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Posts tagged healthy:


The Easter Bunny stayed up really late to make these yummy 3 ingredient chocolate bunnies and eggs at my house this year. They were very much worth it. The recipe can be found by clicking here. He did substitute Maple Syrup for the Agave Nectar due to recent research that it may be just as bad a corn syrup.  He was going to make organic peeps, but he ran out of gelatin at the last minute. Boo on the Easter Bunny.   :( BUT, he did find some organic jelly beans and gummies that actually have a full 100% Vitamin C per serving. He found them in the whole bin section at Whole Foods, but you can also find them online here. This year was the first time my kids have actually had store bought candy, and for a healthier alternative, it was a huge hit.

The Easter Bunny also went through our garden and found a carrot to nibble on while he worked in our kitchen. All his bunny friends decided to join in on the party.




PS … The easy to use software and artwork I use to make these pages and party prints I feature here on my blog are STILL ON SALE TODAY ONLY! Click here for all the details and let me know if you have any questions! :)

HOMEMADE RAW MILK YOGURT RECIPE {healthy post monday} …

I have been wanting to make homemade yogurt with raw milk for several years and I finally got the chance to do it this week! A friend of mine graciously picked up for us a couple of gallons of raw milk from a local dairy. It tastes amazing. Read here about the amazing nutritional benefits of raw milk, even for those who are lactose intolerant. :)

I was a little bit sad to use so much of it for this recipe, but I plan to visit the dairy farm myself this week to buy more. :) I used the recipe from this site and followed the directions using a crock pot.

Pour one pint of raw milk into a pot.

Slowly heat the milk until it reaches 110 degrees. Don’t over heat as this will kill the live enzymes and nutrients that make raw milk a SuperFood. :)

Remove raw milk from heat and whisk one pack of yogurt starter into the milk.

Pour raw milk into a mason jar. I had a little leftover, as you can see, so I used two. ;)

Heat a pot of water to 110 degrees and pour the warm water into a crock pot. Carefully place your jars of warm raw milk (secured with a lid) into the pot. The water should come up just below the lid of the jars. I placed a bowl on top of the small jar to hold it down in the water.

Cover crock pot with a towel and leave for 8 to 12 hours.

After 8 to 12 hours in the crock pot, place jars in the refrigerator for  at least 2 hours.

We refrigerated ours overnight. The next day, I was so excited to open the lid, yet I felt nervous hoping I didn’t ruin an entire batch and waste all that precious raw milk!

It turned out a bit more runny than store bought yogurt, but it tasted even better.

We add ground seeds such as flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds as well as nutritional yeast (Brewer’s yeast) to power up the nutrients.

My girl gave it two thumbs up.

My boy was too busy shoving it into his mouth. I’m pretty sure he liked it. :)

WARDING OFF THE SICKIES: {healthy post monday}

Every night before we go to sleep, one of the many things we pray for as a family is for God to “keep our bodies healthy and strong and protect us from illness.” By God’s grace, we have stayed free from flu viruses, stomach viruses, ear infections, colds, sinus infections, and everything else that is floating around. My kids are not in school yet, but they are in various classes and activities around other children 5-6 times a week.  I know that our health is 100% in God’s hands and I am so thankful for the health He has given us thus far. However, I know He has also placed great responsibility in my hands for the health of my children and the food choices I make for them daily. I take their nutrition very seriously and purposely plan each meal with their health in mind. I am not a nutritionist, but I have learned a great deal from other experts and from much of my own research due to my health struggles over the past six years. Because I value knowledge and experience from others, I want to share a few things we are learning and doing to keep our family free from illness and to hopefully encourage you as well … .


As much as possible, we give our kids whole fruits and vegetables, mostly raw to not destroy any nutrients by cooking with heat. And we buy as much organic food as our little budget can afford. We either juice raw produce or make fruit and veggie smoothies almost every day to give them a wide nutritional variety, concentrating mostly on Super Greens such as kale, spinach, and chard, as well as carrots, celery, berries, lemons and limes. This ensures they get a balance of vitamin C, A, calcium and antioxidants.  Being a gluten free family, we are also avoiding the inflammatory response grains produce that lead to many illnesses. We also avoid GMOs as much as possible.


