A Food-Free Halloween Treat Guide {Teal Pumpkin Project}

A couple of weeks ago, Ashton Kutcher tweeted this:


And my heart skipped a beat. Why? Because people are starting to catch on to the Teal Pumpkin Project.

As a mom to a small child with profound food allergies, I get a little terrified around the holidays.  Halloween is the beginning of a challenging food season for our family.  Seasonal treats are everywhere, and impossible to ignore.  As a healthy adult who tries to avoid sugar and can’t tolerate wheat, I find it hard to abstain. It’s an issue of willpower for me. But for my son? It’s a matter of life and death, or at minimum, a trip to the ER. All that separates him from a potential terrible reaction is our vigilance and the respect of strangers.

I would like to say my son is part of a small group of children, but he’s not.  Food allergies in children have increased exponentially in the last 15 years, and now 1 in 13 children has some form of diagnosed food allergy here in the U.S.  Those numbers are only rising.

Peanut allergies get a lion’s share of the food allergy talk, as it should.  Some people are so sensitive to peanuts that even a trace of peanut dust can kill them.  Unfortunately, peanuts are not the only food that cause deathly reactions from trace amounts.  Wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, oats, cinnamon, bananas, peppermint, and many others are just a few that have serious consequences for those who are allergic.

Because we want to keep our kids safe, but also include them, we are joining the Teal Pumpkin Project this year. Here’s how you can join us:

  • Paint a pumpkin teal, and put it on your doorstep with your other pumpkins. Kids with food allergies know they can come to your house and get a safe treat, and THEY WILL!
  • Offer trick-or-treaters a choice of candy or non-food treats. Kids with food allergies are often singled out for something they can’t control, and feel excluded and embarrassed because of their allergies.  Giving all the kids a choice makes it easier for them to be safe during Halloween festivities without shame.

I know some of you amazing, non-allergy friends want to participate but might not know what give out instead of candy.  This is a new-ish thing, so I’m putting together a handy little guide to help you navigate your Teal Pumpkin Halloween.


Please feel free to grab this image and share it!  Keep it handy and ask questions here or over at FARE. They’re the geniuses behind #tealpumpkinproject and we are so happy to support this awesome movement.

Also, don’t worry about getting the color exactly right or painting it pretty. The message is the most important part! Thank you for keeping our kids safe this season

Funny Tricks and Food-Free Treats,

Our janky teal pumpkin. As it turns out, I'm much better at cooking the food than painting it.
Our janky teal pumpkin. As it turns out, I’m much better at cooking the food than painting it.


Roasted Delicata Squash with Fennel


Fall is my absolute favorite. Why?

Because FOOD.

Who else wants to eat ALL THE THINGS? Well, so do I, friend.  So do I.

A few years ago, we discovered this gem of a gourd. It’s name is Delicata and it lives up to all the whimsy and subtlety that the name would suggest. It’s light, slightly sweet, and so crazy delicious that YOU WILL WANT TO EAT ALL OF IT IMMEDIATELY.

I’ve tried it a few different ways, and the easiest and tastiest way to prep it is in the oven.  A simple roast with coconut oil and pink salt elevates the squash to another level.  It’s a level you want to be at, trust me. It’s also simple and quick to prepare and the squash doesnt’ require peeling, unlike some other squash cousins.  Yep, I’m looking at you, Butternut.  You’re too much work! But delicata takes all the work out of it.

This super simple dish is great as a side, but honestly, I eat it on it’s own all the time. Because it takes no work to prepare, it’s comforting, and very filling.



  • 2 delicata squash, de-seeded and sliced (no need to peel!)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, cut in half and sliced
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp pink himalayn salt
  • 2 tsp rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fennel fronds (the soft, feathery green things that sprout out of the the fennel bulb)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (more for spicy)


  1. In a large mixing bowl, place fennel, delicata squash, and rosemary.
  2. Add coconut oil, and stir quickly.  Add salt and red pepper flakes and mix again.
  3. Spread squash and fennel out on a large baking sheet, and try to get as many pieces to lay as flat as possible.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring once.
  5. Remove from oven and garnish with a little more salt and fresh fennel fronds,
  6. Eat immediately and enjoy! Or save for later and mix up a salad with some quinoa, spinach, and dried cranberries.

Enjoy the season!


