30 Days of Yoga

My favorite yoga instructor, Adriene from Yoga with Adriene is kicking off January with "30 Days of Yoga". That's 30 days of yoga instruction for free! I love Adriene's encouraging and quirky vibe. And she makes yoga accessible to everyone. Whether you are a yoga beginner or advanced practitioner, she has videos and variations of moves for everyone. Check out her videos and start off 2015 on the right foot. I can't think of a better way to start the new year than with a month of yoga. Try it and you'll be amazed by how much stronger, calmer and more centered you will be after committing to a regular yoga practice.

Here is the link to the video about the 30 Days of Yoga: link to Yoga with Adriene

30 days of yoga picture (Photo belongs to Yoga with Adriene. Source here.)

 

This post was originally posted at Live Simply Truly dot com where I write as "Lotus". Live Simply Truly is a Lifestyle Blog written in collaboration with 2 other writers. It is an "unfiltered and honest source of ideas and encouragement for you to live your best life being true to you."

 

Short Reviews of YouTube Exercise Videos

We live in a pretty amazing time. The amount of information at our fingertips is endless! I remember when I used to spend soooo much time agonizing of the decision to purchase an exercise video. First, I'd spend a good chunk of time researching the video. Was it a good video or all hype? Were the exercises challenging but still easy to follow? Was it fun to do? Was it worth what they were charging for it? Finally, I would go for it and buy the video. Usually I wasn't disappointed because I had spent the time doing my research. But still, regardless of how much I wanted the video in the first place and how much I loved the video when I first got it, I still always ended up getting bored with it and giving up on the video. Not anymore! Thanks to YouTube all that has changed. The amount of high quality workout videos on YouTube is remarkable! Like before, it still makes sense to spend at least a little time researching the person creating the YouTube exercise videos. You want to make sure that you are following someone who knows what they are doing so that you don't get hurt.

One of the perks of YouTube exercise videos is that you don't have to waste time wondering if you will like the video or not. Just start it and if you don't like it, jump out and start another one. The other BIG perk is variety! With the vast array of workouts on YouTube, it is so much easier to exercise more often and to find the perfect one to fit your mood, fitness level or what your body needs for that particular day. After all, if intuitive eating is so good for our bodies (and it is!), then intuitive exercising is a really good idea too. I think the more we listen to our bodies, the healthier and happier we will be.IMG_0056.JPG

Near the end of last year, I started exercising primarily with YouTube videos, with walks and hikes thrown in. I quickly found some really great workouts that I just LOVED and I wanted to share them with others. So I started pinning them to a board on my Pinterest and writing short reviews about them. Keeping up with writing reviews and even exercising regularly were just a couple of things that sadly went by the wayside as I have been adjusting to working full time as a nurse these last four months.

I have still been exercising some though and have found more videos that I enjoyed. I'm going to resume pinning the reviews with the links to the videos on my Pinterest Board here. There are already 72 workout reviews on that board and soon to be many more. Just in time for all our New Year Resolutions! :) So check my board often for those reviews to be posted. Or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest to stay updated, or go to the bottom of this page and enter your email address to subscribe to this blog. Stay tuned and get movin'! :)

 

 

Why Do I Use Brown Rice Flour?

Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice FlourBy now you have probably realized that I bake with primarily brown rice flour. I thought I'd take a moment to talk about why I do. This post is long but I review cake mixes, cookie mixes, brownie mixes, all-purpose baking mixes and different types of flour. Almost everything you might want to know about gluten free baking that I have tried or experimented with in the last year and a half. When I first went gluten free, I was scared of the idea of baking gluten free from scratch because in my search for gluten free recipes, I was reading a lot of comments about how baking without gluten takes a lot of trial and error and how that missed efforts will turn out as hard as hockey pucks. So needless to say, I was nervous. I love to bake from scratch but I didn't want to make a bunch of food that would be wasted and end up in the trash. The price for gluten free ingredients is expensive and I really didn't want to be wasteful.

So I began my foray into GF baking with baking mixes and all-purpose baking mixes. I had mixed results with this approach. First of all, I really missed making my own stuff. It's just not the same to open a package, mix in a couple additional ingredients and bake. I wanted to bake like I used to bake. Second, it was more expensive. Sure the price of a gluten free flour is pricey, but not nearly as pricey as buying a baking mix every time I want to bake, which is pretty darn often I have to admit. Last, the taste wasn't the best.

