Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Re-cap

It has been truly a lovely, wonderful holiday season this year!  We started the holidays off in Iowa for my stepmother's graduation.  Yes, another converted Iowa State member!  Brenda has worked so hard for her PhD and we are so proud of her accomplishments.  Christmas was celebrated by Erin and Todd in true Mr. and Mrs. Bubba Clause style at my father's house where Sylvie enjoyed helping Brenda with Betty's birthday cake.  We then traveled to Mason City where we spent some time with Justin's family.  Our niece, Ady, loved the pool!  We topped the Christmas weekend off with my mother in Des Moines.  Her new home is so lovely and was all decked out, including her little knome.  I love my mother's sense of humor:)

Thank you to all for the time, love, and many gifts we all exchanged.  I know 2011 has been the best of times and some of the hardest times for our families.  Through it all, we have remained strong and counted on each other for support.  May 2012 bring everyone peace, health, love, and continued happiness.  Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to All

As I try to become increasingly tech savvy, I blog to you for the first time on my iPad via wi-fi from the Clarion Inn in Mason City. It is pretty amazing! As the blogs get fewer and fewer in between posts, I guess the Christmas spirit got to me this morning, so here is a merry post. I also thought it would be wise to take advantage of the free wi-fi since it is available. So, I wish everyone a lovely, warm, and merry Christmas! I hope to write a year in review post next week and hopefully rekindle my connection to the blogosphere in 2012. Until then, I wish everyone a very merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still Here

I was beginning to feel a little guilty not posting since September. Life has been nothing short of exhaustion this fall. The school year was off to a crazy start with all sorts of curveballs I am still recovering from. Then the leaves began to drop. When you live in what my sister calls "Sherwood Forest" you are never short on raking leaves. Bags of leaves and excuses aside does not excuse my neglegence to my blog! Sorry poor blog for leaving you on the back burner!

So what is new? Not much. I joined a gym back in August which has been fantastic. I started religiously attending weekly yoga classes and have no regrets. Yoga has been amazing for my stress and body. This is the first year that I have started back to work and actually have remained toned. It amazes me after every class how relaxed I feel and how much it works the human body. It is the first time I have ever exercised and felt like I wasn't doing anything at all. That is my kind of exercise.

As far as the whole fertility thing, my body is producing all the hormones needed for conception. While it is still somewhat frusterating, we are remaining positive and just waiting for the mircle of life to occur. So we are patiently waiting:)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How I Make Monday Easier

I teach special education.  As a teacher, Mondays are tough.  As a special education teacher, Mondays are typically tougher.  My father and I both can admit we have a mild addiction to fast food breakfast.  The convenience, the flavors, the sodium.  Oh Wendy's how I miss you.  Those days are gone now.  The above sandwich, I actually made in advance, wrapped, and heated in the morning.  Let me explain my thoughts and how they might help you become more efficient and healthy with your dining.

My husband is working on his master's degree in civil engineering.  We are both very active people.  He participates in a slow-pitch softball team on Thursdays.  I do yoga on Mondays and Wednesdays.  We also believe in making our lives as healthy as possible.  To make my life easier, I try to streamline as many meals as possible.  This means planning breakfast, lunch, and dinner in advance and taking the time on the weekends to prepare for meals as well as keep up with other household duties. 

Since late February, I've been on  a gluten-free diet.  This means reading a lot of food labels, thinking twice as hard about eating things that are ambiguous, and more planning.  While it's been a lot of hard work, I've been feeling soooo much better.  I'm not nearly as gassy, my thinking is more clear, I swear my vision is more clear, and my allergies are better. Life gastronomically and allergy speaking are much more comfortable.  Life, however, has changed.  I have to think in advance.  And, sometimes, thinking in advance and preparing in advance means eating the same thing for a few days in a row.  I don't mind it as long as it is good:)

Some tips for preparing weekly meals in advance I suggest require a little planning and chopping, but are well worth your time and money.  First let's start with breakfast!

