simply delicious carrot cake (gluten-free)

Apparently February 3 is National Carrot Cake Day. I didn’t know either until Eric texted me yesterday afternoon with that information and suggested we buy a carrot cake for our dinner guests. I agreed, but given my strong dislike for buying bakery products rather than making them at home, I decided to find a simple carrot cake recipe I could have ready-to-eat by 5:00. (I did have to run to the store for cream cheese, but I already had the other ingredients on hand.)


I used this recipe from Gimme Some Oven, but I made so many changes (including making it gluten-free) I figured a recipe post was in order…

Simply Delicious GF Carrot Cake

1 1/4 c. oil (I used avocado oil)

1/4 c. butter, melted

3/4 c. brown sugar

3/4 c. granulated sugar

5 eggs

1 T. vanilla extract

2 T. ground flaxseed

2 c. gluten-free flour

1 1/4 c. almond flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. salt

1 T. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 lb. carrots, finely grated (I used the shred disc on my food processor)

Cream cheese frosting:

2 (8 oz) bricks cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. butter, softened

1 T. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. salt

3 c. powdered sugar 


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine oil, butter, and sugar. Add eggs and mix well until completely blended. Stir in vanilla and flax.

Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices; mix well. Fold in grated carrots until evenly distributed throughout batter.

Pour batter evenly into both cake pans. Bake 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make frosting, use an electric mixer to blend cream cheese and butter until completely smooth with no lumps. Add vanilla, salt, and sugar; mix until smooth.

Layer the cakes with the frosting, then frost the outside. Sprinkle with a pinch of cinnamon to make it pretty! Enjoy!


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raspberry cream cheese coffee cake

Fresh raspberries were on sale for a dollar a package last week so I bought several, right after I bought a ginormous loaf of cream cheese at Costco on a whim…so when I came across a recipe for “raspberry cream cheese coffee cake” on Pinterest, it was a no-brainer. It’s flavorful and slightly tangy with a bit of a crunch from the streusel. I used good ol’ all-purpose flour since I was completely out of my gluten-free mixes. This cake pairs perfectly with a hot cup of tea or coffee!


Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake {adapted from this}


8 oz cream cheese, softened

1/4 c. sugar

1 egg white

2 c. raspberries


5 T. butter, softened 

1/3 c. sugar

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp. lemon zest 

3/4 c. sour cream OR greek yogurt


1/3 c. sugar

1/2 c. flour

3 T. butter, chilled and cubed


Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 8-9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper cut into a circle.

Blend cream cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl on medium speed until creamy. Add egg white on low speed just until combined. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar on medium low speed. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, baking powder and soda, salt, ginger, and zest. Mix well. Beat in sour cream or yogurt just until combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula. Spread cream cheese filling carefully over the top. Place raspberries on the filling.

To prepare streusel, combine sugar, flour, and butter in a small mixing bowl. Mix with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle over berries.

Bake at 350 F for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack; run knife around cake and loosen the ring. Enjoy!


Posted in Cooking, Recipes | 2 Comments

guilt-free dark chocolate peppermint bark

The holidays are quickly approaching (do they ever come slowly?) and I’m strategizing about how to survive the season without blowing our new-to-us paleo-ish eating lifestyle. I’m sure that this paleo peppermint bark is one of the guilt-free treats that will get me through: simple, nutritious ingredients and no baking required!


Paleo Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark

1/2 c. coconut oil, melted

1/4 c. raw cocoa powder

2 T. cashew butter (almond or coconut butter will work also)

2 T. honey

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 drop edible peppermint oil (or 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract)

pinch of salt

2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

1/3 c. unsweetened shredded coconut, optional

In a medium saucepan, melt coconut oil, then stir in cocoa powder, cashew butter, honey, vanilla, peppermint oil, and salt. Stir over low heat until completely combined. Turn off heat and and add dark chocolate and coconut. Stir until chocolate is fully melted. Pour into a parchment-lined 8″ square pan and freeze until hardened. Break into pieces; store in fridge or freezer until ready to serve!

