Category Archives: Uncategorized

Holiday Gift Guide

Yup, had to do it! I am having the hardest time deciding what gifts to get people this year and I am loving everyone’s holiday gift guides! I read them every time and have even gotten some ideas from them.

So I decided to do one of my own! First up is a list of gifts I already have and HIGHLY recommend for any foodies/whole food enthusiasts in your life:

holiday gift guide 1

1.Spiral Vegetable Slicer – love this to make veggie noodles.

2.Silicone Baking Cups – These make EXCELLENT vessels for any paleo/coconut flour muffins or cupcakes.

3.Practical Paleo: The essential how to guide for anyone that’s interested in starting Paleo!

4. Silpat mats – use these for EVERYTHING that I don’t want stuck to the pan! I actually could use more.


Now here’s some gifts that I don’t have but are on MY list!


holiday gift guide 2


1.Clinique Happy – I love this scent! I got a free sample and now it’s out and I’m hooked.

2. I Pad cooking stand I also asked for a keyboard for my Ipad. I could use a cooking stand since I use my Ipad for recipes so much! I usually make a mess which isn’t good because my Ipad isn’t even technically mine….

3. I could also use a fancy looking apron for in the kitchen. Again, I am messy!

4. Shameless: Season 3 : Best show ever! I left off at season 2 and never got to watch it since we cancelled Showtime.

5. Funny shirts from This website is the best- they have the funniest shirts. Check it out!!

Okay, hope I gave you some ideas! Hurry up because the deadline for buying gits online is coming up fast!

Do you do a lot of shopping online?

What do you want for Christmas??

** Some of these links are affiliate links, which means I earn commission if you click and buy. As always, thanks for supporting Pencils and Pancakes.


Common Core Expository Essay Writing Tools

Whaaaat?  A school post. I don’t even remember the last time I did one…..

tools for an  informational essay

But alas, I have some tools to share with my fellow teachers. This year I have been making videos to accompany my lessons for students who are absent or struggling with concepts. Have you heard of flipped classroom? It’s when the students watch instructional videos and come to class with the material already “learned” so you don’t have to waste class time taking notes/doing direct instruction. Instead, class time is used to do “homework” or “practice” the skills you “taught” in the video. This isn’t so cut and dry with English. I don’t think it works very well with an ELA class, but a colleague is doing it with her math class and I think the flipped model is a great idea for math. I feel like in math the teacher has to give the notes on how to do the problem, and half the kids probably aren’t listening….then they go to do the homework and they don’t know how.

So with flipped classroom in a math setting the kids would watch the instructional video at home, then come to class and practice the problems. Now the kids who didn’t watch the video and or are struggling can get face to face time with the teacher while the advanced kids move on with the problems and videos. My friend has had great success with this method. I just don’t think it works for ELA per say. BUT…

I still like the idea of having instructional videos for lessons available for kids who were not here or are still struggling with a concept. With my short, 68 minute, every other day blocks it’s hard to differentiate or pick up students who don’t understand after the fact. I make videos for every lesson outlining what we did and the key concepts and students who are absent or struggling can just watch the video! We have a lot of attendance issues this year and it makes giving students back work a breeze. It becomes THEIR responsibility to learn what they missed.

Yes, making the videos is time consuming but I think about the fact that next year they will all be done. So I think it’s worth it. I know there are tons of resources like Learnzillion to get videos from but I really just like making my own stuff.

I made a set of videos that explains how to write an introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion of a common core expository essay. This essay would work for any simple, explanatory essay especially to prepare for state exams. Our essay was based off of the short story “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros (excerpt from the novel- first chapter). So for your students you can just tell them to plug in the applicable story. Here is the example of the essay question I give my students. This is for the first chapter of the novel “The House on Mango Street.”


Body Paragraphs


Also, I have a great graphic organizer that students can use, available on my Teachers Pay Teachers site! This organizer corresponds to the items in the videos. It is also completely aligned to common core standards! This is for 8th grade but anything in the middle grades is pretty much the same.

Informative Essay Graphic Organizer

What do you think about the “flipped classroom” idea?



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?



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? 



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!



WIAW: Pumpkin Cauli-Mash

Hello and welcome to my second straight WIAW! I love reading other people’s WIAW so I figured I would keep up the routine.

It seems like pumpkin season gets earlier and earlier every year. I couldn’t wait…I roasted one up this weekend and now have a bunch to use up. So lots of my eats yesterday included pumpkin, go figure.


