Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blueberry Quick Bread #Paleo

This bread changed my life when I decided to go gluten free and now that I am mostly grain free it has become more valuable to me.  As you will remember I still eat rice though. Rice is a grain but I don't have any triggers or side effects when I eat rice.  Thank goodness!  

Just because I don't eat bread doesn't mean that every once in a while I want something that resembles bread...or a muffin...or a cupcake....or, or or...yeah, about that...well this is my happy medium.  This keeps me feeling like I have options when some days I think I don't when it comes to my menu options.  

I still have pity parties every now and then when I think of what I can't eat. I try to stay positive and work through any cravings that spring up out of no where.

I found the original recipe for the basic 90 second bread on Ancestral Chef.  This is a great site for Paleo recipes.

I have changed it slightly to fit with my taste buds and added some blueberries and honey.  It is excellent toasted or warmed in the microwave with a pat of grass fed butter.  I am usually not a fan of coconut flour breads.  This recipe has more almond meal than coconut flour and so the flavor is not as strong nor is it dry.  I find it quite moist and the perfect fix when I need something that is similar to bread that I used to eat.

Blueberry Quick  Bread 
Makes one microwave mini loaf

1/3 cup of almond meal
1 tablespoon of coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon  salt
1 large egg
2 1/2 tablespoons melted grass fed butter
10-12 blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/2 -1 teaspoon of honey ( I use the 1/2 but you may want a little more sweetness)

1.  Spray a coffee mug with cooking spray.

2.  Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Add ingredients to sprayed mug.

3.  Cook in microwave for 90 seconds.

4.  Remove and dump bread onto cutting board.  Wait a few minutes and then slice into 5 slices. 

5.  Serve with butter, honey or eat plain.

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Boneless Leg of Lamb with Herbs

Lamb has quickly become a family favorite.  We are trying to eat less pork and beef.  For a while I felt like this is all we ate.  My daughter and I started feeling unwell after we ate pork and decided to eliminate this from our diets. I feel so much better and she does too.

I was stumped as to what to replace the two meats with because so many of our family favorite recipes included beef and pork.   I know that lamb is a favorite but the price seems to steer me away to something a little bit cheaper or on sale.

I decided to just bite the bullet and buy a few lamb roasts.  I am so glad I did.  Lamb has a unique flavor.  It has added some great meals to our menu.  This roast is simple and can be customized to fit your family and their taste buds.  I usually have a selection of fresh herbs on hand.  For this recipe I grabbed a small handful of each, threw in some spices and added the parmesan cheese.  I believe it has created a nice texture and flavor profile to an already delicious cut of meat.

I guess you could also call this a one pot dish because I added some root vegetables to the roasting pan so that I didn't have to fuss with dirtying up additional dishes. 

Simple and tasty are two words I would use to describe this easy meal.

Boneless Leg of Lamb with Herbs 
Serves 6

1.5 pound lamb roast (boneless leg of lamb)
1/4 cup of fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley and basil
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, grated finely
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into large diced squares
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
olive oil, to toss vegetables in

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prepare a baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray.

2.  In a shallow bowl combine all of the spices, herbs and parmesan cheese.  Coat the sides of the lamb roast with olive oil and then dip the sides into the spice/herb/cheese mixture.  The coating will be thick.  Place in the middle of the baking dish. 

3.  Add vegetables and drizzle with olive oil.  Sprinkle the remaining herb mixture over the vegetables.  Roast until internal temperature of lamb roast reaches 145 degree.  My roast took about an hour to achieve the desired internal temperature.  

4.  Remove roast, cover with foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  The lamb should be pink in the center.  The ends may be cooked more than the center.  Slice and serve with mint jelly.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Apple Cranberry and Brussels Sprout Salad

I am so excited that it is finally officially Fall.  Our family has been on vacation this past week and the cooler weather made our touring and camping activities more bearable.  We have learned that in the Mid-Atlantic the months of September and October are reserved for all of our outdoor activities. The summers are just too hot and humid.

Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
We decided to do a "staycation".   It is our first time doing this but we found ourselves visiting sites in our state and surrounding states that are popular tourist attractions for lots of people outside of this area.  We were anxious to learn and see what was in our own back yards that drew so many people here each year.

Tuckahoe State Park, Maryland

Tuckahoe State Park, Maryland

Our fist day started with a trip to the National Zoo in DC. The zoo was perfect.  I felt the size was not too large.  The animals were very active on the day we arrived and this made Isabella happy.  We saw the baby panda, even though he is not quite the size of a baby anymore, and the baby tigers. They were great to sit and watch.  The lionesses (there were two) had their paws full with 6 baby tiger cubs.

The Maritime Museum was up next. I have been to St. Michael's many times. We always skip the museum because our thought was that it would be boring. I thought the kids would not enjoy learning about the history of the watermen and ship building history that we are surrounded with here in Annapolis. I am glad to admit that I was wrong. The museum is wonderful. They had plenty of hands on activities and toy structures for Isabella to climb on and explore. A lot of reading was done but they had so many exhibits that we were all intrigued with the processes of the history. I would highly recommend it for all families.

Our family loves to camp and this was what we decided to do the last few days.  We headed over to Delaware and had a pleasant day/night at Cape Henlopen State Park.  We made our way back into Maryland and camped for 3 nights at Tuckahoe State park.  I have to say that the state parks in our area are beautiful.  They have plenty of hiking trails to keep a young family busy.  We rented bikes and canoes too.

Overall our week was a success. We felt rested. The kids did great.

Vacations are important to our family and this was something that I needed. I have been a bit burned out lately with so much going on and this week allowed me to disconnect from technology and focus on the little kids without a lot of outside disturbances.

National Zoo with the whole family.  Drake and Rye still had school and work so they were able to do only a few of the planned events with us for the week. I will take what I can get. 
This salad was something that I could throw together and pack in the cooler while we were camping. I served it with our favorite marinated flank steak recipe.

I use a mandolin to cut the apples, celery and brussels sprout thinly. This is not required to make the dish it just made it easier for me. You can use a sharp knife to cut everything too.  I like that the salad is filled with thinly slices vegetables and the apple.  The presentation is pretty.

The dressing is light. You can tell from the pictures that it is not thick and creamy. If you want it to be this way then add more mayonnaise or double the dressing recipe. We just prefer it to be lightly dressed.

Apple Cranberry and Brussels Sprout Salad
Serves 4-6

10-12 brussels sprouts, sliced or shaved very thinly
1 small apple, sliced thin
1 celery rib, sliced thin
3 thin slices of red onion, diced small
small handful of cranberries

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
zest from one lime
1/2 lime, juice only
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of maple syrup for sweetness (add more if needed)

1.  Combine the salad ingredients in a medium bowl.

2.  Blend the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

3.  Combine and mix well.  Serve immediately or should be kept in the refrigerator.

Written by Sherron Watson

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Slow Cooker Skirt Steak Salad

Easy dinners are in full swing at our home.  I am utilizing our slow cooker as often as I can.   I like having the steak ready and feeling like I put very little effort into an amazing meal.

The steak can be shredded or pulled apart and used in tacos, on top of salads (like the picture above), eaten with a side dish or shoved between two pieces of your favorite bread and grilled,

This steak recipe is versatile.  I like that and I think you will too.

Slow Cook Skirt Steak Salad
Recipe adapted from Louanne's Kitchen

2 lbs skirt steak
2 teaspoons of garlic powder or 3 cloves minced
1.5 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Italian Seasonings
 1 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 large onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup of water

1.  Combine skirt steak and seasonings in a large storage bag and marinate over night.

2.  Cut onions thin.  I used my spiralizer to thinly slice the onions.  Place onions in the bottom of a large slow cooker.  Lay steak on top of onions.  Add cup of water.  Cover.

