Safe Fast Food: Dye-Free Dining at Arby’s

The second restaurant in our “Safe Fast Food Series” is Arby’s, aka my favorite restaurant in college.  Who am I kidding?  I craved their delicious roast beef long after college!

Arby’s was the first restaurant I looked at when we went dye-free.  I remember literally breathing a sigh of relief when I saw that my cherished Classic Roast Beef Sandwich, while admittedly not super healthy, was free of artificial colors. But that was three years ago….

I’m sad to report that my favorite sandwich is no longer dye-free.  Guys, I don’t think you understand, I’m genuinely sad about it.  It was my fall-back fast food meal.  I’m so bummed that I’m going to write them a letter.  I don’t have high hopes it’ll change anything, but a girl’s gotta try!

I used to think this was the BEST DEAL EVERRRR!

I used to think this was the BEST DEAL EVERRRR!

I’m not sure why Arby’s changed over the past few years.  There are a lot more food dyes now, specifically in their breads. And for a sandwich place, that means most foods are off limits.  😦

That said, there are still some pretty good TBHQ/BHT/artificial color free options.

Our Top 5 Picks:

1. Grand Turkey Club

2. Roast Beef Mighty Minis

3. French Dip (just don’t dip it in the artificially colored, chemical-laden Au Jus)

4. Roast Turkey Chopped Farmhouse Salad (leave off the cheese, which has annatto)

5. Ham, Egg, and Cheese on Sourdough or Croissant or Biscuit or Wrap

 

There may be even more choices if you can get them to switch out the bread on your sandwich.  Here’s a list of the breads that DON’T have dyes: Whole Grain Wrap, Sub Roll, Sourdough Breakfast Bread, Mini Bun, Croissant, Breakfast Biscuit, Flour Tortilla*, and King’s Hawaiian Buns*.  The last two have asterisks because they contain BHT.  I’d like to make a special note that the King’s Hawaiian rolls you buy at the grocery store do not have BHT in them, just these ones specially made for Arby’s.  Honestly, I feel a little disappointed in King’s Hawaiian, but I’ll probably forgive them because they’re just SOOOO delicious!

kingsarbys

Here is the full list of dye-free Arby’s Food (* contains TBHQ or BHT):

ENTRÉES:
French Dip (don’t eat the Au Jus!)
Grand Turkey Club
King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef Sandwich*
King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef Max Sandwich*
Prime-Cut Chicken Tenders*
Roast Beef Mighty Minis
CONDIMENTS:
Arby’s Sauce
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
Buffalo Dipping Sauce
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Horsey Sauce
Ketchup
Marinara Sauce
Mayonnaise
Ranch Dipping Sauce
Spicy Three Pepper Sauce*
SIDES AND DESSERTS:
Apple Slices
Curly Fries*
Homestyle Fries*
Jalapeño Bites*
Potato Cakes*
Apple Turnover
Cherry Turnover
Chocolate Chunk Cookie*
BREAKFAST:
Chicken Biscuit*
Ham, Egg, and Cheese on Sourdough or Croissant or Biscuit or Wrap
French Toast Sticks*
DRINKS:
Bottled Water
Caprisun Juice
Chocolate Milk
Coffee
Milk
Orange Juice
Sierra Mist

 

And finally, the list of food you can get if you leave off ONE thing:

ENTRÉES:
Roast Turkey Ranch and Bacon Wrap (no cheese)
Roast Turkey and Swiss Wrap (no mustard)
Crispy Chicken Chopped Farmhouse Salad* (no cheese)
Roast Turkey Chopped Farmhouse Salad (no cheese)
Chopped Side Salad (no cheese)
King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef and Swiss* (no mustard)
King’s Hawaiian Roast Beef and Swiss Max* (no mustard)
BREAKFAST:
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on Sourdough or Croissant or Biscuit or Wrap (no cheese)

 

Overall review: Arby’s isn’t as great as it used to be, but still provides a few meaty meals that haven’t been fried in terrible preservatives. For that reason I would recommend eating at Arby’s over McDonald’s.

Ending with this because it made me chuckle.  :)

Holy Roast Beef, Batman!

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Safe Fast Food: Dye-Free Dining at McDonald’s

One of the first things I did upon going dye-free was scour fast food restaurant ingredient lists online.  We probably eat out with the kids once a week; usually as a treat for being cooperative at the store on grocery day.  Even if you don’t do fast food regularly, it’s always helpful to know what you could safely consume if you had to eat there.

This is the first in a series of posts I’m going to do on all the major fast food restaurants.  I figured McDonald’s was the best place to start, because it’s EVERYWHERE.

I want to preface this post by saying that we do not eat at McDonald’s any more.  Ever.  Almost all of their meats and fried foods contain BHA or are prepared in oils with TBHQ – both are horrible preservatives (this is why their food doesn’t decompose).  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  I won’t even get into dough conditioners or all the other nasty preservatives they use.  Of all the fast food places I’ve looked at, they are by far the worst.

All this said, if we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no other food options, here is a list of all the dye-free things we could potentially eat at McDonald’s.

Our Top 5 Picks:

1. Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait.