I did find a few gems, like Betty Crocker's chocolate and yellow cake mixes. Those cake mixes are amazing! No one can tell they are gluten free and the cakes turn out delicious and moist. The thing I like about those cake mixes is that someone who isn't gluten free can make them for someone who is, without having to have a bunch of other ingredients on hand. For example, my mother in law is a very thoughtful hostess and it bothered her when our family would get together and I couldn't eat dessert too. Once she learned about these cake mixes, she bought one and tried it. She was happy with the results and surprised by the good taste. Now whenever our family gets together, she makes a cake that we all can eat and enjoy.Betty Crocker Gluten Free Products

As for the cookie mixes, I haven't had the best results with them. Betty Crocker's cookie mix turned out well, but tasted like cookies made from a mix, not from scratch. I tried King Arthur Flour gluten free all-purpose baking mix and made pretty good cookies, but they were still lacking a bit of something. My kids thought so too because although they would say they liked them, they would follow that up with a question about when could we make the "old" cookies again, meaning the pre-gluten free days cookies. I also tried Cherrybrook Kitchens cookie mixes.Cherrybrook Kitchens Gluten Free Dreams There mixes are gluten free, dairy free and nut free. A really good choice for someone with additional food allergies. I thought these cookies were good, less box mix taste. The downside to these is the price for the amount of cookies that they make. Each box doesn't make much over a dozen cookies, which isn't enough cookies for my household. However, in spite of the cost and the amount the mix makes, Cherrybrook Kitchens makes a really good sugar cookie. And unless I can successfully make my own sugar cookies this year, I will probably be buying a box or two to make this Christmas.

I have tried two brownie mixes, Betty Crocker's and King Arthur Flour's. Out of these two, Betty Crocker edges out King Arthur's by a little. The King Arthur's mix has a rich, chocolately taste. The downside is the texture. Something is just a little off about the texture of these brownies, a little too spongy for my taste. The Betty Crocker have the fudgy texture that I like in my brownies, but they dry out pretty quickly and still don't taste as good as the from scratch recipe that I used to make.

King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Multi-purpose flour

There are two gluten free all-purpose baking mixes that I've tried. I already mentioned the King Arthur Flour mix when I talked about the cookies. I was pretty happy with that mix but there wasn't enough in the box for someone who bakes a lot like me. Plus I wasn't completely happy with the taste results whenever I baked with this mix. The other mix that I've tried is Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour. The combination of flours that they use in their mix give the cookies an odd taste, in my opinion. I am a really big fan of Bob's Red Mill but I was really disappointed with their gf baking mix. One of the flours that they use gives the cookies a bitter flavor. I think it is the garbanzo bean flour that causes the bitterness because they also use garbanzo bean flour in their biscuit mix and it has the same bitterness to it. I really like the idea of using a bean based flour, but the result isn't the best.

So this brings me to why I use brown rice flour when I bake. After trying all these various mixes with mixed results, I decided that I was ready to try my own. I bought white rice flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, quinoa flour and almond meal. I tried the flours alone and in all kinds of combinations. White rice flour makes the food grainy so I don't use that at all anymore. Coconut flour adds a coconutty flavor and fiber to whatever I am making with it. However it absorbs a lot of liquid and can't be swapped out for regular flour in a recipe without adding liquid too. The quinoa flour is pretty good also. I like to use it whenever I want to bread something, like fish. I also really liked to use the almond meal; it adds a slightly almond flavor and I love the idea of baking with almond meal instead of a grain. Sometimes I bake with a combination of these flours, but keeping this many specialty flours stocked in my pantry is a bit pricey. So I began experimenting with using only brown rice flour. Once I started do that, I was really happy with the results of the baked goods. I have found that baking with brown rice flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum gives the best gluten free baked goods that doesn't taste like it's gluten free. I will continue to experiment with other flours in the future, but for now, I will probably do most of my baking with brown rice flour.

