Monthly Archives: October 2014

5 Natural Solutions for Sleep

I’ve always had a hard time sleeping. I remember when I was a teenager having insomnia and trying to stomach warm milk at 3 in the morning. I also remember putting lavender under my pillow.

It definitely becomes a mental battle for me when I’ve had one or two nights in a row that I can’t fall asleep. Thankfully lately I’ve gotten in a great routine when it comes to sleep and I haven’t had bouts of insomnia for awhile (knock on wood…)

I used to take anxiety medication when I couldn’t sleep, and my doctor even prescribed me Ambien which I have also taken. But taking these medications scares me because I feel like I could get dependent or even addicted to them and then not be able to sleep without them, which perpetuates the cycle. I even feel this way about Benedryl or Nyquil, which some people use with no problem. Those medications didn’t really make a dent in my insomnia and I feel like using them is just going to perpetuate the problem.

Luckily I’ve found some solutions and routines that work for me and are completely natural and drug free. **Includes affiliate links

1) Having a routine. This sounds pretty boring and standard but the routine of “getting ready for bed” has to be pretty repetitive in order to tell your body it’s time to settle down. This means at the same time every night I get ready for bed and put away my computer or Ipad. I usually try to not go on the Ipad or my phone (need to get better at this) after 8 pm. I also go to bed at the same time every night. Obviously during the workweek I get up at the same time every day, but as painful as it may seem I also try to get up early on the weekends too so as not to throw my internal clock off.

I know, I know, you want  to sleep in on the weekends! But I feel like if you get enough sleep during the week there’s really no reason why you can’t get up normally on Saturday. I usually try not to sleep more than an hour and a half past my normal wake up time.


2) Blue light blocking glasses. They look really nerdy, and your spouse will make fun of you, but I’ve seen benefits of using the blue light blocking glasses as soon as I sit down to relax at night. The idea behind wearing them is that our body is not naturally adjusted to being accosted by artificial light after it gets dark, so it doesn’t want to shut down and go to bed. Do your own research about them, but I mean I spent $7 for these and I feel like when I wear them I can feel myself getting more tired. (Maybe it’s all in my head, but whatever works!)


3) Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement I know it seems like this is another thing to depend on, but it’s really not. This powdered magnesium supplement
helps me relax at the end of the night. Some nights I have it and some I don’t….and I don’t see any effect either way. I just drink it with hot water sometimes with lemon and honey. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to chronic inflammation and many people do not get enough magnesium. It not only can relax your mood but I also find it helps my constantly stiff muscles.


4) Magnesium Epsom Salt Bath If you have a little extra time at night and are feeling extra stressed or agitated a bath with an epsom salt soak like this
will do the trick. This is also a great alternative if you don’t feel comfortable taking the Natural Calm. You can usually get the salt at the drug store or grocery store in the bath isle.


5) Lavender pouch in pillow case This is an old trick the the scent of lavender is supposed to relax you. I just bought a little pouch of it at a farmer’s market this summer and put it in my pillowcase. It makes my whole pillow smell. Alternatively, you could look into an essential oil diffuser but I have no experience with that so I can’t speak for it.


So using all these things in combination I’ve finally settled on a routine that my body accepts as an “it’s bedtime” signal. Also obviously your diet is a main factor. I find when I’m eating very clean I have little problem with sleep. When I eat a lot of sugary things it becomes more challenging. Also alcohol might seem like a good idea to get to sleep initially but I usually wake up a couple hours later and can’t fall back to sleep if I have a couple of drinks that night. It goes to show that most things in your body will regulate if you treat it and feed it right.

All these products, and more are available on the new Pencils and Pancakes Favorite Products Store! Just click on the “shop” tab at the top of my website. I have included all of my favorite cooking product, books and items for better sleep. As always thanks for supporting Pencils and Pancakes.

What things help you sleep the best naturally?



