Instant Pot Braised Beef

7 Comments

I’m still singing the praises of the Instant Pot.

Seriously. You need one.

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Life will be easier and better with one.

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I love this braised beef dish but without the Instant Pot, it has to simmer on the stove for at least three hours.

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Which means I have to stick around for those three hours to adjust the flame and check on things. If you’d like the slow version you can go here.

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In the Instant Pot, this braised beef dish takes just about an hour from beginning of prep to the end.

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It tastes just as delicious as if it simmered for three hours, if not even better. The actual pressure cooking time is only 43 minutes.

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Sometimes I serve it over mashed potatoes and sometimes over roasted potatoes like this night.

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Or, you can serve it over rice, quinoa, pasta, whatever you like.

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The morning after, I had it warmed up for breakfast with a side of grain free bread and dairy free butter.

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Instant Pot Braised Beef

2 Pounds of Beef Stew Meat

1 Large Onion, sliced

About 10 Large Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

5 Garlic Cloves, peeled & minced

1/2 Cup of Sun Dried Tomatoes (the ones packed in oil)

6 oz Can of Tomato Paste

4 Cups of Beef Broth

1 Cup of a Good Red Wine

1 Bay Leaf

1 Tablespoon of Dried Rosemary

1 Tablespoon of Dried Oregano

1 Tablespoon of Dried Thyme

Several Grinds of Fresh Pepper

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

Avocado Oil for Browning

2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Flour

Place the Instant Pot on your stove top under your overhead fan and plug in. Press “saute”. Drizzle the pot with avocado oil and wait for it to heat up. Add the meat and saute until browned. I had to remove some liquid so it would brown thoroughly (reserve the liquid!).

(While the meat is browning, prepare your potatoes for roasting or boiling. When I roast mine I cut them into wedges and toss in avocado oil, garlic powder, sea salt, and oregano. Then I lay them out on a parchment covered baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set potatoes aside.)

When the meat is browned removed to a bowl and set aside. Drizzle a little more avocado oil into the pot and add the onions and mushrooms. Saute until the onions are almost translucent. Add the minced garlic and saute.

Unplug and transfer from the stovetop to the counter. Plug in.

Add the meat, any reserved meat juices, the tomato paste, the herbs, salt and pepper, beef broth, and wine. Stir well to combine ingredients. Secure the lid, push the “Meat/Stew” setting, and adjust the time up to 43 minutes. Put the potatoes in the preheated oven to roast. Everything will be done right about the same time.

When the timer on the Instant Pot goes off, release the pressure. Remove the lid, hit the cancel button. Push the “saute” button. Mix 2 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Flour with about 2 Tablespoons of water or so, mix well and drizzle while stirring into the braised beef. It will thicken quickly. Turn the pot off and serve.

Incredibly Easy Instant Pot Pork Ribs

5 Comments

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I’m in love with the Instant Pot. What more can I really say?

And no, they aren’t paying me to promote their product. It’s just that good. Although I wouldn’t argue if they wanted to.

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I’ve been battling the flu or a flare or something, and yesterday I used all my energy so by dinner time, I felt like death. But as most of you ladies out there know, people still need to eat whether you feel like death or not.

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That’s where the Instant Pot comes in very handy. Normally, I would slow bake and baste the ribs in the oven for three hours, then, either put them on the grill with extra sauce or under the broiler to finish. But with the Instant Pot, it took exactly 40 minutes from beginning to end and I also made a huge salad and homemade salad dressing in that time.

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I didn’t miss the three hours of basting, broiling, or grilling, either. The ribs were delicious! Tender and extremely flavorful.

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I’ll take 40 minutes over three hours of waiting and basting and grilling or broiling any time.

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Incredibly Easy Instant Pot Pork Ribs

1 Rack of Pork Ribs

1/2 of a Large Onion Sliced

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 1/2 Bottles of Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce

A Couple Pinches of Sea Salt

A Few Grinds Of Pepper

Arrowroot Powder

Place the onion and garlic in the Instant Pot. Pour half of the BBQ sauce over the onions. Cut the ribs into two’s or three’s and layer on top of the onion and garlic. Season with salt & Pepper. Pour remaining BBQ sauce over the ribs.

