Protein Hot Chocolate

I am super excited to share this one with the world.  I love hot chocolate and have often thought, “I would drink a cup of hot chocolate everyday, if I wouldn’t gain 20 pounds over the winter from it.” And now I can drink it everyday! In fact, I’ve had this as my first meal of the day for a week. I love it. I have tweaked the recipe over and over to achieve a delicious, healthy, low sugar, low carb, high protein cup of rich and chocolaty cocoa. In fact, 1/4 c. of mix has only 130 calories, 15 grams of protein, and 14 grams of carbs. So let’s get to it, shall we?


I start with chocolate protein powder; any favorite brand will work.  I buy this giant bag at Costco in chocolate and vanilla. To the chocolate protein powder, I add cocoa powder, Stevia, French Vanilla coffee creamer, and Hazelnut coffee creamer. If you don’t like hazelnuts just use double the french vanilla, or use any other flavor you like.


I mix them all together really well until totally blended and then put in a container with a tight fitting lid.  That is it, seriously, so easy and quick!


Pour in 1/4 c. of the protein hot chocolate mix.


There are a couple different ways to prepare the hot chocolate. 1- Add water, whisk really well and microwave for 1 minute.  Whisk really well again and you’ve got yourself a treat!  2- I have found that using a hot cocoa maker like this or like this, works even better for me in getting a lump-free and smooth consistency.  Just add the water to the hot chocolate maker, add 1/4 c. of the mix, place the lid on and push the ON button.  It only takes a few minutes and I don’t have to whisk at all.





1 c. chocolate protein powder

1/3 c. cocoa powder

4 tsp. (or 8 packets) Stevia

4 tsp. hazelnut coffee creamer powder

4 tsp. french vanilla coffee creamer powder


In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until totally incorporated together. Pour into a container with a tight fitting lid.

To make hot chocolate, use 1/4 c. of the protein hot chocolate mix with 1 c. water.



Chicken and Dumplings Soup


I just posted my chicken stock recipe and I wanted to share this Chicken and Dumplings Soup I made with the homemade stock. This soup turned out to be rich and creamy yet not heavy.  The dumplings were just like light, soft pillows and we all loved it.  This is absolutely going into our regular meal rotation.

This soup begins like many soups, with carrots, onions and celery (mirepoix). I saute them in a little butter and seasoned with kosher salt and freshly ground, black pepper.

Once the veggies start to soften, add some shredded chicken. I used some of the chicken I set aside from the rotisserie chicken I used to make the chicken stock. Next I added the stock, a bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Time to make a roux for the white sauce.

A roux (ROO) is used to thicken sauces and soups. It is a mixture of melted butter (or fat), to which you add flour and cook until it bubbles and the raw flour taste is cooked out. There are different shades of roux from white, light (blond), medium and dark. The shorter the cooking time the lighter the color of the roux. The lighter the color, the thicker it will make the sauce or soup. So, if you cook it a long time it will turn a dark, nutty brown with loads of flavor, but won’t thicken as much as a blond roux, like we are using. When making a sauce with the roux, once you’ve cooked the butter and flour to the desired color, you then add the liquid. In this case the liquid is milk, to make a white sauce.

You can see that the roux is a tan color and foaming, this is what we want.  Now add the cold milk and whisk a couple minutes, until thickened.

Now that the soup has had time to cook and the vegetables are soft, add the white sauce and whisk well to incorporate, until creamy. Doesn’t that look so yummy? Now we make the dumplings while the soup simmers away.

These dumplings are a simplified biscuit dough and it is just that, simple. I mix flour, salt and baking powder together, make a well in the middle and pour the milk and oil in the well.  Next, I stir until it just comes together into a ball and then comes the fun part, rolling the dumplings.


I keep them small, like 1″ across. They will grow and puff up and become the perfect size for eating. Once they are rolled, I gently place each one into the soup and cover.  They quickly pop up to the top and steam in the hot, covered soup.

The picture on the left is immediately after I dropped them in and before I put the lid on.  The picture on the right is after 10 minutes of cooking and steaming in the covered soup.


That’s it, the soup du jour.  Now serve with a side salad and remember, whoever has the bay leaf in their bowl gets to make a wish!! ENJOY!

Chicken and Dumplings Soup


1/4 c. butter

1 onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled, and sliced

4 stalks celery, washed and sliced

2 cups shredded chicken

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

8-10 cups of chicken stock

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp. dried parsley flakes

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/4 c. butter

1/4 c. all purpose flour

1 c. milk

For the Dumplings:

1 c. all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/3 c. milk

2 T. oil


In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt 1/4 c. butter and add onion, carrots, celery, salt and pepper.  Saute until onions are translucent. Add shredded chicken, stock, bay leaf, parsley and thyme.  Bring soup to a simmer.  In a medium sauce pan, over medium heat, melt 1/4 c. butter then add the 1/4 c. flour.  Whisk, and allow roux to foam and bubble until it becomes a light tan color, about 5 minutes. Pour in the milk and whisk well to incorporate. Once the white sauce is thick, add to the soup and whisk well, until creamy. Continue simmering the soup while the dumplings are made.

To make the dumplings, mix the 1 c. flour, salt, and baking powder into a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the milk and oil. Mix with a fork until the dough forms a ball.  Form dough into 1″ balls and set aside on a plate.  Keep the dumplings covered with plastic wrap until 10 minutes before serving the soup, then add them to the soup and cover.  Serve immediately. ENJOY!!







Chicken Stock

The very first thing we learned to cook in Culinary school was stock. We made chicken, beef, fish, and vegetable stocks.  It is a basic and important skill as stocks are foundational to so many foods. I know it may seem daunting or time consuming but it actually takes very little effort, comes together very quickly and you just go about your life while it simmers away. I understand that you can buy chicken stock at the store, but I promise this tastes better, is healthier, you know exactly what is in it and it is cheaper! Who wouldn’t want to make it, right? 🙂


Let’s start with the bird.  I love Costco’s rotisserie chicken.  They are a bargain! Other stores are selling much smaller birds for much more money.  My little girls love to pick one out and eat the drumsticks for lunch.



First we remove the meat from the skin and bones. I know this may not be your favorite part but it really goes much quicker than you think.


TA DA! Just look at that moist, delicious meat.  Notice I placed the skin and bones back into the black plastic container the chicken came in, this is because I don’t want the stock to miss out on all the flavorful drippings in the bottom of the container.

