Sunday, November 30, 2014

Vanilla Coconut Flour Cupcakes

Have you had hard time using alternative flours to make baked goods? Whether you are doing the Trim Healthy Mama plan, low-carb, paleo or gluten-free it can be difficult to get the "right" texture. These coconut flour cupcakes are one of the closest facsimiles to a store-bought cupcakes that I have tried! 

This recipe is based on one I saw on Elana's Pantry but I switched a few ingredients to make it THM friendly and low-glycemic, so I thought I would share my adaptations with you! These cupcakes will be slightly denser than you may be used to but the result was still everything I was craving in a cupcake! I have tried several different brands of coconut flour and I wasn't impressed at first, most were very dry and not very tasty. These were made with Nutiva's coconut flour and I have to say that this is, by far, my favorite coconut flour. It has a moist-ness that the others were lacking and also has a real coconut smell! It stores really well in the freezer.

Have you noticed these gorgeous teacup silicone cupcake liners I'm using? They are by Ramini and I received a free set of 4 for the purpose of review. They are so adorable and my 4 year old daughter is absolutely smitten with them! You can buy your own set here. They even come with little plastic plates to set each cupcake on. (The plates are only decorative and NOT for putting in the oven!)

Vanilla Coconut Flour Cupcakes
(based on this Elana's Pantry recipe)
~makes 6 cupcakes~

3 eggs 
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
1 Tbs vanilla extract
6 tsps Truvia 
(if you like things less sweet you could use 4 tsp)
1/4 tsp unrefined sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup coconut flour

This recipe works best in a food processor, especially if your coconut flour is coming out of the freezer as it has a tendency to clump up a bit. If you happen to have non-clumped coconut flour, feel free to mix it in a bowl. Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, add the coconut flour, Truvia, sea salt, and baking soda. Add eggs and vanilla, while processor is running on low, add melted coconut oil.  Line a cupcake tin with paper liners or use silicone cupcake liners. If you are in love with these silicone teacup liners like I am you can order them here.

Chocolate Frosting
based on this recipe from Elana's pantry

4 oz. unsweetened baker's chocolate
1/4 cup coconut oil
4-5 tsp Truvia, or stevia to taste
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream 
(you can eliminate this for dairy-free, the chocolate will be darker)

In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate and coconut oil. Remove from heat and add Truvia, vanilla extract. Stir until well combined. Place in the refrigerator until solidifying partially but not fully. Whip heavy cream until it's a whip cream consistency, set aside. Remove mixture from the refrigerator and whip until frosting like consistency (if it hasn't thickened enough this won't work- so put it back in the fridge and let it cool a little more). Once it's whipped, fold in heavy cream until its fully combined. Frost your cupcakes when they are fully cool.

 If you store these in the fridge, the frosting will harden somewhat, so be sure to take them out and let them come to room temperature before eating them (unless you like hard frosting- or just can't wait!) ;) I think these taste best if you frost them and have them right away, so you can try to plan accordingly. I hope you enjoy these like we do! Please leave a comment if you try them and let me know what you think! 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Matcha Green Tea Cookies

Some of the links in this post are "affiliate links" which means that if you click through one and purchase something, I will receive a small compensation, Thank You! This is disclosed on ther top of every post to comply with FTC regulations for bloggers.

     Green Tea has a lot of health benefits that we have all heard about! It's been in the news a lot, how powerful and antioxidant it is, and how it , may help prevent certain types of cancers. It's enough to make anyone want to add more green tea to their diet! But not everyone likes to drink green tea, and even if you do, sometimes its fun to change things up a bit!

     I have tried matcha tea in the past and incorporated it into some of my recipes, but here's a new one that maybe your haven't heard of before Green Tea Cookies! I was inspired when I tried Matcha from Kiss me Organics and received their free matcha recipe e-book. It has over 50 recipes using Matcha so there's a lot to try out and enjoy! Drinks, muffins, cookies, even pizza dough! I love a matcha latte with cream. It's one of the only caffeinated drinks that doesn't leave me feeling jittery afterwards.

     These cookies have a green tea flavor that goes really nicely with a sugar cookie, its like having your tea and cookies all in one! There's a sugar cookie recipe in the book, however I switched it up a bit to suit my own ideas about how to make it as healthy as possible! My kids love these cookies but I didn't let them have more than 1 because they are young and I am very careful with how much caffeine they can consume. This recipe makes close to 2 dozen cookies with one tablespoon of matcha making each cookie have less than half a tsp of matcha in it. I believe this is a safe amount for a child to have but I won't make a judgement call on that for your children =) This would be a great recipe for taking with you if you are going to get a lot of sun. Antioxidants help to decrease damage from free radicals and green tea is LOADED with antioxidants!  

