This makes a really delicious, dense, loaf of semi-sweet bread. My husband doesn’t like nuts in his food so I had it all to myself. He really missed out!
One day I had it with breakfast topped with dairy free butter and raw honey. The next day I toasted it and topped it with sliced avocado. The other afternoon I was craving something sweet so I toasted it and topped it with dairy free butter and a little bit of raspberry jam. Another day, I ate it plain with a salad. It’s very versatile. And of course, you can add any fruit and nut/seed combo you like. Or all fruits or all nuts, or chocolate, or dried ginger, you could add cacao to the recipe to make it really dark and chocolaty, or you could also lower the coconut sugar and make it savory with herbs and garlic.
It’s egg free, grain free, refined sugar free, and dairy free. I’m going to work on more egg free, limited ingredient breads over the next couple of months. Most of us with food allergens have the basics on hand but I really love a simple, delicious recipe that we can whip up easily whenever we get the craving.
Cranberry Pepita Bread
2/3 Cup of Arrowroot
1 Cup of Chestnut Flour
3/4 Cup of Coconut Flour
2 teaspoons of Xanthan Gum
3 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
3 teaspoons of Cinnamon
3 Tablespoons of Active Yeast
1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Butter
3 Tablespoons of Grass Fed Gelatin
1 Cup of Warm Water
1 Tablespoon of Vinegar
1 Cup of Organic Dried Cranberries
1/2 Cup of Raw Pepitas
(You’ll need parchment paper and a dutch oven for this recipe.)
Cut two pieces of parchment to line a medium bowl and set aside.
In an electric mixer whisk the arrowroot, chestnut flour, coconut flour, xanthan, baking powder, coconut sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, and yeast to combine. Work the butter through until it resembles pea sized crumbs. Measure the cup of water and add the gelatin into the water mixing quickly with a fork so it doesn’t clump. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add the gelatin mixture and the vinegar to the dry mixture. Beat on medium for 1 minute scraping down sides once or twice. Fold in the cranberries and pepitas.
Lightly form the dough into a ball and place in the parchment lined bowl. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, cover the bowl with a light towel and set it on top of the stove to rise for 1 hour. At the 30 minute mark, place your dutch oven in the oven with the lid on. If the lid handle isn’t metal, remove the handle by unscrewing it.
At the 1 hour mark, carefully pull the rack out and remove the dutch oven lid. Set it somewhere safe because it will be HOT. Pick up the sides of the parchment and transfer the dough and the parchment to the dutch oven and replace the lid.
Bake for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove bread to cooling rack before slicing.
I woke up at 2:30 this morning. Wide awake. I don’t know why that happens sometimes. So I laid there for about 45 minutes trying to go back to sleep but one of the dogs – Romeo, was farting and my husband was snoring. No matter how many times I jiggled the bed, poked him with my toe, or moved the pillow that he sleeps with over his head…the snoring (and dog farting) just continued at a steady pace.
Abigail wanted in and out of the covers numerous times. Then of course, I started thinking – which is never a good idea when you’re trying to fall back to sleep. Pretty soon I was planning my summer garden, rearranging the house in my head, then I’d try to divert myself from that and just envision myself laying on a hot sandy beach. Then I was thinking about paying bills and the laundry that needed to be done, and how I was going to manage getting into swimsuit shape by summer (which is more like a nightmare than a daydream)…so I finally just got up! I made myself a cup of tea and did my little morning bible study. I’m also reading Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, Uninvited, and it is SO GOOD! I’ve read all of her books and have never been disappointed. So at least my early morning wasn’t wasted.
So now here I am. It’s 12:30 and I’m truly thankful that I had this soup on hand. It made for an effortless lunch and probably a good pre cat-nap meal. Warm and soothing and the ginger, sriracha, and cilantro really give it something special.