Since becoming an adult, I've not really liked cereal that much.  Maybe it was an overkill as a kid?  I don't know.  Now, I enjoy quick and easy smoothies, breakfast burritos, and egg casseroles.  The beauty of any of the above is ease of assembly and all I have to do is usually, blend, poor, and go if I am making a smoothie OR bake on Sunday, package, and heat in the morning as I'm getting ready to head out the door if we are talking breakfast burritos or casseroles.  So easy!

Now let's talk lunch.  Lunches usually consist of yogurt, veggie bags I've chopped and packaged on Sunday, and some sort of soup I've made in a large batch and froze the extra portions, or left-overs from the night before.  I usually try to pack my lunch the night before, so I don't have to fumble around with things in the morning. 

Dinner, oh sweet dinner.  One of the great joys for me is planning our weekly menu.  This is a time that I enjoy searching for new recipes, incorporating old favorites, all while trying to stick to some sort of a budget.  For dinner planning, I try to stick to soups, casseroles, and meals I can cook or prep in advance or prepare in a limited amount of time.  This is for weeknight dining.  If at all possible, I will try and pre-assemble and prep dinners in advance on Sundays.  This includes, chopping veggies, marinating meats, and cooking items like soups which always taste better the next day anyway.  We typically eat left-overs a couple nights a week; however, if the left-overs get a thumbs down from the hubster, I don't mind taking them for lunch the next day.  For weekends, we usually plan for social events out, dining out at least one night, and making something a little more extravagant or special for one night.  After all, weekends are for enjoying and relaxing and I love relaxing in the kitchen. 

So, this might seem a lot for some people.  For us it works and I find well worth the little bit of time I spend preparing that I get back in return after a hectic day at work.  Hopefully, it may get you some of your time back too:)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Baby Steps

I usually try to make my blog a very happy place.  Running, cooking, and blogging bring such joy to my life.  I guess that might be why I've tried not to bring up too many issues or complain.  I also do not like to get too personal sharing issues over the blogoshpere.  That being said, I am only bringing this information to heart for advice, encouragement, and really to take a proactive approach to what I am about to share. 

For the last two years, my husband and I have been trying to have a baby.  While he sometimes feels we were not trying hard enough (I think you get the male hint here:)) We miscarried back in January.  This was very disheartening news for us both. My body felt totally off kilter and I had been having my period for two weeks straight.  I had taken two home pregnancy tests which were negative and never would have known had I not sought out medical attention. That put a major damper on things until this summer.  While we were not not trying, I was not feeling totally prepared emotionally unless the news was positive. 

This summer, I have finally been able to relax. I am not beating myself up and am working on being kind to myself.  I am finally getting regular exercise in.  I am implementing more vegetarian meals into our weekly menu.  I am taking good pre-natal vitamins and charting my basal body temperature.  My husband and I have been going out on dates and making time for each other.  We have totally reconnected as a couple; however, we are still not preggars.  After talking with my OBGYN, whether we are trying hard enough or not, she said I really should have been pregnant by now.  I am not one to run to the doctor for every cold or ailment.  However, rather than continue to be frustrated, I feel that we will be taking a more proactive approach than continuing to "wait and see" or feel like "I'm not trying hard enough."  This will probably take some time if I have yet again not conceived this month, as it is too early to know.  And again, I will never know unless I seek some sort of medical attention.  It will require patience, understanding, and be a bit of a test for us as a couple.  Regardless, I feel these are the positive steps we need to take and will help us achieve our goal in creating a family.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gettin' Dilly With It

  Does the play on words make you want to start singing "Gettin' Jiggy With It" or what?  For some reason, I couldn't keep the song out of my head when I decided to make my annual jar of pickles.  Ahhh pickles.  I think pickles are either a food people totally love or hate.  I happen to love them.  Justin does not.  So, this jar is all mine until I start to get sick of the ginormous Ball jar hanging out in my fridge.  Then, I'll divvy them up amongst friends and family.  Those who love pickles are always requesting my annual crop.  I adapted this recipe from my mother's.  She said she got the recipe from a friend (Jane Underwood).  Regardless, you can tweak the recipe however you please.  If you want to make them more spicy, add more peppers.  I used serrano peppers for a nice kick.  If you don't like the spice, leave them out.  If you like your pickles sweet, don't add as much salt.  No matter how you do it, it is a win!