We have recently begun incorporating fish oil “gummies” with the most nutrient dense meal of our day, usually dinner. You can read the benefits of this by clicking here. Plus, my kids LOVE them and ask for them every day. :)


My freezer is full of homemade chicken bone broth and two batches of beef bone marrow broth are cooking right now in my oven. We try to give this to our kids once a day with their fish oil gummies.  They LOVE it!  Matt & I pour it in a coffee mug and drink it throughout the day, especially if we are fighting the sniffles.  You can read the benefits of what we call “Liquid Gold” at our house by clicking here. A great chicken broth recipe can be found here. A great beef broth recipe can be found here.


I’m so excited we have found a co-op that drives to a raw milk dairy regularly to provide us raw cow’s milk! You can read the nutritional benefits of raw milk by clicking here. We also give our kids goat dairy yogurt and add ground flax, chia, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds. You can read the benefits of this by clicking here and here. Dairy produces excess mucus and an inflammatory response which is linked to allergies, runny noses, sinus infections, ear infections, etc. We avoid all regular dairy and limit our intake to only goat and/or raw as much as possible.


Every night we use Tea Tree Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, and Lavender Oil on our kids’ feet. This provides anti-viral and anti-bacterial protection you can read more about by clicking here. I try to remember to arm them with the oils before we leave the house for the day, but most of the time I forget or run out of time.

#6. SLEEP:

We try to provide our kids ample sleep each night and during the day when they need it. This is essential for a healthy, strong immune system.

Again, I am no expert. But by God’s grace and the little steps we are taking as a family to stay healthy, we have managed to avoid all the illnesses that have seem to plague this season so far. I hope you are encouraged and are staying healthy as well! I don’t have any photos related specifically to this post, so here is a little family portrait taken by the waiter at our annual Valentine Family Dinner Date. You can tell I took great lengths to wad my hair in a knot fix my hair for the special occasion. :)

Gluten Free Organic Sugar Cookies: {healthy post monday} …

Hi there! I’ve been working hard in my kitchen to make a special treat for you …


Special organic gluten free treats for Valentine’s Day!


"Gluten free," you say … "is THAT a yummy treat?" you ask …


My mommy’s gluten free and organic cookies are a VERY, YUMMY. MMM-MMM …


MMMM! A very yummmeeee treat!


Would you like me to share them with you?


This one looks good, right here …


I will pour you some tea too …


Now, take a bite … do you like it?


Ohhhh, Haley does! See her face? My mommy says that is her sugar-coma face.


Now, for the true test of the yum-yum factor … my baby brother will try one out.


Take a BIG bite, Bubby!


Hmmmmm …


I think he likes it! He really likes it!


Here Daddy! I will share one with you …


'Cuz you're my REAL Valentine. :)


Yep. My gluten free organic sugar cookie treats are the best! My mommy will share her recipe with you at the end of this post. :)


Melissa speaking: These are MY Valentines. My Love Bugs. My True Loves.

Tomorrow I will share the finished project I made with the rest of the photos from this photo shoot and another I did last Saturday.  :)



(adapted from EASY GLUTEN FREE BAKING cookbook found here)

Dry Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of white rice flour, plus more for dusting

1 cup of sweet rice flour

1/2 cup of tapioca starch

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened

1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar (I used coconut sugar)

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup water, as needed

Icing (optional) I googled Martha Stewarts Royal Icing recipe

1. In medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.

2. In large bowl, cream (on medium speed) butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, blending well after each addition. Add dry ingredients and vanilla, alternating a little at a time; blend until a dough forms. (If a sandy mass forms instead of a dough all, add 1/4 cup water and mix for 30 seconds. If dough comes together on its own, omit the water from recipe).

3 .Divide the dough in half. Pat dough into rounds, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and chill for 4 hours or overnight. (I usually put 1/2 of dough in the freezer for another time, wrapping tightly).

