Friday, December 28, 2012

Homemade Crab Soup

I love all recipes I have ever tried with blue crab meat (and Old Bay!)...crab dip, crab cakes, crab name it, I probably like it. One soup that always worried me was crab soup (not cream of crab, but the veggie-based one). I've never been a huge fan of vegetable soup and don't really make it so when I decided to make it for my family Christmas get together, I was a little concerned it would turn out alright. Thankfully with a little help from my mom, I came up with this recipe and loved every bit!

Maryland Crab Soup with Old Bay
(all organic ingredients)

7 c chicken broth/stock (homemade if possible)
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
2-3 small potatoes, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can corn
1 can green beans
1/2 c frozen peas
1 1/2 lb crab meat (best to use your own picked from crabs but I used Philip's claw meat this time when it was on sale and MUCH cheaper than the "special" crab meat, which it my opinion is not better and often has more shells. You could easily use less crab meat, but why??)
1-2 T Old Bay seasoning to taste (I tend to add less since you can always add it individually to taste when eating)

Place first 5 ingredients in large soup pot and bring to gently boil until potatoes start to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until all veggies are cooked.

Eat right away or freeze. In my opinion it is better the next day :)
We enjoyed the soup with homemade soft pretzels (I ate some gf ones leftover from a previous night. I will share the recipe soon, but not quite right yet).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Victory Garden Handbook

One thing you might not know about me is I LOVE books. I especially have an affinity for old books and my collection of books 100+ years old is growing quite nicely. Sometimes they are sentimental (Shakespeare, anyone?), sometimes informational and sometimes I like them just because they are old :)

Well, go here to download a pdf of the Victory Garden Leader's Handbook for some good ole' fashioned gardening tips- for free! I guess I love e-versions of old books, too!

Anyone else collect old books? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

First WIAW

Well, here's my first WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday courtesy of Peas and Crayons) post. I make no promises that I will be able to post every week, but wanted a chance to show you some more "normal" or everyday kind of foods. This time we'll start with a normal day's meals. It is very easy to stick to this breakfast/lunch routine during the work week but much harder on weekends and days off. I have to admit though that I don't get bored with it and greatly miss it and ready to return to it once the weekend is over. I'm trying better to stick to this routine over the Christmas break and so far feel better because of it.

Breakfast- Green Monster (or smoothie) This recipe is slightly different than my original.

1 banana
1/2 c blueberries
3 ice cubes
1-2 T each flax, chia and hemp seeds
spinach (as much as I can cram into my magic bullet!)
1/2-1 c cold water or coconut water with aloe

Blend until smooth and enjoy! I recently bought a Glass Dharma straw and will never go back to plastic again (this picture was taken before I bought the straw)! And to clean, just use a skewer, no need to buy a fancy brush :)

Lunch- This is my typical lunch. I loathe packing my lunch nightly, mostly because I often forget to :(  My method of solving that problem is to pack most of it at once and take to school Monday. The only item I bring daily is my salad and so far I've done well with remembering it since it is right next to my water bottle in the fridge (which by the way is also glass, and I enjoy the taste much better than any plastic or stainless steel water bottle). I have to give credit to Lauren of Say What You Need to Say. Ever since starting to read her blog over a year ago and seeing all of her salads she eats daily, I knew I should be getting more green ruffage in my diet. Thanks, Lauren! I'll never go back!

 I'll take 5 hard-boiled eggs, 5 coconut muffins, and 5 apples on Monday in my lunch bag. I have found the easiest way to make and peel the eggs (especially since mine are farm fresh) is to bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat for 15 minutes. Then cool completely by draining hot water and adding ice cubes and cold water. Then break first on the large end and peel. I have tried many other methods and this one is best! And if you don't have time to peel right away, store in fridge to peel at your leisure and they will be easier than peeling while still warm.

 I keep a bottle of my favorite dressing in the fridge at school so I don't have to worry about packing that either. Trust me, this is the best dressing ever, and SUPER healthy!

