Where the Heck has Mary Been?

If you are wondering if aliens have carried me off, or I’ve run off with the Bachelor, I’m here to tell you… no, I’m still a loving wife to my dear husband of 36 years.  Here is where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to the past five months.

After much thought last year about my life and what direction I want to go, I decided that I didn’t want to be a part time blogger or a part time locksmith with my hubby anymore.  So in January of 2013, I went back to school.

I have been a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition since January and I am loving it.  It is a one year program to becoming a health coach.

I am learning so much about not just nutrition, but also about whole body health.  I have a new blog over at Naturally Simple Health.  Where I blog about healthy living but also gluten-free healthy living.

So I hope you will check out my website there.  I will still be posting on here periodically.

Thanks for being loyal readers of my blog.

Brown Rice with Nuts & Dried Fruit; Breakfast, Naturally Gluten Free

Whether you’re new to gluten free meal planning or you’ve been gluten free for some time, you know how hard it can be to come up with foods that are healthy, safe, and affordable.  

In my opinion, breakfast is the hardest meal to come up with something healthy and gluten free, and if there are some in your family who are gluten free and others who aren’t, the process of coming up with meals that satisfy everyone can be harder still.

That’s why I came up with this recipe for a healthy, nutritious, and gluten free breakfast.  It’s similar to oatmeal and it’s something that just about everyone will enjoy.  Even better, you can make it in advance and it will keep those in your family who have Celiac Disease, or who are gluten intolerant, healthy.

Brown Rice Breakfast


  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons almonds, pecans, walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons raisins, dried cherries
  • ½ cup milk, soy, almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

1. Combine ingredients in sauce pan.
2. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until heated throughout.
3. Eat immediate or set aside to cool.
4. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
5. Reheat a breakfast-sized portion in the morning.

There are many cultures throughout the world where the people begin their days with a bowl of warm rice, which is one reason why this is a favorite gluten free breakfast for my family and me.

Most of the time, I will make a large batch of this on Sunday afternoon so that I know there is a nutritious breakfast waiting in the fridge to start our busy weekday mornings off right.  On cool fall days I will even pack some of this hot brown rice cereal and take it with me to work for lunch.

 If you try this recipe, let me know what you think in the comments. 

If you like this recipe, you may like my cookbook:

Gluten Free Get-Togethers Cookbook

I’m Eating A Gluten Free Diet, What Are My Choices?


Fruit SaladFor me, and many people like me, choosing to eat gluten free is not a choice. It is a requirement if they want to feel healthy and lead a normal life.  Dealing with gluten intolerance or even being diagnosed with Celiac Disease is always difficult, but has gotten a lot easier than when I was first diagnosed. Permanent lifestyle changes must be made and adapted.

When making the change to gluten free foods you will need to become a label detective.  Reading labels will have to become your number one priority when grocery shopping.  You don’t want to have any type of wheat or gluten listed as an ingredient, and you must also look for hidden gluten.

Gluten shows up in some foods that you might not instantly think about. Liquorice and beer are just two examples of this. Other food choices that you want to avoid on a gluten free diet include:

  • All white pastas and flours
  • Baked goods including cakes and cookies
  • Pizza dough and flour tortillas
  • Malt vinegars
  • Canned Broth, (some of it contains wheat)

Within the above categories there will be many sub-categories including items like couscous, semolina and oats.  With oats some people find that they can tolerate oats in their diet while others cannot.  If you do decide to try oats then purchase a gluten-free brand, like Bob’s Red Mill Brand

The reason you want gluten-free oats, is because regular oats can be contaminated by wheat, rye or barley, while they are being grown.You may think that if you cut out the above foods, you will depriving yourself of your favorite foods.  Not to worry there are still plenty of good food choices left.

When going gluten-free you want to concentrate on adding lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. You can still eat potatoes and sweet potatoes are especially high in nutrition.

Corn is a product that you can still eat so you can still make corn tortillas for your dinner, along with fresh salsa. Rice and beans are other great food choices that pack plenty of nutrition.  You will want to choose brown rice or wild rice, (which isn’t rice at all but a grass), because brown rice is much more nutrient rich than white rice.

A less familiar product is Quinoa this is an ancient grain that is a complete protein.   Which means quinoa supplies all nine essential amino acids and is especially rich  in Lysine, which is the amino acid that is essential for healthy tissue growth and repair.  Here’s a blog post I wrote a while back about quinoa. In fact many vegetarian’s use this as a substitute for protein in their diets.

When it comes to baking you can replace nut flours for regular flours. It is possible to mix rice flour, potato flour along with your favorite flour so you can still bake your favorite baked dishes.  I don’t like the taste of bean flours so I make my own baking mix of brown rice, rice bran, white rice, potato, and tapioca flours.

