Monday, November 28, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fresh, chemical-free produce!

I love, love, love to get fresh, chemical-free produce - and it is even better when someone GIVES it to you!!

There is a wonderful older couple from church that has an incredible little "farm" out on 16-mile. They employ the help of a few grandkids to plant and harvest every year and sell to a few local places. He says he "doesn't like chemicals on my vegetables" and therefore chooses to deal with the bugs/pests. I LOVE IT!!!

First of all, my dream someday before I am too old is to have gardens (or a mini-farm) like his. I think they call it "homesteading" right? To be as self-sufficient as possible. Ahhh, to dream.  Anyway, here is a picture of what they gave us when I went out there today - a bag of onions, some pickled veggies and a jar of pickled okra, as well as 2 bushels of broccoli:

Now, I will probably spend the rest of my day blanching and freezing the broccoli! I love having a full freezer and pantry. I have not put up a huge amount this summer but hope to in the years to come.

***IMPORTANT NOTE: my new blog should be up and running soon! I will keep you posted on the progress and will have a special giveaway the first week that it is up and running. The giveaway is from a great new company that specializes in freeze-dried food to keep around for emergencies or everyday use! Very exciting! I am trying some samples in my cooking in the week to come and she plans to give something away as a part of a grand-opening on my new blog!!! Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Win a "Real Food E-Course"!

Enter to win a "real food e-course", worth a $150 value! Go HERE to read more about it. It is a class you can do on your own time and it will teach you LOTS about healthy living!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Healthy" Chocolate Zucchini Cake!

Some of you know that my husband Bryan is a pastor. Well, on Tuesday's the Rockford Reformed Church staff have their staff meeting and have started the tradition of eating lunch together. Today he came home and said one of the staff members had brought a Chocolate Zucchini Cake that was pretty amazing.

Being the competitive person I am (AND suddenly having a craving for a Chocolate Zucchini Cake) I set out to find a good recipe to try to make a GREAT chocolate zucchini cake. First, I should say that my passion is real, healthy food and COOKING, not baking. So, this was a little out of the ordinary for me. I googled "chocolate zucchini cake" and eventually came to this recipe below. The pictures of it on the "Gimme some oven" blog were enough to convince me I needed to make this one work, even though I was out of whole wheat flour.

*You can find the recipe in its original entirety by clicking HERE

I will list the actual recipe below so you can see it all in one place, BUT you should know I made a few tweaks to it after finding out we had no more whole wheat grain (we have our own flour mill). Here is what I changed, just in case you find yourself in the same I-am-out-of-whole-wheat predicament that I was in:

For the cake part (I also used a 9x13 pan instead of the bundt pan):
*I used 2 1/2 cups of freshly ground spelt flour instead of whole wheat
Since I have learned that spelt flour absorbs more liquid that whole wheat flour and since it is a bit more dense and therefore doesn't rise as well, I also:
* used sucanat instead of brown sugar
* used a little bit more than 1/2 cup of buttermilk (somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 cup)
* used 1 HEAPING tsp of baking soda as well as 1 HEAPING tsp of baking powder (instead of just 1 regular tsp of each)

For the frosting/glaze part:
I used 8oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips
I used the ingredients she has listed EXCEPT for the honey as it was sweet enough

Here's a picture of the finished product and the recipe below it. Instead of the olive oil, next time I make it I think I will try coconut oil in its place (sorry for the bad picture, I only had my cell phone handy):

The below is copied from:
Cake Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces dark or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
To Make Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour a bundt pan, and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt.
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and olive oil.  Add the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini. Add the dry ingredients, stirring until they are just incorporated and evenly moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Transfer the batter to the prepared bundt pan, and bake the cake for about 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (or with just a few wet crumbs). Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 – 15 minutes. Then, invert the cake onto wire rack to cool completely. Top with the chocolate glaze, or dust with powdered sugar before serving.
To Make Chocolate Glaze:
In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter together over medium low heat, stirring continually. Remove from heat, then stir in milk, honey and vanilla. Let cool 1-2 minutes, then serve warm.
Ali’s Tip: Be sure not to drain/strain the moisture out of the zucchini for this recipe!  Many baking recipes have you try and take out the zucchini’s moisture before add it in with other ingredients, but cakes rely on it (in place of extra oil) to keep the cake nice and moist.  :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Need your help!

