Happy Independence Day and Berry Picking!

Yummmmmm!

To those of you in my home country of the good old USA, Happy Independence Day or Fourth of July!!! For those of you not in the USA, happy berry picking! We were out early this morning, loaded up with bug spray, to pick wild black raspberries. Yum!!! These berries grow wild on our land, and we are very fortunate to have a bountiful harvest this year.

I have yet to be able to find wild black raspberries in stores. They sell blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, but no wild black raspberries. So, therefore, if they are required for your eating or baking pleasure, you will need to brave the mosquitoes and prickly thorns to gain the prize of beautiful, black, flavorful berries. There is no other taste like it. They are the perfect complement of sweet, sour, and a burst of flavor; the ultimate flavor of Summer.

Braving the mosquitoes!

So, as far as recipes go, here are some options:

Eaten plain

Eaten over ice cream

Eaten as jam

Cooked and strained to add to cocktails or mocktails (think juice with Sprite or lemon vodka!)

Pie

Muffins

Our organic wild black raspberry harvest!

I’m not sure we’ll get to eat any of those besides the plain ones! They are very popular here and even better, they’re free!!!!!!! Have a Happy Fourth!!!

Things You Never Knew You Could Freeze

Good day, blog readers!!! Today I wanted to cover freezing things. I like to go to the big town over yonder and pick up bags of produce that are reduced to $0.99. The other day I came home with four big bags of green peppers. Yay!!!

Now I love green peppers raw. They’re delicious. However, there is nothing like being able to pull out a few frozen slices from a bag in one’s freezer to easily add to meatloaf, chili, green pepper casserole, pizza, or whatever dish requires a bit of green pepper snap. I also have a child who very much likes the peppers straight from the freezer as a crispy treat while I try to make dinner! Therefore, I set about slicing, and in some cases dicing, my four bags of green peppers for the upright freezer.

First, I washed said peppers and took off any stickers. Then I sliced the tops off and popped the stem part out. That left me with the tops and the bottoms that were still full of ribs and seeds. From the bottoms I removed the unnecessary parts (ribs and seeds) next and got to work slicing.

I like to slice the tops first and then move on to the bottom cups. Those I slice in half and then thinly slice and put in my gallon-sized food storage bags. You may use any freeze-worthy container you like, but be careful if you store the peppers in glass, pyrex-type dishes, as one must be careful to store evenly lest they slip out and bop you on the head or foot or any other body part of which you are fond. Last night I had a run-in with a medium-sized cooler bar from which my ankle has yet to recover!

When you have filled your container, mark it with the contents and date and pop into your freezer. Then you will have a taste of Summer all Winter long!!!

My two big bags of peppers ready to freeze.

You can also freeze other types of peppers, chopped tomatoes, celery (for soup or stews), green onions (I usually peel and chop these into one of those glass pyrex-type dishes!), and many other things. My freezer is full of things that in years past, my grandmother would have canned, including some home-made jam. Right. I generally don’t can that unless I have extra time and manpower. I’ve also frozen bbq sauce since I usually buy a large jug from a store over yonder. When one must fit that into a small refrigerator, it requires some ingenuity!

Happy freezing!

Pico de Gallo Steak Rolls

Don’t they look delicious?

After a while we get stuck in a rut with our meals. How many times can one eat chicken in a week? I came up with this gluten-free, dairy-free meal a few years back and it is absolutely delicious.

What you will need:

Enough extremely thinly sliced rib-eye steaks to feed your people (I hesitate to say family, since some of you may not be feeding a family, but rather, friends, or business associates.)

Enough pico de gallo to put about a rounded tablespoon in each rib-eye

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil for frying

salt

pepper

granulated onion (some of you may want to use onion powder, which is fine. I just prefer granulated onion because I find that it doesn’t clump up and get hard as fast as onion powder, thus making it more useful to me!)

Lay out your steak pieces and salt, pepper, and onion them. I actually keep a salt/pepper shaker in my kitchen so I can salt and pepper at the same time. It saves time and energy!

Place your rounded tablespoon of pico at one end of the steak and roll the steak around it until you have a small egg-roll shaped meat roll. Do this with all your steak and pico.