 Matcha Green Tea Cookies 

1 egg
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/4 cup coconut oil (softened)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup demerera sugar for sprinkling (optional)
     Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, coconut oil and coconut sugar together. Add matcha, vanilla and egg. Mix well. Add flours and mix until combined. Use a cookie scoop to place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until edges are light brown.

     This cookie has a definite green tea flavor, so if it's not your favorite flavor then you could work up to the full tbs. over time. Our family loved them as they were. I bet it wouldn't be hard to adapt this recipe and make a killer sourdough version as well or you cold certainly used a sprouted grain flour if you chose to. Our family does try to incorporate as many traditional foods as we can into our diets, but we aren't militant about it. =)

I hope you try and love this recipe as much as we do! Please let us know if you do! 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mommy Stress And How To Handle It

     There's a unique set of stressors that Mommy's of young children face. Whether a working mommy or a stay-at-home mom, we all worry and have lives that can be very busy. Especially now, with so many people who are tight financially we worry about our children's future, about their next sickness, if they are learning enough, sleeping enough, eating enough even going to the bathroom enough (if you have a newborn you know what I'm talking about).

     I'm just a mom. I'm not a doctor, I can't give you professional advice if you're unique set of stressors have reach a level you can't handle. But I'm a mom whose been through a LOT with young kids. Job loss, cross-country move while pregnant, living in a small house, living on a single income too small to support a family, having our only car break down multiple times. I can't offer professional advice but BELIEVE ME, I get it. Life is hard! Here's some of my "older mom" advice to you as you face what God has in store for you.

1. Stay in the Word. Don't forget where you help comes from. Find ways to stay in the Word! Will you always have time to sit still and read your Bible with young kids? NO! So listen to the Bible for free online, or download an app, read to your children. Be creative! Don't give up this essential part of your day because you can't make it look like it used to look. Some days you will be able to sit quietly with your Bible and a cup of tea, and sometimes you won't- be flexible and get it done!! God will honor even the quickest "Please be with me!" Prayer if done with a heart that truly remembers it needs Him.

2.Sing! Several studies have suggested that singing is actually a great stress reducer that can  help your baby's health  and lower your blood pressure!  Singing can take your mind off what's stressing you out, can be a fun activity to do with your kids, and if you're singing praise and worship songs, can be another way to focus your mind on God's goodness during stress. You have an awful singing voice so you say? So what! Then don't sing on stage, just sing in the privacy of your own home, sing in the shower, in the car, with the radio up loud to drowned you out. Don't let a lack of ability hinder you, just have fun with it.

3. Smile!  The kids are all sick and you've gotten no sleep. The house looks like a war zone and when you put the baby down for a minute he cries like you just chopped off his right leg. You would like nothing better than to go cover your head or have someone give you a "do-over" for your day. Yup, I've been there. It's time to start singing the chorus to Frozen and "Let it go" ;) Lower your expectations for that day, turn a blind eye to the mess for a little while and snuggle those babies. Find happiness in being needed and loved and smile. Attitude goes a long way in shaping your life, what kind of life do you want? We all need to vent sometimes- that's okay! But when your "venting" becomes who you are, now you've crossed the line into unhappiness. Smiling can produce physically beneficial effects, not only for us, but for those around us who are directly affected by our attitude.

4. Be Silly with your Kids. This goes back to number 3, but kids love to be silly. Teaching your kids how to giggle during life's bumps will help them to keep a positive attitude as they grow up. Don't take yourself too seriously and even when there's times of real serious problems and stress, find a way to share a smile and a laugh with your little ones, I bet they will turn around and make you smile more in return! 


5. Talk a walk. When I was going through my most serious health problems a few years ago there was one thing I could always count on to bring my anxiety level down and help me feel better and that was going outside and taking a walk! Breathing in fresh air and seeing nature in all it's seasons is a proven stress reducer. Now that we are living in the South and near a bike trial, this is a no-brainer for our family. But even when we lived up North, we had snow shoes and warm babywearing coat and we would go out take a hike with our kids when we needed to just get away for a bit! 

6.Find Joy in the Little Things. It can be easy to get so caught up in what NEEDS to get done that you don't take time to find wonder in your world. But there are amazing things all around us, take 10 minutes and go outside with your children, discover something new, catch a lizard (or, you know, a cool rock if lizards gross you out) It doesn't take long to find something AMAZING if you look at life through your kids eyes! 

7. Take a break! If you have ways of taking time away and taking a break then that's great! But I know, not every parent has the ability or the desire to leave their children with someone else. Your child has a unique health concern that's hard to handle, you've recently moved, or your support-base is small. You don't need time away from your kids to take a break, send them to bed early and have a "couch date" with your hubby, or go to the playground and sit on the swings together while they play, even just letting them watch a movie while you eat in the kitchen. My husband and I have a running joke when all the kids fall asleep in the car we hold hands and say "date night!" =) Be creative and have fun. 