I typically have the salad, fork and knife in this glass container from Pampered Chef. (Are you seeing a theme with the glass? Trying to slowly switch over to more glass, since even BPA-free plastic has bad chemicals in it!) We recently bought some super cute dishware I was hoping to showcase as well, but my salad got a little big. That's the great thing about eating veggies, once you start you usually want more!

The salad is simple, but I love it:
organic baby romaine
organic carrot chips
organic red onion
1 hard-boiled egg

The only negative I have found to eating a salad for lunch is that it takes longer to eat and is harder to work and eat at the same time (both a blessing and a curse).

I'll leave supper for another WIAW :)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Freebie from My Favorite Blog

I love the Heavenly Homemakers blog. The author, Laura, is an inspiration in so many ways as wife, mother, cook, etc. What a wonderful surprise when I read she is giving away $5 gift certificates to all her readers! These are good on any of her e-books that you may download and save and/or print (for yourself only). I just downloaded Do the Funky Kitchen (to see if I can get organized!). Some of the books are less than $5 so you get it for free, or you can use towards a higher priced book or set. While you are there, check out her numerous recipes on her blog.

I can say that finding her blog at the beginning of my food transformation over 2 1/2 years ago definitely helped to confirm the changes I was making and to convince me that I could be a blogger too :)  And while I do not have the time to devote to my blog as I would like, it is still something I enjoy immensely and if I can help even one person make a better choice it is worth it.

I hope you have all had a wonderful Christmas Day, filled with family and the joy of the Savior!

We were blessed to enjoy a white Christmas in PA, just enough for a beautiful coating and it all melted away today, just in time for a run to try out my new Garmin watch :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Angel Food Cake (Gluten Free!)

For my mom's birthday, I told her I would make her an angel food cake (one of her favorites). Now granted, her birthday was over 2 months ago. Of course I thought, if I'm going to go through making one from scratch (I'll admit, I used to be an avid boxed angel food cake mix person) I might as well gluten free so I can try it, too :)  Besides that, I knew my friend Erika (who has to eat gluten free) loves angel food cake and if I could try out a recipe to pass onto her, the better! Here is the original recipe, I did make a few alterations due to the ingredients I had on-hand and also noted are the changes I would make the next time.

1 1/2 c egg whites (It took 9 eggs for me this time. Save your yolks and freeze them in an ice cube tray, then pop into freezer bag. I'm saving mine to make creme brulee.)
3/4 c plus 1/2 c organic cane sugar, divided (I would definitely use less next time, it was a bit sweet)
1/4 c arrowroot powder
1/4 c white rice flour
1/4 c quinoa flour
1/4 c potato starch
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (I will use a bit more next time)
1/2 tsp almond extract (This was not in the original recipe, but I recently tried some almond cookies made by my friend Jen and they had a distinct angel food cake flavor so I think by adding a smidge of almond extract it will complete the flavor of the cake!)

Separate eggs and let white come to room temperature. Sift 3/4 c sugar, arrowroot, flours and starch together twice.
Preheat oven to 350 and get out ungreased tube pan.
Add cream of tartar, salt, vanilla and almond to egg whites and beat on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar (decrease amount next time) beating on high until stiff peaks form. 
Gently fold in flour mixture, about 1/2 c at a time. Cut through batter with a knife to remove air pockets.
Bake on lowest rack (I did not do this but will next time) for 45-50 minutes or until lightly browned and top appears dry.
Invert pan above plate and allow to cool about 1 hour (I could not wait this long!)
Run a knife between cake and pan to loosen and place on plate.Cut and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Salmon

Salmon is one of my favorite dishes that I don't eat nearly enough. Ever since learning about most restaurant salmon (It is more than likely farmed under conditions that are horrific- water filled with overcrowding, anti-biotics and fed GMO corn. The worst are when chickens are actually kept on wire cages above the water and the fish eat their...yeah, I think you know what I mean. And if you are what you eat, and the salmon eat that, and you eat the 

So needless to say I stopped eating salmon from all chain restaurants (and when I asked if the salmon was farmed or wild caught, the server always said "farmed" like it was a good thing!). I do buy wild caught salmon from Rt 30 Seafood (they are also a great place to get shrimp- another food I will not eat at chain restaurants). My daughter Leah and I typically split a 1/2 lb fillet that is usually grilled with some olive oil and spices. 

