Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What's for Lunch?

As moms, we hear that phrase or some variation thereof all the time. What's for dinner? What's for breakfast? What can I have for a snack? Especially from teenage boys with hollow legs. Sure they're capable of fending for themselves, but, as my oldest son is fond of saying, "It's so much better when you fix it."

Personally, I'm not buying that. I think he's just too lazy to fix it himself. However, it always does this mama's heart good to feed her little ones. Even if I do have to crane my neck to look them in the eye.

So when said question was posed on Sunday, I went through the usual menu items. Sandwich, frozen pizza... 

No. No.

Then I remember the leftover brisket in the fridge than I had been meaning to move to the freezer.

Brisket sandwich?

Do you have any buns?

Of course.

Then yes.

So I fix the brisket sandwich, only to met with another question.

What else can I have?


So as I stood there in my kitchen, I spotted the takeout box of tortilla chips sitting on the counter from the Mexican restaurant hubby and I visited the night before. Hmm...

How about some brisket nachos?

That would be awesome!

(Insert big mother's smile here)

I spread the tortilla chips out on a plate, shredded some sharp cheddar cheese (normally I like to add some Monterrey Jack because it melts so nicely, but I was out), then sprinkled some chopped brisket over the top.
Easy  peasy.

Now pop the plate into the microwave until the cheese is melted. For me, that was about a minute.

Add some jalapenos, and voila!

If these had been for me, I would have skipped the jalapenos and dribbled on a bit of salsa before nuking it. 

Of course, you don't have to stop there and you don't have to use brisket. My personal favorite is chicken. Check the refrigerator. See what you've got and add whatever you like. This is one of those dishes you can get creative with.

How about some black olives, green onions, sour cream and/or lettuce? Turn it into a nacho salad.

Nachos is also why I always keep a bag of tortilla chips in the pantry and a brick of cheese in the fridge. They make a quick, easy snack, no matter who makes it. 

So what would you like on your nachos?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Gluten Free, Carb Free "Bread" - I Can't Believe It's Not Bread! product review

Several years ago I wrote articles/lessons for an on-line community/magazine called "The Homemaker's Mentor." It was a great place for homemakers to come together and learn from each other - and it was also my first writing gig (thank you, Martha!).

The Homemaker who started it all is Martha Greene, of Marmee Dear & Company. Go ahead and check out her website, but hurry back here for the rest of the story.

A quick aside - Martha, Rebekah Wilson and I wrote a book together that is available on Amazon here.

Back to the main story!

Martha's daughter, Erica, has started her own homebased business, and what a business!

I'll let Erica tell you the story in her own words from her website:

Growing up, my mother always made delicious, fresh, homemade whole wheat bread. When I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance 17 years ago, I tried many gluten-free breads, but I always found them to be crumbly and heavy on my stomach. I like to eat clean, which means the fewer ingredients on the list, the better! When I began battling Candida, I restricted my diet to only lean protein and non-starchy veggies. Longing for something tasty in my diet, I began mixing up simple ingredients I had on hand in my kitchen. When my first "BUN" came out of the oven, I was blown away! Only 5 ingredients, simply stir & bake, and I found I had a soft, chewy, light "bread" that had 16 grams of protein and only 3 net carbs and was gluten-free, grain-free, high-fiber, yeast-free, sugar-free, low carb, Paleo & Candida friendly! I quickly discovered that my simple recipe was able to make not only a "BUN" but also "SLICED BREAD" and a "SUBMARINE BUN" complete with sesame seeds on top! And then found the basic recipe could even be made into an amazing PERSONAL PIZZA CRUST! As soon as my family and friends starting tasting my new concoction, they said, "WOW! I can't believe it's not bread!"
Since June 2011 I've been a single mommy to 4 littles, struggling to support my family. I am excited to launch this small business and share this special recipe with others who have intolerances to gluten, grains, dairy or even those who are simply looking for a delicious "bread" loaded with protein for a low-carb food lifestyle--Can't wait for you to try.....
                          "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BREAD!"
                      ~ Erica

I had to try Erica's bread, so I waited (a bit impatiently!) for her to put the product on the market.

