Pumpkin Spice Muffins Recipe – Gluten Free, Dairy Free

???????????????????????????????I’m constantly searching the web for new recipes.

However, I rarely follow the recipe exactly as is.  Instead, I make changes based on what we have on hand and what my kids like as well as our food intolerances.

I was looking for a simple muffin to make for my kids using ingredients on hand, and I found this recipe for Pumpkin Muffins.

Here’s how I changed it to make the recipe our own.  (The kids loved the muffins, and so did I!  We’ll definitely be making these again.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins


1/2 cup coconut sugar

3/4 cup coconut oil, melted

3 eggs

1–14.5 oz. can pumpkin puree

1 1/3 cup gluten free flour (I used Namaste Gluten Free Perfect Flour Blend)

2 to 3 tsp. pumpkin spice (you may want to use more for a stronger taste.)

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda


-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

-In a bowl, combine the melted coconut oil (make sure it has cooled a bit), coconut sugar, eggs, and pumpkin puree.  Mix until blended and smooth.

-In a separate bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin spice, salt and baking soda.  Mix well.

-Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir well.

-Grease a mini muffin pan and fill with the batter.

-Bake for 20 minutes.

-Makes 36 mini muffins.


How I Feed My Family of 5 for $6,500 a Year–Week 19 (May 8 – May 14, 2015)


Well, another grocery cycle, another over budget situation.

The good news is that we’re stocked up, so, well, here’s to planning on coming in under budget for the next several weeks.

This year, I’m aiming to spend $6,500 total for food for my family.  That amount includes groceries only, NOT toiletries.  We rarely eat out, so the food I buy to prepare at home is what we eat.
Since my husband is paid bi-monthly, the goal is to spend no more than $500 every 4 weeks.  (I don’t calculate the amount spent on a monthly basis but on an every 4 week cycle.)

We try to eat organic veggies and fruit as much as possible, and we try to buy meat that is grass-fed and organic.  We have multiple food intolerances, with the biggies being gluten, corn, and dairy.

Here’s what we bought from May 8th to May 14th:

Azure – $93.30

I don’t think I’ve ordered from Azure since January because we simply didn’t have the money in the grocery budget.  But, that was short-sighted thinking.  We don’t buy much junk food, but we do like to feed the kids Beanitos with either salsa or guacamole as an afternoon snack.  At Sprout’s, Beanitos cost any where from $2.99 to $3.29 a bag, and we can wipe out a bag in two days.  At Azure, the bags are just $2.10 each.

The truck was delayed, so I didn’t get my order until 9:30 at night.  I was too lazy to unbox everything, but we got

  • 12 bags of Beanitos,
  • 6 boxes of Barbara’s Brown Rice cereal, and
  • 12 pkgs of Food for Life’s brown rice tortillas, plus the other things not in a box.


Sprout’s – $23.77


Trader Joe’s – $24.33


TOTAL this week: $142.00

TOTAL for this 4 week cycle: $527.20

Remaining for this 4 week cycle: $-27.20

Remaining from the 1st 4 week cycle: $8.65
Remaining from the 2nd 4 week cycle: $1.76
Remaining from the 3rd 4 week cycle: -16.40
Remaining from the 4th 4 week cycle: -289.81

Total Deficit or Surplus for the Year: $-295.80

A Recap of This Series:

Week One $241.72

Week Two $185.88

Week Three $59.80

Week Four $28.95
TOTAL for Cycle One: $516.35 (My mom stayed with us for a week, so we raised the grocery budget to $525 to compensate.)

Week Five $378.48

Week Six $57.47

Week Seven $53.80

Week Eight $8.49

TOTAL for Cycle Two: $498.24

Week Nine $323.25

Week Ten $106.62

Week Eleven $40.28

Week Twelve $46.25

Total for Cycle Three: $516.40
Week Thirteen – $271.56

Week Fourteen – $360.39

Week Fifteen – $84.68

Week Sixteen – $123.81

Total for Cycle Four: $839.81 (My mom stayed with us for two weeks, so we raised the grocery budget to $550 to compensate.)

