Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sifting Through Life: Coming Home

We have arrived in Oregon.  Our house is a week away from closing and I have never felt happier to be home.

It's been 30 years since I graduated from this little towns old brick high school (which doesn't exist anymore) and the 1st time that coming home felt right.

It took that long for me to grow up beyond the expectation of others, to learn forgiveness, to value where I came from, to see that a simplier life is a great life, and finally, to be okay with the little country girl that lives inside my heart.

I am writing this from my phone sitting underneath an old black cherry tree. My view is the old red barn that my brother in law grew his prized 4H pigs in as a kid.  I am surrounded by acres of Christmas trees at all stages of life.  A few even dead and left behind.   I haven't sat in front of a computer in a month and it feels great.

I love Oregon or maybe I just love home. A place where they know me and yet still accept me with all my flaws, bumps, and rough edges.

Being with my sisters is a treasure box of memories, ideas, and moments of pure laughter.  It's been 20 plus years since we all lived in the same state.

Our trip to Oregon took us 5 full days. We had 1 flat tire in South Dakota on a pretty hot day in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately we were towing our extra car.  We unhooked and the girls and I hit the next little town for lunch.  We ended up on an  Indian Reservation at a local grocery store.  We bought lunch and they directed us to a park where we soon met up with Cory and Drake.

We continued on to Cory's aunt and uncle's home for two days of fun and family stories.  In Montana the temperatures reached over 100 degrees. We stayed cool by the pool during the day and enjoyed the cooler nights with our windows wide open.

Coming home is a journey; physically driving here but mentally wanting to be with my family too.  I can say that it is worth every mile that we traveled.

I have been cooking up a storm but nothing new.  Just simple homemade delicious meals.  Sitting outside under the shade of the huge oak trees and just outside the flower gardens where the hummingbirds and bees never stop buzzing and fluttering.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Crab Bisque

This is a recipe I worked on last summer but never got around to posting.  Every summer we go through several dozen Maryland Blue Crabs.  It is quite the feat to bring the crabs home because they are very messy.  I cover our dining room table with newspaper or heavy duty brown paper.  I buy mallets, knives and tons of paper towels.  We sit around visiting and pick crabs.  We like to buy the large crabs because they are easier for the little kids and less experienced "pickers" to pick.  Small and medium crabs take time, more time and a lot of patience.

Eating crabs is a social event.  It is not a quick in and out dinner.  It takes time to dig the meat out.  I like this because then we are encouraged to sit around the table and talk, reflect and discuss how our days unfolded.  Finnley really thought the crab meat was delicious.  This means that I am picking crab meat for her and for me.  She eats it faster than I can pick it.  

When it is all over I am left with a huge pile of crab debris.  The shells from the bodies and legs make up most of the pile but included is the mustard, the lungs that we scrape out and the insides.  I am always at a loss as to what I should do with this pile of refuse.  Well, last summer I decided to make a broth out of my pile.  I had really nothing to lose because the extra added ingredients were minimal.  If it worked then I would be left with a flavorful and crabby broth that I could use in a soup.  

To my delight it worked.  I loved it. To the broth I added celery, carrots and onion.  I kept the crab shells covered in Bay Seasoning.  This, I believe,  is what gives the broth the brown coloring (see picture below). I added water to cover the contents of my pot and let it simmer for one hour.

Once the broth was finished I drained it through some cheese cloth and stored it in the refrigerator.  I thought all night on what I wanted to make.  I wanted something different.  I remembered a crab bisque that I had while I lived in Utah and another time in California.  It was a long time ago so the memory was vague other than I knew I really enjoyed it.

I set out to find a recipe that I had the ingredients for.  First I had to figure out what a bisque was.  I knew it was like a soup but different.  What makes it different?  In my research I came across a definition that stated that a bisque is made using roasted vegetables and a shellfish stock.