I drop the bones, chicken and juices into a large, heavy pot and fill the black container full of water, three times. This is 12 cups of water. Now let’s talk aromatics.  You may notice how many recipes call for onion, carrots and celery.  This is called mirepoix (mee-ruh-pwah).  It is as basic as stock and as a general rule it consists of 2 parts onion, 1 part, carrots, 1 part celery.  Along with the mirepoix, I add garlic cloves, peppercorns, kosher salt, bay leaves, thyme and parsley.


Am I the only one who thinks that is beautiful? i just love REAL, hand-made, home-cooked food. Do you see that the onions, and garlic have the peel on them and that the celery leaves are still on? This is one of the reasons this is such a delicious, and quick recipe.  Because stocks are strained after cooking, there is no need to peel, chop or remove these things.  They add flavor and depth to the stock. Now bring this pot to a boil, cover and then reduce to a light simmer for 4+ hours.


Viola! You just made rich, delicious chicken stock from scratch! Now we strain the stock and you have a few different options.  This stock can be used immediately, refrigerated for up to a week, placed in jars or plastic containers and frozen for up to 6 months (please be sure to leave a few inches of space at the top for the stock to expand while freezing), or you can even bottle and process this beautiful stock and store in your pantry for a few years. Refer to the Ball website for instructions on how to do this.


Place a fine strainer over a large bowl or measuring bowl to catch all bones, veggies, etc.


I made this yesterday and I got 10 cups of stock from this recipe. I used it to make chicken and dumplings soup which was super yummy!



1 (3 lb.) rotisserie chicken

1 large onion, ends removed, quartered

4 carrots, ends removed, cut into thirds

4 stalks of celery, bottoms removed, cut into thirds

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp. Kosher salt

15 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried parsely or 1 T. fresh parsley

1/2 tsp. dried thyme or 2 sprigs, fresh thyme

12 c. water


Remove all meat from chicken and refrigerate or eat. In a large, heavy pot, place chicken bones, skins and juices.  To the pot, add the remaining ingredients.  Bring stock to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Let simmer for 4+ hours.  Turn off the heat and strain through a fine sieve. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to a week, or freeze for up to 6 months.






Garden Pasta Salad


This Garden Pasta Salad has to be the healthiest pasta salad ever! Look at all those vegetables and their vibrant colors. I love the addition of yellow zucchini in it. There is even some protein from the cheese cubes. This summer my friend Kelly gave me her recipe for this gorgeous salad and asked me if I’d make a giant batch of it for her daughter’s outdoor wedding reception. During the reception she popped into the kitchen to find out which food items they were going through the fastest and they said it was the pasta salad. She definitely has a winning recipe. Since then, I’ve made a couple changes.  I have added the red onion for taste, crunch and color and I use Ken’s Steak House Lite Northern Italian Dressing because it is a favorite of mine. Isn’t this the most colorful salad you’ve ever seen?  You’ll get a little of everything with this gorgeous side dish, which is an impressive side to share at your next neighborhood get-together or family potluck dinner.


A couple of reasons this salad is so good are the quality of the pasta used, the preparation of the broccoli, carrots, and yellow zucchini, and adding the cheese cubes at the last minute. Kelly said Barilla pasta is a must in this recipe. The Barilla pasta holds it’s shape and texture. She has tried other brands of rotini and the Barilla rotini has a tighter spiral and is a quality made pasta.  No one likes mushy pasta that unravels and falls apart in the salad.


See what a nice twist and color the pasta retains? Now get that pasta in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

The second trick is blanching and shocking the zucchini, broccoli, and carrots for one minute. Boiling these three veggies for 1 minute takes that raw, dry bite from them and they become a welcome addition to the salad.

Be sure to have a slotted spoon or spider and a bowl of ice water ready to place the parboiled veggies in, to stop the cooking process so they don’t get soft.


Once you’ve prepped all the veggies and cooked the pasta, it is time to season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, toss the salad in half the dressing and refrigerate for a couple hours. Right before serving, add the cheese cubes, toss the salad with the remaining salad dressing and serve. ENJOY!


Garden Pasta Salad



1 lb. Barilla Tri-Colored Rotini

1 yellow zucchini, halved lengthwise then sliced

1 crown broccoli, cut into florets

3 carrots, peeled and sliced on a bias

1/2 red onion, quartered and sliced

1 can black olives

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

8 oz. cheddar or mozarella cheese, cubed

1 (16oz) bottle Ken’s Steak House LITE Northern Italian Dressing

Salt and Pepper to taste


Fill a medium to large bowl with ice and water, and set it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add sliced carrots, zucchini and broccoli florets and cook for 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and put veggies directly into the ice water. Let veggies soak for 2-3 minutes to cool, remove from water and place in a large serving bowl. Add more ice to the ice water if needed.  To the boiling water add 1 T. of salt then add the pasta.  Cook pasta until just soft, a minute or two beyond al dente.  Remove pasta to ice water and let cool for a few minutes. Place cooled, drained pasta into the serving bowl then add the onion, olives and tomatoes. Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the pasta salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, add cheese cubes and the remaining dressing and toss well.



Healthy Enchilada Stuffed Peppers

This summer, our bell pepper plants are growing and producing like crazy.  I have actually never had bell peppers grow so well.  The other day when the kids and I decided it was time to harvest some of our garden, we were amazed how many large bell peppers there were.  What do you do with such a plentiful harvest? You make stuffed peppers, of course. This recipe is easily adaptable to fit anyone’s specific tastes.  I used lean ground turkey, but ground beef would also be delicious.  I threw in some black beans and cooked quinoa, but if you have a different kind of bean on hand, or you want to use brown or white rice, go right ahead. One ingredient which I used and feel like it really made the dish extra yummy was fire roasted, salsa style, diced tomatoes. IMG_8416 They added just a little heat and some delicious flavors to the dish.  These stuffed peppers came together really quickly and my family LOVED them.  I thought for sure there would be leftovers for my husband to take to work but after the kids wanted seconds, they were all gone! I was happy they liked them, especially when these peppers are full of nutritious ingredients.

In a large saute pan I cooked the lean ground turkey with a diced, red onion and some spices. Can I tell you how much I love this meat chopper? It crumbles meat 5 times as fast and is so easy to use. It is also safe to use on non-stick pans.  Love it!