This week, I received my first two mixes:

I made the "Just-Like-White" loaf to have with our supper that night...

The directions are super simple:

Empty the contents of the package into a small bowl - I used my favorite four cup mixing bowl.

Mix in two egg whites. Erica says to use fresh egg whites for the best results. Using packaged egg whites will work, but the texture of the bread will be different.

Stir the mix and egg whites together for about 40 strokes, until the mix resembles cake batter.

Pour the batter into an oven safe 2-cup size round or square baking dish, and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes.

Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, right?

When the bread is done, it will be golden brown on both top and bottom and firm to the touch.

Let the bread cool slightly, then remove it from the dish. Erica says that when it's baked, the tightly wrapped "bread" keeps in the freezer for four weeks.

But our loaf didn't make it past supper.

So, how did it taste? Absolutely delicious!

The texture was light and airy - different from most "breads" made with almond meal. And the flavor was out of this world. I ate it fresh out of the oven with a bit of butter, but it would also be delicious toasted with a smear of jam :)

Now the rest of my family likes their normal bread products. They liked this bread, but don't want to change to it full-time. But since it fits right into my THM lifestyle, it's perfect for me. It's also perfect for anyone who is looking for a grain-free, gluten-free, yeast-free, sugar-free "bread."

The mixes are a bit pricey for daily use ($4.95 each), so I promptly ordered Erica's cookbook (e-book download) from her website, and a bag of the one item I can't buy at my local store, Heather's fiber. (By the way, Erica is also a Trim Healthy Mama affiliate, so look for the THM button on her website!)

As soon as the fiber arrives, I'll be set to make this quick, delicious bread to accompany any meal I want!

So, let's chat. What is your favorite "diet" food that makes you feel like you're "cheating" when you eat it?

And by the way, stay tuned for the next installment in the Great Sourdough Experiment!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

No Bake Cherry Cheesecake and our recent wanderings

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have a delicious dessert my friend Mindy showed my girls (which means they ran off to the store to get ingredients and made it ASAP, love that). 
But first, a little peek at where we've been lately.
YES, back to the blueberry farm for more hard labor! Not only hard labor, but child labor. Poor wee things. But I told them that we were picking Rekas this time. Last time it was Dukes, which are large, mild and good for eating fresh. Rekas are good for COOKING. Pies, muffin, pancakes. They freeze well, too. 
The bushes were loaded. It was 104F that day. I was melting into a puddle. The kids were fine. Unfair.
 Getting lost in the patch is easy to do. Reka bushes are much higher than Duke.
 If we wanted to pick Dukes, we could have picked right near the parking area. I wanted Rekas, which meant a little hike. (The owner said to head toward that van, and the best bushes were after the second star to the right and straight on until morning... or something like that.)
This guy was worried about spiders but I told him all the spiders had gone on vacation to avoid the tourists. He didn't believe me.
 After we came home, a few of us took a little nap in the cool living room.
 Meanwhile an older sibling built a marble run.
 He left a sign so I would know not to clean it off. It wasn't finished, just a WIP.
 Random pictures of our clematis.
 We love this plant. We use a lot of water just keeping it happy. In the desert where not much grows naturally, we avoid prissy plants. But not this one. The water bill is worth it!
 After a little while, the napping people woke up and decided to torture... I mean PLAY WITH the cat.
We went to visit my friend Barbara, who lives over the fence from my dad. Literally... right over the fence. We hardly ever walk down the lane, turn the corner, and walk up the other lane. We just heave ourselves over the fence. Much faster.
She has the best swing! Everyone feels like a giant on it.
 Barbara has a family Bible from Germany. Isn't it amazing? She graciously took it down from the mantel (she doesn't read German, so she studies her own Bible) so we could look inside.
 Such beautiful illustrations!
 The side view. (I think Jan shared a family Bible of hers once. I can't remember if it was in English or not, but I remember it was very old!)
Down the road from her is this old school that was left empty for years, until a family bought it. I was so jealous! I always wanted to live in that old place. Funny thing, they homeschooled! A real home school. LOL
And now we're back to playing with the cat. He's such a big goof. Almost as big as my five year old and he KNOWS he's a handsome dude.
So, we're finally at the No Bake Cherry Cheesecake part of the post. And was this delicious! I'm not a fan of those layered desserts that sit in the fridge. They always taste a bit like onion or whatever was left open in there, or seem a bit soggy. But this one was a winner!

