Oh the Places You’ll Go at Marian Hope…

Merry Christmas Appreciation Poem written with love by MH CEO…

Inspired by Dr. Seuss

Oh the places you’ll go and the things that you’ll do,
at Marian Hope where life is made new.

Let’s start with our development team if you will,
As they try to raise money so we can pay each bill.
God gives us our daily bread so we can sustain,
And he assigned Kira and Crystal so Marian Hope can remain.
They work and they work with little guided direction,
But needless to say, they do their jobs with perfection.
They love the cause and hold it dear to their hearts,
And we all pray that they will never want to depart.

Moving on to the ones who keep us afloat,
By watching our budget and taking diligent notes.
They write our policies and keep us legally intact,
Rarely do they stop for even a snack.
Without their brilliant minds and attention to detail,
Our organization would certainly derail.
We would not survive without their keen eye,
Sue, Cara and Cinda truly keep us alive.

Our board of directors always has our back,
They guide and assess to make sure we’re on track.
They dedicate their time without any condition,
Because of their love for the children and our mission.

And to all of our donors who fund our mission,
We wouldn’t exist without your position.
Your generosity and love to the children we see,
Gives them the resources so their best they will be.
It is community working together that allows us to grow,
Lives more blessed is what you sow.

The Mayor (as I call her) will brighten your day,
And you all know her as our sweet JJ.
She keeps us all “in the know”,
And for anyone—oh the places she’ll go.
Special is what she makes everyone feel, and she will be the first to bring you a meal.

Now the places you’ll go if you are our COO,
Are beyond all measure because she’ll never say no.
From toilet bowl plunging to taking out trash,
Whatever you need, Heather will be there in a dash.
On yellow sticky notes all around,
A great deal of her to-do’s will be found.
From counselor, to therapist, to para, to friend—each will be her role,
For our COO has the kindest, gentlest, most humble soul.

Now being a therapist will change your life,
But let’s admit it, some days may bring strife.
The things that you’ll say and the actions you’ll do,
To get a child to speak when he is just two.
“What do I do” will flounder around in your mind,
Until a great solution you will suddenly find.
It may be acting like a clown or growling like a bear,
But no matter who is watching, you do not really care.
You’ll do whatever it takes to help a child out,
Because you believe she CAN and you never doubt.
You work hard to serve some pretty tough kids,
But when the day is done you should be proud of what you did.
You may have been puked on, spit on and possibly hit,
And there is a good chance you will even get bit.
But you know the scars of hard work are worth the smiles you get,
And when a child finds his voice, it is the best feeling yet.

When we started a school, great teachers were a must,
For the education of children should be in hands we can trust.
To teach a child is more than teaching to tests,
It’s helping them in all areas to be their personal best.
It is understanding how each child learns,
And strengthening their strengths, not just their concerns.
It’s teaching them truth in who God made them to be,
And helping them appreciate their own special identity.

The pay is not great, let’s face it, it stinks,
But our life is a vapor and goes by in a blink.
What we do for a child is more valuable than gold,
The payment comes from above and in things we can’t hold.
The joy in the eyes of the families we serve,
Are worth the sacrifices and the hope they deserve.

For every child on earth is worth our attention,
For in God’s book of life, their names are all mentioned.
Thank you all for being a shining light for the world to see,
I hope you all know how truly I love and appreciate thee.
Merry Christmas my sweet friends at Marian Hope!


With Love – Angie Knight,
Your friend and your sister in Christ!

Holiday Recipe Round Up… And Some Other Thoughts

The holidays are upon us. Next week is Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it. Although these recipes may not find you in time for you uber-planners out there, they can be a great addition to your December holiday parties.

But before we get into recipes, I want to say a few words about Thanksgiving and Christmas Day meals. When you eat differently than your extended family or are navigating gluten free/dairy free kiddos, having all the family together can bring new challenges. I want to encourage you to keep it simple and keep it easy. If your family is gluten-free and dairy-free, then you need to stick to that for the holidays. However, the quality of your ingredients or using pre-made ingredients for the big meals of Thanksgiving and Christmas day, can be a life-saver and not really impact the health of your family significantly.

The difference is keeping the processed foods prioritized to the most important times, not letting it be a free-for-all for the whole month of December. Here are a few “balancing tricks” I’ve learned over the years.