2. Side Salad with one of these Newman’s Own dressings: Creamy Southwest, Balsamic Vinaigrette, or Ranch.

3. Fruit Smoothie: Blueberry Pomegranate, Strawberry Banana, or Mango Pineapple.

4. Coffee: regular ol’ hot coffee, a plain iced coffee, or a plain latte.

5. Hotcakes with strawberry preserves, grape jam, or honey.

Pretty underwhelming, right?  Well, there’s not much to choose from if you’re avoiding everything with bad preservatives.  Honestly, if it was me, I’d grab an iced coffee and tide the kids over with a parfait or a smoothie and book it to the next gas station for some healthier food.

Here’s the full list of dye-free foods (* contains BHT or TBHQ):

ENTRÉES:
  • Quarter Pounder Bacon Habanero Ranch*
  • Hamburger*
  • Grilled Onion Cheddar*
  • Premium Chicken Classic Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Club Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • McChicken*
  • Buffalo Ranch McChicken*
  • Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken*
  • Bacon Cheddar McChicken*
  • Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich*
  • Bacon Clubhouse Chicken Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  •  Premium Chicken Classic Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Club Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Premium McWrap Chicken Sweet Chili (Crispy or Grilled)*
  • Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips*
  • Chicken McNuggets*
  • Spicy Chicken McBites*
  • Mighty Wings*
Breakfast Foods:
  • Sausage Biscuit*
  • Sausage Biscuit with Egg*
  • Sausage Biscuit with Egg Whites*
  • Sausage McMuffin with Egg Whites*
  • Southern Style Chicken Biscuit*
  • Big Breakfast*
  • Big Breakfast with Hotcakes (no syrup)*
  • Big Breakfast with Egg Whites*
  • Big Breakfast with Hotcakes and Egg Whites (no syrup)*
  • Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Bagel with Egg Whites
  • Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit with Egg Whites
  • Hotcakes (no syrup)
  • Hotcakes and Sausage (no syrup)*
  • Cinnamon melts
  • Hash Brown*
Snacks, SIDes, and Condiments:
  • Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait
  • French Fries*
  • Apple Slices
  • Side Salad
  • Newman’s Own Creamy Southwest Dressing
  • Newman’s Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Newman’s Own Ranch Dressing
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Honey
  • Grape Jam
  • Strawberry Preserves
  • Whipped Margarine
Drinks and Desserts:
  • Milk
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Apple Juice
  • Orange Juice
  • Dasani Water
  • Sprite
  • Iced Tea
  • Sweet Tea
  • Coffee
  • Iced Coffee (regular, no syrups)
  • Latte (regular, no syrups)
  • Non-Fat Latte (regular, no syrups)
  • Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie
  • Strawberry Banana Smoothie
  • Mango Pineapple Smoothie
  • Vanilla Ice Cream (in a cup, not a cone)
  • McFlurry with OREO Cookies
  • McFlurry with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

If it’s not in that list, it has artificial colors.  I went through every line of their 34 page ingredient listing thoroughly.  If you’d like to check it out the specifics for yourself, here’s the McDonald’s Ingredient List PDF.

As a kid I hated condiments.  I quickly learned that at fast food places you can usually omit ONE thing and they’ll still get your order right most of the time.  With that in mind, here’s a list of all the items you could make dye-free by leaving off one thing (and in parenthesis what that thing is):

Entrées:
  • Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no cheese)*
  • Quarter Pounder Bacon & Cheese (no cheese)*
  • Quarter Pounder Deluxe (no cheese)*
  • Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no cheese)*
  • Double Cheeseburger, aka McDouble (no cheese)*
  • Bacon McDouble (no cheese)*
  • Daily Double (no cheese)*
  • BBQ Ranch Burger (no BBQ Ranch Sauce)*
  • Bacon Clubhouse Chicken Sandwich – Crispy or Grilled (no Big Mac Sauce)*
  • Fillet-O-Fish (no cheese)*
  • McRib (no McRib sauce)*
  • Premium McWrap Southwest Chicken – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium McWrap Chicken and Bacon – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium McWrap Chicken & Ranch – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Ranch Snack Wrap – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Chicken – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
  • Premium Southwest Salad with Chicken – Crispy or Grilled (no cheese)*
Breakfast Foods:
  • Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit (no cheese)
  • Steak & Egg Biscuit (no cheese)
  • Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Bagel (no cheese)
  • Steak, Egg, & Cheese Bagel (no cheese)
  • Sausage Burrito (no cheese)*
DRINKS:
  • Caramel Frappe (no caramel drizzle)

 

This burger was cooked in TBHQ.  That's why it doesn't decompose.

Burgers cooked in TBHQ laced oils don’t decompose normally.

Everything with an asterisk (*) in the lists contains BHT or TBHQ.  If you scroll back through the list you’ll notice that the majority of foods listed have an asterisk.  TBHQ has been linked to ADHD, asthma, dermatitis, rhinitis, DNA damage, cancer, and messing with women’s estrogen levels.  BHT is shown to have negative effects on the liver and is linked to many of the same issues as TBHQ: cancer, allergies, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and biochemical or cellular level changes. For more on why avoiding these preservatives is important, check out these articles:

BHT: The Harmful Food Additive in Your Everyday Diet

TBHQ: Why This Preservative Should Be Avoided

 

I’m working on putting together PDFs for each of the fast food restaurants with lists of all their dye-free foods.  Then you’ll be able to print them out, make a little book, and keep it in your car or purse as a reference when you’re eating out.  Should be awesome if I can motivate myself to finish it off at night when the kids go to bed!  Easier said than done.  😉

But soon it will exist!  And when it does, it’ll be so special it’ll have its own post.  So keep following for updates!

