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My Story

I cannot even begin to tell you how far out of my comfort zone I am.  I have been asked by friends for years to start a food allergy blog, but was too afraid to do it.  Our middle child has multiple life threatening food allergies.  She is 18 now and not as severe with some of them as she used to be, but still anaphylactic to others.  I am not very good with technology.  Pencil and paper are more my speed, but after 25 years of marriage and learning to navigate food allergies, autism, keeping the neurotypical, non-food allergic child from feeling invisible (none of this perfectly, mind you)  I guess I have a lot to share.  So – here goes!

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My husband Steve and I have 3 children.  Madison is our oldest.  She is a recent college graduate and is currently in training for her first “big girl” job.  We are so very proud of her.  She has worked or volunteered, in some capacity, since she was 16 years old.  She has amazing compassion and love for her two younger siblings and has handled playing second fiddle to all of the medical needs with true grace.

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Lauren is our middle child and is in her first year of college.  Yes, it is a big challenge.  The university she attends has a rule for Freshmen to live on campus the first year.  She is anaphylactic to wheat, dairy, eggs and peanuts, so eating in the dining hall is not really an option.  We have kept her alive for 18 years by cooking the majority of her food.  She has still had to be injected with an epi-pen on 6 separate occasions, over the course of her life.  So, we chose her roommate carefully and received an accommodation to have a full size refrigerator in her dorm room to be able to hold all of her meals.  I make a weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners every weekend. It has worked very well for her college to be only an hour away.   We are so very thankful for Enjoy Life Foods and other companies like them that have come onto the scene over the last several years that have pre-packaged cookies and snacks that she is able to have.  Lauren is doing very well this year and just received notice of  making the Dean’s List this past semester.

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Our baby is Michael.  He is 15 years old.  He is funny, friendly and has the biggest heart of anyone I know.  I have learned many lessons from him over the past 15 years of his young  life.  I could tell things weren’t the same as with the girls when he was around 11 or 12 months old.  He would open up DVD cases and spin them.  He would line up toys and have a meltdown and a half if one of them was moved.  He did not speak.  All of my friends and our pediatrician assured me it was just that he was the baby and the girls spoke for him and that he would do things eventually.  If he had been my first child, I probably would have believed them, but he was not.  By your third child,  you know.  You don’t just take what anyone says and go with it because you think they know more.  I think even mothers of first-born children probably know.  Anyway, over the next 8 years we went through evaluation after evaluation.  We were told severe developmental delay, ADHD, sensory integration dysfunction (sensory processing disorder), and then finally what I knew all along and just needed someone else to see – Autism.  Of course,  before the official diagnosis at the age of 9, we still sought out help and therapy.  I had to teach him how to put his pants on and pull them up,  put his shirt on and put his shoes on.  Nothing came naturally like it had with the girls.  I vividly remember going to a parent-teacher store and buying beads and shoestrings to help him learn fine motor skills. I sat on the living room floor and put him sitting in front of me and dumped the beads and string onto the floor.  I took his hand in mine and helped him pick up a string and then a bead and put it onto the string.  You know that angry cry that little ones have when they don’t want to do something?  Yep.  That was Michael…and me, except my cry wasn’t an angry one.  It was one of heartbreak, that every little thing was such a huge struggle for him.  I could tell story after story just like so many other autism moms out there.  I tell you how we started out, not to make you sad, but to bring hope to those of you out there experiencing the same.  Michael is now in the 8th grade in public school.  He still has many struggles, but is doing remarkably well.  I cannot wait to tell you more about all of the progress he has made over the years and is still making and what all we have learned on this journey.

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Steve and I have been married for 25 wonderful years.  Does that mean each day has been wonderful?  Umm…no.   I can say, however, that I wouldn’t have wanted to do All The Things with anyone else in this world.  I look forward to sharing what all we have learned that has worked in our lives, family, marriage to hopefully encourage you as you tackle all the things of life.