Asian Style Beef & Vegetable Soup
1 Sirloin Steak, sliced thinly on the diagonal – fat trimmed and reserved
1/2 Onion, diced
6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced
About 2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil
28 Brussels Sprouts, outer first layer peeled and bottoms trimmed
1 Cup of Red Cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 Cup of Celery, sliced
1/2 Cup of Red & Orange Bell Peppers, sliced (I used the minis)
1 Cup of Multi Colored Carrots, sliced
2 1/2 Tablespoons of Vegan Pesto
1 1/2 Cups of Sliced Cremini Mushrooms
2 1/2 teaspoons of Freshly Grated Ginger
1/4 Cup of Cilantro, roughly chopped
5 Green Onions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons of Sea Salt
1/4 Cup of Coconut Aminos (Or tamari sauce)
2 teaspoons of Sriracha (If you like heat, if not, less)
1 1/2 Boxes (48 ounces) of Beef Broth
Saute (in the Instant Pot) the Beef fat, onions, garlic, and avocado oil for about 6 minutes. Add the sliced steak and saute quickly until the steak is medium rare. Add the brussels, cabbage, celery, bell pepper, carrots, mushrooms, pesto, and ginger. Stir to combine. Add the coconut aminos, sriracha, and beef broth. Stir to combine. Secure the lid and Manually set the Instant Pot timer for 5 minutes (it will take time for the pressure to build up, so the finished time will probably be closer to 15 minutes or a bit more).
As soon as the timer goes off immediately begin releasing the pressure. Remove the lid and stir in the cilantro and green onion and serve.
Every now and then I need something fried. There’s something about that salty crunch that is so satisfying! These crispy chicken tenders are simple to prepare and are much healthier than you’ll find in most restaurants that serve this type of food.
When I have the opportunity to eat things like this it makes me really miss Legal Seafood Harborside in Boston. It was only about 90 minutes from our home in New Hampshire and always well worth the drive. They have a spectacular gluten-free menu and even bring gluten free rolls to the table. If you ever have the chance, make sure to set aside some time to sample their menu. They offer fried clams, fish and chips, calamari, fisherman’s stew, a wide array of choices…all the things you’re typically never able to eat when visiting a coastal city and dealing with food sensitivities and allergies.
If you don’t want to fry these chicken tenders they can also be baked. You can use gluten free or grain free bread crumbs, whatever fits with your current dietary needs. When I make my home made grain free bread, I also set aside a few rolls or slices to dry and crumble for crumbs to store in the freezer. Then they’re handy whenever I need them.
If you’re not into making your own bread, there are gluten free Panko crumbs available in many natural food isles along with gluten free bread that you could dry and crumble into crumbs. If you’re looking for a grain free bread that you don’t have to make yourself, I’ve heard good things about Predominantly Paleo’s Legit Bread Company but haven’t had a chance to try it myself.
Grain Free Crispy Chicken Tenders
*Amounts will vary depending on size of your family. This recipe is based on 6 chicken tenders.
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenders
About 1/4 Cup of Avocado Oil
1/4 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk, or any milk you like
About 1 Cup of Grain Free or Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons of Sea Salt
Several Grinds of Fresh Pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoons each of Thyme & Oregano
1/2 teaspoon of Paprika
Pat the chicken tenders dry with paper towels and set aside. Whisk the egg and milk. Add the crumbs, salt, pepper, and herbs to a bowl and whisk together. Coat the chicken in the eggs and milk mixture then roll in bread crumb mixture. Transfer to a plate to rest. In a large skillet add the avocado oil and heat on medium to medium high. Add the chicken tenders and fry until browned on both sides and chicken is firm to the touch.
If you’d like to bake instead of fry: Line a baking pan with parchment and add the coated chicken tenders. Drizzle lightly with olive oil or avocado oil. Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes.
If you’re craving breaded dishes, here’s another tasty recipe you may enjoy for Baked Halibut and Sweet Potato Fries.
I could live on soup!
I’d say I make a big batch about every six weeks.