Quick and Comforting: Crème Brûlée

Comfort foods.  We all have them.  And as long as it’s done in moderation, I am all about them.  I mean God gave us tastes buds for a reason.  If food’s sole purpose was nourishment, why make so many different tastes and aromas and textures?  Because He wanted us to ENJOY it!

Food can be an almost spiritual experience.  Our favorites can make even our worst days feel instantly better.  If I’m having a rough morning and you bring me a mocha or some cheesecake, we’re pretty much going to be BFFs for life.  That’s how food works for me. Let’s get real, that’s how food works for most of us.

comfort food quote

That’s why I’m going to share this ridiculously easy recipe for crème brûlée.  This along with bread pudding and homemade salsa are my husband’s favorite comfort foods.  If I know he’s having a bad day, I try to make sure he’s at least got a delicious dessert to look forward to after the kids go to bed.  One secret to a happy marriage: know your partner’s comfort foods.  Nothing builds relationships like the giving of tasty foods.  Okay, maybe there are a few other important things that help build relationships, but treat giving should definitely be on that list!  🙂

I wish I had known 20 years ago how quick and simple crème brûlée is to make.  Mind you the whole process takes a few hours, but the parts that involve you actually doing stuff  is only about 15 minutes all together.  I think we all have 15 minutes to devote to creating this indulgence.  Totally worth it, I promise!

Most of the store-bought crème brûlée mixes I’ve seen have caramel coloring in them (plus a lot of extra junk that is completely unnecessary).  It’s also not a whole lot faster.  So this is a dye-free version you can safely enjoy with the kids. If you feel like sharing with your kids…I’ll be honest, we usually don’t. We might be terrible parents.  Jury’s still out.

Anyway, sharing or not, all you need are these four ingredients: heavy cream, vanilla, egg yolks, and sugar.

creme brulee ingredients

This recipe is for two (because, like I said, it’s usually just for us), but can be easily doubled or tripled if you like.  Crème brûlée is an awesome dish to whip up for dinner guests.  It keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days (just save the caramelizing step for when you’re ready to serve it).  So make it ahead of time and then impress the heck out of your friends with dessert.  They’ll love you for it.  You’ll love you for it.  Everybody wins.  Yay!  Now, on to the recipe.

First, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

Bring a pint of heavy cream and a teaspoon of vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.  When it has just started bubbling (usually takes 6-7 minutes), remove it from the heat and allow it to cool down for around 10 minutes.  For the record, I do other things like dishes, dealing with kids, etc during these in-between waiting times.  It makes it feel like a quicker recipe when you’re not just standing at the stove waiting for stuff to happen.

simmer cream and vanilla creme brulee

While the cream is cooling, whisk together 3 egg yolks and 1/3 cup of sugar.  If you want to flavor your crème brûlée (with orange, lavender, lemon, cinnamon and so on) add what you want to this mixture now.  One of my favorite variations is chocolate; just mix in a half tablespoon of chocolate powder.

whisk yolks and sugar creme brulee

If you’re still waiting for your cream to cool, you can go ahead and prepare the ramekins and water bath.  Lightly grease a couple ramekins with coconut or olive oil (6 to 8 oz ramekins work well for two servings).  Place them in a glass baking dish, then fill the dish about half way up with hot water.  If you get it too full, it will be difficult not to spill as you move it in and out of the oven.  You want the water to be at least a third of the way up the side of the ramekins, like mine pictured below.

water bath creme brulee

Next, mix your cream and egg mixtures together, stirring until well blended.

mix cream and eggs creme brulee

Pour this mix into your prepared ramekins, and put the whole water bath in the oven.

water bath creme brulee

Bake it for about 40 minutes.  You want it to be set, but still a little jiggly in the middle.  When it’s done, take the water bath out of the oven.  Let the whole thing cool to room temperature (about an hour) before you remove the ramekins.  They look like this when they’re done.

cooked creme brulee

If you like your crème brûlée warm, then serve them now.  If you want it to really set up and chill properly, then cover the ramekins with saran wrap and stick them in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight if you’re making it ahead of time).

That’s all there is to it if you want it plain (and yeah, sometimes we do, because we just can’t wait!).  But, after all, crème brûlée means “burned cream” – and it’s just not the same without that caramelized sugar to top it off.  Now, you can get all fancy and buy a mini blow torch or a tiny branding iron to do this part, or you can do it the not-cool way (like me) using the broiler in your oven.