Week Seventeen – $205.09

Week Eighteen – $180.11

TOS Crew Review: FishFlix.com’s Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition

FishFlix.com Review
Louis Zamperini.

After Laura Hillenbrand’s 2010 best seller, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption which inspired Angelina Jolie to bring the story to the big screen, I wonder if there is anyone who doesn’t know Louis’ story.

What a wonderful, inspiring, painful story it is.

FishFlix.com Review

FishFlix.com has brought viewers the DVD of the movie, but even better, they’ve also included over 90 minutes of bonus content on the life of Louie Zamperini in their new product, Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition ($19.97).

About the Movie Unbroken

If you do not know his story, Unbroken can be difficult to watch.  (Even if you do know his story it can be tough to see the action live on the screen.)  Zamperini lived an amazing life.  On the fast path to juvenile delinquency when he was young, Louie’s older brother trained him to run on the track team.  Louie had a natural knack, and he even went to the 1936 Olympics.  Thanks to his fast sprint at the end of his Olympic race, Hitler asked to meet Louie.

Louie volunteered to serve in World War II where he survived many near death experiences, including spending 47 days at sea on a life raft after his plane crashed.

Yet, that was just the beginning of Louie’s story.  His real test of strength came when he entered a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

The book Unbroken was amazing to read.  (You can read my book review here.)  But the movie, wow!  I’ve never been so impressed with Angelina Jolie’s work before!  From the moment the movie starts I was on the edge of my seat even though I already knew the story.

About Unbroken The Legacy of Faith

Many Christians who saw the movie Unbroken were disappointed that much of Louie’s religious life was excluded from the film.  Of course, the film does show him praying, and the concluding words after the film is over talk about Louie meeting Billy Graham and finding God.  Still, for those who would like more, the FishFlix.com Bonus DVD is just what you’re looking for.

The DVD contains four sections.

Coming Full Circle.  This is Louie’s 15 minute exclusive CBN interview in which he shares the highlights of his life.  Zamperini is a bit younger in this interview than in his other ones, so it’s nice to see him in a different stage of life.  The last 25% of this interview is when Louie reflects on his religious beliefs.

Faith Lesson.  This 3.5 minute clip shows shots of the movie along with brief appearances on screen with Angelina Jolie and Louie.  While the shots of the movie play, Angelina Jolie and Louie’s voices play over explaining his story and the movie.

Captured by Grace.  This inspirational message was created by The Billy Graham Evangelical Association.  Louie recounts key moments of his life and in the end, he takes a visit to the Billy Graham Library where there is a recreation of Graham’s location in Los Angeles where Louie was saved so many years ago.

Louie & Laurie.  In this  nearly one hour long interview, Pastor Greg Laurie interviews Louie Zamperini.  What I loved about this interview is that Louie had a chance to show his humor.  Even though what he was discussing was very serious, he was able to bring laughter to me and the live audience.

My Experience with Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition

I saw the movie in the theater when my mom was visiting in December, but my husband missed it because he had to watch the kids.  We were both excited to get this review.  As luck would have it, the Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition came when my mom was visiting again, so the three of us watched the movie.  Neither my mom nor I minded watching the movie again, and my husband really enjoyed it.

Afterwards, we watched the interviews together.

My Thoughts on the Unbroken Legacy of Faith Edition

I loved the book, the movie, and the interviews that FishFlix.com compiled to supplement the movie DVD.

But, only the book goes on to say what happens to Louie AFTER he finds God.

The bonus content FishFlix.com includes is very good.  I loved seeing Louie being interviewed and hearing his story in person.  However, he finds God at age 32, and he lived to 97.  There is a 65 year window there, and I want to know what happens to him in those years.  How did he go on to honor God and help others?

Thanks to the book, I do know the answer to this, but my husband, who watched the movie and bonus content but did not read the book felt that this material was essential to Louie’s story and should have been included.

I also would have liked to have known more about Louie’s pilot in the war, Phil.  This would have been an interesting contrast to show since Phil was already a devout Christian during World War II.