My favorite is chicken soup but I do like to switch it up every now and then. Sometimes I do beef and vegetable, creamy broccolli, and occasionnally a potato soup. Sometimes I just like bone broth.
I try to keep individual servings in the freezer at all times. Speaking of which – this soup was so tasty we ate it all over a few days and there wasn’t anything left to freeze!
If my husband is traveling for work, I can live on soup and salads for days. My body just loves it. I even have it for breakfast! It’s a really nutritious, gut healthy way to start your day. It’s my first go to when I’m not feeling well, when I’m cold, when I’m tired, I love the way it fills the house with wonderful scents – and if you use healthy ingredients, it’s a great way to get a lot of healing nutrients into your body.
The meatballs are bite size so they fit perfectly in your mouth and there’s no fussing with cutting them in half.
The mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes combine to make a wonderfully rich and silky broth. It’s infused with fresh herbs and the meatballs are perfectly seasoned (along with being grain free and egg free) and the kale and sliced carrots add just the right amount of flavor without overpowering that wonderful broth.
Chicken Meatball Soup
*For the Meatballs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
(Makes 72 bite size – I used half and froze half )
2 Packages of Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs, 8 thighs
3 Tablespoons of Diced Red Onion
2 Tablespoons of Minced Garlic
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Minced Rosemary
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Minced Sage
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Minced Thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons of Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Pepper
Place half of the chicken, half of the garlic, half of the herbs, and half of the sea salt and pepper in a food processor, pulse until ground. Not too much or you’ll end up with pate, but enough that there aren’t chunks of chicken and the herbs and garlic are distributed thoroughly. About the texture of tuna fish, so minced pretty well. Remove the ground chicken mixture to a bowl and repeat with the second half of the meatball ingredients. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and form bite size meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Don’t over cook as they will cook more while simmering and you don’t want tough meatballs.
While the meatballs are baking, prepare the base.
8 Cremini Mushrooms, sliced
3 Cloves of Garlic, diced
1/4 Cup of Red Onion, chopped
2 1/2 Cups of Purple Kale, ribs removed and chopped
5 Multi Colored Carrots, skin on and sliced on diagonal
4 Sun Dried Tomatoes In Oil, chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon of Fresh Rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme, chopped
About 2 Tablespoons of Avocado Oil
3 – 32 ounce Boxes of Chicken Broth (I use Pacific Organic Free Range)
Sea Salt & Pepper To Taste
Saute the onions and garlic with the avocado oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot until the onions are translucent. Add the kale, carrots, herbs, and sun-dried tomatoes and saute until the tomatoes melt down a bit. Add a couple pinches of sea salt and pepper. Add half (or all if you want a lot of meatballs) the meatballs and the broth. Bring to a boil and turn down to simmer for 1 hour. Season again with sea salt and pepper to taste.
It’s not too late to indulge in all things pumpkin spice. I know many of you have a love hate relationship with the pumpkin spice movement that hits with a frenzy every year in October. If that’s true, you don’t need to add the pumpkin or the spice. You may need to add a bit more coconut milk though to compensate for the moisture of the pumpkin.
(Don’t text your friends while you’re cooking these, it doesn’t end well.)
I’ll admit, I jump right on the “all things pumpkin” wagon. I look forward to it. I love it. I love the spices, so soothing and comfy. So until February rolls around and it’s “All Things Valentine’s Day” – which is the holiday I love the least – I will continue to enjoy pumpkin and fall spicy things.
These pancakes are simple! Most of us with food allergies have all of these things in our cupboards. If you don’t have the pureed pumpkin, feel free to add mashed baked sweet potato. No one will ever know the difference.
Grain Free Pumpkin Pancakes
*Makes about 10
1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Coconut Flour
1 Tablespoon of Arrowroot
1 teaspoon of Double Acting Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of Ground Cloves
2 teaspoons of Coconut Sugar
1/4 Cup of Pureed Pumpkin (I used organic canned pumpkin)
3/4 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk
1 teaspoon of Lemon Juice
Dairy Free Butter for frying
Measure all of the dry ingredients into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the lemon juice to the coconut milk and let sit for 10 minutes (this will make a faux “buttermilk”). Whisk the eggs and them and the milk mixture to the dry ingredients whisking until combined. Let sit for about 5 minutes to thicken a bit.