Now for the black beans, cooked quinoa and fire roasted, salsa style diced tomatoes.  Give them a good stir to mix well.


Next, I added a can of plain tomato sauce.  If your family likes more heat or if you don’t use the salsa style diced tomatoes, I would recommend using enchilada sauce instead of the plain tomato sauce.  As it turned out, these peppers had just the right amount of heat for my children with the plain tomato sauce.


I have seen stuffed peppers where the tops of the peppers are cut off and the seeds and ribs are removed and they are stuffed up-right.  I like to slice them length-wise, as these make a better portion for my children, and are super easy to fill and cook.

I used an ice cream scoop to fill the peppers and that made the job even easier.  Then I topped with cheese.  I think next time, I would allow them to cook for a while and add the cheese towards the end to keep the cheese gooey.

I baked them, uncovered for 30 minutes and then topped them with lots of avocado, fresh tomatoes, green onion and cilantro. My goodness, these were loaded with so many healthy ingredients and vegetables! I love easy, healthy recipes like this.

Healthy Enchilada Stuffed Peppers

I added a dollop of plain, fat free greek yogurt in place of sour cream and served with steamed corn. My husband said he could eat them every day. In my house, that is how I know when something is really delicious.  ENJOY!


Healthy Enchilada Stuffed Bell Peppers



1 lb. lean ground turkey

1 small red onion, diced

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 c. cooked quinoa (I cooked mine in chicken broth)

1 (14.5 oz). can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14.5 oz.) can fire roasted, salsa style diced tomatoes

1 (8oz.) can tomato sauce or enchilada sauce

6 bell peppers, sliced lengthwise, seeded and ribs removed

1-2 c. shredded cheese


Diced tomatoes

Sliced green onions

Diced avocado

Fat free, plain greek yogurt


In a large saute pan, cooked the ground turkey and red onion. Stir in spices, and cook for 1-2 minutes, this allows the spices to bloom.  Add diced tomatoes, black beans, and quinoa, stir well.  Pour in tomato sauce or enchilada sauce and mix.

Into a 9×13 casserole dish, place bell peppers, cut side up.  Scoop the meat mixture into each halved bell pepper, to fill.  Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, topping peppers with the shredded cheese after 20 minutes.  When the peppers have cooked and the cheese has melted, remove from oven and sprinkle on desired toppings.


A few of my favorite things…

This is one of the posts that I have been most excited to add to my blog. I am sharing my most favorite things, you know, the things I can’t live without.  I love when people share their favorite finds with me. These must-haves are tried and tested by yours truly and I adore every one of them.

Let’s start with hair products.  A couple years ago my hair was in pretty bad shape. It was dry, wiry, coarse, dull and unhealthy.  I thought it was just an inevitable result of getting older.  I went to my friend Amy who is a hairstylist and she introduced me to some fantastic products, which over time have restored my hair’s health, strength, silkiness and shine. First is the renewing argan oil  . I use this every time I wash my hair.  I towel dry my hair and then I rub 2 drops of oil into my hands and then rub the oil on the ends of my hair and my hair soaks it right up.  Next comes the Matrix miracle treat spray. I call this hair lotion.  I spray about 10 squirts all over my hair and then brush it throughout my towel-dried hair.  I love the way this helps the brush glide through and detangle my hair and it makes it feel so soft and silky.  It also helps prevent hair static without any greasy, heavy effects. Now for the brush. A few years ago I bought my two oldest girls American Girl Dolls for Christmas and one of the recommendations for caring for the hair was a wire-bristle brush.  A while later I was in the store and saw this brush that promised not to snag or damage your hair, and it works! I love this brush.  The copper bristles reduce natural build up, and it works easily through wet and dry hair.

Now for great skin care.  I have used Cetaphil cleanser and Cetaphil moisturizer on my face, neck and back for 16 years.  It was recommended by my dermatologist to keep pores clean and skin clear.  It works so well, I’ve never gone a day without it.  I use the cleanser morning and night (with or without water) and the moisturizer is always applied after lightly towel drying my face. I was told to only use the tub of moisturizer and not the pump lotion as it has thinning agents to be pumpable, these ingredients are not as good for your skin.  One of the first things I noticed was how soft my face felt.  I had acne issues before and I’ll forever be grateful for these products.  Another moisturizing cream which I swear by is CeraVe.  My daughter’s hands get so dry, especially in the winter, that they crack and bleed.  This was also dermatologist recommended and it totally healed her hands. It is thick and creamy and works wonders.  Next is one of my newer finds.  I was waiting for my daughter in the orthodontist’s office, reading a magazine and saw this award winning foaming tanning moisturizer. Since it is a foam, it is super easy to apply and I haven’t had any orange spots.  It is subtle and gives your skin a nice glow to it.  Apply regularly and your skin will look naturally sun-kissed.  Now for my last skin product, Harry’s razors, blade refills, shave gel and after shave. For years I stole my husbands razor to shave with because the blades worked so much better than the ones made for women.  The only bummer was the cost of the blade refills.  Then my husband found these razors and refills by Harry’s and we both fell in love.  He bought two, one for each of us and the refills are much cheaper.  He loves the shave gel and after shave, and for a man who never spends money on himself, these are products he is always sure to order more of.

I was not blessed with beautiful, soft feet.  I have always suffered from dry heels, and no matter how many times by husband tells me to just wear socks and shoes all the time, I still love being barefoot or wearing sandals.  I found this Amope wet or dry foot file a year ago.  It is a pedicure at home.  I love that it can be used in the shower and washes right off. It is rechargeable and holds a charge for a long time.  You can purhase refills, which makes it very cost effective! It has a power button and 2 speeds.  I like to soak my feet in warm water and then it works quickly and effectively.

Now for a household product that works as promised.  As you can see from my pictures this wasp trap is incredible! Those pictures are after 4 weeks use.  The product attracts yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets.  I don’t know how, but I haven’t seen a single bee in there, which is good for my garden and fruit trees.  We have emptied it out and used a refill kit twice now.  We love this trap and have seen a huge decrease in wasps around our house.

