Tag Archives: clean eating

A Year in Review & the Top 10 Recipes of 2014!

All photo credits of our family go to Marissa Dodgen Photography.

2014 was a year, huh?  So many amazing things happened for our family. It started with some of the hardest months we’d seen yet, but took a monumental shift towards the middle of the year.  The darkest clouds have lifted, God has given us an endless supply of fresh air, and for the first time in almost three years, we feel like we can breathe.

McCall (who turned 6 last January) finished Kindergarten and started 1st grade!!! He’s completely grown.  Ahh!! He’s had a slow year in terms of food and is certainly struggling emotionally.  He only added carrots (which he won’t eat) to his list of foods.  He currently has 6 foods he can eat. We are learning how to be good parents through every age and stage of this chronic illness! He continues to be compassionate, loving, and helpful and blows us away by his maturity.


I must say that it never occurred to me that McCall only added one food this year.  Whew. No wonder he is struggling.  I literally cannot imagine. Love that boy!

Our son Sawyer (who turned 3 in April) started the year continuing his formula only diet BUT starting in MAY he got to eat real food! He failed his sweet potatoes and grape trials but passed blueberries and avocados.  Two foods is such a blessing in this household.  His new nickname is Little Boy Blue. His sweet blue fingers and teeth bless our soul!  I never get mad when I step on a blueberry or find a dried blueberry in the washing machine.  For many long months, I had nothing to step on 😉 He continues to charm the world with his naturally raspy voice, large puppy dog brown eyes, and unmatchable personality.


Beckham (who turned 2 in May) is sweet and mischievous and terribly two.  Andrew and I spend most of our time shaking our heads at this one.  He’s bow-legged, pigeon toed, and has the cutest lisp you’ll ever hear. But he’s just as lovable as he is crazy and quirky.  We absolutely love this life we have raising three little boys to be amazing men in this world.


In fact, Andrew asked me that question last night.  Is this our purpose in the world? To raise these kids to love Jesus and do something great in the world?  I think my answer is yes.  And wouldn’t that be a life well served?  Ahh. I love pillow talk.  And my husband.  I love that man!


For us, life couldn’t be better now that Andrew got a new job.  For many years, he worked swing shift work and life was indescribable. We had some years we didn’t think we’d make it through.  But this year proved tangibly that God is faithful. Andrew is an honest, hard worker who is smart and driven.  He made the right choices, even when those choices were isolating or difficult.  God blessed him with a Monday-Thursday job (and can I also mention it was a double-promotion?).  The Lord provided for us in ways we never could have imagined. God gave us the gift of a regular sleep schedule, family “dinner” every night, and holidays together without a pay cut.  I can guarantee you that if we could have made a PERFECT list for what would be ideal for our family, this would be it.

So this year, we became a family unit again. I didn’t feel like a single mom to all this craziness, and we are able to work together to live this daily life we have.


When Andrew got his new job in April, it allowed me time to revive a part of me that was missing for a few years.  At my core, I’m a writer and performer, so making the full time switch to a stay at home mom and medical caretaker wasn’t really in my bones.  But the Lord guided me every step of the way and showed me how to live each day.


For a while there, it was about going through the routine.  It was the only way to survive. But He knew my heart and knew what I needed. When the time was right, He brought my love back to me.  Since April, I’ve started music back and have loved every minute. (You can read about my journey here).


The Lord knows my innermost being. He’s probably the only one who truly knows how big my dreams are.  A few months ago, I got a piece of advice from a very successful artist in Nashville–advice that I will always have on the edge of my heart.  He said, “Don’t ever let your heart want for something God doesn’t want for you. Be patient and trust Him.”  These words have changed my perspective on every decision I make and every single want and desire that enters the walls of my heart.

We had a GREAT year on the blog, too!  I know many people and families who have made so many changes in their lives.  The goal is to feel better and have more energy so that we can serve and love the world in an intentional way.

I’m very excited about what the new year will bring to the blog, but before we go crazy about what’s to come, let’s take a look at the top 10 recipes from 2014!  These are the ones people have LOVED, especially our family.  As you start a clean new year, add a few of these to your rotation and see what you think!