  1. Pies: Buy gluten-free pie crust and make traditional pies using less expensive, standard ingredients. It’s 1 day. It’s 1 pie. It’s 1-2 pieces total for each person most likely. So, rather than stressing over if a new recipe will work, use the regular recipe (pumpkin and pecan pie standard fillings are naturally gluten-free), make them ahead and freeze pies so it’s done.
  2. Christmas cookies: this one depends on how big of a deal this is to your family. If they will hang around for days, and your kids will eat many cookies… I suggest making a sugar-free frosting using Swerve and a gluten-free sugar cookie using quality ingredients. The payoff can be huge when kids are loving life and you’re not stressed about how many cookies they are eating! Pure Pantry has quality ingredients and fabulous mixes. I would suggest their all purpose flour for a recipe like this. Here is a truly low carb sugar cookie recipe that is sure to keep blood sugars stable. I would use Swerve instead of Truvia.Now, the other option for cookie decorating is the one where you’re doing a one-time shot at cookies and your children won’t eat that many. Here’s where you grab slice and bake gluten-free dough and make some regular frosting. None of it is quality, it’s all sugar, and it isn’t helping our bodies at all, but sometimes, those things aren’t the goal, so have fun and let it go.
  3. On cookie decorating days or the day after big holiday meals, go ahead and serve some lighter fare with more veggies and meat to give the body a break and add some nutrient density.

 The bottom line for the holidays is to keep the foods that aren’t part of your everyday fare limited to specific events, not just sitting around for a whole month. But, even if it does… it’s 1 of 12 months. There are 11 whole months where you can be really tuned in to quality ingredients and balanced meals. The caveat to that last statement is if it will disrupt your child’s rhythms and “home base” of balance and mood by letting some extras in. You’re the parent. You make that call. Don’t let food be the main event…. ever. And, don’t throw out the window the way of living/eating that help your child thrive and enjoy the holiday!

Stuffed Acorn Squash:

Serves 6

  • 3 Acorn Squash, halved and deseeded

    stuffed acorn squash

    Photo Credit: brittanyangell.com

  • 6 TBSP Butter
  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 3 TBSP Butter or oil
  • 1 Small Onion, diced
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pepper
  • ¼ tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme6-8 Fresh Sage Leaves, chopped
  • ¼ Cup Pecans
  • ¼ Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 2 TBSP Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place the squash halves cut side up onto a baking sheet. Place 1 TBSP of butter into each of the halves, making 6 total.
  3. Place in oven and bake for 60-70 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and break up with a wooden spatula and let brown, about 6 minutes.
  5. Add the onion, garlic powder, salt, pepper, nutmeg and thyme. Incorporate well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine.
  7. Fill the centers of each acorn squash half with the meat filling. Sprinkle additional pepitas on top before serving.


Crispy Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 Egg
  • ½ TBSP Water


    Photo Credit: brittanyangell.com

Dry Ingredients:

  • ¼ packed cup Almond Flour
  • ¼ packed cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1 tsp. Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Cayenne
  • ¼ tsp. Paprika
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Powder
  • ½ tsp. Onion Powder


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a bowl combine the egg with the water; set aside
  3. In a separate bowl combine the almond flour, tapioca, black pepper, salt, cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  4. Drop Shrimp into wet mixture and then heavily dredge in breading mixture. You may need to go back and re-drop shrimp back into the dry ingredients to get a good breaded coating.
  5. Place on baking sheet, and drizzle liberally with oil.
  6. Cook shrimp 20 minutes or until lightly golden and crispy.
  7. Once slightly cooled serve with your favorite gluten free cocktail sauce.


Faux Thins (Wheat Thins)

faux thins

Photo Credit: brittanyangell.com

  • 1 packed cup Almond Flour (137g)
  • ¾ cup Tapioca Starch (91g)
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 3 tsp. Xanthan or guar gum
  • ¾ tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TBSP Shortening
  • 2 TBSP Oil
  • 2 TBSP Water


  1. Preheat oven to 315 degrees.
  2. In a stand mixer combine all ingredients.
  3. Place dough in between two sheets of parchment paper.
  4. Roll out dough to be paper thin. Take off top sheet of parchment paper carefully.
  5. Cut into squares using a pizza cutter.
  6. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden on bottom, and edge are ever so

slightly brown.


Mashed Cauliflower

  • 2 heads of cauliflower chopped.

    mashed cauliflower

    Photo Credit: brittanyangell.com

  • 2 ½ tablespoons of Tapioca, Arrowroot or Potato Starch (optional- omit for lower carb)
  • ¼ cup of Heavy Cream or Heavy Coconut Milk
  • 6 tablespoons of salted butter or Ghee (or bacon fat)
  • 1 ½ – 2 teaspoons of garlic powder (to taste)
  • 3 teaspoons of salt (use more of less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper


  1. Fill a stock pot ½ with water (enough to cover two heads of cauliflower) Bring the water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until fork tender.
  1. Strain the water and place the cooked cauli back into the pot. Whisk together the heavy cream and starch. Then add the cream and starch mixture to the plot along with the butter, garlic powder, salt and black pepper.
  1. Using an immersion blender – blend together all the ingredients. Turn the stove back on low for about 2 minutes to reheat it if the cauliflower has gotten cool. This will activate the starch to thicken the mashed cauliflower.
  1. Serve warm, or store in the fridge covered for up to 3 days.