Tonight I felt like something a little different and have had the pleasure of having some wonderful pecan crusted salmon at The Warehouse Gourmet which inspired me to go on a search and I found this recipe with some of my own alterations for the one fillet and some other flavors. It turned out amazing, Leah and I both loved it and can't wait to have it again! Even if you don't typically like salmon, give it a try!

1 salmon fillet (around 1/2 lb)
2 T mayonnaise (on my list to make my own but haven't done that yet so try to get an organic variety made with cage-free eggs)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese (I prefer Organic Valley)
dash garlic and onion powder
pinch dried chives
dash dried parsley
fresh ground black pepper and pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375. Place salmon on foil greased with olive oil (I use the spray bottle from Pampered Chef- use less oil without the horrific chemicals and additives from commercial oil sprays). Mix together all ingredients (minus the salmon, of course!) and place on top of salmon. Bake until topping is lightly browned (it was about 20 minutes but the oven was only at 350 at first because I was also baking something else at the same time :)

I had some leftover frozen sweet potato casserole from Thanksgiving (it freezes awesome- just freeze before baking) and it was the perfect complement!

Monday, December 10, 2012

My First Blogger Meet Up

I have been following Lauren at Say What you Need to Say for over a year now. A few months ago she organized a local blogger meet up at an Asian fusion restaurant but I was unable to attend. When she announced the next one for the beginning of December, I knew I had to get there!

We met at The Tomato Pie Cafe, a new restaurant off the Paxton St. exit on I-83 in Harrisburg.

Photo courtesy of Lauren

I am always excited to try local restaurants with unique menus. I was concerned about having gluten free options and at this point they have not added any but it sounds like they are planning on offering them in the future. Thankfully I can eat some gluten if I need to :)

They had quite the ample menu of specialty coffees and it was very hard to decide, but a peppermint mocha won out.

The specialty baked oatmeal was pumpkin with cranberries and walnuts. You might remember my former love affair with baked oatmeal but since going gluten free I haven't made it (not even with gf oats). Although I have to admit it is mostly due to the fact that I love my green smoothies in the morning instead!

This dish was phenomenal! I'm hoping I can find a similar recipe to make at home. I didn't want it to end!

It was a blast getting to know fellow bloggers and to talk about tips and tricks of the trade. I wish we would have had a whole day with our laptops to be able to work on our blogs jointly!

Here's our group! Danielle, Steph, Ellie, Erica, Lauren, Melissa (from PennAg), myself, Lindsay, and Nikki.

Lauren gave us each a sample of granola from Nuts About Granola and Erica brought some cupcakes from a local from-scratch bakery (which I promptly shared with my daughter!). I passed out the cinnamon roasted almonds and walnuts. Yes, yes I am making a funny face when I talk, oy. But for some reason I look exceptionally tan???!!!  Not too sure how that happened!

Photo courtesy of Lauren
Melissa from PennAg gave out some information on the organization and invited us to their exhibit at the Farm Show in January.

 The best part was definitely getting to talk personally with these ladies. Here I am with Lindsay (and again, how in the world do I look so tan!?)...

...and Lauren!

Looking forward to our next meet up, and I hope to try the Tomato Pie Cafe again!

If you are a blogger, what is the best tip you could give a fellow blogger? If you are a reader of blogs, what do you look for in a blog you read regularly?