          One box Nilla Wafer Minis-or use regular sized Nilla Wafers
           8 ounces soft cream cheese
          ⅓ cup sugar
          8 ounce tub cool whip
         ½ cup cherry preserves (we used raspberry jam because we had it on hand)
         1 can cherry pie filling
      Line a loaf pan with Nilla Wafers across bottom and mix the cream cheese and sugar together. Beat in cool whip. Spread half of the mixture over the cookies and then spread the preserves or jam over the cream cheese mix. Add another layer of wafers and more cheesecake mix. Pour on the cherry pie filling and DO NOT EAT out of the can. Make sure someone is watching you. Put it in the fridge and padlock the door. Go to bed and try not to think about it sitting in there, all lonely and uneaten.

To be honest, we waited about four hours. Sorry, this place moves fast. Ain't nobody got time for an overnight dessert. (Ok, maybe when we make croissants but those HAVE to chill on a schedule.)
I hope you all enjoyed this little post and now I'm back to chasing little people... and writing. 

My latest book, Only Through Love is almost here! Just one more month! My last book, These Sheltering Walls, was based on the Louis Untermeyer poem A Prayer for This Home  (which I shared before but is linked in case you want to read it again and you know you do). This book is based on a Sara Teasdale poem called Child, Child. (Click the link. You know you want to read more poetry. You really do.) I thought it was a good choice because we first meet Charlie, the heroine, when she's just a teenager in The Pepper in the Gumbo

Ok, until next time my friends! (Oh, but since it will be 110+ here this weekend, you may not hear from me. I may be melted into a giant puddle.) 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Quick Veggie Meal

Hello from The Belle, Missy. We've had a crazy week. Which meant crazy, spotty meals. (How many times can we eat frozen yogurt or cereal in one week??) :)

Well, one night when I was home alone, I decided to do something with eggplant. I wanted to make the recipe Sandra Leesmth shared here at the cafe. It's one of my very favorites. But I had no ground beef. So....

I remembered a recipe I had pinned on Pinterest, Roasted Parmesan Zucchini. I figured I could make it with eggplant!

I peeled and sliced an eggplant, the slices about 1/4 inch thick. Then I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with pepper and a pinch of salt. Roasted at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.

But I got impatient and put them in the oven before preheating...

And that was the tray that I sliced too thin. So that and my impatience led to FAIL! LOL

I gave up on that batch. Could barely scrape it off.

Here's the good tray... Sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese. Return to oven.

Bake until cheese is melted and bubbly. I ended up broiling them for a minute or two.


Please visit and sign up for my quarterly newsletter at:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Patriotic Strawberries in time for the 4th!

My daughter-in-law Lacey makes these for us.

We love them.

We love her.

If not for the obvious (she married our son....) and then gave us three gorgeous grandkids...

Then her skills in the kitchen would have won us over! Lacey is a creator, she loves to grab ideas and run with them, both in the house and in the kitchen, but these are simple enough a beginner kitchen queen can do them...

And they impress people!

Now youse all know, I love impressing people! My ego is quite healthy. :)

And these do the trick without too much time, so here goes:

You will need:

Strawberries (we use a 2 lb. tub or basket)
White chocolate melting wafers
Blue "white" chocolate melting wafers 
Silver sprinkle stars (edible) or red/white/blue decorating crystals

The crystals, stars and melting chocolates are available in most big grocery stores or you can find them at Michael's, AC Moore, JoAnne's, etc. Melting wafers stay fine if kept in a re-sealed bag or canister! If you don't use them all, seal and store them until the next fun project!

Rinse strawberries.  Pat them dry on paper towels gently.

Melt white chocolate wafers/bar over double boiler. (If you don't have a double boiler (most of us don't!!!) I put a heavy duty glass bowl (Pyrex, Corning, etc) over a saucepan with about two inches of water in the bottom. Make sure bowl doesn't touch water. Heat water, no boiling, just hot enough to melt chocolate. Put white chocolate wafers in bowl, melt and stir...