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from the refrigerator and allow to stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Get ready to work your arm muscles. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

5. Generously dust a clean, dry work surface with rice flour. Roll dough about 1/4 inch thick. This is a great stress reliever and arm workout. Take a few deep breaths, do a few neck rolls, then beat that baby down to submission, until she rolls out a smooth, even cutting surface. See link posted below for an easy tip ensuring evenly rolled out cookies at 1/4 inch thick. Using assorted cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Place cookies on prepared sheets.

6. Put baking sheets in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes. This ensures they keep their shape while baking.

7. Bake first sheet of cookies until lightly golden brown. (Baking time will vary depending on size of cookie and oven. Mine bake for 11 minutes).

8. Remove cookie sheet from oven and cool on wire racks, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer cookies directly onto racks to cool completely. While first sheet is cooling, bake second sheet of cookies.

9. Ice cooked cookies, if desired. I used this natural food dye to tint the icing pink. Just a few drops go a long way. It is a great option to the dyes filled with chemicals concocted in a science lab.

For the cheater’s short version of how to put royal icing on the cookies, see this post. 


Grain Free Organic Peanut Butter Caramel Cupcakes {healthy post monday} …

Saturday, I hosted a baby shower for my baby sister. It was so much fun! I will share more tomorrow, but today I wanted to disclose how my “not so smart” decisions can turn out to be the best decisions ever. :)


I wanted to make the food something a 9-month-preggo-mama would really get excited about. Anything chocolate was out, because my sis doesn’t eat chocolate. Her favorite flavors are cinnamon, peanut butter, and caramel. I googled and searched my favorite healthy websites and cookbooks and didn’t find anything that excited me. My goal was to make something similar to Panera Bread Cinnamon Crunch bagel (see next Monday’s post) and a really yummy, gooey peanut butter or caramel cupcake. And of course, the finished presentation had to be cute! LOL.


So THE NIGHT BEFORE THE SHOWER, I “married” Elena Amsterdam’s Paleo Vanilla Cupcake recipe found here with her Macadamia Nut Caramel Cluster candy recipe found here, and morphed it a little to create this cupcake …


Peanut butter-caramel FILLED vanilla cupcakes … grain free, gluten free, Paleo, and HEALTHY! And yes, they passed the taste test. They were YUMMMMMEEEE. :) Elana Amsterdam’s Gluten Free Cupcake Cookbook found here has so many different flavors and of cupcakes and they are all delish. :)


Princesses can patiently wait for their delicious cupcake …


Busy, growing princes can not. :)


So here’s how I did it:

I made the Vanilla Cupcakes from this recipe (doubling the batch, but not together. I made 9 cupcakes, then repeated the recipe to make 9 more) and poured them into 18 lined cupcake wraps, then set aside (do not bake yet). You can find the adorable Chevron cupcake liners from CraftsbyJilly etsy shop.

Then from this candy recipe, I melted 1/2 cup of fresh honey roasted peanut butter from Whole Foods bulk bin and 1/2 cup of organic Agave Nectar over low heat in a medium sauce pan. I stirred in 1 tablespoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. I dropped 1 heaping teaspoon of peanut butter mixture on top of each cupcake and baked at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

The frosting recipe is Sprinkles Vanilla Frosting recipe found here. I left out the peppermint and doubled the vanilla extract, and used organic powdered sugar. You know, Sprinkles? The famous cupcake shop in NY, Dallas, LA, etc? It was so creamy and thick. Like ice cream. :)

The fondant buttons on top were made with this recipe and tinted with this natural food dye (Confession: I had already made the fondant from a previous event and it was frozen in my freezer. Fondant keeps a long time if wrapped properly in the freezer).

Now here is a sneak peak of tomorrow’s post about my sister’s shower … it was seriously the most fun shower I’ve ever attended  … except for my own, of course! :) You can see that the food label wasn’t exactly honest, because I decided to “upgrade” the cupcakes at the last minute! LOL. :)


IS PLASTIC SAFE FOR DINNERWARE? {healthy post monday} …

My sweet friend, Cameron, who is married to my husband’s cousin, has taught me so much. She is who I thank for introducing me to the concept of how certain foods can cause infertility. You can read more about that by clicking here. Because of her, I have  discovered how exciting and fun nutrition and health can be, and how we don’t have to conform to the consequences the Standard American Diet (SAD) brings.