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Somehow I feel like little kid that can't wait til Christmas, only I can't wait until Saturday! I have a few main bloggers whom I greatly admire and follow, and this weekend I get to meet one of them! Lauren is from Say What You Need to Say and you might have seen her lately on some local news channels giving Thanksgiving dinner tips! I had the pleasure of guest blogging for her this summer. She has been organizing blogger meet ups, where local bloggers get together, enjoy some good food at a local restaurant and share tips, stories and friendship. I was unable to attend the last one but am excited to go to Tomato Pie this Saturday to meet her along with other local bloggers (and also sample some new cuisine).

She asked us to bring business/contact cards to pass out and if we wanted, a small sample of a specialty from our blog. So of course I am now freaking out. I do not (nor have I even thought about making) business/contact cards. I really would love to have a logo for the blog and thankfully I have a daughter is a talented graphic designer (see here for her winning t-shirt design). I'm hoping she'll have some time to help me come up with something before Saturday!

The other item I can take care of, a sample of something from my blog. I wanted something that might include a unique ingredient and yet something that most people would enjoy. I settled on some cinnamon "roasted" almonds and decided to make some walnuts for the first time as well. My house smells delicious right now! Looking forward to bagging these up in some cute penguin bags for the ladies.

I'm hoping I don't forget to take pictures so I can post a follow-up. I'm also a little nervous, as much as I always long to make new friends, it is definitely a step out of my comfort zone (I am a strong introvert).

Any suggestions on a logo for my blog?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Umm, Yeah, Not So Much...

*Disclaimer- In no way is this post meant to dissuade you from ever trying or making kale chips. All opinions stated are the opinion of the author :)

Well, just so you all know that I don't always love every recipe I try, here's one: kale chips. It saddens me that I don't like them since I have read so many benefits of kale and seen many recipes on pinterest. When my next door neighbor (and running partner) asked if I wanted some, I jumped at the chance! The kale was absolutely beautiful and I couldn't wait to try it!

 I used this recipe (very simple and easy to follow) and this is how they turned out:

I think as far as what kale chips are supposed to be like, they were it. Light, crunchy, slightly salty...but I don't like them. The texture is a little weird and the taste is a little weird. And for me, two weirds just make a wrong! I can handle one chip but more than that...ugh. I wish I liked them. Will I try them again? Yes. Will I make as big of a batch- no, haha! But perhaps some other seasonings would help.

Have you ever made/eaten kale chips? What did you think? Any suggestions for the next time?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mmm, Lemon Blueberry Bread

 This recipe is adapted from this one at Once a Month Mom with alterations of my own design.

I always love when I can make something to share with a friend, and when it turns out delicious, it is that much better! My friend Laura (hmm, what a great name) and I tried hard all summer to get together for some girl time and a trip to her CSA. It was mid-August until our schedules meshed, but what a nice visit it was! She has two of the sweetest children ever and such a cute farm that we visited for some produce. I have recently fallen in love with the mix of lemon and blue/raspberry flavors (mostly due to Christina's gluten free scones, but alas, my favorite bakery just recently went out of business!). So thank you, Pinterest, for allowing me to pin and save this recipe for when I needed it!

2/3 cup white rice flour (although I would like to try it with brown next time)
1/3 cup sorghum flour plus 2 tsp sorghum
1/3 cup arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons potato starch

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream (you could also use yogurt)
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
4 tablespoon lemon zest (about 1 lemon)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups blueberries mixed with 1 T arrowroot powder


1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 2 lemons worth, I just used the juice from the lemon I zested and one more)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pan (I used a glass pan sprayed with olive oil). Then dust with rice flour (not part of the ingredient list) and tap out extra.

Whisk flours and dry ingredients in small bowl. In another, larger, bowl whisk wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet, whisking slowly. Fold in blueberries  and pour into bread pan. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan and cooling on wire rack.

While cooling, mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make glaze. You want it to be think but pourable. Wait until the bread is cool before pouring on the glaze (OR you can pour on too soon because you are impatient like me).

This bread is phenomenal, I'm getting ready to make another batch soon!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sweet and Sour Chicken {Updated}

 This recipe is adapted from this one at Life as a Lofthouse blog.