Put the lid on and secure it. Make sure the pressure valve is closed. Click the meat setting and increase to 35 minutes. I don’t like the meat to be completely falling of the ribs, just nice and tender. If you want your meat to fall of the ribs, then I would increase the cooking time to 40-43 minutes.

When the timer goes off, release the steam, and remove the ribs to a plate and cover with foil. (After removing the ribs I laid a paper towel lightly over the top of the sauce to wick up any unwanted fat. Do it quickly and then just toss. So much easier than trying to skim it off!)

Next, click the saute button, the sauce will come to a boil quickly. Mix a couple of teaspoons of arrowroot powder in about 1/8 cup of water and stir well. Drizzle slowly (about 1/2) into the BBQ sauce while stirring. Add the remainder of the arrowroot mixture only if it needs more thickening. Turn off the Instant Pot and serve.

Easy!!

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Instant Pot Spaghetti Sauce & Grain Free Flat Bread

5 Comments

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I’ve heard from numerous people that they’re afraid to use their Instant Pot.

Brown the sausage, ground beef, and onion on the saute setting. I like to place my Instant Pot on top of the stove under the fan. Then move it to the counter for the remainder of cooking time.

Brown the sausage, ground beef, and onion on the saute setting. I like to place my Instant Pot on top of the stove under the fan. Then move it to the counter for the remainder of cooking time.

I can tell you firsthand, there’s nothing scary about using the Instant Pot. It is absolutely SIMPLE! I mean truly, an 8 year old could run it.

Seriously people, I’m not joking.

Chebe is gluten free & grain free! You can also tweak it any way you like. I also use it for our pizza crust.

Chebe is gluten free, dairy free, & grain free! You can tweak it any way you like. I also use it for our pizza crust.

It’s self-contained, self-regulating, easy to run, easy to understand, unbelievably convenient, extremely easy to clean, and it’s completely safe.

 

Work the dough until it's relatively smooth.

Work the dough until it’s relatively smooth.

Cut it into eight pieces.

Cut it into eight pieces.

I promise!

It’s not at all like the old pressure cookers so please stop fretting and start enjoying what will become your new favorite kitchen appliance.

Pat the dough out into 8 circles.

Pat the dough out into 8 circles.

My experience has been great and it makes my life so much easier! There are many times when I use up the relatively small amount of energy I have during the day and when it comes to dinner time, I’d rather just get in the bathtub and go to bed and read.

Brush with herbs, garlic, sea salt, & olive oil.

Brush with herbs, garlic, sea salt, & olive oil.

Kind of like the last few days. I’ve been working on granola gifts and body care gifts and last night I was incredibly thankful to make one pot spaghetti sauce in roughly 8 hours less than it would take normally.

Eight hours less…that should be music to anyone’s ears.

The sauce only takes 20 minutes to cook, the bread 35 minutes, and the GF pasta noodles 15 minutes. Easy, easy, easy.

Prep for everything was maybe 25 minutes. The bread and sauce cook at the same time and the pasta cooks the last 15 minutes.

Easy!

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The sauce was rich and thick and tasted like it’d been simmering all day. My husband and I both kept remarking on how fantastic it tasted.

And the best part….it was a wonderful meal that I didn’t have to spend all day keeping my eye on or fussing over.

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Absolutely Simple & Safe Instant Pot Spaghetti Sauce & Grain Free Flatbread

For The Sauce:

1 lb of Organic Ground Italian Sausage

1 lb of Organic Grass Fed Ground Beef

1/2 of an Organic Medium Onion, diced

2 Jars of Your Favorite Organic GF Spaghetti Sauce

1 6oz Can of Organic Tomato Paste

1 8 oz Carton of Cremini Mushrooms, sliced

3 Tablespoons of Organic Vegan Pesto

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Organic Dried Oregano

2 Large Cloves of Organic Garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt, plus a bit more for seasoning when done

For The Olive Oil & Herb Spread:

About 1/4 Cup Organic Unfiltered Olive Oil

4 Cloves of Organic Garlic, pressed

2 teaspoons of Dried Organic Oregano

1 teaspoons of Dried Organic Basil

1  teaspoon of Dried Organic Rosemary

1 teaspoon of Sea Salt

For the Flatbread:

2 Boxes of Chebe Foccacia Bread Mix

4 Organic Eggs

5 Tablespoons of Organic Unfiltered Olive Oil

3/4 Cup of Filtered Water

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle

For the Pasta:

I used Tinkyada brown rice spaghettie noodles. You can also do zoodles. You can go here for how to make zuchinni noodles AKA – zoodles.