Breakfast was a smoothie with the new protein powder I’m trying out. I bought it at Wegmans.


A new hemp protein powder. I’ve tried hemp powders before but I finally think I’ve found the one I’ll stick to. I mix up a banana,1/4 cup coconut milk and 3/4 cup water, ice cubes,  3 tablespoons of protein powder, one tablespoon of almond butter, a tablespoon of cocoa and a little bit of maca powder.


I hate having protein shakes for breakfast because it really doesn’t keep me that full. I’m fine for lunch but when I get home I’m a hangry monster. All I have time for is the shake because I have been working out in the mornings and can’t fathom getting up any earlier (5:30 am). I love working out in the morning but I love breakfast. So this has been a dilemma. I haven’t quite decided on a routine since school started. We’ll see if I continue to get up to workout through the winter….


Can of Wild Planet Sardines and Soup (just like last week)


(I started eating lunch with people instead of alone and it was too awkward taking a picture, lol)

Anyways, when I got home from work it was beautiful out so I took the dog for a run. When I got back I inhaled two carrot pumpkin muffins (turned cookies) from the 21 Day Sugar Detox.



I can never make muffins because they ALWAYS stick. Please let me know if you know of a muffin tin that doesn’t stick!!! When I use papers they stick to the papers……usually it’s the coconut flour.

For dinner we ACTUALLY DIDN’T HAVE CHICKEN. Meatloaf made with beef and beef liver, green beans from the summer and a pumpkin-cauliflower mash was on the menu. How do you make pumpkin cauliflower mash!?!?!? Glad you asked!


pumpkin cauliflower mash


Pumpkin Cauli-Mash
Serves 2
A great, savory way to enjoy the seasonal favorite.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
  1. 1 1/2 cups fresh roasted pureed pumpkin (or canned...but taste will probably be blander so add more spices!)
  2. Half a head of cauliflower
  3. 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or ghee)
  4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1/2 tsp black pepper
  1. Prep cauliflower by breaking it into florets. Place it in a saucepan and cover with water.
  2. Let the cauliflower come to a boil and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the cauliflower and place it in the food processor with the rest of the ingredients.
  4. Process until creamy and enjoy!
  1. I roasted and pureed my pumpkin before hand. It's quite easy if you find some instructions online. If you use canned pumpkin for this recipe I would add more spice because I envision canned pumpkin being a lot more bland.
Pencils and Pancakes
Can’t forget dessert (like I did last week). Another pumpkin treat…..pumpkin bars from Elena’s Pantry. Soooooo good. I can foresee these being made again next week.


Lots of pumpkin, lots of deliciousness.

Do you know of any  muffin tins that are good to use with coconut flour?

Do you take pictures of your food in front of people??


Gardening Mistakes

As the gardening season comes to an end, I’m left with relentless squash plants, amounts of canned pickles that we’ll never get through, and big plans for what NOT to do next year.



I’m not saying that my garden was a failure or anything, but this year I had an approach like “plant as much as possible and see what happens”. I dug it all by hand. I planted things way too closely. And I planted too much of things. Live and learn! And that’s what I’m doing….every year will get better and now I know next year not to make these mistakes:


1. Planting too closely. I planted nearly my 25 tomato plants all in about a 3X5 area of the garden. Looked good initially, but once they grew to full size they just suffocated each other and the neighboring pepper plants.

tomato plants 

2. Less peppers. I will do the hot peppers again because those are fairly abundant, however I got a whopping total of 3 (or 4?) bell peppers from the many I planted and had growing since March. They’re just not good for our climate.

3. LESS SQUASH. Probably two-three plants would suffice. I had about 8-10. It wasn’t enough to start a roadside stand, yet it was way too much for us.


4. Need to plant winter veggies like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, more potatoes, carrots and possibly beets. This year I was all about tomatoes and peppers and never really thought that maybe I should do some crops that would store easier.

5. Plant lettuce in the spring. Lettuce is something I buy organic so it can get really pricey. Why not plant my own? The reason I didn’t this year was because I thought it would be too hard to do organically with all the bugs. But my kale plants this year were one of the biggest producers and Austin doesn’t even eat kale.


6. Rent or get a roto-tiller. I need a bigger garden. I can’t dig it all by myself again!


I really enjoyed being able to grow my own food and preserve it by canning or freezing. If I go into next year with a better plan and actually figure out how much of each thing I will need and have sufficient space, I can really maximize the food savings once the growing season ends.

What gardening mistakes have you made?