soup. Growing up I was not a huge fan of pumpkin anything. Now that I'm older and have a more refined palate, I find I enjoy pumpkin when it's done properly. I still, however, detest pumpkin pie.

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Simply roast 2 cups each peeled & chopped pumpkin & butternut squash, until golden and caramlized. I like to toss the cubes in a bit of olive oil and maple sugar prior to playing on a roasting pan, it adds a nice sweetness. Once the veg is nicely roasted, process in small batches in a food processor or high speed blender with heavy cream & veg broth - to your desired consistency. I like my soup a little thick. If you like your soup thin, add more cream/veg broth. Add salt, pepper, and maple sugar or syrup to taste. Top with roasted pumpkin seeds, and drizzle with maple. So delicious and hearty. Great for this cold weather!

ENJOY!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Top 10 things we eat on the Paleo diet

I thought it would be fun to post a top ten. Maybe there's more then 10? Who knows. But right now... these are the primary components in our new life style that we simply can not live without.

1. Bacon. Yes. Bacon. I loved bacon BEFORE this life style, and it just tickles my funny bone (okay or just makes my stomach happy) that I can eat disgusting amounts of bacon without feeling guilty about it. People look at me like I have three heads when I tell them one of the primary things on my diet is bacon - because - fundamentally? It makes no sense. Allow me to explain...

Good fats don't make you fat. Just as saturated fats do not make you fat. I know, mind blowing, right? Your body NEEDS fat in order to burn... dun dun dun... FAT. Good fats are a main source of energy for people living a Paleo life style. Now, am I suggesting you cook up 3 lbs of bacon and eat it every day for dinner? As much as I'd love to say yes to that question, that is NOT what I'm suggesting. What I'm saying is that your body needs fat to survive.

When your body runs on fat, it produces ketone bodies. This is good.

STAY AWAY FROM VEGETABLE OILS, AND POLYUNSATURATED FATS. They will kill you. For reals. No joke.

2. Coconut oil. I HATE COCONUT. I will say that upfront. Coconut oil, however, is DELICIOUS. I eat it with a spoon. I know, that's pretty gross. Try it before you judge me. Coconut oil is about 90% saturated fat, which is excellent for our bodies - but this also means it has a good tolerance to heat, but it is solid when it's cool. It's great for baking, frying, and mixing with things like almond or cashew butter - because when it hardens, that means you can dip it in CHOCOLATE. HOME. MADE. ALMOND BUTTER. CHOCOLATE. BALLS!

Coconut oil also has Lauric acid - which is the easiest acid for our bodies to digest. It also has antimicrobial and anti fungal properties.

3. Butter and Ghee. And I mean REAL butter. Like, get your ass to a farmers stand and get some real fresh churned full fat butter. Once you have your 4 lb baby, take that log of love home and boil it down. Boil it. Make it bubble. Watch as the milk fat separates. Then gently skim all the milk fat off. SAVE IT. Don't waste it. It's great to saute veggies in! Gingerly strain the now melted clarified butter through cheese cloth. Voila. Ghee.

Butter in it's natural form is not paleo. Once those milk fats are separated you're left with a delicious saturated fat that is not only good for you, but has this wonderful nutty flavor. Ghee also has Conjugated linoleic acids - which have anti cancer properties.

Wouldn't Paula Deen be proud?!

4. Raw honey. I'd never had raw unprocessed honey before diving into the paleo world. It's positively delicious - and much sweeter then the processed honey found in stores. It's not clear and pretty like processed honey - but it's thick and rich and positively delicious. By cutting our all processed sugar - natural sugars like raw honey and maple syrup make excellent substitutes.

Honey is a natural energy booster, helps to build your immune system and has anti cancer properties - and it's great for cuts, burns, hang overs, sore throats, and insomnia!

