Hi, I am Rebecca and I am the lady blogger behind the scenes here at Prairie Pepper. I just recently started blogging and I love it! I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I love to cook and create crafts from scratch. Every day I have new ideas for recipes or something I can make for a party, gift or just to make life easier around the house. I wanted to be able to share my simple ideas so I started this blog.
Most of my recipes are low in sugar and high in nutritional value. I am constantly reinventing traditional recipes to make them healthy yet still taste amazing. I have found that when you use the right ingredients together, you do not have to sacrifice good taste for health. My recipes use simple ingredients and are easy to make.
I hope my blogs help make your life easier and yummier! Thanks for stopping by!
Currently I am a stay at home mother of a 7 year old energetic life loving boy. I recently closed up shop on an online handmade accessories business I created 6.5 years ago. The business featured neckties, bow ties, children dresses and skirts just to name a few. All the items were created by hand, by me in my home. I had taught myself how to sew and created all the templates I used from scratch. I am grateful the business was a huge success and it kept me extremely busy. I have a passion for all things creative and the business was an amazing outlet for me to use my creative juices.
Closing the business was a bitter sweet thing for me. I was excited for new ventures but sad to stop something that had become part of my identity. Many wonder why I would shut down something that I loved and that was so successful. In a nutshell the business became too much like a sweat shop, the creative process had fizzled and I was no longer enjoying what I was doing. It is hard to continue with something once the fire has burned out. I felt like I needed to move on to something else that inspired me.
I have always loved cooking. I attribute my love for cooking to my Grandmother. My Grandmother came to the United States from France when she was a young lady. She is currently in her 90’s and still cooks everything from scratch. She uses almost every ingredient she can from the extensive vegetable garden my Grandfather tends to in their backyard. As a child I remember being fascinated watching my Grandmother cook in the kitchen. She had a process for every recipe and her food was more like art than just something to eat.
When I went off to college, I acquired my own place and I bench mark this at the point in my life when my love for cooking really increased. I would spend hours in the kitchen pining over recipe books. I loved experimenting with different ingredients, seeing what would work and what would not. While most of my college friends were eating Ramen noodles for dinner, I was cooking up four course meals. Hosting dinner and dessert parties quickly became a cherished past time.
I graduated from college with a BA in Environmental and Growth Management Studies. I also went on to complete an MBA in Marketing. For most of my professional life, I worked in education. Before my son I was a database coordinator for the fundraising department at a private college. I cherished my time in the professional world. After my son I was sad to leave my position but I was (and still am) grateful to be able to spend so much quality time raising my son. Each day with him is a gift.
My Health Driven Journey
I have always been a fairly healthy eater. My parents instilled healthy eating in me as a small child. We never had soda, sugar drinks, candy or anything else considered to be junk in our house. My mother would let my sister and me choose our own cereal at the store, however, we had to check the ingredients and if sugar was the first or second ingredient we could not get it.
About a year and a half ago my business became extremely successful and the workload quickly buried me. I kept thinking I could handle the volume myself and thus plunged myself into becoming an around the clock workaholic. Most days I was hauled up in my studio, constantly cutting, gluing and sewing. I would only taking quick bathroom breaks and eat while I was sewing. I did not have time to focus on what I was eating or how much of it. Most of the foods I grabbed were quick fix, already prepared, highly processed foods.
I would not say that I gained weight as I have never been one to weight myself (feel the scale can be a bad judge of health). I will say, though, that my clothes started to feel tighter, my skin was splotchy, I was exhausted all the time, and I just felt like overall blah. I knew the way I was eating and what I was eating was greatly affecting how I was feeling and looking. Making a change was very much needed at this point in my life.
Since the craziness of my business was the root of my unhealthy lifestyle, I knew changing my business was the first step in the right direction. I pulled back on my product lines and where my products were offered online. Decreasing the amount of sales was what was needed to decrease the amount of time I spent creating in my studio. Thankfully the business quickly slowed to a manageable level and I was able to focus on the other areas in my life.
My next step in my healthy overhaul was to look at what I was eating and how much of it I was consuming. I did a major clean swipe of our refrigerator and pantries. I pitched everything and anything that was considered junk. The internet became my go to source for healthy recipes and food ideas. Whole Foods and Chamberlains became my “go to” grocery stores. I wanted to provide myself and my family with the proper nutrition through healthy eating.
After several months of eating better, I started to feel and look better. Once again my energy levels were up, my pants fit comfortably and I regained the glow I had lost. The change I felt and saw inspired me to go even further with my overhaul. I knew that adding exercise into my routine was the next step. I have never, ever been a person to exercise. In fact I was always anti-exercise. I dreaded PE in school and thought people who exercised seriously needed to get their head checked. My frame of thought was that I would only run if something was chasing me and my life depended on it.