3.   Cook on low for 8 hours.  Remove steak, shred or pull apart and serve.  I served the onions and the steak on a platter and let my family decide if they wanted a salad or to use it in some gluten free tortillas I had on hand.  If served with the tortillas then make sure and have some yummy toppings too.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Green Bean Casserole #glutenfree

Green Bean Casserole used to be my favorite dish of all time as a kid.  I was a strange kid because I loved green beans.  I would turn my nose up at cooked carrots and little bowls of peas but gleefuly welcome a green bean with open arms.

This summer I worked on a version that my family could enjoy. I didn't need to worry about making two dishes: one for them and one for me.  I am pretty sure I succeeded and this is the resulting recipe.
First I had to find a way to make the crunchy onion topping.  I sometimes wonder if this is why I loved the Green Bean Casserole so much. Was it truly the green beans or the crispy onion topping?

I think it was both.  I succeeded in making the onion straws.  That recipe can be found here.

The next hurdle was making the creamy sauce that is usually made with canned soup. I don't use any canned soup and I haven't in almost 5 years.  I don't like the flavor, they are not gluten free and are often filled with a ton of extra ingredients that add to an odd flavor profile.

I use a basic white sauce recipe but use gluten free flours instead of the recommended all purpose flour.  I use a chicken stock paste to add a rich flavor along with a few seasonings of my choice.  It is not a heavy sauce or an "in your face" sauce.  It takes a back seat to the real star of the dish: the green beans.

With each bite you taste the green beans as they are coated in a rich white sauce and then topped with crunchy onions.  That is a perfect bite in my opinion.

I went a bit crazy with my green beans and decided to cut them all at an angle to achieve the French Style Green Bean.  UM, pretty sure it's not necessary.  Also it took up a lot of time.  I don't mind doing that once in a while but I think using whole or cut green beans will work just fine.  I won't tell you to use only fresh green beans.  I did and I thought it was great.  The flavor was amazing.  I would encourage you to use them with the hope that you have the same experience as I did.

FYI--they sell a little kitchen tool that I am know makes the French-ing (pretty sure this is not a word but I am going to use it anyways) of the bean much easier and faster.  Oh the things we find out after the fact.  LOL

This is an easy dish to make.  I know the canned and frozen version is easier and I understand that sometimes we need to cook this way but I will always encourage you to take a few extra steps and make your meals from scratch.


Green Bean Casserole
4-6 side dish servings

2.5-3 cups of fresh green beans, cut anyway you want to make them
1/2 stick of grass fed butter
2 cups of dairy: use buttermilk, whole milk or coconut milk (paleo)
1 tablespoon of tapioca starch (use 1 teaspoon of arrowroot for paleo version)
1 teaspoon of chicken stock granules or paste
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt, to taste
1 batch of crispy onion straws

NOTE:  Arrowroot takes just a little bit to make a sauce thicken.  I have learned through experience to reduce the amount used and not make a 1:1 trade.  If the sauce is not thick enough after 1 teaspoon then add a little bit more.  If too much is added the sauce will be thick and gluey.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Cut green beans according to your preferences.  Bring a large stock pot of water to a rolling boil and blanch green beans for 2-3 minutes.  They should be wilted, not too soft.

3. In a medium sauce pan melt butter. Stir in tapioca starch and then add dairy.  Stir until sauce thickens.  Add chicken stock paste and seasonings.  Stir and taste.

4.  Drain green beans and add to a baking dish.  I used an oval variation which measured about 10 inches by 7.  Add white sauce to green beans and stir.

5.  Top with crispy onion straws and bake 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Let set for a few minutes before serving.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Written by Sherron Watson

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sifting Through Life: When Heroes Crumble

Sifting Through Life segments are about my life and how I have dealt with certain situations.  The topic changes weekly and they don't always include food or recipes.  It is a segment that allows me to talk honestly and openly.  All opinions are my own and are just that, my opinions.  This is my voice talking about my life.  ENJOY!

"If nothing else, this whole incident was a good reminder for me that these football players should not be role models, especially not for our kids.  We shouldn't hold them to a higher standard, because if we continue to do so: THEY WILL FAIL US. " 

I read this article on Saturday.  It included the above quote written by SBNation's writer CC Norseman.