Hot Refrigerator Pickles
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup salt
1 quart white vinegar
1 quart water
3 tablespoons pickling spice (I add on small jar of Tone's brand)
1 tablespoon mustard seed
30-40 sliced cucumbers (I used persian cucumbers because they are so cute!)
3 large sprigs fresh dill (which did not make it into the photo, but are present)
3 cloves garlic smashed
3 serrano peppers with the tops cut off and slit down the middle

Bring the sugar, salt, vinegar, and water to a boil.  Cool for 10 minutes and poor over the cucumbers.  Add the dill, garlic, mustard seed, and peppers.  Refrigerate for 2-3 weeks and then enjoy.

P.S. I got the giant Ball jar from Super Target.  It is the 1 gallon Ball collector's jar for only $14.79.  After the pickles are gone, I plan to wash this puppy out and make it a decoration item in the kitchen. I love it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Nachos Ever!

  As a child growing up in Iowa, I looked forward to the summer sweet corn season all year long.  We would eat corn on the cob until we were almost sick of it and then enjoyed nature's bounty throughout the winter months with frozen corn.  Now an adult living in Kansas City with road side farmstands far from reach, I cherish the sweet corn crop even more.  Sorry Kansas, your sweet corn doesn't cut the Iowa stuff that is grown in the richest, blackest, most fertile soil in the world.  Last week, we were craving the good stuff; however, my patience got the best of me and I bought some from the grocery store.  It was pretty good and we didn't complain, but we are really looking forward to hitting up some farmstands when we are back in Iowa this weekend.

For those of you who have corn coming out your ears, or you just want to change you palate up a bit from the traditional corn on the cob, I highly suggest this recipe-- Crazy Corn Nachos.  I got the recipe from some family friends, the Schwark's, and am not really sure about it's origins.  These nachos are a little rich, cheesy, and not only corny, but crazy good. 

Crazy Corn Nachos
1 Bag tortilla chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup corn cut off the cob (or you can use frozen if it is not corn season)
4 oz. can diced green chilies
1 cup sour cream
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
2 cups shredded monterrey jack cheese
1-2 diced green onions for garnish

Saute red pepper, onion, and corn until soft.  Stir in the green chilies.  In a bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.  Fold the cream cheese mixture into the sauteed vegetables.  Place your chips on a platter.  Cover the chips with sauce, bacon, and cheese.  Broil until the cheese is melted and garnish with green onions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Time Risotto

  I think risotto tops my list with mashed potatoes in the world of starches.   I heart a good risotto! The creamy goodness makes me hungry just thinking about it.  The funny thing is, I used to be really scared to make it for a couple of reasons.  The first reason being, it takes a little bit of attention.  The second, all of the fancy-shmancy chefs are making it.  Both complications were resolved earlier this spring when I decided to finally just do it already:)  After my first batch of lobster risotto, which is way more complicated than this little gem, I got over my fears.  With a glass of wine handy to enjoy while stirring and realizing that I don't have to be a celebrity chef to do this at home, I've fallen in love:)  Really, it isn't that difficult and you, yes you can make it too.

Summer Time Risotto
4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
4 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 shallot finely chopped
1 zucchini sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 yellow squash sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 cup frozen peas
1 box organic chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter to the pan; swirl to coat.  Add the zucchini and squash to the pan; cook for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Gently stir in the peas.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a gentle simmer.  Keep warm over low heat.  In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the remaining olive oil and butter.   Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.   Stir in the rice, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly in order to lightly toast the grains.  Stir in the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly.  Stir in 1 cup chicken stock.  Cook and stir until the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of the chicken stock is absorbed before adding the next.  Add the vegetables; cook 1-2 minutes or until combined and everything is heated through.  Remove from heat; stir in the Parmesan cheese. 