Boozy Lamb Short Ribs

Short Ribs 1You know how you have friends coming over and you want to cook for them, but lack the kitchen space, air conditioning, and energy to execute it?

Yeah.  Me, too.

Here’s The Thing, though.  I am fairly certain my love language is food. And I’m also fairly certain I have conditioned my family and friends to receive my love in this manner.  Food is NOT love, but food can be a loving gesture in a world of convenience and fast meals.  What’s better than sitting down with friends and sharing a great meal, enjoyable conversation, and choice adult beverage?  Not much.

Also, food is effing delicious, so there’s that.

When I want to share the love and keep the temperature in my kitchen down while making the most of my limited energy, I always turn to my crockpot.  I used to have major bias towards slow cookers. I grew up with crockpots galore at church potlucks.  Everyone clamored for an outlet to plug in their pot before service started so their mystery dish would stay hot and avoid poisoning a whole congregation. It was a sea of crockpots

A couple of decades later, I decided to try to resurrect my slow cooker that was still sitting in my kitchen in the box from our wedding when my truly kind souled cousin gifted us with it. I got brave.  I bought the food.  I read a couple of blogs. I studied and sweated and prayed to the kitchen gods that it would all turn out beautifully.  It didn’t.

I ruined a 5 lb brisket.

$40 of beautiful, succulent, grass-fed meat totally ruined because I didn’t understand fully how to use my slow cooker.  I did not sear it.  I under-seasoned it.  I ADDED WATER. Then I cooked it on high for 4 hours.  It was totally inedible, but of course we ate it anyway because we have a strict budget and can’t afford to toss food when it doesn’t turn out well.  I nicknamed it the Brisket of Tears, because I wept when I ruined it, and again every time I ate the chewy, gray, tasteless meat.

A couple of years ago, I decided to master the crockpot.  I did a massive amount of research. After a week of fretting and praying and hoping that I could pull it off, I made a pork shoulder.  It was phenomenal.  It gave me confidence. And I went further into the slow-cooker abyss.

When I found a ridiculously good sale on New Zealand grassfed lamb, I knew I could execute it well.  My dish would not go the way of the church potluck or failed brisket attempt of 2009.  Nope.  It would succeed.

This is probably one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.  I’m not exaggerating in the least. The flavor of the lamb is complex and finishing the whole dish off in the oven to crisp up the fat made this dish completely decadent.


  • 3-4 lbs of lamb riblets or short ribs
  • 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1/3 cup olive or avocado oil (I prefer avocado bc of the mellow flavor)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup(ish) fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup  fresh rosemary
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium shallot or small onion, quartered
  • 2 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp (+) fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp (+) salt


  1. Combine all ingredients (except for lamb) in blender or NutriBullet.  Pulse until everything is combined.  Pour over lamb and marinate in a ziplock bag or covered dish for 2-12 hours, or if you’re in a hurry, skip the marination and use right away.
  2. Rub crockpot with a little oil, and put lamb and marinade in.  For best results, cook on Low for 6-8 hours.  Eight hours is optimal, but do what you can.
  3. When the lamb is finished in the slow cooker, transfer to a baking sheet and bake on 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes to crisp up the fat and caramelize.
  4. Garnish with chopped mint leaves and devour immediately.

Short Ribs 2I served this with a side of saffron infused basmati rice, pan fried mushrooms and sweet onion, along with a fruit-filled salad.  There wasn’t even a speck of lamb left on the bones, and we devoured an entire plate in 20 minutes flat.

You will love this.  Trust me.  Or don’t.  But take a chance.  And make friends with your crockpot this summer.

It feels good to be baaaaaad,



Hi Honey! Chocolates


I’m going to level with you.  I really hate the Hallmark bullsh*t.  I hate that Valentine’s Day is about buying and spending and doing crazy commercially driven activities, like fancy dinners and extravagant gifts and weekend spa packages with rose petal facials. (Okay, maybe I don’t hate the spa thing).  But I do resist the traditional consumerism of Valentine’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like planning and doing special things and I look for every opportunity to celebrate.  You found a pair of jeans you like?  We’re throwing a party.  You ruptured your appendix?  I’m bringing soup and balloons to the hospital with a handful of confetti and a jar to bring that bad boy home in.  Your poetry was published in an obscure magazine in Newfoundland? We are popping corks and eating brie ALL NIGHT LONG.