Mmm, I do love Chinese food, but do not like the way I feel after eating it from most restaurants.  I was very happy to see this recipe on Pinterest and was able to easily adapt it to meet my needs. I will warn you, when you first put it in the oven it will not look or smell appetizing, but it will turn out great! This goes great with regular fried rice or fried cauliflower rice for a low carb option. I have yet to try with quinoa but think that would be great as well!

3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts or 6-8 boneless/skinless thighs
salt + pepper
1 cup arrowroot powder
1-2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil or palm oil

Cut up chicken into bite-sized pieces (I like to use my kitchen shears for this, goes so much faster and cuts through frozen chicken as well, if you are like me and forget to pull it out of the freezer a day ahead of time.) and place in glass baking dish.

Preheat oven to 325. Heat oil in skillet. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat with arrowroot powder (I like to sprinkle it on and roll the chicken around until coated.). Dip into egg and add to skillet, lightly browning chicken but you do not need to cook through. Wash baking dish.

While the chicken is cooking, mix sauce in baking dish with whisk:

3/4 c organic ketchup (or at least find one without high fructose corn syrup)
1/4 c honey
1 1/2 T soy sauce
2 tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
2 tsp garlic powder
1 c frozen broccoli per person (optional- can bake with chicken or steam separately)

When chicken is lightly browned, add to sauce and stir lightly to coat. Bake 10 minutes, stir and add broccoli then bake another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Serve over brown rice, fried rice (recipe below) or quinoa with steamed broccoli.

 Fried Rice

1 c rice (cook according to directions on package, you can make ahead and make into fried rice when the rice is cold) OR 1 head cauliflower, chopped or shredded and steamed
1 T extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil or palm shortening
1/4 c diced onion
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 eggs 
1/4 c carrots diced in small pieces

1/2 c frozen peas
soy sauce

Place oil in large fry pan. Sautee garlic, carrots and onion, then add eggs and fry. May need to add more oil, then add rice and sautee, then add peas when almost done. Also add small amount of soy sauce to taste.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Perfect Pickles!

I love pickles, but I am picky, preferring homemade (or from Isaac's Deli) to store bought. I finally found a recipe (well, actually over a year ago but forgot to take a picture until this year) that tastes as much like the kind my mom made growing up as any I've found so far. Super simple and inexpensive to make, especially when you have home grown cucumbers! This is the link for the original recipe, but the page is no longer available :(

5 1/2 cups (1 1/2 pounds) thinly sliced pickling cucumbers (about 4-6 medium to large cukes)
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Slice cucumbers (I prefer to use my Pampered Chef mandolin but you can also do by hand. Be careful not to slice too thinly). Add salt, cover and chill for 1 1/2 hours. Rinse thoroughly in colander under cold water and drain well. Slice onion thinly and place in bowl with cucumbers.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in medium saucepan, simmer over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture over cucumbers and onion and let stand for 1 hour. Then place in jars in refrigerator for at least 24 hours until eating (if you can wait that long!). The original says good for 2 weeks, but I have eaten up to a few months after making (per other refrigerator pickle recipes I have used) and the pickles were just fine!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

This summer, my best friend was surprised with the addition of two nephews to her family, changing her total family count from 5 to 7, not including her mom who was also staying to help out for a few weeks! I was so proud of her and her family for taking them on (how many of you can add a newborn and an 18 month old to your household overnight?) and I wanted to help out as much as I could. So, we took over a stromboli, baked oatmeal and some chunky monkey muffins. I happened to have some extra peppers and leftover taco meat and decided some stuffed peppers also needed to be made...which was weird since I had never made them, or eaten them before! I have to take her word that they tasted good :)

Taco meat:
1-2 lbs ground beef
2 T taco seasoning (I make my own using this recipe from Heavenly Homemakers)
2-4 T water
2-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
olive oil

Place small amount of oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until soft. Add meat, stirring occasionally until brown. Add seasoning and water, turn to low and stir occasionally.

