Michele Joan

Wife, Mother, Blogger & Author

Crockpot Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Ten years ago my husband and I did a mission trip for Mustard Seed Communities, an organization who carew for abandoned, disabled children in Jamaica.  It was a beautiful experience, and while we were there, we had the opportunity to enjoy the traditional local food.  On our “day off” from work, we took a trip to a small island and the staff made us a delicious meal of Jamaican Jerk Chicken.  We fell in love and have been trying to replicate the taste ever since!  When we returned to the states, we searched for the perfect jerk flavor and found it in Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning


Recently my mom made this delicious crockpot Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe for a party and it was a huge hit!  I was delighted to see that this flavorful seasoning contains zero fat, one carb and zero sugar per 2 tsp, making it a perfect choice for my Trim Healthy Mama diet!  Its so easy with only 2 ingredients and can be a perfect S, E or FP meal depending on how you serve it.  Chicken thighs have 4 grams of fat per 4 ounces, so stay under that for a fuel pull.  Enjoy a little more on a Joseph’s pita for an S meal or serve 4 ounces or less on some quinoa and a delicious E meal is ready to serve!

The super simple recipe:

Layer 3 boneless skinless chicken thighs in bottom of crockpot.

Spread one tsp Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Seasoning (Hot & Spicy) between the three pieces (its very spicy, so stick to the 1tsp unless you want it really hot!!)

Cook on high for 4 hours.   Shred the chicken and enjoy!

jerk chicken

We ate ours on Joseph’s Pita bread with sauteed onions and peppers.  Super delicious!

This post is linked to Gwen’s Nest and Stacy Makes Cents Trim & Healthy Tuesday Link Up.

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Spinach Salmon

spinach salmon1

This week I’d like to share an old favorite recipe on mine.  I was thrilled when I looked through my recipe box and realized it would work nicely as an “S” meal on the Trim Healthy Mama plan.  It’s become our #2 favorite meal next to the Cheeseburger Quesadillas from Gwens-nest.com

This is a simple recipe that makes a delicious meal to share with others when you are bringing a meal for a new baby, surgery or gathering!

Spinach Salmon


1 Large Salmon Plank (I purchase from Aldi for 6.99)

fresh spinach

roma tomatoes

sweet onion

olive oil

balsamic vinegar

fresh squeezed lemon juice


salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven on 350 degrees.  Place large piece of foil on cookie sheet.  Lay salmon plank on foil.  Season with salt & pepper.  Add thin pats of butter across the plank.  Top with thin sliced roma tomatoes, fresh spinach and sweet onion slices.  Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Season again with salt and pepper.  Cover in foil and tightly wrap the edges to keep in steam.  Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Cooked Spinach Salmon served with a side salad.

Cooked Spinach Salmon served with a side salad.

Note: This recipe may also be made with individual salmon fillets for a smaller family.  I did a little taste test and made 2 fillets of Alaskan Wild Caught Salmon from Fresh Market (19.99 for 6) and they taste was unbelievable.  If you can afford it, I would highly recommend, but my family still enjoyed the inexpensive salmon from aldi!

Thanks to Gwens-nest and Stacymakescents for the Trim Healthy Mama Tuesday Link Ups!


Crossover Pizza and Mulberry Sauce

I’ll admit it, I’ve become completely obsessed with my new eating plan Trim Healthy Mama (THM) that I shared with you a few weeks ago (read my original post here).  My favorite website to visit for tips, recipes and advice is Gwen’s-Nest, so I have decided to be part of her Trim Healthy Mama Tuesday Link Up!

I have learned how to make this plan a lifestyle change and not just a diet, but my biggest challenge is that clashes with our other obsession – pizza making.  We have a big, beautiful wood fired pizza oven in our backyard which cooks at 800 degrees and makes amazing pizza.