I have to say I agree with his opinion.  I never quite put much thought into NFL players being heroes but you know what, to a lot of kids and some adults, they are.  His experience was with his team The Minnesota Vikings.  Our experience is with our team The Baltimore Ravens.

Picture by Rye Watson
How do we grapple with the human aspect of every NFL player, NBA player, movie star and rock star and not turn them into a hero?  How are we to remember that they are just that: human; when they have a tendency to do superhuman things?  How do we teach our kids to not have heroes?

Or should we?

It is not a secret that I love football.  I mean really really love this sport.  I grew up watching football as a family.  It means family time to me.  We sit around the TV, we eat great snacks, we laugh, we yell at the TV, we cheer for our team.  We are connected.  We are all on the same page for 4 hours two times a week.  It has brought us together.  

Ray Rice broke our hearts.  We fell into the illusion that what his brand and team issued as spot lights, highlights, and media frenzied charity events, is who Ray Rice is.  I believe it is a part of him but I also believe that the Ray Rice in the video is who he is as well.  Just like the writer from the above article suggested, his brand was who the team wanted us to fall in love with and we did. Until we saw the first video.  I didn't need to see a second video to know that he had some serious issues.  I didn't need to see the second video to know that we forgot that off the field Ray was a man. 

My girls and I are conflicted.  How do we support someone that treats a woman--someones daughter, sister, aunt, friend--with such disregard?  He went from a Hero to a subhuman in the blink of an eye.  In our minds he doesn't get a second chance.

I have three daughters that will someday be someones girlfriend, fiance and wife. I have a son that will be stronger than his future spouse and children.  I owe it to them to make sure they don't end up with a Ray Rice in their life or feel that it is okay to abuse women. How do I do this?  We watched Ray Rice win the Super Bowl. We donated to his charities.  We elevated him and his presence because of all that he did on and off the field.  His actions on the field created an imaginary bond with a character that he and the team created.  It is now up to me to remind my daughters that these "NFL Heroes" are nothing more than guys--boys and men with varying personalities, upbringings, and values.  Men who have been given an incredible opportunity to work in an industry that pays well, affords them a lifestyle of luxury but does not protect them from being human with all of the weaknesses and strengths of life included.

I had a chance to buy a Ray Rice jersey for Isabella a few weeks ago before the second video was made available through TMZ.  I never thought for one minute of buying that shirt.  NEVER.  I looked at it and only saw the sadness and pain that he has inflicted upon so many people in his inner circle.  Pain, that I believe could have been prevented.  

How I proceed from here out with our favorite team will be a bit different.  I will still root for The Baltimore Ravens.  I believe that mistakes were made within the NFL franchise and NFL commissioner's office.  I am trying to work this out in my mind.  I don't want to hold a team or a sport accountable for the actions of a few. I do believe that there are good men and woman involved in the organization.  I hope that this terrible incident will bring awareness and education to our society.  

My final question is this: Can a player go onto the field and play with an intensity to roughness, tackling his opponent and aggressively defending the ball and then go home and not be changed?  

I don't know the answer to most of my questions in this post.  I want to believe that as humans we are all seeking to do the right thing to ourselves and to those that we deem family and friends. I don't want to see that our world is filled with real people and not heroes.   We all need someone to look up to.  

I commented to Cory the other day, and not in regards to this situation but another, that I wonder if we are each equipped with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde buried and waiting to rise.  I know that I have good days and bad days.  I can smile to some and cry to others.  I am human and yet the world sees me and labels me with what they want me to be or how they see me.   I have labeled people throughout my life with a variety of titles.  Some of them as heroes.  I believe this is how our society copes.  We seek out heroes that allow us to dream and reflect for a brief moment in our busy lives that all is well and right.  We want, and maybe need, to escape.  

I am responsible for teaching my children several things after this experience because I don't want them to think that because Ray Rice was a football player, made lots of money and was seen on TV, that his actions are worthy or okay.   I need to ensure that they have a perspective of the game and that in the end, this is all it is--a game to entertain.  Nothing more.  The people on the field are talented, have worked hard but when they walk off the field or stage they are humans with moods, personalities and issues just like everyday people: our neighbors, family and friends.

