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!

Adventures in Carpentry

As a single mom, I in charge of all household projects. You might say I am the Queen! I have been a plumber, a carpenter, a painter, a reluctant electrician, an auto mechanic, an electronics expert, etc.

Lately I have been involved in putting wooden bottoms on some chests of drawers that don’t have any. Why bother? I prefer not to find guests like spiders in with my clothing! No matter how hard they try, they will never be my friends!!!

To aid in this project, I have been utilizing my circular saw. (Yes. I actually own a circular saw! Too exciting!) I was cutting along just fine, when I noticed my saw was making a strange sound. The blade seemed loose, but when I tried to tighten it, I failed. Hmmm…looks like I’ll be taking a trip to the hardware store where I bought it in the morning. They can fix it.

This morning I finished my tall chest of drawers and even caulked any small holes that remained so there will be no uninvited guests. I then moved on child #2’s small periwinkle cabinet and finished in record time. The last chest of drawers was a long unit I got from my grandparents when they moved to Florida. I made several cuts and was trying to finish my second to last cut when the saw made a strange sound and I noticed that the blade was loose.

I was really upset, as I worked hard and just wanted to finish so I could put things away. Unfortunately, it was not to be. I will get it fixed tomorrow, but for tonight, I’m done. Now, where to sleep…

Chorizo Cheddar Fries

Chorizo Cheddar Fries – Yum!!!

Chorizo. Ah, chorizo. A spicy, Mexican sausage. I have found no other taste like it. You might not have ever used it before, but it is a tasty, spicy, full of flavor sausage that adds great flavor to a variety of foods.

Child #2 is my jalapeno child. She is the only one of us who will put jalapenos on chili, nachos, and a variety of other foods. She is my spicy-food-lover. She made up this recipe and we tried it last night (I wasn’t home the first time she made it.)

Here we go. This is what you need:

One, 24 oz. bag of gluten-free waffle fries

2, 9 oz. packages of chorizo – your choice of mild or spicy

2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Line a 12″ x 18″ jelly roll pan with foil.

Spray with cooking spray.

Spread out the waffle fries.

They should look like this.

When the oven is ready, drizzle the oil over the fries and put them in for 15 minutes.

In the mean time take your chorizo out of the the packaging and place it in a frying pan. Cook it on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes (while the fries cook), stirring often.

Take the fries out of the oven and sprinkle the chorizo on the fries. It should look like this:

Fries with Chorizo

Next, sprinkle the cheese on top to look like this:

Fries with Chorizo and Cheese!

Pop back into the oven for five minutes or so until the cheese melts and looks like this:

The Final Product!!!

Enjoy!

Note: If you have problems with cheese, you could always leave it off and have Chorizo Fries. Yum!!!

Losing J. to Find Her

Yesterday I drove over ten hours. It was an exhausting trip. Way up north we traveled, children #’s 2, 3, 4, and I. We were going for child #3. This particular child has had a terribly difficult time lately, but really for most of her life. From the time she was little, her father was in her face screaming at her, hitting her. She could never do anything right. Child #1 was a wonderful musician, smart, and beautiful. Child #2 was smart and beautiful too. Child #4 was kind, beautiful, and the baby. Child #3 was just a no one, at least in her own eyes. In mine, she was and is a beautiful, talented, funny, smart child, who has locked herself down and will not let any of her talents show, so there to prove that she is no one special.

This went on for many years until finally I kicked my now ex-husband and all the kids’ father out and started to help them and me heal. It was at this point J. started really acting out and cutting herself. She felt safe to finally be herself. She has so very much pain inside that she doesn’t know how to heal. She has rejected God, though she now states that she is no longer an atheist, but rather an agnostic. It’s a start.

She becomes extremely violent when asked to help with just about anything and tends to hit me and her siblings. The police are familiar with her and our family, firstly because of her father, and now because of her. So, frequently we host a police officer or two. So charming!

This has been going on for over two years. She has been hospitalized for cutting, suicide attempts, and beating us. My ex used to beat us all, so that is where she learned it. I am so very tired of the run around with the mental health care in our country. It’s terribly sad and I generally feel that I am standing in the middle of a field screaming and no one can hear me. It’s the most powerless and hopeless feeling in the world. This is my child, my baby. How could this be happening? How could the mental health industry fail my baby so spectacularly? Is this happening to other children in other places in our country?

So, my trip…it was long, but with a purpose. I took her up to a treatment center for help. She thought it would be more like a camp, and I think after the COVID clearance, it will be. She is not happy. In fact, she called tonight, begging me to get her out. I refused. I know this is for her own good, but it is so hard to hear her pleading voice and to stay strong. Yeah. I’m such a horrible meanie!!!

This is just one of those times that I have to do something for her own good. I hate when I have to do that. It’s difficult, but necessary. Isn’t single parenting fun?