WIAW- Halloween Week

Happy Halloween week! Hope you’re enjoying your pre halloween week! We went to a Halloween party this weekend. It unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of us. Our costumes were pretty lame, considering we bought them for a group costume for a party we’re going to THIS weekend. I promise I’ll get some pictures.

I did get a pic if the dish I made for the party (typical) so I’m linking up again for What I ate Wednesday!


Ghostly pear guacamole with plantain chips from Primal Palate’s Gather cookbook. So good! There was lots of non-paleo food there but I mostly stuck to the veggies and guac. And….. Beer. Always regret it the next day. We’ll see how I do this weekend. Juli of PaleOMG pretty much summed up my exact thoughts on alcohol in her post yesterday. Always seems like a good idea at the time, and I’m fine with one or two drinks. But anything past that is always not a good time the next day.

Last week we saw the return of chicken, and paleo chicken fajitas with plantain chips. Who needs tortillas when you have plantains???


Also, I got the chance to make my paleo cereal last week one morning for breakfast. Check out the recipe, it’s delish!


Speaking of recipes, in case you missed it I finally released my new eCookbook, The Pencils and Pancakes Real Food Cookbook! I worked long and hard in this so your support in any way is extremely appreciated. All the recipes are gluten free, refined sugar free and use real, whole food! Click here to buy or on the cookbook section at the top of my page!

Cookie dough truffles in the book!!

What are you being for Halloween??


The Pencils and Pancakes Real Food Cookbook

It’s ready! It’s ready! Finally….after almost a year of working on an eCookbook I am proud and super excited to say that it’s FINALLY ready to sell and on the market!

cookbook.jpgI know I did blog about this previously, but if you didn’t catch my last post, here’s a little about the recipes in this book:

  • gluten free
  • processed sugar free
  • whole food
  • paleo-friendly
  • grain free (all but one)
  • healthy

Some of the recipes included are:

Buffalo Chicken Pasta

buffalo chicken pasta

Paleo Cookie Dough Truffles

cookie dough

Homemade Spicy Jalepeno Salsa

Spicy Jalepeno Salsa

Also a never-before shared recipe for my original homemade spaghetti sauce…paleo friendly!

tomato sauce

The book also includes some whole food cooking tips if you’re new to Paleo and whole food cooking.

When you click on the Buy Now graphic, it will take you straight to GumRoad, the service I’m using to sell the eBook. It allows for easy, no hassle credit card payments- no PayPal necessary!

I’m super excited that I finally finished. Although I’m not trying to make a fortune and retire, I think just the fact that I set out to do something and accomplished it is reward enough. At the beginning of the year I had this crazy idea to do this. I asked myself what I enjoyed most about the blog and I think that creating and sharing recipes was it. Why not create and share recipes all together in a collection? I started researching self-publishing and decided to just do it.

I had moments of doubt and pretty much went through a phase this summer where I had no interest in working on the cookbook OR blogging, but a little inspiration was all it took to get it going again.

Just know if you decide to purchase that you’re supporting me being able to keep doing what I love- and that makes me extremely grateful.

landing page


Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon

Yup, you know you want this recipe because I added the “with bacon” tagline….

I made this soup for two weeks in a row now and deemed it “the best soup I’ve ever made.” I get on a kick with what I make for my lunch and pretty much make it until I get so sick of it I can’t stand it anymore. That pretty much already happened for chicken soup with kale at the beginning of the year. So I’ve switched it up a bit. Now that we got our bacon from our pigs I’ve been pretty much throwing it in everything.

This week I’m linking up with Jenn from Peas and Crayons to share what I ate..which is this soup. I don’t have too many pictures from what I ate for the week because this weekend we went camping. Here are a few beautiful pictures of the scenery:

 ASP #1

ASP #2

ASP #3

I love fall!

Actually I did take a pic of some of our food camping:

camp eggs


We stayed in a cabin with a food stove and gas oven. Can’t beat eggs fried in bacon fat. Those were our last eggs from our chickens 🙁

I also made homemade pulled BBQ pork last week. OMG.