Step #1: Place the entire Instant Pot on top of your stove under the vent fan. Click the saute button and brown the ground sausage, beef, and onion. Remove the entire Instant Pot from the top of the stove and place on your counter. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and stir to combine.

Step #2: Make the olive oil mix in a small bowl and set aside.

Step #3: Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Make the flatbread –  Pour the ingredients of both boxes into a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil, water, and seasoning and stir with a fork until wet. Knead with hand until relatively smooth and in a ball. Cut into 8 equal pieces. Pat each piece into a circle on the lined baking sheet. Brush generously with olive oil mixture.

Step #4: Fill a pot with water and sea salt and turn on to boil for gluten free spaghetti noodles (or you can do zoodles).

Step #5: Put the flatbread in the oven (bake for 35 minutes), secure the lid on the Instant Pot and make sure the pressure valve is closed. Press the manual button and set timer for 20 minutes.

step #6: Add spaghetti noodles to water and boil to aldente.

Step #7: When the flatbread is done, brush again with the remaining olive oil mixture. Drain pasta, let steam out of the Instant Pot if it hasn’t already regulated itself, and serve!

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Trust Me, You NEED an Instant Pot!

12 Comments

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You may be thinking, “What IS an Instant Pot, April?” You may also be wondering if I’m getting paid to promote their product. Nope, not a cent. I just love it that much and want to make sure you hear about it. I had never even heard of it until Predominantly Paleo posted it on her Facebook page several months ago!

An Instant Pot is a programmable pressure cooker. And It. Is. Awesome.

Absolutely simple to program. You can use the preset programs or use it manually.

Absolutely simple to program. You can use the preset programs or use it manually.

It cooks meals that normally take all day in a very short period of time. It infuses flavor, it tenderizes, you can saute in it, you can cook rice in it, you can steam things, you can make soup, stew, ribs, sauces, you can also use it as a slow cooker, and you can even use it to make yogurt! It’s only as limited as your imagination. And if you’re not the imaginative type, there’s Instant Pot Cookbooks and bloggers who will do the imagining part for you.

One of the best things about the Instant Pot is that it’s not terrifying and unpredictable like the old-fashioned pressure cookers.

A removable stainless steel inner pot that is a cinch to clean.

A removable stainless steel inner pot that is a cinch to clean.

The 6 quart retails for about $235.00 but the good news is that it goes on sale on Amazon during special events. I purchased mine for about $99 last summer during Prime Days. They were also just recently on sale again on Amazon for Black Friday and I believe my sister-in-law was able to get one for around $83.00. A steal! And knowing what I know now after using it for a few dishes, I would have gladly paid the $235.00.

One tiny flick of the finger and it's simple to release the steam valve.

One tiny flick of the finger and it’s simple to release the steam valve.

It cooks a whole chicken in 25 minutes folks. Twenty five minutes. I did one a couple of weeks ago and it made such moist and tender sandwich meat. I also used the meat in a pasta dish, and a salad meal.  I made French Dips last night, in fact I made them last week too. I didn’t have to worry about getting the roast browned in a separate pan and then transferring it to a crockpot by at least noon so it would have time to cook and tenderize by dinner and not taste like shoe leather either.

You saute the meat right in the Instant Pot!

We ran errands most of the afternoon. We got home at 4:45, I browned the 2.5 lb roast right inside the Instant Pot. When was the last time you were able to do that in a crock pot?

Never.

When browning I place the Instant Pot on top of my stove under the fan. When it's browned on all sides, I move the pot back to the counter and add the remaining ingredients.

When browning I place the Instant Pot on top of my stove under the fan. When it’s browned on all sides, I move the pot back to the counter and add the remaining ingredients.

Then I added 32 ounces of beef broth, half an onion, some herbs and sea salt, and set the timer for 45 minutes.

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I buttered and seasoned a few gluten free buns to be broiled at the last minute.

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Then I went up stairs and took a 35 minute bath. Seriously. That easy.