Place foil or parchment or freezer paper on cookie sheet. Dip strawberries about half way up in the white chocolate.


Repeat with blue melting wafer in a clean bowl. Dip the berries about halfway up the white chocolate...

Then sprinkle with edible silver stars.

And here you go:

Quick, fun and a crowd-pleaser!

We're still planting here, it's late but we were stymied by Mother Nature....

But we have this!!!!

Getting ready for Father's Day, making cards and cookies for our dads!!!

Mary made her Dad a 4-eyed alien picture with rainbow hair and two arms coming out of his head. And a nose, she told me don't forget about the nose. And we trimmed the cards with REAL PICTURES OF FRUIT, FLOWERS AND VEGGIES from seed catalogs!!! We went all out!

Cookie detail at the mixer!!!!!! And then these guys stopped out to see Grandpa because they were all going to the big ALS 5K on Father's Day. Anna, always ready, rockin' the Santa hat!

Mini version of "Bridge to Terabithia"... Logan and Kenzie (she's holding a toad) dug a "big pond"!!! and then they made a bridge over it with the ladder.... and they're sailing boats in the pond.

Who needs expensive toys???? #budget #frugal #imaginationsrock!

You can see the pile of burning wood behind them, this is the tree we're bringing down. Stupid bugs. Notice we moved all the toys into the grass while we trim. Avoiding hitting small children with trees is a good thing!


I love the change of seasons, each one makes me smile!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Escarole My Escarole

Cate back again with another healthy writer recipe.

Last Sunday I went to the Farmer's Market looking for strawberries. I fell in love with the escarole though so I had to bring it home.

I mean just look at this pretty, green head.

My Farmer's Market posts little helpful signs telling you why you should be eating their produce. The one for escarole sold me. Rich in Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Vitamins A and K, Folate.
According to some websites, escarole is also fat free, carb free and carries only 4 (YES FOUR) calories per half cup serving.

I'm sure we all know about the various benefits of some of those ingredients so today I'll just focus on one. FOLATE.

Why do you need folate?

The National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements explains that folate is a water soluble vitamin, which means it is not stored in the body and must be taken in daily. 

All the various websites I looked at focused on different benefits, but they all had some in common:
Lower risk of depression/mood disorders
Healthy heart
Cancer prevention (Something about protecting the DNA)
Blood cell production (protection against anemia)
Helps fight dementia

 If you want more info - just Google Health benefits of folate.

Enough of the science for now. Let's get cooking!

I had a really delicious looking recipe I wanted to make.

 Alas, my oven is broken. So I improvised.

First I set the salmon to poach in this pan.

I LOVE this pan. Everything cooks perfectly and it's a dream to clean.

I would have added the herbs and lemon then, but the dog likes to share my salmon and I didn't want him having the lemon.

Fenway waiting for his salmon.

Once I removed the dog's portion, I added in lemon, some white wine and garlic and let it simmer while I cooked the star ingredient.

I cooked the escarole in my wok because it's big enough for all those huge leafy greens. But first I sauteed some freeze-dried garlic with a smidgeon of olive oil.  

Then I piled in the greens and covered. I didn't add any water, I just left on the water that remained after washing the leaves. (They were very muddy!)

Once the escarole wilted, 

I ladled the salmon mix on top.

Now, truth time. The escarole was a tad bitter. Maybe from the lemon, maybe because it's escarole. *Shrug*

But, timing is everything and the stormy skies had finally cleared. I needed to walk the dog before the next round of storms.

It was also hot in my kitchen.

So I stuck the plate in the refrigerator.  When I got back from walking Fen, it was nicely chilled and tasted very good (not so bitter). So I recommend cooking with enough time to chill.

 One more thing -

Turns out, according to my research, those strawberries would have been a good source of folate too. That got me thinking, but you'll have to come back next week to find out the result of that thinking. :)

So, let's chat. Do you eat escarole? Have a recipe to share?

But what I really want to know is - do you eat certain foods just because you know they're good for you?

 And just in case you're looking for some alternate sources of folate - I found this graphic.

Check out the website for more information on folate.