My last, “can’t live without” item I have used for 3 years now.  As you can probably guess, I am extremely busy as a stay-at-home mother of 7.  Between dance, sports, music lessons, school activities, work functions, and church responsibilities for 9 people, our schedule is unreal.  I know there are apps and digital calendars that so many people love, but I am a paper girl.  I need to see it all laid out in front of me.  I refer to my Erin Condren life planner many times a day, every single day of the year.  They have thought of EVERYTHING with these planners.  There are almost too many designs to chose from. The covers are interchangeable not to mention personalized with my name on the front. The genius of these planners is in the coil that allows for moveable bookmarks, travel packing lists, to-do’s and to-buys, along with pockets and a year long budget book for my monthly expenses and income. I used to feel like I was always forgetting things and events and this has helped me stay organized and helped reduce much of the stress that comes with being a busy mother and wife.

Fresh Strawberry Sheetcake


My mom started making this cake when I was a teenager and it immediately became a favorite in our family.  Indeed, this cake is a top-pick for those of us with summer birthdays.  While strawberries are now available most of the year, this cake is a must-have during strawberry season.  What makes this cake so delicious is the flavors in the three layers, soft vanilla cake, creamy and tangy cream cheese with whipped cream filling, and then it is all topped off sliced, glazed strawberries. This mouth-watering cake is light, fresh and delicious.



First, is the soft and moist vanilla cake.  It is baked on a jellyroll pan, which makes for a thinner layer, thus creating the perfect cake to cream cheese frosting to strawberry ratio.





Now for the glazed strawberries. My mom makes this cake with a store-bought, strawberry glaze, which is an easy and yummy option.  I like the taste of my homemade glaze better and I always have the ingredients on hand which makes one less trip to the grocery store.  The glaze is made from strawberry jello, sugar, cornstarch, water and a little red food coloring.  This strawberry mixture is brought to a boil for a minute and then it must cool.  I like to stir it occasionally to help the heat escape and to help it along in cooling.



Now wash, hull and slice 2 pounds of fresh, ripe and sweet strawberries. The strawberry slices are then added to the cooled glaze.



This layer is probably everyone’s favorite layer and for good reason.  It starts with fresh whipped cream with vanilla extract in one bowl and whipped, softened cream cheese and powdered sugar in another. Next we mix the two together, making a sweet, creamy and tangy filling that will have you licking the spoon, the bowl and your fingers.





After the cake is cooled, spread the filling in an even layer, covering the entire cake.





Isn’t that gorgeous! But it isn’t done yet; here come the strawberries and glaze. Carefully, push and spread the strawberries to the edges of the cake, covering the cream cheese filling.  Cover with wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.




Honestly, this is a cool, and refreshing dessert you’ve got to try this summer.  I also think adding some blueberries in a stars-and-stripes design would make it a fantastic Fourth of July dessert. ENJOY!




Fresh Strawberry Sheetcake



1 vanilla cake mix, mixed as directed

2 lbs. strawberries

2/3 c. sugar

1 c. water

4 T. strawberry gelatin

2 T. cornstarch

2 c. whipping cream

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened

1 c. powdered sugar



Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper, a silicone baking mat (my favorite) or spray pan with cooking spray. Pour mixed cake batter into jellyroll pan and bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, strawberry gelatin, and water.  Heat over medium high and bring to a boil, whisking constantly for one minute.  Set aside and allow to cool.

While glaze is cooling, wash, hull and slice strawberries.  When glaze is cooled mix with sliced strawberries.

In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream and vanilla extract until very thick.  In a medium bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, add the powdered sugar and incorporate well.  Add the cream cheese mixture to the whipping cream and mix until combined.

To assemble the cake, spread cream cheese mixture on top of the cooled cake. Then top with glazed strawberries. Cover with wax paper and refrigerate at least one hour or until ready to serve.


Grilled Fajitas

Skip the restaurant and fire up the grill!  These fajitas are simple, full of color and so yummy! The meat is marinated, grilled, and so flavorful. The red, yellow, orange, green and purple from the peppers, and onion are pleasing to the eye and create a gorgeous spread.  These are the perfect choice for an outdoor, summer party.  Invite some friends over and serve these up with beans, rice, chips, Fresh Salsa, guacamole, summer fruit and limeade to create an unforgettable, delicious meal. Fajitas at home used to mean opening a packet of fajita seasoning mix and adding meat and veg to simmer.  Let me share with you how to make restaurant quality fajitas without simmering in water, which just toughens the meat, makes the peppers soggy and is just plain wrong!

First we’ll prep the vegetables and marinade the meat. I used chicken here, but steak and shrimp are also incredible with this recipe!


Most people are used to slicing peppers and onions into strips, but as you can imagine, this would make it impossible to grill them. Instead, slice the purple onions crosswise into 1/2″ rings and quarter the peppers, removing seeds.  Set aside.

Next, mix the marinade.  This is made up of canola oil, fresh lime juice, good quality worcestershire sauce, spices, cilantro, jalapeno and spices.  Whisk the ingredients together and reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade for later.  The rest is poured over the meat.

If using chicken breasts, slice them lengthwise for more even flavoring and grilling.  Place your chicken, shrimp or steak in a gallon size, zip-top bag and add marinade.  Allow to marinade from 3 to 24 hours, in the refrigerator.


Preheat gas grill to medium high or heat charcoal until turning grey and ashy.  I like both types of grills.  A gas grill is quick to turn on,  easy to use, and easy to control the temperature. I bought this grill for my husband for Father’s Day and we’ve been so happy with it.  It is sturdy, way easy to get started and it does a good job of temperature control whether low or high.  A charcoal grill imparts such yummy flavor, can have wood chips added for smoking and can be used for indirect cooking.  A charcoal grill can take some practice to feel comfortable with. This is the charcoal Weber grill we’ve had for years and it is still as good as new!  It has no rust spots or dents, it is well made and super sturdy.  TIP: If using a charcoal grill, after spreading out the coals, replacing the grate and placing food on the grill, DO NOT COVER! This smothers the charcoal and you will quickly lose the heat.  

On the left, you can see I like to use a chimney starter for my coals.  Just place the charcoal in to fill, and place some wadded up newspaper underneath to light.  Strike a match and place through the holes at the bottom, lighting the paper on fire.  TIP: I use match-light charcoal. That means they will light with just a match and require no lighter fluid. This is just my preference, but it is so much easier than needing to buy lighter fluid also, and they light up so quickly.  Now the coals are ready, spread out, and the grate has been placed on top, time to get grillin’!


Lay the marinated meat and vegetables on to the grill.