Where is the ex-husband and father in all of this, you ask? Well, to be honest, he is not allowed to see the children. He is allowed, once a year, to send each of them a birthday card, since they have the ability to open it or not. If their therapists ever think they are ready to see him, they will facilitate that. Honestly, after all the abuse, I can’t imagine any of them wanting to see him ever again. And that is all I’m going to say about it.

So I dropped her off and left her to hopefully find her again. To find that sweet, smart, beautiful, funny, talented girl that I miss so very much. Please get well, dear. Soon and come back to us. We are praying for you.

A Difficult Decision

I have made a difficult decision. My beautiful, tiny Church is opening for Mass tomorrow, Pentecost. I am torn by the indecision to go or not to go. On one hand, Mass has always been the best hour of my week. I love the prayers, the music, the homilies, everything, including seeing my neighbors.

But I’m scared. With my underlying conditions, if I contract COVID-19 I could be dead in a week and a half. It’s not that I’m afraid to die. I have a strong and abiding faith in God and while I’m far from perfect, Jesus is my three o’clock friend. What I mean by that is that I can call upon him in the middle of the night and He never gets mad. He’s just glad to hear from me, at whatever hour.

I am the choir director at our small church, yet we are not allowed to have a choir because of COVID-19. Even though these people are my friends and neighbors, it is still terrifying. Even if I didn’t have celiac disease, I still have two other risk factors, so no. I won’t do that to my children. My kids depend on me. As a single mom I am all they have. Two would be o.k., but two are far too young to lose me. So I can’t, in good conscience, risk it.

That is my final decision. It’s not that I don’t love God or my Church and don’t for one minute think that I won’t be praying and watching Mass on TV. I just can’t take the chance that I will get sick and my kids will lose even more than they already have. So I will make peace with it, and wish you all peace as well.

Black Forest Brownies

This morning I woke up full of vim and vigor. I wanted to make brownies; but not just any brownies. I wanted to figure out a recipe for Black Forest Brownies, since a friend of mine had given me a bag of dried cherries. Yum!

I decided to start with gelatin blocks. I mixed up the peach and pineapple gelatin and prepared to put it in a jelly-roll pan. Mmmhmm…it helps if your pan isn’t ancient and warped. No. It just was not going to cooperate!

I poured the gelatin back into the bowl and popped the whole thing into the fridge. So it won’t be in blocks? It will still taste great topped with whipped cream.

So, the brownies…first I was stymied with the lack of baking chocolate bars at my house. There was only one where I thought I still had two. Darn! I needed two for my brownies. I decided to try a conversion. For four ounces of bitter chocolate I needed 12 tablespoons of cocoa, otherwise known as 3/4 of a cup, and four tablespoons of butter.

The brownies came out looking awesome and the smell amazing. Here’s what I did:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Prepare your 9″ x 13″ pan by spraying it with cooking spray and setting it aside.

Roast the chopped pecans in a separate, shallow pan lined with foil for seven minutes in a 350° F oven, stirring halfway through. Cool.

Turn oven down 325° F.

20 Tbsp. butter

4 oz. bitter chocolate (1 bar)

5 eggs

1 1/2 C brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 C coconut flour

1 C tapioca starch

1 tsp. baking powder

1 Tbsp. xanthan gum

3/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 C toasted, chopped pecans

1 1/2 C dried cherries

1 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whipped cream for dressing!

Put butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and melt in microwave stirring in 30 second increments until smooth. Set aside.

Mix eggs and brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients of cocoa, coconut flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt, mixing gently. Add cooled chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.

To dough, add dried cherries, chocolate chips, and roasted pecans. Mix well.

Put dough into prepared pan and push into corners with a silicone spatula.

It will look like this before baking.

Bake for 25 minutes at 325° F oven. Let cool in pan. Cut and serve with whipped cream (or ice cream). Enjoy!

The best reaction I saw for these was child #4’s reaction. Her eyes got really big and she smiled around her bite topped with whipped cream. That smile said they were pure bliss!

Cooling Black Forest Brownies

Yum!!!

Just a note: The gelatin was also fantastic!

Flower Shower

White Angel Crabapple Blossoms

A few days ago child #2 and I were cutting the lawn. We don’t have a functional riding mower, but rather must cut our one acre plot with a push mower. We make this more bearable by taking turns around the yard with every two passes.

While I was awaiting my turn, I rested under the white angel crabapple tree. This tree is a descendant of one that my father planted for my mother on an anniversary at the farm.

The blossoms were about spent and a gentle breeze sent them skittering to the grass. I was in the middle of a flower shower! I couldn’t help but compare it to a snow shower. Much more warm and fragrant, though both are white and breathtakingly beautiful.

If only I could bottle the beauty of the warm Spring shower for a bitterly cold day in January!

So I tucked this precious time in my memory for a day when my heart needs a lift. I pray that you will savor these times that bring your heart joy. Hold them dear when you are low and they will gladden your heart!

My White Angel Crabapple Tree