I need your help!!! I am looking for a name for my new, upcoming blog (which may include a new name/handle for myself). My blog's main focus will be on REAL FOOD! I will talk about what makes something REAL FOOD, where to get it, how to cook and eat it. Also thrown in will be some education surrounding REAL food and why it is best for you (that's where the RN part of me will come shining through). 

I want something catchy but not cheesy......thoughts so far are "Real Food Eater", "Eating Real Food", "Real food, real health" etc. But, those aren't super creative, so I am looking for your help! Any and all suggestions are welcome!!!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

2 sources to help you eat BETTER quality foods!!!

FIRST: I am cautiously excited!!!! I just learned today of a new store that is going to be "opening" online in early October. It is called the Green PolkaDot Box!  They are committed to offering VERY affordable (up to 60% off the prices in healthfood stores) ORGANIC and non-GMO foods. Click on GMO if you don't know what GMO foods are! Eventually, they are also planning on providing ORGANIC produce from the U.S.! They plan at this point to only get organic produce from U.S. farms that are sustainable!!!

Anyway, this store is almost ready to get off the ground and they are offering FREE memberships. (By the way, this is not an MLM-type company or anything - it is just like a Costco or Sam's Club where you have a yearly membership - the only difference is that they are an online store). Typically, their membership is going to be $50, but they are offering FREE memberships currently for the first year as they get off the ground. They have other membership options available where you can earn a % of your shopping total back in rewards points, plus a "big-money" membership called a "Founding Trust Membership" to get in on the ground floor as a "founder". To get any of the memberships, including the FREE one, you do have to watch a 35 minute informational video about their store. I just forwarded it through the big-money membership part, so it didn't take nearly that long. After that, you can set up your free membership and when their store opens, you will be among the first to be able to shop with them!

I am SUPER, DUPER excited about it. Even though I have put together a buying club - a group of families that are ordering together from some natural food wholesalers to get better prices - there are still things that we haven't been able to get from the sources we have. I think this will fill in the gaps. PLUS, this is a great thing for your family to shop from! There are NO minimums, no required ordering, but they DO give you FREE shipping on orders of $150 or more (and if it is under $150, it is just a flat rate of $9.95, which seems very reasonable). They also have options if you have special dietary needs (gluten-free, etc) so you can shop for ONLY those products!

Click HERE to go to the site and learn more! I really wish I had thought of this idea - it is SO brilliant and exciting!!!

SECOND: I have also discovered great website called "Cooking Traditional Foods" where you can sign up for a FREE e-course on making changes to how you eat!!! Click HERE to go to it! I signed up for the newsletters even though we've changed our food sources to most of these items. It is great info to have and encourages you to make slow, small changes to eat healthier, more natural, traditional, whole, high-nutrient foods! I know over the years as I have made these changes in our home, we have found that we all feel better, have more energy and RARELY get sick. I would love to help you along the way too!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

BENTO boxes and great ideas for kid's lunches!

I am super excited - getting stuff ready for school for the kids and since you all know I love anything about food or health-eating, I found these  bento box containers that I am SO pumped about! I also got Levi an ORANGE lunch box cooler

AND I got these cute fruit/veggie/cheese cutters to make lunches super cute and kid-appealing lunchbox options.

Since I really believe that the lunches at the schools are pretty nasty (anybody with me?), we allow Levi to pick out one lunch per week at school and the rest of the days he gets packed a lunch. If you are anything like me things get a little boring after a while and I hope these will help liven things up a bit!!!