But I don’t feel loved or celebrated when my husband gives me a dozen, over-priced roses or some expensive chocolates in heart-shaped box.  I feel…icky.  I feel like I’m a part of the machine.  And now that I’m a parent, I want this to be a family and fun-centered day, without the Hallmark trappings.  So, my husband and I are committed to thinking outside of the heart-shaped candy box and creating traditions without unrealistic expectations of what this one day should be.

When we were engaged, L and I started a Valentine’s Day tradition.  We lit candles, and poured cheap wine in regular kitchen glasses. We set up a fondue picnic in the living room, complete with hot cheese, toasted bread, veggies, fruit, melted chocolate and cubes of cake to dip it in.  We set a $15 price limit and gave each other gifts from our hearts.  We’ve carried that tradition throughout the last decade and it’s one of my all-time favorite things we do together.  Some of our best conversations happen over that fondue pot, and we end up giggling like teenagers and eating way too much.  It’s the happiest kind of celebration.

Tomorrow, we will start the day with heart-shaped pancakes, make cards with our son, E, and deliver these homemade chocolates to our friends.  Then we will share wine and fondue with our friends in the evening, welcoming them into our tradition because the whole point of Valentine’s Day is to share the love.  Okay.  And maybe make the love, too.  But just the two of us.  No one else is invited.

Um, now it’s awkward.

Here’s a recipe for chocolate. Because chocolate.

Hi Honey! Chocolates


  • 3/4 cup raw, organic coconut oil (I like Nutiva brand because I can buy it at Costco.)
  • 1/2 cup high quality cocoa powder (My favorite is Rapunzel cocoa.)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (scant)


  1. In a small saucepan on low heat, melt coconut oil.
  2. Remove from burner whisk in honey, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder.
  3. Pour mixture into silicone molds, or a parchment-lined pan if you’re making bark.
  4. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt, and refrigerate until hardened.
  5. Refrigerate until ready to consume.  These chocolates melt at room temp!

For Maple Bacon Honey Chocolates: Follow directions above, but substitute honey for Grade B Maple Syrup, and add 1 Tbsp cooked, chopped bacon.

These were made in a bacon shaped silicone mold.  Unfortunately, they don't look like bacon.
These were made in a bacon shaped silicone mold. Unfortunately, they don’t look like bacon.

For Curry Honey Chocolates: Follow directions above and add 1 tsp of curry powder and a pinch of salt.

These definitely look like hearts.
These definitely look like hearts.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?

Thinking Outside of the Heart-Shaped Box,


Measuring Worth: Why Weight Doesn’t {Really} Matter

Weight GraphicSo, I have a confession to make.

I’m overweight.

Pretty mind-blowing, right?

I have another confession to make.

I’m overweight and health is my passion.

Okay. I’m sorry. I know I just blew you out of the stratosphere with that second confession. But since we are all gathered around this table, unpacking our stuff and laying it all out for each other to see, I’ll let you in on my journey. I’m passionate about helping people restore their health, vitality and well-being, and…

I’m not a perfect picture of health.

Several years ago, I lost a significant amount of weight. Like, I could have been on the cover of People Magazine’s “How They Lost XX LBS!” issue. Something powerful shifted for me when I turned 30. I decided to stop caring about my weight as a means to measure my success, beauty and worth as a woman. I gave myself permission to care for my body, and to care for the woman inside that body first. Those were the first steps to decoding the destructive message I had been telling myself for three decades, and more importantly, to accepting my worth without attaching my weight to it. I had viewed my body as The Enemy, and the scale just let me know how badly I was losing The War.

I was ready to stop waging The War and start nurturing myself.

The nurturing began with saying nice things. Out loud. To my own face. Things like:

  • “You have a warm heart.”
  • “You have a wicked sense of humor.”
  • “Your blood pressure is PERFECT.”
  • “Those upper arms are pretty tight.”
  • “Nice boobs.”

I focused on the things I liked about myself already. I even borrowed a couple of attributes my husband and best friend liked about me. And you know what happened? Nothing at first. They were just words. But then the words started to feel true and I gave myself permission to believe them.