Right when I was coming downstairs, the timer went off, but I don’t have to worry because it kicks into warm mode immediately and continues tenderizing. So I popped the buns under the broiler, and with one flick let the steam safely out of the Instant Pot. If you don’t want your house to smell like dinner (I don’t know why you wouldn’t…but anyhoo), you can simply carry the pot outside to your back porch and release the steam there.

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Once it stopped steaming, I removed the lid to see this tender and flavorful beauty.

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We sliced it up, built our sandwiches, dished out the au jus, and that was that. SO. Incredibly. Easy. And tender and juicy! All things it would not have been had I cooked it in a crock pot for 45 minutes.

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I’ve also made bone broth twice. The first time I did 3 roasted chicken carcasses. 2 hours flat. A far cry from 48 hours in a crock pot and it didn’t permeate our house with the smell of cooked flesh. The Instant Pot makes the most gelatinous bone broth I’ve ever been able to achieve. I’ve been making it semi regularly for almost 4 years, so that’s saying something.

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For those of you who are new to bone broth, the gelling happens when it’s been cooled. When you heat it and drink it or use it in recipes, it tastes like broth and has the consistency of broth. The reason we get excited about the gelling aspect, is because the more it gels, the more we can see that the cooking process was successful at leaching out all of the collagen and good stuff. Bone broth is excellent for gut health, joint pain, and inflammation.

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I made bone broth out of our turkey carcass day before yesterday. This time I cooked it for 2 hours, let it cool for about 20 minutes with the lid off, then set it for another hour just to make sure all the healthy goodness was utilized.

It’s incredibly easy. I pack in all of the bones and carcass, skin, and any leftover meat that isn’t going to be eaten. Then, fill it up to the Max Line with filtered water. Add 1 Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and sometimes I add herbs and sometimes I don’t. Then I Manually set the cook time for 120 minutes, lock on the lid (it has a chime that lets you know it’s locked) and that’s it.

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The chicken bone broth yielded 8 – 12 ounce mason jars of bone broth and the turkey yielded about 10 – 12 ounce jars. So just as many if not more than a regular crock pot, but so much more flavorful and gelatinous.

Below are some links you can click for more Instant Pot information and recipes.

InstantPot.com

Benefits Of The Instant Pot

Instant Pot Cooking Times

Predominantly Paleo Instant Pot Recipes

NomNom Paleo Instant Pot Recipes

InstantPot.com Recipes

AIP Instant Pot Recipe Round Up

Instant Pot Recipes On Pinterest

Instant Pot Cookbook

That should be enough to get us all started on some really tasty Instant Pot adventures. Good luck and  have fun!

InstantPot-IP-DUO

 

 

Simple Stuffed Chicken Breasts

6 Comments

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The last few months I’ve been in a rut. A dinner rut that is.

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Do you ever get stuck just rotating the same old recipes over and over again? You’d think a food blogger would be immune to such things because we always have food ideas dancing in our heads. But, we get tired and bored and uninspired just like everyone else it seems.

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Last week I finally decided enough is enough and I sat down for several hours and created 60 dinner meal plans to choose from. I have hundreds of recipes on my own blog along with piles and piles of cookbooks. I’m also slightly addicted to tearing recipes out of magazines that I can tweak in one way or another.

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Having food allergies means tweaking is a must usually, and if I’m feeling energetic, it’s fun to come up with fresh ideas to put on table. Now we have some old favorites mixed with new dishes to try over the next few weeks and I’m no longer in a boring rut.

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The photos don’t really do the dish justice, unfortunately. It comes out of the oven so gorgeous! It’s the time of year when our daylight is diminishing at an alarming rate which makes for terrible food photography. I prefer to rely on natural light, but this house is so dark, I may have to invest in some photography lighting or get creative with a light box.

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Before you decide to add this dish to your menu, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you I did not like the addition of bacon.

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I was feeling a little queasy before dinner and the first bite with the bacon was not appealing to me. Once I removed it from the middle of my chicken breast, I thoroughly enjoyed the recipe.

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My husband thought the bacon added a nice flavor. So I’ll leave it up to you. I served it with my grain free Garlic & Kalamata Olive Bread which was a very tasty combination!

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Grain Free Dairy Free ~ Simple Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees.