Heat a pan to medium low (they burn easily so keep an eye out). Coat the pan with dairy free butter and spoon batter into pan. Wait until pancakes bubble a bit on top before flipping.
You can serve these with traditional maple syrup and butter like I did, or add your own flare. I thought pumpkin spiced butter would be delicious too, or sauteed spiced apples, or coconut whipped cream, you could also add dairy free chocolate chips or nuts to the batter…the options are endless and you can make it as special or as simple as you like.
I feel like I am so on the ball this year!
The shopping and wrapping were finished the first week in December – even the stocking stuffers which I usually leave for last because I dread wrapping them. Cookies and candy have been completed and delivered to friends and family a couple of days ago. Christmas cards have been mailed.
We’ve even had time to relax, drive around and see the beautiful holiday lights – and later today we’re headed out to see our second movie in a week!
Usually this is a hectic time of year but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t allow that to happen this holiday season. It’s my favorite time of year and I really love to soak it all in. I promised myself I’d try my hardest to live in the present moment and really enjoy it. Something I’m not able to do if I’m running behind and frantic to cross things off my to-do list.
(These are little olive jar tongs and work wonderfully for dipping candy!)
Now there’s three days until Christmas Eve and the only things left on my important to-do list are groceries and prep for Christmas breakfast and Linner. We’ll have to see what other kinds of holiday fun we can plan between now and Christmas!
Cranberry Almond Bites
1 1/2 Cups of Dried Cranberries, soaked in water in a small bowl for 1 hour then drained and dried between layers of paper towels
3/4 Cup of Dairy Free Butter, melted
1 lb of Powdered Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Tablespoon of Pure Almond Extract
1 Bag (8 ounces) of Shredded Unsweetened Coconut (I used Let’s Do Organic)
2 Cups of Sliced Almonds
14 ounces of Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (I used two 7.4 ounce cans of Let’s Do Organic)
8 3 ounce each Bars of Theo Organic 70% Dark Chocolate Bars
Chop the cranberries and mix all ingredients except the chocolate in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely set – about 3 hours.
Line two baking sheets with parchment and using about 1 1/2 teaspoons of candy, roll into small balls and place on baking trays. Cover and refrigerate until completely set – 3 hours or over night.
In a double boiler melt the chocolate squares. Using small tongs (or place each ball on a large fork and scoop the chocolate over the ball) dip the balls quickly into the chocolate, shake off any excess, and place them back on the baking sheets. Repeat until they are all covered and allow the chocolate to set up. I placed mine outside to set up because it’s cold here but you could also do a quick set in the fridge for 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container.
**Depending on the size of your candies, you may have some leftover melted chocolate. You can dollop it onto parchment and allow it to cool into discs for snacking, or what I like to do is fold in some add ins that you have on hand and create another type of candy. Once things are stirred together, a little bit of left over chocolate goes a long way. This time I used gluten free Rice Chex cereal and dried cranberries – then I drop them by the teaspoon into cute little paper or foil cups. You can add any combination of things you like. Nuts, dried fruits, pretzels, cereal, marshmallows, chopped up candy canes…
Otherwise known as Pepparkakor, these are very similar to those tasty tins of ginger snaps you find at IKEA and World Market.
Very easy to make and the recipe yields about 90 fabulously crispy, and VERY spicy cookies. When you first bite into them you get the familiar spice of a ginger snap and then it ends with the heat of cayenne.
If you love a good ginger snap but like a little less spicy heat, then I would omit one tablespoon of the ginger and the pinch of cayenne. The cookies will still have plenty of flavor but won’t be quite as hot.