Well, well, well....I have the stock so lets make some bisque.  I chose to roast sweet potatoes and use this as my base along with the crab broth.  I am happy with the result.  This recipe is a labor of love if you chose to make it from scratch.  It takes some planning to make the broth and to roast the vegetables. If you have the time then I would encourage you to make it.  It is possible to make using store bought fish stock; although I can't say the flavor will be as crabby as using this homemade version.

One final note is that I believe this bisque taste better the next day.  It has a chance to marry the flavors together.  If you do make it the night before, then when reheating the soup, don't boil it.  The soup should be served warm.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.


Crab Stock Recipe
Makes about 10 cups of stock.  Freeze what you don't use.

12 cups of water or enough to cover the shells
Crab Shells from 1-2 dozen crabs
4 carrots, cut in half
4 ribs of celery, cut in half
handful of flat parsley
1/2 red onion, quartered
optional: add more Old Bay Seasoning, Salt or Garlic Powder as desired

1. Add all of the ingredients and bring pot to a boil. Simmer for one hour. Strain contents through a colander and then strain it through cheese cloth.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Crab Bisque
Makes 4 servings or a bunch of shooters

1-2 sweet potatoes, depends on size (you need two cups for recipe)
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup grated carrot
1 1/2 tablespoon red onion
1/4 cup sliced celery
2 cups of crab stock (see recipe above)
squeeze of lemon juice
sprinkle of nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh flat parsley
1 can coconut milk (15.5 oz)
2 tablespoons of butter (omit if dairy free is necessary)
Lemon and Salt to taste

OPTIONAL:  Crab meat.  I had a few extra crabs that I picked and used the meat served in the center of the bowl.  My family was able to stir the crab meat into their bisque.  NOTE:  To make the crab meat sit up in the soup, I roasted some sweet potato rounds that the crab could sit on. This is not necessary.  It just looked prettier to me.

1. Cube sweet potatoes.  Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt.  Roast until tender.  This will depend on how small you dice your sweet potatoes.  I shoot for about 35-40 minutes.

2.  While sweet potatoes are roasting, heat a medium saute pan.  Add the butter along with with carrots, onion and celery.  Cook until tender.

3.  In a food processor or a Vitamix (this is what I use) add the tender vegetables from step 2 along with the lemon juice, crab stock, and nutmeg.  Pulse and blend until smooth.

4.  Add the coconut milk, parsley, and melted butter.  Pulse two or three times. Transfer contents to a small pot and simmer until warm. Do not boil.  The soup is best served warm.

5.  Taste your soup and make any necessary adjustments.  It should be smooth.   If needed add: lemon juice, salt, garlic powder or a bit or red cayenne pepper.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sifting Through Life: Being Crumb Free

Releasing the negative and moving forward.

Stop shoving things under the carpet.  Like I did this morning. The flakes of cereal that I didn't feel like sweeping at that very moment I lifted the rug and swept them under the carpet for no one to see. I was wrong. I should have gotten up right then and retrieved the broom to take care of my mess. Instead I pushed the small pieces under my huge living room carpet with the intention of dealing with it at a later date.

The problem is that no one sees the crumbs;  even I can't see them, but I know they are there.  The knowing is worse than the actual deed of getting the broom and sweeping it up. It is a constant reminder to my subconscious mind that I was putting off something that I could have easily fixed by grabbing the broom and dust pan.

What if a later date never comes and we have all of these crumbs of our lives shoved under  the carpet of life?  This is not what I am striving to do each day.  I need to focus on being the best me.  I want to be crumb free. There in lies the challenge.  Trying to be crumb free each and every day.

These little life lessons that I am becoming aware of daily in my life are so rewarding.  When I first began writing I focused on my past. Those stories the shaped me as a person, a mother and a wife.  I thought all of my writing time would be spent dealing and sifting through my past.  I am learning and discovering it has nothing to do with my past but more about my present. My now.  Today.

I can only control this very moment.  I make choices that define me and my family with each waking breathe that I take.  Wasting any time on the "crumbs" of our past leaves us empty and deflated.