Turn when the chicken starts to brown on the edges and the vegetables start to char and blister. The onions can separate and fall through the slats if you don’t flip them carefully. I have found it best to use a long, metal spatula to turn them. Don’t worry about the peppers getting black, char spots; this is a good thing.  They will be soft and deliciously roasted.  Cook the chicken until the inside temperature is at 160 degrees, tent with foil and allow to rest. In my opinion, one of the most important kitchen tools to have is a digital meat thermometer. No more guessing if your food is done, worrying about salmonella, or being disappointed with dry, tough meat.  I use mine every day. There are two types I recommend. The first is an instant read thermometer. This gives a precise temperature reading in seconds and I love that it folds up for storage.  The second type is an oven and grill safe thermometer. The probe can be left in the meat while it cooks and the base is magnetic, so it can be stuck to your oven or fridge for convenience in reading. It also has a temperature alert, and timer.  This is the one I use and I have purchased it for gifts as well.  The chicken will continue to cook (carry-over cooking) and will reach 165 degrees after 5-10 minutes.


How beautiful are those veggies?!  I love the way these fajitas look, they really are show-stoppers! This is the point when you slice the peppers into strips and cut the onions slices once down the middle.  Then, toss the sliced peppers and onions with the reserved 1/4 cup of marinade.  Slice the chicken or steak and serve along side the roasted peppers and onions.


Top them off with cheese, guacamole, sour cream and my fresh Fresh Salsa and EAT! Your guests will be so impressed, like my sister-in-law said when I made these for her, “The next time I want fajitas I’m skipping the restaurant and coming over to your house!” ENJOY!





6 thin-sliced chicken breasts or 3 large chicken breasts, sliced length-wise

1/3 c. canola oil

1/3 c. lime juice, the juice of approximately 3 limes

3 T. worcestershire sauce

1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed, leaves chopped

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 jalapeno pepper, with seeds and ribs removed, minced

3 tsp. brown sugar

1 large, red onion, sliced crosswise into 1/2″ slices, do not separate into individual rings

1 each: orange, yellow, red, and green bell pepper

Serve with the following:

Flour tortillas

Shredded cheese

Sour Cream


Shredded lettuce

Diced Tomatoes

Fresh Salsa



In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, lime juice, worcestershire sauce, cilantro, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, paprika, minced jalapeno and brown sugar. Whisk together. Reserve 1/4 c. of the marinade to toss with the cooked vegetables before serving. Place chicken breasts in a large, zip-top bag and pour marinade over the chicken.  Refrigerate, chicken and marinade until 1 hour before grilling.  Preheat a gas grill or charcoals.  (See tips above) When grill is hot, place chicken, peppers and onion slices onto grill in an even layer.  When the chicken starts to brown on the sides and the onions and peppers have some nice char spots, turn them all over.  Remove chicken and veggies to a cutting board when the veggies are charred on both sides and the chicken is at an internal temperature of 160 degrees.  Tent with foil for 5- 10 minutes while you heat the tortillas.  Slice the chicken and vegetables into strips and serve immediately.

Fresh Salsa

20 years ago I fell in love with cooking.  It was Cinco de Mayo 1997 and I had just finished a semester of college away from home.  I had returned home and was enjoying time with my family and hanging out with my mom.  For those of you who don’t know my mom, she is the quintessential mother.  She does it all and always has.  She bottles her own fruit, salsa, spaghetti sauce, makes bread, clips articles out of the newspaper for those in her family who need it, watches the news everyday, insisted we all get out and vote, and made up songs to historical events so you could remember them for the test the next day.  She gardened, helped us with our piano practicing and prepared 3 meals everyday for everyone who was home.  She was the PTA president who fought for what was right in our community, and she always made sure we were at church each Sunday in our ironed clothes. We were taught to work, especially on Saturdays when we’d have our individual lists of chores on the table in the morning.  She was a stay-at-home mom of 8 children.  She took her responsibility as a mother very seriously and still does.  She showed us her love through years of selfless service.  She was always “at the crossroads” of our lives. We would have to leave the store, mall etc. in time to get home for any children arriving home from school.  She is a great cook and we were always fed, even when it was January, money was tight from Christmas for 10 people, and we were eating many of the things she bottled the previous summer.  I will always consider myself blessed to call her “Mother” and someday, I hope to be half of the woman she is.

Ok, back to May 5, 1997.  After grocery shopping with my mom, I decided to take over the cooking for the evening and make a Mexican feast.  We had a huge spread by the time I was done, and we called my aunt, uncle and cousins over to help us eat all the food.  It was on this day that I fell in love with cooking and within 3 months I was in Culinary school.  This salsa is the first thing I remember making for our feast and I’ve been making it ever since. As they enjoyed the meal, I loved the reaction I got from my family. If I were to give a reason for my love of cooking, it would probably be the same reason why mother gave all she gave for her family, the joy that comes from nurturing and caring for others.

The recipe is easy and straight forward. There really isn’t much to explain, but I’ll walk you through it.


This is the cast: lemon or lime, cilantro, garlic, jalapeno, salt, onion, and crushed tomatoes.  I have tried every kind of tomato product out there, stewed, fresh, sauce, diced, etc. and I like canned, crushed tomatoes the best.  The one exception would be when I have garden ripe tomatoes, and even then I find they can be so watery that I use half fresh tomatoes and half canned, crushed tomatoes.

This salsa can be made by chopping everything by hand, in a blender, salsa maker or food processor.  I have used all of those variations.  This time I used the processor so I’ll explain the recipe using that method. Run the food processor to chop the garlic, and jalapeno to a fine dice.  Next add the quartered onions and pulse until the pieces are as small as you like.  Next throw in the cilantro, stems removed, and pulse again.  TIP: Do not add the liquid ingredients, including tomatoes, until after you’ve chopped the cilantro.  It just doesn’t chop as well sitting in the liquid. 

Now add the salt, lemon or lime juice and the tomatoes.  Mix well and taste for seasoning.  I have found I always need to adjust something, a little more lime juice, a pinch of salt or sometimes even a pinch of sugar, depending on how sweet the lime or lemon was.  This salsa can be made ahead of time and is even better the next day when all the flavors have married. Enjoy!