We spent our family vacation at their house last summer and she opened my eyes to a few more ways we can “live brighter” and make safer choices for our kids. One thing I knew, but didn’t quite understand fully, was how harmful plastic dinnerware, storage, and utensils were. She is careful to use only glass containers for food storage and uses special chemical free dinnerware for her kids.  When I got home, I looked in our own cabinet and discovered this …


See how the coating has cracked and peeled? I certainly don’t want my boy or girl ingesting that. Other dinnerware pieces we have purchased from Pottery Barn also looked like this. So I found these on Amazon by Green Eats. This set is ultra-safe and has no melamine, BPA, phthalates, PVC, or external coatings. It is made of 100% recyclable materials, which save energy and greenhouse gas emissions. I love all their bright colors! They appeal to kids and adults alike. :)



I was inspired further by this post on Elana’s Pantry site to “de-plastic” our kitchen and replace our storage containers with glass containers. I received a few glass jars as Christmas gifts and then waited to purchase the rest until our local craft store, Hobby Lobby, had them on sale 50% off. Then I labeled them with this cute washi tape I ordered at a huge discount from The Company’s Boutiques. The bright colors and prints make me smile when I open my pantry, fridge, and freezer. :)



The glass containers are perfect for my gluten free flours I store in the freezer.  Storing the flour in their bags was so messy as the flours would spill every time I used them.

Now here is the little cuteness that greets me every morning. He always has a big smile, so I’m not sure what this face is about … probably daydreaming about being a football player, his current obsession, besides playing the drums. :)


And just like Sissy has to have her baby dolls and princesses at the table for breakfast, Bubby must have his “Mawnster twucks and twactor” as his table companions …


This little boy cracks me up. LOL. :)

Nutrient Dense Diet {healthy post monday} …

I had another topic planned for today’s healthy post, but after reading this article on The Nourishing Gourmet’s site, I decided her words were better than mine. :) It seems that she and I are on a similar path toward health and wellness and have had some of the same health struggles. In this article, she explains how food combinations are so important and supplements alone do not generate optimum health. Much of what she shares seems to make so much sense. I began this journey toward health and clean living after experiencing three years of infertility and reading Jordan Rubin’s, “The Maker’s Diet.”  That was almost six years ago and I still have so much to learn! I love how she begins her post and could echo her words a thousand times over. I can totally relate … :)

I have had so many great questions from you all on my posts, Are you really eating a nutrient dense diet? and The Diet that Cures Cavities. It is hard to know which issues to address first. I decided to tackle the synergy of nutrients topic today. But before I go there I wanted to make two points. First, I don’t want to give the impression that I am a “know-it-all”. I am approaching this topic humbly because I know that not only is there so much more that we all can learn, I also know that I am still grabbling and weeding through just a small portion of the mountains of information out there on nutrition. Secondly, the reason that I am so excited about talking about this is because now that I am starting to feel better from my treatment for anemia, I am ready to do better in how I feed my family. I am not writing these in the vein of  “everyone feel guilty because I am the perfect mom and feed my family nutrient dense food at every meal”.  I am simply inviting you to join me in doing better, and making plans for that end. And I hope some of the resources we are working on behind the scene help you do that! I am so glad that my PDF of nutrient dense foods was helpful to so many of you. I can’t wait to share more.

To read more of this great article, click here.If you have never visited her site, she has great recipes, many which are gluten free. :)

GLUTEN FREE & CORN FREE PASTA {healthy post Monday} …

This past year I have become aware of the dangers of GMOs, or foods that have been genetically modified. This is not describing foods that have evolved through natural cross-breeding, but instead food that has been genetically engineered to resist chemicals in pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. This ensures more chemicals can be sprayed on these crops without killing the crop itself.  Corn in particular has been genetically altered to kill pests that try to consume it by causing their stomachs to implode. Obviously, if it causes an insects stomach to implode, I don’t want it in my stomach or the stomach of my small children. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?! You can read more about GMOs by clicking here and the negative effects GMO corn has on health here.  Approximately 88% of the corn produced in the US is genetically modified. So unless is says “NonGMO corn” in the ingredients, you can assume it is produced from GMO seed.