I am seeing life differently because I am looking for it.  I am not hiding it under a carpet with the intention of finding time  at a later moment to clean it up, explore it, move it, shape it, or discover it.

When I release the need to "put off todays crumbs until tomorrow", I enjoy life more.  Release yourself from the what ifs, the what fors, the wonderment of a better day, a brighter future, a future plan.

Live today.
Act now.
Be mindful of everything around you.
Stay connected. Live.

The crumbs of our lives have a way of holding us back.  It took me a long time to realize this.  Sometimes I still struggle to remind myself that this simple idea is key to a happier way of living.

I sweep my floor about four times a day.  I am always amazed at what I find in the dustpan and how much crap I sweep up every day.  I hate carpet.  I don't like to use that word very often but I do dislike carpet with a passion.  Carpet hides so much shit: dirt and crumbs.  Have you ever taken carpet out of a home and were surprised that underneath the carpet was a whole village living and functioning on its own.  Scary huh?

I am reminded of the movie, Horton Hears a Who, and how they had this complex life living on a dust speck.  What if that is us?  We have this complex life and we live on this dust speck and yet we choose to see things on a larger scale when in reality we are small.  Very small beings trying to do the best we can with what we have.  Eating our bread and leaving a trail of crumbs behind us.

Should we leave a trail or should we clean up our messes?  This is one of those questions of our lives that leave me scratching my head.  To clean or not to clean is not the question here.  To live presently or to live in the past is.   Spend your days channeling the present.  Stay connected to the now.  Find a way to let go of the excess baggage that your ego feels defines who you are.  These past crumbs do not make you who you are NOW.  They led you down a path but you are still walking the steps that are guiding your body during this lifetime.

Crumbs are messy.  They deserve to be attended to and not swept under the rug. Our lives and families deserve our very best at every second of the day.  There are times when those crumbs will hold us back or keep us distracted but they shouldn't define us or take away from those that we love.

Start lifting the rug and sweeping out the crumbs.  Release yourself from the weight of mistakes, failed attempts, mangled relationships, judgement or anything that you deem a crumb in your life.

Just let it go.

You deserve to be your best.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pesto Mint Lamb Kabobs

This past summer we decided to eat less pork and beef.  The main reason is that we found that when we cut these two things out of our diets we felt better overall.  Pork especially had an impact for most members of our family.  I can't describe it exactly other than to say we felt blah after consuming bacon, pork chops or roast. Our kids still eat ham for sandwiches but I believe taking the dinner portions out of their diets has helped them digest the bit of pork they eat for lunch.  I have had the same reaction to beef.  I just feel better without too much of it in my diet. 

 In fact all meat makes me feel and react with a bright red nose, cheeks and chin.  I get small blisters around my face too.  I think meat may be a trigger for my GERD and Rosacea.  I have taken meat out of my diet completely for the last month and I feel great.  Honestly it has been easier than I thought because I can see and feel the difference this change has made in my life.  I will still continue to taste my recipes and, on rare occasions, eat a small amount of better taste dang good in order for me to put it into my body.

My family won't, nor should they, give up meat just because it triggers a bad reaction in me.  For this reason I still prepare meals for them that have lamb, chicken or turkey in some of the recipes.   We really like lamb.

I make a lot of pesto in the summer and sometimes I am down to the very tail end of the jar.  I decided to use it as a marinade with these lamb kabobs.  I know that lamb and mint go really well together.  I buy little bundles of mint but never manage to use the whole bunch.  This time I did because I added the rest to the pesto.

To bring out the flavor of the mint I also served the kabobs with mint jelly.  You can make this or buy it from most grocery stores.

Kabobs just scream summer to me.  Cooking on the grill on our back porch or at the park adds so much flavor to meat.  I love grilling.  I used metal kabobs but you can use the bamboo ones too, just soak them for 30 minutes so they don't catch on fire.