 

Cindy

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The Not So Good Doctor

I have been approached by so many different people asking if I have seen the show, The Good Doctor.  Most people I talk with love it and say it is a great show and want to tell me about it because we are an autism family.  They have wonderful things to say about it.  How good it is.  How smart the main character is.  I have not seen the show.  I disagreed with the idea of it from the start, but didn’t say anything because I didn’t think anyone would understand or maybe they would feel that I was just being a negative Nellie.  With World Autism Awareness Day having just been celebrated in April, the social media profile picture frames reflecting awareness and acceptance, and now the new neurodiversity movement,  I just wanted to go ahead and put my thoughts out there.  Again, this is my opinion and I realize that everyone is entitled to their own.  So, continue to read, keeping that in mind.

My son, Michael, is 15 years old.  I knew he was autistic when he was around 10-11 months old.  He wasn’t officially diagnosed until the 4th grade because he tested right on the line, if you will.  He is high functioning.  He makes eye contact, is well spoken, and very affectionate.  Not what people think of when they think “autism”, but he wasn’t always so high functioning.   Actually, he was originally diagnosed as severely developmentally delayed with sensory integrative disfunction (sensory processing disorder).  Even though he was not diagnosed with autism until later in life, we still had him in different therapies and we have worked very hard with him throughout his life, so he has had several big improvements over the years, from not talking, not always making good eye contact, not having fine or coordinated gross motor skills and an inability to process emotions in an appropriate manner.  Because of the great strides he has made, at first interaction, many people do not realize that he is autistic.  This does not mean that he does not still have real struggles that he deals with on a daily basis.

My problem with a show like the popular one that is on now is this.  I have many friends with autistic children who are much more severe.  Some are non-verbal.  Some have days of rage and anguish and cannot vocalize it other than moans and screams.  Some autistic “children” are still not potty trained or have extreme gut issues, and are not able to understand, much less tell a parent what is wrong. I put the word children in quotes because some of them are in their 20’s and will need constant care for the rest of their lives.  Autism is a very broad spectrum.  Even though I believe that my son will be able to function and thrive in day-to-day life on his own as an adult, he still has obstacles to overcome due to his diagnosis.

Let’s look at some statistics located by doing a simple internet search.  Per the Autism Research Institute, just 10% of autistic people have savant tendencies.  According to ABC.com, the main character of their show, The Good Doctor, has autism and savant syndrome.  People who love the show seem to like its message of inclusiveness and have fallen in love with the main character.  So, how about the other 90% of autistic children/adults in the world?  The ones that will not be a surgeon or attorney or accountant.  1 in 4 children with ASD has seizures, according to autism-help.org.   That’s 25%.  According to the California Department of Education Diagnostics Center of Central California, as many as 50% of individuals with autism are non-verbal.  Now, if you look at autismspeaks.org, they say that 25% are non-verbal.  Either way,  I just feel that it is important that people who are not affected by autism on a daily basis have a true picture of what autism really looks like.

Honestly, we are going to have no choice but to address how the other 90% of autistic people will be cared for, seeing how the rate of autism keeps climbing. In 2004, 1 in 166 were found to have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to a CDC Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network document about the prevalence of the autism spectrum disorders in multiple areas of the United States.   As of March 2016, per the CDC website, 1 in 68 children has been identified with ASD.  1 in 42 boys.  I, personally, will not accept that.  I have no intentions of accepting that and I don’t want shows or groups encouraging us to just accept that autism is just a normal part of our world now and we should just accept it and that’s it.  No.  No.  Not awareness and acceptance.  Research and treatment.ousa-chea-552189-unsplash

 

The neurodiversity mindset has taken us by storm and it feels like it has split the autism community in two.  I realize that many high functioning autistic adults don’t like the idea of parents wanting answers and a reason behind their child or children being autistic.  I have read some pretty nasty comments on different threads of articles stating that we aren’t fit to be parents at all,  if we cannot love our children the way they are.  I want to set the record straight, once and for all on that statement.  I absolutely love my son with every fiber of my being and would never want to change his personality.  It is because of my deep love for him that I have worked so hard with him to help him develop new skills, so that he can be healthier and happier.  He was non-verbal when he was younger, which was extremely frustrating for him to communicate his needs and wants.   He had little fine and gross motor skills, which made it hard for him to color with a crayon, throw a ball, run, etc…  He struggled to fall asleep and stay asleep.  He was sick with strep throat and other illnesses a lot, which caused him to miss school and family gatherings.  He was lethargic with little energy.  He had dark circles under his eyes.  He also only played by himself when he was little.  Interaction with others had to be learned.  It was not automatic.  Most things were not.