     I hope something I have shared with you has given you some good ideas on how to relax and have fun even when life is hard! And if nothing else, I hope my pictures made you smile and laugh! There are many other ways I'd like to share with you about relieving stress including essential oils and supplements that I use to help. I'd like to share with you one supplement that I have been using for a while that I really like, magnesium citrate. You can read more about the benefits of magnesium here at Gwen's Nest. I have been using this one by Simple Health that I really like. It's tasteless and not gritty at all and easy to add to juice or a puree (or a gluccie pudding for THM's!) and it's an excellent for calming.

Please let me know in the comments ways that you handle stress in your life, and if any of the methods I mentioned have helped you! 

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Snake Oil Review

          Have you ever come across a game that was fun, easy to play, and was educational as well? Let me tell you about Snake Oil Party Potion by Out of The Box Games.

Doesn't everyone dress up like Cinderella when they sit down to play a game?!?

     My kids loved this game from the moment it came out of the box. The pictures and game concept are both visually stimulating and REALLY FUN! Here's how it works: You pick one player to be the customer and they draw a customer card to see what kind of customer they will be. The rest of your players are "Snake Oil Salesman" (like the salesman of the past that were called this because of their dubious wares) You get 6 bizarre words on your cards and you have to combine two of them and try to "sell" the item you come up with to your customer. This is where the fun comes in, it's all up to the customer which one he's going to pick, so you must come up with something fun and well suited for your customer.

     For example, say your customer draws the card for a Treasure Hunter customer. And your 6 cards are escape, spider, face, torch, puddle, and bacon. So now you need to come up with something you think a treasure hunter might like. Escape, you think, that could help! But what for the second word Escape bacon? Escape spider? Escape Puddle?!? This was the part that we enjoyed watch our children's brains work. "It's a puddle that has a secret portal to let your escape any danger!" or "This spider lets you ride out of trouble on his back!" The ideas they all came up with were incredible!. 

      This game was so much fun! We were all laughing together over some of the outrageous product ideas we came up with. The game is labeled for ages 8 and up, however, my 6 year old did a GREAT job with the game and loved it more than anyone and my four year old had a ton of fun coming up with funny ideas to pitch to her brothers.

4 year old pitching her GREAT invention to the 6 year old 
      This game became a quick family favorite that everyone wanted to play. We laughed over the creativity and salesmanship that came out of our three older children as they pitched their ideas and tried to convince us that THEIR idea was the best! 

Special guest appearance during one round of play. 
      This game would make a perfect Christmas or birthday present! I hope you enjoy it as much as we are! 

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Purposeful Design Review

     As a Christian, understanding Creation through a Biblical Worldview is not only paramount to me, but also to my teaching my children.  The miracles all around us everyday are something we often take for granted. As I teach my children about Creation, I want them to experience wonder over all that God has made. Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation by Jay Schabacker helps us to see the wonder in the world around us and enjoy what God has given us, both the visible and the invisible. Produced by Purposeful Design, this is more than just a book, it's about the love and purpose of our Master Designer.

     This is a large, colorful coffee-table style book.  Within the pages of this book with vivid illustrations and large, easy-to-read text. In this award winning, hardback, 96 page book, Mr Schabacker discusses many of the whys and hows of what God has done on our earth as He created it. Jay Schabacker is a former aerospace scientist (he worked on the Apollo Moon Program at NASA). Now he has turned his attention to creating a book that explores the wonder of the the universe and how it came to be. 

The chapters in this book include:
Chapter One - The First Day - Creation of the Heavens and the Earth - Foundation of it All 
Why does the Universe keep spinning? You'll learn more about God's involvement in the Creation and how He has created the laws of science.
Chapter Two - The Second Day - Creation of the Atmosphere and Water You'll learn about water and its varying properties. And what would have happened if God had made the oceans larger or smaller!

Chapter 3 -  The Third Day - Creation of Dry Land and Vegetation Plants their variation and usages. God created plants that heal, feed, protect, and more.

Chapter 4 - The Fourth Day - Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars

This chapter is larger than the previous three.  It covers such things as the earth's perfect tiltcycle of the seasons, the earth's rotation and equinox, climate, sunrise and sunset times, ways the precision of the sunrise has been used in history, phases of the moon and how it affects the tides, ocean's tides, and the stars and their use in navigation. 

Chapter 5 - The Fifth Day - Creation of the Birds and Fish

      The birds and fish and why they were created and their pre-programmed instincts. How fish swim and why ice floats. The pictures of the various sea creatures were very interesting to my children. 