3-4 cloves garlic

1/2 to 1 whole jalapeno

1 medium to large onion: white, yellow, or red

1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed

Juice of one lemon or lime

1 tsp. salt

28 oz. can Crushed Tomatoes


Chop garlic, jalapeno, onion and cilantro to desired sizes and mix well. Add juice, salt and tomatoes, and taste for seasoning.


Fruit Pizza with a Twist


Fruit pizza is a crowd-pleaser any way you slice it.  It is fresh, light, and beautiful, and the twist in my recipe is lemon.  I add just a little lemon to the frosting, which brightens the flavors of the fruit. The fresh, tart addition of lemon extract and zest is a pleasant surprise.  I served this the other night at a pool party and I had many people tell me how they loved the addition of lemon. It wakes up your taste buds and contrasts the sweetness of the fruit. This pizza has it all: soft, chewy, sugar crust, rich sweet frosting with a touch of bright tartness, and the juicy, sweet flavors of the fruit.  Who doesn’t love sugar cookies, cream cheese frosting and juicy, summer-ripe fruit? There are endless ways to decorate these pizzas and they can be an exciting, hands-on activity to let the kids get their creativity flowing.  Looking for a super fun way to spend a hot, summer afternoon? Make these into mini pizzas, let the kids play with their food and design their own mosaic masterpieces. I made the pizza, pictured above, on a jelly roll pan for a large family gathering.


I pushed the easy button and used Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, which I found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  If you have the time, energy and desire, go ahead and use your homemade sugar cookie dough.


Spread the dough out onto your pan. You can make the pizza into a large rectangle like I did, a large round pizza or smaller, individual pizzas. I used a silicone liner underneath to prevent any sticking.  I use them almost everyday for rolls, cookies, cakes, cinnamon rolls, chicken, fish, and especially sticky caramel apples. Seriously, nothing sticks to them, they wash so easily in soapy water and I love their durability! These are my favorite silicone baking mats.  Bake the dough and allow to cool.


While your cookie crust cools, beat softened cream cheese and sugar together until fluffy. TIP: I always add the sugar first and then the butter, cream cheese or wet ingredients to the mixer.  The sugar in the bottom creates a barrier which lessens the need to scrape the bowl as much.  Add vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest to the cream cheese frosting and beat well.  If you are not a fan of lemon, just increase the vanilla extract and omit the lemon extract and zest.


Frost the cooled cookie crust with the cream cheese frosting, slice the fresh fruit and drain any canned fruit very well. I used raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, kiwifruit, and mandarin oranges.  The key is to choose fruit in many different colors.


Mr. Incredible is super creative so I left the decorating to him.  He enlisted the help of some of our girls.  TIP: To make your design symmetrical, start laying down fruit in the middle and work your way out or whatever you do to one side, do immediately to the other side.  My daughter is ready to share the pizza she helped her daddy design at the pool party.


Fruit Pizza with a Twist


2 (15.5 oz.) rolls sugar cookie dough, softened

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. lemon extract

1 tsp lemon zest

kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

strawberries, hulled and sliced



mandarin oranges, drained well


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Roll out cookie dough on to a jelly roll pan, lined with a silicone baking mat Bake for 15-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Wash and prepare fruit. Set aside.

Beat sugar and cream cheese together until light and fluffy.  Add extracts and zest and mix well to incorporate.  Spread cream cheese mixture onto the cooled cookie crust.

Lay fruit onto pizza, in desired design.  Cover and keep refrigerated or serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers, if any.  Enjoy!



Fall-off-the-bone Ribs


I have always loved having 7 siblings.  Growing up there was ALWAYS someone around to play with or talk to.  I am the 7th of 8 children and I idolized my older siblings.  I am sure I drove them crazy as I spied on them with their dates or wouldn’t leave them alone when their friends came around. I had a front row seat to my sisters getting ready for proms and pageants, and I had a crush on ALL of my brothers’ friends.  I attribute my love for college football, in part to my brother Brent.  He is my sibling closest in age to me and we would spend hours on  Saturday mornings watching college football.  I loved spending time with him and having our bedrooms in the basement, when we were older.  We just celebrated his birthday and I suggested to my mom that we make ribs for Brent because he loves them.  Some friends from my neighborhood taught me this method and they are the BEST ribs ever!  I know ribs can seem intimidating, but do not fear.  You will WOW your friends and family with these, succulent, fall-off-the-bones, tender and moist ribs. And they are SO easy! The trick is to bake/smoke them in the oven, low and slow to let the meat get tender and the fat to baste the meat while it melts away.  Let me walk you through it…..




I like to use baby back pork ribs.  Spareribs are good also, but I find they have more fat and are harder to work with when cutting into serving pieces.  Either cut will work just fine for this recipe.  There is a membrane that runs along the back of the ribs, slip a small knife between the bone and this membrane, make a small cut, and with your hand pull the membrane off.

Season with season salt or your favorite rub, on both sides of the ribs. (If you have a favorite BBQ restaurant, go in and ask them if they sell their rub seasoning and/or bbq sauce.)  Pour liquid smoke into the bottom of the pan and add some water.  I cook 3 racks at a time in each pan.  I push long, thin, wooden skewers through the 3 seasoned racks of ribs to help them stand up-right in the pan.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then tightly cover with heavy aluminum foil.  I know what you are thinking, “Plastic wrap in the oven?”.  But trust me, it works.  It keeps the ribs moist and the liquid smoke doing its thing for all those hours.  It will not melt as long as you are sure to cover it tightly with foil.  Cook for 6-8 hours at 225 degrees fahrenheit. Now here is the trick, remove the pan from the oven but do not touch the ribs!! Let them cool and place them in the fridge overnight.  If you were to try and grill these at this point, you would lose all the meat through the slats of the grill.  Actually, you wouldn’t even get to that point because you wouldn’t be able to move them to the grill in one piece.

30 minutes before you want to eat, preheat the grill and get the pan out of the fridge.  Remove the wooden skewers and place the racks of ribs on the hot grill.  Brush the ribs liberally with your favorite barbecue sauce (again, this is where your favorite bbq restaurant comes in handy, if they sell their sauce) and let the sauce caramelize on the meat.  Flip the slabs over, you can cut them in half for easier handling, and brush more sauce on the other side.  They heat through surprisingly fast.  Be sure to turn them before the sauce burns underneath.  I like to baste and turn a couple times to get them sticky and slathered.




My family raved over these ribs, and I got a big hug from my brother. Be prepared for everyone to want the recipe. Enjoy!!