All of the flours that I mentioned are from Bob's Red Mill. I really like this company a lot. I think their ingredients are high quality and they seem like a great group of people. I used to buy their flours in my grocery store, but then I discovered that I can by them off Amazon and save a little. And if you chose to subscribe and save, like I do, you can save even more. You can pick how often you want the product to come to your house, depending on how much you bake. And by subscribing, you will get the lowest price per ounce you can get from anywhere. I get a 4 pack of 48 oz. bags so I also get the lowest price by buying in bulk. All these little things add up to help offset the increased price of buying gluten free ingredients.Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Products

I hope that by me sharing my experiences with some of these products will help you as you navigate through the gluten free world. We are so lucky that there are so many options to choose from today. I'm sure celiacs and gluten intolerant individuals that lived 50 years ago would love to have the wide variety of choices that we have. But buying gluten free is pricier and we all want our money to stretch as much as possible. Hopefully by sharing my opinions, will help you make your own choices and spend your money wisely.

If you have any specific questions about any of the products that I mentioned or any other gluten free product, let me know and I'll do my best to help you out. You can ask in the comment section below or directly contact me through my "Contact Me" page or message me at my Facebook page.

 

Disclaimer: the opinions in this post are my own and I was not paid or given any of the products listed to review. The photos are not my own but the property of the companies whose image it is. Clicking on the pictures will take you to the company's website, where information about their product can be found.

Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix Review

20131103-070715.jpgWhat is the one thing that I truly miss the most since going gluten free? Pizza! I love, love, love pizza! I decided to try some pizza last year about 3 months into my gluten free diet. You know, just in case my diagnosis was wrong. ;) Well, that was a mistake that I paid dearly for for 3 whole days! Won't be testing my diagnosis again after that. No siree! So what was I to do about pizza now?!? Before I tried that fateful piece of regular pizza, I had tried several GF pizzas and was left disappointed. I tried some from restaurants and some frozen pizzas. All the pizzas that I tried were, at best, okay and they were really expensive too. So for a while after that, I stopped trying to find a gluten free pizza. Then I decided to try Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix.

First of all, the price for the mix wasn't too much. It's a little over $3 at my store. Even after you factor in the cost for organic tomato sauce and organic mozzarella cheese, the price for making your own pizza with this mix is less than other pre-made gluten free pizzas. Also, the mix makes two pizzas and you are in control of how much sauce and cheese to put on the pizza. How great is that?!

The first time I made this mix, I made it exactly as the directions indicated. The mix makes a super sticky dough. So the directions say to wet your hands to push the dough into the pan. This did make it a lot easier to push the dough, but it was too much liquid in my opinion. When the pizza was done, we all loved the flavor of it but thought that the dough seemed a bit soggy, even when fully cooked. I used to make homemade pizza frequently before and I know how important the liquid to flour ratio is when making any kind of bread, so I immediately knew that it was the added water from working with the dough that was causing the sogginess.

The second time I made the mix, I made it according to the directions again, except for the water on the hands when working with the dough. This time, I added brown rice flour. First I sprinkled some flour onto a piece of wax paper on my counter and dumped the dough out onto it. Then I added more brown rice flour and used my hands to work the flour into the dough. How much four you add will depend on how carefully you measured your liquid or even how much humidity there is in the air when you are making your dough. I used about 1/2 cup of Bob's Red Mill Brown Rice Flour. You want enough dough to make the dough easier to work with and not sticky. But don't add so much flour that your dough is dry and falling to pieces. If you do add too much, add a few drops of water at a time and work that in. You want your dough to be able to patted into a smooth ball. Then let it rise according to the directions, which is only about 20 minutes. You'll need to use another sprinkle of flour when you roll out the dough too. Once you do that, your dough is ready to be made into pizza! I also adjusted the baking time. I found that once I added the extra flour and not the extra water, the dough only took about 1/2 the time to bake as the directions called for. I baked the dough for about 7 minutes until it started to lightly brown. Then I added the toppings and finished baking for another 7-8 minutes until the cheese was melted and bubbly and the crust was golden brown.

Once I made these modifications to the recipe, the pizza turned out wonderful! My family and I were so happy with the results! Now whenever we want pizza, I make some from this mix, with my modifications of course. We like to divide the dough into 4 pieces and let everyone make their own personal pizza. It makes for a fun supper and there is leftover pizza for the next day! I should add too that this pizza reheats well. I microwave the pizza for 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how much I am reheating. Heat it just until the pizza starts to bubble. Then put the pizza on a medium hot pan on the stove and finish heating until the crust is crispy. Or you could just eat it cold if you like cold pizza.