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Today, thanks in part, to our research and reaching out for help by way of therapies, health supplements, reduction of toxins and inflammation in the body and brain, and other things, Michael is verbal and very well spoken.  He plays basketball with his friends in the youth group on Wednesday nights at church.  He is very healthy and has energy.  He sleeps better.  He has friends and with his fine motor skills, loves to draw.  He has also found a love for acting and singing in school musicals.  We, as his loving parents and siblings, are overjoyed with the skills he has learned and what all he is able to do.  Searching for answers to help your child is in no way unloving or unaccepting and in absolutely no way does it make us unfit to be parents.  Now, I am not saying that someone cannot be genetically predisposed to becoming autistic, when neurological toxins have overloaded the body, but I do not believe that autism is simply genetic alone.  My concern with the neurodiversity movement is this: Acceptance of autism as simply being diverse could negate the aspiration to find causes, solutions, and even a cure.  I am not saying not to accept people.  Clearly.  I am saying not to accept neurological damage as a new norm in society.

I just want to make it clear that the vast majority of autistic people are not savants, like the Good Doctor.  In my opinion, it is dangerous to paint such a limited picture of autism for those that do not deal with it on a daily basis.  I am very thankful that my son is high functioning now,  but I am also speaking for the many autistic children who are not, and for their parents, who are sleep deprived, exhausted, and needing support and answers, and truly just want their child to be healthy and strong.  That is not unloving and unaccepting.  That is devoted and caring.  Parents who would go to the ends of the earth, researching all the things, enduring all the things, and loving their child through all the things, to find anything that can help their child.  May we as a society never stop looking at all the things we can to help us each live our best lives.

 

Dear great nephews,

It was so nice meeting you.  I really enjoyed getting to hold you and watch you as you slept.  You are precious!  Psalm 139:14 says, You are fearfully and wonderfully made.  There are some things I think it is important for you to know.  Your family loves you very much.  Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.  Psalm 127:3

You are so tiny and brand new to this great big world.  Right now you sleep a lot and cry when you are hungry.  You are still getting used to being outside of the warm, comfy womb you occupied for the past 9 months, but soon you will be awake more often and learning to communicate and do all kinds of things.

Please be patient with your moms and dads as they learn how to take care of you.  They are new at this whole parenting thing and will do their best to keep up with you and your needs as you grow.  Your needs will be constantly changing.  While you are still babies, you will probably have times that you get frustrated because they won’t know why you are crying and what you want them to do.  As you grow, there will most likely be times that you will be frustrated and cry because they DO know what you want, but won’t let you have it because it isn’t what you really need…and further down the road, when you are older, there may be times that you think they just can’t possibly know what you need, because they are too old and just don’t understand.  Finally, the day will come when you walk out into the world as an adult and make your own decisions.

Life is an interesting journey with twists and turns, hills and valleys, and forks in the road.  Make the most of every opportunity.  Be kind and compassionate to others.  Be forgiving.  Smile often.  Dream big.  Laugh a lot, and count your blessings!  Delight yourselves in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4  We are so excited to watch you grow!

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  Winnie the Pooh

Adventure is out there! -Up

 

 

 

Hamburger steak w/onion and mushroom gravy, Yellow crookneck squash, Zucchini, and Purple hull peas

 

 

 

Our first meal with ALL of the vegetables from the garden!  Our tomatoes all got blight.  Our bell peppers didn’t produce, but the squash, zucchini, peas, beans, and okra have all done remarkably well.  We have a small garden.  It is a raised 10 x 12 space, but enough for us and we are very pleased with it.  It has been real hot this July, so this is probably the end of the squash, but everything else is flourishing.