5. Bee pollen. SAY WHHHAAA??? Yep, bee pollen. Those little nuggets on the furry legs of bees. Sweet little nuggets of health boosting goodness. And what's great? No two bee pollen samples are a like because no two bees pollinate the exact same plants. It's like, SURPRISE! You haven't tasted THIS before. It's sweet and flowery. We throw this in oat meal (STEEL CUT OATS! NOT INSTANT!), smoothies, gluten free baking, etc.

People think we've lost our ever loving minds because this is the kind of stuff we eat now. Raw Honey? Coconut oil? BEE POLLEN? Who can live on this stuff!

WE CAN! One tiny bee works 8 hours a day to collect 1 TEASPOON of bee pollen. Savor this stuff. Seriously. Those little bees work their furry butts off!

Bee pollen is a natural source for numerous vitamins and minerals that help improve the function of the human body. HOWEVER - some people have an allergy to this - before you dive in feet first - make sure you won't have a reaction to bee pollen, much like someone that is allergic to a bee sting!

6. NUTS. We're nuts for nuts! But not peanuts! Peanuts are actually not a nut at all. They are a legume and are not paleo because they anti nutrients - which translates to - the actual good stuff you eat like minerals and vitamins get bound and do not absorb into your body. Poo poo on the peanuts!

Almonds, cashews, walnuts, macadamias are high in saturated fats, are paleo, and provide a great source of protein and omega 3's - which are essential to healthy eating. We make our own home made "trail mix". It usually consists of dried cranberries, chocolate chips (dairy, soy, gluten free), sun flower seeds, bee pollen, and nuts. We practically live on this stuff. It fills you up, and keeps your energy level up without having to consume a sugary "energy drink". Energy drink is another term for "crash and burn".

7. Zucchini - the magical vegetable. Squash? Something. We save the seeds too. Save them, clean them, bake 'em in the oven with some cinnamon or salt. Mmmm... home made squash seeds.

Zucchini can be made into so many dishes it's nuts. If you get a big enough zucchini, you can slice into rounds and make baked "zucchini pizza" - you can dip rounds in egg wash and almond flour - and saute in coconut oil for a healthy version of "fried zucchini". Get a nifty peeler to make long spaghetti like strands for zucchini pasta!

8. Cauliflower. I used to really only eat cauliflower if it was fried. In the beginning, I sort of hated cauliflower. But then... my husband found a way to pan roast cauliflower that made it buttery and divine. Now... we can't live without cauliflower. We mash it for creamy mashed cauliflower, roast it, rice it, boil it, devour it.

Nom nom nom nom nom....

9. Dark chocolate - 70% cacao or higher. I like the darker, the better. It tastes like coffee! I like coffee. BJ... does not like the coffee flavor so much.

Dark chocolate is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, is good for your heart, brain, tooth enamel, and helps to control your blood sugar. Just like bacon, don't go eating 3 lbs of it. Everything in moderation!

10. Almond & Coconut milk. It took a little getting used to in the beginning, but honestly - this stuff is delicious. Unless you have a local farmer that you know is raising grass fed free roaming cows that are not shot full of antibiotics and other harmful additives - drinking milk bought from a store is not all that great for you.

Milk is not really paleo. Almond & Coconut milk are a great substitute and so easy to make yourself at home. Store bought almond & coconut milk are full of sugars and preservatives that are just not necessary. Make your own almond milk at home - you control the ingredients, you control the sweetness.

And those are our top 10! Hopefully some of this information is helpful.

And now, I leave you with a cute picture of my cat.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Happy Anniversary to us!

October 25, 2008 I married my best friend. I truly feel like one of the most blessed people on earth for having found the perfect companion, friend, and soul mate that could be matched to me. Before I met my husband, I had behind me a trail of hot mess train wreck relationships... from complete political and religious opposites, to bat shit crazy, to just down right "what was I thinking, was I that drunk?!" types.