PS  … corn is a grain, not a vegetable. I didn’t know that until just a few years ago. And grains induce an inflammatory response in the immune system, which is why we try to eat as grain free as possible.

Because nearly all processed foods that are gluten free contain corn, it is a challenge to find crackers, bread and pasta that are GMO free. I have started making our own almond flour bread and we buy Mary’s Gone Crackers  (cute name, huh?). I wouldn’t buy any crackers except to be given on Sunday and Tuesday mornings for church and Bible Study snacks. Snacks at home include fresh fruit and veggies, raw, homemade trail mix, dried fruit, homemade almond-flour cookies, homemade larabar cookies or homemade Hail Merry cookies.

I was so excited when I found this pasta. I had to hunt for it at Whole Foods and even recruit help from an employee to find it. As you can see, the ingredients are few, simple, and clean. Add some organic pasta sauce (we like the 365 brand) and Papa Sam’s grass-fed beef, and we have a family favorite meal. :)



Saturday was one of those days where I felt like I was in a movie. We took our kids to see Santa, then visited little Nutcracker window displays around an outdoor shopping center where we live. We ended our perfect little outing with a trip to Starbucks. Later that day, we made “Gingerbread Houses” and watched our favorite Christmas movie, “Small One.” This was my favorite movie as a child and I still cry every time I watch it.

We made our “Gingerbread House” out of graham crackers, Dollar Store candy, frosting, and hot glue, none of which my kids can eat (pics to come tomorrow). They did so well not asking to eat it, with the exceptional silly “fake-out” from my 2 year old boy, sticking his tongue out toward a spoon full of icing and giggling hysterically. :) After touching and playing with all that candy, I wanted to provide a healthier alternative as a treat for following instructions; organic chocolate peppermint dipped marshmallows and organic, dairy free, gluten free hot cocoa.


I had a few organic marshmallows I purchased at Whole Foods a while back for a special event, some leftover organic chocolate chips, and organic, naturally dyed, corn-syrup free candy canes. I crushed the candy canes in a zippy bag and melted the chocolate in a small pot nestled in a second pot of simmering water. After I dipped the marshmallows in the chocolate, I sprinkled the crushed candy canes over the mallows. I placed them on freezer paper in the freezer while I made the organic, dairy free, gluten free hot cocoa. This was a last minute project and I was racing against the bedtime clock, so they aren’t that pretty and I’m sure there are better ways of making them. They did taste so yummy though. :)


I made organic, dairy free, gluten free hot cocoa from this site. The Nourishing Gourmet has amazing, healthy recipes and great information about eating clean and nutritious food. She has an awesome honey-sweetened marshmallow recipe here we have used several times.


These photos are terrible because I had to use the flash in our little den. Our light is broken so it is very dark at night! :) This was the first time my kids have had hot cocoa and they LOVED it! My boy looked so cute holding his coffee cup like a big boy. :)

I feel like I need to add a few more words out of respect for the tragedy in Connecticut. To be honest, Saturday’s bliss and “movie-like” experience with my kids was periodically disrupted with thoughts of despair and grief. I had to fight then and continue to fight tears throughout my day as I struggle controlling thoughts of those traumatized by the senseless violence. As a licensed clinical social worker and mental health therapist who worked with children and families affected by trauma, I agree with many opinions regarding the role of mental health in this tragedy. I do not pretend to have the answers and certainly do not know the details of this case, but I know mental health issues are often ignored due to social stigma and lack of funding.