Pizza oven

Last summer, my husband and I spent all summer testing our crust and sauce recipes to make the perfect pizzas.  Once we found it, we became total pizza snobs, as nothing could compare to the delicious, fresh pizzas that come out of our oven in two minutes flat.  However, As the authors of THM, Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison write “The problem with pizza is not the toppings.  It’s the crust!”  Those eating this lifestyle know that combing the good fats of pizza toppings combined with white flour crust is a “weight disaster.”  While THM has several crust recipes in the book, they require a dough too soft or crumbly to put on a peel and toss into the oven.  Many of them need to be put on parchment paper, which would just start on fire if put on an oven floor that hot.  Putting a pan with pizza in the oven defeats the whole purpose (told you I was a pizza snob).  Since my husband and I are both at goal weight now, we researched (and researched) to find some great crossover crust recipes that would fit on this diet.

We came to the conclusion that we would try the Forno Bravo Sprouted Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.  Forno Bravo is the designer of “The World’s Finest Pizza Ovens and Pizza Oven Kits” so we trusted their recipe would be good.   We used veganically grown One Degree Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour in the above mentioned recipe link and divided into 6 crusts.


We topped it with our favorite sauce recipe (from Thursday Night Pizza, Fr. Dominic’s Favorite Pizza Recipes by Fr. Dominic Garramone), which was our go-to sauce last year and sugar free!!  We added tons of veggies, reduced fat mozzarella cheese, and popped it in the oven.  It slid off the peel with ease (which does not always happen when we try a new crust) and it baked up perfectly!  Not only was it delicious, I figured the math, and it was only 27 carbs for a whole pizza!  Crossover Success!!

Check out the beautiful brown wheat crust!

Check out the beautiful brown wheat crust!

We had the perfect meal planned, and now just needed a dessert.  This time a year, the old nursery rhyme “He We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” has a special meaning as we literally make circles around our neighbors mulberry trees picking this sweet blackberry looking fruit that grows wildly here in Ohio.  My children especially love these tasty little treats that turn their fingers and mouths purple!  (Please don’t take this as advice to pick and eat random berries you see as they may be poisonous, we know for a fact that the trees we pick from are safe to eat).  In past years we’ve just eaten them by the handful, but with so many this year, I decided to use them in Gwen’s Nest Sugar Free Berry Syrup recipe.  This sauce was already a favorite of ours for pancakes and tasted delicious in this new fresh picked flavor.


Mulberry Sauce

So delicious that for my daughter’s birthday party I drizzled it on the THM cheesecake recipe with sprinkles of chocolate nut slab and topped it off with fat free Reddy Whip!  Absolutely awesome!


THM cheesecake with fresh sugar free mulberry sauce, topped with THM chocolate nut slab sprinkes and a squirt of fat free whip cream. Magic coffee brewing in the background!

Who says diets can’t be delicious?


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Balancing Body, Mind and Soul Part Two with Trim Healthy Mama

THMI shared a few weeks ago about my exercise accountability group and my OB/GYN’s talk on “Can I be as holy as I want but not wholly me?” but there is more to the story.   Dr. Parker cautioned us when making changes to our lives to diet last, as it is the hardest to do.  I took that message to heart as its taken me a whole year to make a serious and radical diet change!   This May I took the plunge.
I was at fellow blogger Emily Jaminet’s home when she showed me her book Trim Healthy Mama by Pearl Barrett & Serene Allison.  I was familiar with Pearl and Serene as they write for Above Rubies Magazine, a Christian magazine I read whose mission is “Strengthening Families Across the World through the encouragement of women in their high calling from God as wives, mothers and homemakers.”

I picked up the huge book and thought “640 pages!!!  You’ve got to be kidding me!  I don’t have time for that!”  Emily promised it was worth the read and she and several other friends were following this lifestyle changing diet and it was making a huge difference in their lives!

After looking at all the sugar cereal and other processed food that filled my cabinets, I decided to make the change.  I have done several different diets in the past, and while I have been successful, I did not like the amount of chemical additives I was adding to my body in search of low calorie, low fat options.  I also knew I needed to feed my husband and children better things to sustain them.

The premise behind the Trim Healthy Mama plan to stabilize blood sugar by establishing a healthy cycle of eating that includes two basic types of meals.  Serene and Pearl share on their facebook page :

“S stands for “satisfying” those are meals with plenty of fat in them and creamy desserts. E meals stand for “Energizing,” those have healthy carbs.