I also found some really fun ideas HERE and HERE for ideas for making bento lunches for kids. I didn't get the little muffin things, but I might get those at some point to hold little snacks, etc, in the boxes! Do any of you use these cute boxes (or similar ones) for your kid's lunches???

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coconut Oil!!!

I am curious how many of my blog readers use Coconut Oil on a regular basis? If not, you should definitely start! It does amazing things and is considered a "healthy" oil.  The website has some great info. Here is some more:

From his extensive research of the medical literature, Dr. Fife has come up with a slew of health benefits associated with coconut oil. Some of them are:
.. Reduces risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease
.. Reduces risk of cancer and other degenerative conditions
.. Helps prevent bacterial, viral and fungal (including yeast) infections
.. Supports immune system function
.. Helps control diabetes
.. Provides an immediate source of energy
.. Supports healthy metabolic function
.. Promotes weight loss
.. Supplies fewer calories than other fats
.. Improves digestion and nutrient absorption
.. Helps prevent osteoporosis
.. Helps keep skin soft and smooth

- I sometimes will take just a 'ole big spoonful of it!
- It is the ONLY oil I use to do high-heat cooking/sauteing, as it does not oxidize at high temps!
- It is AMAZING to use to make homemade popcorn! YUM!! I also stir a little into my oatmeal in the mornings, along with some rapadura and raisins!
- Honestly, it has really seemed to give me more energy and have found that when using it regularly, it helps me stay healthy!

Shop at this link for a great coconut oil in a 32oz size - enough for you to get to try for a month or more: COCONUT OIL. It is actually on sale right now, so a great time to give it a try! Tropical Traditions also has some other great products that you can take a look at as well! I have used their COCONUT FLOUR as well. It is YUMMY - and gluten free if you or anyone in your family is concerned about that!!

Give coconut oil a try! You might like it - if nothing else, at least your body will love it!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Egg/sausage Casserole - this time without the sausage!

This recipe actually calls for sausage, but I was instead we substituted some fresh basil and tomatoes from our garden!!!

Here's the original recipe:
6 slices bread, cubed
1 lb sausage, browned and drained
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
8 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Start with a greased 9x13 pan and tear/cube 6 slices of bread and layer in the bottom. Then sprinkle evenly with sausage and then 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Next, mix together the eggs, milk and salt/pepper and pour over other ingredients.

Next, bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees. YUM!

Since I had no sausage, this is what I did to mine (before egg mixture was poured on - and notice I left the "funny business" to half of it so my kids would eat the rest):

Then I added egg mixture and baked for 45 minutes:

And the finished product!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Changes coming......need ideas!


In the next few months, there will be changes coming to my blog - in fact I will probably have a whole new one. I am taking steps to set up my own "Healthy Eating Consulting Business".  I will be offering things like:

- consultations with those interested in eating healthier but not knowing where to start
- in-person kitchen/pantry assessments to see what we are starting with
- step-by-step assistance and ideas of where to start
- custom meal-planning and recipes depending on your family size, likes/dislikes, dietary needs
- possible group cooking lessons on different topics
- online versions for those who don't live nearby!

I will start with the basics and go from there. I know there are a LOT of people out there (because some of my friends and family are some of them!) who want to eat healthier and better but who have no idea where to start. I aim to take the guess-work out of that and help bridge the gap! I am SUPER excited about this. I think down the road I will plan to expand my knowledge base through further education, but for now I am excited to share my experience and knowledge/research with all of you.

My new website will have a "blog" feel to it and then hopefully a special section where only my paying clients can access further info.

In the meantime, I need help with a NAME for my business. The best one I have come up with is "The Healthy Home"....a subtitle of some sort might help....i want something fresh, current and catchy (but not gimicky or cheesy).

Any ideas?? Leave a comment please!