You can serve this dish totally on its own or along side a lovely piece of grilled chicken, pork, or fish.  Don't be afraid to make risotto!  It is totally worth the tender, loving care!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Colorful Fruit Salad

  I've been meaning to post the recipe for this salad for quite sometime; however, I haven't had it on the menu for a while.  I stumbled across the idea from the Rainbow Salad recipe in Bon Appetit magazine back in January.  I loved the idea of using a variety of fruits and veggies after eating several heavy holiday meals.  Originally following the recipe to a "T" I made a few tweaks to lighten the salad up for summer, ingredients that are in season, as well as appease my husband's palate;) 

For the dressing, I used the same ingredients from the post back in June. It includes 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot, salt, and pepper.  The rest of the salad includes one head chopped Romaine lettuce, once diced mango, one chopped pear, one Pink Lady apple chopped, a squeeze of lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning, and goat cheese. 

I served this with my lightened up Fettuccine Alfredo (still tweaking this recipe); however, I would suggest taking advantage of the grilling season and serving it with chicken, pork, or fish.  You could also add almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts, bulk up the portion and serve the salad as the main entree. It is so refreshing and unique I suggest you put it on your summer recipe list!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Keeping the Oven Off Challenge

While planning my menu for this week, I had one goal in mind...keeping the oven off all week.  With temps soring into the upper 90s to 100 degrees, it just makes sense to conserve the energy and not use my oven.  My sister, Amy, suggested I post my menu mainly because she is curious about how I lighten up some of these traditionally very heavy/ rich recipes:)
Mon. 7/18           Fettuccine Alfredo w/ Rainbow Salad
Tues. 7/19           Left-overs
Wed.  7/20          Chicken & Veggie Kebobs w/ Herbed Quinoa
Thurs. 7/21         Left-overs
Fri. 7/22             Crazy Corn Nachos, Grilled Jalapeno Poppers, & Watermelon Sorbet

The fettuccine alfredo and herbed quinoa will require the use of the stovetop, but I think that's okay as it doesn't heat up the entire kitchen.  Hopefully, this will give you all some tips to beat the heat as well!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer BBQ Tour: Part III

  The City Market has been on my Kansas City "bucket list" for quite sometime.  I usually cannot get the Bear out of the suburbs unless there is a pretty good reason.  This weekend, I told him I wanted to go on one of my "adventures."  So, we went out into the 100 degree heat and discovered some of our wonderful city.
The market had pretty much everything I have always envisioned an outdoor market would entail.  There was Italian deli, complete with a fresh meat counter, barrels of olives, an assortment of various pickled salads, and Italian sweet treats.  I have always wanted to visit such a deli and was absolutely delighted! 
There were rows of vendors selling fresh produce and spices at insanely reasonable prices.  Several artsy shops, markets of all worldly descents, bakeries, and restaurants.  We chose to dine at Winslow's BBQ.

I had not heard of Winslow's before, but they did not disappoint.  The service was outstanding and the Today Show has rated them one of the top rib joints in the country.  We split a combo platter complete with ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage, and burnt ends.
The rub and smoked flavor was infused throughout the meats and the BBQ sauce.  What I appreciated most about the meal, was the lean meat.  Sometimes, I find BBQ to be more fatty than meaty.  This was not the case at Winslow's.  Even the ribs were packed with a lovely smoke ring and more meat than fat.  Yum!
  After lunch, we browsed the rest of the market and visited part of the Steamboat Arabia Museum.  Since we were looking for free activities, we did not tour the whole museum.  We will save that for another adventure.

The good news is where there is good BBQ, I can always drag the Bear on another adventure.  It was a blooming good time!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Market Fresh Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. Since going gluten-free, it has been somewhat of a challenge to find a good gluten-free crust my husband and I can both agree on. Most tend to be very sticky, appear to cook up crispy and soft, but then lend themselves to tasting a little gummy in the middle and rock hard on the outer edges. After experimenting with making my own and failing, trying many other brands available and failing, I've finally found a reliable source- Chebe! Chebe brands are offered in the Midwest at most local Hy-Vee grocery stores in their organic or healthfood department. Thus far, Chebe is the only brand that lends itself to costing, acting, and cooking itself the most to its gluten filled counterpart. For this recipe, I used the pizza dough mix.