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Ginger Snaps
(Recipe adapted from The Cutlery Chronicles)
*Makes about 90 1 1/2 inch cookies
2 1/2 Cups of Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour Blend
2 teaspoons of Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt
1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Butter
4 Tablespoons of Ground Ginger (omit 1 Tbs for less heat)
2 teaspoons of Ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Cloves
1/4 teaspoon of Freshly Ground Pepper
Pinch of Cayenne (omit for less heat)
1 1/4 Cups Packed Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup of Molasses
1 Large Egg
Whisk the Flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside. Heat the butter in a medium pan over medium heat until melted – continue to cook swirling the pan frequently until the foaming subsides. Turn off the heat and whisk in the spices, brown sugar, and molasses. Continue whisking until the sugar is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the egg and whisk again to combine until you have a smooth and glossy texture.
Pour the sugar mixture into the bowl of flour and mix with a spatula just until combined – don’t over work it. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours (I did overnight because gluten free dough bakes better when thoroughly chilled).
Pre heat oven to 300 degrees.
Break of a portion of the dough and mold into a disc. Slowly roll it out with a rolling pin. If it sticks, add a small amount of flour to the pin and continue rolling slowly. Do not flour the counter or the dough.
Place the cookies on parchment covered baking sheets and bake in 10 minute increments rotating the sheets every 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
I should never plan an exact day to post a recipe. I have a habit of promising that on Instagram and I swear, it’s like I jinx myself every time. It never happens when I say it’s going to happen. Which is SO unlike my personality.
This recipe was supposed to go up yesterday but…more baking happened, then I decided to make a big roast with veggies for Linner, then all of a sudden it was 5:00 and I realized I hadn’t even showered yet! We needed to deliver Christmas treats to some of our friends because fresh is best you know especially for the deliverer, so I quickly cleaned up and off we went. After we visited with friends here and there, we decided to do a Christmas light tour around town. After being busy for 14 hours straight, by the time we got home I was so worn out my husband took my boots off for me.
Recipe postponed until today.
I woke at the crack o’ dawn this morning to work on all the recipes I promised to share and wouldn’t you know it…the dropbox “thingy” (don’t roll your eyes at me) didn’t work right and my one hundred and something holiday baking photos didn’t upload to my computer. I have a new computer my son gave me and it doesn’t have all the ports my old one had to plug my phone in so…gasp in horror…I had to figure out the whole dropbox glitch by myself. You know when you have technical problems and you try 45 random different things to make it work the way you want it to? Well, I did that and for some reason I was able to get selected photos to upload. Hopefully that same issue won’t happen again because I don’t have the slightest idea how I figured it out.
To top it off, once the photos were finally finished uploading, I sat down to begin the recipe post – and had to let both dogs outside not once, but five different times. There must have been deer out there that I couldn’t see because the dogs didn’t even mind braving the rain over and over again. I guess I just need to keep in mind that life happens and recipes will be posted when they get posted.
One day late isn’t too bad and this recipe is well worth the wait. It combines all the yummy things into one delicious bite.
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Caramel Bites
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9×11 pan with tinfoil (sprayed) and parchment paper.
For The Crust:
1 Box of S’Moreables Gluten Free Graham Style Crackers
6 Tablespoons of Dairy Free Butter, melted
1/3 Cup Coconut Sugar
1/2 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
For The Topping:
1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Butter
3/4 Cup of Packed Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract
2 1/2 Cups of Miniature Marshmallows
3/4 Cup of Sliced Almonds
1 Cup of Unsweetened Flaked Coconut (I used Let’s Do Organic)
Pulse the graham crackers in a food processor until they turn into fine crumbs. Add the 6 Tablespoons of melted butter, the sugar, and the cinnamon and pulse until it all comes together.
Press the crust tightly into the pan (I used my fingers and then went over it with the bottom of a glass), sprinkle the marshmallows, almonds, and coconut over and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan melt the 1/2 cup of butter, the brown sugar, and the cinnamon over medium heat. Whisk until the butter and sugar are melted, it is ready when the mixture is thoroughly combined (no butter floating on top) and the sugar is no longer grainy. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Drizzle over the top of the marshmallows, almonds, and coconut.