Fall-off-the-bone Ribs

Serves 12-15



3 racks of baby back ribs

3 wooden skewers

Large roasting pan

Season salt or favorite bbq rub

1/4 c. Liquid Smoke (I like hickory)

1 c. water

Plastic wrap

Heavy duty aluminum foil


Preheat oven to 225 degrees fahrenheit. Rinse meat with water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season liberally, both sides of ribs with season salt or bbq rub.  Stand 3 racks together and push wooden skewers through all 3 racks to keep them standing up-right in the pan.  Into the bottom of the pan add the liquid smoke and water.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and then cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Cook in the oven for 6 hours. Remove from oven and let cool before placing in refrigerator.  Keep in refrigerator over night.

30 minutes before serving, remove pan from fridge and preheat grill on medium high. Place ribs on grill and baste with sauce, allowing the sauce to get hot and sticky, about 5 minutes. Turn the meat over and repeat.  Turn often enough to prevent burning.








Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes with Coconut Buttermilk Syrup


A few months ago my husband and I celebrated our 15th anniversary in Kauai.  Let me state for the record, Kauai is absolutely breath-taking and one of the most beautiful places on the earth.  We had the BEST time! I’ll definitely be writing a “Must see, eat, do in Kauai” post in the future. The island has so much to offer by way of activities and adventures, and yet it is slow paced and relaxing.  We spent a lot of time researching and planning, especially where and what to eat on the island.  We had a long list of places that we were told were “must eats.”  So the fact that we ate these pancakes twice while we were there should tell you something!

One of the mornings was rainy, which is typical for Kauai and one of the reasons it is called the “Garden Isle.” Lots of lush, green vegetation!  We decided to find a place where we could eat and get out of the rain. We went to eat at Olympus Cafe, near our hotel.  Now, I’ve always been one who needs some protein for breakfast and I rarely eat sweet foods in the morning, but not Mr. Incredible.  He thoroughly enjoys breakfast foods of all kinds. So, of course he just had to order the Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes with Coconut Syrup.  True to Kauai’s slow pace, it took a while to get our food as the restaurant was packed.  The wait did not bother us one bit; we had a window seat and enjoyed the opportunity to talk without one of our children needing something or interrupting. That is one of the great things about vacations and alone time.  When the waiter brought our food, we couldn’t believe how huge and yummy these pancakes looked. We starting eating, and my husband insisted I try some of his pancakes.  He promised they were amazing, and oh, was he right.  I had more than just a bite.  One of my favorite things to do is to challenge myself to recreate our favorite things that we eat at restaurants. I told Mr. Incredible, “I will figure our how to make these at home!” We bought macadamia nuts there to bring home, and within a week we had the winning recipe!

Now this recipe is completely from scratch.  If you don’t have the time or desire to make the batter from scratch, just use your favorite pancake mix and add the sliced bananas and chopped nuts to the prepared mix.


The batter is very thick and I like to use an ice cream scoop to put the pancake batter on the griddle.

Fold in the bananas and macadamia nuts to the pancake batter, being careful to not over mix.


You can see the bubbles that are forming on the top, time to flip! Look how fluffy these pancakes are! The buttermilk, baking powder, and baking soda cause this reaction when mixed together. If possible, allow your pancake batter time to develop, up to half an hour before cooking for a fluffy result.

These are to DIE FOR! Can I add that these were never meant to be a health food? They are definitely a special treat, to make every once in a while, for a birthday or father’s day!  When I make them, they take me back to one of my favorite mornings, on my favorite island with my favorite person in the world. Aloha!

Buttermilk Pancake Batter

2 c. all-purpose flour

2 T. granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 c. low-fat buttermilk

1 egg

3 T. melted butter

4 bananas, sliced, reserving one banana for slicing on top

1 c. chopped macadamia nuts, reserving 1/4 c. for topping

In a large bowl whisk the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and butter together, then pour into the dry ingredients.  The batter will be very thick. Fold in the chopped macadamia nuts and sliced bananas.  Preheat a griddle to 325 degrees.  This is not quite as hot as I usually have the griddle to make pancakes, but because they are so thick and need time for the bananas to cook before the outsides get too dark it best to cook at a little cooler temperature.  When bubbles start to form on the top of the pancakes, flip them and finish cooking on the other side. Sprinkle with some of the reserved, chopped macadamia nuts and add a few sliced bananas to take these over-the-top! Serve with buttermilk coconut syrup.

Buttermilk Coconut Syrup

3/4 c. low-fat buttermilk

1 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. butter

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. coconut extract

In a medium saucepan, add buttermilk, sugar and butter and bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow to boil for one minute, remove from heat and stir in baking soda and coconut extract.  Syrup will bubble and foam.  Serve warm.







I have been making these cinnamon rolls since we lived in Omaha, Nebraska where Mr. Incredible was attending law school.  We loved our time there! The people are good, family-oriented people who love their football.  EVERYONE wears their team shirts on Saturdays and we even heard Cornhuskers football spoken of from the pulpit at church. We lived in a fantastic town home complex where I met so many friends, whose husbands were also attending graduate school of some sort.  Each year, the entire complex would have a huge yard sale and I decided to make 6 dozen of these cinnamon rolls and sell them to the hungry, early-morning shoppers.  They quickly sold out and that money was very helpful for us, as poor students.

It is a sweet dough that is good for not only cinnamon rolls, but orange rolls, cranberry rolls, and raspberry rolls. It is extremely soft, tender and moist.  The key is to make sure the yeast activates (foams and bubbles within minutes) and to let it mix/knead for the full 10 minutes (this develops the gluten in the flour and makes for a tender, soft, stretchy dough).


This sweet girl was thrilled to help mom brush on the butter.  I am fully aware that my table is a mess in the background.  I’m keeping it real here.  So, after the dough is mixed, covered and left to double in size, pull it out of the bowl and punch it down.  This deflates the dough and release the pockets of air so you can form it, but you HAVE to let it rest at least 10 minutes because after you punch it down it will seize up and you will have no luck rolling it out and stretching it.  It just needs to breathe for a bit.

Divide the dough into 2 equal halves and cover one of them while you work with the other half.  Roll out your dough to about 1/4″ thick, I have found the thicker the dough the softer the cinnamon roll. Brush on butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon, I like to mix them together first for even distribution.  Also, don’t be stingy! You are making cinnamon rolls, no one expects them to be healthy and a good amount of brown sugar/cinnamon is what takes these sweet rolls over the top!


