The summer before our son turned 2 years old, we found out he was allergic to gluten and casein (you can read our experience in this blog post). It was a whole new world for me to navigate, and honestly, a humbling one.
We were healthy. Cooking nutritious meals was important to me, but I also thought that whole “gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo-caveman-can-only-eat-meat-and-veggies” was a fad. I hate diet fads because a majority of them are not healthy. Jonathan and I had spent most of our single lives and half of our marriage in Denton, which is known as a place with a bunch of hipster nonsense (Sorry, Denton. I still love you so much, but you and I both know this is true).
Until…we just could not get my son’s gut health, or lack thereof, under control. And, lo and behold, gluten and dairy were the big culprits, so we had to do a major life change. No more gluten. No more dairy. I had to learn even more about hidden things on labels, cross-contamination, and (for the love), I basically had to re-learn to cook. It was definitely trial-and-error those first few months, and bless my mom for letting me take over her kitchen and curse under my breath a lot because we were living with my parents at the time. And I had to learn that maybe there was something to it, and a bunch of my friends weren’t lying as I had been silently rolling my eyes behind them.
My issue in the beginning wasn’t that I just missed queso (born and raised on Tex-Mex), it was that the recipes I was using just lacked flavor, depth, and creativity. They were bland and boring. If I made one more meal that consisted of grilled chicken and plain vegetables, I was going to throw up. And throw all of my cooking utensils out the window. Thankfully though, I found some amazing resources and recipes, so I want to share them with you. We don’t follow a “diet” like paleo, we just stick to gluten and dairy-free, though many of our meals do end up being paleo for that reason. So, if you are on this health journey and you need a place to start, learn from my mistakes and start here.
I love Danielle Walker. She doesn’t know it yet, but we are BFFS in real life. First off, her recipes are delicious. She has never steered me wrong, not once. Secondly, she is a mom, so praise the Lord they are SIMPLE, toddler-approved, and taste the most like normal food but better because it’s all real ingredients. She made me fall in love with my crockpot, because prior to this I just couldn’t handle all the processed junk that went into crockpot recipes. You will find nothing but good, wholesome, real ingredients with her, and in this cookbook, an entire section of healthy recipes for kids.
Favorite Recipes: Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos, Slow Cooker Sesame-Orange Chicken, Slow Cooker Beef Chuck Chili, Mexican Chicken Chowder, Barbecue Bacon Burgers with Rosemary-Garlic Mushrooms, Spinach Sausage Lasagna, Citrus Cumin Chicken, Spiced Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Donuts, Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies, Double-Chocolate Macaroons.
If you are seriously just starting out, I would actually suggest you get this book first. She literally does ALL of the work for you. Meal plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner with grocery lists for 8 weeks. Moms, we seriously need to be sending her buckets of wine every month as a thank you. Plus, she gives a great breakdown on what labels mean, what you should look for in clean ingredients, and more. It’s an all-around great resource, even if you don’t follow meal plans and just want some recipes. Plus, if you do Whole 30, there are a ton of recipes in there.
Favorite Recipes: Breakfast Burritos, Pumpkin Bread, Freezer Waffles, Blueberry Muffins, Mexican Chicken Soup, Buffalo Chicken Salad, BLT Salad, California Chicken Wraps, Chicken Tikka Masala, Beef Tacos, Pepperoni Pizza Pasta, Pork Ragu, Cuban Pork Panini, Creamy Dill Salmon with Green Beans Almondine, Vegetable Biryani, Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Herb Ranch Dressing, Barbecue Sauce, Pancake Mix, Wraps.
You can see a theme here. I love this cookbook more than I thought I would. I knew it would be great because she’s never failed me, I just didn’t think I needed it because we don’t have a big family (yet) and we don’t host big parties or holidays, but man has this cookbook come in handy! There are sections for all the major holidays and everything in between. I was especially thankful for the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas sections this year. She knocked it out of the park with her recipes and my son felt normal that he was able to have things other kids were talking about. Any dish I made from this cookbook and brought to a gathering, it was the first to go. I never had any leftover and everyone was shocked when I told them it was gluten and dairy free. Whether you follow the whole menu for that holiday or you just pick and choose, you’ll be grateful that you don’t have to dread these times of year simply because of food. I love that it’s a family affair and she always has specific, fun things for kids, and it’s important to me that because of my love for good food and cooking, I can continue to make memories in the kitchen.