It should look like this:

Ready for the pan!

Pre-heat frying pan with oil on low-medium heat. Gently place meat rolls in the pan. Cook for about 3 – 5 minutes on all four sides. They should look like this:

Ready to be served!

Remove from pan and serve. The night I cooked these, I served them with some potato cakes and extra pico de gallo. YUM!!!

Who’s hungry?

A Small but Wondrous Gift

My Two-gallon Pin!

This afternoon I went to a local church to donate blood. It is only a small gift I can give, but it is one I willingly offer every eight weeks. In fact, I’ve given so many times that the last time I donated, I made my two-gallon mark and received my pin. I wear it with pride.

Unfortunately, I was deferred for today’s gift because earlier this month I got my second Hepatitis B vaccine (a preventative I started when I was working in home health care.) My doctor and I decided it would be a good idea to continue the series of three shots just as a preventative. I didn’t realize it would keep me from one of my most helpful and caring ways of giving back for the next three months.

So, here is my challenge to you: Donate Blood for Me!!! Back in 2015, when I was in a serious car accident that left me hospitalized and then in a nursing home for over two months, I saw first hand the need for blood donations. I had several transfusions. In fact, I would not be here writing to you if that blood was not readily available. So I give, whenever I am eligible.

It is not hard to donate blood and it is totally safe. The Red Cross sterilizes everything. They and you are required to wear masks. They also wear gloves. You go to redcross.org and they will guide you through finding a blood drive near you. Then you can read through the materials and get your rapid pass so that you don’t have to sit around reading all the instructions once you are at the drive. You can either print out your rapid pass or save it to your phone and present it. You do have to be 18 (or 16 with parental permission) to give and have a driver’s license or state ID.

After the paperwork is done and the temperature taken, they will prick your finger and get an iron count. They will take your blood pressure, etc. If you are ok’d then they will take you to a cot to lay down while they clean your arm with antiseptic, insert a needle, and fill up a bag and a few vials for testing and donation. It’s pretty straight forward.

When you’re done they will take you to a table where you can get water or juice and something to eat. Your body will need to replenish itself and you might get a little dizzy. That’s it. Simple, right?

This one small gift can save up to three lives. Do it for me. Do it for the many people who never thought they’d need it, but then suddenly do. Do it for a friend or family member who was ill and needed a transfusion. Do it for you.

Happy Father’s Day or As It’s Known Around Here – Happy Second Mother’s Day

Dame’s Rocket near us.

Father’s day used to be a tough one for our family. The kids’ dad and my now ex-husband was extremely abusive and no one wanted to celebrate him. So I came up with Second Mother’s Day. I figured, as a single mom, I deserved two days of celebration for all my hard work. After all, I was doing the work of both mother and father, so why not? Second Mother’s Day was born as a day to honor single mom’s who do all the work of two parents.

Now, I don’t want the single dads out there to feel left out. I have a good friend who is an amazing single dad and every second Sunday in May I wish him a Happy Second Father’s Day (even if it technically comes before the first one every year.) It’s the thought that counts and I treasure our friendship enough to know that not only is he an amazing dad, but a wonderful friend.

So, to all those awesome dad’s out there – Happy Father’s Day! For all those awesome single moms out there – Happy Second Mother’s Day! God bless you all!!!

Rita

Prayers for Anna

Our dear Anna trying to cut her graduation cake while wearing her royal crown & holding her ceptar!

I am asking for prayers for a dear friend of daughter #3. I found out this afternoon that she has brain cancer. She has had a very rough life and is now finding her footing due to the kind help she has gotten from her school and home.

I told her I would pray and now I’m asking for your prayers as well. Please pray for Anna. She is a beautiful soul and a kind and loving person. She is very special to our family and we love her dearly. Thank you.

Rita

The Liebster Award – My First Award!