I had a little leftover cinnamon sugar from some caramel apples I made the night before so that is the white you see in the picture above.  I added brown sugar and cinnamon to make enough for the rolls.


Now get rolling! Each half will make 20 good size rolls which fits perfectly onto a jelly roll pan.  I like to lightly mark with my sharp, serrated knife, 20 even indentations so to ensure I’ll get 20 identical rolls.


I bake mine on silicone baking mats, which I adore!  They can also be baked on parchment-lined pans or even directly on an unlined-pan but I find the sugars brown too much on the bottom of an unlined pan so I always bake them on something.  (It also makes for much easier clean up!) Now cover these beauties for 45 minutes to rise and expand.


Preheat your oven, and bake.  Each oven is different and varies in temperature, so WATCH them closely after about 13 minutes.  Pull them out when they are browned to your liking, just make sure you give the middle ones enough time to cook so you don’t have doughy rolls.


Be sure to let them cool before frosting them or your frosting will melt all over the place and they will look glazed, not frosted.  Enjoy!!



1/4 c. instant yeast

1 1/2 c. warm water (110 degrees)

pinch of sugar

In the bowl of your mixer, mix the sugar into the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and give it a stir.  Let the yeast grow, foam and activate for 5-10 minutes.  To the yeast mixture, add the following ingredients, adding the flour one cup at a time and mixing until the dough leaves the side of the bowl and is tacky but not too sticky.

2 c. warm water

2/3 c. powdered milk

1 c. sugar

1 tsp. salt

4 eggs

1 c. butter, softened

10-12+ c. bread flour

Let the dough mix for 10 minutes on the 1st speed of your mixer. Cover with a clean towel and let rise 1 1/2 hours or until at least doubled if not tripled in size. Divide into 2 halves. Cover one and roll out the other into a triangle no thinner than 1/4″ thick. Spread 6 tablespoons of butter on top. In a medium bowl mix 1 1/2 c. brown sugar and 5 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture on top of butter, spreading evenly.  Mr. Incredible says raisins are ALWAYS optional, but if you’d like to add raisins, now is the time.  Roll the short way and cut into 20 even rolls.  Place on jelly roll pan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Repeat with the other half.  Cover with clean towel and let rise 45 minutes.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let cool, then frost.


1 (8oz package) cream cheese

3/4 c. butter

4 1/2 + c. powdered sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Whip the cream cheese and butter together until fluffy, add the vanilla and salt to incorporate.  Slowly add the powdered sugar.  if desired, add extra powdered sugar to make more frosting, adding milk as needed to thin.

Who is Spumoni?


On Saturday mornings in my house, you will find the 9 of us getting our chores done to the music of Louis Prima. Never heard of him? I hadn’t either, until my husband started playing Louis’ upbeat, sometimes funny, Italian-influenced songs to get us up and moving.  There is a song he sings called “Angelina.” The song is about a waitress named Angelina, who works at the pizzeria where Louis goes and orders menu item after menu item so that Angelina will come visit Louis’ table over and over.  He sings at one point, “And I’ll join in matrimony with the girl who serves spumoni, and Angelina will be mine.” And thus for a few years now my husband has called me Spumoni.  I am a wife and a mother of 7 children, for whom I am daily grateful. I have a thoughtful and supportive husband, who has always encouraged me to chase my dreams, which is one of the reasons I am pushing through the anxiety this new adventure brings to me and starting this blog.  I enjoy cooking, baking, gardening, playing tennis, almost any movie with British accents and costumes, good chocolate, and spending time with my family. I married into a Disney-loving family and was quickly converted, and wish I was at Disneyland most days of the year.  I am also grateful I get to stay home with my children. Before I was married with children, I attended culinary school and there are few things I love to do more than cook, bake, and present food.  I want to create a place where I can share recipes, tips and favorites things.  

I believe there is beauty all around if we have the eyes to see and hearts to feel. That being said, life is not always beautiful and some days are survived and hopefully forgotten with a good night’s sleep. Yesterday, I spent a few hours baking cinnamon rolls.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself and took pictures along the way to share with the recipe.  While the cinnamon rolls looked beautiful, my house afterwards did not. I share this because it is real.  You may see my picture of the best looking roll from the pan on a pretty plate, and assume my whole life is as beautiful.  We all, as humans, are attracted to beauty.  There is an entire industry for marketing and making pictures and products look attractive and eye-catching.  This is okay with me, but I also know that a close up is rarely the whole picture. If we only put our best foot forward and share just the great times, we may miss out on deeper, more meaningful relationships with those around us who want to know ALL about us and the things we have in common.  So, we appreciate the good, talents, and beauty in others around us, yet we deepen our relationships and feel closer to them when we share in their trials, hard days, and times when life is anything but beautiful.

I have a friend who has some real challenges in her family.  As she posts on Facebook about her life, she is often positive and looks for the silver linings. But I also appreciate when she is open with her struggles and willing to share honestly  of her hard times as a mother.  We can feel isolated and lonely when we think all the women around us are debt-free, at Disneyland, with their clean-faced, perfectly coiffed children, wearing their skinny jeans and fresh-from-the-beach, wavy hair. To say nothing of their attentive, rich and handsome husbands.  There is danger in believing that when we see a snapshot or a closeup, that must be the whole picture. I recently shared on Facebook a cleaning routine I use with my children, that I have found works for us. I shared it in hopes that if someone needed help, they could possibly find it through what has worked with my family.  Later that day I received a text from a dear friend who had seen my post and said it made her want to cry because she is struggling getting her kids to help clean the house.  The text was sent with a picture of her living room, which was clearly lived in. I quickly responded that my house looks that same way each day.  That is most of our reality with children (and adults) living in a home. Some women I know have a real talent and gift for cleaning, organization, and preventing clutter. I visit their homes and feel peace and see beauty. I sincerely admire these women. I haven’t necessarily developed all those talents yet, but like the rest of you, I try.  I also know women who have talents and gifts of creating, baking, sewing, writing, reading, and giving of their time and friendship. Some are artistic, others are quiet and comforting.  I believe we all have something others admire and need from us.   So keep that in mind, and I will try to put BOTH feet forward as I share on this blog.