Chapter 6 - Creation Day Six - Creation of Land Creatures and Humans

Discusses why we need animals and the uniqueness of humans.  In this chapter, we see that everything has a purpose, including so-called "vestigial organs" that we once thought were useless or leftovers from less-evolved forms of man. You'll read about our fearfully and wonderfully made bodies: look at blood, mother's milk, cells, the brain and the different parts of the head.  

Chapter 7 - The Seventh Day
Discusses the need for rest in the creative process. This is a shorter chapter that includes Exodus 20: 8-10 (the creation of the Sabbath rest) and several other Bible verses. 

There is a Young Explorer's Club workbook available for free when you purchase the book.  It gives your students fill-in-the-blank questions to go over the material learned in each chapter.  There are also verses for reflection and to memorize, and questions to bring about deeper discussion about what God was doing and why, when He created the Earth.  Each Chapter ends with a small prayer.  The workbook has a crossword puzzle for kids in the back.  There is a Teacher's Key to the workbook with the answers, a certificate to award for the completion of each chapter and talking points to help you interact with your kids around the material in the book.This is a workbook curriculum designed to go along with each chapter in the book. It contains a Kid's Workbook, Teacher's Set, and a Certificate of Completion that can all be downloaded free of charge from their website. 

     I think Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation is a useful and stimulating tool for learning about creation according to God's Word. It's a beautiful book to have out on display for visitors to your home as well. The illustrations are incredible and most certainly enhance the experience as you learn.

     It's a great read-aloud book that is meant for and will appeal to readers of all ages, but some of the information might be a bit advanced for younger children. The pictures will help to keep their attention, though!
     We fully intend to enjoy this wonderful book as a family for years to come! 

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IXL Math and Language Arts Online Review

 Our family have the opportunity to review IXL Math and IXL Language Arts from IXL. We were given access to their online program for a full year for up to five students. I used the program with my two oldest sons ages 8 and 6 - grades 1st and 3rd. 

Often, students need practice in order to learn new skills. ”Practice makes progress” and IXL gives students the opportunity to practice Math and Language Arts skills in order to become proficient in them. IXL offers distraction-free online learning for students who need a little extra time to grasp new concepts, or perhaps want to test their own skills. 

The IXL program specializing in Math and Language Arts for students in K-12. Online Math is for Pre-K through Pre-calculus and Language Arts is for grades 2 through 8.  The program is aligned to state standards (you choose your state when you sign up) along with Common Core standards.  IXL does not teach, rather it's function is to review.  If the student gets a problem wrong, IXL will work through the problem with them.  But the focus is on practice, not learning new skills.

 IXL provides right and left brained content, an online environment free from distractions, and a reward system to encourages your students to succeed. Online reports and weekly emails will keep you up to date on your children's progress.

     For each grade level in, Language Arts and Math, the website shows a list of skills that are organized by topic. Your students can pick a topic and answer a series of questions that increase in difficulty. It is assumed that your student already knows the material when you start, however, when a wrong answer is given, IXL shows student what the right answer is, and WHY it is the correct choice. More questions for that skill will follow to ensure that the student has now mastered that skill.

IXL keeps track of your students' scores for each thing that they have worked on. Scores increase with each correct answer and decrease with each incorrect answer. Students have to work harder to bring scores back up, but they still have the opportunity to reach a score of 100% which will earn them a gold ribbon. 

Pricing for family memberships starts at $9.95/month or $79/year for one subject. Each additional child costs $2/month or $20/year. So an annual subscription for one child for math is $79; for math AND Language Arts, it would be $129.  For two children for math, it is $99 for the year; for math and language arts, it would be $149. For more information or to purchase a family membership, go to, and select your preferred membership option to view pricing details. 

In the parent account, you can see what skills your student have done well with, what skills they’re having trouble with, and how long they spent on IXL.  In addition, you’ll get reports emailed to you for each of your students, and certificates of completion, for you to either print or save, your choice.  

IXL has math apps for iPad, Android, and Kindle.  My kids tried the Kindle app, however, primarily we used the website. The app is free with your purchase of the program, which is great!  There is no app for language arts as of yet.

One of my favorite parts about the program is the explanation when a student get the wrong answer. It's very helpful that my sons can understand where they got confused.  This was particularly helpful for my 8 year old because he is at an age where he would really understand and be encouraged to work harder on correcting his skills. My 6 year old was less enthusiastic about the program in general, he was too young for the English portion, so he only did the Math, which is not his favorite subject in general. He needed a lot of one-on-one support from mom to complete the work, which made it more difficult for Mom to complete this in addition to his other Math work. However, this is due more to his need to improve and mature in his learning rather than any deficit in the program itself. There were several skills in both children's grade level that were above their current skill level, however it was easy to go back to the previous grade level and work on some of those skills instead.

Overall, I think this is an excellent supplemental program for both practice and mastery of specific skills. If you'd like 
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