Cover the surface of your crème brûlée with sugar.

sugar caramelize creme brulee

Stick it in the oven about six to eight inches away from the broiler.  It doesn’t take long for the sugar to caramelize, only two or three minutes.

broiler caramelize creme brulee

Keep a close eye on them, and turn the dishes if necessary so they caramelize evenly.  I doubt that truly “burned cream” tastes very good; so take them out when they start to look burned, don’t leave them in long enough to actually be burned.

caramelized sugar creme brulee

**Important note** If you had your ramekins in the fridge, let them warm up on the counter for at least 30 minutes before you put them under a broiler or they may crack.

comfort food creme brulee

There it is.  You worked hard for it (well, hard for like 15 minutes, right?).  Dig in!  You deserve it.  🙂

To Be Known Is To Be Loved: Why Christians Should Take Personality Tests

In Junior High I was obsessed with taking all those little quizzes in teen magazines. I think, like most crazy adolescents, I was desperate to create an identity for myself. Well, I must have done one too many What’s the best perfume for your personality? tests, because by the time I graduated from high school I thought personality profiling was a total joke.

I’d guess that’s probably how most people feel about it. That profiles are equivalent to those generalized horoscopes in the newspaper that could fit anyone if they really wanted it to. It’s totally understandable as there are a lot of poorly done personality tests and profiles out there. Many of them make people feel stereotyped in very negative ways. Introverts, for instance, are pegged as not liking other people, which is untrue. Or thinkers are perceived as unfeeling machines; also not true.

Labels can be very hurtful and off-putting. Nobody wants to be typecast, especially as something they are not. Probably explains why most people avoid taking personality tests in the first place. But I’ve come to see that personality tests can actually do the opposite. I believe if you truly understand your God-given personality, it is liberating. And furthermore, if you learn how to love other people for who they really are, it can free them too.

We all chain ourselves with fears. Fears that we are too different or needy or incompetent or unfeeling or inadequate or unlovable. Fear that who we are at our core is not how we should be. Love breaks those chains. We need to learn how to love the people in our lives as individuals. What better place to start than with understanding the way they were made to operate!

I’m speaking from a Christian point of view. I believe when God gave us LOVE as the greatest command, this is part of what he meant. We cannot truly love if we do not understand. Yes, we can do loving acts without full understanding.  There’s definitely a place for that.  But for people to know deep, changing, earth-moving love they need to be understood and accepted as they are.

tobeknownistobelovedkeller

Even if you do not hold the same beliefs as I do, I’m sure you can agree that the people you know have their own tendencies. Maybe your brother is really sensitive to criticism, and everyone knows they have to treat him with kid-gloves – “That’s just the way he is.” Or maybe your mother randomly breaks out into song at the grocery store – “That’s just the way she is.” Or perhaps that girl you work with just won’t stop talking and talking and talking – “That’s just the way she is.” Or maybe your son flies into a screaming, crying rage because he can’t get his boots on (like mine) – “That’s just the way he is.” I think you get the picture. People do weird, annoying things. But they’re mostly weird and annoying to us because we don’t understand why they’re doing them.

Let’s seek to understand.

I’m sure most of you have heard of the Myers-Briggs test; it’s the one with all the letters, like INTJ or ESFP. This mother-daughter team, Myers & Briggs, compiled a list of questions aimed at identifying people’s four key personality characteristics based on the work of famous psychologist Carl Jung. They started working on it during World War II to help women entering the workforce for the first time identify what sort of jobs they would be good at. There’s your mini-history lesson for the day. 🙂

myersbriggs

In my research, I found the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to be the most accurate both for myself and for the people in my family. Unfortunately, I also found that most MBTI personality tests are ridiculously easy to manipulate. That is, you can get the outcome you want instead of an accurate one. Usually this is done subconsciously, because people give answers for the way they would like to be instead of the way they are. In my experience, the most reliable results came from looking at each of the personality traits and deciding if it fit or not.

Even this can be confusing, because most people have a little bit of each trait in their personality. Therefore, it can be tricky to determine certain letters in areas where you are very moderate. I think things get muddled further because as adults we’ve learned (hopefully) socially acceptable behavior, and we’ve suppressed or changed ourselves to fit into our environments a little better. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what behaviors have been learned and what behaviors are our true selves.

But look at kids. They’re pretty straight forward. They haven’t learned to filter themselves yet. If you have children in your life you’ll know what I mean. When they’re mad, you know it. When they’re sad, you know it. When they’re excited, you know it. BUT those emotions play out differently for each child. With my kids, when J is mad he’s scowly and defiant. When Z is mad all hell breaks loose – he throws stuff, screams, growls, cries, stomps, etc. When J is sad he may shed a few tears and go off my himself. When Z is sad he weeps uncontrollably and gets very clingy. Any guesses who our extreme feeling child is? 🙂

Since it’s so obvious with children, let’s all think back to how we were as children. Doing that for myself unclouded the mystery that had been surrounding all this personality stuff in my mind. I found a book on child personality identification that has been extremely useful (with both kids and adults). It’s called Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child’s Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger.  Our local library had it, but I wound up buying a copy because it is an excellent reference book for parents. If you have kids, you should get it.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Nurture by Nature:

So many of the conflicts we experience with our children have little to do with what is happening, and everything to do with the way it is happening.  By insisting that our children do things the way we do them, we undermine their natural inclinations and communicate criticism rather than acceptance and approval.  Wherever possible, we ought to save the corrections for the big things and let the little things go.

I can’t overstate how helpful it has been as a parenting tool. It goes through the major stages of childhood (baby, preschool, school age, adolescence) for each personality type, and gives practical advice for helping your child through the challenges of each stage. It’s simple things like the most effective way to communicate with them, and the areas they are most likely to struggle in.  For me, this advice has also been helpful for learning how to relate better to adults of other personality types as well.