“Pillsbury” Gluten Free Pie Crust

  • 3/4 packed cup Almond Flour
  • 1 1/4 cup of Tapioca starch
  • 4 Tbsp. of Salted Butter
  • 4 Tbsp. of Palm Shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum
  • 4 Tbsp. of Applesauce
  • Reserve for later:  ¼ cup of Extra Tapioca Starch


  1. In a large food processor (I use a 14 cup) add the almond flour, starch, butter, shortening, salt and xanthan or guy gum. Process until the dough begins to come together. Add the applesauce and process until a smooth dough forms.
  1. Place the dough into a sealed Tupperware and place into the fridge 2 hours.
  2. After the dough has chilled- mix in the last 1/4 cup of starch and roll out between two sheets of parchment paper (dusting with extra starch as needed to prevent sticking) NOTE: If you chill the dough for 24 hours you will only need a LITTLE extra starch to roll the dough out. You won’t need to mix in the full 1/4 cup.
  1. Quickly place the rolled out crust into the pie pan using the parchment as your guide. It should hold its shape without breaking.
  1. At this point you can fill the crust with filling of choice and follow the directions for that pie. OR Bake the crust in a 350-degree oven 16-20 minutes until lightly golden.

 To make this crust totally dairy free you can double the shortening and leave out the butter. The flavor of the crust won’t be as good.


Table Talk

Portrait of a family saying grace before eating dinnerMany of our amazing Marian Hope Center families have chosen to restrict certain foods, primarily gluten and dairy, to improve the lives of their children. This has proved to be life-altering for some families in the best possible ways. However, these changes don’t come without a cost. Particularly, being around extended family during the holidays can make some of the diet adjustments/restrictions more difficult.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful in navigating the holiday table dynamics:


1. Don’t give more information than is needed.

Likely your family/friends don’t fully understand what you experience day to day in caring for a child with special needs. They particularly might not understand (or even agree) with the diet changes you have chosen for your family. In that case, don’t feel the pressure to help them understand. If someone is particularly interested, let them drive the conversation. As hard as it might be to be misunderstood or not fully understood among your own family, the holiday meal isn’t probably the best time to figure out the extra layers of those dynamics. Keep it simple like: “changing our diet has shown improvement in {insert name of amazing kid} so we’re sticking with it.” OR, if you’re not sure if diet changes are working… “we know some people who have benefited from these changes so we’re doing an experiment.” Most people are totally cool with “experiments.”


2. Gracious language can go a long way at a special holiday meal

When it’s not obvious if the food has gluten or dairy in it try this: “I hate to have to ask this, but do you know if there is any flour or dairy in that recipe.” If they say yes, then try “Thanks, that’s helpful”- and leave it. Sometimes you’ve got to explain. In that case, you can say something like, “We realized {insert amazing kids name} is sensitive to some foods and he’s so much happier when we stick to what his body digests well. The {insert food you can eat} looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it.” Obviously, that’s my language you’ll have to adapt to help your kids navigate their way depending on their ages. Try to avoid saying “We can’t eat that” or “We don’t eat that.” It can come across the wrong way and not build the support you need around the family table.


3. Don’t let the focus of the meal be what you can’t eat.

If you’re not sure what your options will be, feed your kids a little something before you go or take some back up snacks. While at a party where the whole meal was a grilled cheese bar (no GF bread), I opted to have a little cheese, nuts, fruit, and tomato soup. It worked great- I just ate a lot of grapes and tomato soup that night! For kids, it may be a different story. They may need to sit down and have the snacks you brought in addition to the foods at the table you brought. Always try to give them any of the available options that the host has provided. It helps them feel more a part of the group and the host feel like they were able to host you. And, keep in mind that one meal that’s a little wonky in balance and content but fits their diet restrictions and satisfies them is totally fine.


4. Focus on people, not food

Food won’t be the focus when you connect personally with people. You may have to do this on behalf of your children, but use the social time to build relationships and give others a chance to tell their story. This is especially important at family holiday meals since often the focus of the whole day is around food. Go deeper. What’s Aunt Franny’s story? How did Uncle Rick get his business started? What was it like growing up with six siblings? When people get to share their story, they’re likely not as focused on yours (a.k.a what your kids are/aren’t eating).


5. Thank and compliment the cook for their hard work.

Even if there were parts your family couldn’t eat be sure the host knows the parts you enjoyed, and that their time and effort was well worth it. This includes those we tend to take for granted like siblings and our own parents. There is nothing more disappointing for some hosts than feeling like they didn’t please their guests or having put a lot of effort into something not eaten. Be sensitive to these dynamics.