Bake for 20 minutes until the top is lightly golden. Cool completely. When ready to slice, remove the mixture from the pan with the tin foil. Fold down the sides of the foil and parchment and cut into bite sized pieces with a sharp knife.
These bars are very rich and I often mail them and deliver them to friends in goodie boxes so after cutting them, I like to place them on a couple of paper towels for 30 minutes (no more than 30 minutes though because they’ll stick) before boxing. It helps remove any extra butter that may transfer in the packaging.
When the cold weather hits, thoughts of juicing, avocado toast, and omelettes filled with fresh vegetables seem to dance right out of my head. Then visions of baked goodies, chai lattes, hot tea, skillet dishes, and hearty comfort foods come dancing onto the scene.
I’ve been working on a grain free Dutch Baby pancake but haven’t been able to find that perfect sweet spot. This Apple Dutch Baby is gluten free and dairy free but not grain free. As soon as I can get my grain free recipe to behave properly, you’ll be the first to know.
If you’ve visited the blog lately you’ll see that it has a fresh new look – and it’s snowing! Love that little addition that WordPress adds during the holidays. I’d love to hear your opinion, so pop over and let me know how you like the new look! If you receive my posts via email or view it with your mobile device, you won’t see the new format, just a generic format. To view the new format, either click the link to the blog in your email or, if you view the blog using Chrome on your phone, you can click the 3 vertical dots at the top right of your mobile screen and click Request Mobile Site.
I have a lot of fresh baking ideas planned for the next couple of weeks along with some of my traditional favorites, so stay tuned!
Gluten Free & Dairy Free Apple Dutch Baby
For The Batter:
3 Large Eggs
3/4 Cup of Full Fat Coconut Milk
3/4 Cup of Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour Blend
1/4 teaspoon of Xanthan Gum
1/4 teaspoon of Sea Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of Nutmeg
For The Apples:
4 Tablespoons of Dairy Free Butter (set aside 2 Tablespoons)
1 Large Honey Crisp Apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons of Coconut Sugar
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Whisk eggs, milk, flour, xanthan, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg until smooth.
Melt 2 Tablespoons of the dairy free butter on medium heat in an oven proof skillet (about 9.5-10 inches). Add the apple, coconut sugar, and cinnamon, tossing often until apples are coated and softened, about 7-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Rinse the skillet well and wipe dry. Place in the oven and heat the skillet for 10 minutes.
Remove (carefully!) from oven and melt the remaining 2 Tablespoons of dairy free butter swirling around to coat all the edges and up the sides of the pan. Add the apples and any coconut sugar sauce to the middle of the pan and pour the batter over.
Bake until pancake is puffed and golden brown around the edges and the center is set, but still jiggles a bit like custard. About 12-15 minutes.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.
I LOVE the holidays. The change in seasons, music, crisp air, baking, shopping, light displays, gatherings, the hustle and bustle downtown, and of course celebrating the real meaning of Christmas. Sadly, I often hear people say how much they dread the holidays! The commercialization, crowds, cost, numerous family issues, and the overall rush and stress of having to prepare for what is such a big holiday for many of us.
After celebrating 48 seasons of this favorite holiday, a few of which were quite stressful even for an “all things holiday” lover like me – I know why you may be feeling overwhelmed and I can help.
Tip #1 – Organize
I create a holiday calendar. It doesn’t have to be pretty (mine isn’t), just effective. I sort out appointments and plans that have already been made and balance those out with my to-do list for the month. I figure out which days I’ll spend shopping, wrapping, baking, buying groceries, and food prepping. I put everything in one binder. Calendar, menus, baking ideas, recipes, gift lists, gift receipts, reminders, and grocery lists.