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my oily life

If you know me and my family at all, you’ve likely noticed that our lifestyle falls into the categories of “crunchy” or “hippie.” We birth at home, eat mostly organic, avoid the medical system as much as possible, raise our own backyard chickens, and approach health and wellness with a natural, holistic perspective.


So, it might be obvious that we also use essential oils. I’ve only recently started using essential oils on a daily basis, though, and I’m quickly learning how beneficial they can be. Even my kiddos ask me for them when I forget, and sometimes I overhear them telling their friends about how we use oils. They work!

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick rundown of what essential oils are and why they’re beneficial to our health:

Essential oils are natural aromatic compounds found in the flowers, roots, stems, seeds, and bark of plants. They can be both beautiful and powerful in their aroma. Essential oils can lift the mood, soothe the senses, and elicit emotional responses. EOs have been used throughout history in many cultures for their medicinal benefits. Many have powerful cleansing properties and are naturally microbial. 

Essential oils are administered by one of three methods: diffused aromatically, applied topically to the skin, or taken internally as dietary supplements. They are naturally safe and have few, if any, undesirable side effects when used as directed.

The oils I use are highly concentrated and must be used in small quantities. Just one drop of these oils is surprisingly powerful. Here are a few of our favorite oils:

Lavender (for calming bug bites, promoting restful sleep, soothing an agitated child, creating a relaxing bath experience)

Lemon (for elevating moods, neutralizing odors, cleaning surfaces, removing gum or other adhesives from fabric)

Peppermint (for calming indigestion, opening sinuses, promoting alertness, combining with lavender and lemon during allergy season)

Melaleuca (as a natural antimicrobial agent for skin or for cleaning surfaces, for supporting immunity)

The list could go on and on, but the above oils are a great example of the usefulness of high quality essential oils! If you’re interested in learning more, contact me at or click HERE to see what’s available! Essential oils have changed our family’s life and I’d love to share them with you.


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life as a family of seven

It’s busy. It’s chaotic. It’s loud. Very loud. I love it (90% of the time. The other 10% makes me want to pull my hair out and/or run away screaming like a banshee.)

The newborn/infant fog has lifted and I believe we’ve found our new normal as a family of seven. As we’re starting to wind down from our summer flurry of outdoor activity (hello, hiking, my old friend!) and preparing for the upcoming home school year, I’m reflecting how much I actually LOVE my life.

There are hard things, for sure. I cry a lot…like, at least once a week. But I find so much fulfillment and joy in being a hardworking housewife and a mama to these blessings, and I am (for the most part) content and grateful for the life I’ve been given.

I’ve finally gotten with the times and learned how to post from my phone, so I’m hoping to be more present here. I look forward to reconnecting with all of my lovely bloggy friends and sharing bits and pieces of our simple yet crazy life. Oh, and recipes. I have so many to share I don’t know where to start!



Happy weekending, everyone!



Posted in Family fun, Kiddos | 2 Comments

lemon ginger cream scones

I brought these little lovelies to a baby shower last week and had several requests for the recipe, so I’m posting it here! Or at least I’m posting what I think I did. Because I’m notorious for changing up recipes and not keeping notes.


{*Note: I made a second batch to experiment with different flours, sugars, and milks, and they turned out pretty yummy, too! Substitution ideas are listed after this recipe.}

Lemon-Ginger Cream Scones

3 c. flour

1/2 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 c. + 2 T. unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. half-and-half

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

juice and zest of 1 medium lemon


3 c. powdered sugar

1/4 c. milk (more if needed)

juice and zest of 1 medium lemon

dash of salt


Preheat oven to 350 F. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt.

Mix half-and-half with egg, vanilla, lemon juice, zest, and ginger; set aside.

Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour mixture. Keep cutting until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir the wet mixture gently into the flour/butter mixture just until combined. If the mixture is too crumbly to work with, add another tablespoon or two of half-and-half.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it together into a rectangular shape, then use a rolling pin to roll it to about 3/4″ thick. 

Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into 12 symmetrical squares. Next, cut each square in half diagonally. You should end up with 24 triangular shapes.