My first stab at exercise was to try out biking. I immediately fell in love with biking. I loved the endorphin rush I would get from biking. It was like a nature high that kept me feeling energized the whole day. Biking at least a couple times a week quickly became part of my daily routine. The increased glow I had experienced with eating healthy only grew stronger with exercising. To this day I still bike and have incorporated weight training into my weekly routine as well.
The majority of my recipes are meant to be healthy versions of traditional recipes. I like to experiment with food and find different ways to make basic recipes. I have found that you can take a dish known for being unhealthy, switch it up, make it healthy and not lose the taste and texture in the process. Making recipes healthy does not mean giving up taste for you and your family.
In addition to my healthy recipes, you will also find what I like to define as “Off the Rocker” recipes. They are in a sense the Ying that completes my Yang, which would be my healthy recipes. These recipes are ones that I have created for use at parties and other group settings. I understand most people do not eat the way I do and thus when I created dishes for the masses, I do not make them extremely healthy. The recipes are meant to be crowd pleasing, no holds barred and over the top.
My “Off the Rocker” recipes are not for the individuals who are diet/health conscious. They stray from my usual use of healthy and no/low processed ingredients. I thought, in the beginning, when I created this blog I would just stick to posting my healthy recipes. But after some consideration and because I have so many people asking me for the recipes for the dishes I provide, I decided to incorporate my “Off the Rocker” recipes in my blog. There are special times that call for special dishes and these recipes fit that bill. They are by no means meant to be eaten every day and are designed to be for special occasions. Should you wish to make a healthier version of the dish, I do include instructions on how to do that at the bottom of every “Off the Rocker” recipe.
Low or Sugar Free
You will find the majority of my recipes are either low sugar or sugar free. Pure Stevia extract is my preferred sugar substitute. There is are a lot of opinions out there on Stevia. Some believe it is healthy to consume, while others believe it is harmful. As with most things, I have spent hours (if not days) combing through the data on Stevia. I believe that Stevia (in its pure form) is safe to consume and so I use it daily. Stevia has a sweet (though bitter to some) taste. Pure Stevia extract comes from the leaves of the Stevia plant. It is 200 times sweeter then table sugar. It will not raise your insulin levels and in some cases it can actually lower them. Stevia has been shown to have the same filling effect as sugar and thus will not cause you to overeat like some of the other non-caloric artificial sweeteners can lead you to do.
I try to limit my intake of artificial ingredients, so manufactured no-calorie sweeteners like saccharin, sucrose (Splenda) and aspartame are out of the question for me. In addition to Stevia, there are other natural low calorie or no calorie sweeteners. Many of the low calorie natural sweeteners are sugar alcohols like erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol (just to name a few). While these sugar substitutes are good options I, unfortunately, cannot consume these sugar alcohols, even in the smallest amount. My system does not agree with sugar alcohols and I blow up bigger than a float at the Macy’s Day parade!
If you do not like Stevia or would prefer to use sugar, I have included instructions in my recipes on how to do that. If you do want to use Stevia in your recipes I suggest that you use pure Stevia extract. Not all Stevia extracts are created equal. The majority (if not all) of the Stevia extracts you will find in the store have fillers in them to give them bulk. These fillers can include sugar alcohols or dextrose (from corn). Since I cannot use sugar alcohols and prefer to limit my use of starches, I purchase my pure Stevia extract online from Nuts.com. I am not endorsed by Nuts.com nor do I get paybacks from them, I just believe they offer the best pure Stevia extract for the best price. If you are on a food budget (like I am) and want the best bang for your buck, then the pure Stevia extract Nuts.com offers is the best out there. Since the extract is pure (no added anything) you only need to use the very smallest amount. It is stronger than the Stevia extract you will find in the grocery.
Low in Bad Fat
Thankfully there is a backlash on the 90’s trend of low fat recipes and products. People and food producing companies are starting to realize that not all fat is created equally. Good fats are needed in a healthy, balanced diet. Good fats come from coconut, avocado, nuts, seeds, lean meats, whey, fish, certain oils and soy. Bad fats come from certain oils, fried foods, shortenings, certain cuts of meat and milk products. I tend to be a person of moderation so I do not cut bad fats out completely from my diet, but I do tend to opt for good fats over bad fats when given the choice.
You will find majority of my recipes are low in bad fat. I like to substitute butter for unsweetened applesauce. I find unsweetened applesauce actually gives my recipes more moisture, texture and flavor. With regards to oils, I like to keep all oils (good and bad) to a minimum. I do this not really for caloric reasons but because I find my body does not agree with a regular amount of oil. For most of my recipes you will find I have two (if not several) versions. One of my recipes will have oils and the other recipe will have little to no oil. I do this because I realize not everyone’s body is like mine and can accept oils normally. I include both recipe versions so that you can choose which one best fits your lifestyle and eating habits.