****ALSO, I am in the middle/final stages of putting together the "Rockford Buying Club". I will be coordinating healthy/natural/whole/organic food ordering for a group of families in the Rockford area. It will help us all get better food at better prices b/c buying clubs can usually get wholesale discounts on food from certain sources! IF you are interested in being a part of this, please email me (!

Friday, July 22, 2011


IF you are looking for a source for organic, local blueberries, HERE YA GO!!!! Their website is where you can find their address (in Hudsonville):

Opening Day is Friday!

A quick note to let you know that we will open tomorrow morning (Sat., July 22nd)
at 8 a.m. for our U-pick season.   We will be picking Stanleys and some early
Rubels this weekend and there are lots of ripe berries!

The 2011 heat wave has been tough on everyone.   The good news is that it
looks like it is supposed to start breaking a bit tonight.   We really look forward
to seeing you at the farm, but if you plan on coming this weekend, please be
prepared for the heat.  We suggest a hat, plenty of sunscreen, bug spray
and lightweight long pants.  We will have cold drinks available and plenty of
water as well.  

We plan on being open for U-pick through August 28th and as always,
 please check our website for daily farm updates.

Wednesday- Friday  
8 am - 8 pm

8 am - 6 pm
8 am - 5pm

See you soon!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our first pick-up from West Michigan Co-op!

On Wednesday night, we ventured into downtown Grand Rapids to a warehouse on the corner of Godfrey SW and Hall St to pick up our first Co-op order.  The process was so easy and enjoyable and I look forward to next month!

When we arrived, we pulled into a parking lot and quickly realized that this was THE place to be that night. There was lots of traffic. We had our shopping bags ready and entered the building - we were greeted right away and shown where to pick up our order invoice. (an invoice is printed out for anyone who added items to their shopping cart on their site - Then, you take your invoice around to the different tables/areas set up for each "producer" that is there - and you get to pick up your food! It was so much fun! The kids really got into it and wanted to help pick up the food and put it in our bags, etc. They also got excited about the many samples being given out at each table: icecream from Moo-ville Creamery, cheeses from Grassfields Cheese, coffee and chocolate samples from Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters, YUMMY goat cheese samples from Dogwood Farms and many more!

Then, once you pick up everything you previously ordered (and maybe a few extra things like some yummy asparagus from Cherry Point Market and some kettle corn from Dorothy and Toto's Gourmet Kettle Company), you go to the "adjustments" or check-out station and pay with cash or check!

It was a great experience and I cannot wait for next month! If you want to give them a try, they give you 2 months of a 'trial' membership for free - if you like them and want to shop, there is a $35 membership for the year. You can shop once a month, year-round!

Here's a picture of what I got:


5 different heirloom tomato plants to plant in our garden, a dill plant, oregano plant, sage plant, rosemary plant, 1 lb of hydroponic lettuce, 3 whole chickens, 6lbs of grassfed ground beef, 2 lbs butter, 4lbs honey, 5lbs grassfed/nitrate-free bacon, and 1 gallon of cream-top (non-homogonized) milk - plus asparagus and kettle corn (not pictured).

We had roast chicken in the crockpot last night - which made enough meat for another meal or two. The bones are currently in the crockpot for the next 24 hrs as I am making homemade chicken stock/broth (just added filtered water, a quartered onion, several garlic cloves, some dried thyme, salt/pepper and a couple cut up carrots. I'll use it for soup and in other recipes (I freeze in various sized glass jars or heavy-duty ziploc bags.

Check out the Co-op at and look around at their producers, etc.

Happy eating!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A great source for safe, non-toxic home products!

If you know me, you know I am always trying to have my family eat more healthy, nourishing, safe food (which usually means organic). Well, over the last year or so I have really realized that I should also be USING safer products AROUND my family and in my home.

Thankfully, my friend Shauna Davis (a fellow pastor's wife) introduced me to Melaleuca: The Wellness Company. Once I heard what they offered, I was IN! I have been doing my shopping with them for consumable non-grocery items since November and have been SUPER impressed!!