Both meals always are anchored with protein sources to help stabilize blood sugar and repair and mend the body’s daily wear and tear.

Our whole premise is using one chief fuel at a time to run the body on.”

At first I had a hard time getting into this book.  I wanted to know what I could eat and what I couldn’t, not all the science!  However, I plowed through enough to get myself started and went grocery shopping.  Now my cabinets are stocked with all kinds of new and healthy food like quinoa, coconut oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, garbanzo bean flour, almond flour, Joseph’s Pita/Lavash Bread, stevia and glucomannan.  Most of these things I had never heard of before.  Pearl and Serene do a great job  providing practical insight on all these foods even including where to find the pita bread at Walmart!  They also have great grocery lists and more helpful tips on their facebook page.   Now that I have been following this life changing plan, I can’t get enough of this book.  It contains much more than dietary advice and includes chapters on saving money, exercise, sex, balancing hormones, and skin care.  As strong Christian women, Pearl and Serene also tie in Scripture as it relates not only our diet, but our whole lives.  I have not only read the entire 640 pages, but I have re-read many chapters over and over again!

One of the reasons it’s such a large book is that it contains 11 chapters of recipes.  I have been pleasantly surprised at how delicious they are;  my family has licked their plates clean.  Here are some pictures of our dinner last night: Creamy Mushroom Pasta with Zucchini Rounds and Strawberry Banana Pudding.



As a registered nurse I have studied nutrition and found the advice to be very sound as well as up to date with the current trends and studies on diet and exercise.  In fact, my brother came to visit after finishing a college level exercise physiology class that included the latest studies on nutrition and was eating a very similar diet!

The only downside to this lifestyle is it isn’t “low effort.”  It involves me getting up a bit earlier to make healthy breakfast and pack a nutritious lunch instead of tossing in a lunchable or other prepacked  food for my kids and husband.  Its also more expensive as whole, healthy food and fresh produce costs more than canned and packed items.  However, it has been more than worth it!  My husband and I have both lost over 10 pounds each and more importantly are feeling full and energized.  In fact,  I don’t even crave all the junk anymore!  Best of all my kids are loving it and eating healthy, whole food.  Of course I let them have an occasional “treat” that is not on the diet, but I am much more at peace knowing they are getting three solid healthy meals and high protein snacks to help their growing bodies.

Not a mama?  No worries, this plan is for men and singles too. Overall, I would highly recommend this book and lifestyle if you are serious about a change in your life for the better.  It takes discipline and hard work, but the rewards are better health and life!

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Prayers For An Awesome Mom

Today I write to you with a heavy heart and ask for prayers for my college roommate Christa.  She and I attended Franciscan University together in the late 90′s and are both nurses.  Christa is now a wife and mother of three.  Originally diagnosed in 2008 with colon cancer, she had a relapse last year and had surgery to remove a tumor in her lung.  Last week I received news that her  cancer has returned for the third time, with multiple nodules in both lungs and the prognosis is not good.  I am compelled to write her story for you because Christa is an amazing witness of pro-life Catholic mom and has had to make some tough decisions about her health, but has held firm to her faith.

Five years ago in May of 2008, Christa found out she was expecting baby number three.  The joy soon was overtaken by the news just a few weeks later that she had colon cancer.  The first three doctors she saw recommended a “therapeutic termination” of the pregnancy to increase her life expectancy to greater than five years.  Her reply was “We didn’t find that that option would be very therapeutic to our child so we told them that it wasn’t possible.”  Christa has always has wonderful and sarcastic sense of humor!

Christa and her husband stood their ground and were blessed to find a surgeon who was a man of faith, dedicated to saving both lives present.  She was able to have surgery in her second trimester, remove the tumor and undergo chemotherapy.  At 35 weeks she delivered a healthy baby boy!   He is thriving and healthy now.