Pesto Mint Lamb Kabobs

2 pounds leg of lamb roast cut into cubes
1/2 cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
handful of mint leaves, washed and minced
olive oil to brush on grill

1.  Preheat grill or prepare coals.  I like mine hot so the kabobs take less time to cook.

2. Add the cubed lamb to a large bowl and add the pesto and minced mint leaves. If the marinade seems dry then add some olive oil.

3.  Thread the meat on the kabobs and grill.  Lamb does not need to be well done. In fact, we like ours to be pink on the inside.  The kabobs don't take long to grill.

If using metal skewers please be careful because they can get very hot on the grill.  Use a mitt to help rotate them or tongs.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, May 8, 2015

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies #dairyfree

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies remind me of my childhood.  Why? I don't know they just do.  Maybe it's the smell of them baking in the oven or the texture of the cookie itself.  Something sends me back to my youth when I make this cookie.

The memory is there but I can't put my finger on it.  I notice the older I get those early memories are fading.  I feel their imprint on my soul but the details have been crowded out by new memories.

At any rate this cookie is delicious.  It does perform better when baked in a Whoopie Pie pan over spreading out on a cookie sheet.  I bought this oddly shallow Whoopie Pie pan at Goodwill without fully understanding what it was.  I Googled it and discovered the real purpose but I use it for a lot of different recipes.

You can see from the picture below the difference.  The thicker cookie is softer while the flatter cookie is soft in the center bus has crispy edges.  You can make them how ever you want.

Speaking of Whoopie Pies, Rye found a vending machine the other day that had them in two flavors.  Her excitement was contagious.  For her, this was one of her childhood memories.   My heart melted as she bought the pie and shared it with Isabella in the back seat on our ride home.  She carefully split the pie down the center and explained how she and Drake used to eat these when they were younger.  

Witnessing this whole exchange made my Mommy heart strings hum with love.  To see the bonds between my kids grow is a tender moment.  I am amazed when my kids share their memories with each other.  They see their lives so differently than I see it from my Mom perspective and watchful eye as a caregiver.  

Joy only starts to express the feelings it sprouts in my being.  My kids are everything to me but to see them being everything to each other is something completely breath taking in my mind.  The seeds have been planted and they are growing.  The memories are being made.

I don't remember things from my childhood as clearly as I used to but I know these cookies played a special roll.  I will have to ask my Mom to see if she might have a clue as to why this cookie stirs such emotion for me.


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Makes 16 large cookies

1/3 cup oat flour
1 2/3 cups of uncooked oats
1 cup cashew flour (Vitamix whole cashews into flour)
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup of raisins (soak in 1 cup of water for 30 minutes)
1/3 cup maple syrup

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or spray a Whoopie Pie pan with your favorite cooking spray.

2.  Make sure to soak the raisins to hydrate them. This helps to add moisture to the cookie.

3.  Combine all the ingredients into a large bowl and combine well.

4.  I use a large cookie scoop and usually get about 16 cookies.  Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes or until cooked to your desire.

NOTE:  I make my own cashew flour in my Vitamix.  If you don't have a Vitamix then you can try a food processor or a grain mill.  I would also suggest a replacement flour would be almond meal or almond flour.

Written by Sherron Watson

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cashew Basil Pesto

I first made pesto a few summers ago.  I see a lot of recipes for this sauce, dip or salad dressing.  Honestly, I am not sure what to call it because we use it for everything.  You can see in the picture above we tossed it with some pasta.  I also use it served with fresh veggies, over eggs, thinned down for a salad dressing and as a marinade for chicken or kabobs.

Basil is in my top five for fresh herbs.  I buy this herb more than any other herb all year round.  My neighbor can grow it like he is a super farmer.  Me?  Not so much.  I use the same technique and I get nothing.  Nada.  My brown thumbs may never turn green at this rate but I keep trying each year hoping for the same results.  For this reason I buy basil instead of growing it myself.