I definitely recommend Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix! It is a great way to be able to eat pizza again. And you don't have to overpay for it either. That is something that I really appreciate. Gluten free food can be a bit expensive so whenever I find something that isn't, I am a happy girl! So the next time you want GF pizza, try this mix! It is so easy to make, doesn't take too long to make, isn't too expensive, and taste great!

I would love to know what you think about it when you try it!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

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King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Muffin Mix

Back before I had to remove gluten from my diet, I created a recipe for Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins that we all loved! My daughter mentioned them the other day and asked if I could make them again soon. I've made them since going GF, but only for my children and husband to eat. Today I decided that I really wanted some banana muffins too. And since I haven't had the time to create my own GF muffins, this seemed like the perfect time to try out King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Muffin Mix. King Arthur Flour Gluten free Muffin MixThe muffin mix is a vanilla base that you can use to stir in whatever added ingredients you want. You could make them into blueberry muffins, cranberry orange muffins, or banana muffins, like I did, just to name a few. I followed the recipe on the back of the box with only a few exceptions. Since I was making banana muffins, I wanted to cream my bananas first instead of stirring them in at the end like the box recipe suggested. So I creamed my bananas really well; then I added the melted butter, almond milk (another personal choice of mine), eggs, and mixed it all together really well. The other thing that I did that was not on the box recipe was that I added my 3/4 cup of mini chocolate chips to the bag of dry ingredients and stirred them around in the flour to coat them. I have learned that it is best to coat whatever you are stirring into muffin batter with a little bit of flour first before adding them to the batter. This helps keep the added ingredient from falling to the bottom of the muffin during baking. When you take the time to coat your chocolate chips, blueberries, or whatever else you are adding, you end up with your ingredient dispersed all throughout the finished product. The last thing that I did different from the box recipe was that I did not spray my muffin papers with cooking spray. I did not do this because I didn't see it. Oops! A little to quick with the skimming of the recipe. :) Anyways, I should have sprayed my muffin papers with cooking spray because the end result makes a very light and slightly delicate muffin that sticks some to the muffin paper. I was able to carefully get most of my muffins out of the paper after baking, but I had to be extra careful. I believe that it would have been far easier if I would have sprayed my muffin paper first as the recipe indicated. I will be sure to do that the next time!

King Arthur Flour Gluten free Muffin Mix Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

So what did I think of the finished product? I loved them! They were a very light and airy muffin, not grainy at all. The rest of my family loved them too. My daughter gave me her seal of approval by asking for seconds and saying that she wished she could eat even more after that. Needless to say, I know what I'm give her for breakfast tomorrow. I really was very pleased with this product. I particularly like that it is a muffin base mix that I can use to make whatever kind of muffins my family wants on the day that I am making them. I will definitely be keeping a couple of boxes of King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Muffin Mix in my pantry from now on. I can't wait to make blueberry muffins now. Yum!!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

Bob's Red Mill Teff

Grains of TeffA couple of weeks ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted a recipe for teff. I had no idea what teff was so I googled it. Teff is an ancient grain from Ethiopia. It is the smallest whole grain in the world. And this tiny grain is packed with nutrients. In one serving, which is only a 1/4 cup, there are 180 calories, 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, 10% of calcium, and 20% of iron. That's a lot of good things packed into a tiny grain! After I read about what teff was, I decided that I wanted to try it. I saw that Bob's Red Mill sold the product on Amazon. I tweeted that I was excited to try this new grain that I just learned about. Someone from Bob's Red Mill saw my tweet and contacted me, saying that they would love to provide me with a sample. I was so surprised by their kind offer and quickly accepted it. A couple of days later my package arrived. The good folks at Bob's Red Mill sent me a full sized package of teff to sample, as well as a bag of their gluten free muesli! Imagine my delight! I opened the bag of muesli right away and tasted some. It was delicious. There is a recipe for muesli cookies on the side of the bag that I'm excited about trying. I'm hoping to make some this weekend. I'll be sure to let you know how they turn out.