For the squash and zucchini, I sliced an onion and sautéed in olive oil in a pan on the stove.  I then added thinly sliced squash and zucchini.  I salted and peppered to taste and put the lid on top and let cook.  The last thing I do is add a sprinkle of sugar.  The peas were also fresh from my garden.  I rinsed them off and placed them in a pot on the stove on high.  Right after I put them in the pot, I realized that I didn’t have an onion for the peas, so I improvised and used a tbsp of minced Phew! I then put two slices of Applegate Farms bacon in with the peas.  Salt and pepper to taste.  I let the peas come to a boil and then reduced the heat and let simmer until done.  Approximately 45 minutes.   See how I made the hamburger steak with onion and mushroom gravy below.

Hoping you are enjoying All the Things out of your garden this summer, as well!

Cindy

Hamburger Steak w/onion and mushroom gravy

1 lb ground beef

salt

pepper

garlic salt

1 onion sliced

8 oz baby Portobello mushrooms sliced

1/2 c water

1 tbsp arrowroot starch

  1. Mix ground beef with salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste.  Make into 4 patties.  Place in pre-heated cast iron skillet on medium.  Cook until nicely browned on each side.  Remove patties to plate and keep warm.

2. Place sliced onion in skillet and allow to turn translucent, 1-2 minutes.  Mix in                     sliced mushrooms with onion.  Stir with spatula, scraping bottom of skillet, as you              stir.

3. Put 1 tbsp of arrowroot starch in 1/2 cup of water and mix well.  Pour into skillet               with onions and mushrooms and stir to thicken.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Marriage- In light of All the Things

I have gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not I should write this post.  It is kind of putting it all out there, but my blog is about all the things.  Life is big and creative and messy and although I want to be pleasing to the eye, like an Instagram photo, I also want to be real and relatable.  So, if I haven’t scared you off yet, continue reading.  😉

If you read my post about our beach vacation, I was open about things being a little tense between Steve and me that week.  Honestly, they have been a lot tense for a while now.  We have been married for over 25 years.  We still love each other.  Things are just hard right now.  Any marriage that is perfect or happy ALL of the time, in my opinion, just isn’t real.  Don’t get me wrong.  We are a really good team.  We work extremely well together.  We are both quick to apologize and quick to forgive.  We can work around a kitchen and whip up a week’s worth of allergen free meals and get them delivered to a university an hour away in a flash.  We can work together to get the hours of homework done with our youngest.  We can work together smoothly without argument and get our daughter moved into her first apartment.  We can handle ALL the things of family life well together.

We are just in a new phase, stage, chapter – whatever you want to call it- of life.  Our oldest has started her first career job, moved into her first apartment, and is officially off the payroll now.  Our middle one, with the food allergies, is moving into an apartment for the remainder of her college life and will be able to do most of her own cooking from here on out.  She has been practicing all summer and she will have a kitchen to be able to do it.   Our youngest will be starting high-school in the fall.  He will be the only one living with us when the school year starts.  I thought that things would be easier, less hectic and that we would have more time for each other, as the focus for the last 25 years has mostly been the kids and their special needs, etc…  We DO have more time, however, we seem to be floating in different directions.  I have found myself with hurt feelings more and more often because our visions just don’t seem to line up anymore.

I have started reading a book called, The Power of a Praying Wife, by Stormie OMartian.  In the first chapter, she advises that love is diminished if we dwell on the negatives.  Love grows if we focus on the positive.  She encourages you to pray from the right heart and that it is impossible to truly give yourself in prayer for your husband without first examining your own heart.  I cannot expect God to answer my prayers if I harbor unforgiveness, bitterness, or resentment.  If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. Psalm 66:18   She states “God wants our hearts to be right so the answers to our prayers are not compromised.”