I want to teach my kids that the title of Hero should not be attached to any football player or movie star. They should save that title for those men and women that are serving our country, and in our communities, to save lives each day and who are risking everything for our freedom.  

I hope they know how valued they are.  I want them to be strong enough to walk away from all abusive relationships.   I hope and pray they seek after relationships that are healthy, loving, real and based on a higher standard than what the media would deem fashionable, noteworthy or of substance.  

I want my kids to respect and love themselves and their future spouses and children.  I hope that we have taught them that hitting, name calling, head games and manipulation are never okay in any relationship.

Finally, I  know that there will be times when people will let them down and cause them to doubt the human race. They will see and hear things that are beyond anyones understanding.  They will question and ask why.   I desire that with all of the sadness in the world  that they are able to see the beauty and the good that is still present each and every day. 

I have to believe this.

Written by Sherron Watson

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ham and Vegetable Lentil Soup

A chill is in the air. Our mornings are greeted with the smell of the great outdoors as we bust open our windows and take in the fresh morning breeze.  Inhaling the change that is on its way.  We sense that Fall is here.  It is gently knocking at the door.  We are listening.  We are desiring it.  I want the cool days of autumn to consume our afternoons with visits to the beach and the park.

My family has always found the turning of the seasons to be a refreshing change.  Fall is by far our favorite.  Change is good.  The summer season is remembered fondly as we embrace the cool breezes, the changing leaves and the anticipation of what the next few months have in store for our family.

Fall is the time that we visit local attractions, go camping more often and ride our bikes with such vigor that we wish this time of year would last forever.  Until it gets colder and the air is heavy with the impending snow that will soon fall.  The anticipation of even colder weather is almost too much for my kids to endure with the anticipation of snow angels and missed school days.

Now.  We must enjoy what we have now.  Now our weather is perfect.  Have I mentioned it is my favorite time of year?

With the chill in the air I find us yearning for soup.  Hearty, rustic soup that comforts our empty stomachs and warms our freezing hands.  Soup that gives you a fleeting thought of summer as bright vegetables float to the top, fighting for their chance to be seen and showcased.

I love soup that simmers all day on the stovetop. I welcome the smell in our home.  It is one more reminder that the weather is cooling and change is fresh in the air.

My suggestion for this soup is to use a meaty ham hock.  I saved ours from this summer and froze it. I left plenty of meat on the bone.  I knew that I would use it in a soup and wanted there to be a piece of meat in every spoonful.

I start the soup early in the morning and let it slowly simmer all day.  I occasionally taste it as the water reduces and becomes richer in flavor. I add the necessary seasonings to make it just right for my family.  I try and let the stock reduce by half.  This may take 8-10 hours depending on how you have your stove set.  I am home all day so I can watch it all day to make sure the stock is not simmered away leaving you with a dry pot.  Adjust the recipe to fit the desires of your family.  Omit the vegetables you do not like but add in the vegetables you have on hand or enjoy the most.

This type of soup is one that you can give and take from.  I like having these types of recipes in my collection.  They are good basic recipes that you can fiddle with based on the ingredients you have on hand.

Enjoy the change of the season in your own area.  Do you welcome the change from summer into fall with such glee as we do?

I would love to hear from you.

Ham and Vegetable Lentil Soup 
Serves 4-6 people

1 meaty ham hock (see note above)
10-12 cups of water
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 small zucchini, diced into medium pieces
1 cup of green beans, whole or cut into 1" pieces
1 1/2 cup black lentils or any color that you have on hand
1 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
salt, to taste
pinch of fennel seed
2 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped

1.  In a large stock pot add all ingredients.  Turn stove to medium high to bring water to a boil.

2.  Reduce heat to low and simmer all day for 8 to 10 hours or until stock has been reduced by half.

3.  Stir and taste soup periodically and adjust with more salt if needed.  Lentils should be very soft and add to the thickness of the soup base.

4.  Serve soup immediately or portion for lunches and quick dinners for the week.

Written by Sherron Watson


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