My Market Fresh My Market Fresh Pizza was inspired by a recipe featured this month in Cooking Light magazine, originally called "Local Farmer's Market Pizza." With the use of fresh corn, the recipe reminded me of a pizza version of a long lost recipe I have for Crazy Corn Nachos (recipe coming soon). I added some of my own fresh herbs and bacon because I like bacon. I also roasted my tomatoes.  Trust me, this is worth the extra little bit of roasting and really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Summer Market Pizza

2 roma tomatoes, sliced and roasted

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

2 C. thinly sliced onion (I used red onion, but anything you have will do)

1 t. chopped fresh thyme

1 t. chopped fresh oregano

2 C. thinly sliced red bell pepper

2 minced garlic cloves

1 C. fresh corn (I used frozen because the corn was looking a little picked over)

6 slices center cut bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

¼ t. salt

¼ t. fresh black pepper

1 package fresh pizza dough (I used Chebe, gluten-free pizza crust mix)

5 oz. fresh, sliced mozzarella cheese

1 C. shredded mozzarella cheese

2 T. chopped fresh basil

1.       Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  While your oven is pre-heating, slice your tomatoes and places them on a baking pan lined with a sheet of foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Next, roast your tomatoes for around 30 minutes or until they start to appear to look like sun-dried tomatoes. 

2.      While your tomatoes are roasting, prepare your dough and let rise.  Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add 2 cups onion, thyme, and oregano.  Cook until the onions begin to caramelize, stirring occasionally.  Add the bell pepper and garlic; cook until the peppers begin to soften.  Add corn, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the corn is heated.  Finally add your crumbled bacon.

3.      Roll dough into a 16-inch circle.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven.  Place dough on a pizza pan or whatever pan you have available for cooking pizza.  Sprinkle the 1 cup shredded mozzarella.  Next, top with corn mixture.  Then, arrange the mozzarella slices and roasted tomatoes evenly over the topping.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with the fresh basil.  Cut and bon appetite! Serves 6-8 slices depending on how you like to cut your pizza.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cheesecake Ice Cream

  Say hello to my new little friend. 

Growing up, my family always enjoyed homemade ice cream.  We didn't have one of the old fashioned, rock salt kind of ice cream makers, but we did have a stellar little guy similar to the one I bought on Wednesday.  I had long forgotten about those days until a couple of weeks ago when the girls at Ladies Lunch were talking about making their own ice cream.  This little guy happened to be on sale for $26 at Target this week.  I wouldn't really call it an impulse buy because I told Justin that I really wanted one and had been thinking about it.  Maybe just a lucky buy?  I don't know.  I was so excited and had to share my recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  The recipe on the website is called "Once-a-Year Cheesecake Ice Cream."  The original ingredients their recipe called for were a little on the richer side, so I decided to challenge myself by lightening it up a little.  So here goes!

Sara's Lightened Up Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 8 oz. block of light cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup fat-free half and half
Pinch of Salt
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating well until combined.  Beat in the sour cream and then the half and half.  Add the salt, lemon, juice, and vanilla and beat until silky and smooth.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight to ensure the mixture is cold.

2.  Poor mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  If you like your ice cream a bit softer, you can serve immediately.  If not transfer the ice cream to a container to harden up.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer BBQ Tour: Part Deaux

  I don't know why we didn't ever find this place earlier since living in the Kansas City area, but RJ's Bob-Be-Que has got it goin' on!  Literally just down the street from Johnny's BBQ is RJ's.  RJ's is run and owned by Robert (Bob) Palmgren, a formally French trained chef.  His secret rubs and sauces have a classic smoky BBQ flavor, with a secret Cajun style kick.  Hence the very Cajun or Creole play on words in the Bob-Be-Que name of his restaurant.

What I truly love about the places we've visited on our Summer BBQ Tour is that we see the boss in action.  Bob is literally smoking the meats, frying the fries, seating guests, and waiting tables just like the rest of his employees.  It isn't very often you get to see a BBQ legend right before your very eyes.  It truly makes you feel that every guest is getting special 5-star dining treatment.

The decor pays tribute to John Wayne and the many BBQ contests in which Bob has featured his famous BBQ.  We thoroughly enjoyed the old country music playing in the background as we anxiously awaited our meal of burnt ends. 