1. Buffalo Beer-Battered Cauliflower & Dairy Free Ranch Dressing


These little boogers have got people talkin!  From people who love spicy foods, I’ve heard nothing but great comments, with some saying they’ll never need chicken wings again.  Crazy to think, huh?  THIS should definitely be on your Super Bowl menu!

2. Chocolate Covered Rice Krispy Treats

Chocolate Covered Rice Krispy Treats

Marshmallow free. Gluten free. Simple. And CHOCOLATE? Who could resist?  These are allergen-friendly, but you’d never know!

3. Gluten Free/Dairy Free Biscuits


Gluten Free/Dairy Free living shouldn’t be a life without!  These biscuits have a GREAT flavor and texture.  This recipe has really changed our life this year.  It gives us the comfort in comfort food that we all need 🙂  They are perfect for breakfast or as a side to a soup or homestyle meal!

4. Pot Pies:  Veggie or Chicken (w/ gluten free/dairy free biscuit topping)

Close Up

As the winter months roll in here in SC, I crave traditional childhood meals.  Clean eating doesn’t mean you never eat casseroles or things you love.  It’s just adjusting them using the best ingredients possible. This is our recipe (which is gluten & dairy free) so that our allergy son Beckham can eat it, too.  It’s hard to tell there’s anything “different” about it!

5. Vegan Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

I’m not usually a fan of “mock” type recipes. And in fact, I don’t like tuna or celery. But this recipe? OMG. I LOVE it.  It’s something we make on a weekly basis to always have available.  I love it on GF English Muffins with fruit for lunch, but it’s also wonderful to serve as an appetizer with some crackers and veggies.  This has been a crowd favorite for sure!  Read the recipe to see the big SECRET ingredient!

6. Lentil Potato Stew


This recipe is hearty, filing, and simple.  That’s a great combo for clean eating! Pair with a nice salad & our biscuit recipe, and you are good to go!

7. Smokey BBQ Broccoli Bowl


I love these “bowl” ideas I’ve seen floating around because they are so easy!  This is the version I love because I could literally drink BBQ sauce.  It would be very easy to add grilled chicken on top for meat lovers!

8. Maple Balsamic Stir Fry

Photo 1

Speaking of bowls, I think this one is probably my favorite recipe of 2014 (except for maybe those Buffalo Cauliflower Bites!) It’s crunchy & it’s sweet.  Beautiful!

9. Sweet & Spicy Brussels Sprouts


Besides the amazing Vegetable “meatloaf” I served at our Plant Strong Thanksgiving meal, these were probably the second best hit.  Oh, but there was that Kale Salad, too! Ahh!  Too many great things this year!  This side dish is packed full of flavor.  Don’t like spicy? You can omit the Sriracha no problem!

10. Walnut “Meat” Tacos with Cashew Sour Cream


As many of you know, I started a vegan trial (no meat, dairy, eggs, butter) in April, but that didn’t stop me from playing around with cool options for meals.  This walnut meat has the texture and flavor of taco meat, but is a great option for meat free friends, or people trying to cut down meat or red meat consumption.  I absolutely LOVE this recipe, and would love to see you try something brand new this year 🙂


Thanks again for a beautiful year.  This website wouldn’t mean a thing if you didn’t keep reading it, so thank YOU!  I look forward to the beauty all around in 2015!!




Healthy Thanksgiving Ideas

Set Image

Let’s face it.  This week’s is all about food with a little family sprinkled on top.  For families like us that suffer from food allergies and food related diseases, it’s the opposite most days.  Either way, we all gotta eat, right??

Don’t scrimp on your favorites this time of year–just learn to make them a bit healthier–and maybe you won’t have eater’s remorse this go around!

Here’s a list of some of my favorites.  This is not by any means an exhaustive list out there–but you know my theory–keep it simple so you don’t get overwhelmed!

In each category, I’ve provided the link for the info!  Just click on the blue  🙂

(Thanks to Marissa Dodgen for some of these beautiful photos.  I’m sure you can tell which are hers and which are mine 😉  She’s the professional!)

Salad & Appetizers:


Pumpkin Hummus

Orange-Cranberry Dressing

Kale Salad

Shredded Brussels Sprouts salad


How to avoid a growth enhancement drug that can be ingested in many turkeys, even ones labeled “no hormones used.”