Nurture by Nature does an excellent job detailing each of the eight personality traits. I’ve tried to summarize each one for you.  Most of it is based on information I’ve gathered from different sources pertaining to children’s personalities. If you want some detailed examples, you should definitely check out the book. Have I said that enough times yet? 🙂 There are also some online resources that you may find helpful. My favorites are 16 Personalities and The Personality Page.

Alright, moving on to the good stuff: type determination.

There are four groups of extremes; each on a sliding scale.  You need to figure out which side of the scale you land on. When you’ve done this you’ll end up with a four letter type.

The trait groups are Introvert (I) – Extrovert (E), Sensing (S) – Intuitive (N), Thinking (T) – Feeling (F), and Judging (J) – Perceiving (P).  Don’t let the connotations you may have for words like “judging” sway you.  Try to read the descriptions objectively and decide which way you lean. Keep in mind that you’ll probably relate to descriptions from both extremes, but try to think about how you are in most situations.

I found it helpful to draw the little scales myself and mark where I thought each person in our family landed. But don’t feel pressured to do all the odd things I do… 🙂

Here we go!

Introvert or Extrovert: Which way is your energy typically directed?

I —————I————— E

Introverts: Energy is naturally directed inward toward own thoughts.  Feel energized after withdrawing from other people and thinking alone.  Drained by too much interaction, especially with large groups of people.  Prefer one-on-one playing with familiar people.  Usually reflect on information before speaking or acting.  Like to get thoughts out once they have been fully thought over.  More selective about activities that interest them, and are very passionate about their hobbies – they become “specialists” on a subject.  Tend to be perceived as shy or aloof in new situations, but really they just take longer to feel comfortable speaking up or joining in (like to wait and watch).

Extroverts: Energy is naturally directed toward other people or things.  Feel energized by being around other people.  Tend to get overexcited by too much interaction, and need to talk to someone to process it and calm down.  Usually louder children and vocalize/talk all the time.  Think while speaking, so can easily lose train of thought if interrupted or have to wait to speak (they are very frustrated by this and tend to interrupt other people so they don’t forget their own thoughts).  Don’t like to play alone for long.  May have behavior problems in school, because it is hard for them to sit still and be quiet for long periods of time (need interaction to stay focused).  Do first, reflect later – can appear very confident.  Jump into new situations; eager to play with anyone and often like being the center of attention.

Sensing or Intuitive: What do you naturally notice about the world?

S —————I————— N

Sensing: Learn primarily through the five senses.  Understanding of world is based on past experiences; need routines more than non-sensing children.  Like to have examples to follow in new situations or with unfamiliar projects.  Like to do things step-by-step, and work at a steady pace.  Excellent memory for details and facts.  Tend to be pickier eaters or have strong aversions/preferences regarding fabrics and smells.  Enjoy tactile stimulation: playing with water, mud, clay, sand, etc.  Have themed collections and/or a “lovey”.  Engaged by lots of action; bored by discussion of rules/ideas, just eager to start playing.  Prefer to play by the rules and/or use skills they’ve already mastered. Much more “in their body”.

Intuitive: Focus mostly on meanings and connections they perceive.  Like variety and learning new things; become bored quickly with routine/repetition.  Always looking toward the future – fantasize about the way things could be; less realistic sense of how things actually are (may be perceived as liars when ignore conflicts between fantasy and reality).  Don’t usually act in a step-by-step fashion.  Tend to be more imaginative, and are creative problem solvers.  Unconventional thinkers (may be frustrated/hurt if people are not enthusiastic about their ideas or say they are unrealistic).  Have eclectic “collections” of prized possessions (meaning behind the object is more important than object itself).  Make things up as they go along; love pretend play and making up new games (like discussing rules/ideas at length).  Prone to changing up the rules of a game.  Much more “in their head”.

Thinking or Feeling: How do you instinctively make decisions?

T—————I————— F

Thinking: Mainly consider unbiased information and logical consequences when making decisions (can still care immensely for people, just don’t base their decisions on their feelings or how it will make others feel).  Detached and analytical (step back and weigh pros and cons).  Tend to question rules to ensure they are fair and logical.  Do not like inconsistency.  Hate/do not accept “because I said so” answers.  Must respect someone before they can trust them. Highly value directness, clarity, dependability, competence, sincerity, and honesty.  May seem blunt, thoughtless, heartless, or selfish; struggle to have empathy.  Easily upset by unfairness; do not like favoritism.  Objective, assertive, and opinionated; will stand up to older people if challenged.  Generally not as good at expressing emotions; can appear to be cold or unaffected (though this is not true).  Usually like math and science best.  Enjoy competition.  Form opinions independently, and stick to their guns.

Feeling: Mainly consider how a decision will effect others or themselves, and if it feels right.  Personal and subjective.  Very upset if their decision results in another person’s unhappiness.  Have a strong desire to be liked; work hard to maintain harmony in relationships. Eager to be in contact with other people. Feeling loved and/or appreciated leads them to trust; usually admire and respect anyone they trust, even if not deserved.  Physical contact and affection are extremely important for their proper development.  Value kindness, tact, and gentleness.  Absorb tension from other people’s conflicts.  Easily upset by unkindness, raised or harsh voices, rejection, criticism, and confrontation.  Very empathetic; difficult for them to ignore other people’s problems.  Usually like humanities and social studies best.  Tend to be uncomfortable with competition.  Want to know/evaluate others’ opinions before they form their own; more susceptible to peer pressure.