Overall, I would highly recommend FishFlix.com DVD of the movie and bonus content, especially for those who would like to know more about Louie’s conversion to faith.

I was one of 100 reviewers to review a variety of FishFlix.com’s titles.  To read more reviews, click on the icon below.

FishFlix.com Review
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TOS Crew Review: Homeschool Legacy’s Westward Ho! Part II

Homeschool Legacy Review

I know many people use unit studies in their homeschool, especially if they teach multiple children. However, up until this review, I had had no experience using unit studies. Boy, was I missing out!

Homeschool Legacy Review

The kids and I recently had the opportunity to review Homeschool Legacy‘s Westward Ho! Part II. I chose this curriculum out of 12 other unit studies including Knights and Nobles and Weather on the Move in particular because Bookworm just finished a history curriculum that ended in the 1840s, so this unit study seemed to be a natural fit.  Even though the unit study is for children in grades 2-12, I was able to use it with my Kindergarten, 1st and 6th grader with some modification.

More about Homeschool Legacy’s Once-A-Week Unit Studies

Homeschool Legacy’s once-a-week unit studies are set up to be used primarily one day a week.  The author, Sharon Gibson, suggests that you read one of the suggested books throughout the week but that you do the bulk of your unit study work on one day of the week when you put the rest of your regular curriculum aside.  The author’s family does this on Wednesdays.

Homeschool Legacy’s once-a-week unit studies can also be used for Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls to earn their merit badges.  Westward Ho! Parts I and II can be used for Boy Scouts’ Journalism Badge and for American Heritage Girls’ Our Heritage Badge.

This program is Biblically centered and includes suggestions for books to read, movies to watch, and activities to do throughout the unit study.

They are available in physical book format (which we received) or digitally.

More about Westward Ho! Part II

Homeschool Legacy Review

As the name implies, this unit study is the second part of a two part unit study.  The first one is Westward Ho! Part I.  Even though we didn’t use the first one, the second one stood independently, so we had no trouble using it.  There were some references to Westward Ho! Part I, but nothing that affected our understanding.

This unit study is 4 weeks long, and each week has a specific theme:

  • Week 1:  Gold Rush!
  • Week 2: Life on the Prairie
  • Week 3:  The Great American Railroad Race
  • Week 4: Cowboys and Cattle Drives

Our Experience Using Westward Ho! Part II

Simply put, we loved this unit study!!

Since two of my kids are on the young side for this unit study, we didn’t use it as Sharon Gibson suggested.  Instead, for four weeks we set aside our regular history and reading work and used the materials suggested in Westward Ho! Part II instead.

As it happened, each week of the unit study had natural breaks.  For instance, week 1 had the following subsections:

  • Family Devotional
  • History/Geography
  • History/Research
  • Government/Research
  • History/Economics/Language/Life Skills

We simply tackled one of these sections each day of the week.  For the sections that required research, I asked Bookworm to do that for his work and the girls skipped it.

For the read alouds, I chose a book that would be easy enough for the girls to read.  (Homeschool Legacy offers many book suggestions for each week and also recommends the book based on three different reading levels–young reader, mid-level reader, and older reader.)  The books for family read alouds always came from the young reader suggestions.  I then also assigned Bookworm to read one book during the week for a mid-level reader.

During this four week unit study, we read together:

  • Gold Fever! Tales from the California Gold Rush
  • Riding with the Mail: The Story of the Pony Express
  • Railroad Fever: Building the Transcontinental Railroad 1830-1870
  • Read about Annie Oakley

The girls and I also read Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Independently, Bookworm read:

  • Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild
  • Mr. Blue Jeans: A Story about Levi Strauss
  • Ghost Towns of the American West
  • Shooting for the Moon: The Amazing Life and Times of Annie Oakley

The unit study also had suggestions for family movie night, so we watched a PBS documentary on Annie Oakley and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

???????????????????????????????There were plenty of fun activities suggested, too.  One that we tried and the kids loved was making a sod house out of brownies and melted chocolate chips.