Transfer triangles to a parchment or baking mat-lined cookie sheet and bake 16-18 minutes, or until they barely start to turn golden. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar with milk, lemon juice, zest, and salt. Whisk until completely smooth, adding more milk or sugar to reach desired consistency. Drizzle glaze over the cooled scones; allow glaze to set completely before serving. These are best if enjoyed within two days!

Yield: 2 dozen scones

*I also made a batch with the following substitutions; they turned out good, just slightly denser and with a more crumbly texture:

  • Replace one-third of flour with coconut flour
  • Replace granulated sugar with coconut sugar
  • Replace half-and-half with almond milk and increase amount to 1 3/4 cups
  • Replace milk (in the glaze) with almond milk




Posted in Cooking, Recipes | 1 Comment

baby chou five

It’s been a month since Aspen Leigh Chou made her appearance, and I’m just now getting around to writing out her birth story.  I can almost guarantee that the poor girl won’t have a baby book!


We thought that baby girl was coming earlier than her due date (March 23.)  About two weeks before then, on a Sunday morning, I started having regular contractions about 15 minutes apart.  They were mild (although sitting in church was a bit uncomfortable) and never got closer together than 10 minutes. By the end of the day, I was tired — physically and mentally — but I had hope that Aspen would arrive within a day or two.

I was wrong!  Over the next week and a half, I continued having somewhat consistent contractions.  One day, Eric even came home from work early after I sent him an urgent text.  But by the end of that day, the contractions fizzled out once again.

photo 3(2)

The day before my due date, I had another morning of regular contractions that failed to progress, and I was at the end of my rope.  I asked my midwife, Christie, for a chiropractor recommendation and made an appointment for late that morning.  Christie had mentioned the week before that a chiropractic adjustment might help with the prodromal labor I had been experiencing — either helping things along so that real labor would start, or stopping the false labor so my body could rest.

The adjustment helped!  By the next morning and for the next five days, the contractions were gone, and my body and mind were able to rest.  That was my first time to see a chiropractor, and I’m a believer in their practice now!

The following Wednesday night (three days after my due date) I had a contraction out of the blue, and it was noticeable enough to stop me in my tracks.  I had a few more in the next hour, but Eric and I went ahead to bed…I was determined not to get my hopes up at that point!

Around 4:30 AM, the contractions woke me from deep sleep.  I paced around the kitchen for a while, ate a banana and drank a glass of kefir, and at around 5:30 AM Eric woke up and came to check on me.  I told him I was pretty sure this was the real thing and suggested we do some last minute tidying and get our bedroom set up for the birth.  I texted Christie at 6 AM to let her know I was probably in real labor.

I continued to pace around the house, stopping to breathe deeply through the contractions that were getting more intense.  At that point, they were about 4 minutes apart.  Around 6:30 AM, Eric set up our mini video camera in the corner of our bedroom (without telling me.)

I was starting to warm up from the intensity of labor and changed from my hoodie sweatshirt into a tank top.  I realized things were progressing quickly and told Eric to text Christie that she needed to come.  (She lives just 10 minutes from our house.)

As I continued walking around our bedroom, I had the most intense contraction yet and wrapped my arms around Eric’s neck.  Without realizing what I was doing, I relaxed the rest of my body and hung from his neck with all my weight.  The poor guy wasn’t expecting it and laughed in surprise!  In the next couple of minutes, I started feeling the urge to push.  (Christie hadn’t arrived yet!)

At 6:48 AM, as the next contraction came on, I hung on Eric’s neck again and realized Aspen was pushing herself out!  I calmly said “There’s her head” and reached down to catch her with my skirt.  Aspen Leigh Chou was out in one contraction.  It was my first time to give birth standing up, and obviously gravity was quite helpful in getting her out quickly!

photo 4

About five minutes later, Christie showed up and found us sitting on the floor by the bed, Aspen wrapped up in a receiving blanket in my arms, and Eric taking pictures with his phone.

photo 2

Christie took care of the details from there, and I was able to relax in bed with our sweet girl.  Her older siblings woke up around 8 AM and were so excited to see that their little sis had arrived!  She weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces, and she was 20 3/4 inches long.

photo 1(2)

Aspen’s birth was the quickest I’ve had from start to finish, and it was also the most calm and peaceful.  We are so grateful to the Lord for granting us a safe and healthy delivery of our beautiful baby girl.