Alternative Flours and Grains
For a period in my life I was gluten free. I went through a series of health issues and thought gluten might be the root of the issues. After an extensive time on the gluten free diet, and with no improvement in my health issues, I determined I did not have gluten sensitivity issues. I did, however, during this time grow to love gluten free food options like soy flour, puffed rice, millet, lentil pasta and oats. Because I love these items and because they do offer a wide variety of health benefits, I do incorporate them into my recipes any chance I get.
As with most of my recipes, not everyone shares the love I have with alternative ingredients, my husband and son being two of them. I cook on a daily basis for me and my family. If we are eating at home, I am always the one preparing the dish. Because my husband and son prefer traditional ingredients, like bleached flour, I tend to make a dish for them and then a variation of the dish for me. I try to incorporate healthier options for both of us as much as I can, but sometimes the battle is lost and thus I still have the bleached flour in my pantry at the ready.
High Fiber and Protein
When I started off on my quest to eat healthier I found that fiber was a huge component of a healthy diet. Fiber can do so much to help improve your body’s overall well being. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, makes things pass through your digestive system better, protect against some cancers and regulate blood sugar levels. Sources of fiber are easy to find and easy to add to just about any recipe. Choosing certain ingredients over others that have a high fiber amount is an easy way to increase the healthiness of a dish.
I exercise, in some fashion, every day. Because I exercise, my body tends to crave and need protein. In my recipes I try to incorporate high levels of protein whenever I can. I find protein gives me the strength and energy I need throughout the day. They are so many sources of good protein, whether from plant or animal, out there that incorporating them into any recipe is simple. For main dishes it is easy to add protein since the protein is usually the star or centerpiece of the dish. For baked goods, adding protein can be a bit more challenging. Some of my favorite sources of protein for baked goods are egg whites, Greek yogurt, soy flour and millet.
Kitchen Items I Love
A well-stocked kitchen is a huge asset when cooking or baking. Having the right utensils and tools can make or break your dish. Over the years I have narrowed down my list of what is best to have in the kitchen at all times. Some items are expensive (but worth the cost), while most are fairly inexpensive and easy to find.
– Food Processor/Blender. I have a Vitamix and I love it. I purchased it from Ebay so the cost was a fraction of what it would have been if I purchased it new. Having a good food processor is one of the best tools you can have in your kitchen. You will need one with enough power to be able to create amazing pudding, sauces, dips, soups, etc.
– Food Scale. All of my recipes are listed using measurements of cups, tablespoons and teaspoons. I do find, however, that using a food scale to measure certain things that cannot be measured using cups, like meats, can be useful in ensuring proper cooking.
– Parchment Paper. I use parchment paper to cook almost all of my baking goods in the oven. It is fairly inexpensive, easy to use and the clean-up is a breeze. I find that parchment paper cooks up my baked goods the best and I always have a couple rolls of it in my pantry. I also like the traditional Silpat. I like that it can be reused and is easy to clean. I do find, however, that sometimes it is inconsistent in how it cooks up my baked goods.
– Stand up Mixer. As a wedding gift we were given a Kitchen Aid stand up mixer. At the time I did not realize how much I would use the mixer. I pretty much use my stand up mixer at least a couple times a week. When recipes call for mixing for more than 2 minutes, it can really be a time saver since you can work on other things will the ingredients are mixing. I use my stand up mixer for mashed potatoes, kneading dough, mixing baked good ingredients and whipping cream (just to name a few).
My craft tutorials are meant to be easy, simple and fun. They are crafts I have created over the years both for my business (now closed), parties or as gifts for loved ones. I love creating new things and crafts is a perfect outlet for this. Some of my craft tutorials require sewing. I try to keep the sewing to a minimum and at its most basic level.
Most of the sewing that is in my craft tutorials can be achieved by hand sewing instead of using the sewing machine. I for one know how daunting it can be to learn and use a sewing machine. I am thankful I eventually learned how to use one, but also realize that most people do not know how to use one or are limited in their sewing machine capabilities.
As a self-taught sewer I learned a lot from watching online tutorials and browsing how to sewing lessons. I was extremely grateful that there were so many sites that offered free advice and tutorials. Having the craft portion on my blog is a way for me to give back to the craft community and to share what I have learned with others. My tutorials are free of charge and meant to be shared (just please make sure you link back to my site for credit).
Since I have a young son, who loves to do crafty type things, occasionally my craft blogs will feature a kid able craft. These crafts are designed to be basic so that they can be enjoyed by the whole family. The kid crafts have been kid tested and approved to ensure they are nothing short of pure fun.
Some Additional Notes
I am overjoyed when I get an email or comment from someone who tries one of my recipes and loves it. I love when my recipes are shared with others (one of the main reasons why I started this blog). I do ask, though, that if you do share one of my recipes that you link back to the original recipe. All of my photos were taken by me and please feel free to use any of them just as long as you give credit to my blog.
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