Slow roasted turkey with herbed butter (sub Earth Balance vegan butter if dairy-free)

Sweet Potatoes:

Classic casserole (contains egg & dairy)

Vegan & Gluten free option

Maple glazed (Vegan, gluten free, nut-free)

Green Bean Casserole:


My concoction that our family loves (gluten free, vegan)

Vegan, Paleo

Brussels Sprouts:


Honey-Maple Sriracha? Yes, please!!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes & Brussels sprouts

Balsamic Roasted Brussels sprouts

Side Dishes:


Protein Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Mac & Cheese (make gluten free by using rice or quinoa noodles)

Vegan (dairy free) Mac & Cheese

Roasted carrots with sweet tahini drizzle


Butternut Squash, Brussels sprouts, and bread stuffing with apples

Classic (contains gluten, milk, egg)

Grain free (paleo)



Vegan biscuits (contains gluten)

Vegan & Gluten free biscuits

Pull apart yeast dinner rolls (contains eggs, read comments from readers and author suggestions to make egg-free, I’ve done this successfully!)

Gluten free/dairy free yeast dinner rolls (contains eggs, read comments from readers and author suggestions to make egg-free, I’ve done this successfully!)



Mushroom gravy

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry-Pineapple Sauce



Gluten Free-vegan pumpkin bread (add chocolate chips!)

Grain free pumpkin bars (contains eggs)

Pecan Pie bars

Gooey Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte Pudding Cake

Raw Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

A gluten free, dairy free, egg free pie crust option


I hope these links help you find the perfect thing to serve this holiday season 🙂





Pure Living Defined

Info PictureI have a love-hate relationship with Eosinophilic Esophagitis.  On one hand, it has brought so much sadness to our lives because they are the words that have made our lives change so much over the last two years.  They are the words that define our children’s pain.  They are the words that make us feel different. But, I honestly cannot imagine our lives without this disease.  While our life is incredibly hard, I am thankful that this journey has made us a take a tough look at our lives.  We’ve had to simplify, eat at home around the table, be careful about what we eat, and cling to the Lord’s promises like never before.  In the process, we’ve found a joy and a peace that we’ve yet to experience in our mere thirty years of life.

We knew a long time ago that the Lord was calling us to share our story, even before our journey started. In the Spring of 2010, God spoke to me through a good friend who not only felt led, but felt a burning desire to share what the Lord told him.  Thankfully, he listened to the Lord’s prompting and spoke these words:

“The Lord wanted me to tell you that your story hasn’t even begun to be written yet, and the ending to your story is much greater than you ever could imagine.”

I remember feeling so special, so loved, that the Lord “saw” me.  It was an overwhelming, incredible experience–even though I had no clue what the Lord had planned.

Music PicAt the time, I was pursuing a professional career in country music (see how tan I used to be??), and I literally thought I hit the jackpot.  I started dreaming, wondering if the Lord wanted me to be Martina, Faith, or Carrie.  I settled on Carrie since she is not only a superstar, but an outspoken follower of Christ. Oh, and she has killer legs 😉

3 boysFast forward three years. Work from home mom of three kids, can barely find time to shower, blistered hands from washing so many dishes, changing a dozen diarrhea diapers a day, understanding a disease, three whiny, crying kids, managing a husband on swing shift work, and so on.  Not really my idea of this “amazing” story I was supposed to have.

But here’s the thing. The Bible tells me that God works together ALL things for the good of those who love Him. Well–I love him.  And I believe the Bible is true.  So, with my whole being, I trust that this season of life is working together for the ultimate good for God’s kingdom, my family, and for me personally. I don’t have one piece of resentment in my heart of who I could have been or who I wanted to be.  The Lord not only values my work just as much as Carrie’s, but THIS is actually what he has called me to do.  I know my number one job is to keep my kids alive, and I think that’s pretty awesome.  If I only impact those three precious lives, I know the Lord will be pleased.

But I’m just not satisfied with keeping all this information to myself.  THIS is the beginning of our story.  The diagnosis was not the end of a life, but the beginning of one.  We are calling people to change–to totally transform, go against culture, bring it back to the “way things used to be,” keeping Christ at the center the entire time.