One thing I have learned since living and experiencing BBQ in Kansas City, is to order the burnt ends.  Burnt ends are the tasty little morsels of brisket that get a little extra double smoking treatment.  If you love beef, smoked meats, and BBQ you really can't go wrong with ordering burnt ends.  I feel it is almost a true test of the restaurant's BBQ technique, which RJ's did not fail!  All around, Justin and I have decided that this is our new favorite spot!  All stars on our rating!  You've got to try it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another Fantastic 4th

 Does this cake sing, "America the Beautiful" or what?  Every 4th of July, my sisters and I try to get together for celebration.  This year, was complete with a weekend of fun transporting between State Center, IA, where my dad lives, and Ames, IA where my sister, Erin, lives.  The Bear (a.k.a. Justin) kicked the weekend off with my dad and stepbrothers Brett and Brandon in a golf tournament.  Many congratulations to them for placing 4th and to Brett for winning the longest put!  Good job team!  The ladies spent the day at the pool for some relaxation and time with Sylvie and Gavin. 

  These pictures were pre-swim trip.  Sylvie was all poses.  Gavin, on the other hand, was a little cranky that morning and didn't feel like smiling.  Being that I am not a morning person, I guess I can't blame him.  Ha!

We celebrated the 4th at Erin's apartment.  Sadly, my sister Amy, Brandon, Brett, and the kids could not make it.  But that didn't stop us!  We had plenty of snacks, burgers, sparklers, and fun with my dad, Brenda, and Frankie and Gary. 

This is my dad totally rockin' sparklers and his Tommy Bahama shirt!  I love it!
  And no summer party would be complete without a pitcher of Raspberry-Peach Sangria!  I used this recipe with the addition of fresh mint leaves.  I must say, the mint added an unbelievable amount of freshness!  Perfect for summer!

All-in-all it was a wonderful, relaxing weekend.  It was so good to see everyone and celebrate with family.  I hope you all enjoyed your holiday as much as we did!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Land of Ham

When I think of Tennessee, or most of the South for that matter, I think of smoked hams.  I still get kind of a kick out of the fact that you can find hams hanging in grocery stores, Wal-Marts, and even gas stations.  It just cracks me up! 

I also apologize for the late posting recapping the trip.  I got back Monday and have been cleaning the house or running errands all week.  My mother and I also did not really have the need to follow any sort of a menu, as we dined twice at Sassafraz.  My grandfather's favorite restaurant in town.  Sassafraz is a local favorite for most people in Union City, Tennessee.  It certainly has one of the more posh menus in town and is a cut above the other fried fair you normally find down South.  On Saturday, I ordered the Blackened Risotto special.
Then, I had dreams about it!  It was so creamy, tasty, and full of seafoody goodness.  My mother laughed when I told her this, so we went back and low and behold, it was on special again Sunday!  Yeah!  Double enjoyment!

Other shenanigans, included plenty of stops to all of the roadside attractions we never really ever got to see because we were always in a huge rush to get to my grandfather's.  Since there was no rush, we stopped in Rocheport, Missouri.  Rocheport is located along the Kitty Trail, near the Missouri River off Interstate 70.  The homes are well preserved and there are the most adorable little antique and gift stores located in its downtown.  Rochport is also located in the heart of Missouri wine country and home to Les Bourgeios Vinyards. 

So we stopped, tasted, and purchased some wine for the weekend.  All in all, it was a great trip with plenty of "horsing" around:)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tennessee Sounds Good to Me!

Friday morning, I will be off to Tennessee with my mother. My grandfather's house still has not sold. Ugh! So, I'm giving my mother some company and well deserved help to check on the house and give it a good cleaning. As suggested by many friends and because I am a bit supersticious, we also plan on burrying a Saint Joseph in the front lawn with Joseph facing the house near the for sale sign.

My mother is a faithful disciple of the "low-carb" diet. I have cut gluten out of my diet for health reasons. Since there isn't a whole lot of variety as far as restaurants go, I have planned a little menu to make life a little easier. The way I see it is it's like we're staying at a cottage. We have most of the ammenities we need to run a kitchen. We have a grill. Everything else I am packing away to execute my menu.
The contents of the box includes a cutting board, a small but mighty knife set, a spatula, scilcone spoon, plastic bags, dishwasher soap tabs, mixing bowls, plastic containers, my handy-dandy juicer box complete with innerchangeable graters, paper towels, toilette paper, napkins, silverware, and paper plates and bowls.