They pride themselves in:
1) being a U.S-based company
2) being "Green" - using their resources wisely and using green manufacturing processes
3) offering safe, non-toxic products and never using ingredients that could harm a person, animal OR the environment
4) offering a viable "business" for those who would like to actively refer people to shop with their company, with no investment/delivering products/doing parties/collecting money, etc.

The BEST thing is that everyone shops DIRECTLY with Melaleuca, who manufactures their own products.

Anyway, their products are awesome - none of their cleaning products need child safety caps, which is awesome and provides me with great peace of mind. I've switched over to using all of their products in our home (well, not quite all of them YET, as they have over 350 products!). 

They offer products in these 5 categories:
1) Ecosense line of cleaners: everything to clean your home, dishes and laundry
2) Vitality for Life: vitamins, supplements, sports nutrition and weight loss/fiber products
3) Bath & Body: everything to wash men, women and children and to get them ready in morning (soap, haircare products, deoderant, lotions, etc)
4) Sei Bella: skin care and cosmetics that are all vegetable and mineral based
5) Pharmacy items: all over-the-counter pharmacy items and dental products - they even have toothbrushes, floss and band-aids!

Anyway, I'd LOVE to tell you more about them (and the perks and freebies that come with shopping with them) if you'd like to hear! I love that there is NO risk with shopping with them and you can cancel your shopping acct at ANY time. If you'd like to hear more, shoot me an email at We can hop on a quick webcast together and I'll explain how shopping with them works. Then you can see if it might be a good fit for your family and if you'd like to just give shopping with them a try for a few months! They are great!!! In the meantime, you can check out: for some additional info via a few short videos.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

My co-op order.....

So, I thought I'd post what my order looks like for the co-op this first time....I am really excited to pick this up on Wed., May 25th! I will take a picture of everything when I get it home so you can see what I got. For $150, I don't think this is too bad for all GOOD, pastured, grass-fed meat and healthy food. I'll use the farmer's market for a little produce until our garden is producing as well as some trips to Meijer for a few other things. I am REALLY trying to get to the point where I hardly ever have to go to the store! I've been ordering all of my everyday products from Melaleuca (I'll write another post about that sometime), and all of their products are safe, non-toxic and naturally-derived. So, other than paper products and some trips for the store for other stuff, I hope to avoid Meijer as much as possible!!!

Here's what my order looks like:

QtyProducerItemUnit Price

1 pound [Change][Remove]Crane Dance FarmBulk Sweet Italian Sausage$7.00 per pound

1 package [Change][Remove]Creswick FarmsBacon, Seconds “Butchers’ Choice”$4.50 per pound
1 pot [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmDill plant$2.00 per pot

1 pot [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmOregano plant$3.00 per pot

1 pot [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmSage plant$2.00 per pot

1 pot [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmThyme plant$3.00 per pot

1 plant [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmTomato plant- paste- Speckled Roman$2.00 per plant

1 plant [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmTomato plant-Brandywine Red$2.00 per plant

1 plant [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmTomato plant-cherry-Juliet$2.00 per plant

1 plant [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmTomato plant-Costoluto Genovese$2.00 per plant

1 plant [Change] [Remove]Fat Blossom FarmTomato plant-German Bi-color$2.00 per plant

6 pound [Change][Remove]Grassfields, LLCGround Beef - 100% grassfed$4.50 per pound

3 chicken [Change][Remove]Grassfields, LLCPure Pastured Chicken$3.00 per pound

1 GALLON [Change][Remove]Mooville Creamery2% MILK CREAMLINE$4.50 per GALLON

2 POUND [Change][Remove]Mooville CreameryMOO-VILLE BUTTER$4.50 per POUND

1 1 pound bag [Change][Remove]Mud Lake FarmLettuce - 1 lb, hydroponic$6.00 per 1 pound bag

1 4# jar [Change][Remove]Wells OrchardsHoney - 4#$14.00 per 4# jar