Judging or Perceiving: How do you organize your world?

J —————I————— P

Judging: (This does not mean judgmental.) Very comfortable making decisions, and like when things are decided.  Prefer things to be structured, organized, and planned.  Uncomfortable with the vague and unknown.  Feel anxious when things are unsettled.  Don’t like many changes once plans have been made.  Transitions can be more difficult.  View time as fixed and inflexible; concerned with how much time they have to do something.  Usually don’t waste much time and try to be prompt (anxious when late).  Rules give comfort and security.  Tend to be compliant; may “police” others who are not following the rules.  Ordinarily respect authority and fall in line as children, and almost always rebel to some degree as teens.

Perceiving: More comfortable with the process of gathering information to make decisions than actually making the decisions.  Spontaneous, impulsive, and comfortable with the unexpected. Eager to explore.  Feel anxious when choices must be made; do not like eliminating options.  Frequently run out of time to make a decision and so avoid having to make it.  Overwhelmed by too many choices.  Live in the moment; very flexible.  View time as bendable, endless, and renewable; not concerned with timeliness or deadlines.  Always asking for “one more minute”.  May not be good at finishing what they started.  Resist limits, and constantly test them – see them as roadblocks to their explorations.  Question or forget rules.  Tend to think it is easier/better to ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission.  Easy-going; somehow seem to get out of discipline either with good excuses or charm/humor.

That’s it.

What were your results?

There are 16 possible combinations of all the letters.  Hopefully you’ve been able to figure out a type for everyone in your family.  If you are still on the fence with a certain letter for someone, you can read the type descriptions you’re torn between (I like 16 Personalities type descriptions best) and decide which one is more fitting. Below, I’ve listed some titles given to each personality, for our family they all seemed very fitting.

16personalities mbti

ESTJ: Playing by the Rules. The Guardian. The Overseer.

ESTP: Look, Mom! No Hands! The Doer. The Persuader.

ESFJ: Let’s All Be Friends. The Caregiver. The Supporter.

ESFP: Social Butterflies. The Performer. The Entertainer.

ENTJ: Leader of the Band. The Executive. The Chief.

ENTP: Everything’s Negotiable. The Visionary. The Originator.

ENFJ: A Thousand Watts of Enthusiasm. The Giver. The Mentor.

ENFP: A Great Idea? I’ve Got a Million of ‘Em. The Inspirer. The Advocate.

ISTJ: Being a Kid Is Serious Business. The Duty Filler. The Examiner.

ISTP: Making Sense of Things. The Mechanic. The Craftsman.

ISFJ: A Promise Is a Promise. The Nurturer. The Defender.

ISFP: Gentle Free Spirits. The Artist. The Trend Setter.

INTJ: Creating Perfectionism. The Scientist. The Strategist.

INTP: Question Authority. The Thinker. The Engineer.

INFJ: My Secret Garden. The Protector. The Confidant.

INFP: Taking Everything to Heart. The Idealist. The Dreamer.

to be known is to be loved

Understanding personalities has changed our lives in many practical yet significant ways. Most importantly, it has enabled us to know and love each other more deeply.

God made us all different for a reason.  Every single person on this planet sees things from a unique perspective.  God designed it that way so we would grow to know him better by knowing each other.  Christ and the apostles all emphasized the importance of community.  One of my favorite hymns growing up had this refrain, “We are many parts. We are all one Body.  And the gifts we have, we were given to share. May the Spirit of Love make us one in deed.”  Let’s stop suppressing our God-given natures and abilities, and start sharing them and loving other people for sharing theirs.  Then watch how the world grows.

I’ll leave you with some words (pictured earlier in the post) to ponder as your mind continues to marinate in all this personality stuff:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial.  To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.  But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.  It is what we need more than anything.  It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.

Celebratory Cafe Bread Pudding

I call this dessert “celebratory” because we only have it on special occasions.  That said, sometimes our special occasion is simply that I remembered to buy all the ingredients and our kids are resting long enough for me to make it.  Hey, no one said you had to wait for a birthday or a holiday to celebrate something.

There’s a restaurant in our town that makes to-die-for bread pudding.  My husband drools just thinking about it. He raved about it so much that I felt it necessary to try to recreate it at home.  But my first few attempts fell short.  Like, WAY short.  Not surprisingly, the restaurant had a policy of not sharing their ridiculously amazing secret recipes (I can’t say I blame them; it’s gotta be a huge money-maker).  So I resorted to interrogating the waiters about the ingredients every time we went.  Piece by piece I managed to put the recipe together.  Once I perfected it, my husband warned me I should only make this on “special occasions” or he’d be putting on a lot of unwanted pounds.

Speaking of celebrating, yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary.  Woohoo!  So it was clearly the perfect time to whip up some bread pudding.  As the old saying goes, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  And, because I love him so, I wanted his heart to be full.