On the menu for dinners: Night one we will dine on chili rubbed chicken tacos with lime-cilantro slaw, night two will be steak with a grilled vegetable salad, and night three we will have a lovely rainbow salad. As far as breakfasts I figure I know my mom eats a protein power meal including eggs. I usually am happy with about anything and fruit. For lunches, I know we will be happy with leftovers.
I've made the salad dressings and chili rub ahead of time. I also plan on packing a cooler for the produce and other groceries we will need. I know you might be thinking, "Who in the h-e-double hockey sticks has time to do all that?" Normally, I wouldn't; however, it is summer vacation for me a.k.a. the glory of being a teacher with a summer off:)

In case you like to make your own salad dressings, I've included the ingredients below. Both are vinegrettes that pair well with about any salad. I am not including brand names, but as a newly gluten-free girl, I did check the ingredients and none listed MSG, wheat, or any other crazy name for gluten. The lighter colored salad dressing is for the grilled veggie salad. It's contents includes 1/4 cup olive oil, the juice of one lemon, 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon chili paste, 1 clove pressed garlic, salt, and pepper.

The darker colored dressing is a sweeter dressing for the rainbow salad. It includes 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot, salt, and pepper.

The spice rub for the chicken tacos is made from 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, salt, and pepper.

We will have internet until Monday. Since I will have plenty of time on my hands, you can look forward to more recipes and the shinanagens that will unfold!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Over the Weekend

This weekend has been packed with fun! Friday night we kicked off our weekend together with a trip to the Plaza where we dined at Blanc Burgers. Good news is, they have gluten free buns and most of the burgers are gluten free with the gluten free buns. Bad news, the fries are off limits because they bread their fries. Good bye truffle fries! How I will miss you! The burgers are large enough though, so I sufficed. While the GF bun wasn't bad, Blanc could do a little work on attempts to make a bun one can actually pick up like a regular burger. I had to eat mine with a fork, but it was still delicious.

Saturday morning, we headed to the Overland Park Farmer's Market. To our surprise, it expanded from two weekends ago and now includes various arts and crafts for sale.

Including this sweet Tiki tent. We picked up some nice green beans. Saddly, nobody had any spinach left. There were plenty of other produce items to choose from, but nothing we really needed. It is always an enjoyable people watching experience.

Later that afternoon, Justin worked on sawing the tree limb that fell in our yard the night before. Seems like the weather is getting more severe. We still have some work to do picking up sticks and leaves in the yard, but at least Justin cleaned up the limb. While he was busy sawing away, I went and did this:

Freshened up highlights and a new hair cut! The length was getting a little too hot. After watching Fashion Police Friday night, I decided I loved Chelsea Kane's hair and had to go for the chop.

Later in the evening we enjoyed a new recipe courtesy of Angela Liddon at I made her Chilled Double Chocolate Torte. You can get the recipe here: Here is a not so great photo of mine.

The only modifications I made to her recipe were using gluten free flour and adding 1 tsp. espresso powder to both the cake layer and topping. I was a little worried about using the gluten free flour. I used Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour. I've used it once before with a bread recipe and you could totaly taste the garbanzo bean flour; however, there is no nasty bean flavor with the torte! Trust me, you have to try it! It is totally delish!

In other news, Happy Father's Day to my loving dad, super father-in-law Doug, and my stepfather Mike. Hope you all have a great day! We wish we were back in Iowa to spend some time with you. Maybe we'll venture north soon. Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Bit of a Facelift

This is my jogging trail. It is a lovely trail and I am so thankful we have close access to nearby parks and paths. No matter what the season, Justin and I love to take liesurly stroles on the weekends. I also enjoy the trails in the summer time as a workout bonus to get outside and back in shape. Within the last year, however, parts of the trail have started to look like this...

...and this...
Needless to say, it's been a little rough on my joints. Not to mention the cautionary measures one must take to be sure as to what side of the trail they are running on so as to not fall down a muddy bluff.

Last week, I noticed parts of the trail were closed. Much to my pleasure, the trails have re-opened, expanded, and have a lovely new overlay. So now, the trail looks like this.