For peppers:

Cook 1 cup brown rice according to package (usually add 2x as much water as rice, bring to boil, cover and simmer until done, about 30 minutes).

Wash peppers, cut off tops and remove seeds. Blanche for about 2 minutes in boiling water, remove and run under cool water. Place in baking dish.

Chop more onion and tomatoes and mix with rice and taco meat. Stuff peppers and top with shredded cheddar cheese (not in picture). Place in baking dish and add small amount of water to dish. Bake, covered, 30-45 minutes.

Boy, is my face ever red! Was a hot summer day in the kitchen, and making all the food during a kitchen renovation with almost no counter space was quite interesting!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Delicious Deal

Have you made the plunge and started cooking/baking/frying with coconut or palm oil yet? If not, now's the time to start! Tropical Traditions is currently having a sale on both their gallons of virgin coconut oil and palm shortening. Both are delicious for making popcorn and can easily be used in baking in place of oil, margarine, butter or shortening. Coconut oil also makes a great moisturizer for the dry winter months, and you'll smell great! At almost half off, this is a deal that can't be beat!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Saving Money

If you know me at all, you know I like saving money. I hate owing money and I hate spending more than I have to. BUT there are some things that are worth it, like quality, healthy foods. I would much rather pay a little more each week now on high quality food than major doctor bills later.

One way I've found to help save money while still eating clean (other than shopping around at local grocery stores, markets and health food stores) is to find deals online as much as possible. Here's a few of the places I frequent:

* Amazon- They have a great feature called "Subscribe and Save". (Note- Not all products are available with this feature.) Basically you sign up to have this product automatically shipped every 6 months and in return you get 15% off your first purchase. But guess what? Once you receive your first order, you can cancel out, which is what I do because I often won't need the product again at the time intervals available. You can score an even bigger savings if the product is on sale at the same time.

I have bought coconut flour and coconut oil this way and it was wonderful! The flour keeps great in the freezer and lasts a long time because most of the recipes that include it only use a small amount. The oil is also very stable and I've never had any go rancid on me before using it.

* Vitacost- This is another great site that has numerous health foods. I have purchased various Bob's Red Mill products, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and (ahem) chlorine-free feminine products from them. The coolest thing, is with this referral code, you can get $10 off your first order! Then as you refer others, both you and your friend will get $10 off codes. Awesome!

Always free shipping on $49 or more, and they frequently run specials for free shipping over $25. Or, you and a friend could join forces in order to meet the minimum and have free shipping.

* Heavenly Homemakers- This is one of my favorite blogs and one of the reasons I started my own! She will often post Healthy Online Deals, so follow her on Facebook or subscribe to her blog so you are sure to know when the newest deals come available.

* Azure Standard- Unfortunately I am not on this route, but if I was I would definitely try to purchase foods through this co-op. Visit them and see if your location is on the route, mostly in the center and western parts of the country.

Anyone have any other good resources for online purchases? How do you save money on your healthy living purchases?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Come and Visit!

I am thrilled to be a guest blogger for Lauren, of Say What You Need to Say today! Come and visit me here to find out how I ate clean on vacation and let me know what you think! Lauren has a lot of great recipes and workout tips. One of the best things I like is that she is fairly local and we both love The Green Room :) Come and explore!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gratituesday: Ahhhh, Family

This is my first Gratituesday post. Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers (where I am linked)! Gratituesday posts focus on showing how God is working in our lives. Feel free to write your own post on your blog and link it here.

I have been so blessed to see and spend time with many family members that I don't typically get to see this summer. We started the summer with my sister, April, coming home for 2 weeks. I love having her stay with us so we can talk, laugh, cook, and learn more about God together. It is always so sad when she has to leave. She is like my twin, but not :) I'm so blessed to have her in my life. Isn't she adorable? We even got to have pedis together at a local organic salon and enjoy dinner at The Green Room with my daughter and one of her friends. If I only ever ate out at this restaurant, I would be perfectly happy!

