30 Days of Real Food Challenge


Tomorrow we kick off 30 Days of Real Food, gluten free style!

I have wrangled up some real food eating friends over on Facebook in a new, “Gluten Free & Good For Me” closed group and you should join us too!

Here’s a little “Real Food 101” so we’re ready to go…

  • Know where we’re headed!
    • Check out the rules for our real food challenge — just remember that Lisa and her family are not gluten-free, so just ignore the “whole wheat” and know that means whole grains for us, like brown rice, sorghum, etc. I have used several of their recipes as ideas and inspiration and any that are not written as gluten-free are easily converted.
  • Plan ahead!
    • Don’t let yourself get hangry. ALWAYS carry snacks.
    • Write out your menu for the week and make a grocery trip.
    • Look at your calendar for any upcoming social events and see if you can choose a restaurant with real food, meet for coffee instead, eat before you go, etc.
  • Try new things!
    • Let this month be an experiment in new-to-you foods.
    • Check out all the real food ideas on Pinterest. (be sure to modify them to be GF)
    • Dig out some of those recipes you’ve tucked away but been meaning to try, then share them with us!

See? You’re set for the first few days!


I know we can do this! (I did over 50 days of real food in the fall and survived, so this will be totally do-able, I promise!)


gluten-free pumpkin spice granola


Tomorrow I’m kicking off a new food challenge: 50 DAYS of REAL FOOD! #realfood50
You’ve seen me do the “10 Days of Real Food Pledge” several times over the years, but this time means business. Ten didn’t seem like quite enough since my partner in the challenge had already been a rockstar and done the Whole30 plan. But we weren’t quite ready for 100 days yet, and the idea of having dairy and beer/wine was very appealing and more likely to work for us, so 50 it is. (do check out http://www.100daysofrealfood.com for the “rules” and great recipes)

The best way for me to be successful at these eating challenges is to be prepared — which is why I spent the weekend in the kitchen.


We are nearing “all things pumpkin” season and I have no plans to go without this year, just making some modifications and better choices, like this pumpkin spice granola from my girl Molly — she’s my partner in #realfood50 crime and loves food as much as I do. The perfect person to do a food challenge with, really.

As soon as she posted the photo, I added “#PSL Granola” to my list of things to make this weekend. (and I’m so glad I did) Thanks, MJ!

Ps: Molly isn’t GF so you’ll notice the recipe just says rolled oats, for us GF folks, of course that means certified gluten-free oats… see my notes below for the exact ingredients I used!



Sarah’s Notes:

  • I am giving you the recipe straight from Molly because: I love her hand writing. She made a cute collage. I love handwritten recipes, BUT for us gluten-free folks, be sure to use certified gluten-free oats. (I have always been a fan of GF Harvest, which I order through amazon.) But I’m also typing out the ingredients I used below so there is no confusion — with all the drama with the new supposed-to-be-gluten-free-Cheerios-but-they-really-are-not-because-GF-friends-are-getting-sick…it’s best to be clear that you should use certified gluten-free oats if you need to be GF like me. 😉


3 cups certified gluten-free oats

½ cup walnuts

 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds!)

¼ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

⅓ cup pumpkin puree

⅓ cup maple syrup

¼ coconut oil

  • Pre-heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Then in a sauce pan, combine the maple syrup, coconut oil, and pumpkin puree. Heat over low-medium heat to melt coconut oil and combine. (the oil never really fully combines, no worries!) Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to coat dry ingredients.
  • I used parchment paper on my baking sheet — when it’s fully cooled, you can make a parchment paper “funnel” to get all three million pieces of granola into the storage jar of your choice with less mess.
  • Use 2 or more teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice for even more flavor. Also, I added dried currants, this was a mistake, they are too small and got crispy and not in a good way. I didn’t use flax or chia this time because I didn’t have either on hand — this recipe is flexible and allows you to add or subtract what works for you. (I added almonds too!)
  • This isn’t a super sweet granola, which I love about it, but if you want something more sweet, feel free to add more maple syrup. (I just used 1/3 cup)


Although it makes an easy morning snack by eating it right out of the jar, I usually add it to plain Greek yogurt, sweetened with a little maple syrup, and pumpkin puree. Full of fall flavor!


Stop back and let me know how you liked it — enJOY!

*This perfectly pumpkiny fall recipe has been added to the Gluten-Free Recipe Fix Carnival: Back to School and Fall Edition. Go take a peek at ALL of the other gluten-free recipes!

super supreme pizza quinoa salad


It’s no secret I could eat pizza pretty much everyday.