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, sliced open like a book

About 2 Tablespoons Crumbled Sheep’s Milk Feta

About 1/4 Cup Grated Sheep’s Milk Parmesan + more to top breasts at end of cooking

About 2 Tablespoons of Diaya Cheddar Style Shreds

1 Cup of Fresh Baby Spinach, chopped

A Few Very Thin Slices of Red Onion

2 Slices of Cooked Bacon, chopped (see post above…I didn’t like the bacon)

1/2 Jar of Your Favorite Store Bought Marinara Sauce

Olive Oil

Drizzle a little olive oil in a small baking dish. Place the breasts in the dish and stuff with the cheeses, spinach, onion, and *bacon. Add the marinara sauce, cover with tin foil,  and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, add more grated sheep’s Parmesan on top of the breasts and continue baking until the parm is lightly melted and a beginning to color. About 10 more minutes. Serve with your favorite crusty bread and a salad if you’re not too lazy to make one like I was!

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Sunday Morning Quiche

8 Comments

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We were finally able to enjoy a great couple of days last weekend.

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Tony and I had been sick for almost two weeks and then something went wonky with his hip joint. That led to a lot of pain, a lot of couch time, and several painful trips to the chiropractor.

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It was a nice change of pace on Friday to realize we both at least felt decent enough to get out and have some fun.

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We went to the county fair. I always look forward to it even though every year they’re pretty much the same. This year I was happy to see there were a couple of changes.

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They had a large, free petting zoo which was fun to walk through. Along with a good excuse to eat an embarrassing amount of kettle caramel corn…the animals are my favorite part of the fair. I mean, who doesn’t just melt over a baby goat? Or the eye lashes on the Lamas? Or the cows that have shiny coats the color of corn silk?

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There’s also a booth with Asian massage therapists who do the most incredible chair massages! I mean seriously. They have perfected the chair massage. We partake in one every year and it is heavenly.

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The only picture I took at the fair was of this adorable baby zebra. We had just walked out of one of the animal barns and he was being led back to his stall. The owner wouldn’t let us get near him, but we were close enough to get a good picture. He was just stunning!

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Saturday we packed up the truck and headed about an hour from here so we could meet up with my husband’s hang gliding group.

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It was a gorgeous day so we took snacks and brought the dogs along.

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I was able to get a lot of really good photos of the pilots and it was fun to watch all the different levels of experience.

My husband is the yellow and light blue glider.

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Some of the pilots have been flying for more than 30 years! They started in the 70’s when it was pretty loosey goosey and quite dangerous.

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Now pilots have to study and be trained and tested, and there are different levels of training that can be achieved. When a hang gliding pilot reaches the highest level of training, it’s the equivalent of a private pilot’s license.

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The majority of people aren’t aware of what it takes to become a certified hang glider. It’s serious business. I’ve heard many people just assume that someone goes out and buys a glider, straps it on, and off the mountain they go! Only crazy people do that. And in fact, now it’s almost impossible to even purchase a glider without an OK from a certified instructor to the manufacturer.

This guy hangglides and paraglides.

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This is him again. He flew at 7200 feet for well over an hour.

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Even pilots who’ve been flying for 30 + years can occasionally misjudge and end up in trouble. It’s happened twice this summer with Tony’s group but thankfully, both the pilots came out of it relatively without injury.

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Last flight of the day.

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Regardless of risk, for those that have the flying bug, I’m sure there’s just nothing like soaring like a bird with your own set of wings. They all have radios on their gliders and it’s fun to hear them explain what they’re experiencing when they’re soaring at 7200 feet.

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After a few hours at the fair on Friday, and several hours on top of a mountain on Saturday, by Sunday morning we were feeling pretty worn out. Especially after having that much activity after not feeling so hot the last few weeks. Even the dogs were beat.

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So we lounged and had a slow morning. I made us vegetable quiche for breakfast and as we sat at the table and discussed our weekend. We both agreed that it was worthy of two thumbs up!