First, I want to thank PoojaG for nominating me. Even though she’s half my age, I still enjoy her blog and her unique perspective. Just goes to show that you can have friends of all ages and backgrounds. Now my answers to the questions:

  1. What is your favorite book? Oooh – difficult. There are so many to choose from here. I guess my favorite of all time would be “Jayne Eyre”. She came from nothing and made all her dreams come true. My runner up would be “A Day in the Life of Evan Denisovich”. Here we have a man sentenced to what amounts to the rest of his life in a Russian prison, and yet the day he writes of is a good day because he eats and gets to go outside. He knows he will never get out of the prison, so he finds whatever he can to be optimistic. It’s a lesson in finding the good in a bad situation.
  2. What song do you currently have on repeat? I have an eclectic taste in music, from classical (I was raised as a classical violinist) to Louis Armstrong to Alanis Morrisette, Sheryl Crow, Christian rock, and Weird Al Yankovic. I do so also love the soundtrack from “The Greatest Showman” as well as some more modern rock music. If I were to name my favorite right now, it would be “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. You can’t compare to Louis.
  3. Which season (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) of the year describes you. I like to think I’m Summer. I have gotten over the nervousness of figuring out who I am and for what I stand. I am comfortable with myself and feel I’m in full bloom.
  4. What is your favorite musical band that you’d love to have a great surprise for one of your special events? Newsboys – They are awesome!!! My runners up? Francesca Batistelli and Lauren Daigle. Great!
  5. The best quality you expect from your loved ones? Mention one…We have a tie: compassion and honesty. I can’t chose just one. They’re both equally important!
  6. What makes a good blog? Honesty, compassion, awesome pics and gf recipes if you got ’em! Lots of things. Cute kids/puppies/kitties, etc. are always fun; just anything that is interesting/makes my laugh!
  7. Your favorite vacation? If you haven’t already figured this out – I’m poor! I don’t generally go on vacation. However, of the trips I’ve taken, I think my favorite was to Canada on tour with my youth orchestra. We visited Montreal, Toronto, and Quebec. By far my favorite was Toronto. I loved the modern, young, hip vibe. It was awesome to be there as a teen!
  8. Your proudest moment? When I finally got my now ex-husband out of the house to stop him from abusing all of us. Also, when my divorce was final and he got no rights to see the kids so he could no longer hurt them or me; and my restraining order.
  9. The greatest movie of all time? Oh, crud! There are so many from which to choose! I guess that would have to be “Mr. Holland’s Opus”. It is a wonderful movie with music, the deaf community, marital issues, friendships, and the people we touch along the way. Runners up would be “Hidden Figures”, “The Help”, and many other kick-butt women movies. Whew! That was hard!!!
  10. Wealth or health? Since I’ve never had wealth, that question is easy – Health all the way!
  11. Your favorite cocktail/mocktail ever? Virgin Pina Colada. How can coconut and pineapple be wrong? Too much yum!!! If you’re looking for alcohol, try a Tom Collins – Lime – yum!!!

Whew! Didn’t think I would be able to do that. What a challenge! Now I’m passing it on to the following bloggers. Please answer the questions and nominate 11 of your favorite bloggers and ask them to answer the 11 questions.

laura@heavenlyhomemakers.com (a blog about homemaking and trying to eat more healthily)

laura@gpshope.org (Grieving Parents Share Hope)

Roberta Franklin at romanceloversite.com (a writer not just of a blog, but also of two adventure books.

http://cookingwithoutlimits.com

smithabakeslove.com

Unfortunately, being new to the blogosphere, I only have five bloggers to nominate. So sorry, but I do look forward to connecting with all of you in the near future. Best of luck to all of my new friends!

Rita

Amazing Potato Salad

Today, as I dropped off child #4 at a school get-together, we were next to an fantastic restaurant. The smell emanating from said restaurant was mouth-watering: Char-broiled burgers. So, what did I make for dinner? Child #2’s famous burgers, of course, with a side of my amazing potato salad. YUM!!!

You will need:

5 pounds of potatoes (I used russet)

1/2 cup Heinz mayonnaise (Yes. You can taste the difference!)

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp. yellow mustard

2 tsp. onion powder

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 cup bacon bits

4 hard boiled eggs, chopped

2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Gently pierce your potatoes and cook until they are soft enough to be pierced through by a sharp knife. Remove from the water when done and rinse with cold water. Allow to cool before peeling. Rinse the potatoes to remove any residual dirt after peeling. Chop into one inch pieces and put into a large bowl.

Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Stir into the potatoes until well mixed. Add bacon bits, eggs, and cheese. Mix well. And then you have this:

And next to that, you have child #2’s amazing burgers…mmmm. Recipe to come!!!

Fruit Butter

I started out this morning wanting apple butter. Actually, I’ve been craving apple butter for the last couple of weeks. I was dismayed to find, however, that my local “Mart” store did not carry apple butter, but only a tiny fancy bottle of apple-pecan butter that was far more than I was willing to spend. What? How could this be? It appears that you are not supposed crave apple butter in the Spring. Who craves apple butter only in the Fall? Who are these people? Whoever you are, you will not prevail. I will triumph!!!

I started with cans of fruit. No one is eating them at this time of year when fresh fruit is so readily available and inexpensive. So I opened pears, peaches, and apricots and got to work.

You will need:

6, 15 oz. cans of sliced pears

4 , 15 oz. cans of sliced peaches

3, 15 oz. cans of apricot halves

2 cups apple juice, separated

1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

Open all of the cans of pears and dump them in a colander. Rinse the pears. Add about half the pears and 1/2 a cup of apple juice to a blender and blend until smooth. Dump the mixture into a 6 qt. slow cooker. Process the rest of the pairs with another 1/2 cup of apple juice and add to slow cooker.

Next open all the cans of peaches into the colander and rinse. Add all the peaches and another 1/2 cup of the apple juice and blend well. Add the peaches to the pears in the slow cooker.

For the apricots do the same and blend with the last 1/2 cup of apple juice. Add the apricots to the mix and stir together.

Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar and stir well to combine. It should look like this before

And this after stirring.

Cook in your slow cooker on low for 10 hours. You could also do this overnight and have a yummy fruit butter to put on your gluten free toast or English muffin. If you’re like me, however, you’ll want to put it over your ice cream and make it look like this:

In a word – YUM!!!!!!!

Our Salad with Pasta Meal

As the weather turns warmer, our tastes in food modify. Most of you are familiar with pasta salad. You see it in your deli’s offerings, in tubs at the supermarket, in boxes with packets for a dressing that you make at home. When I was a child, my family didn’t have much money for extras. So, when my mom discovered the boxed pasta salad, she tried to figure out a way to stretch it to feed our hungry mouths.

What she did was add quite a bit of regular salad items, like lettuce, tomato, and black olives to the box mix. With the Italian dressing, it was fantastic. That was during my pre-celiac days.

When I found out I had celiac disease, while pregnant with child #2, I craved this salad creation that my mom had discovered. So I went about recreating it. First, I found that my favorite brand of brown rice pasta worked really well. Second, I added salad fixings and Italian dressing. This worked well until my children decided they didn’t like Italian, but preferred ranch. Yikes. These days we eat it with whatever dressing we have on hand, but the current favorite is creamy ceasar. Here’s the recipe:

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast*, chopped into 1″ chunks and fried with

2 Tbsp. safflower oil and

Salt & pepper to taste

Cook over medium heat until fully cooked

1/2 pound of your favorite small gluten-free pasta noodles cooked to package directions, rinsed and cooled

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped

3 cups fresh spinach

1/2 large cucumber cut in 1/4’s and chopped

1/2 can large olives, sliced

1/4 cup pepperoncini slices, chopped

1/3 cup pickled pepper slices, chopped

1/2 dill pickle, sliced into 4 spears and chopped

1/4 cup pickled jalepeno slices chopped, optional (child #2 is the only one who uses these! Hot!)

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese*

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes – wait to add these

Mix all your ingredients together in a large bowl. Use a circular blade cutter to chop your salad further. If you don’t have one, you can just chop up your ingredients on your cutting board before adding them to the large salad bowl. When everything is chopped to your satisfaction, add the cheese and the tomatoes. Add the chicken and rinsed and cooled pasta and toss well. Serve onto plates and top with your favorite dressing. Yum!!!

*NOTE: For our vegan and vegetarian friends, this salad can be made without the chicken and cheese. Black beans would be a great replacement for the chicken. Modify away and enjoy!