(I apologize for the fuzzy photo quality…we still haven’t replaced our broken Canon so all of the pictures were taken with our phones.)

photo 2(2)

photo 1(1)photo 2(1)photo 3(3)photo 1(1)photo(1)

photo 2(1)If you’re interested, here are the stories of the boys’ home births…




Posted in Kiddos, On the Crunchy Side, Pregnancy | 5 Comments

coconut rice fritters {happy chinese new year!}

Yesterday was Chinese New Year’s Eve, probably the most significant day of celebration for Chinese families.  The lunar new year festivities continue for two weeks, but on the eve of the new year, families travel long distances to come together for a reunion and a feast!


We have plans to celebrate over hot pot with friends next week, but we didn’t do much to commemorate yesterday — besides the kids spending a good part of their day making Happy New Year cards for each other.  So after a dinner of creamy Crockpot Lemon-Artichoke Chicken, I flipped through one of my Chinese cookbooks with Calla, hoping to find an idea for a quick and fun way to enjoy some Asian-inspired dessert.

We settled on “Rice Fritters with Coconut and Vanilla,” which might not be a traditional new year treat, but it fully satisfied our craving for a fun, Asian-y snack!  As usual, I modified the recipe to make it gluten-free and overall just a bit healthier.

rice fritters

Here’s how we made these delicious little morsels, crispy on the outside, soft and lightly sweet on the inside…

Coconut-Rice Fritters (adapted from Complete Chinese Cooking, Amy Tai)

3 c. cooked medium-grain rice

3 eggs, beaten

2 T. coconut milk

1/4 c. coconut sugar (any type of sugar will work)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 c. almond flour*

1/4 c. coconut flour*

4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 T. shredded coconut

coconut oil for frying (any type of vegetable oil will work)

powdered sugar for sprinkling

  *The almond and coconut flours can be replaced with 3/4 cup all-purpose flour if you don’t want gluten-free. Also, 3/4 cup gluten-free baking mix such as Pamela’s can be used, but be sure to reduce the baking powder to 1 tsp, and eliminate the 1/4 tsp salt.


Combine the rice, eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Add flours, baking powder, salt, and coconut; mix well. 

Heat the oil to 350F in a deep fat fryer or a large, deep pot.  (I like to use my stainless steel wok for deep frying — I add enough oil to make it about 2 inches deep.)  When oil is hot enough, gently drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the rice mixture into the oil.  Fry until golden brown on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on paper towels.

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Serve hot!

(These can be reheated in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes to make them somewhat crispy again!)

Yield: about 30 fritters

Posted in Cooking, Family fun, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Recipes | 3 Comments

make your own almond milk

I’m learning that there are two kinds of homemade: one that’s worth it and one that’s not.  Some things are just not worth the massive amount of effort required when you can buy the same thing for not much more money, or when the store-bought version just tastes better.

But — some things are definitely worth the time and effort, in my opinion.  When, ONE – you can save a significant amount of money by making it yourself, or TWO – you can avoid the additives in packaged versions, or THREE – the homemade version is so dang delicious you don’t even want the store-bought kind any more.

Homemade almond milk fits the bill in all three categories!  I started making my own almond milk several months ago after an Instagram friend posted about it.  She talked about the creaminess and yummy flavor of homemade almond milk, and she mentioned that the leftover almond meal can be used for making Lara bars or as almond flour (for use in things like breading or baked goods.)  I had to try it!

If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, I recommend using a nut milk bag.  I purchased a 2-pack from Amazon for about $7 (view the item here.)  Also, homemade almond milk doesn’t last as long as the store-bought kind, so don’t make more than you can consume in about three days.

The milk can be made in either a blender or food processor — try both and see what you prefer!  I like the extra creaminess of almond milk made in a blender.