I also schedule me time (manicures & pedicures, hiking with the dogs, catching up with friends, baths and books, prayer time in the mornings), fun time (movies, dinners out with the hubby, light viewing, travel) exercise time, family time, and blog time (sharing recipes here with you, on Instagram, and managing my GFZ Facebook page). If you don’t make time, it won’t happen.
May seem a bit over the top, but I promise you – there is nothing like having a peaceful night’s rest because my brain is not spinning trying to keep track of a to-do list in my head. Once it’s on paper, it’s out of my head and my mind can focus on the present moment.
Tip #2 – Meal Plans & Baking Plans
I plan my menus based on my energy/health level and keep in mind that I TOO want to enjoy the holiday. As much as I enjoy cooking and baking, I do not enjoy catering to a house full of people who are relaxing and having fun while I am chained to the kitchen.
I break my menus down. I make grocery lists and a prep timeline. Anything I can either prep or fully make a day ahead or more, I do. I keep my prep timeline handy and I highlight everything I’ve completed as I’m going. I also use the prep list when guests arrive, then I can focus on the guests without worrying I’ve forgotten something.
Tip #3 – Prioritize
Do you want to have fun and enjoy the season or do you want it to be filled with angst, resentment, exhaustion, and debt? Not many people would willingly choose the latter…but we often do without even recognizing it!
You know how awful you feel every time you say yes to something when you really want to say no? Keep THAT in mind throughout the entire holiday season. Saying “NO” pertains to family, friends, co workers, gifts, parties, overindulging in food and alcohol, and your TIME. If you really hate visiting 6 different houses on Christmas and would really like to just enjoy a peaceful holiday at home, do it or consider hosting a big potluck and having everyone at your home instead. One stop for everyone! People will forgive you and if they don’t… well, that’s a post for another time about setting better boundaries.
Get your shopping and wrapping done early. I made a pact with myself this year that I’d have all gift shopping and wrapping done by the first week in December. If you don’t like to shop, you can buy almost anything online. If you dread wrapping, consider paying someone to do your wrapping. Or, here’s a concept so many of us forget – ask for help! Let go of the mindset that you are responsible for all the shopping, wrapping, and providing everyone except yourself with a meaningful holiday. Remember this – most people are not concerned with AND rarely notice, 90% of the things you think are absolutely necessary for a happy holiday – pare down! You really CAN relax and have fun.
Consider picking names out of a hat instead of buying for everyone, or do a homemade or Pinterest crafty Christmas. If you enjoy attending a party or two but can’t wrap your mind around the 10 invitations sitting on your kitchen counter, choose the parties you really look forward to attending and politely pass on the rest. Even if for just one year! You can also head out of town for the holiday. We have done that twice in the past 10 years and it was a really refreshing change of pace.
Tip #4 – Focus on Self Care
We know what the real meaning of Christmas is about, however, it’s easy to get caught up in all the extras. If you whip yourself into a complete frazzle, you miss out on all of the peace and magic the holiday season has to offer. The only way around holiday stress is to focus on self-care. Focusing on the true meaning, prioritizing, staying organized, being honest with yourself and others, and most importantly, taking care of your health. Once you’re stressed, it all slides downhill very quickly. Countless people are ill this time of year. We consume more sugar in the winter, get less sun (vitamin D levels drop even further), drink less water so we’re dehydrated which lowers the immune system, and we have the tendency to want to curl up and hibernate rather than getting fresh air and exercise.
Indulge in all the fun things – but in moderation and stick to your normal health routine. Say NO when you mean no, knowing that it is what is best for your health and your sanity. Make a list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do during the holidays but never had the time for – and make them happen! Celebrate! Tell your inner perfectionist worry wart to take a hike. And for crying out loud, take a pass on another holiday spent with your inappropriate uncle Fred and pot stirring aunt Sally.
Such a special time was not intended to be stressful and dreaded. You do deserve a peaceful, joy filled, holiday surrounded by the blessings in your life that have been so freely given.
It’s up to you to make it happen!