Lately, we’ve been spending a little too much time at Transfer for GFGF (gluten free girlfriends) dinners — I wouldn’t say I’m getting sick of pizza (impossible!!!) but my waistline might be in need of a break.

Instead of giving up my pizza, I just shift it to other arenas….like quinoa salads!

My sister-in-law asked me to bring a quinoa salad to my niece’s graduation party recently– CONGRATS, CELESTE!!! — last time people weren’t quite sure about it (one nephew said he wouldn’t eat something he couldn’t pronounce) but this time, when you throw in the word PIZZA, there were more willing to try it.

Grab your favorite pizza toppings and let’s do this!


4 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup pepperoni, sliced
1/4 cup onion, finely diced
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/4 cup scallions, sliced thin
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup packed, fresh basil, chopped



1/2 cup Italian vinaigrette salad dressing (I used Cindy’s Kitchen Barcelona Vinaigrette, which I love for its very few ingredients and no sugar added, but Annie’s also has some good ones or make your own!) 

1 clove garlic, minced (use your garlic press!)

1-2 tablespoons Penzeys Pizza Seasoning (add 1 and see what you think, I love that stuff and can’t get enough, if you want it super pizza-y, keep adding a little until you get the flavor you want — know that the flavor will intensify as it sits in the fridge!)

1. Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Prep toppings and combine in large bowl with quinoa.
3. Pour dressing onto salad and stir to combine. Refrigerate until serving.



Sarah’s Notes

  • For measurements: you don’t have to follow mine, I often use leftover quinoa from another dish the night before for this salad. Just add your toppings to your liking until you have the ratio you’d like, then add dressing bit by bit until it’s coated.
  • Substitute less or more of any of the ingredients to make a salad that works for you! (you can also chop the toppings in larger pieces to make them easier to take out for picky eaters.)
  • Dairy-free: just skip the cheeses
  • Vegan: no meat or cheeses needed, add more veg!
  • Make your quinoa in advance! You need to allow time for it to cool, this salad can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for several days after as well. (the flavor gets better each day, and I keep adding more toppings each time I eat it!)
  • ANY of your go-to pizza toppings will work: mushrooms, artichokes, banana peppers, jalapeños, green olives, sun dried tomatoes, avocado, asiago or feta cheese, Canadian bacon, plain ol’ bacon, sweet roasted garlic, you name it!
  • This doesn’t have to be a cold salad either, you can serve it warm as a meal!


{10 Days of Real Food Recap}

Just tuning in? I just finished the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge! It went from 9/19-9/28. Check out their website first for all the details like what the 10 day pledge is all about, what you can/can’t eat, and recipe/food ideas. (keep in mind that Lisa and her family are not gluten-free… so some of the recipes need to be converted)


I sailed through the last days of the challenge — on leftovers. Nothing too amazing to report.

Except this mothership of locally raised meats from our friendly farmer, down the road from the in-laws’ house.

Aren’t those chickens huge? This is what they look like when you roast them up…

We slooooow roasted the tomatoes at 250 degrees for over an hour — they were so tasty! Then quick roasted the broccoli at 425 for less than 20 minutes, just tossed with olive oil and salt & pepper, and a shake of Penzey’s Bangkok seasoning.


And I also canned tomatoes — which actually turned into freezing, instead of canning, but I like to call it canning, cool? I made stewed tomatoes from all of our remaining tomatoes, which will be perfect this winter to pull out and use for soups and sauces.

And I used the extras for a batch of bloody mary mix for Oktoberfest last weekend. (or some really tasty V8-like juice)

(minus the vodka… totally real food style) 🙂

Are you Oktoberfesting?

We brought Nephew Nick this year — a first timer… and he was big fun! (and for the record, he is a huge fan of my banana chocolate chip muffins… and so were the rest of our fest friends)

I’m going to keep on keepin’ on. Eating real foods (for the most part anyway — there will be moments of being flexible and having treats), and paying more attention to the sugar intake… as in, it needs to take a hiatus.

It is an absolute eye opener when you realize how much sugar is added to things. Shocking. And not only sugar, but keeping with the “if it’s packaged/boxed, there have to be five ingredients or less” rule, our packaged foods are full of extras. And I’m not talking the stuff we know we shouldn’t eat, I’m talking about things that are put out there as healthier food options: yogurt, deli meats, healthier versions of salad dressings.

Even if you’re not down for the 10 Days of Real Food pledge, just take an extra minute to look at those labels, you might be surprised!

And a shout out to my husband for joining me on the journey. We had some fun in the kitchen, cleaned out the pantry, got creative with leftovers. We’re 10 Days of Real Food champs!