Over the course of the next three years, I changed my eating habits dramatically, worked with a doctor to balance my hormones, (which has been my Achilles’ heel since I was first diagnosed with PCOS in my teens), and began learning the value of self-care. I did other things, like choosing to work somewhere for less pay but in an environment where I thrived and was treated with kindness and respect. We made a major move, even though that meant sleeping on a futon for four months in a couple of different guest rooms in order to save enough money to make it happen. I started taking classes to expand my knowledge of nutrition and health. One nurturing and kind act of self-care began a snowball effect in my life, and weight loss rolled up into it.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had to be intentional and work hard to reduce my weight, but it felt like a natural step in a series of steps.

I was in the best health of my life when I got pregnant nearly three years ago for the first time. I gained 10 lbs immediately. Sadly, I lost the pregnancy very early on, but the weight stayed. Two months later, I got pregnant with E, and gained a about 25 lbs throughout the 9.5 months of incubation. I lost most of what I gained in the following nine months post-partum. I wanted to lose a little bit more to be in my comfort zone, and felt hopeful. I knew how to do this safely and my postpartum body was agreeing with me.

Then I started taking Domperidone for my milk supply and shot my hormones straight to hell. The weight stopped coming off and starting coming back on. It was disheartening. I take Domperidone to provide milk for my son, E, who has FPIES. My milk was the only safe thing he could eat for over a year, and I shouldered the tremendous burden of feeding him exclusively. Since it was quite literally a matter of survival for my son, I resigned myself to doing whatever it took to feed him now, and doing damage control later.

I’ve never been thin. I’ve been fit and healthy, but I have to do unnatural things to get below a size 8. And by unnatural, I mean I can’t eat dark chocolate and I rely on a diet of black coffee and salad (no dressing) and must work out 10 times a week. Soooo not worth it for me.  In fact, it is unhealthy for me. I’m okay with never being a size 6. In fact, a size 10 is where I feel the best about myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. I feel strong, comfortable, and confident and I don’t have to do unnatural things to maintain it. I can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and eat the occasional bowl of (gluten-free) pasta. But I’m not a size 10 right now. I’m a size 16. As long as I’m on this medication, my hormones will continue to be profoundly affected and my waist will continue to expand. And guess what?

I’m still healthy.

Who gives exactly zero thought to what size pants I wear?
Who gives exactly zero thought to what size pants I wear? This guy.

I exercise. I eat whole foods. I limit sugar and processed junk. I get regular blood work done every six months, and check in more often than that with my doctor. I take gentle, kind, and loving care of myself.

I’m overweight and I can still be healthy and encourage other people to be healthy, too.

When E no longer needs my milk, (which I hope will be one day very soon for many reasons that aren’t weight related), I know what steps to take to help my body recover. It’s also likely that when I drop a few pants sizes, I’ll have some loose belly skin and stretch marks in weird places. I’ll feel more comfortable in some ways, and less in others. I don’t love the semi-deflated way my body looks at a size 10, or the saggy skin. But I love the way I move. I love the extra energy, and I love knowing that my body doesn’t have to work harder to be healthy. I love that I determine what feels good, most of all.  And it has nothing to do with what anyone else deems I should feel or look like.

In the meantime, until my body no longer belongs primarily to my child and for many moons after that, I will extend kindness and acceptance to myself. I will continue to say nice things like:

  • “Damn, your hair is luscious!”
  • “Your legs are powerful enough to crush beer cans.”
  • “Excellent job sustaining two human lives for 30 months in a row!”
  • “You chose not to judge yourself, even though you were afraid other people were.”
  • “You had a regular period this month.  Keep it up, Uterus!”
  • “You have everything you need in this moment.”

Because those words are true. Even if I wear a size 16 forever, or grow even rounder, those words are always true.

I have to consciously release myself from perceived judgement. That effing scale and the size of my jeans do not determine my happiness, enjoyment of life, well-being, or level of professional competence. It does not determine my ability to be a connected, loving, and active mom or human. It does not disqualify me from sharing my hard-earned knowledge of nutrition and health.

My weight does not determine my worth. And it doesn’t determine yours either.

I am fortunate. I wake up thankful to be a woman in this world who has a voice and a mission in the wellness field. I wake up thankful to be my husband’s wife. I wake up thankful to be E’s mom. I wake up thankful for the extra weight because I know, for now, it means my son is thriving. I won’t waste a single moment feeling regretful for what my body looks like, or worry about changing it in the near future. It is enough. I am enough.

And so are you.