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Vegetable Quiche

1 Pie Crust Portion

1/2 Red Onion, diced

1/2 Large Bell Pepper, diced

About 1/2 Cup Broccoli Florets

2 Cups Packed, Fresh Baby Spinach

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

Fresh Thyme

Bacon Fat

8 Eggs

1/2 Cup of Hemp Milk

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

A Few Grinds of Pepper

A Couple Sprinkles of Garlic Powder

Couple Pinches of Dried Oregano

1/4 Cup of Sheep’s Milk Parmesan

1/2 Cup of Sheep’s Milk Mozzarella

Freshly Chopped Tomatoes & Parsley For Garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll out the crust and line pie plate. Place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

 In a large skillet, saute the bacon fat, onion, pepper, broccoli, garlic, and thyme until onions and broccoli are aldente. Add the spinach and saute until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Grate cheeses.

Whisk the eggs, milk, sea salt, pepper, garlic, and oregano in a bowl. Place the pre-baked crust on the middle rack of your oven and pour the egg mixture carefully into the crust. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Super Easy Kabobs & 10 Life Lessons Lyme Has Taught Me That You Can Learn Too

4 Comments

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I was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2013 while we were living in New Hampshire. I say “finally” because I had actually gotten sick in 2006 and then extremely sick in 2008, when I was so sick I chose to quit my job. It took 7 years for someone to figure out what was wrong with me. That may seem surprising to you, but it’s actually a very common Lyme story. Once I got a handle on what was going on I realized that taking care of my health was going to be serious business. The past two years have definitely been a struggle, but I have also used it as an opportunity to carefully examine things and work on making adjustments that help my life run more smoothly.

10 Life Lessons Lyme Has Taught Me That You Can Learn Too:

 1.  Ditch ToxicToxic people, toxic stuff, toxic behaviors, toxic emotions. Life is just simply too short to hang out with toxic people. People who display behaviors that go against the needs of a healthy relationship. Life’s too short to surround yourself in a toxic environment full of toxic “stuff”, too short to fill your body with toxic food. Too short to hang on to your own toxic behaviors whatever they may be, too short to have toxic emotions that beat you up all day every day because of feelings of inadequacy, marital issues, family issues, appearance, jealousy, past mistakes, not standing up for what you believe in, whatever it may be that you beat yourself up about on a regular basis. Make a list of non-negotiables, stick to them like glue even when it’s hard, and treat yourself and others with love and kindness. Value the life you’ve been given.

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2.  Don’t Take Ignorant Comments Personally. I have found that we all feel we’re a little bit of an expert on a little bit of everything. It’s human nature for people to give opinions. I am full of them! But, in certain situations when you really are an expert on dealing with something unpleasant, the negative nellie’s of the world can really get under your skin. The number one complaint of people who have a chronic illness (besides the illness itself) is other people who aren’t supportive and/or say stupid, hurtful things. “You don’t look sick. You just need to get more exercise. Drink more water! But you seemed fine yesterday. You’re up and moving around, I thought you were sick? It’s all in your head. You’re always sick. Why can’t you get better? Quit making excuses. There’s no such thing as……” Eye rolling, gossip, being laughed at, being told you’re weak…. People can be really mean and not just strangers.  Unless you are speaking to someone who is suffering from something similar, it’s highly unlikely they will ever fully understand what you’re going through and most won’t even give it a good try. In any situation you’re going through in life where people are making ignorant comments, you need to decide whether it’s worth the energy to try to explain it properly, and if it’s not, just nod and smile and move on. Stop looking for support and acceptance in all the wrong places.

3.  Form Your Circle. All of us need a safe, close, circle of people who we can trust and rely on no matter what. I’ve heard many times and agree that this circle for people with chronic illness and people diagnosed with major illness is often small. Partly because of the ignorance I discussed above, and partly because when you end up sick, or have a crisis, or need someone to have your back, the relationships that were never really close and genuine, fall away. It’s painful, but a fact of life. Save your energy for the people who stay.  You absolutely need a circle who you deeply value and who deeply value you. This may be only a few people or 10 people, but it’s imperative.

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4.  Join A Support Group. Meeting people who have the same interests and similar struggles can be life changing. It can make all the difference in how you view what you’re going through. I belong to private online Lyme groups filled with hundreds of amazing people of all walks of life. By private, I mean no one outside the group can see the posts or comments. These groups have been a tremendous help to me. Not only with information and ideas, but with loving support. No discussion is too bizarre, or too whiny, or too scary, or too real. You can be open and completely honest, which is sometimes difficult to do with close friends and family who are not going through the same thing you are. In the support groups we’re there to learn, understand, listen to each other, and lend support. There’s a lot to learn from other people who are going through the same things you are. Another really important part of being in a support group is the recognition that someone always has it worse than you. Much, much, worse. That’s a real eye opener when you’re feeling really blue. Listening to what others are going through forms friendship bonds and helps with feelings of isolation in illness or anything unpleasant that you’re going through. Even on your worst day, you can be a voice of love and compassion to someone else.