Hmm… thinking.  Mulling that over…

Sometimes, that’s hard.  What about when you feel he has been indifferent, or uncaring, or just makes you mad?  But what about me, Lord?  Don’t my feelings count?  Can’t I just pray for you to change him? If I’m honest, these were the first questions that came to my mind.  From reading just the first few chapters, I am learning that powerful and effective prayers come down to a matter of the heart.  God wants our hearts to be one with His.  He is waiting for me to lay all of my expectations and desires at the foot of the cross.  He wants to change me.  He wants to change Steve, too, but in His time and on His terms.  That’s hard because that means that I don’t have control over what happens.  I have to be patient and wait on the Lord.  I have to trust that All things work for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

Steve and I have talked about things, how we seem to be struggling right now and as my impatience with him has grown, his irritability with me has, as well.  Not a pretty picture, but honest.

ALL the things.

I started to say that sometimes it feels like it would just be easier to give up and start over, but that isn’t true…and I believe that is the enemy speaking lies.  I had that thought because having tough conversations is hard.  It is draining.  It isn’t happy.  You get tired of disagreeing and seeing no way over things when you just don’t see things the same way.  So, what do you do?  Well, pray. Hard!  We are both working together to get on the same page with each other.  We are each trying harder than I think either of us has been for a while.  It is easy to just put it on auto pilot and continue on with all the things of life and not address issues.  That comes back to haunt you.  We are praying together, consistently.  Praying together has never been consistent in our marriage.

Instead of just asking me out to a movie or out to eat, Steve called me up one afternoon and said he had a change of plans.  He said that there were 2 tickets left to see Beauty and the Beast at our Community Theatre, if I wanted to go.  I cried.  You see, I was a Music Education major in college, vocal major, full tuition vocal scholarship, coloratura soprano, and I love musical theatre and all things singing.  Just so you get the full picture.  My husband does not sing.  He loves all things racing.  That’s cars – full size or remote control, motocross, BMX.  As a matter of fact, I am still nursing him back to health from a BMX injury, broken rib and all.  Have you ever had to take care of someone you are mad at?  That’s a whole ‘nuther blog post.  Anyway- He is also a drummer.  He does not sing or dance or like to watch it.   He was trying.  Putting forth effort to make things better.  I have been trying harder, too, or at least I think I have.  I try to have dinner at least started if not on the table when he gets home and a pleasant look on my face, instead of a complaint about something on my lips.  I just mean that I am putting forth extra effort to show him that I love him and he is appreciated, too.  Now, I’m not saying that we can’t do things apart from each other.  That is not our problem.  Of course, I won’t go into minute details of our struggles.  As like any other couple, we just have some things we need to work on and one of those for me, is allowing God to make my heart more like His and trust that He is working on Steve’s heart, too.   As we grow closer to the Lord, I know that we will grow closer to each other.

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Romans 15:5-6 says, May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just keeping it real this post.  I am trusting that we can get back to a happier us.

Lover, giver, and endurer of All The Things,

 

Cindy

 

 

 

A Good Home-Cooked Meal (allergen-free, of course)

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fried pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy

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peach cobbler

Well, I just knew after I decided to be home with the kids this summer that I would get it together and lose some weight.  Haha!  I crack myself up.  Uh, yeah, that hasn’t happened.  I have decided that instead of fat, we would use the word voluptuous.  Merriam-Webster says: adjective – of a woman: very attractive because of having large hips…  Yes.  That sounds much better.  I like the very attractive part.

Have y’all ever watched The Pioneer Woman.  Oh. My. Word.  I honestly DID have a very productive day yesterday.  I got loads of laundry done – literally, dishes washed, cleaned out the refrigerator, and started cleaning out a closet, and took Lauren driving, but the TV was on and the Pioneer Woman! I just had to make that meal…but I had to make it Lauren friendly.  So, we took a trip to get the items that we needed and came home and I got to work.  We purchased thin, bone-in, pork chops.  I think the ones she used were boneless.  We then got the green beans.  I love Pero Farms Organic green beans, a red bell pepper, a Vidalia onion (is there any other?) and some fresh peaches.