Also, as a Believer in Christ, I can torture myself with the questions many are asking, “How could God allow such suffering?” All I can do is hold on to the principle that when I don’t understand what God is doing, I can know WHO HE IS through His Word. I KNOW God is loving, kind, just, compassionate, full of grace, merciful, forgiving, powerful, and sees and hears all who grieve loss and pain. I just hope and pray those affected turn to Him for strength, peace, and healing. I pray they do not allow a person who gave in to evil to define who they think God is. I pray they allow His Word and His Son, Jesus Christ, to determine in their hearts and lives who God is and that they welcome the peace and healing He offers through their suffering.

"EAT CLEAN, TRAIN DIRTY" + a gluten free Thanksgiving {healthy post monday} …

Every Thanksgiving for the past six years, my hubs and I have run the Von Franken Family Food Run in Tulsa. The entry “fee” is a food donation for the local food bank. This year I took my kids grocery shopping to buy Thanksgiving dinner for two families (minus the Turkey). 

Lots of families and dogs come out for the four mile route.

Matt took the first leg (2 miles) pushing the 85+ pound stroller full of kids through the crowd.

My boy LOVED every second. My girl, not so much. She was in a mood that morning. :)

I took the second leg (2 miles) pushing the stroller once the crowd dwindled and there was more room.

But shortly after I began, both kids were squealing to get out and run with us.

My boy was a wild cannon, shooting back and forth across the path like a pin ball machine.

It was like herding cats to keep them out of the way of other runners, strollers, and dog leashes.

But boy, was my little guy in his element. He kept saying, “Ohhhh, I sooo tired!” I would say, “you want to get back in the stroller?” He would say, “NO! I run!!!” :)

I think my boy ran a total of two miles. Nonstop.

My girl ran a total of two yards before she would want to get back in the stroller and ride. In and out. In and out. Every two yards it seemed like. :)

We would run ahead a little bit, and then have to stop.

Downhill was our favorite.

When we reached the end of the run, my boy fought tooth and nail to stay out of the stroller. He screeched and screamed the rest of the way all the way to our car. Oh, the joys of two year olds! LOL. We got a lot of stares. :)

After our run, we went to my parents house for this … a gluten free Thanksgiving meal! My dad made stuffing from a gluten free corn bread mix. Everything else was pretty much naturally gluten free. We skipped the Hawaiian bread rolls. :)

I was in charge of dessert. Elana Amsterdam’s “Almond Flour Cookbook to the rescue!

Gluten Free Almond Flour Double Chocolate Cookies

Gluten Free Almond Flour Coconut Berry Crisp

And the crowning glory to top it off …

Gluten Free rich and creamy Chocolate Cream Pie in an Almond Flour Chocolate Pie Crust- yummo. My mom said it was the best chocolate pie she has ever eaten. :)

While at the run that morning, my hubs said he saw a T-shirt that said "EAT CLEAN, TRAIN DIRTY." He really liked the phrase "Eat Clean" because it encompasses so much more than a “diet.” I was surprised this was a new term for him as I have journeyed to embrace this lifestyle over the years since becoming gluten free.  Clean Eating = no processed foods, no artificial additives or preservatives, no artificial dyes or flavors, fresh food from the ground or animal, preferably raw (fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds), just the way God provided it. So many people ask me for gluten free recipes or cookbooks on eating healthy. There is no magic formula or perfect recipe book, just a new, healthy outlook and relationship with food, not to comfort or de-stress, but to benefit the body the most healthy way possible.  The bottom line is that when we consume clean foods, our bodies will function at the most optimum level - meaning reduced allergies, sinus trouble, asthma, reflux, digestion problems, headaches/migraines, infections, disease, etc.

Looking at the Standard American Diet (SAD), we have strayed so far from what God created and provided for us in terms of “food.” Most of what we eat isn’t even real food, meaning it can sit on a shelf for months, even years and the FDA has deemed it safe and “healthy” to eat. Ingredient labels look more like a chemistry experiment than real food items. Believe me, I didn’t always live this way. I cringe at the years of “bad” I put into my body before I realized what it was doing to my health, specifically my ability to have children. You can read about that story here. But knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t go back to that lifestyle for anything, especially since I have two little ones watching me. I don’t want to pass down any of my old habits or thought patterns about food for them to inherit. With greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. But the blessings are also greater and worth far more than the alternative.

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