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5.  Keep Moving Forward. Stress can be debilitating. Many people don’t understand that stress is not just a bad job, a snotty teenager, a bad marriage, money issues, a neighbor’s barking dog, crappy customer service, or a hateful relative. Illness itself is also a major form of stress and places your adrenal glands under constant pressure. They pump out cortisol more than they should which sets your body into “fight or flight” mode and imbalances your hormones. Too much cortisol lowers the immune system, causes anxiety among other things, and interferes with your body’s ability to rest and repair properly. Trying to keep all the stress in your life from inside and outside sources can be very difficult. There’s not a lot I can do to cure the stress that Lyme Disease causes inside my body, but once I could visibly see how stress from outside sources dramatically aggravates my health, I had to make big changes in my life. I had to ditch the toxic like in #1 above. I have to focus on taking care of myself properly inside and out. I focus more on doing things I love that bring me peace and being around people who strive to be peaceful and are also looking to lead a healthy life inside and out. Sometimes that can be really difficult and obviously, we can never fully remove stress or stressful people from our lives.  Most of us have a lot of clutter and static that we simply do not need but hang on to because we’re used to it in a kind of dysfunctional, comforting way. It’s more harmful than good. Do whatever it takes to get rid of as much stress as possible, and every day do things that help you move forward toward more peace and more joy in your life.

6.  Learn How To Say No. I come from a long line of people pleasers. Saying “No” to people is difficult for me without feeling piles of guilt. I’m still in the learning and practicing stages but over the past three years, even though it’s uncomfortable, I’ve made progress. Feeling guilty for not wanting to do things, guilty for disappointing people, guilty because you feel like crap a lot and it affects other people, guilty because somehow it feels kind of shameful to say “no” and not to worry about what other people think about it. Some people have zero problem with “no” or feeling guilty about saying no. But most people are just like you and me and struggle with it a lot. If we want to be healthy in our lives, we have to recognize that we simply cannot be a yes woman/man all the time. We need to work toward getting rid of the guilt of not always being the person everyone wants us to be and doing the things that everyone wants us to do.

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7.  Every Day Is Different, Embrace It. This is one of the most misunderstood symptoms of chronic illness, especially Lyme Disease. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that literally, every single day is different for me. One day I can feel relatively fine and the next day I can wake up feeling absolutely terrible from head to toe. I can go back and forth like that for weeks, even months. This can make it difficult to make future plans. I do plan things, but typically only very short term and when I have to plan something for the future, I dread it. I guess that goes back to the guilt and anxiety of saying no, or about feeling terrible about letting people down or looking like a flake because I can’t follow through or have to cancel. I have a very small circle of people that I feel comfortable doing things with. This is only because I can relax and feel crappy when we’re together and be fine with it and so can they. I do life sick, that’s the reality, and I need a comfort zone. We all need a comfort zone. I have come to realize that I have to exert a lot more energy to do life sick with people outside of my circle. Sometimes I have that extra energy and sometimes I don’t. I’m learning how to be OK with that and to not worry that people may not understand. That works for every rough patch we deal with in life. Be OK with what is best for your health and well being.