You need to be aware that food additives may contain gluten and these can be in products that you wouldn’t even think contain this ingredient.

This list of tricky foods includes items such as salad dressing, soy sauce and some soy products. This is why becoming a food detective is so important.
I have a list of right off the store shelf items that are gluten-free here.

With a little research you will discover there are plenty of food choices for anyone on a gluten free diet. Check out your local grocery store for a gluten free section, you may be surprised at how many foods they have! 

And when in doubt, shop the perimeter of the grocery store.  That’s where the most healthful food is found anyway.

Are You Still Around?

Where's MaryI know it has been quite a while since I’ve written any new blog posts and I just wanted to let you know what happened to me. 

My mother had a stroke back in August, you can read about that, if you want, here.  Well just about 2 weeks before Christmas, she got really sick and hospice was called in.  We lost her on the 22nd of December. 

My oldest granddaughter, Courtney, came for a week the week between Christmas and the weekend after New Years.  We had great fun, the two younger granddaughters were staying with me also and it just so happened that the day after Christmas, we got 14 inches of snow.

Needless to say the sleds got put to a lot of use that week, and there was much hot chocolate drinking.

Around the middle, towards the end of January, I started having twinges of pain in my back.  I put heating pad on my back everynight after work and it would  feel better in the morning, only to start all over again the next day. 

By Friday of the second week, the pain was so bad that I couldn’t even take a deep breath.  My hubby took me to the ER and they told me I had pleurisy.  Which is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs. 

If you’ve never had it, pray that you never get it.  I couldn’t breath, lie down in bed, sit down by myself, or get up out of the chair without my hubby’s assistance.  I had to sleep in the lazyboy chair sitting up for several nights.

Apparently, the sinus/chest virus that I had been fighting for two months, caused the pleurisy.  That virus continued straight through to the beginning of February. 

I’m still having some pain in my back and ribcage, but not nearly so badly as it was.

I will back to writing all about healthy gluten free food and what is new in the world of gluten free living.

Have Some Old-Fashioned Christmas Fun This Year

Do you ever feel like the holidays are getting away from you?  If  you’re like me, you get too busy to enjoy the simple aspects that make the holidays so special.  Marketing messages barrage us from every corner.  We forget that Christmas isn’t about buying the latest and greatest toy or device.  If you want to get back to basics, consider having a fun, old-fashioned Christmas this year.  The following tips are from my new book, Create An Old Fashioned Christmas.

Go Caroling

There’s nothing more old-fashioned than Christmas caroling. Gather a group of friends or join a community or church group. Dress warmly, brush up on your carol lyrics, and make it a special night. Plan to go out for cocoa and treats afterward. It may become a tradition your family looks forward to every year.

Christmas Lights

All around your community, families try to outdo each other with the holiday lights. Some resemble the Griswolds with crazy over-the-top scenes and enough lights to see their home from the moon. Others put out a beautiful display. Take your family for a night walk or drive around your community to enjoy the holiday lights. You can make a game of it to find the most beautiful display or the craziest display.


Children love to decorate the holiday tree. Put on some holiday music – Bing Crosby, anyone?  😉  Let your children hang the ornaments. In fact, going out to cut down the holiday tree can be an event all by itself. See our family adventure here.  You can get cocoa at the tree lot, take a sleigh ride and sing carols. Once home, children can hang the ornaments or make decorations for the home. It’s great old-fashioned Christmas fun.

Play Outside

Don’t forget the joys to be had outside during the holiday season – ice skating, sledding, snow angels and forts and of course making snowmen. Bundle the family up and head outside for some fresh air and sunshine. Let your children decide what the activity is and then support them.

Christmas doesn’t have to be all hustle and bustle. It doesn’t have to be about the gifts and material things. It can be completely about the special holiday time with family and friends. This year, take steps to take Christmas back. Have fun and engage in old-fashioned holiday activities. Your family will remember this holiday for years to come. And who knows – maybe you’ll start a whole new tradition.

Gluten-Free Holiday Treats That Are Quick, Easy And Kids Will Love

Are you looking for ways to keep your children busy during holiday break? One great way, is to have them contribute to the holiday festivities.  How?  Have them help make holiday treats.

In many families cookies are an important part of the holiday tradition. Even if your children aren’t able to bake yet, they can help decorate. Here are a few quick and easy holiday treats your kids will love.

#1 Rice Crispy Treats

Rice Crispy treats are no-bake snacks that can be ready in a matter of minutes. You can find the recipe on the side of any rice cereal box, and now that Kellogg’s has started making gluten-free Rice Crispies, anyone on a gluten-free diet can once again enjoy them.  You need a box of gluten-free rice crispy cereal, a bag of marshmallows and butter. Once the treats are made, you can use cookie cutters to shape them into holiday decorations.