My bread pudding only takes seven ingredients – 1 cup half and half, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 2 large croissants (or 5 King’s Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls), and some berries (not pictured, but either fresh or frozen will do).

bread pudding ingredients

A note on the ingredients: If you don’t have heavy cream or half and half, milk works too.  It just won’t be as rich or creamy.  Also, store bought croissants are generally not dye-free.  You can make croissants at home, but it is somewhat labor intensive.  A local bakery may have fresh croissants, just double check that they’re really dye-free.  The ones in my picture have a tinge of yellow dye.  A huge bummer, but since we have it so rarely (and it was just for us, not the kids) we decided it was worth it. King’s Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls work fabulously too, and are dye-free.

You’ll want to start this at least 90 minutes before you want to eat dessert.  It doesn’t take long to prepare, but you have to factor in cooking and cooling times.

Bring your half and half and heavy cream to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool.

simmer

While you’re waiting, grease your serving dishes (I use coconut oil in some ramekins).  Then layer in pieces of the croissants (1 croissant, or 2 1/2 King’s Hawaiian rolls, per ramekin) and berries.

Croissants.

Croissants.

Blackberries.

Blackberries.

More croissants.

More croissants.

More blackberries.

More blackberries.

Whisk together your eggs, sugar, and vanilla.

egg mix

Once your milk mixture has cooled for a few minutes, slowly stir it into the egg mixture.

milk egg mix

Pour this egg-milk mix over your bread and berries, and push the bread down so every piece is fully covered.  Then sprinkle a little sugar on top.

soak bread pudding

Let them soak for at least 15 minutes while you prepare a water bath and let your oven heat up to 325.

bread pudding water bath

Carefully put it in the oven on a middle rack.  Try not to get your water bath too full or it’ll be hard not to spill.

bake bread pudding

Let it bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and puffed.

cooked bread pudding

When your bread pudding is fully cooked, let your serving dishes chill out on a cooling rack for a while.  They are oh so delicious warm, but if you eat them straight out of the oven you will get burned.  Trust us.  We were a little too impatient once…

cool bread pudding

Now keep in mind, there’s a reason this recipe makes two large servings: you will NOT want to share.  I purposely made this recipe so you won’t have to.  Now go have an indulgent time celebrating with someone you love.

husband

My husband doesn’t like having his picture taken, but I managed to sneak a shot of him happily finishing off his anniversary bread pudding.

***UPDATE***
I tried the recipe with King’s Hawaiian Savory Butter Rolls and it tasted amazing! You can find King’s Hawaiian at Target, Wal-Mart, and most grocery stores. So glad we found a cheap, dye-free alternative to croissants! Woohoo!

Fabulously Fast French Toast Casserole

Ahhh, cinnamon.  We all know it smells amazing.  But did you know it’s really good for your brain too? Just a whiff has been shown to boost your memory, attention span, and visual-motor speed.  I don’t know about you, but after a long day with the kids I could sure use some help in those departments.  Truthfully, with an infant in the house, some days I need help all day.  We’ll sprinkle it in our coffee grounds or on our oatmeal in the morning to help us wake up.

And that’s just the smell.  Now if you actually eat cinnamon you get even more health benefits.  It has amazing anti-viral and anti-microbial properties (traditional Chinese medicine has long claimed ingesting cinnamon is one of the best ways to ward off a cold).  It also helps control your blood sugar levels by making the stomach empty more slowly after meals. That means your blood sugar won’t spike so dramatically; in fact, some studies have shown it to be more effective than certain diabetic medications.

Pretty neat stuff, that cinnamon.  Hey, want a quick little recipe you can just pack full of as much cinnamon as you can stand?  I got one.  We’ve been eating it weekly around here this winter.  It’s easy to throw together for dinner, and it’s fantastic for feeding a crowd at breakfast when you have house guests.  (P.S. Kids devour it!)

Alright, let’s get cookin’ on this delicious, dye-free, cinnamon-filled French toast casserole.

Preheat your oven to 375, grab a 9″x13″ baking dish, and gather your ingredients: bread, milk, eggs, butter, berries, vanilla, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.

ingredients

You’ll need somewhere between a third to half a loaf of bread.  Any bread will do.  French toast was originally developed for using up stale bread, which you can usually get super cheap at grocery stores and bakeries. (Midwest friends, Jimmy John’s day old bread is only 50 cents a loaf! Yum!)  I usually use whole wheat sandwich bread, because it’s what we have on hand.

Tear up your bread into roughly square inch large pieces.  Put the bread into your greased baking dish.  You want it to be full to the brim, but not much higher than that since it will puff up a bit while baking.

bread

Next, whisk 6 eggs with 2 cups of milk until well blended.  Stir in a 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon (you can adjust this amount depending on how strong a taste you want), 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

whisk

Pour your egg mixture over the bread.

pour

Now press the bread into the egg mixture (I use the side of a measuring cup or a spoon so my hands don’t get dirty).  You just want all the bread to be wet.

press

Let the bread soak in it’s little egg bath for at least 10 minutes.  While you’re waiting you can put on the topping.

Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of sugar and about two teaspoons of cinnamon evenly over the top of the casserole.

topping1

Then dot the whole thing with little pieces of butter.  If you use a spreadable butter for this (versus a stick of butter) it’s much easier.

topping2

Finally, shower on some berries.  Fresh or frozen.  Any kind you like.  They all work.  Or you can omit the berries.  Or use nuts instead.  Or use both berries and nuts.  Get crazy!

topping3

You can do all this the night before if you’re making it for breakfast.  Just make sure you let the dish sit out on the counter for at least half an hour, so it can warm up a bit before you throw it in the hot oven to bake.  Otherwise it may crack.

Once your oven is hot and your casserole has had adequate soaking time, pop it in the oven.  Let it cook for about 40 minutes.  It should puff up a couple inches above the brim of the dish, and the sides will be a nice golden brown when it’s done.

french toast casserole

golden edges

Serve it while it’s nice and hot.

french toast casserole 2

This dish smells SO good!  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  Plus, your house will smell wonderful and everyone in it will get a little brain boost to defeat that late afternoon drag.  Win-win-win.

A couple tips and tricks for my fellow busy mamas:

I try to get the egg mixture made and the bread torn up during nap time.  Just keep the egg part in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the rest.  Saves some time.  You can even go ahead and make the whole thing during nap time and put it in the fridge until later.  As I said before, just remember to let your dish warm back up a little before you put it in the oven.

My favorite side for this dish (okay, for anything) is bacon.  What’s handy is I realized that if you bake your bacon on a foil lined baking sheet at 375, it is done in roughly the same amount of time as this casserole.  It was meant to be.  To cut out the nitrates in bacon, get an uncured kind.  I buy Farmland All Natural Uncured Bacon (Hy-Vee) and Simply Nature Applewood Smoked Uncured Bacon (Aldi’s).  Both are great….but is there really such a thing as bad bacon?

bacon

If you’re feeling especially nice and/or fancy, adding a little whipped cream is always a crowd pleaser around here.  I’d say I was doing it for the kids, but I’d be lying.  I’m pretty sure we want it more than they do!  🙂

french toast casserole whipped cream

Bobby Flay Would Never Hire Me: How to Cook an Omelet

Think your eggs are adequate?  Bobby Flay would probably tell you to think again.  In fact, he’s said that he won’t hire anyone at his restaurants who can’t make a good omelet.  That’s how basic and essential a cooking skill he thinks it is.  I felt so ignorant.  Here I was thinking I was a decent cook.  I had no idea just how poorly I was making my breakfast until I saw him make an omelet.  Holy cow!  Talk about a game changer!

This life lesson came about one afternoon when all three of my boys were miraculously napping at the same time.  I put on a random episode of Bobby Flay’s Throwdown (I love cooking shows!) while I sat down to eat some lunch.  Initially, when I saw it was about omelets, I thought it was going to be lame.  But then I saw him make an omelet. That’s not how I made my omelets…  His looked incredible.  It couldn’t be that easy.  Since I had some free time, I gave it a shot.  AMAZING RESULTS!  I was hooked.

So I just had to share it with you.  In case you too are longing for a better breakfast.  A special thanks to Bobby Flay (who will likely NEVER see this) for the life changing lesson in cooking!

Let’s get to it.  Turn your burner on to medium-low heat.  Grab a pan and grease it.  I use butter because, yum, it’s butter.

butter

Crack open some eggs.  Lately I’ve been doing three, but I’m nursing a baby so I’m extra HUNGRY.  🙂

crack eggs

Whisk up those eggs so the yolks and whites are fairly well blended.  (You can also do this in a bowl and then pour it in the pan if you want an even fluffier omelet, but I don’t like making extra dishes.  I don’t even use a whisk, that’s how much I hate getting extra things dirty.)

whisk

Let it set a bit until the very bottom starts turning white.  While you’re waiting, it’s a good time to sprinkle on some salt and pepper if you’re into seasoning.

wait

Don’t let it get too firm.  The next step is to scrape the cooked eggs and mix them around with the uncooked parts.  Almost the way you would if you were going for scrambled eggs.  What you’re wanting to do is push up the firmer parts and redistribute the uncooked parts onto the bare pan to cook.

scramble

Let the eggs cook until they aren’t very jiggly anymore (yep, super technical terminology here).  Then slip your spatula around the edges to loosen it.

cook

Now flip it.  Bobby likes to do a fancy throw in the air to flip his omelets, but for the rest of us a regular old spatula flip will do the trick.

flip

Let it cook another minute or two until the eggs are cooked through.  You can lift and check the underside if you aren’t sure on the timing.  While you’re letting it cook, throw on your fillings.  I used bell peppers, mushrooms, and mozzarella in this guy.

filling

When the eggs are cooked and your cheese is melted, gently fold it in half.

fold

Slide your omelet onto a plate.

plate it

Now dig in!  Cut up some fruit, grab a handful of nuts, steal some of your kids’ Bunny Grahams, and you’ve got yourself a beautiful meal.  And a tasty, healthy, filling one at that!  🙂

breakfast

If your eggs already looked like this, you’re awesome (and light years ahead of me in life skills).  But if your eggs look less appealing than this, I challenge you to try it the Bobby Flay way.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Here’s the episode I watched via Amazon Instant Video: Bobby Flay Throwdown: Omelets.

If you want to see the master at work, here’s a YouTube video of Bobby making an omelet.  He does it a little differently and at a higher heat than he did in the throwdown, but both ways work.

Go make yourself some eggs!