Then we had our annual family reunion for my mom's maternal side. It was the 75th year, which meant a professional picture would be taken (by my Uncle Denny, always nice to have a photographer in the family, he also took our wedding pictures). Unfortunately the attendance has been significantly less and less each year, and last year I don't know if we even topped 30 people (when I was a child we had well over 100). Well this year we had over 60 people! Here's everyone (minus Denny who was setting the camera timer- this is not one of his prof pics):

Then (yes, it gets even better), we were able to fly to Florida to visit family that I have only ever seen once in my life, and that was over 9 years ago! It was a wonderful time all around (minus getting sick over the side of the deep sea fishing boat). I even was able to see a cousin from Georgia that happened to be visiting at the end of our trip. What a wonderful time for my husband and kids to spend time together and relax as well as see extended family. This was probably the most relaxing time I've had in a LONG time. Getting away from home was definitely needed, and being on the beach helps, too :) Want to know how my eating went? Keep an eye on here later this week, as I'll be guest blogging on Say What You Need to Say (another gratitude moment, I've always wanted to guest blog for someone!).

Here are some of the small moments of gratitude from the FL trip:

* The beauty of God's creation

* Seeing various wildlife such as hermit crabs (the picture of the holes were made by them), sting rays, various fish during our deep sea excursion, other fish at the beach, small clams that were so colorful and cute and some kind of funny sea slug, the lizards (the one pictured was rescued from a spider web) and sea turtle nests

* Beautiful weather with rain only once.

* Taking naps without worrying about the million things that need done.

* Collecting sea shells.

* But best of all, visiting with these wonderful people!

 All week I felt like God's blessings were just being poured on us in so many ways. I am so grateful for this opportunity and having been able to see everyone! Let's not let another 9 years go by!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Birthday Present for My Bestie

I have a best friend. And not just the here-today-gone-tomorrow kind, but the kind that sticks with you through and through. The kind where you can not talk for months and not get mad at each other and you can just pick right up where you left off. Yeah, that kind. Her name is Melinda and we have been friends for almost 20 years! (Mel- I think we need to have an anniversary party next year! 2013 baby!)

Every year for her birthday I make her an ice cream cake and my daughter and I go to her house and swim and just enjoy the day. Sometimes we make lunch as well (like pretzel dogs or zucchini parm) but this time just dessert. (She and the family also got to taste test some beet pie and beet brownies.)

This was my favorite birthday cake growing up. Now that I'm cutting out as much processed food as possible, I didn't want to use the original recipe that included sweetened condensed milk. Here's the new version.

Ice Cream Cake

1 package organic chocolate cookies with cream center (don't use those OTHER ones), Newman's Own or Nature's Promise are fine
1/2 gallon ice cream (I prefer naked mint from Perrydell Dairy, and there you get a full 1/2 gallon.)

Set ice cream out to soften. Place cookies in zip-top bag and smash with mallet/crab hammer/etc. Smush cookies as bottom layer in 9x13 pan. Dip ice cream and layer on top of cookies. I often run the spoon in hot water to help it cut through the ice cream. If you can be more even now, it will save having to smooth it out later. Once you have all the ice cream in the pan, run spoon under hot water and use the back to smooth the ice cream. Place in freezer to re-harden.

Carmel Fudge Topping (this is my favorite part!) (adapted from this recipe)

1/2 c honey
4 T milk
2 T butter
1 c chocolate chips
1 T vanilla
dash salt

Place honey, milk and butter in medium sauce pan over low heat, stirring until mixture boils (this does take a while, you don't want to heat too fast or you'll scald the milk). Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add rest of ingredients and mix until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Allow it to cool a while before putting on top of ice cream. The key is to have it still be pourable, but not so hot that it melts the ice cream (but if it does, when it refreezes the ice cream and fudge are just blended together, and it still tastes good). Refreeze until firm and ready to eat! Sometimes it helps to have it sit out a bit before trying to cut :)

  Isn't she too cute! Love her!
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