Ate it alongside an acorn squash with pecans and butter and roasted broccoli. This was ridiculous.

And speaking of squash: now for the recipe!


Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon
Serves 4
Write a review
Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
  1. 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  2. 1 large white onion, chopped
  3. 4-6 cups of stock (pork or chicken stock works best)
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. 1/2 tsp onion powder
  8. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  9. 1/2 lb bacon, cut up into 1 " strips
  1. Fill a large stockpot with chicken/pork stock. Add your cubed butternut squash, onion and garlic.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook until soft, about 20-25 minutes.**
  3. Take off the stove and let cool. Meanwhile, throw your bacon in a saute pan and cook until done. Set aside on a paper towel.
  4. When soup is cool, working in batches, place the mixture into a food processor. Be careful not to fill the food processor too full so it doesn't overflow.
  5. Place the soup back in the pot and add spices. Be sure to season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until warmed again.
  6. Add bacon and some of the remaining fat from the pan (I mean why not).
  7. Serve warm.
  1. **Alternatively, you can do this in a pressure cooker for half the time. Once it starts boiling and reaching high pressure, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
Pencils and Pancakes
Do you like camping? What foods do you typically bring?

What’s your favorite thing to pair bacon with?


What I ate Wednesday- Trip to BJ’s

Happy Wednesday! This week is moving along since I had Monday off…. Be jealous!  Hope you didn’t miss my post for Paleo Chicken Riggies yesterday and my announcement about the cookbook. Very exciting

I am linking up with Jenn for What I ate Wednesday.  Anyways, I don’t really have a full day of eats but do have some yummy things to share from last week. A highlight of my week was my trip to BJs. It’s kind of like a CostCo for those that don’t know. I was able to get a cheap subscription through my school. My friend and I stopped by before going to the movies (Gone Girl….how disturbing) and I was basically like a kid in a candy store. You have to watch carefully because some things will not be a better deal but I did make some good finds:





Figs….my favorite








Definitely needed










This was a double pack for 7.99










Pecans 6.99 lb








Great finds! I wanted to buy more but we were about to go to the movies so the huge thing of talents gelato couldn’t come :(.

The other night I made chicken pot pies from the 21 Day Sugar Detox cookbook. 



They were ridiculous. I don’t know why I haven’t made them sooner. Also, pumpkin chili from Gather. 




Also, so sad…. We got rid of our chickens on Saturday and although I was happy that I don’t have to take care of them anymore it was sad to get our last egg. 




It will be nice however to be able to leave the house for a weekend! 

What are your favorite finds at BJs or Costco? 



Paleo Chicken “Riggies”

Guess what!?!? I’ve finished my cookbook! So excited to share it with everyone, however it’s not 100% ready to put up for sale yet so instead I’m teasing you with a recipe from it. I’ve put a lot of hard work into this and although it’s just an e-book I hope to use it to inspire people to make real food!


 The recipe I am going to share with you guys is Paleo Chicken Riggies. Okay so I didn’t somehow manufacture paleo friendly rigatoni pasta if that’s what you thought. But I did come up with a tangy, spicy chicken “riggies” sauce that I served over spaghetti squash.

If you don’t know what chicken riggies are, it’s a dish native to Central New York and specifically Utica, NY that usually includes a spicy, cream based tomato sauce with chicken and hot peppers served over rigatoni. I had a couple of great, famous chicken riggies dishes when I worked in Utica and I won’t pretend that this is as good as the real thing, but I think I came really close.