Here’s how I make almond milk!

Homemade Almond Milk

1 1/2 c. raw almonds

Water for soaking

3 c. water (to make milk — use more or less to taste)

3 T. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, sugar, etc.) OR 3 medjool dates

1 tsp. vanilla extract, optional

1/8 tsp. salt, optional

Soak the almonds in enough water to cover at least an inch over the top.  Allow them to soak at room temperature at least 12 hours, or as long as 48 hours.  (The longer they soak, the creamier the milk will be.)

Drain the almonds and rinse them with cold water.  Place them in a blender or food processor with 3 cups of water.  Blend for about 2 minutes.  (If using a food processor, it might take up to 3-4 minutes to fully process the almonds.)  Add salt and sweetener of choice and blend an additional 30 seconds.

Line a large measuring cup or pitcher with a nut milk bag or cheesecloth.  Slowly pour the mixture into the cup.  Gather the top of the nut milk bag or cheesecloth over the almond meal and gently squeeze out as much milk as possible.  (Save the almond meal for later use.)

Taste the milk and add sweetener as needed.  Store in a glass container in the fridge up to 3 days.  Be sure to shake the container before pouring as the milk quickly separates when it sits.

{Yield: approximately 3 cups of milk and 1 1/2 cups of almond meal}

**To use the almond meal for breading or as flour in baked goods, spread the meal on a baking sheet and place in a 150-degree oven for 2-3 hours, stirring once or twice.  Allow to cool.  If you want a fine flour like what you can purchase at the store, process the meal in a food processor until it reaches desired texture.  Almond meal can also be used “as is” in baked goods or in homemade Lara bars.  Store almond meal/flour in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you have any questions about making your own almond milk.  I’d love to share more about what I’ve learned!


Posted in Cooking, Nutrition, On the Crunchy Side, Recipes | 4 Comments

make your own elderberry syrup

It’s not technically winter yet, but it certainly feels like it here in Colorado!  We’ve seen several inches of snow and temperatures below zero over the last few days.  It’s also the season of cold, cough, and flu — yuck!

Elderberry syrup is an effective, natural immune-boosting remedy that we started using last winter.  This type of herbal syrup is a proven remedy for preventing and recovering from the flu, colds, and sore throats.  It contains lots of antioxidants, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C… but it does get a bit pricey with a family of six.  This year, I decided to try making it at home.  I’m so glad I did!

The cost savings between buying packaged elderberry syrup and making your own is incredible.  The brand of syrup I was buying cost me $1.60/oz, but it was only about $0.30/oz to make it at home!  I ordered Frontier brand organic elderberries on Amazon, which cost around $20 for a one-pound bag.  (One pound of elderberries yields about three of my double batches of syrup!)  I already had the other ingredients on hand.

I browsed the web to find the best homemade syrup recipe, and I ended up with a blend of two recipe from Oh Dear Drea and Mountain Rose Herbs.  I made what most would consider a double batch, and I give everyone in the family a teaspoon or two per day.  If you have fewer family members or don’t plan on using the syrup daily, you might want to halve the recipe. Also, if you have them, feel free to use whole cinnamon sticks or cloves in place of the ground spices!

Homemade Elderberry Syrup

1 c. dried elderberries

6 c. water

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

large chunk of fresh ginger root (about 2″ long), sliced

1 c. raw local honey

5 drops essential oil, optional (I like lemon and Thieves vitality)

Combine elderberries, water, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger slices in a large saucepan.  (Don’t add honey yet!)  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 45 minutes, or until liquid has noticeably reduced.

With a fork or potato masher, smash the berries in the mixture to draw out as much juice as possible.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or cheesecloth into a glass container.  When the mixture has cooled, add honey and essential oils and mix well.

Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

**The standard dose for taking elderberry syrup as a preventative measure is 1-2 tsp daily for kids, and 1-2 Tbsp daily for adults.  If a cold or flu hits, take the normal dose 2-3 times a day until symptoms are gone.  (This remedy is not recommended for infants under one year of age because it contains honey.)**


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