Pesto is a party in my mouth.  The freshness that is present is undeniable.  The flavors linger long after my meal is over.  Much to my delight.  I  know this version is not traditional but it is what I like. I prefer the flavor of cashews to almonds or pinenuts.  I am pretty sure that I burned my taste buds out on almond flour, almond nuts and anything that looks or feels like an almond.  Blech...I needed a break from that healthy nut.  Cashew is a great replacement in pesto.

Using fresh ingredients is the way to go but also using a good quality olive oil is key too.  I have tried plenty of icky tasting olive oils to last a life time.  I now invest in what I think is a great flavor, organic extra virgin olive oil.  It makes a difference in the dishes that you prepare.

If you want great flavor, I encourage you to use, great ingredients.  Give this pesto a try and let me know what you think.

Cashew Basil Pesto

1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups tightly packed basil leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped cashews
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons boiling water

1.  I use my Vitamix to make this.  I add the first 5 ingredients and pulse until blended.  You can also use a food processor too.

2.  I then pour the pesto into a small bowl and add the parmesan cheese and boiling water.  Mix together.  Add more water if you would like it to be thinner.

3.  Keeps in the refrigerator for 10 days.  It never last that long in our family though.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hawaiian Meatballs

There was a time that Cory and I thought about moving to Hawaii.  We spent 6 weeks there during the summer of 2010.  I fell in love with the islands but there were a few things we were worried about and the longer we stayed the more diverse the islands became to us.   If it was just Cory and I we would have considered it but with 4 kids and the cost of living the reality of the move was not going to happen.  We still return for visits and have chosen to enjoy them as tourist instead of as home owners.

I was born on Midway Island which is not too far away....only 1500 miles...Okay so it's a bit far.  My dad was in the Navy and this is why we were stationed there. The sound of waves crashing against the shoreline sends a ripple of emotion through me.  I feel connected to the lifestyle.  My dad always reminded me of Jimmy Buffet because he had a very laid back approach to life and loved the water.  I remember being on the water at an early age wearing my life jacket and being dumped into the San Diego Bay more than I like to think about.  His catamaran was his toy and he wanted to share it with his kids.  I am not sure my Mom completely liked the idea but she went along on most escapes.

Living in Maryland and being so close to water has felt great.  I can see why the sea was a place that my Dad found his happy place.   While garage shopping last summer I found a box full of old cookbooks.  I quickly glanced through the titles and spotted a book on Hawaiian cooking.  The date on the inside cover read: 1973.  My heart pounded a bit with excitement as it often does when I find a cookbook that is not in my collection.  I thumbed through the pages and found several recipes that I knew my family would LOVE.

These Hawaiian Meatballs were located smack in the middle of the book. I soon discovered that the book was a compilation of recipes from a local newspaper. In my mind that read, "the best of the best" for that year. I took the liberty to alter the recipe a bit to accommodate my family's taste and used what I had on hand.

Oh did these taste amazing! They have been added to our rotation of recipes that I use when I have run out of happens.  I made the meatballs from scratch but you can use frozen meatballs too.
I served the meatballs with rice and fresh fruit.  Let me know what you think!

Hawaiian Meatballs
Makes about 25--depends on size of scoop you use


1 package of meat with three kinds:  beef, veal and pork
1 egg
1/4 cup  diced bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4-1/2 cup BBQ sauce


1 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 cup of crushed pineapple with juice
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup red onion, diced small
1/4 cup bell pepper, diced small
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, add more to taste

1.  Prepare sauce by including all ingredients into a medium sauce pan and bringing to a gentle boil.  Let simmer until thick.

2.  Make meatballs by adding all the ingredients to a medium bowl and blending well.  Shape meatballs by using a cookie scoop.  Line them in rows on a cookie sheet.

3.  Bake meatballs at 375 degrees until done, about 20 minutes.

4.  Transfer meatballs to a baking dish and pour sauce over the top.  Bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove and serve with rice.

Written by Sherron Watson


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