Coconut milk gives it the rich, creamy texture you want and pickled and fresh peppers give it a kick!

paleo chicken riggies


Paleo Chicken Riggies
Serves 2
A spicy, healthy twist on a regional favorite
Write a review
Prep Time
50 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
50 min
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 1 ½ cups homemade spaghetti sauce
  2. ¼ cup coconut milk
  3. 1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
  4. 1 large white onion, sliced
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. Pickled cherry peppers or jalapeños
  7. 1 cooked, chopped chicken breast
  8. 1 tbsp coconut oil
  9. *optional- can add olives
  1. Pre heat the oven to 400 degrees. Prep spaghetti squash- carefully cut in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet.
  2. Bake the spaghetti squash for approx. 40-60 minutes (depending on size). When the squash is soft and you can press your finger into it, it means it’s done. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Put a deep skillet over medium heat. Put in the coconut oil and wait until heated.
  4. Place garlic, peppers and onions in the pan and cook until the onions are translucent. (About 5 minutes).
  5. Pour in your spaghetti sauce and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  6. Put in your cooked, diced chicken and cherry/jalepeño peppers (as many as you would like for your preferred hotness). Cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  7. Scrape the flesh out of your spaghetti squash. Serve sauce over squash.
Pencils and Pancakes


Enjoy! Let me know how it is!


What’s your favorite spot to get chicken riggies (if you’re local)?

What are some regional favorites from your part of the country (or world!)??


WIAW- Bacon!!!

I’m back with WIAW (Thanks to Jenn at Peas and Crayons for hosting!) because I feel like I wanna share some of my eats from the past week. Most importantly…guess who’s back?!?!


Yup! We got our bacon. I had no idea it was going to be so much. We barely fit it in two freezers. I’m not weirded out by eating something I raised for 6 months. I am freaking overjoyed that I am eating something I know exactly about and don’t have to buy meat from the grocery store.



So naturally it’s finding it’s way into everything this week. I make out my meal plans on Sundays when I go grocery shopping and they called me Monday to tell me the pork was ready, so I didn’t have it in the plans, but that didn’t stop it from making it’s way into dinner Monday night:


Baked flounder, butternut squash noodles with spaghetti sauce and cauliflower rice with bacon.

The recipe was a fish recipe from the The 21-Day Sugar Detox <<affiliate link
It looked pretty but the fish were basically paper thin. Thank god for bacon.


For breakfasts this week, I made the butternut squash breakfast pie again. Tis the season. Those apples behind it are from our backyard!!!


Lunches…. I don’t have a picture. It was sardines, avocado and soup. Woo hoo, same old.

For a snack all week I made these Paleo chocolate chip cookie dough balls. Yum. Love eating these right when I get home.


Austin was out of town last night so I made breakfast for dinner. Can you guess what was involved?


Soft boiled eggs, plantain fries and kale with BACON. This meal was epic and really confused me. Whenever I eat a meal, I always go from worst to best, to save the best for last. But everything was so good on this plate my mind got really confused. I’m really sorry about my nail polish.

Dessert for the week was Paleo Parent’s baked apples with butter and pecans. I used the apples from our backyard! Picture doesn’t really do it justice. Check out the recipe!


{Free Download} Mix up your veggie routine + I’m writing a book!

I guess I’ll come out and just say it- I’ve been working on an e-cookbook all year. I’m almost ready to publish it! I’ll give you a couple of sneak peaks but I wanted to also give away another project I worked on- a free guide to mixing up your veggie routine. Hopefully if you like the content of this guide you’ll come back for more when I release the cookbook!

The cookbook will contain mostly (there are 2-3 favorites from the blog) new recipes that adhere to a whole foods and (mostly) paleo, gluten free, grain free lifestyle. I will also include a guide to must-have products, and tips for healthy living! I am so excited and have been working hard on the e-book. The technology side is really the hard part so once I figure it out I should have the ebook available.

Just SOME of the recipes included are:

buffalo chicken pasta

– Buffalo Chicken Pasta

blackberry rhubarb

-Blackberry-Rhubarb crumble

cookie dough

– Cookie Dough Truffles

And many more! While you wait on the edge of your seat in anticipation (lol) I’m offering this free download for absolutely nothing! Enjoy!

 Click here to get your free download!