I put the peach cobbler together, first.  Now, since I have to make our meals wheat, dairy, egg, nut free, I did not use her recipe.  I have been trying to find one that doesn’t taste rubbery or just not good.  It is a difficult task, without wheat or eggs, to make a bread pudding or cobbler texture.  A few weeks ago, I used a combination of brown rice flour and tapioca flour and too much coconut oil.  It was okay, but not much like the real thing. More like that rubbery consistency that happens when I am still trying to figure it out.  I always try to get as close as possible to the real thing, so that Lauren can enjoy what the rest of the family does.  This time, I found one of her yellow cake mixes in the pantry, so I thought that would taste good and be easy.  Not 10 million ingredients or steps.  If you are an allergy parent, you get that last statement.  I will post the recipe I came up with below.

The next thing I did was made a mistake.  I started frying the chops.  I should have started the green beans first, as they take longer. Also, I have no pictures of the process of these because my nickname could be the messy cook.  It looked like a bomb went off in my kitchen.  If you follow some of the same people I do on instagram, pictures of my kitchen at the time would only traumatize you…and ain’t nobody got time for that!  So!

I used grape seed oil to fry my pork chops in.  I set my temperature on medium to medium-high heat.  A little salt, pepper, and chili powder to season.  I dredged through some brown rice flour and into the cast iron skillet they went.  Two and a half minutes on each side and done.  For Lauren’s mashed potatoes, I peel and cut up 4-5 russet potatoes and boil until tender with a fork, about 10 minutes.  Drain and then place in our kitchen aid mixer.  I whip the potatoes with the wire whisk attachment while adding rice milk.  Salt and pepper to taste.

For the green beans, I basically used Ree Drummond’s, The Best Green Beans Ever recipe.  I did change just a tad.  I used 1 clove of garlic, instead of 2, just because I have become sensitive to too much garlic, lately.  I don’t know why.  My body has gone haywire, since I hit my 40’s.  I used 1/4 cup red bell pepper, instead of the 1/2 cup that she uses.  I also fried 2 slices of Applegate Farm’s bacon to saute’ the onion and garlic in, and crumbled the bacon on top just before serving.

To make the gravy, I just poured some water and rice milk, and a touch of chicken broth  into the cast iron skillet and turned up the heat until it got bubbly.  Then, I used arrowroot starch and brown rice flour to thicken.  I salted and peppered to taste.  I crumbled any bacon I had in it and a little of the sautéed onion from the green bean mixture.  It turned out great.  I wasn’t sure if it would taste good or not.  As a southern girl raised on Mississippi cookin’ (my momma, meemaw, and grandma), we use just a pinch of this and a dash of that, so I can’t really say what the measurements were for the gravy.  I just winged it.  They usually put a pat of butter in things like gravy, but I can’t do that with Lauren, so that is why I used all the other things to give flavor to the gravy.  It really did turn out nicely.

Funny thing.  The guys, who do not have food allergies, loved the peach cobbler.  Lauren has decided after 2 tries that she just doesn’t really like peaches.  We topped her cobbler off with Rice Dream Frozen Dessert in Vanilla.  She, at least, loved her ice-cream and all the rest.  This meal was definitely a hit!  Here’s hoping that all of your favorite yummy foods of summer are as delicious as we found this meal.

Lauren’s Easy Peach Cobbler

Ingredients

2 cups of peaches peeled, pitted, and sliced

1/4 c water

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 cup Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free/Wheat Free Yellow Cake Mix (also peanut, nut, dairy, egg free)

3/4 full fat coconut milk (canned coconut milk)

cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan, add peaches and water.  Bring to a boil.  Then, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Place 1 tbsp of coconut oil in 8 x 8 baking dish.  Set on top of stove so that oil will melt.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup cake mix and coconut milk.
  5. Pour batter on top of the coconut oil, drain the peaches, and spoon them evenly over the batter.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the top.
  6. Bake cobbler for 25 minutes or until done.
  7. Serve warm with your favorite non-dairy topping.

Ree Drummond’s, The Best Green Beans Ever and Pan Fried Pork Chops on foodnetwork.com is where you will find the other recipes.