8.  Examine Your Past, But Not Too Much! Many of the reasons behind who we are and how we handle things have to do with how we were raised. Now this is not a license to pick on your parents! A little past examination comes in handy though when doing some soul searching and dealing with life’s ups and downs. Whenever I’ve been ill with anything throughout my life, it always made me feel really anxious and uncomfortable. Fearful of what, I didn’t know, not death because that doesn’t scare me, but just plain anxious and fearful. Dread. Guilt. Doctor avoidance. So I did some thinking and it occurred to me that both of the main women in my life hid their symptoms and their illnesses throughout much of my childhood. By “hid” I mean they didn’t tell anyone until someone found them out. I remember walking into the bathroom and my mom was leaning up against the counter gasping for air. Her lung had collapsed and she didn’t want me to tell anyone! And that wasn’t the only time things like that happened. I can only guess that she learned those behaviors from my grandmother because she was the same way. She hid chest pains and all kinds of things from us. “Don’t tell anyone, don’t want to worry anyone, I can handle it myself, I’m fine…” That sends a message that there’s something wrong with being ill or being vulnerable and in need of help. On my father’s side, I remember my grandma telling a story about my great grandmother that was extremely unsettling. She collapsed on the floor and when the paramedics arrived and ripped open her shirt, she had been treating herself for breast cancer. She had an open wound on her breast that she had told absolutely no one about. What is it about us women in particular that makes us want to hide and feel guilty about being ill? Millions of people in the world face illness every day, unfortunately it’s quite common place. It does not need to be hidden and the reality of it should not be feared. This is a hard reflex to change, but I try diligently to work on it. We need to be a tower of strength for each other, not hide from each other. We need people in our circle who support us when we’re feeling vulnerable. Life whether good or bad, should not be faced alone.

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9.  Focus On The Positive. Many people have said to me, “You have such a positive outlook!” I appreciate those comments, because that is what I and certainly most people in life in any situation strive for. Am I always positive? Of course not. Having a chronic illness comes with a lot of mixed feelings about all kinds of things.  It’s confusing, and irritating, scary, and often painful and debilitating. However, I have learned that if I’m feeling blue or anxiety ridden, I only allow myself a little bit of a pity party. Swimming in despair is terrible for you, but so is cramming your worries and not working through them. I think through the main things that are upsetting me and then redirect with  prayer, or talking to a trusted friend, taking a walk, reading a good book, playing with the dogs, catching up with friends on Facebook, baking, shopping, praying for other people who are struggling, journaling, gardening, photography, focusing on blessings….whatever it takes to get myself back on track. You absolutely MUST have a list of things that bring you joy that you can turn to, even when you feel like total crap and you think your life is falling apart. Your outlook can make or break you.

10.  Trust That There’s A Plan For Your Life. I am a firm believer that my whole life is figured out and planned. Every single thing that happens, happens for a reason and is instrumental to my life for reasons I may or may not understand at this point or…ever. And though I firmly know that in my heart and soul, sometimes my brain wants to tell me otherwise and I get caught in the trap of trying to control everything myself. Trying to figure it all out and make it nice and tidy. Surmountable. Trying to map the future and the outcome. God gives us many, many, tools to deal with life, none of which give us details on how every minute of our individual lives are going to pan out. That’s where trust and faith enter the scene for me. You need a foundation of strength that is unwavering, an anchor that is outside of yourself and is not associated with another human being. When I get caught in the loop of endless hours of research and reading and unanswered questions and what if’s, and uneducated doctors, and ignorant people, and chores I don’t have the energy for, and family issues, and anxiety, and all the “stuff” life throws at every single one of us every day, I have to force myself to step back and remember, “God’s got this.” He’s never let me down. He’s always had it all figured out, it’s been proven to me over and over again that every single thing happens for a reason. Why do I forget that? The blessing of faith and trust, is that I don’t have to have it all figured out all the time. Imagine that. The pressure is off. We can deal with stuff as it comes to the best of our ability and that is all we can do. We need to learn to let go.

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Super Easy Steak & Vegetable Kabobs

Bag #1

2 Grass Fed New York Strip Steaks (or meat of your choice)

2 Organic Cloves of Garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon of Organic Fresh Thyme

1 teaspoon of Organic Fresh Rosemary

1 teaspoon of Organic Fresh Parsley

1/4 Cup of Gluten Free BBQ Sauce

1/4 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar

Sea Salt & Ground Pepper

Cut any tendon or extra fat off of the steaks and cube. Place all ingredients in a zipper bag, mix, and marinate all day in the fridge.

Bag #2

Organic Cremini Mushrooms

Organic Bell Pepper

Organic Onion

1/2 Cup of Unsweetened Pineapple with 100% Pineapple Juice

1/8 Cup of Organic EVOO

1 teaspoon of Organic Oregano

Sea Salt & Ground Pepper

Place all ingredients in a zipper bag, mix, and marinate all day in the fridge.

Place meat and veggies on skewers. Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Grill 5 minutes or so on each side for medium rare.