That is where our idea for the Pure Living movement was born–a total transformation of Faith, Family, & Food.  A community of people working together, encouraging each other to strive for a FULL life.

Family, Family, Food 2

I know, I know we want it all now.  We want the “magic formula” that will make all these things we want appear.  But that’s just not how it works. We actually have to spend time educating ourselves, making small changes, and making the CHOICE to live a full life.

This series has no end date because we don’t know when we’ll be done.  It’ll just be ideas, thoughts, and direction (however the Lord leads) throughout this year. We hope you will join us and start your journey with us!

When we went through our transformation, we felt alone.  We had no friends living this lifestyle–at the time–now, we have tons!! We know it’s overwhelming to think about–trust us we’ve been there.  We had no mentor, no help, nothing.  (For us, it was a time of TOTAL dependence on the Lord). We don’t want anyone else to feel overwhelmed, so we’ve designed this series for YOU.  A place where you won’t feel alone.  A place to share.  A place to get the information you need to get started.

The goal:

~to educate & encourage you on your journey to pure living

Our definition of Pure Living:

~We will strive to:


  1. pursue Jesus Christ passionately with our heart, mind, and soul
  2. seek God’s guidance in every decision we make
  3. commit ourselves to loving our neighbors and community as we love ourselves


  1. simplify and sacrifice to create a life built on healthy, meaningful relationships
  2. invest quality time, away from the distractions of life, in our surrounding family & friends
  3. leave a lasting legacy that reflects the love and grace of Jesus Christ


  1. develop a lifestyle of educated and intentional eating
  2. have energy to live for God and to serve the world
  3. teach and empower future generations about sustainable, wholesome practices

Our definition of Clean Eating:

Clean Eating DefinedA major focus of our website is food education, so we will be teaching and giving you information to help you start your journey to a “clean” eating lifestyle.  We will go into details in the coming weeks, but today, we are just defining what “clean eating” means to us.

Clean eating is:

  • NOT a diet; it’s a lifestyle dedicated to eating foods as close to their natural state as possible, leading to an improved life one meal at a time
  • avoiding processed and refined foods and instead eating REAL food.  100 days of Real Food is a great place to start for this aspect of CE (especially if you need help with the kids!)
  • drinking lots of filtered water
  • shopping with a conscience and learning to read food labels
  • supporting the local community in order to stimulate and support our local economy
  • understanding your limits & eating within reason (Eat to live, not live to eat)
  • slowing down and savoring the amazing tastes the Lord has blessed us with
  • making meals a social, family affair as much as possible

 JournalWhat do you need to do?

  1. We recommend that you buy a journal to chronicle your experiences.  It can be as simple as jotting down how you felt, challenges you face, triumphs, failures, etc in a notebook.  One day, it will be awesome to go back and read about what God was doing in your life.
  2. Stay involved on social media when you can.  Tell your friends what you are doing, and share the opportunity with them!  Post questions and/or encouragement on our Facebook page!  When you make a recipe or apply a principle, talk about!
  3. Use the hashtags #thrivetolive & #pureliving when mentioning the website on social media outlets
  4. Utilize our Pinterest page (still working on it!) for ideas & help, as well as our website & Facebook page! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter & Instagram, too!

Challenge Questions for Week 1:

Faith: Where do you SEE God most in your life right now?  When do you feel closest to Him?

Family: What one night this week could you turn off TV, phones, etc & just do something as a family? Play a game, go bowling, paint fingernails (ok, someone come do mine???) Have REAL “FaceTime” with your family.

Food: What is your biggest addiction right now? What is your biggest fear in changing to clean eating?

Bible verses for the week:

John 10:10: The thief comes to kill, steal, and destroy, but I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full.

Phillipians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength


We can’t wait–and are praying daily for God to lead, move, & inspire!


Pure Living 101

We are so excited to announce our first series entitled Pure Living 101.  In our journey, we can’t separate Faith, Family, and Food from one another, so we’ve designed a series to encompass it all.  We hope you will spread the word and join us on Friday, January 24th for our first post!

Info Picture