Have you ever tried writing an e-book?

Tips would be appreciated!



10 easy whole food swaps to eat healthier


So I figured out my daily eats week after week are kind of boring………I basically eat the same thing for lunch every day and my breakfasts have stayed the same so today for WIAW (thanks to Jenn for hosting! I love looking through the link up!) I’m doing something a little different….

real food

Sometimes, since people know that I am into eating healthy, they randomly ask me “how can I start eating better” or “what should I eat to be healthy”. Kind of a loaded question…..I don’t really know where to start. But I do know that some of the stuff I’ve been doing for awhile sometimes peaks interest from people. There is so much diet nonsense out there, no wonder no ones knows where to start. Here’s 10 simple swaps you can make now to clean up your diet:

1) Use coconut oil instead of butter, spray and seed oils.

coconut oil

I use coconut oil for literally EVERYTHING. I used to be one that would use Pam spray for cooking…but now I melt it to roast veggies, throw a dollop in to saute, or just use it in place of anything that needs a fat or butter. I think the #1 thing you should STOP eating right now if you want to be healthier is vegetable and seed oils. GAHHH so gross, toxic and bad for you. No reason to have them in your life. Coconut oil can be used for everything. It’s super healthy and there are brands that don’t taste coconutty. I prefer the coconut taste, however and I use this Swanson vitamins brand.


2) Ditch white potatoes for plantains or sweet potatoes.

Plantain Chips

White potatoes hardly have any flavor..not to mention they’re lacking in nutrients. Not saying they’re the devil or anything but I am obsessed with plantains as my go-to carb. There’s nothing wrong with carbs especially if you’re active. I prefer ones that are delicious, since I love food. Not to mention packed with vitamins. Try plantain fries!


4) Cauliflower “rice” for regular rice.

Dirty Cauliflower rice

Again, white rice isn’t the devil or anything, but it’s like a gateway food for me. I could house an entire boil in a bag packet myself when I was younger. So cauliflower gives the same texture, and is mostly tasteless, without the “no brakes” mentality for me.

Try my curried cauliflower “dirty” rice.


5) Snack on nuts instead of chips.

This is  no brainer…nuts are great for you. It’s easy to go overboard though so make sure you watch your portions.

6) Carrot or Parsnip fries instead of regular French fries

Curry Roasted Parsnip Fries 2

I’m more or less obsessed with making carrot fries or parsnip fries. I make them at least once a week. Again, more nutrients and tastier than a regular white potato fry!

Curry Parsnip fries

Spicy Carrot Fries

7) Eggs for breakfast instead of cereal


Cereal= crack that makes you more hungry 7 minutes after you’ve finished eating. Man up and have some protein for breakfast if you’re serious about becoming healthier and cutting back on snacking.

8) Coconut Milk for regular milk


There’s no need for dairy milk in my life……anytime I need something of a milk-like consistency I use coconut milk. I buy it online in bulk to save money. Coconut is great for you. I buy the BPA organic brand and I use it in my coffee in the morning, in smoothies, curry recipes, egg casseroles, and pretty  much any recipe that might need a milk-like substance.

9) Zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash instead of pasta


Yes, we all love pasta. No, it has absolutely nothing to offer me that vegetables and fruit do not. Another gateway food for me. I eat zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash. To be honest I think that pasta used to be my favorite food but I don’t miss it at all.

10) Flavored oil and vinegar instead of pre-made salad dressing


Not only do you save money by buying straight up oil and vinegar instead of sugar-laden processed varieties, but it’s a lot healthier. I sometimes use cheap, bulk vinegar or if I’m lucky enough to have some Olive a Sudden flavored olive oils I use those.

There you have it! Making all or even some of these swaps could lead you on a path to a healthier lifestyle. None of these are groundbreaking for those of us who have been eating well for a long time, but if you’re just starting out don’t be afraid to try these things.

What one thing do you think you could swap out ASAP!?!?