Lastly, if your family is more open or understands your situation then consider labeling a table with the gluten-free and dairy-free options so your children can come and go freely from safe foods for them. This can be really fun for a child who is constantly having to ask what they can and can’t have.


Happy holiday eating! And, remember if you need more specific help regarding nutrition you can always schedule an appointment by contacting me at bpage@marianhopecenter.org.

Grandma’s Rolls and Dr. Pepper

In Part 1 of our holiday series, we talked about large family meals like on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day and how it may be worth it to liberalize some things but to still remain gluten free if you’ve been previously eating this way. Secondly, it is worth continuing to limit sugar since the “holiday season” can be a good two months or more which can really take it’s toll on gut health and immunity.


Often, it is the emotional or memory connection to certain foods and smells that drive us to over-emphasize their importance during the holidays. Some of you may not have strong emotional connections to foods around the holidays. There may not be a “grandma’s” this or a “mom’s famous” that, but for a lot of people, holidays are times when childhood memories, deep connection to family, history, and nostalgia kick in. This can make food choices not only more difficult but laden with deep feelings that aren’t there in the day to day of living, working, and eating.


Growing up, my favorite book at Christmas time was The Sweet Smells of Christmas – a scratch and sniff book remembering peppermint, gingerbread cookies, evergreen, and hot cocoa. We read this so much my mom actually got essential oils of all the smells so we could keep reading and smelling over the years. It’s the first book I bought my niece when she was born. Those smells mean Christmas to us. It’s scientifically proven that the olfactory (smell) system in the body is connected to the amygdala (emotion center in the brain) AND the hippocampus (memory center in the brain). A couple interesting articles here and here. These are real connections.


My husband’s family always decorated Christmas cookies at Grandma’s house. That time makes up some of his deepest and fondest memories of his family… one of those times when “all was well” with the world. I believe traditions and memories around the holidays are important, but when navigating food sensitivities or special needs diets/restrictions it can be difficult to create the memories without additional stress.


Around the holidays it is important to take a step back and disconnect from emotions embedded in memories, traditions and even smells that might lead us down convincing pathways suggesting that Thanksgiving/Christmas won’t be so without <insert favorite food> when that food will be disruptive to the healing journey with which you’ve had great success. The truth is, those memories are embedded in the connection with the people, not the food – even if the smell brings back the memory. If it’s Grandma’s homemade rolls, then take some time to connect with Grandma herself. If Grandma isn’t there to celebrate, spend some time remembering her as part of the meal. In the past, remembering my Poppy’s love of Dr. Pepper made me go to the garage fridge at Grandma’s house and drink one, even though I couldn’t care less about Dr. Pepper in any other circumstance. Now, I can step back and remember how fun it was as a kid to stop at the corner store with him to get a Dr. Pepper after we’d been out to feed the cattle but the Dr. Pepper isn’t necessary.


When we recognize the emotion, memory or person behind the food connection, we can then disconnect from the food and still hold tightly to the traditions and memories that surround the holiday season. In this regard, we get to “have our cake and eat it too,” or more appropriately, have our health and memories too.


You can create new traditions and vibrant deep memories around the holidays with your family even if the long-standing tradition gets tweaked a bit. For example, if decorating Christmas cookies is an annual event in your family like ours, then make gluten free cookie dough using quality ingredients and consider making a limited amount of cookies so the time spent together as a family can take priority over the massive amount of cookies and sugar high.


Have high protein, low sugar snacks/foods available during the event, and consider making some cookies to enjoy and some cookies to share where the event can be less focused on the cookie and focused on giving something to someone else.


A special night of Christmas books, tree decorating and family connection can still happen with a special bread like this one from PaleOMG (writing can be crass, but recipe is stellar). What if the foods your kids grew up looking forward to around the holidays were full of rich, nourishing, clean ingredients? How beautiful to pass on such traditions to the generations to come.


Be empowered to improve the family traditions surrounding food and don’t let the pressures of the past stop you from embracing new recipes, new traditions and new meal ideas at your holiday table.


If there’s one thing that I hope gets communicated through this series, it is that I hope you can eat well, eat clean and focus on the people around you rather than being hyper-focused on the food. It’s a balance and a dance and process for most, but shouldn’t rule our holiday season.


Here are some Paleo* holiday recipe resources for your cooking pleasure:

Robb Wolf’s 2011 Holiday recipe contest results

Everyday Paleo’s holiday meal with recipes

PaleOMG Chai Pumpkin Bread (had this last week and it is fabulous!)

Balanced Bites 2012 Holiday Recipe Roundup

*I chose Paleo recipes because they will automatically be gluten, dairy, and soy free. It simply takes the guesswork out having to adapt recipes and doesn’t use processed gluten free products. This can make your holiday meals deeply nourishing for body and soul.