One easy shape for younger children is to cut the treats into circles and decorate them to resemble tree ornaments. You can use basic colored gel frosting, (check label for hidden gluten),  found at the supermarket, or make your own butter cream frosting and color it with food coloring to match your desired decorating style. Let your little ones express their creativity by decorating the treats.

#2 Sugar cookies

There are many different kinds of gluten-free sugar cookie mixes on the market, which will help to shorten the time.  Round sugar cookies can be made and decorated like holiday ornaments. Or you can roll them out and use various holiday cookie cutter shapes to get more creative. This is particularly fun for older children who may enjoy more complicated decorating tasks. Additionally, older children can bake the cookies.

#3 Peanut butter balls

Another no-bake cookie that’s fun to make are peanut butter balls. They’re also called buckeyes. Basically, you blend peanut butter, butter, and powdered sugar into a gooey mess. You then roll the peanut butter mix into melted chocolate, let cool and enjoy. Here’s a quick and easy recipe.

* 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
* 4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla and confectioners’ sugar. Roll into 1-inch balls and place on a waxed, paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill for thirty minutes in your freezer. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler or in your microwave. Stir frequently until smooth. Dip frozen peanut butter balls in chocolate. Leave a small portion of peanut butter showing at the top. Place back on wax paper and store in refrigerator.
If you have family recipes, invite your children to help bake. Getting your children involved in the holiday preparations accomplishes many beneficial things. It helps them feel valuable. They learn new skills. Additionally, it helps them stay busy during time off of school. They’ll be able to grow up and share their joy of holiday baking with their own family.

Quick and Easy Ideas To Create That Festive Holiday Mood


I love the holiday season!  I used to spend the whole week after Thanksgiving just decorating my home for Christmas.  Of course, that was before I worked outside of the house full time. 🙂  I still like to decorate my home, but some years I just have decorate a little less than I like because of a lack of time, energy or money.  So I’ve put together a few quick and easy ways to create a festive mood without taking up a lot of time.

These are just a few of the hints, tips and gluten-free recipes you’ll find in my new book, Create An Old Fashioned Christmas.

#1 Grab a few candles, place them in the center of your table and light them. The twinkling adds instant ambiance. If you have a decorative plate, stand, or even a few branches to place underneath or around the candles it’ll look even better.

#2 Holiday ornaments – Collect a few of your favorite solid-colored holiday ornaments and place them in a clear glass container, I use a pretty tiramisu bowl for my ornaments.   Grab ones with complimentary colors like silver and red, or collect ornaments that are all one color but varying sizes to add effect.

#3 Spruce up an old wreath by adding small ornaments to the boughs. Attach them with wire through the back of the wreath to ensure they stay in place.

#4 White Christmas lights – String white Christmas lights up a stairwell banister. Hang them around a doorway, around a mirror, or adorn a plant in your home with the small sparkling lights.

#5 String cranberries and/or popcorn and hang on your holiday tree with white lights for an old-fashioned holiday tree.  Let the kids help with this, do it while watching your favorite Christmas movie.

#6 Fill a glass bowl with holiday fruit. Pomegranates, oranges, and pears are in abundance during the holidays, and apples are always around.

#7 Gather pine cones and string them for a decorative touch. Place them in a basket with some greenery and put them on your mantle or table, or add glitter or sparkly spray paint for a more festive look.

#8 Purchase a bag or two of cranberries. Place them in a clear glass bowl filled with water. Add a few small red or green floating candles and light them. The candles will float amongst the red berries. You can also fill a bowl with the red berries, skip the water, and position the candles amongst the berries.

#9 Display your holiday cards by hanging them over the fire place or around a doorway.

#10 Gather branches from your yard or the tree farm. Place them on the wall over your fireplace, create a wreath from the branches by weaving them together or use them as the foundation for a centerpiece.

#11 Gather candy canes both large and small in a tall vase or clear glass. Tie bows around the middle of the candy canes and display.

#12 Wrap mirrors and doors with wrapping paper. They’ll look like giant gifts.

Let your imagination run free, you can come up with tons of great ideas to decorate your home this holiday. Take a look around your home and yard. What do you already have that you can use to decorate?  Keep it simple and have fun!


Christmas Tree Shopping

The tradition in our family ever since our kids were little has been to go Christmas tree shopping Black Friday.  Sometimes we would go to a tree farm to cut down our own, but most of the time we just bought one that was already cut.

After we moved to the country, when the kids were 22 and 21 years old, we started getting our Christmas trees at a local tree farm.  We’ve been buying them at the same farm for the past 12 years.

Now that our children are grown, and all work different schedules, the excursion has been changed to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

So on a very cold November 24th, we all loaded up into our trucks and headed off to the tree farm.  The group included…son Jimmy, his girlfriend Michelle, daughter Jessica, her hubby Rob, their two girls, my hubby Jim and I.