As Christa continued her regimen of surgery and treatments, she returned to one of the original surgeons who recommended a termination for a second opinion.  She wrote this on her caringbridge blog about that appointment:

“I believe despite our original rough points regarding the baby, he actually likes me. I brought him a birth announcement with our best boy’s picture on it. I must admit, I only got a few printed, specifically with the intention of giving them to my MD’s…  But instead of saying…”see…here’s what your advice could have destoyed”, I found myself saying, “this is what you helped protect. Isn’t he wonderful?”And the smile that spread over the Dr’s face, I have never seen a smile like that before. He looked at that picture so long, that I eventually had to say something. The picture is now hanging in his office…….”

Isn’t that beautiful???  I wish I was writing this to say all is well now, but as I wrote earlier, the cancer has returned again and she needs prayer.

Christa and her family are praying for a miracle through the intercession of Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski, the founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception and whose feast day is May 18th.   I humbly ask your prayers for my friend if you have a moment today.


God, our Father, Who in Your unfathomable Providence gave us in Blessed Father Stanislaus a successful intercessor before Your throne, grant us through his intercession the grace a complete and total healing from cancer for Christa Herbert, for which we beg You, also grant that in accord with his example we may faithfully fulfill Your most holy will. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


There’s Always Another Choice

Note from Michele: Today I am posting an article written by friend Anne Ponton to our blog today.  While Anne lives in Texas, she is a dear friend of mine from college and I have been able to witness her journey.  As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I share a Anne’s beautiful story with you.  Originally published at mercatornet.com

With the media full of the horror of Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion mill, we might forget how hard parents fight to make sure that their children survive. This is one mother’s story.

My story begins in mid-December 2001. I was newly married, healthy, excited and shocked to be carrying twins! All had been going along in the pregnancy just fine until one Saturday morning.

I noticed something was not quite right so I called my doctor, hoping he would say, “Don’t worry. Everything will be just fine.” I had just been at his office the day before for a routine check-up. He told me that from this point forward, even though I was only 26 weeks along in my pregnancy, to call if I sensed anything out of the ordinary. That’s called precaution, not paranoia, he told me.

When I described what I felt and saw, he told me to hang up the phone and immediately go to the hospital. He would meet me there.

At this point my husband Jason and I were still not concerned, but we obediently went to the hospital, naively thinking that I would just be placed under some monitoring and that we could carry on with our Christmas shopping.

The nurses immediately checked me and found that I was in labor! I was already dilated to seven centimetres! The contractions had been so small that I did not even feel them. They tried to stop the labor process by elevating my feet and so on. Nothing worked. The twins were on their way.

Fifteen minutes after we arrived, the doctor came. I was now dilated to ten centimetres. At this point, he whispered in my ear, “If you are a woman of faith, pray! You are having these babies right now.” I started to cry. My husband was in shock.

I was whisked away on a stretcher for an emergency Caesarean section and Jason got scrubbed and smocked up in order to be in the delivery room with me. While the frenzy of preparation was happening, we called a priest to come and baptize the babies.

Meanwhile, a team of doctors and nurses were flown in, via care flight, to the hospital, in order to be ready to take the girls to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

They gave me an epidural but there wasn’t enough time for it to take full effect. I felt every millimeter of the scalpel slicing in. It didn’t matter. I was full of adrenaline in my desire to see the babies.

When they opened the uterus, they found that one of the twins had already made her way down into the birth canal. Due to serious complications with the umbilical chord severing from the placenta, they had to pull this incredibly fragile baby back up through the birth canal. Jason reminds me that the delivery table was moving from side to side, because it was no small task to pull the baby out.

The one pound, nine ounce baby was bruised from head to toe and completely blue and purple. She was immediately placed on full life support by a whole team of nurses. Needless to say, we did not get to hold her or even touch her. The doctors thought she would have cranial haemorrhaging because of the trauma of the birth. If this were the case, she might never walk, talk, hear or see.

Then came the second baby. This one had a little more strength and made a tiny noise as she came out. She weighed one pound, thirteen ounces. She, too was whisked away to the NICU at Medical City Hospital in Dallas.

Before they left, the priest arrived. He asked my husband what their names were to be and using a medicine cup full of water he baptized the children. The doctors and nurses waited with tears in their eyes. We all feared that this was the last time that we would see the twins alive.

The doctors gave the twins a 60 percent chance of survival. And what “survival” would look like was anyone’s guess.

I had to stay in Las Colinas Medical Hospital for three more days to recover from the surgery. This separation was agony.

The twins did not die. One had to have heart surgery. The other had surgery to repair a hernia because her ovaries would pop in and out. They remained on high level oxygen for several weeks because their lungs were so underdeveloped. For months they were totally dependent upon machines to keep them alive.

Their skulls had not completely formed and their skin was transparent. You could see their femurs. Their ear lobes were just tiny flaps of skin. Their eyes were still fused shut and their heads were the size of tennis balls. When they breathed, their lungs would collapse so far inward that you could see their spine. Jason could slide his wedding ring over their arm all the way up to their shoulders.

We spent every day hoping that modern medicine and the grace of God would keep these two alive! All we could do was wait and pray. Finally, after four long months, we welcomed them home on the same day (which is rare for twins).

Not only had they survived, but they were thriving. They had no oxygen, no feeding tubes, no medicine and no apnea monitor. The doctors and nurses told them that these two girls were two of the biggest success stories in the history of that NICU! And 11 years later these two beautiful girls continue to thrive.

Why am I writing this?

Because my twins were the same size as the 24-week-old babies that were brutally murdered in Philadelphia by the infamous Kermit Gosnell.

When Jason and I visited our girls in the NICU, we had to pass a late-term abortion clinic (since closed). It was gut-wrenching to think that at that very moment other doctors and nurses were ending the lives of children who were the very same age and size as our precious girls.

I don’t judge the women who sought Kermit Gosnell’s “help”. But what I do know is that a doctor’s vocation is to protect the sick, the vulnerable and the disabled. A mother’s vocation is to protect and love the children of her womb. How can this country continue to allow doctors to destroy the lives of children?

Life. What a beautiful choice!

Anne and Jason Ponton live in Irving, Texas.  They have been married for 12 years. They have four children:  two 11-year-old daughters and two sons, aged four and six.

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Balancing Body, Mind and Soul

Last year I attended an amazing talk by my OB/GYN, Dr. Michael Parker, called “Can I Be As Holy As I Want If I Am Not Wholly Me.”  In short, the answer is no.  We have to take the time in our busy lives to balance body, mind and soul or we cannot do the job God is asking us to do.   When we are out of balance, we can’t be the best wives, mothers and friends we are called to be.  Since last May I have feed my intellect by joining a book club and starting blogging.  I am blessed to be able to attend daily mass, read many spiritual books and have Catholic radio to feed my soul.  The hardest thing for me is to keep on an exercise plan.

I know the importance of exercise and when I’m in the habit, I actually enjoy it.  I love the endorphin rush that peaks my mood and relieves the stress.  The problem is falling off the wagon and then trying to motivate myself to get back on and keep going.  Last February, my friend Ellen started an email exercise group where we all did the same exercise video and then emailed when we completed that days workout.  It was great to have the accountability and cheer leading of other friends, especially on days when it was easy to make excuses.  February went great, I slimmed up considerably, felt really great about myself and was in the habit of daily exercise.  Then the email list stopped.  I started another video on my own, but after a week of being sick in mid March, I had to take some time off.  Once I skipped a week, it was easy to decide to take a short break.  The next thing I new April was over and I hadn’t exercised in 6 weeks.

While picking up from school a few days ago, some moms were commenting on my weight loss and I shared with them the secret was my workout plan, Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred.   Its a perfect program for me because its only 27 minutes a day, a great workout, I can do it in my home and its very inexpensive.   My friends were so interested I started my own email accountability group!

Today, with twelve ladies by my side, we started the workout plan.  Its great to be back in the saddle and I’m looking forward to starting summer fit and trim!


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I’ve been blogging at columbuscatholicwomen.com for the past year and have decided its time to start a personal blog.  Although I would have never considered writing one of my strong points, learning to blog has been one of the biggest joys of the last year.  I hope you enjoy my site and I’m looking forward to sharing with you!

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