Where Whine Meets Wine

Bring In Da Noise, Kick Out Da Funk

So if you read my post yesterday, you know that I’ve kind of been in a cooking funk. I don’t know if it’s the end of summer blues or just how much company we’ve had over the summer that’s left me a little burn out… as my sister-in-law says, You are the food lady. And what that means is that when you come to my house, you will be fed. I’m like your grandma (or at least my grandma)… food is one of my “love languages.” So if you come to my house, I will cook for you. If you request something, I will make it. (And I really love it when I get special requests!) At a “cousins’ dinner” I hosted last year, one of my cousins said, Who knew you’d be able to cook like this? While we all shared a laugh over it and really, I probably never would have guessed growing up that I would have cared at all about new recipes or that I’d always, always, always, have to make each and every recipe my own. I like to tell my hubbyman that he really lucked out when we got married, because at the time neither of us knew if I could really cook. (Although to a single, Navy man, anything that didn’t come from a box or a can was probably an improvement.)

So blah, blah, blah…I usually enjoy cooking, and I still have been cooking, just kind of thoughtless, easy, throw something together because I have to feed my family, kind of cooking. And while I didn’t make the eggplant chicken alfredo that I’d been planning to make, mainly because hubbyman wasn’t coming home until 7ish and I let the kids choose what they wanted for dinner. Which was phone noodles (what they call elbow noodles) and “the red sauce we like.” And can I just say what a relief it is to be able to give Miss E things with tomatoes in it again?! Whew! That poor girl! Her list of can’t haves is finally dwindling down to just a few! We’re still in the reintroduction phase, so we’re taking it slow and minimal, but so far so good!

Ok, back to me… so I found that website yesterday (from the post you read yesterday, right?) and I made them! Well, I made my version! (*grin*)

I turned the rolls into bread…and it was fabulous!

I made the frosting pink for Miss E since lots of times she gets left when it comes to deserts.

They were both phenominal! I was so impressed! Plus, I had everything I needed on hand… I guess I did a couple substitutes, but I didn’t have to run to the store for anything and they turned out great! If you want to try them, go here for the full recipe!

Notes on how mine were different: I made one batch of dough and filled one bread pan and then had enough dough left for 6 of the cream cheese rolls.

Favorite Rolls: Not only did I turn it into bread, but I didn’t have potato flakes, so I googled and found I could substitute potato flour or starch (1/2 cup flakes = 3 cups flour). I also didn’t have buttermilk, so I made my own (1 tbs lemon juice, add milk until it equals a cup. Let sit for 5 minutes. Viola!). Also since it was bread, it needed about 30 minutes. This was SO good and really very simple!

Cream Cheese Rolls: Oh this filling is so good! I made the whole batch and put the rest in the fridge- I’m thinking stuffed french toast this weekend! Or pancakes! Oh yum! So good! Anyways, you do want to make sure to push the top layer (of dough) down onto the filling, or yours will turn out like mine- with a little bubble in the middle that’s not completely filled with filling. Still good, just not quite right. And the topping, I didn’t have almond, so I just used vanilla. And I, of course, made it pink. Because my little girl hardly ever gets to partake in “deserts” and it was a way of making them special for her! She was so pleased!

GF and craving cinnamon rolls? If you’re not making the rolls/bread too, and only the cream cheese rolls, then I’d highly recommend throwing some cinnamon into the roll’s dough and if it were me, I’d throw in some almond or vanilla too. I know there’s not a lot of sugar in the dough, but I don’t think it needs more, the filling is so sweet, that it’s good without more. Definitely making these again! Yum!


The GF Life

Today I was thinking about making some bread, because my children are sandwich fiends! And store-bought GF (GF= Gluten Free) breads are just not as yummy as homemade (then again, what bread is?) and they’re expensive. Today I came across a feed on my facebook that had a picture of some yummy rolls. I clicked on it thinking, I’ll just see if it’s GF transformable, all while inwardly feeling sorry for myself and wondering why I’d even both following something with food we can’t actually eat (I follow lots of GF cooking blogs, this was not one of them). I seriously was so excited to see the following words when opening the link: {Gluten Free} Dinner Rolls and Cream Cheese Rolls. Seriously, almost cried. Maybe I’m just feeling a little emotional this morning or something, but for some reason I was feeling overwhelmed and a little fenced in by our dietary needs. And this was like a welcomed desert oasis!

I think I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately, we have lots of projects going on in the house, we have a house full of little people, we have every weekend consistently booked up (last weekend we had 3 birthday parties on one day. I wasn’t feeling well so we just stayed home- our first weekend of not doing things, all summer!), my mom is going through weeks of many, many kinds of testing to figure out just what is going on with her body, and it’s looking like Littlest E is Celiac as well. Obviously, this is not an end of the world situation, and while it’s not really a life changing situation either (since we’re already a GF household), but when the majority of our children need a GF diet, it takes more thought. If it’s just one, it’s easy to just throw a couple things in my bag and we’re good to go, but when there’s two… it means I’ll have to be more thoughtful and careful over meal times. And creative. I may have to come up with some new things to make that are easy and cart-able for when we’re on the go and may not have other GF options available. Good thing I like a challenge.




Simply Impressive

Yesterday, my hair dresser/brother-in-law came over to #1) Give hubbyman a haircut! (He’s in a wedding this weekend, and we’d like a little less shaggydoo for it) and #2) To have me make him a wonderful vegan meal! So I am made stuffed peppers! I found hundreds of recipes, so I did my usual (look hundreds of recipes over, decide I only like one ingredient from each recipe) and combined them all…

So, here is today’s version of stuffed peppers, which in my opinion ALWAYS look impressive- no matter what you’ve put into them. And the more you put into them, the more impressive they sound!

Take 3 large, red, sweet peppers (you can use any kind, I love the flavor of red and orange, personally), cut the top off and take seeds out.

You can cook this in a 5qt slow cooker (mine is too big!), so I just did them in a 2 1/2 qt dish. Basically you want it big enough that everything fits and you can still get a lid on, but small enough that they don’t move or slide around. So whatever size that may be for you (which will of course depend on how many peppers you make as well. I’d of made more, but we’re leaving for out of town tomorrow and worried they’d go bad… and then I found out they’re great to freeze, so now I wish I would have made a couple more!!). Anyways, put peppers in dish, and set aside.

1 cup cooked rice (or quinoa)

1/2 onion

1/2 yellow zucchini, sliced

1 1/2 cups spinach

1 cup mushrooms

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

3/4 cup spaghetti sauce (meatless)

1/2 cup of water

*While I had the rice cooking, I threw the spinach, onion, garlic, and mushrooms in some olive oil and sauteed. This next step you probably don’t have to do, but for consistency’s sake I threw it all in my food processor (just so it was more uniform, not to puree it).

Next mix rice, sauteed veggies, salt, pepper, and any other herbs you’d like to throw in (I threw in a pinch of oregano and basil) in a large bowl. This is what the kids had for dinner- it was so, so, so very yummy. I added in a pinch of cheese thinking it would need it, (don’t get me wrong, it was fantastic with it) but it was really good even without the cheese. Seriously, like it would be a terrific side in any meal, not just stuffed in peppers. So good. (Can you tell that I liked it, and was very impressed with my creation?)

Stuff rice mixture in the peppers. You don’t have to pack it in, but fill it. Next mix the water and spaghetti sauce, pouring half into the bottom of the dish and the rest over/in the peppers.I topped with quarters of the squash and threw some into the sauce in the bottom as well. For color and taste! I cooked covered at 375 for 30 minutes and then uncovered at 350 for 10 minutes.

So good! Hubbyman declared it the best began meal he’d ever had! If not making it vegan, I probably would have thrown cheese into the rice mixture. This would be a great option for a Meatless Monday meal! Have to have meat in it? I think it would go really well with a shredded chicken.

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Impressively Simple Thursday

So…I’ve done an “Impressively Simple” post before, and love to make and create meals that look and/or sound difficult, but are really easy. So, I’ve decided (and hoping to stick to!) doing an “Impressively Simple” recipe every Thursday. We’ll see how it works out. But seriously, who doesn’t want to have a repertoire of recipes that they can throw together for the surprise guests or unplanned get together that is sure to impress!?

This week is Chicken Cordon Bleu. I saw a recipe in a magazine and thought, that looks so good, but it sounds like a lot of work… which to me sounded just like a challenge! So I made it about 4 times, 4 different ways. Trying to find the best, the easiest, and the impressivest! (Yes, I am aware that’s not an actual word, but let’s just go with it ok, just this once!)

My first attempt was traditional. My second attempt was spicy. My 3rd attempt was easy. And my 4th attempt was impressive. They were all delicious.

Ok so… here’s the best that I came up with:

Usually it’s one whole chicken breast (plus everything inside) for each person, which is a whole lot of chicken…. so I butterflied it (as best I could), cut it into three strips, and made it so that it had the look of an appitizer, but the taste (and stomach filling powers) of a huge meal.

So…here’s what I feel is the easiest, easily impressive way to make chicken cordon bleu:

4 chicken breasts, cut in half length wise (so it’s like you butterflied it- kitchen scissors will do the trick) and hammer flat and even- I used a rolling pin to do this). Cut into 2 or 3 long (1 1/2  inch width) strips (depending on size of the breast)

Place one slice of cheese (I used the spicy cheddar I’d used previously, I used swiss, and I also used just plain cheddar, because it’s what I had… all of them were good. I vote you pick out your favorite cheese and use that -I’m always going to vote for using what you already have!)

Lay a slice of ham (I also used prosciutto -because I love it- and that was really wonderful!) over the cheese and roll tightly.

You could secure it with a toothpick, but I found that it wasn’t necessary if you rolled them tightly.

*This part is optional* dip rolled chicken in egg. It just helps the next step to stick the chicken.

I dipped them in 1 1/2-2 cups of almond flour that I seasoned with seasoning salt and pepper. (If you are not a GF household, you can also use breadcrumbs, as it traditionally calls for)

Place in greased pan (with the seam on the bottom)  and top each with some shredded cheese (I used a shredded asiago/parm blend)

bake @ 350 degrees for 35 minutes. And viola mini chicken cordon bleu! In healthier portion sizes! Use as appetizers or as the entree! I made it a combination of both! Once as the main entree (in whole chicken breast form… so stuffing, which is why I thought about making the portions smaller…) and then when I made the smaller rolls, I served 2 rolls over broccoli and rice. Very good!

Variation: This adds time, but it was really good, so I’m going to throw this out there, just in case you want to go above and beyond: Before placing the cheese and ham on your chicken, drizzle each chicken slice with some hollandaise sauce. (here’s the recipe for that I used) I had all the ingredients to just make it (And I wanted to start out my chicken cordon bleu process by starting with the fanciest version I could and work my way from there), but they sell packets for easy hollandaise sauce at your local grocer and that will work too. Just before baking drizzle remaining sauce over the rolled chicken. I would highly recommend trying it with the sauce. So yummy. I’m not sure if that’s traditional or not, but I read a lovely blog where he tried it, and figured I’d give it a go- well worth it!

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I Was Feelin’ Saucy

So I went to a cousin’s graduation party over the weekend, and my aunt sent me home with TONS of food!! So yesterday as I was looking through all the leftovers and trying to decide what kind of meal I could make with it- and really not wanting to have to go to the store… I had a gallon bag full of veggies (broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, peppers, and celery) but no meat. Suddenly, I remember that when I was separating chicken to put in the freezer, one of the bags had been leaking so I’d rewrapped it it another bag…which meant I did have chicken after all. So I decided on a stir fry. I should mention that this was what I wanted because I was sent home from some BWW (Buffalo Wild Wings) sauce that I thought would be perfect for a stir fry!

So I cut up the chicken in stir-fryable pieces, threw them in the pan, and then realized I’d forgotten the container of sauce on my Auntie’s counter! Shoot! I was so disappointed. And I knew that I’d just thrown out the last of our very expired teriyaki sauce last week when I cleaned the fridge out! So just when I was contemplating running to the store after all (or more likely, sending hubbyman to the store)…I thought I’d just look up some stir fry sauces and see if I could happen to have the ingredients. Turns out, I didn’t. But I had similar ingredients. It turned out AMAZING. Hubby was so impressed!! He even asked that I make it in bulk and freeze so that it can be used again and again! I’d call it a success!!

So as I cooked the chicken, I got out all the veggies (leaving out the celery) out, and began to throw together the sauce. True to my normal form, I don’t have exact measurements for you, but hopefully close enough! And it’s all about taste anyways! So if you like more of one ingredient, and less of another- do that!

4 chicken breasts cut into strips

as much and many veggies as you want (I did throw the tomatoes in, but not until the very end)

sauce: 3/4 cup soy sauce (our favorite brand just went gluten free! so exciting!!), 1/2 cup sunflower oil (you could use olive oil, or if you had some- sesame oil would be perfect), 2 1/2 tsp (ish) ginger (I may have used a little more, but I like ginger), minced garlic (about 1/4 tbs), some toasted sesame seeds, and some crushed red pepper (maybe a little too much but it just swooshed on out of the jar), about 1/2 cup of brown sugar and maybe a tbs or two of honey (because that’s all I had.) Oh yeah, and a couple pinches of corn starch to thicken it up. See, I told you it’s not exact, but it was good… maybe next time I’ll get specifics.  I also took pictures, but for some reason they’re not wanting to upload…so I’ll have to add them as soon as they do! Ok, so still can’t find my camera (boo!), so I had to use my phone…so they’re small and not great quality, but they’re there, so there you have it!

I may have had some swooshing out of the toasted sesame seeds as well...


It looks like we’re going to have our first sunny day in weeks today! So I’m hoping to get out and enjoy it!!

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Spicy Mama

You would think my husband would know my cooking by now, right? You would think that after all these years he’d know to take a “taste test bite” before he starts shoveling it in like someone who’s never tasted the wonders of food before. Well, apparently, when hungry, that goes out the window. I had gotten this amazing cheese at the grocery store and was excited to try it out! I made “macaroni” (or my homemade version of) for the kids and so I was able to pull this amazing dish out of the leftovers that are currently taking over my fridge. Which brings me back to my original point- the food shoveling. You see, the cheese I used was cheddar. Habanero cheddar. And since both hubbyman and I are spice enthusiasts, I thought this would be a great way to spice up plain ‘ol macaroni. (pun not intended, but what a happy coincidence! *wink*) I was so excited to see his expression! Unfortunately, he though it was just plain and shoveled it in, only to have his mouth catch on fire, and exclaim, “What did you put in this?!” I’m not sure if he thought it was another prank or not (see here, here, and here), but I just about cried because I’d been so excited about my new twist on a classic that I did not see this coming at all! I probably should have gone with it being a prank.

Spicy MamaRoni

noodles (I used rice)

Parmigiano Reggiano (or whatever kind of parmesan you have on hand)

Habanero Cheddar (for a little kick but less overall spice, you could use pepper jack)



flour (I used coconut flour)


cracked pepper


seasoning salt

It’s really, really, really simple. Boil your water, cook your noodles, and while noodles are cooking in a sauce pan over med. heat cook 1 cup of milk, 2 tbs butter, and 2 tbs flour. Bring to a boil, about 2 min. Add in cheese. O used about 1/2 cup of the habanero cheddar and 1/2 parm. Add in seasoning (I just used pinches of mine because the cheese already had so much flavor). I also added in about a cup-cup and a half of cubed chicken, because I had it on hand. I think it would be really great with spinach and maybe even broccoli. That’s how I’ll try it next time. I garnished with some diced red onions that needed to be used up and it added a nice crunch!  This was seriously, so, so, so good! And once he knew it was spicy, hubbyman also agreed it was good. And he had some for lunch the next day and declared it really good. As in something he’d like to eat again…when he’s been properly informed of the spice factor.

(end note: I highly recommend going to your local grocer and get the most flavor infused variety of cheese you can find, and then coming up with ways to use it! Put it in a recipe that you already make that maybe could use a little excitement!  Plus, cheese freezes pretty well, so cut it/shred it up and freeze it in “this is how much I’d use before it goes bad” amounts!)

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Sake it to me!

So today I actually got my house totally cleaned! organized ok, ok, so it’s picked up, at least to the naked eye, or more accurately, or at least hopefully, to the visiting eye! Things are where they’re supposed to be, beds are made, and toys were put away… and although I didn’t have time to mop the kitchen floor, I did get vacuuming done (upstairs). That counts for something, right?

Although with all the commotion I’m hearing going on downstairs, I’m guessing that it’s being undone as we speak as I type. Ugh. If only it were sunny. I love cleaning on sunny days. Don’t ask me why, but give me a sunny Saturday, a glass of wine (as long as it’s after noon, of course), some music, and someone to keep the kids away…and I am a happy camper! Weird, right?  But days like today, where it’s just blah, grey, and cold… I just want to curl up on the couch and watch a movie. I would really do just that too, if today weren’t Thursday (*my TV night* where my husband is usually sweet enough to keep the kids away while I relax and pretend that my only concern is if Callie and her baby really do make it after all, and will Lexi and Sloan ever make it work?) After all, I was so productive yesterday! But I’ll (hopefully!) stick to my guns, and get some laundry done. So that while I’m relaxing tonight I can feel like it’s not a total waste of time, since I’ll also be folding clothes! Need a good excuse or a way to make yourself feel better about taking time for yourself? Let me know, I’ll totally help you out! My favorite is eating salsa while watching “my shows.” Since Miss E can’t have anything with tomatoes, I’m really doing her a favor by making sure there isn’t any in the house…right? I ♥ my reasoning. (ha! It doesn’t usually actually work, the warding off the mommy-guilt, but I do what I can.)

Well, since I was so productive yesterday, and we had more visitors coming for dinner… we (and by we I mean mainly hubby-man) fed the kids (ours and our nephew) the chicken from the day before! (Yay for leftovers! Plus yay for tricky mamas! My nephew has the sweetest brown eyes, but can be a bit of a picky eater. I made dinner into a race -see who could eat the most, not the fastest- and even did a refill on the chicken when he wasn’t looking! That’s right Auntie got him to eat 2nds even! Yay for me!) Anyhow, then we  (same we as before…) made the “adult food” (which basically just means there’s tomatoes in it, or in this case- they needed to be fed immediately),

Back when hubby-man was also a military-man he did a deployment to Japan, where he fell in love with Korean bbq. When he came home he insisted on learning how to replicate it. And it was time well spent! This is another one of those meals that can look -and taste- like you spent a lot of time and money on it, but neither is true. And ooooh is it yummy! Hubby-man loves this recipe for crowd-feeding! I think he secretly loves that he makes it and therefore everyone oohs and aahhs over his culinary abilities.(I love that I’m not doing the cooking!)  Plus, then we get to use all the fun things purchased in Japan! And I’m down for any reason to get out (and use) the Sake set! Something about the miniture scale of it all just makes me feel like a little girl at a tea party! I love it!

Just talking about it has made me realize that it’s lunch time, I’m hungry, and there’s a dish of it set aside specifically for my lunch! I highly suggest you try it! Sooo good!

Meat and Veggies:

4 lb Round Steak (we used black angus)

3 bell peppers (we used 2 red and 1 orange)

2 med. yellow onions

Slice the beef, peppers, and onions in thin strips.

We realized upon cutting it up that it was a ton of food! And our guests ended up dropping off our nephew while they ran some errands. Which worked out perfectly because YAY LEFTOVERS!! So what we did was cook half and froze (the already sliced everything) the other half. So next time we’re thinking that it sounds good, or get unexpected company, no trips to the store will be necessary, we’ll just whip it out of the freezer and voila! You should also know that I LOOOVE peppers and so there’s nothing sparing about the amount of vegetables put in here. You could also add lots of other things, peas, mushrooms, broccoli… (those are things I’d like to try adding in). Plus, if you wanted to make it without meat, it would still be delicious! This is a good recipe to cook with more than one person, or do the slicing in advance. So that either one person slices while the other makes the sauce, or you’ve got it all prepared in advance and can make the sauce and you’re good to go. Either way.

Yakiniku Sauce

1 sm. onion

1 clove garlic

3 tbsp white wine

1 tbsp sea salt

2 tsp honey

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp roast sesame seed (lightly ground)

3 spring onion very finely chopped

I throw the onion, garlic, and spring onions in the food processor, but you can simply just finely chop them. Place in a saucepan with wine (or white wine vinegar) and cook for about 3 minutes while stirring fairly frequently. Add in the sea salt, honey, sesame oil, and lemon juice and cook for another minute. Let it cool and then add the sesame seeds.

Then throw this delicious concoction on top of the meat and veggies (we cook ours on our big griddle because it’s the perfect size, but you can always do it on the stovetop.) Making sure to stir so that everything is evenly coated. Serve over rice (or quinoa)!  Oh, and the sauce can be saved too. I like the extra for pouring over rice- yum! (plus tomato-less and gluten free!)


Impressively simple

So this is quickly becoming a favorite, at least for me… or I see it becoming a favorite is probably a better term because I have only actually made this twice, but it is so yummy!

It’s pretty much the same chicken recipe that I used here With a few new twists. I found that this chicken is both delicious and easy. And since we also have guests this week it’s a good meal to make if you want to impress with your culinary skills and stick to a time limit and a budget! I think this would also be good served over rice (or quinoa), but I wasn’t sure when I made it, so I skipped that part. Next time, I think I’ll add rice. This time I used a ton of chicken (I figured it would be a crazy week so I cooked up between 6-8 (I can’t remember which now!) chicken breasts that I’d cut into strips. After cooking through I took out about 1/3 of the chicken to save for future meals. If I were only cooking the amount for this dish I would have cooked the “mix ins” along with it. The “mix ins” were one yellow onion, about 2+ cups of fresh spinach, about 2/3 cup of fresh chopped mango, about 1 cup of Trader Joe’s tomato-less salsa (a corn and chili salsa- so, so yummy!) with a few drizzles of olive oil. I did this in a pan along side the chicken.


Once I removed the chicken to save for the rest of the week, I added in the “mix ins,” cooking over a low heat while stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. I also realized at this point that I’d forgotten to cook the chicken in lime, so I squeezed some extra lime juice in the mix. Voila! 20 minutes and dinner was done! And delicious!

See, wouldn’t this look terrific on top of rice?

So good, so easy, sooo… go make it!

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Something Fishy Is Going On

This year’s April Fool’s pranks have become the never-ending-prank! Since that fateful day hubby tied the hose down with a string, the hose now likes to “stick” as if being held down. About once a week you turn on the faucet and the hose starts spraying… all of these times it happened to me! Never to him! And a couple of times there’s been witnesses to these water drenching attacks! Now I hadn’t told hubby about it, because (obviously!) I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction that would go along with it! Until yesterday- he witnessed it. Boo! Hiss! But, he was nice enough to make dinner and do clean up so I guess I won’t hold it against him. At least not today.

We know lots of fisher-people (both men and women) and so we have lots of potential for (free!!) fish, especially over the summer! While we previously haven’t taken full advantage of this, this year we definitely plan to! Anyhow, I had a walleye in the freezer, just awaiting the hubs to skin and bone (I just can’t)… and he went ahead and did it all! Yeah hubby! Ok, I did make the batter… just so you know I wasn’t laying out, drinking mimosas in the sunshine while he slaves away or anything.

Anyway, this fish is so good, the kids love it, we love it… and if you’re starting to know me and my cooking at all, you know I always make enough for a)hubby to take to work tomorrow and b)at least one lunch for the kids (I try and only really cook one meal a day), so when I say there were NO leftovers– that’s a big deal.

Finger lickin’ Fish Bites Batter

1/2 cup flour (I used GF all-purpose)

2/3 cup corn starch

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

3/4 cup water

Stir the flour, starch, sugar, salt, and pepper together. If you especially like a certain seasoning- add it in! I added extra salt, pepper, and some Lowry’s seasoning to the mix as well. Because we like it (obviously!) plus the all-purpose flour we have has garbanzo beans as a main ingredient and I wanted to help hide some of the “vegetable-y-ness” of it. (*note: could not taste it -the beans- at all! The best batch we’ve probably ever had!) Add in the water stirring thoroughly. I had to add in a little extra water to mine because it just seemed a little thicker than normal, but I normally make it with all the gluten-free flours and not the all purpose, so I’m thinking that may be the difference. Anyhow, if you find it to be too thick, just add in water by the tbs.

I’m a new fan of grape seed oil. It’s pretty flavorless, but much better for you. You can, of course, fry it in whatever your oil of choice is. If you do use something like grape seed oil, you can always drizzle some olive oil over afterwards for the taste.

side note: this was enough batter for a whole walley plus two chicken breasts cut into strips. I wish I would have done another two chicken breasts so we would have had leftovers!

Totally Rockin’ Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup mayo (homemade or otherwise)

2 big, juicy pickles (or 2 tbs relish)

2 good squirts of lemon juice (or 1 tsp if you need specifics)

Mix it all up and enjoy! It is so yummy! There was enough to cover all the food plus have a little left over! I know I’ve said this a couple of times already, but I can’t emphasize this enough…I wish we were having it for lunch today, and as Erik’s probably currently scarfing down the yogurt he got instead, he’s probably thinking the same thing!


The Flip Side

So the two questions I’m finding that I get asked the most is how can we afford to cook everything homemade and natural/organic, and how do I have the time? …but basically the REAL answer to both questions is that I can’t afford NOT to. My little MissE is allergic to… a lot of things. Food coloring, preservatives, tomatoes, citric acid, MSG, wheat… and those are just are “for sure” ones. It was to the point that no matter how careful we were or what we didn’t give her, she had hives with every meal. Eventually they were just always present around her mouth. So we gave up. We gave up over-processed, over colored, and over preserved foods. We started making things from scratch… like really from scratch. What we filled in it’s place was fresh, tasty, healthy food. We are healthier for it, and so are our children. And for the first time in MissE’s little life, she is hive free.

It started with when we moved from the apartment (affectionately dubbed “the little house” by my children) to “the house.” We started a garden and we practically have a farmer’s market in our backyard (I know, how great is that?!)… and so we made the decision, for both health and financial reasons, to go scratch. Threw out all the boxes and over-processed crap, and never looked back… well, maybe an occasional glance, but only to say, can you believe we ever ate that stuff?! Yes, the initial set up of buying all the cooking and baking ware and goods will cost you something, but we cut our grocery bill in half, therefore quickly recouping the initial costs. And then there’s the, “I wish I had time to cook. You’re so lucky you have all this time to cook since you’re home with the kids.” (insert irritated-by-your-condescension laugh) First of all, because of my daughter, I really don’t have a choice, I HAVE to cook this way, and number two…it actually doesn’t take as long as you think it does. Seriously. I can MAKE noodles/pasta in the amount of time it takes to boil the water. And in the same amount of time it would take you to make a box of hamburger helper, I can make a homemade version. And it will be so much better for you, and it will taste so much better too. Seriously. Plus, since I’m making it all from scratch and have the things necessary to do so at home… I go to the grocery store WAY less. And I LOVE not having to do that so often! Plus, the less you go, the less you’re tempted to buy things that you don’t need! For me, the key to the time I spend cooking, is organization. Keeping my supplies…supplied. And having things that can have multiple purposes. Or doing things in advance. Or whenever you have a few free moments. Already making an alfredo/tomato sauce for tonights meal? Double it and put the rest in the fridge/freezer for next time. (Frozen sauce really take very little time to thaw.) Cooking up some chicken to throw in that alfredo sauce? Cook some extra to go on salad for lunch tomorrow. Easy things like that. And when you’ve done some of these steps, when you have nights where you just don’t feel like cooking…you’ll have something easy to throw together. Or simple enough your significant other could do it! Really. And trust me, hubby cooks breakfast on the weekends…and that’s about it (at least during the winter- during the summer he does quite a bit of grilling, when he’s home before dinner time anyhow), so I make the meals myself, so I know some days we just don’t wanna do it! But anytime we’ve “taken the easy route” and gone out to dinner 3 things happen: 1) by the time we get to the restaurant and receive our food- we could have cooked and eaten a meal at home. 2) we’ve paid for food that in general would have tasted better if I’d of made it myself. 3) we have to deal with the kids in a restaurant.

Now, how do we afford to do this? (Again, really no other option, but…) There are lots of helpful hints. Buy in season. Buy in bulk. (we ♥ Costco and on-line… lots of good deals there, and lots free of charge shipping) Buy local. Freeze, dry, can, store… figure it out. And do it. You’ll never regret it, and as it is with lots of things, you will be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is. Seriously. And make the most of what you have. Yogurt on sale? I’ll buy a ton and make frozen yogurt popsicles (my kids prefer them to actual ice cream or regular popsicles, which they can’t have anyways!), or fruit roll ups. Also a great idea for when you have yogurt that is about to expire and you don’t want it to go bad- freeze it! We try to waste as little as we can, so if I have a bunch of tomatoes about to go bad- I make tomato sauce, and freeze it or can it. Spices I’ve boughten fresh over the winter and don’t use up- I dry it. Which basically saves you twice. Because you got the fresh spice and then when cooking you don’t have to buy an expensive bottle of anything, because you’ve already got the fresh/recently dried, better tasting stuff anyhow. Another great tip that I’ve learned is stocking up on things that are naturally (or regularly) made gluten-free. You’ll be surprised by how many things there are (Trader Joe’s even has a list in it’s store -that you can take home- that has all of it’s products that are gluten free). We were so thankful that our favorite (as a household) snack is chips and salsa. Bread (for sandwiches and toast) is the thing we miss most. In the beginning I was pretty good about making bread weekly, but haven’t been so good about it lately. Although we’ve learned other tricks, like PB&J roll ups on corn tortillas. Add a little nutella and they think it’s a special treat!  PS. trader joe’s is a GREAT find! Things are so reasonable that you’ll want to buy everything! And they have a great selection of gluten free things (including one of my favorite things- Almond meal… double the amount of what you’d find at the store for less than half the price! Score!).

Another thing that really helps -that’s SO simple- is: make friends! Farmer’s markets are great for that! We (truly) go every week, so by the end almost of the summer almost every stand would have some little treat waiting for my kids every week, because they knew we’d by, and they’d come to know us. We buy our beef from a hobby farm (which is a great money saver on organic, hormone-free, icky-stuff-free beef) that’s owned by a friend of my mother-in-law. We get eggs from *a guy through hubbyman’s work who raises chickens. We get corn from a friend of my Grandparents who farms. Seriously, people are willing to share- if they know you’re interested. Our neighbor knows we love veggies and such and so whenever people give her things from their gardens- she brings it over to me! So reach out- post a facebook status that says, who knows where there’s a crop share available? Or who has extras from their garden? I bet you’d be surprised with the responses, I know I have been. Farmer’s markets are my favorite way of buying produce, and the cheapest as far as buying organic and pesticide free go too. Yes, organic food stores (and even organic in your neighborhood grocery store) can be spendy, so you should figure out what’s in season (it’ll be cheaper) and stick to the most important ones to go organic on. They’re commonly referred to as “The Dirty Dozen.” (think- celery with no protective “skin” against pesticides vs bananas with a peel you don’t eat anyways.) Another thing, make cyber friends too! I was amazed with how many blogs and sites I found with people with similar ideas and lifestyles as my family. Support and good ideas all in one! Plus, real mom recipes are the best kind- you know, ones a real person has actually made. Someone who maybe has a bunch of kids running around and a husband and a life and still cooked a meal, and was willing to share it… chances are, it’s gonna be a good one. (plus that takes so much of the guess work out on your side!)

When we first started making things from scratch, and then again when we went gluten-free, we got lots of comments about how much time it would take, how hard it would be to find anything to eat, and how expensive things would be. We muddled through anyways. And through intentional shopping and eating, we’ve found it to actually have been a really good experience. And we believe our kids will be healthier for it. Which in today’s society, is unfortunately becoming more and more rare. I have a lot more to say about intentional eating, and living… but I’ll save that for another day. Monday Funday means no TV/DVDs/Computer Games for my kids and so… it’s interactive, which requires my participation!

Maybe later I’ll let you in on our afternoon’s adventure- making cannoli! I loved when my mom would make it growing up, and so now I’m continuing the tradition! Plus, my kids love cooking along side of me! I love traditions and getting my kids involved- so it’s a double bonus for me! And them!


*we now get beef, pork, and hopefully soon- chicken from him too!