In my early to mid twenties, I was so down on my self image that it was hard for me to believe that I deserved something good in my life - that because I was over weight and insecure that I needed to "settle for" whoever would have me. That's a horrible way to live! I had surgery, lost weight, and started to gain self confidence - and when I wasn't looking, BJ appeared in my life. At first I was hesitant to start a relationship with him because I was fresh out of another tragically ended relationship that near made me switch teams. However, he worked his charm, and wiggled his way into my heart.

That was no easy feat.

But, soon enough (ok, so almost immediately) I knew he was the one. There's just something about him - I just knew what I had was rare, and real, and was perfectly meant for me.

I wouldn't change my life for anything. Every moment, every experience, landed me directly in my husbands path at exactly the right moment. Meeting him, marrying him, has made everything I have gone through in my life worth every minute.

Not many people can say that they wouldn't change a thing about their life or their partner. I can honestly say that I wouldn't change a thing about us - we're perfectly imperfect. I like that best about us.

And I love my husband to the moon and back! Happy Anniversary to us - and to many more anniversaries to come!

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

General life

Tonight my husband and I decided to go to Target to pick up a new router since ours was being a piece of crap (like most made over seas products are these days). We ended up going to Target at about 9:30pm. I have discovered that shopping anywhere after around 8pm, there are legions of teenage douche bags running amok. If you're above the age of 25, over weight, and have thrown your hair up into a messy ball on top of your head - this makes you a fantastic target for said douche bags.

But, anyone that knows me, knows I don't put up with much malarkey. So, said douche bags did not get far in their banter.

However, I wasn't always this way. Back in "the day" I was fairly shy and insecure and gave a crap about what EVERYONE thought. That insecurity prevented me from making friends, prevented me from going out and joining clubs, prevented me from exploring and experiencing life. Don't get me wrong - in my normal group of friends, I was a pretty loud outgoing person. But take me out of my comfort zone and it was a completely different scenario.

Tonight made me think about a conversation I had with my mom a few days ago. Her co-worker has a daughter that is currently new to college. She's considering switching schools because, from what I'm understanding, where she is it's hard to make friends.

It really has nothing to do with location, it has to do with self worth, self confidence, and the ability to believe you have something meaningful to offer a new found friendship/relationship. Until a person is ready within themselves to go out there and meet new people - no matter where you go - you won't be happy.

So many times I wish my 32 year old self could talk to my 18 year old self and smack some sense into her. I was more concerned with getting out of Vermont, and away from my past, that I didn't consider that once I got what I wanted - what the hell was I going to do? I was pretty shy and introverted when I first got to school. I was convinced that every move I made was being watched, judged, and documented to be used against me in some way in the very near future. I honestly made my first year of college worse then it really needed to be because of my own insecurities about myself. It wasn't that I wasn't a likable person - I was just an awkward person that didn't know how to meet new people. The thought of going out and joining a group or club scared the hell out of me. But truly, beyond the internet (which was only in it's infancy when I was in school) the only other way to meet people was thru classes or clubs.

It's amazing how much my insecurities about my weight, my past, my lack of experiences dictated much of what was supposed to be "the best time of my life". Who I am now, compared to who I was then - we're different people. After my first year of college, I transferred to a school in southern Vermont. And, because again, just because the location changed - didn't mean that I had.

I think that a lot of kids are not truly prepared for what going to college means. I used to think that the only way to success was to immediately go to college straight out of high school. I now think that going to college straight out of high school when you're not really prepared for that sort of change is more damaging. But, this is just my experience.

I've considered taking some night classes. I'd love to take some photography courses. My family keeps telling me I have missed my calling for food photography. Perhaps it's something to look into. I do miss having more time for my creative outlets.

Our lives have been pretty consumed with work and working on our new life style. Finding new ways of cooking has kept most of our free time pretty busy. But, it's been a successful journey so far. BJ has lost around 25 lbs, and I'm down 22 lbs. We've done our first side by side progression photos - and the changes are dramatic.

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Beyond that, nothing new to report. I'll have new recipes to post in the next week or so. Infact, we're making our first gluten free pumpkin cheese cake that is sans refined sugar! We'll see how that turns out. :)