Simply put, we loved this unit study and learned a lot!

Last Christmas, I was looking for a unit study about Christmas, but I couldn’t find one I like.  Now, however, I know where I’ll buy my unit study this Christmas because Homeschool Legacy sells Christmas Comes to America.

If you enjoy unit studies, or, if, like me, you haven’t tried them yet, I highly recommend Homeschool Legacy.

I was one of 100 reviewers reviewing a variety of different unit study titles by Homeschool Legacy.  Click on the icon below to read more reviews.

Homeschool Legacy Review

Crew Disclaimer

Strategies to Keep Your Grocery Bill in Check

d5d31a7a9bf244cf9da03d0c316734b6This is a guest post from a blogging friend, Jeff, at Sustainable Life Blog.
At the end of February, I logged into my favorite financial tracking software and started digging through the numbers for the month. After scrolling through regular numbers for most categories, I got to the food category, and found what I had feared. Between me, my wife and our 1 year old daughter, we spent more than $800 on food in March.
Yes, that’s a lot, and way above our normal.
It was time to figure out why, and what I found was fairly simple to fix (thankfully). I figured I’d share that tip with a few others that I’ve been working on and hopefully help you lower your grocery spending – it brought ours down quite a bit for March, and seems to be the one thing we should focus on that will bring us the greatest results.

Make a Plan

As simple as this sounds, it has been the key to our success. When we do meal plan, we eat foods that we choose and are a reflection on our values and health goals. When we don’t meal plan, we eat whatever we want with no thought, and typically our health goals get thrown out the window. It’s shocking to me that this one thing is that critical, but it is. We’ve gotten into a system that helps us manage our meals and eat better, and here’s what we do.
We go to the store once a week, typically on Sundays. Before we go, I look up recipes for the week and try to use what we have in the freezer with what I’m looking for. While I’m doing this, I add the ingredients that we don’t have to a grocery store app on my phone (groceryIQ), and I add each dinner to a Google calendar that is shared with my wife, with a link to the recipe that is supposed to be cooked that night. This allows each of us to know what is for dinner and also allows whoever gets home first to start cooking dinner.
Having a plan cuts out the “What’s for dinner?” question.  Because the meal is planned (and the food is bought) when our healthy eating goals are front and center in our mind instead of pushed to the side in the interest of time, we eat healthier. When we don’t play, we typically spend money that we’d rather spend elsewhere on food that’s not good for us – the ultimate lose-lose situation.

Buy In Bulk

The next big money saver can be buying in bulk.
Part of our higher than normal expenses for February were from bulk purchases. Whenever meat that we eat a fair amount of or frozen veggies goes on a deep discount, we usually buy as much as we can. This has resulted in quite a few amusing trips to the store, one where I bought 15+ lbs of salmon and 12 lbs of bacon in one trip, as well as a few pork shoulders for good measure. I spent quite a bit of cash, but now the freezer is full, and we should be able to lower our food spending over the summer.

Obviously, this doesn’t work with everything, but for non-perishable food items (or things that can be frozen), it may be the best way to go. In a busy household, things tend to run out fast, so buying a large amount at once may not be such a bad idea. Buying in bulk should be something you can do quite easily, making it a no-brainer to buy in bulk and save some money.

Get Some Go-To Meals

This is something that we are still working on, but we have a few in our back pocket to help bail us out when something falls apart with the meal plan. If we are both starving or if there’s not enough time for what we do have planned, we have found that we need to have some go-to backups so we can still eat healthy. The key to these is that you need to have the ingredients on hand at all times, so this can become really limiting because of that. Right now we only have 2 meals that meet this criteria, but we are working on getting more all the time.

We have used these tactics to bring our grocery bill back to around $350 per month for a family of 3, which I think is a reasonable amount. I know there is more to be done here, but we will work on getting a few more go-to meals and then move on to the next thing that can help us save some money in the kitchen.

This post was written by Jeff, who writes at Sustainable Life Blog. Sustainable Life Blog is about saving resources, keeping your cash and using it to buy your freedom.