And I will say, that after being more “flexible” over the weekend, with adding in some bread, a handful of pretzels, and of course more alcohol, (I didn’t really drink during the 10 days much) I paid for it this week. My stomach was off. I think it’s still recovering. Our bodies know what is best. I just have to be a better listener. 🙂

I did score a fabulous, real food approved, brunch on Sunday at Fayze’s in La Crosse. It was our go-to place when we were in college. Love me some Fayze’s. But I wasn’t sure how GF-friendly they would be, so I had kind of avoided them the last couple years of the fest. So happy we tried them out this year!

In the red cup? A beermosa: New Grist & OJ. (they also had Redbridge, double points for Fayze’s!)

So there you have it. Another 10 Days of Real Food pledge success story. Did you play along? How did it go for you?

Stop back soon for a Q&A with my Celiac Sista — you know, the one I talk about all the time, super-mom to four boys, real food advocate? Yep, her. She’ll be here to share kiddo friendly foods, packed lunches that little ones actually want to eat, and more!


Days 6-8 of 10 Days of Real Food: Zucchini Planks

Just tuning in? I’m doing the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge from 9/19-9/28. Feel free to join me at any time — but check out their website first for all the details like what the 10 day pledge is all about, what you can/can’t eat, and recipe/food ideas. (keep in mind that Lisa and her family are not gluten-free… so some of the recipes need to be converted — give a shout if you need ANY help!) 


The last few days of “the pledge” have been pretty uneventful. We’ve settled in to our eating habits. The work week is underway. Plenty of leftovers from our weekend cooking extravaganza.

Life is good.

If you are still holding on to some zucchini and tomatoes from your garden, then this recipe is for you.

Simple weeknight meal.

Real food style.

Zucchini Planks 

1 large zucchini
1 lb Italian sausage, pre-cook before starting  (we used Italian seasoned venison/pork sausage)
1 garden fresh tomato, sliced
Fresh basil, chopped
Feta Cheese (optional)
Olive oil

Slice zucchini lengthwise into thick planks. Drizzle with olive oil, then season them up with salt and pepper.


Sauté in pan, flipping once, after golden brown. Remove from pan and top with tomato slices and feta cheese.

Place under broiler for a few moments to give your feta a little color. Top with Italian sausage and fresh basil.

Dig in!

Need a sweet treat for after dinner?

Try my chocolate-banana-nut-butter mock ice cream — real food approved! When I made it the other day, I just did a banana, cocoa powder and a little cream. Divine!


{10 Days of Real Food — Day 4 & 5}

Just tuning in? I’m doing the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge from 9/19-9/28. Feel free to join me at any time — but check out their website first for all the details like what the 10 day pledge is all about, what you can/can’t eat, and recipe/food ideas. (keep in mind that Lisa and her family are not gluten-free… so some of the recipes need to be converted — give a shout if you need ANY help!) 


I’m currently taking name suggestions for these bars.

When I first made them, I sent a text to my celiac sister and said, “omg. come quick…I made Almond Joy Larabars.”

But that doesn’t have a nice ring to it. In my post the other day I called them, “I-Miss-Almond-Joy Bars,” even though I haven’t really been craving or even thinking of those yummy little candy bars this week — so they are going to need a new name, any ideas?

While you think about — how about the recipe?


10 Days of Real Food: Day 2 & 3 Update

Just tuning in? I’m doing the 10 Days of Real Food Pledge from 9/19-9/28. Feel free to join me at any time — but check out their website first for all the details like what the 10 day pledge is all about, what you can/can’t eat, and recipe/food ideas. (keep in mind that Lisa and her family are not gluten-free… so some of the recipes need to be converted — give a shout if you need ANY help!) 


When I got home from work I was hungry.

Hangry, actually. (so hungry = angry, if no food)

And I took a look in the fridge, then the cupboards, then the fridge again — you know, just to be sure some super satisfying snack hadn’t magically appeared.

I had to stop and take a moment to think it out.   It made me realize what a habit that has become. Walk in. Head for the fridge. Snack, while I dream up what’s for dinner. (like having a mini-meal before the meal) No bueno.

*POST INTERRUPTION: at this exact point last night, I was sending some photos from my phone to email, so I could download them and put them into the post — I thought I’d close my eyes for just a minute… and I woke up 45 minutes later to the laundry timer going off. Guess I was tired, which is why this will now be a Day 2 AND Day 3 update. 🙂

So instead, I set out to make a simple skillet meal with what we had in the fridge/freezer.