And we’re off!

That’s me carrying the bow saw.  My dear hubby is bringing up the rear with the camera.

Of course our favorite kind of trees, (concolor or white fir) are all at the top of the mountain, and it doesn’t take long for the smallest small fry to tire out.

There is always the precise measuring to ensure the correct height of the tree.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then the mighty woodsmen fell the tree!


After three more trees come down, we’re ready to head back to get them wrapped and paid for. 


For obvious reasons, this is the part the girls seem to like best!  They get to choose candy canes and a coloring book.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGetting all warmed up!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChristmas tree shopping is hard work!  Our small fry didn’t even make it all the way home.  She fell asleep in the truck.

After figuring out who’s trees were whose, we all went to the kitchen for hot chocolate and homemade beef stew.  Yum! 



Gluten-Free Holiday Cooking With Your Kids

I don’t know about you, but I can hardly believe it is only 22 days until Christmas, and Hanukkah starts at sundown this Saturday.  I love Christmas, not just the presents, although those are nice.  I love the food, the baking, the cooking, the closeness of family, the mixing of family and cooking or baking.

Christmas is a holiday where the entire family tries to get together.  The sweet smells that waft from the kitchen letting all within sniffing distance know that delicious food is being prepared. If you have kids, then this is the perfect time to get them in on the Christmas cooking craze.

It’s just not true that kids don’t want anything to do with the kitchen. In fact, kids love to cook, and it is never too early for them to start.  How do you think so many great chefs got their start in the cooking world?

In fact my granddaughters, Courtney 8, Eilidh 5, and Mhairi 2, have been helping me in the kitchen since they were big enough to stand on a chair, with small tasks like stirring or pouring in the ingredients.   This is a picture of Eilidh at age 2 1/2 helping me make a pumpkin roll for my cookbook, Gluten-Free Get-Togethers.

 In fact, Eilidh now age 5 helped me make the Thanksgiving pies.  We had a blast. 

When you invite them into the kitchen and give them something to do, kids will jump at the chance to cook or bake with you.

Teach your children that no matter what you are cooking (or baking) in the kitchen, the key here is cleanliness.  Also if you are cooking and baking gluten-free, make sure you teach your children about cross-contamination.  You can read a post a wrote about cross-contamination here.

In preparation, buy your child their own apron and don’t forget yours.  (Note we did not have ours on and we both ended up with powdered sugar all over our fronts).  🙂  Aprons will protect their clothing, and also give them a place to wipe their hands.  Remember to keep plenty of paper towels and hand soap available also because they will be washing their hands quite a bit.  (In leiu of paper towels, I keep kitchen hand towels or bar mops on hand). 

Baking is the easiest thing to start with, because baking involves most of the work to be done away from the stove.  Let your kids cut their culinary teeth on breakfast.  Biscuits are a good place to start because they can learn basic skills and not get into trouble for making a mess. 

If your kids are old enough to read, have them read through the whole recipe before they start.  If they are too young to read the recipe for themselves, read through it with them and explain the importance of knowing what all the steps of the recipe are.

Then, as you go from step to step, explain to your kids what you are about to do or ask them if they remember what comes next.

If you are cooking, set up your work area on the kitchen table or the counter if your kids are tall enough.  Let them create there, while you prep the stove for the food.

For any recipe, begin by gathering your ingredients and utensils.  It will feel like a cooking show; your kids will love that.  Show them how to do each step and then let them take over from there.

I mentioned biscuits before.  Anything that goes into the oven is a good start for kids:

  • Christmas cookies
  • Breakfast casserole
  • Cakes
  • Rolls
  • Dinner meats

With the dinner meat, you will have to help them carry it to the stove, but they can pour the brown sugar glaze (if you like that) onto the ham, season the outside of the turkey, sprinkle pecans on the sweet potato casserole and many other small tasks.

Your kids will get the hang of baking and stovetop cooking with a little assistance.  The holidays are a relaxing and jovial time to let your kids begin cooking with you.  Teach them the basics of hygiene, preparation and creating and keep it fun, so they will want to cook all of the time.


Gluten-Free Black Friday Ham Salad Sandwiches

After a long day, or at least morning of shopping this sandwich will hit the spot.


Black Friday Ham Salad Sandwiches

1 1/2 cup leftover ham, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp pickle relish
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp grated onion
salt and pepper to taste
gluten-free rolls or other sturdy gluten-free bread

In a food processor, put the ham and pulse until finely minced.
Put in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients; taste and season as desired.
Spread mixture on gluten-free bread, bun, or crackers for a quick lunch or dinner on a busy shopping day after the holidays.

Want more gluten-free recipes?  Check out Gluten-Free Get-Togethers: