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Black and White Christmas Tree

2021 black and white Christmas Tree

Black and white meet elegance. All items available at Hobby Lobby to make this elegant, designer tree. I’m loving this look.

Tricks…. Your topper should be a highlight. Start with your angel, star, whatever suits your taste. Make it a focal point by adding branches and accessories around the bottom of it. This will also assist you as you move down the tree. Add ribbon to add texture to your tree. I like to tick my ribbon in and wrap with a branch to hold it in place. Next…Ornaments ornaments ornaments. Make them different in look, shape and size. Glass (or clear plastic) along with glitter ornaments help to reflect the lights and make your tee look like there are more ornaments.

I put my topper on with the lights off. Then I add my ribbon. After I’m satisfied with my ribbon I turn my tree on to add ornaments. One more trick, add larger glass balls further into the tree to give you the look of twice the lights. Happy decorating and be sure to share your trees! I would love to see what you come up with.

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It’s coming, but when

He will soon be here

The time is coming, but no one knows just when. A great many lives will be changed in a single moment. The world as we know it will never be the same.

Will it be in the dark of night or in heart of the day. Will there be time to call the ones we love? Will it be quick and easy or will it linger on?

It will bring tears of joy, gut wrenching fear, the most epic triumphs, and aggravating failures. It will create havoc when we least expect it and it will bring peace without warning.

Will it come today? Will it come tomorrow? Is he ready? Is she prepared?

It is a HE, and HE is my grand baby. We wait by the phone to hear of his arrival. The day he arrives will forever change our lives. He will carry on the family name, will be the First in a line of Firsts. He will be the first grandson to carry on his PoP PoPs name. He will be my first grand baby, and he will be the first great grand baby.

We will wait. Not so patiently for the arrival of our little guy. We will pray for his mommy and daddy, as their lives will be filled with more joy than they ever knew possible, and will forever be changed. We continue to pray for his mommy for a safe and healthy delivery and a speedy recovery. We pray for his daddy as he will navigate taking care of the two most important people in his life. Finally we pray for our little grandson that he is as brave, kind, smart and loving as his mommy and daddy.

Stay tuned for new blogs to come. Story of the Gammy and her little man!

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Wrinkles be damned

This morning I looked in the mirror and I almost didn’t recognize myself. I saw stretch marks I had never seen before, wrinkles I am most certain came overnight, and holy moly grey hairs everywhere. On top of that everything looked thicker. The visual was not pretty in my eyes. Have I let myself go?

I stewed on this in my mind for the better part of the day. First I thought: it’s time to diet, I have to shed these pounds, I look awful. Call me vein if not liking what I saw in the mirror fits the bill! And the gym! It’s time to throw myself back into the gym, and work to get down to my ideal weight. That’s it!

Planning in my head, I will eat two hard boiled eggs for breakfast, mid morning oatmeal, a small salad for lunch, carrots for a snack, and a salad for dinner. I’ll make time for the gym at least four or five days a week. No excuses! Overtime, stressful days at work, family time….excuses. Not gonna have it, I convinced myself I will do what it takes.

I was already feeling the exhaustion from the plan with the reflection in the mirror still vivid in my brain. Although it took an hour to admit, If do these things, I wouldn’t be happy. I would run myself down. No matter how much progress I saw, I would resent my schedule and eventually rebel against my own plan.

I went on about my business of cooking dinner, prepping some breakfast burritos and a meal for later into the week to make life simpler. I find a lot of time to think while cooking in the kitchen. Of course my thoughts quickly went back to the reflection that looked back at me this morning. But my analysis slowly began to change from disgust to a more fair and realistic view.

When I was in my 20’s I weighted in at a meager 110 pounds. I was skinny as a rail and couldn’t gain weight if I had to. But then something happened. Not overnight, not even in a year; It was life. Life happened. Then life of an adult mom.

I am a proud mom of three beautiful humans. The first one left me with some beautiful stretch marks. Each line represented the fact that I carried him in my body for 9 months. For 9 months his existence and his survival depended on me. The marks left on my body don’t even come close to the marks he has left on my heart.

The cellulite came with my second human. Being pregnant with whole having a toddler meant I was exhausted. Carrying her required more rest and less moving. She tried to come into this world too early. Because she needed me to protect her a little bit longer, I couldn’t be as active. Hence the arrival of the fatty gel. So now, when I think about the way that cellulite made me sick, I recall being more than willing to slow down my entire life to give my baby girl a shot at one!

My baby, last born, brought on the weight. I was a little older when I got to carry him and we were a very busy household of four already. Our meal choices became things we could get an 7 and a 5 year old to eat. I worked full time, and then we were beginning the world of youth sports. Ball field concessions were my friend. Fat is evil, but for each pound I put on, they could never amount to the laughter and joy my baby boy brings to my world.

As for the wrinkles, grey hairs, and stiff joints….they are all here to remind me that I have lived, loved, and lost. I have worried, cried, cheered, and felt pride for all of my kids. For each late night, soccer match, baseball game, football hit, breakup, makeup, party, and milestone, I have a mark.

I walked back into the bathroom, stripped my clothes off and took another look in the mirror. This time, the person looking back at me was more familiar. She was older, and physically looks different. But I began to see memories, a history, a mom.

I will probably still work on eating better. I will probably try to hit the gym a few days a week. But I will not make it the priority. Healthy is good, and I want to be healthy for years to come, but for once, that is now my why. Not to look thinner, erase the wrinkles, or burn the cellulite. Those things are there to remind me of the important roles I have played and I will now start wearing them with pride.

Starting today, I’m going to live a little healthier but I’m going to also proudly live in my skin!

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Chicken Crust Pizza

Deciding what to make for dinner is becoming a struggle. The older I get the easier it is to pack on those pounds and inches so when I choose a meal I try to lean toward healthy, reduced carbs, higher protein, and flavorful. On top of all that, I am just not a veggie lover.

This recipe is very low carb, high in protein, filling, flavorful and versatile. I live me some pizza but, not al pizza. When I saw this recipe I was very skeptical but it was either try this or order out. Wanting to stay on track with my choices I opted to throw caution to the wind and try this out. I am so glad I did, because this will become a regular recipe for my family.

As I said, this recipe is versatile and you can mix and match the toppings your family will enjoy. Below is what I made tonight and it was perfect for my pallet. If your ready to change your pizza game, let’s go!

Ingredients 

  • 2 Cans Chicken, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 TBS Italian Seasoning
  • 1 TBD Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp powder
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Alfredo Sauce
  • Thinly sliced smoked Turkey (deli)
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 1 small can sliced black olives (drained)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Mix together strained chicken, Parmesan cheese, egg, and seasoning
  3. Place a piece of parchment paper on pizza pan and spray with cooking spray.
  4. Flatten chicken mixture onto parchment paper to make a pizza dough shape. Be sure to flatten evenly.
  5. Bake your chicken crust for 30 min.
  6. Spread Alfredo sauce atop the pregames crust. I did a thin layer but if you are a sauce lover, add some more!
  7. Top with Turkey, spinach, olives and cheese
  8. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Slice, serve, enjoy!
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Two husbands, One man (part 3)

All she wanted was a happy family and the man she fell in love with. She needed him to step up and help her help him. The fight within him was bigger and badder than either of them could battle alone. She told him, get help or it had to be over and he agreed.

Within 24 hours he had scheduled an appointment to start the good fight. Fighting the internal battle that was not only controlling his days and nights, but was also pushing away his family, the one who loved him the most.

The appointment date gave her hope, but she knew he had to open and honest with the doctors, admit his struggles and be willing to receive treatment. She prayed he would.

He went to his first appointment and when he got home, he seemed on edge. After dealing with this mood for many years, she left him to his thoughts and went about the normal evening routine.

Mixed with emotions she moved about in a cloud of pride mixed with the a dash of hope, watered down with defeat. He went and saw someone just like she asked but he seemed the same. She laid down in bed at the end of this day and just asked god to take control and help them, because she was out of hope.

As the days turned into weeks, she slowly began to notice changes. They started small, but to her, they were life changing. Small changes began to grow, and soon the good days began to outnumber the bad. Her miracle has begun.

He was still going to his appointments, and he was more than four weeks into his medications when she felt a calm surrounding them. She saw this man, the one she fell in love with, the one who had succumbed to his rage and anger. Her man was back.

After the kids were in bed for the night, they were cuddling on the couch watching whatever mind numbing show that happened to be on, she had to ask. She had to know about the doctor, the medicine, how he was feeling, she needed to know everything. Just asking could set him off, but he was her world and she wanted to be part of the healing. She wanted to help if she could.

He didn’t provide a lot of information but managed to share just enough to settle her mind. The doctor was talking to him about an incident that happened before she even knew him, something she had no idea about. He didn’t elaborate except to say he thought it was helping to talk to the doctor, and they also put him on some medications that he was beginning to see work. His answers were calm and he didn’t seem the least bit aggravated that she had asked. Then, from nowhere he said something that she had never seen coming. He said “I’m sorry that I have been difficult to live with, and thank you for giving me the push to talk to someone.” She knew at that moment, while their road ahead may not be easy, they would be ok.

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Two husbands, One man (part 2)

She was frightened to the core. The only relief she felt was in knowing that PTSD was wreaking havoc on him, her marriage and her family. The signs were there, but how will he react when she brings up what she has learned?

When he has a moment, the kind of moment that sends him off into a rage, brings out the man that is hard to love, he no longer hears what anyone says. He either lashes out with his sharp toungue or retreats and becomes recluse and distant.

It’s not a wonder he doesn’t know there is a problem. In his years in the Army, words were drilled into them like: “man up,” “if you’re broke your weak,” “mental illness is an excuse,” and many more. She could barely get him to see a doctor when he was sick.

This time had to be different. She had to make him see that something was just not right (saying something is wrong sounds so bad), that he needed to look into the possibility, and that their future together depended on it.

Today would have to be the day. She would have to be brave, but firm. She had to do this the right way if she was going to get through to him.

He had come home from work, eaten his dinner, and relaxed with a drink watching tv in the living room. She had bathed the kids and they were playing in their rooms. She must have his undivided attention. The kids were a distraction and a stressor for him, so with them occupied, she took her perfect opportunity.

She sat down next to him, and with a warm, calm smile asked him if they could talk for a few minutes. Her voice was a bit shaky, so he knew this was important whatever she had to say. He turned down the volume on the tv and accommodated her. There were no signs of tension, no sign of apprehension.

Fear still streaking through her soul, she was after all jeopardizing the life she knew and once she put it out there, there was no going back. She looked him directly in the eyes and said: “I know that you love me and our babies with all of your heart, but I have noticed that the children seem to aggravate you very easily. You also mentioned a while back that you were having trouble sleeping as well.” There were many more symptoms he was displaying but she didn’t want to overwhelm him by pointing everything he did wrong. He looked at her and apprehensively agreed with a “yeah, maybe.”

The answer was not a no. She needed him to agree, say yes. She had already started, she had to continue to navigate his emotional minefield. “I ran across an article today that caught my attention because some of the things that you are going through are very similar to the symptoms of something called Post Traumatic Stress.” She avoided the four letters all over the news that were associated with those taboo things a ‘good’ Soldiers didn’t talk about Army: PTSD. Before he could argue or react, she pressed on “and I don’t really know everything that you had to go through while you were deployed, but this is something I need you should explore.”

He was listening, but still no yes. She could see in his body language that he was getting uncomfortable with the conversation. Now, she had to finish what she needed to say. “I love you, and I will be here for you, but only if you agree to talk to your provider, call one of the hotlines, or reach out to some kind of professional. You are mean when you get upset. Your children love you, but are afraid of you. I can only do so much to protect you from all of the things that aggravate and anger you. You need help, or I can not be with you.”

There she said it. Her life would be forever changed. Either he was going to agree to help, to start the conversation, or their life together would be severed. She would have to do what was right for her, and for their children.

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Two husbands, One man (part 1)

Husband number one is handsome, charming, charismatic, sensitive, gentle, and funny. He would do anything for his wife and children. He is faithful and loyal, the man of her dreams.

Husband number two is also handsome, and loves his family. He provides for them and works hard. His moods fluctuate from cheerful to anxious, happy to aggravated. His demeanor changes like the flip of a light switch. The children he loves, playing with their legos and laughing, cause his anxiety to elevate at an alarming rate. He’s angry, he’s mean, his words are cruel and cutting.

What if I told you husband number one and husband number two are one in the same? He doesn’t know why he looses control. He is broken but doesn’t have any visible signs. No scarring, no bruising or cuts. His wounds are internal, pushed deep down inside.

One day, after the millionth time he had yelled at the kids to shut up while they were playing with their toys, his wife had had enough. She had been researching, googling, searching for an explanation. Searching for a reason this seemingly perfect man had a totally imperfect side.

She found a random blog. A wife and mother writing about her eerily similar husband. Chills streamed through her body as she read on. What is wrong with this father, this husband, this soulmate? Perhaps it’s not him, it’s her. Maybe she is putting too much on his plate? Maybe she is just making mountains out of molehills.

As she read on, she saw the all too familiar behaviors. Agitation, irritability, hostility, hyper-vigilance, self-destructive behavior, and social isolation. And then she saw something she had heard about but never considered: PTSD.

But how? Yes her husband was retired from the Army and yes he had been to combat, but he was never injured or shot. He doesn’t talk much about his service, but he is proud to have served. Surely the man she loved, shared a family with, her best friend would have told her all about such a significant event or that it was bothering him, right?

She googled PTSD and what she read would become life changing. His symptoms, his behaviors, everything about his two different beings were all explained away by this thing called PTSD.

As she read on, she absorbed as much knowledge about the disorder, others stories of this invisible devil, and then the most encouraging news of all! Even though this disease isn’t necessarily curable, in many cases it’s treatable and manageable.

Now she is faced with what will be the most difficult challenge in her marriage, how will she tell him her suspicions. How will he react? She doesn’t know what will come of this discussion, but what she does know is her marriage and her family are depending on its success. How will he react?

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Shop for less

I love to shop but I love to save money when I shop even more. As a middle age woman, my weight fluctuates but my wardrobe doesn’t always keep up. New clothes every six months is not exactly something I want to budget for.

With department stores closing at alarming rates and COVID making it less appealing to actually leave the house for a skirt or blouse, online shopping is today’s fashion must. For those of you who want to dress up your wardrobe, love the latest fashion AND want to do it on a budget, let me introduce you to ThredUp!

From Kate Spade, Oscar de La Renta to H&M or Guess, they have it! They have new and gently used gems at your fingertips at prices you won’t believe. Sort by style, size, color, brand or fit. This is an entire mall in one store from the comfort of your living room. The quality is impeccable and their customer service is spot on.

Not only can you update your wardrobe, you can clean out your closet and sell to them. Their process is simple and self explanatory, and easier than having a garage sale at your own home. They do the work for you!

You don’t have to take my word for it, give it a try! Click on the link and get $10 off your first order, no strings attached, no auto ships, no stress! Your not going to regret this site! I promise!

Link to $10 off http://www.thredup.com/r/ZC4UUX

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been baking for a long time with a lot of success. The one recipe I struggled to master was the chocolate chip cookie. Growing up I had a neighbor, Mrs Brian, who loved to have my little brother and I come by for a visit. I remember visiting her and she would always have fresh baked cookies. Chocolate chip cookies! Those cookies were absolutely amazing. They had that little crunch when you bit into them but the center was so soft.

I spent the better part of my baking life trying to find that recipe. No matter how good I thought a recipe turned out, there was never anything quite as good as Mrs. Brian’s.

Guess what friends, I have finally figured it out and I’m about to share it with all of you. Go ahead and throw away all of those old recipes because once your crunch into these amazing babies, well, you’ll understand!

This recipe calls for sea salt. This is a must! You must follow this one exactly. The only addition is if you want to include nuts. Crushed walnuts and pecans work best. Here we go, let’s make some cookies!

Ingredients 

  • 1 stick, unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-1 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and place rack in center.
  2. In a large bowl or mixer, combine butter, eggs, vanilla and brown sugar. Mix until well combined.
  3. Add in your flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Combine well.
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips.
  5. Place a piece of parchment paper on your cookie sheet. No need to grease at all.
  6. Using your kitchen teaspoon, scoop a overfill teaspoon of dough onto your prepared cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 11-13 minutes. Cookies should just be beginning to turn light brown.
  8. Remove cookie sheet from oven and let sit for a couple minutes.
  9. Move cookies to wire rack for cooling. Eat and enjoy!
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Lasagne Soup

Snow day number 5. It’s white, it’s deep and it’s cold. Ok guys, this calls for a soup kinda meal to warm us up. This is the only way to battle Mother Nature, find joy in our kitchens.

Around here, we don’t have any good Italian restaurants. Maybe that’s why when I come across an Italian recipe, even a soup, my guys are chomping at the bit for it, literally!

As usual, this recipe can be tweaked to be low carb! Add some extra zucchini and don’t bother with those lasagne noodles of your watching your carbs. For this one, because the guys love their carbs, I opted for both zucchini and noodles and just removed the noodles from my bowl. Well most of them.

Altogether, you need about three hours of cooking time for this recipe. You can do it in the crock pot all day if you want, and low for 8 hours will work out just fine. We are going to make this in my Dutch oven, because I love love it and I have nothing but time today.

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 5 sliced Bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • 2 TBS Italian Seasoning
  • 2 TBS oregano
  • 1 Basil leaf
  • 2 TBS Garlic Salt
  • 7 C chicken broth
  • 1 med zucchini sliced 1/4 in thick
  • 2 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 9 lasagne noodles broken into 1 inch pieces
  • 7 ounce ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 C shredded Parmesan

Instructions

  1. In dutch oven, cook sausage until done. Move to bowl and set aside.
  2. In still hot Dutch oven add olive oil, onions, and garlic. Cook until onions begin to become translucent.
  3. Add back the sausage. Add spaghetti sauce, chicken broth, mushrooms and seasoning. Cover and simmer on low for 2 hours.
  4. After 2 hours, add noodles and stir. Place lid back on pot and continue to simmer.
  5. After about 30 min, add zucchini and spinach. Place lid on pot and simmer 30 more minutes.
  6. While your soup is finishing up. Combine cheeses together in bowl.
  7. When your pasta is cooked, remove from heat. Ladle the soup into a bowl. Put a dollop (heaping tablespoon or two) of cheese into your soup and enjoy!
  8. If you have any leftovers (good luck,) they can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
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Sausage White Bean Italian Soup

Warm up from the inside out with this hearty Italian gem. Nothing says love quite like the flavors in this savory stew.

I like to use Italian sausage links. I squeeze the sausage out of the casing in small balls. You don’t have to do this step and can just slice the links into bite size pieces. I am just not a fan of the casing. Most importantly, be sure to use Italian sausage! If you like things a little spicier you may choose to go with the spicy version of Italian sausage.

If you want more veggies, celery and green peppers can be added. I love a recipe that has flexibility to add things our family likes. Let’s make some soup!

Ingredients 

  • 2 packages Italian Sausage links (slice into bite size pieces)
  • One yellow onion diced
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 TBS tomato paste
  • 2 TBS Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 28 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 115 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1/2 C roasted red peppers chopped
  • 3/5 cup Orzo pasta
  • 1 15 ounce can white beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In large skillet cook sausage until done. Move to crockpot.
  2. In same skillet cook onions, carrots, garlic in olive oil until onions are translucent. About 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato paste and Italian seasoning. Pour 1/2 cup chicken broth over mixture and stir. Bring to a boil and scrape up any cooked on revenants from bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and transfer to crock pot. Add remaining ingredients except beans, pasta and spinach.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8’hours. 30 min prior to eating add beans, pasta and spinach. Add salt as needed. Stir and put on high for 15 minutes.
  5. Shut off crock pot and let set for 15 mon as this soup is very hot. Serve with your favorite Italian bread.
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Chili

Snowy winter days call for that steaming savory chili like momma used to make. Over the years I have tried and made multiple kinds of chili.

This recipe is a combination of several of my favorites carefully put together for that hearty, tasty, sweet heat that warms your tummy and almost makes you look forward to a snow day.

My family is torn between oyster crackers, saltine crackers, or Fritos. You pick, cause they all go good on top of this recipe.

Let’s make some chili!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground Turkey
  • One yellow onion chopped
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 10 baby bella mushrooms (sliced)
  • 2 cans Ranch Style Beans
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz can tomatoe sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2TBS chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 med chili guajillo peppers (no seeds)

Instructions

  1. In Dutch oven or large saucepan heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until they begin to turn translucent.
  2. Add ground Turkey to onions and cook until browned.
  3. Chop up peppers. Be sure to remove seeds unless your looking for some extra zing.
  4. Add peppers and all remaining ingredients to your meat and onions. Reduce to low and simmer 1-2 hours. This will allow all of these spices to blend well.
  5. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, crackers, or whatever your favorite chili topping is.
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The next chapter

We are finding ourselves at a crossroad and the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. It’s times to make decisions for us centered around what we want.

Over the past few years our oldest children have begun setting the foundations for their futures. Careers, marriages, and moves have set them down in different cities and different states. We have one left at home but his day is rapidly approaching as he will be a senior next year.

Looking at empty bedrooms, quiet hallways, and fewer dirty dishes in the sink are all reminders our little birdies have flown the coop. The house we made a home to raise our family is full of constant memories and reminder. Family movie nights in front of the fireplace, tears from a little heart broken girl in her room, and family dinners at the dining room table are memories I will always hold dear to my heart.

Our home has treated us well but as we look to the next chapter, we realized that what we wanted to experience is beyond the walls of this home. And as it becomes the two of us, we really want a new place to call home in a region that is kinder to the joints and gives us a whole lot more vitamin D.

We have decided to sell the place we have called home for more than 20 years. This won’t be easy to say goodbye, but the memories will always be with us. After raising our children for the last 23 years, it’s almost our time. We are excited to get back to each other, and have some fun.

Now the tricky part. Yes n order for this to work, I need to get a job on the other end. I have worked for the government for almost 30 years and will be able to retire in about 9 years. I don’t want to loose this retirement! The housing market is hot so selling now will give us the most bang for our buck. We have decided to go forward with selling here and buying there. A while we will rent here and use the new home as a vacation home for us about 6 times a year. In the end we are paying toward our retirement home and can enjoy it as often as possible.

Being a mommy has been an amazing journey with super ups and some or so great downs, but now I’m looking forward to being Dawn, whatever that looks like. Look forward to updates on how that and our big chapter change evolve. Here we go, the next chapter!

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BLTA Salad

I love ❤️ BLT’s! Add a little avocado just adds even kore yumminess. when I was pregnant with my first child I tried a BLT every single day. Today I still love them but my body has begun storing those breads in my hips and thighs like a chipmunk stores it’s nuts in their cheeks.

So how can I still enjoy one of my favorite things without the middle age woman side effects, I turned it into a salad! This super easy, super healthy, super delicious meal will change your mind about salads forever.

A few tips from my kitchen to yours. Use greater salad bases. Iceberg lettuce doesn’t provide a lot of nutritional value as it’s most made of water. If your gonna eat a salad it may as well benefit you in more ways than one! My go to’s are Arugula, Romain and Spinach.

Use the bacon of your choice. Turkey bacon is ok, but this recipe is much better with real bacon, and since we took the bread out of the equation, we can have that bacon and not feel so guilty. You can also use precooked bacon to make it even easier. I just toss mine in the microwave for about 15 seconds to heat it up just a tad.

Lets talk about the avocado! A avocado are packed with fiber, vitamin c and vitamin b6 and they are considered good fats! You can choose not to add this to your salad but getting a little more nutrition never hurt anyone. Go on, give it a try.

Finally, the dressing. You don’t have to make this dressing and can just use it he ranch in your fridge, but if you have the ingredients. I highly recommend you go ahead and make this one up. It is a little thinner than the average dressing but it binds to the salad wonderfully and the flavor is WOWZA!

Ingredients

  • 1- 1/2 cups Romain lettuce (salad chopped)
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/4 Avacado chopped (store remainder with seed in fridge for tomorrow salad)
  • 5 slices bacon (cooked and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1TBS dill
  • 1TSP Garlic salt
  • 1TSP Garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Place Romain, tomato’s, avocado, bacon and cheese in a bowl.
  2. In mason jar or sealable container mix mayonnaise, milk, dill, garlic salt, garlic powder in container.
  3. Pour about 2TBS dressing over salad and toss. Enjoy your BLTA!
  4. Store remaining dressing in refrigerator for tomorrow’s salad!
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It’s ok to disagree

I love Mexican food, sunny warm days, beaches and family time. If you don’t like those things you can’t be my friend. Does that sound logical? No of course it doesn’t. In America it’s ok to disagree.

Whether you take sugar in your coffee or live for the club scene, all of those little likes and dislikes make up who YOU are. It makes you different from me and the dentist! After all, if everyone liked the color blue, everyone’s cars, homes, shoes and nails would look the same.

Sit in a busy mall for just a hour or two and watch as people walk past you. No two people are absolutely the same. Yes, I know there are twins, but even the most identical twins have different likes and dislikes. To most of us, these differences in opinion are completely normal and socially acceptable. Aside from the standard jab because Coke is definitely better than Pepsi, it’s really no big deal.

So if we can accept our friends and neighbors preferences in smells, tastes, colors, cars, hobbies, and decor, why do we find it so difficult to accept their political views and preferences? Voting is private, a privilege, and a right, yet so many Americans feel that they should judge someone for their political choices. In the past few days there has been so much hate speech, diragcetory statements, and down right ugly behavior.

Most of my family and friends have no idea my political views and have no clue who I may have voted for in the last election. This is because it’s no-ones business but mine. If conflicts in politics is the fire, throwing my beliefs out there is just fueling the fire.

Social media, mainstream media, and political parties themselves continue to deepen the political divides along the citizens of the United States to sell tv time slots, upset elections and satisfy personal agendas. Yet when many politicians get in office, their votes are hinged on personal gain, party pressure, and big business payoffs.

I ask each and all to stop judging someone based on any preference or like/dislike. Our difference make us individuals. The ability to make the choice to color our hair pink or eat breakfast for dinner makes us Americans! Since no two Americans are alike, it makes it ok to disagree!

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Zucchini Lasagne

This girl doesn’t like cooked veggies. Even though I know all the facts about how important it is to get your veggies in, I just don’t like them. That was until a friend of mine convinced me to give this a try. Let me tell you what, I will be the first to the table for this lasagne and don’t judge when I’m getting seconds. This is sure to please the whole family and it only takes a few ingredients.

Some substitutions you can make based on your preferences or desire to make it even a little more healthy than it already is are the following. Love garlic, add as much as you like! I love Italian sausage however a more low-fat option is ground Turkey but if you go that direction, don’t forget the Italian seasoning for more flavor. I also love mushrooms but they aren’t necessary. Omit then if it’s not your cup of tea!

Ok so let’s get this pasta free lasagne going! Yeah, I said pasta free!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 medium zuchinni, sliced thin
  • 1-2 TBS crushed garlic
  • 1 can diced Italian tomatoes
  • 3-4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 cups mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Brown sausage and garlic.
  3. Add diced Italian tomatoes and mushrooms to meat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. In medium size baking pan spread 2 TBS of meat and tomato mixture on bottom of pan (prevents zucchini from sticking to pan)
  5. Lay one level sliced zuchinni in pan followed by half meat mixture. Cover meat mixture with half mozzarella cheese.
  6. Repeat these steps one more time.
  7. Pace baking pan in oven for 20 min or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minites
  9. Serve and enjoy!
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Mediterranean shrimp and scallops

Eating healthy does not have to taste bad and this recipe will become a regular menu item that will have them coming back for more!

Just a few tips before we get too far. Marinade your shrimp in the seasoning in #2 to ensure they have the best flavor! Any seafood can be substituted or added to this recipe and the results will still amaze! Ensure your shrimp are peeled and cleaned for optimal results. Fresh is always better but frozen shrimp will work, just be sure to thaw, rinse and pay dry.

Because my husband thinks he will starve when we eat healthier, I have used filler sides for him like roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, or cottage cheese. I find this perfectly satisfying on its own!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound shrimp (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 pound scallops (towel dried)
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 4-6 TBS olive oil
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 whole red onion
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  2. Place shrimp in bowl. Add 2tbs olive oil, garlic, 1tsp sea salt. fee dashes of pepper, paprika, oregano, and juice from entire lemon. Mix and let stand for about 5 minutes.
  3. Pat dry with a paper towel your scallops. Sprinkle with sea salt and paprika on both sides.
  4. Break off root end of asparagus and discard. Spread asparagus out in a cookie sheet.
  5. Slice onion into relatively large pieces. Place on cookie sheet with asparagus and drizzle with about 2 TBS of Olive oil.
  6. Lay scallops on bed of asparagus and onions.
  7. Spread shrimp across the asparagus and onion bed along with the juices they were marinading in.
  8. Bake at 450 for about 10 minutes. Turn broiler on high and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  9. Remove baking pan from oven and top with olives, feta cheese, remaining olive oil and cilantro. Serve immediately!
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Dare to Dream

When you were a kid, did you have dreams? Are your dreams similar today? Dreamers who become doers have a rare courage and fire in them.

Too often we get settled in our life, complacent. We work to live and those dreams become further and further from our minds. Now I’m not saying we aren’t living a good life, doing what we are supposed to, or that we aren’t happy. The fact is most of us are happy and that is great!

The dreamers who become doers tho are a special kind of people. Maybe they always wanted to travel, and not let the ground get too firm under their feet before they were into the next adventure. Perhaps that person became a traveling nurse after all the kids were grown and gone and now finds a new place to call home about ever 6 months. From the desert to the ocean, just enough time to experience what it has to offer and then on to the next.

Or maybe that dreamer is the retired couple who raised their children, worked the better part of their lives to live a honest and simple life, saving and investing so that on a magical January day they could move to sunny Florida, to a new neighborhood and new house to begin a new chapter that is about them. About being on vacation every day for the rest of their lives.

Dreams are like fantasy’s when we are children, when we are in the adulting years of our lives we don’t have the time or energy to pay attention to our dreams, but when the time comes for you to take those dreams and make them come true, be a doer and make those dream your reality. Dare to dream, but I dare you to make that dream come true. I know I will.

IHO of my mom and dad. Congratulations

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Cauliflower Tots

You don’t even have to like Cauliflower to love these! Cauliflower tots are so close to your beloved tater tots you will likely ditch your frozen favorite for this healthier option! I dare you to take a chance and whip these bad boys up and serve to the crew tonight for dinner and watch them enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (from 1 head of cauliflower)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 cup blanched almond flour
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Avocado oil cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place Cauliflower in microwave safe bowl with a little water. Cover and microwave apps 5 min until cauliflower can be pierced easily with a fork but not mushy.
  3. Working in batches, place the steamed florets in the food processor and process for 10 seconds until they are completely chopped into a meal. Transfer each batch of meal to a clean, thin dish towel or piece of cheesecloth. Continue to process the remaining florets. Once all the cauliflower meal is cool enough to handle, gather the corners of the towel and, working over the sink, squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Transfer the squeezed meal to a large bowl.
  4. Add the egg, grated onion, parmesan and cheddar cheeses, almond flour, and salt and pepper to taste to the bowl with the cauliflower. Use a rubber spatula to mix everything together. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so it can come together.
  5. Spray the prepared baking sheet generously with cooking spray. Use your hands to form 34 small “tater” tots, about 1 inch long by ½ inch wide, placing them on a baking sheet about 1 inch apart. All the tots should fit on one pan, though you can work in batches if needed. Spray the tots generously with cooking spray.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Flip the tots and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until they are browned all over. While still hot sprinkle with salt!
  7. Leftover tots can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 10 days.
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Chicken Meatball Parmesan

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Take a family favorite, flip the switch and you have this flavorful pan of yumminess. This twist on Chicken Parmesan and Spaghetti has my husband and son coming back for seconds.

Delicious doesn’t have to be difficult. with 10 minutes of prep time and 30 minutes in the oven, this is a great last minute meal that is guaranteed to be hearty satisfying entree!

Ingredients

1 lb ground chicken
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese plus a little extra for serving
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

In large bowl, mix together chicken, water, egg, breadcrumbs, seasonings and Parmesan cheese.

Pour your favorite sauce into a clean casserole dish or cast iron pan.

Good sauce is a key here!

Form meat mixture into meatballs. This recipe should make between 15 and 20 meatballs depending on the size. Please meatballs on your sauce

Bake your meatballs at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle mozerella cheese over meatballs and return to oven for approximately 10 min or until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Remove and serve. These meatballs can be served over any pasta. I prefer mine over spaghetti noodles. Enjoy!

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2020 goodbye

So many have suffered and lost in 2020 and for that my heart goes out to them and their families. Although this past year has not been without its hiccups and challenges, 2020 has grounded me and reminded me of just how truly blessed our family is. In a year of can’t do, new norms, and often times moments of solitude, the light has been our family. From movie nights to regular family dinners, the shutdown of our world brought us back to our foundations. It has slowed down our hectic lives and forced us to appreciate the simple things life has to offer us. This past year we raised eight chicks who are now producing the most delicious eggs. From the baby chicks in our bedroom under a heat lamp to 8 grown hens flocking to us for fresh veggies and bread treats, our little suburban home became our own mini farm. We built and harvested a garden with fresh cucumbers, zucchini’s, corn and beans while our deck garden consisted of peppers and herbs. We discovered our thumbs were a little greener than we had originally thought. This past year we hosted many bonfires, backyard feasts, movie nights under the stars and late night conversations by the crackling fire. We sent off our two daughters in laws to basic training and watched each of them graduate into airman! We have been doing drivers training for our youngest son who is proving to be a pretty good driver. As a couple, our marriage has grown stronger because our lives have become even more entwined. We have been blessed with jobs that allow us to work from home and we have learned how to monitor our sons non traditional learning. No, I would not say that 2020 has been the BEST year by any means. What I can say is that 2020 was a refresher for our family. It has refreshed our outlook on many things, renewed our faith, and allowed us to see how blessed we truly are. The quality time we have had over the past 8 months is something I will cherish for many years to come. Remember friends, our glasses are not half empty, they are half full! I welcome 2021 with an open mind and a warm heart as I bid 2020 a fond farewell.