Favorite Recipes: Spinach Artichoke Dip, Sweet-and-Sour Meatballs, Caramel-Pecan Sticky Buns, Chocolate Cake, Quick Chocolate Icing, Spider Cookies, Dirt Cups, Mummy Dogs, Curry Pumpkin Soup, Butternut Sage Carbonara, Spiced Apple Hot Toddy, Herbed Drop Biscuits, Smoky Candied Bacon Sweet Potatoes, Apple Sausage Stuffing, Cinnamon Rolls, Sunbutter Buckeyes, Christmas Fudge, Peppermint Hot Cocoa, Marshmallows
Well this recipe book is extra special to me, because it is written by one of my sweetest friends, Shelley Rogers. She is an incredible mom who took a good hard look at their diet a few years ago after experiencing some health issues with her daughter. She loves to cook, loves good food, and found that the best place to start with your health is the inside out. I wouldn’t have met Shelley had it not been for our mutual love of Young Living Essential Oils, one of the many perks of being a part of a company is meeting people like Shelley. Love Bites is full of healthy sweet treats, so you can still have delicious treats without the junk of white sugar, white flour, and the like. Plus, she gives options for adding essential oils into the recipes which just makes the health benefits go further. Her recipes are unique, delicious, simple, and you will find them all over my instagram feed. *If something calls for butter we simply replace with ghee, but it’s honestly rare for us to have to make substitutions with her recipes because real food calls for real ingredients, and that’s what Shelley is about.*
Favorite Recipes: Chewy Almond (4 ways), Decadent Chocolate Muffins, Chocolate Orange Coconut Bombs, Chocolate Nut Butter Dunkers, Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Yep, this mom of 2 is so awesome she’s already got 2 recipe books out and working on the third. I am always looking for more plant based recipes as paleo diet comes with lots of meat. Shelley is so great at giving plant based recipes that actually taste good, my family gobbles them up. I find I’m grabbing this booklet every week as I sit down to meal plan. Though this recipe is called sidekicks as it’s full of side dishes, dips, dressings, and sauces, I’ve definitely found that many of the dishes make great main dishes that feed plenty in our house. I cannot tell you how excited my son is to have his own “cheese” thanks to Shelley’s recipe. Just get the bundle so you have both books people. You can find one of her recipes, Vitality Infused Feta Dip, for free on the Potionly app!
Favorite Recipes: You Won’t Believe it’s Nut Queso, Avocado Spinach Dip, Grab Me a Bowl of that Black Bean Soup, Creamy Lentil Soup with a Twist, Black Bean Salsa Quinoa, Thai Cashew Quinoa Salad
There are lots of great resources in here about what to stock your pantry with, basic variations of spice recipes (like jerk seasoning), tips with several ways about how you can just slightly alter one recipe to make it a bit different, go-to mayos, sauces, and dressings. Though I haven’t found Melissa’s recipes to be as simple as Danielle’s, there are some delicious ones. As a young mom, I’m partial to anything that will save me time. The 2 pages worth of variations of meatballs alone is worth it because it’s simple and my toddler devours them.
Favorite Recipes: Any of the meatballs (which can also be burgers), Buffalo Chicken Salad, Cincinnati Chili, Sunrise Scramble, Taj Mahal Chicken, BBQ Beef “Waffle” Sandwich, Plantain Nachos, West African Chicken Stew
It should be noted that Dana now has a cookbook and it’s on my list! But before her book came out, she never steered me wrong on dairy-free recipes. Dana is a vegan, so everything she makes is dairy-free. It’s not all gluten-free, but she typically gives options to make it GF or you can easily substitute things. Her recipes are creative. There have been many I’ve looked at and, in my head, said “Huh, we’ll see how this works out.” And it always works out! They are also easy and quick, so that’s a huge plus for this mama. Her photography is also beautiful and will make you just want to grab a fork, jump through the screen and dive right in too.
Favorite Recipes: Butternut Squash Black Bean Enchiladas, Thyme & White Bean Pot Pies, 1-Hour Vegan Pot Pies, The Best Damn Vegan Nachos, Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pasta, any of her Vegan Ice Cream flavors, Best Damn Vegan Biscuits, 1 bowl sugar cookies
To be honest I haven’t tried a ton of recipes from this blog, but the ones I have tried have been a hit, especially with my toddler. Mostly paleo, full of flavor, feels like I’m eating normal food, 3-year-old approved.
Favorite Recipes: Paleo Barbecue Chicken Casserole, Paleo Cauliflower Fried Rice, Paleo Whole 30 Chicken Tenders, Paleo Coconut Oil Fudge, Paleo Sausage Gravy
I love Gwyneth Paltrow’s passion for health and good ingredients (she’s also a Young Living girl). This cookbook has a lot of gluten-free, dairy-free recipes, the photos are gorgeous and will make you want to live in the Hamptons, and the recipes are pretty good. Here’s why it’s just getting an honorable mention: most of them are complicated and just take too long. I find myself not picking it up as often in this stage of life, though when I need a change of pace and just want to feel/be more fancy (like cook with an apron), I pull this out.
Favorite Recipes: Leftover Quinoa Two Ways, Sweet Potato + Five-Spice Muffins, Turkey + Black Bean Chili with Sweet Potato, Almond Butter Cookies with Maldon Salt
So there’s my list, friends. Start there. Buy those cookbooks, thank me later. I literally get nothing out of this other than the satisfaction that I helped some mamas save some time, energy, and sanity as you start or go about this journey. One thing I will say is Pinterest can be great, too; I found a lot of these resources there, but also be careful. I found a lot that would say gluten-free or dairy-free or paleo, but when I looked at the ingredient list, it would call for things like ranch and cheese (uh…no). If you want to continue in my food adventures and see what I’m cooking throughout the week, you’ll find me slightly over-gramming on my spoonfulofjordan page. Happy cooking!