I made a serving of teff for breakfast. I had no idea what it was going to taste like. It had distinct aroma while it was simmering on top of the stove. Based on that, I thought that the teff would have a strong flavor, but it doesn't. Teff is actually very mild flavored. After tasting a few bites plain, I followed the directions on the bag and sweetened my bowl with a little honey. I also stirred in raisins and sliced almonds for the dried fruit and nuts that it suggested. It was delicious! While I was eating, it kept reminding me of something that I couldn't place. Finally I realized what it was, it reminded me of cream of wheat. The mild flavor and the texture are very similar to cream of wheat, which of course I can't eat anymore because it contains gluten. Now I have a gluten free replacement for cream of wheat- a warm bowl of teff!

Bob's Red Mill Teff

Whether you can eat gluten or not, I encourage you to try this mild flavored whole grain. It is quick and easy to prepare, just bring it to a boil on top of the stove then simmer until the water is absorb. It is a warm and nutritious breakfast option for cold winter mornings. I would love to hear what you think about it. Let me know in the comments section if you have ever heard of this whole grain and if you have ever tried it or want to try it.

Bowl of Bob's Red Mill Teff with honey, raisins, and sliced almonds

 

Rating: ♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Pancake Mix

20121227-202557.jpg This was the 2nd gluten-free mix that I tried for pancakes and I doubt I will try anymore because this mix is a big hit with the whole family. King Arthur Flour has good quality products that I used to use before going gluten-free, so when I saw this mix in the store I was hopefully that it would be good. And I was not disappointed. The pancakes cook up light and fluffy with no funny texture or taste. They actually have a yummy vanilla-like smell when they are cooking. These pancakes taste best when they are hot. They are still pretty good when they are warm, but they are amazing when they are piping hot. The leftovers also reheat well the next day. How amazing to still be able to eat pancakes and be gluten-free! Let me know what you think about these.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ (out of 5 hearts)

 

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Update: Now Gluten-free and Announcing a New Section for Reviews!

When I first thought about creating this website, I wanted the focus to be on creating healthy meals from fresh foods and on changing old favorite recipes to make them healthier. I felt that we can have some control over our health by the food choices that we make. That was why I choose the tagline "Choosing better health, one plate at a time." And for the last two years that has been my focus. Then this past July I was thrown a curveball when I learned that I could not longer eat gluten. I found myself at a crossroads with this site. I wanted to continue on the path that I was on, but I could not test recipes that had gluten in them anymore. I was hesitant about becoming a strictly "gluten-free" site because there are many people who are looking for healthy recipes that are able to eat gluten and I didn't want to abandon them. I also feel like that there are already many top-notch celiac focused websites out there. So I found myself unsure of how I wanted to proceed. In the last couple of months, I have come to realize that becoming gluten-free has not been that big of an adjustment in my life because the majority of our meals were already gluten-free. The areas where I had to adjust were lunches and baking mostly. There were a few other minor adjustment to be made as well. But overall, I realized that I could still provide many healthy recipes (that just happened to be gluten-free) for everyone. The other thing that I realized was that gluten-free eating has become a necessity for many people, not just celiacs or gluten-sensitive people. There is some evidence that being gluten-free is beneficial for children with ADD/ADHD and autism. And I recently learned that a friend of mine is on a gluten-free diet to control her MS symptoms. This led me to realize that there is a larger need for healthy gluten-free recipes than I realized. That brings me to another thought, many people have the misnomer that eating gluten-free is healthier. That isn't necessarily true; it all depends on how you eat. It is possible to eat gluten-free and eat nothing but less nutritious foods. The popularity of gluten-free eating has led to more gluten-free foods being more widely available, which is a great thing; but it has also led to the creation of plenty of "junky" gluten-free foods too.

With all of this in mind, I have decided to continue my original focus of providing recipes focused on eating fresh, healthy foods but I will add gluten-free foods to that focus as well. I am also excited to announce the addition of a section for reviews and recommendations of gluten-free products and other products that my husband and I use. I have tried a lot of them in the last few months and some have been shining successes while others have been expensive duds. Gluten-free foods are more expensive and I am hoping that by passing on my own experiences, I can help you spend your money wisely when you are buying gluten-free foods.

I hope that you continue to find recipes here that you and your family enjoy. Thank you for reading and sharing my recipes. Feel free to contact me if you ever have any questions about one of my recipes. If you want to be notified when I post new content, you can subscribe or follow me on Facebook or Twitter. All of the links for these options are on the righthand side of the page. Now onward to delicious, healthy, and gluten-free food!